23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs. The question concerns Laos, and it has particular reference to several statements made by the Minister for External Affairs on the Washington meeting, reports of which have appeared in the press. Could the text of the actual statements be made available for the information of the House? Further, will the Minister say whether there is included in the functions of the Seato organization the duty and right of endeavouring to effect settlements between parties in the area of operation of the organization?
– In short, to conciliate.
– Yes - in short, to mediate or conciliate. I am interested to know whether the Minister can give us - I do not mean necessarily now - the particulars of the statements I have referred to, and say what is the Australian Government’s view of them, with reference to the possibility of conciliation that I have referred to and which should never be excluded in matters of this kind.
– I am at the present time arranging for a summary of the proceedings before the United Nations General Assembly to be laid on the table of the House. I will see that the full texts of the Minister’s statements are included with it, and I will consider the other matter that the right honorable gentleman has mentioned.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. I understand that a battalion group of the Australian Regular Army is at present on the way to Malaya. Will these units take over the duties of, and operate in the same locality as, the Australian battalion group which has been stationed in Malaya for some time? Further, what degree of success has been achieved by the British Commonwealth brigade group in the campaign against the Communist terrorists in Malaya?
– It is true that 1 R.A.R. has just gone to Malaya and will take over from 3 R.A.R., which is on its way back.
– Hurrah! Hurrah!
– The initials mean “ Royal Australian Regiment “, in case the honorable member does not know. I understand that 1 R.A.R. will take over on 6th October and will perform exactly the same duties as the battalion which was previously there. As to the success achieved, it may be of interest to the honorable member and to the House if I give one or two brief facts in connexion with the operations. The Third Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, had 651 days of operations in the two years that it was in Malaya. In that time-
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I direct your attention to the fact that the Minister for the Army is supposed to be replying to a question without notice, but he is obviously not just referring to notes but reading a prepared answer. If we are to observe the Standing Orders in relation to question time, I suggest that the question should be placed on the noticepaper.
– The Minister is in order.
– I am citing figures; I am not reading anything. In the period to which I have referred the unit carried out 611 fighting patrols and killed ten terrorists, as well as accounting for a number of wounded. Those figures do not include terrorists who surrendered. I think the most effective particular operation was that called “ Ginger “, in North Perak, where the Australians killed five of the key leaders of the terrorists. One hundred and fourteen camps, 99 resting places, 42 food and supply dumps and great quantities of ammunition were discovered and destroyed. The food included 2,200 lb. of rice, and there were also great quantities of medicine and clothing.
The Commonwealth Brigade killed or captured 233 Communist terrorists and released more than 2,000 square miles of territoryoccupiedby about 200,000 Malays.
Our own casualties ‘in this period were one man killed and .two wounded. .It is very encouraging, Mr. Speaker, to note that men of the battalion won a Military Cross and a Military Medal, and that there were four mentions-in-despatches. 1 think it can be said that ‘the operation was very successful indeed.
– I direct a question to the ‘Prime Minister. In ‘view of the fact that present wool prices, compared with the prices at the opening -df the wool sales in August, are 6d. to 8d. per lb. lower, and that that reduction, in terms of yearly sales, means a loss of between £36,000,000 and £48,000,000 to the national economy, when does the Government propose to abandon its present negative attitude and take the initiative in the creation of an organization to give both the nation and the growers :strength similar to that which the buyer organizations have amply demonstrated that they possess?
– That matter is clearly one of policy.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister, as acting Treasurer. Some weeks ago, the Treasurer, in reply to a question of mine, intimated that the Government expected to make an early announcement of the details relevant to the proposed .taxation review. Is the right honorable gentleman able to provide at this stage information concerning the terms of reference and the appointment of persons to the committee that is to be established?
– The Government has settled the terms of reference, but the selection of the committee is a somewhat complex matter involving a good deal of discussion with various people. That is not yet complete, but I hope we will be able to announce the terms and the membership at a very early date.
TELEVISION. Mr. GRIFFITHS. - I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that serious interference to radio and television programmes ‘is taking place because of increas ing electrical disturbances in certain areas, and that the trouble is felt most in fringe areas where television is being received. Does the Minister agree that electrical interference to television .in fringe areas would greatly aggravate the already bad reception that thousands of viewers experience, despite the expense that they have incurred in respect of licences and installation fees? If that is so, will the Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government to take action to overcome the interference complained of and, if so, by what means it is proposed to do so? Further, in view of ‘the fact that numerous owners of television sets find it practically impossible -to -obtain -good reception from existing stations, will the Minister give an assurance that every effort will be made to speed up ‘the third phase of the Government’s television programme?
– I .have not had any recent reports of interference with radio and television reception in the areas to which the honorable member referred. I take it that the honorable member had in mind particularly interference with television reception. The position, Sir, is that measures to deal with interference were very thoroughly discussed and considered by the Government at the time of the introduction of television to Australia, and although there is power in the act to make regulations, if necessary, to deal with interference, it has not been necessary yet to take any such action. The reason, Mr. Speaker, is that in the early days of television in Australia the Australian Broadcasting Control Board conferred with a number of people who would be involved in this matter - that is to say, with business people handling electrical appliances, cars and that sort of thing. At the same time it discussed the subject with the State transport authorities in both New South Wales and Victoria, and it received from all those people the utmost co-operation in its effort to ensure that there would be as little interference as possible arising from the activities and sources with which they were concerned. In addition to that, of course, the board is always prepared, if any report of an individual case of interference reaches it, to investigate the matter, to send its experts out to see .where the interference is coming from, and (then to make representations asking those responsible to do their utmost to relieve the position. I am glad to say that, in the main, that system has worked very well so far. However, if at any time the honorable member for Griffith, or anybody else, receives reports that indicate that some investigation or action is necessary, I shall be glad to have a look at them.
The honorable member also asked whether the introduction of the third phase of television would be speeded as much as possible. I take it that the third phase will affect the area that he represents in this Parliament. The position is that applications for licences for the third phase closed yesterday. I have received this morning a report from the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that a considerable number of applications has been received. It appears that the board has not yet had time to study them all. It also appears that there are 40 or 50 applications for the thirteen centres concerned in the third phase. I have conferred, in conjunction with the Attorney-General, with the chairman of the board, in order to ensure that everything is done to make certain that the investigations go forward as quickly as possible, and that there will be a determination on the applications as soon as possible. However, Mr. Speaker, may I sound this note of warning: I have said that between 40 and 50 applications will have to be considered. It will be realized that this will mean extensive hearings, and that even at an average of two days for the hearing of each application a total of not fewer than 100 sitting days would be involved. It will be readily understood, therefore, that it will be some considerable time before the final decisions are made.
– But you know who is going to get the licences, anyway.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. In view of the present uncertain position of the rayon industry in Australia, and the effect this will have on rural towns in particular, will the Minister indicate to the House what the Commonwealth Government and the Department of Trade can do to assist the industry, and what steps those engaged in the industry can take to assist themselves?
– The honorable member for Indi arranged, a couple of weeks ago, for me to meet the manager of a great rayon weaving mill in his electorate. I had a useful conversation with the manager, as a result of which I suggested to that gentleman that I thought the industry might avail itself of the opportunity provided by the Government, through the establishment of industry panels, to watch the impact that might be considered to be coming from the operation of the Japanese Trade Treaty. I suggested that the industry might, on the other hand, also consider whether its position should be referred to the Tariff Board. I think those were two constructive suggestions that fit in with what is well known to be the policy of the Government. Following that - I do not claim in consequence of it - this week, the rayon weaving industry panel made a request to me as Minister for Trade that certain action be taken to protect the interests of the industry generally, and in respect of Japanese competition particularly; and further, that the circumstances of the industry should be referred to the Tariff Board. I received this advice yesterday and I give the honorable member, and all concerned with the wellbeing of this important Australian industry, an assurance that the request is receiving the prompt and very serious consideration of the Government.
– I desire to direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. What protection have honorable members against the growing practice of Ministers making ministerial statements in answers to questions and thus by-passing that rule which requires prior consent of the House? Does the practice not also deny to honorable members time that should be available to them for the questioning of Ministers upon important public matters? Would you, Sir, be willing to have the Standing Orders Committee convene with a view to devising a new provision that would safeguard honorable members against this practice - which has grown up during this Parliament and the last Parliament - and against the failure of Ministers to observe the condition that such statements may be made only by leave of the House?
– Honorable members have the right to direct a question to any Minister concerning domestic matters within his responsibility. The reply that the Minister makes is entirely within his discretion. At times replies are of a lengthy nature and, with respect, I would suggest that Ministers might emulate their leader, the Prime Minister, in the matter of brevity. The suggested alteration of the Standing Orders is a matter for the Standing Orders Committee, to which I suggest the honorable member might direct the latter part of his question.
– My question is directed to the acting Minister for External Affairs. Has any consideration been given to the suggestion, which emanated recently from a responsible and well-informed source, that Australia might give valuable assistance to Colombo Plan countries by encouraging retired teachers, technicians and persons with long administrative experience, to give further service in such areas, where their qualifications would be of great value?
– I have seen the suggestion, and I agree that it has a great deal to commend it. I will see that it is kept before the officers of the Department of External Affairs. I agree that one of the most useful things we can do - if not the most useful - for our Asian neighbours is to provide them with personnel to train and instruct their folk. The climate in these places is, of course, not easy. People who are old enough to have retired might very well find the climate too difficult to live in. I make this final comment: Under the Colombo Plan the Asian countries themselves nominate what they want, and the aid is furnished to them at their request and with their agreement. However, I will see that the suggestion is kept in mind.
– I had intended to ad dress my question to the Minister for Primary Industry, but as he is not in the House at present I address it to the Minister for Trade, as it concerns his department also. Is it a fact that peanuts are imported into Australia? Is it a fact, also, that the Australian peanut industry is concerned because of the heavy local production? If these are facts will the Minister see that the industry is protected by restricting the importation of peanuts?
– The peanut industry has been before the Tariff Board fairly recently and the Government has acted upon its recommendation to accord appropriate protection to the industry. I am not aware that peanuts, as such, are being imported in significant quantities if, indeed, they are being imported at all, but peanut oil is certainly being imported into the country to make good the shortage of peanut oil from local production. Locally produced peanuts are sold principally as kernels and, to a minor extent, are used for the production of oil for various purposes. There has been a problem between the peanut industry and those industries which use peanut oil here. Within the last few weeks this has been a matter for consultation between my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, and myself and our various officers. Within the last week orso the Peanut Marketing Board on the one hand and the organization of the millers who crush peanuts on the other - I forget its name for the moment - have arrived -at an arrangement acceptable to all parties.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether the rates of the age pension and blind pension in the United Kingdom are the same, as are the rates in Australia, and that the amount is equivalent to £A.3 2s. 6d. a week. Is it a fact that under the terms of the reciprocal agreement, migrants from the United Kingdom who have been receiving the age pension are paid the Australian rate, which will be £4 15s. a week as from the next pension day, the Australian Government making up the difference, yet blind migrant pensioners will continue to receive only £3 2s. 6d. a week? If these are facts will the Minister consider correcting this anomaly?
– If I may be permitted to answer the latter part of the honororable member’s question first, I assure him that there is no anomaly. The terms of a reciprocal agreement are the subject of long and protracted negotiations. When they are settled, and the agreement is signed, they are binding on both parties to the agreement. So far as both the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government are concerned, the terms of the reciprocal agreement between them with respect to social services are strictly observed. At the same time, they are constantly under review by the governments of both countries.
With regard to the first part of the question, may I say that there is no simple answer, since the pension rate for blind pensioners in the United Kingdom ranges from a non-contributory pension of 26s. 6d. a week to an invalid pension of £3. 2s. 6d. a week. If the honorable member would care to put his question on the notice-paper, I will provide him with a detailed reply.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that this is Apprenticeship Week, and that commerce, industry and governments are trying to encourage young people of school-leaving age to interest themselves in an apprenticeship and so overcome the shortage of tradesmen in industry? Would this be an appropriate time to announce that the Goveryment will appear before the federal court and support the claim for the restoration of the tradesmen’s margin from 28 per cent, of the basic wage, as at present, to 42 per cent, as fixed by Mr. Justice Higgins in 1907?
– I am well aware of the fact that it is Apprenticeship Week in New South Wales and that much is being done on both the government level and throughout industry to encourage industry to take more apprentices, and to encourage parents to make provision for their children who become apprentices to have higher education in their respective trades. My answer to the second question is that the Government’s role in these cases is to assist the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with relevant information on which the commission can come to its own decision.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade relating to the exportation of Australian secondary products. Is it a fact that a survey has recently been made by the Industries Division of the Department of Trade regarding restrictions by way of franchise placed by overseas principals on subsidiary companies established in this country, prohibiting the subsidiaries from exporting except to very limited overseas markets? Is this practice regarded by the Minister as a serious handicap to our export trade? If it is, has any thought been given to the linking of import licences with the export performance of such companies, and, indeed, other manufacturing concerns, or does he regard it as desirable in appropriate cases, and at the appropriate time, to enter into negotiations on such matters?
– It is a fact that certain companies - not all overseas companies with subsidiaries in Australia - engage in the conduct referred to by the honorable member. The Government regards this state of affairs as regrettable. With respect to a company that has been long established in Australia, and which, because of this circumstance, needs imports and therefore import licences, it has never crossed my mind to attach to the issue of an import licence to enable a company to continue its operations, a requirement that it should enter into some new commitments to export to wider markets. But when a company has approached me, or the Department of Trade, ever since I have been in office, seeking import licences to enable the establishment of a new company, or the expansion of the activities of an existing company, I, or my officers - generally I myself - have instantly asked whether there would be any restrictions of franchise when the new company was set up. By this means. I have on many occasions amicably negotiated an arrangement which obviated the restriction of a franchise.
The matter to which the honorable member refers is in mind and under attention. We do make representations to companies established here that they should ameliorate any restrictions in this regard, but I have not thought - I am sure it would not conform to Government policy - of seeking by some arbitrary requirement attached to the import licence, to compel & company to operate along those lines.
– I preface my question to the Minister for the Interior by stating that on Tuesday morning last he received a representative deputation from the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, which was introduced by the honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable member for Reid, Senator Ormonde and myself, relating to the proposed retrenchment of 61 employees of the Commonwealth Department of Works. The Minister promised to give the proposal further consideration. I now ask him whether he has anything to report on this matter.
– Dear Dorothy!
– It would be rather odd, Mr. Speaker, if a Dorothy Dix-er were to come from the Opposition. As the honorable member for Watson has stated, I received a deputation. At the time, 61 employees of the Commonwealth Department of Works were under notice, which was due to expire at the end of the month. I did undertake to give the matter further consideration. At that time, I did not know that the 61 notices had been reduced considerably by the fact that nine men, I think it was, had left to take other employment, seven men had been transferred to other work, and finally the number was reduced to 44. Of that number, twelve were men who were employed on what we call duration jobs - their employment terminated when a particular’ job on which they were engaged was completed - leaving a balance of 32.
After discussion with the Director of Works in Sydney, and further discussion with the union representatives, I agreed that the normal rate of wastage for the next three months would probably take care, of the reduction in numbers that was required. Therefore, the notices that had been given to those 32’ men were withdrawn.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Government of Queensland has finally presented its case to take full advantage of the £300,000 that has been appropriated by the Commonwealth Government to assist Queensland in the restoration of public assets and the relief of personal hardship and distress that resulted from the damage caused by last February’s cyclone?
– As the honorable member knows, the Commonwealth Government promised a grant of £300,000 to be matched by the Queensland Government. So far, we have paid to the Queensland Government something of the order of £90,000 - maybe a little less, but something of that order. The arrangement which was put forward by the Premier is that as the money is needed he will make further applications to us. I am expecting to receive at any time now an application to cover the period ended on 30th September. His last letter to me indicated that he would be applying for another advance in relation to that period. I think that he, very sensibly, is asking for the money as he needs it and as it becomes due.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that there are still approximately 600 illegitimate children, products of the last war, living in Japan, most of them without homes and proper care? If so, will he consider easing the present restrictions which debar those children from entering Australia - provided, of course, that Australian families are prepared to adopt them? I add, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Wilmot supports me in this request.
– I do not know whether the number of illegitimate children in Japan given by the honorable member is accurate or not, but I shall certainly investigate his statement to see what the truth of. the matter is. On the question generally, however, I must tell the. honorable gentleman that I do not favour, in principle, Japanese migration to this country, nor do I think that it would be acceptable to public opinion or desirable in any respect. But I shall examine the honorable member’s question and give the matter consideration.
– Can the Minister for the Interior give me any details concerning negotiations between himself and the New South Wales child welfare authorities for the sale of Uranquinty Air Force station? As the use to which the site would be put by New South Wales is a most worthy one, will the Minister try to arrange satisfactory terms of sale as soon as possible?
– I have not any further information for the honorable member at the moment about that transaction, but I shall bear his representations in mind.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral explain why it has become necessary to increase from the parcel rate to the letter rate the postal charges on tapes on which messages have been recorded? Does the changed rate apply only to tape recordings of messages, or does it apply to all tapes on which there are recordings? Finally, is the Minister aware that the change in rate places members of the Australian Tape Recorders Association at a disadvantage when exchanging messages with members of similar organizations overseas?
– There has been no change in the method by which postal charges on tape recordings are assessed. The position has always been that a tape which has a message recorded on it must, under the act, be regarded and treated as first-class mail and attracts the letter rate. That is not an innovation at all. That is to say, of course, that as a result of the increase in rates, the rate applicable to tapes which have messages recorded on them will be the first-class rate of 5d. for the first ounce and 3d. for each additional ounce. Tapes which have no messages recorded on them are treated as “ other articles “ and attract the tariff applicable to that category. I repeat that this distinction is not new. It has prevailed previously, the reason being that the act lays down that anything carrying a message of a personal character must be treated as first-class mail.
The honorable member asks whether I am aware that this places people in Aus- tralia at a disadvantage. The position is that the rates that apply between the various countries that are signatories to the International Postal Convention - that is, most countries - are laid down in general terms in the convention, but each country is allowed to make considerable variations in the charges it makes under its own regulations. Because of those variations - amounting to as much as 60 per cent, in some instances - to the basic rates under the convention, it will be found that at times our rates compare unfavorably with those of other countries in regard to some categories of mail, but that at other times they compare favorably. That position has not been altered in any way by the recent variation of tariff. Therefore, it will be found that our rates for this class of mail are higher than those of some countries but lower than others.
– Is each tape played to determine whether there is a message on it?
– When a person who comes with a tape parcelled for postage to somewhere in Australia states that no message is recorded on it, his word is taken and the packet is classified as “ other articles “ and attracts the cheaper rate. If. however, the packet is to be sent overseas, a customs declaration is required from the sender.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Territories. I ask him: First, on what date did the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory last meet? Secondly, is it proposed that there shall be another meeting of the Council prior to the election of a new Council? Thirdly, have all the elected members of the Council intimated that they would like another meeting before the election? Fourthly, when would it normally be expected that the new Council would first meet after the election?
– I cannot give the exact date of the last meeting of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, but my general recollection is that it was in May this year. As honorable members know, under the terms of legislation passed in this Parliament, we are in the process of changing the structure and membership of the Legislative Council. The first step towards the election of eight elected representatives in the place of six as in the present Council has been the declaration of new electoral boundaries. I understand that the Distribution Committee is at present in Darwin examining the objections to its report which have been lodged. I expect that, unless there is some unusual and unexpected hitch, those preliminaries will be completed by the end of this month and it will be possible for the Administrator to set in train the necessary action for the holding of an election for a new Legislative Council. It is a fact that the six elected members of the existing Council have asked that a meeting of the present Council be held before the election. That is a matter for decision by the Administrator, who is President of the Council, and the request is being dealt with by him.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that strontium 90 from nuclear bomb explosions is now being deposited in the bones of all human beings everywhere on earth? Is it a fact that strontium 90 causes leukaemia, bone cancer and other diseases? Is it not likely that tens of thousands of people will die of leukaemia and bone cancer as a result of the bomb tests already carried out? Is it a fact that some of those deaths could be prevented by adding to the ordinary diet some calcium compound free from strontium 90? Will the right honorable gentleman see that action is taken to investigate the need for calcium compounds in the diet, and, if the addition of such a compound in the diet will save lives, will he ensure that these compounds are made available?
– As I lack the honorable member’s obvious technical grasp of this problem, I will have to find out what the facts are, because I do not know. But I will be very pleased to ascertain what I can about the matter.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence a question. Having regard to the large concentrations of our population at a few vulnerable points on the seaboard, has Australia an effective means of combating the launching of projectiles from atomic submarines lying on the bottom of the ocean, and are the antisubmarine devices which we now possess capable of detecting an immobile submarine and effectively countering the threat to our economy and our people from submarine attacks of this kind?
– I think that the short answer to the honorable member’s question is that our professional anti-submarine men in the services are doing everything that can be done in the study of this serious problem. With respect to the firing of missiles from nuclear submarines while they are submerged, I can tell the honorable member that that form of warfare is still in the experimental stage. It is quite true that the United States of America has a submarine which has fired missiles while submerged, but such missiles are a long way from being fully operational at present.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Thirty-ninth Annual Report by the Trustees for year 1958-59.
I seek the leave of the House to make a short statement, as this is the final report.
In tabling this, the thirty-ninth and final annual report of the Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Trust, it is appropriate that I should pay tribute to the splendid task which has been accomplished by the trust in its 39 years of operation. Formed in 1920 to administer the profits from canteen trading by the A.I.F. troops of the 1914-18 war, and to accept funds from other sources, the trust has administered eight funds and bequests and has disbursed more than £1,690,000 to aid exservicemen and their dependants.
The work of the trust has now been completed with the final disbursement of Sir Samuel McCaughey’s bequest for exservicemen’s children of the 1914-18 war. The bequest, amounting to £882,135, was devoted to the educational and/ or trade training of the children of deceased and seriously incapacitated ex-servicemen, add provided financial assistance in the training of 22,843 sons and daughters of former servicemen. Other funds and bequests administered by the trust were -
First World War: A.I.F. Canteens Funds, £761,872; Philip Sidney Watson Bequest, £4,736; Commonwealth Public Service Patriotic Fund, South Australia, £2,124
Second World War: R.A.N. Children’s Education Fund, £1,192; A.M.F. Children’s Education Fund, £9,885; R.A.A.F. Children’s Education Fund, £927; 1939-45 War Children’s Education Fund, £29,600
The valuable work which the trustees have been able to perform has been made possible only by the benefactors to the trust and there is ample evidence of the gratitude which is felt towards the late Sir Samuel McCaughey in making provision for the education of soldiers’ children.
However, I do wish to pay a tribute to the trustees personally for their administration of the fund and for the help and encouragement given to parents and to beneficiaries. The key-note of the administration of the funds made available to the trust has been the personal interest taken by the trustees in each case where assistance has been given. Under the chairmanship of Mr. Frederick Grassick, O.B.E., the trustees have rendered to the community a service which has earned for them the respect and appreciation of the many thousands of soldiers’ families with whom they have been associated. They are Sir George Holland, Mr. J. S. Wilson, Colonel N. C. Harris and Brigadier R. H. Norman.
I know that the work which they have performed so ably has been of tremendous satisfaction to the trustees personally, in the knowledge that the distribution of profits and bequests from benefactors has been successful and resulted in assistance being given where it was most needed.
It would not be fitting, when speaking of the work of the trust, should mention not be made of the sterling job which has been performed by the secretary, Mr. J. G. Fussell. In the last 32 years Mr. Fussell has devoted his energies untiringly for the benefit of the children receiving assistance from the trust in the course of which he has earned the respect and admiration of parents, children and officers with whom he has been in contact.
Finally, I wish to place on record the appreciation of the Government and this Parliament of the excellent service which has been rendered to the community in general by the trustees of the A.I.F. Canteens Funds Trust.
– by leave - I thank the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) for the statement that he has made and for his recognition of the benefactors and of the officers who have administered this important service so capably and for so long. However, I ask the Minister whether canteens funds will be continued in any way for similar purposes.
– This is the completion of the trust. All the funds have now been disposed of and this is the final report.
– Is there nothing in the respective canteens funds that could now be administered in this way?
– Not under this act, but there are new funds. There are funds other than this fund.
– I thank the Minister for his statement.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr Sexton) on the ground of ill health.
Motion (by Sir Garfield Barwick, for Mr. Townley) agreed to -
That the Chairman of Committees shall, on each sitting day, during the absence of the Speaker for Commonwealth Parliamentary Association purposes, take the Chair as Deputy Speaker, and may, during such absence, perform the duties and exercise the authority of the Speaker in relation to all proceedings of the House.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 30th September (vide page 1614).
Proposed Vote, £1,860,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- We undoubtedly live in a marvellous age. Sputniks are circling the earth, the moon is being hit by weapons from the earth and the scientists generally are proving that they are capable of magnificent achievements. But this Government apparently thinks that it can out-rival the scientists of to-day. The statements that I have before me in connexion with the Department of Tirade would lead us to believe that this Government is convinced that it can continually spend more than it earns, that it can continually spend beyond its income. Of course, it would be a very desirable state of affairs, if, although you. earned £10 a week, you could keep on spending £20 a week, particularly if you did not have to call upon reserves or did not have any reserves to call upon. Unfortunately, of course, in the case of the individual, that would lead to bankruptcy and to disaster.
What has this Government been doing down through the years? I have some figures before me which show that from 1951 to 1959 the value of exports from Australia was £6,456,000,000 and that the value of imports into Australia was £6,209,000,000. When we add to that £6,209,000,000 the cost of freights and other invisible items - the dividends sent overseas and the interest paid upon loans raised overseas - we find that during that period we had an adverse balance of payments totalling £1,180,000,000. In 1951-52 the adverse balance was £582,000,000. In 1952-53 we had a favorable balance of £191,000,000. That was a period in which rigid import restrictions were imposed. In 1953-54 we had an adverse balance of payments amounting to £2,000,000. In 1954-55 there was an adverse balance of £258,000,000, and in 1955-56 there was another adverse balance of £238,000,000. In 1956-57 - another period of rigid import restriction - we had a favorable balance of £59,000,000. In 1957-58 we had an adverse balance of £177,000,000, and in 1958-59 another adverse balance of £187,000,000. Invisible items in 1950-51 accounted for £97,000,000, and in 1958-59 for £203,000,000.
I point out that that state of affairs cannot continue for ever. There must come a time when the debts that are being accumulated overseas as a result of adverse balances of payments will fall due and will have to be paid. There must come a time when the interest charges that we are paying upon our increasing debts will become such a burden upon Australian industry and production that the country will not be able to bear it. It is the same with a nation as with an individual. If you continually borrow and borrow, the increasing burden of interest will curtail your standard of living for the future. So with this nation. If in the period of its greatest prosperity, a period when it is exporting more than ever before in its history, the nation is borrowing more from overseas countries, the time will come when interest payments will accumulate to such an extent that we shall be able to import fewer and fewer real commodities to aid in the development of the nation. The contribution that we will be making to the money lender will be so great that the standard of living of individuals and of the people generally will have to be consistently lowered in order to meet the levies made by the money lenders.
– Not if your production goes up.
– My friend says, “ Not if your production goes up.” The position is that during this period we exported more than we had ever exported before, and that prices were higher than ever before in our history. Will the price of wool remain at an all-time high level? Will the price of wheat always be as high? Will the price of goods generally always be at such a high level? The absurdity of the position becomes apparent if we ask a simple question. Can all the countries of the world live simultaneously at standards above their earning capacity? Of course, some people live at the expense of others. Some nations have high standards of living because they are utilising the resources of other nations to maintain their own standards. The peoples of other nations will not always contribute to the standard of living of the people of Australia. They will not always, as it were, throw into the bottomless pit of Australian conditions their resources and the results of their labour.
The people of Australia are confronted with the fact that Australia has borrowed considerable amounts of money from overseas. An official document, “The Australian Balance of Payments “ states -
Receipts in 1958-59 included proceeds from two loans issued for public subscription overseas. The first, raised in Nw York in November 1958, yielded £11,000,000, and the second, in London in December 1958, yielded £18,000,000. In addition there were drawings of £8,000,000 on the International Bank for Reconstruction and Developent during the year and further receipts of £7,000,000 from loans arranged for Qantas and Trans-Australian Airlines on the New York market.
The position is becoming worse and worse as the years go by. First, the Government borrows in order that goods may come to this country and in order that it may finance deficits. Then it borrows so that it can pay the interest charges on borrowed money that has already been spent. That is the story of this Government. That is the way in which this Government has preserved what it calls prosperity. It has preserved only an appearance or a facade of prosperity. There should have been real prosperity, but the money that came from overseas has been channelled into only a few hands in the community. Those moneys provided the exorbitant profits of big business undertakings such as General Motors-Holden’s Limited, Hooker Proprietary Limited, and also Minsters Limited that declared a dividend of 20 per cent. which in reality was a dividend of 33 per cent.
I want to point out that in addition to our mounting obligations overseas, this Government has destroyed our overseas balances. In December, 1950, we had funds overseas amounting to £665,000,000 and in June, 1951, we had £803,000,000, due to the sane methods of finance of the Chifley Government. Now, in 1959, we have £515,000,000- a diminution of £300,000,000 in our overseas balances.
– After wool prices have dropped by nearly half.
– As my friend says, after wool prices have dropped by nearly half. I am pointing out that that is where the danger lies. Suppose this country lives beyond its capacity and borrows vast sums of money - represented by a certain number of bales of wool - when the price of wool is high, and that the money has to be repaid when the price is reduced by half. Obviously, the proceeds of twice as many bales of wool will be then required to repay the loan and meet interest and sinking fund payments thereon. A similar analogy could be drawn in relation to other exports, such as meat and wheat. Consequently, the people of Australia would have to produce more. They would have to use double the quantity of materials, and work twice as many man-hours in order to derive the same amount of export income as they received when the prices of their commodities were double what they later became. That, of course, is an utterly absurd position.
This Government goes happily and unconsciously on its way down into the abysmal pit taking the people of this country with it. There will always be people who say, “ Spend more, and increase our imports by another £50,000,000. Have another system of licensing whereby we can import all kinds of commodities in category B or category C or category F to sell to the people of this country. What matters to-morrow? “ That is the attitude of this Government. The Labour Party, down the years, has been pointing out that imports, particularly imports of commodities that are not essential to the economy of Australia, should be reduced. Just recently, I observed that a question that was placed on the Senate notice-paper on 12th August last by Senator Hendrickson has not been answered. It was addressed to the Minister in the Senate who represents the Minister for Trade, and reads as follows: -
How many new or additional import licences have been issued in each of the past three financial years to -
How many transfers of licences by the sale of businesses have been approved over the same period?
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I am glad that I have the opportunity to follow that well-known prophet of gloom, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) on this very important subject of international trade.
– I am just a realist.
– I should like to set out the facts and show the way in which this Government is dealing with the problem’ that the honorable member poses. He stated that we should not be borrowing from overseas and that we will have difficulty in paying the interest on the loans. But from his own figures he showed that as a result of the loans we have raised overseas we have been able to invest in further means of expanding our economy and of increasing our exports year by year. As he said, our exports are increasing in quantity each year. That has come about because we have been able to invest properly the money we have borrowed from overseas. This, I submit, is a natural state of affairs in a growing economy such as the Australian economy at the present time.
What the honorable member failed to do was to suggest any solution to this problem and say what Australia should be doing now. 1 presume from what he said that he thinks we should not be borrowing from overseas. Therefore, he would have us indulge in even more stringent import licensing and import controls than we have at present, because I cannot see what other answer there would be to the solution of the problem that he poses. To my mind, the very much more important attitude is that which has been adopted by this Government in trying to increase our exports. It is to that subject, Mr. Chairman, that I wish to speak in dealing with the estimates for the Trade Commissioner Service. At the same time I wish to make reference in passing to items in the Miscellaneous Services section of the Budget dealing with trade publicity, trade fairs overseas, the publication of “ Austral News “ and very many other ways in which this Government is looking at the question of export promotion.
I think that, at this stage, we should definitely pay a tribute to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and to his department for the great service they are providing to Australia in leading our thoughts and acts to increasing our exports. Let us see the three big factors that they have to consider at the present time. There are changing patterns of overseas trade. Much less trade is going to the United Kingdom and to Europe, but much more trade is going to the new nations in Asia and Africa. Much less of our trade now is involved with raw materials. Much more trade is now in the form of semi-processed and manufactured goods.
We also have to take into account that certain new nations with which we trade prefer to trade on a governmenttogovernment basis and that private enterprise in Australia has to co-operate, I think, unfortunately, to a much greater extent with governments if we are to do more trade with certain countries as, for instance, if we wish to trade in flour with Indonesia. Certainly, the general practice of international agreements is much more stringent than was the case before the war, and there is our adherence to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, from which we have had a good deal of benefit, though we have lost some of our national freedom of trading. All those matters we have to take into account at the present time. It is within this framework that all nations to-day are trying to increase their exports so as to be able to prevent the more stringent import controls that they might otherwise have to face.
I suggest that Australia is facing, to-day, the toughest selling challenge it has ever had to meet. It is in the light of that challenge that the Government has taken a lead in trying to increase our exports. I think that to-day we need, more than anything else, experienced salesmen, well trained in the job of selling in new markets. These salesmen are required, not only by the Government as its trade commissioners, but also by private enterprise which should be helping and co-operating with them.
We need market surveys. Just as our import needs are changing year by year, so the import needs of the people to whom we export are also changing. I hope that our Trade Commissioner Service will take the lead in seeing, not only what overseas countries want at the present time but also what they might be wanting five or ten years hence so that our export industries can be altered and directed to meet new markets in time to come. At the same time, we want promotion and publicity for Australian exports on a scale never before needed. That, I think is what is being done at the present time.
In the light of these needs, are we succeeding? I believe that, judged by the results of the past year, Australia is getting extremely good value for the money it is spending on export promotion. Our selling costs, I believe, are extremely small in proportion to the total sales that we have achieved overseas. In this regard, 1 believe that Australia’s results, in proportion, are very much better than those achieved by other countries which also are endeavouring to increase their exports. I think that a high proportion of our advertising is extremely well placed. Our promotion is well focussed on narrow fronts so that we can say that we are making the advertising £1 go further than any other country is doing at the present time. We are, in fact, developing one market properly before tackling another. As we establish each Asian market, so I think we can develop it. We are right in concentrating on that one market before moving on to other markets in, say, East Africa, West Africa, the Persian Gulf, or South America. I think that there are a number of people, at the moment, who would like to see Australia concentrating on all fronts at one and the same time, but I think that the present method of moving on narrow fronts has had a very much better effect. From this point, therefore, in the main, I think we can say that our export promotion is well conceived and well executed.
There are certain problems and I think they mainly concern the ways in which we could seek greater co-operation between government and private enterprise in this regard. We must pay a tribute to the foresight of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in helping to establish the Export Development Council and the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council, both of which are doing a sterling job. But we must also look at the example of the United
Kingdom where a close relationship exists-‘ between the Board of Trade and the Federation of British Industries. To my mind, there is not, in Australia, a close enough liaison between trade associations and the Government. If there is one thing that needs to be done at the moment it is to see that everybody in Australia co-operates in this vital task of increasing exports.
I think that the trade associations in Australia run by private enterprise need strengthening. They need to pull closer together in this job of co-operating with the Government on trade promotion. Then we should see that these associations follow up the wo.k that has been done by trade commissioners in the new markets. Private selling should follow the Trade Commissioner Service and we should see that there is a much greater degree of coordination of advertising and sales promotion than is occurring. Not only should the Trade Commissioner Service concentrate on a narrow front, but also private enterprise firms should follow up the work of the Trade Commissioner Service closely, and cooperate with that service in greater detail.
In that policy we shall need the cooperation of shipping and allied services. This is a tough game and I think we can only get results if there is greater co-operation between all the people who are undertaking this much-needed work for Australia. I think, also, that we need a better organization to follow up the inquiries received from overseas. Mostly, they come through our Trade Commissioner Service, but I think there is. at the moment, a bit of a gap between the time that an inquiry comes from overseas through the Trade Commissioner Service in Canberra and the time when people in private enterprise have a chance of following it up. I think there is a danger of what we might call “ overselling “. We need a better organization in Canberra to process the inquiries that may provide export opportunities, and so turn those opportunities into actual exports.
Have we enough people in Australia at the moment skilled in the new needs of export promotion and export sales? I think we must be certain that we do not try to expand our efforts into too many new markets until we have made certain that we have enough skilled personnel available to deal with the efforts that we have already undertaken. I think we want, also, to have another look at the trend of governmenttogovernment trading which is occurring at the moment. I think it is necessary that every one - both government and private enterprise - should get into the task of selling. But I hope that, in due course, we :shall look at a similar move that has taken place in Scandinavia where a government, Which originally had something like our Trade Commissioner Service, was eventually able to vacate the field and leave it to a form pf independent authority.
In the few moments left to me I want to sum up a few things that I have tried to say. We have” to encourage our exports by every possible means. If the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), who is interjecting, looked at the matter in this way instead of looking on the rather unfortunate gloomy side of trade, we might have some hope that the Opposition would also take an interest in this matter. The Government has done a great job, to my mind, in the past year and has spent its money wisely. 1 believe that certain private enterprise organizations have been slow in following up the results that are now being obtained by our trade commissioners. I think we need greater co-operation between private enterprise and government in this really tough world trade environment. I hope that, eventually, as we move through this phase of government-to-government trading, we will eventually see private enterprise taking a greater weight in the field of export promotion and so possibly, in time, saving some of the taxpayers’ money that is being used at the moment to encourage our exports. I feel that the Minister for Trade and his department need a great deal of thanks and praise for their efforts during this year.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) castigated the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) by saying that he was a prophet of gloom. All I can say is that the member for Scullin looked at the facts as a realist. To-day, we must face the incontrovertible position that unless we can substantially increase our exports we must decrease our imports.
Since the end of the Second World War many of Australia’s ideas have changed considerably. Some of our views on the question of trade have undergone a marked change. Before the war, in any talk of trade the predominant question was what trade we could establish with Europe. This question is by no means so prominent at the present time. For instance, there is very little opportunity of the United Kingdom again assuming its pre-war importance as an outlet for Australian goods. It is now generally recognized by honorable members on both sides of the House - but more clearly, of course, by those on this side - that Asia, because of its rising living standards, represents the only promising market for many of Australia’s basic commodities.
We on this side of the Parliament have consistently advocated that we should go into the highways and byways of Asia, irrespective of the political ideologies of the various countries concerned, and expatiate upon the value of purchasing Australian goods. Until the last twelve or eighteen months our ideas met with scant consideration. We were looked upon with derision. It was reiterated ad nauseam that we wanted to trade with Communist countries. During the last twelve or eighteen months, however, there has been a marked change in the outlook of honorable members opposite. They have at last realized that, whether we like it or not, some of the Communist countries offer great scope for an acceleration of our overseas trade. It is very pleasing to note that whereas in 1955-56 the value of our exports to China was £2,700,000, in the financial year recently ended it rose to £13,800,000. This is a trend in the right direction.
