23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the House that the Honorable Tunku Abdul Rahman, Prime Minister of Malaya, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honorable members, I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear! (The Honorable Tunku Abdul Rahman thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.)
– I desire to inform the House that the Minister for the Interior left Australia on 8th November for an official visit to Indonesia. The purpose of the Minister’s visit is to take part in discussions of the Consultative Committee of the Colombo Plan which will be held in Jogjakarta from 11th to 14th November. The Minister is expected to return to Australia by 18th November and during his absence the Minister for Air will act as Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works.
– Can the Minister for Trade now inform the House, as 1 think the occasion has arisen for him to do so, with regard to changes in freights that are to be charged by overseas shipping companies, with particular reference to products such as wheat? I think it would be helpful if he could inform us on this matter.
– In regard to freight on wheat, I may say that wheat has historically been freighted, cargo by cargo, on what are known as charter rates. The charter has generally been taken on the Baltic Exchange but there is no fixed rate for wheat. However, the negotiations which have recently been proceeding between Australian shipper interests and exporter interests and what are known as the United Kingdom and European conference lines, have come to a conclusion. The decision is that there shall be no change whatever in the existing freight rates for the time being. But there is a change in the formula for calculation of freight rates in subsequent periods. The change in formula will be to the advantage of the Australian exporter and shipper interests because this formula will be based upon a lower calculated rate of earning for the shipping companies.
I apologize that I am without papers to quote with precision, but I will undertake to quote to the Leader of the Opposition and the House, within 24 hours, what is factually and literally in my possession but, I regret, not completely in my mind.
– Will the freight on wheat go up?
– No, the freight on wheat will be quite unaltered by these negotiations as the freight on wheat has never been related to other than cargo by cargo negotiation.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether there is any truth in the rumour, current in Sydney yesterday, that commando units of the Army were to be engaged in assisting the New South Wales Police Force in the search for the gaol escapee Simmonds. Are any Army personnel engaged, directly or indirectly, in this manhunt in New South Wales?
– I saw a. report in an afternoon newspaper printed in Sydney yesterday that I had made a certain statement. That report was quite untrue; I made no such statement. The Army is not engaged, no request has been made for its services, and it is not intended that it should be engaged in this police operation.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, arises from a decision by the Commonwealth Government to guarantee the funds necessary to rehabilitate the Mount Isa to Townsville railway. When making this decision, was consideration given to extending the line across the Northern Territory as a major contribution to the development of that part of Australia, which is severely restricted in its progress because of its isolation and lack of a rail link with the rest of Australia? If this proposal was not considered, were any other proposals considered when taking this decision?
– Our minds have been very much concentrated on the question of the line from Mount Isa to Collinsville. It would be foolish for me to pretend that we directed our attention to anything else, because this is the major proposal. The financing of it has presented great difficulties, and has involved very lengthy negotiations both here and elsewhere. We have made this offer, which I think will be regarded as by no means ungenerous, because we believe that the rehabilitation of the line from Mount Isa to Collinsville will not only enable production at Mount Isa to be developed in a most dramatic way, but will also vastly facilitate the development of the north of Queensland. In other words, we have regarded this as a project that will give a great opportunity for development in the whole of northern Queensland. Other matters will no doubt receive attention in due course, but on this occasion we concentrated our minds on this project, regarding it as a matter of major importance, and for the north of Queensland, as a matter of supreme importance.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that to send a parcel of small books, weighing 3i lb., only 24 miles to Melbourne by post costs 4s. 2d.? Is he aware that a man carrying these books to Melbourne, and probably weighing 170 lb., can deliver them and return to his place of departure for only 3s. lOd. by train, and that a parcel of church books costs 7s. 5d. to send by post and ls. 9d. by rail? Is he aware, further, that through no fault of their own, postal officials come under severe criticism in these circumstances? Will he inform me whether postal charges are likely to be reviewed before revenue falls, as it must in these circumstances, or will he advocate that the railway should charge a fare of £10 2s. Id. to convey a 170 lb. man 24 miles? This would make the railway fare proportionate to the postal charge, although the railway provides a quicker service.
– It is possible, as the honorable member has done, to take certain isolated instances of the difference between the cost of postage through the department and the cost of postage through other forms of transport. But if the whole matter is looked into fully, it will be found that there has been preserved between the various methods of transport a balance which does not reflect unfavourably on the present rates charged by the Postal Department.
Following other questions of this nature, 1 have prepared quite a lot of information about the implications of the increase in the postal charge on parcels of various kinds, and of the cost of carriage by other forms of transport. I shall be glad indeed to give that information to the honorable member for Flinders. I simply point out that the position varies according to the weight of the article concerned and the distance for which it has to be conveyed.
– I ask the Prime Minister why the loan for the Mount Isa railway is on so much less favorable terms than the loans which the Commonwealth has made to other States since the war for reconstruction In other words, why is the Commonwealth lending only two-thirds of the sum needed to build the line, and requiring the whole of the loan to be repaid in twenty years, whereas the Commonwealth granted the full sums needed to build a new line from Albury to Melbourne and to broaden the South Australian lines, and required the States concerned to repay only three-tenths of the loans over a period of 50 years? Has the loan been made on condition that Queensland permits the extension of the line to the border of the Northern Territory when, and if, the Commonwealth desires to complete a tropical trans-continental railway across the Barkly Tableland to Darwin?
– The question invites a long debate on a variety of circumstances, and I do not propose to enter into it. I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in this matter. All I can tell him is that the terms of this projected loan by the Commonwealth to Queensland not only have been accepted completely by the Government of that State but also have been accepted with great pleasure and satisfaction. I think that the result of it all will be to the great advantage of Queensland.
The honorable member has referred to the terms of the loan. If he has troubled himself to read the published terms of my letter to the Premier of Queensland - I hope they have been published since I issued them - he will have observed that what we were doing in fact was to put ourselves in the position of lender that would have been occupied by the International Bank had the negotiations with that bank succeeded. Nothing could be fairer than that, and the Government of Queensland believes it to be completely fair.
To compare Mount Isa with other projects is really to beat the air because the circumstances of every case have been different. For example, in the case of Western Australia we have found, or are finding, a substantial sum of money, not by way of loan but by way of grant. There is a special arrangement with the Government of Victoria in relation to the standardization of the rail gauge between Wodonga and Melbourne which follows a pattern that has been previously established in relation to other matters affecting the standard gauge. For the Snowy Mountains scheme, all the money is provided by the Commonwealth year by year out of revenue, as the honorable member well knows, but the interesting thing is that it is all treated as loan money and the price to be charged for the power that is supplied to New South Wales and Victoria will be sufficient ultimately to amortize the whole cost of the scheme. In effect, the Governments of those States are undertaking in due course the amortization of the whole cost. So that each of those cases stands on its own feet and has to be considered on its own merits. I hope that the honorable member will not feel disposed to deprive me of the pleasure I feel in the fact that we have arrived at a conclusion about the Mount Isa railway which, I believe, is quite remarkably satisfactory to all parties to the discussions and, of course, to that great State, Queensland.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health whether his attention has been drawn to the recent deaths of fifteen head of cattle and the severe illness of another 80 after two dippings in rucide and a third in arsenic. Do scientists agree that an initial wetting with rucide enables arsenic to penetrate the system of the dipped animal much more quickly and fiercely? Has rucide, used separately, proved to be a much safer dip than arsenic, and will he make investigations to ascertain whether disaster occurs more frequently with alternate dippings of rucide and arsenic? Will he also investigate the feasibility of charging all dips in the Clarence River areas with rucide so that the campaign scheduled to commence on 1st January may be conducted with safety and expedition, thus ensuring the confidence and full support of stockholders?
– -Rucide is a DDT preparation, as the right honorable gentleman knows, and it is true that there have been some stock losses recently following dipping with arsenic after dipping with rucide. The trouble is known to have been due to the solvent used with the rucide and not to the DDT itself. As a general rule DDT dips are less toxic than arsenic. I shall bring to the notice of the New South Wales Government the desirability of charging all the dips in the areas he mentioned with the fluid of the least toxicity.
– I desire to address my question to the Prime Minister. Consequent upon the recent announcement as to future defence policy, will the Prime Minister indicate what are the implications of this policy on the level of employment in Australian undertakings directly engaged in defence work and in particular-
– What announcement?
– The announcement about the new air policy and the new naval policy. In particular, I refer to the naval dockyard at Williamstown and the two aircraft factories - one Government and one private - at Fisherman’s Bend. Both of those, I may mention, Sir, are not only of national importance, but are also situated in the very important electorate of Melbourne Ports.
– 1 am sorry, but I am not aware of any announcement having been made on these matters. I read, of course, from day to day, speculative stories.
– More than speculative.
– Are they? Then the honorable member has the advantage of me. I suffer from the disability of being Prime Minister and of having been in on all the discussions, and I know that no announcement has been made at all.
– You have suffered too long.
– Oh, I know that, but you do not seem to do anything about it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister or the acting Minister for External Affairs. Why do we continue to ignore, if not unintentionally insult, Nationalist China by sending diplomatic legations to Cambodia, Laos and all other Asian nations except the Republic of China? Is it because we are afraid that such an appointment might affect markets in red China? If so, does the Minister know that West Germany, which does not recognize Peking, gets more trade than does Great Britain, which recognizes Peking? Lastly, as the Nationalist Chinese Government played a large part in preventing Australia from being overrun during the war, and has played even a bigger part in preventing South-East Asia from being overrun since the war, why is no Australian Minister allowed to visit Taipei and why is no V.I.P. from Taiwan ever invited to Australia by the Australian Government? Why, also, is no Australian diplomatic representative appointed to the Republic of China?
– I think the honorable member will well recognize that all his questions involve matters of policy on which it is not customary to answer questions.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will the right honorable gentleman advise me whether he has received the telegram dated 4th November, 1959, in which I brought to his attention the disastrous floods which had occurred in the municipality of Randwick, in my electorate, and which resulted in heavy damage to roads, footpaths, property, businesses, &c? Is he aware of my appeal for an immediate grant of £100,000 to assist the Randwick Municipal Council in making good the enormous damage done? Will the Prime Minister advise me as to the reason for delay in answering my appeal, which was made in the interests of 45,000 taxpayers, and also with a view to assisting the Randwick Council in its feverish efforts at reconstruction?
– I deeply regretted the news about these floods. I did, in fact, receive the honorable member’s telegram.
– You were too busy to answer.
– No. Perhaps I should point out to the honorable member that the Commonwealth Government does not deal with municipalities in such matters. We have, over a long course of years, whenever something in the nature of a considerable disaster-
– My constituents would be grateful for an answer.
– Does the honorable member not want an answer to his question? The fact is, as the honorable member ought to know - he has been here long enough - that in these matters we deal with the governments of the States, and whenever a State government has felt that a matter was of such a kind as to enable it to ask for Commonwealth co-operation, we have, I think all honorable members will realize, behaved co-operatively and sympathetically.
– You do when the Australian Country Party wants help.
– It applies to all members of all parties. So far, the only communication I have received on this matter is from the honorable member, and, as I got it about two days ago, it is obvious that he is anxious to take the fullest advantage of it.
– In the absence of the Minister for the Interior, I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Will the right honorable gentleman consider requesting the News and Information Bureau to make a documentary film of the Royal
Hobart Regatta? I point out that this aquatic event is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, that last year it attracted an attendance of 90,000 people, and that it is sufficiently spectacular to warrant wide publicity.
– The Hobart regatta is, of course, famous all round Australia. This proposition about having a film of it made had not occurred to me, but I will have the greatest pleasure in the world in conveying the suggestion to the Minister, to the News and Information Bureau and to the Film Division.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask the Minister to tell the House what action is being taken by him to provide employment for physically handicapped persons. Will he state to what extent opportunities are being provided in Commonwealth employment and whether medical examinations have been relaxed in order to meet the special circumstances of the disabled? If medical examinations have not been eased in order to meet the needs of the handicapped, will the Minister take action immediately to remove these barriers to both permanent and temporary employment in the Commonwealth Public Service?
– I think the honorable gentleman will know that there is within the Department of Labour and National Service a special section that attempts to place disabled people in employment - either in the employment of the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities or in private employment outside. This is a constant occupation and, in my opinion, is extremely successful. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, the matter is one for each department or instrumentality but I can assure the honorable member that all are anxious to employ as many physically handicapped people as may be practicable. They cannot take too many but they do try to take a reasonable number. As to the relaxation of the health standards, I do not quite know the position. I will find it out and let the honorable gentleman know.
– Has the Treasurer noticed the opinion expressed by financial writers in respect of the loan by the Commonwealth of £20,000,000 to the Queensland Government for the reconstruction of the Mount Isa railway that arrangements with respect to the Australian Loan Council may have to be readjusted or realined in order to meet the terms of the Financial Agreement of some 30 years ago? Is the right honorable gentleman prepared to comment on this expression of opinion? Does he agree with the view expressed by the financial writers?
– I do not think it would be in accordance with Standing Orders for me to offer comment or information on matters which have been canvassed in the press, but I can deal with aspects of the inquiry from the honorable gentleman which relate to matters of fact. It will be, I think, generally known that the Commonwealth Government had arranged with the members of the Australian Loan Council that any special loan raising from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for the Mount Isa railway should not form part of the normal loan provision which is made by the Commonwealth to all the States and divided in accordance with the usual formula. They appreciated that there were special circumstances which strengthened our prospects of securing a loan from the International Bank for this project which would not have existed in the case of a general borrowing attempt on the part of the Commonwealth Government. They saw the value to the Commonwealth of a successful loan operation if that could be arranged.
For reasons which I think have been made public by the Prime Minister, it was not found practicable to comply with the kind of condition which the International Bank laid down for a project loan of this sort. I take the opportunity here, because of statements I have read in the press, to say that it is not true that in my own negotiations overseas I found that finance could not be made available for the Mount Isa project because it was not considered sufficiently sound by those to whom our approaches were made.
The fact of the matter is that, to the extent that loan moneys are available in any quarter overseas, they are available to the Commonwealth Government and on the authority and guarantee of the Commonwealth Government, irrespective of whether they are associated with a project such as the Mount Isa railway or not. But in this instance, as the Prime Minister has already explained, recognizing the national importance of the project, the Commonwealth Government has taken upon itself to assume, with the concurrence of the Queensland Government, the sort of position which otherwise would have been occupied by the International Bank and to give closely comparable terms without, however, imposing the kind of condition which was found unacceptable by both the Queensland Government and the company directly involved.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Since the Universities Commission is meeting in Canberra this week, will the right honorable gentleman seek its advice on the future development of the Canberra University College and any relationship between it and the Australian National University? I ask this question because more than two years have elapsed since the Murray committee earnestly recommended that the whole question of the relationship between those institutions should be given very careful consideration and also recommended that the commission should include both institutions in its purview.
– This problem has received a great deal of attention and the honorable member will be glad to know that in the course of my examination of the matter I took the opportunity of inviting the Universities Commission to offer some views. It has done so, and those views are very helpful, I am hoping that before long I will be able to make an announcement, although there are one or two contingencies that may delay it for a week or two.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether he is aware that the English author and playwright, J. B.
Priestley, has stated that the passport system is one of the greatest enemies to international co-operation. Did Mr. Priestley further state that the passport system does not protect a country from crooks, as any international crook has a suitcase full of passports? If there is any substance whatsoever in Mr. Priestley’s statements, will the Minister consider an alternative system to the long-established and internationally accepted passport system?
– I have read a newspaper account of views attributed to Mr. Priestley on the subject of passports. Mr. Priestley, as honorable members will agree, is a dreamer of dreams and whilst many of us enjoy his writings not all of us would readily agree with his views. No doubt in what he is saying he is harking back to the ideal state that perhaps existed before the First World War, and which the older members of this House may perhaps recollect, when international passports were not required. However, circumstances have very much changed, and so far as this country is concerned it would be impossible to abolish passports on a unilateral basis. Such a thing could only be brought about by international, and virtually universal, action. As for Mr. Priestley’s remark that any crook can have a bag of passports, I think the House will agree that that is an opinion that may belong to a distinguished novelist but not to a realist. In Australia we are convinced that our passport control is very effective, and there are remarkably few cases of people who are able to circumvent it.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he can indicate the approximate date when the new Redfern telephone exchange will be ready for service?
– This is a question which the honorable member for Watson referred to me quite recently. I told him that I would obtain the latest information. My recollection of the matter is that I have not yet been supplied with the information. However, it is on its way to me and I shall let the honorable member have it as soon as possible.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, concerns the re-construction of the Mount Isa to Townsville and Collinsville railways. In order that discussion on this matter should proceed on a more factual and less distorted and hypothetical basis, and in view also of the fact that the Australian taxpayer is to be called upon to bear a great part of the cost of construction, will the right honorable gentleman use his best endeavours with the Queensland Government to have published in full the Forde-Bacon-Davis report on the railway - its implications, costs and all other details? Since this report is informative and not very long, will the right honorable gentleman try to ensure that it is published without abbreviation and without any expurgation?
– I am very glad to have the assurance of my friend that the report is not very long. Perhaps I was weary at the time I read it, because it seemed to me to be a very long report indeed. It was not at that time, perhaps, published, as one might say, although a certain number of copies were available. I will get in touch with the Government of Queensland and ask whether there is any difficulty about having copies made available, although I would hesitate a little before undertaking the task of having it completely printed for general distribution. But I will find out about that, too. It is very largely a matter of what is involved. Certainly I shall do my best to see that every honorable member who wishes to read the report is furnished with a copy of it. But that, as the honorable member will understand, is not my business; it is the business of the Queensland Government, which obtained the report, but 1 see no reason to doubt that the Queensland Government would be quite agreeable to making it available.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that an answer to a question on notice in this House was delivered to me at my home in Melbourne by the driver of a Commonwealth car at 9 a.m. on Sunday last? Is this an isolated instance of such a procedure, like the allegedly isolated instance of a visit of the head of the security service to a university professor? Have these departures from apparently normal procedure the approval of the Prime Minister and the Government, and will they be generally followed in the future, or will the right honorable gentleman state the special circumstances which will determine the use of procedures obviously valuable to the Government?
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that he put a question in which he invited a statement of certain facts, which he no doubt expected to get. He is also well aware of the fact that he put that question so that the answer might be well known to the public through the ordinary processes of Parliament at the earliest possible moment. He is quite well aware of this; so is everybody else. It is the first time I have ever heard of a complaint that because a Minister took steps to see that a member putting a question got his answer at the earliest possible moment this constituted an affront to somebody. If the honorable member’s real trouble is that these facts became known to the public at an inconvenient time, from his point of view, then all I can say is that I am delighted to know it. If the honorable member is really concerned about the cost of sending a car to his house with the answer, I will pay that cost.
– Could the PostmasterGeneral say whether the investigation of claims of applicants for television licences in phase three of the introduction of television in Australia, which started to-day, will serve to advance the claims which are to be put forward by intending licensees in the areas covered by phase four?
– As I have stated when dealing with the extension of television to country areas, there will be a plan for further extension into those areas following the present phase three. It is hoped that that further extension, which we may term phase four will cover those country areas not serviced in phase three. I think I have pointed out to the House that the investigation which, as the honorable member has said, commences to-day, into some 44 applications in respect of thirteen country areas, will embrace questions which have not previously been considered by the board - questions which arise from the extension of television to country areas. Undoubtedly the determination of questions particularly associated with country television, such as the availability of frequencies and programmes, capital expenditure and so on, will provide a basis on which further applications in other phases can be rapidly determined. Therefore, I should say that the investigation now proceeding will be of great value not only to the present applicants, but also to those who follow and make application for further extension to country areas.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news items covering the manhunt for Kevin Simmonds, Simmonds has been referred to, from the time of his escape, as an “ escaped convict “ rather than an “ escapee “, as the press has referred to him? There is a strong objection by many people, including myself, to the word “ convict “ being applied in the twentieth century to Simmonds or any other inhabitant of, or escapee from, our prisons. Will the PostmasterGeneral take this matter up with the A.B.C. with a view to excising this historically objectionable word from its news items?
– I must inform the honorable member immediately that I agree with the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s description of this man, and I make no apology for the terms that have been used by the commission. I suggest to the honorable member and others who are engaged in publicizing this man that they might do a much greater service to Australia if they ceased to build him up as somebody worthy of the consideration which the honorable member is evidently attempting to give him.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether he has seen a report which states that the tribal wives of aboriginal men who die intestate have no legal claim to their savings and that on the death of an aboriginal any money held in trust for him goes to the Public Trustee to be paid into Consolidated Revenue. If the Minister has seen this report, first, will he indicate whether these statements are facts; and secondly, if they are facts, will he consider introducing legislation to protect the rights of the families of aborigines who die without making a will?
– To some extent, the question which the honorable member has asked involves an expression of legal opinion and, of course, it is not customary to express opinions on matters of law at question time. In general, the situation is this: First of all, assuming the honorable member is referring to those aborigines who have been committed to the care of the State and are wards of a Protector of Aborigines or a Director of Welfare, one question at issue is whether they have the capacity to make a will, and, as I understand it, they do have the legal capacity to make a will. The second question is, what happens when they die?
I can only speak of the practice in the Northern Territory. If an aboriginal who is a ward of the Director of Welfare dies and has made a will, then the usual steps are taken to try to prove the will. If he dies and is possessed of property and has not made a will but has died intestate, then the Director of Welfare follows the practice of submitting to the Public Trustee a report on the property that was owned by the deceased and his own recommendations regarding those persons, his kinsfolk - that is, kinsfolk according to native custom - who may be considered to have a claim on the estate. The Director of Welfare refers that to the Public Trustee.
Then it is the Public Trustee’s duty, performing his functions under the acts applying to his functions, to make a determination. When he has made the determination he leaves it then to the Director of Welfare to carry out the decision and to distribute the property according to the Public Trustee’s decision. I understand that, recently, in the Northern Territory the Public Trustee, interpreting his own duties in the way that he is required by statute to do so, did raise some fine points regarding recommendations that had been made to him by the Director of Welfare regarding who were or were not the kinsfolk of the deceased. That matter is currently being examined in the Northern Territory in order that an understanding can be reached between the Director of Welfare and the Public Trustee.
– by leave - I have thought that it would be of interest to the House if I were to review briefly the proceedings at the meetings I recently attended of the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council in London and the International Monetary Fund and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Washington. I should also like to say something of my borrowing negotiations abroad and of the present state of world trade and finance generally. In London I attended the first meeting of the Commonwealth Economic Consultative Council so far held at the ministerial level.
Honorable members will recall that, at the Montreal conference last year, it was decided to bring together under this general title the various gatherings of Commonwealth Ministers and officials which meet from time to time to discuss financial and economic matters. Marlborough House, which was generously offered for the purpose by Her Majesty the Queen, is to be the head-quarters of the council, when the necessary renovations and adaptations to the building have been made.
At the recent meeting the main subjects discussed were the outlook for the sterling area balance of payments, problems associated with the financing of economic development, and European trade arrangements.
Our discussions on economic and financial matters had a background of rising world production, employment and trade. In the United States real gross national product in the second quarter was 10 per cent, above the figure for the second quarter of 1958 and, although subsequent falls in the index for industrial production indicated some slackening in this rate of growth, it was expected to be no more than a temporary setback caused by the steel strike. The recovery has led to a drop in unemployment to around 5 per cent, of the labour force, compared with about 7 per cent, in the middle of last year, and there are no indications that it has upset the relative stability the price level has shown over the past year. In Europe it was also evident that, after a rather slower beginning than in the United States, recovery was well under way. In the second quarter, industrial production in Organization for European Economic Cooperation countries was over 5 per cent, higher than a year earlier, and in practically all of these countries the recovery has been accompanied by a fall in unemployment and relatively stable prices. In Japan the expansion of economic activity has proceeded at an even faster rate than in the United States; industrial production in thesecond quarter was over 20 per cent, higher than in the second quarter of 1958.
The review of the sterling area balance of payments revealed a position of quite remarkable strength. Since the move te? external convertibility undertaken by the United Kingdom Government in concert with the governments of the major European countries at the end of December last, sterling has remained strong and the United Kingdom’s reserves of gold and convertible currencies have been rising steadily. At the same time, the sterling area countries have added to their second-line reserves by reason of their increased quotas in the International Monetary Fund. This is also true of other members of that institution. It is probable that the full significance of this massive addition to international liquidity has still to be realized.
