23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MAKIN presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government make provision by means of a referendum for the alteration of certain sections of the Constitution which relate to the aboriginal people of Australia.
Petition received and read.
Petitions in similar terms were presented as follows: -
By Mr. COURTNAY from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
By Mr. UREN from certain citizens of the Commonwealth.
– I desire to inform the House that the Minister for the Army will leave Australia on 29th May to visit Australian forces in Malaya and Singapore. He will inspect the troops and Army installations in those areas. At the same time, he will take the opportunity to visit certain other South-East Asian countries. During his absence the Minister for Supply will act as Minister for the Army, who is expected to return to Australia during the first week in July.
– Will the Minister for the Army attend the important Mackay exercises?
– I do not know when they are to be held.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question bearing upon his statement to the House yesterday in relation to amateur wireless operators.I direct his attention to a letter - I think he has already seen it - from Mr. Laycock of the Wireless Institute of Australia, which is the oldest amateur wireless organization in the world, and which has been singled out because of its work in connexion with such emergency communication services as operated during the Maitland floods of 1955. I direct the right honorable gentleman’s attention, particularly in view of his frank and helpful answer yesterday, to the fact that the Postmaster-General’s statement on this matter referred to the demand for frequencies for such operators as taxi cabs, State and local government authorities, police services, fire brigades and ambulances. He stated that because of those demands, some rationalization of frequencies was needed. Mr. Laycock’s letter, a copy of which was sent to my colleague, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, states in part that the Postmaster-General has apparently been mis-informed, because almost all of the services thatI have mentioned are of a local nature and properly belong to very high frequencies, not high frequencies, which it is proposed to reduce.
I think Mr. Laycock’s letter answers one of the points made by the PostmasterGeneral. I ask the Acting Prime Minister, in view of what he said yesterday, to consider sending to the international conference, which is now obviously of major importance, some representative on the political side - say one or two honorable members. That would be very desirable in order that those representatives may deal with these matters on a different level from that of the experts.
– As I said yesterday,I feel sure that both the Government and the Opposition recognize the importance and the value of the amateur in this field in Australia. At the same time, there is, of course, the clear importance of allocating certain bands to certain activities, some of which the right honorable gentleman has mentioned. Those are organized activities of great public significance and interest. The right honorable gentleman has stated that a technical examination of the situation reveals that different bands are involved, and therefore there is greater freedom than has been stated to exist. Frankly, this matter is somewhat beyond my understanding, although I comprehend what the right honorable gentleman has submitted. On that point I would say unhesitatingly, having had another conversation with my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, only a few hours ago - he is still in bed indisposed, although not seriously ill - that the Postmaster-General is actuely aware of the necessity to see that there is no inadequacy of technical understanding at the political level before decisions are made on this matter. He was grateful that I took the liberty yesterday of saying that his officers would be available for consultation with Opposition members.
As to the right honorable gentleman’s specific proposal that members of the Parliament should go to the Geneva conference, I am afraid I cannot agree to that. A representative of the amateurs will go, and will be accorded recognition by our delegation there as an observer. Every possible and necessary step will be taken to see that the technicalities of this matter are comprehended, and, on the suggestion of the PostmasterGeneral himself, the matter will finally be taken to the Cabinet level before a policy decision is made.
– My question, which is directed to the Acting Prime Minister, refers to the right honorable gentleman’s recent statement that no definite decision had yet been made regarding the site of the proposed international jet airport for Melbourne, but that the Government had decided to transfer the Melbourne airport from Essendon to Tullamarine over a period, and that this would result in the abandonment of the present aerodrome within ten years. On the first matter, 1 ask whether the Acting Prime Minister will consider withholding any decision on the international jet airport until we have had an opportunity to study Boeing 707 operations at Mascot and Avalon, with particular reference to the noise problem. Secondly, will the Government ensure that when operations cease on the Essendon aerodrome this area will be thrown open for private housing and industry rather than be retained for some other governmental undertaking? If this were done it would remove the barrier which has restricted normal development to the immediate north of Melbourne for a considerable time.
– I acknowledge immediately the very great and sustained interest which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has maintained in this matter, and I should be unjust if I did not acknowledge the similar interest that the honorable member for Lalor also has sustained. I stated the other day in the Parliament that it is necessary for reasons which are regarded as quite compelling, to choose a site for a replacement domestic airport for Melbourne in order to provide for the time when, in due course, Essendon becomes inadequate, and I think I said then that the Essendon site would be inadequate at least within ten years. I think that I was slightly wrong in my choice of words and that I should now say, on advice, that Essendon airport will certainly be used by aircraft for ten years. But that does not alter the substance of the need to choose an alternative site for a domestic airport. The Cabinet deliberately decided that there would not be a commitment that Tullamarine should at this point of time be designated as the international jet airport, because we are aware of the reality of the problem of noise and the controversies that proceed overseas, even now, in relation to the use by Boeings of London airport, New York airport and the airports of other great cities. I assure the honorable members who are interested that there will be an opportunity for Australians, technically qualified and otherwise, actually to hear the noise of Boeing 707’s at Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney, and at the Avalon strip, between Melbourne and Geelong, before any decision is made on the ultimate site of the international jet airport to serve Melbourne.
As to the eventual use of the Essendon site, I can assure the honorable member for Maribyrnong that, on the expectation that this Government will still be in office, the State Government and other appropriate authorities will be consulted when the time comes in order to ensure that the very best use is made of the land in the public interest, residentially, industrially or otherwise, when it is no longer required for an airport.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Air been directed to reports that parents, teachers, and even children, are complaining that the newly-opened school for children of Royal Australian Air Force personnel at Penang, Malaya, is overcrowded to the extent that 215 children are crammed into seven small rooms, and that next year the position will grow much worse? If so, what does he intend to do about the matter, and when does he intend to do it? If the real solution of the problem lies in bringing the children and their parents back to Australia, why does the Government not decide to follow this course? Could he suggest to the Minister for the Army that when that Minister visits Malaya he investigate this problem fully?
– I am aware of the criticisms that have been made in regard to the buildings of the Royal Australian Air Force school at Penang. Indeed, I knew of them before they were publicized in the press. I concede that the buildings are not the most suitable in which to be carrying on a school. However, they are the best that we have been able to obtain as a temporary measure. So far as 1 know, this is the first occasion on which any of the Australian services has undertaken the task of conducting a school for the benefit of the children of its personnel serving abroad. I have taken the greatest interest in the establishment and progress of the school, and I am determined to see that the education of the large number of children of the Air Force personnel serving abroad shall not suffer while they are away from Australia.
I think the honorable member will agree that the buildings of a school, although important, are not the only part of the school. With the assistance of the New South Wales and Victorian education departments, which I very gratefully acknowledge, we have enlisted a first-class team of teachers from a large number of applicants. We are providing them with every material advantage that we can give to them in the circumstances. The parents of the children, through a parents and citizens’ organization are solidly behind the establishment of the school and are working for its success. I shall be very disappointed indeed if this school does not educate these children, during the couple of years they will be away, up to the standards they would have reached in New South Wales. As to the suggestion that we bring the parents home, I point out that we have only just sent them there. They were not compelled to go, they have very good accommodation and help, and I think that most of them will look back upon this as a very interesting period in their lives. I suggest that the honorable member ask them whether they want to come home before suggesting that the Government should compel them to do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Government any plans for the provision in Canberra of a residence where the Minister or, failing him, the permanent head of his department, can receive and offer appropriate hospitality to the representatives of foreign countries visiting Australia and to diplomatic representatives stationed here permanently? If there are no such plans, has the Government considered this question? Finally, is it a fact that at present these courtesies, which are customary between nations, can be extended only by hiring hotel facilities which are available to the general public?
– I know of no proposal of the kind that the honorable gentleman mentions, but I undertake to bring his suggestion to the notice of the Government.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Acting Prime Minister, by directing the right honorable gentleman’s attention to the various statements attributed to him and relating to his efforts to urge American investors to take Australian industries and capital into partnership. Is it a fact that in the course of such activity, the Minister has affirmed that wages in Australia are about half the rate of American wages, that many items of cost are much lower here than in America, and that therefore expenditure of American capital in Australia will produce much more than will corresponding expenditure in America? Is it also a fact that this policy is aimed to result in Australia becoming merely the hired help of overseas industry? Will its continuance result in Australia’s development being converted into a profitproducing slot machine for overseas investors, to the detriment of the Australian economy and the future well-being of our nation?
– The facts of the situation are that during the last two decades Australia has enjoyed governments which, in respect of general economic policies, have protected this country against the consequences of war-time and post-war-time inflation. 1 pay that tribute to my friends of the Opposition as well as claiming credit for our own side of politics. It is literally a fact that inflation has been contained in Australia very much better than has been the case in most countries which were engaged in, or affected by the consequences of war. This containment of inflation, combined with the skill and industry of Australian workmen and management does, in fact, put Australia in a situation of which it is true to say that Australian wages, although establishing, I am sure, as high a standard of living here as exists in the United Slates of America are, nevertheless, about half the level of wages in the United States. It is that which gives to Australia an enviable competitive position in world markets. I think this is something of which we should be proud. One thing that we are short of - how could it be otherwise in a small community with a continent to develop - is capital with which to exploit the opportunities of our great land. But we are glad to share, in a proper partnership with our British brethren and our United States cousins, the opportunities to develop this country to the mutual benefit of Australia and of our overseas friends.
The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and I, as spokesmen for the Government have made it clear that although we would think it contrary to the interests of Australia to lay down arbitrary rules in respect of overseas investment which may have the result of inhibiting it, we say, quite plainly, that in our opinion it would be wise, in the long-term interests of overseas investors, to take Australian capital and industry into partnership. This is being done here to an increasing degree, to the great good of this country.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that a television station in the Sunraysia district of north-western Victoria would serve at least 40,000 people and greatly encourage decentralization? In the absence of the Postmaster-General today through illness, can the right honorable gentleman state what provision has been made to bring television to this very important decentralized but heavily populated area?
– 1 can say that my colleague the Postmaster-General is acutely conscious of the desirability of making the advantages of television widely available throughout Australia as early as possible. But it is a simple fact that all the extensions of this service cannot be made at once. His recent policy statement identifies the greatest aggregations of population in provincial areas. He has made it clear that these are the first areas for consideration, in the extension of television. But just so soon as the extension is on the way there, the next stage will be to identify the next greater aggregations of population and those areas where, for technical reasons of transmission, it is desirable to establish stations. I know that such areas exist along the north coast of New South Wales and I am sure that the density of population and all the other factors which would warrant consideration of the Sunraysia area will ensure that it is not long before that comes into the picture.
– A few minutes ago the Minister for Air agreed that the educational facilities supplied in Malaya for servicemen’s children were inadequate. Why is it that in a department which can buy Lockheed Hercules aircraft, each one of which costs as much as fourteen modern high schools - and the Minister has a dozen of them - the education of servicemen’s children took such a low priority in planning?
– With all respect to my friend from Wills, I did not agree that the educational facilities for the children of Australian Air Force personnel in Malaya were inadequate. I thought that the whole of my effort was directed to telling the House of the very great consideration given to this matter and of my department’s determination to see that the education of these children was adequate and that they did not suffer educationally during their couple of years’ residence in Malaya.
– Has the Treasurer any comments to make on proposals current that there should be a royal commission to examine and report on the Australian Commonwealth tax laws?
– In the Prime Minister’s policy speech, he gave an undertaking that there would be a competent independent investigation into Australian taxation laws and this undertaking was confirmed in the Speech delivered by the Governor-General at the opening of this session of Parliament. Pursuant to that statement, a certain amount of work has been carried on in the Treasury and some of my colleagues in the Government parties will be aware of discussions which I have already had with them to try to ascertain such views as they might hold on the terms of reference which would be suitable for such an inquiry and also the range of subjects which might usefully occupy its attention.
The sort of dilemma which exists is that if we give too big a range of subjects for inquiry there is a danger of delay in having useful recommendations for action. On the other hand, it is not easy to deal logically with the operation of the taxation laws, piecemeal. In an attempt to resolve some of the practical difficulties, questions such as the relative advantages and disadvantages of a royal commission as against a committee of inquiry, and the number and type of members to be appointed to such an inquiry, have been engaging our attention. I hope there will not be any avoidable delay in bringing the matter to finality.
I took the opportunity last night, at a gathering of the Taxpayers’ Association, to invite its views. The general view there, which I think is shared in some sections of the Parliament, at any rate, is that the terms of reference should be wide enough to embrace a variety of topics but that we should look into the practicability of having interim reports on particular matters so that delay would be avoided. I assure the honorable gentleman that I am very conscious of the undertaking given by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government and that T shall try to bring the matter to a conclusion.
– I ask a question of the Acting Prime Minister. Some weeks ago, I asked a question in relation to the restriction of the export of lead and its effect on the industry. There has now been a con ference on this matter. What will be the effect of the decisions of that conference? Will the increased cuts be based on a fiveyear period or on recent exports? Will our exports of lead be increased or reduced? What are the prospects as a result of that discussion?
– Whilst I understand quite clearly, in approximate terms, the outcome of the recent discussions in New York, I am not yet in possession of the figures that would enable me to state the position with mathematical precision, so to that extent I am not able to give a precise answer to the honorable member. However, the situation is that, under the auspices of the governments of the lead and zinc exporting countries and the lead and zinc consuming countries - but in the presence of representatives of the lead and zinc producing industries, or mines and smelters - conferences in New York, initiated in the first place, I think I can claim, by Australia at least a year ago, have culminated in an agreement that there shall be an equitable diminution of the offerings of lead and zinc for sale on world markets so that the quantity available for purchase will approximately equate the consumer demand for those products. This is done in order to produce price stability in world markets, and that stability would, in turn, provide very strong grounds for representations to the United States Government that it should remove the quotas that were imposed six or seven months ago. The actual reductions under the agreement will be such that, for Australia, there will be a very modest restriction, of exports beyond the restrictions which the mining companies and smelting companies had themselves already arranged over the last six or nine months. All of this is in pretty close conformity to the general policies that were propounded for Australia at the Montreal conference - that it was desirable to achieve by agreement stability in world prices for the bulk commodities, and that against that policy decision there should be a commodity by commodity study of what could best be done. I am sure that there will be no further important reduction of Australia’s sales, and that the agreement will prove to be a stabilizing factor in the interests of employment and earnings in the honorable member’s own area.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. I ask him: Is it a fact that there is a limit on the size of aircraft that the Army may possess, that limitation being an all-up weight not exceeding 4,000 lb.? If so, who is responsible for imposing this limitation, and does it not mean that only light, single-engined aircraft can be used by the Army?
– The Army does not own or control any aircraft. All its requirements in connexion with aircraft are met through co-operation with the Air Force itself, and that co-operation is on a very satisfactory basis. I think that the honorable member will know that just recently, at the request of the Army, the Air Force imported eight Cessna light aircraft, and when these are required by the Army they are supplied. Incidentally, the Army trains a number of pilots so that they may be able to fly these light aircraft, but it does not own or control any aircraft.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. Is the Government aware that the means test imposed in respect of age and invalid pensions is causing severe hardship to a large number of people? Is the Government aware that an organization representing the interests of these people, the National Welfare Fund Association, has become so exasperated that it is now conducting a campaign to raise funds to challenge the constitutional legality of the means test in the courts? In view of the Prime Minister’s expression of support, in his 1949 policy speech, for a contributory national insurance scheme, will the Government now give consideration to the establishment of a national welfare fund such as will provide pensions for all aged, invalid and widowed persons as a right, and also provide for such pensions to be automatically adjusted according to changes in the cost-of-living indices?
– The Government is aware that the means test that is applied in respect of age and invalid pensions to-day is vastly more liberal than that which applied when the Labour Party was in office. It is the policy of this Government progressively to liberalize this means test.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. Some months ago, the Minister announced that the Commonwealth would contribute funds for a campaign to revive the market for pearlshell. Can the Minister say how this, campaign is progressing?
– The Government, in accordance with the announcement mentioned by the honorable member, did votea substantial sum of money to trigger off a campaign designed to increase the market for our pearl-shell. I believe that the amount immediately voted was £18,000, and I think a like sum was provided by Australian pearlers and also by American pearl-importing interests. As synthetics are perhaps unchallengeable competitors at a certain level of pearl-shell use, the emphasis in this campaign has been placed upon prestige use of pearl-shell, and I can say briefly that the campaign conducted along these lines has met with very great success indeed. It has achieved substantial success in the fashion design fields in Paris, London and the United States of America. Tremendous publicity has been given in a couple of magazines, which would be worth perhaps £50,000 if paid for at advertising space rates. I think that the successes achieved will be reflected in greater stabilization of the pearling industry, and certainly in an increase of pearlshell values.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister aware of the fact that, because of the complete inadequacy of the present rates of payment of age, invalid, widows* and all classes of war pensions, of repatriation benefits and of Commonwealth sickness and unemployment benefits, many worthy Australian citizens are facing the winter months with a feeling of despair? Docs the right honorable gentleman consider it equitable that these unfortunate people should have to wait some months before they can even hope for any improvement in their situation, whilst this Parliament, without waiting for the general review of the economy which it is the practice to make during the Budget session, has proceeded to increase parliamentary salaries and allowances, the weekly increase in salary alone in the case of the Prime
Minister amounting to £75? In the circumstances, will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to keep the Parliament in session, with a view to passing legislation to deal with a position which, for many citizens, can only be described as one of the greatest urgency?
– As I have said to the honorable member before, he contributes nothing to the understanding of this very human problem by surrounding it with a political atmosphere. Dealt with as he presents it, it would not be considered objectively at all but would be considered as a matter of political controversy. This Government has never regarded this human problem as one for political controversy. It has provided in all the fields of social services mentioned by the honorable member much higher rates relatively than the Labour Government ever did. This Government does what the Labour Government always did - it deals with the matter at Budget time.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is the Minister in a position to give to the House before it rises an indication of the trend in home construction in Australia?
– The quarterly statistics relating to home-building have recently been issued. I am pleased to be in a position to inform the House that there is a continued upward trend in house and flat construction. The number of houses and flats commenced in the March quarter was 20,346–
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of order. This, as you know, is the time allotted for questions without notice. Here we have an honorable member asking a question of the Attorney-General. Not only has he asked it on notice, we are told, but the Attorney-General has proceeded, by displaying some of the remarkable talents he undoubtedly possesses, to read out a written answer to a question about which he knows nothing. I ask you, Sir, to rule out of order this question which has not been asked without notice.
– Order! The AttorneyGeneral is quite in order, and I think we should commend his capacity for keeping up to date with the figures.
– I repeat that the number of houses and flats commenced in the March quarter was 20,345. This represents an increase of 13.8 per cent. over the number commenced in the corresponding quarter of last year and an increase of 18.8 per cent. over the number commenced in the corresponding quarter in 1957. The number of houses and flats completed in this quarter was 19,082. This represents an increase of 8.3 per cent. over the number completed in the corresponding quarter of last year and an increase of 22.6 per cent. over the number completed in the corresponding quarter of 1957. As the commencements exceed the completions, it follows that the number of houses under construction in March was much larger than the number under construction in December.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In view of the very serious employment position developing in Newcastle and on the coal-fields due to the exhaustion of the special grant which the Government made in the 1958-59 financial year to assist local government authorities in the reemployment of displaced miners and other unemployed persons, will the Treasurer, prior to the preparation of the 1959-60 Budget, examine the effect of the disbursement of the funds with a view to ascertaining the economic result to the Government and the community? I refer to savings in unemployment relief, income received from taxation of all kinds, and contributions made to the economy by rate-payers who are meeting deficiency payments for the provision of water and sewerage facilities. If the Treasurer finds the economic effect satisfactory, will he consider recommending to the Government the appropriation of special funds in the 1959-60 financial year to enable the continued employment of displaced persons performing work for local government authorities?
– I am sure the honorable member will agree that the Government has already shown a sympathetic and helpful attitude to the problem which has arisen in the coal-fields due to increased mechanization and, indeed, the improving efficiency of the coal-mines.
– But we want the work to continue.
– I have not rejected the proposal which the honorable member has put forward. I point out merely that we have already indicated in practical terms our willingness to be of help. The honorable member will be aware that, apart from what was done specifically along the lines he has mentioned, earlier this year we agreed to a request from the Premier of New South Wales to increase the loan-raising ceiling for local government purposes. In taking that decision, we specifically referred to the opportunity thus provided for more local government activity in the coal-fields area. With that background of our past action, I shall examine the question which the honorable member has put to me. We shall be meeting the Premier of New South Wales shortly, in connexion with the forthcoming loan and works programme, and I shall have in mind what the honorable gentleman has suggested.
– I ask that further questions be put on the notice-paper.
– I take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that Parliament will go into recess-
– Order! No point of order arises. The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Mr. Speaker, 1 rise on a point of order which is connected with question time. T ask you, Sir, why it is that the Minister in charge of the House and other Ministers have taken almost twothirds of the time in answering questions which should have been put on notice. I ask why, under Standing Orders, you permit almost the whole of question time to be taken up with garbled and propaganda answers when honorable members desire to ask questions. On the same point of order, I ask you, Sir, to investigate the practice which has developed of asking questions of Ministers who are in another place. This practice results in written answers being read. It denies to private members the opportunity to ask questions and is deliberately done by the Government in an effort to avoid criticism.
– Speaking to the point, of order, I wish to say that, in answeringquestions, neither I nor my colleagues seek to import propaganda, unless, of course, thequestion itself is similar to some asked by the honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable member for East Sydney and’ many other Opposition members ask questions clearly not for the purpose of eliciting information but merely to voice propaganda.
– May I comment, as Leader of the House, on the opportunities available to private members?
– On a point of order-
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will resume his seat. Is the Treasurer directing his remarks to the point of order taken by the honorable member for Grayndler?
– To the procedures of the House, which are related to the point of order.
– I wanted to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order. There is a point of order already before the Chair.
– The point of order taken by the honorable member for Grayndler, as I understand it, expresses the view that the rights of private members have been unduly curtailed as a result of the way that questions have been answered. I want to make it quite clear that, as Leader of the House, I have, during this session, tried to retain as much of the time available for private members as is practicable. The traditional time, as I am sure all honorable members will appreciate, is the Thursday morning of each week. Alternate Thursday mornings are set aside for “ Grievance Day “ and for general business. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition - and I have already raised this matter with his deputy-
– Order! I think the Treasurer is getting a little away from the point.
– I have just this to say: I have taken up with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the question of matters of urgent public importance being raised by the Opposition on the Thursday mornings normally reserved for private member’s business. If they want more opportunity to discuss private members’ business, the remedy is in their own hands.
– This point of order has been discussed by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt). I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to look at the questions and answers, from which you will find that the percentage of propaganda indulged in by the Acting Prime Minister in his answers is of the order of 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. When the Opposition wants to deal with a matter of urgent public importance it is more than private members’ business. It is generally a matter of urgent public importance. The Opposition must be allowed to do that. It should not be put to a choice. It should have the right to deal with matters of urgent public importance, and questiontime should not be taken up by giving prepared answers to questions of which private notice has been given. I think that is a great evil, and a great time-waster in this House.
– Order! The position is that at question time, responsibility for asking questions is on the members, and the Standing Orders are relaxed. It is up to honorable members not to take advantage of that. On the other hand, it is the practice of Ministers to answer questions through the Chair. I think there is an obligation on Ministers to co-operate in order that we may deal with as many questions as possible. The Chair has always been most tolerant, and I hope that the House will not ask me to enforce rigidly the Standing Orders, because if that were done there would be a very little question time and very few questions would be in order.
– As chairman, I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The failure of the Government to provide adequate health services.
I call upon those members who approve of the discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- I wish to deal with a matter of urgent public importance, namely the failure of the Government to provide adequate health services. The condition of my voice this morning, and the way I feel, is an indication of how the Government has fallen down on the job of providing adequate health services. It is a wonder that the influenza epidemic that is raging has not taken a greater toll of honorable members.
I do not desire to indulge in a lengthy diatribe about the Government’s failure to provide adequate health services. We on this side of the House feel sure that many of the electors were successfully led to believe last year that the Government’s plans with regard to health services were such as to bring, at long last, some real security into their lives.
Let us look at the situation as it now stands, from the point of view of the ordinary citizen. I want to speak on behalf of the ordinary citizen, the people that you meet on the railway stations going to and from work, their children, and the people that you meet in the streets and in small businesses and farms. They are the people for whom Labour speaks. The ordinary people of this country ask very little of this life. They ask very little of us in this Parliament. But there is one thing that they do expect, and which they have a right to expect, from us, because in our hands is vested the power to pass laws that will provide some security to the ordinary people. If there is one thing that those people desire more than anything else it is the right to feel secure and free from fear. It is just and proper that through us they should have that right. As I have said, in our hands resides the power to do something about it. The two principal fears that nag and torment the ordinary people of this world are the fears of sickness and unemployment. But to-day we are concerned mainly with the fear of sickness. There is real and genuine cause for that fear, as nearly every one of the ordinary people could tell this House were he given the opportunity. These people do worry about sickness. In fact, their worry about sickness is probably the greatest single cause of sickness. It is a vicious circle.
I should like to cite the case of a British migrant now residing in Australia. lust before his departure from Great Britain he had the misfortune to discover that he had a stone in his kidney. That is a very painful condition. In his case, because of the British National Health Scheme, he was able immediately to have a free X-ray, free diagnosis, completely free hospital treatment and a completely free stay in a convalescent home, all of which lasted for three months. During that time his family, comprising his wife and two children, were maintained under the British National Health Scheme. Having recovered from that illness, he had the misfortune upon being re-examined to discover that he had a stone in his other kidney, and the same process was repeated. In all that man was absent from employment for a total of six months, during which time he did not have a single worry or care about those matters that plague and torment an Australian in similar circumstances.
I have quoted one typical case of which I know from my own experience, but there are many thousands of similar cases throughout the country. Sickness of a breadwinner or a member of a family often results in years of debt, and sometimes even in absolute poverty, while the unfortunate family endeavours to recover from the economic blow that has fallen upon it. In practically every instance in which the hammer-blow of misfortune in the form of sickness falls upon a member of an Australian family, I repeat, the results are poverty and debt, which linger with the members of the family for many years after - and sometimes for the rest of their lives.
We feel, Mr. Speaker, that this kind of economic suffering is quite unnecessary. This country is rich enough in every way to remove from every home the spectre of fear and worry raised by sickness. I generously concede to the Government that there is no such thing as a perfect scheme; nor is there ever likely to be. Some little time ago, in an address to a federal conference of the Civilian Widows Association, I remarked upon the quaint fact that, in time of war, when our army is engaged in combating aggressors from another country, it is the sick and wounded of the Army who receive the greatest consideration and the best care and attention. For the life of me, 1 cannot see any reason why, in time of peace, it is not possible for this country to provide necessary services for the sick and wounded among the civilians. In fact, it should be a great deal easier to provide these services for civilians in time of peace than it is to provide them for servicemen in time of war. It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that if the Army can provide services of this kind for servicemen, the country could provide similar services for the civilians in the community without a lot of red tape - questionnaires and forms to be completed - and without such a thing as a means test. I repeat that if these services can be provided for servicemen in wartime - and they were - they can be provided for civilians in peace-time. It ought to be much easier to organize similar services for the community without resorting to full military techniques. The community has an obligation and a responsibility to look after the sick and wounded in its midst in the way in which the Army cares for its sick and wounded.
This Government’s schemes, Mr. Speaker, always remind me of that famous phrase which was much used during the last war - “ Too little, too late “. Its schemes never go far enough. They remind me also of the car driver who promises to take one home and who drops one half way. The Australian Labour Party believes in a national health scheme which will provide hospital treatment completely free for all who want it, and a contributory scheme for medical services for all who can afford to pay, with the retention of a completely free medical service for ail pensioners. We think it is scandalous that a means test is imposed upon pensioners in order to exclude from free medical and pharmaceutical benefits those who receive a paltry income of £2 a week above the pension. There must be thousands among Australia’s 500.000 pensioners who supplement their pension with a modest income and who suffer from chronic ailments which involve them in constant expense for medical treatment or pharmaceutical requirements.
On 9th May - the day before Mother’s Day - in the company of the secretary of the Rockdale Municipality Senior Citizens Welfare Association, of which I happen to be president, I re-visited a lovely home for elderly people at Brighton-le-Sands. in Sydney. There, we renewed our acquaintance with something like a score of very elderly ladies, the youngest of whom was 75 and the oldest of whom was 102. One old lady of 85 was listening to a broadcast from the Sydney Cricket Ground, where the mighty St. George rugby team was overwhelming the North Sydney team. She obviously was taking a great deal of intelligent interest and was deriving much enjoyment from the broadcast of the game. The old lady of 102 was industriously occupied playing a game of patience with cards. I noticed that she made no attempt at any time to cheat in order to bring the game to its conclusion. For others, the time for any kind of recreation was past. The nursing sisters who run the home, with the help of a nearby member of our local Senior Citizens Committee from day to day, and of others who drop in from time to time, are helping to keep in peace and comfort as they pass away on the ebb tide of their lives those for whom all recreation is past.
This home is a credit to the people who run it, and I can see no reason at all why one lonely old lady or pensioner should be left neglected in old age while it is possible to conduct homes such as this. Portion of the fees paid to the home is provided under the Government’s scheme under which, on ‘the payment of subscriptions to the special accounts, each inmate is assisted to the amount of £7 a week. This, when added to the pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week, enables the elderly inmate to pay £11 7s. 6d. a week. But any one who knows what it costs to house the sick, the elderly and the feeble knows that another £2 or £3 a week is needed to finance the upkeep of each inmate. My complaint is that that is not provided. I commend the
Government on what it has done, but I repeat that what it has done is still too little, too late. The Government does not go far enough. I am sure that the Australian people would gladly pay more in order to ensure that the aged are properly cared for and in order to provide security in old age for those who are not yet old. Throughout this country, there must be thousands of old people on the threshold of death languishing in dirty and dingy tenements for the want of homes like the one that I have mentioned. I repeat that Australia is rich enough to be able to finance proper homes for old people.
We want a community in which the burdens of the family man are reduced by fuller medical, dental, optical and other services at greatly reduced costs, and by nothing less than completely free hospital treatment for all who want it - without a means test under which somebody spies and pries into our private lives! We want all to feel that they are all-important, and to know that they do matter and that we care about them. Any scheme which gives less than this is not good enough. So long as any man or woman in the community is ill, the community is the poorer for that fact. It is our business to help those who are ill to recover, and to get them back to work as rapidly as possible. That is a positive approach, and I feel sure that when the spectre of illness and insecurity has been banished from the lives of our citizens once and for all - as it can be - we shall have honoured the forgotten promise made in 1939 that we would make this country a land fit for heroes to live in.
– In proposing this matter for discussion, the Opposition seeks to condemn the failure of the Government to provide adequate health services, and I must say that this comes very strangely from the Australian Labour Party. I want to ask the House to devote a few moments of its attention to a comparison between 1949 and 1959. In 1949 the Labour Party was in full control and at the height of its power. It had been in government for eight years and the war had been over for four years; but Labour had produced no national health scheme at all.
– You applied the means test to pensioners.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will cease interjecting.
– Not only did Labour produce no national health scheme but also its only attempt to do so was so abortive that it was one of the main contributory factors in Labour’s dismissal from office. This is the party which now presumes to criticize the present national health scheme! [Quorum formed.]
The honorable member who raised the matter began by quoting one instance, and he then went on to say that the results of illness in Australia were frequently debt and poverty for years. Does any one really seriously believe such an assertion? Let me point out to the House what this Government has done by way of a national health service:I shall begin by referring to the free hospitals which the honorable member spoke about. Every one knows that under the Labour Party’s policy of so-called free hospitals, every hospital in the country was virtually bankrupt, and that until my colleague, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) introduced a different scheme, hospital finance was one of the greatest difficulties which Australian hospitals faced. In the last financial year this Government provided for the hospitals of Australia nearly £11,000,000 in hospital benefits. In 1949, the amount provided was only £6,000,000. Last financial year this Government provided £7,000,000 in medical benefits. In 1949 the previous administration provided nothing at all.