I suggest that we should make every possible endeavour, both at the governmental level and at the level of private enterprise, to undertake active participation in the early stage of Asian economic growth, because this may help Australia to develop beneficial associations of an enduring nature with Asian countries, Communist and non-Communist. However, while we may entertain these roseate ideas, when we consider the position with regard to Australia’s exports generally, and not only to Communist countries, over the last decade, we see a not very promising picture. During the last ten years Australia’s export income, considered on the basis of constant money values, has decreased on a per capita basis. Taking as a yardstick the money values of 1949-50, we find that exports per head of population reached a peak in 1950-51 of £107, while in 1957-58 they fell to the disappointing level of £45 a head. It can be seen, therefore, that we have a lot of leeway to make up. Whilst one might like to feel as optimistic as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson), we must adopt the realistic attitude displayed by the honorable member for Scullin in pointing out that unless we can materially increase our exports we will have to decrease our imports.
Recently, the Director of Trade Promotion in the Department of Trade, Mr. Paltridge, had a number of interesting observations to make in this connexion. Speaking at the marketing conference of the Australian Institute of Management, he said -
Many of Australia’s traditional markets in agricultural foodstuffs offered little prospect for expansion of any magnitude.
This is to be deplored, because we would naturally hope that we could increase our export trade by selling larger quantities of our primary products. Mr. Paltridge went on to say -
In view of the somewhat doubtful prospects for substantial increases in exports of primary products, ever-increasing attention must be devoted to the export of manufactured and semimanufactured products.
Let me say that I agree with his contention, but our endeavours to export manufactured products have been, in the past, by no means as successful as we would have wished, although an improvement has been shown recently. As a result of stimulation by the Department of Trade in recent years there has been an increase in our exports of manufactured goods. In 1948-49, 9.7 per cent, of all our exports were manufactured. In 1957-58 the proportion increased to 13.2 per cent.
Mfr. Malcolm Fraser. - Does that include processed primary products?
– It includes manufactured goods and semi-processed goods. The figures give a little encouragement, but, on the other hand, as I will show presently, there are several obstacles that we must overcome before we can achieve any substantial increase in our exports of manufactured goods, lt is true that in recent years, as a result of the clamour by all sections of the Australian people, there has been an increase in our exports to Asia. In 1951-52, 14.5 per cent, of our exports went to Asia. In 1954-55 the proportion was 16.7 per cent., and in 1957-58 it increased to 23 per cent. In the last six years it has increased from 14 per cent, to 23 per cent.
This is quite a substantial increase, but we see that there is still a good deal to be done when we realize that there is no great hope of increasing our exports to North American countries or to Europe. In other words, if we wish to pursue a policy of widespread expansion of export trade, we must concentrate, for any tangible results, upon the Asian area. This is most essential, because, as the honorable member for Scullin quite correctly stated, in the last seven years Australia has run down its foreign reserves at the average rate of £40,000,000 a year. Quite obviously this cannot continue, and if our reserves are not to be depleted further, exports in 1959-60 will have to reach a value of at least £900,000,000. Looking at our recent history, we find that this figure has been exceeded only in 1955-56. In other words, as the honorable member for Scullin has said, expanding exports are vital to our economic well-being.
Mr. Paltridge made a further interesting observation at the conference of which I have already spoken. He said that we would have to increase our exports to Asian countries because they offered the only promising market. He hoped that in the future Asia might absorb up to 40 per cent, of Australian exports. At the present time the proportion is 23 per cent., and it is obvious that we have a long way to go to reach this desirable objective. Unfortunately, one of the greatest difficulties confronting Australia in its all-out export drive is the low level of imports from Asia. International trade must be two-way trade, so that foreign countries may earn money to pay for imports from Australia. Looking at the statistics, we discover, to our regret, that only in two years out of the last ten has the value of Australian imports from Asia exceeded that of exports to that area.
Another difficulty that we must face in the near future, if we wish to increase our export potential to Asia, is the problem of producing a greater volume of goods for this export trade. There are three main methods of increasing the value of exports. First, we can increase the volume of primary products rapidly, so that from the sale of surplus production we may achieve a quick increase in our overseas earnings, about which the honorable member for Scullin is so concerned. The second way in which we can increase the value of our exports is by obtaining higher prices for some of our commodities, notably wool, but the results of the wool sales this year indicate that we cannot expect very much from that direction. Thirdly, we can export larger quantities of manufactured goods. According to Mr. Paltridge, that offers the main hope for our salvation. When we look at Australia’s main exports, we find that wool represents about half the value of our exports, wheat about 10 per cent., and manufactured goods about 13 per cent. So it might appear at first sight that the rapid expansion of our manufacturing industries may offer some opportunity to increase the value of our exports, because we cannot expect to receive much higher prices for our wheat or wool sold overseas.
If we wish to export our manufactured goods, we can cut out immediately from consideration Europe and North America, because those are manufacturing areas with wage rates that are lower than ours. When we add to those factors the cost of transport from Australia to Europe and North America, we can see that there is little prospect of any large-scale expansion of exports of the products of our manufacturing industries to those two continents. Therefore, we have to depend, for any increase in the overseas sales of our manufactured products, on the countries of Asia. Whilst 23 per cent, of our exports last year went to Asia, no less than 13 per cent, went to Japan. The rest of Asia therefore took only 10 per cent, of our exports. It is on the rest of Asia that we have to depend if we are to increase substantially our export capacity. In 1950-51, Asian countries other than Japan took 9.4 per cent, of our exports. It can be seen, therefore, that from 1 950-5 1 to 1958-59 there has been an increase of only 1 per cent, in the volume of Australian exports to Asian countries other than Japan. Such an increase is not worth talking about. The challenge that is presented to us is to increase our exports in the future to the countries of Asia other than Japan.
Whilst, we can appreciate the value of increasing our exports to Japan, I think that saturation point is not very far off in that respect, having regard to the balance of trade figures. Therefore, I suggest that our expectations of trade with Asian countries, other than Japan must be capable of vast improvement if we hope to increase our overseas balances. Unfortunately, when we make a close examination of those prospects some disquieting features are revealed. Take the prospect of increasing our exports of manufactured goods, for example. The most important consideration in the expansion of our exports of manufactured goods to Asia is that our trade troubles - our need to earn more overseas and to import less - spring from the same kind of economic development that is the aim of most Asian countries. In other words, they also want to export more and import less. Because of that, there are difficulties in the way of our substantially increasing, in a comparatively short period, the value of our exports of manufactured goods to the countries of Asia. The Asian countries are attempting to speed up their rate of economic development and to diversify their economies. By those means, of course, they hope to improve their economies, as we do. While Australia chooses the same path - and it is the only path that we can choose under our present economic system - towards a rapid rate of economic development, with increasing industrialization and a high rate of migrant intake, we must have in this country, as the Asian countries under discussion already have, a periodic need to apply import restrictions. When the Asian countries apply import restrictions we, of course, shall suffer materially if we wish to accelerate our exports to those countries.
To me, Mr. Chairman, there appears to be a prospect of the larger countries of southern Asia, in years ahead, becoming important markets for Australian food, as they improve their living standards. We should support them in their efforts to raise living standards because we shall get something back in the way of increased export trade. That is why 1 am so concerned about the amount that this country gives to Asian countries under the Colombo Plan.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- First, I wish to invite the attention of the committee to the drought in South Australia. I think it is true to say that we in South Australia face perhaps the most grievous drought in the history of the State. I want to pay a tribute °to the farmers of South Australia for the amount of fodder that they have conserved in past years. I know that whenever we are hit by a drought and farmers complain, there is always criticism by people who say that the farmers should have conserved more fodder in past years. Such criticism is not applicable to South Australian farmers. In 1957 we got the life scared out of us by a very dry season. We learned from that, and in 1958, when we had a good spring, we put a great deal of fodder away.
Those reserves of fodder have now largely gone, Mr. Chairman. We have been feeding since March. Ever since March we have had a long uphill pull. The truth is that our fodder reserves are largely exhausted. The feed barley that we held has been used, and most of the malting quality barley has been either sold or committed for sale. In order to save a large number of sheep from dying we have to fall back on wheat. We are using South Australian wheat, and it is costing us 6s. 3d. to maintain a sheep, on only a maintenance ration. We may get back 4s.; the sheep may grow 4s. worth of wool, but you do not make money if it costs you 6s. 3d. to feed a sheep and you get back only 4s. for wool. Still, there is the hope that we will have the sheep at the end of the drought, and of course sheep will be more valuable when the drought breaks. The point I wish to make, however, is that we have no large stocks of fodder in South Australia and have no reasonable expectation of a good harvest. Unless we get heavy rain almost immediately it is certain that we will not have enough wheat to maintain our stock.
With that in mind, it seems that we must look to other States for wheat supplies. The only States that have wheat to spare, I understand, are Western Australia and New South Wales. I say, with some knowledge of the subject, that we cannot afford to pay the freight on wheat from those States and economically feed it to stock. The position seems ridiculous when we know that those States are somewhat embarrassed by storage difficulties. They hope to have reasonable crops this year, and they face an acute storage problem. I think it would be good business for them to ship wheat to South Australia, where it is needed. Unless we are able to obtain wheat we shall have disastrous stock losses’.
I appeal to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) to have a look at the position and see whether it would be possible for the Commonwealth to pay the freight on wheat shipped to South Australia, or to subsidize the freight, so that we in South Australia might be able to use profitably wheat which would be so expensive to store in the eastern States. I realize that in the past the Government has been quick to recognize its responsibility when a disaster such as a flood has occurred or a fire has swept the countryside. A disaster that takes seven months to stalk across the country hurts nonetheless. I think it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to face the position in South Australia, having regard to the fact that there are large stocks of unwanted wheat in some States and a very real need for wheat in South Australia.
I want to turn now, Mr. Chairman, to the subject of trade. I should like to say, first, that I think that in. Australia we must pav a good deal of attention to the encroachment of monopolies on our economy. I think that in 1949 we saved this child of private enterprise from slow strangulation: but in the succeeding ten years it has shown itself to be growing into a bouncing boy, with a tendency to kick the bottom out of the cradle.
Now, the purists will say that monopolies are a good thing, that monopolies are formed because it is economic to have them, because it is the best and cheapest way to do things. They will point to thesuccess of B.H.P. and say, “This is an example of a monopoly and how well it ls run “. I grant that B.H.P. produces some of the finest and cheapest steel in the world.
We must recognize that. The purists perhaps would look at General MotorsHolden’s Limited and say, “ G.M.H. are producing motor cars in Australia cheaply and well “. They are doing it, of course, with very considerable tariff assistance. It might perhaps be better for the price to go down rather than for the profits to go up. But would they look at Imperial Chemical Industries, which is a big enough concern in all conscience, but does not seem to be very successful in producing soda ash. In the United Kingdom soda ash sells at £17 17s. 4d. a ton, and in the United States at £18 10s. a ton, but in Australia it sells at £39 14s. a ton. Now, the excess costs due to that kind of price are passed right back through our chemical industries, and the agricultural chemical industries in particular, in which I am most interested, and each time I, as a farmer, spray a field for weed control, I help to keep I.C.I, even more comfortably off than before.
The other thing I want to mention in regard to monopolies is the agricultural machinery position. The Ferguson interests were swallowed by the Massey Harris interests. The Massey HarrisFerguson interests then came to Australia and swallowed the H. V. McKay concern. We have now the most chaotic spare parts position in Australia that you could imagine. We used to know where we were with McKay’s. When we had a breakdown we were able to get the necessary spare parts at a reasonable price and without any great delay. But now the prices are excessive and the delays interminable. That is most irritating and frustrating. Under the monopoly of this big, new firm we are not getting the service that we used to get.
I think that this tendency for monopolies to increase is something which we in particular, as Liberals, must watch with a great deal of care. I was most interested yesterday to hear the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) say that he considered Liberalism meant giving opportunity for the small man as well as the large man to take his proper place in the community and to reap the rewards of his own energy and initiative.
– The Australian Country Party thinks that too.
– Well, I am not surprised. The next thing I want to mention, quite briefly, is the divine right that many industries seem to think they have to expect what they call “reasonable profits”. For instance, a man goes to the Tariff Board with a request for increased duty to enable him to compete on the Australian market. He takes along a very carefully prepared financial statement showing what he needs in the way of tariff protection. He says, “ Well, I have so much capital invested, and I am entitled surely Oto interest on that capital, and surely I can expect a 10 per cent, profit.” The ship-owners also - that worthy band of brothers who are very anxious that they shall play their proper part in helping the primary industries - say, “Well, of course, we have got to pay interest on the capital invested in our new ships, and surely we can expect to have a reasonable margin of profit.” Nobody seems to be very concerned about where the farmer fits into this kind of picture. If the farmer makes a profit he is instantly called a wool baron or a wheat baron or something of the sort. If he makes a loss he becomes a poor old cocky, and if he complains people say, “ You paid too much for your land. You can’t expect to get interest on capital when you have paid too much for your land.” The manufacturer says, “ I have a perfect right to get interest on capital invested in my factory.” The ship-owner certainly expects to get interest on the capital invested in his ships, and they pass the cost very gaily back along the line to the poor old farmer. But the farmer cannot pass those costs any further. He is left holding the baby. One of those days he will drop the baby on the floor.
My continual return in this speech, Mr. Chairman, to the subject of young children, is due to my proximity to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) who, quite properly, can talk of nothing else.
.- First let me express a protest against the- attitude of the Government in regard to the time allowed for this debate on the all-important problems of trade, primary industry, and customs and excise. The three departments concerned with those matters, whose estimates are now before us, are major departments in the economic picture, and deal with all the basic elements of our society on which the very health, strength and well-being of every man and woman in Australia depend. Yet we are given only four hours to discuss all the important matters encompassed within the ambit of those three departments. Any one item that comes under the control of, or is influenced by, the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Trade or the Department of Primary Industry is, in itself, subject matter for at least a week’s debate.
– The time allowed is longer than you ever gave, anyway, when you were in office.
– The honorable member for Mallee sits in the Australian Country Party corner, and as for those basic matters which should be the subject of long discussions in this chamber, I have never yet heard him put forward a concrete plan to solve any problems with which the farmers and others in the community are confronted. And that goes, too, for every one of his fellow members, from the time they went into that corner in support of a government that does not have a policy that will improve the national economy. We have heard the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) referring to the trials and tribulations of the primary producers who, nobody will deny, are the economic backbone of the country. The fact is that no backbone is any good without a head on it or without a couple oi legs to convey it about its various activities.
The basic problems with which these three major departments are concerned are important to our economy yet, the time limit being what it is, I shall be able to deal with only two or three of the very important subjects I wish to discuss. Wool is the most important - the dominant - feature of our economy. This morning I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) what action the Government proposed taking to deal with the fact that the prices of wool were now between 6d. and 8d. per lb. less than they were in August, when the season opened, which meant a difference of from £36,000,000 to £48,000,000 to the national economy. He said that the matter was clearly one of policy. When the season opened every one was jubilant, and a wide range of economic difficulties appeared to vanish. Because this Government has chosen to depend on the element of luck - on good fortune - we now find that the buoyancy, which many people predicted would remain, has disappeared overnight. Nothing has been done about it.
An eminent judge has said - and at this stage of his report he is apparently limiting his remarks to Goulburn - that a buyer’s ring has been operating at the Goulburn wool sales. If buyers combine to form pies at a wool-selling centre such as Goulburn how much more likely is it that in other wool-selling centres in Australia they are combining to depress the market in the interests of their clients? One can quite understand them doing that, but it is the responsibility of this Government, for the good, not only of wool sellers and producers but also the national economy, to see that just as, on the one hand, there is a combination to buy at the lowest possible price there is, on the seller’s side - the nation’s side - a protective ring to ensure that this vital product shall not go forth to the world’s markets at a price lower than will bring producers a fair and reasonable recompense for their labours.
I stand disgusted at the fact that the rank and file of the wool-growing interests - the little men who form the great bulk of producers - are such a disorganized rabble as to have at their head certain interested parties who speak for them but prevent, or at least discourage, the Government from taking the action which is essential for the good of the industry. The matter is so important that surely the Government itself should take the initiative and call a great national conference of all the parties involved and produce a protective organization based on our experience of wool handling organizations established after two world wars. Such an organization could operate to benefit both the economy and the people who produce our wool.
I propose to remind honorable members of some of the history of wool selling in this country, and in so doing to quote from a book on the subject by Mr. Eric Hitchins, who was a member of the Australian Wool Realization Commission. Let us recall for a moment the unfortunate experiences of this nation after the 1914-18 war. At a conference which was held in Melbourne
Sir Isaac Isaacs is reported to have said - and it is as true to-day as it ever was -
Following prosperous years, circumstances had altered a great deal lately, and trading methods were in urgent need of revision . . . This conference had before it a great deal in attempting to secure that revision. Australia was still in the van of the wool production of the world.
It still is. The report continues -
If this industry was to be saved this was the time to save it. Separate, unco-ordinated efforts were- not likely to meet the difficulty. As far as he could see their grand purpose was to regard Empire wool as an Empire product, and to eliminate under-cutting and other harmful forms of trading. They should not allow the world’s buyers to set them against each other to the detriment of all, and perhaps the ruin of some.
That is equally true to-day with the exception that, due in part to historical and geographical factors, our markets now are as much in the East as they previously were in empire centres.
After that the British-Australian Wool Realization Association was set up. It conducted a co-ordinated, organized selling plan, and was successful. It is interesting to see what was said by persons of the type of those who are to-day misdirecting the wool-growers. Their attitude was not unlike that adopted by the present Government in August. When wool prices became more buoyant as a result of the operation of B.A.W.R.A. some of these people said -
Wool prices will remain on a buoyant level for as far ahead as can be seen. It is unlikely the commodity will ever again sell at prices ruling before the war.
Mr. Hitchins comments ;
Their jubilation was short-lived. Between November, 1924, and March, 1925, the market fell 35 per cent. Six months later the total decline was 60 per cent. Sections of growers were calling for the re-introduction of B.A.W.R.A.
Which they, at the instigation of this type of person - who destroyed the proposed J.O. plan - had been deluded into abandoning.
Let us look at a similar set of circumstances which occurred towards the end of the great J.O. organization after World War II. Mr. Hitchins reminds us that a poll was conducted. Lack of time prevents me from describing all the reasons for the defeat of the plan at the poll. Suffice to say that a “ No “ committee of seven was formed to persuade the growers to vote against the continuation of a scheme similar to J.O. Mr. Hitchins says, referring to the members of the committee -
We consulted “ Who’s Who in Australia “ in search of further credentials. There it was found that these seven gentlemen held between them 25 directorates in firms connected with woolbroking, pastoral companies, banks, trustees and insurance companies, and other commercial institutions whose interests ranged over newspapers, coal and sugar. We repeatedly asked, in the press and over the radio: “ In whose interests do these gentlemen offer advice - to wool-growers, or the financial and commercial institutions they represent? “ The question was never answered, but we did our best to make the facts known.
What was the instrument used by these seven gentlemen to defeat the proposed scheme? Though this Government, through its Minister, had done a first-class job up to that stage; had sent a delegation to London; had obtained at least the tacit consent of the United Kingdom to join a new scheme; and had at its disposal all the information needed concerning the successful scheme which had operated previously, the Treasurer of the day, Sir Arthur Fadden, at about the time when a bill to impose a wool tax of 7i per cent, on all sales by wool-growers had been introduced, brought in a Budget imposing - as an antiinflationary measure - a 20 per cent, gross deduction from the proceeds of all wool sold in Australia. That imposition of a total deduction of 27 i per cent, was the main instrument which these seven gentlemen, tangled up in anti-wool commercial interests, used to persuade the foolish rank and file wool-growers of Australia to vote out what could have been an excellent scheme for the protection of the woolgrowers and of our national economy. If it had not been for that fact - and the responsibility rests with the Government which now sits on the Treasury benches - that scheme would now be in operation, and it would have countered the nefarious practices of the foreign and local wool-buying interests in this country which are now meddling and monkeying with our economy.
When I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the wool-growing interests of this country approached me to put into operation the machinery which would enable the growers to accept a great selling organization and continue it. I told them, as the present Minister and his predecessor told them, to go away and settle their differences and then come back, and the
Government would do something. In the meantime, I was pushed off the scene, but my successors in that office were informed that the wool-growers had got somewhere. They had achieved unity within their ranks. Then the Minister for Trade and his colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, whom Australian Country Party members support, brought down this nefarious provision of a 20 per cent. deduction from the wool-growers’ proceeds. Although their Government is still in office, it will meet its Waterloo on wool and dairying, as sure as God made little apples. I believe that this Government, deliberately backed by these seven gentlemen, led by the then honorable member for New England, Mr. J. P. Abbott, succeeded in using this weapon, to defeat that great scheme. Those are the facts.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman-
– Mr. Chairman, may I take my second period of fifteen minutes?
– Order! The honorable member for Wide Bay has already commenced his speech.
– I propose to discuss the rate of excise duty on Australian rum and brandy. It is not my intention to enter upon a discussion of whether the manufacture of spirits should be encouraged or discouraged. My intention is to perform the duty of a representative and state a case on behalf of my constituents. They claim that the manufacture of rum is seriously handicapped in comparison with that of brandy because of the great disparity in the duties imposed. It is my duty to set out the facts on the behalf of the manufacturers.
To-day, the duty on rum per proof gallon is 82s. and that on brandy is 49s. This gives brandy a benefit of 33s. per proof gallon. Just before August, 1954, the difference in duty on rum and brandy was 3s. a proof gallon, but in that month the duty on brandy was reduced by 30s. a proof gallon. That was done because the grapegrowers had a lot of grapes on the vines and the intention was to see that those grapes did not remain there. Let us see what has happened since this differential of 3s. a gallon between rum and brandy was increased in favour of brandy to 33s. a gallon. From 1953-54, rum clearances from bond went up by about 5 per cent. in the ensuing three years from 545,000 proof gallons to 569,000 proof gallons. During the same three years Australian brandy clearances went up by nearly 80 per cent. from 376,000 proof gallons to 670,000 proof gallons. In 1951-52, brandy clearances were 253,000 gallons less than rum clearances; but five years later, after this differential was imposed, brandy clearances far from being so much less than rum were, in fact, 85,000 gallons more than rum. By 1957- 58, brandy clearances were 190,000 gallons more. The estimated figure for 1958- 59 is over 200,000 gallons more. I have not yet received the final figure.
The position has now been arrived at where the gain in favour of brandy is nearly 500,000 gallons a year compared to clearances eight years ago. The question I pose to the committee is: Could it have been contemplated, when this 30s. added differential was imposed, that it would continue throughout the years and that after a period of five years the grape-growers would continue to dispose of all their grapes on their vines, while, at the same time, the situation has developed in which the cane farmers in Queensland have, because of various circumstances, to leave about onethird of their cane in the fields?
– Do not try to damage the grape-growers.
– I am not trying to damage the grape-growers. I am asking for equity for the cane-growers. I am sure that it is possible in this fair country to achieve some measure of equity between the cane farmers and the grape-growers. Could the present situation have been contemplated in 1954? Should that situation be allowed to continue? What has happened as a result of this differential and the tremendous increase in production of brandy? To-day, brandy distillers are not able to cope with the demand and they are enlarging their plants. On the other hand, the rum distillers have not enough production to use their existing plant to capacity.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– 1 have pointed out that until August, 1954, the duty on brandy was only 3s. a proof gallon less than that on rum. 1 have mentioned that in August, 1954, there was a reduction of 30s. a proof gallon in duty on brandy making the total difference between the duty on brandy and that on rum 33s. a proof gallon in favour of brandy. I have pointed out that, because of this reduction, sales of brandy increased considerably and that to-day the sale of rum has dropped to about 500,000 gallons less than that of brandy, compared to 1951 figures. I have also mentioned that because of this differential treatment in favour of blandy, the brandy distillers are unable to cope with the demand for their product and are discussing enlarging their plant while at the same time the rum distillers cannot use their existing plant to capacity.
I should like to point out further that *he advantage enjoyed by brandy over rum does not stop at the 33s. a proof gallon lower duty. I remind the committee that both brandy and rum are sold under-proof, that a certain amount of water is added before they are sold. In addition, sales tax gives brandy an advantage of over 6s. ? gallon. Then there is the profit made on the retail sales of the spirits by the hotelkeepers, and, on a rough computation, I should say that the total disadvantage suffered by rum is 15s. a bottle.
But let me emphasize that the price of brand is nowhere near 15s. a bottle less than that of rum; it is only a little lower than the price of rum. Needless to say, brandy has an advantage over rum in that it is sold cheaper than rum. At the same time, it is also clear that if the rum distillers wish to stay in business they must be most efficient, they must use every endeavour to produce a good product, and the fact that they are able to stay in business when brandy enjoys an advantage of 15s. a bottle over rum indicates that they must be efficient and that the product must be good.
It is not my function here to extol the virtues of rum against those of another product. The very fact that the rum distillers have been able to stay in business in the face of such a serious handicap shows that the Bundaberg rum and the other rums made from molasses are certainly good products. I merely stress the fact that the rum distillers have had to exert every effort by way of improved efficiency, extensive advertising and other sales promotion methods to stay in the market.
Should this differential continue? ls it fair to the rum distillers and to the cane farmers who produce the cane from which the molasses is made that this state of affairs should exist? I submit that this differential should not be allowed to continue at the present unfavorable figure. I am empowered to say that there would be no great objection to the continuance of the 3s. differential that existed in 1954 but there would be very serious objection to a continuance of the present 33s. That causes very serious difficulties in the industry.
It is not my function to say that the grape-growers should be ground into the dirt of their farms. At the same time it is certainly my function to point out that those who grow cane should not be ground down into the dirt of their farms. It is clear that unless something is done to correct the present anomaly, the growers of grapes must obviously decide to continue increasing the production of grapes. If they do that, then the position will be aggravated. My suggestion is that the Government in its next and succeeding Budgets should take steps to reduce this 33s. differential. For example, if the duty on rum were decreased by 5s. and the duty on brandy increased by 5s. for each year during the next three years, the 30s. about which we complain would be removed. But I am not concerned at the method by which the change is made. I am concerned only about a reduction in the differential to give the distillers of rum a fair chance of competing in equity and to give the cane-farmers an opportunity of deriving some advantage from this one byproduct of an. industry which is at present suffering severely from over-production at a time when I understand the grape-growers are able to sell all the grapes they can grow.
.- For the last quarter of an hour we have enjoyed the diverting experience of having the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) give us a quite lively dissertation on the merits of rum and brandy as regarded through the cold eyes of the Customs. I am sure there is an aroma of adventure as well as a quite pleasant buccaneering spirit about it. The slogan of the Country Party at the moment seems to be, “ Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest and yo-ho-ho for a bottle of rum! “ Being one Australian who. first as a serviceman and later as a civilian, is sympathetic to the merits of rum, I should not like to see that captivating beverage go down. All Australians seem to know its excellent qualities as a corpse reviver. So the Country Party today is truly rural in advocating something which will get 100 per cent, support from us.
Australian brandy also has tremendous merits, lt, too, can lift the heart, and what is said about the grape by Omar Khayyam deserves repetition by us with respect to brandy. We thank the honorable member for Wide Bay for bringing up such a pleasant subject in such a convivial way, so close to lunch time. He used his persuasive voice to speak of the uses and abuses of rum vis-a-vis brandy and versus each other. That is a pleasant topic, but I want to get back to something not quite so pleasant.
I wish to discuss the rum methods by which the Department of Trade attempts to justify the issuance of B category licences to Australian business in general. We on this side of the chamber complain that we are seeking information which we cannot get. The Minister has admitted that he has retired to an ivory tower. He has locked himself in that ivory tower and has said, “ I will not see any applicant who comes to me looking for a licence “. Is that courage or cowardice? We want to know what he meant. Surely, in a democratic parliament it is reasonable that a Minister should be accessible to anybody, but the department has the sole responsibility for issuing the licences. The Minister has said so.
– That is not what he said.
– He said that.
– He said that he would see anybody on policy but that he would not see any applicant for a licence.
– Is there not a policy in regard to the issue of B class licences?
The Minister has created an atmosphere of mystery which we seek to dissipate.
The Sydney “ Bulletin “ comments on this matter, in an article contained in the issue of 24th September, in these terms -
For the first time for more than two years Labor played as a strong team last week. They hammered Trade Minister McEwen about the Import Licensing Branch.
Victorian J. F. Cairns started it on Tuesday, in the Estimates debate, when he alleged that if a person “ knew the right man and could pay a few pounds,” he could easily get licence-transfers from one category to another.
McEwen went into the fray, boots and all, next day and accused Cairns of a “ defamatory and scurrilous “ attack on honest public servants. Then Ward and Evatt tore into McEwen and demanded a full inquiry into import-licensing. Evatt and the P.M. got into holts and were sternly rebuked by the Speaker. Reg Pollard took it up from there and pitched into his old opponent McEwen.
On Wednesday night, on the adjournment, it was on again. First Ward, then Pollard again, followed by Deputy-Leader Calwell hammering away for half-an hour or more. A repeatperformance at Question Time on Thursday seemed to have McEwen really rattled, and Air-Minister Osborne’s attempt to help him was far from successful.
It’s a long time since the Government side was so pleased to welcome the week-end.
After the long week-end, after being refreshed and after having had time to consider the matter, will the Government now answer the question? Will it now answer the asseveration of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns)? Will it answer the charges of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard)? Will it answer the charges that I made about the trafficking that is going on in B class licences? I made the charge, and brought the evidence before this House, that there were wholesale advertisements offering the sale of B category licences, which proved ipso facto that the people who had them did not want them. Those people were trading their licences for 25 per cent, of their value. I directed attention to a gentleman who lives in a salubrious suburb of North Sydney on the north shore line, as we have it, who was living on £100,000 worth of licences and taking a rake-down of £25,000 a year without having even an office. All he had was a cheque book and a cash box. That is the sort of thing that we have brought to the notice of the Minister and have asked whether it is true. Can he tell us why this is going on? Can he tell us what has happened with these B class categories, and why are they being sold on the open market? But, in reply, we get this jargon from the Minister that you must have historically traded for so many years before you can get a B class licence, yet historically, or at least in view of all these things, if you have enough money you can go and buy this historical trading from the chap who does not want it. We are anxious to know why this is so. The whole of this argument centres on information. That is all we want. I make no specific charges.
The “ Bulletin “. in effect, has asked also why some member does not ask the Minister in charge of the House why so many employees in the import licensing branch have been sacked? Has it anything to do with the racket in import licences? Those are my own words in translation of the “ Bulletin “ article, which I have not quoted verbatim.
Here is another example of questions on this subject being unanswered. On 12th August last, Senator Hendrickson asked three pertinent questions about import licensing but he has not been answered. The Minister rises in his place and delivers a rabble-rousing speech, accuses people of being scurrilous and of attacking his department, and talks a lot of technological nonsense that no one can understand. But he will not answer the question. It bears out the fact that he has set himself up in an ivory tower, and is trying to weather the storm that way. Senator Hendrickson asked the Minister in the Senate representing the Minister for Trade these questions: First, how many new or additional import licences have been issued in each of the past three financial years to - (a) established companies or persons already in receipt of licences of any kind, and (b) companies or persons who were not previously in receipt of licences? Secondly, how many transfers of licences by the sale of businesses have been approved over the same period, and thirdly, what were the values of new licences issued or licences transferred in respect of each of the categories mentioned in the first and second questions? That is the essence of our case. We aver that there has been wholesale racketeering in B class licences. In the first place the Minister said that there were no advertise ments in the paper. Then he said that there might have been a few, and then he admitted that there were many, and when the many were brought before him as evidence he said that as soon as his department saw an advertisement in the paper his officers got in touch with the advertiser and warned him not to do something. The case against the Minister was never more damagingly dealt with than by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is now at the table, who admitted that £600,000 worth of B category licences have been cancelled since July last year, and that some hundreds of prosecutions have been launched.
On the one hand, therefore, we have the Minister saying that there is nothing in the charges and that these licences can be freely trafficked in but, on the other hand, when squeezed into a corner, he says that that is not true and that to advertise licences is a breach of the rules and ethically not right, and that he sends his import procurement officers to discuss the matter with the advertisers, to reason with them and, in some cases, he cancels their licences. Then along comes the Minister at the table who says, “Worse than that, we have had an avalanche of protests on this matter and £600,000 worth of licences have been cancelled “. We presume that in the past many millions of pounds worth of licences have been cancelled because they are being sold.
These licences, which are a vital part of trade, have been badly abused; commerce itself has been in a flat spin about them; the administration has not been able to administer them; there has never been any common-sense approach to the problem and, as a result, the racket has crept in. When a racket is created, which in my view has nothing to do with the administration nor the Minister, it becomes one of those adjuncts that crusts on to monopoly capitalism or anything else when there is a shortage of any commodity, when there is a black-market and when an underthecounter psychology is created. As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who is now to reinforce me at the table has said on so many occasions, this racket has to be exposed.
We seek information. Beyond making the standard charges that a widespread and universal rackets exists that people are taking a lot of money from industry and the community because of the looseness of the administration, we seek information. We cannot get it. We can get plenty of poppycock and plenty of general abuse, but not the low-down on what happens with B category licences.
As I have pointed out, the honorable senator who raised this matter in the Senate was private secretary to the Minister for Trade and Customs for many years. He knows what he is talking about. He has asked five straight questions, but the Minister has refused to answer them. The Minister’s deputy gives an evasive answer, so we are back to our previous proposition that the B category licences, which are the most numerous that have to do with trade in this country, have been badly racketeered by reason of the fact that the administration set up to administer them is faulty, inaccurate in its impact and unable to police the matter properly.
The next point that we make in relation to these licences is that you have to be a member of the royal family of commerce to obtain a licence. When you go before the examiners they ask: “ How long is it since you were trading overseas? You must have what is known as a base year quota”. Many of the applicants are young fellows who have been in business, young returned servicemen who came back at the age of 25 years and for about fifteen years have been in business, but, because they were away fighting their country’s enemies they have not been able to get a base year quota, whilst the big firms that carried on their commercial activities have a base year quota. The Labour Party, being a socialist labour party, directs attention to the complete inequity of this business and its unfairness because the new man coming up, the young man in business, probably an exserviceman, a new and aggressive competitor, runs into the problem of not being able to obtain supplies. We point out to the Minister that that is the basis of this racket in the B class categories because, as they cannot obtain supplies by fair means, they have decided to obtain them by foul. If they cannot get licences through the ordinary processes of application to the department, they buy them on the black. That is the charge that we make. The position is becoming worse, but we have received no satisfactory explanation.
Around this whole situation revolves also the matter of imports generally. The fact is that the Department of Trade has decided that all the country can spend in the way of imports is £X million and, having created by permit and other machinery £X million worth of goods coming into the country, they do not give a tinker’s damn how it is deployed. They have not asked themselves, “ Is this a fair go for the people in this trade or that trade, the people in commerce, the little storekeeper, the little importer? “ It is done only by guess and by God and, as a result, this racket has arisen. There is no need to belabour this matter because we have already spoken on it so frequently. I rose to direct attention, in the few minutes at my disposal, to the fact that we have had no satisfactory answer from the Minister for Trade. He is here now, and we reiterate the charges that we have made that there is racketeering in the disposal of licences, not by your department, Sir, and not by your officers, as I said previously, but you have been disingenuous in your replies, which is a polite way of saying that you were telling lies. You have not given us a satisfactory answer, because the answers you have given have been different when the occasion warranted different answers.
We ask you to explain these things in relation to B category licences and to explain fully to us the difference between your reply to the Parliament and that which was given by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who is sitting at your side, in which he said, “ Of course there have been troubles with £600,000 worth of licences cancelled since last July “. That shows that quite an avalanche of licences has been cancelled. If my memory serves me aright, 118 court cases have been heard on the seventh floor of the Commonwealth Bank Building in Sydney to deal with those people who have been racketeering in B class licences. In these circumstances we have established a basis for charges, not against your department, but against the practices of your department. Finally, we say that you have locked yourself up in an ivory tower. You will see people in regard to policy but not on the logical outcome of that policy. Those are the charges we make in regard to the licensing laws.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
.- We have listened to a typical speech on a subject which is of vital importance to the economy of this country. It followed a pattern introduced fairly recently by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Again we have listened to generalities of a disparaging type that have been directed not only against the Government but also against officers of the Department of Trade who are carrying out their duty in a most satisfactory and honorable way. If any members of the Opposition have any specific problems or particular cases that they think should be investigated, it is up to them to produce the facts and allow those matters to be investigated, as I can assure them they will be investigated.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was not interviewing senators and members of this Parliament on matters relating to import licensing. That, of course, is completely untrue, because I, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, know that he does interview quite a number of people on this subject. What he has said quite clearly is . that he does not wish to discuss individual cases with senators and members of this Parliament, but that he will discuss policy matters relating to import licensing. He has followed that practice, and to my knowledge over the years hundreds and hundreds of interviews have been held on the subject of policy relating to import licensing. There is another aspect of this matter on the ministerial side. The Minister has an assistant to whom he has delegated certain specific jobs. One of those jobs is the conducting of interviews on his behalf on administrative matters relating to import licensing, and other aspects of the policy and administration of the Department of Trade. In that capacity, I have interviewed, in thousands of instances, senators and members on matters relating to import licensing.
– Have they ever got one from you?
Order! The honorable member for Watson will cease interjecting.
– Indeed, yesterday I had an interview with the honorable member for Parkes on a matter related to import licensing. I can assure him that it will receive exactly the same attention as do all other matters that are placed before me as representative of the Minister. We should get this matter back into its right perspective. The overall annual budgetary allocation for import licensing is now £850,000,000. Approximately £400,000,000 worth of goods, within that allocation, are brought into this country entirely or partially free of import licensing controls. In other words, nearly half the goods being imported are imported independently of the restrictive controls that have been referred to by the honorable member for Parkes. In addition, we should remember that of the total of £850,000,000 devoted to imports, approximately 80 per cent, is being applied to essential capital equipment and raw materials to assist our great developmental industries and services. I think that point has been entirely overlooked and the matter has been viewed entirely out of perspective.
The honorable member for Parkes has referred continually to B category goods, and he referred again to-day to a subject that was raised by the honorable member for Yarra, namely, that advertisements do appear in the press which indicate that people who have B category import licensing facilities are seeking people to trade with them. I can assure the committee that when these advertisements appear they are, in practically every case, checked by the security officers of the Department of Customs and Excise and, to my knowledge, in not one case has there been found any instance of trafficking. Whether or not import licensing restrictions are in operation, a person who has certain franchises, distribution rights or agencies, has the right to advertise for customers, and in practically every case of advertisements of this type it has been found that the person advertising was proceeding along those lines, as he probably would be, in any event, whether or not import licensing restrictions were in operation.
