23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question. What consideration has the Government given to the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee since the committee’s report was tabled in the Parliament? Does the Government propose to take, during the life of the present Parliament, any action to Seek public approval of all or any of the recommendations by the holding of .a referendum? If not, can it be assumed that the work of the committee and the considerable expenditure involved are to be written off as a complete loss? Finally, if the report is to be relegated to a pigeonhole in a government office, will the Acting Prime Minister explain what purpose the Government had in mind when it decided to appoint a committee to review the Australian Constitution?
– The report mentioned by the honorable member has been under consideration, by the Government. I understand that he is or was a member of the committee in question. The report embraces issues of such great magnitude that it would not be expected, I am sure, to lend itself to the making of hasty and conclusive decisions. I assure the honorable member and all the members of parliaments - I emphasize that it is parliaments in the plural - who are interested in this matter that the report will not find a final resting place in a pigeonhole. It will result in useful, constructive decisions. Obviously, at this stage I cannot say whether action will be taken in the near future or whether any action taken will result in an approach to the people.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade. As Australia requires a much higher level of exports over the next five years and beyond, has a plan been adopted’ to ensure that these additional exports are balanced between primary and secondary production? If not, will the
Minister call together representatives of the various interested groups in order to formulate such a plan?
– Some people have an impression - 1 do not attribute this to the honorable member - that the Government calculates what exchange resources the country needs over a stated period and then composes a mathematical plan designed to produce exactly those exchange earnings in the stated period. The Government does not work in that way. It does not believe that in a country where production and trading are so dependent on the dynamics of private enterprise one can plan with that kind of precision. That occurs only under authoritarian forms of government. Having said that, I go on to say that the Government is, of course, constantly conscious of the need to ensure that over a period our exchange earnings are equated, with our exchange requirements. There is a constant process of consultation between the Government and representatives of both primary and secondary industry. Primary industry has long since been geared to this purpose, because over a period it has provided the greater percentage of our export commodities. More recently, the Export Development Council and the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council have represented the point of contact on this very subject between the Government and both primary and secondary industry.
– The Minister for Territories will recollect that in June last year he stated, that the Government had decided not to appeal from the Supreme Court of New Guinea to the High Court of Australia in the Sear case, not only because it did not think aa appeal should be made but also because it was extremely doubtful whether an appeal could be made. I now ask him why an opportunity was not taken in the legislation now before the House to put beyond doubt the Crown’s right of appeal against the extent or nature of the sentence imposed1 by a single Supreme Court judge in any future case in. which the Crown’s advisers believe that the judge has been in error.
– The case to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has referred was one in which there was room for difference of opinion as to whether a sentence passed by the Supreme Court of New Guinea had been severe enough. The point at issue was whether the Administration had power to lodge an appeal so as to increase the severity of the sentence. Quite apart from the particular case under notice, this point was considered very carefully by the Government and by its legal advisers. The opinion was reached that it was not desirable to take powers to enable the Crown to lodge an appeal in order to increase the severity of a sentence. It is because of a policy decision on that matter that no provision is made in the bill before the House.
– As the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has already accepted the principle of multiple telephone directories, for example, by having one for business subscribers and one for general subscribers, will the Minister consider dividing the general directory into two parts so that subscribers’ names and numbers can be printed in much larger type than at present, thus avoiding constant eye strain to people who read the present type of the directory?
- Mr. Speaker, it is correct, as stated by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, that the directories of Sydney and Melbourne recently have been divided into two parts - the general section and the classified section. This was done mainly because the directories had become so large that they were difficult to handle. I have no doubt that, ultimately, as a similar position develops in other capital cities the same action will be taken. We have not yet arrived at the stage in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart at which such action would be necessary, involving, as it would, some extra cost in printing.
The size of the type is a matter to which the department has applied itself for some
time in order to determine the best type to use and, at the same time, to keep down as
far as possible the cost of printing direc tories. The type used in the various
directories at present is known as 6 point Bell Gothic. It has been selected, not only
in Australia, but also by a number of other postal administrations throughout the world
as the best for this kind of publication. It is certainly small, but it is not smaller
than many of the types which one sees in newspapers and in other publications. I have
noticed, in looking at the various directories from time to time, that this type, which
is used1 in all capital city directories, seems a little more clear in, say, the
Brisbane or Perth directories than in the Sydney and Melbourne directories. That is
solely because a finer paper is used in the latter two directories in order to keep down
size and cost. I am mentioning these facts,
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is there any truth in a statement that negotiations are taking place with Japanese representatives about the acquisition, by Japanese interests, of certain rights in regard to iron ore deposits in Australia?
– I will discuss this problem with my colleague, the Minister for National Development, and will let the honorable gentleman know the result of the discussion.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by saying that the charges for telephone calls between the two largest centres of population in my electorate are 15s. for three minutes. Is the Postmaster-General aware that it costs the same amount to ring Perth from certain Western Australian country exchanges as it does to ring Perth from, say, Brisbane?
Does not the honorable gentleman agree that such charges are contrary to the interests of decentralization and rural development? ls the Minister further aware that the end result of the imposition of high telephone charges is ‘that most people do not use their telephones except in emergencies?
– I think I am right in saying that the electorate represented by the honorable gentleman, if not the largest electorate in Australia, is nearly the largest.
– It is the largest in the world.
– Thank you. In an electorate of that size, the honorable gentleman’s constituents must cover great distances when they want to get in touch with him, as naturally they do, because of the representation he gives them. The question raises the matter of the policy of the department in the determination of trunk charges. It will be remembered that in the last couple of years the department has aimed at simplifying the charges applicable to all trunk line traffic by reducing from 22 to eight the number of mileage divisions to which trunk charges apply. In so doing we have had to amalgamate some of the divisions. One of the things we have had to do, bearing in mind that Australia is a land of great distances and that there will be many business and other calls made between widely separated points, is to reduce considerably the charges for calls over the greater distances. About two years ago it cost 24s. 7d. to make a three-minute call over a distance of 1,000 miles or more. That charge was reduced, first, to £1. Now, as a result of a further reduction, the charge for any major trunk call in Australia is 15s. In other words, within the space of a little over a couple of years, we have brought the charge for three-minute day-time calls over the longer distances down from 24s. 7d. to 15s. Obviously there is a limit to what we can do in matters like this. The charge for calls over distances of 400 or 500 miles is the same as that for calls over a distance of 1,500 miles. That is the result of the policy which we are pursuing and which we will be able to develop as we improve our services.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer a question, ls he aware that a leading trading bank has stated that official policy will require it to refuse credit and drastically reduce overdrafts? Will this mean less money for home builders and farmers and essential services, but not less - and probably more - for borrowers who pay high interest rates? Does he agree that this distortion is the result of the fact that only part, and a shrinking part, of lending is regulated at all?
– I am not aware of the statement which the honorable member assures the House has been made by a leading bank, but I will take steps to familiarize myself with the position.
– I preface my question to the Postmaster-General by saying that pending the installation of an automatic telephone system and new cables in Bundaberg the shortage of telephones there is acute. When will the new telephone installation be completed in Bundaberg? When that time arrives will every person who requires a telephone be able to obtain one?
– As the honorable member for Wide Bay knows, the building to house the new automatic exchange at Bundaberg was completed some little time ago. The equipment which will be placed in that building in order to provide a completely automatic service in that area has now been obtained and the task of installing it is a charge against this year’s Budget. I think all honorable members know that the installation of automatic equipment for a large telephone exchange handling between, say, 1,000 and 2,000 subscribers, is quite a big job and generally takes up to twelve months to complete. Therefore it is expected that the new automatic exchange will be in operation in Bundaberg about twelve months from now - some time in October next year.
As the honorable member has pointed out in his question, there still exists a number of unsatisfied applications in the Bundaberg area. In order to cope with them, as a temporary measure, a new switchboard was installed recently in the manual exchange, and practically the whole of the present outstanding applications will be serviced through that new switchboard and will be in operation before the commencement of the automatic exchange. Therefore the present situation is being dealt with, and, in addition, when the automatic system comes into operation after October next year, I am informed - of course this is partly my own area and I know the position there pretty well - that the equipment in the new automatic exchange will be sufficient to meet all the increased demands, based on current applications, for a very considerable number of years.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services, representing the Minister for National Development. Can he say when the annual report of the War Service Homes Division for 1959-60 will be tabled in the House? If he is unaware of the exact date, will he assure the House that the report will be tabled in the House before the estimates of the Department of National Development are discussed?
– I shall consult with the Minister for National Development, who is Minister in charge of war service homes, and we shall see whether we can accede to the honorable member’s request. In the normal course of events the annual report of the division will be presented before or during the discussion on the estimates of the relevant department.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that there has been a mild outbreak of hepatitis at the Bradfield migrant hostel where, during the past six months, 44 cases - mainly children - have been reported? Will he confer with his colleague the Minister for Immigration with a view to the detailing of a senior Commonwealth health officer to collaborate with the local government and State government authorities regarding further measures, if any, which may usefully be taken to minimize the risk of infection?
– I understand that there are no cases at this centre now, but I will, as the honorable gentleman suggests, confer with my colleague and see whether any further steps should be taken to prevent outbreaks in the future.
– I ask the Acting Attorney-General: Will he ascertain whether there is in progress, or whether there is projected, a review and consolidation of the laws of the Australian Capital Territory, which were last reviewed and consolidated in 1’938?
– Yes, Sir, I will find out and let the honorable gentleman know.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General: In reply to a question asked recently, he stated that he hoped to announce the allocation of television licences for country areas shortly. Will the absence overseas of the Prime Minister lead to further delays?
– I speak from memory when I say that my statement of a little over a week ago was that I hoped to have the allocation of country television licences under consideration - not determined - by the Government in anything up to a fortnight. The honorable member very naturally asks whether the visit overseas of the Prime Minister will lead to a further delay. I reply .that the Prime Minister’s absence abroad will not, of itself, lead to a delay of this determination, but this is a matter of such importance in the development of television throughout Australia .that I would very much like to have the Prime Minister present when the determination is made. I am expressing my own opinion that this would be highly desirable.
Perhaps I should expand that statement, because the honorable member for Macquarie -asked me a somewhat similar question last week. I want to make the point that it may .not be realized yet, although it will be realized when the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is released, just what an important determination this will be in the development and expansion of television throughout Australia. The board has had a much more difficult and complex task in making this determination than it bad previously. The various questions that now arise affect not just this phase of television but also future phases. The problems include the availability of frequencies, the use of very high frequency or ultra-high frequency transmissions, the availability of programmes, and the number of channels that must be prepared for use as far ahead as we can anticipate. Therefore, the report, to which I have been giving close consideration during the last two or three weeks, is a very important one. Although I realize that quite an amount of time has been taken in this present investigation, 1 have no intention of unduly rushing a decision, in view of the importance of the whole matter.
– Referring to an earlier question asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong and having in mind that telephone subscribers, if they so wish, may have entries in telephone directories in large black type, I ask the PostmasterGeneral: What extra charge is made for this service and what action will the Post Office take to keep down the size of telephone directories should all subscribers seek to avail themselves of this service?
– I am sorry that I cannot tell the honorable member in shillings and pence what extra charge is made for entries in large black type. He asks what action could be taken to keep down the size of telephone directories if all subscribers required the larger type. Of course, the obvious reply is that in such a case the revenue of the department would be considerably increased, and there would then be enough money to produce a directory of the kind envisaged.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question which is, in a sense, supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Hume. Has the Minister been informed of the success of experiments in the field of long-range television by the Russians, in which they have been able to bounce signals off the moon or an artificial satellite? Is he of the opinion that this principle could have some future application in Australia? Does he believe that people in inland Australia will receive their first television transmissions in English or will they be in Russian?