In 1949 there was no pharmaceutical benefits scheme worthy of the name. The Labour Government spent £149,000 on it. Last year this Government made available free to the people of Australia drugs to the value of just on £13,000,000 and this year the amount will be greater still. Under the Labour Government, no pharmaceutical benefits were provided to pensioners. Last year this Government provided in pharmaceutical benefits to pensioners, over and above the general pharmaceutical benefits, a sum of £2,000,000. An honorable member opposite reminds me that there was no pensioner medical service under the Labour Government. That is perfectly true. Honorable members opposite criticize the present pensioner medical service. Let me remind the House that under Labour there was no pensioner medical service whatever. Under the pensioner medical service, pensioners and their dependants - approximately 700,000 people - without cost to themselves and as a result of legislation of this Government receive all the ordinary benefits of general practitioner attention, either in the doctor’s surgery or in their own homes.
Let me say something about tuberculosis: It is perfectly true that the Labour Party, supporters of which now criticize us, did introduce some legislation to provide for the treatment of tuberculosis in Australia, but it never understood the problem and never knew how to make the scheme work. That Government was so niggardly that in the three years during which it operated a scheme for tuberculosis benefits, it provided in the first year £109,000, in the second year £27,000, and in the third year £151,000. Since this Government has been in office, it has provided the following amounts for the proper and efficient treatment of tuberculosis: -
The result of this expenditure has been the erection of a great chain of chest hospitals and annexes from Cairns in north Queensland right through Australia to Perth in the west. This has materially altered the whole picture and treatment of tuberculosis in Australia. The Opposition, which never did any of this, now talks about inadequate benefits. The tuberculosis allowances provided by the Labour Government were so inadequate that tuberculosis sufferers were afraid to take advantage of them and withdraw themselves into hospital from their work in the general community.
I could go on citing instance after instance of what this Government has done to provide a comprehensive medical service. I could point to the fact that 6,000,000 of the present population are now insured at very low premiums for medical and hospital benefits, and that, without setting up a great administrative department, this has been done with the co-operation of friendly societies, with the co-operation of benefit organizations, with the co-operation of the contributors, and with the co-operation of the pharmacists who administer a great deal of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. None of this was able to be secured by the Labour Government. It was completely incapable, in the first place, of understanding the health needs of Australia and, in the second place, of producing any national health scheme or national health service capable of handling a health scheme. Now Opposition members come into this House and say that what we have done is inadequate. Inadequate! Compared with what they did, it is absolutely superb. 1 heard the honorable member make some reference to pensioners. He said that not all pensioners were included in the pensioner medical service. That is true. But as I have already pointed out, approximately 700.000 pensioners and their dependants are included in it. That is 700,000 more than were receiving this benefit under a Labour government’s administration.
– How many are outside?
– There are approximately 50,000 outside but these people can insure themselves at very low rates of premium - perhaps 9d. or ls. a week - and receive the benefits of hospital and health insurance.
– But they cannot get into approved hospitals.
– Of course they can. The honorable member for Barton raises the question of approved hospitals and I will devote a few words to it. Before the National Health Act was amended last year to provide what are called special account benefits which, I hope the honorable member realizes are fund medical and hospital benefits guaranteed by the Commonwealth, there were many institutions, though a great minority of beds, in the Commonwealth which were recognized by the States for their purposes - this was nothing to do with the National Health Act - as approved hospitals. In the main, the inmates of these institutions do not attract fund benefit. When the Government introduced the special account procedure it maintained this position and declared quite plainly in this House, and incorporated this intention in legislation which was agreed to by both sides of the House, that it would maintain that position.
It has been discovered that the number of people who have been hospitalized in these institutions who might, but for the amendment of the act have drawn fund benefits, is very small indeed. It is doubtful whether it reaches as many as three figures for the whole Commonwealth. But the number of people who have been advantaged by this amendment and who otherwise would have been excluded completely by various restricting fund rules from obtaining fund hospital benefit is very nearly 4,000. Therefore, it will be plainly seen that there has been not a reduction but an extension - and a very great extension - although the special accounts procedure has been operating for only about three months. Further, all those in recognized hospitals who were previously disqualified from fund hospital benefit are now able to obtain it. If we consider those who are now able to obtain fund medical benefit but who were previously unable to do so. we see that the figure rises to almost 6.000, and again I point out that this provision has been in operation for a short period of three months. It is a little idle, therefore, for honorable members to say that the application of fund hospital benefit has been restricted. In fact, it has been greatly extended.
But there are quite a number of institutions, although as T said before, a great minority of beds, in which the special account benefit is not payable - and properly not payable - because the patients in these beds, with a few exceptions, never received it. The Government is examining this situation to see how the anomalies can be corrected. These patients did receive and still receive Commonwealth benefit and Commonwealth additional benefit but in the main the institutions in which they do not receive fund hospital benefit do not provide and never did provide the full range of hospital benefits provided by those institutions in which the benefit is payable. But the actual position is that there has been a very considerable extension of the field in which benefits may be paid. The scheme has been steadily expanding and it is far more extensive than it was under the previous government.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The people who are sick and those who want to get into hospitals are not so much concerned with what conditions existed in 1949. But they are vitally concerned about the medical services available to them in 1959. The quotation of statistics, unrelated to increased cost of living, to vastly increased population and to inflationary trends which have occurred since 1949, is cold comfort to the people whom we are now discussing.
In the very brief time available to me I wish to summarize some of the major criticisms, as I see them, of the existing health provisions. First, I say that the present national health scheme does not provide adequate assistance for those most in need of help. That includes people in low income groups and certain classes of pensioners to whom reference has already been made. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has just told us that 6,000,000 people are covered to-day in Australia by health insurance. I claim that 6,000,000 out of a population of 10,000,000 is not a marvellous record.
– But to that figure has to be added those receiving pensioner medical services and repatriation medical benefits.
– Even allowing for that, figures do not tell the whole story. They do not tell of people insured for minimum rates and who receive only the minimum amount of cover. This is quite insufficient to meet many of the costs of sickness and hospital service in which they may be involved.
The Minister talked about the pensioner medical coverage. In this connexion I refer to the persons who, before 1955, were entitled to receive £2 or more a week. But since 1955 as the result of an arbitrary ruling, they have been excluded from the pensioner medical service. I wonder why. Why have these people who, up to 1955, were allowed to receive benefits, been denied the benefit since that date? Even those in receipt of pensioner medical services are excluded from reimbursement for specialist’s services which, after all, are the most costly of medical services. I have had personal experience of this because my mother is a pensioner and she received no reimbursement of the fee she had to pay a specialist. Yet the Minister calls this a comprehensive national health scheme!
The chronically ill and the aged have been referred to. Many of them have to go into private hospitals which are not approved under this scheme. I was glad to hear the Minister’s assurance that this matter will be reviewed. In March last the “ Medical Journal of Australia “ pointed out that no cover, no protection and no insurance are available against the cost of major surgical operations. I have heard, as other honorable members have heard, of constituents who have been involved in very costly operations, but the reimbursement they received from the Commonwealth benefits fund was grossly inadequate to meet the exigencies in which they had been involved. Therefore, I say that despite the fact that the overriding principle of this scheme is supposed to be provision to help those who cannot help themselves it is more a case of the Government helping those who are able to help themselves.
Secondly, this lack of provision for adequate cover from the medical and hospital benefits fund and of pharmaceutical benefits gives no relief from the insecurity and anxiety which tend to aggravate the condition of people in ill health. Thirdly, the Commonwealth fund benefits represent a declining proportion of the hospital and medical costs. There is less cover for the patient and he is required to bear an increasing proportion of the cost.
Fourthly, no provision is made for important health services such as optical and dental services. The services of chiropodists and physiotherapists are not covered, even when the patient has been referred to these practitioners by a doctor. Pharmaceutical benefits are grossly inadequate. It is common knowledge among people that it is almost a lottery, even for pensioners, to get something on the free list under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.
– The Minister assures me that it is nonsense. I can assure the Minister that only last week I had to get some pharmaceutical material and it cost me £3. A family has related that when it requires medicine for some such common complaint as worms in the children and the doctor prescribes anti-par or a similar preparation, it is usually found that such materials are not covered by the scheme. A whole host of medicines is not covered. There is insecurity against the cost of these things and the bigger the family the greater the insecurity.
Fifthly, I say that the scheme has not assured the provision of adequate finance for hospital construction and maintenance. The Minister has told us the position in relation to hospitalization and the financial state of the hospitals in 1949. I know that at the St. George hospital - and it is probably true of other hospitals - a person with a broken leg who required an emergency operation had to approach a member of the hospital board to gain admission. The position is similar at the big major hospitals. I suggest that there is inadequate provision for hospitalization in the scheme. 1 am not interested in what Labour did not do in 1949. I am interested in what ought to be done and could be done now.
The scheme is too rigid in its administration to provide adequately for individual cases. The Minister may be aware that I received a letter from him this morning. This concerns a person who, on the insistence of his medical adviser, a specialist, had to have a certain tablet and medicine. A substitute was listed but, in the opinion of the specialist, and in the experience of the patient, the substitute was not nearly as satisfactory as the medicine prescribed. Yet, despite my appeals to the DirectorGeneral and to the Minister for Health, I received a reply that the pharmaceutical benefits advisory body would not put this medicine on the free list. In other words, the Government is not prepared to have respect for the professional status, the professional standing and the professional freedom of specialists. It is not prepared to respect their right to judge, in individual cases, which preparations are necessary.
Serious accusations have been made as to the administrative efficiency of major fund organizations such as the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the Hospital Contribution Fund. These organizations have virtually no representation on their boards of control of the vast mass of contributors. It is true that on the board of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, out of 24 members, there are nine representatives of contributors. But those representatives are not elected by the mass of contributors but are selected by the rest of the board which consists of fifteen members of the medical fraternity. Is it any wonder that people say that this is a doctors’ organization run for the benefit of the doctors? I think that this is a rather harsh criticism, and I do not agree with it all the way. But I say that there is sufficient evidence to cause grave misgiving.
Labour says that the whole scheme is wrong in principle because it makes Commonwealth benefits, which are paid out of. taxation revenue, conditional upon subscriptions to a private organization over which subscribers usually have only the most remote control. On 21st March, the “ Medical Journal of Australia “ pointed out that, despite the fact that subscribers had to pay taxation, and had to pay into these benefit funds, they had to pay also 37 per cent, of practitioners’ fees. At the instigation of the scheme, the idea was that the funds and the Commonwealth, between them, would pay approximately 90 per cent, of medical expenses. To-day, because there has been no increase in fund benefits or in the Commonwealth benefits in many cases, 37 per cent, of the practitioner’s fee is paid by the patient, 34 per cent, is paid by the fund, and 29 per cent. - the lowest of all - is paid by the Commonwealth Government.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is most amusing to hear the Labour Party criticize this Government on its national health scheme. Labour was in office for eight years prior to the advent of this Government. During that period, although the Labour Party turned its mind to a national health scheme, all that it was able to produce was a series of rows with the medical profession, disputes with chemists, and alienation of the friendly societies. Every scheme that Labour put up had running through it a proposal, virtually, for the regimentation of doctors, the nationalization of the medical profession, regimentation of the chemists, and the destruction of the friendly societies. Of course the people of Australia would have nothing of any such scheme. Labour abandoned its ignominious attempts only when it was thrown out of office in 1949.
This Government has to its credit the finest national health scheme in the world. For that we owe a great debt of gratitude to the inspiration given by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) who, with great enthusiasm, found a way whereby the wholehearted co-operation of the medical profession, the wholehearted co-operation of the chemists and the wholehearted co-operation of the friendly societies could be achieved. That scheme came into operation in 1953 and the national health scheme of Australia is, today, the envy of the world.
No scheme is perfect, and the right honorable member for Cowper knew when that scheme became law, that one or two matters, mainly in relation to the aged and the chronically ill, remained to be dealt with at a later date when means could be found to solve those problems. We owe it to the present Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) that immediately he came to office he turned his mind to finding ways and means of providing these grand benefits for the aged and the chronically sick. Last year, this House received with enthusiasm the plan which had been formulated by the present Minister to help those people and to enable them to receive the tremendous benefits provided under the National Health Act.
The Minister has told the House, this morning, of the large number of aged and sick who have been able to benefit as a result of these alterations to the act. He has also quite candidly told the House that there are still certain difficulties in relation to people who are not in hospitals recognized for this purpose. He has told the House that the Government is now investigating this problem in an endeavour, which I am sure will be successful, to get over the difficulties that have arisen. Let us not sacrifice the substance for the marginal case. Our problem is to find a solution to the problem of those who are at present excluded from the operation of the act. There are difficulties, Sir. The National Health Scheme is a scheme to help the aged and the sick. It is not a scheme to help people who are simply resting or convalescing. Other schemes can deal with those. In dealing with the problem of the aged and the chronically ill we are dealing with those in this community who are most in need; and the amendments passed last year were designed specifically to help those most in need. It had been found that people who were chronics or were aged were unable, in certain instances, to get insurance cover with any of the recognized health insurance companies or associations. So they were unable to receive the benefits of the act. The Minister introduced an amendment last year which provided for the establishment of a special fund through which the Government guaranteed the loss that would be made by any association that gave cover to such people. As a result, a great number of aged and sick people now receive not only the full Commonwealth benefit but, in addition, the fund or association benefit.
Unfortunately, in the attempt to differentiate between those who were sick and those who were old but not sick, the Government has divided approved hospitals into two classes - approved hospitals recognized for fund benefit, and approved hospitals not so recognized. 1 believe, Sir, that this differentiation is not the correct solution to the problem. I believe that the important consideration is: Are those people sick, or are they not sick? If they are sick, they should receive not only the Commonwealth benefit, but also the fund benefit, which the hospital associations are quite prepared and happy to provide. The Government is now investigating this particular problem, and I trust that it will be prepared, after this examination, to accept the certificate of a legally qualified medical practitioner as to whether a person in hospital is sick or not sick. If the person is sick he should receive the benefit, and even though it might cost the Government a little more I believe that the people of Australia will be happily prepared to meet that cost for the benefit of those who are most in need - the sick aged and chronically ill.
I want to express to the Minister and the Government my appreciation of their willingness, when representations have been made on this particular matter, to reconsider the whole position so as to endeavour to cover all the aged and the sick instead of. as at present, only a majority of them. When we examine the Govern.ment’s scheme as a whole we realize why it is recognized throughout the world as the finest scheme of its kind in any country. First of all, the scheme places an obligation on the individual, in his younger years, to make provision for the contingency of sickness. We say to people, “ It is your obligation to insure yourself. If you insure yourself the Government will subsidize that insurance so that you will be able to receive double the benefit that you would otherwise receive.” So the scheme is one of helping people to help themselves. Having achieved that objective, the Government then leaves the people free to choose their own doctor - not, as under the Labour Government’s scheme, regimenting the people, as they are regimented in Great Britain to-day under the British health scheme.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I support the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay), and I take this opportunity to register a protest against the amendment to the National Health Act which has operated from 1st January, 1959. I appeal to the Government to revise the provisions of the amended act that apply to hospital and medical benefits for chronically ill people or those suffering from preexisting ailments. Early in February, when the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) was in Adelaide, I led a deputation of South Australian Labour members to him seeking a fair deal for the disfranchised private hospitals, and a fair go for those disillusioned chronic sufferers and sufferers from pre-existing illnesses in South Australia who were deprived of hospital benefits under the new legislation. The Minister was also approached by representatives of the private hospitals’ association. They, and my colleagues and I have waited in vain since that date for some amelioration of the injustices and anomalies that exist in this act.
I have no hesitation in saying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the legislation has deprived far more people of hospital benefits than it has helped. Why, to-day special fund organizations are now forbidden to pay hospital benefit funds to special account contributors, who are cared for in hospitals which have not been recognized - and remember that pernicious word “ recognized “. The fund organizations have told the people concerned that they would like to continue to pay benefits as they did in the past, but that the Commonwealth Government has forbidden them to do so. The right of the Commonwealth to stand over registered organizations and dictate what benefits they shall pay out of their own funds - not government funds - is indeed questionable, and perhaps questionable on a constitutional basis.
If we take our minds back to last year - and unfortunately I have not much time to devote to this - we will remember a brochure, attractively designed to benefit the Government electorally. This brochure was distributed to hospitals, doctors, chemists and all professional chambers, with the request that they distribute copies to patients. The desire was to tell the people that chronic sufferers and sufferers from pre-existing illnesses in South Australia were now to receive a great benefit. If the thing were genuine we could not object to that form of propaganda; but when we know the calculated deceit associated with it, we have every right to object in the strongest terms.
Let me give an illustration of what obtains in Adelaide to-day. People over 65 years of age, and chronic sufferers and sufferers from pre-existing illnesses, now have the choice of the following recognized hospitals: One children’s hospital, a babies’ home, a sick nurses’ hospital, nine maternity hospitals, three convalescent hospitals for short-term treatment only, three nervous disorder hospitals, 21 surgical hospitals for surgical patients only, and ten general hospitals. Therefore, the area of choice for most of those people can be said to be contained in those ten general hospitals. Now, since 43 hospitals have been deprived of recognition in South Australia, this places an added burden on those that are recognized. Surgical patients who would normally go into some of these 43 disfranchised hospitals are now at their wits end to find convalescent hospital accommodation in which they will not be deprived of benefit entitlement.
That is the farcical situation that exists in South Australia to-day. If time permitted I could give honorable members many illustrations which would disprove what the Minister has said this morning in his attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of honorable members of this Parliament.
Before 1st January, many chronic invalids were patients of 90 hospitals in the metropolitan area of Adelaide, and they were receiving full hospital fund benefits. In one case, sixteen patients out of a total of 27 in a private hospital were receiving twelve weeks’ fund benefits every year. They are now prevented from receiving benefits, because the hospital has not been recognized for the purpose of payment of special account hospital benefits. That is the answer to what the Minister has tried to tell us this morning.
I could give other illustrations covering different aspects of the situation. People over 65 years of age are among the worst sufferers. Before January they could select any hospital they wished, but now they are restricted to 49 out of the 90 hospitals, and, as honorable members have said by way of interjection, they have the job in front of them to get into those hospitals. They are denied the benefits that they have enjoyed for many years. Some have been contributing to a hospital fund for up to twenty years and have never made a claim until this year. Now, when they make the claim, they find in many cases that they are not eligible for benefits under the act.
Rather than go on citing other examples, as I could, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall corroborate the evidence given by my colleagues and myself with statements made by Government supporters. I shall quote a statement made by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), who was speaking of the very question that we are now debating. He said, on 6th May -
The hospital that I have described is registered under State legislation, and to hold that it is not a hospital for the purpose of the National Health Act is beyond my comprehension.
Later the honorable member said -
The Minister has persistently refused to do justice in this case, or in this class of case. A private member can do no more than direct attention to an inconsistency, an anomaly, the evasion of a promise, and the infliction of great hardship on a large number of people. It is for the Government to rectify that situation or else take the consequences for a breach of faith.
The honorable member said, further -
I can do no more than direct attention to this matter and ask that the Minister again consider it. It is things like this - a series of broken promises - that, in the end, bring a government to ruin.
Could we have any more eloquent and penetrating condemnation of the Government than those words flowing from a back-bench member on the Government side? Those remarks provide corroboration of the case that we are presenting this morning.
I conclude my remarks by suggesting what should be the Government’s approach to this problem. I appeal to the Government to provide Commonwealth health benefits without restriction or selection, and to pay them to all, particularly those most in need. Chronic and pre-existing illnesses should be recognized as illnesses for which benefits may be paid, and the benefits in those cases should be the same as those awarded for short-term illnesses. Hospitals that cater principally for chronic and preexisting illnesses are just as important in our social structure as surgical hospitals or hospitals that provide treatment for acute cases, and they should be equally recognized for the purpose of health benefits.
I make that final appeal. I have pointed out some of the inaccuracies and inequities. I wish I had time to point out more of them. We earnestly ask that the Government favorably consider our appeal.
.- I want to bring some realism into this debate. I should like to congratulate the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) on establishing this special accounts system for the purpose of dealing with problems that are not peculiar to Australia but have been experienced in many other countries. These are the problems connected with persons suffering from pre-existing ailments, aged persons and those suffering from chronic illnesses.
– You put the means test on them!
– I put it on for a very special reason. However, I shall not be tempted by that remark to digress. As I say, I wish to compliment the Minister, and I do so for the following reasons. This legislation will ensure that there will be no grading of the various contributors to the scheme, but that there will be a flat rate. We started this scheme on the basis of a flat rate. The actuaries said, “You cannot use a flat rate, because persons ought to be charged more when they are 50. more when they are 60 and more when they are 70.” The
Minister has dealt with the whole problem of health in a very able manner, since he first took over his portfolio, and he has now put the position in regard to this aspect of health legislation beyond question. Although there may be anomalies in the beginning, they can be ironed out. The important thing is that already about 40,000 or 50,000 people, I suppose, have been assisted to obtain this extra benefit.
Before I deal with the general principle, let me say a few words about remarks that have been made during this debate. I have been in this Parliament for a very long time. Back in 1946 I suggested that the people should be asked, by means of a referendum, to include in section 51 of the Constitution a new placitum giving the Commonwealth concurrent power with the States to make laws with respect to health. I could not get any support from the Labour Government for my proposition at that time. The government would not hear a word of it even though it brought forward a referendum on minor items of health. But if it had accepted my suggestion, and the Commonwealth had been given this power, we would now be able to do all those things that have been talked about, but which are still essentially matters for the States.
The provision of hospitals is a State matter. We could enter the tuberculosis field only after agreements with the States. We have been kept completely out of many fields of health because the Labour Government decided, in 1946, to ask the people, by means of the referendum that was then held, to make only a miserable kind of amendment to the provisions of the Constitution, with regard to medical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, and so on. The Labour Government deliberately threw away its chance. T am sure that if it had accepted my suggestion it would have received support from all sections of the community.
The government of that time was given certain powers as a result of the referendum, but what did it do? Apparently, it had constitutional power to do the things that it wished to do, but it did none of them. It quarrelled with everybody concerned. When we came to office we at once set our minds to the task of getting everybody to co-operate with us - the State governments, the doctors, the chemists, the friendly societies and the insurance societies, not to mention the people of Australia. The only way in which I could bring our scheme into operation was to wait until the Senate had gone into recess. I then introduced the scheme by regulation, so that the public would have three months’ experience of free medicine and free treatment for pensioners and be able to test the value of the scheme. When the Senate next met, the Labour majority was not game to abolish even one of the regulations that had been introduced and had been operating for three or four months. The Labour senators knew that the scheme was accepted by the people, and this has been shown by the fact that in five elections since that time the people have said that they stand by the government which introduced the scheme.
– Why did you put the means test on?
– T put it on for this reason. We discussed the matter very fully in this chamber and elsewhere, and I pointed out that the extent of the pensioner medical scheme depended on the people who were brought into the free medical scheme not being in receipt of more than the basic wage. Would Opposition members say that we differentiate against the basic wage-earner who has four or five children? But how would the Labour Party deal with this problem? It supports all sorts of differentiations in wages. If one man takes over a more highly paid job for half an hour, the Labour Party says he must be paid more. The national health scheme must be applied in a common-sense way so that it will receive the full co-operation of the medical profession. The pensioner medical scheme now covers 710,000 pensioners, and to fewer than 40,000 pensioners is a means test applied who have any income apart from their pension. At this late hour, when the race has been run, Opposition members realize that they have backed the wrong horse. They realize now that the scheme meets with general approval in the community. We should be grateful to the Minister for Health for what he has done.
One feature that has always caused trouble is the extraordinary expense of specialist treatment. This was considered right from the very start of the scheme and we have tried to induce the medical profession to tell us how we should differentiate between the general practitioner and the specialist. If we knew how that could be done, we could arrange for the schedule to cover specialist treatment. Although several attempts have been made, the medical profession has never been able to answer our query. I am making a special trip to Montreal in September of this year to attend a special symposium to be held by the World Medical Association on the question of distinguishing between the general practitioner and the specialist, and how provision to meet specialist fees can be included in a scheme of contributory insurance, with fairness to every one. This is not merely an Australian problem; it is a world problem. Every one wants to include specialist’s fees in a scheme to remove the spectre from the minds of contributors that they may not be able to meet their expenses. I feel that it is worthwhile for me to spend a few hundred pounds - I hope it will not be more than that - to go to Montreal and join in the discussions on this problem. Members of the World Medical Association were in Australia recently and said that they would be delighted to have me attend the symposium, because this is one of the most important matters now to be considered.
Government supporters are constantly striving to provide maximum benefits for the people. I feel that we could not have a more generous or more sympathetic man handling this matter than the present Minister for Health. For many years in his own medical practice he showed extraordinary generosity to the poor and to those who were unable to pay for medical attention before a health scheme was introduced. Of course, to-day, the position of the pensioner is quite different. He visits the doctor as a matter of right. Doctors have told me that the bearing of pensioners is now quite different. They feel that they no longer need to ask a doctor to give his services without reward, and they enter the doctor’s surgery knowing that they have a full right to do so. We have done something not only to cure the ailments of pensioners but also to help their morale in an extraordinary way. If nothing else came of the scheme, we would have done something really worthwhile.
.- The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) very successfully presented a case for the recognition of the needs of old people in certain institutions that are not recognized for the purposes of medical and hospital benefits. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) presented further evidence of the plight of these people. I do not want to weary the House by repeating all that has been said; I do not need to do so. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) said that he considered that adequate provision had been made for the aged and the sick. However, he conceded that a small number was not adequately covered. It is this small number that we are concerned about, and even if only half as many were involved, the Government should still do something to alleviate their condition. The Government’s approach to the problem of this small number of people who are not adequately covered reminds me of the girl who came home with a baby that she could not explain and said that it was only a small baby.
What has been said about the situation in New South Wales and South Australia applies equally to Victoria. People there are not receiving the benefits that were promised by the Government. Instead of saying when these people could expect to receive the benefits that they were promised, the Government goes back ten years to 1949 and gives its customary answer - its version of what happened then.
– They were the golden years!
– They were not the golden years exactly.
– That is what Mr. Chifley said.
- Mr. Chifley said, “ We will have the golden years “. Unfortunately, fate stepped in and prevented us from having the golden years. The proposition of the honorable member is a shameless one. I want to go back a few years further than 1949 and point to the Bribsane line and to the years when this Government was in office and did nothing. If Labour introduced only a modest scheme, at least it did something. But the Government parties, in the years before that when they had the opportunity, did nothing.
One of the worst features of the health scheme, of social service benefits and even of workers’ compensation paid under Commonwealth legislation is the lack of sympathy shown by the Administration to the recipients of the benefits. This lack of sympathy can best be summed up by referring to an old saying - “ When you throw a dog a bone, do not crack his skull “. I hope that the Administration will take heed of the speeches made by Opposition members and will do something speedily to help the people to whom we have referred this morning - and I do not mean that the Government should continue to tell these people how fortunate they are that they were not old and sick ten years ago!
– Mr. Deputy Speaker—
– I call the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– The Minister did not even rise.
– I call the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– The Minister did not even rise. You called me. I move -
That the honorable member for Grayndler be now heard.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. F. C. Chaney.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.47 to 2.15 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That the business of the day be called on.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to marriage and to divorce and Matrimonial Causes and, in relation thereto, parental rights and the custody and guardianship of infants.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment):
Clause 6 - (1.) Where-
a State furnishes to the Treasurer -
. . . such information as the Treasurer requires with respect to amounts allocated by the State. . . .
(3.) Information furnished by a State for the purposes of sub-section (1.) of this section shall not be accepted for the purposes of this section unless it is certified to be correct by the AuditorGeneral of the State.
Senate’s amendment -
Clause 6, leave out sub-clause (3.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (3.) Information furnished by a State under sub-section (1.) of this section shall not be accepted for the purposes of that sub-section unless it is certified to be correct by the Auditor-General of the State.”.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment has the effect of substituting the word “ under “ for the words “ for the purposes of” in the first line of subclause (3.) of clause 6, and the words “that sub-section “ for the words “ this section “ in the third line of the sub-clause. This is purely a formal drafting amendment, which is designed to express more clearly the intention of the sub-clause. It does not alter its meaning in any way.
I may say, Mr. Chairman, that the matter was brought to my notice when the bill was before this chamber. I thought that, rather than hold up the business of this place at that time, we could have the matter dealt with in the House of review. It comes back to us now after examination there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Aliens Bill 1959.
International Monetary Agreements Bill 1959.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 2106), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, this amending bill is scarcely a momentous piece of legislation. Nevertheless, the Opposition supports it. Of the fifteen bills which have been presented to the Parliament for their first reading this week, this is surely the least contentious. As my deputy leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), felicitously interjected yesterday, the House had considered a bill dealing with crayfish, and then passed to a bill dealing with seals. That is really the only subject of moment in the bill, Sir. It provides for more precise legislation concerning the seal of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy. Many honorable members may well think, and I have no doubt that the vast majority of the population in genera] would think, that this was a somewhat technical and trivial matter to be the subject of legislation. It seems to hark back to the days when the substance of what courts or citizens did was less important than their manner of doing it Seals and signets, of course, were vital in the days when literacy was less universal than it is now, and even in these days they are vital in places of lesser literacy than we have in Australia. Nevertheless, technical and trivial though the bill may appear to be, it is important to be precise in these matters.
I think that nobody is better acquainted with the technical arguments which can be raised in this matter than is the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick). I recall that, six years ago, he appeared in the most celebrated of Australian cases concerning seals - the case which is reported under the name of “ Saffron v. Delaney “. A Mr. Saffron was the proprietor of premises which were declared by a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales to be a disorderly house. Some Government members may remember those premises as the Roosevelt Restaurant. Mr. Saffron, in his wisdom, briefed the present AttorneyGeneral - the most eminent practitioner of his day - to appear for him. It was a case in which there was no defence whatever on the merits, but the honorable gentleman detected some flaws in the seal under which the particular Supreme Court judge had been appointed. The honorable and learned gentleman’s argument was ingenious and audacious.
The Full Court of the New South Wales Supreme Court considered the whole question of seals and stated that if the honorable gentleman’s submissions were correct there had been no valid appointments to the Supreme Court of New South Wales since 1900 and no valid elections to the Parliament of New South Wales since 1902. Needless to say, Sir, there were no judges surviving from the nineteenth century. The judges who heard the matter, however, pointed out that it would have been impossible to pass any validating legislation dealing with the particular seal because the Parliament of New South Wales was no longer constituted as it had been in 1902, the boundaries of the electoral divisions had been altered, and the method of appointment to the upper House had been changed, and the only way out of the dilemma in which the Attorney-General sought to place the Supreme Court and the Legislature of New South Wales would have been to obtain a validating act from the Parliament at Westminster. It is probably fortunate, Sir, that the New South Wales Supreme Court decided that the submissions were too audacious and too monstrous to be upheld. Nevertheless, the case indicates how questions concerning seals can arise in the courts to this very day, and since matters turning on the rights to property and the rights to liberty can arise under the Bankruptcy Act of this Parliament, it is essential that they should be beyond dispute. This bill will succeed, we hope, in putting them beyond dispute.
This is the second amendment to the provisions concerning seals which we have made in two years. There was one in 1958. We hope, Sir, that this amendment will close the gap in the net and ensure that, in regard to these technicalities, the proceedings of the Federal Court of Bankruptcy are beyond challenge.
– Will it leave room for legal argument?
– I think honorable members on both sides of the House will be happy to know that there will still be ample opportunities for litigation under the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act as amended.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- There are just two matters with which I think the committee might concern itself. The first is that clause 3 of the bill substitutes a new section 49 for the old section 49. The section 49 which, until last year, remained unchanged since the original act in 1924, was in these terms -
Every Court having jurisdiction under this Act shall have a seal, describing the Court in the pre scribed name and in all legal proceedings judicial notice shall be taken of the seal and of the signature of the Judge or Registrar of the Court.
The Bankruptcy Act 1958 repealed that section and inserted in its stead the following section: -
The Federal Court of Bankruptcy shall have a seal, which shall be as prescribed.