The honorable member for Parkes referred to a traditional importer as some one whose operations go back to the vague, dim, distant past, as if that were the only qualification required for obtaining a B category quota. The term “ traditional “ is in this context a technical term that is perhaps not fully understood. It refers to a base year importer. When import licensing was introduced in 1952, the first base year was fixed as 1950-51. People who were actually importing goods in that year had quotas established on the basis of their imports during that year. Since then, there were some pretty substantial relaxations in the year 1954-55, and a new base year, 1954-55, was established for the bulk of present B category good. Between the time when import licensing commenced in 1952 and now, there have been some small opportunities for new importers to come into the field under a fairly close formula. In addition, some people came into the field in 1954-55 and had new quotas established.
Further, when there is an opportunity to further open the door and increase the upper ceiling limit for import licensing, the method adopted by the Government has been to transfer an item from a quota basis to an import replacement basis. The import replacement basis allows the importation of goods up to the full market absorption point. So, I can assure honorable members that the matter with which the honorable member for Parkes has been dealing affects a small section only of the group of people who are utilizing import licensing facilities. B category includes mainly consumer goods or less essential goods, and it therefore covers a wide range of small and large business people. I hope that the honorable member for Parkes is not suggesting that the door should be entirely open to anybody who wished to obtain a new import quota while existing importers were still restricted to a figure below that of their base year. I do not think that even an Opposition member would suggest that it would be equitable to subject to competition from an inflow of new importers the thousands of existing importers throughout Australia, whose quotas are, in effect, pegged, because they are not allowed to exceed the total of their imports for the original base year. I suggest that there would be no equity whatsoever in that.
It is a fact, of course, that, from time to time, as exchange allocations in the B category have been increased, there has been an overall increase of the quotas held by existing importers. At the same time, as I have indicated before, limited opportunities, under fairly strict control, are provided for new importers to come into the field. In addition, in the present import licensing period, approximately 250 additional items have been transferred to the import replacement plan.
The honorable member for Parkes made a further statement that there was wholesale racketeering in B category licences. Again, he made a general statement and did not produce one atom of evidence to support his contention. This blanket accusation is resented, I am sure, by all the reputable business houses throughout Australia which have B category quotas. I can assure the honorable member that there are thousands of business people with B category licences who resent this reflection on them as a group in this community. It is true, of course, that, wherever there are restrictions of any sort under any kind of law, abuses can and do occur. I do not think that anybody in Australia would suggest that laws are not subject to abuse. We have courts of law to ensure that the law is upheld, and to ensure that people who break the law suffer an appropriate penalty. This applies to any law, whether it be Commonwealth or State. Exactly the same thing applies to import licensing. If some person seizes the limited opportunity that is available to him to break the regulations, and the breach is noted, customs and excise security officers can investigate the case, and the Department of Customs and Excise, by the authority of the Minister, can take action under the existing Customs Act to deal with that person.
The honorable member for Parkes has merely made general statements attacking not only the Government but also, following in the path of the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for East Sydney, officers of the Department of Trade who are doing a most difficult job. I can assure the committee that these officers do with great honour and distinction a job which has been made most difficult in recent years, and for which they receive very little thanks. We in this Parliament should not criticize the way in which they have done the difficult job which they have been doing. Instead, we should say thanks to them for the job which they have done, not only for the Government, but also for the whole Australian community, including members of the Opposition in ‘ this Parliament.
I hoped to deal with some other matters relating to the economy generally, with particular application to the work of the Department of Trade and the estimates which are now before the committee, but rather much of my time has been taken up in discussing import licensing. However, I should like particularly to mention one most important matter which engages the minds of most members of the Parliament to-day. It concerns the Australian Trade Commissioner Service, which plays a most important part in the Australian economy. In recent years, this service has expanded rapidly. At present, there are 28 trade commissioner posts in 21 countries. Another post is being opened to-day in Chicago, as has already been announced by the Minister for Trade. This will be followed by the opening of a new post in Ottawa in January next, and by the opening of two more posts in Accra and Nairobi, probably in March or April of next year. When these posts are operating, we shall have 32 trade commissioner posts in 23 countries. In addition to these posts, we have six trade correspondents, who are really part-time trade commissioners. We expect that the number of these will be increased to ten within the next year. At 30th June, 1959, we had a total of 57 trade commissioners and assistant trade commissioners, and we expect that this number will be increased to 63 by 30th June, 1960. This gives some indication of the rapid expansion taking place in this important service.
I may say, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the service regularly receives favorable comment from business people, the Export Development Council and various groups of people in Australia for the assistance which it has given to individual organizations, groups of people, and individual companies in maintaining and expanding overseas markets. I should like to give the committee some idea of the cost of the Trade Commissioner Service. The proposed vote for the current financial year shows some improvement over last year’s allocation. In 1958-59, expenditure under the general vote was £618,659, and under the capital works vote, £38,511. Estimated expenditure under these headings for the current financial year is £754,000 and £61,000 respectively.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, once again we are engaged in an examination of this very important question of abuses in the issue and the use of import licences. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) has been content merely to return to the accusation that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and I have been making allegations against officers of the Department of Trade. I think I have demonstrated - to the satisfaction of any person who is prepared to consider the facts - that, when I dealt with this matter over a week ago, I referred, not to officers of the department, but to members of the business community who have been racketeering in the use of import licences. I do not seek now to do anything more than deny again the accusations made by the honorable member for Darling Downs. I wonder for how long these accusations against me, and similar charges, will continue to be repeated from the Government benches in this chamber, in the face of my denial - indeed, in the face of my demonstration - that they are not true.
What is the real position? There may be officers of the Department of Trade who do not always behave properly. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has mentioned what appeared in the “ Bulletin “, and has asked how many officers of the department have been dismissed in recent years over these matters. Has anything like that occurred? We want to know. We are seeking information, and if the Government wants to clear the staff of the Department of Trade and other associated departments, why does not it answer the question asked by the honorable member for Parkes? Have there been any dismissals from these departments in recent years over these matters? The Government has an opportunity, if it wishes to do so, to clear the Department of Trade of the allegation made by the “ Bulletin “.
In this matter, reluctant and inaccurate admissions have been made by the Department of Trade and by the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who represents the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) in this chamber. In the years during which I have been a member of this Parliament, time and again, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has come into this chamber and said, in effect, “If there are any abuses in the use of import licences, those abuses will be dealt with “. But never has he made any admission, and never has he implied, that the abuses are significant. We know that there is machinery for checking them. We know that there is machinery for appeals in respect of import licences. And we know that, in some instances, licences have been cancelled. We know these things, but the Minister for Trade, from time to time, has given the impression that there are no abuses.
As a result of the attack which the Opposition made on the Government over a week ago, the Minister for Air came into the fray rather late and made an admission. One newspaper observed that the Minister for Trade would hardly consider that the Minister for Air was assisting him when he suggested that £600,000 worth of licences had been cancelled since last July, which meant over a period of about six weeks. That was a mistake. The Minister made a mistake, or “Hansard “ made a mistake, but he said he was not going to argue with “ Hansard What happened? The Minister had to go out of the chamber, or send out one of his staff, to check with the Department of Customs and Excise in Melbourne so that he would know the true position. He was not sure of the accuracy of the statement that he had made and had to get in touch with the Department of Customs and Excise in Melbourne late at night to find out what the facts were. That was the first admission - that £600,000 worth of licences had been cancelled in a period which he eventually discovered was from July, 1958.
I then placed a question on notice seeking more information. This information was not voluntarily given; it was not proffered to honorable members, but bad to be extracted by a series of questions. Now we find that the £600,000 is not £600,000 at all, but is £693,216. We now learn that the records of action taken in this direction prior to 1st January, 1954, are not available. We do not know what licences were cancelled before that date. However, two other periods are involved. Honorable members may not be aware of this information. The Minister informed me that from 1st January, 1954, to 31st December, 1955, the value of licences cancelled because of abuses was £3,195,134. Over £3,000,000 worth had been the subject of abuses! From 1st January, 1956, to 30th June, 1958, the value of such licences was £1,048,000 and from 1st July, 1958, to 31st August, 1959, £693,216, which is the figure I gave earlier. That gives a total of almost £5,000,000 of recorded abuses in relation to import licensing. That is not a bad record! It goes a little bit of the way towards proving the assertion of the honorable member for Parkes that there was wholesale racketeering. What figure would the Department of Trade consider was necessary before the term “ wholesale racketeering “ was justified, if almost £5,000,000 in that period is not enough? What figure would it choose before it applied that term?
J asked what abuses were involved in the licences that had a value of this amount. The answer was that two main irregularities had resulted in the subsequent cancellation of or debits to quotas. The first was that persons or firms had obtained licences against quotas established in their names and had allowed their licences to be effectively used by other parties. The licences had been effectively used in these cases by people to whom they were not issued. The second irregularity was that firms with quotas, which had ceased to engage in active business, had been bought for the substantial purpose of acquiring a quota. This is roughly the situation that we said more than a week ago was occurring.
I turn now to the question of advertising. We pointed out that dozens and dozens of advertisements were inserted in the newspapers each week by people seeking to gain the use of a licence possessed by somebody else or, occasionally, offering the use of a licence to somebody else. Again, on 22nd September, I placed a question on notice. It has not yet been answered, but that is not a long time. However, we will be interested in the answers when we receive them. One question I have asked is this -
Would it be expected that importers with an historic engagement in the business of importing-
That is how they are described by the departments - would have established relations with clients to the full extent of their licence capacity?
Surely it would be expected that these people who have been in ‘trade for many years would have their established clients and would not need to advertise in this way. Where licences are not issued in the ordinary business of importing and indenting, people who want to obtain goods do not seek to contact importers by way of advertisement. They know where to go. But as soon as a licence becomes necessary to import goods, we see competitive bidding, and that is what this business of advertising is. It is an attempt to purchase an import licence.
I would think that if the Government were concerned with its responsibilities, it would reduce, if not eliminate, this sort of advertising. The Government has a responsibility other than to pay lip-service to the dogma of free enterprise. The Government has a responsibility to do something about inflation. Our imports are worth £800,000,000, and about half of that amount is subject to import control. If 25 per cent, is added to the cost of the goods as a result of this competitive bidding for the use of licences, a further £250 is added for every £1,000 and £250,000 for every £1.000,000. This is one contribution to the inflated price structure of this country. The Government has a responsibility in addition to paying lip-service to its dogmas. It has a responsibility, where it can, to prevent the inflating of the price structure. In the question on notice to which I referred earlier, I also asked -
Is it likely that advertising for access to import licences is a significant cause of abuses; if so, will this form of advertising be made illegal?
Is it not likely that advertising contributes substantially to the inflation of the cost of imported goods, and is it not reasonable for the Government to consider making this form of advertising illegal? That is a specific question that I address to the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Air, who are now at the table. Why not consider making this form of advertising illegal if it contributes, as I feel it does, to abuses, and if it contributes, as I am sure it does, to the inflated cost of imported goods?
One other point that I want to bring to the attention of the committee is this: Two years ago I raised in this chamber the question of the efficiency of the system in the Department of Customs and Excise of recording the quotas of imported goods in order to bring together the value and extent of an importer’s quota and the goods actually imported by him.
I again ask these questions and I think that we deserve an answer to them: Is the system of accounting and recording in the Department of Customs and Excise any more efficient now than it was two years ago? If it is not, then it seems to me, on the information that I have as an outsider, that there is no effective, accurate and speedy means of relating the volume of imported goods on the quota that a person has, to the goods that he has in fact imported. How long does it take, if a check is made at all, to discover whether there is a balance? Is there any balancing process? Is it effective? I am sure that the information available to an outsider is sufficient to disturb him about this subject and to lead him to ask for an assurance and a definite answer on this point.
The Minister for Trade, the Minister for Air and the honorable member for Darling Downs have given the old reply that if we have any specific cases of abuses and we give them the details, they will investigate them. This puts honorable members and others in the position of having to present a case against an individual and to give that individual’s name for the purpose of an investigation. That is not a very pleasant duty for any one to perform and it is a means adopted by officials, who take a bureaucratic attitude, to force people to become informers; to put them in an embarrassing position, and to raise unnecessary difficulties.
I will test the Minister for Trade, the Minister for Air and the honorable member for Darling Downs. I will give them the number of a licence in respect of which I believe there have been specific abuses. The licence number is J 135024. The licence was issued to an importer of soft foods and, if my information is correct, the greater part of the quota available under that licence has been used in recent times by other people to import musical instruments - pianos and accordions - that have nothing to do with the historic business of the importer. Honorable members opposite may protest, but the Minister has asked for a definite case, and I am giving him a case to investigate. I repeat that the number of the case is J 135024. If the Minister deals with that case in a way that is satisfactory to the persons concerned, he will find that a number of other cases will come to him in the future. I do not think it should be necessary to put members of this Parliament or other people in the position of having to exercise the role of an informer in order to get some kind of check on the use of import licences. If the department would apply the checks that members of the Opposition have suggested are necessary in this situation, it would not be necessary for a member of the Parliament to be put in the position of having to come forward and supply certain details to be investigated.
If there were proper control of this business of advertising and trafficking in import licences, if the department would get away from its reliance upon the dogma of free enterprise and would discharge the responsibility it has to reduce the cost of imported goods to the extent that the cost is inflated by these practices, it would not be necessary for honorable members to bring up these cases. I have quoted this specific case because of the attitude the Government has adopted. I hope that in the next few days we will be told of the result of the investigation of that case.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– One of the unfortunate features of a debate on the Estimates when the votes for various departments are considered together is that a discussion of, for instance, the Department of Trade and import licensing, is at times interrupted by somebody who wishes to speak on another subject. I am afraid that that is the position now, because I wish to devote my remarks to the vote for the Department of Primary Industry.
First, I should like to support the plea made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) for relief to be given to the drought-stricken areas of South Australia in relation to the transport of wheat that will be necessary to enable the stock in those areas to survive during the coming months, if extraordinary and heavy rains do not fall within the next two or three weeks. This Government has, I believe, a record of extraordinary generosity in conjunction with the State governments, in the field of relief for victims of fire and flood. I think it can be argued that a drought is in exactly the same category as a fire or a flood, and I hope that some relief will be given to those who are suffering from the effects of the drought in South Australia now.
It is worthwhile to note in passing that there are many Australians now who have forgotten what a drought is and what a drought can do to the economy of this country, because ever since the war, almost without exception, we have been blessed with extremely good seasons, even in areas which normally have two bad years out of three.
We are living in difficult times for rural industries and for primary producers. There is not only the difficulty caused by low prices and low returns, but there is also the difficulty of finding new markets and new outlets for our primary products. Wool has felt the effects of the recession overseas and of the competition by synthetics. Butter has, in many instances, felt the effects of over-production and of severe competition from margarine, although the position there is temporarily satisfactory due to a drought in the northern hemisphere. Although the position with beef may be regarded as thoroughly satisfactory at the present time, there are certain factors giving rise to the present special position which may not continue indefinitely. In regard to mutton and lamb, we are encountering very severe difficulties in finding satisfactory markets for them. 1 am particularly disturbed, as is every primary producer and, I hope, every member of this Parliament, by the trend that has become apparent during the last three or four years - a trend of generally falling prices for primary products and generally rising costs. The primary producer, or the poor cocky, as the honorable member for Wakefield called him, could be caught well and truly in the middle of the two.
The honorable member for Wakefield made some very pertinent comments about what he called the almost divine right of industries to put a case before the Tariff Board in order to get a reasonable, as they say. 10 per cent, profit. I think that never in the history of primary production in Australia, even in the times when all woolgrowers were called wool barons, has there been a return of 10 per cent, on fixed and working capital invested in the land. Under present circumstances, the return for most primary producers is very much under 5 per cent., and probably would be 2 per cent, or 3 per cent. I believe that the rural industries have survived and have made the very real contribution that they have made to the Australian economy in the past, only because the primary producer is not somebody who is concerned only with profit. He is the kind of person whose heart and mind is embedded in the land. He will stay on the land and produce from it what he can to the best of his ability, despite the most extraordinary and difficult circumstances.
If the rural industries continue to be faced over the next few years with falling prices and rising costs, the Government may have to look at the position to see what action it can take to assist the primary producers. I am quite sure that this problem is causing concern to the Government. I realize, and I think the producers realize also, that it is difficult to find a solution to this problem in a country that is dedicated to rapid development - a development which, unfortunately, in some ways does involve an element of inflation, which has its effect upon primary producers.
I want, if I can, to destroy in a few moments the fable that Australia now is less dependent upon rural industries than it was before the war or ten years ago. I believe that it is quite untrue to say that. I believe that people who talk in that way are translating the wish or the thought in their minds into a fact. How ever desirable that position may be, we have not reached it yet. Let me put the matter in the form of a perverted kind of syllogism. I think people would argue in this way: In the 1930’s wool prices and our overseas reserves fell, and unemployment rose to fantastic heights. Therefore, Australia is most dependent upon wool. Now, however, the argument might go like this: Wool prices have fallen during the last eighteen months, overseas reserves have remained steady and unemployment has remained steady. Therefore Australia is not so dependent upon wool or upon its rural industries.
However, it is nonsensical to compare the situation to-day with the situation in the 1930’s. The comparison ignores the fact that the reserves which have made it possible to maintain stability in this country were built up during periods of high prices for wool. The reserves which have made it possible to maintain this stability were built up by the rural industries themselves. Secondly, over the last twelve or eighteen months there has been an extraordinary inflow of capital to Australia, due in part to the recession overseas, which has reduced investment opportunities there. Furthermore, we may experience the effect of the European Common Market in this regard. Europe may prove to be a more profitable area of investment for British investors than Australia, once the common market arrangement gets going. These factors were entirely absent in 1930, but they have certainly had a great effect during the last eighteen months or two years.
Furthermore, it is naive to compare the position in the 1930’s when governments of all kinds were dedicated to the concept of the balanced budget, with the position in 1959, when the principle of deficit financing is accepted as the rational and sensible approach to the problem of dealing with certain particular economic fluctuations. This Government has exhibited a ready willingness to use deficit financing when that has been found necessary to maintain stability. That is just one of the reasons why it makes nonsense to compare the present position with the position in the 1930’s.
I believe that the real wealth of this country, in terms of what we can do and in terms of our rate of development, depends in the final resort on our overseas income, together with capital inflow, if you like, and upon very little else. But the final, determining factor over the long term is most certainly the rate and extent of our overseas income. 1 now propose to quote some figures to show that the value of wool exports, expressed as a percentage of total exports, has been greater over the last ten years than ever before in our history, indicating again Australia’s continued dependence upon wool. In the period 1929-39 the value of wool exports as a percentage of total exports varied from about 35 to 45 per cent. The average would probably be about 40 per cent. Between 1949 and 1959 the variation has been from 40 to 67 per cent, in the very high wool price years that Australia has experienced. The average, if worked out properly, would probably be about 50 per cent.
Wool is now a greater proportion of our exports than ever before. Furthermore, over the last ten years, the value of wool production has been a greater percentage of our gross national product than it ever was before the war. So, in the face of those facts, I cannot understand how people can say that Australia is not more dependent upon rural industries than it has ever been.
The rural industries have been able to maintain their position, and even increase it in the Australian economy because of greatly increased production of all kinds. This increased production has been the result of good seasons, good prices and the re-investment of high incomes in the various rural industries. It is the reinvestment of high incomes in the rural industries which more than anything else adds to the volume of our rural production. Government policies and special depreciation allowances have assisted and have encouraged producers to turn their high incomes back into further development; but these depreciation allowances would have been quite useless if there had not been high incomes in the first place, because you need a high income before you can get the value and benefit of these depreciation allowances.
Circumstances over the last ten years have ensured expansion of our rural industries during the period of rising prices. Quite different circumstances may be needed to ensure expansion in periods of lower returns when producers are faced with special difficulties through rising costs internally. I think that the Government recognizes, to some extent, that some additional facilities may be necessary, in the establishment of the Development Bank which, we hope, will be of great benefit to producers. I have pointed out that the depreciation allowances have been most beneficial for the last ten years. But for the next ten years, if returns for primary products in general are low these allowances will be of no benefit because as I said before it is only people with relatively high incomes who can take advantage of them. I think that the Government has given some recognition to this general problem with the introduction of the Development Bank. But if present trends continue - the trends of falling returns to primary producers and general rising costs in Australia - the last of which is in part the inevitable result of the dedicated policies of this Government to pursue development overall as fast as it can, I believe that this matter should be looked at afresh to see what added incentives can be given to the rural industries so that production over the next decade may increase at as a fast a rate as it has over the last decade.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, it is not surprising that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen has instructed Government members, in the discussion of the estimates of this department, to keep as far away as they possibly can from the question of import licensing. So we have the spectacle of honorable members intruding into th;.1 debate in a deliberate effort to divert attention from what 1 regard, and the members of the Labour Opposition regard, as one of the greatest scandals in this country at the moment.
I wonder at the brazen effrontery of the Minister, who continually says, “ There is nothing in this; give us the specific cases “. We know how uncomfortable the Minister was on the previous occasion when we referred him to what one of his colleagues, Mr. H. V. C. Thorby, a former member of this Parliament, an ex-Minister, and a member of the Country Party, had said. 1 shall repeat his statement, because it is rather interesting. Mr. Thorby said that “ the Government’s system of import licensing was vicious and encouraged dishonesty, that it must be the most corrupt ever introduced anywhere in the world “. The Minister for Trade tried to get around this by saying, “ Oh, well, Mr. Thorby was noted in this Parliament for his intemperate language “. That does not explain it away, because the same Mr. Thorby in his statement said that if given the opportunity he had “ astounding information to expose trafficking in import licences “. Why did not the Minister call on his own colleague to produce the cases - to produce the evidence? But this Government encourages dishonesty, because it does not regard it as dishonest for some business firm, if it is able to do so, to get around the regulations and in some way to get import licences to which it is not justly entitled. If the Government regards this as a grave offence, would it not be the practice of the Government to see that the people who engaged in those practices were penalized to a greater extent than is the case at the moment? I asked the Minister for Trade a question on this very point - as to what penalties were imposed upon the people found guilty of what, in ordinary terms, ought to be regarded as a grave or a serious offence. This was my question -
Is it the practice to refuse subsequent applications for import licences from persons or firms whose previous licences have been cancelled on the grounds that they had sold or trafficked in their rights, or where because of shortages of goods, they had raised prices so that clearly there was unconscionable exploitation?
Nobody can argue that these are not serious matters. The Minister replied -
The fact that a licence issued to a person has been cancelled … is not regarded as necessarily debarring the person concerned from ever again receiving a licence.
As a matter of fact, he is not denied the opportunity of getting another licence immediately.
Indeed, a person may traffic in only part of his licence … the remainder of his quota he may use in a bona fide manner in accordance with normal business operations . . .
In this type of case the quota would be reduced by the value of the licences involved in the malpractice but the importer would operate on the balance of his quota.
Each case must be considered on its merits.
Nobody knows better than the Minister what is going on in this department and what has gone on in the department and the business community in the past. He knows that the Government is vulnerable in regard to the administration of this department and the system of import licensing. He always prefaces his reply to any criticism by saying, “ Since I have become the Minister “. He does not say anything about what happened before he became the Minister and whether abuses that then existed have been stamped out. What has been the practice since he become the Minister? He admits that he interviews people in regard to importlicences, but, according to him, only on the question of policy, and he says that he never discusses their individual applications. He then goes on to say that since he became the Minister he has never by ministerial direction ordered that an import licence should be issued. But can the Minister honestly say that that has always been the practice? On 22nd September, I placed this question on the notice-paper -
Since the introduction of import licensing, have any licences been issued by ministerial direction and, in some instances, against departmental advice; if so, what are the details?
The Minister should have no great difficulty in supplying that information without delay, but we still await it. Let us turn to the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who is the assistant to the Minister and tries to take some of the responsibility in regard to what is happening in that department.
The honorable member for Darling Downs said on one occasion that it would be unfair and inequitable if people who previously were not engaged in importing were to be given licences while people who had been engaged in importing over a number of years were still suffering considerable reductions in their quota. But is it not a fact that certain people who were never engaged in the import trade have been given licences? These are usually friends of the Government. 1 ask the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to say categorically, without any qualification at all, that it is not a fact that a Mr. Martin Wang, a former official representative of the Formosan Government in this country, has been given an import licence to the extent of £100,000, and is now living upon it by trafficking it amongst the business community in Sydney. This is a rumour which circulates in business circles and has been frequently mentioned around this building. I want the Minister or the honorable member for Darling Downs to say whether that allegation is justified and is based on fact.
Here is another illustration. In the bankruptcy court in Canberra a man who is well known by name in this chamber and probably better known in other respects to certain members of Parliament, a Mr. Somerville Smith, said in evidence that he had obtained licences to the value, I think, of about £22,000. Why did he get those licences, if he holds them? If he does not hold the licences he perjured himself in court and there is a responsibility on the Government to do something about it.
In a previous discussion of import licensing I mentioned a case concerning two barges that had been towed across from Hawaii, with American equipment on them, and which had reached Australian waters before an import licence had been granted. The Opposition does not suggest that all the wrong-doing is in the department itself. On this occasion, the department in Sydney recommended that no import licence be granted. Then, I am told, the matter went to the Comptroller-General of Customs at Canberra, Mr. Meere. He backed up his officers in Sydney and would not issue a licence. Then, by ministerial direction, over the heads of the departmental officers in Sydney and the Comptroller-General of Customs, a licence was granted. Thiess Brothers were the people who were interested in this importation, although not directly under their own name. They have formed a subsidiary company but Thiess Brothers were the people who were behind the scenes and who have been able to exercise great influence on this Government. Somerville Smith, who must have some favour with the Government if he has got import licences to the value of £22,000, has said that Thiess Brothers have paid representatives and lobbyists in this Parliament. A member of this House has been named whose expenses to Japan had been paid by Thiess Brothers. Evidently, these people are exercising a good deal of influence with respect to these matters.
Another technique of the Department of Trade is to try to so confuse the ordinary person who has to do business with it that he does not know exactly what his rights are. I have received from the honorable member for Darling Downs, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, a letter concerning the Flexible Shaft Machinery Company (Australia). This company’s import quota had been cancelled for rather unusual reasons. The honorable member for Darling Downs said -
I find that the quota was used to such a minor extent in the course of more than three years that it cannot be said that the situation in 1957-58 was unrepresentative of the company’s normal activities in relation to imports. Apart from recognition of cases of “ unrepresentative base year “, no provision is made for restoring quotas forfeited because of lack of performance and consequently the company’s application cannot be approved.
This company had had a quota since import licensing commenced. It is an honest firm. It found that it did not require its import licence in one year so it did not use it. lt did not sell the licence. It did not traffic in it. We all know what is said around the capital cities and what has been related in this Parliament about the advertising for sale of B category licences. We know the great dishonesty that exists in regard to this matter.
Let me turn back to the reply of the “ Parliamentary Secretary “, as he terms himself. I have here a communication from the Flexible Shaft Machinery Company which proves that the Parliamentary Secretary’s reply is completely dishonest. This firm had made no use of its import licence, not over a period of three years, but over a period of one year. The firm points out in this correspondence that it had very adequate reasons for not having used its licence. It says -
We had a large quantity of goods of a size and type now out of date as well as some stocks ex disposal which we reprocessed. We were able to use goods purchased at a cheaper rate from three firms who were giving up flexible shaft business.
That is the reason why the quota was not used. If the firm had been dishonest it could have sold its quota and so used its licence. Had the firm done that, the department would not have taken any action against it.
In the few minutes that remain to me, I want to give an illustration of how people who are doing business with the Department of Trade are deliberately confused so that they do not know their rights in respect of their quotes. Here is a departmental circular which I read to this Parliament on a previous occasion to show the stupid position that exists. This was received by one of the people doing business with the department. It reads as follows: -
L.I. 58/20 Adjustment for Above-average Expansion of Sales.
I refer to the application form submitted by you to the Collector of Customs in accordance with the above instruction. It is regretted that there has been a delay in finalising the adjustment but a careful examination of all the forms submitted has been necessary. This examination indicated that to confine the total cost of the adjustment to the available exchange it would be necessary to make major modifications to the plan followed last year or to use a basis which gave licences to only a few firms. The system outlined below, which contains major modifications to that followed last year, was adopted. The effect of this system is to give licences to as many importers as is consistent with the fundamental idea of an adjustment based on better than average sales.
Formula to be applied:
Step 1. Calculate the theoretical percentage of sales as follows: -
Take 42 per cent, of 1950-51 Category B imports (i.e. the effective level under L.I. 57/54 for B Category imports) as a percentage of 125 per cent, of 1952 sales (i.e. 1952 sales plus 25 per cent., the average increase in sales).
Step 2. Apply this percentage to actual 1957 sales.
Step 3. Deduct Current quotas in Category B and Bank CI 6 from this figure.
The remainder is the annual result which the importer receives subject to the modifications below.
Modification 1. No importer may receive licences equal to more than 20 per cent, per annum of his Category B imports in 1950-51 (Category B as now defined).
Modification 2. Importers whose sales in 1952 were less than 100% of their Category B imports sin 1950-51 may not receive licences worth more than 20 per cent, of their current quota (B and Bank C16).
Modification 3. Traders who held B (2) manufacturing quotas at 31st December 1956 which were less than 50 per cent, of their total Category B quotas i.e. firms eligible under paragraphs 4 and 5 L.I. 1957/104 may be dealt with by modifying Step 3.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was completely in character when he attacked members of the Government parties for speaking in the interests of primary producers during a debate on the Department of Primary Industry. In all the years that I have been in this House I have never heard the honorable member for East Sydney utter a word or a syllable of sympathy for the primary industries. He is completely in character in taking this line.
– What step is that?
Order! The committee will come to order.
– It is quite sufficient
– Step two!
Order! The honorable member for East Sydney may shortly be taking more than two steps.
– In his striving for fair play, it is quite right that the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should make a speech in this debate, and also in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry, on wool and wool marketing, but evidently it is regarded as completely improper for my colleague, the distinguished and honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), to make a speech on the same subject. To offer this comparison is to put in its proper perspective, of course, the general approach of the honorable member for East Sydney to this subject-matter. As usual, he does not want to debate an issue; he wants to grope in a garbage can. That is normal; we have observed it through the years, and it leaves me untroubled.
I want to answer, however, some of the allegations that have been made. The Opposition finds itself in two camps. There is one camp, which includes the honorable member for East Sydney and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), which is seeking to attach to the public servants in the Department of Trade the reputation of corruption. There are other members of the Labour Party who realize that this is not only an unpleasant but probably also a politically dangerous course to follow. So, we find the other camp of the Labour
Party trying to scrub the muck off. Well, that is a job that will take a long time, if they are trying to scrub it off the honorable members who engage in this activity. But let me deal with these allegations straight away, because they comprise, to my mind, the most important issues to be dealt with.
Some references to allegations were made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), to whose speech I do not intend to reply, because he describes me as not telling the truth. This being so, why should I bother to reply to him? However, he referred to some allegations in some journal, or, if not allegations, at least suggestions that there have been many dismissals from the Department of Trade, the implication being that there have been dismissals for improper practices.
– The “Bulletin” said that last week.
– Yes, the “Bulletin” was the journal in question. The honorable member for Yarra, without actually making a charge, implied that there was a charge by repeating the allegation contained in the journal and saying, “ This has been alleged; let the Minister give the answer “. Here is the answer: There has never been an officer of the Department of Trade dismissed from the department for improper practices. I hope that that will be accepted, and I hope the libel on the officers of the department will not continue to be repeated from the Opposition benches. If honorable members opposite want to attack me or the Government or the political parties on this side, then let them have a crack at us. Do not have a crack at officers who cannot stand up in this place and defend themselves.
There have been temporary officers of the Department of Trade, and, probably, of every other department from time to time, who have been found to be redundant, and I cannot go back to the earliest history. However, I have spoken explicitly and finally about the Department of Trade. I am told that from the Department of Customs and Excise, which formerly administered import licensing, one officer was dismissed for improper practices in 1954.
– Was he a senior officer?
– I do not know. That was one officer, and a second officer, against whom suggestions were made, if not charges, died before anything definite was brought against him. Those are the facts. I do not want any politics in this. 1 want to deal fairly with the officers of the Public Service.
Let us turn the attack on to me and the Government and its policies, if there is to be an attack, and take it from there. I have said in the House many times that there are circumstances in which a government feels impelled to deal with a situation of shortage, and, indeed, in the course of dealing with it the situation is sometimes aggravated. That happened in wartime and in the post-war period when rationing was in operation. It happens when a government is obliged to introduce import licensing or exchange control or any such system. The stage then is always set for people to try to get round the rules, and, human nature being what it is, people will try to get round those rules sometimes legitimately and sometimes illegitimately.
This is, of course, a fact of life. I have said that we are not so innocent as not to recognize it, that we contemplate it asa possibility and that we are prepared to take steps to deal with the situation. We take steps, first, to ascertain when offences have been committed or are being contemplated; secondly, to provide appropriatepenalties - I repeat the word “ appropriate “ - and, thirdly, to deal generally with the situation. Over the years I have told the House that this was our policy. Two or three years ago I told the House of licences being cancelled, and I have spokenof licences being cancelled recently. For myself, holding the portfolio of Trade, I accept all responsibility for policies in thisregard. The actual mechanical application and working out of these policies is left, to a substantial extent, with the Department of Customs and Excise, which, in fact, mostly handles the ultimate quota or the ultimate import licence. I have spoken of arrangements made to investigate charges. I havemany times invited Opposition members toproduce here, or outside if they preferred, evidence of an offence or a suspected: offence, and I have given an assurance that if that evidence is produced I will deal with it.
– Why did you not give Mr. Thorby a chance to produce evidence?
- Mr. Thorby has produced no evidence, just as the honorable member for East Sydney has produced none. I repeat that the honorable member for East Sydney has never produced explicit prima facie evidence. I do not want proof, I am not using the word “ proof “, but only the word “ evidence “. If prima facie evidence is produced, we will investigate it. 1 have said this before, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said it. But the honorable member for East Sydney does not want to produce evidence. He merely wants to smear the Government politically. That is the way he plays the game. I am not whingeing about it; I am merely directing the attention of the committee to the fact that that is the way he plays the game. The Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), who is responsible for the investigation of offences and for dealing with them, told the House quite clearly the other night, not only of offences, but of the penalties that have been imposed in relation to these offences over a particular period of time.
Let me say now that the only individual and particular approaches that have been made to me from the Labour side have been approaches involving requests to revoke penalties imposed.
– I do not believe you.
– Well, you do not have to believe me.
– Produce your evidence! You want us to produce evidence. I say you are not telling the truth.
Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will come to order.
– There have been offences. Some might well have been unwitting offences. If a man gets a licence to import, the Government view is that he holds that licence to enable him to engage in the physical activities of finding a seller overseas, placing an order, making payments and going through all the documentation connected with paying for the goods and clearing them through customs. Those are the physical acts of an importer. It is to enable a person to engage in that way that we give him a licence. A person who is avid to have an imported item for which he cannot get a licence, may think it is an easy business to say to a licenceholder, “ Look, let me use your name You sign the papers. You fill in. the forms. I will pay the money. I will sign the order and clear it through customs.” That may well appear an innocent action to some people. We are at great pains, wherever possible, to point out to people that, innocent or not, it is not acceptable to the Government. We will not knowingly give any one a piece of paper from the Government authorizing him to make a profit as easily as that, and if we discover that that kind of thing is being done we will cancel it.
There are charges from the Labour side of the chamber that our penalties apparently are not severe enough. My colleague, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), has referred to the partial cancellation-
– Has Mr. Wang got a licence?
Order! The Chair has been reasonably tolerant towards interjectors, but if interjections continue, some members of the Opposition will find that they will not be in a position to interject.
– We have discovered instances in which a licence or quota holder has used maybe 80 per cent, of his licence or quota in the normal, orthodox manner. The surplus not used in that way has been used in a way that is, in our opinion, improper. The cancellation has been, not the cancellation of his livelihood, but cancellation of that portion of his licence which he has used improperly. At the same time, if the improper use has been to the advantage of some other licence-holder, there is an equivalent cancelling of the same amount of the other licence-holder’s entitlement. That is what we regard as an appropriate penalty in the circumstances.
This matter has been presented as a rampant avalanche of improper practices. That, of course, is not true. Figures were quoted in the House the other night referring to something fractionally less than £700,000 of quotas or licences cancelled over a period of fourteen months. On analysis, that proves to be £700,000 worth of licences or quotas cancelled - I do not pretend that we have discovered every offence that we could discover - during a period when £933,000,000 worth of licences were going. On my arithmetic, that means that offences have been discovered and penalties applied in respect of .075 per cent. T do not say that that is a good record, but I am not going to admit’ that it is a bad record for a government facing very difficult circumstances indeed. I claim that it is a pretty good record for the probity of the Australian commercial world.
To-day, I am happy to be able to repeat that in this wretched circumstance of import licensing, sufficient success has attended the efforts of Australian producers of goods for export, who are trying to sell their goods and to induce overseas capital to come to this country, to produce a state of affairs in which I have been able to say that rather more than half of all the goods that come into Australia to-day come in without restriction. In some cases, no licence is needed, and in other cases, while a licence is technically required, there is no restriction at all. So, in respect of half the total imports there is no inducement to do anything improper. We are going along on that line. Only a few years ago, had the figures been sought of me, I would have had to say that only 17 per cent, of the imports into. Australia were unrestricted. So, we are marching along towards the programme that the Government has long announced, a programme of escape from the problems of import licensing.
I have said, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that it has been my practice not to interview people nor to give personal decisions in respect of applications for import licences, but on the other hand, it has been my practice - I think quite a proper one - to interview people, whether great people or small people, to explain the policy so that they may understand the situation. I do not know where the Labour Party stands in this respect. Either I seem to be attacked for the fact that I do not interview and grant licences, or maybe a predecessor of mine is attacked because he might have interviewed and granted licences.
– This is a matter of ministerial approach. I clearly remember that when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was speaking in an earlier debate in this chamber a week or so ago on this same general issue, he painted a vivid and, I have no doubt, accurate picture of a circumstance in which he was administering the control of hides and leather. He said that his advisers advised him against approval and that he, exercising completely correctly his authority as a Minister at the time, overrode his advisers and issued the approval. I have never criticized that action. My objection is not an objection of principle. It is an objection of equity. I cannot, as the Minister, see the hundreds of thousands of individuals who each year want a licence. It is physically impossible to do that. There would be an inference that the person who saw the Minister and came away with a licence was a fortunate person because he was able to see the Minister and persuade him to grant a licence. I think it would be undesirable if it were believed that some one could have an advantage.
In 1938, when I had the job, as a Minister, to decide who, of the unfortunate hundreds of thousands of people in Europe wanting to escape and come to Australia, should be enabled to do so, I never saw a single applicant except a relative of a former commander-in-chief of the A.I.F. That was the only individual I ever saw. I believe it is undesirable to see people in those circumstances, but if a Minister has to take the line that I am taking and make no bones about it, then he has a very heavy responsibility to see that he has officers who are competent and completely honest, that there are policies that are comprehensible to the officers who act in his name, and that they are capable of explaining those policies to the members of the public who are interested in the matter. I claim for this Government that we have policies of that kind, that we have that kind of officer, and that the system has worked with great success.