– I am not going to be drawn into a debate on the last: part of the honorable member’s question. However, in referring to the possible use of space satellites for television, the honorable member has touched upon a very interesting development that could have important effects over the whole field of communications, and not just on television alone. All I can tell the honorable member on this subject is that the possible use of space satellites for commercial purposes is at present under initial survey - I cannot say more than that. Voicing my personal opinion, I say that it is quite possible that within a few years we shall have reached the stage at which signals of various kinds may be either bounced off satellites or received by some equipment in the satellites and then retransmitted to receiving stations in various parts of the world. I repeat that the investigation of this possibility is in its initial stages, and I should think that a great deal of capital will have to be expended in order to determine, first, how such satellites can be put into orbit and kept there over a considerable period so that they will be reliable; and, secondly, how the best results can be gained from the presence of those satellites in space. These are matters that will take a number of years to determine, but one would be foolish to say that the possibilities do not exist, and that the desired end will not be achieved in the reasonably near future. I think it will be.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister a question. Was it the practice for some time after the inauguration of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to keep the Leader of the Opposition as well as the Prime Minister fully advised regarding all important information coming into the possession of the A.S.I.O., as a protection against possible abuse of its powers? If so, will the right .honorable gentleman say why the practice was diicontinued? Is it because the A.S.I.O. is not now engaged exclusively upon matters involving national security, but has become the Government’s secret ‘political police, force?
– In view of the latter part of the honorable member’s question, I do not propose to offer any answer.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether there is any substance in the report that the Government of the United States of America has agreed to co-operate with the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Australia in the use of the Woomera rocket range for space research.
– I have seen a newspaper report that some agreement has been reached between Mr. Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, and Mr. Eisenhower, the President of the United States of America, but I have no knowledge of any such agreement. I think both Mr. Macmillan and President Eisenhower would know that no effective agreement of this nature could be made without the prior approval of the Australian Government. At the same time I would like to say that the utmost cooperation has been achieved between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America with regard to the use for certain purposes of the Woomera rocket range by the Americans. It will be remembered that during the International Geophysical Year the Americans supplied certain minitrack and satellite-tracking equipment to us. That equipment has been left at Woomera and is still being used. They are also paying the cost of installations in relation to Project Mercury, the man-in-space satellite, and I am sure that the Australian Government will give every consideration to any request which is received from the British Prime Minister or the United States President in this regard.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Services. Will he confer with the Minister for Repatriation with the object of devising means of advising ex-servicemen, who are at present receiving an age pension or part age pen sion and who are eligible for a service pension, how they can transfer to the service pension? Is there any way in which these ex-servicemen who are at present receiving a pension can transfer to a service pension other than by filling in a new application form, so that they may be able to receive the new hospital benefits in a repatriation hospital?
– I shall be glad to confer with my friend and colleague, the Minister for
Repatriation, in another place, and see whether it is possible to give some advice as
to how a person receiving one pension can transfer and become eligible to receive
another pension in its stead. At present, there is nothing to prevent a person in
receipt of an age pension who qualifies for a service pension from transferring from
the age pension to a service pension by cancelling the one and making application for
the other. I can see no other way to effect the change. Applications are necessary in
both cases, and an application for one pension could not be accepted as an application
for another in a different department; but,
– Will the Postmaster-General see that the telephone facilities available through the unofficial manual telephone exchange at Gruyere, in Victoria, which is in the electorate of Deakin but also serves the electorate of La Trobe, are not discontinued or interrupted by the resignation because of ill health of the present postmistress in whose home the exchange is situated?
– Although I am not quite sure, I have some recollection of having seen something about this matter quite recently. The honorable member for La Trobe has referred to a problem which we have to meet from time to time when some person who has been conducting a telephone exchange - often for a considerable period of years - is no longer able to continue the great service he or she has rendered. Under present day conditions, very often it is difficult to replace such a person. The alternatives are lo find somebody else in the district who is prepared to provide the service or to establish something in the nature of a small automatic exchange. There is a limit to the number of these automatic exchanges we can provide each year in Australia, lt is our policy to substitute country automatic exchanges for manual exchanges as fast as possible. That is our objective, but until we are able to apply that policy completely, we have to resort at times to expedients. Either we have to get somebody else to work the exchange, or connect up the trunk lines with some points in the service which will ensure that the area or district is not deprived of a service. 1 shall have another look at the matter to which the honorable member has referred and see what can be done in this case.
- Mr. Speaker, 1 should like to give a supplementary reply to the question which was addressed to me by the honorable member for Reid. 1 have been informed that the report of the Director, War Service Homes Division, will be tabled in the Senate this afternoon. If this is done, in the normal course of events I shall present it in this House to-morrow.
– 1 address my question to the Postmaster-General, ls he aware of allegations which have been made by officials and ex-officials of the Postal Department to the effect that security measures involved in the transmission oi registered mail have been relaxed? Is it a fact that whereas previously each official handling such mail had to sign for each item, the only requirement now is that the official sign for the total number of items in the consignment? Does this procedure make the detection of losses more difficult? ls it a fact that employees of the Postal Department, the majority of whom are honest, would prefer the previous method because it afforded greater protection for their own integrity?
– I certainly agree that members of my department are honest and set out to do their job thoroughly and efficiently. Some variations in the method of handling registered mail have been made in recent times. I do not have the complete details fresh in my mind at present, but because of the importance of this matter I shall look up the details and give them to the honorable member. However, I assure him that any alteration will not work adversely against the interests of those who pay a fee to ensure that their registered mail is handled correctly.
– My question to the Minister for Air refers to the Commonwealth property at Helidon in Queensland which was used previously by the Royal Australian Air Force as an ammunition depot. Will his department require this area in the future, or will all the property and buildings be transferred to the Department of the Interior for disposal? I refer also to No. 7 Stores Depot at Toowoomba. Is any change in the structure of this depot contemplated in the future? Can the Minister indicate the principal areas which are serviced at present by this establishment?
– The Air Force property at Helidon, near Toowoomba in Queensland, which was formerly used as an ammunition store, will not be required any further by my department. The ammunition store has been closed down and I shall soon take the last steps in disposing of the property, which will be to declare it formally surplus to my department’s requirements and to hand it over to my colleague, the Minister for the Interior, for disposal.
The stores depot at Toowoomba, which also is in the electorate of Darling Downs which my friend represents, is an important R.A.A.F. establishment. Had I been inclined to neglect its importance, which I hope I have not done, the assiduous attention which the honorable member gives to the needs of his electorate would have made it impossible for me to do so. I assure him that no change is contemplated in the use or purpose of No. 7 Stores Depot at Toowoomba. It is the principal depot for the supply of a wide range of stores to all Air Force establishments and units in Queensland. It is also the central store for the whole of Australia for certain items of equipment. The wide re-arrangement of bases and units which has been carried out by my department over the last two years in an effort to obtain greater economy and efficiency, has led to a careful examination of the future of that stores depot. A decision has been made to continue the depot in its present form and for its present purposes.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Supply a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Lilley. Will the Minister ascertain whether any agreements or decisions have been made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States in connexion with the use of Woomera as a place for launching rockets, or for space research? Will he make a statement to the House in connexion with the matter? If any decisions have been made, will the Minister try to explain to the House how this does not involve some loss of Australian responsibility and sovereignty? If no decisions have been arrived at, will he take into account, when decisions are being made, the responsibility of this House, as well as of the Government, as many millions of pounds might be involved?
– I do not think that anything has happened to which any honorable member could take exception. President Eisenhower would know that the Woomera project is a joint effort by the United Kingdom and Australia, but I shall look at the matters raised by the honorable member, and if there is any need to make a statement to> the Home I shall do so.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer whether he can explain why, in a recent analysis of bank advances made by the Bureau of Census and Statistics, loans to primary industries are shown to be at their lowest point since 1953, while loans to virtually all other sectors of the economy have shown a marked upward trend.
– The honorable member was good enough to give me some indication of his interest in this matter. I am able to say that loans to the rural community are not lower than they were in 1953; they are very much higher. Actually, advances to the rural community by the trading banks are £89,000,000 higher than they were in 1953. In addition to that, there has been an increase during the last twelve months of £10,000,000 in the amount of money lent through pastoral houses, the total of loans from that source now being £101,000,000. There has, however, been a slight reduction in the percentage of all advances to the rural community in the last couple of years, but it is a diminution from a pretty high level of lending. In fact, the percentage of loans to the rural community to-day is still slightly higher than it was in 1953, and quantitatively it is higher to the extent of £89,000,000.
Freehold Land Tides
– Will the Acting Attorney-General , ascertain whether any action has resulted from an undertaking given to me by the Attorney-General before he left for New York that he would inquire into the causes of the very considerable delays that are occurring in the registration of transfers of titles of freehold land within the Australian Capital Territory consequent upon their sale or disposal?
– I remember the Attorney-General answering a question relating to alleged delays in transfers. I shall have an answer prepared for the honorable member and embody it in a letter to him as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for Trade say how Australian trade commissioners correct the impression amongst some European businessmen that it is necessary, before doing business with Australia, to see Whitehall first? Further, do our trade commissioners maintain personal neutrality in recommending States of Australia in which business ventures should be undertaken?
– I think that in the Old World there is still some residue of belief that Australia as well as the other independent members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in some sense needs permission from Whitehall to do this and that. This is a residue of thinking long since out of date. I cannot say explicitly what the trade commissioners can do about this, but I can say that the whole impact of Australian trade promotion and diplomacy is to establish the complete independence of the Australian nation and our competence to make our own decisions in accordance with our own policy wishes. As between the Australian States, our trade commissioners are under quite explicit instructions, which I believe are being observed, to preserve neutrality. So I am sure that no Australian trade commissioner would ever advise an interested party overseas that he would do better to go to one State than to another. On the other hand, the function of the trade commissioners is to give all the information that is pertinent to the inquiries directed to them.
– I have to inform the House that I have to-day issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Calare, in the State of New South Wales, in the place of John Brook Howse, Esquire, resigned. The dates in connexion with the election were fixed as follows: - Date of nomination, Wednesday, 19th October, 1960; date of polling, Saturday, 5th November. 1960; date of return of writ, on or before Saturday, 10th December, 1960.
– In accordance with the provisions of section 1 8 of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Tariff Board Act- Tariff Board- Report for year 1959-60, together with Summary of Recommendations.
The report is accompanied by an annexure which summarizes the recommendations made by the board and indicates the action taken in respect of each recommendation. It is not proposed to print the annexure.
That the report be printed.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 29th September (vide page 1575).
– Mr. Chairman, I wish to direct my remarks to the proposed vote for the Department of Health, with particular reference to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. This scheme is a fraud on the general public. Until 1st March, 1960, life-saving drugs could be prescribed by all registered doctors and dispensed free of charge by any chemist. Since that date, this situation has been altered, and a special fee of 5s. is now charged for all those drugs which previously were available free of charge. When this change in the scheme was made, wide publicity was given to the statement that, in compensation for the charge of 5s., the list of drugs was being greatly extended and would include from 1st March of this year almost any drug which a doctor wanted to prescribe. The public was told that this new arrangement would be a progressive step and that, in spite of the charge of 5s. for each prescription, medicine would be obtainable more easily and more cheaply than before.
The facts are quite different. The charge of 5s. for each prescription makes medicine much more expensive than it was before 1st March last. This charge amounts to a new special tax - a paltry and mean tax - on the sick, and especially on those who are chronically ill. There is not a word of truth in the statement that almost every drug needed is available with the adoption of the enlarged list. The truth is that this list contains costly cheap and obsolete drugs which no self-respecting doctor has prescribed in the last twenty years. This list could be better and more accurately described as the list of rubbish drugs - the drugs that are left. The cost of these rubbish drugs is mostly little more than the 5s. the patient has to contribute. The majority of these medicines cost less than 8s., the patient paying 5s. and about 3s. being paid by our munificent Federal Government which belabours this so-called free medicine scheme. The great majority of modern drugs have been completely omitted from the allegedly enlarged list of drugs, and a patient who needs these modern drugs has to pay for them in exactly the same way as he paid for them before the scheme was altered.