I am informed that no prescription of the seal has yet appeared in the “ Gazette “. Now, a new section is to be substituted. This section will provide that the design of the seal shall be as prescribed and that judicial cognizance shall be taken of the stamps which duplicate the seal. There is no provision, as there was in the 1924 act, for judicial cognizance to be taken of the seal itself. I understand that the original provision in the 1924 act, that judicial cognizance should be taken of the seal, was regarded as unnecessary, insofar as judicial cognizance of the seals of the Bankruptcy Court and all other Commonwealth courts has been provided for in the Evidence Act, and that it is necessary therefore to provide only that judicial cognizance should be taken of the stamps which copy it.
The honorable gentleman, in introducing the bill, said that he proposed to introduce other legislation to validate or determine the use of seals by other Commonwealth courts. I would welcome his indicating what is wrong with the other seals. One particular dilemma that occurs to me is that the Commonwealth Industrial Court, the court which is frequently referred to on this side of the chamber as “ the court of pains and penalties “ has not yet prescribed a seal. I do not know whether anybody who was fined ot enjoined by that court could successfully challenge its decisions or its acts because of any fault in the seal. I should like the Attorney-General to deal first with that point.
The second point concerns clause 4 of the bill, which is to validate certain extended times appointed by the Registrar. The Attorney-General, in his second-reading speech, said -
In its present form that legislation-
That is. the 1958 legislation - makes provision for validation only in those cases in which the Registrar purported to extend the time limited by the Bankruptcy Act for doing an act or thing in relation to a debtor, his estate or affairs and that act or thing was done within the extended time. It was found that there were numerous important cases which should be validated where the act or thing was not done within the extended time. The clause extends the existing legislation so as to include this latter class of cases.
It appears to me that there is no express reference in this amending bill to validating those cases where the act or thing was not done within the extended time. It may be that the Attorney-General’s form of words, in his second-reading speech, was somewhat truncated or elliptical, but in any case, there does not appear to be any reference in the bill to that matter. On that second matter, I would ask the Attorney-General to develop the position which he envisages. Will these other matters beyond the extended time also be validated, as well as the matters within the extended time which were validated by our act last year?
– Clause 3 has not been introduced for any academic reason. A point has already been raised as to the validity of the Bankruptcy Court seals. If the point had been pursued right through, it might have invalidated some proceedings which were otherwise substantially right. My reason for troubling with the Bankruptcy Court seal now is partly that a challenge to the propriety of the seals used had already been made.
I had not thought to trouble the committee with the rather technical reasons in mind for bringing the seals of the other courts into conformity with the pattern set out in this clause. Two difficulties arise: One is that some of the seals have not been prescribed. Another is that the use of rubber stamps as duplicates has not been properly considered. It seems to me that it would not be right for me to be suggesting difficulties in order to create unmeritorious litigation in the courts, pending the regularization of the matter in the way in which I propose.
The two sub-sections proposed to be inserted by clause 4 are not designed to regularize acts which were done out of the extended time. The Registrar has purported to extend time. It has been found that he had no power to do it. Some people did the acts which he was permitting, or thought he was permitting to be done, within the times which he fixed. Others did not do the acts within the times which he fixed. Our desire is to regularize the acts which were done within time so as to protect the rights of those who did do the acts within time, and also to regularize the extension of time itself, so that people whose rights depend upon the failure of somebody else to do an act within the extended time shall be protected.
The former provision in regard to validation depended on the act being done within the extended time. Therefore, if somebody who had extended time within which to do a particular act did not do it within the extended time, there was no validation of the extension of time itself, and people, other than the person who was to do the act, whose rights depended on a valid extension of time, lost or could not exercise their rights. The purpose of the two proposed sub-sections is to remove this condition and to ensure that the time will be regarded as validly fixed and that acts done within those times will consequentially be valid acts. That is why there is no reference in these sub-sections to acts done out of time.
– I should like some advice from the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) concerning the recovery of expenses and damages in a case where the party responsible is bankrupt. He has been sued and a verdict has been obtained against him, but if he shows that he has been declared bankrupt there does not seem to be any way of imposing a penalty on him. I have in mind a case in which a person was the victim of a brutal assault and was subsequently involved in heavy medical expenses. When an attempt was made to recover some of those expenses from his assailant who had been found guilty, it was not possible to get anything because he was declared bankrupt. He was talking of clearing out of the country, and the recovery of any money from him was most unlikely. Can the Bankruptcy Act be amended so that parties who have been victims of assault or have sustained damage can gain some redress from the person responsible although he has been declared bankrupt?
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! The matter raised by the honorable member is really outside the scope of the bill.
– Although, Mr. Chairman, as you have ruled, this matter is really outside the scope of the bill I should like to inform the honorable member that in motor accident cases there is no trouble in obtaining damages but in assault cases, if the person sued has no money and is bankrupt it is not possible, in the ordinary way, to do anything about it. Long since we have removed imprisonment as a means of enforcing these civil obligations.
– No penalty can be imposed?
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 2107), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports and applauds this bill. As the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) stated yesterday in his secondreading speech, it will now be possible for the residents of Territories to sue the Commonwealth in the Supreme Court or other principal court of the Territory where they reside, instead of having to proceed, except in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, to sue the Commonwealth in the High Court of Australia. It is now being made possible under this bill for residents of Territories to have the same procedures available to them as have been available, under the principal act, to the residents of States.
The Judiciary Act is the measure under which the Commonwealth permits itself to be treated in litigation in some respects as if it were a private citizen. There are still many respects in which the Commonwealth cannot be treated as a private citizen in litigation, but where it can be, it is because of the provisions of this act. We applaud this particular amendment to the act.
It might be useful, Sir, to deal with the present judiciary provisions as they apply to the different Territories. Australia has a surprising number of Territories. Looked at in one way, Australia will be the last but I hope it will not be the worst of the colonial powers in the world. Perhaps I could go through the Territories in the terms of the administrative arrangements which were made by the Governor-General on 30th April last and gazetted on 7th May.
The judicial arrangements for the Australian Capital Territory are made by the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act which is within the purview of the Attorney-General himself. The judicial arrangements in Heard Island and McDonald Islands, pursuant to the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Act and in the Australian Antarctic Territory pursuant to the Australian Antarctic Territory Act, are governed by the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act, although the principal acts dealing with these Territories are within the purview of the Minister for External Affairs. The remaining Territories governed by the Christmas Island Act, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Acts, the Nauru Island Agreement Acts, the Northern Territory (Administration) Act, the Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Act and the Papua and New Guinea_ Act, are within the purview of the Minister for Territories.
The various judicial arrangements in those last-mentioned Territories are within the purview of the Minister for Territories although I think he consults in such matters with the Attorney-General.
In particular, in regard to the Territories which are within the purview of the Minister for Territories, I think it must be conceded that the judicial arrangements are in a confused state. In regard to the Northern Territory there is reference to the Supreme Court in only one place in a Commonwealth act, namely, the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1931. The other legislation concerning the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory is embodied in the Supreme Court Ordinance 1911-1954.
In respect of Norfolk Island, the present arrangements for what is simply called the “ Court of Norfolk Island “ are embraced in the Judiciary Ordinance 1936-1957. It is true that in 1957 Parliament made provision for a Supreme Court in Part V. of the
Norfolk Island Act but that act has not yet been proclaimed - I do not know why. In regard to Papua and New Guinea, a Supreme Court is set up by Part VI. of the Papua and New Guinea Act 1549-1957.
In regard to Nauru a Central Court, at present constituted by Judge Nelson of the Victorian County Court, and a Court of Appeal, at present constituted by Mr. Justice Mann of the Supreme Court of Papua and New Guinea, are established by the Judiciary Ordinance 1957. I believe there are good reasons why this Parliament cannot pass an act concerning Nauru, which Australia administers under a triune agreement wi h the United Kingdom and New Zealand. In regard to Christmas Island, a Supreme Court is set up by Part IV. of the Christmas Island Act 1958 augmented by the Supreme Court Ordinance 1958. In regard to Cocos (Keeling) Islands the judicial arrangements are solely made by the Supreme Court Ordinance 1955. The Ashmore and Cartier Islands are deemed to be part of the Northern Territory pursuant to the Ashmore and Cartier Islands Acceptance Act 1933-1938. Mr. Justice Kriewaldt of the Northern Territory Supreme Court constitutes the Supreme Courts of Christmas and Cocos Islands.
I have already pointed out that the judicial arrangements for Heard Island and McDonald Islands and the Australian Antarctic Territory are made by those specific acts and the Judge of the Supreme Court in those cases is the same person who holds office as Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. As the population is exclusively male and predominantly scientific, the litigation in our Antarctic Territories is likely to be of a restricted and specialized character and I believe that hitherto there has been none.
Concerning the judicial arrangements in Australian Territories as a whole, I believe that this is a valuable piece of legislation. It should be possible for Australian citizens in the States or in the Territories to learn their rights and to vindicate them through as few pieces of legislation as possible. If there is to be a multiplicity of legislation at least it should be of roughly the same character - that is, it all takes the form of ordinances of the Territories or of acts of Parliament. But there seems to be no rhyme or reason, as at the moment, for having some arrangements exclusively in ordinances and some exclusively in acts of this Parliament and some in a mixture of both.
I applaud the Attorney-General for taking the first step towards co-ordinating the judicial arrangements in these Territories. I realize that frequently there are matters of high diplomacy, in Cabinet arrangements, and there may be resentment if, say, the Attorney-General were to appear to be deciding the judicial arrangements which otherwise are within the purview of the Minister for External Affairs or the Minister for Territories under an administrative arrangements order. But I believe that there are countervailing reasons for the Attorney-General, the Queen’s principal legal officer, to have the superintendence of all such arrangements. We have recently had in this building and, in some respects, in this chamber, some dispute concerning the fiscal arrangements within the purview of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). I refer to the inception of income tax in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I would have thought that arrangements which interest most Australian citizens, should primarily be decided in this place rather than a subordinate legislature. Similarly, I think that judicial arrangements which concern all Australian citizens should be primarily decided in this place. We should determine them by acts of this Parliament. We should not allow them to be determined solely or predominantly by ordinance of the Territories which only come to us in a very indirect way.
I stated earlier that the Judiciary Act is the one under which the Commonwealth makes itself susceptible to litigation by private citizens. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) will make it his business to amend it in many respects, and, if necessary, on many occasions. I hope that I will not be thought presumptuous in expressing the view that the Attorney-General is not likely to make many amendments of Commonwealth laws which might be regarded as having an ideological character. But I am certain it is not too much to hope that the Attorney-General, with his abundant experience in the law, will make very many amendments to our laws of a mechanical nature. This may be regarded as an amendment of a mechanical nature, but it is a valuable one.
Within the last few months, I have directed the Attorney-General’s attention to a couple of other amendments which 1 hope will be made in the act. One concerns making the Commonwealth liable to what I may call, succinctly, third party litigation. The Commonwealth owns far more motor vehicles than any other corporation or instrumentality or government in Australia. It owns more than any other ten combined. Yet, it is the only owner of motor vehicles in Australia which can plead that it is not responsible for the negligent acts of its drivers if they are not acting or driving in the course of their duty. I believe that an amendment will be brought down in the Budget session in those terms.
I have also suggested to the AttorneyGeneral that he should amend the act to provide that the Commonwealth, being by far the largest employer in Australia, should not be able to avoid responsibility - it is the only employer in this position - for injuries caused to its employees by the negligence of a fellow employee. The Commonwealth employs as many people as even some of the State governments, and certainly as many as any ten corporations combined. I have suggested that the rule of common employment as regards Commonwealth employees outside the Australian Capital Territory should be abolished. I believe that the AttorneyGeneral will soon give me an answer to my suggestion on that matter. There are many other amendments which might be suggested to the provisions of the Judiciary Act, such as those relating to the period of limitations. It is true that the Commonwealth, as a matter of practice, chooses to waive many of the defences which are open to it. But I believe that the proper procedure is that the Commonwealth should abdicate by statute any rights which are not available to private citizens. The Commonwealth should be a model litigant. This legislation helps that process and I hope that the Attorney-General will take many other such steps.
The act provides a means of relieving the High Court of some of the litigation which otherwise could go to it. It is true, I think, that very few cases have gone to the High Court from Norfolk Island, Nauru, Christmas Island, or Cocos Island. No appeals have gone to the High Court from, say, Heard Island, the MacDonald Islands, or the Antarctic Territory. But under the legislation, as it stood, they could have gone, in the first instance, or on appeal. This legislation certainly relieves the High Court of the necessity of hearing any case in which a resident of one of these Territories - other than the Northern Territory or the Australian Capital Territory - was suing the Commonwealth. I have suggested to the Attorney-General that he might pursue the process further.
It seems to be anomalous that appeals should lie from a judge of the Supreme Court of any of the Territories to the High Court, and to the High Court alone. In the case of the supreme courts of the States there is always available - and very often there is only available in the first instance - an appeal from a judge of the supreme court to the full bench of the same supreme court. I realize that one cannot have a full bench of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory or of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory - still less of the Supreme Courts of Christmas Island, Cocos Island, or Norfolk Island. But I submit that there should be provision for a full court of supreme court status which could hear appeals from single judges of these territorial supreme courts. There again, the Attorney-General would be relieving the High Court of some of the work which, I feel sure, he believes should not be cluttering up the High Court in its supreme, judicial functions.
I wish to make one other suggestion. It is that the Attorney-General should consider providing judges of supreme court status to determine appeals in what may be called administrative matters. On 14th May, 1958, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave me an answer to the following question which I had placed on the notice-paper: -
Under what statutes have (a) boards, tribunals and committees been established and (b) courts been empowered to hear appeals from the decisions of Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities?
The Prime Minister listed 45 such acts. He listed 94 boards, tribunals, committees and courts which determine appeals under different sections of those 45 acts. There were, in fact, 50 different boards, tribunals, committees and courts hearing appeals from administrative decisions under Commonwealth acts of Parliament. The process has been complicated by legislation which we passed yesterday. In the amending customs legislation we provided, quite properly, a method of appealing from decisions of the Comptroller-General cancelling licences for customs agents and we appointed yet another tribunal. I believe that there should be a limit to the proliferation of such ad hoc tribunals.
I would commend to the AttorneyGeneral the procedure which is available in New South Wales, where judges of supreme court status hear public service and valuation appeals. I believe that Federal Supreme Court judges could well help to co-ordinate administrative procedures, administrative appeals, and in that fashion we would be giving a lead to administrative practice, State and municipal, in Australia. We would be simplifying the Commonwealth’s own administrative practice, and we would be making it possible for citizens, in a clearer and simpler and cheaper fashion, to vindicate their rights under Commonwealth acts of Parliament.
Sir, I conclude, as I commenced, by saying that the Opposition supports this bill, and applauds the Attorney-General for having introduced it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 13th May (vide page 2108), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill be now read a second time.
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.
Consideration resumed from 13th May (vide page 2109), on motion by Sir Garfield Barwick -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
.- The Opposition, Sir, supports the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 2th May (vide page 2064), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
Thai the bill be now read a second time.
pointed out that normally it was customary to introduce such a measure, and another of a similar kind relating to the Northern Territory, in the form of one bill but that, as a consequence of the recent amendment of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act and the amendment of the Northern Territory Representation Act, the Government had decided to introduce two separate measures so that the members representing the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory could, for the first time, exercise a vote on legislation before the House. However, it is, of course, perfectly clear that unless the Opposition opposed these measures and divided the House on them, neither the member for the Northern Territory nor the member for the Australian Capital Territory would have the opportunity to vote on the measure relating to his Territory. The Opposition does not oppose this measure. Indeed, we give it our support and blessing.
The measure, Mr. Speaker, is designed to facilitate the borrowing of money by co- operative building societies and the Commissioner for Housing for the Australian Capital Territory, and its operative clauses are clauses 4 and 5. Clause 4 reads -
– (1.) The Treasurer may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, guarantee the repayment to the lender of a loan (including interest on the loan) made to -
I know that the passage of this bill will bring satisfaction to the members of the first cooperative building society in Canberra which, I understand, has been awaiting Treasury guarantee of a loan sought from the Commonwealth Bank. Passage of the legislation and the grant of the royal assent will mean that the co-operative society may proceed with its borrowing and with providing finance for its members.
In speaking to the measure the Treasurer referred to the decision made by the Parliament in 1956, in relation to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, by which it was laid down that in the first two years of that agreement’s operation 20 per cent, of all moneys advanced by the Commonwealth to the States under the agreement were to be allocated for expenditure through building societies, and that proportion was to increase to 30 per cent, for the succeeding year. Of course, we are now in the year in which 30 per cent, of the finance made available by the Commonwealth under the agreement is allotted to building societies in the several States which are parties to the agreement. The Minister also said that the bill- constitutes a further step towards a well-rounded housing policy for the Australian Capital Territory.
He added -
With the rapid growth of Canberra there has now developed a substantial group of home-seekers who wish to build or purchase their own homes, thus producing a firm and increasing demand for housing finance.
I would point out that that is by no means a recent development. There has always been in the Australian Capital Territory a very strong move towards the private building or purchase of homes. Unfortunately, the opportunity for residents of this Territory either to build or purchase homes has been, in past years, very strictly limited, indeed. In the pre-war years, and in the early years of the war, provision existed whereby tenants of government-owned homes in the Territory could make arrangements with the Government, through the Department of the Interior, to purchase those homes. This provision was laid aside during the war, and was not re-introduced until 1950-51. The response by tenants to the opportunity to purchase the homes they occupy has been very substantial indeed. In each quarterly review of the Housing Branch we see recorded the number of homes sold to tenants.
The opportunities for securing land and. building one’s own home were even more restricted than the opportunities to purchase. They were restricted because of the reluctance or inability of the Government in earlier years to provide adequate land for the sale of leases by auction to prospective home-builders here. In each of the auction sales of land held in recent years the supply of blocks have been inadequate to meet the demand from those desiring to secure a lease and build their own homes. One effect of this, unfortunately, has been that fictitious values have been placed on house allotments made available from time to time under the auction system. Probably it has also contributed towards the high cost of building in Canberra.
The measure that the Government has introduced will enable a group of people, those who are members of the co-operative building societies, to secure finance to enable them to proceed with the building of their homes. The bill, of course, does not give any details of the extent to which a building society shall make funds available, and, indeed, I do not know whether the Government has any power in this regard, or whether it imposes any condition on the building society when guaranteeing its advances which, I assume, will be made through the Commonwealth Bank. If the building societies, under the provisions of this bill, are to advance money to their members to the extent of at least 90 per cent, of the capital cost of the home, then the measure will, as I say, have considerable value to those persons who become members of the societies. If it does not provide for advances of 90 per cent. or more of the capital cost, then it will not give much assistance to those who need financial assistance to establish their own homes.
The ordinance covering the conduct of building societies in the Australian Capital Territory, so far as I can ascertain, does not lay down any conditions as to the extent of advances to be made by the societies. The laws governing the cooperative building societies are contained in Ordinance No. 10 of 1956, the Co-operative Societies Ordinance. The major provision is in section 14a, which provides -
A building society may be formed for all or any of the following objects: -
to assist its members to acquire or erect homes;
to assist its members to acquire other freehold property or leasehold property; and
to make loans to its members upon the security of freehold property or leasehold property.
It then sets out that the building society may not advance money on second mortgage unless it complies with certain conditions laid down in the ordinance. It is to be hoped that the rules of the building societies themselves will enable them to make at least 90 per cent. advances for home construction. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in guaranteeing advances, will ensure that the building societies do make advances of the kind necessary to enable the average wage or salary earner to take advantage of these provisions and build or purchase his own home.
The bill makes provision not only for advances by building societies; it also provides that the Government may now guarantee loans made through the Housing Commissioner under the Housing Ordinance of the Territory. The view was expressed in the Minister’s second-reading speech that there was doubt as to the validity of arrangements previously obtaining as to advances made in this way. Here again there is considerable need for improvement, because the advance at present made in the Australian Capital Territory bears no relation to the actual cost of building in this place. The maximum advance which may be made by the Housing Commissioner atpresent is £2,750. It is true that when these provisions were first introduced in the Territory, the maximum loan, which was in the vicinity of £1,800 - subsequently increased to £2,000 - did represent approximately 90 per cent. of the cost of building the average home. But with building costs in the Territory now running at about £400 a square, which is a figure much higher than that prevailing in some of the States, the maximum advance of £2,750 has little meaning at all for the average wage or salary earner who wishes to build a home for his family which will cost probably £4,500 to £5,000. He has to find, first of all, 10 per cent. of the initial amount of, say, £3,000, to secure the advance of £2,750. Then he has to find the additional £1,500 or £2,000 to enable the construction of the home to be completed. Obviously, of course, his money has to be expended first, and the money provided through the Housing Commissioner is in the form of progress payments made after the applicant has expended money to the extent that the maximum loan will complete the building.
Arguments have been advanced from time to time that the Government should increase the maximum amount of loan available through the Housing Commission. The figure of £4,000 has been suggested as a reasonable one. Action has been taken in several of the States to enable advances of that order to be made, butI suggest that the Commonwealth is lagging when it keeps the maximum loan fixed at £2.750. I have no doubt that the Government is influenced in its decision by the fact that it also administers the War Service Homes Act, which also provides for a maximum loan of £2,750. The view is held that if it increases the advance through the Housing Commissioner in the Australian Capital Territory, it will also have to increase the maximum advance available through the War Service Homes Division. Well,I believe that the amount should be increased in both cases, but to-day, of course, we are speaking of advances made through the Housing Commissioner.
Arguments have been advanced also to the effect that the Government here, being the largest constructing authority and the biggest landlord, should sell its homes to tenants without demanding any deposit at all. I believe that this suggestion is one to which the Government should give further attention. In several of the States, in which Commonwealth money has been expended under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the conditions governing the purchase of homes by tenants have been very greatly eased. I think I am correct in saying that in some States homes may be purchased on a deposit of as little as £50 in one case and £100 in another. I believe that in Tasmania, where the Agricultural Bank provides the finance, a home may be purchased without any deposit at all, and, indeed, if a decision is made to purchase after several years’ tenancy, a proportion of the rent already paid may be credited towards the amortization of the debt.
These are provisions that are appropriate for discussion in this debate, and I hope that the Government will give further consideration to these suggestions. If the desire to encourage private home-building, expressed by the Treasurer in his secondreading speech, is sincere - and I believe that it is - then the way is open to the Government to give further encouragement. The words of the Treasurer on the point are these -
The proposals are further evidence of the Government’s desire to give practical encouragement to home ownership and private homebuilding.
I am suggesting that the Government can go a long way further towards providing assistance for the average wage and salary earner who cannot at present afford either to purchase or build on the loans provided either through the Housing Commissioner or through the War Service Homes Division. The only person who can afford to build by making use of these loans to-day is the man who has £2,000 or £3,000 available to him for the purchase of the lease and for continuing work on the home until it has reached a stage at which the Commonwealth loan will complete the building.
It is probably apposite in speaking on this measure to refer to the cost of building in this city. I have not comparative figures available to me, but it is true that building here to-day costs about £400 a square. It is not greatly varied as between brick and timber construction. The cost of building the average modest home of eleven and a half or twelve squares at £400 a square, with the incidentals of drainage and so on, is beyond the reach of the ordinary man, and the provisions of this bill as they relate to building will not ease the position. The Government would be doing a service to this community and to the Australian community generally if it were to sponsor some means of reducing the cost of building. I have no doubt that the lessons learned at the experimental building station at Ryde, and through other avenues of Commonwealth research, could be applied to the building industry here and elsewhere to reduce the cost of structures without cheapening the appearance of the homes.
Indeed, the Government has not set a high standard in the appearance of dwellings here. Many references have been made in this place and elsewhere to the external appearance of homes built by the Commonwealth Government for rental here. There has been a considerable extension of what has been called the repetitive type of building, a type of construction which, I am told, appeals to some schools of modern architecture but which to the ordinary man appears drab. It is not the type of home that the ordinary man would use his own money to build. If the Government, through its agencies, can find means to reduce the cost of construction without cheapening the appearance of homes, it will carry out a service to the community generally. The Department of Works and more recently the National Capital Development Commission have been approached with methods by which savings can be effected, in relation both to the roof structure and to the use of varying materials for the outer walls of homes, and also in relation to electrical wiring, plumbing fittings and other matters which initially and individually add considerably to the cost of construction.
Mr. Speaker, the Treasurer has referred to the indication of a growing interest in private home construction in Canberra. It is worth looking at the most recent housing statistics issued by the Commissioner for Housing operating within the Department of the Interior. To show the need for housing and for assistance of the kind that is proposed - and, I suggest, the need for even more assistance - it is necessary to look only at the list of those waiting for homes. These are official figures released on 31st March last. At that date, 4,700 people had their names on the list waiting for the allocation of a governmentconstructed home in Canberra. The names of new applicants added to the waiting list during the quarter totalled 406. The new tenancies during the quarter - that is, the tenancies of new homes and fresh tenancies of vacated homes - totalled 283. So, the houses available for rental in that quarter, and indeed in any quarter, have not kept pace with the demand represented by the applications received. I admit that in the recent quarter, it has been necessary to hold completed houses away from allocation to the ordinary list, so that they can be occupied by personnel of the defence departments who are to be transferred in June and July.
In the same quarter, the figures for sales of government homes to tenants - this illustrates the desire of tenants to purchase homes - at 31st December last totalled 1,418. Sales for the quarter totalled 36, and the total sales therefore were 1,454 at 31st March of this year. The total number of homes owned by the Government at that date was 5,604. It will be seen that a fair percentage of tenants have taken advantage of the provisions which enable them to purchase homes. The basis for that purchase is that the tenant pays replacement costs less an amount for depreciation, which is, I think, generally assessed at about £100 for each year of the life of the house. The purchase, of course, can be subsidized by the advance of £2,750 from the Commissioner for Housing. While there has been a very clear move to purchase the older homes in Canberra, on which the replacement cost less depreciation leaves a figure within the reach of the tenant, applications to purchase the more newly constructed homes, where the depreciation figure does not apply and where the tenant would be required to pay almost the whole of the cost of construction, are not so numerous because of the disparity between the cost of the home and the loan available to the tenant.
The return shows also that at 31st March, 1959, only 600 of the 1,454 Government homes sold to tenants still remained subject to mortgage to the Commissioner for Housing. Those who undertook the purchase of a home in the earlier years have to the extent of some 850 completed the purchase of the home and there are now 600 still subject to mortgage to the Commissioner. At 31st March of this year, according to the return, the number of private enterprise houses under construction in this city was 657. The fact that 657 people at present have homes under construction in Canberra, leaving aside a few that would be under construction by speculative builders, indicates very clearly the desire of people here to construct and occupy their own homes. Obviously, not a great many of these are subject to the mortgage provisions now under discussion. In the main, they are homes, I suggest, being built either by people well able to afford the construction of a home - and it must be remembered that on some of the blocks on which homes are being constructed the building covenants range up to £12,000 - or by people who have availed themselves of an advance from the War Service Homes Division.
To the extent that the bill will make money available to those able to operate through the machinery of a co-operative building society, and to the extent that it provides a guarantee to the Commissioner for Housing, the Opposition will support the bill. But the Treasurer is going a little too far when he says that this bill will encourage home builders in the Australian Capital Territory. The bill makes no alteration to the amount of the loans available through the Housing Branch. All that it does is regularize a procedure that has been carried on over the years. The only assistance that is being given towards home construction is in the guarantee of the loan to the building societies. My understanding of the position is that the present building society operating in Canberra will be seeking finance to the extent of about £50,000 and that, I gather, is the extent of the guarantee that will be required from the Government. In Canberra to-day £50,000 will build ten or eleven houses. It is true that the bill creates machinery by which, no doubt, other building societies can be formed and it may be possible also - I have no great legal knowledge on this point - for building societies already existing in New South Wales or Victoria to extend their operations to this Territory. I can see nothing in the ordinances to prevent that, and such a development should flow from the passage of this measure. If that is possible it would be of considerable advantage to many of the public servants now being transferred from Melbourne to Canberra, who may already have money invested in a home in Melbourne or who may have made arrangements with building societies in Victoria.
I urge the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who is at the table, to endeavour to persuade the Government to do several things. The Minister is not without knowledge in the field of real estate and home construction. Indeed, in some quarters I think that he would be classed as an expert on those matters. If the Government sincerely wishes to encourage home purchase and home building in the Australian Capital Territory it should ensure that sufficient land is made available to meet the demand for home construction. The policy with regard to the release of land for home construction has been eased in the last year or so, but still the allocation of leasehold areas for sale by auction is not sufficient to meet demand and has created a fictitious value for building blocks, particularly those in what might be described as the more desirable suburbs. The amount of money that has to be expended to secure a block of land obviously limits the ability of the purchaser to construct the type of home that he would wish to construct, and which in fact he would be required to construct in order to comply with the building covenants placed on the blocks by the Department of the Interior. That is the first requirement - to ensure that adequate land is made available in this city so that those who attend an auction sale can do so in the knowledge that the reasonable demands of the community will be met and that they will not be required to pay a fancy or fictitious price for a block, although admittedly in this place some blocks will always have a social value which will attract the money of those who pay some regard to that social value.
Next I suggest that the Government might take active steps to reduce the cost of home construction. It may be that that can be done through further research and investigation by the experimental building station at Ryde, and through the application of more efficient methods of home construction. Honorable members opposite will have no sympathy with the point that
I am about to make, but I favour, and have always favoured, the day-labour method of construction. It is a method that has been proved efficient in this city. On figures made available by a former Minister for the Interior, the day-labour method of construction has been proved not only to be better and quicker, but also cheaper than contract building of a similar kind on similar sites. However, I know that this Government is wedded to the private contract system in carrying out all its work, so a voice crying out for a return to day-labour will receive scant attention in this place. But it is worth recalling that when figures were produced by a former Minister for the Interior in this Government, showing the comparable costs of homes built practically side by side on comparable sites, day-labour construction in the Australian Capital Territory was £50 a square cheaper than contract construction. In addition, the then Director of Works made a public statement to the Advisory Council in answer to a question, and stated that daylabour construction by men employed by the department, working under leading hands and overseers employed by the department, had been better, quicker and cheaper than contract construction, and had involved less maintenance.
Another means by which the Government - and perhaps the Minister for the Army will make this suggestion to 1he Government - might reduce the cost of home construction in Canberra is to do what is within its power to ensure an adequate supply of bricks. There is in Canberra the Canberra brickworks. It has been the subject of considerable discussion over the years, and of considerable messing about, also. The brickworks has never been given an opportunity to go ahead and produce bricks until the present. It is now producing at its capacity of somewhere between 300,000 and 350,000 bricks a week. But that output does not meet half the needs of building in this city. The rest of the construction is done with bricks imported from Sydney, Goulburn and other places, which cost between £7 and £10 a thousand more than locally produced bricks.
The Government recoils in horror from any suggestion that it should enter into business, but it already operates a brickworks which is producing bricks efficiently and at a reasonable cost. The suggestion that I make, and which finds favour in many quarters in this House, is that the Government should now establish a second brickworks so that an adequate supply of bricks can be assured for the build.ng needs of this community. There need be no fear of failure in such an undertaking, because the estimate of those who are responsible for the development of Canberra is that within ten years the population will reach 80,000, and within fourteen years it will reach 100,000. Comparing those estimated figures with to-day’s present population of 43,000, when there are 4,700 people on the waiting list for government homes, when we have the impending transfer of departments from Melbourne to the extent of some 1,200 public servants and their families, and the increase that must follow in the building up of the commercial activities and the business community here, there can be no fear that a second brickworks would be a failure, particularly if it were established on the site of the material used in the making of the bricks. Such a brickworks would ensure in the future an adequate supply of bricks both for government and private building in this place.
Finally, the suggestion I make is that the Government again consider the amount of advance that is available through the Housing Branch. To-day £2,750 bears no relation at all to the cost of building a home. It certainly does not represent what the loan used to represent - 90 per cent, of the cost of construction of an average home. Today, £4,000 would not be unreasonable as an advance from the Commissioner for Housing to those who wish to build their own homes, nor would it be unreal as an advance to those who wish to purchase the government home of which they are already the tenant. The Minister knows that those loans are made available at an interest rate ranging from 4 per cent, to 44- per cent., with repayment spread over 53 years.