There was the bitterest of criticism a couple of years ago, when our balance of payments situation had driven us down to a ceiling of £700,000,000. Every one was complaining. I could understand that. To-day, when our ceiling is up to £850,000,000, the only complainants in the country really are the political complainants of the Opposition. Again, I offer no protest about that. Her Majesty’s Opposition is here for the purpose of challenging the Government. We get honest, straight and correct government by having people who are always ready to attack our actions and our policies. That is correct. That is our system of government. But if there were reality in this matter, I am sure that the people complaining would be those outside the Parliament whose interests were at stake. I am sure that the appeal boards that have been established and to which men of great distinction, honour and experience in the commercial field give their services freely, would be allowing appeals. It is very infrequently indeed that the appeal boards, whose members include people quite outside the Public Service, allow an appeal. I am sure that if anything were really wrong the advisory panels that we have, such as the advisory panel on import licensing, containing a group of the most distinguished and experienced people in commerce, would be telling us that something was wrong, would be suggesting to us that our policies ought to be altered. But that is not the case. There are no complaints other than from the political opposition - the Labour Party. The experienced honorable member for East Sydney seeks to make some joke of a document that he read. All I can say is that any such document which identifies to an applicant or a potential applicant the circumstances in which he can get a licence, or get an addition to his licence, would be a document which would be clearly in line with the principles accepted by the non-governmental commercial interests who are advisors to the Government in regard to licensing; and to the extent that when one gets into technical difficulties, it may appear to be incomprehensible - and it is not uncommon - that the whole of the resources of the Department of Trade and the appropriate sections of the Department of Customs and Excise stand ready to interview and to explain to people what the trade opportunities are.
Here is the story of import licensing. I know there are those on the other side who would say, “Act more arbitrarily”. That is, of course, the classic difference between us, on this side of the chamber, and the socialists on the other side of the chamber. We do not believe in arbitrary action. They do believe in it. It is fundamental to the philosophy of socialism that you act arbitarily, that you have the state of mind, and the conduct in practice, of a dictator. The honorable member for Lalor illustrated that fact, and honorable members opposite who occupied ministerial positions in their day also illustrated it all the time. I say, Mr. Speaker, that this is the story of import licensing, and I believe that, in the circumstances, the Government has a great deal to be proud of. Neither I nor the Government has anything to be ashamed of.
.- I do not desire to discuss import licensing, or whether its administration is proper or improper. I would rather talk about an industry which can be of great value to Australia if it is properly used. I refer to the cane furniture industry, in connexion with whose welfare I asked the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) only two days ago an important question which was designed to try to bring to a small Australian industry the hope of continued life. I repeat, for the Minister’s benefit, that whilst we do not have judicial proof of the fact - and I hope that judicial proof is not necessary - there are merchants in Hong Kong who have cornered the supplies of the raw material used in this industry and are permitting the Australian manufacturers to buy the raw material only at continually rising prices, until the point has been reached, in the manufacture of light cane chairs, where it is impossible for the Australian manufacturers to compete with the imported finished article from the East.
Those merchants are extremely cunning. Their families have not been in the business for hundreds of years for nothing. They have mastered the art of producing light and bulky articles, large numbers of which can be packed in a small space. Those articles are despatched to this country, purchased by our large retailing institutions, and made available to the Australian people at prices below those which can be reached by any Australian manufacturer - for the obvious reason that we have a 40-hour week in this country, and decent working conditions.
Yet, despite those grievous disadvantages under which the Australian manufacturers labour, they produce a chair which compares fairly closely in price with the chair from the East, and is immeasurably stronger. The Minister might ask, “Then why don’t the Australian people buy it? “ I will tell him why they do not buy it. Perhaps he does not understand that when a retail store salesman is selling to a customer he does not bother to spend a lot of time explaining to the customer that one of the chairs on display is an Australian chair, and of better quality than the imported chair which is selling at a lower price. He knows that the customer will probably buy the lower-priced imported chair, and walk out of the shop, another sale having been completed. It is a question of merchandising, and when one article is lower in price than another, salesmen do not waste time explaining that the Australian-made article at a higher price is better than the imported article. They simply let the customer buy the imported article.
This Australian industry has turned to the manufacture of heavy cane chairs. I have examined some of its products. They are of particularly fine quality, and their price is continually rising as a result of the control exercised over the raw materials by those merchants in Hong Kong.
The federal organization of the industry consists of retailers and manufacturers. It is a most loosely-knit organization, and one whose representations could hardly be made with very much hope of success. For that very reason I present the case on its behalf. It is difficult for these people to present a case for themselves, for the obvious reason I have mentioned.
The Minister’s reply to my question, which I received yesterday, said that if an approach were made to the Tariff Board he would give it every consideration. As everybody who knows anything about the Tariff Board knows, it takes at least from six to twelve months to get a decision. By the time another six months have gone by it could easily be that the remaining vestiges of this industry will have ceased to exist. I say that the difficulties peculiar to this industry because of its mixed nature in its federal organization are such that the industry will find extreme difficulty in putting a successful case before the Tariff Board. So I undertake to do the task for it.
This Minister knows full well that through import controls and the powers possessed by the Government some speedy assistance could be given to this industry which, I think, deserves help. But the Minister adopts the attitude of Pontius Pilate, and washes his hands of the problem. He merely pontificates about Tariff Board inquiries. 1 have placed the problem of a small Australian industry in the hands of a Country Party Minister. What would he do if the manufacturers of butter products in Denmark suddenly began to dump their products on the Australian market at prices below the prices at which Australian butter products could be marketed here? I have little doubt that swift action would follow immediately. It seems to me that the crime committed by this cane chair manufacturing industry is that it is a small industry.
Now T want to refer to the plight of a section of a much larger industry - the rayon weaving industry. In that industry are woven the most beautiful of fabrics for the further adornment of the world’s most beautiful women - Australian women. As in the case of the other industry I have mentioned, the troubles of the rayon weaving industry originate in the East. Whilst I have the utmost sympathy with the Japanese people in their upward struggle towards the light, I recognize the unfairness of the position which has arisen where, because of the low cost structure of the Japanese economy, the Japanese are causing a most serious decline in the volume of business and employment in the rayon weaving industry of Australia. The Government may not realize the seriousness to Australian manufacturers of having to dismiss skilled operatives, who are costly to train and difficult to replace. When large-scale dismissals occur - as is happening at the moment - the mills are disorganized for months. If and when business picks up again mill managers, executives and other operatives, are nearly driven out of their minds in training new staff. Unless one has lived and worked in the industry it is difficult for one to appreciate the problem involved. The work of the operative, in directing the operations of the machinery before him, may seem simple but in reality is very complex. Even the smartest employee cannot be completely trained in less than several months. The machinery in the rayon-weaving industry demands great skill on the part of operatives. I should like to read a short extract from the annual report of the chairman of Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited, which are situated in Wangaratta, Victoria. He said -
The Victorian city of Wangaratta is being severely hit by Japanese textiles. In ten years, manufacturing has built Wangaratta into a city of 14,000 people, from 5,000 only ten years ago. At that time the people of Wangaratta were dependent on rural pursuits. The textile industry is now responsible for the employment of one person in every five in Wangaratta.
One peculiar feature of the textile industry - which ought to strike a responsive chord in the heart of the Minister - is that it provides one of the few opportunities for the large-scale employment of females. If you allow a blow to be struck at the textile industry you prejudice, and seriously damage, the employment opportunities of that section of the people against whom, in nearly all things, the dice are very heavily loaded. Until quite recently no practical action has been taken in this country to provide equal pay for females. I cite that as only one instance of the way in which the dice are loaded against them. Any Minister who fails to take action to protect this industry, and especially the women who are employed in it, is falling down on his job.
The Director of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, in Canberra, reports that one rayon weaving mill in Victoria has been forced to close. He was referring to the Peerless organization, and added that another Victorian mill had been forced to dismiss 100 operatives. That is the Bruck organization. He went on to say that a third and larger mill in New South Wales faced similar difficulties; that a most humane management had to decide whether to effect substantial dismissals or operate on a shorter working week. That particular mill is in Maitland, where a considerable displacement of workers from the coalfields has occurred. The textile industry has been providing work opportunities for a large number of such persons. The serious position facing this mill has dealt a further blow at mining families, as well as at the textile industry.
Why are these situations allowed to develop? Why is not some use made of that much vaunted clause in the Japanese Trade Agreement which is supposed to protect Australian workers and employers? What is the matter with the Department of Trade? Is it under-staffed? These industrial tragedies should not occur. I do not know whether the Minister knows what it feels like to come home one night and utter these words which never fail to bring a cold chill to the heart of the housewife, “A lot of us got a week’s notice to-day, and I was one of them “. That is the kind of thing that any decent person would hate to have said in any home, but in the last few weeks it has been said in hundreds. If it is true that one picture is worth a thousand words, then one experience is worth a thousand pictures. I hope that the Minister never has the unhappy experience of going home and saying, “ I got a week’s notice to-day “. If he cares a rap about the welfare of Australian textile workers and those who have shown their faith in Australia by investing their savings in the industry, he will move - not to-morrow, but to-day - to preserve the rayon weaving section. While the Minister is about it he might keep in mind the smaller industry of which I spoke earlier. Its plight is very similar.
It is now fairly and squarely up to the Minister. He has been asked by the rayon weavers, in a most fair and reasonable manner, to freeze rayon imports from all sources at present levels; or, alternatively, to freeze imports from Japan at present levels pending a full-scale inquiry by the Tariff Board. The words that I have just used are almost exactly the same as those which I used last Tuesday on behalf of the cane furniture manufacturers. I hope and trust that in the meantime the Minister has seen the light; that his reply on this occasion will not be the same as his reply on. Wednesday. For those industries it is much later than the Minister thinks. When
Labour was in government no decent manufacturer ever came to us in vain. What will this Minister do?
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Opposition members. - No.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! This suggestion cannot be canvassed. There is nothing before the committee. The Chair is ascertaining the wish of the committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Is it the wish of the committee-
Order! This matter cannot be canvassed.
Order! Is it the wish of the committee that the proposed votes for the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services, War and Repatriation Services, the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission be now taken and considered together?
Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in his point of order.
Order! Is it the wish of the committee that the proposed votes for the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services and War and Repatriation Services be taken together?
– Can the Minister give an undertaking as to how long the committee will be allowed to discuss these proposed votes? If the Minister intends to gag the debate on them at some stage this evening, I oppose the suggestion.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman
Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Why not close the Parliament up altogether? You are only a gang of fascists! You do not want parliamentary debate.
– Then I shall move -
That the vote for the Department of Health be now considered.
– Have we resolved that the other proposal is not accepted?
– Some honorable members called “ No “.
Order! There being no dissentient voice, the proposed votes for the three departments will be considered together.
Proposed Vote, £1,991,000.
Proposed Vote, £3,483,000.
Proposed Vote, £87,319,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I wish to speak on the vote proposed for the Department of Health and, in particular, the pensioner medical service. First, let me say that the way in which Government decisions are being carried out by the department is neither fair nor equitable. The pensioner medical scheme was introduced not as the result of any special legislation passed by Parliament but under a provision empowering the Minister for Health to enter into an arrangement with the British Medical Association under which medical attention would be given to pensioners. At the time, we were not told what would be paid in respect of each visit by a pensioner to a doctor. Under that arrangement, recipients of age, invalid, service or widows’ pensions were able to obtain free medical treatment.
Each year, when introducing amending legislation, the Minister for Social Services spoke of what a wonderful scheme this was, a scheme under which, irrespective of the amount of pension received - it might be even as low as 5s. a week - the recipient was entitled to free medical attention. I- understand that the first arrangemententered into in about 1951 was to operatefor five years, at the end of which time it could be reviewed oi altered if necessary.
I understand, too, that at the expiration of the first five years it was decided to impose a means test upon entitlement to free medical attention. The Minister told us at the time that the means test would apply only to persons to whom pensions were granted after the introduction of the test, and that those persons in receipt of free medical attention would continue to enjoy that benefit. I think the date upon which the means test was to come into operation was 1st October, 1957. As I have mentioned, those who had been enjoying treatment under the scheme prior to that date were to continue to be eligible for free medical treatment even though their incomes exceeded the permissible income of £2 a week at that time. As from that date, any new recipients of age, invalid, service or widows’ pensions who had other income exceeding £2 a week would not be entitled to free medical treatment. Since that time, we have been told, a person receiving the permissible income of £2 a week plus the then pension of £3 10s., making a total income of £5 10s. a week, would not be entitled to free treatment, as such a person could afford to pay for it. That seems perhaps to be fairly reasonable in respect of a married couple, whose total income would be double the amount I have mentioned, but they are the extreme case.
At the present time, a married couple on full pension could enjoy an income of £9 10s. a week by way of pension plus £7 by way of permissible income, or a total of £16 10s. a week. Perhaps they could afford to pay for medical attention. But I am concerned about the men and women who receive smaller incomes. For instance, take the pensioner who receives only £4 15s. a week. She might be a widow whose husband had been drawing superannuation. After his death, the widow would receive perhaps £2 2s. 6d. a week by way of superannuation payment. Because she receives 2s. 6d. a week over the maximum permissible income and even though her total income is only £6 17s. 6d. a week, she is deemed to be ineligible to claim upon the pensioner medical fund. Regardless of what others say, I submit that if such a woman has to maintain her own home - she would not be entitled to the supplementary pension of 10s. a week because her permissible income already exceeds 10s. a week - she has a battle before her in providing for everything out of £6 17s. 6d. a week. She ought to. be entitled to free medical treatment. At the present time, if she takes ill and requires hospital treatment, she is expected to pay for that treatment. Certainly she would notify the public hospital authorities that she was a pensioner, but they would insist upon production of a medical entitlement card. If she were able to produce such a card, she would receive hospital treatment free. As she has no such card, she is required to pay the full cost of hospital treatment. That is unreasonable. The rule may seem reasonable in the case of a married couple who enjoy the full pension plus the total permissible income but a widow, widower, or single pensioner in receipt of other income only slightly more than £2 a week suffers great hardship because he or she cannot possibly afford to pay hospital expenses.
I feel that when it was decided to impose the means test, those who drew up the arrangement looked at the matter from the point of view of a married couple in receipt of the full amount of permissible income.
I object to this discrimination between pensioners. It is even possible that the framers of the scheme did not consider property. For instance, a person could have £500 in the bank, receive £2 a week over and above the pension and still enjoy free medical treatment. On the other hand, a person who has nothing whatever in the bank and who is in receipt of £2 ls. a week over and above the pension is excluded from the benefit of free medical attention. That is anomalous. As I said when speaking about another social service matter recently, the trouble arose when the line of demarcation was drawn. On an earlier occasion, I said that a person in receipt of £49 was entitled to a benefit while a person with £51 was excluded. I do hope that something will be done to improve the lot of pensioners requiring medical attention. Whether it is possible to introduce some scheme under which they could be issued with cards entitling them to hospital treatment I do not know. But I do know that something should be done to overcome the problems caused by this line of demarcation. I cannot see why the original scheme cannot be restored. That is one of the sore points about the Government’s policy that concerns me. 1 do not say that the Minister is responsible, but apparently it is a matter of policy that has been thrashed out by the Government and the B.M.A. I have heard rumours outside Parliament that the Government’s policy is the result of pressure that has been applied by the B.M.A., which is opposed to persons who earn the total permissible income of £16 a week receiving the pensioner medical benefits. I do not know whether there is any truth in the rumour.
– The B.M.A. issued a direct ultimatum to the Government that unless it imposed the means test the B.MA would not continue the agreement with the Government.
– As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has said, the B.M.A. issued an ultimatum to the Government in relation to the imposition of the means test. If that is the case, I hope that the Government will have further discussions with the B.M.A. in an endeavour to clear up this matter, and to enable the people to whom I have referred to obtain the benefits.
I turn now to the supplementary rent allowance of 10s. a week, and I wish to mention an anomaly which reacts harshly against certain pensioners. On a recent occasion 1 visited a church old folks’ home which caters mostly for single people. While I was there a married lady received a letter, and I noticed in passing “that she seemed to be upset when speaking to another inmate, so I asked the lady what was wrong. She said, “ I have just received a notice to the effect that I am not eligible to receive the 10s. supplementary assistance “. I asked, “ Is your husband receiving a pension too? “ She replied: “ Yes, but just the same as the rest of us here. Out of the £4 7s. 6d. a week that we each receive, we each pay £4 a week to the home, just as a single person does. That leaves us 7s. 6d. a week each.” Because both the husband and the wife were receiving a pension they were not eligible to receive the 10s. supplementary assistance. The married couple to whom i have referred are in exactly the same position as the single people, the widows and the widowers in the home. Each person pays the same amount to me home and has the same amount left to keep himself in clothes and to purchase the other things that he may need.
The Government’s intention was that pensioners who had no other income should receive the additional 10s. a week, but to draw a Tine of demarcation, and to say to a married pensioner that because he or she has a. spouse he or she is not entitled to the allowance, is most unjust. An invalid pensioner who receives £4 15s. a week, and Whose wife receives the allowance of £1 15s. a week, would not be eligible for the additional 10s. a week, even though the couple may be paying rent for their home. They are expected to live on £6 10s. a week.
As I have said, if a strict line of demarcation is drawn without any possibility of consideration being given to a particular case that may be slightly over the line, the position will appear ridiculous to the pensioners. In the home to which I have referred, one pensioner may say to the other, “ I receive 10s. a week, but you do not. I cannot understand why the Government should do a thing like that.” The Government should give further consideration to widening the application of the supplementary assistance, and also to the pensioner medical benefits to which I have already referred.
I know that the Minister, or some honorable member on the Government side will reply immediately that it will cost so much to do the things that I have suggested, and the additional funds are not available. I appreciate that to implement my suggestion would entail the expenditure of an additional amount, but nevertheless I believe that something should be done. I have spoken to the Minister about these matters, and I know that he feels that it is pretty tough on the pensioners. I realize that under the legislation he is not able to do anything more for the pensioners who at present are unable to obtain the supplementary assistance, but I believe that the legislation should be amended to cover them.
I could deal with certain aspects associated with the provision of pharmaceutical benefits, but if I did so, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I would not be able to complete my remarks within the time allotted to me. I shall content myself, therefore, with the two matters that I -have already mentioned, and allow other honorable members to deal with other aspects.
.- I wish to direct my remarks to the estimates for the Repatriation Department, and to refer to the increased appropriation of £3,016,000 for the remainder of the current financial year to cover proposed increases in repatriation benefits that will cost £4,021,000 in a full year. I think that all honorable members must feel gratified that the Government has seen fit to grant increases in the major proportion of repatriation benefits. However, in my opinion, the increases are not sufficiently great nor are they adequate compensation for those people who have suffered greatly in the past and who now, with their wives, will continue to suffer in their endeavours to subsist probably at a standard below that of the home of an ordinary unskilled labourer. In making that statement I do not cast any aspersions on the homes of unskilled labourers. I am using them merely as a standard.
In 1920, when the basic wage stood at £3 lis. a week the special rate war pension payable to T.P.I, ex-servicemen was £4 a week, which was 121 per cent, higher than the wage of an unskilled worker and which, among other things, compensated for the cost of labour to do small household chores, gardening and things of that nature that the T.P.I, ex-serviceman, in many cases, was incapable of doing himself. Since 1943 the war pension has fallen by varying amounts each year in relation to the basic wage. In 1953 it was 42s. below the basic wage, and in 1955 it was 51s. below the basic wage. However, in 1958, it rose slightly to be 39s. below the basic wage. When the basic wage was increased recently by 15s., the pension became 54s. below it. Therefore, the proposed increase in the pension merely compensates for the increase in the basic wage. It is interesting to note that over nearly 40 years the special rate war pension has varied from 12i per cent, above the basic wage in 1920, to 14 per cent, below the basic wage to-day. Further, in 1957 the basic wage was ?13 5s. and the special rate pension was ?11. In 1958, the basic wage was increased by 4s. to ?13 9s., and the Government increased the pension to ?11 10s. So, although the effect on the cost structure of this small increase in the basic wage was only slight, the pension was increased by two and a half times the increase in the basic wage. The recent sharp increase of 15s. in the basic wage will result in a far greater increase in the wage structure and thus in the cost of living, which will mean that this pension, although increased by the same amount, will buy less.
– And these pensioners received nothing extra last year.
– That is so. It is true that in 1951, when the T.P.I, pension rate slipped to a figure that was ?2 lis. below the basic wage, the Government did provide to these pensioners some financial assistance or relief under the social services legislation, which enabled a T.P.I, man and his wife to receive ?15 15s. a week, subject to the means test. The application of the means test actually precluded about 40 per cent, of T.P.I, persons from that additional benefit. In addition, the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner, unless she had received that social service benefit prior to 31st October, 1955, was precluded from obtaining medical benefit. That seems to me to be a very grievous anomaly. Rather than have these anomalies creep in, it would be much better if repatriation benefits were kept in a separate compartment, allowing social services to play their own role. Repatriation benefits should be kept apart, so that anomalies would not creep in with these subventions from social services.
The allowance for the wife of a T.P.I, man has remained virtually unaltered and its value has shrunk. This is more unfortunate when we take into account that many of these women are nursing husbands who are sick, but perhaps not sick enough to justify their admission to hospital. If their wives were not at home to look after them, these men would have to be sent to hospital. The fact that they are cared for at home results in a saving to the Government. When a T.P.I, man dies, of course, his widow does receive medical benefit. The Government has gone a certain distance along the way, but there is still room to meet these problems as repatriation problems apart from social services.
In this connexion I think about our war veterans. There is a goodly number of men over 70 years of age who served in active theatres of war. They may not have any disability that is attributable to war service. They may not be on the breadline, but at 70 years of age they are becoming old and tired, more so because of the vicissitudes they had to endure in active theatres of war. Irrespective of whether they have disabilities or means, something should be done to assist them if they desire assistance. If they apply, saying, “ I am over 70 and am not feeling very well. I should like something from the Government,” there should be some recompense for them, possibly in the nature of a pension, perhaps as high as the 100 per cent. rate. If that is not practicable, surely we should enable them to obtain hospital and medical benefits within the ambit of the Repatriation Act. That would be a trifling compensation for these men in their declining years for what they have done for us in preserving our national wealth, freedom and democratic institutions.
.- I wish to raise a matter on behalf of a particular exserviceman. I have sought to raise it on other occasions, including the debate on the motion for the adjournment last night, but I have been gagged. We have also been deprived of our “ Grievance Day “ for some time. It is not usual to bring these matters up and to give the names of the persons concerned. However, this constituent of mine has asked me to mention his name and to tell the Government about his case. I therefore intend to take this opportunity of doing so in the discussion on the proposed vote for the Repatriation Department.
Mr. William Bailey, of 51 DoyleRoad, Revesby, New South Wales, was a totally and permanently incapacitated exserviceman for twelve years, receiving the full rate pension. For that period he received also a car allowance and an attendant allowance because of his serious disabilities. He served not only in the forces of the Commonwealth of Australia but also in the Canadian Army and his periods of service included both world wars. He received all the amenities to which a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is entitled, but suddenly, last June, his pension was reduced to 60 per cent, of the full rate. After an appeal, it was raised to 90 per cent.
This man spent several weeks in repatriation hospitals and was under the continual surveillance of repatriation doctors on quite a number of occasions when having operations. He is a married man who has raised a family and he is a very good citizen. After receiving the T.P.I, pension for twelve years, he was deprived of it at the age of 64 years. I am quite satisfied that this man’s health is no better than it was when he first received the T.P.I, pension twelve years ago. One aspect of his case is particularly disagreeable. He was sniped. Investigation officers, whom we call snipers, were placed outside his home. They followed him and kept watch on him. I do not think that that is correct treatment of an exserviceman who had been declared to be incapacitated.
I should like the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) to have another look at this man’s case on compassionate grounds. There is reason for compassion because for twelve years this man adjusted his living standards to the scale of a full pension when all of a sudden he was deprived of portion of it. I ask the Minister to be not merely a rubber stamp but to take some action to ensure that this man really gets justice.
I wish to put forward also another matter that has been raised from time to time by the Australian Labour Party. The time has come when medical and hospital attention and treatment should be available at repatriation hospitals to all returned servicemen and nurses of the First World War, irrespective of whether disability has been established as being warcaused. There are not many of these people still living, and those that are left are in the winter of their lives. I think it would be a worthy gesture for the Government to extend this consideration to them. Many of these old people have come to me from time to time seeking my help because, late in their lives, they have fallen ill and have been unable to obtain the hospital treatment that they should be getting I think it is only right that the veterans who served, the nation as they did in war, and who are now handicapped in this way, should be given free treatment in hospital, and free medicine.
I turn now to another matter. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has brought up the claims of the remaining Boer War veterans to repatriation benefits. No government seems to be prepared to accept responsibility for them. I am certain that not many of these veterans are left to-day. Those who remain, naturally, are well on in their 70’s or even have reached the 80 mark. Anybody who served in a war that was fought so long ago would be very close to 80 to-day. I understand that the Commonwealth takes the view that, as Australia was not a federation when that war was fought, these veterans are the responsibility of the States, and the States throw the responsibility back to the Commonwealth. lt is the duty of the Commonwealth to provide repatriation benefits, including medical care, for ex-servicemen who served in World War I. and World War II., and I think that this Government should be compassionate towards the few remaining Boer War veterans and afford them similar benefits.
I shall deal now with another matter which has been mentioned earlier in this debate, and which was discussed also during the debate on the Repatriation Bill 1959. The problem of the onus of proof has been well argued by earlier speakers. Almost every week, I come across old soldiers in my electorate who have fallen by the wayside, and who are able to convince me, at any rate, that they are entitled to a repatriation pension. Only the other day, I investigated the case of a returned ex-serviceman who, certainly, had a weak chest when he entered the Army. His service entailed activities that he would have avoided had he not gone into the forces. Among other things, he had to stack munitions in underground chambers and in damp places. Had he had a free choice and been able to do what was best, for his health, he certainly would not have thought of working in unhealthy, damp places. He had slight bronchitis when he went into the Army, and the duties that he was called upon to perform during bis service aggravated his condition, which has now become chronic. This ex-serviceman is unable to work, because of his disability. He has put his case to the Repatriation Commission and an entitlement appeal tribunal, but he is not recognized as having an entitlement to a pension. I am sure that many similar cases have come to the notice of most honorable members, and I believe that section 47 of the Repatriation Act, which is known as the onus of proof section, is not being administered as sympathetically as it should be.
Another Matter which I want to mention is the Legal Service Bureaux. The value of this service to the people for whose benefit it was established is being whittled away. The service should be strengthened. Not only should it serve repatriation pensioners and their dependants, but also its scope should be extended in order that it may serve age, invalid and widow pensioners, as was intended by the Australian Labour Party when it was established. Free legal service should be available to all these people who are unable to provide for themselves.
Representations have been made to me on a number of other matters which may appropriately be discussed during the consideration of the estimates for War and Repatriation Services. I share the view of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes), who preceded me, that returned soldiers are not getting the justice they deserve. We well remember what the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said to ex-servicemen in his policy speech for the 1949 general election campaign. These were his words -
Wc shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
We will sympathetically review financial allowances, particularly those related to disability or war widowhood, in the light of all the circumstances, including the fall in the value of money.
As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, the real value of the new repatriation benefit rates which have just been approved by the Parliament is less than was the real value last year. The honorable member pointed out that the increase of 15s. a week in the war pension paid to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen - this was the maximum increase - has. already been cancelled out by an increase of 15s. a week in the cost of living. The increase to be paid to genera] rate war pensioners, however, is much less.
The national executive of the R.S.S. & A.I.L.A. asked for higher pension rates than will be paid under the terms of the Repatriation Bill 1959, which the Parliament has just passed. However, the executive did not adopt the highest rates that it was urged to approve. It chose, I think, the minimum among the rates proposed. The New South Wales branch of the league, for instance, asked for a minimum general rate war pension of £7 8s. a week, but the national executive decided that £6 would be a fair thing, and it asked the Government to pay that rate. I think that this request was the most modest that I have ever seen the league make. The amount is very moderate indeed. The increases recently granted by the Government bring the 100 per cent, general rate war pension to £5 10s. a week. The previous rate was £5 2s. 6d. a week, which represented 39.3 per cent, of the basic wage in 1958. The new rate of £5 10s. a week is only 38.9 per cent, of the present basic wage. So, the real purchasing power of the new rate is less than was the purchasing power of the rate paid last year.
The honorable member for Maribyrnong pointed out that the pension payable to the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen has stood at £1 15s. 6d. a week for a long time. The national executive of the R.S.L. suggested a rate of £2 10s. a week, but the Government has allowed the rate to remain at the figure at which it has stood for so long. The league made a special plea in respect of the service pension payable to those exservicemen whom we term burnt-out diggers. The league asked for a rate of £5 10s. a week, but the Government has decided to continue to relate this pension to the Tate of age and invalid pensions, and the rate has been increased by only 7s. 6d. to £4 15s. a week, the same as age and invalid pensions. This is 15s. a week below the amount which the R.S.L. thought was fair and reasonable.
The league asked for a rate of £6 a week for war widows, but the Government has increased the war widow’s pension to only £5 5s. a week. The current rate represents a smaller proportion of the present basic wage than the previous rate represented compared to the basic wage of last year. Then there is the matter of educational allowances for the children of exservicemen. Many children of exservicemen to-day proceed to higher education beyond the age of sixteen, or undertake professional training. The returned servicemen’s league asked that these allowances be continued to the age of 21, and this was quite a fair proposition. But the Government would not agree to it. The national executive of the league also adopted a recommendation in these terms -
That the Commonwealth Government be requested to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act to provide that self-employed ex-servicemen entering Repatriation hospitals or Repatriation centres shall receive compensation at the T. & P.I. rate.
That is an important principle.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I wish to direct my remarks on the estimates for the Department of Health to what has been omitted rather than to what has been included. Unlike the activities of such departments as Defence, PostmasterGeneral’s and Civil Aviation, which are exclusively functions of the Commonwealth, health matters are administered by the six State governments in addition to the Commonwealth Department of Health, each State having is own approach to problems which are common to all. This has resulted in a multitude of legislation relating to health, some of which is good and some indifferent.
The Commonwealth Government in ils Estimates provides for assistance to the States in a number of meritorious cases. For instance; the Estimates this year provide for payments to the States of £77,000 for the administration of the tuberculosis agreement; £1.39,000 for assistance to the Australian Red’ Cross blood transfusion service; £3.8,000 for child health centres; and £72,500 for the National Fitness Fund.
All these are extremely worthy causes and are entitled to all that they are receiving, and more. But there is another aspect of health which in my opinion merits greater Commonwealth assistance, because I believe it is too big a subject to be tackled on a State basis. 1 refer to mental hygiene.
Dr. Cunningham Dax, the chairman of the Victorian Mental Hygiene Authority, in an article entitled “ The Provision of the Mental Health Programme “, which appeared in the “ Medical Journal of Australia “ of 24th November, 1956, said -
The need to evolve a complete mental health service is desirable’ on the grounds of the incidence of psychiatric disorder, the cost of mental illhealth to the community, and the saving which results by early treatment.
He went on to say that the Stoller report gave some indication of the expense of psychiatric illness to the community, but that if an estimate could be made which would also cover the effect of neurotic disorder in industry and in the home, it would probably not be an exaggeration to say that mental ill health would be found to have a significant effect on the national economy. Dr. Dax also said -
The mental health services in Australia are too poorly equipped and inadequately supported to fulfil their proper function. Moreover, there is no Federal mental health service of any kind to give advice to the parliamentary representatives, or to decide in what way it can best help in preserving the mental health of the community.
In my opinion, the Commonwealth could greatly assist the States in their struggle to combat mental illness by making funds available for research into psychiatric matters and the incidence of nervous mental disorders, and for the supervision of patients remanded by the courts for medical examination. Dr. Dax said -
The care of the acute alcoholic, and the placement of the drug addict, have often been regarded as the functions of the prison hospital The prison hospital is rarely comparable to other units in its facilities for examination, it may not be a part of a psychiatric service, and it does not provide accommodation for which the voluntary patient would usually apply.
I believe that there is great scope for the enlargement of our research facilities in this field. The Commonwealth should make funds available for the provision of services for the rehabilitation of patients within the community and by the provision of facilities in hospitals to enable patients to receive treatment by day and to go home by night and at week-ends. This type of hospital has been particularly successful in some of the larger cities of Canada.
In the all too little time allotted in this debate, I should like to suggest that the Commonwealth Government could materially assist in the fight against mental illness by the provision of services for research into alcoholism and its treatment. Medical research has shown that alcoholism is a disease and not a social habit. Dr. Dax in his paper said that alcoholism plays a major part in the causation of about 20 per cent, of all admissions to mental hospitals, and that in one month 40 per cent, of the male admissions to the Royal Park Mental Hospital were attributable, at least in part, to this cause. One report has estimated the cost of alcoholism to the community at £70,000,000, excluding the cost to industry. Ian R. Mackay of the Clinical Research Unit of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, in an article entitled “A Survey of Alcoholism “, which appeared in an issue of the “ Medical Journal of Australia “, of 8th August, 1959, said -
It can be estimated that there are over 100,000 victims of alcoholism in our country; these have become singled out from a total drinking population in Australia of about four to five million.
Later in the article, he said -
Beer consumption in Australia, which represents 70 per cent, of the nation’s alcohol intake, has risen from 12.47 gallons per head in 1938-1939 to 24.74 gallons per head in 1955-1956; this trend, however, has slackened since 1954.
Mr. Mackay stated that the excise on beer alone reached the astonishingly large sum of £87,000,000 per annum in 1956. He would surely be staggered to know that this year’s Estimates provide for the collection of £106,500,000 from excise on beer and almost £9,000,000 from excise on spirits. It is an established fact that a large portion of the tax collected from the sale of petrol is returned to the States in grants for roads, and if only Id. a gallon of the excise on beer, which this year is estimated to produce £106,500,000, were set aside, it would provide nearly £1,000,000 annually for research into alcoholism and for the provision of special hospitals for the treatment of this disease.
In December, 1955, legislation was enacted in Victoria dealing with voluntary blood tests. The act provides that, if an individual is found to have a blood-alcohol content of less than .05 per cent., it is prima facie evidence that he is not under the influence of alcohol when driving a vehicle. During the years 1954 to 1956, police work in Victoria included the analysis of 694 samples of blood taken from drivers of vehicles when it was alleged that they were under the influence of alcohol. Only 45 or 6.5 per cent, showed an alcohol concentration of less than .15 per cent. The average alcohol content was 227 per cent. In each of the three years, more than 90 per cent, of the drivers showed a blood-alcohol level in excess of 15 per cent, and over 30 per cent, exceeded .25 per cent. If during this period it had been the law in Victoria that a figure of .15 per cent, alcohol in the blood was prima facie evidence of intoxication, then 93.5 per cent, of all the drivers who submitted themselves for voluntary blood tests when apprehended by the Victorian police would in law have been driving whilst under the influence of alcohol, unless they could have proved otherwise.
At the Coroner’s Department in Melbourne during the years 1951 to 1956, of 268 motor vehicle drivers killed, bloodalcohol determinations were made in 103 instances. Because the amount of work that could be done in the laboratory was strictly limited by the staff available, an attempt was made to select only those cases in which alcohol was likely to have been involved, bearing in mind such factors as the time of day at which the accident took place. Some cases in which drivers had died after an accident were deliberately excluded because it was felt that the lapse of time after the accident was too great for a blood-alcohol estimate to be of value. Of the 103 drivers tested, 67 had a bloodalcohol content of at least .1 per cent.
In Western Australia in 1957, Dr. Pearson carried out a survey of coroner’s cases covering the period from 1950 to 1956. The only cases omitted from bloodalcohol tests were road accident victims who had died twelve hours or more after the accident. Dr. Pearson found that 34.2 per cent, of the motor vehicle drivers and 39.4 per cent, of all road accident victims tested showed an amount of .1 per cent, or more of alcohol in the blood. Drs. Bowden, Turner and Wilson, who prepared the article, in which this information is contained, for the “ Medical Journal of Australia “ said -
As a result of our survey we can state that at least 25 per cent, of all the motor-car drivers killed bad a blood alcohol content of 0.100 per cent, or more.
The article goes on to deal with other coroner’s cases involving death by violence which occurred during the three-year period from 1954 to 1956. From 155 deaths by burning, 22 were selected for blood-alcohol estimation. A blood-alcohol level of more than .15 per cent, was found in fourteen of these 22 cases. There were 417 deaths from drowning. In 21 cases a blood-alcohol estimation was made, and in seventeen of the 21 cases there was found to be a concentration of .15 per cent, or more of alcohol. I want to make it clear again that, as in the case of road accident deaths, only those cases were selected where it was felt that alcohol had some bearing on the deaths.
There were 357 deaths from falls - that is, from people falling downstairs, from a building, from a ladder and so on. Of 47 persons examined, 36 had alcohol in the blood and 24 had alcohol in excess of .15 per cent. There were 123 fatal accidents connected with railways, excluding persons killed in accidents at level crossings, which were classified as road accidents. The figure includes persons who fell from trains, persons who fell whilst attempting to board trains, and persons whose bodies were found on a railway track. Blood-alcohol estimates were made in 24 cases, and in thirteen of those cases the alcohol content exceeded .15 per cent. Between 1951 and 1956 blood-alcohol tests were carried out on 41 victims of 120 murders. In nineteen instances the alcohol content exceeded .15 per cent.
Of 1,172 deaths by violence in the period under review, tests were carried out on 155 of the victims. In 99 instances the bloodalcohol estimation was .1 per cent, or more. The Victorian act lays it down that only one-half of that quantity can be accepted as prima facie evidence of a person not being under the influence of alcohol when in charge of a vehicle.
In the period under review there were 46 deaths from alcoholic poisoning, and in 33 of those cases the concentration of alcohol in the blood was .15 per cent, or more. Those are staggering figures. During the past decade this Government has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds - possibly millions of pounds - on controlling the rabbit pest, because of its effect on our national economy. In the same period it has spent more than £3,000,000 on the eradication of the cattle tick, for the same reason. I do not quarrel with that at all; I think it is money well spent. But I do suggest that a disease such as alcoholism, which has been estimated to cost the community £70,000,000 per annum, excluding the cost to industry, should merit serious consideration when the next Estimates are being prepared.
– I refer to the statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech, in which he foreshadowed a further amendment of the provision in the National Health Act purporting to extend hospital benefits to the chronically ill. In his statement then, the Treasurer said that the Commonwealth intends to extend hospital benefits to chronically ill persons in hospitals which are at present unrecognized under the act, if those persons are suffering from an illness which would entitle them to admission to a general public hospital. That is, I think, a recognition by the Government that there is a serious anomaly in the present provision. However, the statement does not make it clear beyond doubt that the present anomalous situation under the act will be remedied. In fact, I think that the terms of the Treasurer’s statement leave room for considerable doubt whether the anomaly and the great hardship and injustice to which the present act leads will be remedied by the amendment. It is for that reason that I wish to bring these considerations to the notice of the Minister.