The first fraud in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme as it at present operates consists in the fact that although the people were told that almost all medicines would bc available for the charge of 5s., all that the public can obtain is cheap rubbish, the majority of modern drugs having to be paid for in full by the patient. Whether or not members of the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party like it, that is a fact. The second fraud in this scheme consists in an arbitrary limitation of the quantity of drugs available for the charge of 5s. This is a particularly severe limitation for a patient with a chronic disease who needs certain drugs permanently. He has to pay the charge of 5s. again and again. Indeed, his medicines would cost him only about half as much each month if he bought his monthly supply all at once and paid it entirely out of his own pocket without relying on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. If any private person or a company cheats and defrauds the public by false statements, the Attorney-General immediately accuses the person or persons responsible and most probably a gaol sentence results. Has the public to accept a fraud when it is imposed by the federal health authorities?
I should like to read a list of modern drugs which are needed every day by many thousands of persons, especially those who suffer from high blood pressure.
– You will need Aspros after this.
– You will need a drug or two after the next election. Your blood pressure is already increasing very rapidly. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer from high blood pressure. Modern treatment all over the world requires drugs of the rauwolfia or reserpine group. The drugs concerned are raudixin tablets, Serfia tablets, Serpasil, Serpiloid and Harmony tablets. None of these are on the free list.
Tranquillizer drugs are also important because, through the hustle and bustle of modern life, many thousands of people - probably several hundred thousands - suffer from nervous exhaustion, nervous tension, and over-excitability. All over the world, modern treatment requires drugs of the meprobamate group and promazine. The drugs concerned are Largactil, and Karmazine, Atarax, Equanil, Vallergan, Siquil, Prozin, Sparin and Stelezine. None of these drugs is on the free list. Nor are anti-rheumatic drugs nor drugs required for liver diseases and upperrespiratory tract infections. 1 have a list of cheap medicines which are available under the Government scheme. These are drugs which, as I have said before, decent doctors refuse to prescribe. I emphasize that they are rubbish. Mixtures available under the widened Government scheme cost mainly 7s. 3d. or 7s. 6d. The patient pays 5s. for them and the balance is paid by the Government. These include aspirin mixture, magnesia hydroxide mixture, magnesium sulphate mixture, mercuric eye ointment, phenobarbitone tablets, potassium citrate mixture, thyroid tablets and stilboestrol tablets.
I also have a list of drugs which are more expensive under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme than by prescription without the scheme, due to the restricted quantity available under the scheme. The first on the list is vitamin K tablets. Under the scheme the number that can be obtained on any one prescription is 25. These may be bought from any chemist at a cost of 100 for 8s. 9d. but, bought under the scheme 25 at a time, 100 would cost £1. Aspirin and dover tablets are limited to 25 which cost 5s. under this munificent scheme but 100 may be bought from any chemist for 12s. 3d. Here, the additional cost under the scheme is 7s. 9d. A maximum of 25 butobarbitone tablets may be prescribed under the scheme and these cost 5s., yet the cost of 100 is lis., a difference in price of 9s. per 100. The maximum number of ephedrine hydrochloride tablets that can be prescribed is 25. Again, these cost 5s. whereas 100 may be bought for 7s. 3d. Not more than 25 neoepinine tablets may be prescribed at a cost of 5s., whereas 100 may be bought for 18s. The maximum number of 25 pentobarbital tablets cost 5s. while 100 may be bought for 13s. 3d., a difference in price of 6s. 9d. per 100. A maximum of twelve carbrital capsules may be obtained for 5s. although 100 may be bought for £1 12s. which represents a loss of 12s. 6d. to the patient. A maximum of 25 nembudein tablets may be bought for 5s. whereas 100 cost 19s. 3d. or 9d. less than under the scheme. The maximum of twelve Seconal capsules prescribed under the scheme cost 5s., while J 00 cost 28s. 6d., a saving of 14s. The maximum of 25 quinine tablets cost 5s., while 100 costs 9s.
These figures are taken from the price list of the Knoll Laboratories. This is an official list which is issued to doctors and chemists. Doctors must prescribe and chemists must charge according ito this list. I shall be very interested to hear the Minister’s reply to my charges. My constituents are sick and tired of listening to the fraudulent publicity which comes over the air in an endeavour to give people the idea that they can get free medicine at any time. The general public pays an enormous rate of taxation in order to finance the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Yet the chronically ill including those who are seriously ill often have to pay, under this scheme, almost double the price that they would have to pay if the scheme did not exist. Once again, I challenge the Minister to deny the figures which I have placed before the committee. I should like to hear the Minister’s reply to the case that I have presented.
.- The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith
The Director-General’s report points out that expenditure during 1959-60 for the general population amounted to £18,357,404; for pensioners it: amounted to £3,574,223; for hospital and miscellaneous services it amounted to £2,404,044, making a total Commonwealth payment under the scheme of £24,335,671. The report states -
Early figures indicate that about 70 per cent, of all doctors’ prescriptions at present being written are pharmaceutical benefits. This percentage will be increased by the addition of new drugs to the list of benefits . . . These new drugs range in price up to £6 per prescription with an average cost per prescription approximating 25s.
The public will be able to have them for 5s. The report continues -
The proportion of doctors’ prescriptions that is not covered by the scheme comprises those prescriptions which are not authorized as pharmaceutical benefits and prescriptions written for the general public which cost less than 5s. . . .
The scope of benefits available is practically the same for the general public and for pensioners, but the nominal charge of 5s. per prescription is not made to pensioners.
A tremendous volume of work is entailed in the examination of prescriptions, which takes place for the dual purpose of ensuring that the requirements of the scheme have been met and the charges made on the Government for the prescriptions are accurate.
During 1959-60, for example, 23,828,440 prescriptions were written under the scheme. This involved the examination of some 54,000 individual claims for payment, involving £21,931,627. The examination and payment of these claims was effected at an administrative cost of £200,000, less than 1 per cent, of the expenditure involved.
The pharmaceutical benefits scheme is a good scheme and is well appreciated by all Australians, particularly those in receipt of pensions. [Quorum formed.] After one becomes a member of this Parliament one makes his maiden speech, which is a very important occasion for the new member. Another important occasion is when one has a speech interrupted by a member of the Opposition raising a point of order. But one knows that one has really reached the peaks when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) interrupts one’s speech in order to call a quorum, thereby directing the attention of many honorable members on his own side to an excellent speech that is being made. Now I return to the Director-General’s report, which states -
Following a recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council a Committee in Medical Statistics was set up during the year. Its terms of reference include those specified for National Committees on Vital and Health Statistics by the World Health Organization, such as assessing the needs for vital and health statistics, evaluating supply, achieving uniformity in records, methods and tabulations and ensuring a free exchange of information and views.
A further recommendation of the National’ Health and Medical Research Council relates to morbidity statistics and the possibility of data being extracted from the records of organizations registered under the National Health Act, This recommendation has been implemented and it is anticipated that some worthwhile information on disease incidence will be available at a later date.
I mention that, Sir, because I feel that one of the most urgent investigations of this committee should be into the incidence of cancer in Australia, with perhaps a subcommittee appointed to compile statistics concerning the incidence of cancer in exservicemen. Some statistics are available on the general occurrence of cancer in Australia, but no detailed information can be secured regarding the incidence of cancer in ex-servicemen. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) and the Minister for Repatriation
(Senator Sir Walter Cooper),in response to many questions asked by honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight),admitted that all the information required on this matter was not available. I think that this information should be compiled from existing records and made available to the members of this Parliament, who could then judge whether or not the incidence of cancer in ex-servicemen warrants the acceptance of cancer as a warcaused disability or whether section 37 (3.) of the Repatriation Act should be amended to include provision that cancer be treated, in this respect, on the same basis as tuberculosis. However, Sir, I suggest that while these matters are being decided future estimates for the Department of Health include financial provision for a “National Defence Against Cancer “ campaign, which would embrace both ex-servicemen and other civilians. I advocated such a programme when speaking in this chamber on 17th March of this year, and again I ask the Government to consider introducing such legislation which, I suggest, could’ provide benefits for the cancer sufferer similar to those now available to tuberculosis sufferers under the Tuberculosis Act.
The Department of Health has issued a leaflet giving many facts about tuberculosis. When I have quoted from the leaflet honorable members will realize that many of these facts are the same as those which apply to cancer. The leaflet says -
Tuberculosis is a disease which has been knows for centuries. It is both preventable and curable, and is not inherited . . .
That also applies to cancer. The leaflet continues -
You can have tuberculosis, particularly in its early stages, without knowing, it. There are many people who are unaware that they have developed tuberculosis and that treatment is necessary . . .
Again, that applies to cancer too. The leaflet continues -
Tuberculosis is more common in the middleaged and the elderly, but anyone can develop the disease at any time. Past freedom from tuberculosis does not mean present or future immunity.
Again, that applies also to cancer. The leaflet goes on -
X-rays and other tests for tuberculosis may be necessary at reasonable intervals throughout life … if your work involves substantial exposure to infection.
On that aspect of substantial exposure to infection, I quote from the speech that I made earlier this year on the subject of cancer. I said -
Environmental cancer is the newest and one of the most ominous of the end-products of our industrial environment. It could well be one of the main reasons for the ever-increasing rate of deaths from cancer. It should become one of the most urgent tasks of all medical men, labour and management leaders, public health officials and members of our parliaments to become familiar with the problems of environmental cancer. We must all work together to combat this type of cancer at its very source, which can be found, perhaps, in radioactive substances used in medicine, science and industry and even by the defence services. The source may be -found in the field of metallurgic research and development, or in the wide field of organic chemistry. Many new chemicals, without being pre-tested for cancerproducing properties, are now being commonly used in industry, for instance in the manufacture of insecticides and synthetic fertilizers.
I went on to say -
Certain medicines, prepared foods and cosmetics, all designed for direct personal use and presenting possible cancer hazards, come under the heading, “ Sources of environmental cancer “…
The national campaign against tuberculosis was a great step forward in our national health programme, but the time has come to take an even greater stride ahead and introduce, on the pattern of the Tuberculosis Act, legislation to assist people suffering from cancer. Now, surely, is the time to consider granting special allowances, subject to a reasonable means test, to all persons burdened with the disease of cancer.
Half the deaths that have been caused by cancer could have been prevented by early diagnosis and early treatment. Early diagnosis is so vitally important in cancer, treatment that free cancer-detection examinations and medical checkups must be the basis of a national cancer campaign. Employers must be asked to co-operate by permitting staffs time off for these examinations. Examination centres must be established at easily accessible places.
I said later -
When a positive diagnosis has been made, many domestic and financial problems follow, and :n particular there is the question of mental and physical ability to continue in employment. These problems could be considerably eased by providing, free of charge, complete facilities for the examination, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in its many forms. The arguments in favour of such action are many; the main, and probably the only argument against it would be the economic argument.
Probably including the ability of the community to pay the cost.
One other aspect of the matter to which 1 wish to refer, in relation to cancer in ex-servicemen, is that research had disclosed that certain vitamin deficiencies can cause lesions which sometimes are potentially precancerous. I suppose that ex-servicemen are the best examples we have of people who have been subjected to conditions which meant that they did not receive the full range of necessary vitamins. That would apply to men who were prisoners of war or who were operating under severe conditions on active service. If it can be shown that cancer may be attributable to vitamin deficiencies I think the Government should have a look at this aspect. The Minister knows my views on this subject. It is possible that as a result of the requests I have already made in regard to the matter some action is already under consideration, but I again ask the Minister and the Government to consider introducing legislation containing provisions similar to those in the Tuberculosis Act in order to give benefits to any person, ex-serviceman or otherwise, who is suffering from any kind of cancer.