I have indicated the steps that the Government should take to encourage home building and home ownership in the Australian Capital Territory if it is sincere in wishing to encourage those ends. I certainly hope that the Government is sincere, because by fostering home ownership and home purchase it will relieve itself of the very substantial burden of providing homes for the people that it brings here to perform the work of government. Moreover, it will save the great expenditure that would otherwise be involved in the maintenance of those homes. I hope that the Government will look to those points. First, it should look to the need to make land available in quantities adequate to meet the local demand. Secondly, it should take action to reduce the costs of building and to guide the building industry towards cheaper methods of construction without detracting from the appearance of homes. Thirdly, I hope that the Government will consider the establishment of an additional brickworks to provide locally building materials of which large quantities are being conveyed daily over the roads of New South Wales to this city, thereby adding £7 or £10 a thousand to the prices of bricks. Finally, I hope that the Government will increase the maximum limit on advances made available by the Commissioner for Housing either for a tenant to purchase the home occupied by him or for a person to construct his own home.
I again remind the Minister for the Army, who is now at the table, of my belief that there is need for the Treasurer to ensure that the building societies make loans with a maximum limit sufficiently high to enable the average man to go ahead and construct his home. This is a matter which may have been attended to, but there is no evidence of that in the bill or in the ordinance.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, we heard an interesting and in many ways constructive speech made by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). However, I do not think that he is sufficiently enthusiastic about the probable results of a measure of this kind. I look upon it as being of very great importance to the growth of the National Capital and to the lives of the people who live here now and who will live here in the future. This measure is a great step forward, and I think it should be acclaimed on that basis.
The Government’s present proposal, of course, envisages something that is new to the Australian Capital Territory, but not to many other parts* of Australia. Perhaps the
House does not need reminding that the system of financing through building societies was originated in New South Wales many years ago by the Stevens Government, in which Mr. Eric Spooner was a Minister. We still have, in another place, the brother of the Spooner to whom I refer, and he is directly interested in some aspects at least of this Government’s housing policy. Financing through building societies was a very great advance in the financing of housing throughout Australia. I think the important thing is that over the years this system has proved definitely that it is the right one for the financing and encouragement of home-ownership.
I am particularly pleased that this measure has been introduced to provide for housing in the Australian Capital Territory. I never could see why there should not be available to the residents of this Territory facilities similar to those available to residents of the States. For this reason, even if for no other, this bill is a great step forward.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory referred certain matters to me as the Minister at the table. I remind him that I am not the Minister in charge of this measure, although housing is a matter in which I am intensely interested. The honorable member pointed to certain things that are not peculiar to the Australian Capital Territory, and I agree with what he said. He stated that the high cost of homes in Australia is one of the major problems that we must solve if we are to encourage home-ownership further. The honorable member mentioned certain very interesting things. I agree with him that the problem cannot be attacked properly unless plenty of land for home-building is available. I feel sure that the approach now being made by the National Capital Development Commission to the availability of land for building in the Australian Capital Territory will prove sound. This approach indicates that the commission has the matter well in mind. I have discussed this subject with the National Capital Development Commissioner on a number of occasions, and I am sure that his policy will result in blocks of land being readily available so that a person who comes to the Territory may at any time select a suitable block on which to construct a home. I point out to the House that, in the years since 1927, Canberra has become a city in its own right.
People no longer live here merely because they are compelled to. Many thousands of people are now coming to live in this city because they want to live here and make this their home, and they are satisfied that they will like living here. As a result, Canberra has become a great city in its own right.
Under the old approach to the development of the city, the principle of 99-year t! eases was adopted. That is something with which I do not agree, although it may have been necessary at first and may even be considered to be necessary now. This city has been established by the spending of many millions of pounds taken from the taxpayers’ pockets. The principal reason for this expenditure was the creation of a national capital for Australia. It was felt, therefore, that the Government needed to maintain certain controls upon the development of Canberra - controls that would be quite wrong in other parts of Australia. For this reason, the restriction on the tenure of land and on the release of building land was considered necessary. But I believe that we have now passed that stage and that we must take a wider view. We should now see that building land is available for the people.
The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory also mentioned building costs and construction by day labour. I hate to think that we would ever fall into the trap of adopting a system of day labour for the construction by a public department of homes in this place - or anywhere else, for that matter. That would be an extremely retrograde step. It is true that, throughout Australia, big organizations which can bring together great masses of material and large numbers of men to build in a big way can certainly reduce building costs as compared with those of many other contractors. But the public perhaps does not appreciate that construction by the very small builder, who works on one house at a time, is most economical of all. His overhead costs can be recorded on his shirtcuff, as it were, and are very small, compared with those of big organizations the costs of which have a very material influence upon construction costs. Although big organizations can reduce costs in some ways, additional costs catch up with them in other ways. It has been my experience as a real estate man that the small builder who works on the job himself can build more cheaply than any one else can. Therefore, in my opinion, it is advisable - in fact, I think it is essential to the well-being of the Australian economy - always to encourage the small builder, although I believe there is room for mass production, too.
I do not think it would be to the benefit of the economy to eliminate the competitive spirit that is inherent in construction by small builders who can construct homes at very low cost. While other arguments of the honorable member are quite sound. I believe that the most important matter is that a competitive state be reached, not only amongst the contractors, but also amongst the piece-workers and the various other persons employed in the construction of a home. That competition is most necessary in producing a reduction in the cost of a home to a purchaser.
The limit of £2,750 is in conformity with the present policy of the Government and also, I believe, of many States. I think that in New South Wales the maximum advance that building societies are permitted to make is £3,000. I am not quarrelling with the honorable member’s effort to have the amount increased. That is not my function. I say that a wonderful contribution is being made towards the solution of the problem. This is a good start. It is essential to provide a continuous flow of finance to people building homes. It is important that money be available when a person makes up his mind to build or buy a home.
Perhaps the most important thing about the bill is that it will provide something that has been sadly lacking in the development of Canberra over many years. I refer to the investment of private capital. This legislation will be an inducement to the introduction of further private capital. There are many thousands of people who have a couple of thousand pounds which will be introduced as new money into this Territory. As I said, this city has been built largely with government money. This is an opportunity for the tide to turn slightly with the introduction of outside capital, and it is a grand move. We are at an historic stage. Great numbers of people. including not only purchasers of homes, but also builders and people in all sorts of industries will be induced to come to Canberra and assist in its development. For that reason, I support the bill heartily.
The bill is in accordance with the Government’s policy of encouraging private home ownership. Necessarily, much Government money has been spent in the growth of this city and there is a large tenant community. We are now encouraging private home-ownership here as well as elsewhere throughout Australia. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory mentioned the increase from 20 per cent. to 30 per cent. in the proportion of money to be provided to building societies under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I hope that the percentage will be further increased later on. The encouragement of private homeownership is vital, I believe, not only from an economic point of view, but also from the point of view of the people who are to live here. After all, this is our capital city, which will reflect Australia to the rest of the world. A home is much more than mere shelter. It allows the establishment and growth of a family unit. We believe that by these means we shall encourage in families the desire to live and build their homes here. This action will have a stimulating effect on the city, which will be a great city in years to come. I congratulate the Treasurer and the Government on this progressive step. It is a beginning of something which will have a marked effect upon the development of the Australian Capital Territory and it will be good, not only for the people who will inhabit the city in the future, but also for Australia itself.
.- I support the bill. I think it is a good bill but I do not share the enthusiasm for it that was voiced by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). I do not know whether he was hypnotized by his own sales talk, or whether he was trying to hypnotize the House. It should be made clear that the terms of the bill are governed by an Australian Capital Territory ordinance which limits the amount of an advance to £2,750. I say quite categorically that an advance of £2,750 is, in the light of the present cost of houses, ridiculously low. It is an antique limitation. In relation to war service homes, it should have been increased years ago. It is so long ago that £2,750 ;became the maximum advance available “under the War Service Homes Act, that I have almost forgotten when it was. I think the limit was set in 1951. This is very relevant to this discussion, because the £2,750 limit on advances to ex-servicemen under the War Service Homes Act governs the amount that is available to people living in the Australian Capital Territory.
It is not a valid argument for the Government to say that the deluge of applications for advances under the War Service Homes Act is an indication that £2,750 is adequate. The deluge of applications results from the difficulties experienced in obtaining elsewhere suitable finance for the building or purchase of a home. The ex-servicemen who have availed themselves of the £2,750 advance by the War Service Homes Division find that they are required to build a home that is smaller and of less value than that which they require.
I am in accord with the views expressed by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) far more than I am in accord with the views of the Minister for the Army and the Government. That does not mean that either the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory or I have any criticism of the bill. We think that the bill is in every way a good one. I think the honorable member will agree that our complaint is that the limit imposed on advances by building societies is governed by the Australian Capital Territory ordinance. The bill is an attempt to put residents of the Australian Capital Territory on to the same footing as people living in other States who are able to benefit under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Unfortunately, the ordinance prejudices people in the Australian Capital Territory in relation to people in other States. As I understand the position, people outside the Australian Capital Territory who borrow from a building society are not limited to £2,750. The building societies in the States have been guaranteed, and the limits of their advances have been fixed by State governments. I know that one Western Australian member of this Parliament was able to borrow £3,800 from a building society, and I think that that is not an excessive amount.
I do not want to delay the House unduly. I conclude by making plain that the people who suggested that under the ordinance a limit of £2,750 was necessary in order to avoid the possibility of criticism of the Government by ex-servicemen were very ill-advised. The ex-servicemen of Australia realize that borrowing from the building societies is a different matter altogether from borrowing from the War Service Homes Division. I believe that there would not have been an Australia-wide outcry if the amount that the people of the Australian Capital Territory were able to borrow from their building societies was £3,500. Whether or not there is an outcry from the ex-servicemen in the country demanding that consideration be given to lifting the limit under the War Service Homes Act from £2,750 to £3,700, I urge that some consideration be given by those who drafted that ordinance to an amendment to provide for a greater sum to be made available to the residents of the Australian Capital Territory. People will then be able to build or purchase some of these many houses which have been erected by the Commonwealth Government and so prevent the Government from becoming the biggest landlord in the Commonwealth.
.- As I read this bill I do not discern a limit in it of £2,750 or any other limit. Perhaps the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will be able to confirm my understanding that he may guarantee loans to any approved cooperative building society. The other day I was told that the first building society to be formed here is thinking in terms of a limit of £3,500, but irrespective of that there is no limit written into this particular bill.
– There is in the ordinance.
– The limit is in relation to the Housing Commissioner.
– But that only concerns the Commissioner for Housing. For cooperative building societies, there is no discernible limit in the bill. It appears to confer power on the Treasurer to lend money up to any amount which is approved under the rules of the particular building society. I ask the Minister whether, in fact, that is so and that there is no limit.
Surely the big limitation on homeownership in Canberra is, in fact, the policy of the Government to subsidize rentals. This community is a very low-rent community in relation to the cost of housing in the first place. Perhaps the Minister could let us know what rate of interest is worked into the calculations upon which Canberra rents are based.
– It is 12s. 6d. in every £1 rent.
– What is the interest charged on the capital invested in each house?
– It is 5 per cent.
– That seems to be a reasonable sum. When I lived in Canberra, my experience was that rents were low, relatively, first to the cost of providing the houses and, secondly, in relation to the cost of upkeep. Perhaps the Minister has average figures for each house rented in respect to the cost of upkeep charged and borne by the Department of Works, but it seems to me that it is now about 15s. or £1 a week per house.
If home-ownership in Canberra is to be encouraged surely the first step is to place rents on an economic footing. Perhaps the fact that Canberra rents are low is taken into account when Public Service salaries arc fixed. I cannot say whether that is so, but undoubtedly, over the whole field, housing is so cheap for tenants relative to the cost of providing it in this city that the basic inducement to home-ownership which exists in the rest of Australia just does not apply to Canberra. Perhaps the Minister can give us some idea of what these figures are.
The general impression which I have always gained among others not from a deep but a somewhat superficial knowledge and experience of this city, is that rents are well below the economic level. If rents are kept below the economic level the chances of promoting home-owership in Canberra are limited. I suggest, therefore, that this important question of home-ownership be gone into, because it is the policy of this Government to promote home-ownership. This might well be furthered by establishing rents on an economic footing here and if necessary, providing for an increase in rentals by an increase in Public Service remuneration.
But above all, I should like clarification from the Minister as to whether there is any limit on loans. Clearly, if the limit is, in fact, £2,750 so far as building societies are concerned, this measure may have a very limited application. But certainly I cannot see anything to prevent a registered building society from providing finance up to £5,000 or £6,000. There is no limit written in this measure and such an advance could be guaranteed by the Treasurer and the Government if they saw fit. I should like the Minister to confirm whether that is or isnot the position.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I think it is necessary to draw attention to the provisions of clauses 4 and 5. Clause 4 provides - (1.) The Treasurer may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, guarantee the repayment to the lender of a loan (including interest on the loan) made to-
The point I want to make clear to the committee is that, as the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) clearly showed in hist remarks and as I endeavoured to show in mine earlier, the bill expresses no limit to the amount of money which may be made available by a building society to an individual builder. All that the clause seeks to do is to authorize the Government to guarantee the overall loan made to the building society. It may be £50,000 or £60,000 or upwards of that sum.
I take it that in this provision the loan made by the building society to the individual builder will be a matter for the building society according to its own decision under the rules it has adopted.
With regard to the limit on loans to purchasers, clause 4(l.)(b) relatesto the guaranteeing of loans made by the Commissioner for Housing. This is not a new provision. The Commissioner for Housing may make loans available to those who wish to purchase or to build homes in the Australian Capital Territory. That procedure has been continued over the years and this provision validates it and so removes some doubt which has been cast upon it. It is a fact that a limit of £2,750 at present exists in respect of loans which the Commissioner may make and that limit is governed by the policy of the government of the day. This is where changes may be made. If the power is given in this clause to the Government to increase that amount, as I believe it is, it should be increased.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 2064), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose the bill. I wish to state that clearly at the outset. Therefore, the voting power that was recently given to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) and to me. is not being used on the housing loans legislation affecting the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. I feel quite happy about that. I would much prefer not to exercise my power to vote on a measure if it indicated that I was quite happy with it.
I feel that the measure that we are considering will give an impetus to building activities in the Northern Territory, especially to home ownership. The bill is probably long overdue. It could easily have been implemented three or four years ago. I remind the House that it is twelve months since the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) informed the House and the country that he would set up a housing commission for the purpose of building homes in the Northern Territory. So far, no facilities have been available in the Northern Territory to build homes for rental, unlike other parts of the Commonwealth which have facilities through the “Commonwealth and State Housing Agree ment. This measure should bring the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory into line with other States of the Commonwealth. Therefore, I feel that it is right that this bill should be given a speedy passage.
If we implement this bill and get the machinery working at the earliest possible time, we will be in a position, in the Northern Territory, to provide homes for those persons who for various reasons do not wish to own homes at the outset. A person may have just arrived in the country and not know whether he will stay in the Northern Territory. He may, by virtue of the nature of his employment, be unable to stay for a long time in one place, and therefore has to be able to rent a home. He may not be able to avail himself of the advances provided under the homeownership scheme that at present exists in the Northern Territory.
I emphasize that if this scheme is to have the maximum results, loans will have to be made available more readily and at a lower interest than they are at present available in the north. On the one hand, the Government desires development. On the other hand, obstacles are placed in the way of would-be home-owners first by the difficulty of securing the land on which to build and then by the price of the house. Under the auction scheme, prospective homeowners have to compete for blocks with persons who may have ample capital. If a person has only limited means at his disposal he is placed at a disadvantage. The person with unlimited capital can outbid him for the block that he wants.
Under this scheme we have an opportunity, if the Government sets its mind to the task, of building in various centres of the Northern Territory, homes for rental purposes for people who do not come within the ambit of the home-building legislation. Darwin is one place which has ample scope for the implementation of such a scheme. Unfortunately, through the effects of war damage, Darwin has not yet fully recovered from the position in which it was placed immediately after the war years when a backlag had to be made up. A flood of people returned to the Northern Territory and many of them were forced to live in ex-army establishments. Many of those establishments are still occupied at the present time. As a result, there are still in many parts of Darwin slum areas which should not be tolerated.
I hope that one of the first tasks of the proposed housing commission will be the building of homes into which to move people from the slum areas so that those sub-standard dwellings may be demolished. There is not a great number of cases involved in the aggregate. At a rough guess, I would say that the construction of less than 200 homes would enable a slumclearance policy to be put into effect and, within twelve or eighteen months, the whole of the problem would be cleared up. But unless the task is tackled on a wholesale basis and in a very determined manner, these places will become progressively worse as the years go on. Families have been reared in them with the consequent lowering of living standards. A result has been child delinquency and associated problems.
If the Government tackled the scheme in the manner that I have suggested, setting aside a lump sum of money, making available land, building homes, shifting people out of the slum areas and demolishing them, we could really be accomplishing something in respect of housing in the Northern Territory. The problem does not apply only to Darwin. There are many other areas of the Northern Territory in which home-building schemes on a rental basis would be of advantage. Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, and Katherine are a few places which would benefit immensely by a scheme of this nature.
The amount involved, when compared with budgets of thousands of millions of pounds would be a drop in the bucket, but it would give incentive to people to come to the Northern Territory and look at it and settle there for ever. If we have homes to put people into when they come to the north we can hold them. If we have not homes to put them into, we lose them. People do not always come to the Northern Territory with the immediate intention of building a home. They come to look at its possibilities. If they like the place they stay there provided that they are able to obtain homes which are the main requirement of a stable population. Coming from the southern parts of Australia, they have to sever their family connexions, possibly cutting themselves adrift for many years. They have to start a. new life in a new place and one of the greatest ways to help settle these people isto give them a home to live in. Therefore, I feel that some immediate steps arerequired in this regard.
The sooner the Government sets about getting its machinery working the better. I. hope that we will not have to wait until’ the Budget session for an allocation of funds to the commission for this work. This bill provides for the commission, on its own initiative, to borrow. I do not know what facilities are available to a commission to borrow or whether the Government will make those facilities available. If it does, I hope that it will supplement, that borrowing with advances from the Treasury from time to time. I commend the bill to the House and hope that it will have a speedy passage. I should like to< see it in operation at the earliest possible moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported, from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 12th May (videpage 20611. on motion by Mr. Harold’ Holt-
Thai the bill be now read a second time.
.- Thisbill covers a very important phase of Australian productive activities. It meets with the approval of the Opposition, although the Opposition believes that it does not gofar enough, and in accordance with that opinion I propose at a later stage to move an amendment which will clearly expressour views in that respect.
The measure proposes to do two things. The first is to extend the provisions of the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act 1945-1957 for a further period of three years from 1st July, 1959. The second is te increase the rate of bounty on the production of gold. At present two rates of bounty operate - one for large producersand one for small producers. Large producers are defined as producers who areproducing in excess of 500 fine ounces of gold per annum, and the bounty payable to them is determined on the cost of production, the amount of profit made, and the cost of capital equipment. So, in connexion with the payment of the bounty to the large producer, certain requirements must be met, and in accordance with those requirements, as ascertained, the amount of the bounty varies. In the case of the small producer there is a flat rate of bounty which has no relation to cost of production, to profit, if any, or to the amount of capital Invested in a particular concern.
In introducing the bill, the Minister made some very interesting statements. He indicated that approximately 25 per cent, of those engaged in the production of gold throughout Australia were receiving assistance under the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act. When one considers that not so very long ago Australia was one of the biggest producers of gold in the world one can appreciate the change that has taken place over the years when to-day, of all the gold produced in Australia - and there are some parts of Australia in which large quantities of gold are produced - some 25 per cent, is produced by people who need the assistance of the bounty prescribed by the legislation.
The growth of the bounty is, I suppose, illustrated by the fact that for the year 1955-56 the amount paid out was just over £400,000, whilst it is expected that for the year ending 30th June, 1959, the total amount paid out to gold producers will come to the very large sum of about £900,000.
The bounty paid to the large producer is based on a production cost of £13 10s. an ounce of fine gold, and at present is at the rate of £2 15s. an ounce which is the maximum paid under this measure. It is proposed to increase the bounty from £2 15s. to £3 5s. per fine ounce.
The amount now paid to small producers is £2 an ounce, and it is proposed to increase this to £2 8s. an ounce. It is rather interesting, when one looks at the last report that has been received from those in charge of the operation of the act. which is for the year ended 30th June, 1958, to find exactly how the bonus payments are distributed. For instance, one finds in respect of small producers that the total number of applications received during the year ended 30th June, 1958, was 508, plus some 63 applications carried forward from the previous year. Of these applications 509 were finalized, and the total payments made to small producers worked out at £37,065.
The payment to. large producers, however, for the same year amounted to over £622,000, and only eleven companies were affected. If honorable members care to obtain from the Clerk of Papers the paper headed “ Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-57, Fourth Annual Statement” they will find on the last page the names of the gold-mining companies classed as large producers, which made application for assistance and received it. It is interesting to find, for instance, that one gold mine in Kalgoorlie received the sum of £235,374. That was the largest gold producer and received the largest amount of bounty. The smallest producer was a firm known as D. Cable which received the small amount of £2,733. So, for the whole year 1957-58 the actual amount paid out in bounty was £659,714. As I pointed out previously, it is expected that for this financial year the total amount paid out will be about £900,000. The Minister justified the measure on two grounds. First, he said that the gold-mining industry earns a significant amount of overseas exchange. That, of course, is true. Whatever gold is exported from Australia is readily sold, and is purchased, in the main, at a fixed price. So there is no difficulty whatever in building up our overseas resources as a consequence of the sale of gold. The second reason is that employment in gold-mining centres should be maintained. As the Minister pointed out, there are some settlements which depend substantially on the gold-mining industry for their existence.
With both of these reasons the Opposition agrees. We think it is a good thing to build up Australia’s overseas exchange. We also, as one would naturally expect, desire to see maintained in Australia, in all industries, the maximum amount of employment for Australian people. With these two reasons we agree, and because we agree with them and with the provisions of the bill, we support the measure as it stands. We say, however, that the bill does not go far enough. There is a volume of unemployment in Australia that can be taken up. There is gold in Australia that can be secured and used to improve our overseas exchange position, if the Government is prepared to extend slightly the provision of this measure. It is in respect of that question that I propose to move an amendment for the purpose of having the bill withdrawn and re-drafted with a view to providing that the bonus shall also be paid on gold recovered from gold mine dumps and tailings. At present the bounty is confined solely to gold recovered from ore produced in mining operations carried on by the operator himself. He mines the ore and from the ore he extracts the gold. Unless he performs both operations, whether he be a large or a small producer, he cannot secure the benefits of the present legislation. The person who is engaged in recovering gold from dumps and tailings does not, and cannot, qualify under the act as it stands today for the bonus granted on the production of fine gold. We feel, therefore, that there is a defect in the act and in this bill, and we think that steps should be taken by the House to rectify the position.
Now I want to put before the House the position existing in the midlands of Victoria. This is the area in which gold was discovered a little over 100 years ago. I suppose that in the intervening period literally hundreds of millions of pounds worth of gold has been extracted from the auriferous reef that covers a very large area, extending from Malmsbury, Bendigo and Eaglehawk on the east side, over to the western side and including Ararat, Stawell, Maldon, Ballarat, Castlemaine, Chewton and other such places. It is a very large area which, over the last 100 years, has been mined extensively. Throughout that area one will find in every direction the dumps and tailings that have been left after the gold has been extracted. Mining operations have pitted and scarred the countryside wherever one looks..
In my own electorate of Bendigo there existed not so very long ago literally hundreds of gold mines, but to-day in the whole of the area of some 3,300 square miles there is only one gold mine operating, the Wattle Gully Mine, at a place called Chewton. There is another small mine which recently started at a place called Maldon. But in the tailings and dumps of which I have spoken, wherever they are situated, there is gold that can still be recovered and used to build up our overseas exchange reserves, at the same time providing employment for people who would be only too anxious to work these dumps if they could have the advantage of the provisions of this kind of legislation.
In the last few years I have had communications from at least three persons who have been carrying on the business of recovering gold from these dumps. They have either been going through the sand dumps, using chemical processes to extract the fine gold, or taking the rock in the tailings, crushing it and extracting the gold. But because the rock crushed in this way was not mined by the person extracting the gold, the bounty could not be obtained. As to what we call the sand dumps, the bonus is again refused because the material has not been mined by the operator. The three persons I have mentioned have had to cease gold extraction operations because the bounty was not available to them.
In the midlands district of Victoria there are not just hundreds of these dumps, but probably thousands of them. Similar remarks would apply to certain parts of New South Wales, and they would also apply in the case of the rapidly growing dumps in Western Australia, all of which are sources of potential wealth.
I strongly suggest to the House that the amendment which I will move on behalf of the Opposition should be accepted, because in the present circumstances two things are happening. We are losing the opportunity to secure the gold that is in these tailings and dumps. In Bendigo, the city council is commencing to use rock tailings for road material. The tailings are crushed and are used for the making of roads. The opportunity of extracting gold from them is lost for ever. As to the sand dumps, bulldozers are gradually being brought into operation, the dumps are being broken down and the sand is being spread over low-lying ground which is being made available for settlement or the establishment of commercial enterprises. Once that is done, the opportunity of extracting what gold remains is lost for ever. When we consider the difficult situation during the last seven or eight years with regard to foreign exchange, we must concede that it is foolish. and certainly not prudent to allow sources of wealth in this country to be neglected or even lost for all time. We of the Opposition feel that the amendment is a good one and that it will improve the legislation. Our proposal will help development, strengthen Australia’s reserves, and provide a source of employment for some of the 70,000 persons who are at present unable to find work. : therefore move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted with a view to providing that the bonus should also be paid on gold recovered from gold mine dumps and tailings “.
I believe that the amendment is in the best interests of Australia and of the people of Australia.
– I second the amendment. [Quorum formed.]
.- I should first like to say that I agree with the opinion of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) that the bill does not go quite far enough and that some consideration should be given to the treatment of tailings and dumps. I shall speak on the amendment later. At the moment, I want to congratulate the Government on continuing to apply a sound policy in relation to gold. The principle involved in the bill will, I am sure, be appreciated by the industry, even though some of the provisions are not totally adequate. However, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has implied that the Government is still considering the question of gold mining, presumably to determine exactly our national stand on this matter in the future. I trust that when that determination is made it will take into account the very important social aspect of the industry, as well as economic considerations.
On the social aspect, I draw attention to the fact that there are both large and small communities in Western Australia entirely dependent for their existence on gold mining. My home town of Kalgoorlie has a community of 25,000 people, who rely completely on this industry. They are mostly permanent residents who live in a solid and, I hope, permanent town. They own their homes; I believe that Kalgoorlie has the largest percentage of home-owners in Australia. They have linked their future security with the gold-mining industry, and I trust that when the Government further considers its policy, it will look at this very important social aspect.
The economics of gold mining are relatively unappreciated by those of us who are not in some way directly concerned with the industry. Consequently, its value to our economy is very largely overlooked. I am speaking of an industry which produces gold to the value of £17,000,000 a year, most of which is sold for dollars. In fact, we get one-fifth of our total current account dollar earnings from the sale of gold. The Government, I believe, appreciates the value of this commodity and has based its subsidy on its policy of maintaining gold production at a high level. There is merit in this policy. It recognizes the necessity to keep the industry in existence so that, when the price of gold does rise, as we all hope it will some day, we will be in a position to take advantage of the increased wealth of the nation.
However. I cannot agree that the present subsidy will maintain production for a very long time. At present, many of our gold mines are being worked selectively. More high-grade ore is being mined than is lowgrade ore. This is necessary to maintain a grade of ore. But this is not a case of companies picking the eyes out of their deposits; on the contrary, the gold-mining industry is renowned for its great sense of responsibility. However, it is a fact that some companies must engage in selective mining if they are to continue to function under the existing financial arrangements. The result of this drastic policy on the part of companies can only be that we will finish with many millions of ounces of gold locked up in low-grade ore bodies and the companies will never consider its extraction to be an economic proposition. Although the provisions of the bill will undoubtedly help the gold-mining industry and will enable gold production to be maintained for some time, they do not solve the important problem of getting the maximum number of golden dollars out of our underground treasure chests.
The industry badly needs a specific subsidy for development work. Its reasons for wanting such a subsidy are quite easy to understand and are quite sound. If we want to draw dividends from a venture, we must be prepared to put capital into it to develop its profit-earning capacity. The great gold mines of South Africa are not what they are because many large nuggets were found lying on the ground. They have had hundreds of millions of pounds spent on their development, and now the industry is repaying that capital many times over. I trust that when the Government does review its policy on this question, it will look at it from this long-term point of view. Merely maintaining present production is not paying due regard to the importance of this source of national wealth.
I had hoped that the Government would accede to requests for the revision of the definition of a small producer. The bill provides for an increase of 8s. in the flat-rate subsidy for small producers. The increase will be welcomed by prospectors and very small operators, but this is not very much help to the small producers, who cannot continue their activities on an output of 500 ounces. Although 500 ounces of gold have a value of £7,500, winning the gold could cost very nearly the same amount. In fact, in some cases it could exceed the value of the gold. While I am not saying that the Government should accept the financial responsibility for mis-management, I would say that I think the small producer should get something like the same help that is given to the large producer.
Let me cite the case of a small mine producing 1,000 ounces of gold a year. Let us assume that it is owned by a syndicate of three men who work the mine themselves. This would be quite a usual case, not an isolated example. The 1,000 ounces produced from that mine would bring in £15,000. of which quite conceivably £10.000 could be eaten up in expenses, leaving £5,000 to be divided between the three men. As the mine produces 1,000 ounces it gets no subsidy under the present arrangement. I understand that such a syndicate may receive a large producer’s subsidy if it assesses its costs of production and if they are in excess of £13 10s. an ounce. How do they assess the value, for instance, of their labour? Usually those men work seven days a week in the bush and they work from dawn till dark. In their request for a subsidy based on costs are they to show on their expense sheet that they work 30 hours overtime a week?
Is the mine that produces 600 ounces a year, which is 100 ounces over the limitation, a large producer? Would the operator of such a mine have to account for his costs of production to show that each ounce costs more than £13 10s. to produce? If it costs him £13 9s. an ounce to earn £1,300 profit for a year’s very hard work, is that sufficient incentive for him to dig for another 19,000 precious dollars in the next year? I maintain that it is not.
These are important points that 1 have unsuccessfully tried to make in this House in an effort to influence the Government over the last few weeks. I trust that when the time comes for the Government to examine the gold-mining industry it will pay due respect to the factors that I have mentioned. Because it is a temporary fillip to the gold-mining industry, I support this bill.
– I desire to say a few words on this relatively unimportant matter, although, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) has shown, it is of some importance to particular areas of the community. The honorable member spoke particularly of the Kalgoorlie district. My friend the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) also represents an area in which a good deal of gold-mining is done. I have no gold-miners in my electorate as far as I am aware. Despite what we may say at times about its comparative lack of real use, gold, because of the mysteries that enshroud the financial system generally, as a last resort still seems to be the only material that will, in default of anything else, be accepted as the basis of an international currency. However, in many respects gold is being used less and less today. It is not now used very much even for filling teeth or making nibs for fountain pens. Gold suffers from the fact that its price for over 25 years has been fixed at 35 dollars a fine ounce, despite the fact that in that time the cost of its production has risen significantly. The mining of gold depends largely on labour and machinery the price of which has increased. But because the price of the final product has remained constant, the margin going to the producer has declined considerably. That is why we have devices such as this bill. This bill after all provides only one form of subsidy to the gold-mining industry. The production of gold is subject to certain favorable considerations so far as the investment of capital is concerned. Anybody investing in a new gold mine or putting new capital into a mine receives certain concessions with regard to income tax. Similarly, the profits when finally derived, insofar as they come purely from gold-mining activities, also are free of taxation. That in a sense is another kind of subsidy.