At present, in New South Wales alone there are ten public hospitals which arc not recognized under the act. They are Bodington, Graythwaite, Home of PeacE (Petersham), Home of Peace (“ Neringah “), Lady Gowrie, Lottie Stewart, New South Wales Society for Crippled Children, Queen
Victoria Homes, Royal Ryde Homes, and the Sacred Heart Hospice at Darlinghurst. The result of the exclusion of those hospitals from the operation of the provision of the act is that although the provision was stated to be designed to extend hospital benefits to the chronically ill, the- vast majority of patients in Australia who suffer from a chronic illness are penalized, because the hospitals which are excluded are the very hospitals which, under the pattern of hospital treatment, exist to provide hospital beds for those who are chronically ill, and whose condition is such that a general hospital can no longer be expected to provide treatment which would had to their cure or to an improvement m their condition.
It must seem astonishing to many people that the public hospitals which especially provide treatment and care for the chronically ill should be excluded from the provisions of the act. The reason is to be found in section 82e (h), which excludes - and I think there can be no real quarrel with this exclusion provision except in its final words - benevolent homes, convalescent homes and institutions that provide accommodation principally for permanent patients. The Home of Peace hospital to which I have referred may be taken as a typical case. Along with similar hospitals, it is an integral part of the State-wide hospital pattern, its function being to provide accommodation for chronically ill and terminal patients especially, in order to permit the general hospital to give adequate accommodation to acute cases whose condition can be improved or cured.
In a statement circulated by the committee of the Home of Peace hospital, it is pointed out that the nursing duties of the hospital are heavy and consistent, and that it is the policy of general hospitals to pass on chronically ill patients to such hospitals as the Home of Peace for specialized care. In fact, if the general hospitals did not do that, the beds in their wards would be filled with chronic cases, to the exclusion of acute cases whose conditions could be helped, and the chronically ill patients would be receiving the hospital benefit which they are now denied because they have been passed from the general hospitals to hospitals which really specialize in dealing with seriously ill chronic patients. It is pointed out in the statement that it is very rare indeed for a general metropolitan public hospital to care for a patient for more than 90 days. Usually, the patient, although chronically ill, is discharged in a much shorter time. He is discharged because he can be sent to a hospital which specializes in giving care to seriously ill chronic patients.
It cannot be too strongly stressed that if these hospitals did not exist, the wards of the general hospitals would be clogged and they would not be able to provide the care necessary for acutely ill patients whose condition could be improved. Therefore, to penalize these patients - and also to penalize the hospitals which specially care for them - by excluding them from fund benefits, purely because they are so ill, seems morally and technically unfair, both to the patients and to the hospitals. Even Government supporters have demanded that this situation be remedied. The honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner), during a previous debate - referring, I think, to the Home of Peace - said -
To hold that this hospital is not a hospital for the purpose of the National Health Act is beyond my comprehension.
The honorable member went on to say -
It is a breach of faith on the part of the Government. The Government has so clearly promised to provide proper hospital facilities, and the financial means to achieve them, for chronically ill patients, and in this legislation it has taken advantage of a section that has crept into the act unobserved by honorable members. The Government has taken advantage of that to slide out of its obligations, to evade its promises.
The honorable member concluded by saying -
This is 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 … It is things like this - a series of broken promises - that, in the end, bring a government to ruin.
To summarize, the present position is that only the few chronically ill people who are cared for in a general hospital - which should be caring for acute cases - receive the benefit of the provision which was specially written into the act in order to provide benefits for people suffering from chronic illnesses. The vast majority of chronically ill patients who, of necessity, are cared for in hospitals which specialize in the care of chronic patients are specifically excluded from receiving these benefits. This position is considered unjust by the public hospitals concerned, by the State Minister for Health, by the State Hospitals Commission and, of course, by a large number of the public and the relatives and friends of these chronically ill patients.
Apparently also the Government has recognition that a very serious anomaly exists, hence the Budget announcement that a further amendment will be proposed. I welcome the announcement that there will be a further amendment, and I sincerely hope that it will remove this serious anomaly in those cases of hardship. I point out to the Minister the necessity to ensure that the amendment on this occasion is so drafted and sufficiently wide as to ensure the removal of the anomaly. As 1 have said, the terms of the Budget announcement leave room for considerable doubt. It states that these people will be included in future for hospital benefit -
The fact is that they are suffering from a serious illness; they enter these hospitals as chronic patients. They enter them because the general hospitals in which they have been treated can no longer give them any treatment calculated to improve their condition or to cure them. Therefore, their condition is considered to be beyond the scope of the general hospital, and they would not be entitled to treatment in a general hospital in those circumstances. The answer of the general hospital would have to be, “ No, you are not in a category where treatment in our hospital could hope to lead to an improvement in your condition or to the cure of your condition. Therefore you are not entitled to admission.” If that is so, the new amendment, if phrased in the terms of the Treasurer’s Budget speech, may still shut out the very hospitals which are catering for the chronically ill and in which the majority of the seriously chronically ill are bedded. In New South Wales alone, only a total of about 1,500 beds are included in the hospitals which I have named. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that all the patients are seriously ill. They all need continuous hospitalization and constant nursing care. It needs also to be stressed mat it is the policy of the hospitals concerned to take these patients when they are seriously ill and when they have passed the stage at which general hospital treatment can help them. In other words, they are not eligible to receive treatment in a general hospital. They are seriously ill people not entitled to beds in a general hospital. They must have hospital beds and they must have constant nursing and medical care. Therefore, an amendment which proposes to include only those persons suffering from an illness which would entitle them to be taken to a general public hospital fails in its purpose to remove this anomaly. That is why I have made this effort to direct the attention of the Minister to this point.
– I do not want to detain the committee for very long, but I wish to refer to the proposal that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has been speaking about. I do not intend, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to endeavour to anticipate the precise terms of the amendment to which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) referred in his Budget speech nor to enter into any debate, because I think that would be fruitless until the actual terms of the amendment are before us. I have no doubt that the honorable member will then find himself in a position in which he wants to say something on that.
– I have sought to get in first with this important point so that you will consider it.
– I should like to make one or two observations on the matter. It should not be thought that the amendment which was introduced last year had the effect of excluding a whole lot of meritorious cases from hospital benefits - cases who were previously able to gain a benefit. In fact, it had an entirely opposite effect. The effect of that amendment of the legislation was greatly to broaden the field of those unable to receive fund benefit in addition to the Commonwealth benefit. Although I have not the actual figures in my mind, I can say that, since last year’s amendment, many thousands of people who previously had been refused fund benefit have since received it - paid from the special account which, of course, is only fund benefit guaranteed by the Commonwealth. There were, of course, a large number of hospitals in nearly all the States of the Commonwealth before the act was amended last year in respect of which the funds themselves exercised the right of refusing fund benefit. So that it is not an accurate picture to imagine that a whole new set of hospitals suddenly came into being in respect of which fund benefit was refused. In fact, in practically every State there was a large list of hospitals - not an official government list but a list which the funds used - in which fund benefit was not payable.
In addition, fund benefit was not payable to many people who were patients in what were called recognized hospitals. A great improvement was made on that position but it has been discovered that there are still some anomalies - not a great number, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro appears to think. In fact, compared to the total number who benefited by the amendment which was passed by the Parliament last year and which, as I have said has benefited many thousands of people, we have discovered that in the Commonwealth there have only been a few hundred people disadvantaged. The purpose of the amendment that I shall bring down in the near future will be to remove, not a great anomaly but a minor anomaly.
There is only one other thing I want to say, and that is that we are talking about the hospital benefit. The honorable gentleman referred to hospitals being classified - I do not think that was the word he used, but that was what he meant - as hospitals yet the inmates are not able to receive a benefit. They can, of course, provided a State approves an institution as a hospital. Commonwealth benefit will be payable in many institutions approved by States as hospitals which were not recognized by the funds for the payment of fund benefit and are now not recognized - the list is not absolutely coincidental, but it is almost the same - by the Commonwealth for the payment of special account benefit, which is virtually the same thing.
The honorable gentleman will realize that institutions are approved by the States and by the Commonwealth for different purposes. A State might quite rightly and properly approve a range of institutions as hospitals for its purposes of control. In that range of approvals at one end there will be institutions which are, perhaps one might say, first-class hospitals, and at the other end of the scale are institutions approved by the State as hospitals but which, in actual fact, are not hospitals at all but are virtually old people’s homes. The Commonwealth recognizes hospitals for a different reason. It recognizes an institution as a hospital for the purpose of paying a benefit. So, while the Commonwealth and the States do not have the same basis, they, in fact, recognize or approve for different purposes. That is all I want to say about this.
The precise terms of the amendment which will correct, not a very great anomaly but a relatively small anomaly, will be plain when the amendments to the National Health Act are brought down in the near future.
.- Under the appropriation for the Department of Health is a large sum for the eradication and control of ticks in New South Wales. It is on this subject that I want to speak for a few minutes. At the moment, this is rather a vexed question in northern New South Wales, because about 180 men are being dismissed from the Board of Tick Control as a result of a cutting down in the appropriations both by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government.
In order to make the Commonwealth’s position clear, I would, first of all, like to give a little of the history of the cattle tick in Australia and in northern New South Wales, and also to explain the effect that the cattle tick has had on the cattle industry of Australia. Recently, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics carried out a survey of the damage caused by cattle ticks in Australia. The bureau estimated that, in Queensland, which is probably the State most affected, £10,000,000 a year is lost through the tick. This is lost through a decrease of beef and milk production. It was also estimated that 35,000 deaths are caused annually by a disease called “ red water “ which is associated with the tick, and a further 28,000 head through a combination of drought conditions and anaemia of the cattle, caused through having the tick on them. Also, huge amounts of money are expended on the acaricade in which cattle are dipped in order to control ticks. A lot of money is also spent in quarantining cattle in certain areas, waiting until they can be moved to another area. Another factor is that almost £1,000,000 is lost in Queensland through the damage done to animals’ hides because the tick perforates the hide and makes it almost useless for manufacturing purposes.
The tick problem is one that can be solved. It is not a problem that is familiar only to Australia. It exists in South Africa, South America and the United States of America. In the United States of America the authorities have really taken up the challenge of the tick and they have virtually eradicated it. In New South Wales an eradication programme was conducted in the late 1930’s and it was started again in 1954. The tick has been partially eradicated in certain areas of New South Wales.
The tick came to Australia about 1872 with some Brahmin cattle which were introduced at Darwin. Quickly it spread through most of the high rainfall areas and the semi-tropical areas of Australia. In 1902 it was detected at Tweed Heads. Immediately, the New South Wales Government placed a quarantine on the border to stop any movement of cattle bringing both red water disease and the tick across the border. In 1906, in New South Wales, it was discovered that 67 properties in the Kyogle area had tick infestation. In 1932 it was discovered that the tick had moved another 160 miles down the coast of New South Wales to around Nambucca and Coffs Harbour.
In 1920, it looked as if the tick could spread right down the coast of the State. In a semi-tropical area where tick exists for a period of the year and then goes away, it is a much more serious threat than in Queensland, where the tick exists all the time and the cattle have sufficient time to build up an immunity against the red water disease. In New South Wales, where the ticks are not present all the time, the cattle lose their immunity. When the ticks come back, red water sets in, spreads throughout the area and annihilates some 90 per cent, of the cattle in the area affected.
In 1927, the Federal Government realized that it would have to give some help to the State of New South Wales to try to eradicate the ticks, and that, eventually, they would have to be eradicated in Queensland as they were in the United States. The Commonwealth Government set up a Federal Cattle Tick Commission. At that stage the Commonwealth Government came in on an agreement that it would help eradicate tick by paying one-third of the expense. I want to make that point quite clear. The Commonwealth came into the agreement on the understanding that it would spend money to eradicate ticks, not control ticks, and that it would pay one-third of the cost.
The ticks were eradicated in the Grafton and Copmanhurst areas in the electorate of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). In 1954, it was decided to continue this eradication scheme and to carry it into places such as Boonoo Boonoo, Kyogle and Legume areas. Then, realizing that the campaign was going to be far more expensive than it had appeared that it would be, the Commonwealth agreed with the Government of New South Wales to pay £1 for £1 for the eradication of the tick in that State. Since 1954, the Commonwealth Government has given £2,590,000 to the New South Wales Board of Tick Control. Apart from that, the Commonwealth has also given a considerable amount of money to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to carry out research into the life cycle of the tick and into various acaricades to try to eradicate the tick. In Kyogle, where an eradication scheme was carried out in 1954, there was an outbreak of tick only a few months after the scheme was finished. Within a few months it was clearly noted that the scheme had broken down.
An eradication scheme is not very pleasant for the farmers. They have to subject all their stock to fortnightly dipping for fifteen months. If they cannot muster their cattle because the country is too rough, the stock inspectors go in and shoot the stock, and the country has to remain without any stock whatsoever. So, as I have said, these schemes are not pleasant for the farmers, but they realize that, in the long run, they are beneficial to them. The scheme, however, broke down in the Kyogle area.
In 1958, twenty years after the eradication scheme at Grafton had been finished, an outbreak occurred in that area. In December, 1958 and 1959, two outbreaks occurred in the Copmanhurst area, an area which had been clean for twenty years after an eradication scheme.
The Commonwealth Government decided that the eradication scheme was not working successfully and that there would have to be a reduction of funds until further research was done. It told the New South Wales Government that it was not prepared to spend as much money as it had been spending because what was being spent was a means of control, not eradication. The New South Wales Government then modified the scheme. The modifications that are proposed mean that there will be voluntary dipping by farmers in the Tweed, Richmond and Kyogle areas. There was a similar voluntary scheme in some of those areas in 1955-56 when a complete eradication scheme was being carried out in the Kyogle area. A complete eradication scheme needs a lot of men, so men were taken from areas in which there was only a control scheme, and brought to the area in which there was to be complete eradication. The farmers were then relied upon to do the dipping in the control areas.
We soon saw what happened. In 1956, the first year of the voluntary scheme in the Tweed-Richmond area, there were 95 outbreaks. In 1956-57 there were 139. It was realized that these ticks would soon have to be controlled, so full control was reintroduced. In 1957-58 the number of outbreaks had increased to 282, and in 1958-59, when it appeared that the matter was being brought under control, there were only 200 outbreaks. Now the voluntary scheme is being re-introduced, which means that the outbreaks will increase.
It might be said that the position is not too bad, and that few cattle have been lost. I would reply, however, that for the first time in many years in New South Wales we are getting increased outbreaks of red-water disease. There have been twelve outbreaks of this disease in the last year. Once this red-water disease is detected on a farm, the farm is automatically isolated. The farmer cannot move his stock off the property except to send them to the slaughterhouse or to Queensland, a red-water area. He must dip his stock every fortnight for two years, and if he is a stud breeder he is practically put out of business because he cannot move his stock for three years.
I want to give a few facts now that highlight my point about the arrangement between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government. The two Governments agreed on a £l-for-£l arrangement in 1954. Last year the Commonwealth Government spent £578,018, but the State Government did not come to the party. It was £124,000 behind with its share, according to the agreement with the Commonwealth. In fact, the State Government made a profit out of the deal. It seems that this year the Commonwealth, according to the Estimates before us, is to provide £500,000 for this control work, but the State Government is to produce only £412,000 odd, or about £88,000 short. What can the Commonwealth Government do about it? There seems to be nothing much we can do about it if the State Government will not play its part in the game. The other day the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament proposed an urgency motion to debate this matter. Let me remind honorable members that it is urgent, because it seems that the eradication work that cost millions of pounds will go down the drain unless something is done pretty quickly. We must also remember that the jobs of 180 men are involved. When this urgency motion was proposed in the State Parliament, the Government said it was not worth debating, and the debate was gagged.
The situation is now impossible. Is the Commonwealth to come in and give more money? I suggest that if the State Government cannot live up to its obligations to provide sufficient money, then we should cut down the tax reimbursement to New South Wales. The State has certain obligations under its sovereign rights. One of them is to provide sufficient money for its Department of Agriculture to undertake this kind of work. What money does the Commonwealth Government give to Queensland for tick control? What does it give to Western Australia? It gives those States no money at all, but to New South Wales it is giving £500,000 this year, and not for eradication of the tick, but merely for control, because the eradication scheme has broken down. Yet the State Government will not come forward and make a fair contribution.
.- I want to refer to the estimates for the Department of Health. The Minister referred to the Budget proposals concerning better provision for people with chronic and pre-existing illnesses and he said that the number of hospitals to be affected would not be very great. I would like to point out that the hospitals and convalescent homes that have been excluded from the benefit of the act are the very hospitals and convalescent homes that are doing most to cater for the people that we are concerned about at present, those with chronic or pre-existing illnesses. Every honorable member knows that it is practically impossible for a person who is chronically ill to gain admission to a public hospital, and .the only alternative is to go to those hospitals that cater mainly for aged and chronically ill people, but many of those hospitals have been excluded from important provisions of the national health scheme. It is heartening to hear at least some proposal, vague as it is, to remedy the situation in which patients in those hospitals could not receive the benefits available to those in the recognized hospitals.
Apart from the vagueness of the scheme as outlined in the Budget, it strikes me that it will be difficult to administer. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said in his budget speech -
Under the new definition, claims for payment of special fund ‘benefit for treatment in “ unrecognized “ hospitals will be allowed in cases where it is established, firstly, that the patient is suffering from a condition for which he would normally be admitted to a general public hospital and, secondly, that he is actually receiving hospital treatment df a standard substantially equivalent to that which -be would have received at a general public hospital.
I ask the Minister: Does this mean that each patient is to be dealt with on his merits? If that is so, it will certainly be a very -clumsy sort of arrangement, and I do not think it will be a very efficient one.
I think it should be possible for the Government to extend the benefit to a far greater number of these hospitals, where it can be shown that they are providing a standard of treatment as high as that available in general hospitals. I understand that the line of demarcation between recognized and unrecognized hospitals is drawn in such a way that on one side are the hospitals catering for all kinds of patients and acting as general hospitals, and on the other side are the hospitals catering predominantly for the chronically ill, those with preexisting ailments and aged persons.
The second point, and the major point, that 1 want to make is that I believe tha health scheme is wrong in principle. This point has been made on several occasions, as I well realize, but I think it bears reiterating. It is wrong in principle that the receipt of benefits for which one has been paying taxes over the years should be dependent upon joining a private organization. If the Government wants to encourage people to belong to these organizations it should do so by some other means than what is virtually coercion; that is, by depriving them if they do not join, of the benefits for which they have been paying by way of taxation. For this reason the scheme is wrong in principle.
In any case, the scheme is by no mean* the great system that so many Government members have tried to tell us it is. At the present time, even after paying contributions to hospital and medical benefit funds, and even after having paid taxes, a patient still finds that he must provide 37 per cent., on an average, of the medical practitioner’s fees. The fund provides 34 per cent., and the Commonwealth provides least of all, 29 per cent. I am prepared to admit that these were the figures applying before the introduction of the latest budgetary provisions, but I will suggest very definitely that those provisions are not likely to alter the situation very drastically. True enough, the Budget does provide for a doubling of the maximum benefits available for major operations. It does provide that £60 will be available from fund and Commonwealth benefits, whereas £30 was available previously, for certain operations. But I suggest to the Minister and the committee that £60 is still a very small amount to provide as a maximum for a major operation. Many people pay much more than £100 for an operation. As a matter of fact, only in the last few days a very close friend and colleague of mine underwent a major operation for which he had to pay £160. Honorable members can imagine the predicament of a person confronted with costs of that kind.
It strikes me also that the Government’s health scheme gives most benefits, including Commonwealth benefits, to people who can afford to pay at the highest rates to the private organizations. I think that that is a very bad principle. The whole idea of social services and health schemes should be to relieve people in the lower financial brackets of anguish and worry; yet they are the people who receive the least benefit from the health scheme. The person who can afford to pay sufficient fund contributions to entitle him to total Commonwealth benefits of £1 a day is very much better off than the person who cannot afford to do so. I remind the Minister that there are still many persons who have not registered. All that they receive from the Commonwealth, having paid their share of taxes, is 8s. a day.
People who join a hospital benefits organization may receive only an additional 4s. a day. In other words, they may receive 12s. a day, while those who can afford to pay higher rates get an additional 8s. a day, or a total of £1. We therefore have differing benefits, although each of the people concerned pays his proportionate amount of taxes. I know that there are many people who neglect their responsibilities, but generally speaking, the poorest people in the community, for some reason or other, cannot afford to contribute to medical benefit organizations. All that they are entitled to receive is the 8s. a day from the Commonwealth, whereas those who are better off and can contribute to an organization are entitled to £1 a day.
I think that nearly every public hospital in New South Wales is in debt, due, in large measure, to patients not being able to pay their accounts. I know of this position only too well. I have knowledge of a number of cases in which people were not able to pay hospitals accounts, and I have made pleas to public hospital boards, directors and secretaries on their behalf. Those people were genuinely not able to keep up their contributions to medical benefit organizations. They became sick, or were tied up with all sorts of hire-purchase commitments, or had other pressing problems. In a number of cases, the hospital concerned exercised its prerogative and sought to prosecute the people who had failed to pay..
I clearly remember that when this health scheme was being introduced it was heralded as something that was going to eradicate bad debts in respect of hospital treatment, as well as debts incurred by hospitals to the commercial firms which supply them with goods. The scheme has not worked out in that way. One of the reasons for its failure to do so, apart from the reason that I have just mentioned, is the inadequacy of the benefits that are payable in view of the high cost of hospital treatment to-day. The Commonwealth benefits have not been altered substantially for a number of years. They are quite unreal, having regard to the cost of hospital treatment.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– In addition to the various inadequacies of the scheme that I have mentioned, such as the fact that hospital patients who contribute to funds are in effect paying twice for the service they receive - once through taxes and once through fund contributions - I consider that the increase of the maximum benefit for a major operation to £60 from £30 is quite inadequate. A friend of mine had such an operation only a few days ago, and was faced with a bill for £160.
Among the grounds on which the Labour Party criticizes the national health scheme is the principle that in order to obtain Commonwealth benefit, derived from taxation, people are compelled to belong to a private medical or hospital benefit fund. In addition, the scheme has not assured our public hospitals of an adequate flow of revenue. The fact is that most hospitals to-day are plagued by bad debts. Another ground of criticism is that whereas the understanding was that the scheme would relieve patients of about 90 per cent, of hospital and medical costs, the reality is that the patient to-day, after paying his tax and after contributing to hospital and medical benefit funds, still has to find 37 per cent., on average, of the fees charged by medical practitioners. The fund to which he belongs provides about 34 per cent, of the cost and the Commonwealth provides the least of all - 29 per cent. The simple truth is that Commonwealth and fund benefits have not been increased adequately to meet the vastly increased hospital and medical expenses faced by patients to-day. Furthermore, the scheme gives most benefits, including Commonwealth benefits derived from taxation, to people who can afford to pay the highest fund contribution, and this is where the scheme is certainly deserving of criticism. Those who are able to contribute under the highest tables to the various medical and hospital benefit funds are the people who receive the most from the scheme, and the people who are not covered by the scheme, in many instances, are the people without financial resources to meet the incidence of sickness.
The scheme, furthermore, does not provide for important needs such as dental services, hearing aids and ambulance services. Not even under the pensioner medical service is there provision for those things. I am sure that many honorable members, like myself, have had to make representations to local ambulance authorities to forgo the fees incurred by pensioners who are unable to pay. These ambulance services are the self-same organizations that in many cases have to send their staffs out into the streets to cadge for money to keep the services going. They have to sell raffle tickets and run chocolate wheels and resort to other devices to raise money from the public in order to continue to give service to the public.
I made a plea to the Minister the other day in regard to hearing aids. I pointed out that the government of a more advanced country - Denmark - makes a contract with private commercial people to supply hearing aids in bulk to the government at a much lower cost than the citizen could buy them individually, and the government in turn supplies those hearing aids to people needing them, at a cost of about £8 10s. each. I understand that in this country the pre vailing price for the cheapest transistor hearing aid is something like £50, and the prices range up to more than £100.
I say, too, that provision for the chronically ill under the scheme is inadequate. The fact is that even though we have a special fund for them the maximum benefit is only twelve guineas a week if the patient is in a recognized hospital and in addition belongs to a fund. A patient in one of the unrecognized hospitals, even though contributing to one of the hospital benefits funds on one of the higher rates, gets no return from the fund. The only benefit such a patient would get would be the Commonwealth benefit. Patients who do not belong to a fund therefore receive only 8s. a day towards their costs. Resentment is expressed by persons who have been paying into funds all their lives, and find that at the age of 65 they are automatically transferred to the special account, and the benefits they obtain thereafter are thereby restricted.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to devote the time at my disposal to discussing the estimates for the Repatriation Department which, honorable members will have observed, involve an expenditure of approximately £6,000,000 more in the current financial year than last year’s expenditure. I should like at the outset of my remarks to suggest that everybody in this Parliament, and every returned soldier, is particularly proud of the repatriation services which the Australian people have provided, through the medium of successive Commonwealth Governments. I believe that Australia has a very proud record in this field, some of the credit for which is due to members on both sides of the Parliament, who have been instrumental in progressively increasing the measure of justice given to the men who served in the two world wars and in Korea and Malaya. But, whilst we will acknowledge that our repatriation benefits are possibly greater than, and involve more justice than, those of any other country, we still feel perhaps that there are fields in which we can do even more to increase social justice for ex-servicemen.
The staffs of the various State branches of the Repatriation Department, and the staffs of repatriation hospitals, are worthy of the highest commendation, and it would be unfair in speaking on the estimates for the department not to pay a compliment to them for the work they are doing. I think that in the Repatriation Department, possibly more than in most other government departments, there is a genuine desire among the members of the various staffs, from the highest to the lowest, to make the most of any opportunity that is presented to them to assist ex-servicemen who appeal for help.
After studying the reports issued by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) for the year 1957-58 and 1958-59 I was disappointed to find that in neither of those reports has any reference been made to the statistics involving appeals under section 47 of the act - that is, appeals to the entitlement appeal tribunals. The report of the Repatriation Commission for 1957-58 contains some statistics regarding claims and appeals referred to the commission. As all honorable members know, claims referred to the commission are those made after an ex-serviceman has applied to the Repatriation Board for recognition of a disability as due to war service, or as having been aggravated by war service. The board having rejected his claim, he applies to the commission. Comprehensive statistics are given on page 3 of the 1958-59 report, dealing with appeals to the assessment appeal tribunals, but no record of any appeals to the entitlement appeal tribunals appears. I wonder whether the reason that those statistics have not been given is that in this Parliament there has been a great deal of criticism of the entitlement appeal tribunals - criticism which I, personally, believe is not warranted. However, I think the fact that there has been so much criticism has caused those responsible for the compilation and presentation of this report to the Minister to neglect to include those statistics which, I believe, are vitally important. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) will bring this to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation and ensure that, when next a report is presented to honorable members, it will be sufficiently comprehensive to contain reference to those matters.
I realize that some honorable membersopposite are only too eager to seize any opportunity to criticize the Government on the ground of the application of section 47 or, indeed, to criticize the entitlement appeal tribunals. The interjections of certain honorable members notwithstanding, I suggest that if a great proportion of the appeals lodged before the tribunals were granted that would indicate that there is something radically wrong with the system. It would simply mean that the Repatriation Board was not doing its job. As honorable members know, the returned soldiers league has a representative on that board. It would mean that the Repatriation Commission also was not doing its job. If the soldier puts his case to the board and it is refused, he is still- left with two appeals - one to the commission and the other to an entitlement appeal tribunal. I feel that the entitlement appeal tribunals have been very fair in giving appellants the benefit of the doubt under section 47. I repeat that it is important that these vital statistics should, be included in future reports.
I want now to refer to a matter which I have raised previously. In fact, for three years I have advocated the amendment of section 36 of the Repatriation Act under which ex-servicemen who have served overseas become eligible for repatriation benefits upon contracting tuberculosis, although the disease may not be accepted as war caused, or aggravated by service conditions. The amendment that I have advocated would extend the same privilege to all ex-servicemen who contracted cancer - referred to as neoplasm. Honorable members will recall that some time ago I placed on the noticepaper a series of questions addressed to the Minister for Repatriation seeking statistics of the number of ex-servicemen who had died over the years as a result of contracting cancer. They may also recall that on the first occasion no satisfactory reply was given. Subsequently, as a result of my raising the matter again, I received figures as comprehensive as the department was at that stage able to compile. They are of such importance that they should be known to all honorable members. Later, I shall seek the consent of the committee to have them incorporated in “ Hansard “. Briefly, they fall under four main headings. The first is the year reviewed, the second is the number of recorded deaths from malignant new growths and cysts known to the department, the third is the total number of deaths from all causes among members in receipt of pension, and the fourth is the average number of members in receipt of pension for all types of disabilities. I propose to deal mainly with the first three. In 1946, there were 307 deaths from all causes among members in receipt of a pension. Of that number 34, or 11.7 per cent., were caused by cancer. In 1947 there were 493 deaths, of which 72, or 16.6 per cent., resulted from cancer.
– Are these the figures for the whole of Australia?
– They are the statistics of deaths from cancer known to the department. We must recognize that the department would not have a record of all exservicemen who might die from that cause.
– They are the figures of deaths among ex-servicemen who are in receipt of a pension?
– Yes. I am afraid that lack of time will not permit me to answer all interjections. In 1948, 14.7 per cent, of the total deaths were due to cancer. In 1949, 103 deaths out of 707, or 14.6 per cent., resulted from cancer. In 1950, 101 deaths out of 822 were so caused. 1 shall pass quickly to the years 1956, 1957 and 1958. In 1956, there were 1,193 deaths, of which 122 were due to cancer. In 1957, there were 1,337 deaths, of which 124 were so caused. In 1958, the last year for which figures are available, there were 178 deaths from cancer out of a total of 1,424. The average number of deaths due to this cause during those three years represented 10.6 per cent, of the total recorded in the department. During the period from 1946 to 1958 no fewer than 1,292 deaths from cancer, of a total of 12,009 from all causes, came before the notice of the department.
With the consent of honorable members, I incorporate the statistics furnished to me by the department. They are set out in the following table: -
- Not all deaths from cancer known to the Department would necessarily be included in this figure, as some of the members who were recorded as having died of cancer may not have been in receipt of war pension (e.g., death accepted as due to war service though member not in receipt of war pension).
In studying those figures I was particularly concerned at the fact that the great majority of deaths were apparently among men who served in World War II., but of this we have no proof. The figures are inconclusive unless they can be broken up into age groups. The department, in making them available, indicated clearly that the statistics available did not enable it to relate deaths to age groups. That is, of course, of major significance in this matter of cancer deaths. All deaths so caused have hitherto been recorded under the single classification, “ malignant new growths and cysts “, and the figures given cannot be taken as applying only to ex-servicemen of the 1939-45 war. The incidence of death from all causes is likely to be greater among certain age groupings.
Having considered those figures, I approached the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics seeking an indication of the proportion of deaths due to cancer among the population of Australia. I received a great surprise. As honorable members know, for three years I have been advocating the amendment of section 36 of the act to include as eligible for repatriation benefits ex-servicemen with overseas service who contracted cancer. I now find that the percentage of deaths due to cancer among the civilian population is much higher than that indicated for exservicemen by the Department of Repatriation. I repeat that the average for the last three years was given as 10.6 per cent.; among civilians it was 14.6 per cent, for 1956, 15.2 per cent, for 1957, and 15.4 per cent, for 1958. This is a matter of such great importance, and there are so many ex-servicemen dying as a result of this malignant disease, that the Government should have the matter properly investigated. A census should be taken of the number of deaths from cancer in the various age groups, and that figure related to all the information that we can possibly obtain as to the number of deaths from other causes. Then we can come to some sound and solid conclusion. I do not agree with the irresponsible approach of the Opposition. Before we can come to any decision on this matter, we have to get all the facts.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to address myself to a few of the items now under consideration, but before doing so I want to make some comments in reference to the speech of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). In common with other members of Parliament I consider that many ex-servicemen are dying of cancer, but their death is not recognized by the Repatriation Commission as being due to war service. It is an indisputable fact that many ex-servicemen are dying to-day from cancer caused by war service, but the Repatriation Commission refuses to recognize this. But the Opposition thinks that way and a few days ago moved an amendment to the Repatriation Bill in which it sought to have death from cancer recognized by the Repatriation Commission as being due to war service.
I am impressed by the figures given by the honorable member for Lilley as to deaths among ex-servicemen caused by cancer, but I am not impressed by his humbugging attitude in speaking on these estimates. He is one of the Government supporters who is drawn into line by his leaders but when, recently, he had his opportunity to record his vote against the legislation of the Government, he failed to take it. In other words, the honorable member is a talker and not a voter. Like the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) on social services, he is a humbug. He talks a lot about improving repatriation benefits but when the opportunity comes for him to vote he refuses to do so. He gives only lip service.
– On a point of order: I take objection to these statements and ask for a withdrawal of the word “ humbug “ used by the honorable member.
Order! The word “ humbug “ is unparliamentary, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– Do you ask me to withdraw the word “ humbug “, Mr. Temporary Chairman?
Order! The honorable member must withdraw that word.
– In deference to the Chair, I withdraw the word “ humbug “, but I am sure that the nation and the Parliament know the appropriate term to apply to a member who talks one way and votes another.
– I would say he is a hypocrite.
– Some members of the Liberal Party have boasted that they can speak and vote as they like, but it is noticeable that when the division was taken on the Opposition’s amendment to have cancer included in the list of diseases accepted as due to war service the honorable member for Lilley alined himself with those who voted against it.
– That is not true; I was not here.
– The honorable member was not here because he was not game to be here. He walked out. Like the honorable member for Sturt he refused to stand up and be counted on this issue. These members want to be accepted as heroes, but not responsible at all for their votes. If the honorable member for Lilley were really sincere on this question and believed what he said, and what I know to be a fact, that ex-servicemen are dying from cancer attributable to war service, then he should have had the courage to cross the floor and vote with the Labour Opposition which has always stood in the forefront in protecting the interests of ex-servicemen in this country in the face of great opposition from the Government.
However, I have no further time to waste on the honorable member, particularly as he comes in the category I have mentioned. I wish to speak on a couple of other matters of great importance to people in my electorate. I was very concerned to read in the Budget speech the following statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) concerning hospital benefits: -
Last year the Government introduced a plan to make possible under the hospital and medical insurance arrangements the payment of fund benefit in chronic and pre-existing ailment cases.
He went on -
Some anomalies have developed and it is now proposed to re-define and liberalize the class of case to which this special benefit will be payable. Under the new definition, claims for payment of special fund benefit for treatment in “unrecognized “ hospitals will be allowed in cases where it is established, firstly, that the patient is suffering from a condition for which he would normally be admitted to a general public hospital and, secondly, that he is actually receiving hospital treatment of a standard substantially equivalent to that which he would have received at a general public hospital. Further details of the amendment proposed will be announced when the legislation is introduced, following negotiations with the hospital insurance organizations.
That legislation effects very drastic changes and will have a tremendous effect on a number of hospitals in New South Wales. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) is aware that there is great concern about this change and the effect it will have on certain hospitals in that State. I wish to refer particularly to a deputation which I introduced to the Minister from the Home of Peace Hospital which is situated in Addison-road, Marrickville. It is a wellestablished hospital, dealing, in the main, with the chronically ill. I am grateful to the Minister for receiving that deputation but, as yet, I have not had any satisfaction from him. Although courtesy is all right, it is better to get results. To-night I raise this matter again in the hope that if the Minister has not acceded to the deputation’s request he will consider further the facts that I now repeat. I have here a letter dated 1st September written by the secretarytreasurer of the Home of Peace Hospital. In case members of the Liberal Party might be upset by it, I point out to them that the gentleman’s name is Mr. Menzies. The letter, which was addressed to my leader, Dr. Evatt, reads -
On behalf of my Board, I wish to draw the attention of your goodself and the Federal Opposition to the position of several Public Hospitals in N.S.W. (including the Home of Peace Hospitals) with respect to amendments made to the National Health Act which came into effect on 1st January, 1959.
Under this legislation several Public Hospitals (listed on the attached literature)-
They include the Sacred Heart Hospice for the Dying and a number of Church of England and Congregational hospitals - have been excluded from the schedule of approved hospitals whose patients are entitled to the extended chronically ill benefits.
At present the Public Ward Fee of £12 12s. per week is reduced to £9 16s. per week by benefits paid by the Commonwealth and to £5 12s. if the patient has been a member of an approved Hospital Fund for over two months.
Under the new legislation the patient of an approved hospital, if chronically ill, is transferred to the “ Special Account “ and the balance of £5 12s. is also met bv the Commonwealth.
However, the Commonwealth Government has to date refused to include those Public Hospitals in New South Wales which are particularly concerned with the care of the chronically ill. There are approximately 1,500 beds involved, of which the Home of Peace has 200.
The recent Budget speech included a statement that further legislation will shortly be introduced to the House (after consultation between the Government and the Hospital Funds) which will extend benefits to patients of hospitals which have not been “ recognized “ providing the patient has an illness which will entitle him or her to admission to a General Public Hospital.
The attached literature contains information covering the history of our negotiations with the Commonwealth Government and also set out the case in more detail.
We would seek the assistance of the Federal Opposition to ensure that the proposed legislation (referred to in the recent Budget speech) contains provisions which will enable patients of our hospitals and others of a similar nature to obtain the extended benefits for the chronically ill.
Yours sincerely, G. C. MENZIES.
That is a clear statement of the effect that this provision will have on the hospitals. Further information has been given to me in certain correspondence. In this Parliament recently the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) made one speech at least on which I can commend him. In the course of it he condemned the proposals enunciated in the Budget speech of the Treasurer. It is outlined at some length in this correspondence which I have been given and clearly indicts the Government because of the effect it will have on hospitals, like the Home of Peace Hospital which care for persons who are chronically ill. In view of the suspicion which exists among all sections of the community concerning the administration of the Department of Health under the present Minister, undoubtedly this hospital is justified in expressing concern at this stage at the possible implementation of legislation which will have detrimental effects on the income of these institutions which are caring for the sick.
I have in my hand certain documents, all of which are authentic. One is an open letter to parishes of the Sydney Diocese of the Church of England and to the general public in connexion with this question. Another one incorporates a letter from the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales in respect of the matter. I ask for leave to have these letters incorporated in “Hansard” in justification of the comments that I am now making to the committee.
– Is leave granted? Leave is granted.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Grayndler asked for leave to incorporate the documents in “ Hansard “ and as objection was taken leave could not be granted.
Order! I ask the committee: Is leave granted for the inclusion of the documents in “ Hansard “?