From one standpoint, the improvement in the fortunes of the sterling area reflects the turn-round which has taken place in the United States balance of payments. The United States had a balance of payments deficit in 1958 of some 3 billion dollars and, in 1959, the deficit seems likely to increase still further to some 4 billion to 4.5 billion dollars. Despite this large balance of payments deficit the United States gold reserves remain high and there are no valid grounds for lack of confidence in the soundness of the dollar. What has been taking place is a welcome and valuable redistribution of monetary reserves to the benefit of the world trade and payments system as a whole; and it is encouraging to see that these developments have begun a widespread movement towards the reduction of trade restrictions and discrimination which is still in process.
Not all Commonwealth countries have, of course, fared equally well. Most of the primary exporting countries are still feeling the effects of the earlier swing in the terms of trade against them. Trends in commodity prices have lagged behind the expansion of industrial output in the major industrial countries. The reserves of some countries which depend on primary exports remain low, and most are still obliged to retain fairly comprehensive import restrictions to safeguard their external financial position.
Nevertheless, although the terms of trade may for some time remain less favorable to primary exporting countries than in the earlier post-war years, there has been some firming of the prices of major sterling area commodities and, in view of the obvious signs of economic expansion in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Japan, to which I have already referred, further improvements may be expected. Thus, although individual sterling Commonwealth countries still have their problems, the outlook for the balance of payments of the sterling area as a whole can be said to be more favorable now than at any time since the end of the war.
Turning from this general review of the economic background to the practical difficulties that arise in financing economic development in the Commonwealth, Ministers were faced with the familiar problem of a world-wide shortage of capital, with competition for it becoming ever keener. This competition comes not only from the less developed countries but from within the industrialized countries themselves, where the rapid pace of technological change is continually creating new demands for investment.
Within the Commonwealth the only net exporter of capital is the United Kingdom. With the improvement in her economic situation, exports of capital from the United Kingdom have been rising. It is, however, natural that the United Kingdom Government should wish to maintain a proper balance between investment at home and investment abroad, and the demands for development capital in other Commonwealth countries greatly exceed the total the United Kingdom can supply.
The council considered the question of whether the setting up of a Commonwealth Development Bank might assist in mobilizing additional capital for economic development in the Commonwealth. The general view was, however, that it would not be opportune to pursue this proposal further until more was known of the outcome of the American proposal to set up, as an affiliate of the International Bank, an International Development Association - now widely referred to by the initials I.D.A. The purpose of the I.D.A. would be “ to promote, by financing sound projects of high priority, the economic development of less-developed member countries whose needs cannot be adequately met under International Bank lending programmes”. Those words are taken from the statement of the proposal by the representative of the United States; the formal definition of the association has not yet been promulgated.
Under the American proposal, which has so far been put forward only in broad outline, the I.D.A. would have an initial capital equivalent to one billion dollars. Members would pay 50 per cent, of their subscription immediately and the remainder in equal instalments over five years. The United States subscription would be proportionate to its subscription to the International Bank and would thus amount to about 320,000,000 dollars. The Americans would also presumably expect other countries to contribute proportionately to their International Bank subscriptions. On this basis Australia would, if she became a member, be called on to subscribe about 20,000,000 dollars of the one billion dollars proposed.
The United States hopes that all “ industrialized “ countries - a definition which appears to be generally regarded as including Australia- would agree to make their subscriptions fully convertible. The lessdeveloped countries would be required to make only 20 per cent, of their subscriptions convertible, the balance being contributed in their own local currencies.
The Americans also propose that the I.D.A. should be permitted to accept additional contributions from one member in the currency of another, a device which is apparently designed to enable the United States Administration to pass over to the I.D.A. some of the local currency holdings the United States has accumulated from surplus disposal deals.
Only the less-developed countries would be eligible for loans from the I.D.A., and it seems to be contemplated by the Americans that provision will be made for the loans to be repaid, at least in part, in local currencies. This would mean that the I.D.A. would tend to use up its resources of convertible currencies and the Americans propose that there should be periodic replenishment of the I.D.A.’s capital resources to which each member would have a right, but not an obligation, to subscribe proportionately. It was, I think, extremely useful for Commonwealth Ministers to have the opportunity to discuss this important American initiative amongst themselves before the Washington meetings.
Those honorable members who heard the discussions at the recent meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association will be fully aware of the importance attached to developments of this kind by members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, particularly those who do not come within the definition of industrialized countries. Undoubtedly, they are looking to sources such as this for development capital to enable them to make more effective use of their own resources and their potential in order to raise living standards.
All present at the conference in London could accord a warm welcome to the general purpose of an institution such as the I.D.A. which would channel additional funds towards those less-developed countries whose needs cannot be met from other sources. But there are many points, both of principle and of detail, in the broad outline of the American plan so far available which raised doubts in the minds of various Commonwealth Ministers. The discussion in London assisted all of us in dealing with the subject in the later Washington meetings, and will be of continuing value in the detailed work still to be done in drawing up the draft articles of agreement of the I.D.A. for consideration by governments.
The other main subject dealt with in London was the recent developments in relation to the European Common Market and the negotiations now in progress for the separate establishment of a European Free Trade Association consisting of the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian countries, Austria, Switzerland and Portugal.
The European Common Market is now an established fact, and the negotiations for drafting the charter of the proposed European Free Trade Association have reached an advanced stage. The Australian Government, although a supporter on political as well as economic grounds of closer European economic integration, has viewed recent developments with some concern.
The United Kingdom sees the European Free Trade Association as a step towards a wider European Free Trade Area, the earlier negotiations for which broke down. Continued economic division between separate European trading blocs could scarcely fail to be a disruptive influence. It is certainly to be hoped that the formation of the European Free Trade Association will lead to a wider grouping embracing all the countries of western Europe.
Apart from concern about the need for avoiding political and economic division in western Europe, Australia, in common with other primary exporting countries, has felt some anxiety about the degree of agricultural protectionism in Europe and the indications that this deeply entrenched protectionism may be intensified as the European countries draw closer together.
I took the opportunity at the London meetings to express our concern on these matters and sought, and obtained, from the United Kingdom Government assurances that we should be fully consulted at every stage. I made it clear that we could not give any general approval in advance to new arrangements which might affect our interests. The interests of a number of Commonwealth countries are, of course, very similar to our own and I think we may expect a good deal of support in the Gatt and elsewhere in seeking to ensure that these regional arrangements do not unduly prejudice the trading interests of third countries. The tone of the Commonwealth meeting throughout was warm, friendly, constructive and mutually helpful. I came away more than ever convinced of the value of such discussions between members of the Commonwealth family.
In Washington it was my privilege to attend, as. Australian governor of those institutions, the annual meetings of the International Bank and International Monetary Fund. A pleasing feature of this year’s meeting of the International Bank was that it marked both the tenth anniversary of the assumption by Mr. Eugene Black of the office of president and also the doubling of the authorized capital of the bank. Under Mr. Black’s wise leadership, the bank has made great strides in developing its lending programmes and, with the increased backing now available to it, its growing importance as a source of capital for the economic development of its member countries seems assured. As expected, the United States moved a resolution referring its I.D.A. proposal to the executive board of the bank in order that draft articles of agreement might be drawn up for consideration by governments. This resolution was unanimously adopted.
Speaking for Australia, I welcomed the American proposal in principle. I recognized that there is no more important challenge facing us in the field of economic statesmanship than the question of adequate development capital for the needs of the underdeveloped countries. At the same time, I made three points. First, I drew attention to the fact that the world cannot be neatly divided into the two categories “ industrialized “ and “ less-developed “. Australia, and a number of other countries, stand at a half-way stage between the maturer more highly developed countries “and those still trying to find their feet. We are ourselves large net importers of capital and have only limited capacity to contribute to the capital needs of others. Within the limits of our resources we are already making a substantial contribution, through the Colombo Plan and in other ways. Second, I urged that provision be made in the I.D.A. charter for aid to dependent territories who would not be eligible for
I.D.A. membership in their own right, a matter of very great importance, to Commonwealth countries.
Third, I joined with others in expressing concern at the local currency aspects of the American proposal. I pointed out that, with the important progress made towards full convertibility of currencies, it would be incongruous, and on the face of it undesirable, if we were to set up at this time a new international institution one of the consequences of which would be the creation of new holdings of inconvertible or semi-convertible local currencies. Operations in local currency could, particularly in the long run, lead to distortions of the normal patterns of trade. I said I did not believe it to be beyond the ingenuity of the bank’s executive directors to devise means of avoiding the creation of new holdings of local currencies. On the question of possible Australian membership, I made it clear that we could accept no advance commitment.
The executive board of the bank has already begun preliminary discussions on the I.D.A. charter, taking into account the views expressed by the various bank governors at the annual meeting. Through our representative on the board we shall, of course, continue to keep in close touch with, and play a part in, this important task. The whole matter will be given further consideration by the Government as soon as a draft charter is available.
The outstanding feature of the speeches on the annual report of the International Monetary Fund was the high quality of the debate on the world economic situation. The tone for this debate was set by the admirable introductory address by the distinguished managing director of the fund, Mr. Per Jacobsson. The governors for the United States, the United Kingdom and other important countries also made notable contributions. Listening to the debate, I could not help gaining the strong impression that the annual meetings of the fund and bank this year could be seen as marking the end of one epoch and the beginning of another.
After a period of almost a decade and a half since the end of the war, during which practically all countries have suffered from periodic bouts of inflation and associated balance of payments difficulties, it may well be that we are now entering a period of more orderly and stable conditions. In part, this is associated with the final overcoming of the initial back-lag of demand, both for consumer and capital goods, which was the aftermath of the war period. In part, too, it derives from the continued expansion of world sources of supply, particularly of raw materials and foodstuffs. Certainly, the major industrial countries now seem more confident of being able to sustain the growth of their economies with much greater stability in prices than has been the experience in recent years. Indeed, Mr. Jacobsson included in his speech the pregnant statement, “ In all likelihood, world inflation is over”. He added a warning which I think we should all be wise to ponder. He said, “ My belief is that strong forces in the world economy will act as a brake on price increases and that the international trend will therefore be towards stability. If any individual country - I ask my colleagues in this country to mark these words - embarks on inflation, it will do so at its own risk, for gone are the days when any one country which inflated might hoped to be saved by inflation elsewhere. The balance of payments difficulties which would quickly ensue might even make it hard to maintain a high level of employment.”
The developments to which Mr. Jacobsson referred have undoubtedly played a large part in the transformation of the world payments situation. The trends in the United States balance of payments and the enlargement of fund quotas, to which I have already referred, have greatly increased the size and improved the distribution of international liquidity. The foundation has thus been laid for further substantial progress towards reducing restrictions and discrimination in the field of trade and payments. Certainly, the international mood has hardened against restrictions imposed on balance of payments grounds. Countries seeking to justify retention of such restrictions will in future be required to prove their case up to the hilt. This is a trend from which Australia, as an important trading nation, can only stand to gain. But we must recognize our own responsibility to make progress with the dismantling of our remaining restrictions as rapidly as we can prudently do so.
Finally, I might mention that, on the final day of the Washington meetings, the Australian governor was, on the motion of the United Kingdom, seconded by the United States, unanimously elected as chairman of the Boards of Governors of the Fund and Bank and the International Finance Corporation for the ensuing twelve months. I regard it as a great honour that I should have been able to accept these posts, which may fairly be interpreted .as a mark of the esteem in which Australia as a country is held in these important and influential international institutions.
Apart from my attendance at the London and Washington meetings I was concerned while overseas with the completion of negotiations for our recent 25,000,000 dollars loan in New York and with taking soundings in a number of other capital markets in which we have present or potential interests. The position we faced in New York in September was a difficult one. After the timing of our issue had been tentatively decided, there was a crisis of confidence in the market associated with the refusal of the United States Congress to authorize an increase in the maximum permissible interest rate on long-term bonds. In point of fact, by statute the United States administration is not permitted to raise loans on a long-term basis at an interest rate in excess of 4i per cent., and although it sought to have Congress raise this permissible limit and allow it to operate more realistically within the market as it existed at the time, Congress so far has not shown that it is willing to do so, or certainly has not carried through the necessary legislative processes. Yields on United States government securities rose very sharply, carrying with them the yields on other securities, including our own. This was followed by increases in the prime lending rates of the commercial banks and in the Federal Reserve Bank’s re-discount rates. In fact, the United States Government, since our own loan was raised, has had to pay interest at 5 per cent, for a loan of four years ten months’ duration inside the United States.
Despite this adverse turn of events we received an underwriting offer for 25,000,000 dollars at a time when several local corporate issues were being undersubscribed and several proposed issues were not able to reach the market at all. The terms finally negotiated were more expensive than we had previously had to pay in New York - not on this operation, but on the earlier categories - being 5i per cent, at an issue price of 97 to yield 5.75 per cent., compared with our loan in October, 1958, there, which was issued at 97i per cent, with a coupon rate of 5 per cent, to yield 5.2 per cent. But, because of Australia’s high credit standing, they were certainly better terms than any other borrowing government outside North America would have been able to negotiate. Associated with the regular underwriters, Morgan Stanley and Company, were 70 of the strongest finance houses in the United States of America.
A further indication of the state of the North American market is given by the price the Canadian Government had to pay to finance a refunding operation it launched on 1st October this year. Bonds for one year seven months carrying an interest coupon of 3 per cent, were offered at 94.65 to yield an effective return of 6.6 per cent.
Our new securities sold slowly at first, but in the end the issue was over-subscribed. After opening at a small discount on the issue price of 97 the securities are now trading at a useful premium. Latest reports reveal that the price has risen to 98i. I am confident that the success of this issue will enhance our prospects for further capital raising on the New York market. Certainly it assisted to raise our prestige there at a time when the market was in such a sensitive and difficult condition.
It is perhaps not widely realized how large a share Australia has been able to secure of the very limited amount of capital which outside governments are able to raise on the New York market. I stress this because there are criticisms that our credit cannot be so very good if we do not raise very much overseas, as has been the case in recent years in comparison with our internal loan raisings. It will be found, however, that the amount we raise overseas is high compared with what other governments outside the international financial markets are able to secure .from them. Quite clearly it is easier for Canada, which is the United States’ next-door neighbour and has had a very close relationship with the United States over the years, to raise loans on the New York market than it is for governments outside North America; but even Canada, on its internal loan operations recently found it necessary to pay the sort of interest rate I have mentioned. On the New York market since April, 1954, governments outside North America have raised about 417,000,000 dollars, which is about £186,000,000 Australian, by longterm borrowings. Of this total 145,000,000 dollars, or £65,000,000 Australian has been raised by Australia in cash or refinancing loans. So more than one-third of the total loans raised by outside governments on the New York market since 1954, although by the standards of our own internal borrowings the amount is not very great, have been raised by this country. That confirms what I have publicly claimed - that our credit stands very high indeed in the United States.
Apart from this specific loan negotiation in New York I had discussions of a more general character in that city and also in London, Basle, Bonn and Washington on our needs for external capital and on the general situation in the world’s capital markets.
In referring to our own position I stressed that the rapid rate of economic growth and population increase in Australia called for increasing supplies of capital to finance the essential works programmes of Australian public authorities. I pointed to the magnitude of the efforts we ourselves were making through internal loan raisings - and they are very considerable indeed by the standards of other countries - and by meeting from current revenue not only the Commonwealth Government’s whole capital needs but also the residual needs of the States over and above what we can raise by way of loans. The Australian picture therefore, I was able to point out, was not one of an improvident country seeking overseas assistance to remedy deficiencies created by its own policies; it was rather one of a fast-growing economy seeking to supplement its own considerable efforts by obtaining marginal, but useful, assistance from overseas capital. During 1958-59, for example, of the total of £209,000,000 of loan raising, £31,000,000 -but only £31,000,000 - was derived from overseas, and that was one of our largest borrowing years overseas.
It is my hope that we may be successful in raising a further substantial amount in 1959-60. However, it has always to be realized that, where capital markets are concerned, external lending is conceived as being on a totally different plane from, and subject to much greater hazards than, internal lending.
Many people have fresh in their minds the experience of earlier periods when those who invested in Government bonds of countries outside their own boundaries suffered heavy losses because of war, depression and other difficulties. But confidence is, I think, being steadily restored in the international bond market, and certainly investors are disposed to look for those countries whose policies are sound and whose credit standing is high. Australia can fairly claim to be in the front rank of this category. Thus, notwithstanding the magnitude of such capital markets - and when I say “ thus “ I mean that the market is limited - as New York or even London, the amount of their resources which is, in fact, available to external borrowers is marginal in the extreme. There are, moreover, a great many applicants knocking at the door.
New York has become, and probably will remain, our most important source of new money raisings. We would hope to be able to continue to raise some new cash in London also as opportunity offers. The position there is complicated by the need for refinancing existing stocks of ours which will mature in the next financial year; but our credit standing is high in London, and we should be able to take advantage of any borrowing opportunity which occurs during the next few months. However, again illustrating the comparative smallness of the market available, I point out that the only external borrowers on the London market between September 1958 and September 1959 were Commonwealth countries, and of the total amount of about £50,000,000 sterling raised by way of cash and conversion loans Australia secured £35,000,000. The United Kingdom, of course, has to have regard for the requirements of other Commonwealth countries as well as ours. I think this should indicate to the House that, although the United Kingdom Government welcomes our approaches, there are practical limits to what that market can yield to us.
We examined what might be available on the Swiss capital market. This, though small, is a well-established international market and a useful source for marginal amounts of new capital. We have already arranged two issues there - in 1953 and 1955 - and my talks in Basle were directed to the possibility of further issues as circumstances permit. The matter of timing, however, is one for discussion with the Swiss authorities, who naturally wish to ensure an orderly approach to their market by foreign borrowers, and a fair allocation of available funds.
My talks in Bonn, in West Germany, were of a general exploratory character. They revealed a new attitude by German financial interests to external lending, arising from a growing consciousness of West Germany’s strong creditor position. The German capital market is in an interesting state of transition. It has never been, in these post-war years, ‘of course, a large international lender, but, in the long run, it may well become a useful source for us to tap. For the immediate future, the prospects are not promising.
– Are you thinking of borrowing from West Germany?
– Interest rates and other borrowing costs in Germany remain high. Moreover, the West German Government has just floated its first public issue at an effective interest rate in excess of 6 per cent. That is on its own market. The internal government borrower, of course, can usually borrow at much more favorable terms than can any external government borrower. The amount involved - £32,000,000 or thereabouts - would be regarded by us as comparatively small. Yet I gather that this is regarded as a substantial operation on the German market as it exists at the present time, despite the obvious financial strength of that country. That market is not at present really geared to this business of large-size bond market operations, and the internal interest structure is considerably higher than that of countries which do engage in a considerable way in bond market operations. All of the West German Government’s previous capital requirements have been financed from budget surpluses. This new trend under which the Government is coming into its own domestic market in this way will inevitably reduce the amount of funds available for foreign lending.
Finally, I took the opportunity, while in Washington, to talk over with Mr. Eugene Black the outlook for further International Bank loans to Australia. The bank’s attitude on this, understandably, is influenced by the fact that Australia has already obtained from the bank more development capital than has been obtained by any other bank member except India. It is also fundamental to International Bank policy that countries able to borrow adequate sums on the world’s capital markets on their own credit should do so rather than seek aid from the bank. Nevertheless, I do not by any means regard the bank as being closed to Australia as an additional source of loan money. We shall certainly continue to seek further borrowing possibilities which will comply with the bank’s requirements.
Official borrowings, of course, represent only a small part of the total external capital which has contributed to our economic growth in recent years. In view of the interjection made a little earlier by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell;, I think I should stress again that these borrowings represent only a small part of Australia’s total loan raisings. We are doing a major job for ourselves by what we raise inside Australia, but anybody who suggests that we can maintain our current rate of national growth without supplementing our internal loan raisings, and what we apply from revenue for capital purposes, by some marginal and supplementary assistance from overseas, just does not understand what he is talking about, and is inviting an upsurge of inflation in this country.
– You could divert loans to the Government by amending the Australian Constitution and doing something about interest rates.
– Does the honorable member want us to increase interest rates?
– 1 want you to control them and to do something about the people who are charging exorbitant interest rates.
– I think most people in Australia feel, Mr. Speaker, that we are increasing our national loan indebtedness at a considerable rate. They are by no means dissatisfied with the financial policies of this Government, which have enabled us to maintain a relatively satisfactory degree of price stability, to keep employment high - higher, I believe, than is employment in any other industrialized country - and, at the same time, to go rapidly forward with our process of national development.
Much larger sums than we have borrowed overseas have come into Australia through private investment channels. The strong impression I gained in the various centres I visited is that there is a growing interest overseas in investment in Australian industrial and commercial enterprises. There seems no reason why, if we are successful in keeping up the momentum of our econ.nomic growth while, at the same time, maintaining reasonable internal stability, Australia should not continue to attract a steady inflow of private investment capital. Certainly, I can vouch from first-hand experience for the high standing Australia enjoys at the present time in the business and financial centres of the world.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
International Finance, Trade and Development - Visit abroad of Treasurer - Ministerial Statement.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) proposed -
That the .paper be printed.
.- Mr. Speaker, I want to say something at this stage because the session is moving to a close. If the debate is adjourned, there will be no further opportunity for any member of the House to offer any views on what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has said, because, when the session ends, the Parliament will be prorogued. This matter will then be finished as far as this Parliament is concerned and so I follow the Treasurer in discussing what is a very important ministerial statement.
The Minister has been abroad attending quite a number of conferences. At least it can be said to his credit that he has come back and reported before the Parliament has concluded its sittings. This is in contra-distinction to the attitude of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who seems to be as elusive as is a certain gentleman who has engaged attention in New South Wales over these last few weeks and whose whereabouts cannot be ascertained with any precision.
The Treasurer has dealt with quite a number of questions. He has not merely covered the technical side of his discussions with the representatives of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and with the financial authorities in various countries. He has also dealt with some of the problems that this country has to face up to in the very near future. Those are problems affecting our trade and the like. I think that everybody in Australia would wish to see some casing of the restrictions on world trade, Sir. It is desirable that the barriers to a free exchange of goods and services between nations be lowered. The free-trade people have a saying that protectionists can hold a conference only on a battlefield - that trade restrictions and trade barriers lead inevitably to war. It would be a good thing if mankind could get back to a situation in which trade between nations was unrestricted.
The argument for protection, of course, is that new nations must be allowed to establish themselves against the competition of older established countries. Unless protection becomes the fiscal policy of a new nation, the development of that country is not likely to proceed with any great rapidity. In 1821, I think, Friedrick List created a zollverein, or customs union. He brought about the unity of the German states, principalities, kingdoms and republics in one economic union. That was followed, in due course, by the establishment of a political union of Germany under Bismarck. I can see something like that happening on a grander scale in Europe to-day, with the -establishment of the European Economic Community of six nations.
Speaking only for myself, I would wish to encourage the formation of such communities. The European Economic Community will inevitably help to raise the living standards of the 167,000,000 people in that area. It will ease tensions, it will promote unity, and ultimately, it may lead, in the decades .-ahead, to a united states of Europe. I think that is highly desirable. I think that if there were a united states of Europe covering the whole of the territory which we now know as Europe and, maybe, Russia as well, .that particular portion of the world would be ,a much happier place than it has been over the last 160 years, during which, largely because of trade difficulties and other things, the European peoples have been tearing themselves to pieces.
War has followed war. In our time we have seen two terrible wars that have been concerned with the attempt by one section of the European people to dominate, not only the rest of Europe, but the whole of mankind. I do not share the fears of the Minister in regard to the European Economic Community which includes France, West Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and Italy. If we do not have that sort of union in Europe then, ultimately, we will have more strife and more trouble.
I see clearly the peculiar position of the United Kingdom in regard to this matter. Great Britain has to decide whether she will be just an island nation off the coast of Europe, or the centre of a very great commonwealth. She wants the advantages that come with the one as well as the advantages that come with the other. Because these six European nations will not concede her the right to exempt certain products should she participate in their scheme, naturally she wants to form some other body. I join with the Treasurer in hoping that, ultimately, ,a way out of this difficulty can be found.
I would not try to discourage, at this particular time, the attempt of the European people to solve their problems. After all, the problems are their own and they have a right to settle them in their own way even if, at times, it seems to toe to our disadvantage. We are a great nation in the making. We have a great territory, but a small number of people. We :are trying to sell our wheat, our wool and our minerals.
The future of wheat is uncertain and the price of wool in this season is variable although it is better than it was last year. Naturally, we want people to buy our products and we, in turn, want to be able to get sufficient from the sale of those products to finance the importation into this country of capital goods and consumer goods so that our economy can be not only maintained, but further expanded.