Basically the reason why a country such as Australia continues to mine this comparatively useless metal is because it still is a significant earner of something of which this country is very short - foreign exchange. I think the honorable member for Kalgoorlie indicated that the total value of gold produced in Australia is in the region of £17,000,000 and I believe that the major portion of that gold comes from Western Australia and in particular from the honorable member’s electorate. I would venture to suggest that if we properly costed the gold-mining industry, that is, if we offset against the final price of the product the costs incurred in mining, we might find that in the aggregate gold was being produced at a loss. We might find that in terms of labour, energy and the utilization of capital all that we were doing was digging holes in the ground, taking a certain metal out, sending it abroad and saying that we had earned a certain amount of foreign exchange. But so short is Australia of foreign exchange, particularly dollars, that we must still resort to this kind of artifice. It is in the light of that kind of circumstance that the goldmining industry continues to be maintained in Australia.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie rather pessimistically referred to the prospect of a rise in the price of gold. I have indicated already that the price of gold, despite the fact that the price of almost everything else has doubled in the last 25 years, has been maintained by the American authorities at 35 dollars an ounce. I understand that a British economist of some standing - a Mr. Roy Harrod - suggested recently that the price of gold should be increased to something like 100 dollars an ounce. That would be a very good thing for most of the world but it would not suit America, because America is ultimately the purchaser of most of the world’s output of gold, despite allegations that a good deal of Australia’s gold finds it way to Hong Kong and ultimately elsewhere. In fact, the one country which would bear the brunt of a rise in the price of gold would be the United States of America, and, unfortunately for the capitalist system, the country to derive the greatest benefit would probably be the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which, it is estimated - it is difficult, of course, to get accuracy in these estimates - holds, at home and in banks in Switzerland and other places, gold of a total value of somewhere near nine billion dollars. That, of course, is a very significant sum. If, as Mr. Harrod has suggested, the price of gold were increased nearly three times, from 35 dollars an ounce to 100 dollars an ounce, for all practical purposes there would be transferred to the Soviet Union, for nothing, something like another eighteen billion dollars, in terms of international purchasing power. I suggest that, underneath it all, that is perhaps one of the reasons why it is not quite as easy as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggests to attain what he sees as the desirable objective.
I should like at this point to bring to the attention of the House an article which I happened to come across in a newspaper in the United States when I was there some twelve months ago. The article appeared in a journal circulating in Los Angeles, a city with a population of several millions, and I suggest that this journal is therefore at least as significant as is any daily newspaper published in Australia, and that, for this reason, despite the name of the author, the article should be given due weight. In the Los Angeles “ Herald and Express “ of 1 6th August, 1958, there appeared an article by one named George Sokolsky, on the subject “ Russian Gold “. The writer made a statement which I think is quite relevant when he wrote -
Money is a dull science and is understood by few. A currency based on gold has a higher value than a currency based on nothing except the credit of the country only because people react more favorably to the gold currency.
He was asserting there a quite simple principle - that people value gold only because no other nation has very much confidence, at times, in another nation’s currency, and if people cannot get a settlement in anything else they will finally accept settlement only in terms of gold.
– That is a very good arrangement.
– In my view, it is a rather curious and antiquated arrangement which simply indicates how difficult it is to get common sense and co-operation in economic affairs, because the only thing that people will accept ultimately is something that has no value except that people will not accept any alternative. Basically, that is the only reason for a gold industry in any part of the world to-day. That is the only reason why the gold industry is able to play up this marginal factor that gold is the only thing that people will accept ultimately as a medium of exchange.
The writer of the article to which I have referred went on to point out something which he sees as a very serious problem facing the Western world at present. I think this is something that people ought to note. Mr. Sokolsky stated -
Under the Soviet system, Soviet Russia does not need a gold currency for domestic purposes.
Indeed, for all practical purposes, Australia does not have a gold currency for domestic requirements. The only significance that gold has is in terms of international transactions. At present, you have the situation, both in terms of gold resources, as it were, and on the international plane, of what are called the free gold reserves of the United States of America. That is simply the amount of gold over and above the requirements for the internal currency which is retained in what is referred to as “ Fort Knox “. The internal currency conditions of the United States require that something like one-quarter of the total currency in circulation shall be backed by “old, and the amount of gold over and above that requirement in the possession of the United States is what is known as its free gold reserves. At present, the free fold reserves of the United States amount to roughly the same sum as it is suggested is held by the Soviet Union in gold - about eight billion to nine billion dollars. Honorable members will have read, of course, that over the last twelve or eighteen months there has been a flow of gold from the United States to the rest of the world. Some people have suggested that this is because the dollar ls an over-valued currency and not, as was implied before, an under-valued currency. I do not propose to argue in this debate the merits of that attitude. 1 merely indicate that, at present, the free gold reserves of the United States of America roughly match the reported gold-holdings of the Soviet Union.
The writer of the article from which I have quoted went on to suggest that the Russians, purely for purposes of international trade, may attempt to evolve a gold rouble - in other words, a unit of currency that would be acceptable to any other country that liked to trade with the Soviet Union. And there are quite significant sections of world opinion to which such a currency would be more acceptable than is the dollar at present. As 1 have said, this sort of thing was already being hinted at in the United States of America twelve months ago. The article went on to state -
While on one side, Soviet Russia conducts a diplomatic and propagandistic war against us, attacking our capitalist system as evil, on the other side, Soviet Russia is pursuing a strictly capitalistic course in attempting to establish a gold rouble to become the foundation currency in world markets.
I have taken the opportunity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to indicate that these matters are not quite so simple of solution as some people imply. It is freely suggested at times that the price of gold ought to be increased. I shall point out what that would mean at least to the Western trading bloc. There is no cut-and-dried line between what is the Eastern bloc and what is the Western bloc - in matters of trade, anyway. The country in what we term the Western world that would lose by such a move would be, particularly, the United States. In the sterling area, at present, every ounce of gold is the equivalent of 35 dollars, and if the price of gold were raised, the purchasing power of the sterling area would be increased at the expense of the United States. If that applied to the whole of the world, and the United States of America felt that such a device might stimulate world trade, and, on balance, would be a good thing, the price of gold would possibly be increased.
The other limiting factor is that the Soviet Union would immediately be given an increase of the equivalent in gold of some nine billion dollars. That is why I suggest to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie - admirable though his intentions may be - that Kalgoorlie and Australia rank very low in world terms on ultimate issues. I hope that the world will come to a stage where, in order that trade between nations must flow, it does not need metal which is valuable for no other purpose than as a medium of exchange. But so long as we still take that ice-age approach, gold will be a consideration in the conflict between the two great power blocs in the world, and this does not make the problem quite as simple as the honorable member imagines.
– Are you expressing the official Labour attitude?
– I am not expressing any attitude. I am simply attempting to illuminate. I think that this is sometimes required in this House. On these issues I do not think there is any official Labour attitude or any official Liberal attitude. At times a little common sense ought to be applied, and if common sense were to prevail in this matter gold would not be at all significant. Because we are still living in this kind of economy and the honorable member’s fair city is dependent upon the mining of metal, the honorable member, for political expediency, has to urge as high a price as possible for this otherwise useless metal. The subsidy that is now being considered arises simply out of that state of affairs. It does not arise from any altruistic attitude. Because we cannot otherwise earn as many dollars as we would like, we are resorting to this device to sell what is otherwise a useless metal. If we really compared what we get for gold with what it costs to produce it, we would probably see how relatively useless an exercise is the mining of gold. But it is probably no more useless than are many other exercises engaged in under a capitalist economy. That is part of the scheme of things and I am not condemning the people who work in the gold-mining industry.
It is essential for Australia to produce as much gold as possible. Because it is being produced, an economic problem is created, and such artifices as this are required, as gold is not like other products. In the case of wool, wheat, or motor cars, one could say that because the cost of production had risen, the price should rise accordingly. But the price of this metal is fixed for purely monetary reasons by the
United States of America. Therefore we attempt to get an artificial price for the product in Australia by resorting to devices of this sort - a subsidy for certain kinds of production. As I indicated earlier, the matter is also hedged around with certain benefits in the attraction of capital into this country.
I hope that the House will not regard this as a party political measure. I am at one with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and my colleague from Bendigo in urging that this scheme should be extended in certain directions where it does not already apply. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie expressed a hope that some day there might be an increase in the price of this metal. I am simply saying that there are certain big difficulties in the way. I support the amendment that has been moved by my colleague, the honorable member for Bendigo, and I hope that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie may be sufficiently non-partisan politically to support the amendment when the vote is taken.
.- It would indeed be very pleasant if we could treat the future of gold-mining on a nonparty basis, because a problem similar to that which faces this Government will face any successful government in the future, just as it has had to be faced by Labour governments in the past. The guiding factor is the world price of gold, and the future of the gold-mining industry is entirely tied up with this. No one could have done more than Australia did in the councils of the world to urge and bring about an increase in the world price of gold. But as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) just pointed out, a brutal fact of life is that the price of gold is controlled by the price at which the United States Treasury is prepared to buy it. As the United States of America is now, has been, and is likely to remain for as far ahead as we can see, the overwhelmingly dominant country in the world market for gold, only an examination of the motives likely to be brought to bear by the United States authorities i; likely to throw any light on future prospers.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports properly pointed to one of the very prominent features of the situation in the minds of United States authorities, when he referred to the very large stock of Russian gold, the future production of gold by Russia, and the fact that if there were any rise in the price of gold the purchasing power of the Soviet Union, and thus its economic strength in the markets of the world, would be enhanced to the extent to which the price of gold was increased. The price of gold has not changed within 25 years. Within that 25 years we have had the upheaval of war. We have had all kinds of different economic situations, the flowing of gold to America, the development of black markets in gold in some countries, and in the Far East and India the development of markets of limited size for gold for special reasons, as the price of gold has remained stable over this period of upheaval, the likelihood is that it will remain so.
Within the United States itself there are not to-day any significant pressures from the United States gold-mining industry for an increase in price, largely because the companies mining gold are also mixed up with the mining of other metals, and gold emerges very largely as a by-product. Also, in the United States there is in some quarters which are very influential a durable, almost pathological fear of inflation and any suggestion that the price of gold should rise almost inevitably brings a very sharp adverse reaction from these quarters. There was a possibility a few years ago that the United States would consider an increase in the price of gold to alleviate the dollar shortage in the world and improve the balance of payments of the rest of the world with the United States, but for some years now the United States has been running a deficit. This fact has taken a long time to reach into the minds of policymakers in other countries and perhaps will make its impact here last of all. For some months the United States has in fact been losing gold because of an adverse balance of payments, and this started one of those periodic flutters which go through the markets over there because of a belief that the price of gold might be increased. That was followed by a wave of interest in goldmining shares on the part of an influential group of United States investors. However, on any cold-blooded assessment of national interest it is very difficult to see how it could possibly be in the interests of the United States to increase the price of gold. That is the fact which should guide our policies. If there was a reasonable prospect of the price being increased, further heavy investment in gold-mining might make sense, but in fact, the picture is of a fixed price of gold and steadily mounting costs.
Fortunately, owing to some very fine technical efforts in various directions on the part of our gold-mining industry, it has been possible to offset, to some extent, the rise in costs, and as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie so rightly pointed out, the industry has kept going by mining only the better grades of ore. When costs are high in relation to price the standard of the quality of ore which it pays to treat steadily comes down.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) very rightly pointed out in his second-reading speech that the main purpose of this bill is not to provide further gold exports from Australia, but to keep in being large settlements, particularly in Western Australia which are almost dependent upon the continuance of gold-mining. This remains a very definite reason for the use of funds to keep in being important towns and settlements in that State. But looking at the increase in costs even at the present rate of subsidy, we note that these subsidy payments have more than doubled in three years. They have risen from £400,000 in 1955-56 to £900,000 in the current year. That is within a period of three years, and under the present scheme they must continue to rise.
In the face of these facts, the next question to be answered is: Should the Government, as a policy, subsidize exports? If it is going to subsidize exports merely to gain foreign exchange, any argument which can be brought to bear in relation to the Government putting further funds into the gold industry to increase exports of gold, could apply to almost any other industry with export prospects, such as coal, butter, wheat, wool, and motor cars. If, in fact, we were prepared to use public money on a large scale we could increase the exports of almost any industry. If that were its objective, the Government should look around and ascertain where the biggest return, in terms of exports, would come from any given investment. But since it is against the policy of Government to subsidize exports directly, the only other possibility of increasing exports of gold and other commodities on a large scale is another measure which would be repugnant to most governments, that is, depreciating the rate of exchange.
If we look at this realistically, we will see that there is one real chance of increasing the scale of gold-mining in Australia. That is by depreciating our exchange rates in terms of dollars. But outside that, there is no real hope of any further investment in the gold-mining industry other than one which resulted in a considerable lowering of costs and which possibly could be a sound long-term proposition. This being the case, it would be quite against the interests of those engaged in the gold-mining industry or any one else to hold out a hope that by some means in the future the Government would be led to subsidize the gold-mining industry or provide capital for it on a large scale.
If the Government were to provide extra capital for that industry there are many other industries throughout Australia with at least equal claims for similar help. If the gold-mining industry is to be provided with funds for further development, it has a case to prove that this further investment will, in fact, result in a considerable lowering of its average costs. Only in those circumstances could such assistance be justified.
Many remarks have been made in this House about the high profits on foreign capital invested in Australia but it should be noted that one of the reasons for this is that foreign capital, and the capital which is best allocated by Australians themselves,go into industries from which the return is high. In this country, which is so desperately short of capital in relation to its national ambitions, the only thing to do is to direct capital into those channels which yield a very high economic and social return.
It would be a great pity if this subject were to become a party political matter because the same hard economic facts in relation to gold mining exist whichever party happens to be in power. I can well appreciate the views of the honorable member for Bendigo and also those of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. Indeed, no one, in the short space of time that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has been in this House could have done more in every way to promote the interests of the gold-mining industry both outside this House and inside it and among his fellow members. The honorable member for Bendigo has, in a way, a similar problem and one can well sympathize with him. There are these dumps and tailings which could be processed - at a cost - but the result of the processing would be extra foreign exchange. However, the same facts apply: These costs would be out of proportion to the returns received. Although one hesitates to treat this matter on a party basis, I cannot see that the Government could or should accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo.
I urge, above all, that we recognize the fact that the world price of gold is very unlikely to rise and we should base our plans on that foundation.
.- I was glad to hear the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) concede that it was important to keep in being gold-mining town and settlements in Western Australia. I wish he had made a similar concession last night when I was putting forward a scheme which would have made it possible to ensure the continuance of another important town and settlement in Western Australia, Norseman, which is also in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne).
We are all supporting the bill, which will increase the bounty on the production of Australia’s least useful but most valuable metal. It is the most valuable metal, not because we use it, but because it is the only metal that we can be certain the United States will buy. We gain dollars from the United States by selling gold very largely to Hong Kong.
I rise to speak on the inter-relation between diplomacy and trade. This is a truism in discussions outside the House. Within the last few months, or the last year, there have been many occasions in the House when honorable members have directed attention to the relevance of our diplomacy in order to secure trade, or the wickedness of extending diplomatic recognition to certain countries in the hope of promoting trade with them. 1 want to refer to a variation of this theme. The principal gold producer in what we call the free world is the union of South Africa. We are paying large bounties on gold every year. We are now increasing the bounty in order to compete on the world market or rather the United States market with gold which is produced virtually by slave labour - certainly by indentured labour and underpaid labour - in South Africa. We are conniving at that condition in South Africa by our consistent diplomatic policy in the United Nations.
– There is a standard price for gold. There is no question of competition.
– I realize that. But if South Africa had to pay the wages which we pay - and properly pay - in Kalgoorlie and the other goldmining centres of Australia, it would not produce as much gold as it is producing. In fact, it would probably not produce any gold at all and the United States of America would buy proportionately more gold from Australia.
– America buys every ounce that we produce.
– If less gold were produced by South Africa more could profitably be produced by Australia. The plain fact is that we are encouraging by our diplomatic action, the production of gold at an unreally low price by South Africa. If South Africa had to pay the bounty that we are paying it would cease to produce gold. I referred to the indentured labour which is used by South Africa. I shall quote the wages paid per shift to white and to native people - to Europeans and to Africans - in South Africa. The following passage appears in the “ Official Year Book “ of the Union of South Africa, for 1956-57:-
The Natives employed on the Witwatersrand goldmines are housed in compounds, and fed at the expense of the mining companies. With the ex and of diamond mines in the Transvaal and mines in the Cape where Natives are housed only, it is general for companies to provide their coloured employees with free quarters and food. For the years 1949 and 1950, the cost of such services to the Chamber per Native per shift was approximately 22.65 pence and 24.40 pence respectively. The average rate of Native money wages per shift during September, 1956, was. 3s. 10.9d. on producing mines.
By comparison, the average pay for whites per shift, excluding cost of living and certain other allowances, is shown in the same publication as 48s. 6d. Various other operators on the surface, not below, received from 24s. 4d. up to 33s. lOd. It will be noticed that the payment per shift to Africans in the Witwatersrand gold mine was under 4s. and for whites, underground, 48s. 6d. lt is quite plain that the South African natives are being exploited.
I now show how we have connived at that exploitation. Every year, for the las: ten years, the United Nations has had before it a motion condemning the racial discrimination involved in the South African policy of apartheid - the separation of the races, or the exploitation of the black by the white. Australia is now one of the few countries which are prepared to support South Africa. The voting last October in the General Assembly of the United Nations was 70 against South Africa, five for South Africa and four abstaining. The five countries voting for South Africa were the United Kingdom. France, Belgium, Portugal and Australia. The four countries abstaining were the Netherlands, Spain, Finland and the Dominican Republic. It is significant to note that not only did all our Pacific allies in Seato and Anzus vote against South Africa - not only the United States and New Zealand - but also Canada and all the new members of the Commonwealth of Nations. The United Kingdom made it plain that it did not approve the South African Government’s native policy but that it voted against the motion only because it thought it was a domestic matter, however much it deplored that domestic policy. I think it is high time that we. the Australian Government, ceased to connive internationally and diplomatically at this exploitation of the native population in producing gold in the principal goldproducing country of the free world.
– I shall not detain the House at any great length by way of reply but I am sure that the Opposi ion would wish me to indicate our attitude towards the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr, Clearey). Whilst I can well understand the honorable member for Bendigo, representing that historic goldmining centre, having a very real interest in the question of recovering gold from the old dumps and tailings around the city - and no doubt it is a matter of some consequence to a certain number of people in that neighbourhood - the Government cannot accept the amendment. To do so would cut right across the principle that is embodied in this legislation.
We have made it clear that our purpose is to sustain an indus.ry, not to use the taxpayers’ finance in order to subsidize people who may be working over old dumps or old tailings in the manner which would be involved in Bendigo. There may be other former mining centres around the Commonwealth where similar circumstances would arise. If there are people who feel that profits are to be made and income earned by turning over the dumps of those old workings, that is for them to decide. But I think that, on reflection, it will be agreed that it is not an appropriate manner in which the revenue of the Commonwealth should be used, imposing a burden on the taxpayers of this country.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) raised two or three points to which I will make special reference. I appreciate the manner in which he has dealt constructively with the problems of an industy which, of course, is vital to the well-being of that great centre in Western Australia. It was because the Government realized the social consequences of a decline in the industry to a centre such as Kalgoorlie and, perhaps, others in Western Australia, in particular that it decided upon the line of policy which is being continued in this legislation. We believe, confidentally, that, as a result of what we are doing in this bill, the industry will be sustained and that Kalgoorlie will carry on. I am sure that there is an appreciation of that on the part, not only of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, but of those who, by their wise choice, sent him to this place.
He did raise a point about the small producer. I know that he has argued consistently that the Government should amend the definition of “ small producer “ so that those producing more than 500 oz. of gold should receive the special flat rate subsidy which applies to that classification of producer. He has pointed to the fact that, in some instances, the total amount of production is. achieved, not by one person, but by a syndicate of persons and that in these cases we might well extend the eligibility. I point out to him, on the question raised, whether the wages which they earned would tend to disqualify them for these purposes, that it is true .here is no specific reference to this point in the legislation. He will find that under section 10 (1.) of the act I have a broad power to determine the cost of production, and i can assure him that I should regard an amount which might be deemed as provisional wages for individual members of that syndicate as an allowable cost in determining the basis to which subsidy would apply. I think that if he has in mind those who can genuinely be regarded as small producers, that assurance from me should assist the position quite materially.
The second’ point about which I remind the honorable member in this connexion is that the producer of more than 500 ounces is not disqualified from subsidy, but he would be required to show that the gold was costing more than £13 10s. an ounce to produce before subsidy would begin to run.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who came into this debate somewhat unexepectedly, pursued a very tortuous course in order to develop an argument which, in substance, was not related to the legislation at all. He used this debate as a convenient stalking horse to make his point. What he was really trying to do was to launch an attack on the Government of South Africa in respect of its domestic policies.
– No. On this Government’s approval of that government’s domestic policy.
– Well, that misstates to a considerable extent the attitude of our own Government. I do not regard this debate as a vehicle for discussion of the very important, but quite different, matter which the honorable gentleman has sought to introduce here. I must say, Mr. Speaker, that in attempting to make his point he showed a quite lamentable ignorance of the gold-mining industry in South Africa, and of the conditions under which native labour works in South African gold mines. He talked about native labour being exploited, and he drew that conclusion from the difference between the wage rates paid to the natives and those paid to the white workers in the same industry. Well, Sir, thanks to the opportunity provided by that admirable organization, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, I, in company with certain other members of this Parliament, visited one of the most important gold-fields in the whole of South Africa - the new Welkom field. What impressed all of us, irrespective of our brand of politics, when we visited that gold-field, was the clear evidence of the regard of the mining organization for the welfare of its employees. In fact, Iona before the owners had set to work on the job of actually mining the gold, not only had housing of a very much superior order to that which the native would normally occupy been constructed, but the company had also erected a hospital which, we were told, if my recollection is correct, cost about £500.000. for the care of the natives working on the field.
The honorable member for Werriwa seemed to imply that the gold industry in South Africa would have had great difficulty in carrying on but for the difference between the wage rates paid to natives and those paid to white workers. Up to the time we visited that gold-field some £200.000,000 had been spent on engineering development of the field, and we were informed that it was confidently expected that gold to the value of some £4.000.000.000 sterling would be taken out of the mines when they had been finally worked out, so rich was that area in the metal. It is possibly the richest goldmining area in the world at present.
We were further interested to find that native employees came in from their tribal kraals, and after working for nine months in the mines would go back to the kraal, where they would be, in effect, set up for life. Many of them had already earned enough to enable them to take another wife or two and, in effect, live the life of Riley. They had become the prosperous men of the tribe after one period of service on that goldfield, and after the Government of South Africa had taken good care to see that they were not employed in the mines for longer than a specified term.
– They come from all over South Africa to seek jobs on the field.
– They come not only from all over South Africa to seek jobs there, but also from the Belgian-controlled area of Africa and other parts of Africa. The native regards it as a great privilege to have an opportunity to work for a term on this gold-field. Indeed, as I said before, he goes back to his tribal kraal set up for life, and becomes one of the favoured and wealthy members of his tribe. Anybody who has seen the natives working in their tribal state in South Africa realizes not only how beneficial the system I have described works out for the native employee, but also what a complete dislocation of tribal existence would develop if the native employees who come out of quite primitive conditions were placed in an identical situation with the white employees in regard to wages.
It is quite fallacious to assume that the same amount of skilled effort can be obtained from a native employee as can be obtained from a white worker. We saw an instance of that, if I may digress on this point for a moment, Mr. Speaker, at the largest citrus farm in the world, which is in South Africa, where native labour is used to pack oranges. There is a point in this operation where the fruit has to be graded according to whether it has markings which render it unacceptable for export. There are three grades - export quality, first-grade quality-
– And kraal quality.
– No, not kraal quality, but the sort of quality that the honorable gentleman and I would probably have on our table at home if we had the opportunity Oranges sometimes have on them marks or scars which, although they do not affect the quality or flavour of the fruit, bring the oranges so blemished into a lower grade for marketing. The interesting thing was that native labour was employed on all the other stages of the packing operations, but, the fruit having reached the point where somebody had to exercise judgment as to whether it was of export quality, first-grade quality or just ordinary market quality, white labour had to be used, because the fruit was going along on a kind of conveyor belt and a quick judgment had to be made as to its grade. Honorable members might regard that as a simple exercise of judgment, but the fact is that native labour has not the necessary degree of skill.
I have just mentioned that, Mr. Speaker, as an illustration of how fallacious it can be, if one is not aware of the conditions that exist in a particular place, to assess what conditions in that place should be, based on our conditions here. 1 think that I have pursued quite far enough what was a digression on the part of the honorable member for Werriwa, and I now wish to express my appreciation of the speech made by my colleague the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), which was a thoughtful and helpful contribution from a man who really understands the international economic significance of gold and the policy which the United States has adopted in relation to it.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Clarey’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I am amazed, Mr. Chairman, at the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey).
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! The amendment was defeated in the second-reading stage.
– Had the amendment been accepted the bill would have had to be redrafted. This would have meant that the matter could not have been disposed of in the present sessional period. It would have had to wait for three months, and in the meantime a large part of the goldmining industry, which relies on this subsidy, would also have had to wait for the subsidy. Apart from other considerations, it was a completely phony amendment.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - proposed
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I feel that I should say something to indicate that the acceptance of my amendment, and consequent alteration of the bill, would not have affected the industry at all. Under the provisions of the legislation the large producers receive their bounty on the total transactions carried out during the twelve months ending at the end of the financial year. On 30th June, 1959, on which date the legislation will still be in operation, the producers will submit their claims for bonus covering the previous twelve months’ operations, and those claims will be paid. The payment of the bonus in the case of large producers is based upon twelve months’ operations. I want to assure my friend, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne), that the fears that he entertained are entirely groundless.
I want to say one other thing. Whenever I move an amendment it is a genuine amendment, and any suggestion that my amendment in this case was phony was, in my opinion, entirely out of order.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of .the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) from making his speech on the second reading of the Matrimonial Causes Bill without limitation of time.
Bill presented by Sir Garfield Barwick, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to give to the people of Australia, for the first time in our history, one law with respect to divorce and matrimonial causes and such important ancillary matters as maintenance -of divorced wives and the custody and maintenance of the children of divorced persons. Upon the bill becoming law, Australia, so far as my research goes, will be one of the first countries under a federal constitution to deal comprehensively and uniformly on a national basis with matrimonial causes. Indeed, the power to make such a law is seldom vested by a federal constitution in the National Parliament. Matrimonial causes have usually been left to the component States or provinces.
With great prescience, however, the makers of the Australian Constitution vested in this Parliament a power, concurrent with that of the States, to make laws with respect to these matters. This is paragraph (xxii) of section 51 of the Constitution, which gives this Parliament power to make laws with respect to -
Divorce and matrimonial causes; and in relation thereto, parental rights, and the custody and guardianship of -infants.
In simple terms, our forefathers thought it appropriate to an Australian way of life for which they were preparing that the regulation of these matters should be on an Australia-wide basis. For almost two complete generations, this power has been left largely to the States. I think the basic reason for the reticence of governments hitherto to attempt a complete federal law for matrimonial causes has been the wise understanding that the people of this widespreading continent had not heretofore attained that sense of unity which would enable them readily to forgo the familiar and distinctive features of their State systems of divorce, in favour of a uniform national law resulting probably if not necessarily from some degree of compromise. No government hitherto has sponsored a bill to introduce such a federal law.
There have been three private members’ bills - one, in the first Parliament of the Commonwealth in 1901, introduced by a Tasmanian senator, which did not get beyond the first reading; the other two more recently, and both introduced by my learned and distinguished colleague - the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). I shall briefly mention them both.
In 1955, my colleague introduced, and this Parliament passed, a Matrimonial Causes Bill, which did not indeed deal at all with the grounds of divorce but which effected a useful further jurisdictional reform, bringing under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1945 categories of married women not previously included, with the result that all wives resident in Australia for the prescribed period could institute divorce proceedings in the State or Territory of their residence.
The honorable member for Balaclava, with great perception, appreciated however the effect which the great mobility afforded by modern transport and our expanding industrialization have had on such problems as domicile, and the disparity of the ground’s of divorce from State to State. He realized that Australians, in the halfcentury of the Commonwealth’s history, had developed such a maturity and such a national sentiment that they were now ready to accept a national law to govern comprehensively these most significant aspects of family life. My colleague was impelled to promote a bill for this purpose. Yielding to his energetic insistence, the Government gave him the .opportunity in 1957 to introduce it, and facilitated its discussion in a second-reading debate. So well did he labour in the preparation of his bill, to- which he brought wide and precise learning, in its subject-matter, that in truth he deprived himself of the great privilege and honour of carrying his statesmanlike project to fruition; for,. Mr. Speaker, the Government has been moved by my colleague’s endeavours itself to take up the task of introducing a bill. This, with no small sense of privilege, I am doing on its behalf to-night. The Government has accepted my colleague’s faith that this people is ready to receive an Australian act to preserve and protect family life, and to grant dissolution of marriage and other matrimonial relief on grounds common to all Australians.
When introducing his bill, the honorable member for Balaclava made due acknowledgment of the assistance which he had had in. its preparation. He made, proper reference to the initiative taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he occupied the office which I now hold, and to the practising members of the legal profession and of their professional organizations who gave of their time and learning to the preparation and criticism of some of the successive drafts. I would join my colleague in these acknowledgments. In the- preparation of the present bill, I have had the benefit of a great deal of skilful labour by my immediate predecessor who had advanced the draft so close to completion; and from my colleague himself 1 have had much assistance and wise counsel’. I very willingly acknowledge the great debt that this bill owes to all those to whom I have referred, but particularly to the honorable member for Balaclava.
It should also be known that the draftsmen and other officers of my department have laboured, both in the time of my predecessor and in the short time that I have been in office, unsparingly, far beyond the demands of duty and with great imagination, in endeavouring to foresee all those circumstances which the words of this measure must embrace and’ for which they must make provision.
Acknowledging the Government’s great debt, and my own, to my colleague the honorable member for Balaclava, I nonetheless owe it to the House, which has already debated fully the bill that my colleague introduced, to point out some essential, differences between that bill and the measure that is before the House to-night. Principally, they are four. First, the Government has developed the reconciliation provisions which found, a place in my colleague’s, bill into a systematic and, it would claim, an effective, effort to assist in the promotion of sound and strong marriages. I shall refer presently, and at greater length, to the paramount importance which the present bill gives to the preservation and protection of the family.
Second, in deciding what grounds of divorce ought to be made universal in Australia, the Government has approached the matter somewhat differently. My colleague, as a private member, felt himself confined to introducing uniformity in the law by the process of finding the maximum common ground in the existing laws of the several States. This meant, in effect, the exclusion of all grounds that were not already to be found in all, or almost all, States. The Government, on the other hand, has felt that it should offer this Parliament the opportunity of giving to the people of Australia grounds which they will accept and which are appropriate to our present-day needs. In doing so the Government has not been deterred because all the States have not as yet troubled to bring their laws up to date. Instead, therefore, of denying to the people of an individual State the application of existing legal rules, on the ground that they had as yet found no acceptance in other States, the bill I am introducing to-night offers to make available throughout Australia some rules which have hitherto been found - for example - only in one or two States. Soundness of the ground, rather than the extent to which it has been adopted by the States, has weight with the Government. But the principle behind each of the grounds has already been accepted1 in some parts of Australia. The bill in this respect does not seek to go beyond already tried experience in this field of social legislation, but on the other hand seeks to avoid the illiberal and the narrow.
Third, whereas my colleague’s bill provided for the establishment of a new federal divorce Court, the Government’s bill does not. On the contrary, it takes the alternative course that the Constitution permits, and turns into federal jurisdiction the jurisdiction at present exercised by State courts. The principal object we have had in view is to ensure that the great bulk of divorce appeals will not find their way into the great constitutional tribunal of the nation, the High Court of Australia, but will be disposed of by the Full Courts of the State Supreme Courts.
Fourth, the present bill differs in respect of maintenance proceedings. My colleague’s bill made no provision for judicial separation, but instead would have allowed a wife to claim maintenance in a superior court irrespective of any other matrimonial relief. The present bill does make provision for judicial separation, and leaves maintenance proceedings by a wife where she is not seeking divorce or judicial separation exclusively in the hands of the States, which means at present in the magistrates’ courts. I should immediately add that, so far as divorce and matrimonial casues are concerned, including claims for the maintenance of divorced wives and the children of divorced or judicially separated persons, State laws will be displaced, and the Federal statute will be the sole source of the relevant law.