.- I desire to speak, first, to the estimates for the Department of Health and to
voice some protest in connexion with an important building project that should have
been undertaken years ago. I refer to the need for a new psychiatric ward at the
repatriation hospital at Springbank in South Australia. Despite assurances from the
Minister year after year nothing has been done about this matter. In 1956, Senator Critchley received an assurance from the
Minister for Repatriation
In July, as I had received no word from him, I sent him a telegram, and in August 1958 he advised me by letter that he was fully aware of the position in relation to th’e treatment of psychiatric patients at Springbank and agreed that the present treatment block, which was a war-time block, was below the general standard of the institution. He said he was mindful of the need for the new block and that that project was accorded high priority by his department. He gave me an assurance that immediately the construction of this ward at Springbank could be financed out of the allocation for the Department of Works, construction work would commence. In 1959, I raised the matter again, pointing out that Senator Critchley had previously had assurances from Senator Cooper, and that we had received assurances but nothing else. In September, 1959, after the debate on the Estimates, when there was great disappointment because it was generally thought that approval would be granted and that funds for this work would be included in the Estimates, the Minister said to me that he had delayed advising me, pending clarification of the position, because he had thought funds for the work would be included in the allocation for that year. He said -
You will recall that following the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee lon Public Works, Parliament recently approved the erection of a new ward, kitchen block and administrative offices at the Repatriation General Hospital, Hobart.
He said further that because of the state of the hospital there, that work had been given No. 1 priority. He added that it was thought the position there was so bad that this work was urgently needed. He concluded -
You have my assurance that with the inclusion of the Hobart project in the Departmental Works Project every endeavour will be made to include the Springbank project in the 1960-61 Works Programme for my Department. As this work now becomes the No. 1 priority I feel I have every reason to be confident that it will be included in the programme next year. I am fully aware of the necessity of the work at Springbank and will make every endeavour to see that it is undertaken early in the coming financial year.
Well, the Estimates have come out again, but with other honorable
members from South Australia, particularly
I have taken the trouble to examine the Estimates in order to see what has happened and what was included last year. I have looked at the Hobart project, for which provision was made for the expenditure of £276,000 and I find that only £12,000 of that sum has been spent in the last twelve months. If the work continues at that rate of spending - £12,000 a year - I do not suppose we will ever reach the stage of including the work at Springbank in the Estimates. I notice also that in. the Estimates this year there is a provision of £76,000 for the Callan Park Mental Hospital. I do not object to that; but if we look at last year’s Estimates we find the same provision of £76,000, but dressed up a little differently. The provision was there and the money was allocated, but not a penny piece of it was spent getting on with the job. So, we find that year after year money is being allocated but is not being expended on what are considered to be most urgently needed buildings for the hospitalization of exservice men and women. I have come to the conclusion that the Minister for Repatriation is just being pushed about by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). 1 cannot help feeling that that is the case because if, since 1956, the Minister for Repatriation had been sincere in his statement that this ward is urgently needed at Springbank Repatriation Hospital to give these unfortunate ex-servicemen, sufferers from neurosis, the benefit of this new ward so as to help with their treatment and help the doctors, we should not still be pleading this year for the work to be commenced.
Year after year the Minister has given an assurance that he realizes the urgency of the work; but nothing is done about it. Either he is a very weak Minister - a nice gentleman in many ways, but completely weak in enforcing his opinion - or the Treasurer completely stands over him. 1 am not convinced that the money which this Government is spending throughout the length and breadth of this nation on various projects is more urgently needed or more important than the provision of adequate hospitalization for these unfortunate people. Admittedly, they receive the best medical attention; the doctors and nurses are first class and go to great pains to see that these unfortunate patients are well looked after. The rest of the hospital is in first-class condition, but this one ward is a blot on the record of repatriation hospitals in South Australia; but this Government pushes this necessary work aside. It says to these patients, who have waited there for years for something better, that it realizes the urgency of this work; but that is all it does about it. Last year great disappointment was expressed at that hospital by all those associated with it when nothing was done to remedy the position. I must agree that the departmental officers dressed it up and made it presentable. They made it look quite decent, but only because they really believed they had reached the end of the road and that this year’s Estimates would provide for this work. But this year’s Estimates have come down and there is no provision whatever for this work.
If the Treasurer is responsible for this position, he should go out to Dawes-road, when he is in South Australia, and look at this ward and talk to the patients. He should go there at 5 o’clock one wintry morning when these people have to walk under a canopy to the shower block to get insulin treatment. When he inspects those buildings perhaps he will realize the need for this work to be done and have somesympathy with those people who are being treated at that hospital, because in this country’s hour of need they were prepared to serve it. Yet the best the Minister and the Government can say to them, year after year since 1956, is, “We know you need it. We know the ward is obsolete and it should have been rebuilt, but there is not enough money to get on with the job.” As I said, of the money voted last year for the various building projects 1 mentioned, not one penny piece has been spent, and no work has3 been commenced on those jobs.
In the short time at my disposal 1 would like to refer to another matter which concerns the Department of Health. It relates to what is claimed to be an anomaly in the National Health Service in respect of which the Australian Oplometrical Association claims the act should be amended.
I believe that the act should be amended to provide for the payment not only by various societies but also by the Government of benefits for the provision of spectacles. The association makes some specific claims. It alleges that government money is being used illegally in the payment of benefits for examination by doctors who perhaps suggest that a patient use some lotion for eye trouble when the position really is that the doctor is examining the patient in order to prescribe spectacles. That is a serious claim. The association, in a circular issued to-day, which no doubt the Minister has received, alleges that the Minister has dodged replying to the allegation and has asked that he be specific and that the Government investigate its claim.
The Medical Benefits Fund of Australia offers some rebates for these examinations. The position is that some organizations provide for the payment of benefits and others do not. I would like the Minister to say whether he would give the necessary permission if all organizations asked to be allowed to change their rules so that this benefit could be provided. Would he also be willing to allow the organizations to amend their rules to provide that the benefit be paid when optometrists decide that glasses are needed. The claim is that members of the medical profession are receiving preferential treatment because of their financial interest, in some States, in the business houses that provide spectacles. It is alleged that there is almost a racket by doctors who issue prescriptions to be taken to one particular place of which the doctors, through their shareholding, are the owners.
These are serious allegations. One way that this matter can be cleared up is for the Government to provide, in an amendment to the act, for the recognition of optometrists in the same way that members of the medical profession are recognized. Each year, more and more people need glasses and it is time that provision was made for the payment of a benefit by the Government as well as by various organizations. I ask the Minister to examine carefully the case that has been presented to him by the Australian Optometrical Association and to give an answer, if he can, to the claim made in the circular issued by the association that funds are being illegally paid as government rebates.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was shocked by the remarks of the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) regarding the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Sir Walter Cooper). I think it is quite definite that the Minister has the confidence not only of honorable members in this chamber but also of all ex-servicemen. ] believe, too, that every one knows that the Minister is a very keen, capable and honorable Minister. I do not propose to indulge in a diatribe; I propose to make some suggestions regarding certain aspects of social services.
We know that social services could be improved in many ways, but we also know that all the ways in which they could be improved would cost money. The suggestions that I propose to make will not cost a great deal of money. I recognize that social services alone cost the Government well over £300,000,000 a year, but my suggestions will not cost very much extra. However, I claim that they will render justice to two classes of pensioners. The group that I wish to mention consists of widows. We know that there are several classes of widows, and I commend the Government for deleting this year the class D widows and making other provision for them. Class D comprised women whose husbands had been imprisoned for at least six months, if they had a child under sixteen years of age in their care or if they were at least 50 years of age. By deleting that class, the Government has done away with the stigma that always attached particularly to the children of men who were in prison for a period of at least six months. I commend the Government for giving consideration to this class of widow.
In dealing specifically with the classes that are now established - classes A, B and C - we must consider mainly class A, which comprises widows with one or more children under sixteen years of age in their care. At present, the pension for this class is £5 5s. for a widow with one child, and if she had1 a second child, she would receive another 10s. a week. Then, of course, she would receive 15s. a week child endowment for the two children and if she were paying rent for a home and had no means of any size, she would receive 10s. a week supplementary assistance. This makes a total of £7 a week. In various States, allowances are made by the State government. Assuming that the widow received £1 a week extra as a State allowance, she would receive a total of £8 a week with which to look after herself and her two young children. My submission is that no widow with two children, of pre-school age particularly, could1 manage on that sum. If the children are very young, she should stay at home and look after them. Very few widows are in a position where they can get some one else to look after their children unless, of course, they are very fortunate. Usually it is difficult to get some one to look after their young children while they go out to work. If they go out to work, they are permitted to earn £3 10s. a. week plus 10s. a week for each child under sixteen years. If they earn more than that, their pension is affected. So, even if they go to work and so subject their young children to various difficulties, they still cannot make very much money. I suppose that one of the causes contributing to child delinquency to-d’ay is that the widowed mothers of schoolchildren have to go out to work.
– Not always widows.
– No, but in the cases I am discussing, it is the widowed mothers particularly who place their children at a disadvantage, and they do so necessarily because they go out to work. Their children come home from school in the afternoon and generally there is no one in the house to receive them. That is not good for the children df our nation, our future citizens. They should not have to roam around the streets while their mothers are working, and necessarily so. My suggestion is that we should have a fresh look at the rates paid1 particularly to widows with children. We must realize that, quite apart from the fact that the amount of money she receives is insufficient, the widow is in an unfortunate position because she has not the comfort, support and assistance that can be afforded by a husband. When considering the plight of these unfortunate women, we should have regard to the fact that at the end of June of this year the average wage being received by male employees in Australia was £22 12s., while a widow with two young children gets only £7 a week, apart from any assistance she may receive from State governments. If these allowances were increased it would not cost very much, and certainly not nearly as much as would be involved in a general increase of pension rates.
I wish also to direct attention to the allowance paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner. We are told that an allowance not exceeding £1 15s. a week may be granted to the wife of an invalid pensioner if she is living with her husband and is not receiving an invalid or age pension, or a service pension under the Repatriation Act. The rate of the allowance is affected by income and property on the same basis as an age or invalid pension. We are told also that this allowance is payable on the same conditions to the wife of an age pensioner who is permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind. It amounts to this; If an invalid pensioner has to be cared for by his wife, the only money that is available to keep both of them is £6 15s. a week, and I submit that it is not nearly enough. The amount involved in granting an increase of the wife’s allowance would not be great, and I suggest that the Government should seriously consider a substantial increase. I shall refer also to the allowance for children. An invalid pensioner may have a number of children, and his wife would then have to look after him and them. In such a case an amount of lis. 6d. is allowed for the first or only child under sixteen. I repeat that the amount of money available for a family in those circumstances is by no means sufficient.
Similar remarks apply in the case of an age pensioner with a wife who is not old enough to receive an age pension herself. If such a pensioner is permanently incapacitated, his wife has to look after him. and she cannot find a job to earn extra money. In any case it is by no means easy for a woman aged about 55 to find work, but even if a job is available it cannot be accepted by a woman whose husband is an age pensioner and is permanently incapacitated.
In short, I suggest that increases in these allowances should be seriously considered by this Government, which has shown itself in the past to be sympathetic to the needs of minorities. I believe we must help the little people. The big man can always look after himself, but in many cases the little people cannot do so. I have mentioned the circumstances of two kinds of people who are not sufficiently well provided for, and I ask the Government to give careful consideration to my submissions.
– I would like to compliment the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bandidt) op the humanitarian sentiments he has expressed. He has repeated to-day what I have been putting in this chamber for a long time. I have said frequently that until the Government realizes that it must grant substantially more than £1 15s. a week to the wife of an invalid pensioner my voice will continue to be raised on behalf of these unfortunate people. I am glad that the honorable member for Wide Bay has brought this matter up. As he has said, it would not cost very much to grant a substantial increase.
The honorable member referred to the new provisions regarding women whose husbands have been in gaol for at least six months, and who may obtain a pension at the same rate as that of une A class widow. He also referred to the allowance of lis. 6d. a week for the first child of an invalid pensioner, and he mentioned another matter which I have always considered anomalous. The honorable member said that although an allowance of Ils. 6d. is made for the first child of an invalid pensioner, the A class widow, who also receives a pension of £5 a week, gets only 5s. a week for the first child. I believe the Government should endeavour to do something more for the A class widow, by increasing the allowance for the first child to lis. 6d., as in the case df the children of invalid or age pensioners who are incapacitated.