We are an immigrant receiving country. We have encouraged a lot of people to come here and live amongst us and the overwhelming majority are very happy here. It may be that, in due course, they will attract their relatives and friends to Australia. Whilst that is true in one sense, if the European Economic Community really builds itself into some strength, immigrants will cease to flow from European countries. People will be much more disposed to stay at home. Nobody ever wants to emigrate if he can possibly avoid it. None of us wants to leave Australia to live elsewhere. There is always a wrench when people have to leave their native land, their relatives and friends, and go to live elsewhere.
We are faced with a lot of very great problems and very often what is one man’s meat is another man’s poison. If we could regulate the affairs of the world to our advantage others might suffer. Some people are trying to regulate the affairs of the world to their advantage, and we seem to be in difficulty. 1 do not know what will come out of this International Development Association. The Government is not certain of its policy in regard to this new proposal. The Minister has been rather cagey - if I may use the term - about the attitude of his Government. There are many imponderables associated with the proposal.
– They are being worked on. We will have a much clearer idea shortly, I think, because the articles of association are now being drafted.
– I heard the Minister say that, but I do not know to what extent, after they have been drafted, they will be considered by the suggested member nations. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, if I recollect what the Minister said - I only got his statement a half an hour before he started - is fathering this scheme and there may be some disadvantages to Australia in it at the moment. Whatever they are, I hope that they will not be very great.
Speaking for myself again, I say that if there is to be access to international funds or funds controlled by some international authority for development, I would rather see those funds used by the really underdeveloped nations of the world. The Treasurer made some facile reference to Australia being midway between the developed countries and the underdeveloped countries. In one sense, that is true enough. But we are not an underdeveloped country if we think of the conditions that exist in quite a lot of other nations throughout the world to-day.
Those of us who were privileged to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference here last week heard very eloquent and touching pleas from the representatives of new nations inside the British Commonwealth for more assistance in order that they may raise the living standards of their people. They asked for more assistance for education, more assistance for the modernization of their industry, and more assistance for the mechanization of agriculture. If it is possible for us to stand out of the field of international borrowing so that these people can secure a greater advantage I think it would be all for the best from the point of view of world peace. When I think of the privileged peoples and the underprivileged peoples I think of the distinction between those who are reasonably affluent and those who are suffering from chronic destitution, misery, and even starvation.
– But in practice the process works the other way. If sound borrowers can become established on the international bond markets, that encourages further lending. The absence of countries like Australia does not mean that more money will go to those countries. It helps to defeat the creation or development of an international bond market.
– I am sorry to hear that argument put forward. Whatever we can spare for development in the free world to-day should be used to raise living standards.
– We are helping to do that.
– By contributing to the Colombo Plan.
– And by example.
– We have no reason to be ashamed of what we are doing. We are contributing £3,000,000 a year to the Colombo Plan. We are spending large sums of money on the development of Papua and New Guinea. We are discharging our responsibilities, but in May last year Professor Copland said that instead of contributing £3,000,000 a year to the Colombo Plan, Australia should be contributing £25,000,000 a year.
– The honorable member is missing the whole point of my argument. My argument is that a soundly developing country like Australia encourages overseas investment and by that example the process can be induced to go on into other countries. If people have an unsatisfactory investment and lending experience they are discouraged from expanding into other countries.
– I hold an opposite view as to the necessity for Australia to go on to overseas markets. We could attract much more Australian investment if the right honorable gentleman’s government would secure an alteration of the Constitution so that this Parliament could determine interest rates other than bank interest rates. If we could do that we would be able to prevent a number of people offering exorbitant interest rates to lenders in Australia. Those interest rates have the effect of diverting into private channels money that should be used for national development. I think that the public sector of the economy in Australia is being neglected and the private sector is being over-supplied for the erection of luxury hotels and luxury homes and the manufacture of luxury goods. That should be avoided. Therein I disagree with the right honorable gentleman.
I was amazed to hear him say that having more or less milked the cows dry in America and Britain, he is now looking to German pastures to see what he can do about getting some money there. If the logic of that position is sound, I presume that in due course we will be trying to borrow roubles on the Russian market or yen on the Chinese market. We have been carrying the hat around in Switzerland for a few years. The Treasurer should look at the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution and see whether the time is ripe to put the particular proposals that are recommended by eleven out of twelve members of that committee to the people so that the Constitution, which has been in operation for 57 years, may be altered. With the exception of one Liberal Party member, all members of the committee believed that this Parliament should be clothed with additional powers so that the economy may be regulated in the best interests of Australia. In this Parliament we can exercise powers over banking, exports and imports. We can exercise other fiscal and financial powers, particularly the taxation power, to make sure that the economy is expanded and that everybody in the community is treated fairly, but as a Commonwealth we lack certain other powers. If we had all those additional powers, perhaps we would not need to go abroad seeking new loans to the extent that the Treasurer has done.
It is true that our overseas indebtedness per head of population is less than it was in the 1920’s, but the experience of the 1920’s is still fresh in the minds of many people. There was a lot of borrowing by the State governments and by the Commonwealth Government and ultimately an alteration of the Constitution had to be obtained in order to prevent States competing with the Commonwealth for available loan funds on world markets. It was a good thing that that happened, but the boom was followed eventually by a collapse. Nobody can guarantee, with inflation proceeding throughout the world to-day as it is and as it has been doing for the last decade, that sooner or later there will not be a collapse of world markets. I cannot see how the economists, with their inadequate knowledge of events even at this stage of our development, are able to build stabilizers that will prevent the economy collapsing if fear grips people. Fear is the emotion that moves the masses; love moves the few. But once people fear that something is wrong, no matter how academically correct an argument may seem, it will not prevent their panicking. I believe it is possible even now to have a panic on Wall-street or even in London.
When I look at the claims of the Russians as to what they have done in recent years I say to myself that if only one-quarter of what they claim is correct, we of the West will be in very grave danger within a decade or two because of the peaceful competition which they will give us for the markets of the world. We will have been outpriced everywhere. I believe that Russian production records should be closely studied by all Western economists. I think we are inclined to be very smug, complacent and self-satisfied about events, and that is not a desirable attitude for any of us to adopt.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Adermann) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd October (vide page 2205), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The bill before the House is designed to amend the Rayon Yarn Bounty Act 1954-1959 and to extend the operation of the bounty on sales of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn until 30th June, 1962. The historical facts surrounding this bounty to the rayon yarn industry are that from 1954 until May last the industry has had the advantage of a bounty to encourage production of this essential product within Australia. In May last year this Parliament agreed to the Rayon Yarn Bounty Act, which enabled the Government, by proclamation, to extend the operation of the bounty until 31st December, 1959. That was done pending a recommendation from the Australian Tariff Board.
The recommendation of the Tariff Board was received early in this current sessional period. The board recommended that the payment of bounty on the production of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn be extended until 1962. The Opposition does not object to this, but we are not unmindful of the fact that bounty is attracted not only by the continuous filament acetate rayon yarn produced in Australia, but also by the raw material from which that yarn is spun. Cellulose acetate is also the subject of bounty protection. In the first case, bounty is paid on the rayon yarn produced, the manufacturers being Courtaulds (Australia) Limited, which is a branch of the great international Courtaulds organization, which spins rayon yarn in many of the major countries of the world.
The Labour Party, believing that industry of an essential character should, as far as practicable, be established in Australia, has always endeavoured to encourage the establishment of the rayon spinning industry in this country. The present Government, on coming to office, endorsed this principle, and right up to the present time we have had this form of assistance by way of a bounty. It was decided to assist the production not only of the yarn itself, which is the basic product used in the weaving of certain types of cloth and is also essential for the production of tyres and other commodities, but also of the raw material, cellulose acetate. Assistance was given to C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited in the production of the raw material. To both of these forms of assistance the Australian Labour Party gave its support, based on the traditional policy of the Labour Party to encourage the production of raw and manufactured materials essential to the needs of the Australian people. While it is true that, broadly speaking, we believe in the principle of co-operative production or socialized production, and that when manufacturing industries become monopolized and operate to the detriment of the Australian people we believe they should be taken over by the Government, we are, nevertheless, realists. I do not think any political party in Australia’s history has been more practical and more emphatic in the matter of assisting the establishment of Australian industries than the Labour Party.
Let me say also that we are quite cognizant of the fact that the Courtaulds organization has international ramifications, and it may seem strange that a democratic body like the Australian Labour Party should give assistance to a firm of such international financial strength, to enable it to extend its industrial operations to Australia. This is really not strange, however, because we believe that if we encourage the establishment of industry in Australia, the building of vast factories and the employment of Australian labour, while retaining the right to levy taxes and to determine the rates and conditions of employment of labour, then this is an exhibition of true Australian national sentiment.
Just as we encourage the Courtaulds organization, which, in the initial stages, found itself confronted with financial difficulty, so have we adopted a similar attitude towards C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited. I do not think that any one in this House would suggest that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, having in mind its overall ramifications and operations in Australia and Fiji, is unable to stand, for a good number of years, a loss in the initial stages of the production of the raw material from which Courtaulds (Australia) Limited spins rayon yarn. However, the Australian Tariff Board, which was created by this Parliament and which has rendered a great service to the Parliament, has recommended, on every occasion that submissions in this matter have been made to it, not only that the producers of cellulose acetate should be entitled to receive a bounty in the initial stages of production, but also that a bounty should be payable to the firm carrying out the second process of spinning the yarn - Courtaulds (Australia) Limited - so long as it shows a loss on its operations.
– This is a different attitude from that displayed recently by honorable members opposite with regard to the search for oil.
– That was an entirely different matter. The honorable member is referring to oil, with which there is no parallel. The honorable member’s basis of comparison is all haywire. However, that is not going to divert me from the argument that I have stated, and which I intend to continue to state. It has been demonstrated that the support of bounty payments and; indeed, of high tariffs by the Australian Labour Party has, in the long run, been amply justified, notwithstanding consistent criticism by the Australian Country Party, particularly in the early stages, of tariff impositions and bounty payments designed to encourage the establishment of local in dustry. The supporters of that party have followed their traditional policy that free enterprise the world over should be allowed free play, and that Australian industry should stand on its merits and struggle against the practice of dumping, without any protection from tariffs or bounties. Only in recent years, as the price of their participation in government, have members of the Australian Country Party accepted in part the principle of tariff protection and bounty payment.
My mind goes back over a long period of Australian history. From a traditional free-trade party the Australian Country Party now stands four-square behind the Liberal Party in support of some meagre measure of protection to Australian industry. Probably the most potent factor in its change of mind and attitude was the experience gained in both World War I. and World War II. when the industries established in this country - the outcome, initially, perhaps, of the Scullin tariffs and of the consistent support by the Australian Labour Party for the establishment of industries in Australia - revealed quite clearly that if it had not been for the existence and the creation of those industries in Australia by tariff protection, our position during World War I., and to a greater extent in World War II., would have been infinitely worse than it proved to be. After all, whatever the ramifications and exploitation of local industry might be, the plain fact remains that the Commonwealth Parliament, through its income tax and influence on arbitration courts in the determination of Australian living standards, is in a position to see that those industries which are protected by tariffs and by bounty render to the Australian community that contribution which is some recompense for the protection which, overall, the Australian people have given to them.
For those reasons, if for no others, the Australian Labour Party supports this measure as it supported the measures which preceded it dealing with rayon bounty and cellulose acetate bounty, notwithstanding that in both cases these bounty benefits were given to powerful producers. Courtaulds Limited is a very powerful international organization and the Commonwealth Sugar Refining Company is a very powerful Australian industry. We draw on them for income tax and we determine the terms and conditions under which the labour employed by them shall produce. Bounty payments have become a fairly general principle of legislation in this Parliament directed, as I have said, always to help in the establishment of new industries in this country. Only recently, during the debate on the Estimates which were before Parliament some weeks ago, I found that in the year 1958-59 bounty amounting to £110,000 was paid to the cellulose acetate flake industry, with the consent of the Australian Labour Party. The bounty on copper during that year totalled £768,000. Cotton bounty totalled £139,000, flax bounty £93,000, gold-mining industry assistance bounty £898,000, rayon yarn bounty £69,000, sulphuric acid bounty £1,300,000, and the tractor bounty £450,000. The total bounty payments for the year 1958-59 were £3,794,000. In every case the payment of these bounties was supported by the Australian Labour Party because, first and foremost, we believe that bounties should be paid to foster the establishment of industries within Australia. We believe, also, that in many cases bounties are preferable to tariff protection inasmuch as, in the final analysis, the payment of bounties comes from Consolidated Revenue.
We all know that the man on the basic wage pays a relatively small amount to Consolidated Revenue compared with the man on an income from which he pays tax at the maximum rate of 13s. 4d. in the £1. As a party, we are all for the rich paying for the establishment of industries in Australia. We are all for the man who contributes tax at the rate of 13s. 4d. in the £1 paying the major proportion of the provision for bounties for the establishment of these industries. That is common sense. To a major extent, the payment of bounties avoids a rise in price to the Australian consumer. If a tariff rate were substituted for a bounty there would be an inevitable rise in the price of woven rayon products from which are made the frocks of the wife of the working man and all essential articles which the females of the community wear.
They are the facts as I see them. I have not mentioned, of course, another bounty payment which is above the rest of those
I have quoted. I refer to the dairy industry which received, during 1958-59, bounty payments amounting to £13,500,000. That is a lot of money but it enables butter to be sold to the Australian consumer at approximately lid. per lb. less than he would otherwise pay. From that point of view it is amply justified. The man on the basic wage with four, five or six children pays a very small tax, but the man with no dependants, receiving a handsome income, can pay tax at the maximum rate of 13s. 4d. in the £1. Therefore, it can be truly said, in regard to the bounty payment on the production of butter in Australia, that the wealthy and those who have no family responsibilities are making a Christian contribution towards helping the man on the basic wage with five or six children who is struggling to make ends meet. From that point of view, the Australian Labour Party supports this measure, affecting as it does rayon yarn used for making products such as wearing apparel. We have no hesitation in doing so because this bounty will continue the production of rayon yarn and make available to the people of Australia rayon products at a price which is reasonable and within the range of their purchasing power. Otherwise that would not be the case.
As an illustration of what this bounty payment means to the Australian people, to Consolidated Revenue, and in particular to the high income recipient, let me quote the sums which are being paid to the manufacturers concerned. Courtaulds (Australia) Limited is anathema to the Australian Labour movement as far as a capitalist institution is concerned, but we are realists and appreciate that in Australia this firm is developing an essential industry. We say that so long as its treatment of its employees is kept within the bounds of decency, so long as they are subject to Australian conditions and this firm pays Australian income tax, we are prepared to assist in the development of its industry. Since its establishment in Australia, the Courtaulds organization has received as bounty in respect of yarn sold during the year ended 31st October, 1955, £39,000; for the year ended 31st October, 1956, £56,000; for the year ended 31st October, 1957, £73,000; for the year ended 31st October, 1958, £63,000; and for the nine months ended 31st July, 1959, £54,000. That is a lot of money, but the payment of it is amply justified.
I shall deal now with the firm that supplies the Courtaulds organization with the raw material for the production of this yarn, which, in some cases, goes to Wangaratta where it is woven by Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited, an organization that was established with the assistance of the Chifley Labour Government. The Colonial Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited, a wealthy company, received bounty payments on the production of cellulose acetate of £99,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1956; £113,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1957; £100,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1958; and £124,000 for the year ended 30th June, 1959. It is, perhaps, ironical that these powerful monopolies - I must admit that they are most efficient - are able to draw on Consolidated Revenue for funds to assist in establishing these industries. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited has many ramifications extending from sugar to wall boards and including chemicals, but it is not prepared to use its profits on some sections of its operations to cover losses on the production of cellulose acetate. Instead, it submits a case to the Tariff Board and asks for the payment of a bounty.
The Australian Labour Party faces realities. We realize that if companies such as these are not given a bounty, they will not establish these essential industries in Australia. We realize, therefore, that we have no choice. But although we accept the payment of bounty to these companies, we recognize that, when they reach the profit-making stage, the Parliament has the right to extract some quid pro quo. The unions are able to point out to the Arbitration Court that these companies have the benefit of bounty payments and various forms of protection, and they can demand that the companies provide working conditions which accord with our standard of living.
In those circumstances, I submit, we are justified in supporting this bill. I had intended to mention another point, but, although it was rather important, it has slipped my memory. Fortunately, the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) will speak on the bill. He has had life-long experience with workers in the various spinning mills and has an intimate knowledge of the conditions under which they work. I trust that honorable members, including the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) - a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Australian Country Party and a free-trader in days gone by, although he has now mellowed a little - will be glad, perhaps by silent assent, to support this measure.
.- The bill has been discussed at some length this afternoon, but there are some matters associated with it which ought to be mentioned. Therefore, I want to make some reference to the unusual qualities of rayon fibre. Once it is woven or knitted into a fabric, it is able to exclude the harmful rays of the sun while admitting the beneficial rays, such as ultra-violet and infra-red rays. I have often wondered why manufacturers in the knitting industry have not taken advantage of this unique property to knit cocoons of rayon so that Australians who like to bask in the sun on our beaches could safely encase themselves and acquire a nice shade of brown without being burnt by the sun, with the danger of suffering skin cancers. However, no one seems to have thought of doing this, and I commend the idea to any manufacturer who may be listening. This unique fibre enables the weavers and knitters to produce most beautiful fabrics for the adornment, may I say, of the Creator’s last and best gift to man - woman.
In asking overseas manufacturers to establish industries here, we have never acted as supplicants crying for alms. Whenever we have asked manufacturers to come here, we have always shown our willingness to pay. At no time did we ask Courtaulds (Australia) Limited, a company of international stature, to establish the rayon industry here at its own expense. We made it quite plain that we are not beggars, but were asking the company to come here because we realized the enormous value of rayon production to the textile industry. We gave the assurance that, if the industry were established here, we would give some assistance, in the form of either a tariff or a bounty. As a result, the Courtaulds organization established a factory in Australia, and the value to the textile industry as a whole has been incalculable. The amount of bounty paid on the production of rayon fibre is infinitesimal when compared with the butter subsidy paid to the dairying industry. I can say with -certainty that the amount of all other subsidies paid in Australia vastly exceeds the trifling sum paid as a bounty on the production of rayon fibre.
In his second-reading speech the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) said -
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Rayon Yarn Bounty Act 1954-1959 to extend the operation of the bounty to sales of continuous filament acetate rayon yam up to 30th June, 1962.
He made a few brief and cursory references to the main points in the bill, and concluded with a disinterested kind of commendation in these terms -
I commend the bill to honorable members. It merely extends the period of bounty without any change in the rates of bounty of 6d. per lb. of yam sold, or in the provisions relating to payment.
In fact, there has been a great change in the rate although, on paper, it may appear to have remained unchanged. The original 6d. per Tb. has declined considerably since it was first paid, and although in no section of the report of the Tariff Board can I see any reference to complaint by the company concerned about the drastic fall in the real value of the bounty, I notice that the board, on page 15 of its report, refers to what it calls an error in judgment by the company. I should like to direct the attention of the House to what the Tariff Board chooses to call an error of judgment. It states -
In accordance with information given earlier in this report in regard to present and prospective plant utilization, the board feels it would not be appropriate to recommend a bounty to cover all the disabilities being suffered by the company when, in fact, part of these disabilities have been brought about by what, in retrospect, appears to have been an error in judgment by the company as to the likely level of demand for its product in relation to the plant and capacity needed to meet this demand. In saying this, the board is by no means critical of the company but is merely taking into consideration the unavoidable fact that the company’s situation has -developed because of changes in the relative market for different textile fibres.
While I was perusing that report I realized that the board possessed a poor understanding of both the company concerned and the industry as a whole.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) praised the extent to which the Tariff Board had inquired into the rayon spinning industry, and I agree with him that the board made very extensive investigations, but unless one has actually lived in and breathed the atmosphere of the textile industry it is impossible to appreciate fully what is involved in the issue now before this House.
We of the Australian textile industry, who have something more than mere theoretical knowledge acquired secondhand at Tariff Board inquiries, declare that there has been no error on the part of the company. It knew full well what it wasdoing. It had measured the market in Australia long before it came here and,, unlike some English companies, did not bring obsolete plant to Australia in the hope of extending its life behind a tariff barrier. That is something which I have known several companies in the textile industry to do. They have brought to Australia quite a large quantity of plant, especially in the weaving field, when its newness has worn off in the country of its origin - I am thinking of Great Britain now - and the Australian textile operatives have been expected to produce, with that obsolete plant, textiles to compete with those produced in the Mother Country. The manufacturers who have indulged in that practice have tended to support applications to the Tariff Board for additional protection for the product of that obsolete machinery.
I offer no defence for practices of that kind, in fact I deplore that such a thing has happened. However, Courtaulds (Australia) Limited brought to Australia the best possible plant and set up its organization at Tomago in the coal-fields district of New South Wales. The establishment of this important part of the world’s greatest industry rendered vitally necessary the immediate presence of a number of factors such as abundant electric power, abundant water supply and an intelligent labour force. In relation to the necessity for an intelligent: labour force, the management of Courtaulds with which I, in my previous occupation, had a large number of dealings, remarked on many occasions upon the unnecessary expenditure that it had incurred in bringing to Australia highly experienced technicians from Great Britain because it had not realized’ the amazing versatility of the average Australian in being able to pick up complex processes, master them, put them into operation and start to produce the goods: The management did not realize that that unique know-how, which is the property of the average Australian, makes it possible to overcome many difficulties, and it’ has told me that had it realized before, coming to Australia, how quickly the average Australian can pick up and master a job, it could have saved’ tens of thousands of pounds. The organization now is aware of the mistake that it made. It. will never be repeated.
Every State government endeavoured to persuade the company to establish its plant in their own particular State. This in itself should indicate the great importance that was attached to the presence of the company, and its functions, in Australia. Every thinking and politically conscious citizen is aware that in each State may be found the factors that I have mentioned - power, water and, labour. However, after giving full consideration to the claims of each State, the company set up its plant at Tomago in the coal-fields district of New South Wales. The present administration might regard the company’s action as a crime for which it should be punished, because the feeling1 has been expressed at frequent intervals that the work force on the coal-fields is. unstable, unreliable, and rebellious. It might be possible- to say. with a. little truth that the last of those three adjectives is true. These people are a little rebellious because they come from fighting stock in the industrial world. In my experience, they, have had great provocation from the coal-owners, both in the country from which they came and in the country to which they have come. The history of hate which surrounded the coal-mining industry in England was brought to Australia not so much by the coal-miners as by the coal-owners. So we found that the work, force of Courtaulds (Australia) Limited’ had to be handled very delicately, and it was handled with great- delicacy and great skill by both the unions and. the management, with splendid results.
Practically every secondary industry inAustralia exists- with some kind of assistance from, a protective tariff. The Government? may reply to my remarks on this question by saying- that there is. a tariff on acetate rayon. This is- freely admitted; but what the Government is ignoring is that a similar yarn to acetate rayon - viscose rayon - is admitted to Australia free of duty under British preferential tariff and isi subjected to only 1.2$ per cent, duty under the most-favoured-nation tariff as well as the general tariff. So, the Government closes one door with its left hand and: opens another with its right. The position is, therefore, grievously unsatisfactory.
I am not so much concerned with the financial welfare of Courtauld’s as I am with the work force, at Courtauld’s, which is considerable. The latest figures reveal that the total number, of Courtauld’s employees directly interested in the production of yarn - not necessarily rayon only, but including viscose tyre cord yarn - is 1,600, of whom 1,400 are males and 200 females. I hope it can be fully appreciated what it means to the Newcastle district to have continuous employment for 1,400 males,, most of whom would be married men with families. There would be no comparable district in Australia offering continuous employment for such a large number of people as Courtauld’s are providing. As the districts most affected by unemployment are the coal-fields districts, another reason is provided why the Government ought to. regard with the greatest possible favour the existence of this rayon industry in Australia-. I might mention for what it is. worth that the directorate of this company is all-Australian, that its capital is Australian capital, and that the company is severed from the English company, although it has the advantage of the knowhow that comes from the parent company in Great Britain.
Recently, in this chamber, we received a report from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) about the situation in the rayonweaving industry. I wrote some comments later about the rayon-weaving industry, because the Australian rayon-weaving industry consumes a very large quantity of the. product of the Courtauld’s factory at Tomago. I wrote -
The present state of the Australian rayon weaving trade has been thoroughly ventilated in the recent publicized submission to the Minister for Trade as a. result of which imports of piece? goods, of. man.-made. fibres- from Japan, (which includes rayon and synthetics such as nylon and tetoran) have been frozen at a figure of 8 million square yards per annum.