As objection has been taken, leave is not granted.
– I consider this is a case of the leaderless legion. You ruled that these letters were to be incorporated in “ Hansard “ and then, without even asking the committee to recommit the matter, you asked whether objection had been taken and, contrary to the Standing Orders and, at the instance of the Minister at the table-
Order! The honorable member will not be in order in continuing in that vein.
– Then I accept the position that the Government is afraid to allow correspondence from the Home of Peace in my constituency dealing with Church of England hospitals throughout New South Wales to be incorporated in “ Hansard “. The honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Cash), the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) and others have had letters incorporated. But this Government always runs away from its responsibilities on this question! It is interesting to see the Minister for Health at this stage turn a double somersault, like the Government Members’ Social Services Committee. He gave permission one minute and then got afraid because somebody from the possum paddock in the Country Party corner said, “No, we cannot allow the letters to be incorporated.” Mr. Temporary Chairman, I register my protest at this Government’s refusal to allow me to incorporate in “ Hansard “ correspondence I have received on this issue, which indicts the Government for taking advantage of the chronically ill by giving effect to legislation which will prove detrimental to them. I regret, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you, a fair and impartial man should be so influenced by the Country Party.
Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark. It is a reflection on the Chair.
– I withdraw the reflection on you, Sir, but I say that the Minister at the table changed his mind in the face of criticism from the Country Party. I will say that there has never been a more arrogant Minister for Health during my time in this Parliament than the present holder of that portfolio. His answers to questions in Parliament show contempt for those who ask them. His implementation of a medical scheme which imposes a 5s. charge on every person who desires medicine is niggardly and contemptible, and his attitude to-night on this particular issue is in keeping with his administration of a scheme which could be humane but which he administers in a most vicious way in order to save every penny while extravagance unlimited abounds in other spheres. The Minister seems to care little about anything but the saving of cost, and his attitude is exemplified to-night by his refusal to include in “ Hansard “ the correspondence I have.
I do not wish to say more now. It can be seen that the people who sit behind this Government care little for those who are sick, aged and infirm. In the same way, the Minister clearly indicates by the vicious manner in which he implements this scheme throughout the length and breadth of Australia that he cares little about them. The humane plan that was introduced by Labour has been replaced by the most ghastly scheme possible under a Government that cares little for those people.
The position really is that this Government is making people sick. That is the reason for the extra calls on the scheme. There are thousands who are sick and tired of the struggle to exist under this Government, who are sick and tired of trying to meet commitments for hospital treatment, medicines and other things under schemes administered by this Minister.
The Government is certainly to be condemned for its policy in this matter, and I register my protest at the arrogant approach by it when the hospitals in my constituency seek to place before Parliament, with my support, letters containing evidence relating to the general administration and implementation of social service schemes in this country.
Within the brief moments I have had, I have offered some constructive criticism. I hope it will be accepted, and I record again my contempt at the Government’s action and its failure to give effect to legislation that would benefit the people.
– Although honorable members would not think it, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is a quite likeable chap. He does not, of course, believe a single word he says in this chamber and he is generally regarded as the Funny Boy of the committee.
– The honorable member for Grayndler reminds me of that Shakespearean quotation -
All the world’s a stage And the men and women merely players.
He does not take life very seriously, and he certainly does not take his politics seriously. He always pretends that he is putting forward an argument very forcefully when we know there is not an atom of sincerity behind it.
The honorable member for Grayndler decided that he would criticize my action in relation to social services legislation. Therefore, I remind him, and the committee, of the facts leading up to the particular matter. In this Parliament, I have consistently advocated, in the interests of the country, the need for capital, and for savings. I have consistently pointed out that if we penalize thrift we cannot expect the people to save. On this occasion, a number of my colleagues and I put forward a plan -I believe it is a very good plan - for removing from the social services legislation the penalty on thrift.
– What was the plan?
– I do not propose, in the few minutes that are available to me this evening, to give the details of that particular plan because they have been publicized already. But if that plan is carried into effect, it will mean that the thrifty person will no longer be penalized for his thrift and will receive an income of at least the base rate pension.
We submitted this proposal to the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), as he was entitled to do, being responsible for the administration of this country, and having to frame the Budget, which took into account not only expenditure on social services but also expenditure on many other items, said that he was not prepared at this stage to alter the Budget to include the expenditure of an additional £2,500,000. That was a right that the Prime Minister had as leader of the Government.
The Prime Minister stated publicly in this chamber, however, that he realized the merits of the proposal that we had put before Mm, and he has assuredthe Par- liament, and the country, that the Government will give earnest consideration to the proposal that has been placed before it. I believe that we are nearer now than we have been for the last twenty years :to having the penalty on thrift removed. I am so convinced of the soundness of the proposition that we have put forward that I think that an improved plan will be produced which will enable the thrifty to receive the social service benefits to which they are justly entitled.
– You have been in office for ten years.
– The Labour Government was in office for eight years and did ;absolutely nothing. This Government, during the period that it has been in office, has raised the property means test figure from £750 to £2,250. While Labour was in office a person who had saved £751 was not entitled to any pension. Now if a person has saved £2,250 he is entitled to a part pension, and it is only if his savings go beyond that figure that he is debarred from a pension. Our proposal is not only to have the limit removed but also to set the rate of reduction of pension at a figure -which is realistic, and in line with the return that people receive to-day on their investments.
For the Labour Party to criticize this Government on its actions on the means test is just too silly for words. The Labour Party has never done anything to help the thrifty. Even in the amendment that was put forward by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who led the debate for the Opposition, there was not one word of any proposal that would have helped the thrifty in any way. In fact, we have heard many speakers on the Opposition side of the chamber say that they consider that if a person has saved £500 or £700 he should not receive a pension. That was certainly the attitude of Labour while it was in office because it refused to give a pension to any one who had saved more than £750. While this Government has been in office it has consistently liberalized the means test. We are now asking the Government to go one stage further and liberalize it to such an extent that the penalty on thrift will be removed entirely.
The main matter with which I want to deal to-night relates to health. One great reform that the Government has agreed to introduce - in fact we are now awaiting the legislation which was forecast in the Budget - is an amendment of the National Health Act to enable the aged sick and chronic sick to receive fund benefit as well as Commonwealth benefit. No section of the community needs our help more to-day than the aged sick and the chronic sick. They are unable to earn any income through employment and the great majority of them, because of their disabilities, have little or no savings. This Government is the first government that has done anything to help these people to meet their hospital expenses. The bill that was forecast in the Budget will enable the aged sick and the chronic sick to receive hospital benefits irrespective of the hospital in which they receive treatment, provided that the hospital’s services are equal to those provided in a public hospital. I know that many people in the community are anxiously awaiting the introduction of this legislation, and I am sure that it will be hailed by every one as something really worth while.
This Government has a proud record of achievement, not only in social services but also in health matters. I am sure that the liberal and progressive policy that has been carried on during the ten years that it has been in office will be continued in the future until we will be able to say, if we cannot already say, that Australia has the finest system of social services in the world. At present we are the envy of a great many countries. However, as will have been gathered from the speeches of many members on the Government side, we as a Government are never satisfied. We believe that there is always room for improvement, and although our social service legislation is good, as compared with similar legislation in other parts of the world, we realize that it must be improved still further. That is why a number of us have put forward suggestions - I am sure the Government will give them earnest consideration - aimed at removing some of the anomalies that still remain in our legislation.
This Government can be justly proud of what it has done in the field of health and social services, and each year that it remains in office will give the Government reason to feel still prouder of its achievements.
.- I rise to support the urgent plea that has been made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and other honorable members on this side of the chamber. I join too with those who have expressed keen disappointment and bitter dismay at the administration of the Repatriation Department, the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services. It is a great tragedy that there is such widespread dismay, unhappiness and disgust in the community to-day at the maladministration by this Government of the affairs of the departments, the estimates for which are now before the committee for consideration.
The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) is one of those who have criticized the Government. According to the press, especially the Sydney “ Sun “ of 24th September last, he has condemned the Government during party meetings. The honorable member is reported in the “ Sun “ as having told Mr. Menzies that he was bitterly disappointed at Cabinet’s decision on certain matters, and that members of the Government social services committee would have to consider their position. Mr. Chairman, you know, I know, every honorable member in this chamber knows, the people outside know, and every pension recipient knows that this so-called champion of the pensioners of this country walked shamefully from the chamber rather than stand his ground and record a vote with Labour in defence of the cause of the pensioners. This is an unhappy, sad and sorrowful state of affairs, and it makes me feel disgusted and miserable that I should be in this chamber to-night haggling, as we are obliged to do year in and year out, about the rates of pensions.
Who are the pensioners? They are the pioneers of our land, the people who blazed the trails, the people who worked to develop this country, the people who made their contributions in war and in peace and the people who suffered the rigours of a depression. These are the people whom we place first in our considerations. We consider the maimed, the physically handi capped and those others who rendered services to this nation in war and who now require repatriation benefits.
Time will not permit a full examination of this subject, but I shall proceed as speedily as I can. I want to deal first with repatriation matters, and to go on record as saying in unequivocal language that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper) and the Repatriation Department have failed the ex-servicemen of this country. It is no use humbugging about it. I make my statement quite definitely, coldly and analytically. I have yet to find a member of Parliament who, upon approaching this cast-iron department, can win a case for an ex-serviceman. It seems that the scales are undoubtedly weighted against ex-servicemen who served this country. It makes me exceedingly sorry and sad to think that such a state of affairs could prevail. It is not a question merely of the point of view of a member of Parliament, because the local doctors who help these ex-servicemen, and tend them to try to get them back on the road to health, make submissions and send them along to the Repatriation Department, or assessment or appeal tribunal - with what result? Almost 100 per cent, of the cases are thrown out, inevitably.
These doctors are professional men in their own right, just as the Minister for Health, who now sits at the table, is a doctor in his own right. They have taken the same oath, but the word of these local doctors is not taken. They are champions in their own domains, whatever those may be, administering to the needs of exservicemen. I know many, in my own electorate, such as Dr. King of Lawson, Dr. Alcorn, Dr. Brady and Dr. Larkins of Katoomba, Dr. Bamber of Lithgow, and others, who give certificates to the Repatriation Department only to find the department throwing them out. This is a heartless and a callous thing to do, and I plead, if a plea is of any use, for a humanizing of the approach to bring social service and repatriation benefits on to a plane befitting to those persons who have served this country.
I wish to make some comment also in regard to the Department of Health, of which the Minister at the table is the official representative in this place. Only recently
I visited a hospital at Wentworth Falls, one of many in my electorate, where there were eighteen infants, poor children who had suffered disabilities from birth. These children, the sons and daughters of working people who cannot afford to pay for their treatment were in receipt of benefits when they were in public institutions, children’s hospitals in Sydney and elsewhere, but when they were transferred to the institution at Wentworth Falls they were not entitled to the benefits of even the special account. It is a scandalous state of affairs that there should be a differentiation between children in a Sydney metropolitan hospital, who receive a benefit, and children in a private hospital, registered in New South Wales and approved by this Government, who are denied it. Once again, I make a plea for a review of provisions of that sort.
To discuss social services fully would be an utter impossibility, but surely it must be clear to the great mass of people in this country that something is radically wrong. I appeal to-night for the Parliament to take this matter of social services out of the ring of disputation, argument, political feeling, apology, explanation and talk, and put it upon a plane far above that sort of thing, so that we may in a calm, cool and dispassionate way, come to this chamber from time to time to take part in a clinical consideration of this all-important matter and try to see just what is required to be done to satisfy fully the needs of the people of this country.
– We want some humanity injected into it.
– Exactly. As the honorable member for Bonython says, we want some humanity in it. We must humanize our approach to it. I have here a sheaf of letters from various pensioner bodies in my electorate. Some of them contain pleas for something to be done in regard to the provision of spectacles. Others direct attention to the miserable funeral benefit of £10. They point out how people save in order to try to get a pound or two towards their burial, when that pound or two ought to be used to provide nourishing food whilst they still have body and soul together on this earth. Yet this sort of thing goes on. I know that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) is a great Scot. He comes from a grand line of Scots folk. If only he would recite here some of the lines of Bobby Burns and perhaps occasionally think of Henry Lawson’s “ Faces in the Street “ -
They lie, the men who tell us, for reasons of their own,
That want is here a stranger, and that misery’s unknown.
The Government should think of those lines, come back to earth, and look through the window at the people in the street, the people in need. We would then get more worthwhile social service legislation that would meet the needs of the people. The Minister is alleged to have said, “ It is more than enough “. I did not hear him say that and I sincerely trust he did not say it, because we all know that that is not a true statement.
The provision of supplementary rent assistance was commendable and good. It is helpful. It makes a contribution, but what of the great number of people who are not entitled to it. I have brought to the attention of the Minister instances of people who are paying off homes, discharging obligations to business houses, banks or other financial institutions, and paying rates. One person I know even borrowed money to pay rates, and when the rates for the next year were due she was still trying to pay off the debt she had incurred to pay the rates for the previous year. She had neglected herself in a terrible fashion to try to meet her obligations. I want to make clear that what is urgently needed in this country is a new approach to social services. I put it to the Government that just as the basic wage is based upon the capacity of industry to pay, so social service payments ought to be related to the national income and the capacity of the nation to pay, while considering all the humanities and the requirements for keeping body and soul together. If we were to relate social service payments to the national income and the expanding economy, of which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other Cabinet Ministers so glibly talkin this place, the living standards of our pension recipients would be immeasurably raised. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and other honorable members on his side of the chamber have spoken much about the means test. That is a matter that should be tackled realistically. I believe that a new approach is required.
– They said they would abolish it.
– Of course, they did. I am sick and tired of the promises made, first by the Menzies-Fadden Administration and then by the Menzies-McEwen Administration. I make a plea that we might start afresh with new dispensations for the aged, infirm, sick and suffering. Let us look at the matter and pay to these people the equivalent of a living allowance. We should, where possible, keep the aged people in their homes, give them activities, and let them have the association of their old friends and mates, and frequent the places they knew in their workaday lives. Let us send home nursing sisters and doctors to call upon them from time to time. Let us foster such services as “ Meals on wheels “, that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) knows so well, so that good, wholesome meals may be taken occasionally into the homes of people who are not able to cook for themselves and keep a home going. Let us put those who have not homes into decent places where they will have comfort and security in their declining years. To those who need hospital attention, let us give hospital accommodation and treatment befitting human beings. The problems of the aged in this country are becoming increasingly challenging to every one of us. We all know that the problems of aged folk are growing. We must give more attention to geriatrics, that branch of medicine which is concerned with the needs of the aged, sick and infirm. Those are the problems that we must tackle, in cooperation with State governments and local authorities. We must have co-ordinated health plans. It is about time that local government was able to play a part and share in the responsibility of building homes for the aged folk of this country.
The National Welfare Fund ought to be re-established on practical lines with sufficient funds flowing in from the various forms of taxes to provide for these needsThe old folk of Australia will not then become the subject of the kind of debate which we have in this chamber from year to year, and in which the spectre of the plight of the aged, the infirm and the unemployed appears and arouses the emotions of many. We ought to find some practical and worthwhile way of employing to the fullest possible extent the talents of these grand people of whom I have spoken. (Several honorable members having risen in their places) -
Motion (by Dr. Donald Cameron) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Social Services Bill 1959.
Repatriation Bill 1959.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1959.
Mr. TOWNLEY (Denison - Minister for
Defence). - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I declare (a) that the Estimates of Expenditure are of an urgent nature; (b) that the resolutions preliminary to the introduction of the Appropriation Bill are urgent resolutions; and (c) that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent bill.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden). Order! No debate is allowed.
Question put -
That the Estimates be considered of an urgent nature, that the resolutions be considered urgent resolutions, and that the Appropriation Bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
. -I move -
That the time allowed for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the resolutions, and the stages of the Appropriation Bill, be as follows: -
The course that the House is being invited to adopt is one with which honorable members are quite familiar. Anticipating what I know some honorable members will say shortly, I emphasize that the aim of this motion is not to restrict debate but to ensure that there is an equitable distribution of the available time over the various departmental estimates. When honorable members add to the total time set out in the motion the time that has already been occupied, they will see, though it is a little hard to judge exactly, that about 56 hours of debate extending over three parliamentary weeks has been allowed for the consideration of the Estimates. I am sure that most reasonable honorable members will agree that the time is generous. Indeed, if they examine the position, they will find that as much time as this has not been allowed on the Estimates before. I draw attention to the arrangements for next Thursday, when, as honorable members will observe, time has been allowed for Grievance Day, as is the tradition of the House.
Having regard to the long legislative programme which is before the House and which will go on for many weeks more, I suggest that this orderly consideration of the Estimates is the reasonable course to adopt, and I commend the proposal to honorable members.
.- I like the euphemistic way in which the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) approaches this subject. He said that the House is being “ invited “ to adopt a procedure. The House is being dragooned into accepting a procedure! The House is being bullied and forced into accepting a procedure which is a negation of democracy. We are told by the Minister that the Parliament is being allowed by this Government 56 hours in which to debate in committee the expenditure of £1,600,000,000, which is the amount involved in the Budget. That means that we are voting money at the rate of about £30,000,000 an hour, or £50,000 a minute. Yet, according to the Minister, we are being allowed generous time in which to give detailed consideration to the Government’s expenditure for this year!
I think the Government is concerned about an incipient rebellion in its ranks. It is concerned about gagging not only the Opposition but its own back-benchers as well. The state of the economy is worsening and a number of Government sup porters are afraid of the electoral consequences of the Government’s budgetary proposals. So, in order to force this measure through the House, the Government is making this almost a vote of confidence. It does not want to have to gag each item as it comes forward for discussion and so it resorts to the bad old tactic, always beloved of anti-Labour governments, of gagging its proposals without adequate discussion.
What is the Government afraid of? Why does it want to gag the Opposition when the Opposition wants to put before the people cogent reasons for not accepting the Government’s budgetary proposals? We think the whole procedure is wrong. We think that honorable members should be allowed another 56 hours if necessary to discuss the remainder of these items. This Parliament has not sat for a long time. The Government does not have a long legislative programme, and what it does have in its programme is bad legislation anyhow and we are opposing most of it. The Government is really scratching to find business. At the opening of this session it did not have enough business to go on with. It does not have all its bills ready yet and it will not have them ready for another three weeks - even legislation connected with the Budget. There are members on the back benches on the Government side and Ministers who would like to close the Parliament on 29th October. They are in a hurry to get away. After putting the legislation arising from the report of the Richardson committee through the Parliament, I thought Ministers might like to stay around a little longer and do a little more work for what they are getting, but apparently they want to close the Parliament because they hate criticism.
We oppose this proposal as we have opposed all similar proposals over the last ten years. I thought there would be an improvement when Sir Eric Harrison went to Mayfair, but the situation has deteriorated in his absence. It would be almost a pleasure to have him back again.
.- I thought it was rather appropriate that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) should say, “We have opposed such measures for the last ten years”.
Honorable members opposite certainly did not oppose such measures before that time. On the contrary, they introduced them. I want to draw attention to what happened in this House on 11th October, 1949. On that day the leader of the Labour Party introduced a guillotine measure that was much the same as that which has been introduced to-night, except that the programme was much more rigid. The present proposal provides that the debate shall continue until 11 p.m. on Thursday, 8th October. There are 24 divisions of the Estimates still to be considered. On Tuesday, 11th October, 1949, the leader of the Labour Party introduced a guillotone measure at 4 p.m., giving the House until 6 p.m. on the Thursday of the same week to discuss 36 divisions of the Estimates.
It will be seen that Labour - I have said this on many occasions - acts differently when it is in opposition from the way it acts when it is in office. To hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), you would think that this was a most unusual happening and that the guillotine had never been used in the Parliament before. There are many honorable members in the House now who do not know what happened in this way when Labour was in office, but the debates are printed in “ Hansard “ for anybody to read who cares to do so.
– Read your own speech. What did you say?
– I certainly condemned the action of the Labour Party. On that occasion we were given from 4 p.m. on a Tuesday until 6 p.m. on Thursday of the same week to consider the votes for 36 divisions. Who would not condemn that? There is quite a different proposition to-night. There are only 24 departments to be considered, and we shall have, not from 4 p.m. next Tuesday, but from now until 11 p.m., not 6 p.m., on Thursday of next week to discuss them.
The present action of the Opposition shows the greatest inconsistency that you could get in any parliament in any place in the Commonwealth. Labour stands condemned, because of the speech made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to night and the support he is receiving from honorable members who stand behind him, for inconsistency between its attitudes when in office and when in opposition. Can we treat members of the Opposition as being sincere when they act in this manner? Of course not.
There are one or two members here who are looking rather sober. They are new members. I do not mean by that that other members are in an intoxicated state. I would contradict any man who said that they were. What I am saying is that there are some new members here to-night who do not realize what happened in the past. I can see the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). He is amazed that the party he supports has acted in one way when in office and then, when in opposition, has turned a complete somersault by objecting to a procedure by this Government which was adopted by the Labour Government. I look around and see other honorable members here who also are rather amazed by that. I see the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). He knows what happened when Labour was in office. He knows what is happening now, and he is not too pleased about it. Naturally he does not like me referring to it. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), also knows what happened. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) does not know. He is rather amazed for he does not understand these things.
It is good that some one should get up and let the people know just where Labour stands on these things. Before I finish, let me say to the new members, “ Get a copy of ‘ Hansard ‘ and read all about it “. Then they will know exactly what happened while the Labour Party was in office. The reference is “ Hansard “, 11th October, 1949, page 1155.
.- I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in protesting against this guillotine proposal. To-night we saw the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) get up, and then we heard him, in an overgenerous attitude, and in a spirit of heroics, tell us that he was giving us a real treat by allowing the debate to proceed until Thursday night of next week.
I should like to answer the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). In the first few years after this Government came into office, and when the honorable gentleman who is now in Mayfair was the Leader of the House, more guillotines and more gags were applied than in any corresponding period in the history of this Parliament. I am afraid we are getting back to that state of affairs again.
I want to tell the House a little about what went on behind the scenes on this occasion. Only to-day, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we witnessed a scene in this Parliament that was quite unique in my thirteen years as a member here. It centred around an attempt by the Minister for Defence, as the Leader of the House at the moment, to put through the proposed votes for several departments between early this afternoon and Tuesday night. The Department of Health, the Department of Social Services, the Repatriation Department, the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and Australian Atomic Energy Commission were to be lumped together and considered at the same time. We have never had anything like that before - the lumping together of so many departments. When that proposition was put to us to-day, the committee protested vigorously. Without a vote being taken, just on the voices, it was rejected. Then the Minister for Air had to get up immediately and move an amendment to the proposal. Right on the spot, without even consulting his leader, he decided that we should consider only the Department of Health, the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department together, and have more generous debating time. That happened to-day.
I now wish to tell the House something else. If it had not been for the fight that my deputy leader put up ever since the Estimates debate began four weeks ago, we would not be allowed the time that we are to be allowed now. We are getting an extra week in which to debate these Estimates - the longest time since I have been in this Parliament. I claim that that has been brought about through the battle that my deputy leader, the honorable member for Melbourne, has waged with the Government. Why should the Minister get up to-night and act rather like Father Christmas, just as though the Government were giving us something for nothing? We are getting this extended time because of the actions of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and 1 pay him a tribute for the fight he has put up.
This motion is not necessary. We have got on quite all right without the guillotine. In my opinion, the Government has spoilt the Estimates debate by imposing the guillotine at this stage. I add my protest to that of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– Every honorable member on the Opposition side of the House knows that it is routine practice for every government, including Labour governments when they are in office - they have probably forgotten about that, because it is so long ago - to put a time limit on the Estimates debate. The only comment I make on this proposal is that the Government is making things rather difficult for us when it allows the Estimates debate to proceed half-way and then decides to bring in a time table. A large amount of time has been allowed for the discussion of the estimates of some departments which I do not think are as important as those that remain to be discussed.
When we consider the departments that remain to be discussed, we find that mostly there is a two and a half hours limit on any of the brackets. Three or four departments are bracketed together. One of the most important series of departments among those that are left come under the heading of Defence Services. Two and a half hours are to be devoted to those departments, yet the time for discussion of the Department of National Development - which is really a fictitious department - the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is four hours. Therefore, I should like to suggest to the Ministry that it cut that time down to two and a half hours, or to two hours. That would give us four and a half hours to debate the estimates for the Defence Services. I know that there a lot of members, including those who have been unable, like myself, to take part in the main debate, who would like to discuss those estimates at considerable length. I cannot see why we should be allotted four hours to consider the estimates for the Department of National Development, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, but only two and a half hours for the Defence Services.
.- With other members of this House, I have listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). He is a strange person. He admits quite frankly that in 1949, which is ten years ago, when a budget providing for much less expenditure - because the cost of living was then at a reasonable rate - was before the committee he opposed very vigorously the application of the guillotine. How he will excuse himself to-night for voting for the application of the guillotine on the motion by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) when in 1949 he voted against its application is beyond my comprehension. He refused the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) the book from which he quoted; the honorable member for East Sydney had to get his own copy. The honorable member for Mallee was ashamed to give the honorable member for East Sydney the book from which to read his speech attacking this proposal in 1949. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I can say in your presence that on these issues the honorable member for Mallee is a humbug, because he talks one way and votes the other.
– Order! Such epithets will not be permitted in this House. You will withdraw the word “ humbug “.
– Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I withdraw the word “ humbug “ if you insist. I point out that at page 1157 of “Hansard” of 11th October, 1949, the honorable member for Mallee, who spoke in such a pious way a few moments ago, is reported as having used the following words when criticizing the application of the guillotine -
This action to stifle free speech in this chamber is no credit to this democratic institution.
This great democrat, this great believer in free speech in the world, did not want the honorable member for East Sydney to quote this matter. He made us go to the archives of the Parliament to get the quotation because he was ashamed to let the people outside this Parliament know what he did on that occasion and what he intends to do to-night. In a few moments from now we will see him scuttle across to the other side of the House to line up and vote for a motion about which in 1949 he said -
This action to stifle free speech in this chamber is no credit to this democratic institution.
I notice that the honorable member for Mallee is busy scanning “ Hansard “. Cannot he find the passage in his speech? I would not be surprised if he has a special issue of “ Hansard “ with that piece deleted because undoubtedly it is telling against the statement he made a few moments ago and indicts the Government on this issue. I will not go further because if what I have said does not silence him, nothing will. It is an indication of the attitude he adopts on these matters and the hypocrisy associated with his criticism. The Government constantly takes this Parliament into recess. We will be going into recess in a few days in order that the Government can bring its legislation up to date. I condemn the proposal before the House.
– Order! The time allowed for this debate has expired. The question is -
That the motion be agreed to.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! The honorable member may not make a personal explanation at present.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1702) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed (vide page 1702).
Proposed Vote, £2,336,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- Speaking to the Estimates before the committee at the present moment, may I say that, as a new member in this Parliament, I am completely shocked and astounded at the policy of this Government in continually gagging debates. It seems to me that the Government is afraid of criticism. It is afraid of the criticism that is being expressed by members on this side of the chamber as well as by members of the Government parties. Government supporters are continually attacking the Ministers.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Newcastle is not speaking about the Department of Immigration or the Department of Labour and National Service, but about a different matter altogether.
– I am coming to that.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. I ask him to confine his remarks to the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service, the Estimates for which are before this committee.
– I intend doing that. I was pointing out that the Government is afraid of criticism not only from this side of the chamber but from its own supporters. That is why the Opposition proposes to deal with each vote in the Estimates. I propose to deal with immigration. The Labour Party congratulates its Deputy Leader (Mr. Calwell) upon Australia’s immigration policy, which was instituted by the Labour Party, and which has been followed by this Government.
The Opposition objects to the way in which this Government attempts to mislead new Australians, or immigrants - call them what you will, they are coming here to help us to develop this country - into believing that the present Government was responsible for the immigration programme. The truth is that, as I have said, the Labour Party initiated the scheme, and we give full marks to Labour’s Deputy Leader, who was then the Minister for Immigration.
This Government has continually gone to the people at general elections talking about how pro-British it is. It has spoken of the number of British people that it intends to bring into this country; but let us look at the statistics. At the present time, the number of British people being brought to Australia represents only approximately 47 per cent, of the total intake of immigrants. I have had quite a deal to do with British people, having been employed in an establishment which pursued a policy of bringing British tradesmen to this country. Those men could tell us, time and time again, of the lack of assistance and co-operation that intending immigrants are receiving in the United Kingdom.
As recently as a month ago, a mate of mine came to Australia and told me that at the time he left, a number of people in Britain were anxious to come to Australia but could not get the co-operation of Australia House. Recently, I presented a letter to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) from a gentleman who lives two doors away from me and who has been attempting for five years, without success, to get his brother out here. These cases are typical of the people who desire to come to this country but who, unfortunately, are unable to get the full co-operation of our immigration authorities on the other side of the world. Without that co-operation it will be impossible to obtain an inflow of British immigrants greater than it is at present.
Some time ago, the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) presented, during a debate on the adjournment of the House, a complaint about the accommodation provided in a number of immigrant hostels and holding centres in Victoria. Recently, I presented on behalf of the people residing at the Mayfield West hostel, in Newcastle, 49 complaints listed by them. The Minister co-operated by having an investigation made into those complaints, but the people who conducted the inquiry rejected every one of them. I would like to read one of the complaints to you. This document is headed “ Mayfield Hostel, 4.8.59”, and item No. 3 is as follows: -
Sausage in various forms served with monotonous regularity. Sausage is inferior and meat content low.
The Minister instituted inquiries into the various complaints, and the chairman of directors of Commonwealth Hostels Limited made the following observations: -
By regular inspection of ail raw materials received, the company makes sure that only good quality raw food is purchased. If the inspections indicate that the company’s quality standards are not met, the items concerned are returned to the suppliers. The company ensures that the standard of cooking is the best possible having regard to the limitations of bulk cooking.
Let me refer to the first of these comments to the effect that full inspections are made of food that is purchased. The facts are that the butcher in question was successfully prosecuted three weeks ago by the Newcastle City Council for selling adulterated sausages. The Minister’s inquiry committee rejected the claims of the residents. It said that they had no cause for complaint and that the food was satisfactory. I can inform honorable members that on one occasion when I went to this hostel I was shown oranges about li inches in diameter. That was the kind of fruit that these people were given in their lunches. Their bread had very little butter on it and the sandwich fillings were of poor quality.
As for accommodation, these people are expected to live in rooms measuring 12 feet by 10 feet. In Newcastle at present there ure about 120 of these rooms, and there are only 22 families to occupy them. Rooms galore are lying idle, but it is evidently the policy of the Department of Immigration that these people should live under crowded conditions, and they arc refused any additional rooms to give them a chance . to live decently. Instead, they must continue to live in a bedroom-sitting room combined measuring 12 feet by 10 feet.
These are some of the conditions that the British people are not prepared to accept and to tolerate. These are some of the reasons why British immigrants do not come here. Those who are already here and who have been residing at the Mayfield Hostel have written to their relatives in Great Britain advising them not to come to Australia because they will have to accept like conditions. Even, when the residents of the hostels are in a position to move out, they find that it is impossible to borrow money to build a home, and they cannot be admitted to a housing commission ballot. They are forced to endure these conditions for what I consider unnecessary lengths of time. As a result, British people refuse to come to Australia and tolerate such conditions.
The Government has expanded its immigration programme, so that it expects to bring in another 125,000 immigrants this year. If it does so, it must first provide sufficient money to give employment for these people, and, secondly, it must provide enough money to build houses for them, as well as for the people who are already here and need homes. The Budget provides for an extra £270,000 to be allocated: under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Yet the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) tells us that 125,000 immigrants will be brought in. Does any one believe that £270,000 will provide suitable homes for these additional 125,000 people? If this is the Government’s idea of what constitutes suitable housing, I can assure the committee that it is an idea not shared’ by this side of the committee. We support wholeheartedly an immigration programme which will bring out people to assist in the development of Australia. We have a large country with wide open spaces. Much of it is under-developed. It has to be developed and there is only one way of doing it. That is, by bringing people here who can assist the native Australians to do the job.
It appears to me that the number of immigrants applying for naturalization is very small and completely unsatisfactory. Far too many of the people who have come here fail to apply for naturalization. I believe the Government should institute some campaign to encourage these people to do so. We should take the story to them, and impress upon them that they are here to stay, that they have become members of the Australian community and should take an interest in the electoral system and in every other facet of Australian life. The Government should undertake a strong publicity and propaganda campaign to inform immigrants of these facts. It should be done by personal contact and by the various other means that are at our disposal.
– They should be told the advantages of naturalization.
– As the honorable member for Barton says, we should show them the benefits they can derive from becoming full citizens and accepting their responsibilities as Australians.
Let me now refer to social services, as they affect immigrants. It has been pointed out to the Minister that in Canada after ten years, and in America after five years, immigrants are entitled to the age pension. In Australia they have to wait twenty years. A country that is carrying out a widespread immigration programme, hoping to attract the best possible types of immigrants, says that the people they bring here must wait twenty years before becoming eligible for the age pension, while other countries with progressive immigration policies have reduced the period to ten years and even five years.
I suggest that the whole of our immigration policy should be closely examined in the light of the points I have made, so that we may attract the best possible types of immigrants. 1 suggest that our programme at the moment is unbalanced. We have brought here about 200,000 southern Europeans, mostly from Italy. I have nothing personal against Italians as individuals or as a race, but I feel that from Australia’s point of view it is desirable that our immigrant intake be spread over as many countries as possible. We do not want to create any Little Italys or Little Greeces, or Little Germanys, or anything else of that kind. We want a wide range of immigrants from various parts of the world, rather than a large number from any one country. Let me repeat, however, that 1 have no personal objection whatsoever to Italians.
Coming to the Department of Labour and National Service, I want to say a few words on the question of apprenticeship. I asked a question on this subject on Tuesday and was sat down. I asked the same question to-day, and I feel that the Minister’s, reply was entirely unsatisfactory. Evidently the Government was afraid to answer the question. I believe it is the responsibility and the prerogative of this Parliament to make its own decisions. We are the masters of our destiny. We are the ones who have the opportunity of saying what we want to do and what should be the country’s policy. Every one knows that this is Apprenticeship Week. The people are holding marches, demonstrations and inspections of industrial plants. Parents may go and see what Little Willie is doing as an apprentice.
What does all this amount to? It is an attempt by industry and commerce to attract young people to become apprentices, although, at the same time, attempts are being continually made to cut down the margins of tradesmen. When a fair and reasonable margin was being paid to tradesmen in previous years, industry was able to attract apprentices. To-day, however, industry is not prepared to pay comparable margins. If margins were increased by a reasonable amount, I believe that much greater numbers of young people of school leaving age would be prepared to undertake apprenticeships. In 1907, when Mr. Justice Higgins fixed the basic wage, tradesmen’s margins represented 42 per cent, of that basic wage. In November, 1954, the fitter’s margin was substantially increased, from 52s. to 75s., but since then there has been no further increase, although the basic wage has risen considerably.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Since allegations were made in this chamber with regard to migrant hostels, I have made it my business to see approximately a dozen hostels, in both Victoria and New South Wales, and I have no hesitation in giving the lie direct to those members of the Opposition who have described conditions at hostels as very bad. On the contrary, the conditions in migrant hostels are quite good. It is true that the accommodation is small. If the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones), who is trying to interject, will listen he may learn something. He has already had his opportunity to blow hot air across this chamber. One really needs a handkerchief to help one cool down after the flow of hot air from his side of the chamber. I point out that the accommodation at migrant hostels was provided by the Australian Labour Party. The value of that accommodation is about £50,000,000. If such accommodation, which is intended, and always has been intended, to be temporary accommodation, were to be replaced it would mean that the sum of £50,000.000 would have to be used to provide new hostels, instead of its being used for housing or other better governmental purposes.
The food in the hostels is good. Naturally, from time to time some individual will complain about the food. That is common everywhere. Even in this Parliament, from time to time there are objections to the food, which is quite good. The whole story with regard to these hostels, as told by Labour members in this House, is completely incorrect from start to finish. The hostels were placed in their present positions as a result of decisions by members of the Labour Party. If there is something objectionable in the neighbourhood, who is to blame? The people to blame are those who placed the hostels where they are - the members of the Labour Party. But in fact, some of the objections which have been put forward with regard to particular sites are extraordinary, in that there are dozens of very pleasant homes in the immediate neighbourhood. The people who live in those homes are able to put up with the conditions and have deliberately chosen to go to those areas and put up with conditions there. They are in exactly the same position as are the hostel dwellers in relation to slight smells or other annoyances that may occur, and which, after all, are not so bad that the health authorities have to deal with them. In other words, as I have said, the whole matter has been vastly and grossly exaggerated and should not have been brought forward at all.
An attack was made on the migration scheme by the honorable member for Newcastle, who does not appear to understand the tremendous value that migration has been to this country. The great development that has taken place in Australia during the last ten years is due, to a very great extent, to the fact of migration. When this Government came to office the work force was comparatively small. In fact, it was so small that workers were needed in far greater numbers than were available here. If we had not had the migrant intake that we have seen in the last ten years we undoubtedly could not have developed in the way that we have. The natural increase of population would not have been sufficient to produce the degree of development that has occurred. Of the increase in the labour force since 1947, four-fifths of the additional workers have been migrants.
If we wish to look at some of the phases of the work that has been done by migrants, let us turn in the first instance to the steel industry. During the last five years the output of the steel industry has increased by no less than 83 per cent. That industry has a tremendous impact on this country and on such industries, in turn, as the building industry, the automobile industry and the shipbuilding industry, as well as on transport services, gas and electricity services, and the industries which produce domestic appliances such as refrigerators and stoves. If we had not had that tremendous increase of output from the steel industry we would have had to import many more articles than we have been obliged to import. The result would have been that our balance of payments position might have got out of hand entirely, and unemployment would have occurred because there would have been tremendous shortages. Generally, we could not have been in the prosperous position that we are in to-day if we had not had the migrant forces for our industries.
When we look at the automobile industry and see the great firms, such as the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited and General Motors-Holden’s Limited; when we see the great development in connexion with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme; when we see the tremendous housing projects, the great increase in rural industry, and the various mining ventures that have been undertaken, we must realize that in all of those things the migrants have played a tremendous part. Because of the development that has taken place, our living standards are much higher now than they were. In fact, they are no less than 50 per cent, higher than they were in the middle ‘thirties. We are on the highroad to prosperity, and we owe practically the whole of that achievement to the migration programme. Without that programme we should never have succeeded in developing this country in the way in which we have developed it.
Therefore, we definitely need to increase the migrant intake from 115,000 to the 125,000 that is contemplated in this year. But it is not an easy thing these days to get migrants. It is quite idle for the honorable member for Newcastle to suggest that we are not trying to get British migrants. One has only to look at the statements that have been made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) to appreciate the great pains and care that have been taken to get British migrants, and British migrants of the best character, too. It is only by our own energy and initiative that we shall induce more and more migrants to come here in the future. We are getting no help these days from the countries on the other side of the world, because they are very much more prosperous now than they were some years ago. Consequently, there is no incentive for their people to migrate. We need to have a great deal of publicity overseas in order to attract more migrants, and if we are to have a great deal of publicity we shall need more money for that purpose. The Department of Immigration has not been given enough money for its publicity during the next twelve months. At least £200,000 should be provided to the department for publicity purposes.