Mr. Speaker, one of the great foundations of our national life is the family, and in turn the family is founded on marriage. National interest is best served and family life is best nurtured when marriage is truly life-long. The prevalence of broken marriages does threaten our strength and imperil our future. The ideal society would know no occasion for divorce.
But, Mr. Speaker, it is not given to us all, as humans, to choose, often in years of immaturity, a life-long partner with wisdom and an adequate appreciation of the personality - often itself immature - of our choice. Nor are we all able to bear with resignation and fortitude the maladjustments and torments of a faulty choice. Few indeed have the saintliness of Hosea, who forgave and embraced again his unfaithful wife.
Legislatures have thus long since come to the view that a point of breakdown in relationship may be reached where it is proper that one of the parties to the marriage should be given the right by the law of the land to make a second choice, and in accordance with that law and as far as it extends with regularity and honour, to enter a new marriage.
There are those of us who cannot be reconciled in doctrine or in conscience to this view. This we understand and profoundly respect. But nobody supposes that this Government is to-day, for the first time, introducing a system of divorce into Australian life. Such a system has been part of our civil law, part of the pattern of our community life, for a century. What the bill proposes in this respect is that the system shall treat people uniformly as citizens of Australia, and not diversely as citizens of the various States or Territories.
Mr. Speaker, the States’ enactments on divorce, as a matter of history, largely rested on the theory that the State may properly grant a decree of divorce or judicial separation where one of the parties has repudiated the marriage, whether expressly or by committing such a matrimonial offence as in the eyes of the public ought to discharge the other from marital obligations. In short, these systems have largely limited themselves to consideration and designation of matrimonial offences and have left all initiative in the matter of divorce with the innocent party.
But there are those who feel that recognition of the importance of family life must itself cause us to seek some way out of the situation that arises when man and wife, without misconduct or matrimonial offence on the part of either, become estranged and break off their relationship beyond all possibility of reconciliation, and out of that other situation where the innocent party refuses to take the initiative and to seek a dissolution, preferring to imprison the other party within bonds which have become meaningless and little more than a provocation. Accordingly, some communities have provided a means whereby two people so placed may b: enabled with regularity within the law to start a family afresh with another.
Honorable members will see when they study this bill that the Government has drawn upon both of these ideas in deciding the grounds upon which a marriage may be dissolved; that is to say, both the idea of matrimonial ‘ offence and the idea of a definitive and irretrievable breakdown even without an offence.
As I have said, the paramount endeavour of this bill, as contrasted with the existing laws of the States, is that it seeks to maintain marriage and to protect the family.
Let me sketch the provisions of the bill designed to this end. The first step to promote sound and strong marriage is the support the bill promises to marriage guidance organizations. I am very conscious - and in this connexion I have taken counsel of those who have so much more first-hand experience than I could possibly have - very conscious of the fact that many marriages go “ on the rocks “ and founder for want of somebody to assist the parties to overcome their difficulties, to assist the one to understand and to adjust to the other. I have been most impressed in what I have read and by those with whom I have taken the trouble to speak by the efforts in this direction of the marriage guidance organizations. I am sure they have already in this country saved many marriages from breaking down. I think they should be supported. The Government has decided that these voluntary and independent organizations should be encouraged and subsidized. Consequently, in this bill provision is made to approve marriage guidance organizations and to subsidize them, exercising for that purpose some limited supervision of their activities. Naturally, I think, there is no further function for government in this sphere.
Let me read clause 9 of the bill, which provides -
The Attorney-General may, from time to time, out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this Part, grant to an approved marriage guidance organization, upon such conditions as he thinks fit, such sums by way of financial assistance as he determines.
Mr. Speaker, I do not hold with the view that this work can be done satisfactorily by people who make it no more than a means of livelihood. The work will best be done by those who, as well as being trained, have a sense of vocation and who, to a large extent, volunteer their good offices in this very skilful and sympathetic task. Consequently, the subsidy is not intended to institutionalize these organizations, but rather is confined to giving them that financial support which will assist them in their administration, and enable them to do their work adequately and to train those who are to perform it.
So that consultation with marriage guidance counsellors can be attended by the utmost frankness and with a sense of security, the bill requires marriage guidance counsellors to take, an oath of secrecy, and disqualifies them from giving in any proceedings evidence of what is said in the course of their consultations. I refer in this respect to clause 12 of the bill. In making provision for the support of the work of marriage guidance organizations I have been thinking largely, though, of course, not exclusively, of the stage in a marriage before any open breach has occurred or before a breach has widened to the point where one of the parties has commenced judicial process to put an end to the marriage.
Mr. Speaker, I am conscious that in the early days of married life, particularly amongst younger people, the two personalities which had theretofore no need to consider any one’s interest or comfort but their own, must make many adjustments in accommodation each to the other in married life. I would expect that, in this period, marriage guidance organizations, if they earn acceptance, can be most useful. I have felt that if, in this period, it was not easy for either party to commence judicial proceedings to end the marriage there would be a much greater prospect of a more earnest endeavour to make a success of the marriage; and there may be added scope for the services of the marriage guidance organizations. Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, this bill provides that, with certain exceptions, no proceedings for dissolution or judicial separation may be commenced within three years of marriage, except by leave of a court. The exceptions relate to conduct which would mostly, if not universally, preclude reconciliation. Leave to commence proceedings under three years may be given only in exceptional circumstances where to refuse would create exceptional hardship on the moving party or where the case is one of exceptional depravity on the part of the defaulting party. The bill expressly provides, Mr. Speaker, that in considering whether or not to grant leave in these exceptional cases the court shall have regard to the interests of the children and to the possibility of a reconciliation of the parties. The precise terms of the provision are to be found in clause 39 of the bill - terms which have been tried and found worth while in Great Britain.
Honorable members will have observed that the limitation upon the commencement of proceedings does not extend to a suit for restitution of conjugal rights. This bill makes provision for such a suit, but it does not allow proceedings for dissolution of marriage to be taken immediately upon a failure to comply with an order for restitution, whatever the time fixed for compliance, as I am bound to say is the present position in the State of New South Wales. This bill permits proceedings for divorce founded on non-compliance with an order for restitution of conjugal rights only where that noncompliance has continued for the full space of one year and, of course, where three years have elapsed since the marriage.
The procedure for an order for restitution of conjugal rights is an ecclesiastical procedure designed to protect marriage and to secure reconciliation of estranged parties. Indeed, according to ecclesiastical rules it was enforceable by attachment of the disobedient respondent. When the possibility of dissolution :for disobedience was substituted for other means of enforcement of an order for restitution of conjugal rights, the way was opened, and in many cases taken, to an early, and in the minds of some a too easy, dissolution of marriage.
By insisting that only non-compliance with such an order for at least one year will be a ground of divorce this bill has returned the suit for restitution of conjugal rights to its original purpose. Under this bill, it will be a procedure in aid of reconciliation. This is particularly so where an order for restitution is sought in the early years of the marriage. Consequently, proceedings for an order for restitution of conjugal rights may be commenced within three years of marriage, but proceedings for dissolution founded on non-compliance with such an order must await the expiry of that three years. This, Mr. Speaker, I would regard as a significant step in the protection of marriage. 1 have retained my colleague’s provision that a party who has agreed to a separation may nonetheless bring that separation to an end if he or she bona fide desires to resume cohabitation. Clause 29 of the bill recognizes the ability to make such a request, and visits its refusal with some consequence. My colleague claimed and I agree, that this provision will itself aid reconciliation. The very existence of the agreement for separation may indicate an initial unwillingness to seek dissolution which, if it persists at the time of the request for cohabitation, may well assist a reconciliation.
So far I have outlined the provisions of the bill which relate principally to the effort to maintain marriage before proceedings for dissolution are commenced. These constitute a signal advance, and the Government would hope that their use would be attended with much success. However, Mr. Speaker, it would be unrealistic not to recognize the fact that, notwithstanding these beneficial provisions and their use, there will still be many cases reaching the courts. I know there is a considerable body of opinion which considers that the training of the lawyer is not apt to qualify him for the administration of laws relating to matrimonial causes. This is not the place to debate such a matter. Lawyers, Mr. Speaker, like members of this House, are often condemned by those who know nothing of them and have had no experience of what they do and how they do it. The bill, like the legislation of every State in Australia, leaves the administration of the law with the judges and the legal profession, and for myself, I am not afraid of the result.
Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, I am conscious of the fact that a judge not unnaturally feels reticent about intruding into the human relationships of those who come before him. He is aware that he does not necessarily know everything about the matter before him, because, apart from the confining effects of the rules of evidence, the parties themselves so often enter into a conspiracy of silence where their innermost secrets are concerned. The Government feels that however proper this aloofness is in matters of mere legal right, the judge in a matrimonial cause must enter more nearly into the human problems which bring the parties before him. Consequently, Mr. Speaker, this bill contains provisions designed to impress upon the legal profession that, in the administration of this law with respect to matrimonial causes, they must not lose sight of the human relationships and human values with which they are dealing. I refer, in particular, to Part III. of the bill, with the broad heading of “ Reconciliation “.
Clause 14 of the bill lays down at the very outset that it is the duty - I emphasize the words “ the duty “ - of every court which has before it a matrimonial cause, to consider, from time to time, the possibility of a reconciliation of the parties. Let me read the opening words of the clause, which are as follows: - (1.) It is the duty of the court in which a matrimonial cause has been instituted to give consideration, from time to time, to the possibility of a reconciliation of the parties to the marriage. . . .
I have thus endeavoured to prevent that understandable aloofness which the lawyer otherwise might properly feel towards the human problem before him, and have provided in an emphatic way that the court must consider at every stage whether there is a chance of reconciliation. The court must keep permanently in mind the paramount desirability of preserving the marriage, and must not merely execute the law as if the human consequences of so doing were not its concern. Machinery is provided whereby, if the judge thinks he sees a possibility of a reconciliation, he can make an endeavour to effect it. He has power to adjourn the proceedings, so as to give the parties a period of “ cooling-off “ and consideration; or he can himself undertake the task of seeing them, with or without their legal representatives, as he sees fit, in an endeavour to find a solution to their difficulties. Alternatively, he can appoint a marriage guidance organization to conciliate, or in special circumstances, he can himself appoint a person of suitable qualifications.
Under these provisions the judge will not be able to compel the parties to go into conference with each other or with him or with any person nominated by him or by a marriage guidance organization. He must have their consent. This is but right, as an intractable unwillingness to confer scare sorts well with the possibility of reconciliation. So that this endeavour may be more effective, the bill provides that the judge, if he himself undertakes conciliation, cannot afterwards hear the case unless all the parties request him to do so. This should aid unrestrained discussion. I am conscious that a judge, who unwisely intervenes and fails of his purpose, may thus cause the parties delay and expense while another judge is found and the case recommenced. But I would expect judges not to undertake to conciliate unless there are sound prospects of success, and the parties will no doubt realize before giving their consent to conciliation by the judge himself that they may thereby involve themselves in some additional costs. The delay and additional expense caused by failure in a case where there were sound prospects of success I would consider a small hazard against the prize of reconciliation. In any case, the judge is able to utilize one of the other courses provided by the bill, which do not involve any disqualification of the judge.
So that resort to these expedients in aid of reconciliation may not cause needless and useless delay, or become oppressive to a party where a case is adjourned for the purposes of reconciliation, the bill provides that after the lapse of fourteen days either party may request the matter to proceed and the hearing must then be resumed.
Lastly, to ensure frankness and discussion with complete security, the bill renders inadmissible in all proceedings anything said or any admission made in the course of the endeavour to effect a reconciliation. Further, a conciliator is required to take an oath of secrecy in the scheduled form. The parties may thus discuss with the utmost frankness and with the utmost of security all their difficulties, and have the assistance and good offices of skilled people in the endeavour to prevent destruction of their marriage and their family life. Clauses 16 and 17 of the bill achieve this result. Whilst this part of the bill directed to reconciliation is clearly more useful in contested suits than in uncontested suits, I would expect it to have significant utility even in undefended cases.
The bill thus seeks to go further than has hitherto been done in an endeavour to avoid divorce and to maintain marriage. I feel the procedures provided hold much promise, being practical and sympathetic, but parties, if not reminded, are prone to overlook the effect which their divorce may have on their children. The Government is conscious that that effect is one of the most grievous aspects of this subject. It is felt that if these consequences are forced to their attention it may well be that efforts to reconcile parents may have more success; and in any case the Government regards the welfare of the children as of cardinal importance. Consequently, this bill provides a new mechanism, at the one moment designed to bring the consequences of divorce, for the children, to the notice of the parents, and to secure the welfare of the children when divorce ensues.
Under existing systems in Australia, the parents may obtain their divorce, the decree can be made absolute, and the arrangements for the children can be left for later attention and in the end can be made by the bargaining of parties, bargaining into which other considerations than the welfare of the children may enter. So often one of the parties, particularly a guilty party, feels at a disadvantage in the bargaining, and yields to an arrangement much less advantageous to the children than the heart of a parent would desire.
The bill provides that where there are children of the marriage no decree nisi for divorce, no matter on what ground granted, may become absolute until the court by order has declared that it is satisfied that proper arrangements have been made for the welfare of the children, that is to say, proper arrangements having in mind the means and circumstances of the parents. Children are widely defined by clause 66, read with clause 5, and include not merely the issue of the marriage and children adopted by the parties, but children natural or adopted of either of them if at the relevant time they are ordinarily members of the household. In a proper case and in special circumstances, even children above the age of sixteen years may be included. The bill provides the court with a relaxing power in special circumstances which I would imagine in practice would be rarely found.
If the parents have reached that point where none may reconcile them and they are, or at least one of them is, resolved to end the marriage, as things stand at the moment if the children’s plight does not pluck sufficiently at the heartstrings of the parents the children have no voice, no means to secure their own situation; they go unheard. This bill, by the mechanisms I have just described, endeavours to make the children articulate and, through the judge, able to have their situation examined and protected. No mutual consent and no disregard by the parents can carry the day. A court is saddled with the duty of satisfying itself that the welfare of the children is secured as well as the circumstances, actual or prospective, of the parents will allow. The bill also provides that in matters affecting the custody of the children the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. This is in clause 78 of the bill.
What I have been saying relates primarily to defended proceedings. In undefended cases, where the respondent asserts no interest in the outcome, the petitioner will still have to satisfy the court that the arrangements for the children are proper, relatively, of course, to the petitioner’s own circumstances, the court making the appropriate order for maintenance to be paid by the respondent. In the absence of opposition, this onus mav perhaps be easier to discharge. But it will be there, and if there is to be no delay in the making absolute of a decree, the petitioner will have to take the necessary steps to satisfy the court.
May I sum up, Mr. Speaker, the aspects of this bill to which I have been referring and which are designed to maintain and protect marriage and the welfare of children.
These all represent distinct and substantial advances in this field of legislation in Australia.
The jurisdiction of Australian courts to dissolve a marriage has been based on the domicile of the parties, which until 1945 was always domiciled in a State or Territory. This bill will repeal the Commonwealth acts of 1945 and 1955, because it goes even further than they did in establishing for all practical purposes an Australian domicile in relation to divorce. Domicile is a legal concept, but can broadly be taken to be the permanent home of the party concerned.
Under this bill any person domiciled in Australia can institute proceedings in any State or Territory, with the sole qualification that for instituting proceedings in a Territory a short period of residence is required, for reasons practical if not indeed constitutional.
Wives in this regard present a special problem because, at common law, their domicil is that of the husband. Clause 23 provides that a deserted wife who was domiciled in Australia either before her marriage or before the desertion shall be deemed to be domiciled in Australia, and that a wife who has been resident anywhere in Australia for three years shall be deemed to be domiciled in Australia. A change of domicile, therefore, of the husband to a domicile outside Australia will not disadvantage a wife who has been deserted or who seeks divorce on any of the other grounds in this bill.
In the case of suits of nullity or for restitution or judicial separation, either domicil or residence is a sufficient basis for jurisdiction under this bill. This clarifies rather perhaps than changes the existing law.
I turn now, Mr. Speaker, to those portions of the bill which define and regulate the grounds on which dissolution or judicial separation may be granted in cases where all attempts at reconciliation have failed and the parties, or one of them, is irrevocably determined to end the marriage, or at least suspend its obligations. I have already indicated the approach which the Government felt able to make to the selection of these grounds. At the moment, in total, the available grounds under State law number about 30. Some of them are but variants of another, some overlap one another, and some are, as it were, indigenous and confined to a single State. Much thought has been given to the grounds which the Government should offer to this House, and through this Parliament, to the people of Australia, the Government wishing to be neither illiberal nor merely experimental. The grounds selected are to be found in clause 27 of the bill, but with them should be read clauses 31 to 38 inclusive. The sections in this group qualify and regulate the grounds and their use in most significant respects, to some of which I shall later refer.
These grounds number now fourteen, and naturally owe much to the existing provisions of the State laws, though a deal of simplification has taken place, and I have felt that this Parliament should not necessarily be bound by the language of the State legislation.
I shall not trouble the House at this stage with the technicalities and the legalisms of the bill. There will be ample opportunity in committee to examine - I hope, with great particularity and care - the legal structure and expression and the inter-relation of all parts of this bill. Here I shall endeavour with a fairly broad brush merely to give a picture of some of the more significant consequences of enacting the bill.
The list of grounds begins with the familiar, and I should think now noncontroversial grounds of adultery and desertion. Under the bill a single act of adultery, whether on the part of the wife or of the husband, is sufficient. The period of desertion under the bill is two years, as recommended by the Law Council of Australia, and not three as has been customary under State law.
It is thought that, bearing in mind the period of maladjustment which precedes the actual desertion, and the length of time which court processes will take after the statutory period of desertion has run, a period of two years is not liberal, but no more than just. Certain anomalies in connexion with the establishment of the intention to desert have been remedied in clauses 28 to 30.
Wilful refusal to consummate the marriage is next on the list. I should immediately explain that inability to consummate the marriage owing to physical defect, including psychological repugnance either generally or particular to the spouse, has been a ground not for dissolution but for nullity for a long time, and is so under this bill. Where, however, a party is able to consummate the marriage but wilfully and persistently refuses so to do, a decree of dissolution appears warranted in the interests of family life. A safeguard with respect to this ground is to be found in clause 31 which, briefly, requires the court to be satisfied that, as at the commencement of the hearing, the marriage had not, in fact, been consummated.
There follow, in the list, cruelty, unnatural offences, habitual drunkenness for a period of two years, and three grounds based on conviction for crime on the part of the other partner. This bracket includes frequent convictions, aggregating imprisonment for not less than three years, coupled with habitual refusal to provide the petitioner with reasonable means of support; imprisonment for not less than three years for a grave offence, and conviction within one year of the petition of an offence involving the intentional infliction of, or intention to inflict, grievous bodily harm on the petitioner, or of an attempt to murder the petitioner. The justification for making such conduct a ground of divorce is that it amounts to a repudiation of the marriage, either as being incompatible with its continuance or as finally destroying the basis of confidence and respect without which a sound relationship cannot continue. Some at least of these criminal activities, I may add, may not necessarily fall within commonly accepted definitions of “ cruelty “, and therefore require separate specification.
Habitual and wilful failure of a party to comply with an order or an agreement for maintenance throughout the period of two years preceding the petition has been made by the bill, as is now the position in South Australia and in Western Australia, a ground of divorce. It would seem, Mr. Speaker, that habitual and wilful refusal to comply with an order or an agreement to maintain the wife, coupled, of course, with the circumstances which have led to the making of the order or the agreement - though they may not amount in themselves to a matrimonial offence - is a sufficient reason for permitting dissolution. The conduct is indeed akin to desertion. By the time the marriage obligation has thus been repudiated, and the wife desires to form another union - a desire possibly prompted by the very circumstances themselves - it seems only right that she should be able to begin anew and find the security which has been denied her.
As in the case of. my colleague’s bill, presumed death, with proper safeguards, is a ground. My colleague in his bill provided as a ground of divorce that the other party to the marriage was, at the date of the petition, of unsound mind and unlikely to recover, and had within the immediately preceding six years been confined for at least five years in an institution for the mentally ill. In this my colleague adopted, with only minor modification, a provision which had long been in force in all States except New South Wales. The present bill follows that of my colleague in making insanity in these terms a ground of divorce. But clause 32 of the bill provides also that the other party must, at the actual commencement of the hearing of the petition, still be in an institution and unlikely to recover. Consequently, as it seems to me, the language of the bill is such as to ensure that, as far as it is humanly possible to estimate the future, the ground is confined to the case of a party who is of unsound mind at the date of the petition and completely incurable. After a lapse of more than six years there seems just reason to permit a petitioner who faces the balance of life without a partner because that partner’s illness of mind is incurable, to form some regular union and begin family life anew, and that it would be harsh to condemn him or her to a life of useless loneliness.
There remains for mention a ground upon which there may centre a good deal of attention and discussion. It is ground (m) of clause 27, with which must be read clause 33. I shall read the principal parts of these clauses -
The main provision of clause 33 of the bill is that if, on the hearing of a suit on ground (m), “ the court is satisfied that, by reason of the conduct of the petitioner, whether before or after the separation commenced, or for any other reason, it would, in the particular circumstances of the case, be harsh and oppressive to the respondent, or contrary to the public interest, to grant a decree on that ground on the petition of the petitioner, the court shall refuse to make the decree sought”.
Mr. Speaker, I mentioned, in opening, that the Government has utilized the concept that there is a public interest in allowing dissolution where the parties, perhaps without matrimonial offence on the part of either, were, and have for years been, separated with no prospect of any reconciliation. This ground (m) is the result of that course; not requiring a matrimonial offence to have been committed, nor regarding the commission of such an offence as necessarily preventing relief to the wrongdoing party. In Western Australia and in New Zealand m re separation of the partners, without matrimonial offence on the part of either, for a space of years - in Western Australia five, and in New Zealand seven - but with no likelihood of any resumption of cohabitation, has been thought for some years to be a proper ground for dissolution.
Here, the public interest in family life comes down on the side of allowing each of these separated parties to regularize their relationships or to assume regular relationships in the future. On this view, no sense is seen, in the public interest, in denying the possibility of family life to each when all is irretrievably lost between them. No sense is seen in possibly condemning either or both of them to irregular relationships which, in honour, cannot result in families. Nor is the existing capacity of an innocent party to withhold dissolution indefinitely seen as necessarily just or conformable to the public interest. Western Australian law has contained this ground for some fourteen years and, I understand, has given satisfaction. The present bill includes this ground, applicable to any separation, whether the separation results from agreement or decree or simply from conduct. The period of separation is five years, with no prospect of a resumption of cohabitation.
I am conscious, however, that this ground could be subject to abuse. It may be said that, knowing of its existence, one party to the marriage may, without conscience and with deliberation, set out on a course which flouts the marriage obligation and insults the feelings of the other partner. Cases might arise, too, where gross and outrageous conduct on the part of a petitioner may so offend our sense of decency that we could not in the public interest, or without grievous injustice to the innocent party, allow such a petitioner to profit by his or her conduct; or there may be some endeavour to make agree- ments which, perhaps not falling within the the provision against collusion, to be found in clause 36 of the bill, yet offend the purpose of the provision. In such cases the public interest in bringing to an end unions which have been irretrievably broken has to give way to a sense of public morality or propriety or to some exceptional individual hardship.
I have examined the way in which the Western Australian and the New Zealand legislation attempts to deal with such situations. The method in Western Australia is to make the commission of adultery, and certain criminal conduct towards the respondent, an absolute bar to relief. In those instances no discretion is left to the court. It must refuse the decree. Over and above this, there is a general unregulated discretion in the court, in any case, to refuse a decree. A similar general discretion is also given by the New Zealand act.
No sufficient judicial development of this matter has taken place to enable one to say with any satisfactory degree of precision what is the limit of the discretion which these statutes give to the Court. But neither measure seems to me altogether satisfactory. The absolute bars established by the Western Australian act involve a number of concepts which to my mind do not sort very well with the basic idea which underlies the ground itself. To bar the divorce for the reasons set out in the Western Australian act or to leave it in the uncontrolled discretion of the court may, in my opinion, destroy the expected utility of the provision.
Accordingly, clause 33 of the bill provides that the court shall refuse a decree if, in the particular circumstances of the case, the court is of opinion that, by reason of the conduct of the petitioner or other circumstances, it would be harsh or oppressive to the respondent, or contrary to the public interest, to grant the petitioner’s desired decree. These phrases will, I think, prove adequate for the courts to prevent any abuse of this ground and to ensure that it is kept to those cases which it has plainly been designed to cover.
In grounds based on the notion of a matrimonial offence, it is customary to provide for discretionary bars founded on matrimonial offences of the petitioning party. Under clause 37 of the bill, for example, the court may, in its discretion, refuse a divorce decree if the petitioner has committed adultery or been guilty of cruelty. Logically, such a conception would seem to have no place in the ground of separation, founded as it is, not upon a matrimonial offence, but upon the public interest in putting an end to unions which have broken down irretrievably and where the parties have been apar: for a substantial period of time.
However, whatever the logic of the situation, the Government has provided in the bill that the court will have a discretion to refuse a decree of dissolution on this ground if the petitioner has been guilty of adultery.
In cases of long and irreconcilable separation, therefore, this bill does two things, taking ground (m) in conjuction with clause 33. First, it requires a court to refuse a decree on this ground if it is satisfied that it would be harsh or oppressive to the other party, or contrary to the public interest, to grant a decree. Second, it allows the court, as a matter of discretion, to refuse a decree if the petitioner has committed adultery.
The way in which these limitations will work out must, of course, depend on the good sense of the courts themselves. This is, perhaps, particularly significant in the case of the discretion where .he petitioner is proved to have been guilty of adultery. At one end of the scale, a court might not refuse a decree when no more than a single act of adultery has taken place, perhaps in circumstances of opportunity or inclination to which the separation itself or its circumstances has or have at least contributed. At the other end of the scale a deliberate course of adultery, particularly one which brought about the definitive separation, might very properly lead a court to refuse a decree even if the court thought that such conduct did not make it harsh and oppressive, or contrary to the public interest, to grant the decree.
With the concurrence of honorable members I shall have incorporated in “ Hansard “. at this point, a tabulation which it would be wearisome to read but which lists the grounds of divorce under this bill, showing in particular where they or their substantial equivalents exist at present in the laws of the States and those of the United Kingdom. It reads as follows: -
There will also be found available a separate memorandum explanatory of those grounds.
Honorable members may have noticed, Mr. Speaker, that artificial insemination by a donor other than the husband and without his consent does not appear in the bill as a ground of divorce. The matter has been much discussed in the United Kingdom, where the Morton Commission recommended that such artificial insemination should be made a new and separate ground of divorce. The decision of a Scottish court in January, 1958, that, though artificial insemination in such circumstances was a grave offence against the marriage, it did not constitute adultery within the meaning of the statute revived the controversy, and led to the appointment of a committee to inquire into the whole subject. This committee has not yet reported.
There is no ground of divorce relating to artificial insemination as such in any Australian State, and the matter was not referred to in the Law Council’s first draft. The Government’s view is that this Parliament may fairly wait until both the legal and social issues have been further clarified, before pioneering legislation on such a difficult and delicate subject. The same may be said of the case of a spouse who submits to an operation which successfully changes the sex of the spouse.
As I have already mentioned, Mr. Speaker, the bill makes provision - in clauses 48 to 55 - for a decree of judicial separation. So also does the present law in all of the States. There are many who think this ground has utility and that its continuance is justified. The ground of divorce for dissolution after five years’ separation, as I have said, applies also to a separation under a judicial decree. Consequently, one of the most criticized features of judicial separation will be removed. Such a suit may be used as an expedient to obtain maintenance at the hands of a superior court where there are sufficient grounds for an order for separation. It may also be used to give time for consideration of whether or not the marriage is to go on. But under the bill it could not be used to keep a person at the same time married, yet indefinitely denied the reality of marriage.
Mr. Speaker, the bill provides also, in clauses 43 to 47, for decrees of nullity of marriage. Time does not permit at this stage an examination of this rather technical subject. The bill extends the grounds upon which marriages may be regarded as voidable but, like my colleague in his bill, I have provided that a decree declaring null a voidable marriage does not affect the legitimacy of the children. The additional grounds of voidable marriage which the bill adopts are those which have been adopted in English legislation and to some extent also in Western Australia and New Zealand.
The bill contains in Part IV. some provisions with respect to void and voidable marriages which certainly would be more appropriately found in a marriage bill. It is my hope to introduce before very long a general bill with respect to marriage, in exercise of the constitutional power given by paragraph (xxi) of section 51 of the Constitution, a bill whose provisions would operate uniformly throughout Australia. For the time being, however, and in order to render intelligible some of the provisions of the present bill, such as, for example, the nullity provisions that I have just mentioned, these aspects of the law of marriage have been included in this bill. Perhaps by the time the bill comes to be adopted it may be possible to remove these few provisions into their logical place in a marriage bill.
With the concurrence of honorable members I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “, at this point, a table of the grounds on which, under the bill, a marriage is void or voidable - that is, may be declared void. It is as follows: -
NULLITY- VOID AND VOIDABLE MARRIAGES.
Void Marriages. 1. A marriage that takes place after the commencement of this Act will be void, and a decree of nullity may be made, where -
either of the parties is, at the time of the marriage, lawfully married to some other person;
the parties are within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity;
the marriage is not a valid marriage under the law of the place where the marriage takes place, by reason of a failure to comply with the requirements of the law of that place with respect to the form of solemnization of marriages;
the consent of either of the parties is not a real consent because -
it was obtained by duress or fraud;
that party is mistaken as to the identity of the other party, or as to the nature of the ceremony performed; or
that party is mentally incapable of understanding the nature of the marriage contract; or
either of the parties is not of marriageable age. (Clauses 18 and 43.)
The prohibited degrees of consanguinity and affinity, after the commencement of the Act, will be as follows: -
Marriage of a man is prohibited if the woman is, or has been, his - Consanguinity. Ancestress. Descendant. Sister.
Father’s sister. Mother’s sister. Brother’s daughter. Sister’s daughter.
Affinity. Wife’s mother. Wife’s grandmother. Wife’s daughter. Wife’s son’s daughter. Wife’s daughter’s daughter. Father’s wife. Grandfather’s wife. Son’s wife. Son’s son’s wife. Daughter’s son’s wife.
Marriage of a woman is prohibited: if the man is, or has been, her - Consanguinity. Ancestor. Descendant. Brother.
Father’s brother. Mother’s brother. Brother’s son. Sister’s son.
Affinity. Husband’s father. Husband’s grandfather. Husband’s son. Husband’s son’s son. Husband’s daughter’s son. Mother’s husband. Grandmother’s husband. Daughter’s husband. Son’s daughter’s husband. Daughter’s daughter’s husband,
For this purpose, it is immaterial whether the relationship is of the whole blood or half-blood, or whether it is traced through, or to, any person of illegitimate birth. (Clause 19 and Second Schedule.)
Voidable Marriages. 3. A marriage that takes place after the commencement of this Act (not being a marriage that is void) will be voidable, and a decree of nullity may be made, where, at the time of the marriage - <a) either party to the marriage is incapable of consummating the marriage;
either party to the marriage is -
of unsound mind;
a mental defective; or
subject to recurrent attacks of insanity or epilepsy;
either party to the marriage is suffering from a venereal disease in a communicable form; or
the wife is pregnant by a person other than the husband. (Clauses 20 and 43.)
A decree will not be made upon a petition -
in the case of ground (a), of the party suffering from the incapacity to consummate the marriage, unless that party was not aware of the existence of the incapacity at the time of the marriage;
in the case of grounds (b) or (c), of the party suffering from the disability or disease;
in the case of ground (d), of the wife. (Clause 44.)
A decree will not be made on grounds (b), (c) or (d) unless the court is satisfied that -
the petitioner was, at the time of the marriage, ignorant of the facts constituting the ground;
the petition was filed not later than twelve months after the date of the marriage; and
marital intercourse has not taken place with the consent of the petitioner since the petitioner discovered the existence of the facts constituting the ground. (Clause 46.)
Mr. Speaker, the third distinctive feature of the present bill is that, unlike my colleague’s bill, it does not establish a federal system of divorce courts but relies wholly, in the States, on the constitutional power to invest State courts with Federal jurisdiction. Let me explain briefly what the Government has in mind.