The circumstances which brought about this restriction are well known, but are primarily: -
A marked decline in the production of Australian rayon piecegoods which has resulted in the laying off of a number of workers and the threat of further and more substantial dismissals.
The steep increase in imports of piecegoods of man-made fibres from Japan over recent years - from li million square yards in 1956-57 to 8i million square yards in 1958-59. Moreover, the trend of import licensing shows that imports could be expected to increase to a rate of at least 12 million square yards per annum in the near future.
I do not claim to have any special knowledge about what is going on in the field of import licensing; but there is something going on when import licences are being issued - and I say they are issued - for rayon materials, when at the same time the Japanese Government has proclaimed it will freeze its exports at 8,000,000 square yards for the year. I see in this kind of situation, Mr. Speaker, an unsatisfactory answer to the Japanese declaration. It is quite possible that they will send out something else which contains a proportion of rayon which can be used for the same purposes. As a consequence, the harm done to the Australian textile industry will be just as great despite the Japanese declaration.
My notes on the Australian rayon industry continue -
The figures quoted in the press for the fall in production in Australian-made rayon goods were as follows: -
However, the Monthly Bulletin of Production Statistics, No. 130 of July, 1959, issued by the Commonwealth Statistician shows an even greater proportionate fall in the Australian manufacture of woven piecegoods over 12 inches wide of pure and mixture rayon during the period as follows: -
The fact that imports as revealed in the statistical returns have not varied substantially from a figure of approximately 30 million square yards over these three years does not necessarily imply that the imports have not affected Australian production and this raises the question of duties levied under the Australian Customs Tariff. An instance of how an apparently protective duty can work to the disadvantage of Australian producers is the case of the increase last year of duties on woven piecegoods wholly of rayon. Up to that time, virtually all linings had been manufactured in Australia from rayon yarn, but when a fairly substantial duty was placed on 100 per cent, rayon piece goods in 1958, overseas producers (in particular, Japan) commenced making lining material of 51 per cent, cotton and 49 per cent, rayon which attracts a most-favoured nation duty of only 4d. square yard as opposed to a levy of 2s. 8id. square yard less 15 per cent., or ls. 8id. square yard applicable to wholly rayon piece goods. The result has been a severe decline in orders on local manufacturers for pure rayon linings and a big increase in orders on overseas manufacturers for linings made of the mixture mentioned above.
Another aspect to duties concerns those applicable to rayon yarns which are at present -
Throughout the world, all countries which produce either acetate or viscose yarn, or both, charge duty at the same rate for both types of yarns, but the Australian tariff does not directly protect Australian made acetate from imported viscose yarn. The only instance of protection to the Australian acetate manufacturer is a small bounty, and the incidental protection against viscose yarn from M.F.N, countries afforded by the margin of preference accorded to the British purchaser.
The main exporter of viscose yarn to Australia is the United Kingdom where the duty on both viscose and acetate yarn is 9d. stg./lb. plus 22* per cent ad. val. full rate, while for countries enjoying British preferential status, the rate is 5/6ths of the full rate.
The Australian rayon yarn producing industry has to compete in very many fields with viscose yarn imported from countries which are very large producers. These producers can, with advantage, export their surplus production at cost,, if necessary, or at a very marginal profit since the disposal of their surplus spreads the overhead costs over a greater volume of production and thus increases profitability. This is essentially the main problem faced by an Australian producer and one which invites close study by the Government.
My time is nearly up, Mr. Speaker, and I think only a few more observations by me are needed now. Courtaulds (Australia) Limited could have been in a less favorable position were it not for its command of the tire cord market in Australia - a command that it has richly earned. However, in the very near future there could be an influx of nylon tire cord from the United States of America. I only hope that this does not happen. I believe that it is doubtful whether nylon tire cord is superior to rayon tire cord, but a great and skilful advertising campaign may be launched in order to convince the Australian manufacturers of tires that nylon cord is superior. I have little doubt that if enough money is spent on such a campaign, the rayon tire cord manufacturing business of Courtaulds (Australia) Limited could be further injured. This company manufactures both acetate rayon yarn and viscose tire cord. The production of one helps the production of the other. For quite a long time, the viscose tire cord side of the business has been supporting the acetate rayon side. I think that that is a very undesirable state of affairs. This company took a risk when it came to Australia, and it deserves to receive from the Australian people a great deal more encouragement than it is getting.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that the report of the Tariff Board appears to damn the rayon spinning industry with faint praise, and the Government’s attitude appears to be a pallid echo of that of the board. I am obliged to support this bill and, accordingly, I will, but I cannot refrain from expressing my disappointment at its deficiencies and inadequacies.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a few comments on this bill. I think that the rayon yarn bounty is a good thing for Australian industry, because it promotes employment and helps to maintain a stable price for continuous filament acetate rayon yarn, which is a most important raw material for several great industries that are established in country areas in Australia. I am certain that everybody in Australia will support any move that will continue in production an industry established in a rural area. It has become most important to our nation to develop our rural areas. Certainly, due consideration must be given to the use of facilities that are available in city areas, but a correct national outlook requires that industries be established in country areas, and this bounty, which the Government pro poses to continue, will help industries already established in rural areas.
I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay). The honorable member for Lalor made a very interesting and knowledgeable speech, but I feel that he was not quite correct when he singled out the Australian Country Party as being opposed to the payment of bounties. I cannot speak with the honorable member’s long experience in this House, Mr. Speaker, but I can speak of the attitude of the Australian Country Party. The attitude of members of the Australian Country Party is that we must adopt a balanced approach to the payment of bounties to various industries. We adopt a balanced approach to the payment of this bounty, just as we do to the payment of a bounty to consumers in respect of the dairying industry and the payment of a bounty on superphosphate to primary producers. I can assure the honorable member for Lalor that the Australian Country Party stands for the balanced development of Australia. It is truly national in its thinking, and not in any way sectional. If, in the past, the thinking of the Australian Country Party was along the lines indicated by the honorable member, it is good to think that members of the party are sufficiently elastic in their thinking to change their minds when they see the benefit to the country of support for secondary industries in Australia.
It is very good to see the concern of this Liberal Party-Australian Country Party Government for secondary industries, but we must still recognize the importance of the primary industries to the country’s economy. We must be certain that we do not lose sight of the importance of the primary producers to our national economy, and we must be careful not to encourage any industry to the detriment of the primaryproducing industries. This has been indicated by the executives of the rayon mills in dealing with this matter, Mr. Speaker. They have said, particularly in the last few months that, in helping the rayon industry, we must not do anything that will adversely affect our export trade, particularly in primary products. As this bounty has been paid for the last five years, I am certain that the primary producers can rest assured that they will suffer no ill effects from it.
I should like to indicate briefly how this bounty assists the rayon-weaving industry. As I have mentioned, it is most important for all of us that we assist this industry, because all our rayon mills, I think, are in rural areas, and are playing a very important part in the development of the country. They have brought housing and business activity to country districts and have provided opportunities for young men from the country to advance their knowledge and their status in life. The honorable member for St. George got in ahead of me in pointing out the employment benefits of these establishments in rural areas. I was very pleased to hear him deal with it. The establishment of rayon mills by Courtaulds (Australia) Limited, near Newcastle, and by Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited, at Wangaratta, has afforded country lads the opportunity to undertake employment in these organizations at an early age and, by their ability and their initiative, to master the techniques of the difficult processes involved in rayon weaving. In my own town of Wangaratta young people have risen to great heights in the great organization, Bruck Mills (Australia) Limited. From memory, I think at least four of them have been sent overseas as representatives of the company. Such industrial development cannot fail to benefit the young people of Australia.
I notice that quality and efficiency are taken into account. A point that impresses me is that the rayon weavers of this country realize that they must be efficient and produce goods of high quality in order to be entitled to sympathetic consideration from this Government. Bearing in mind all the factors, I am certain that this bill will contribute to the sound development of Australia. It is important not to do anything to harm the export earning capacity of our industries. With those few remarks, I support the bill.
– in reply - In closing this debate, I want to refer very shortly to some of the remarks made by preceding speakers. I am sure that the House has been interested, as I have been, in the three thoughtful speeches we have heard. That by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) draws from his long experience of the administration of bounties and protective duties. That from the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) was drawn from his own experience of industrial relations in the textile industry, and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten) drew on his own particular experience of one of the principal concerns in this industry in his own electorate.
I want to refer particularly to three remarks made by the honorable member for St. George. First, he suggested that the Government had made it clear to Courtaulds (Australia) Limited that it was prepared to pay for the rayon yarn spinning industry to be established in Australia. If the honorable member was speaking figuratively, and if he meant that a general national interest was expressed in the establishment of the industry in Australia and that encouragement was .given to it in a general way, I would have no disagreement with him. But if he meant that any express commitments were undertaken by the Government his statement should be corrected. It is the settled policy of this Government, as I expect it was the policy of its predecessor, that no express assistance should be given to any industry as to the conditions under which it will operate so far as duties or bounties are concerned. It is the invariable policy of this Government that applications for bounty or protective duty must be referred to the Tariff Board. The Government is not obliged to accept the advice of the Tariff Board, although it generally does so. But no undertakings are given in advance to any industry contemplating estabishment in this country.
The honorable member for St. George also complained that, whereas continuous filament acetate yarn is given a bounty and receives tariff protection, the production of viscose yarn is not assisted by bounty, and does not receive the same tariff treatment as continuous filament acetate yarn. That, again, is on the direct and express advice of the Tariff Board. The question has been referred to the Tariff Board. Viscose yarn is manufactured in Australia. The Tariff Board found that it is manufactured profitably and does not need a bounty in the same way as continuous filament acetate yarn did.
Finally, the honorable member for St. George -expressed some fears for the Australian rayon-weaving industry owing to
Japanese competition. I remind him that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) announced recently that this matter had been referred again to the Tariff Board. The measures which the Minister described in the House recently were measures to cover the interim period before the matter could be considered by the Tariff Board and its report, in turn, considered by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 22nd October (vide page 2212), on motion by Mr. Downer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure that is now before the House - a bill to amend the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-1958 - is a small bill containing ten clauses. As the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) very properly stated during the course of his second-reading speech, some of the clauses are somewhat complicated and possibly a little bit difficult to understand. Nevertheless, the bill proposes to amend the principal act in six different directions. It is a typical illustration - one might say a classical illustration - of the position that arises frequently these days. The House can give its very earnest consideration to a very important measure, discussing it at great length, and finally adopting it, yet because of rapidly changing circumstances, in a short space of time, amendments need to be made to the measure. Last year, we made some vital amendments to the original legislation which was passed in 1955 and now we are discussing further amendments.
Like the Minister, I propose to enumerate these proposed amendments, one by one, and then to make certain remarks in respect of each of them. The first amendment adds two newly created nations to the list of nations in which British nationality is automatically conferred at birth. The second amendment removes certain obstacles that now stand in the way of children born of Australian parents outside Australia being registered at the Australian consulate and obtaining Australian citizenship by descent. The third amendment eliminates the statutory waiting period of six months before a person, whose application has been approved, may be naturalized. The fourth proposal will abolish the practice of keeping duplicate certificates of registration and naturalization. The act at present prescribes that copies of registration and naturalization must be kept. The fifth proposal will remove the unqualified right of the public to inspect records of persons naturalized. The sixth proposal is aimed at giving greater accuracy in the statistical return which, under the principal act, the Minister is required to place before Parliament each twelve months.
None of those six proposals can be regarded as vital amendments to the existing act but each of them indicates that in the three or four years since the principal act came into being, as a consequence of the experience and knowledge gained in the administration of the act, certain defects have become evident and certain practices have become obsolete. The idea behind the six amendments is to make, the act more workable, to give certain people a greater sense of security, and to remove certain obstacles that now confront Australian citizens living abroad.
The first amendment is a very simple one. It proposes to add to section 7 of the principal act the Federation of Malaya and the State of Singapore. Section 7 of the act lists and classifies the countries in which children at birth automatically become British subjects. There are a number of those countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Federation of Malaya and the State of Singapore are recent additions. The status of those countries is recognized already by an amendment to the regulations and I think all honorable members will agree that it is only right and proper that they should be included in section 7 of the act. This amendment can only be regarded as satisfactory and as giving equal recognition to the new nations concerned. It indicates that as far as Australia is concerned, all member countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations have equal status. It is obvious that with the passing of this amendment the existing regulations will need to be repealed, and these two countries will take their place with other countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations in section 7 of the act.
The second amendment will overcome a difficulty that is being experienced by certain Australian citizens. This amendment is provided by clause 4 of the bill and deals with the question of citizenship by descent. At present an Australian living in a country other than a country within the British Commonwealth of Nations may register the birth of a child, born of Australian citizens, at the Australian consulate and thereby secure for that child Australian citizenship by descent. But the same thing does not apply in respect of persons living in a country where birth automatically confers British citizenship. The act as it stands at present is subject to a qualification that is sometimes extremely difficult to prove, namely - these are my words, not the Minister’s - that the person registering the birth is substantially a resident of Australia. The amendment proposes to place all Australians living outside Australia on the same footing so that it matters not whether they are living in a foreign country or a country within the British Commonwealth of “Nations - they can secure the same treatment in respect of their children by going to the Australian consulate and registering the child there, where it receives Australian citizenship by descent. That is a very wise provision. There should not be one law applying to one type of citizen and another “law applying to another type.
The third amendment deals with the elimination of the statutory waiting period of six months following application for naturalization. Naturalization has become a very important part of Australian life. As honorable members know, over a period of years people from many countries have come to Australia and settled here as permanent citizens. Quite naturally we desire them, as soon as the prescribed waiting time of five years has elapsed, to seek naturalization. Something that will abolish unnecessary delays in obtaining naturalization can only be regarded as satisfactory. The subject of naturalization has received considerable attention from this Parliament, the
Department of Immigration and the annual Australian Citizenship Conventions.
The methods and procedures with regard to naturalization have been altered from time to time. Under the old system a person went to a court of petty sessions, made certain declarations before a clerk of courts, received a document and walked out. He went in not an Australian, but came out an Australian. One of the most forward moves we have made was the elimination of that system. I believe that when a person becomes a citizen of this country he should be welcomed warmly and in a friendly manner. Having the procedure carried out in a cold, legal, matter-of-fact way did not tend to inspire a person to feel that he had become a citizen of a great and growing nation. Over the years, we have gradually amended our laws to make the naturalization ceremony something that will appeal to the heart as well as the mind of a new citizen, and make him feel that he is welcome, that the people of Australia are his friends, and that they wish him well in his new status as an Australian citizen.
These are some of the things we have accomplished. Because we have moved steadily and slowly, always wanting to make sure that what we were doing was in the best interest of the country, a provision was contained in the 1955 legislation to the effect that after a person had applied for naturalization, and his application had been found satisfactory and approved, a further six months must elapse before the naturalization ceremony could be performed and the person concerned could become a citizen of Australia. There may have been good reasons for this provision at the time. It may have been felt in the days gone by that perhaps something might happen within six months to upset the decision to grant naturalization. Experience has shown that no such cases arise. Many honorable members have been approached by persons who have applied for naturalization and have heard nothing further about the naturalization ceremony for a long period. They come to us to find out what is the the trouble, and we have to tell them about this six-months waiting period. This legislation will do away with the waiting period, and once an application has been approved the naturalization ceremony can be arranged without further delay, and a person can then immediately become a citizen of Australia, taking upon himself all the obligations of citizenship, while at the same time receiving all the benefits that flow from it. The Opposition believes this proposal to be a good one, and one that strengthens and improves the naturalization law.
I propose to deal with the fourth and sixth of the proposed amendments together. Both of them are in the nature of administrative reforms, and can, perhaps, be dealt with most conveniently by being taken together. The fourth proposal will abolish the practice of keeping duplicates of certificates of registration and naturalization. Those of us who have seen the naturalization certificate can well appreciate that when tens of thousands of persons are being naturalized each year the making and storing of copies of certificates constitutes a very big problem. It is not surprising that this has now become a major administrative difficulty. It is proposed that a duplicate certificate shall not be kept, but that the information contained on the certificate will be recorded on an index card which can be readily looked at if necessary. As a sole record it will, apparently, meet the needs of the Department of Immigration.
There is one question that I suggest might be given consideration at this stage. What steps are being taken to protect these records from fire damage? It may eventually be considered necessary, in order to save storage space, to keep these records on microfilm rather than on index cards, and the whole question of how such records, which are essential records, can be made secure against the possibility of fire is, I feel, very important. I believe that if fire did break out and all these records were destroyed the department would find itself in difficulties from time to time, perhaps with regard to legal proceedings, or in the case of a person seeking information respecting the naturalization either of himself or one of his parents. However, from the standpoint of administrative advantage I think a good deal is to be said in favour of this proposed amendment.
Similar remarks apply to the sixth proposed amendment, which aims at greater accuracy of the annual statistical return.
The position to-day is that the Minister must submit a return to Parliament annually, showing the number of applications approved. This may be anything between 100,000 and 150,000. The impression is then gained that all these persons have been naturalized; but it does not necessarily follow that because an application is approved, or even a certificate made out, the naturalization has actually taken place. As was mentioned by the Minister in his second-reading speech, some people do not turn up for the naturalization ceremony, and apparently do not worry any further about it. Then, of course, there is the inevitable possibility of a person dying before the ceremony can take place. The proposal is, therefore, to give to the Parliament not the numbers of persons who have made applications which have been approved, but the actual numbers of people who have undergone the naturalization ceremony and so become members of the Australian community. From the Opposition’s stand-point this is a good proposal, and we certainly do not object to it.
That leaves the final proposed amendment, which is, I think, one with which all members of the Opposition heartily agree. The proposal will remove the unqualified right of members of the public to inspect the records of persons naturalized. Of course when a person makes application for naturalization, the department must have full particulars regarding that person, such as his name and address, the country from which he comes, his age and various other particulars. The department must have all this information, because it must be satisfied that the applicant is a person to whom we can confidently grant citizenship. At the present time the records containing all this information about persons applying for naturalization are open to inspection by any one. There are grave dangers in this practice, especially in relation to persons coming from countries in which there may be feeling against nationals of those countries who become naturalized in another country. This opportunity for open inspection could lead to abuses. Information might be obtained that could result in action being taken detrimental to the relatives of naturalized persons, who still remain in the native, countries of those persons. In any case,. my personal view, which is certainly shared by my colleagues, is not in favour of a dossier in respect of anybody being the subject of perusal by any busybody who wants to have a look at it. If a person wishes to get information, there is a right way of going about it; but to have these dossiers or indexes open to inspection by the curious and the inquisitive, the people who talk about other people, is not a very good thing in this community. The removal of this right of anybody to inspect the indexes is a good move.
That does not prevent the use of the indexes in legal proceedings. If such proceedings take place and it is necessary to present an index to the court, provision is made in the bill to enable the necessary evidence to be produced in court. If a person, or his son or daughter who have become naturalized, wanted to get further information from the indexes in regard to their family history, they are able to obtain it in a very full form. But the right of anybody to go along and look at the history of somebody else, merely out of curiosity, will certainly be denied in future. One can agree that that particular provision is good.
The Opposition commends the bill. We do not oppose it. If I may say so to my friend, the Minister, unlike many of the items of legislation which the Government brings down, this is a really practical measure. It has merit in it and because of that we support it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I should like to ask the Minister’s explanation of sub-clause (2.) of clause 4. I think I know the meaning of it, but I should like to have his interpretation of this somewhat complicated provision. It reads - (2.) The repeal of sub-section (2.) of section eleven of the Principal Act has effect in relation to persons born before the date of commencement of this Act as well as in relation to persons born on or after that date, but does not operate so as to make a person to whom that sub-section applied an Australian citizen by virtue of any registration, or purported registration, of his birth at an Australian consulate before that date.
– I regret that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has found some obscurity in this provision, but as I said in my secondreading speech, it was not a very easy bill to draft and some of the language inevitably has to be tortuous, but I think that its legal intent, in actual operation, will be quite clear.
The object of this sub-clause, of which the honorable member seeks an explanation, is to avoid any real retrospectivity. If the legislation commends itself to honorable members, the result of this provision will be that a person who would not be qualified hitherto, but for this legislation, will be able to have his birth registered. But it will not enable people who, for example, many years ago were born abroad, to come within the ambit of the bill automatically without registration of birth.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 22nd October (vide page 2236), on motion by Dr. Donald Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill proposes four principal changes in the national health scheme. First, it increases medical benefits on 140 items out of a total of about 1,000; secondly, it widens the definition of hospitals recognized under the hospitals special accounts scheme; thirdly, it very greatly extends the list of pharmaceutical benefits; and, fourthly, it institutes a charge of 5s. in respect of each prescription dispensed under the national health scheme.
The Australian Labour Party is not opposed in general terms to the first three of these proposals, although some features of them are open to the widest criticism, as we shall show. But, to institute a charge of 5s. for each prescription, especially for the health-giving and life-saving drugs that have been provided free for the past eight years is a backward step. It is a clumsy device which will not eliminate wasteful and excessive prescribing, and the Opposition will divide the House for the purpose of eliminating this 5s. charge from the bill.
The Government’s national health legislation is always much more notable for what it omits than for what it provides. The bill is a further example of a wrong set of health priorities. It is - this goes without saying - another full-scale British Medical Association production. The B.M.A. has dictated the whole of the Government’s national health scheme so far and - very clearly from this legislation - it is still doing so. On this, there is only one thing to say: The B.M.A. is certainly a very worthy organization, but its interests are not identical with the interests of the people of Australia, and the Government has no right whatever to act as though they were.
Thus it happens that, while the costs of the scheme are mounting tremendously, the provisions essential to any true national health scheme are still lacking from the Government’s scheme. It is indeed a reflection on the scheme to-day that almost half the total cost of it is for drugs and medicines and that very soon, according to the statement of the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), more than half the total cost of the scheme will be for drugs and medicines.
At the same time, no adequate provision is made for things to which a Labour government would give very high priority in a national health scheme. For instance, we wish to see real and practical encouragement given to arrangements for group services by medical practitioners, to be rendered either on a per capita or a salary basis. We want to see far wider provision for salaried medical services in sparsely settled areas, and the provision of funds to subsidize medical and nursing services in country areas generally. A Labour government, in contra-distinction to this Government, would give very high priority in a national health scheme to establishing a national hospital service and to restoring the system which existed under the former Labour Government of providing hospital treatment in public wards completely with- out charge and completely without means test. Similarly, a Labour government would seek to extend the system of salaried services by specialists in public hospitals so that patients in all wards - private, intermediate and public wards alike - especially patients requiring operations, would have the option of using the services of these salaried specialists without any charge. They would have available the services of men who would have no other interest in rendering that service than the health of the patient to whom they were administering.
– Like what other country? What other medical service are you comparing it with?
– I am sorry, I cannot understand you. I wish I could; I would like to reply to you.
Optical and dental services for children under sixteen years of age and aid for the deaf are other proper features of a national health scheme which a Labour government would encourage. Further features should be active steps in preventive medicine, in research and in medical education. All these features are completely lacking from the Government’s so-called national health scheme. However, I do not have time to deal further with those matters at this stage.
In explaining the bill, the Minister set out that the largest increase in medical benefits will be for major operations. In some cases, Commonwealth benefits will be doubled to a maximum of £22 10s. and the total of Commonwealth and fund benefits may reach a maximum of £60 as against the present maximum of £30. That is all very well as far as it goes, but what assurance is there that the doctors will not increase their fees accordingly? Absolutely no such assurance is given by the Minister. Is the Government not prepared to take any practical step to protect the interests of the patients, the contributors, and the taxpayers? Has the Government sought any arrangement with the B.M.A. - if it has, we have no inkling of it - or any guarantee at all from that body that, as a condition of the provision of this further Commonwealth benefit, there will be no further increase in medical fees? The history of medical benefits in this country is that any increase is almost immediately swallowed up by increases in medical fees. If that is so, the only ones to gain are the doctors, and the taxpayers and the fund contributors are alike at a loss. In not taking steps to provide safeguards, the Government is ignoring its responsibilities to the people.
– And to the taxpayers.
– That is so. In a letter I have received, the Latrobe Valley Hospitals and Health Services Association, a very important organization in Victoria, has this to say -
From past experience and from present indications, it does suggest to us that this Bill, supposedly having the motivating conception to improve the financial position of the Registered Organization and at the same time, bringing the Benefits nearer to the level of present-day costs has, in fact, the very decided flavour of being a “ Doctors’ Bill “. There is a very apparent resistance among Benefit Organizations that, unless some arrangement is made, or assurance given by the B.M.A. that there will not be any increase in Doctors’ Fees, then the value of the Benefits to the Contributors will disappear.