The Minister for Immigration certainly deserves to be applauded for the attempt that he made during his recent visit abroad to cover the greater part of the migration centres that we have in Europe. There can be no doubt that what he saw abroad gave him experience and will enable him to conduct the migration campaign with all the energy of which we know he is capable.
In the short time that is left to me, I want to refer to the housing position. Suggestions are made from time to time about the need to house migrants. The housing position is improving tremendously and will continue to improve. During the twelve months which ended on 30th June last, no fewer than 84,000 houses were constructed. That is a record, and it is believed that during the coming twelve months at least the same number of houses will be constructed. The position is that the work of this department is being conducted well. The department is advancing, and it is helping tremendously with our great Australian development. The great thing, though, is for it to receive more money in order that it can get this publicity in England and in Europe, which it has to get in order that the Minister’s aims may be achieved.
.- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) holds a very important and responsible position, I think, as the Chairman of the Immigration Advisory Committee, so I hope he will not leave the chamber until I have completed my remarks on some comments that he has made about criticism from this side of the chamber in respect of accommodation for migrants. In the first place, I want to say that on 19th August, approximately six weeks ago, I raised in this Parliament the question of the type of accommodation that British and other immigrants have to occupy in the electorate of Lalor. It may not be as bad as in some other electorates, but I said it was bad in Lalor. I have not heard a squeak or a word, or received a line or communication of any sort, from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) since then. But on that occasion he did what I thought was a very good thing; he indicated within 24 hours, I think it was, that he would come down to those hostels and have a look at them. I readily accepted his offer, and accompanied him. It was good of him to do that, I admit. He picked a Friday to visit those hostels, when practically all the men are absent. I do not complain about that. I merely give the facts.
– It was the first free day I could get to go there.
– Do not take fright. Are you fearful that something nasty is going to be said to you? Very few of the men were in the hostel at the time of the Minister’s visit, and I suppose that, almost without exception, the womenfolk who were present were employed by Commonwealth Hostels Limited in various types of work around the hostel, and were favorably disposed to the hostel. He had a good look round. We were met by the management, and I expressed a desire in regard to the places around the hostel that we should see.
I say at this stage that at no time, in criticizing the reception centres, or accommodation for migrants, have I reflected, nor will I now reflect, on the managements. I think the managements of these places have done a marvellous job with the accommodation and the facilities placed at their disposal; but I do say that when you go to a hostel on a day when there are very few people there other than employees of the hostel, who may be prejudiced, and you suggest to the management, in the presence of the Minister, that you should go and see the type of family accommodation provided, it is very natural that the management would lead the Minister, the member of Parliament, and the press, to those people in the hostel who are likely to be most favorably disposed towards hostel accommodation, to the management and to everything surrounding the activities of the hostel. 1 do not complain of that, but those are the facts.
When the Minister was available for a visit to Brooklyn with me and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor), we were shown two rooms which were occupied by a very nice lady indeed. They were tidy and so was the lady. She expressed satisfaction, for the time being, with the accommodation she had. Subsequently, after I had shown the Minister other places at Brooklyn about which I had complained, we went to the Williamstown hostel and again we were taken to see certain accommodation.
– Remember this, that the manager did not know we were coming. We went unannounced. You will remember that when we were sitting outside-
– You bet your life-
– Order! The honorable member for Lalor will address the Chair.
– I am not reflecting on the management, the Minister or anybody else.
– You say you are not, but you are!
– Order! The Minister will remain silent.
– I even accept your word, Mr. Minister, that they did not know we were coming.
– They did not know.
– What is wrong with you? I have accepted your word that they did not know. But, along with you, you brought the pressmen.
– I did not!
– Then how did they get there? What brought them there if they did not know that you were visiting the place? How did the press get there? The more you open your mouth, the worse the position becomes. You seem to think you are going to get it in the neck. Pipe down a while. At Williamstown, naturally, the management did the right thing for anybody who was going to show a party round the place. They took the Minister to the show people and the show accommodation as much as possible. Anybody who goes as a guest of the Minister to the city or municipality where the Minister resides, is naturally shown by the Minister the pretty points, and not the bad points, about the place, and that was the feature of the visit to the Williamstown hostel. After we had seen a lady who, for the time being, was well satisfied, I said, “ There are two ladies sitting outside their rooms. Let us go along, Mr. Minister.” The Minister readily came along. I introduced him to the ladies. I said, “ Here is the Minister who controls the destiny of these hostels. Tell him what you think. You are free to express yourselves. Tell him what you think about him or his Government, or what you like, as far as I am concerned.”
This is what happened. They were nice ladies. One of them, who had three children and who had migrated from Britain seven months before, told the Minister that she would go home the next day if she could. There is one thing about the British people - they are pretty frank. She said she would go home to-morrow if she could, and so would 30 other British families there. She said that there was an oil refinery near the hostel and the smell was terrible. She said, “ In summer you get eaten by mosquitoes “. She complained that the ventilation at the hostel was inadequate, and at one stage the Minister, who is now interjecting on me - he cannot take it, you see - said heatedly to the honorable member for Gellibrand, “You are provoking her into saying things.” I said, “ You can’t provoke an Englishwoman into saying things she doesn’t want to say “. Another lady there supported her friend, and both of them expressed very great dissatisfaction and said that 30 other families would go home to-morrow if they had the money and the opportunity.
I am supplying the facts, and the Minister will not deny them. But the extraordinary thing about it was that, like one of his predecessors, when unpalatable things were said he walked away. He adopted exactly the same attitude as the present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when I took him to Williamstown a couple of years ago. Everything was right until he struck something that was unpalatable. On that occasion one of the officers accompanying the Minister objected to a canary hanging in a box in a little room occupied by some migrants. This officer pointed to a box in the room - it had a nice cover over it - and said, “ That box has no right in here.” I said that the size of the room was 9ft. 11 ins. by 7 ft. 3 ins., I think, but this was denied by the officer. I was ready for him. I had a 3-ft. rule in my pocket, and when I produced it and proceeded to measure the room to prove my words, the Minister on that occasion walked off. That is the sort of thing you get. The plain fact is that these men, in their own hearts, I believe, are ashamed. I am sorry that they are the men who are called on to determine the accommodation available for those people - our kith and kin from Britain and migrants from European countries. J believe that if the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) were in charge, this state of affairs would be rapidly changed.
Now let us take a look at the honorable member for Balaclava, who visited those places. I suppose he struck a few happy people there. But before I deal with him, let me say that since this visit took place I have had a letter from one of the migrants at one of those hostels. He expressed the wish that I visit the hostel and address a meeting there. But I am confronted with the situation that Commonwealth Hostels Limited ruled some time ago that no meetings could be held on the premises of hostels. What is this Government frightened of? At election times one cannot go into the confines of migrant hostels. At the election before last I held a meeting at a migrant hostel, and talked to the people there. I had to stand outside the wire gate and talk to people who exercise the franchise in this country. These are the facts. We want to get these things altered.
Now let me get back to the honorable member for Balaclava, who lives in a desirable section in Melbourne, in a nice suburb, and never went to see these places until provoked by my remarks on 19th August. He gives the lie direct to my description of these places. He says that they are quite good; that though the accommodation is small it was provided by Labour when it was in office. That is always his alibi. I do not care by whom it was provided. In 1947 Labour had to overcome tremendous difficulties. Departments were asked to provide the most effective accommodation that they could at that time. There was no suggestion that it should serve forever. I have no doubt that the Minister for Immigration agrees that immigration will continue for years. We ought, therefore, to be setting about providing proper conditions - they should have been provided long ago. I remind honorable members that many immigrants bring little children with them. In the Melbourne “ Herald “ of recent date we read the following: -
Pucka’s New De Luxe Barracks . . . . . the buildings included aesthetic living, sleeping and dining quarters for officers, sergeants and other ranks.
Does the honorable member for Balaclava say that the conditions at Williamstown, Brooklyn and Braybrook are aesthetic? The description continues -
Air-conditioning, acoustic tiles, wall-to-wall carpets, built-in wardrobes and dressing tables are among the other amenities on this picturesque new site opposite Scrub Hill . . .
All to the good! I do not disagree with the beer-gardens, shaving mirrors, wardrobes and so on - but why are our kith and kin from Europe living in the equivalent of hovels?
The honorable member for Balaclava questions the justification for complaint, as a result of which some redress has been received. In 1957 I took the Minister’s predecessor to Williamstown and subsequently received, over his signature, a letter prepared by one of the departmental officers. I had complained about the bitumen, covered with malthoid, that was to be found on some of the bedroom floors - it was like a footpath. The reply was as follows: -
The malthoid covered floors to which you have referred could not be replaced by more orthodox flooring without very substantial and costly structural alterations during which it would be necessary for existing residents to vacate the hostel, which no doubt would not be easy for them and would cause a great deal of inconvenience and possibly some hardship.
When the Minister arrived there the other day the concreting of paths in front of the hostel was being carried out and the concreting of floors, in substitution for the bitumen covering of which I had complained, had been completed. Linoleum had been laid over the concrete. That happened because I and others complained in 1957 - but it took two years. In the interim you have wall-to-wall carpets for soldiers at Puckapunyal. I am all in favour of that. Why not?
Though I speak with a good deal of feeling, I do not mind the honorable member for Balaclava questioning my motives in raising this matter. I ask him, however, whether he will question the motives of the Ministers Fraternal of Williamstown, which complained about these places more than two years ago. I have attempted to be constructive rather than destructive. On 19th August I suggested that the Government should set about the task of providing accommodation of such a character that, when the great migration programme had been completed, it could be used as homes for old people. There would then be no economic waste. I know what motivates men such as the Minister, the previous Minister and some of the officers of Commonwealth Hostels Limited. They say, “ If we provide good accommodation, you will never get these people out “. That is a horrible attitude. It is equivalent to saying, “ Give them muck or we will never get rid of them “. I do not subscribe to that view.
– Do you think that the honorable member for Bendigo agrees with you on this - “ Give them muck “?
– I do not care whether he agrees with me or not. I say that that is the philosophy of the Minister and his predecessor.
– It is neither ours nor his.
– That is your attitude. A member of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council who was travelling with me - I shall not name him because he no doubt spoke in confidence, said, “ What was given to us when we were young? “
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. [Quorum formed.]
.- We have just had another ranting speech from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who apparently wishes to throw cold water on the immigration programme. In his accusations against the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) he attempted to stir up trouble over the administration of the hostels but, in his own words, the Minister was willing to accompany him on an inspection of the Williamstown camp on the first Friday available. If the honorable member believed that there are certain unpleasantnesses at the camp, that conditions generally were not good, he should have brought the matters to the attention of the Minister while he was there - not merely go to two married ladies to receive a complaint. Apparently all the honorable member was concerned about was not being able to get into the camp; about having to stand outside to deliver his election speech. I believe it to be a good thing that politicians are not allowed into migrant camps. This so-called champion of ex-servicemen spoke derisively of, and ridiculed, the fact that the Government had seen fit to provide the best possible conditions for Regular Army men at Puckapunyal. They are the best conditions that any government has been able to offer servicemen. Surely he would not deny them the utmost comfort.
The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) said, referring to naturalization, “ Surely we must tell these new Australians that they must become members of the Australian community “. Let me say at once that I am opposed to compelling new Australians to become naturalized. These people have had enough of suppression, and I believe that the honorable member does not express the general opinion of his party when he says that immigrants must become members of the Australian community. We do not want to see regimentation of individuals, or hear it suggested that people who come from suppressed countries to Australia, which has so much to offer, should be told that they must become naturalized. I believe that the people of Australia would not stand for this kind of thing.
Unlike the honorable member for Newcastle 1 want to pay tribute to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) who is now at the table. I pay tribute also to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) who, in the early stages of the immigration scheme did such a grand job. Honorable members will agree that the present Minister has been most sympathetic and humanitarian in dealing with immigration problems. So have officers of the Department of Immigration, and honorable members have greatly appreciated the assistance and advice which they have so conscientiously and promptly given. The visit of the Minister overseas recently was most successful and will ensure a continuous flow of migrants to this country from many parts of Europe such as France, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands. It is particularly pleasing to learn that in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Denmark and Sweden, arrangements have been made to bring out 7,000 migrants a year. Another successful feature of the Minister’s visit was his negotiations with the German authorities, as a result of which there will be a 25 per cent, increase in German migrants to Australia. The expected total of migrants in 1959-60 will be 11,000.
But the British people form the broad basis of our migration plan. New and ingenious ideas have been put into operation, particularly “ operation nest-egg “ under which sponsored migrants from Britain may come to Australia on the assisted passage plan for £10 and their children under 19 years of age, free. These schemes are giving a fresh impetus to the successful “ Bring out a Briton “ campaign which is now in full swing throughout Australia. It is also a further encouragement to those people who are spending a great deal of effort and energy in encouraging more British people to come to our country. But although we have so much to offer people from European countries, their conditions are much better than they were, and their security is now greater than it was a few years ago, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to get them to come to Australia, particularly from Great Britain. I commend the Minister for the fact that he has been able to establish and open immigration offices in Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast and that an additional office will be established at Birmingham to encourage and assist people who inquire about migrating to Australia. The decision of the Government to increase the target by 10,000 this year to 125,000 is in line with its policy of expansion, progress and stability.
Experience has already taught us that the effect of immigration has been of immeasurable benefit to Australia. We have had a greater percentage of skilled workers for industry, and a high percentage of professional men and tradesmen, and these have strengthened the capacity of both our primary and secondary industries and advanced our scientific achievements at a rate not known before. With the advent of these people we have overcome many shortages, built more factories and houses and undertaken greater developmental projects than ever before in our history. In short, the migrants to this country have improved our standard of living and increased our defence potential. Australia has an urgent need to populate. There is room here for 20,000,000 or 25,000,000 people who can assist us in the development of our resources and help us in strengthening our security. Surely the goal of any government is to see that there is a rapid expansion of our immigration programme consistent with the growth of our economy.
From time to time a small minority of people have been opposed to our immigration programme but to-day, by and large, most people accept the fact that it is in the best interests of Australia. Some temporary difficulties are apparent in a shortrange view, but a long-range view envisages undoubted benefits such as security and expansion. We in Australia are proud of our immigration programme. We gladly welcome new arrivals because we have accepted them on our own terms and conditions. They were examined by health and security officers before they left their native country. Many have come here from Hungary on humanitarian grounds. These people from Europe have been unused to our Australian way of life and find our habits and customs strange, as undoubtedly would be the case with us if the position were reversed. This is more pronounced with people from Europe who have little or no knowledge of the English language, and it is extremely difficult to meet them on common ground. This raises the question of whether we old Australians are as tolerant and neighbourly towards them as we should be. The vast majority of our people have taken a friendly attitude towards the comparatively small minority of our new settlers.
Many have come from European countries which have suffered the horrors of war, destruction and suppression. They have been used to working longer hours and at a greater pace than we have been accustomed to in Australia. They have been required to struggle strenuously for sheer existence in competition with their fellow men in tough economic situations. As a result, striving has become almost second nature to them; it is in their blood. It is almost impossible for us to comprehend their former conditions, in view of our easy going ways; but these circumstances should always be kept in the forefront of our minds when we encounter their mannerisms. And we are, at times, inclined to be over-critical of them, particularly when a newcomer is somewhat aggressive in his compulsion to make every post a winner. If we try to appreciate the background of migrants, a more understanding attitude towards them as human beings in our Christian democracy will develop. We are faced with the growing menace of communism in the Far East, and the newcomers will undoubtedly make the maximum contribution to our industrial and economic backing should we be faced at any time with aggression or the fear of subjection of our democratic way of life. Because the vast majority of these people are anti-Communist, they and we should be the more closely knit in a social fabric highly resistant to communism or any other threat to our nation. It is therefore imperative that we should come much closer together, individually and collectively. Both they and we must move together towards this objective. But we, as the natural-born and numerically predominant group, have the responsibility of taking the initiative to ease the lot of these newcomers to our land.
The function of old Australians as individuals is an important one. They can extend a helping hand to these migrants as they tread along a path which, to them, is new. Many of them are walking warily because they do not understand our customs and ways. Each individual Australian would help the Government, the nation, and the newcomer if he endeavoured to assimilate these people into the community.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and I want to say, at the outset, that we on the Opposition side are just as much behind the Government’s immigration programme as are honorable members on the Government side. We are most anxious that these people should come to our country. We are most anxious that they should remain satisfied, and that they be given a true reflex of the country so that they will wish to stop here and become the citizens we hope they will be.
I should like to comment on the speech delivered by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). In his opening remarks, he gave the lie direct to the suggestion that conditions existing at the migrant hostels in the electorate of Lalor are most unsatisfactory. To my mind, he was directing his remarks to the honorable member for Lalor, and probably to myself, for what we have said about this matter on the motion for the adjournment some six weeks ago. Let me tell him that he is not giving the lie direct to us; he is giving the lie direct to 250 families in the Brooklyn hostel and, I should say, 50 or 60 families in the Williamstown hostel. I challenge him to go down there and give the lie direct to them on the spot.
At that time, I showed honorable members a petition I had received from 250 families at Brooklyn, and I was twitted by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.
McMahon) for not handing it to him. That petition was not addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service; it was addressed to me after a demand by me that these people prove their sincerity in making their 26 complaints. Therefore, if the honorable member for Balaclava wants to give the lie direct to the complaints about unsatisfactory conditions, let him go down and do it before the 250 complaining families. If he does not want to do that, then all I can say is that he advocates that people should live in the conditions which the Minister for Labour and National Service saw when he visited the place. The Minister saw the bad open drains. He saw that the conveniences were out of order, and that there was no fly-wire door on the creche. He also saw that the food inside was not covered in a hygienic way, that it was covered only with a cloth. He also heard the admission that shift workers were required to eat meals in their rooms which had no fly-wire doors and into which hordes of flies from the nearby meatworks swarmed. There are many nice homes along Miller’s-road, adjacent to the hostel, but the people there are living in rooms that must be built to conform to the uniform building regulations. One can go on at length pointing out defects there and conditions which are not as they should be.
The honorable member blamed the Labour government for the conditions existing there. I point out to him that two wrongs do not make a right. He then went on to speak of the prosperity enjoyed by Australia and of the living standards of Australians. Let us examine the living conditions of the people in the hostels at Brooklyn and Williamstown. It is significant that wherever injustice is evident there is always a stampede to deny it. In other words, the anxiety to placate those who complain is an admission that there is cause for complaint. The Minister for Labour and National Service said in this chamber that his visit was a secret one. All I can say to that statement is that the press men must be mind readers because representatives from all the newspapers in Melbourne were down there, knowing that the Minister proposed to make a visit. When I asked them how they knew he was coming, they said, “ We knew all right “, yet I was told that it was to be a secret visit!
– The grapevine at work.
– Yes, the grapevine at work, and it works in a very efficient way! Somebody must have started the grapevine working.
It is interesting to read in the press some of the remarks made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer). We give full credit to him for the very fine job he is doing. We know he went abroad and did his level best to encourage migrants to come to this country.
In an article relating to the new “ open door “ scheme under which families with £500 sterling or more qualify for the £10 passage scheme without having a sponsor, the “ Melbourne Age “ of 26th June, 1959, quotes the Minister as having said -
The plan opens up a new field for British people of initiative and prudent habits who desire a new opportunity for themselves and their children. We need as many of this type as we can because they can be quickly and easily assimilated to take a full part in the future development of the country alongside their own kinsmen. Now, during a time of prosperity and development, is the time to bring in every suitable Briton who wants to come.
Here is the whole crux of the matter -
It is important, however, that we, at this end should recognize and accept the additional responsibility created by the new conditions, lt is sensibly proposed that selection will be related to employment opportunities, and steps are to be taken to ensure that those coming fully understand that they are on their own resources for housing. But there is a duty on our part to assist in finding accommodation and to facilitate settlement.
That is just the opposite to what is happening. We know that these buildings are said to be only a temporary arrangement, but I should like to know for how long they are to be temporary. Can they be really temporary when, because of economic conditions, some people have been compelled to live in them for up to four years? I submit that is not a temporary arrangement. I repeat that the honorable member for Lalor and I did not raise this matter purely for the purpose of being destructive. Our intention was to offer constructive criticism and to point out the complaints being made by the inmates of these hostels.
Let us look at what has happened down there since the Minister paid a visit to the place. What I am about to mention gives the lie direct to the assertion that conditions were quite all right. They were anything but quite all right. I shall mention some of the improvements that have been effected. These are instances of how some of the 26 complaints made by the inmates of Brooklyn have been answered. Wash basins have been installed in the canteens for washing eating utensils. Huts are being painted inside and outside. In fact, so busy are the painters that one of the inmates of the hostel said to me last Friday night, “ If you stand still for five minutes, you will be painted “. The toilets are being painted inside. New sinks and steam boilers are being installed in the laundry. Railings are being erected round the canteens and the drains are a lot cleaner. There is more space between tables in the dining room, and mosquito netting has been provided for bassinettes and cots. Unfortunately, there are as yet no fly-wire doors on the huts in spite of the fact that it is admitted that meals are eaten in the rooms. The toilets near the hall are still closed; they have been closed for over one year. They are also out of order.
The Minister for Immigration sponsoring a “ Bring out a Briton “ scheme. I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a move at the Brooklyn and Williamstown hostels to send home a Briton. These are the things that we want to avoid. We do not want this position to arise in the hostels. We want to give the migrants the feeling that they will get a fair go. When you invite them to come to this country you tell them that they are the salt of the earth, but when you get them here and they make some complaints about their living conditions, you call them wingers. That is wrong, and we should try to avoid that state of affaire.
I wish to refer to an article that appeared in a Melbourne newspaper, not recently but at a time when the conditions of which 1 have complained had been operating for a long time. The honorable member for Lalor had been very vocal about this subject before I came to this Parliament. I remember that I met him in about 1949 after he had visited the Brooklyn hostel. Things were bad in those days. The newspaper article is in these terms -
It is claimed that 20,000 dissatisfied Britishers returned last year. This is an extraordinarily high figure, and in the light of the confusion which has surrounded British migration figures, it could well prove to be much lower on investigation. Nevertheless, it is a fact that we are losing far ton many.
We do not want to lose these British migrants. I, for one, do not want them to be coming to my door and saying, “ We do not wish to raise our children in these conditions.” We visited the Brooklyn Hostel and the conditions in the children’s playground were brought to our notice. Many of the children are left to their own resources during the day. Following the Minister’s visit, the equipment in the playground was improved greatly, which is further evidence that things were not right before he went there. He must have noticed the conditions.
These people want the Government to take a more humane view of the conditions under which they live. We do not criticize the hostel management. As the honorable member for Lalor has said, we think that the management is doing the best that it can in the circumstances. But we want the Government to have a look at the economic conditions of these people. Many of them are paying as much as £3 a week to have their children cared for while they themselves go to work to try to save enough to build a home. They need extra money to buy such things as fruit, yet the hostel charges have mounted. It should be our desire, if it is not the desire of the Government, to improve the housing of these migrants and to try to improve their economic conditions so that these hostels will really become temporary abodes. We should try to help them to save sufficient to enable them to purchase homes like those in Millers-road to which the honorable member for Balaclava has referred. These people would give anything - almost their right arms - to live across the road in the homes mentioned by the honorable member.
Let us not be too complacent in our attitude to these people. While we give full credit to the Minister for Immigration for all that he has done and for the immigration scheme that has been implemented, we cannot take any real credit if we allow the existing conditions to continue. It has been said that a Labour government was responsible for the erection of these places. At that time, these holding centres were necessary, but there is now no necessity to retain them. If we want to avoid statements such as those that have appeared in some Canadian newspapers we must improve conditions in our hostels and give the migrants the feeling that they have a stake in this country. We must make them feel that they have not been forgotten. One migrant said to me, “ We leave for Australia and everything is rosy. We know that perhaps we are building up our hopes too high, but when we step off the boat and enter these hostels and look at the conditions in which we are expected to live, we feel that we are a forgotten race.” Is that the spirit that we want to foster? It is not! We want these people to know that we will give them, to use the Australian language, a dinkum go, and the only way in which we can do that is to house them in decent surroundings and not expect them to live in buildings that have partitions of threeply. On one occasion when the honorable member for Lalor was speaking to a lady in one of the cubicles in which she and her family were living, they could hear every word that was being spoken on the other side of the partition. The honorable member asked the lady whether it was not embarrassing at times, and she replied, “ We have become quite used to it “. We do not want our migrants to be compelled to get used to such conditions.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service. It seems that some members of the Opposition have endeavoured continuously to build up a class system, a class warfare and a policy of hatred and division between employer and employee. That is Labour Party policy. Some Labour members long to see unemployment. Some honorable members opposite are praying for the day when we will have mass unemployment in Australia. Unfortunately for the Labour Party, our employment position is remarkably stable. The figure of unemployment has never been allowed to reach 2 per cent, of the total work force. That is a very good state of affairs.
Let us consider what has happened during the last ten years. In his Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said -
It was a notable year for rural production and, in the secondary field, the majority of industries increased their output. Employment rose considerably and unemployment fell.
– Where was this?
– Right here in Australia. It is a grand country too. The Treasurer continued -
Externally, our position improved as the year went on and, instead of our overseas reserves falling by something over £100,000,000 as had been feared when the year began, they fell by only £10,000,000.
The Opposition has criticized the amount of foreign capital that is being invested in this country.
– Why not?
– Without foreign capital how could we build new factories and find employment for our people? We need foreign capital in this young country because the expansion and development of our works programme alone is as much as the taxpayers can cope with. I often wonder what would happen if a socialist government came into power. I think that almost overnight our foreign capital would be cut off. What then would happen to our new industries and our plans for expansion and development? The Treasurer went on to say -
Industrial progress was remarkable. To give only a few indicators - steel output increased by 17! per cent., cement by 143 per cent., and electricity by 133 per cent. Where, ten years ago, we refined only a small fraction of our petrol in Australia, we now refine more than 90 per cent. Rural industry has shown striking gains. In particular, the average wool clip has increased by SO per cent, and average annual meat production by 44 per cent. In mining, there has been progress on much the same scale. These facts, however, are no more than pointers to the immense expansion and diversification of industry which has taken place and to the gains in efficiency which have been made.
A great deal of credit is due to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) because, as I am sure all honorable members on this side of the chamber will agree, he is doing a very sincere and efficient job in that portfolio. During the time this Government has been in office, we have had a period of peace within industry that 1 do not think has ever been equalled under any other Government. We have had peace in industry, progress, development, and increased output, which all redound to the credit of the Government. All this has been achieved not by a policy of hatred between employer and employee, which is the policy advocated by some members of the Opposition, but by a policy of better understanding of each other’s welfare and general conditions. The industrial expansion that Australia has enjoyed over the past ten years has resulted from our facing a challenge alongside all the industrial nations of the world. The so-called cold war is extending more and more into the battlefield of industrial production. But to call it merely a war of production is to miss the point. It is primarily a war of productivity, a struggle by every company, every industry, and every nation, to become a low-cost producer of the commodities offered for sale on world markets.
The Opposition is continually criticizing profit margins. Only last night I heard in this chamber one Opposition member criticize the huge profits made to-day, and in the same breath he criticized the small amount given to age pensioners. What I could not reconcile in my mind was the obtaining of taxation revenue to pay for pensions without the making of profits. The matter is just as simple as that. These people who are continually criticizing profit margins, as part of their policy of hatred, should remember that without these profits there would be no improvement of the working tools and capital facilities that are so necessary for reduction of overall costs. When we hear members of the Opposition say that higher wage costs can and should come out of profits, let us remember that lower profit means fewer or poorer tools and lower production. This, in turn, means less efficiency, higher production costs, higher prices, shrinking purchasing power, diminishing markets and fewer jobs. We stand to-day at the beginning of our next ten years in office in a much better position than the one that confronted us ten years ago, but still we have inflation lurking around the corner, the one big enemy to our economy that corrupts everything - a balanced budget, investments, job security, social legislation, and the moral health of all.
More than 300 world leaders of commerce and industry, representing 29 countries, will come to Australia early next year to attend the twelfth congress of the International Committee for Scientific Management. This congress, the most important and significant of its kind ever to be held outside the great centres of the northern hemisphere, will discuss the techniques and problems of management, not only as they exist to-day, but as they may be forecast for the next ten years. The committee of honour, which includes national and State leaders and eminent people of industry, science and commerce, will be headed by our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Many of the overseas delegates will be making their first visit to Australia, and by personal contact with hundreds of Australian businessmen they will be able to measure the nations growth, estimate its future, and discover at first hand the suitability of Australia for overseas enterprises.
In these days of rapid and complex development, it is becoming more and more recognized that technical, psychological, and human knowledge is needed to manage any economy, great or small. Although technique is the basis of production, it can be applied only with the help of human sciences. In this field, Australia is once again setting the lead and taking up the challenge in Asia by organizing the third regional council within this international committee to cover the Indo-Pacific area, wherein so many nations are eager to establish modern economies.
We can certainly give credit to our Government for its progressive attitude in creating an atmosphere that is conducive to the expansion and development of industry. Although the Government has made a liberal allocation as recently as last year for the expansion of university training, there will be a period of up to three years before this has any effect in alleviating the present overcrowding and demand for university training. In this interim period,, and whilst there is a demand for technicians and technologists, this Government could perhaps give more encouragement to old-established technical schools, which a prepared to extend to university level. If this were done, we should be not only filling a gap to meet the demand for technicians and technologists but also decentralizing education at this standard.
This expansion and development of which I have just spoken has not happened just by accident. It has been brought about by efficient, prudent and wise administration. As my colleague, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay) said, we have a stable government. During this time, Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, South Africa and, last but not least, New Zealand, have all gone through a period of recession, but Australia has managed to weather the storm. We have come through this period, I think, with great credit to our Government and our people. To-day Australia is rated overseas as having the highest living standard - not the second highest - in the world. This is a proud record, behind which we can stand four-square. This is progress that we can support with all our strength, all our energy, and all our intellect.
– First, I want to endorse the remarks that have been made concerning conditions at some migrant hostels. There is one at Preston in my electorate, and the conditions that have been described to-night are the same as those that exist there. I think I could be excused if I were to assume that in determining the location of a hostel, the primary requirement was a rough and swampy strip of ground, preferably near a tip, so that rats may be attracted. After all, if sufficient rats were attracted, they would provide that typically Australian atmosphere that we find in the dining room? of this Parliament House. Anyhow, rats are attracted to the Preston migrant hostel, and the standards of comfort and sanitation are poor. Generally, I agree with the picture of hostel life that has been painted. I leave it at that, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin) suggest that, in all that we on this side of the committee say and do in respect of employer - employee relations, we seem to be actuated only by class hatred. I suppose that, if that were really the case, the best thing we could do to promote class hatred would be to set loose among the workers about 100 speakers to express thoughts of the kind voiced by the honorable member. Relations between employers and employees generally, Mr. Temporary Chairman, are governed, in the federal sphere by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which was formerly known as the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
I think that now is the right time to direct attention to certain legislative proposals in New South Wales, where it is proposed to eliminate some of the existing punitive provisions from the industrial law. I think that now is the right time to direct attention to this matter because I strongly suspect that this Government probably has exactly the reverse procedure in mind. This Administration would do well to consider the movement that is evident in New South Wales. Repressive legislation with respect to industrial relations can bring about industrial peace that is based only on force and is not lasting. Sooner or later, there will be a reaction. I illustrate this point by reference to the situation in Victoria, compared with that in the other States. Victoria is singular, inasmuch as it has no repressive industrial legislation whatsoever. At the same time, it has an industrial record which, on the best authority, is shown to be better than that of the other States. Several attempts have been made by tory governments in Victoria to introduce repressive legislation, and figures and facts have been presented to the Victorian Parliament as a result of inquiries into the situation in Victoria. Mr. H. M. Murphy, a former secretary of the Victorian Department of Labour, referring to a petition to the Speaker and members of the Legislative Assembly in that State seeking the introduction of legislation to make lock-outs and strikes illegal, stated -
These figures showed Victoria - without any strike prevention legislation - compared so favorably with the other States - all of which had antistrike laws in force - that the Cabinet decided not to accede to the prayer of the petition.
Several inquiries into this matter have been conducted in Victoria, and the conclusion has always been that repressive legislation is not good. So, we have no repressive industrial laws and no arbitration court in that State.
When we rely on an arbitration court to enforce repressive industrial laws, we rely, as I have said, on a system that is based primarily on the use of force. Attempts have been made to delude the people into believing that justice is dispensed in the arbitration courts, but I say frankly that I believe that there is only a pretence of dispensing justice through the arbitration courts. No code of justice is observed. All that the court does is to administer a law, and, if the law contains penal provisions, the court administers a savage law. At this juncture, it would perhaps be apt for me to quote the views of Judge Foster, expressed at a time when he was a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. He said -
The Arbitration Court judges are dictators. They are not your representatives, they are beyond your control, they are appointed for life, they could flout your will and the will of your State Parliaments altogether.
The machinery of government should enable the will of the people to be given effect to on all matters closely affecting them. It should not place in the hands of any man or group, save a majority of the people, power to affect gravely their national well-being. lt is not good enough just to attack an arbitration court without offering an alternative to it. We on this side of the committee are not actuated solely by a desire to foster class hatred. With respect to socialism and progress - industrial, economic or otherwise - under socialism, we have before us the object lesson of those two great countries that are under socialism. That is the answer to the argument advanced by the honorable member for Ballaarat. What is the alternative to an arbitration court? Professor Hammond described the wages board system in Victoria as the most perfect system of collective bargaining ever known.
I should like to describe to the committee something that has happened in the building trade in Victoria - a development in which the Department of Labour and National Service would not participate. The major building trade unions in Victoria operated under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth court and had trouble and disputation time and time again until everybody was heartily sick of it. As a result, a conference was called. I may say that Sir Alexander Peacock called a similar conference in 1895. The employers and employees in the building trade came to the round table without the presence of any big wigs to do the job for them, and, as a result, they reached an agreement, among themselves, to operate for twelve months. The Arbitration Court would not ratify that agreement, but it has been thrice renewed. Under it, the parties established their own conciliation committee, which was composed of the secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and representatives of the employers and the employees. In the three years during which the agreement has been in operation, this conciliation committee has not once failed to settle a dispute. Both employers and employees are satisfied. Work ceases only on a safety issue, and rightly so.
There is the alternative to arbitration courts. As a result of this agreement which I have just described, the loss of time through industrial disputes in the building industry has been very greatly reduced. Formerly, 50 per cent, of all the time lost in the industry throughout Australia on account of industrial disputes was lost in Victoria, but the proportion lost in Victoria is now down to .3 per cent., solely because the workers and the employers have a code to work under. Because they accept that code, it works very effectively.
I wish to deal with only one other matter in the short time allotted to me. Arbitration, as exploited by the employers, and particularly by the Metal Trades Employers’ Association, has caused more industrial disputes than it has settled. This organization has gone to the court claiming to represent groups of employers whom, it has subsequently been discovered, it does not represent, and it has perpetrated a fraud upon the court, and, thereby, caused industrial disputes.
I put it to the Government that we must withdraw from a situation in which we think that punitive measures are the only solution to the problem of relations between employers and employees - the idea that actuates the thinking of my friend, the honorable member for Ballaarat. We must learn some lesson from the partial withdrawal, at any rate, that is now occurring in New South Wales and we must learn the lesson of the situation that has prevailed in Victoria since 1895, where there has been no repressive legislation and a better industrial record than in any other State.
.- I want to express my very great regret at statements made by the honorable member for Ballaarat (Mr. Erwin). He made two statements that did not do him justice and certainly gave a very wrong impression of the views held by honorable members on this side of the House. He first, accused the Opposition of living to build up class hatred and, secondly, he alleged that its dearest wish was to have unemployment rife throughout Australia. If the honorable member for Ballaarat had been able to see the conditions of the late eighties and early nineties of last century, he would certainly have seen class hostility; but it would not have been the hostility of the workers towards the employers. He would have been seen the hostility of employers who were at that time endeavouring in a most brutal manner to crush the trade union movement growing in this country. However, since the dawn, of this century, the trade union movement has been accepted as part and parcel of the Australian way of life.
If one looks at the industrial relations I hat have been built up here, particularly during the last 25 years, one will find better understanding, more opportunities for cooperation and greater efforts being made to arrive at understandings than at any time in the history of labour since the industrial revolution.
When the honorable member for Ballaarat says that the Opposition desires to see unemployment rife in Australia, I remind him that on more than one occasion in the past two years we have tried to arouse this Government to the danger of growing unemployment, which is evident from the figures that have been released by the Department of Labour and National Service during that period. If unemployment grows, the people whom we represent will be the ones who will be hurt. Because we desire above everything else to see that security is the lot of the Australian people, we as an Opposition will do all that we possibly can to ensure that employment opportunities constantly grow.
I remind the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) that the unemployment figures released by him do not properly describe the existing position. The honorable member for Ballaarat said that unemployment had not reached 2 per cent, of the work force. Unemployment should not be calculated on the basis of the work force, because the work force, in addition to salary and wage earners, includes employers, managers, professional people and the type of person who does not normally come on to the unemployment market. If we want to find the percentage of unemployed persons, the right figures to use are those which relate only to wage and salary earners. If the unemployment figures of to-day are applied to the wage and salary earners, we find that unemployment is more than 2 per cent. Unfortunately, the records of the past two years are a clear indication that, despite a larger work force and an increased population, the percentage of unemployment is much greater to-day than it was in the corresponding period two years ago, although it has slightly declined in the last two months.
In January of this year, 80,000 persons were unemployed. This makes one wonder whether the doctrine of full employment is being followed by this Government. 1 sincerely hope that, as a result of this discussion, the employment position will again be looked at by the Government and the necessary steps taken to ensure that any lag in employment is taken up. The last thing that we want in this country is the growth of pockets of poverty that will cause misery, tragedy and degradation to some sections of the community. When one looks at some of the mining districts in New South Wales and sees unemployment growing, one trembles to think of what could happen if a positive and constructive programme is not carried out by the Government to ensure full employment which is the right of all citizens.
While I am speaking of unemployment, I should like to suggest to the Minister for Labour and National Service that he extend employment offices into some of the country districts and provincial centres of Victoria and of other States where unemployment is growing. I recently suggested to the Minister that he establish an employment office in Castlemaine. The tendency has been to close employment offices, but it would be a good idea to have an employment office in a town such as Castlemaine, which has the big foundry of Thompsons (Castlemaine) Limited, Castlemaine Woollen Company Limited, one of the few gold mines in full operation in Victoria, and hundreds of persons employed in smaller spheres of employment in the surrounding districts. Employment offices should be established wherever the opportunity to organize employment exists so that those who are out of a job will be put in touch with those who have jobs available. The whole question of employment should be taken up by the Government with a view to implementing a positive programme that will give a chance to those who are now out of work merely because no one will employ them. The opportunity of employment is the right of every one in Australia.