If there was a federal system of divorce courts any appeal would, of necessity as things stand at the moment, go to the High Court. Such an appeal would involve an examination of the disputes of fact between the parties, disputes which in matrimonial causes are likely to be very hotly pursued and which are characterized by great attention to detail and particularity. Australians feel it right, I think, that in almost every case there should be a review by a court of appeal of the findings of a court of first instance. Consistently with this, Parliament could not at present deny an appeal to the High Court from a Federal Divorce Court.
The High Court, Mr. Speaker, as I see it, was devised in our Constitution to interpret and enforce the Constitution, and to secure uniformity in the interpretation and in the administration of the general and statutory law throughout Australia. In less populous and less complex days it had the time, while discharging these great functions, also to examine particular issues between parties in an endeavour to resolve finally their individual differences. But, Mr. Speaker, with the increase of our population and with the great complexity of our life and, if I may say so, with a greater awareness of the subleties of our Constitution, I can see the day not far distant when the High Court will not be able to discharge these great functions with expedition and with satisfaction if, at the same time, it is to be burdened also with the resolution of the particular quarrels of citizens.
Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Courts of the States are great courts. They were devised as arbiters of these quarrels, to do right and justice between man and man in their particular differences. It seems to me that, rather than set up a Federal Divorce Court system, we should simply invest the Supreme Courts of the States with federal jurisdiction to hear and to determine matrimonial causes under this act. The bill does this. The State courts would thus hear divorce cases as they do now, but all would administer the same federal law. The State systems provide for appeals from the courts of first instance to the Supreme Court in banc, or sitting as a full court. These appellate courts are able to examine the facts and to sit in complete review of the court of first instance.
The bill also provides that the High Court can give leave to appeal from a Supreme Court to itself. Consequently, cases which involve matters of law of general significance, cases which involve demonstrable denial of justice or departure from principle or from regularity in practice, can be taken on appeal from the Supreme Courts. The High Court will thus be enabled to secure uniformity of interpretation of the federal law, and uniformity of practice and procedure in matrimonial causes throughout Australia. But on the other hand it will not have its functions jeopardized by having a spate of appeals, all turning to a greater or lesser degree on the minutiae of particular facts, and the resolution of particular quarrels between husband and wife. Consequently, Mr.
Speaker, in this bill, I have not merely not provided for a Federal Divorce Court but I have provided that any appeal from the court of first instance or from the Full Court of a State shall only be by special leave of the High Court.
I realize that investing State Supreme Courts with Federal jurisdiction may involve some adjustments within those courts. But these consequences do not to my mind outweigh the advantages of which I have spoken.
Mr. Speaker, the fourth aspect in which the present bill may fairly be claimed to be distinctive is in respect of provisions it contains with regard to the actual proceedings in matrimonial causes. The Government has given close attention to the law that should govern these proceedings, both in the public interest and the interest of the parties themselves. One novel feature - in which the Government has built on the foundations laid by my colleague, the honorable member for Balaclava - I have already mentioned. I mean the provision in Part III. for efforts at reconciliation between the parties. Another is the novel feature to be found in Part X. regarding the recognition of foreign divorce decrees. The bill tries to clear up some of the difficulties which the courts have found in existing laws.
I shall not trouble the House, Mr. Speaker, with any attempt to expound technicalities of this kind at the present stage. Indeed, I hope honorable members will realize that I have deliberately tried to avoid making a lawyer’s analysis and presentation of this complex, and necessarily highly technical, measure. I have tried, instead, to put the bill before the House in terms of broad attempted answers to basic human and social questions. For these reasons I refrain from leading the House into the technical matters contained in Part XI. of the bill, which deals with evidence in matrimonial causes. One of these provisions, however, I should perhaps mention. It will be found in clause 90. The laws of most of the States provide that a witness, whether or not a party to the suit, may not be asked whether he has committed adultery unless he has already denied it. This is a strange provision and has a long history which, when understood, to my mind makes its retention inappropriate in this day and generation. In lieu of it, the bill provides that no witness, whether a party or not, can be asked a question tending to show his or her adultery unless the adultery is material to the case and the witness has gone into the box either voluntarily as a party or at the instance of a party. This I think will be found on examination to be not merely fair and reasonable but to be in aid of the administration of justice.
The bill contains, in clause 113, important restrictions on the publication of accounts of matrimonial causes. We ail know lengths to which sensationalism has gone, in some sections of the press, in the matter of reporting on the misfortunes of those who find’ themselves in the divorce court. We are all equally conscious of the need for publicity - publicity of the kind, for instance, which will cause people who have information on the matter to come forward and offer their evidence. The bill contains, in Part VII., suitable provision for intervention, both by the Attorney-General and by other persons in matrimonial causes where there is reason to believe that facts are available which are not being or are not likely to be brought to the notice of the court. Publicity is a very useful assistance to the exercise of these powers.
But the bill takes the view that there can be undue publicity. There can be undue emphasis on aspects of these cases which though necessary to be discussed in open court may yet too often be made vehicles for that which borders on the salacious. Consequently, Mr. Speaker, clause 113 provides that only certain particulars of a matrimonial case shall be published. These include the names, addresses and occupations of the parties and witnesses and the names of the judge and counsel, a concise statement of the nature and grounds of the proceedings and of the charges and defences and counter-charges in support of which evidence has been given, the submissions on points of law and the decision of the court on them, the judgment of the court and the observations of the court in giving judgment. This is a wide charter, and it will enable adequate publicity to be given to proceedings without authorizing the merely sensational and unpleasant.
Under clause 67 of this bill, a decree nisi will become absolute without it being necessary for any proceedings to be taken in that behalf. If there are no children, the norma time at the expiration of which the decree will automatically become absolute is three months. The court, however, will have power, in an appropriate case, either to reduce this period or to extend it. I have already dealt with the case where there are children.
Part XII. of the bill, Mr. Speaker, contains provisions for the enforcement of maintenance orders by the attachment of earnings in. a manner which I think is new, at least on the mainland of Australia. I refer the House to clause 97, and the third schedule to which that clause refers. One has had much experience of a wife, very often having the care of children, who has not been able to collect maintenance with regularity because the former husband has just determined that he will only pay, as it were, ‘at pistol point. True it is, such a wife may obtain an order for committal of her husband to prison; but in many instances this only means that he falls further into arrear. Amounts payable under an order for maintenance under other provisions of the bill will be recoverable under clause 95 as judgment debts in competent courts. This would enable wages and salaries to be garnisheed, but only for the amounts which had accrued due under the order at the time of the application for the garnishee process. This is quite an inadequate remedy.
Consequently, the bill in providing for an “ attachment of earnings order “ offers a better remedy in that the order of attachment of earnings, once made, will operate not only with respect to the then arrears but with respect to accruing sums until such time as the order itself is discharged. The employer will be bound to pay directly to the court on each pay-day, for payment to the wife, out of the defendant’s earnings, the amount which the court specifies. Earnings are widely denned in order to cover as large a field as appears practicable. So that this will not be an undue burden upon employers or too lightly used, such an order may not be made unless the husband is in arrear for a space of at least four weeks, or has wilfully and persistently failed promptly to pay according to the terms of the order But as already indicated, once made, the order will remain until it is discharged by the court.
So that the making of such an order may not prejudice the employment, the schedule provides that an employer cannot discharge the employee merely because such an order has been made and the employer finds it inconvenient to obey it. The bill allows the employer to make a small deduction from what is left to the defendant to cover the cost of carrying out the order, and safeguards are provided that a proper amount of his wages is left to the defendant. No provision in this particular field can be perfect or cover all conceivable cases, but I feel sure that these provisions will add substantially to the financial security of families which depend on maintenance, and will aid them to receive it with more certainty, and particularly with more regularity, than at present. The terms of the schedule have been built on a recent English counterpart. I hope, before the bill is through the committee stage, to have reduced these provisions to greater simplicity and to incorporate them in the body of the bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is necessary to make provision with respect both to existing rights which have accrued under State laws and with respect to proceedings current at the date of commencement of an act in terms of this bill. Elaborate transitional provisions appear in Part XIII. I do not stay to discuss them. Of necessity they are complicated and technical. I hope they will be examined in committee with a very keen eye by those in this House and in another place who have particular training, to make sure they are satisfactory, as for myself I believe they are.
I have done with this broad conspectus of the bill. It is a most significant bill. It deals with relationships which are basic - human relationships which affect the happiness of people, the welfare and future of children, and to a degree the fabric and the future of this nation. It represents a genuine effort to cope with the problem of strained or broken matrimonial relationships - to maintain marriage, to protect the family, to take care of the child, to specify just and temperate grounds of divorce where it is unavoidable, to do right by the innocent, and to further the public interest in the regularity and productivity of human unions.
The Government by this bill offers this House, and, through this Parliament, the people of the Commonwealth, the opportunity of acceptance of a national law of matrimonial causes not merely uniform but, as the Government sees it, adequate to the current needs of Australians. It believes that Australians are ready for, and indeed are looking forward to, such a law. But the Government will closely follow the discussion of the bill both in this Parliament and in the public arena outside, where it hopes it will receive calm and serious study and consideration. The Government will endeavour to understand and assess the public desire, for it has no purpose to force so important a social reform as this bill represents upon an unwilling people. Thus,, though the bill is a Government measure,, the Leader of the House has announced the Government’s decision not to require any party alinement in the voting upon it. I hope that the Opposition will follow the same course. But, believing its provisions to be right, the Government will endeavour to persuade members to its acceptance, and I for my part will hold myself available, not merely to honorable members of this Parliament, but to interested bodies outside, to explain its many provisions and to elucidate the policies which they seek to express and implement. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, that honorable members, as they come to its detailed study, do so as Australians, rather than as citizens of this State or of that?
I do not suppose that any member will find in it everything that he would wish, or nothing of which he disapproves. But to be acceptable to Australians generally such a bill must necessarily involve some degree of compromise. If we place the unity of Australians in this respect before all else, I feel confident that the bill will find acceptance, and, being accepted, will make a significant contribution to our distinctive Australian way of life.
Mr. Speaker, I do commend this bill to the House.
– Before I move the adjournment of the debate I want to say, with, your permission, Mr. Speaker, that the bill, that has just been presented by the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) is a. bill with numerous ramifications. The case for the bill has been presented not only carefully and frankly, but, in many respects, brilliantly. But there are matters contained in the bill that are of keen interest, and1 that are bound to cause great concern and some controversy. Therefore, I agree with the Attorney-General’s suggestion of informing the public of the contents of the bill, not only by his second-reading speech, but also by short summaries and so forth. In turn, honorable members will be informed by the public of their points of view, and will be aware of them when they discuss this matter later.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That the following order of the day, Government -business, be discharged. -
No. 14 - Navuneram Incident - Native Fatalities - Report of Commission of Inquiry - Motion for Printing Paper - Resumption of Debate.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That the following paper, laid on the table of the House on 19th February last, be printed - Navuneram Incident, New Britain - Report of Commission of Inquiry - Volume VIII.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 2062), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, any action taken by this Government to populate the sparsely developed areas of Australia naturally receives the warm support of the Opposition. The Opposition, however, regrets that a more bold and imaginative programme has not been submitted to the Parliament, and that we have not been given an opportunity to assent to a measure that would mean substantial development of an important part of Australia.
The measure before the House provides -an additional £2,500,000 for work on the
Ord River, in the north-west sector of Western Australia, and for other purposes. Much courage is needed by this Government if the challenging work of developing Australia is to be tackled, and I see in this measure no bold concept, no evidence of imagination and nothing to indicate a recognition by the Government of what is needed to deal with the outstanding problems facing this nation at the present time. The decision to make available an additional £2,500,000 was taken because of continued agitation in Western Australia, in particular by the former Premier, Mr. Hawke, who concerned himself very greatly with the development of that area.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his second-reading speech, said -
In our consideration of the increased offer the Government had prominently in mind the vastness and remoteness of the area, the potential it offers for development and the desirability of accelerating its development beyond that possible by the State from its own financial resources and the initial Commonwealth Grant.
I agree with that. We on this side of the House agree that the area is vast and remote. It is a challenge to this Parliament to do more than is proposed by this legislation. Honorable members will note that the bill provides for a five-year programme that is to terminate on 30th June, 1963. When one considers the amount of work that can be done these days for £2,500,000, bearing in mind that it will be spread over five years, it is clear to all concerned that little of a significant character can be achieved. The slight benefit that will accrue to Australia, particularly to the people of the northern portion of Western Australia, is not something of which this Parliament ought to be proud. The bill provides, of course, that the Western Australian Government shall have the right to submit plans for various projects to the Commonwealth Parliament. Various schemes will be brought forward by the State Parliament in relation to the development of the west as seen through Western Australian eyes. May I say as a member of the National Parliament of Australia that I should much prefer to see a pattern for the development of this country whereby anything that we do would form part of a broad Australian canvas, one undertaking fitting into the other, so that in the end we would have a clear pattern of Australian development and not a number of sectional plans brought forward with respect to various isolated areas.
The Ord River dam is an important work. This, of course, is not a new matter. It has been reported on from time to time, and I have before me a very interesting report which was the outcome of an inquiry made by the Government of Western Australia. This report - the Dumas report - was published in 1949. It dealt in detail with this matter, and with associated matters. May 1 say that the idea of a substantial water catchment scheme for the Ord River, which would deal not only with water storage, but also with water distribution, is urgently needed. Of course, work of that kind could not be financed by the proposal now before the House.
I recently had the pleasure of attending an exhibition of the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which has performed a very great service to the people of Australia in conducting soil surveys and other activities of the kind. At its open day, the C.S.I.R.O. was able to provide a great deal of information with regard to the development of the Ord River area and the Kimberleys. In looking at what the C.S.I.R.O. is doing in connexion with the Ord River area, I find that some 10,000 to 15,000 acres of land would be available there on which to commence a pilot scheme of development, but this legislation merely provides that there shall be a weir on the Ord River. It is not a very imaginative programme. It does not seem to meet the needs of the people of the north-western section of Australia. As the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has said, a start must be made somewhere.
Inasmuch as a start is being made, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I and other members of the Opposition welcome this bill. Any action taken by this Parliament to promote the advancement and development of this nation has the warm support of the Opposition. But Opposition members, quite rightly, direct attention to the fact that this measure deals only with a very small part of the general problem - with things such as the provision of a weir on the Ord River. I should like to see some broad, imaginative programme commenced without delay in order to develop the Ord River valley, open up the vast tracts of country there and promote the development of that part of Australia in a worth-while fashion. So long as we are content withthis process of nibbling at major problems, instead of getting down to the fundamental task of developing Australia - so long as we are content to regard this area with which we are dealing as a small part of Western Australia instead of as an important part of Australia as a whole, with an important bearing on the Northern Territory and the advancement of the nation generally - we shall have proposals like this coming before the Parliament. We should open up the very valuable pockets of land1 throughout the north-west.
No doubt this minor project of a weir on the Ord River will enable tests to bemade and the locality to be proved. In a way, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has. already proved the area by means of thesoil surveys that it has made, and I pay tribute to that very valuable organization for the outstanding service that it has rendered to Australia in a wide variety of fields. I Day tribute to the organization and to men like Mr. Christian for the very useful work that they have done in this respect, and I pay tribute also to the grand’ pioneers who, many years ago, penetrated* not only the Ord River area, but also the Fitzroy area and other remote parts of the Australian hinterland, to prove that cotton, rice and tobacco could be grown, for there is no proof like practical experience. The growing of these crops has been tested, and we pay tribute to those pioneers as well as to the C.S.I.R.O. for its work. I submit to the Parliament, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the time has nowarrived when we ought to be getting on with the job. Surveys have been made by experts, and the pioneers have blazed the trail in a practical way. Let us face our responsibilities and see what can be done to meet the problems that remain.
The Treasurer has told us something of what has been done with the £2.500,000’ allocated on the previous occasion to meet the urgent and pressing problems of development in the north-west of Western Australia. In his second-reading speech, he said -
Projects already approved are the constructionof a deen water port at mark Rocks near Derby, the construction of a new berth at the Wyndham” jelly and the carrying out of extensive investigations in the Napier-Broome Bay area to decide the most suitable and economic method of servicing the north Kimberley area which was recently opened up for pastoral settlement. 1 pui it to the Parliament that there is a great need to go ahead with the development of this northern part of Australia. J believe that the Kimberley area is ideally suited to the eventual granting of some measure of self-government, perhaps at a time when there will be a clear understanding of the role of the various divisions of government in this country and a recognition that the nation shall exercise the powers that belong to the nation, and that the region shall exercise, on the local plane, the functions that belong to the region. I think that if we put into effect the concept that this local region shall have some right to determine its own affairs, and give effect to the vigour and intensity of purpose of the people in a new area like that with its own local government, the nation will derive the full benefit and great progress will result. I do not think that we shall ever be able to populate that part of Australia properly so long as we go along in this fashion contenting ourselves with measures providing for the expenditure, over a five-year period, of only f 2,500,000 on the challenging task of developing the north-west of Western Australia and solving the great problems that face the nation in that area.
We need only consider the potential of the area and its capacity for production to understand the need to develop it. lt is well known that quite a lot of essential commodities can be produced there. It has been proved that bumper crops of rice tan be grown.
– In the Ord River area of the north-west. Rice can be grown quite satisfactorily. Whether or not the -cultivation of sugar cane there would be welcomed for political reasons by some members of this Parliament, it has been established that sugar cane can be grown there most successfully. In addition, it has
Deen proved that many kinds of vegetables and fruits can be cultivated satisfactorily. Cultivation of these crops on a large scale should be started. The only way to do this i’s to provide a plan that will bring people into the area and put them on the land, so that the population will be able to bring to bear the political pressure that is needed, not only in this Parliament but also in Western Australia itself. I think it is a good thing to see people going into these regions and being afforded an opportunity to voice their opinions and play a leading part in the development of their area. The more courageous people come forward to play their part in this area, the better it will be for Australia. There is no land available in many other parts of the country, and, as the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has just remarked, by way of interjection, it is a most disturbing thing to think that war service land settlement no doubt will cease at an early date, despite the fact that all these important problems related to the development and the advancement of this country confront us at present. In other days, we heard much talk about 1,000,000 farms and 1,000,000 farmers for the development of this country in a broad and imaginative way.
Knowing the possibilities of the Kimberleys and the rest of the north-west as 1 do, 1 find it distressing that a measure of this kind provides for an expenditure of only £2,500,000 over five years in order to deal with the great problems of the north-west. This is an extremely modest approach to those problems. The Treasurer himself admitted, in his secondreading speech, that the only matter to be settled was the provision of money for the development of this part of Australia. Although the Opposition welcomes the provision of £2,500,000 for expenditure over five years as a contribution towards the testing, proving and development of the Ord River area, at the same time it considers that a more general programme should be already under consideration in order to indicate to the nation what can be done. I again bring before the Parliament the need to consider the development of the whole of northern Australia, from the Kimberleys right across to the east coast, as an economic unit. If the ports of Darwin, Wyndham and Broome were developed, that development could trigger off development generally by promoting sea transport in this important region of Australia. With the provision of additional road and rail facilities to link the south with the Northern Territory and the northwest, this area could play a most important part in the future security and advancement of the Australian nation.
It is hardly likely that these ideas will ever come to fruition if we are content to provide such paltry sums of moneys as £2,500,000. The amount provided should be ten or twenty times as much. Although I am a member of Parliament from one of the eastern States, I speak as an Australian parliamentarian. I do not want to see this nation tilted one way or the other economically. I want to see it an integrated whole, absolutely secure, both economically and militarily. In view of the strategic importance to Australia of the Kimberley area, we should proceed with the type of plan that I have put to the House this evening. To suggest here that the Kimberleys and the Northern Territory be integrated is perhaps a heresy, with State rights being so closely guarded. But it is not a matter of being a “ State righther “ and of saying that this area belongs to Western Australia. Broome, Derby and Wyndham are far removed from Perth, the centre of government in Western Australia. If we go forward with development of the type I envisage, Australia will advance and prosper as we would like to see it do, and carry a large population which will increase at a very substantial rate.
– Would you be prepared to spend as much money in Queensland?
– I think it is a good investment to spend money anywhere in Australia in the interests of the development and advancement of Australia.
– Where would the money come from?
– I remind the honorable member that money expended on the development of this country, which will return dividends instead of destruction, can be found in precisely the same way as money was found for the prosecution of a war which was essential to the survival of our people. The sooner that basic truth is understood by honorable members the quicker Australia will advance. During the closing stages of the last Parliament, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) did not hesitate to be a partner in deficit or treasury-bill finance, to enable money to be devoted to quite a lot of small matters which did little towards the general development of this country. The Snowy Mountains scheme will be tapering off at an early date. Why should we not have sucha scheme on the Ord River in Western Australia or on the Burdekin River in north Queensland? Let us get on with thisclass of work. Construction under the Snowy Mountains scheme will not continue for ever, and there is need for development of this sort elsewhere in the interests of all of us.
Large pockets of the Kimberley area are wealthy. It has been proved that gold can be won at Hall’s Creek. Other minerals, also can be won by people who have the courage to go to this area. Let us give them a chance. Unless we have a clearly denned policy in regard to transportation, water conservation, and land tenure, which will result in opportunities being opened up for our people, there is little hope of success.
I say in conclusion that this proposal is welcomed by the Opposition. We appreciate that it will make a contribution todevelopment. It will help to focus attention on an important part of Australia. If it does no more than that, if it does nomore than settle a few people in the Ord River area, and if it does no more than provide a few additional anchorages in the north of Western Australia, it will be rendering a service to all Australians, wherever they may live. Because the measure is likely to do those things, the Opposition supports it.
.- I welcome this legislation as an earnest that the Government at long last is determined to assist Western Australian governments, whatever their political colour in the development of that vast State. Ever since I have been in this Parliament I have advocated, mainly during Address-in-Reply debates, the establishment of naval docking facilities there. I imagined, of course, that such a project would be undertaken not alone, but in conjunction with other development. I commend the honorable member for Macquarie for his suggestion on that aspect, but it is the greatest of pities that he was not here in 1952 to voice these opinions not only in this Parliament but toWestern Australians generally.
In February of that year the McLartyWatts Government of Western Australia decided to proceed, with the assistance of the Commonwealth, on a five-year plan for the development of a deep water port at Black Rocks, the extension of the Wyndham jetty and, finally, the development of the Ord River area. If I remember rightly, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) was Minister for National Development in this Parliament at that time. Unfortunately, members of the Labour Party in Western Australia took the opportunity to play politics on this matter. They went to Derby and said that the town should not be shifted out towards Point Torment or Black Rocks, as it is commonly known. It was also made known that they would fight the proposed move most strenuously. The result, unfortunately, was that that project was not proceeded with in 1952. Had it been proceeded with, that area of Western Australia would to-day be enjoying the benefits of a deep water port, the extension of the Wyndham jetty, and many other improvements.
Last year, legislation for assistance in these matters went through this Parliament and during the election campaign the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who had recently returned from a visit to the north of Western Australia, announced that the amount of £2,500,000 which had been provided, would be increased to £5,000,000. The honorable member for Macquarie said that the spending of £2,500,000 in the north-west is as a mere drop in the ocean. Actually, the total amount to be expended will be £5,000,000. Admittedly, it is a small amount, but nevertheless it is a start. The honorable member went on to say - I am forced to mention these things - that war service land settlement should have been tackled in that portion of the continent. He was answering an interjection by his colleague, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). Members of the Opposition had the opportunity to do something in that regard, but as all of us, especially the ex-servicemen, know, when this Government came into office war service land settlement was in a very parlous condition. It was only after the advent of this Government, with its energy, initiative and ingenuity, that war service land settlement went ahead. I remind honorable members that war service land settlement in that area would be just as difficult as, if not more difficult than, it would be in the Northern Territory. I admit quite frankly, however, that that is no reason why it should never have been tackled.
I was somewhat alarmed, when reading the “ West Australian “ newspaper a few days ago, to learn that there is a possibility - I hope it is very remote - of some curtailment in the development that is being undertaken with the aid of the money voted by this Parliament last year. I have noticed that pressures are being exerted on the Western Australian Government by some people to have the Black Rocks project not proceeded with. It is suggested that instead the development should take place closer to the town of Derby. Having seen what happened seven years ago, and appreciating the resulting detriment to the State of Western Australia as a whole, I hope that the project originally approved last year will proceed with the greatest of expedition.
I welcome the idea that something will be done on the Ord River. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie that £2,500,000 is a very small amount to spend in that vast area, but we have to make a start. This area is so placed and so beset wilh all sorts of conditions that it would be unwise to say, “Let us pump £20.000,000 into that area “ without first discovering what it really can do. I remember when I was a boy just in my teens hearing talk in Western Australia of growing cotton, tobacco, peanuts, sugar cane and similar crops in those parts. But I do not think that it has yet been clearly demonstra ed that this can be done. If it has been, it has not received the publicity that it deserves so that people might know that it is economically possible to produce these various crops successfully. I only hope that that is true. We have to remember, however, that although it may be possible to grow these things it is necessary to find a market for them and also to study the economic features associated with their production. However, this £2,500,000 will at least give us the opportunity of building a dam on the Ord River with a view to really trying out what this area can produce.
I welcome the legislation. I will not detain the House-
– Hear, hear! That is one of your best speeches.
– The honorable member for Grayndler has been heard in this Parliament talking about wheat, cereals ana lambs. The only lambs I have known to be in the Grayndler area are those who support the honorable member and whom he represents in this Parliament. But still, he knows what I think of him.
This legislation is welcome because it will make a start on the development of the north-west and I hope that this Government will be encouraged at a not too distant date to make further advances to the West Australian Government for further development in that part. I will admit quite frankly, and I concede at this very moment that, by the same token, it is up to the Western Australian Government to do its bit to prove to the Commonwealth that this area can do what we expect of it. That Government has its part to play.
I have participated in this debate because only the other day I read an article in the “ West Australian “ newspaper indicating that there was pressure to have an investigation into the Black Rocks project. I hope that that investigation will be held immediately because I am mindful of the fact that in 1952, as a result of the same procedures and pressure the development of that site was held back for several years. I do not want that to happen again.
I commend the Government on this legislation and hope that it will receive the commendation of not only the Western Australian members but also all the other members of this Parliament. I thank the honorable member for Macquarie for admitting here, at long last, publicly, that the eastern State members are prepared to support projects in the western portion of this continent. I hope to enlist their support in the near future to get some naval or other defence establishment built at a point on the Western Australian coast to serve the 4,380 miles of coastline.
.- It gives me a great deal of pleasure to support this bill and my greatest hope is that it will be one of many similar measures. It grieves the heart of a northerner to see that part of Australia which is the subject of this measure, with its enormous potential to produce wealth and support population, starved of the capital needed to bring it even a step nearer to its rightful destiny.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) has said that a bolder and more imaginative plan is needed for the development of this very important area. I can remember the days when the party he supports was in government and I happened to be living in the Kimberleys. At that time, I felt particularly the need for some bold and imaginative plan for the development of that area!
I regard this bill as a further indication of the Government’s fidelity in the matter - a fidelity which has not been shown by any previous government. Certainly, the amount of £2,500,000 provided by the bill is, in itself, not a great deal when viewed in the light of the immense amount of work to be done in this area. But it has come on top of a previous grant of a similar sum and there is a reasonable basis on which to assume that further grants will become available. In this respect it is unfortunate that those who are responsible for spending this money are given no idea of the degree of continuity of federal grants so that they will be enabled to plan on a larger scale. Any works programme arising out of this grant must be confined to small and integral projects rather than to more desirable larger projects requiring a continuity of funds. Although most of the projects already approved are necessary adjuncts to the development of the Kimberleys, they are adjuncts only and affect matters merely on the very edge of the overall problem.
There is no doubt that the development of northwestern Australia is a large undertaking and will cost many millions of pounds to see on its way. Nevertheless, it is something which must be done, irrespective of the magnitude or the costliness of the operation. The area under discussion is part of the Commonwealth of Australia, and by no means the worst part. Because of certain economic and social considerations, the area is badly underdeveloped, but it has a considerable capacity to produce. Yet this valuable asset is lying idle. However, if we accept responsibility for the Commonwealth we cannot find any real justification for picking the eyes out of the country for early development and neglecting other parts of it.
I cannot regard the present grant as being contributory to the development of the north in the broad sense of the words. As far as I know, there is no accepted plan or programme in existence for this development. Such a programme would necessarily be based on the availability of many millions of pounds, but no such funds are, in fact, available.
As to the individual projects which this money will finance, I wish to make this comment: The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) said, first, that he did not want an investigation into the Black Rocks deep water project, but later he said that an immediate investigation should be made. The newspaper item to which he referred mentioned me as opposing this particular project. I say here tonight, quite unequivocally, that I am still in opposition to this particular project. Anybody who knows anything about the north will agree that a deep water port will be very necessary in about 20 years’ time when the volume of traffic has outgrown the present port facilities at Derby. But this particular white elephant would, I believe, cost in the vicinity of £3,000,000. That money could very well be spent on bringing the Kimberleys to that state of development where such a port would be warranted. The proposed work on the Wyndham jetty is necessary and I hope it will proceed without any undue delay, but this can hardly be called the development of the north.
The Ord River scheme is, perhaps, the only single factor which can be called developmental in the broad sense. Its conception is, however, quite enormous, calling for the expenditure ultimately of between £10.000,000 and £20,000,000. However, I have constantly maintained, and I repeat, that the mere building of a dam across the Ord River will not, in itself, solve the problems of the north. Those problems are so many and so varied that they require thorough investigation, perhaps by a body appointed for the. purpose. I have no doubt that such an authority would find that one of the main difficulties to be overcome in populating the north is the social problem - the problem of making life in the north more attractive to the settlers. To solve this problem, many questions such as housing, education, and medical services must be looked into. Some compensation for climatic conditions must be made. After all, the most elaborate and extensive technical plan must fail if people do not want to settle there.
I mention those matters to try to illustrate the vastness of the problem of northern development. 1 would hope that, by showing how large and complex the problem is, I add to the probability of a solution rather than detract from it. I trust that the introduction of this bill is a sign that the Government has accepted the responsibility of the north, as I believe it has, and that it will be prepared to follow up this measure with other and more comprehensive measures.
.- This legislation is good news for Western Australia and will be of eventual benefit to the whole Commonwealth. The north has been empty and neglected for too long. Its development is a national obligation and I hope that the Commonwealth Government will always regard it as such. At the same time, I also feel that the Western Australian State Government must accept a fair share of responsibility. The bill, which I strongly support, doubles the original Commonwealth grant of £2,500,000 for north-west development. The sum of £5,000,000 is far short of our northern needs in Western Australia but it will enable an early start to be made on essential north-west development projects. The bill should make possible the commencement of the Ord River irrigation project. The first stage of this scheme is planned to be the building of a diversion weir which would later be the irrigation control point for a major scheme. A diversion dam would present an excellent opportunity to examine, under practical conditions, the productivity and economic potential of the main project.
I suggest that a comprehensive survey of the potential markets for Ord River crops should be undertaken before the main Ord River irrigation scheme is proceeded with. Research work by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in co-operation with the Western Australian Department of Agriculture was started at the Kimberley research station on the Ord River in 1945 and several interesting reports have been issued dealing with the result of the research experiments. A C.S.I.R.O. report on sugar cane prospects in that area states -
There seems to be little doubt that sugar cane alone could form the basis of a successful irrigation development.
The sugar demands of Western Australia could be met by 12,000 acres of cane which could economically support a suitable mill and would return a gross income of about £2,000,000. Test yields in the Ord River region are as high as yields from the best Queensland sugar cane areas. Average yields of five tons of sugar per acre are a definite probability.
In addition, the C.S.I.R.O. has had good results from experimental plantings of cotton, rice, and safflower Australia, at the present time, supplies less than 5 per cent, of the home cotton market. This illustrates the importance of successful cotton cropping in the Kimberleys. There is still a great deal of research work to be completed on the growing of rice, but early experiments have shown that cultivation of the crop is possible along the Ord River. Safflower crops present interesting prospects in the north as, after the oil is extracted from the seed, the remainder is a protein-rich cattle food which would supplement the feeding programme during the dry season.