Before proceeding to deal with these individual pension matters, I wish to make a few remarks about pharmaceutical benefits. I believe that we should be progressive, and should try to increase, from year to year, the extent of our assistance to those who really need it. > Looking at statement No. 5, concerning National Welfare Fund Estimates, which was one of the papers presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) with his Budget speech, I find that although expenditure on pharmaceutical benefits test year amounted to £20,761,448, the estimate for this financial year is £18,644,000. This is £2,117,448 less than last year’s expenditure. The Government’s attitude to this matter is far from progressive.
– The expenditure for this year will be £26,000,000.
– I have given the figures that were presented to us by the Treasurer. I admit that the estimate for pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners, £7,680,000, is £4,105,776 more than the actual expenditure in 1959-60. I know that the cost of pharmaceutical benefits to pensioners will be practically doubled even without an increase in the number of pensioners who receive the benefits; but apparently the Government proposes to spend less on pharmaceutical benefits generally, and the people will have to bear a heavier burden.
We were told that the charge of 5s. for a prescription would help to balance the cost of quite a number of expensive drugs because the people would have to pay tor drugs which previously were free. On the other hand, the list of drugs for which only 5s. was payable was to be extended to include many more life-saving drugs. The charge of 5s. for a prescription came into effect in the middle of the financial year and did not apply to a full year; yet we find that more than £2,000,000 less is to be devoted to pharmaceutical benefits for the general public compared with the expenditure for this purpose last year.
There is another phase of this branch ot social services which will cost both the Government and persons concerned quite a lot more this year. 1 refer to the quantity of drugs prescribed for 5s. Perhaps the Minister for Health will correct me if 1 am wrong, but many persons have complained to me that they do not obtain sufficient drugs with one prescription. They have to go back to a doctor to get a repeat prescription sooner than they would if the prescription provided for a larger supply of the prescribed drugs. The cost of medical services is higher as a result, both to the Government and to the patient. I know that in the past there has often been a waste of medicine. Frequently, the patient did not take all the medicine that was prescribed and the rest was thrown clown the sink. I know also that there must be some control over the quantity that is prescribed; but the general impression is that the quantity that is given in one prescription has been reduced too much, and that the patient has to return to his doctor too soon to get a further supply. T hope that the Minister will give consideration to that matter.
Recently I was travelling with a medical man from my own State. I do not know him personally, but I believe that he is a responsible person. I asked him to tell me candidly whether he considered the list of drugs that could be prescribed for 5s. was adequate. He said that definitely he did not believe there were sufficient drugs on the list. I expect that the Minister for Health will reply that an expert committee of highly qualified men decides what drugs shall be put on the list; but that is the response I received from a man who was honestly expressing his opinion.
I know that the Minister for Health is trying to do what he believes to be best and right not only for the recipients of benefits but also for the taxpayers generally. As the honorable member for Wide Bay has said, anything we provide costs money, and the money must come from somewhere. I agree; but we must take a broader view of the health of the people. Immigrants complain bitterly about the difference between the medical benefits they obtain here and those that were made available to them in the United Kingdom. I admit that the people in England have to pay for the cost of those services, but in Australia we also make a definite contribution towards health and medical services through income tax and social service contributions. I want to emphasize that I am not making any wild charges concerning our health services. I know that many benefits are provided; but as you go along, you find weaknesses in the system which should be corrected. Therefore, I direct the attention of the Minister to the two matters to which I have referred - the quantity of drugs prescribed by a doctor with one prescription, and the number of drugs which are excluded from the list. I do not suggest that every new drug that comes on the market should be included in the list of drugs that can be obtained on a 5s. prescription, but I hope the Minister will consider those matters.
I think we should consider just how far we can go with social service benefits. I have been gratified by the Government’s decision to combine properly and income in a merged means test. I have advocated that for a long time, but I did not expect to have it introduced so soon. The Government, has taken a big step, and its decision will give great satisfaction to the people. However, we should consider how we can further help the family man. Many people think that the means test should be wiped out. Others suggest that it should be abolished progressively. One suggestion is that any person on reaching the age of 75 years should be entitled to a pension without the application of a means test. The honorable member for Wide Bay spoke about things which he did not think would cost very much. I was of that opinion also about this proposition, but the Department of Social Services has estimated that such an innovation would cost more than £30,000,000 a year in round figures. Another suggestion is that the means test should not be applied to persons at 70 years of age, but that would cost more than £120,000,000 a year, lt is obvious, therefore, that we must consider fully just what is best.
Some honorable members have advocated a compulsory contribution scheme. I have examined that proposal and have found that it is distasteful to me. I believe that social service benefits should be a charge on the community on the basis of ability to meet the cost. Many years ago, we had a flat rate of income tax. I used to argue that it was not fair. When Labour first advocated this many years ago we were in grave trouble with our opponents, but the benefits of the scheme came to be recognized gradually, first in the States and then in the Federal sphere. We pay our income tax to keep the country going and to meet the country’s growing needs according to our ability to pay, which is gauged by our income.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As this is Mental Health Week in Victoria, I think it is appropriate that I should direct some of my remarks to the subject of mental health and to some of the problems facing the State governments which are doing their best to cope with them. Last week I obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician the latest figures available in relation to mental hospitals. An analysis of the figures indicates that at present there are approximately 35,000 persons in mental hospitals in Australia and that slightly more than one-half of this number are under the age of 50 years. This represents to me a very tragic state of affairs.
It was of interest to learn also that those States with the highest population, and therefore the most densely populated capital cities, have the highest percentage of citizens in mental hospitals. The incidence of mental illness is identical with the pattern of State population. On the basis of 1,000 of the population, the number of persons in mental hospitals is 3.79 in New South Wales, 3.4 in Victoria, 3.33 in Queensland, 2.97 in South Australia, 2.63 in Western Australia and 2.3 in Tasmania. The Australian average is 3.39 per 1,000 of which 3.33 per 1,000 are males and 3.45 per 1,000 are females.
While on this subject, I should like to refer to the suggestion which has been made frequently by members on both sides of the House that at least part of the age pension be paid to persons resident, in mental hospitals. This matter has been raised many times over the years and I think that most honorable members are familiar with the reasons which have been given for not implementing the suggestion.
At this stage I compliment the Minister for Health
In the first place, I refer to the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 1955, under which the Commonwealth provided £10,000,000 on a £1 for £2 basis with the States for capital works. This amount was allocated on a population basis. New South Wales was allocated £3,830,000; Victoria £2,740,000; Queensland £1,460,000; South Australia £895,000; Western Australia £720,000 and Tasmania £355,000. I understand that already Victoria has spent all of the money that was allocated to it. At the end of June this year it had works in progress to the value of £1,358,000, and had new work amounting to £2,498,000 planned to commence during this year, making a total of £3,856,000 worth of works either in progress or planned to commence. In addition, Victoria expects to spend nearly £2,000,000 on these projects during this financial year.
Even though rapid strides have been made in the treatment of mental illness, and people are seeking treatment in earlier stages than previously was the case, it is estimated that if the present rate of population increase is maintained an additional 1,000 beds will be required in Victoria every four years, apart altogether from outpatients clinics, early treatment hospitals and so on. Having visited several of the institutions in Victoria about which I am speaking, I know what a wonderful job that State is doing in the field of mental hygiene, and I plead for an additional allocation for capital works there. According to my latest information, with the exception of Tasmania and South Australia, none of the’ other States has spent anything like one-half of the amounts which were allocated to them five years ago. I believe that any State which is trying to make a real impact on this serious problem deserves special help.
Returning to the question of paying some portion of the age pension to those persons in mental hospitals who, but for being in a mental hospital, would be receiving the age pension, I point out that if they were in benevolent homes or ordinary hospitals normally they would receive the pension. The chairman of the Victorian Mental Hygiene Authority has stated that the payment of even a few shillings a week would be of great psychological benefit to the inmates of mental hospitals. I know, from inquiries which I have made in the past, that the cost of providing a pension or even a part pension has been calculated on the basis of the total number of persons in mental hos.pitals, but the .figures which were provided for me last week by the Commonwealth Statistician indicate that of the 35,000 persons at present in mental hospitals in Australia only 7,854 are over the age of 65 years. There are also 2,886 persons between the ages of 60 and 65 years. As women are eligible to receive the age pension when they reach 60, we can assume that approximately 9,297 of the persons at present in mental hospitals would qualify by age for the age pension.
The Director-General of Social Services states in his latest report that approximately 50 per cent, of persons of pensionable age are at present receiving either full or part pensions. Presumably, the other 50’ per cent, are disqualified by the operation of the means test. I think it is a fair assumption that approximately the same percentage of persons of eligible age at present in mental hospitals would be disqualified from receiving the pension by the operation of the means test. If this is so, there would be about 4,650 persons in these hospitals who would qualify for an age pension. To pay all of them 10s. a week would cost only a little over £120,000 a year. This is not much out of a total Budget of over £1,616,000,000, and a small amount when compared with this year’s allocation of over £330,000,000 for health and social services. I have related this suggestion only to the age pension, but if it were proposed to make some payment to those inmates who- qualify for the invalid pension, I am sure that the number affected would not be great.
In speaking on the estimates for the Department of Health last year I pointed out that Dr. Cunningham Dax, the chairman of the Victorian Mental Hygiene Authority, had stated that approximately 20 per cent, of all admissions to- mental hospitals could be attributed, at least in part, to alcoholism. In 1952, Dr. Ian Mackay, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, in a survey of alcoholism, stated that at that time there were approximately 120,000 victims of alcoholism in Australia and that the cost of alcoholism to the community, excluding the cost to industry, was in the vicinity of £70,000,000 a year. The Victorian Alcoholism Foundation estimates that at present there are nearly 175,000 alcoholics in Australia. The president of the foundation, Dr. Leonard Ball, stated only last week that alcoholism was costing Victorian industries £10,000,000 a year. Both organizations to which I have referred are of the opinion that 3 per cent, of all persons in Australia over the age of twenty years are alcoholics. Last week, the Victorian foundation announced a five-point plan to combat alcoholism. One point is the establishment of a “ half-way house “ or a rehabilitation hostel for alcoholic convalescents in the stage between hospital and ordinary life. If such a place were established it would take some of the pressure from mental hospitals. This would be a good opportunity for the Commonwealth Government to provide capital aid on a basis similar to that provided for in the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 1955.
Last year, I stated that if Id. a gallon of the excise on beer, which was estimated then to provide £106,500,000 in revenue but actually produced nearly £110,000,000, were set aside for research into alcoholism it would provide a fund of nearly £1,000,000. This year’s estimated revenue from excise on beer is £112,000,000, and that from excise on spirits £9,000,000. Does this not provide an excellent opportunity for making some portion of this huge sum available for research into a disease which is costing Australia in the vicinity of £100,000,000 a year?
In the short time I have left to me, I should like to turn to the estimates for social services and refer briefly to- one particular section of the reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom which I believe operates unfairly to a small section of the community. I know that those who administer the agreement abide by the letter of the law, but I believe that the effects are not in accordance with the spirit of that agreement. I refer to those clauses relating to the eligibility for a pension of persons who became blind before coming to Australia. Under the act a person who became blind outside Australia, but who has resided in Australia for not less than twenty years, is eligible to receive the invalid’ pension.
Under the terms of the reciprocal agreement with the United Kingdom, residence in the United Kingdom is counted as residence in Australia, so that persons who became blind in the United Kingdom, but who have resided in either the United Kingdom or Australia for a total period of twenty years, may receive a pension. As there is no blind pension in the United Kingdom, blind persons there receive what is known as an indefinite sickness benefit, amounting to 50s. sterling, or £3 2s. 6d. a week in Australian currency.