The letter continues -
Reasons for believing that Doctors will increase charges are -
One Public Officer of an Organization has already reported that attached to an account for Claim was a statement “ on and after 1st January, 1960, consultations and visits will be increased “.
It is rather significant-
The Minister has not told us of it - that the Department of Health has issued the following circular during the past week: -
Since the inception of the medical benefits scheme, established policy has been that fund benefit for general practictioner attendances must not exceed 7s. 6d. for surgery consultations and 9s. Od. for home visits. It has now been decided that organizations may, if they so desire, amend their rules to provide a fund benefit up to a limit of 10s. Od. for such consultations and visits.
What does that presage except an increase in the fees to be charged by doctors? This, I understand, is the first indication that this proposal has been put forward. The letter goes on -
The combined organizations have unanimously rejected the proposal. Both Western Australian and South Australian organizations have also rejected the proposal.
The letter concludes in these terms -
It is becoming increasingly apparent that with the introduction of new benefits with their necessary accompanying increase in subscriptions, the average wage earner is being “priced” out of both hospital and medical benefits.
Finally, documentary evidence has been produced to me of the padding by doctors of their accounts. I know that that is a practice which the majority of doctors will repudiate, but the evidence is here that some doctors are certainly engaging in it. The letter states -
We have in our possession a doctor’s account attached to which is a note by the doctor which reads, “ Deduct £1 for local anaesthetic if not in hospital benefit association or a lodge “.
The point, of course, is that a local anaesthetic does not carry a refund as it forms the very basis of a consultation.
In dealing with medical benefits, this bill perpetuates the obnoxious system against which the Opposition has been protesting repeatedly, namely that in order to qualify for payment of the Commonwealth benefit, a contributor must belong to a private association or society - a provision of which my friend, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) may be proud but which we consider to be entirely wrong in principle and politically immoral. Indeed, in some cases although an individual does not, and cannot, qualify for any benefit whatever from the private society to which he has to contribute, he is compelled to contribute to it in order to attract the Commonwealth benefit - an amount that is paid from the public Treasury. When the Australian Labour Party is returned to office it will most certainly abolish iniquitous provisions of that kind.
– And abolish the system, too.
– We will not abolish the system; we will improve it. It is noteworthy that the Minister, in his second-reading speech, apparently was deliberately vague in his references to the proposed increase in fund benefit to correspond with the proposed increase in Commonwealth benefit: We have been told what the increased Commonwealth benefit will be, but the Minister has been extraordinarily vague about the additional amount that contributors will have to pay to the societies, and the additional amount that the societies will make available to the contributors.
The Opposition welcomes the amendment to the bill which will extend the list of hospitals that will be recognized for the purposes of the hospital benefit special account plan. According to the Minister, it appears that this amendment will wipe out a very serious anomaly to which I, and other members of the Opposition, have previously directed attention in this House as a cause of quite tragic hardship and injustice. The anomaly was that hospitals catering principally for permanent patients were not recognized as hospitals to which benefit would be paid from the special account. In effect, it meant that hospitals catering for people most seriously ill, people for whom the general public hospitals could no longer provide treatment which might restore them to health, but who were most desperately ill and were, therefore, transferred to these special hospitals, were shut out from any benefit whatever under the special account plan. We have brought this matter to the attention of the Minister on previous occasions in this House, and we welcome the amendment which he has now proposed to correct the anomaly.
The most controversial provisions of this bill are those which deal with pharmaceutical benefits. The Government’s proposal is two-fold. First, it proposes to enlarge the general list so that, to use the Minister’s words, it will cover practically the same comprehensive range as the pensioner list covers, namely, the range of drugs covered in the British Pharmacopoeia, with such additions as are recommended by the Government’s own expert advisory committee. Secondly, the Government proposes to authorize - in fact, to compel - chemists to charge 5s. for each prescription, the penalty clause being to the effect that if the chemist does not make the charge he will be disqualified from operating under the National Health Act in the future. To justify this charge, the Minister has pointed to the soaring costs of pharmaceutical benefits and to the necessity to place some curb upon that mounting and astronomical sum. Certainly, the cost has mounted astronomically, particularly in the last three or four years, but equally certainly the changes now proposed by the Minister will not, in fact, place any curb whatever upon that rise in costs. The Minister has indicated the way in which costs have risen. In 1951-52, the first full year of operation of the scheme, it cost £7,600,000. By 1956-57, the cost had risen to £11,700,000, and after that it began to race away - so much so that in the last financial year the figure was £21,000,000, while this year it is expected to be about £25,000,000 for drugs and medicines alone on a restricted list. The Minister has stated also that the cost is soon likely to reach £30,000,000 for a restricted list unless some curb is imposed.
The Minister, in his speech, completely soft-pedalled the factor that is mainly responsible for the increased cost of the scheme, namely, the uninhibited, wasteful and excessive prescribing by some doctors. Nor does the Minister propose by any word in the bill to place any curb whatever upon doctors who engage in those practices.
The Minister’s speech in this respect is most interesting because he appears to have backed away completely even from the most guarded references to this subject in the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and in the Minister’s background notes which were circulated at the time when the Budget was introduced. Indeed, the Minister has been at pains in his second-reading speech - as though he has been slapped over the wrist and compelled to make some apology for his earlier statement - to say that it is not to the discredit of any one that there has been so much prescribing of expensive drugs without regard to their cost to the taxpayer or to their real need in the circumstances. If the Minister really believes that; if he really believes that it is not to the discredit of any one that this position has arisen, then he must stand alone in the medical profession in Australia. I doubt whether any honorable member in this House has spoken privately with a doctor without being told in the strongest terms of the doctors’ condemnation of the prescribing practices that have been adopted by some of their colleagues.
The official journal of the B.M.A. has been most outspoken on this subject. The Minister, although in his second-reading speech he has eaten his words, said in the background material to which I have referred that the object of the proposed alterations was “ to remove the present economic pressure which results in prescriptions being channelled to expensive free items “. Later, in the same background notes, he used some very revealing words which were not contained in his second-reading speech. He said in these background notes -
One factor of some importance is that when a new drug becomes a pharmaceutical benefit it is almost immediately very widely prescribed by doctors without any inhibition as to cost . . . and the trend is continually to increase Government prescribing and decrease private prescribing.
Yet where in the bill will you find even the slightest proposal to place a curb on the uninhibited doctors? The answer, of course, is nowhere.
The Minister himself has declared that if the trend towards a steep rise in prescribing under the National Health Scheme is not arrested it will lead to the taxpayer being called upon to meet a drug bill of £30,000,000 a year with disastrous effects upon the entire national health service, both because of the unnecessary burden imposed upon the taxpayer and of the eating up of financial resources which could be used for some of the vital improvements in a national health scheme, which I indicated earlier in this speech. Yet the Minister still proposes to do nothing about it in any way which would be effective, because apparently he dare not tackle those doctors who are abusing their trust and bringing discredit upon an honorable profession. No curb of any kind on their uninhibited practices is proposed, but instead the wild leap is taken of placing almost every drug upon the national health list and of imposing a Ss. fee for every prescription - which certainly affects the patient and certainly affects the chemist, but has no effect whatever upon the doctor. So the free medicine scheme has gone!
– Was there a free medicine scheme under Labour?
– Yes. there was a free medicine scheme under Labour, and it had the utmost co-operation and support of the Pharmaceutical Guild of Australia. But that scheme was destroyed as a result of a political plot between the British Medical Association and the Liberal Party.
Let us look at the present position as the effect of the Minister’s proposals becomes clearer. First, it is clear, although the Minister has carefully refrained from saying so, that soon there will be practically no private dispensing in Ai”” The
Government will pay for the lot, less the charge of 5s. on each item. Now, what is this? This is almost nationalization of medicine and pharmacy by a Liberal Government, and what nonsense it makes of all the arguments which were used to destroy the Chifley-McKenna free medicine plan! It will be remembered that this plan was the original concept of an Australian national health service, on the basis of an extemporaneous dispensing of a very wide range of drugs and medicines. The B.M.A. objected to the idea of a formulary, and had the loud support of every Liberal member of this Parliament.
– And of the Australian Country Party.
– Quite so. But as the Australian Country Party is an appendage of the Liberal Party, it is not necessary to mention it every time. The scheme was successfully challenged in the High Court, but historically the truth is that the original free medicine scheme was torpedoed by an alliance between the B.M.A. and the anti-Labour parties in this Parliament. It was stated at that time, of course, that there must be no limitation on the doctor’s right to prescribe whatever drugs he saw fit. That was put forward almost as a sacred principle. Now we have the Minister blandly saying in his second-reading speech -
In any scheme conducted by the Government there must necessarily be some limitation of the range of drugs- and pointing out that no doctor will have an unfettered right to prescribe under the National Health Scheme.
The Chifley-McKenna scheme was destroyed because it placed some limitation upon the right of the doctor to prescribe whatever drugs he saw fit - the right which the Minister himself now says no government could ever give to any doctor. To replace it, the Page scheme came into being. It provided a limited list of life-saving and disease-preventing drugs.
– A very good list.
– Exactly! A good list, but still a list. The B.M.A., of course, eagerly embraced the Page scheme because the restricted list was called a list and not a formulary. And now the B.M.A. is equally willing to accept the enlarged scheme, with the enlarged list, which is, after all, still a formulary. The Page scheme provided a bridgehead over which old-established manufacturers, and numerous new ones, came into the scheme with a wide and ever-increasing range of new proprietary lines. As the Minister has admitted, as soon as any new drug was placed on the pharmaceutical benefit list the doctors began immediately to prescribe it very widely and without any concern for the cost to the taxpayer. No wonder the cost of the Page scheme soared.
Certainly a proportion of these proprietary drugs, supplied by manufacturers of long experience in therapeutic science, were of value in the field of health. Unquestionably they must have saved the nation much money - though the Government has never told us how much - by providing for earlier diagnosis and treatment and for shorter stays in hospital, and so greatly reducing absences from work. But equally certainly some doctors have grossly abused the scheme from the day it started until to-day.
– They are a minority.
– It is hard to say. I would certainly like to think that that is correct, and I believe that the standards of the medical profession are high enough to justify the honorable gentleman’s statement. But the tremendous soaring costs of the scheme make it necessary to place some curb on this extravagant and wasteful minority who are using the scheme for their own special purposes in building up their own practices against those of their more conscientious colleagues. The B.M.A. in its own journel, “ The Medical Journal of Australia “, published an article headed “ Anti-biotics Amok “, which made it plain beyond doubt that some doctors were abusing the scheme. Since that article was published the cost of the scheme has skyrocketed, and even the Government now recognizes the need for some deterrent to unnecessary prescribing. Of course anybody who had the figures would recognize that need. But the singular fact is that the Government should think, or pretend to think, that this can be done by imposing a tax or levy or charge or impost, or whatever you care to call it, for every prescription written as a general pharmaceutical benefit. The 5s. has to be paid by the patient and collected by the chemist. But neither the patient nor the chemist decides the writing of a prescription. That is the sole prerogative of the doctor, and one searches this legislation in vain for any sign of sterner disciplinary action or penalty upon these uninhibited doctors.
The Government’s attitude is all the more remarkable, and is all the more clearly dictated by its fear of the power of the B.M.A., in that it cannot have been formed in ignorance of the final report of the Committee on the Cost of Prescribing set up by the Minister for Health in the United Kingdom. This expert committee, headed by Sir Henry Hinchliffe, put forward a series of detailed and far-reaching recommendations to deal with the problem of wasteful and excessive prescribing. It clearly recognized the necessity, and it set out precise proposals for medical training, both undergraduate and post-graduate, including systematic instruction of general practitioners in pharmacology and therapeutics because, the committee pointed out, the average practitioner is now completely unable to judge the validity of the makers’ claims for the many new drugs now produced.
Not one of those most important recommendations by this committee which studied the whole subject in Britain for many months has been given, apparently, the slightest attention by the Government. Further, this expert committee, while defending the doctor’s right to prescribe the drugs necessary in his judgment, recommended, first, the provision for doctors of up-to-date information about new drugs and preparations and the results of clinical trials; and, secondly, the tightening of disciplinary measures to deal with excessive prescribing. Particularly, the committee recommended severe penalties for excessive prescribing where doctors prescribed extravagantly in order to attract patients. This is exactly the problem which we have to face in so many parts of Australia.
In addition, the Hinchliffe committee made a series of most valuable recommendations for providing doctors with the results of clinical trials of new drugs - how important that is - for assisting general practitioners in habits of good prescribing, for educating the public and for enlisting the co-operation of the drug industry and of the retail pharmacists.
Altogether, that report is a historic document, lt cannot possibly have been unavailable to the Minister. Yet the Minister’s second-reading speech, dealing with this very problem, gives not the slightest indication of the adoption - or even the consideration - of practical recommendations of this kind. Indeed, it is as though the Minister had completely set aside all other proposals in favour of his pet idea of the new prescription charge. The fact is that a prescription charge is the one thing against which the Hinchliffe committee firmly set its face. This committee of experts - of noted medical men - in the United Kingdom, which studied this problem for months, said -
The present prescription charge is a tax which, besides stimulating the wrong incentives, has proved disappointing financially . . .
The committee added that consideration should be given to the desirability of abolishing the prescription charge altogether if agreement could be reached with the medical profession for some voluntary action on its part to limit excessive prescribing. So I say deliberately that, in the light of all the available facts and evidence, the Government’s proposal as now put before this House appears to be a halfbaked crazy scheme which cannot possibly achieve its professed purpose of curbing excessive dispensing.
Of course, regarded simply as a new tax for the purpose of gaining revenue for the Treasury from the people of Australia and those who can least afford to pay this tax, the proposal must be very convenient indeed to the Government, because it imposes the whole responsibility for collecting the tax, estimated to bring in over £5,000,000 a year, on the 4,000 chemists of this country.
The Minister has been unable to announce to the House any agreement with the Federated Pharmaceutical Services Guild, and the fact is that no agreement with the guild has yet been reached.
There appears to be a very sharp contrast between the way in which the Government deals with the British Medical Association and the way in which it deals with the pharmaceutical guild. When the guild first met the Government on this matter, a comparatively few weeks ago, the Government told the guild that the Government had no constitutional power to enforce the collection of the 5s. fee. Its airy attitude towards the chemists was, “ Collect 5s. yourselves if you can”. But the Government insisted that it would deduct 5s. from every payment to a chemist for a prescription item, whether or not the chemists succeeded in collecting the fee. If the chemist collects the 5s., it comes off his claim to the Government at the end of the month. If he does not collect it, he is still compelled to deduct it from his own claim on the Government. In other words, it is a compulsory discount.
In this bill, some attempt has now been made to reinforce the position of the chemists by rendering them liable to disqualification under the National Health Act if they do not succeed in collecting the 5s. on every prescription.
– That is a distortion.
– No. The bill states plainly that if a chemist does not collect the 5s. fee he will be liable to lose his approval under the National Health Act. In other words, he will be disqualified, as I have said, from operating under that act. I do not think that is a distortion. I think it is a statement of fact.
But that, of course, will by no means solve the chemist’s difficulties, especially when he is dealing with some one who has been accustomed to obtaining the drug or the medicine free for years and who simply cannot afford to pay the new tax of 5s. on every prescription every time it is made up. The feeling cannot be avoided that the chemists of Australia are being made to suffer by this Government because they dared to offer their co-operation in the Chifley-McKenna free medicine plan. Indeed, I think it must be said, to the credit of the pharmaceutical profession of this country, that its members have played the game with governments throughout on national health schemes. They have recognized the authority of government and they have done their best to co-operate with governments of all political colours. They have honorably discharged their duties under the scheme, and in doing so they have performed a notable service to the people of Australia.
We think it utterly wrong that, in the fixing of their rates and conditions under the new scheme, the chemists should be at the mercy of a departmental committee, on which they have representation certainly, but which has a departmental chairman, so that, whenever the decisive vote is given, it is given for the department and against the chemists. The Opposition strongly supports the view stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in his policy speech for the last general election that the chemists are entitled to an independent chairman or arbitrator in the fixing of their rates and conditions under the national health scheme.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister made no mention in his second-reading speech - I particularly direct the attention of the House to this fact - to the hardships which the new 5s. charge for each prescription will undoubtedly impose. He pointed out, quite correctly, that the pensioner scheme will continue to be free, but he went on, entirely incorrectly, to speak as though no pensioner would have to pay the new 5s. tax or fee. The fact is, of course, that under the iniquitous 1955 amendment of the National Health Act every pensioner whose income exceeds £2 a week is denied a pensioner medical card, and consequently is denied the benefits of the pensioner medical scheme. So that he will have to pay the full 5s. in future every time he goes to the chemist to have dispensed a prescription which, for the past eight years, has been free to him.
– He will have to pay it out of £4 15s. a week.
– Yes. In other words, the new tax will have to be paid by all old and ill people in Australia whose income is £6 15s. a week or more - that is, £4 15s. a week plus £2 other income. This will undoubtedly impose an almost impossible burden upon many of those in the lowest income group. For many old people and invalids, what the Government now proposes will far more than absorb the recent 7s. 6d. a week pension increase. I think it is a disgraceful thing.
This, also, I bring to the special attention of the House: In the Budget speech made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) an assurance was given that arrangements would be made to avoid the special hardship which would otherwise be endured by patients requiring regular repeat supplies of particular drugs. The Treasurer gave an assurance that that position would be met. Whether it is met or not I do not know, but it is disturbing to find not even that assurance in the Minister’s second-reading speech. I ask him now to remedy that omission in this House before this debate closes. If that is not done, people who are old and ill, and who require regular supplies of a particular drug in order to maintain their health, will find themselves placed in an impossible position, because they will be required to pay 5s. every time they have the prescription made up.
– Who introduced the bill imposing the means test on pensioners?
– I think it was the present Minister, although I am not sure. I hope I am not doing him an injustice.
– I introduced it.
– I do not think they will quarrel with each other about it. I can understand both of them being ashamed of it.
Before I conclude, Mr. Speaker, I have time to give one further illustration of the very ruthless way in which the Government intends to operate its new scheme. I think that this will be disturbing to honorable members generally. Again, the Minister told the House nothing whatever about this. Nevertheless, the fact is that the Commonwealth is now demanding that every hospital patient must pay the new tax in future, whatever his means and whatever ward he may be in. It is no use the Minister denying this because I understand that the Commonwealth has already, in writing, informed various State governments of its determination in this respect. This means that unless State governments bear the cost themselves, a new charge will now have to be imposed, probably for the first time in hospital history, on patients in public wards, for drugs which have never previously been charged as extras in public wards.
– It is outrageous, as the honorable member for Lalor says. Similarly, a new and additional charge will have to be imposed upon outpatients in public hospitals. For them, in the past, drugs have generally been provided at cost, or less than cost, and in many instances no charge at all has been made. But now the Commonwealth Department of Health has served notice on the State governments that, in future, this practice must cease. The poor must be made to pay to the last penny.
– That is a pure flight of fancy.
– I declare this to be based on an official statement by the Department of Health, in writing.
– Produce your evidence.
– The evidence is on the files of each State government n Australia. If the Minister for Health will check with his own department, he will find that what I am saying is true. If it has been done in error, and if the Minister has not been sufficiently careful as to the actions of his department, let him now correct the situation because it is a disgrace to this or any other government.
– You have only been making insinuations.
– I am not making insinuations. I am making a direct statement that the Commonwealth Department of Health has officially informed the various State governments that, from now on, it requires the payment of 5s. in respect of each prescription dispensed in a hospital to be met by the hospital patient whether that patient is in a public ward, an intermediate ward or a private ward, or is an outpatient. If the State government chooses, itself, to meet that cost, the Commonwealth Government will still require the State government to make the payment.
– That is totally untrue.
– All right. Then it is an issue of fact between us. I assert that there is an official instruction.
– Produce your evidence or do not make the statement.
– I am basing my argument on an official statement issued by the Department of Health to the various State governments. I can understand the Minister and the House being disturbed about it.
– I am trying to help you to be accurate.
– If my statement is untrue-
– You should apologize.
– If it is untrue, 1 will most certainly apologize. But I know the facts. I have them on the highest authority. I challenge the Minister to go back to his department and to produce for the benefit of this House the actual document, signed by the Commonwealth Department of Health, that has been sent to the various State governments.
– That is a distortion.
– The Minister does not say that it is false. He says now that it is a distortion. I say that it is a fact. The Minister said first that there was no basis for my statement. Now he is admitting that there is some basis.
– I said that it was a flight of fancy, and so it is.
– We can carry it no further than that to-night. It is not a flight of fancy. It is a fact and I challenge the Minister to examine the records of it in his own department.
.- Once again, we have heard the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) expounding Labour’s national health service. We have heard what Labour would do if it ever got back on the government benches. We have heard, once again, the advocacy of compulsion. We have been told how Labour would compel people to join group services on a per capita basis, how all the doctors could be brought into a salaried medical service, and how services would be provided by salaried specialists. Of course, everything would be done without charge to the patient and there would be no means test. As usual the honorable member gave no indication of how all this would be paid for.
I think it is most important for the House to know that this is nothing new. We have heard this now for ten years and on four occasions the people of Australia have voted solidly against it. They have, on every occasion since 1949, voted in favour of a voluntary system, a system of which every member on this side of the House is proud, especially because it is associated with the name of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The differences between the two schemes were highlighted to-night. Many times we heard the word “ compulsion “ from the Opposition side. We were told that doctors should be compelled to do this, that and the other. Our present scheme is a voluntary one which we believe has been welcomed by the majority of Australians and for which a majority of Australians have voted in every general election since 1949. What is more, the number of people who contribute to, and take part in the scheme, and who believe it to be the best means of providing for their health, has risen continually, year by year.
– They will wake up next time
– You have said that so often before that you may be right one day. At any rate, Australia has voted continually and in increasing numbers against Labour’s scheme. Year after year, we have heard the same things said by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. We have heard them so often that it is really not worth while spending very much more time in dealing with them. So let us come to the really important matters contained in the bill that we are discussing.
Two years ago, to my mind, there were two possible defects in the voluntary health scheme. The first was that people suffering from chronic diseases did not get a reasonably fair go, and the second was that people who had to undergo severe operations - undertaking what might be termed a medical catastrophe - were not able to insure to meet the full cost of the bill.
– They cannot under this bill.
– No. But they can get very much closer to it. I hope that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) will stay and listen a little longer because I shall deal with that matter in greater detail. To my mind, the two deficiencies which I believed existed two years ago have substantially been taken care of. I should like to congratulate the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) on having worked patiently over this period to improve the legislation so much. I am certain that every member of the public in Australia will appreciate these new provisions.
Let us deal, first of all, with the new provisions for medical benefits. Here we have an opportunity for the public to insure against the rare but costly operation. Whilst the rates of contribution are not yet fully determined, it does appear that most people, for an increased payment of about 6d. a week, will now be able to insure for about 80 per cent, of the total cost. The original scheme, as brought down by the right honorable member for Cowper, never envisaged that one should be able to insure against the whole of the cost of any of the services.
– The original scheme provided; for 90 per cent.
– The figure to which I have always subscribed is 80 per cent. I think that that is probably the best one for us to look to. To my mind the chief principle on which we base our scheme is that the beneficiary should at all times bear part of the cost. We think that is the best way to insure against the high cost of operations that the patient may occasionally be forced to undertake while at the same time ensuring that the cost is borne equally by the State, the fund and the patient. I think the original scheme at one stage provided that the State should bear one-third of the cost, the fund should bear one-third and the patient should bear one-third. Under this scheme we shall get fairly close to that formula. I think the honorable member for Eden-Monaro said that once the benefits are increased the doctors’ fees will be increased. There is absolutely no foundation for that assertion. Doctors’ charges have increased very little since the war - certainly nothing like the increases that have taken place in other sections of the economy. For example, the ordinary fee for a doctor’s visit is now very little higher than it was ten years ago.
The only defect in this scheme is that whereas the benefit payable for the smaller operation has borne some resemblance to the actual fee charged for the service, the benefit for the expensive and rare operation has been out of all proportion to the actual fee charged. In the past benefits for <ne expensive operations have been insufficient, but under the new scheme they will be more reasonable.