It is good news, Sir, to hear that the Land Research and Regional Survey Division of the C.S.I.R.O. is to make arrangements with the Western Australian Department of Agriculture for a land use survey of the west Kimberley area The Commonwealth has further co-operated by making an Army survey of the north and this year the Western Command field survey section hopes to map nearly 40,000 square miles of territory. The up-to-date maps produced from these surveys are not only important for development purposes, but have a vital bearing on defence needs. The Royal Australian Navy, too, has conducted ocean surveys along the north-west coast and the information that it has reported will assist the development of port facilities. Deep sea ports are needed to assist the development of cattle and mining interests in particular. There are a million tons of manganese awaiting the extraction that would follow the provision of ports suitable for the bigger cargo vessels. Better and cheaper transport is a necessity, for a reduction in transport costs would increase the prosperity of the area and would make possible more amenities and lower living costs.
A north-west commission would give every Australian a feeling of national responsibility in regard to the development of north-west Australia. Its task would include examination of plans such as water conservation and pasture improvement that would increase production in the beef industry. Road and harbour construction could be planned. Measures to improve greatly living conditions in the north could be recommended to the State and Federal Governments, with special regard to heavily increased population settlements.
The Kimberleys are remote from centres of economic and political influence in the Commonwealth and people have been reluctant to move into the north. There are no economic encouragements to them to leave the areas closer to the capital cities. Taxation incentives appear to be a necessity to stimulate public interest and invite participation in north-western development. There appears to be good cause for the introduction of a taxation concession period of twenty years. I suggest that all wage and salary earners in the north-west should be tax free. In addition, business enterprises operating in a defined area should have 50 per cent, of the income that they derive from that area free of tax. The remaining 50 per cent, should also be free of tax if it is invested within the defined area. The business undertakings which these concessions could embrace include mining, pastoral enterprises, pearling, fishing, whaling and storekeeping and the concessions could apply to limited liability companies, partnerships or individual owners, whether resident in the area or not. lt must be realized by governments and all Australians that a bold approach is needed to create commercial interest in our north-west. We must have an imaginative policy. We must realize the size and nature of the northern problem.
Now, Sir, I would like to quote from the Kimberleys Development Committee’s report of 1st November, 1951. This will give the House the greatest number of facts in the shortest possible time. This committee stated -
The Committee’s investigations have shown that production in the Kimberleys can be increased considerably. The export of beef cattle can be doubled within a ten to fifteen year period, major developments in agriculture are a distinct possibility, mining prospects undoubtedly justify further explanatory work and pearling could be further developed as a dollar earning industry.
In order to attain this increased production of beef cattle and systematically explore the prospects in agriculture and mining it is necessary to undertake a programme of development embracing -
Construction of a deep-sea port at Derby and the extension of port facilities at Wyndham,
Construction of access roads,
Transfer of meatworks to Black Rocks and temporary assistance to Air Beef,
Townships and other amenities.
Much of this work is already being undertaken.
Another part of the report reads -
The Committee’s investigations have been confined primarily to the Kimberleys, one of the most neglected and under-developed areas in Australia and the nearest part to the Asian mainland.
That is a very important point of view of our defence commitments.
The report continues -
The Kimberleys has an area of 60 million-acres a population of under 1,000 whites and an annual production valued at approximately £1.8 million excluding the value of iron ore shipped from Cockatoo Island. In spite of the large area of land suitable for the pastoral industry and the regular rainfall, there has been no increase in cattle output over the past 35 years. There has been no development in agriculture although important experimental work is now in hand, pearling has declined and mining has been static except for the search for oil and the important developments at Cockatoo Island. The principal explanation of this lack of progress is the remoteness of the area.
Later in its report, when referring to the potentialities of the north-west, the committee says - lt should be apparent that, except perhaps for the pastoral and pearling industries, far too little is known about other resources, notably the extent of mineral deposits and the agricultural value of the soils, to enable any comprehensive quantitative estimate to be made of long term development Indeed, it is only in the case of the beef cattle industry, where experience now extends over a period of more than 50 years and where, in addition, the Committee has the benefit of information available from recent surveys, that a reasonably accurate assessment is possible.
Potentialities for particular industries will be discussed. Where estimates or forecasts of development arc made, the assumptions on which they are based will be stated. lt will be evident from the preceding description of amenities and transport services that an underlying prerequisite to any plan of development is an improvement in living conditions - without which it will be impossible to attract population to the area - and better transport facilities, both for import of materials essential for development and for exporting of products of the area.
Now, Sir, later in its report the committee, dealing with development in the Kimberleys, says -
In the East development depends upon the possibilities of irrigating the black soil plains adjacent to the Ord River. In the West there appear possibilities both for irrigation and for farming under natural rainfall conditions.
In considering these possibilities it should be borne in mind that the establishment of agriculture would have a far greater effect in increasing population than any other foreseeable development, except possibly mining. The Committee considers, therefore, that it is important to seek every opportunity to develop types of agriculture suited to the area.
Finally, Sir, in referring to minerals, the committee said -
A wide variety of minerals is known to exist in the Kimberleys. In addition to the iron ore, silver lead and gold now being worked, which were referred to when describing the industries of the area, there are silver lead deposit at Speewah, about 70 miles from Wyndham, and wolfram, mica, tin emery and copper deposits are all known to exist. Traces of coal have been found and the search for oil is being continued.
Apart from the iron ore and, possibly, the silver lead deposits being worked by the Devonian Lead Mine at Barker River which shows great promise, insufficient is known about the extent of deposits of other minerals to enable any reliable estimates to be made of the potential development of mining.
Iron ore at Cockatoo Island is now being exploited by the Australian Iron and Steel Limited, with an expected annual output of 1,000,000 tons. By far the greater deposit exists at Koolan Island some 3 or 4 miles from Cockatoo Island. Here the recovery difficulties are greater but by no means insuperable. Negotiations have proceeded with a private company but at the present moment there is no immediate development.
Now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in conclusion I should like to say that in order to hold people in that area and make it attractive to new settlers, it is essential to overcome the serious anomaly in the standard of services now provided for northern taxpayers in comparison with those provided for people living in the more closely settled areas in the south. In north-western Australia to-day there is a small, hard-working population, and to illustrate the faith of these people in the future of their part of Australia I should like to refer to a recent report of the Deputy Director of Commonwealth Security Loans in Western Australia. The Deputy Director reported that in Western Australia several north-west districts recorded excellent results in the February loan. One area, OnslowAshburton, raised more than six times its quota and gained a higher per capita result than any other district in Western Australia. I know that the Treasurer is happy with that fact. Hall’s Creek raised more than five times its target, whilst Derby-West Kimberley doubled its quota. Two other northwest districts have already over-subscribed heir quota in the present loan.
This shows the spirit and faith in Australia, and north-west Australia in particular, of these people of the north, and the Government should carry on the good work through the coming years. I believe that all Australia should get right behind the development of north-west Australia, because the entire Commonwealth will benefit tremendously from the eventual rise of Western Australia to the status of a major Australian State. I strongly support the bill, and congratulate the Government on its introduction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 30th April (vide page 1755), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the following paper: -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 23rd April, 1959. be printed.
– It is indeed indicative of the rate of change in the international scene that those things which it would have been appropriate to say in this debate a few weeks ago may seem a little outmoded to-day. Indeed, the things which engage our attention to-day are a little different from those which would have engaged our attention a few weeks ago. To-day we look, for example, at the developing situation as a consequence of the Communist aggression against Tibet - the Hungary of Asia, as it has well been described - has passed with so little attention. I believe that it would be a good thing if our Government were to ask our High Commissioner in India to visit the Dalai Lama, who is at present in India, to express to him Australia’s sympathy with Tibet in the Communist aggression which it has faced, to assure him of our support in any move made in the United Nations, and to ask him for any statement which he might care to make on the tragic occurrences in his own country lt is to some extent, as I have said, symptomatic of the dulling of the world’s conscience that these events in Asia have passed with so little notice. They are. of course, primarily the concern of the dwellers in Asia, the Asian people themselves must have the prime concern in this. But it is our business, surely, to express to Asia that same kind of sympathy that Asian nations expressed to us in the case of the Communist aggression against Hungary.
Then, Sir, we have before us the present Geneva conference. I say nothing of its substance, but 1 understand from press reports that the Communists are insisting that Czechoslovakia and Poland be seated at the conference as representative of the powers that opposed the German Nazis during the course of the war. Can wc condone this Communist hyprocrisy? The Communist Government of Czechoslovakia is no more representative of the Czechoslovak people who opposed Hitler than is a tiger properly representative of the lamb that it has eaten and assimiliated. Poland is not even the ghost of the old Poland; it is a body, of course, but it is inhabited and moved by the evil spirit of communism. To say that this Polish Government - it is not the Polish people - is representative of the people who fought so heroically against the Nazis and who were betrayed by the Russian Communists at Warsaw and elsewhere, is to condone the most arrant hypocrisy.
This Government and the Labour government that preceded it both have something on their conscience in this regard. We should never have supported, as we did when the present leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was the Minister for
External Affairs, the vicious and terrible agreements that were made in respect of Poland. The guilt is on that government as a participant in that crime; but the guilt is not on that government alone. This Government, as its successor, has condoned too much and for too long that crime and other crimes committed by Russia against the former free nations of Europe. Unfortunately, we cannot point the bone alone at the Opposition. We are to some extent ourselves convicted of the crime by omission of not having protested. Now at this conference we are confronted with the results of those sins of commission on the part of the Government that preceded us and those sins of omission on the part of our own Government.
– Are you talking about the Menzies Government?
– I am. I turn now to the matter of the renewal of our former diplomatic relations with the Soviet, which is a matter of some immediate internal concern. Sir, I am not one of those who oppose the revivification of the old arrangement unconditionally. There may be some sense in it if only it is properly carried out. There will be no sense in it if it is not properly carried out. My reason for saying that is this: There must be a recognition, throughout the world - we in Australia might well start it - of the principle of equality as a means of dealing with this Communist menace; the holding of the scales fairly, the giving to the Communists of only so much liberty in Australia as is accorded to anti-Communists in Russia - That is the only possible principle that we can maintain and on which we can win. The recognition of this new situation involving the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations can be the thin end of the wedge, if only the principle of equality is properly recognized. In the first place, no more privileges and no more freedom should be given to the Russians here than are given to the Australian legation which will be correspondingly established in Moscow. Unless we adhere quite rigorously to this formula, it will be a bad thing to have allowed these relations to be re-established at all. If we adhere to this formula of equality, there will be some possible merit in the situation.
First, we must have in our legation in Moscow a full Australian staff. We did not have this in the past. 1 look at the staff of our legation in Moscow as it was constituted at the time it was closed: Wc had one charge-d’affaires, two third secretaries, two Australian female typists and one Australian clerk. But we had, in addition, these Russian employees, who were spies - two translators, one doormanmessenger, two chauffeurs, two yardmen and one stoker. Because of this, our embassy was an open book to the Russians. On three or four occasions, there was a search through it to find microphones. One one occasion, I think six microphones were found and on another, eight microphones. Let me remind the House that under the new techniques it is no longer necessary to wire the microphones to their source; they can now be linked by wireless and it is possible to install a small concealed microphone. If there is to be any security at all in the Australian embassy in Moscow, there should be no Russians inside it. If Russians are to be inside it, there should be Australians inside the Russian embassy here. Anything less than that will be entirely and completely unacceptable. If the Government condones this, it will be acting wrongly.
I have spoken to people who were in Russia as representatives of Australia and I have been told that a consistent net of epionage was thrown around them. When they left their houses, for example, they always left through a door that was known to the Russians, because the houses given to them were such that the occupants could only go through one door, where a doorman was stationed with a telephone. When the occupants left the house the doorman rang the secret police, who were stationed a few hundred yards down the street. The Australians were trailed consistently wherever they went. If they wanted to go outside Moscow, and wanted to buy a railway ticket, they went to the railway station, but they were not given a ticket until a telephone check had been made back to Russian police head-quarters. When the Australians arrived at their destination, they found the police waiting for them, ready to trail them. Their contacts with Russians were rigorously cut off.
– Did this happen during this Government’s regime?
– This was happening at the time our legation in Moscow was closed, and that is about five years ago.
This kind of thing is symptomatic. I do not want to go through the entire gamut of it. I do not want to give the House the full details, but the truth is that our legation in Moscow was not allowed to have free contact with the Russian people. It was subjected to espionage. It was infiltrated by Russians, who were employed by us but assigned to us by the Soviet Government. That kind of thing must not be allowed to recur. If it does recur, then we must have corresponding people placed in the Soviet Embassy here. This is the principle of equality. We can enforce that principle. It may be said, of course, that we cannot afford to do all that. When I look at the Budget, I find that at the time our legation in Moscow was closed down it was costing us about £80,000 a year, because owing to the fictitious rate of exchange which the Russians then enforced, everything in Moscow was a very high price. That is one of the ways in which the Russians work.
In order to make certain that their agents were inside our legation, they imposed on us a rate of exchange that made it very expensive for us to send all our own people to Moscow. That is a very simple technique, and because we are foolishly Treasury-minded in this country, we allowed the Russians to get away with it. It is said that even now the Treasury may hold that we cannot afford to do in Moscow what ought to be done. I do not know whether that is true or not, because in the last few years there has been some change in the Russian exchange rate, and at present the official rate is about two and one-half times better than it was at the time that our legation in Moscow was closed down.
– Where did you get your information about the Treasury’s attitude?
– One hears these things - I do not want to go into too great detail. I have been a Treasury officer myself. I will be thoroughly in accord with the proposition that in Moscow we insist on full equality. I do not want more; I do not want less. I just want full equality, and if the Russians maintain a full staff here, we in our legation in Moscow must maintain a corresponding full staff, and we must not allow a rendition of the kind of thine that happened in the past, which was characteristic of the Russians. Five years ago, when our legation in Moscow was closed down, we had Russian employees inside it, employees who were allocated by the Communist Government, people paid by us but whose real masters we were not.
We must insist that the Russians here get no greater freedom of movement and contact than our Australian people get in Moscow. We must make that a principle, and we must stand by it. We want to give full freedom. If Russia will give our people full freedom, then let us give the Russians full freedom here, but not otherwise.
I have in my hand a map, which I think is up to date - at any rate, it is only a few months old. It shows the areas in Russia which are barred to foreigners. Those areas embrace a very considerable section of Russia.
– Is the map printed in Russian or English?
– It is printed in English, but the outlines could be either English or Russian - the honorable member would be able to read them. I ask for leave to have this map incorporated in “ Hansard “.
– I understand that “ Hansard “ cannot reproduce the map.
– With the concurrence of honorable members, I will lay this map on the table of the House. The map not only shows that great areas of Russia are barred to foreigners, but it also shows that from north to south across Russia, roughly along the line of the Yenesei River, there is a 25-kilometre zone where transit is forbidden. The Russian empire is cut in two by this zone. Foreigners cannot get across it. If we impose equality of movement on the Russians who come to this country, we will show the Australian people the kind of police state that exists in Russia and the kind of restrictions that are imposed, not only against foreigners, but also against Russians themselves who are not persona grata with the entire regime.
I ask the House to consider this matter seriously, because the principle of equality is an important and vital one. Under present conditions each side has the power to destroy the other absolutely, and neither side has the power to protect itself against destruction. That is the present world situation, and it is likely to continue for all the foreseeable future. Espionage has to be an inside job. Let us put a stop to it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am very disturbed at the revelations made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). He has made very serious charges against this Government, charges that cannot go un-answered In the interest of the security and wellbeing of Australia, this Government cannot afford to remain silent and to ignore the serious allegations that have been made against it by one of its supporters, who is a member of that important body, the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is one of the most serious charges that I have heard laid in this House in the ten years that I have been here. Tonight, we have a Government supporter, with all the information - the secret information - available to him as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and speaking with the full responsibility that a member of that committee must accept when he speaks on a matter such as this, declaring publicly that this Government, at a time when it pretended to be fighting Russian espionage in this country, was condoning Russian espionage in another country - and not only was condoning it, but was using the Australian taxpayers’ money to pay the agents of Soviet Russia in the Australian Embassy in Moscow who were acting against the interests of this country!
– They were being employed even as- translators.
– As the honorable member for Bonython, who was formerly ambassador for this country in Washington, has reminded me, this Government was even employing and paying members of the M.V.D. to act as translators in the Australian Embassy in Moscow. Just how silly can a government become! I cannot believe that the charges made by the honorable member for Mackellar are true. I hope they are not true. I sincerely hope that they are the result of some wild, mad fantasy that has overcome him for the moment. But never mind about that. Let no member of the Parliament, from either side, try to laugh the matter off, because the honorable member for Mackellar is singularly well informed, on these things.
– I do not think he is well informed.
– Yes, the honorable member for Mackellar is much better informed on these things than are some of the Government supporters who are laughing at him at this moment. Indeed, I venture to suggest that he is much better informed on this subject than are most of the members of the Cabinet. Whereas he has made a careful study of this matter and has searched every possible avenue for information in order to become acquainted with the real facts of the situation, the members of the Cabinet have given but scant consideration to the things about which the honorable member speaks. The members of the Cabinet are too busy attending social functions and more pleasant matters to spend hours and hours on constant and meticulous research into the kinds of things that are now being talked about.
I well recall that when the Soviet Embassy was functioning here in Canberra it was at one time almost impossible to attend a function at that embassy without either meeting a Minister just arriving or seeing one just leaving. Have we not seen photographs of the Leader of the House himself clinking glasses with Mr. Generalov, the Soviet Ambassador, with the Prime Minister standing beside him, smiling in complete approval, and looking quite wistfully into Mr. Generalov’s eyes? You could see the look of trust in the eyes of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, and also Senator Spooner. There they were, trustfully gazing into Mr. Generalov’s eyes, some of the time through the bottoms of wine glasses.
– The drink would have been vodka.
– The drink would have been vodka, the Minister tells me. The Prime Minister and these other Ministers accepted an invitation to a reception at the Soviet Embassy to celebrate the anniversary of the Russian Revoluation, and there is no doubt that the glasses that they held in their hands when the photograph that I have mentioned was taken were the same glasses from which they had drunk the toast of the October Revolution.
– The honorable member has it wrong.
– Now they sit by, and the Minister smiles as though the serious - the serious and dangerous - allegations made by the honorable member for Mackellar are of no consequence and are something that we can completely ignore.
What are the charges? The honorable member for Mackellar, to-night, has charged this Government with acts of omission in respect of what he has been pleased to condemn as arrangements made concerning the enslavement of Poland. He has charged this Government with condoning something which he has condemned, and which he has indicated, in his usual forceful way, as being something that could not and should not have been supported at any time - something in respect of which this Government, for ten long, weary years, has sat idly by, and about which it has done nothing. It has uttered not one word of protest on this matter, says the honorable member for Mackellar - a Government supporter and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Who can lightly cast aside the opinion of a man who has sat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and who has been given secret Government information concerning the activities of these other countries? Who dare idly dismiss the opinion of a gentleman of the honorable member’s standing?
What is the second charge that the honorable member made against the Government? He made the charge that, until five years ago, when the Australian Embassy in Moscow was closed, it was riddled with M.V.D. agents. I repeat that he said it was riddled with them. It is absolutely certain that if it had not been for the decision of the Soviet to break off diplomatic relations with Australia, the Australian Embassy in Moscow would still have been riddled with M.V.D. agents, just as it was when the embassy was closed. Can you think of anything more naive than the Government’s attitude in permitting the situation which was described by the honorable member? To say that it was naive is to put it too mildly. We can just imagine the position of a chauffeur being occupied by an M.V.D. agent. What better position is there anywhere in an embassy for purposes of spying than that of chauffeur?
– The honorable member’s pronunciation is wrong.
– The honorable member probably uses the South African pronunciation, but I prefer the
Australian. What better opportunities for spying can one imagine than those available to the chauffeur of an ambassador who perhaps leaves some other legation or embassy gaily sparked by champagne? The M.V.D. agent sitting in front and driving him home would be listening to every word uttered by the ambassador’s loose tongue in conversation with whatever companion the ambassador happened to have in the car.
– What about secret microphones?
– I shall come to the secret microphones. The honorable member for McMillan, who sits on the Government side of the chamber, thinks that this is only a joke. He thinks that it it just too funny for words that the Australian Embassy in Moscow was riddled with M.V.D. agents who, on three occasions planted secret microphones. The honorable member thinks that that is something to laugh about and that it is just a joke. It seems to him very funny. He apparently regards it as one of those practical jokes that requires of us nothing more than a hearty chortle. In addition to these things that have been mentioned, this Government employed two Russian translators at the Australian Embassy in Moscow. It employed Russian doormen, who, as the honorable member for Mackellar said, were members of the Russian secret police, and who, whenever a person left the embassy, rang the secret police headquarters and notified the movements of the persons who left the embassy in order that they could be tracked wherever they went.
I honestly do nol know what the Government intends to do about these charges. I hope that it will not just brush them off, or regard them as the rantings of some lunatic. I hope that the Government will regard these charges as coming from one of the most responsible members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Honorable members may say what they like about the honorable member for Mackellar, but he is equipped with one of the most remarkable brains that I have ever known. He is a nimble-minded gentleman. He is not a fool. He has a keen analytical mind. I do not always agree with the conclusions that he reaches, but you cannot laugh him off as a fool, a knave and a clown, because he is none of those things. The Government cannot afford to treat these charges as phantasies or as idle allegations of a frivolous mind. I repeat that the Government must regard this matter as being of the most serious character, deserving the very closest examination and, what is more, a full report to the nation, which must now be waiting for some reply from the Government. If the Minister who is now sitting at the table and stroking his moustache does not reply on behalf of the Government, or if somebody else is not prepared, on behalf of the Government, to deny the charges that have been made, we are entitled to assume that they are correct.
.- I feel that this Parliament and the Australian nation should feel indebted to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for the information that he placed before the Parliament to-night.
– Except that it was inaccurate.
– I shall answer the honorable member for Macmillan later. I should like at this stage to make some reference to the attitude adopted by honorable members opposite as the honorable member for Mackellar unravelled his story. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) did his very utmost, by interjection, to ridicule the statement that the honorable member for Mackellar was making. That is what we would expect from the honorable member for Yarra. It is a tactic in which he has been, in his youth, particularly well trained. Honorable members on the other side know exactly what I mean by that comment.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) adopted a completely different attitude. He saw in this matter an opportunity to attack the Government. That was why he leapt so quickly to his feet and why he completely changed the approach which he has made to every other speech by the honorable member for Mackellar in this House. 0 Perhaps I can relieve the mind of the honorable member for Hindmarsh by telling him that the information which was given to the House to-night by the honorable member for Mackellar - the honorable member for Macmillan, too, may be interested to know this - comes from a most reliable, and completely unimpeachable source. I. have here a list which I borrowed from the honorable member for Mackellar, and I know the source of the information contained on it. I ask the House to consider again those people, who were not Australians but in fact Russians, and who were employed at the Australian Embassy. There were two translators. The honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to chauffeurs as being possibly in a strategic position. But surely to goodness people employed as translators must have been in ‘the office ‘ where files, documents, cyphers, codes, and cables were kept. This suggests that our security was lax, that our files were wide open to the Kremlin, and that there were, perhaps, no messages passing between the Australian Government and our representatives in Russia that were not known co-incidentally by the members of the Russian Government.
I suggest that the information that the honorable member for Mackellar has given us to-night is of the utmost importance. It highlights the wish which I believe is unanimous, of members who sit behind the Government, that if we establish a Russian Embassy in Australia it will receive exactly the same treatment as the Australian Embassy receives in Moscow, and that if at any time the movements of officers of our Department of External Affairs in Russia are in any way limited, exactly the same limitations will be placed on the representatives of the Russian Government in this country.
Further, in view of our experience of the operations of a Russian Embassy in this country, surely our security will be of the highest possible order, so that these people will be able to do only the work that an embassy is expected to do and will not be able to act as the centre and source of a vast espionage network, maintaining contact with the under-cover and unticketed Communists, as well as the ticketed Communists, throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Those who are well informed of the operations of Communists in America and those who have read the report of the Royal Commission on Communism in Canada know that it is impossible to distinguish the most dangerous Communist, the man who is travelling without a ticket, who in fact does not have a ticket, who is deliberately not issued with a ticket so that in no way can he be identified. The man may be a big trader, or a big professional man, or a member of the Australian Parliament - these are the people with whom the Russian Embassy will be maintaining contact and these will be the sources of the most dangerous information.
I suggest that in view of the information placed before this Parliament to-night Cabinet should give serious consideration to every point that the honorable member lor Mackellar has raised. It should give serious consideration to the steps that must be taken to safeguard Australia if a Russian Embassy is established here. It should ensure that our representatives in Russia will not only receive adequate protection, but also will receive the diplomatic privileges which are their due and which we extend to the representatives of other countries in Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Kelly) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1958-59.
Supply (Works and Services) Bill 1959-60. Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1959. Public Service Arbitration Bill 1959. Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Bill 1959. Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill 1959. Rayon Yarn Bounty Bill 1959.
Without requests -
Supply Bill 1959-60.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) agreed to-
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
House adjourned at 11 p.m., to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Has he made a recommendation to Cabinet for abolishing the rule of common employment as it affects Commonwealth employees, about which I asked him a question on the 25th February last?
– The question to which the honorable member for Werriwa refers is as follows: -
I ask the Attorney-General whether he will correct the position whereby the Commonwealth is the only employer in Australia that can defend a claim for damages by an employee on the ground that the employee was injured by the wrongful act, neglect or default of a fellow employee. The honorable gentleman will recollect that this rule of common employment was abolished in respect of State and private employers in New South Wales in 1926, and in all the other States during or shortly after the last war, and that it was abolished in respect of all employers in England in 1948 and in the Australian Capital Territory in 1955. Will he therefore take steps to abolish the Commonwealth’s unique and archaic advantage over its civilian and military employees outside the Australian Capital Territory, and in the meantime will he direct that this ignoble defence be no longer pleaded?
I have examined the matter as promised. So far as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned the matter clearly needed and received legislative treatment. The defence was abrogated in 1955 by ordinance as the honorable member correctly pointed out.
But it is not clear that the defence of common employment is available to the Commonwealth when sued in a State which since 1903 has abolished the doctrine of common employment. The Judiciary Act by section 56 makes the Commonwealth liable to suit in the Supreme Courts of the State in contract and in tort. Section 64 provides that in such a suit the rights of the parties shall be as nearly as possible the same as in a suit between citizens. There is no decision of the High Court of Australia which has expressly decided, or which furnishes solid ground for inferring, that the law governing tortious claims to which” the Commonwealth was thus subjected was merely the law obtaining at the time the Judiciary Act was passed and that therefore subsequent alterations of such law are inapplicable to the Commonwealth.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales did decide some twenty years ago that the
Judiciary Act merely submitted the Commonwealth to the general law of torts as that law stood in 1903. This decision has never been confirmed by the High Court nor, indeed, have there been any commendatory references to it on the few occasions on which it has been mentioned in judgments of the High Court.
It is therefore not as certain as the honorable member implies in his question that the Commonwealth can defend itself in a claim for damages by one of its employees on the ground that the employee was injured by the wrongful act, neglect or default by a fellow employee.
However, I should inform the honorable member and the House that in 1955 the then Attorney-General issued a general instruction that the defence of common employment was not to be pleaded in any case without reference to the AttorneyGeneral personally. This instruction would appear to have been fully observed. I am advised that no case is known in which since the instruction was given the AttorneyGeneral has authorized the pleading of this defence^ Indeed, I have myself but recently directed in a case now pending that it should not be pleaded. I have no intention of varying the existing instruction or the existing practice.
It will thus be seen that any question of special legislation on the matter is at the moment somewhat academic. The form and extent of any legislation to clarify the position and make it quite certain needs a great deal of consideration as many collateral questions are involved. I have already given consideration to this question and will keep the matter under consideration. I should inform the honorable member and the House that I have no present intention of making any early recommendation for legislation. Meantime, by reason of the instruction to which I have referred no practical hardship will be suffered by anybody.
ser asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Greece and Denmark. A similar arrangement with the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration also applies to the movement of migrants selected by Australia on a limited basis from Spain.
Australia offers assisted passages on a unilateral basis to citizens of Eire, the Scandinavian countries, Finland and the United States of America. This unilateral assistance is available also to citizens of the United Kingdom residing anywhere outside the British Isles other than in Commonwealth countries which are themselves seeking migrants.
If the honorable member wishes to obtain figures for earlier years I shall be glad to provide him with a copy of the Statistical Bulletin prepared by my Department.
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
h asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
ser asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
On what dates were the international agreements on telecommunication and adio services, which were drawn up at the Telecommunications Conference at Atlantic City, United States of America, and are now in operation in Australia (a) presented to the Senate and the House of Representatives:
explained to the Senate and the House of Representatives, and (c) debated and ratified by the Senate and the House of Representatives?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The Atlantic City Convention was signed for Australia with the authority of the Prime Minister on 2nd October, 1947, and was ratified by the Governor-General in Council on 8th December, 1948. The instruments of ratification in respect of Australia were deposited with the International Telecommunications Union on 7th January, 1949, on which date the convention entered into force for Australia.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has replied as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following replies: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
What action is proposed to alleviate the great inconvenience which will be caused to residents living in close proximity to airports to be used by pure jet civil aircraft?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
Qantas are confident that their Boeing 707 aircraft will be able to operate from existing airports such as Sydney without causing noises to the community louder than those of existing piston and turbo-propeller types. Where the development of new airports or large extensions of existing airports are involved the work will be so designed and planned that the noise on the communuity will be kept within reasonable limits.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What was the allocation of funds to each terminating building society in Western Australia from the totals of £65,000 for 1956-57, £120,000 for 1957-58, and £440,000 for 1958-59 disbursed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: -
The allocation of housing agreement moneys to each terminating building society in Western Australia for the three financial years 1956-57, 1957-58 and 1958-59 was as follows:-
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– In accordance with the policy set out in reply to a similar question, this information is not available.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– In accordance with the policy set out in reply to a similar question, this information is not available.
Committees Appointed under Health Acts.
n. - On 10th March, 1959, an interim reply to the following question, asked by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) on 26th February, was furnished: -
The final answer is as follows: -
National Health Service Act, National Health Act and Therapeutic Substances Act. 1 and 3. National Health Act -
Appointed - New South Wales: 18.2.46. Victoria. 27.2.46. Queensland: 30.1.46. South Australia. 18.2.46. Western Australia: 30.1.46. Tasmania: 30.1.46.
Meetings during 1958 - New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia did not meet during 1958. Victoria: 18.2.58, 28.3.58, 18.4.58, 30.5.58. 27.6.58, 25.7.58, 29.8.58, 2.10.58, 6.11.58. 9.12.58 and 23.12.58. South Australia. 8.4.58, 9.5.58, 25.6.58, 15.7.58. 18.8.58, 22.9.58 and 15.12.58. Tasmania. 28.3.58, 14.4.58. 26.5.58, 29.9.58, 20.10.58 and 1.12.58.
Benefits - Appointed in July, 1953; met in August, 1953, then lapsed because of repeal of 1953 act.
Thereapeutic Substances Act -
Note. - Committees, listed under “National Health Act” above, which were appointed before December, 1953, were originally established under the National Health Service Act 1948-1949.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) £2,350 where incapacity of the employee is not total and permanent. There is no limit where incapacity is total and permanent. In either case medical expenses are also payable; (b) £2,350 plus £100 for each dependent child under the age of sixteen years.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) In the ten years to this date the only loan made by the Commonwealth to an airline is that covered by the Loan (Qantas Empire Airways Limited) Act 1957 (No. 6 of 1957). On the terms and conditions set out in the Schedules to that Act the Commonwealth has borrowed 27,000,000 dollars in the United States of America, and has lent the local currency equivalent (approximately £12,000,000) to Qantas Empire Airways Limited. Interest on this loan is payable at the rate of 41 per cent, (b) Act No. 71 of 1958 authorizes a loan of 3,000,000 dollars to the Australian National Airlines Commission (T.A.A.) and Act No. 72 of 1958 a further loan of 13,000,000 dollars to Qantas Empire Airways Limited. These loans have not yet been drawn.
l asked the Treasurer, upon notic -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590514_reps_23_hor23/>.