The aspect of this reciprocal agreement which I cannot understand is that, while the Australian Government makes up the difference between the United Kingdom and the Australian rate to age pensioners, those persons whose need, in my opinion, is greater, other things being equal - persons blinded in the United Kingdom and1 who migrate to Australia - are paid at the United Kingdom rate, not the Australian rate. Admittedly, persons who were blinded in Australia and who migrated to the United Kingdom are paid at the same rate, even though the Australian rate is higher, but at least they are on the same footing as other blinded persons in the United Kingdom. My point is that persons who are blinded in the United Kingdom, and who migrate to Australia, will now be £1 7s. 6d. a week worse off than their Australian brethren.
As there would probably be fewer than a score of persons affected, I suggest that the Minister should have another look at this aspect of the agreement with a view to including in next year’s Estimates a sum sufficient to bring within the spirit as well as the letter of the reciprocal agreement those unfortunate persons who have been deprived of their sight.
.- I should like to refer to the estimates for the Department of Health. Already some mention has been made of optometrical services, and to the fact that, by and large, they are not covered by what is, in effect, our national health scheme. I hope that the Minister will take some notice of what has been said. I raised this matter by way of a question last week when I reminded the Minister that, while people who are referred to an ophthalmologist by a medical practitioner receive payments from hospital and medical benefit funds, those who are referred by an optometrist receive no such benefits. This seems to me to be an anomaly, and, as the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) pointed out to-day, some very serious allegations were made in a circular issued by the Australian Optometrical Association.
It is wrong that optometrical services should not be covered by the national health scheme. For the life of me, I cannot see why a scheme which pretends to be a national health scheme should not have at least as one of its criteria the fact that it is comprehensive. I am sure that nobody discriminates between a disability of the eye and other disabilities of the body. Nor do I think that disabilities of the mouth requiring dental attention should be excluded from a national health scheme.
The main plea put forward in support of the inclusion of optometrical services in the scheme is that about one-third of the Australian people require the services of optometrists or ophthalmologists at some time or other during their lives. According to a survey which has been made, 70 per cent, of the people who do require such services go initially to an optometrist. Apparently what is happening at the moment is that the people who consult an optometrist find that they might need treatment other than that provided by the optometrist. He refers them to an ophthalmologist, who is a doctor specializing in ophthalmology. The ophthalmologist then asks whether the patient belongs to any medical benefit fund. If the patient is a subscriber, the ophthalmologist advises him to go to a general practitioner and request that he be referred back to the ophthalmologist so that he may receive payment of benefit from the fund to which he contributes.
It even goes beyond that. A serious allegation that has been made here is that sometimes people who receive spectacles from the ophthalmologist have been paid Commonwealth benefits when, in fact, they should not have received them. The reference by the medical practitioner is simply a statement on his account that the patient has been referred for treatment. Sometimes the patient does receive treatment in addition to a prescription for spectacles. Sometimes he is given a little ointment merely to make his claim legitimate under the National Health Regulations. According to the allegation, such patients are illegally receiving Commonwealth benefit at the same time as they are enjoying payment from a medical benefit organization. That is a serious accusation, and I hope the Minister will have something to say about it.
A further important point is that the optometrists believe that this practice is a deliberate method of diverting people into the hands of doctors as against optometrists. They say that it is unfair discrimination against optometrists and ophthalmologists in favour of the general practitioner. I know something about this matter because I had some association with Professor Lederer of the Sydney University, who is now training optometrists in New South Wales. All optometrists registered now must first obtain the degree of Bachelor of Science, yet they are being discriminated against in favour of the general practitioner. The position now is that if a general practitioner refers a patient to an ophthalmologist the patient may claim benefits from a medical benefit organization whereas, if he is referred by an optometrist, his claim is rejected. The status of optometrists is involved here, and they are becoming concerned about it.
The third point is that often patients who consult an ophthalmologist are channelled, as it is called, to various associated bodies that make the spectacles. They are sent to associations that are linked in some way or other with the ophthalmologists. I know that certain people have been asked by ophthalmologists if they have any special man in mind for the supply of the spectacles, and when they have said that they have not, they have been given a card and advised to go to one or other of the associated spectacle manufacturers. I can only describe this practice as a racket under which many optometrists, who must be registered, and who provide a high standard of service in the community, are being discriminated against. Again, those 70 per cent, of the people who consult optometrists are being unjustly discriminated against; first, because optometrical services are not covered by Commonwealth fund benefits, and, secondly, because they are not covered by the private medical benefit organizations. There is no point in the Minister for Health telling me, as he did last week, that the Commonwealth does not control what is done, that some of the funds pay benefits in respect of optometrists and ophthalmologists and some only in respect of ophthalmologists, and that that is a matter for the funds themselves.
I think that there is an obligation on this National Parliament to ensure that a just service is provided for the community. We have heard much insistence that the patient shall be free to choose the practitioner whom he wants to treat him. The sort of thing that I have described indicates that he is not being given a free choice. In fact, the provisions of the National Health Act and the arrangements of the benefit organizations are being used to channel people into the hands of private medical practitioners and ophthalmologists and away from optometrists. In New South Wales and, I understand, in all States, optometrists have to have the qualification of a diploma to enable them to specialize in optometry. But they are apparently being relegated to a position inferior to that of a general practitioner who, I understand, does not have anything like as much specialist training in optometry as an optometrist has. I hope the Minister will have a look at the matter, and I expect to hear some comments about it from him. I think that the services of optometrists ought to be covered under the national health scheme, as they are in Great Britain.
Associated with this deficiency, as I call it, in the National Health Act in relation to treatment by optometrists is the lack of provision for benefits in respect of dental treatment. There can be no question whatsoever about the professional status of a dentist. His services are vital. Indeed, dental care is important not just to one part of the body which seems to be discriminated against in the operation of the national health scheme. Everybody knows that bad teeth resulting from insufficient care of the mouth can have very wide ramifications with respect to general health. It seems that while the disability is localized in the mouth no benefit to help meet the cost of treatment can be obtained, but once the disability has had far-reaching effects which are detrimental to the rest of the body, apparently the national health scheme provides benefits in respect of treatment in order to cure a condition that doubtless could have been prevented in the first instance by proper dental treatment - treatment which should be covered by this scheme.
This absence of provision for dental care not only adversely affects the community generally, and especially children, but also limits the supply of dentists. I am told by some friends of mine who are dentists that the number of dentists graduating from the universities in proportion to the population is declining. In 1959, if I remember correctly, only 41 dentists graduated from the University of Sydney. I understand that something like 240 or 250 should have graduated if anything like adequate dental treatment is to be provided for the people. Without having yet had a chance to look at the statistics. I am rather inclined to agree with my friends. I have three little boys of my own, and I know how difficult it is to get an appointment with a dentist in a Sydney suburb. It is very difficult indeed. I know many dentists in my own district, and I know that the dentists there generally work exceptionally long hours. I do not think that they are making a fortune out of dentistry. Overhead costs and the costs of materials have risen very greatly in recent years.
I am informed that the community would be surprised to know how many of our dentists, soon after graduation, go to the United Kingdom, where the national health scheme assures dentists of decent working conditions and a reasonable return for their effort. Some dentists with whom I am acquainted have gone there. In the first instance, their only intention was to obtain a little more experience, but when they arrived and found the coverage provided by the British national health scheme and the better conditions under which dentists worked, they stayed on. As a result of these influences, the. supply of dentists in Australia is becoming smaller in proportion to the population, with great detriment not only to the dental fraternity but to the community as a whole.
– Some dentists are earning £6,000 a year in the United Kingdom.
– I do not think that the community would1 begrudge a dentist £6,000 a year in view of the training and work that he undertakes. I certainly would not begrudge it, realizing as I do the ultimate cost to the community as a result of a lack of proper dental care, with the consequent expense not ‘ only of dental treatment but also of hospital treatment and other medical services.
I want to deal also with the pensioner medical service. We have heard much talk about the Government’s laudable action in easing the means test on pensions. I think it is a great shame indeed that the means test in respect of the pensioner medical service was not eased also. In 1955, this Government introduced a means test in respect of that service. Under that means test, single pensioners who earn £2 a week or more, and pensioner couples with an income of £4 a week or more, are deprived of the benefits of the pensioner medical service. That was bad enough in 1955, but it is far worse to maintain those same limits five years afterwards when the value of money has fallen somewhat. That means test is even more discriminatory now than it was five years ago. It is penalizing a lot of people who in the evening of their lives unfortunately incur hospital and medical expenses greater than are those likely to be incurred by the ordinary people in the community.
Another aspect of this problem has come to my notice only in the last few weeks. I refer to some of the farcical provisions in respect of the pensioner medical service and the way in which they can be evaded. A single pensioner may not obtain benefits under the pensioner medical service if at the time of application for the pension he earns £2 or more a week. But apparently this does not preclude people who intend to apply for admission to this scheme from ceasing work for a while so that their income no longer is £2 a week or more, obtaining the pension and being accepted for benefit under the pensioner medical service, and then returning to work and earning more than £2 a week. So long as they do not lose the pension altogether, they retain their right to benefits under the pensioner medical service. Likewise, a person who has money in a savings bank account, for example, or invested in shares or something else, may withdraw his money from the bank or realize his investments and reduce his income below £2 a week - as I have already indicated the limit is £4 a week for a pensioner couple - putting the money in a current account or keeping the cash at home. All he .needs to do is arbitrarily to reduce his income below £2 a week, obtain the pension and have his right to benefits under the pensioner medical service admitted, and then he can re-invest the money and continue to receive benefit under the pensioner medical service. This happens simply because the right to benefits, once admitted, is not taken away unless the pension is forfeited altogether.
The provisions of the National Health Act in respect of the pensioner medical service were amended - I think last year - to provide that pensioners who could not gain admission to public hospitals and who had to have medical treatment in private hospitals which were not approved institutions under the provisions of the act could receive the equivalent-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should not have
taken part in the discussion of these Estimates had it not been for certain statements
made by the honorable member for Barton
I now proceed with what I have to say about optometrists. In the first place, I am not unaware of the development of the optometrical profession in New South Wales. I was Minister for Education in that State when the question was raised of the status of optometrists who are also known elsewhere by other designations. Some people sought to raise the standard of the work done by optometrists. We launched a very excellent course at the Sydney Technical College on the diploma level which is the equivalent of the level of study undertaken by other professions at the university. I know perfectly well that there was a very distinct hostility to that move. In time, the course which I established as Minister has increased its standard. Although I am not fully in touch with it to-day, I believe that it has close affiliations with the University of New South Wales.
There is not the slightest doubt, from my own practical knowledge, that the gentlemen in the profession have reached a very high standard and are doing an excellent community job. On occasions I have sought the services of an oculist or specialist for my own eye treatment. An optometrist and an oculist are entirely different. Once it is clear that the eye is healthy, then it is for the optometrist to attend to it. I believe that these gentlemen, almost without exception, perform their services in a true professional spirit in that if they happen to find the slightest reason for doubting whether the eye is healthy they refer the person concerned to a general practitioner.
The Minister for Health has said that it is necessary for a person who wishes to attract Commonwealth benefit to consult a general practitioner before seeing a specialist. With that procedure I am in entire agreement. I do not think that the time of specialists should be taken up by people seeking treatment for minor ailments. I have a warm regard for general practitioners not only of the old school but of the modern school also. I think that they render outstanding service because as they grow older they achieve a knowledge of human nature as well as of their profession which enables them to serve their community with extraordinary skill.
I am extremely sorry that, in speaking of the medical profession, the honorable member for Barton used words such as “racket”. Surely in dealing with honorable professions and honorable people we should avoid that kind of word unless we have specific evidence to produce which we can assert of our own personal knowledge to be absolutely true. I am sorry that the honorable member introduced that note because I feel that what is being done by the Minister is common sense. Before a person goes to a specialist he should, for obvious reasons, consult his general practitioner.