The important thing about the new scheme is that the people of Australia should be made aware as soon as possible of the new benefits for which they may subscribe. If there is one criticism that I have of the benefits that were introduced on St J January last year it is that not everybody in Australia realized that the new benefits were available. It is up to the benefits societies, the Government and everybody else concerned with making this scheme a success to see that the new benefits are adequately advertised prior to 1st January. During the past year I have met a large number of people who have not been aware that for a small increase in their weekly payments they could insure themselves for much higher benefits. I hope that during the next few weeks this scheme will be widely publicized. If there is a slogan that we should adopt it is “ Get into the new scheme and make use of the new benefits before 1st January”.
I now come to the next point, which deals with special accounts for people suffering from chronic diseases. Here again I was glad that the Opposition for once was agreement with what the Government is doing. Every honorable member believes that the plan being put into operation is right. I agree with the Minister that in the time that it has been operating the scheme has brought relief to a great many people. But it has been difficult to obtain a definition of what is a recognized hospital and what is a recognized illness or injury. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a good definition, but the Minister has done a good job of wording in clause 10 of the bill. In spite of that there has been a good deal of confusion in certain sectors of the community. One particular example has come to my notice in my electorate. Some private hospitals were originally recognized for the purpose of receiving these benefits, but that recognition was taken away. The reason it was taken away was that the hospital took in too many permanent patients and did not have sufficient room for acute patients.
This brings out two points. The first is that the people running the hospital did not have sufficient opportunity to know the actual rules that were laid down as to who should be recognized and who should not. The second point is that in the community to-day there is a class of patient for whom the community does not at the moment supply sufficient accommodation. They are the semi-permanent invalids. The difficulty is that in some quarters this may be considered a Federal responsibility and in other quarters it may be considered a State responsibility. Wherever the responsibility lies, it is certain that we must in the near future make greater provision for this particular class of patient. However, apart from those particular points, I think it is important that we should determine as soon as possible which hospitals will now be recognized for the purpose of special accounts, and the qualifications needed for such recognition. Also, we should determine which illness or injury shall receive benefits in a non-recognized hospital and we must determine how those rules are to be applied. I agree that in the nature of things this must be left to the discretion of the Director-General of Health, but I hope that he will enable us to ascertain as soon as possible which hospital is eligible and the rules by which recognition is to be afforded, because if there is one thing necessary in this time it is that the department should advertise these things as widely as possible so that everybody is completely aware of the rules under which the system is operated.
Now I come to the clause which has received the most opposition from honorable members opposite - the clause dealing with pharmaceutical benefits. The Opposition has stressed, as has the Minister, that this particular aspect of the national health service is expensive but although I listened carefully for three-quarters of an hour I did not hear what scheme the Opposition would put forward in substitution. Would the Opposition tell the doctors what they should prescribe? Is that how the Opposition would cut down the cost of the health services? Should the Minister for Health say what drugs the doctors shall prescribe? How will the honorable member for EdenMonaro reduce the cost of drugs, which he has said forms far too great a proportion of the cost of the national health service? The Opposition’s contention was that every proposal submitted by the Minister for
Health would have the effect of increasing costs. The Opposition contended that the Minister should prescribe more free drugs for pensioners and more free optical and dental services. He should provide free hearing aids. All those free things would raise tremendously the cost to the nation, and no evidence was put forward as to how that cost would be met.
The honorable member for Eden-Monaro also suggested that the Minister had said one thing in his second-reading speech and another thing in his earlier notes. Dealing with this question of the prescription of drugs by doctors, the Minister made it quite clear in his second-reading speech that he did not attack the doctors. He said that it was an inevitable result of the development of the present system along the lines that I have described, which had led to certain pressures. The Minister did not try to get around the question. He did not say one thing in one place and a different thing in another place. He made it quite clear how these costs of pharmaceutical benefits had continued to rise, and he clearly stated the steps that he was going to take to try to keep the cost of the scheme under control. Surely if a certain prescription is necessary for a patient, if it contains lifesaving drugs and is provided for under the scheme, no person would object to paying 5s. for it. In my opinion the majority of the people of Australia agree with the Government’s proposals and are entirely in favour of them.
Another important point, in my opinion, is that this system does not involve any compulsion, as would be inherent in the Opposition’s scheme. We have a committee to advise the Government which drugs should be placed on the free list and which should not. We do not adopt the autocratic attitude that we would expect from the Opposition. We leave the question to a body of advisers, who have the necessary qualifications and are best fitted to advise the Government on this point.
I believe, further, that the cost of this scheme will be reduced as a result of the legislation we are now considering, and I suggest that the money saved in this way can be used to spread the benefits of the national health scheme over a wider field. For these reasons I entirely support these proposals, and I believe that the majority of the Australian people support them, as do the doctors, and, I believe, the chemists. There are, however, as the Minister has said, two apprehensions that are felt by chemists. The chemists are, in the main, the people who have the task of operating this scheme, and it is wise for us to give consideration to their fears. The first one concerns competition that the guild expects to face from the friendly societies, particularly in Victoria and South Australia. I believe that the strict administrative arrangements provided for in the legislation will have the effect of ensuring fair competition between the chemists and the friendly societies. I believe that these arrangements will be enforced. But I also agree with the statement made by the Minister in his second-reading speech, that the friendly societies could not exist for very long if they did not charge patients 5s. for each prescription. We have been told that the average cost of prescriptions over the next year is likely to be about 17s., and I am convinced that if a friendly society did not charge at least 5s. for each prescription it could not continue in business for a very great length of time. I do not believe, therefore, that the fears of the chemists regarding competition from friendly societies are well founded.
The second point related to the recompense to be given by the Government to the chemists for the duties that they will undertake. This matter is, I believe, really important. From evidence we have heard from the chemists, I do not think that the recompense they are receiving at present is sufficient, and it will probably be even more inadequate when a greater range of drugs is placed on the free list. I believe, therefore, that the recompense granted to the chemists must be and will be increased. We must take into account the costs that chemists are incurring in practice, rather than those they might be expected to incur in theory. We know that negotiations are taking place at the present time. I hope that they will soon be concluded, and that the conclusion will be satisfactory to all parties, because I believe it is most important to retain the goodwill of the chemists, upon which the success of the scheme largely depends. They are the people who have to make the scheme work, and we should see that they are given a fair go. I think the negotiations that are taking place will result in a scheme satisfactory to all parties, including the chemist and the taxpayer.
We have heard to-day of the cost of the national health service, which is in the neighbourhood of £45,000,000 a year. If we had adopted the scheme put forward by the Opposition it is obvious, from what Opposition supporters have told us as to what they would do if they were in power, that this cost would be enormously increased, and the Australian taxpayer would have to meet it. I believe that under this voluntary scheme, which has received the support of the vast majority of Australian citizens, we have, over the past ten years, kept the cost down to reasonable proportions, and at the same time greatly improved the health of the nation.
There is just one small criticism that I would like to offer. It is surprising how small a proportion of the cost of the national health service is spent on improving our medical knowledge. At present only £250,000 a year is spent on research, through the National Health and Medical Research Council. This is a very small proportion compared with the total costs of the service, and it is a very small amount when compared with what is being spent, for instance, in the United Kingdom on medical research. It is also very small when compared with the amount that we are spending on research into diseases of animals, through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It is a pity that we are spending so much less on trying to improve our knowledge of the health of human beings than we are spending on research into diseases of sheep or cattle. I should like to see the amount increased, or, alternatively, I should like to see the whole research programme carried out by one department of science, so that we could have a fair allocation of funds for research in all branches of “science.
The criticisms that I have expressed tonight have been on relatively small aspects of what must be regarded by all members of this House as a very good service which is being still further improved.I think the Minister has approached the whole problem constructively, endeavouring to make, what we all have come to know affectionately as the Page health scheme, work better in a changing world. He has done so, in my opinion, extremely efficiently, and I am sure that every honorable member on this side of the House will support him wholeheartedly.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) countered the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) by two general remarks and one specific estimate. The first of his general remarks was the question: How would Labour pay for the national health scheme which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro described? The answer is that a Labour government in Australia would pay for it in precisely the same way as the Labour and Conservative governments have paid for a similar scheme for more than ten years in the United Kingdom and for more than twenty years in New Zealand. In case members on the Government side should think that the cost would be ruinous, I will quote briefly from a report which the Conservative Government in the United Kingdom sought, in 1956, which shows how small a portion of the national income is spent, and what a diminished portion of it has to be spent on a national health scheme.
In the first full year, 1949-50, in which the British national health scheme operated, the net cost was 3.75 per cent. of the gross national product and the gross cost was 3.8 per cent. of the gross national product. By 1953-54, the net and gross cost had fallen respectively to 3.24 per cent. and 3.42 per cent. It is quite obvious that any well-governed country can afford to make health services freely available to its citizens.
The next general remark of the honorable member for Fawkner was that the people in Australia do not want a free health scheme. The plain fact is they have not had an opportunity to know what such a health scheme is like. No Commonwealth government, under our present Constitution, as interpreted by the High Court of Australia in a remarkable decision in 1949, can introduce a medical service except with the acquiescence and consent of the British Medical Association. But in the United Kingdom, where such a scheme has been in operation for many years, a gallup poll was taken, in 1956, on the question -
Suppose you had a chance to go back and vote on whether our national health services should be started or not, how would you vote?
Of the medical practitioners, 67 per cent, voted in favour, and of patients, 89 per cent, voted in favour. The plain fact is that no political party in New Zealand or the United Kingdom would have a chance of success if its candidates told the people they were going to modify, let alone abolish, the scheme.
Turning to the situation here, does the honorable member for Fawkner pretend that the people were given an opportunity to express their opinion of the 5s. tax on every prescription? Has he any doubt on what the people would say to such a tax if they were given the opportunity to express their view on it? The Government, of course, very prudently waited until after the federal elections before doing anything about this, and until every State election for this year had been safely passed. The only by-elections which have been held since show what the people think about this and these other unheralded taxes.
Finally, the honorable member for Fawkner made one specific estimate of the proportion of medical costs which are borne by the Commonwealth under the benefit schemes. As regards hospital benefits, we do not know what the cost of hospital treatment is in Australia. All we know is the number of claims which are accepted by the Commonwealth under the scheme and the number which are accepted by the funds. The fact is that the funds refuse to pay benefits in respect of at least one-third of the days in hospital for which the Commonwealth pays benefits. But in order to get the Commonwealth benefits you have to subscribe to the funds whether you get any benefits from them or not. As regards medical benefits, we know more precisely what the costs are. Here again one can only have resort to the figures of claims which are accepted under the scheme. In 1958, the funds bore 34.4 per cent, of the medical cost involved in claims which were admitted, the Commonwealth bore 28.6 per cent, and the contributors themselves bore 37 per cent., apart from the amount of their contributions to the funds.
This bill deals with three features of the national health scheme. It makes a small amendment concerning hospital benefits; it makes another amendment of greater benefit concerning medical expenses in the higher brackets; and it imposes charges on drugs while at the same time increasing the number of drugs which are made available as pharmaceutical benefits, as they used to be called. Of course, they can no longer be called free medicines.
– This is very much wider than it ever was before.
– Yes. If you pick out various features of your scheme it is true that you can see some benefits. No one would dispute that. The pharmaceutical benefits have been a great benefit to many people in the community. But there are other features which I will touch on presently in which the present Government’s national health scheme is very much less beneficial than the one which it succeeded and which this Government displaced.
Citizens encounter the greatest expense in the medical field and the most crippling cost is if they enter hospital. When they enter hospital, not only do they have to pay for their hospital treatment, but inevitably also the cost of hospital treatment is in excess of a man’s income. One would have to have a very large income indeed to be able to pay for hospital treatment out of one’s current income. In most cases also, one’s income ceases when one goes into hospital and if one is in hospital for any length of time, one’s income from sick leave or from long service leave or from furlough ceases. This measure makes very little contribution towards meeting the loss of income and capital involved.
When this Government came into office a person in any part of Australia could enter a public ward of a public hospital free of charge. The community bore the cost of rehabilitating him, so far as his hospital expenses were concerned. The present position is that when that agreement expired in 1953, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who was then Minister for Health, refused to renew it. He made benefits available from the Commonwealth for patients in hospitals if the hospitals observed the means test and imposed charges. That is not something he did because he had to do it.
All the States wanted to continue the old system and the Australian Capital Territory also. But they were instructed to apply the means test and a system of charges was imposed. In the Australian Capital Territory, where the Commonwealth can do as it likes, and in every State, the hospitals were told that unless they imposed charges and applied the means test they would receive no further benefits from the Commonwealth. Every State capitulated except Queensland.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– That has been the position for six years. Nobody knows the position of hospitals better than the State Ministers for Health. It is significant that although the present Commonwealth Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has always been asked to attend the annual conference of these State Ministers, after his experience at one he attended in January, 1957, he has decided not to return to them. The State Ministers therefore have to make their views known to him by correspondence.
– That is unfair.
– At least the Minister for Health is more coherent than his colleague the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). Many resolutions have been sent to the Minister for Health by the State Ministers concerning hospitals. They have been unanimously adopted by Australian Country Party, Liberal Party and Australian Labour Party Ministers for Health. Let me quote some of the resolutions passed unanimously at the conference of State Ministers for Health in January last year. The conference resolved that -
Having regard to the recent increase in the additional hospital benefits rate from 4s. to 12s., the Commonwealth Government be approached with a view to increasing proportionally the basic rates of 8s. and 12s. paid to the States under Hospital Benefits Agreements.
The Commonwealth refused the request. There were resolutions also concerning Commonwealth assistance for teaching hospitals, from which nothing has yet emerged Other resolutions were passed concerning mental hospitals, about which, also, nothing so far has emerged. In the resolution about mental hospitals, the Ministers unanimously resolved that - patients suffering from acute conditions who require and benefit from active treatment: . . should in every respect be regarded and treated in the same way as patients receiving active treatment in general hospitals and, therefore, resolved to ask the Commonwealth Government to make hospital benefit payments and pensions available to all acute patients in mental hospitals.
But the Commonwealth refused to accede to the request. It refused to pay for the current expenses or the rehabilitation of people who happened to be patients in mental hospitals, even if those patients could recover. Their relatives and the State governments alone must bear the burden.
I apprehend that honorable members know that I hold no particular brief for State governments when they are prepared to spend more money if the Commonwealth Government gives it to them. My own view, and it is increasingly the view of the community, is that the Commonwealth will have to accept the responsibility of running hospitals as the only way to get a national health service or uniform treatment for them. In the meantime, there is no doubt that the cost of running hospitals in the States is very high. The Commonwealth Grants Commission in its latest report includes a table which shows that in 1957-58 the average per capita expenditure by the States in maintaining their general hospitals was £4 7s. 10d., and their mental hospitals £1 8s. lOd. That is about 8s. per person per year more than the Commonwealth spends under this act. It is a large amount. The only contribution made by the Commonwealth to mental hospitals was by an act in 1955 to subsidize the construction of new mental hospitals. I recently asked the Minister for Health how much headway had been made in the subsequent four years towards overtaking the estimated deficiency of 10,962 beds in mental hospitals, as revealed by the Stoller report of 1953, and towards meeting the further deficiency of 20,000 expected by 1965. The Minister knew how much had been spent, but had no idea how many beds had been supplied. The Commonwealth completely wipes its hands of the people in mental hospitals who are, of course, most urgently in need of rehabilitation and who are least able to help themselves,
I pass now to a consideration of medical benefits. Medical benefits are aptly named if one realizes that they are benefits for medical practitioners rather than for medical patients. Every two years -in 1953, 1955, 1957 and now in 1959- the Parliament is asked to amend the schedule for medical benefits. That is, it is always asked to amend the schedule immediately after the biennial meeting of the B.M.A. federal council. The motivation in these matters is not the desire to reduce the expenses of the patients but to guarantee the fees of the doctors. Just before the act was last amended, the B.M.A. federal council in September, 1957, resolved that present benefits under the scheme should be increased to give an assured cover of at least 75 per cent, of the average fees charged at present, and that the association should draw up a scale of average fees at present being charged for the commoner medical services to be submitted to the Government as a basis for a revised schedule of benefits, and that this schedule should be reviewed biennially. Sure enough, the schedule was reviewed in November, 1957, and it has now been again reviewed at its biennial interval. We are not, of course, told what schedule is submitted by the B.M.A.; all we know is that it makes the claim on the Government, publicizes it through the press, and the Government complies. Last May, the B.M.A. federal council once again passed resolutions. I quote from the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ -
The B.M.A. has criticized the Federal Government’s failure to keep medical benefits up with the increased cost of living since 1953.
The higher cost of living has increased medical fees.
I think that is a particularly choice rationalization of the position; which comes first, the cost of living or the increase in medical fees? I resume the quotation -
The association has pointed out that originally the total benefits were supposed to cover about 90 per cent, of the average fees of most general practitioners and some specialists.
Now, it says, patients have to pay about ^7 per cent, of their doctors’ fees besides contributing to a medical insurance fund.
The increases as a result of the medical benefits proposals in the present bill were estimated in the Budget to amount to £475,000 out of a total cost for medical benefits of over £9,000,000. That is, onenineteenth of the medical benefit expenditure will be due to the increased provision for medical benefits in this bill. We can expect the Commonwealth’s share of the cost of medical benefits to rise, therefore, by perhaps H per cent.. At present it meets 28.6 per cent, of the cost. If that increase is matched by an increase in fund benefits, we can expect that contributors to funds will have to pay not 37 per cent, as at present but only 34 per cent, of their medical bills. The scheme, however, was originally intended to cover 90 per cent, of their bill, according to the B.M.A. and the honorable member for Fawkner, but there will still be a third of the medical bills which will have to be found by the patients. This bill will bring about, the Budget estimates, an improvement of 3 per cent, in the present position.
I pass now to the remaining, and least expected, feature of the bill. This is not something that was asked for by the B.M.A. and it has not been found necessary in any other country. In fact, it is a matter into which other countries have made investigations and on which they have made adverse reports. My colleague, the honorable member foi Eden-Monaro, has already quoted from the Hinchliffe report in the United Kingdom this year. In the United Kingdom, there is a prescription charge of ls. sterling. That is a quarter of the amount that we will be imposing on all prescriptions under this bill.
– You are a bit out of date, lad. It is ls. on every ingredient in each prescription.
– The right honorable gentlemen should remember the report because I take it that is one of the reasons he went abroad recently. The committee reported -
The present prescription charge is a tax which, besides stimulating the wrong incentives, has proved disappointing financially. If any change in the basis of the prescription charge is contemplated in the future, it should not be put into effect without an attempt to assess in advance its probable effects by means of a special inquiry through a body such as the Social Survey.
– Is there not a vital difference between that scheme and the one you are trying to compare it with?
– Yes, the British charge is 25 per cent, of yours.
– In substance, it is totally different.
– The Minister for Health remains commendably mute during this discussion, but the Minister for Labour and National Service, who has just come into the chamber, enters into it. None of these Ministers nor the Treasurer in bringing in the Budget mentioned anything about inquiries that had been made overseas or the practice overseas. This Government would have the Australian people believe that no modern country can afford a free health service. But the British Government has had ten years experience of one and the New Zealand Government has had 20 years experience of one. Once any modern democracy has had experience of it, it would never forsake it. This very unexpected and snide tax, this 5s. tax on every prescription, has been considered in the United Kingdom and has been rejected. The present small charge in the United Kingdom has been condemned, not only as a tax but also as being unsuccessful in its purpose.
I sympathize with the Government to a certain extent in the astronomical rise in the cost of pharmaceutical benefits, i It is partly due to the fact that drugs are, in the main, developed and controlled by companies outside Australia’s jurisdiction. The State Governments, if they co-operate or if they allow the Commonwealth to do the job for them, can run hospitals and decide what the hospital charges will be and how they will be spread. To a certain extent, if the States got together they could do the same in relation to medical charges. There is, however, a limit to what any Australian Government can do about the cost of drugs because the companies which develop them and make a handsome profit out of them, could well say to Australia, “ If you do not pay our price you will not get the drug “. We have the very fine Commonwealth Serum Laboratories which could go into this field more than they do. As far as they have gone, they have proved among our most creditable organizations. This Government has sought to moderate the cost of drugs, not by producing them, or by making treaties with foreign governments, but by delaying the provision of drugs.
There has been a most marked system of delay in the introduction of these drugs. If honorable members were to look at the dates on which drugs have been recommended for inclusion in the free list by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and the dates on which they have become available, they would see how long the delays have been. I shall quote the dates from 1956 onwards. Drugs which were recommended for inclusion by the committee on 6th July, 1956, became available on 1st November, 1956; those which were recommended on 2nd November, 1956, became available on 1st July, 1957; those recommended on 1st March, 1957, became available on 1st July, 1957; those recommended on 5th July, 1957, became available on 26th September, 1957; those recommended on 22nd November, 1957, became available on 1st April, 1958; those recommended on 21st March, 1958, became available on 1st July, 1958; those recommended on 4th July, 1958, became available on 1st February, 1959; those recommended on 7th November, 1958, became available on 1st May, 1959; and those recommended on 6th March, 1959, became available on 1st August, 1959.
To summarize the position, the delay has varied from three months to eight months. This does not take into account any delay that has occurred before the committee has made its recommendation, any delay on the part of the Minister in referring the matter to the committee, or any delay on the part of the committee in carrying out its investigations. The delay of from three to eight months is the time that has elapsed between the date of the committee making a recommendation and the date of the Government bringing the recommendation into effect. During that period, people have not been able to receive the drugs which the committee has recommended should be provided to them free.
When 1 mentioned this matter in the debate on the National Health Bill two years ago, the Minister stated that the principal delay was in the Parliamentary Draftsman’s office. I thereupon asked the Parliamentary Draftsman the delay that had occurred in his office, and he told me that the maximum delay for which he was responsible was five weeks, and that was during a Budget session. On some occasions, he has been responsible for a delay of only ten days. Unquestionably, therefore, the principal delay has occurred in the Department of Health, I believe in accordance with a set policy. The shortest period of delay - three months - occurred in the middle of 1957, just after I began asking questions on the matter. But I kept on asking questions, and this year the Minister decided that the questions related to matters of policy which were confidential. On 26th February I asked him when the committee had made recommendations, when he had received the recommendations, when he had sent them to the draftsman and when he had received them back from the draftsman. The Minister replied that inquiries were being made and that a reply would be furnished as soon as possible. Honorable gentlemen will notice the “ as soon as possible “ because, on 14th May, nearly three months later, he told me that it was proposed in future to regard the recommendations of this committee as confidential to the Minister. That reply was not printed in “ Hansard “ for 14th May; in tact it did not appear until 13th August. It was almost as if the Minister were gazetting a new drug.
I point out to the honorable gentleman that this is a statutory committee. It has been set up by the Parliament in one of its statutes. Honorable members are entitled to know how delegated legislation works and to what extent Parliament’s functions have been properly abdicated in favour of such bodies. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is appointed by the Minister admittedly, in some cases, from panels that have been submitted to him by professional bodies, but he is completely familiar with the proceedings of the committee and there is no excuse for him to take three months or, as it is now once again, six months to adopt its recommendations.
There have been some drugs in relation to which one can identify some further delay. Honorable gentlemen will remember that the right honorable the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization regarded the development of serpasil by that organization as so important that on 25th May, 1955, he successfully sought leave to make a statement to the House concerning this surprising new discovery. In April, 1957, I asked the Minister for Health whether he agreed with the description of the drug that had been given by the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O., and he replied that he did. I asked him whether the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee had considered including it in the free list, and he replied that the matter was under consideration. In May, 1957, he said that the Government had decided not to include the drug in the free list. Two years had elapsed in the consideration of that matter.
The honorable member for Fawkner made some reference to the National Health and Medical Research Council, a very valuable body, of whose nineteen members the Commonwealth Minister for Health appoints five. The council made a recommendation for the free provision of one drug on 24th May, 1956, and the drug ultimately became available, after going through the manifold hands of the Minister for Health, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the Parliamentary Draftsman and the Government Printer, on 1st July, 1957. Another recommendation was made by the National Health and Medical Research Council on 13th November, 1958, and the particular drug became available on 1st August last.