I want to mention one other matter. During the debate to-night, certain of the hostels in which migrants are housed have been mentioned. The Minister for Labour and National Service suggested that I would not agree with some statements made by my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). I am not in a position to disagree with the statements made by the honorable member for Lalor for this reason: The honorable members for Lalor and Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) have been able to inspect the hostels concerned, but so far I have not had that opportunity. I am not, therefore, in a position to offer any criticism of the hostels. However, one cannot expect hostels which were erected in the early days of the immigration scheme to give the standard of comfort that the Australian people and the Department of Immigration desire to make available to immigrants to-day.
When the immigration scheme started in 1947 and we were bringing displaced persons to Australia, we faced a housing shortage for our own people, and it was essential that we should make accommodation available for the people we were bringing here. Hostels of some description had to be erected quickly. Materials were not so readily available as we would have liked, and there was a shortage of labour generally, but hostels were erected in order to deal with the grave emergency existing at that time. Nobody would say that the hostels erected at that time can be compared with those which were erected later, when materials and labour were more readily available, enabling a better type of accommodation to be provided.
From the point of view of the Department of Immigration, I would say that it is a good thing when, as a result of constructive criticism, the imperfections of the accommodation it provides are made known to it. From the statements made in the debate to-day, it is evident that, because of the criticism which have been offered, the necessary renovations and repairs are being carried out to put the hostels into the condition which the Department of Immigration considers to be desirable.
I make a suggestion to the Minister for Immigration because I believe it will help him to solve the problem in the future. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) have brought these matters before the House. Not once, but on several occasions, they indicated that in their view something was seriously wrong and that something should be done about it. I suggest to the Minister for Immigration that when similar complaints are made in the future, the quickest way of dealing with them would be to send them to the committee attached to the Immigration Advisory Council which deals with hostels. That committee could immediately investigate the complaints, and make a report to the Minister. If that were done, no time would be lost in dealing with complaints. I believe that that simple procedure would be in the interests of the department and of the migrants themselves. It would certainly prevent ill feeling arising over a programme which at the present time has the enthusiastic support of both the Government and Opposition.
.- In addressing myself to the estimates for the Department of Labour and National Service, I wish to make a few comments about unemployment, to which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) referred. I shall do so, Sir, because I believe, as I have stated on numerous occasions in this Parliament during this year and last year, that the Government has accepted a situation in which approximately 60,000 persons in this country are without useful employment. I have stated on other occasions that I, as well as other honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber, are prepared to fight the Government all the way on this matter until it accepts a policy of full employment, and rejects the policy involving a high level of unemployment to which obviously it is subscribing at this moment.
I have raised the question of the increase in unemployment both by means of questions directed to the responsible Minister and, in 1958 and in this year, by causing it to be discussed by the House as a matter of urgent public importance. Despite the fact that the Opposition has repeatedly directed attention to this important problem, to which the Government should give immediate and urgent attention, the number of people receiving unemployment benefit, as well as those registered with the various offices of the Department of Labour and National Service has increased year by year. I believe, therefore, that there is a general acceptance by this Government of a view that a high level of unemployment is desirable.
There has been, possibly, a slight improvement during the past two or three months in the unemployment position, but, ss I have indicated on other occasions, although there may be an improvement from one month to another month throughout the year, at the end of the year the situation is always worse. We find that there is a substantial increase in the number of persons registered with the Department of Labour and National Service as well as In the number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit.
I wish to refer to the figures that have been made available to honorable members by the responsible Minister. In March, 1 956, the number of persons registered with the various offices of the Department of Labour and National Service as requiring employment was 30,000. In March, 1957, the number had increased to 46,000. 1 am referring to the figures for March because I believe that that figure shows the general situation and is most acceptable, from the point of view of fairness, not only to members on this side of the committee but also to Government members. In March, 1958, the number of unemployed was 64,000. By March, 1959, it had increased to 69,000. At that time there were 69,000 persons in this country who were registered with the Department of Labour and National Service as requiring employment.
As I said a few moments ago, there has been a slight improvement recently, and the number of persons now registered with the Department of Labour and National Service is slightly below 60,000. I acknowledge at once that there has been a slight improvement, but the point I want to make - it has already been made by the honorable member for Bendigo - is that although there may be an improvement from one month to another, at the end of the year the situation always is - at any rate during the last four or five years - that there is a substantial increase over the preceding year.
The Opposition is not prepared to accept a state of affairs where 60,000 persons are without useful employment in our country. Opportunities for work should be made available by this Government, but it is not prepared to accept its responsibility in this regard. I have every reason to believe, as, indeed, have other honorable members on this side of the committee, that the Government prefers a pool of unemployed in this country. The reasons why it prefers such a pool of unemployed are, of course, known only to the Government.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of persons registered as seeking employment. I refer to those who are receiving unemployment benefit, as well as to those who, as a result of the means test, are precluded from receiving unemployment benefit. According to the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures, our population has increased by approximately 200,000 during the past two years. That increase has been brought about by both natural increase and immigration. Although the population has increased to that extent, the work-force has not increased correspondingly. In March of 1956-57 the work-force, according to the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, numbered 2,931,800. By March of 1958-59 it had risen to 2,976,000 - an increase of only 55,000, although in the corresponding period our population had increased by almost 400,000.
As I pointed out a moment ago, adequate opportunities for employment do not exist in this country. According to the figures that have been supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician and to which I have just referred, there has been, proportionate to the population,- a decline each year in the work-force throughout Australia. As the work-force has declined each year, the Minister for Labour and National Service has provided us with fictitious figures. In my opinion, the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician are accurate. In the figures made available by the Minister for Labour and National Service the strength of the Australian work force was estimated by the Minister’s department to be 4,000,000, yet, according to the Commonwealth Statistician - I again refer to the “ Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics “, at page 2 - the total number of civilian employees, including the defence forces but excluding - 1 acknowledge at once - persons engaged in rural activities, stands at 2,948,700. If we add approximately 200,000 for the persons who are engaged in rural activities, the figure is closer to 3,500,000 rather than the fictitious figure of 4,000,000 adopted by the Department of Labour and National Service.
I suggest at once that if the number of persons unemployed in this country were measured against a work force of 3,500,000 the percentage would be substantially more than when shown against the fictitious figure of 4,000,000 supplied by the Minister’s department. As I acknowledged only a few moments ago, the number of persons registered as unemployed in this country has increased correspondingly with the number of persons who have been registered for employment. In March, 1957, the number of persons registered as unemployed with the Department of Labour and National Service was 13,077. By 1958 the figure had increased to 24,485. In March, 1959, the figure had increased to 27,669. Again, I acknowledge at once that the figures for September that have been released by the Minister for Labour and National Service do indicate that there has been a drop in the number of persons registered for unemployment benefit. But what T said only a few moments ago in respect of the number of persons registered as unemployed in this country would apply to the number of persons registered for unemployment benefit. While there may be a drop one month, by the end of the year the figures have always shown a substantial increase over the number of persons registered as unemployed in the previous year. We know only too well that a substantial number of persons who would normally be eligible for unemployment benefit as a result of unemployment cannot register because of the means test that has been applied by the Department of Labour and National Service.
I turn now to the position on Cape Barren Island. Only yesterday, I asked the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) a question in respect of this matter because it is common knowledge that the Department of Social Services has issued instructions that no single persons on Cape Barren Island shall be accepted for unemployment benefit. I suggest at once that it is a deplorable state of affairs when a department can issue instructions that no single person in any part of the Commonwealth of Australia shall be ineligible to receive the unemployment benefit. I believe that, in relation to unemployment benefit, every case should be judged on its merits. I want to know from the Minister for Labour and National Service and, indeed, from the Minister for Social Services, why an instruction should be issued by either one or both of those departments that people in this country are ineligible because of their isolation, or for other reasons which have not been made available to me, to register and to receive the unemployment benefit if they are without employment.
– They pay taxes.
– As my friend says, they pay taxes and they are entitled to full rights of citizenship equally with other persons in any part of Australia. I acknowledge at once that there is a social problem on the island, but the effect of their being refused unemployment benefit will most certainly not help that situation. If the Minister is not prepared to allow these people to register for the unemployment benefit, at least he should make available to them the finance that will enable them to travel to the mainland of Tasmania and to register with the Department of Labour and National Service in thai State. As I have said, there is a social problem in respect of this matter, but I indicate at once to the responsible Minister that the fact that these people are isolated, that they may not have the same opportunities as are available to persons residing in other parts of the Commonwealth of
Australia is no reason why they should be prevented from receiving the unemployment benefit if they are without employment.
Mr. Temporary Chairman, in the few minutes that are available to me, I want to reiterate what 1 have already said in regard to the unemployment position in this country. We on. this side of the chamber are not prepared to accept the position in which 60.000 persons to-day are without useful employment. Whenever the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service is directed to this matter, instead of offering a reasonable suggestion and indicating what the Government proposes to do to relieve the situation, he merely makes facetious replies. I have directed his attention to this matter on numerous occasions, and although the Minister has been content to give facetious replies, no member of the Government has been prepared to stand up and dispute the figures that have been made available by honorable members on this side of the chamber in respect of the serious situation that exists to-day in relation to the unemployment benefit. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated in his Budget speech that the Government proposes to bring 125,000 additional persons to this country.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I understand that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) wishes to make a personal explanation on an inadvertent misrepresentation which occurred outside of this chamber.
– Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In the daily edition of “ Hansard “ for Wednesday, 30th September, at page 1576, in a report of a speech I made on the estimates for the Territories, appears the sentence -
There are many people like that in the Territory.
The sentence occurs in a passage of my speech in which I was referring to a section of the people in Papua and New Guinea who had been described by me as acting selfishly. I have consulted the notes of my speech and I have also discussed the matter with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter. Both my own notes and the report which was actually sent from “ Hansard “ to the Printing Office show quite clearly that the word “ many “ was never used by me. It was inserted at the Printing Office. The misrepresentation is serious because the whole point I was trying to make is that the section of people who act selfishly are a minority and that the remarks I have made about them certainly did not apply to most of the people in the Territory. This is quite plain in succeeding paragraphs of the report of my speech. What I said and what was reported by “ Hansard “ was not, “ There are many people like that in the Territory “, but, “ There are people like that in the Territory “. I am assured that this unfortunate printer’s error will be corrected in the weekly edition and the permanent copy of “ Hansard “.
Papua and New Guinea - Trade Practices; - Repatriation - Customs Duties on Petroleum Products.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Last evening, in an attack upon me, the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) made some extraordinary statements both unjust and untrue, which should be placed in their right perspective. The comment was extraordinary because it indicated the honorable member’s complete departure from the Liberal principle of support for the free enterprise system upon which the honorable member for Bradfield, myself, and the Government were elected in 1949.
As the House is aware, I spoke in the Budget debate. I questioned whether or not the present Administration is- paying due regard to the system of free enterprise in Papua and New Guinea and whether free enterprise is being encouraged to play its part in the development of the Territories. Last night, the honorable member for Bradfield stated -
I hope I am not speaking too bluntly or too plainly when I say I think that the honorable member for Mitchell envisages a kind of imperialistic exploitation of New Guinea. Of course. he will deny that phrase, but I think he believes that New Guinea is a country to be exploited by white capital, white capitalists and white settlers.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I deny emphatically that I made such statements or inferences. I do not wish to repeat my observations, but I find it necessary to refute the statements made by the honorable member for Bradfield by quoting briefly from my speech. I said -
In spite of all the obstacles placed in its path, private enterprise has been responsible for a good deal of the progress made in the Territory. I believe that it is only by proper encouragement of private enterprise that the Territory can reach its proper place in the economic life of the Pacific-
Also, I said -
I am convinced that, in the Territory, the economic and political future lies in partnership with the European settler. He will be needed, not as a temporary guide and instructor, but as a permanent part of the population. Such a doctrine, of course, lays on us a heavy responsibility to see that the native is fairly treated, and our officials have shown a great capacity to discharge this responsibility.
Later - and I commend these comments for consideration of the honorable member for Bradfield - I said -
I know that there has been considerable development in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In view of what X have already said, one may ask: How has it come about? The answer is that much of it has been in the hands of the big companies, and they have usually been able to take care of themselves. They are strong enough even to win respect from the Administration. The man in danger is the small trader and businessman, the professional man, and the planter or producer, and he is the one who should not be overlooked. He has done much for the Territory. It is these independent individuals who will provide the basis of the permanent population which the Territory nee.’s
It must be evident to the unbiased mind that 1 was championing the cause of what is colloquially called “ the little man “ in the community. Does this advocacy fall under the heading of “ imperialistic exploitation “ as stated by the honorable member for Bradfield? If it does, I envisage that the honorable member for Bradfield will be completely occupied between now and the next election - occupied in the task of convincing the small businessman and the professional man in his own electorate that they are part of an “ imperialistic exploitation “ system. I do not like his task, because I have many friends and associates in the Bradfield electorate, and, over the years, they have expressed views to me showing that not only do they believe in the system of free enterprise, but they believe they are part of it.
I make no apology for my espousal of the cause of free enterprise. Everybody knows what my attitude is, particularly towards the protection of the small man. My electorate knows my views and has elected me on five different occasions. Possibly, my electors would have had different ideas about my re-election if a speech I made in this House earned the approbation of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who gave his enthusiastic support to the views expressed by the honorable member for Bradfield last evening. However, I leave it to the honorable member for Bradfield to explain to his electorate this strange community of interest which he shares with the socialist member for Werriwa. For my part, I am glad I have no such explanations to make.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– I call the honorable member for Wills.
– We want to hear the honorable member for Bradfield.
– Order! I have called the honorable member for Wills.
.- There are too few opportunities for one to speak in this place on subjects such as this for me to sit down and allow two people from the opposite side of the House to indulge in a little domestic brawl. I think that some points made by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) ought to be taken up. In the first place, there would not bc more than 3,000 privately employed people in the whole of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Therefore, the honorable member’s advocacy of the little men of whom he speaks could apply to very few people in the Territory.
I believe that on this side of the House we are right in interpreting his advocacy in the same way as it was interpreted by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) last night. The honorable member for Mitchell spoke about the “proper encouragement of private enterprise “. What, exactly, does the “proper encouragement of private enterprise” mean when advocated by the supporters of this Government? Does it mean, when applied to General Motors-Holden’s Ltd., the expansion of that great octopus to take control of a huge slice of Australian industry? Does it mean, when applied to the television industry, the establishment of great and uncontrollable monopolies? Does it mean, when applied to overseas investment in Australia, the encouragement of irresponsible commercial and industrial power? Does it mean, when applied to the airlines industry, that Mr. Ansett should be given the right to invade the Northern Territory and take over smaller private enterprises? What does the advocacy of the cause of the little man mean, coming from any supporter of this Government, but the general submergence of the rights of everybody else in the community for the aggrandizement of the sort of people for whom he speaks?
In Papua and New Guinea there are people whom we understand have incomes upwards of £50,000 a year on which they pay no income tax whatsoever. We met people there who, it was common knowledge, had incomes running to this huge figure, and they had in their employ people who were paid £5 and £6 a month. Therefore, the honorable member for Mitchell, I think, was expressing the accepted viewpoint of the Liberal Party and this Government, and was reflecting its habits over the last ten years. The Opposition says, as the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) says, that the honorable member for Mitchell is encouraging the imperialistic exploitation of the people of Papua and New Guinea.
.- I do not think anybody derives any satisfaction from quarrels among friends except, of course, those who thrive on discord. This is a case, I think, where the old saying should prevail - “ The least said the soonest mended”. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) has said many things which could provoke me, but I do not intend to be provoked. The honorable member for Mitchell spoke on the 26th August, and I spoke yesterday, the 30th
September. Those who are interested in this matter can refer to “ Hansard “ and judge between him and me.
There is a place for private enterprise, I have no doubt, up to a point and within limits, in New Guinea, but I feel that this Territory, where there are other considerations, is not the place for unbridled private enterprise. There are limitations upon its usefulness in such circumstances though, indeed, within those limits it can be useful.
I am proud to be a Liberal, with a small “1” as well as a big “L”, but I believe in private enterprise in its right place. There is no need for me to go over what I said yesterday. I do not withdraw from the position I then took up. If, Sir, in my verbiage I was, perhaps, more harsh than I need have been, or more unpleasant than I need have been, I am sorry that I have given offence. But, so far as my point of view and the position I took up are concerned, I adhere to that point of view and to that position.
– I am sorry to bring up this matter at this hour of the night, but I have had no other opportunity. I do not want to provoke anyone, but I want to make a very strong appeal to the Government to undertake some sort of investigation or inquiry into what is happening with regard to the appeal tribunals of the Repatriation Department. I cannot discuss this matter in general now, but I do want to mention one particular case. I know that one special case does not make good law, but, on the other hand, I think a case of this nature is indicative of the position of many other cases that come before the appeal tribunals.
I come from a medical family. I do not criticize the medical men or say that their decisions are wrong, but when we come to the question of onus of proof and I find cases of this nature, it appears to me that there is something wrong somewhere, and no government and no minister so far seem to have been able to correct the situation. This has been the position, apparently, since 1946. I do not offer criticism of any particular minister or member, because it is apparently a very difficult and intricate problem. Evidently the particular case in which I am interested was so difficult that a minister of the Government wrote to me and said - “ Mr. X is a farmer, and he was completely bewildered as to the meaning of the term “ further evidence” he was asked to give. He served with you in the 8th Light Horse during the First World War, and he is of the opinion that you might be able and good enough to provide the further evidence. If you could do that, I am sure that both Mr. X and I would be most grateful.”
It was signed by the Minister.
That was very nice for the Minister, but how does he think I could give evidence, after 25 or 30 years, regarding a private who happened to be in the 8th Light Horse, and remember what time he went to hospital? Here is a man who was wounded by shrapnel, which resulted in a fractured arm. He had shrapnel in the back and shrapnel in the foot. He got a pension of 15s. for two years. When the war was over, like a lot of others he said, “ I want to get back to an ordinary job “, and out he went. The trouble is that nearly all the medical records of the First World War - I will not mention the Second World War at this stage - are very incomplete, and to prove a case is difficult because of that fact. Yet the act says that the onus of proof is on the tribunal and not on the man.
This man is now about 65 years of age. He suffers from rheumatism so badly that he cannot drive his tractor. His property is only a one-man farm and he has to employ labour to keep the farm going. He is told that his disease is rheumatic diathesis. Not being a medical man, I consulted the dictionary and found that diathesis means “ a permanent (hereditary or acquired) condition of the body which renders it liable to certain special diseases or afflictions, or a constitutional disposition or tendency “. Well, it may be a constitutional disposition or tendency, but the fact remains that it can also be acquired, and if anybody suggests that shrapnel in the back would not lead to rheumatism later in life I think there are very few medical men who would agree.
The doctor in that particular district is well known to me and I have a very high opinion of him. He has been pushing this case. Beyond a request to put in written evidence - which, it was said, did not amount to very much - nothing else has happened, except that the appeal has been turned down.
As we all know, doctors can differ. I was told, when I had very bad sciatica, that I had a slipped disc, and that heat and immobility were all that could be prescribed for me in the way of treatment. This was the opinion of two medical men in the city where I was overhauled. We will not mention the city, but you will probably guess which one it was. I do not say for one moment that any one did anything but his very best for me, but when my own doctor came back, he had a look at my hands and said, “ Pale hands, pink tipped, beside the Shalimar, who has been pinching your vitamins? “ He pumped vitamins into me and I was on my feet within two days. The sciatica had gone within a fortnight. If I had gone before an appeal board, and two specialists had diagnosed my condition as a slipped disc which had nothing to do with the war, I would have been in a hopeless position. Yet my complaint was due to the fact that I spent three and a half years as a prisoner of war. Many others suffered from ailments for the same reason. My vitamin absorption capacity is not the same as in the ordinary person, and for that reason I happened to get this sciatica.
I have, therefore, a very personal feeling about cases of this nature. We have a man trying to keep his farm going, trying to be independent, having had shrapnel in the back, and being told that his disability has nothing to do with the war, despite the fact that many ex-servicemen must have a greater tendency to rheumatism because of exposure to wet weather and all sorts of weather during war service. There seems to be something wrong somewhere. Many people have said this before, but let me suggest to the Minister that he should not treat this as something that can be brushed off. Many complaints have been made here of which no notice has been taken. I have before me another letter, from a senior officer, giving in very strong language his experience with certain cases. I will not read the letter now, but if the Minister wants to see it I will pass it on to him. It puts the case more strongly than I can.
The particular case I have mentioned is not an isolated one, but I pick on it because the man concerned was a Light Horseman with me and suffered shrapnel wounds. His case is supported by a medical man for whom I have a high regard, and yet it is turned down, and nothing can be done, although the act refers to the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, I ask the Minister to have some close inquiry or investigation into the actual position. We all know that there were a certain number of leadswingers in the Army. However, I agree with this highly placed officer who said, “ 1. have discussed the whole question with other advocates, and as a result I have formed the opinion that the Repatriation Commission has reversed the basis of British law and works on the principle that it is better that ten genuine cases be rejected than that one doubtful one should be accepted “. I therefore ask the Minister not to brush this aside and say, “ Oh, well, let the backbenchers blow off steam “. 1 want it investigated.
– In the last week or so we have had a number of debates in this chamber which have demonstrated quite clearly to any person who is capable of being convinced that this is a big businessman’s government. This evening, we have had further proof of that. I do not want to buy into the private argument between the honorable members for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and Bradfield (Mr. Turner), but there is no doubt as to where the dispute arises. Both honorable members say they believe in big business, but one is claiming that he is a better representative of it than the other. So we have a quarrel between the stockbroker and the lawyer as to who represents big business most ably. 1 want to make a rather interesting quotation from a speech made by the honorable member for Mitchell on 1 2th May last. The honorable member tries to make this House and the people of Australia believe that his only consideration, so far as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is concerned, is its proper development. He wants to see the Territory developed in the interests of the natives. That is what he has told us, but what did he say on 12th May last? In the course of his speech he said -
Taxation is a matter of great importance and should be considered from all angles. It is not teo much to say that the adoption of these proposals
Meaning the taxation proposals for the Territory - will mean the end of an epoch in the Territory. For example, many members of the European population went to Papua and New Guinea to get away from the whole situation down here . . .
That was not a very good advertisement for his own government. I suppose there would be a lot of people who would want to get away from the situation here in Australia if they could. Perhaps those words of the honorable member for Mitchell would be a very good thing to quote at the next election. He went on to say - but they will find that civilization is catching up to them in a most unwelcome way.
In my opinion, the purpose of the honorable member is quite evident. He is concerned about the big companies with which, no doubt, he has done a great deal of business on the Sydney stock exchange. I am not speaking of the general question of taxation. I think that that has to be examined. Because of the very high cost of living in the Territory, public servants and others who are not on very big salaries should receive some consideration of their problem before deciding to impose taxation in the Territory. But the honorable member for Mitchell is not worrying about those people. He is worrying about certain big companies which have registered in the Territory to escape taxation. He thinks that they are going to be caught up by the advance of civilization as he describes it.
Let me pass to another illustration of what this big business Government has done in the last week or so. We have had illustrations in this Parliament of the refusal of the Government to take action against great monopolies which are stifling competition, stifling their small competitors. Honorable gentlemen know full well that this Government is a big businessman’s government. Let me turn to another scandal. I think that the members of the Opposition in this Parliament should continually expose the scandals that exist on every hand, the rackets which this Government, if it is not directly involved in them, encourages, protects and permits to continue because it cannot do otherwise, since it is here as the political mouthpiece of the great monopolies of this country.
Here is the latest racket. The Government has a new system for the collection of taxation, both customs and excise, from the great oil companies. The Government has had the scheme under consideration for a couple of years - not under consideration in the real sense, but waiting for a favorable opportunity to introduce it. In my opinion, it had already decided what it intended to do, because it is well known that the major oil companies have contributed very liberally to the party funds of the parties which now constitute the Government of this country. I well recollect an occasion when it was stated in this House, and never denied, that the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden - and there were others as well - was actually on the pay-roll of some of the big oil companies and private banks of this country. What is the Government proposing to do? It wants to put the major oil companies on the honour system. They are going to assess their own taxation, because it has been decided to withdraw the public servants employed as lockers and excise officers from all oil refineries and installations.
In an attempt to justify this decision, the Government stated that the services of 64 officers would be saved and that there would be a saving of £50,000 per annum. Yet, it actually collects from the oil companies £42,000,000. What is a saving of £50,000 if the oil companies are going to thieve and rob from the Treasury, as they undoubtedly will be permitted to do if they are allowed to assess their own taxation?
All control over the manufacture, discharge from tankers, storage and delivery of dutiable and excisable oil and oil products is to be removed. Under this new system the major oil companies will keep their own records in an approved form. They will have to submit returns of stock and movements each week. Any one who has had experience of this industry will know that the only way in which you can keep a proper check on what the oil companies are doing, in regard to the question of taxation, is to have your own Commonwealth officers at the oil installations, at the gates checking the delivery wagons as they leave. I have been informed that if one road wagon of 5,000 gallons capacity went out without proper check and without the payment of duty, the loss of revenue would amount to £250. One wagon!
We must also take into account the allowance that is made for evaporation, spillage and leakage. There has to be almost a continuous check of the quantity of oil and oil products in the various establishments, a complete, daily check, in order to see how much is to be allowed for evaporation, spillage and leakage. But the oil companies are now to determine that allowance for themselves. All that the department intends to do is to have what are called regular inspections. What is meant by “ regular inspections “ - once a year, every six months, or every three months? If a proper check is to be made, there will have to be daily inspections. Under the new system there is to be no limit to the amount that may be claimed for evaporation.
When I asked questions in correspondence with the Minister, I was told that if these claims for evaporation, spillage and leakage are too high an investigation will be made. There is no regular allowance for evaporation. It varies according to the location of the installations throughout Australia. I ask whether the Government is able to produce a recommendation of the new system of tax assessment by any officer of its own department who has been in the past associated with these checks. There is not one officer who has been consulted, or one officer who recommended this change. The departmental officers engaged on checking are actually against it.
The Government set up what it termed an efficiency committee. That committee visited the oil refineries and warehouses on the pretence that it was making an examination. It conferred with the executives of the major oil companies, but it did not confer with the men employed by the Government in its own department in regard to the proposed change. Honorable members can see what may happen. Tanks are to-day dipped before and after the discharge of oil or oil products from a tanker. When the Government officer is removed from an establishment, the situation could easily arise in which the company would be discharging into a tank and taking out for delivery at the same time, and there would be no adequate check. The practice at the moment is to seal a tank as a tanker is discharging its cargo. Deliveries are not taken from it at the same time, but that could be done under the new system. I think that any officer in the department with experience of this matter will say that it is absolutely essential for each wagon to be checked at the gate of the establishment. Unless the discharges from the tankers are checked, the companies will have what might be termed in the language used by the ordinary member of the community, a free go at the expense of the Commonwealth Treasury and the people.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not take much of the time of the House in doing so. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), in his zeal to indicate that I had been looking after big business, said that I had forgotten the civil servants. He quoted from a speech I made on 12th May, but, with his characteristic attitude, he did not quote from it the fact that I had expressed my concern for the future of the civil servants when I said, as reported at page 2049 of “ Hansard “-
Other government costs will also be raised. For instance, it may be necessary to raise the salaries of civil servants in the Territory to compensate them for the payment of income tax. This is a matter of substance. To meet these additional burdens, either the taxes will have to be raised or the Australian taxpayer will have to dig deeper down into his pocket to make up the deficit.
That, I believe, is the point. As usual, the honorable member for East Sydney has produced no new facts, but has merely repeated second-hand ideas.
– The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) mentioned my name in his first remarks in the adjournment debate to-night. He did so because I followed the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) in las! night’s debate on the estimates for the Department of the Territories, and he apparently embroils me in this matter because, having agreed with what the honorable member for Bradfield had said, I commenced my remarks with a complimentary reference to that gentleman’s speech. Sir, I believe that last night the honorable member for Bradfield did a service to the Parliament and to the nation because he made it plain that with, I believe, two exceptions only, every honorable member in this House approved of the Minister’s policy as expressed by him in the chamber last night - first, that the welfare of the indigenous inhabitants of the Territory was paramount, and secondly, that the taxation measures for the Territory which have been introduced in the last year were for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Territory as a whole.
– Who are the two members?
– The honorable member who interjects and the honorable member for Mitchell. I believe that those two honorable gentlemen are the only gentlemen in this House who have criticized the Minister on those points - the matter of general policy and the matter of the financial arrangements in the Territory. I believe that the honorable member for Bradfield did a service to his party, to the Government, to the Parliament and to the nation in making it plain that the people’s representatives in this Parliament are behind the Minister in his statements regarding paramountcy of the interests of our wards in the Territory and regarding the new financial arrangements which have been made in the Territory.
It is all right for the honorable member for Mitchell now to make some subsequent gloss on his objectives in talking about the new taxation arrangements in the Territory. He has quoted, by way of a personal explanation arising from some remarks made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), one passage from his speech concerning the burden on public servants in the Territory and the burden on the Australian taxpayer. However, he did not go on to finish the paragraph, which shows that on 12th May he proceeded to talk about the burden on private firms - just the class of people whom the honorable member for East Sydney alleges the honorable member for Mitchell regards first.
But, Sir, the significant part about the speech made by the honorable member for Mitchell on 12th May last is that nowhere in it did he mention the welfare of the native inhabitants. He referred to the civil servants in the Territory, to the private firms in the Territory, and to the Australian taxpayer; he did not refer to the welfare of the indigenous inhabitants. He went on with some references, almost 200 years old, to taxation without representation. He did not refer to representation in the Legislative Council of the Territory or in this Parliament, if that is what he believes there should be, for the indigenous inhabitants. As the honorable member for Bradfield very tellingly said in the debate on the Estimates last night, there are over 100 times as many indigenous inhabitants in the Territory as there are Australians, and, of the Australians, half are there as public servants. They do not claim to be permanent inhabitants of the Territory. If one happened to have, as the honorable member for Bradfield tellingly said last night, proportional representation for all the inhabitants of the Territory, the position of the Australians would be similar to the position in this Parliament of, say, the representative for the Australian Capital Territory, who is one man out of about 120.
Now, Sir, if the honorable member really had the national interest and the national responsibility in mind, he would have said something about the indigenous inhabitants of the Territory. He did not do so in May last. He did not do so a month ago in his contribution on the Budget. And he has not done so to-night. I think that in that respect he is letting down his party, he is letting down the Government, he is letting down this Parliament, and he is letting down the nation.
I think that we should not overlook the fact that we are not in the Trust Territory to do what we want to do at our own wish in Australia. We are there as international trustees. We have accepted an obligation to the inhabitants of the Territory. The international community annually superintends our honoring of that obligation. The visiting mission to the Territory this year reported that it approved of the projected tax arrangements. The Trusteeship Council, a month ago, endorsed those taxation arrangements. I think that members of this Parliament should make it plain that they are overwhelmingly behind the Minister, not necessarily for the way that the arrangements were introduced - I make no comment on that - but in regard to the new arrangements which have been made. We do no service to anybody in the Territory by letting it be thought that there is a lack of support for the Minister in carrying out the Government’s policy, which has been reported to and endorsed by the international community.
.The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) made it perfectly obvious that he did not listen to what I said on any occasion that I have spoken on this subject in this chamber. At no time have I said that I disagreed with either the Minister’s policy or the Government’s policy in New Guinea. I have consistently criticized the way in which that policy has been implemented, and the situation that has arisen at the present time because of the way in which that policy was implemented. Any honorable gentleman who takes the trouble to read my speeches dealing with this subject will see that very clearly.
I should like to point out one further thing to this House. The honorable member for Werriwa has just said that this Parliament should make it quite clear that it is completely behind the Minister regarding the policy for New Guinea. I should like to say, Sir, that I do not believe that the great majority of the members of this Parliament are competent to pass an opinion on it, because they have not been in New Guinea, and they have shown very little interest in those territories.
– I think that one of the most serious revelations that this Parliament has ever listened to is that made to-night by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Here we have revealed to this Parliament the fact -that oil companies are to be put on an honour system in regard to their obligations to pay revenue to the Commonwealth of Australia. I think it is true to say that anybody who took the trouble to peruse the history of the customs system would find that from the introduction of the legislation to raise customs and excise duties, and right through the period since, it has been necessary from time to time, in order to close up all avenues for the evasion of the payment of duties by importers and others responsible for the payment of internal revenue, to provide a most elaborate machinery of inspection, checks and counter-checks. If one looks at the legislation of the respective State parliaments one finds that a great deal of their time has been devoted, frequently at the request of industry, to the devising of checks and inspection systems to prevent the robbery of man by his fellow man. The story of the great artificial fertilizer manufacturing industries reveals that every parliament has found it necessary to put into operation a checking and inspection system so that goods sold to primary producers will conform to specified chemical components. The companies operated on the honour system and some of them deceived credulous people until they were found out.
The history in Victoria of even the humble potato reveals a failure on the part of some of the potato growers to observe the standards laid down by the Department of Agriculture until ultimately, for the protection of the industry, the Government of that State was asked by the growers to put on an army of inspectors to police the regulations. This ensured that all growers gave the public a fair deal and played the game by the industry. There is not a humble grocer, or seller of goods anywhere, who is not subject to the Pure Food Act of the State in which he trades, and likely to experience, when he least expects them, visits from inspectors to check his scales and weights. There is not a seller or producer of any canned product who can say, at any hour of the day, that health inspectors will not call and inspect his processes. I could go through a long list of the checks and counter-checks that are provided for the protection of the revenue and the people.
Now we are told that a great industry such as the oil industry is to be put on its honour, is to be asked to play the game with the revenues of this country, is to he allowed to pay unchecked what it owes the national economy. It would be a very game member, even on the other side of the chamber, who would suggest that the reputation of the oil industries down through history is anything to be proud of. The recent report on the petroleum industry by the Tariff Board is one of the hottest things to have been published for a long time. The findings certainly do not redound to the credit of the Australian petroleum industry. Honorable members should go to the Library and read a book called. “ All Honourable Men”, written by a gentleman named Martin, who was given the task of following the victorious armies through Europe at the end of the war, to check up on the guilty men who provided the industries which, in turn, provided the sinews of war for Hitler. The Standard Oil Company of America was so deeply planted on the Continent that it was able, immediately after the war - and even during it, with the aid of links in Switzerland - to get its cut out of Hitler’s Germany. This occurred at the very hour when citizens of the United States of America, and indeed, free men all over the world, were risking all they had, and even giving their lives in the common cause.
Perhaps it is only the salary and wage earner who is caught up in a perfect system of checks, who has a complete obligation, by virtue of the instalments system, to pay his dues. His employer and his earnings to the last penny are known. In contrast, the great companies which pay excise and tariff dudes are to be subject to no checks or counter-checks whatever. If they are so disposed, they may avoid their obligations with impunity. Such an opportunity offers great temptation to any one, whether he be an executive of an oil company, a farmer or a humble grocer. Oil companies have no more right than has any one else to freedom from the protective system, which is operated through the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise.
– The speech that we have heard from the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) would have been very interesting - perhaps even disturbing - if it had been soundly based. I should not have risen to speak had not the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who introduced the subject, been supported by the honorable member. I should have allowed it to pass as just another of the furphies which the honorable member for East Sydney raises on the motion for the adjournment. However, he found one supporter and may possibly have found others. Since one person has accepted his story as representing the truth of the matter a plain statement of what exactly has happened is needed.
The Department of Customs and Excise, which is the Commonwealth department responsible for the collection and protection of revenues, made recommendations to the general effect that procedures which were once needed, and once effective, were no longer needed, and that other procedures could be depended upon to be equally effective. There has not been, as the honorable member for East Sydney has suggested, a cancelling of all inspection and check. There has been a change in the method of inspecting and checking, a change which, in the opinion of the departmental officers responsible for this phase of administration, will be more effective and more in keeping with modern practice and present-day conditions than the one that was previously in force. The honorable member has misrepresented what has taken place from beginning to end. Certain forms of checks and inspection were nolonger necessary because the same result could be achieved by different methods, with fewer men and with greater efficiency.
– Tell us what has been done. What are the different methods?
– It is not my department, and I am not in a position to give, detail by detail, every stage of the present procedures; but, recalling the discussion on this matter, I can assure the House on behalf of the Government that the effectiveness of the procedures to be used from this point onward was very carefully considered in every aspect; that the Government is satisfied and gives an assurance, that there will be no damage to the revenues of the Commonwealth; and that the collection of those revenues will continue to be undertaken just as efficiently, just as honestly and just as effectively by the officers of the department as was the case in the past.
.- I support the criticism by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) of the oil industries being placed on an honour system. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) did not explain what the new system was. He imagined that, merely by speaking loudly, he could convince the House that everything was all right. I suggest that if the oil companies are to be placed on the honour system in the payment of excise, the same privilege might equally be extended to the hotelkeepers. What is wrong with their being placed on the honour system? After all, they pay a lot more in excise duty than the oil companies. It amounted to £105,000,000 in the last financial year. A very strict check is kept in the hotels on the labels of these 18-gallon and 9-gallon kegs. That is quite obvious to any one who has been interested in the trade - I have not been myself but many of my friends have. The Department of Customs and Excise has inspectors going round all the time to ensure that labels are broken on all kegs that are used. Once a keg is tapped it is obligatory upon hotelkeepers to break the seal. That is why the inspectors are continually going around.
If an honour system is placed on the oil companies, why should it not be extended to the liquor trade? The Government cannot make flesh of one and fish of another in this business; it must be fair to everybody. As the honorable member for East Sydney said, it is quite obvious that this Government is the mouth-piece of big business. It receives very big funds from the oil companies. During the last election campaign the statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that the Australian Democratic Labour Party received £22,000 from one of the oil companies, was never denied. Those funds were given to the D.L.P. only for the purpose of assisting the Liberal Party to become the Government.
It is quite obvious from what the Minister said just now that he did not explain in one iota how the new system could operate. I emphasize again that if the Government is going to be fair to the people who pay excise it must impose the same rigid restrictions and exercise the same rigid inspection in respect of all who pay excise duty.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.42 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 to 4. Yes.
s asked the acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
i asked the acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Under the National Welfare Fund Act 1945, the method of financing the National Welfare Fund described in 2 above, was discontinued as from 1st July, 1945. The 1945 legislation provided for the following payments into the fund from Consolidated Revenue: -
As under the previous arrangements, the fund was also credited with interest on investments of moneys standing to the credit of the fund. The 1945 legislation operated until 1st July, 1951.
m asked the acting Treasurer, upon notice -
To whom has the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation delegated all or any of his powers and functions?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
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t asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
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y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
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m asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19591001_reps_23_hor24/>.