I come, next, to the question of the recognition of optometrists in relation to the payment of Commonwealth benefits. I accept the Minister’s explanation that some limitations are placed on him by the Treasury and that this is one of them. Certain medical benefits funds recognize the value of the optometrist’s service and reimburse the patient. Other funds do not. That is within their own competence to decide and the Minister cannot, be blamed. Whilst I would like to see any obstacle to the inclusion of optometrical services removed, at least I understand what is involved in the objection.
Let me pass on to something which is nearer to myself. Considering the great number of people who suffer, as I do, from the disability of deafness, I believe that some approach ought to be made ‘to the Treasury, if not to assist in the purchase of hearing aids, at least to assist in establishing clinics in the principal centres of our community and travelling clinics for use elsewhere. These could give impartial advice both on the state of a person’s hearing and on the type of aid required. It is desirable that pensioners and others should be able to lease machines, an arrangement which is made for school children and war pensioners. The idea that elderly people cannot benefit from a hearing aid I have found so often contrary to the facts that I cannot take it seriously. There are thousands of- people from 50 years of age upwards who would gain immense benefit from a hearing aid. Anybody whose hearing aid has stopped functioning knows the tremendous disability that is suffered by a deaf person, especially with advancing years.
Therefore, while I praise the services which are already provided by the Minister and dissociate myself from the remarks made by the honorable member for Barton, I say, as the Minister himself probably recognizes, that there is scope for a real service to be given to the community in the way I have suggested. Not only would this add to the comfort of the people affected, but it would add to the service that they could render. The deaf person who cannot carry on a normal conversation is, to that extent, a crippled member of the community to which he or she could render much greater service, with pleasure to himself or herself, if a hearing aid were used. I shall not labour this question. I rose mainly to rebut certain suggestions which had been made of improper practices by the Government and to make it quite clear that not for one moment would I entertain those suggestions. I recognize, as I have said, the limitations imposed by the
Treasury, but I do not recognize any limitations on the goodwill, the capacity and the knowledge of his subject of the Minister in charge of this department.
– I propose to direct my remarks to the position of people who, unfortunately, are compelled by circumstances outside their control to enter mental institutions, and are thereby deprived of social service benefits. I was very interested in the remarks made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) on the same subject. He made a most valuable contribution to the thinking or this vexed matter, and his speech showed that he had done a great deal of research on it. I think that what he had to say should help the case advanced by those who, like him and me, are attempting to get the Government to recognize the disability under which mental patients of pensionable age are suffering and to arrange for the enactment of legislation which will give these people something which is morally theirs - the right to receive social service benefits. 1 am prepared to concede that every government in the past has been guilty of sins of omission or commission in respect of this problem. But, after all, time moves on. The heresy of to-day is the accepted view of to-morrow. The fact that over the last 40, 50 or 60 years it has been the practice of Commonwealth Governments on both sides of politics not to provide any allowance for pensioners who enter mental institutions does not mean that this practice should be perpetuated if a case can be made out for a change. I think that over the last few years a case has indeed been made out by members on both sides of this chamber for a change.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) replied to some statements that I made some weeks ago when speaking to the Social Services Bill 1960, in which I suggested that there was an anomaly in the legislation in that a person living in a benevolent institution receives 35s. a week in pension but loses his benefit should he be transferred to a mental institution. Such a person, after entering a mental institution, would receive absolutely nothing, and to my mind this is a real and very obvious anomaly. It is a discrimination between a person who suffers from a physical illness and a person who suffers from a mental illness. The Minister, in replying to my statements, a:.d to similar statements made by other honorable members on this side, said -
The benefit which he was receiving is suspended immediately because it is involved with the lunacy laws of the States and, in the normal course of events, payments cannot be made to the mentally ill person.
It may be the normal course of events now, but there is no reason why the course of events that is now normal should not be altered completely so that the community may bear its obligations towards the unfortunate victims of mental illness. I am very happy to know that the attitude of the community towards such people has changed in recent years in that it has become more enlightened. Only this year we are celebrating World Mental Illness Year and, as the honorable member for Henty said, this week Victoria is observing Mental Illness Week. So it can be seen that there is a complete change in attitude towards the victims of mental illness.
The position is quite clear. A person of pensionable age who is in a mental hospital receives not one penny piece of spending money in the form of social service benefit, and the hospital itself receives not a penny towards that person’s upkeep. I know that it is argued in favour of this position that mental hospitals are the responsibility of the State governments. But surely that bar can be overcome as a result of a consultation between the Commonwealth and State governments in order to give these people some meed of social justice. Under the present set-up the Commonwealth Government is absolved of any financial responsibility despite the fact that the care of the aged is one of its constitutional responsibilities. As soon as aged people become mentally afflicted the Commonwealth metaphorically wipes its hands of that responsibility. In the light of modern thought that attitude is obviously indefensible. Elderly people who enter mental institutions have to depend upon the charity of others for tobacco, sweets, toilet requisites and such other little amenities as they may require. If they wish to go home for the week-end they have to find money for their fares somehow, either from their relatives or from some other source. They have not a penny to bless themselves with in order to meet even the smallest expenditure that they might be called upon to meet.
The reason for the anomaly is to be found in the tangle of Commonwealth-State relations and in the unenlightened attitude towards mental illness that obtained years ago but which has changed over the last few years. I would say that the most frequent argument stated in defence of the anomaly is that mental health is a State matter and that the Commonwealth gives financial assistance to State hospitals in the form of general grants to the States. But nobody applies that argument in relation to recipients of social service benefits who enter State hospitals for other than mental illnesses. Those people still receive their pensions when they are physically sick and in a hospital, despite the fact that the hospital they are in is a State responsibility. If the same people were transferred to a State mental hospital, however, their pensions would cease immediately. I think that morally the Commonwealth should still pay the pension, or a part of the pension, in such circumstances.
All I am asking, in fact, is that the 35s. a week allowance paid to a pensioner patient in a benevolent institution should also be paid to a mental patient in a mental hospital. This would not cost the Commonwealth very much. According to the figures given by the honorable member for Henty this afternoon, a payment of 10s. a week in such cases would cost the Commonwealth £120,000 annually. I would multiply that total by three and a half, because I think that mental patients should receive 35s. a week, which is the amount received by pensioners who are in benevolent institutions. This would make the Commonwealth’s financial responsibility for such people £420,000 a year. That would be a very small amount compared to other calls on the Budget. If my suggestion were followed the payment of this amount would remove any feeling of inferiority on the part of mental patients that arises from the present practice.
What we are attempting to do when we ask people to enter mental institutions is to give them an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves mentally. We are not helping in that direction when we refuse to give these people a feeling of confidence in themselves, while we put them in a position where they can say, “The community is finished with us. We do not get a penny from the community, and as far as people outside are concerned we do not count.” That is not a state of mind that will help people to pull themselves out of the morass of mental illness.
I am not blaming this Government for the existing position. I want honorable members to be reassured that I am making no political attack on the Government on this score, because every government has been guilty of allowing this anomaly to continue. However, members of all parties recognize that the community has changed its attitude in regard to its obligations to sufferers from mental diseases. We now have all sorts -of bodies concerning themselves with, the plight of these unfortunate people. This week we have sermons being preached in Victorian churches on the subject of mental health, and meetings in Melbourne designed to increase assistance for mental patients. The Commonwealth should make some contribution to World Mental Health Year. What better contribution could it make than to abolish this injustice, which has been perpetrated for far too long, and which prolongs a lingering prejudice against mental illness and shows a discrimination which is extremely unjust and out of keeping with the times?
Scientific and medical advances have greatly changed the whole approach to mental illness, but despite this there continues this unreasonable bias against individual patients who are eligible for pensions. It is time that the Commonwealth recognized its attitude in this respect as a biased attitude, and we here should do our best to see that justice is done to this section of the community. I think that the present practice is a legacy of past misguided thinking, and until this legacy is removed the victims of mental illness who are of pensionable age will continue to harbour feelings of inferiority. I feel that the Commonwealth, therefore, should review its present attitude to these people. The Government should completely disregard precedents set in the past, and should not hide behind the fact that, to use the words of the Minister, this is against the normal course of events. It might be against the normal course of events, but every piece of legislation passed in this country tends to change the normal course of events. For example, we have before us a measure to amend the Crimes Act, and that will tend to change the normal course of events as far as that act is concerned.
If it is good enough to amend theCrimes Act it is good enough to amend the Social Services Act in order to give these unfortunate people some redress. We pride ourselves that we are a progressive community and have achieved improvements over the years in every field of human endeavour. We say we have improved the lot of this person and of that person. We say we have a medicalservice second to none and that the recipients of social service benefits receive all sortsof benefits that they did not receive years ago. But our conception of the treatment of mental pensioners is the same as it was a century ago. The time has arrived when we should give this matter very serious consideration. I am satisfied that if a conference were held between the Commonwealth and the State mental health authorities, the difficulties which apparently still remain in the minds of some people could easily be ironed out. I am satisfied that somescheme could be arrived at under which these people could be given some spending money which, in turn, would give them a feeling of independence and show themthat this Government no longer looks upon them as inferior beings. It might be said that some of these people are not in a fit state to spend any money, but the director of mental hygiene in the State concerned could judge each case on its merits. We should not only make money available to these people but should also help to rehabilitate them.
The whole purpose of our mental institutions to-day is not to let people stop there and die in the course of time. In recent years a great number of people have come out of such institutions cured and have then had to face the world. The real test of their rehabilitation starts when they are discharged and endeavour to earn a living and face the world again, that is if they are under 65 years of age. But what do we find? It is a big battle for them because, whether we like it or not, such people have a feeling of inferiority; they think the community has a set against them, and they might well think so because of the way we have treated! them. Surely the money which these people do not spend while they are inmates of these institutions could be put aside as a personal rehabilitation fund for them on their discharge.
The Government has a real opportunity to make its contribution to the World Mental Health Year in this regard, because in recent years we have made no contribution, as a Commonwealth, to the lot of these people, other than by providing money for capital works. But I am talking about individual eases and the feelings of individual inmates. If what I have suggested were done, I feel certain that the esteem of the Parliament as a whole would go up tremendously. I make an appeal to the Government not to say that because a Labourgovernment did not do it or because of the intricate CommonwealthState relationsthe problem cannot be solved. I am satisfied that this Parliament can do a lot of things if it sets its mind to do them. If it sets its mind to see that these people are given some recognition, I feel certain it would not be long before the appropriate Minister would introduce an amendment to the Social Services Act to give the same treatment to these people as is given to inmates of benevolent institutions. The Minister for Social Services, when replying to representations a couple of weeks ago-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One of the greatest human virtues, which we endeavour to practice in this life, is charity. I believe that the Government, the Department of Health and the Department of SocialServices have never been found wanting in the practice of this virtue. They have never at any time taken anything from the pensioner.
– What about the pensioner medical service means test?
– On the contrary, the Department of Social Services has always seen fit to give - and as long as this
Government remains in office it will continue to give - according to what the taxpayer can afford to pay. Most people do not realize that the amount of pension paid to-day to the individual pensioner is equivalent to the return on a cash investment of £5,000 at 5 per cent.; and in the case of a married couple, it is equivalent to the return on a cash investment of £10,000 at 5 per cent.
Do not for one moment think, Mr. Chairman, that I am tending to imply that the pensioner is receiving sufficient. On the contrary, we all believe that the pensioner should be receiving more. However, we should recognize that children also have a responsibility in this matter; they should honour their fathers and mothers. Apart from the cash benefit provided for pensioners, they receive other benefits such as free medical service, hospital benefits, homes for the aged, district nursing services, home help administered by local government bodies and dental and optical benefits. As regards the pensioner medical service, I believe the Government intends in the near future to increase the list of drugs by about 100. I personally am proud of the assistance the Government has provided in housing our aged folk. In the main institution in my own electorate over 700 aged folk are housed, and in addition there are a number of smaller satellite homes where old folk escape the institutional atmosphere and live in an atmosphere of homeliness. I am proud to support the Government in that respect.