I shall conclude with a reference to one other drug, rastinon or tolbutamide, which is prescribed for persons who are suffering from diabetes but whose hearts are adversely affected by insulin. I mentioned this matter to the Minister for Health on 28th August. 1958. and he told me that it had been referred to the committee. The drug is used mainly by pensioners. It costs £2 6s. a bottle which lasts for three or four weeks, so its purchase involves people on restricted incomes in considerable expense although it is necessary if they are to enjoy any health at all. The Minister told me on 18th November last, “ This matter is at present under consideration “. The committee had met on the seventh of that month. The committee met again on 6th March last. On 12th May the Minister told me, “This question has not yet been finalized”. In other words, he had not then made up his mind whether to adopt the recommendation which must have been made by the committee either in November or in March. At last the drug became available, for pensioners only, on 1st August.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I am very glad to be able to join in this debate to-night. Only six weeks ago, by special invitation, I was present at the World Medical Association assembly meeting in Montreal, where the whole subject of national insurance schemes was fully discussed. In fact, a full symposium on national insurance was held at that conference. Since that time I have been in active communication with the governments of practically all countries that have national insurance schemes. The impression I have gained is that all those countries are seised of the certainty that failure to control free medicine would ultimately destroy any nationwide scheme, whether it was based on compulsory insurance, as in England, or on voluntary insurance, as in Australia. The general opinion is that if the increase in the bill for actual medicines is not controlled it will ultimately pull down all the other parts of this great edifice which we have built up.
We have heard a great deal from the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) about the failure of the Commonwealth Government to do all sorts of things with regard to the control of doctors and so on. But what is the position? In 1946, in this chamber, I moved that a referendum proposal be submitted to the people to give this Parliament power to do all the things that honorable gentlemen opposite now complain are not being done. The government in office at that time refused to submit that proposal to the people. Had the proposal gone to the people, I am sure it would have been carried, because it was such a sensible proposal. As a result of the failure of the then Labour Government to submit it to the people, we have to wait on the pleasure of the State governments in order to put our measures in this field into effect. We are now at the mercy of those governments. So the various condemnations we have heard to-night are not justified.
The honorable member for Werriwa said that practically nothing has been done under the Government’s health scheme in the last ten years. Let us have a look at the position. As at 30th June, 1950, the total annual amount paid by the Commonwealth to hospitals in the States, in the form of hospital benefits, was £6,323,000. Last year the payment was of the order of £20,000,000 or more.
– But that does not buy any more than the previous amount would have bought.
– That is a great old story. When it comes to doctors increasing their fees by about 20 per cent., honorable members opposite sing a different song. The total amount spent by the Government in 1950 on health services was £7,600,000. During the last year this Government has spent £58,000,000 on the various parts of the health scheme, and during its term of office it has introduced all sorts of benefits that were not provided before. It has made provision for medical benefits, about which nothing was done by the previous government, but which to-day involve placing into the hands of the people about £20,000,000 a year to help them pay their medical expenses. I venture to say that if there is one thing that is popular in Australia to-day it is the scheme that enables people to get, not merely medical benefits insurance, but also hospital insurance. I have heard men in the press gallery here tell me how these provisions have saved them from a lot of worry because the Government subvention met such a large proportion of their medical expenses. Of course, medical fees have gone up during recent years, for a number of reasons. One of the principal reasons is that the cost of drugs has gone up tremendously.
As at 30th June, 1950, the total amount spent annually by the Government on pharmaceutical benefits was £304,000. Tt will be recalled that a Labour government was in office for half of that financial year, followed by the present Government. Last year the expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits was about £20,000,000, and if one takes- into account the pensioner medical service, the figure rises to about £24,000,000. What percentage of increase is that? The second amount is something like 80 times as much as the first.
That is the position regarding a scheme whose provisions honorable gentlemen opposite say mean nothing to the people. I go about this country, and I have gone to other countries, and I have found the highest respect everywhere for the work done under this scheme. Indeed, the Australian scheme is held up abroad as a shining example in many respects. It is not perfect, but there is no other scheme like it. The document from which my two honorable friends have been quoting - a very old document produced by me - deals with a comparison between the schemes of various countries. One of the countries used for the purposes of comparison is New Zealand. I visited New Zealand the other day. The New Zealand Prime Minister is a very old friend of mine. I also saw the New Zealand Minister for Health. I found that the Minister was very much concerned about the very question dealt with in this bill - the constantly rising costs of medicine. The New Zealand Minister said to me, “The cost is going to rise £3,000,000 this year”. A rise of £3,000,000 in a country of 2,500,000 people! He said, “I don’t know how we can cope with it. It started at £1,400,000 and to-day between £8,000,000 and £10,000,000 a year has to be found”.
A month before, I spent a whole afternoon with Sir John Charles, the DirectorGeneral of Health in Great Britain, who controls the British scheme. I asked him what his real difficulty was, and he replied, “The real difficulty is to deal with free medicine “. He said, “ We started off by giving medicine absolutely free, and up soared the cost by something like 200 per cent.”. Then Aneurin Bevan put through a bill to charge ls. a bottle on the medicine, but that did not stop the continuous rise. It stopped for a month, but then kept on rising. Then, during the last year or so, the British Government put on a new charge of ls. for every ingredient in every prescription. If there are six ingredients, the patient pays 6s. The Director-General told me that unfortunately that did not stop the rising bill either.
Everybody I have spoken to - and I have spoken to many practical men who are handling this problem properly, not dealing with it in a partisan way, as my friends opposite have done - says that the problem must be handled in such a way as to enable them to keep free medicine in line with the other parts of their health scheme.
I believe that the method we adopted of providing hospital benefits and medical benefits by voluntary insurance should be adopted in regard to medicine also. I believe that chemists throughout Australia should organize themselves, as the medical profession has organized itself under the medical benefits scheme. Then we would have these three great bodies - pharmacy, medicine and the insurance organizations - working in partnership in an effort to make certain that the best medicine, in the widest sense, would be available to the people in return for the price they had to pay. They would all have some real incentive, by reason of the fact that they had a substantial interest in this matter. They would all be trying to ensure that the greatest economy and the greatest efficiency were used in handling the problem.
This red-covered booklet that I have in my hand, from which quotations have been so frequently made, deals with that point. Paragraph after paragraph says that we have to find a more efficient and economic way of dealing with this matter. I am sure, after my own experience in handling medical and hospital benefits insurance, that that is the best method of dealing with the matter. Now that we have reached the stage at which the Commonwealth spends about £20,000,000 on free medicines, we should be able to evolve a scheme under which we could give very substantial subsidies to people who pay insurance premiums in a medicine scheme. A very small sum - ls. or 2s. - would be paid for medicine to the chemists. I am satisfied that if that were done we should begin to get somewhere.
I say to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the Parliament and to the nation that we have to get on to this, and this measure gives us an extraordinary opportunity to deal with it. After seeing what is happening in other countries, I do not believe that there is the slightest chance of us getting out of this mess simply by putting an extra charge on medicine. The final report of the Committee on Cost of Prescribing, in the United Kingdom, which has been so much quoted, mentions what has been happening in Denmark. For instance, at page 59, it states that in Denmark there are three lists of prescribable drugs, for which the patient pays one-quarter of the cost, the balance being found by the health insurance societies or by the State. The first list is of fourteen groups of life-saving drugs. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) can tell us how many life-saving drugs are free in Australia at the present time. Almost every one that has been proved is free.
The only drugs that I know have been kept off the free list are those that have been deliberately kept off, on the advice of the most skilled specialists we have, as a kind of back-stop for occasions when germs develop a tolerance to the other strong drugs that we use at present. The drugs , in question have been kept off the free list, not because there has been any unnecessary delay in including them, or for any similar reason, but only because that was the wisest course in order to provide a back-stop. You must have a back-stop for things like golden staph and other staphylococcal and streptococcal infections which have been causing us a good deal of trouble. For those things, you have to have some drug which has not been used and for which the germ has not developed a tolerance. Only if you have such a drug can you defeat the germ.
It is nonsense for Opposition members to talk about delays and the saving of money. We are finding about £26,000,000 a year and we are not going to worry about saving another £5 or £6 by keeping a drug off the free list. It is too silly for words to make suggestions like that, especially in a place like this, where every one knows that Australia was the first country after the United States of America to begin using Salk vaccine for immunization against poliomyelitis. This was made possible because of this Government’s promptness in sending Dr. Bazeley across to work with Dr. Salk in the United States in the beginning and then getting to work on the immunization campaign immediately Dr. Bazeley indicated that he was able to make the plasma in Australia. It is too stupid for words for any one to say that we are deliberately holding things back. Such a suggestion is refuted by every known fact - known not merely in this Parliament but to the whole of Australia.
I do not wish to detain the House further, Sir, except to suggest to the Government that here is a position which I think may cause a fair amount of trouble. My own experience is that about 70 per cent, of medical practice in every country is general practice - that is to say, not operations or urgent work for specialists. Many of the medicines that are used in this ordinary general practice are not these highly expensive medicines. They are fairly cheap, but any one who has five or six children, all of whom go down together with an illness, can quickly get into trouble if he has to pay 5s. a time for each of them, because it soon mounts up. This trouble can be avoided if you have, as I say, an insurance scheme which is well subsidized by the Government. This can be done under the conditions as they have developed here with the support and co-operation of the pharmacists of Australia working with the doctors of Australia. With this co-operation, we could really bring this whole business right down to earth. We could increase efficiency and, especially, stop over-prescribing and unnecessary prescribing. If we do that, we shall not merely make the scheme very much easier for the Government to finance. We shall provide an opportunity to do a great many other things which we do not find ourselves able to do at the present time.
Some honorable members have complained that more mental homes should be built. The position, of course, is that the Commonwealth Government has offered £10,000,000 to the States, saying, “ As soon as you are ready to put your pounds alongside ours, the money is yours. You can take the whole £10,000,000 in one year if you wish, provided that you can put your money down.” They cannot do that, of course. The delay is not caused by the Commonwealth Government or the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Is that a confidence trick?
– Such a suggestion is nonsense. I have seen what has been happening over the last five years. I have seen the people taxed in order that the
States may get £100,000,000 more from forced taxation - forced loans, really - over and above what can be raised by other means. The States have been better treated in the last five years in respect of finance than they have been treated in the whole history of federation. If the problem of mental disease is so important - and I agree that the incidence of this disease is high and that the problem is important - those honorable members who have complained about the delay in providing new mental homes at several places should place the responsibility where it rightly rests and take the matter up with the Labour governments concerned in order to see what can be done.
With respect to this measure, I congratulate the Minister for Health especially on the proposed basis for the alteration of the schedule in relation to specialists. One great virtue of the British scheme, as Sir John Charles pointed out to me, was that it stimulated the specialists to do their work to the highest standard possible. Although the panel system which operates there does not promote good family practice - and that is something which the “ Observer “ said the other day was practically dying out - we have first-class specialists in England. We should encourage first-class specialists in Australia. In New Zealand, as I came through on my way back to Australia, I was told by the Minister for Health that the effect of what they have done has been to encourage general practice and practically to stifle specialists. I was told in New Zealand that the effect of what they were doing, to a large extent, was to export their brains, as good men could get better terms in Australia, England and other places, and better rewards for their skilful work. We do not want that to happen here.
We have, I venture to say, a very fine medical profession. We have also developed a very fine pharmaceutical profession. I have been in the chemists’ shops of practically every country, and I give the palm to the Australian pharmaceutical profession for the way in which it handles its drugs, compounds its medicines, and for the way in which the whole shop is maintained as a pharmacy, instead of as an establishment for the sale of everything under the sun, even to a half-baked bun.
– Your scheme is a halfbaked bun.
– The honorable member is the only man who thinks that. Throughout the rest of the world, I have found that men who practice medicine consider that, if this scheme is developed effectively, it will prove to be a model for all countries.
to improve the present health scheme, but, at the same time, I must say that it does not do what we on this side of the House think a national health measure should do. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), speaking this evening on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, put forward the objections that we raise to many of the provisions of this bill and to what he has termed the inequalities and unfairness of some of these provisions. Those inequalities will continue if we go on in the same way we are going at present, Sir.
I have always given credit to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) for the work he has done to bring into being a national health scheme that could be improved in order to make it a great scheme to serve the interests of the people of Australia. But that scheme is not being improved in the way I should like to see it improved. To-night, I do not intend to go into all the clauses of the bill and I do not intend to take that red book which the right honorable member for Cowper has been speaking about and read extracts from it. I want to refer to one matter which I happened to hear broadcast to-night on the 7 o’clock news. I suppose that this would be some of the latest information that we have. In that broadcast it was stated that, in the United Kingdom, nearly half the taxes collected are spent on the welfare state. The broadcast stated the proportion of money spent on defence and it was interesting to note that in spite of the huge sums spent on battleships, fighter planes and all modes of warfare, defence expenditure is much below the welfare state expenditure. I think it was said that between 8s. and 9s. of every £1 of taxes collected is being spent on the welfare state.
– I remind the honorable member that this heavy expenditure on the welfare state in the United Kingdom is not being incurred by a Labour government. There has been a Conservative government - a Tory government - there for years past and it was returned recently with the biggest majority that it ever had. That is the Government that is spending nearly half the taxes on the welfare state. So if the honorable member for Hume says that it is dreadful to do, he disagrees with both the Conservatives in England and the Labour Party in Australia. 1 was pleased at one statement made by the right honorable member for Cowper near the end of his speech when he spoke about raising money for mental institutions of the States. He referred to the taxation that we imposed in order to raise about £10,000,000 for the States. He implied that, in his opinion, we could impose taxes in order to finance a proper health scheme. That is the view of the right honorable member for Cowper who, as Minister for Health, brought into being the health scheme with which we are dealing tonight.
– I think that your inference is wrong.
– If my inference is wrong I cannot see the significance of the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper when he showed that, by taxation, we can do things to help the States which they cannot do themselves. The inference, in my opinion, is that we should finance these things, if necessary, by taxation.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) was asked by a Government supporter where a Labour Government would find the money to pay for the things that Labour advocated, and he said that it would find the money in the same way as the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of New Zealand were finding the money - by taxing the people. As I have said before, I would not have reduced taxation as the Government has reduced it this year. I would have used that £20,000,000 for the benefit of the people. The few shillings that the man at the bottom of the salary scale gets, and the few pounds that the man at the top receives represent such a small part of their income that they would not have worried very much if they had not received the reductions.
– Would you increase taxation?
– I would be prepared to increase taxation in order to give to the community those things that are necessary. I have always understood - and Labour contends - that taxation is the medium by which you can adjust the income of the country to the needs of the people. I would use taxation, without any qualms whatsoever if I had the power and authority, to give a fair distribution to the people. The Government believes in that principle also because the man in receipt of a high income is taxed at a higher rate. Income taxation is levied in accordance with the capacity of people to pay.
I was rather amused by the remarks about not recognizing the increased costs to the medical profession. This bill proposes a big increase in the amounts payable to one member of the medical profession - the surgeon. The general practitioner who looks after the family will get no more from the Government and the approved society. He receives 6s. from the Government for every visit to or by a patient. Then he also gets a matching contribution of 6s. from the society.
The question has arisen as to why the surgeon is being given an increase. I do not know what the actual figure is but the right honorable member for Cowper said that we had complained about doctors getting a 20 per cent, increase in their fees. Whether that figure is right or not, I do not know, but if the doctor is charging 20 per cent, more to visit a patient is he not entitled to get 20 per cent, more on the 6s. that the Government is paying? No mention is made of that. Mention has been made of operations, anaesthetics, &c, in respect of which some increases are proposed.
It has been suggested in this debate that the original health scheme contemplated that 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the patients’ medical expenses would be met. When the scheme came into operation, 6s. was paid by the Government and 6s. by the approved society, making 12s. towards the doctor’s fee. At that time, in my State at any rate, the doctor’s fee was 15s. In other words, the fund and the Government paid 80 per cent, of the doctor’s fee and the patient the other 20 per cent, plus his contribution to the approved society. Now many doctors are charging 17s. 6d. or £1 instead of 15s., but the patient still receives only 12s., no improvement having been made in the reimbursement of general practitioners’ fees. The extra payments proposed in this bill are to be made to the specialist.
The honorable member for Cowper contended that we are not doing as much for the specialist as could be done. He said that New Zealand had lost some of its specialists to countries where they could get a higher fee for their work. Under the bill, there is one anomaly with regard to the specialist. If a man is ill and considers that he should see a specialist he must first see a general practitioner and pay him 15s. or £1. I do not know whether the Department of Health or the Minister has ever given consideration to this factor, but the position is that if a patient goes straight to the specialist he does not get as much from the fund as if he first sees a general practitioner and is referred to a specialist. That is a matter that should receive further consideration.
I wish to quote two examples of the fees doctors charge. One man of my acquaintance saw a doctor and was asked to return for a further examination. When he did so the doctor told him that he needed an immediate appendectomy. The fee was £21 for the doctor performing the operation. The patient received a total of £11 5s. from the fund - not much more than 50 per cent, of the cost of the operation. The patient also had to pay the assisting doctor £3 3s., receiving back from the fund £1 10s. The patient paid the anaesthetist £5 5s. and received from the fund £2 5s. In that case the patient paid a big share of the cost of the operation, despite the fact that he had already made contributions to the fund. I am not saying that the doctors did not do a good job - they did. I am merely showing what the costs were. In another case a lady had to have her gall bladder removed. The operation took one and a half hours and cost £41 19s. The lady received from the fund a total of £22 10s. In addition, she had to pay for the assisting doctor and the anaesthetist. It will be seen that the patient in that case had to bear a fairly high proportion of the cost of the operation.
When this scheme first came into operation I addressed many members of friendly societies and told them that although the Government proposed to pay varying amounts for medical services, it did not propose to tell the doctors what they should charge. The Labour Party came up against the same thing when it put forward a health scheme. The Labour Party said that there should be a schedule of charges, but the doctors would not agree. But the Government sets out clearly a schedule of fund benefits. I think that doctors should state the charges for their various services. We on this side of the House believe in that. We have said it before and we say it again. If the taxpayer is to pay a bill for anybody he should know beforehand what he is to be charged. If a member of the Australian Country Party goes to Melbourne or Sydney to buy a new machine he wants to know the price of the machine so that he can work out whether it is a fair price. But the Government says that it cannot tell the doctors to produce a list of their charges although it agrees that it can give a list of the benefits that may be obtained by patients. If the Government can do that why can it not say what is a fair thing for the medical profession to charge?
I wish to say a few words about the pensioner medical scheme. I believe that the great bulk of doctors are good, honest men. But some of them, for example, if attending a woman may suggest that they should also examine her husband, who is also one of their patients, at the same time. Two fees are then charged. That kind of practice is pushing up the cost of the service. I think that the Department of Health tries to control that, but it is very difficult to control. In some cases, a doctor may visit a man more often than is absolutely necessary.
Let me deal with the proposal to charge 5s. for prescriptions issued under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. When the honorable member for Werriwa was speaking, the right honorable member for Cowper interjected and said that although the increase in the cost of prescriptions would be 5s. in Australia, compared with 1s. in England, the increase of1s. in England was in respect of each ingredient used. Honorable members may be surprised to know that a person will be very lucky to get away with a prescription under this scheme for a mere 5s. I understand that in future doctors will not be able to write more than two prescriptions on one piece of paper, in which case a charge of 5s. will be made for each prescription. Will the Minister say whether that is correct?
– I have had many years’ experience with dispensaries and friendly societies. I remember that one of our dispensaries in Port Adelaide once told me that it had to charge for ingredients that were not listed in the British Pharmacopoeia. If a doctor wrote out a certain prescription, and we in the dispensary made it up from the two or three drugs necessary, the patient could have it free. But the doctor does not do that; he specifies a proprietary line made up by a manufacturer. When we give the patient those tablets or powders made up by the manufacturer we have to charge him for them.
We had an idea at one time that many people were wasting medicine because they were getting it free. I say “ free “, although they paid so much a quarter all the year round in order to obtain the medicine when they wanted it. I know that my wife paid in for about 30 years and never had 10s. worth of medicine. I suggest to the Minister that when he is considering the question whether dispensaries should be compelled to charge their members 5s. for every prescription, he should remember that those members pay so much a quarter, and very often they make those payments for years without getting any medicine at all. They are entitled to work together, just as in any co-operative society, for the benefit of one another. I understand the dispensaries are prepared to consider charging some fee, but that they want to give consideration to the amount that has been paid in by the individual member in his subscriptions throughout the year. I quite agree that if an outsider comes to the dispensary he should be on the same footing as a person who goes to a private chemist.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) said to-night that the chemists feared competition from the friendly societies, particularly in Victoria and South Australia. I do not know whether the honorable member is aware of the fact that some years ago the South Australian Government introduced legislation to prevent dispensaries opening up any more shops. We have very big districts with powerful friendly societies, but we cannot open up dispensaries in those districts because of that State legislation. I suggest, therefore, that there is not much to fear in this regard, because the friendly societies are confined to the number of dispensaries that they had six or eight years ago.
I want to say that the dispensary movement has been a wonderful benefit to members of friendly societies. I have been connected with them for many years. My late father was the first president of the dispensary society in my electorate. It can be seen that I have had intimate knowledge of the growth of this movement, and I know of the great benefits that the movement conferred when dispensaries were badly needed. I am not condemning the chemists in any way, because I know that there are fine men in private practice as pharmacists.
– But the Labour Party wants to get rid of the friendly societies.
– No, it does not. We believe in co-operation, and that is a system of co-operation. I have never heard of any one in my party wanting to get rid of the friendly societies. Every member of my family is in a friendly society. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) has just informed me that he has been in one for 40 years. Do not say that we want to get rid of the friendly societies, because it is simply not true. We do not want to do anything that will interfere with the proper functioning of the dispensary movement, side by side with the private chemists. I am not trying to put one on a higher plane than the other. They have both done fine work, and I think that work should continue.
At the present time the only pensioners who obtain the benefit of free medicine are those who hold a pensioner medical card, and this charge of 5s. for each prescription will constitute a great hardship for many others. I refer particularly to single men and single women, whether they be persons who have never married, or whether they be widows or widowers. If such a person applies for a pension and has an income of more than £2 a week he cannot get a medical card. If his income is £2 a week and the pension £4 15s., then he receives in all £6 15s. a week. From this he has to pay rent for a room, or, if he owns a house, he has to pay the costs of maintenance. I do not think, in either case, it is fair to suggest that such a person is in a position to pay as much as the ordinary person in the community, and if we on this side were in government we would see that such a person was given some relief. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) mentioned, by way of illustration, a certain drug which he said costs £2 6s. a bottle. I know that it was costing £2 a bottle some time ago in my own State. That was for, I think, 100 tablets. Charges such as this constitute a heavy burden on pensioners and others who have to meet them. The pensioner who holds a medical card is relieved of this burden, but not the pensioner who is not granted a card.
– The charge will be reduced to 5s. under this legislation.
– The honorable member says that the charge will be reduced to 5s. and I have to admit that that is correct. The charge for quite a lot of these prescriptions will be reduced to 5s. However, we on this side of the House do not believe that a charge should be made at all.
I have very little time left at my disposal, and I want to say a word about hospital benefits. Honorable members on this side believe that every person in the community should be entitled to the same payment for hospital treatment, whether he is in an approved society or not. The Government professes to believe in a voluntary scheme; yet it says that if a person does not voluntarily join an approved society the most he can get by way of Commonwealth contribution towards his hospital fees is 8s. a day.
If he wants the further Commonwealth benefit he must be a member of an approved society. The Opposition believes that the Commonwealth benefit should be paid to everybody, irrespective of whether he is in a hospital fund or not.
I know that the Minister is trying to get over some of the difficulties with regard to unrecognized hospitals, and I appreciate the problems that he is facing. We know that some of these places are really nursing homes for old people who have no one to look after them. They are not real hospitals, in a way, and yet they accommodate many people who would be in public or general hospitals, if they could gain admission to them, getting treatment that they are receiving in the nursing homes. The Minister has said that provision will be made so that if a person in one of these institutions can show that he is suffering from a complaint that would normally gain him admission to a general hospital, and that the institution has the necessary facilities to treat him as he would be treated in a general hospital, then he will be granted the benefit. I am glad that this provision is being made.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– During the course of his second-reading speech, the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) directed attention to the rising costs of the national health service, and it is to this aspect that I should like to direct the House’s attention. Having regard to recent trends, our own experience and that of the United Kingdom, and looking at the progress of medical knowledge and techniques generally, it would appear that there is no way of halting the rising costs of the national health service. Therefore, there remains for the Government, or for any Government, only the problem of how these rising costs are to be met.
In 1952 a British doctor, Dr. Ffrangcon Roberts, wrote a book called, “The Cost of Health “. There is no time to make a detailed study of the book, but I would like to direct attention to one or two of the writer’s conclusions which illustrate the point I am trying to make. First, to show what can happen, even after a most searching inquiry into, and analysis of, the problem of costs of national health services, he points out that the Beveridge Report on Social Insurance and Allied Services in 1942 estimated the cost of a comprehensive health service for Great Britain at £170,000,000, and predicted that its development and the consequent reduction in its need would cancel out, leaving the cost unchanged in 1965. Referring to 1952, Dr. Roberts said -
The cost is now £400,000.000 and only the imposition of this ceiling by the Treasury prevents it from reaching a much higher figure.
So it is that with the development of new treatment and techniques the cost of the national health service increases. Roberts’s book deals with the effects of this cost, and the conclusion is that as medical knowledge increases so the cost of national health will rise. He goes on to point out also, by way of illustration of this process, that in the period between the production of the Beveridge report in 1952 and the inception of the national health scheme in the United Kingdom some five or six years later, dealing with a representative group of hospitals, pathological examinations went up by four or five times, radiological examinations went up by something like the same figure and the staff per bed in hospitals rose alarmingly through the development of specialist services. I believe that that rise still continues.
The humanitarian considerations behind the concept of national health service were referred to in Roberts’s book when he quoted again from the Beveridge report as follows: - “ For every citizen “, says the Beveridge Report, “ there must be available whatever medical benefit he requires in whatever form he requires it, domiciliary or institutional, general, specialist or consultant “.
The humanitarian service is based on the thesis that according to the modern concept of democracy every individual has the right of access to all medical benefits which science makes available.
– Hear, hear.
– I hear some “Hear, hears “. That appears to be a perfectly valid claim but it produces some odd effects, particularly on the economic side of the national health service. If we are going to accept the idea of a State-subsidized health service - and it would be foolish to quarrel with the idea because we have already accepted it in principle - we are committed to accept it in ever-widening fields. They seem necessarily to follow from that acceptance. I believe it follows that no life-saving drug can ever be denied on the basis of cost.
By way of illustration, in another field, if radioactive cobalt therapy is even possibly effective in cases of cancer then the community will not long tolerate the denial of this sort of service to any sufferer from cancer. One begins to see from this where the cost will rise. I hope that nobody will quarrel with me on the basis that this ought not to be done. I am not quarrelling with what ought to be done; I am merely pointing out the cost. I want to question whether our present approach to financing the national health scheme is a satisfactory one in view of these conclusions.
Of course, in these days when any symptom, no matter how simple, may well be the starting point of a major disease, no available test should be neglected. Roberts goes on to point out that once upon a time if you broke your arm you went to the doctor with the arm in a rough sling. The doctor set it and off you went, and in the course of time your arm healed and you were allegedly as good as new. But in these days when there are new techniques available, when the X-ray is there, the doctor who begins to set a fracture without an X-ray examination or without other pathological examinations taking place, may well be exposing himself to some action for negligence. So it is that as new techniques develop, doctors are obliged to use them and consequently the cost of medical services will rise.
So, we reach the paradoxical situation where every advance in medicine and the extension of diagnostic techniques will raise the cost of the national health scheme. For much the same reason, much the same effect is beginning to appear in the field of pharmaceutical benefits. I question, when one looks at the background, whether the present economic approach to this problem is adequate. First of all, I do not know whether some limit should not be nominated as the upper cost of medical services as was done in Great Britain so that when the cost reaches that point the individual will be required to increase his own contribution for those services.
The second point is that the answer may well be in the widespread development of a contributory scheme of social services which is all-embracing. Recently, in another context we considered the development of a contributory scheme for social services by way of pensions and unemployment benefits. 1 am not so sure that, when the time comes to institute such a system - and if we do not, then I believe that social services will ultimately bankrupt the country - its scope ought to be extended to include the things which, at the present time, are brought in under a national health scheme.
I now wish to turn to pharmaceutical benefits. Under this scheme, the Government provides widespread benefits in pharmaceutical services for which the public pays. In this scheme, the chemist is the avenue of service, therefore he is obliged to come into it whether he likes it or not. The theory of the thing is that the chemist may drop out of an approved scheme, but in practical effect he can do nothing of the sort. But if the chemist is obliged to come in because his is the operative part of the supply of pharmaceutical benefits, then the Government is equally obliged to see that the pharmacist is not thereby disadvantaged.
The plain fact is that the national health scheme is a socialist effort. I hope that no honorable member opposite will take me up too quickly on that statement. It involves a control, partial or complete, of a section of individual businesses by the Government, in the interests of the people. That, as I recall it, is the standard justification for socialism. But if I go back to where I was earlier, we agree that this is a good thing and provided we see that it does not continue to expand to the detriment of those involved in it, then we cannot have any argument.
Coming to cases on the supply of pharmaceutical benefits, it is probable that at the moment, one-third of the area of prescribing by the chemist is already covered by national health services. On the basis of this one-third of his prescribing service, the chemist’s allowable mark-up and his fees are fixed. Some will claim that this is done by agreement between the Govern.vernment and the chemist, but there are chemists who will deny that the present rates have been fixed by agreement but by consultation. The expansion of the national health services now proposed will expand the amount of prescribing under the national health scheme to perhaps twothirds of the whole of the chemist’s prescribing business. In other words there will remain available to the chemist only one-third of private prescriptions. Of course, it necessarily follows that if this additional one-third of his prescribing business is to come in at anything like the present rates fixed by the Government, which are vastly under those agreed to by the Pharmaceutical Guild, it is inevitable that the reward for the chemist’s services and the economics of the pharmacy business will be seriously disturbed. I know that negotiations are under way at the moment between the Government and the Pharmaceutical Guild concerning the basis of these charges. I make no secret of the fact that, from my point of view, I would have been much happier had this agreement been reached before this bill was brought into the House, or certainly before honorable members were called upon to vote on it. All I can hope and urge on the Government, through the Department of Health, is that when the new scale of fees for dispensing is arranged and the mark-up margins are set, they will be by reasonable agreement with the chemists concerned.
In considering the 4,000 pharmacies which serve the people of Australia, some considerations ought not to be overlooked. First, great changes in the Australian pharmacy business are coming along. Pharmacies are under assault from two points. They are under assault, first, from the effect of this proposed extension of the national health service, unless and until there can be a re-negotiated agreement on the remuneration of pharmacists. The second point, of course, is vast inroads into the traditional business of the chemists are being made by chain stores. To-day, a vast number of products which normally were available only through chemists’ stores are being sold in super-markets and chain stores. Nobody can argue very much about this. It is a change in the pattern of trade and every one in trade knows that this sort of competition must be faced and ways and means found to combat it. The chemists are doing just that.
But the inevitable result is to force chemists further away from pure, pharmacy and in this sort of situation the community will lose because in the chemist families have to-day an adviser on non-vital health problems. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), having returned recently from a world tour during which, on his own statement, he looked at pharmacies in other countries, was happy to admit that we in Australia were pretty fortunate in the sort of pharmacy service that we have been enjoying. If we are not careful to preserve the economic health of the pharmacy business by a reasonable approach to the subject of remuneration, we may well deprive the community of a very great service.
Sir, I believe that inevitably we will move to an overall contribution scheme to cover all social services. For the moment, the demand for pharmaceutical benefits arises directly as a result of medical consultation. Therefore, if the medical consultations are covered by a national insurance scheme, as they are at present, it would seem to me a logical conclusion that the side effect - that is, the need for pharmaceutical benefits - should be financed in the same way with perhaps an extension of the premiums we pay to medical benefit schemes. It would not be beyond the bounds of possibility - indeed, it would appear to be reasonably simple - to arrange that sort of system for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits.
I should like to direct the attention of the House to another very important aspect of this problem. Virtually the whole of the national health scheme at the moment is devoted to curative medicine. If we were able to survey the improvements in health, size, weight and so on of the generation that has been born and has grown up since the baby clinic came into operation throughout Australia, I believe that we would have a dramatic illustration of the benefits of preventive medicine. I would like to see some additional thought given to, and some greater provision made for, an extension of this type of service which may in the long run be the road to higher standards of national health. It will certainly do something to reduce the cost of national health services and of pharmaceutical benefits.
.- The Australian Labour Party objects and will always object, in general principle, to the kind of national health scheme now operating here. We have always been opposed to any system which makes membership of a private body a condition to receiving the benefit of taxation payments used to create the health scheme. That condition obtains in this Government’s scheme. One must subscribe to some private organization in order to receive benefits from the Commonwealth, although these benefits are paid from taxation.
The imposition of a 5s. charge on pharmaceutical prescriptions will place a particularly heavy burden on sections of the community that are least able to bear it. All sick people will be in that position. They have to put up with the disability of being ill and of being absent from work. Because their earning capactiy is impaired, the income available to them as individuals and to their dependants is reduced, and they will have a limited income from which to pay for prescriptions. This charge is a heavy imposition on aged persons who are not covered by the pensioner medical service. As other honorable members have mentioned to-night, the Government has made a great to-do about the easing of the means test on social service benefits. But the fact is that this Government introduced a means test that had not previously existed.. This means test is felt severely by many aged people. I refer to the 1955 provision which excluded from the pensioner medical service any pensioner earning £2 or more a week in addition to the pension. Before that, all pensioners, whether they received the full pension or only a small part of the pension, received the benefits of the pensioner medical service. Let us not decry the value of the pensioner medical service. It provides for the free issue of a wide range of medicines and drugs, for free public ward’ hospital attention, and for free medical treatment, even at the home of the aged person.
To-day, many aged persons in the community receive the full pension and have anincome of more than £2 a week from a superannuation fund or other source, and are still able to get the benefits of the pensioner medical service. However, more than 70,000 people in similar circumstances are not eligible for these benefits because they received their pension after 1955. It is bad enough that these elderly citizens, prone to illness and frequently in need of medical service, do not get the benefit of the pensioner medical service, but their situation will now be worse because they will be charged 5s. for each prescription dispensed for them. This provision seems to me to be most harsh. If the Government is determined to introduce this charge - I think a good case can be made out for some charge, although I regard 5s. as being too high - it should reconsider its 1955 decision to impose a means test on aged people in respect of the pensioner medical service. It would not be too much for the Government to eliminate immediately that means test. After all, according to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Government is supposed to be giving serious consideration to some scheme to ameliorate substantially the means test as it applies to pensions. Here is a good point at which the Government could commence its considerations. The Government could take a quick and very effective step by restoring the position that existed prior to 1955.
The family man, particularly the man with a large family, will be affected by the Government’s proposal. I should have thought that the Government had already given enough discouragement to family life without introducing such a proposal as is now contemplated. The family man is being hit by the indirect taxes that form a large proportion of the Government’s tax revenue because he has to buy for his wife and children goods that carry sales tax. We have seen the almost complete depreciation of child endowment. Now the Government introduces this amazing proposal to charge 5s. for every prescription that a chemist dispenses for a man, his wife or his children. Of course, the burden will be heaviest on those who suffer recurring illnesses which require a repetition of prescriptions, but the community in general will be affected. The people have protested already in many ways, by letters to the press, in conversations and at public meetings.
– A charge of 5s. is a lot better than a charge of £1 or £1 5s.
– I do not think that anybody would suggest that the charge should be £1 or £1 5s. The Government apparently is preoccupied with the substantially increased cost of the national health scheme and is not paying enough attention to the savings that are being effected in the fewer hospitals that have had to be built as a result of the medical and pharmaceutical benefits schemes. One authority has stated that the pharmaceutical benefits scheme alone could have saved £30,000,000 over the last six years by the fewer number of hospitals that have had to be built and the smaller nursing staffs that have had to be employed.
We must view this matter, not only from the aspect of reducing the number of people who have to go into hospital but also from the aspect of the reduction of time that they remain in hospital. I cannot call to mind the authority, but it has been estimated that patients to-day stay in hospital for an average period of three and one-half days as compared with an average period of nine days only a few years ago. Again, loss of manpower through absenteeism has been reduced which, of course, is a substantial contribution to the national economy. Surely these factors must be regarded as countering, if not outweighing, the increased cost that has been incurred by medical and pharmaceutical benefits and other features of the national health scheme. When we commence to estimate the cost of the scheme we must look also at the saving to the community in the form of hospital services, doctors’ services, nurses’ services and the reduction of absenteeism in industry. These are real benefits that off-set the increased cost of the scheme. Of course, one must not lose sight of the humanitarian aspect of reducing the avoidable suffering of men and women.
It is heartening to learn that there will be an extension of the list of the hospitals which will be recognized under this scheme. The proposal is rather vague as yet, and I am sure that other honorable members are, like myself, wondering whether the small private hospitals in one’s own suburb will now receive the recognition that has been denied them up to this stage. The pensioner medical scheme provides for free public ward hospital accommodation for elderly people, but it is one thing to provide in legislation that elderly people are eligible for free public ward hospital treatment and a vastly different thing for them to gain admission to a public ward in a hospital. I know that in many cases it is practically impossible. State authorities are complaining that many aged people are being forced into private hospitals in which they have to pay substantial fees, and if they are not insured by one of the private organizations, all they receive by way of assistance is the Commonwealth benefit of 8s. a day. 1 should have thought that the Government would have been prepared to give to those people who are not able to obtain that to which they are legally entitled, namely, free public ward hospital treatment, compensation by means of a subsidy towards the private hospital charges equal to the cost of public ward accommodation. But the fact is that they receive no such subsidy.
I hope that the extension of the number of recognized hospitals will be generous. I know that the Minister has a problem’ of demarcation in this matter, but we hope that something will be done to assist the people who cannot get into public hospitals or into any of the recognized hospitals as they exist to-day. No doubt there will be considerable administrative difficulty in the second proposal that where persons do not get into recognized hospitals they will be dealt with according to whether the disability from which they suffer is one for which treatment would be provided in a public hospital, with the qualification that the treatment that they receive in a particular institution is equivalent to the treatment that they would receive in a public hospital. Each individual case will have to be considered on its merits, and that will constitute a considerable administrative problem.
It is also heartening - this will give a good deal of satisfaction to many people - that people over 65 years of age henceforth will not be placed automatically into the special fund. Many people have not had any sickness during their lives. They have been paying into one of these private organizations for many years and, in many cases, not long after turning 65 they have had to enter hospital and undergo extensive treatment. They then find that they have been placed in the special fund which restricts the benefit that they can obtain to ?12 12s. a week when, in fact, the hospital treatment might have cost them anything up to ?21 or ?25 a week. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Loan (Short-term Borrowings) Bill 19S9.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1959.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 4) 1959.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 5) 1959.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1959.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1959.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
The Director-General of Security did have a conversation with Professor Stout on 1st October, 1959. 2 to 6. I refer to the speech of the right honorable the Prime Minister and to my answers to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition in this House on 27th October last (“Hansard”, pages 2279-2280). Professor Stout was given information as to the relationship between the forthcoming Melbourne Congress and the Stockholm Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament, held under the auspices of the World Peace Council. His attention was drawn to some of the information referred to in paragraphs 15, 16, 17, sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) and the last two clauses of sub-paragraph (c), and paragraph 19, of the next answer. No information and no documents were given, shown or read to the professor which had not been widely publicized by the press, by the congress itself or by the Communist Party of Australia or its front organizations. Whether or not information as to Communist activities should be given in like circumstances would be a matter for the appropriate Minister. 7. (1) To answer this question it is necessary to trace the formation and development of the World Peace Council and its offshoot in Australia - the Australian Peace Council.
In 1955 the Soviet occupation troops withdrew, and Austria regained her independence. In February, 1957, the Austrian Government announced that it had banned the World Peace Council and that its offices would be closed. In doing so the Austrian Government stated that the council had “ interfered in the internal affairs of countries with which Austria has good and friendly relations “, The immediate past president of the World Peace Council was Professor Frederic Joliot Curie, who was also a member of the Central Committee of the French Communist Party.
Eligibility of Members of the A.L.P. to Associate with Peace Conventions: -
Your Executive made the following determination on Peace Conventions: -
The Executive again draws attention to the resolutions of the 1951 Conference concerning so-called Peace Conventions organised openly or covertly by the Communist Party. In June, 1952, the strategy of these bodies in relation to Korea was exposed in a resolution of this Executive. The Executive now declares that it is Communist strategy to use these conventions to represent the West as aggressive and the exclusive centre of danger to World Peace; to conceal the aggressive actions of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and in Asia; and to bring about negotiations between Communistregimes and the West under circumstances when territorial concessions will be made by the West in return for concessions which have no substance. The Executive draws attention to Communist aggression in Korea, IndoChina, Tibet, Malaya, the Philippines, and to Communist activities in Burma. It is a characteristic of the Peace Convention propaganda to use legitimate national aspirations for independence to conceal the Communist use of these aspirations. Whether a nation has attained independence or is a colonial territory is ultimately irrelevant to Communist purposes, which are what all significant Communist writings reveal, namely, the penetration of every country with Communist ideology and the establishment of irremovable Communist dictatorships. The Labor Party defines from time to time the bodies which are Communist influenced, and does not intend to discourage organisations genuinely concerned for peace free from Communist influence. The best instrument for peace is the United Nations Organization and its agencies. The Labor Party warns against the “ Peace Conference of Asian and Pacific Regions “ to be held probably in Peking from March 1 to 15, 1954, under the sponsorship of the World Peace Council. The purpose of this conference is to advocate concessions to Communist regimes and further the spread of Communist ideology in Asia. This accords with the 1948 decision of the Cominform - “ To absorb the East ideologically and militarily “.
AUSTRALIAN PEACE COUNCIL.
Your Executive gave consideration to the standing of the Australian Peace Council in relation to the Australian Labor Party and determined as follows: -
That this Federal Executive being of the opinion that the Australian Peace Council is a subsidiary organisation of the Communist Party, we therefore declare that it is not competent for any member of the A.L.P. to be associated therewith and remain a member of the A.L.P., and further, we refer to Labor support of U.N.O. as a worthy medium aiding the advancement of real world peace.
New Delhi- The Bureau of the World Peace Council has decided to convene a Congress for Disarmament and International Co-operation in Stockholm from July 16th to the 22nd.
The “ Peace Bulletin “, a leaflet issued by the Australian Peace Council, New South Wales Division, under date March, 1958, stated -
In a communique made public on January 23rd, the Executive Committee of the World Council of Peace announced that the Congress for Disarmament and International Cooperation would be held in Stockholm from 16th to 22nd July, 1958.
The sponsoring committee in Australia for the Stockholm Congress had as its chairman the
Rev. A. M. Dickie, and two of the delegates to the congress were Mr. Samuel Goldbloom and the Rev. F. J. Hartley (who was also treasurer of the sponsoring committee).
This is the congress which rejected a resolution condemning the Russian action in Hungary, but took the opportunity to attack so-called “ American imperialism “ for its intervention in Lebanon.
Let us clearly understand that nothing is objectively a struggle for peace, excepting the subjective struggle for peace waged and led by our Party and all the peace forces, the conscious battle of the peace forces headed by the Communist Party . . .
The struggle for peace involves not merely transient aims but the whole of our politicalideological work in its entirety. All the fundamental aims of the Party are involved in the struggle for peace . . .
Firstly in the conflict of the two great camps on a world scale, the growing, expanding camp of democracy and socialism is fighting for peace, while the camp of moribund decaying imperialism is the camp which seeks to plunge the world into war to stave off its inevitable doom. Hence the struggle for peace is a struggle for the victory of the camp of peace, democracy and socialism [i.e. communism].
The struggle for peace is also basic for specific sections of the working class and the people generally, as for example, women and youth. There is no greater single uniting issue for women, and especially working-class women, than peace and the struggle for peace. The Italian experience in the peace ballot last year revealed that such a form of elementary activity for women leads to involving great masses of toiling women in militant and ultimately revolutionary activity . . .
Next the struggle for peace involves the consciousness of the worfkers on the class essence of American imperialism, the class essence of the Soviet Union, China, Korea, and so on. In fact we cannot deal effectively among the workers with the situation in Korea excepting on the basis of class significance. So that the struggle for peace is basic to the whole problem of raising the class consciousness of the workers . . .
The Way Forward - Where do we go from here?
When representatives of the New South Wales Assembly for Peace met Australian delegates returning from the Stockholm and Tokyo Conferences at the Mascot Aerodrome, and talked with us about the future cooperation of the peace forces in Australia, the success of a tremendous leap forward in the peace work in Australia was assured. The Secretary of the New Zealand Peace Committee, Flora Gould, was with the Australian delegation and it was practically decided there and then, that an Australian and New Zealand Congress should be held in Melbourne in the latter half of 1959 to carry forward the work of Stockholm and Tokyo. [Both convened by the World Peace Council.]
A further reference is in an article published in the World Peace Council Bulletin dated November, 1958, and written by the Rev. F. J. Hartley. The article dealt with the Stockholm Congress and then went on to deal with “ Exciting Plans for the Future”. These plans included the holding of this present Australian and New Zealand Congress and Festival of Arts. Mention was made of assistance from two well-known members of the Communist Party. A sponsoring committee to promote the Melbourne Congress was formed, of which the Rev. A. M. Dickie became chairman, the Rev. F. J. Hartley treasurer, and Mr. Samuel Goldbloom, organizing secretary. In the prelininary circular concerning the congress reference was made to a number of well known citizens as being among the 100 distinguished persons sponsoring the congress, but no mention was made of any link with the World Peace Council or the Australian Peace Council. In a pamphlet later circulated by the secretariat of the Melbourne congress headed “ Congress Aim is Charter of Hope “, occurs the following passage: -
The idea for the congress arose from the post-war history of the struggle for peace and, in particular, from the Stockholm Conference for Disarmament and International Co-operation last year.
At the end of this Conference Australasian delegates and the Victorian Sponsoring Committee which sent these delegates to Stockholm met and decided to hold a congress in Melbourne, where all who desired peace could work out a programme for international cooperation and disarmament.
Special attention to involving of migrants, through unions and migrant organizations, in 1959 Peace Congress and International Cultural Festival.
The mass preparation for the AustraliaNew Zealand Peace Congress waits on the decisions of the convening committee, but should begin before the next meeting of our State Committee.
The Party’s pioneering role in opposition to nuclear weapons - since August, 1945 - and absolute consistency in the peace struggle, should be publicised at all times.
The Party’s policy points to the main source of the war threat - U.S. Imperialism - and shows that socialism is the only final way to a peaceful world. But it also includes specific policy on immediate issues. It gives sharp expression to the independent views of the working class.
The outstanding event that will ensure the uniting of all peace forces is the Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament and the Arts Festival for Peace, to take place in Melbourne, November 7-14.
The Communist Party supports the forthcoming Congress-Festival. It is already endorsed by the A.C.T.U., all Labour Councils, and by leading A.L.P. figures such as Chamberlain (National President) as well as by leading scientists, churchmen and others.
The aims of the Congress-Festival should be thoroughly discussed, firstly in the Party branches, and by comrades in mass organizations, then out in the widest possible way.
We can assist by supplying lists of local job organizations and influential individuals (including addresses) who should be sent the congress material. Such lists should include the local party branch and the name and address of the secretary or other responsible comrade. This information should be sent to the Peace Organization.
Commission, which was designed by the party to destroy its credit. This was approved. In the Communist “ Guardian “ of 29th October, 1959, an article appeared which demanded, amongst other things, the disbandment of the Security Service. The discussions at this meeting indicate that the Communist Party of Australia will come out even more strongly in support of the congress, but as they now believe that innocuous resolutions will emanate they will support them, providing that they do not criticize world Communist policy.
Commonwealth Factory at Ballarat.
Captain J. P. Williams. - Managing director, Fleetways Transport and Agency Proprietary Limited; managing director, Fleet Forge Proprietary Limited; consultant, United Stevedoring Proprietary Limited; director, Stothert and Pitt (Aust.) Proprietary Limited.
Mr. K. W. Edwards. General manager, Westralian Farmers Co-operative Limited; director, Westralian Farmers Transport Limited. Mr A. G. Thompson. - Shipping manager, A. G. Webster and Woolgrowers Limited, Hobart.
Was a letter, dated 20th August, 1959, written by the acting Secretary of the Department of External Affairs to Professor Sir Marcus Oliphant regarding the Australian and New Zealand Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament? 2. (a) Was the letter written at the direction of the Minister for External Affairs? (b) What are the names of any other persons to whom a similar letter was written? (c) Was the information in the letter supplied to the persons to whom it was written to assist them to deal with any influences in the congress which might defeat its objectives? (d) If so, was it considered desirable that persons who would safeguard the objectives of the congress should be encouraged to attend? 3. (a) Was the letter based upon, or derived from information supplied by the Security Service?
Yes. 2. (a) Yes. (b) Letters were written to some other persons who, it was thought, might find this information useful. It would not be proper to make public their names without their permission.
Hornibrook, McKenzie, Clark Proprietary Limited.
Christiani and Nielsen A/S.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 November 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19591110_reps_23_hor25/>.