Next we have our district nursing societies which tend the sick, particularly the aged sick. Helpers in those societies travel around daily to bath old people, and give them injections. All this service is given free, whether it is administered by the Commonwealth or the State. Then there is the normal home help service which is administered by the local government bodies. I have heard much criticism from the Opposition of the dental and optical benefits for aged persons. I am speaking only of practicalities. In my own electorate a pensioner, whether a service or age pensioner, can obtain an appointment at the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital or at the Victorian Dental Hospital and receive free glasses or free dentures.
That service is rendered on a means test and the maximum amount that these pensioners pay for glasses or dentures is about £2. I am proud to say that all this is given by the State of Victoria. I do not know what operates in the other States of Australia, but in Victoria this is a service given to pensioners. Ballarat being some 70 miles from Melbourne, they are given a free return train fare. These are all services that we should support and of which we should be proud. It is stupid to say that we cannot from time to time improve on these benefits. Of course we can improve on them, but the benefits already given are benefits of which we can all be proud. These human benefits, of course, are in addition to the basic rate of pension or the cash hand-out and cannot be measured in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.
Some weeks prior to the Budget a deputation led by the Victorian president of the Pensioners Association was met by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). During the conference, a remark was made that there was a possibility of some easing of the means test in the forthcoming Budget. The president commented that she was not interested in any alleviation of the means test, but was interested only in an increase of the basic rate of pension. This outlook to my mind is completely selfish, as many people have been endeavouring to live on a fixed amount from small long-term investments. They have not been nearly as well off as the pensioners have been, and for some time they have been referred to as the “new poor”. Of course, the alteration now made to the means test will change all this.
It -is most unfortunate that pensioner organizations made up of many people who were responsible for our pioneering efforts and to whom thanks should be given for many of the privileges that we enjoy to-day are being led by a few unscrupulous people whose whole purpose is to use these organizations for Communist propaganda, which is contrary to our Australian way of life. In conclusion, I should like to say that this Government will never be found wanting in pouring out the milk of human kindness wherever it is needed by aged folk in Australia.
– Quite a number of points have been raised by honorable members this afternoon during ‘this debate, and I take this opportunity to reply to them. I do not know that I will be able, in the time available to me, to cover all the points, but I will deal with the main ones, I hope, satisfactorily. I will not necessarily deal with them in the order in which they were raised or in any order of priority.
First, I want to say something about pharmaceutical benefits, because it is apparent that this subject is not properly understood. It is said that we originally made important life-saving drugs available free of charge, not only for pensioners but for the general public, and that we have now departed from that principle. There has been a very good reason for departing from it and the reason is that, when the original scheme was introduced, it was possible to single out a relatively small group of drugs which could be more or less accurately described as very important lifesaving drugs. However, in recent years, very rapid progress has been made in the discovery and in the synthesis of a very large number of drugs which really come into this class. So, the original conception of the scheme was, in any case, lost; there was no longer a small or relatively small group of drugs which could be treated in this way. It became apparent that not only was there a very large list of drugs which should be available to the public, many of them extremely expensive, but that this was a list which was growing rapidly and which would continue to grow. Therefore, certain steps were taken to enlarge the list of benefits.
I point out that it is misleading to talk about free medicine if by “ free medicine “ is meant the provision of free pharmaceutical benefits, except in the case of pensioners because the position of pensioners has not altered under the new arrangement. Pensioners receive the entire list of drugs without payment, just as they did before the introduction of a charge of 5s. to the general public. The first step was to make a very large range of benefits, previously confined to pensioners, available to the general public. This meant putting on to the general list not all but almost all the drugs in the British Pharma copoeia. It is very easy to reflect on the value of these drugs, to say that some of them are not worth anything, that some are rubbish - a term used here to-day - and to imply that many of them are valueless. It is a singular thing that none of these comments was made when the drugs were available only to pensioners; they can be made, apparently, when there is a charge for the drug. In other words, those who now make these charges appear to be quite satisfied if the drugs are made available only to pensioners; they do not then worry about whether they are valuable drugs. The fact, of course, is that the drugs placed on the list are drugs in the British Pharmacopoeia. No one considered that they were either cheap or ineffective as long as they were confined to pensioners.
Now that a charge is to be made, it has become apparent to some honorable members that certain drugs would be cheaper if bought in bulk than they are if bought in small quantities. In other words, the charge for a doctor’s prescription for a small quantity may be 5s., but 100 tablets of the same drug could be bought at a proportionately lower rate. That is true. Most things can be bought for less in bulk than they can .be in small quantities, and if a fee has to be paid to the chemist for dispensing, handling and all the other things that he does when he makes up a prescription, that charge must be added. There may perhaps be a few instances in which the price does need revision. Those instances are in fact at present under examination; but really this is a very insubstantial and minor matter in the whole context of pharmaceutical benefits.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide
– Substantially in respect of life-saving drugs?
– All the drugs on the list of pharmaceutical benefits. The pensioner drugs have come on to the general list, which now covers all the drugs that were previously on two separate lists. The only real way of comparing the figures before and after 1st March is to compare the totals. When the honorable member does that he will find not only that the list is very much larger than it was previously, but also that the expenditure is greater. Whereas last year it was approximately £18,000,000, this year it will be about £26,000,000. There has really been no contraction of expenditure at all.
Furthermore, as is well known, a substantial addition will be made in the near future to the list of drugs. What has really happened with regard to pharmaceutical benefits is that while there has been some financial imposition in the way of charges on those who benefit under this scheme, there has been a wide extension of a broad scheme of welfare, and a very large number of drugs, the prices of which are very high indeed, in many cases ranging from £5 to £6, £7 or even £8 for a single prescription, is now available under these arrangements to the genera] public at 5s. for each prescription, and to pensioners free of charge. The list, as 1 say, will shortly be extended to include a much wider range of drugs than it now does. Even under the present scheme members of the public pay 5s. for prescriptions the average price of which would be 18s. 6d. if no pharmaceutical benefits scheme were in operation.
– The drugs to be added to the list wlil be mostly life-saving drugs.
– Very largely. I cannot give the honorable member a full list, but I can say that some of the drugs will be very expensive, and the average cost of a prescription, which is now 18s. 6d. although only 5s. is paid by the recipient, will probably be even higher.
– Will any tranquillizers be included on the list?
– The new list will be published soon, and I do not want to say in advance what it will contain. I want to make one other comment about the list of pharmaceutical benefits. It is quite easy for honorable members to stand up in this chamber and say, sometimes on the authority of quite eminent medical people, that such-and-such a drug should be on the list, and such-and-such a drug should be removed from it. Finality can never be reached in this matter, because it involves, of course, matters of opinion. The Government must be guided, as it is guided, by a body of expert opinion. This body of opinion will, of course, be disagreed with now and again, even by members of the medical profession or of the pharmaceutical profession and. more frequently, by members of the public. But no government could do other than seek advice from a body of experts, who can tell it what drugs, in their opinion, should be on the list. Those are the drugs which are on the list. As honorable members know, the Minister has no power to add anything to the list without a recommendation from this committee of experts. Let me say something about this committee. It is often criticized. On the committee, and comprising the majority of it. are four doctors, all nominated by the British Medical Association.
– Do they decide the quantities to be prescribed?
– They do. They advise the Government on quantities, and invariably that advice is given on therapeutic grounds. While it is quite possible for persons to criticize concerning quantities, and to say, for example, “ There were twenty tablets prescribed in a prescription, whereas the number should have been 50, or 100 “, nevertheless the Government must take the advice of its experts. We have recently, however, in consultation with the medical profession, bad a look at this matter of quantities, and in quite a number of cases the quantities are under revision, to bring them more into line with organized thinking in the profession itself. I am sure, however, that honorable members will realize that any government which followed any other course in fixing quantities or in placing drugs on the list would be irresponsible in the highest degree.
I want to repeat just one remark before moving away from the matter of pharmaceutical benefits. Let nobody imagine that the taxpayer does not have to foot the bill. Not only has the Government to arrange a satisfactory list, and a list which will be acceptable to its medical advisers; it also has to exercise supervision over costs and, like all welfare schemes, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme has to be paid for. This year, as I have said, the estimated cost of the scheme is £26,000,000. If members of the public are asked to provide 5s. towards the very high cost of a prescription, they are being asked only, as beneficiaries in a welfare scheme, to play some part in the direct provision of their own benefits. The Government believes that this is a good principle.
I pass now from the subject of pharmaceutical benefits, and I want to refer to the very thoughtful remarks made by the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Cash) this afternoon about cancer detection clinics. This is a subject that he has raised in the Parliament before. I hope nobody will imagine that I am trying to pour cold water on what he said, because I think there was a good deal of value in it and I think the honorable member made a thoughtful contribution to the debate. But one must examine all aspects of any proposal, and in this case I think it is useless to try to draw an analogy between the tuberculosis campaign and any similar campaign in the case of a disease like cancer. In fact there can be no valid analogy.
Tuberculosis is a disease with a known cause, readily diagnosed, for which we have powerful weapons of treatment. Cancer is not a disease of this kind at all. It is not readily diagnosed. In fact, no matter how many examinations are made at regular intervals, it is only in the case of a few special types of cancer that the disease can be detected at all. It usually does not manifest itself in ordinary medical examination in the absence of some symptoms, and when symptoms are present they are often not easy to interpret. I think we would find great numbers of people who, shortly after having undergone an examination during which no sign of the disease was found, might be discovered to be suffering from cancer. A person in such a position might complain that at the earlier examination the doctor had found nothing at all. This would be quite true, of course, because there had been nothing for the doctor to find. Cancer is not a disease like tuberculosis, in the case of which you can X-ray the chest and see the shadow.
There are some forms of cancer, ot course, which are apparent to the naked eye, or to what I might call superficial examination. I do not mean, of course, a cursory examination, but what I might call an external examination. For example, cancer of the skin is readily detectable. Cancer of the breast is not quite so apparent, but a routine examination might detect it in an early stage. Some forms of uterine cancer are fairly readily diagnosed. But cancer, generally speaking, is not a disease that can be easily detected. I personally think that no matter how many clinics we set up we would not succeed in detecting great numbers of cancer cases. That is not to say that it is not advisable to look for the forms of cancer I have referred to. The appropriate people to look for them, in most instances, are the ordinary medical attendants of all of us. What is valuable, of course, is for the medical profession itself to realize the very great importance of the interpretation, so far as it is possible to do so. of the early signs which they themselves may frequently encounter in their routine work among patients. While I acknowledge the interest that the honorable member has taken in this matter and the value of his suggestion, it is not really helpful1 to. obscure the facts of a case and imagine that, by doing ux this case what we have done in another, but not similar, case, we shall produce a successful result.
I wish to turn my attention now to optometrists. Reference has been, made in the. committee to-day to- a document, which I have not seen; but I gather from what honorable gentlemen have said that it contains allegations, that the law with regard to the provision, of benefits, in the case of. prescription of spectacles is somehow being evaded’. I will come back to that point in a few moments; but first I want to make it clear what the position of optometry is in relation to this scheme. I want to say that I realize and value, as does every member of the Government, the great service that optometrists do. The fact that medical benefits are not paid for optometry is not a reflection on the profession; and if is not an indication that one does not think optometry is an important profession or that we do not realize the great value of the work that is done by optometrists. But in the context of Australian conditions, we must expand the national’ health service step by step, and1 it has not yet been found possible to expand the service by including what I might call ancillary services. After all, the expenditure on the national health service has grown in the ten- years’ between 1’950 and 1960 from £7,000,000 a year to- £73,000,000 a year. Nobody can say with truth that we are going ahead very slowly.
As 1 said before when speaking on pharmaceutical benefits, the- beneficiary - the taxpayer - has to find the money. In the context of Australian conditions, it would be a great mistake for us to rush- rapidly ahead without paying; sufficient regard to all the things we have had to do in Australia. They are many and varied, and they tax our resources’ to the utmost. I say that as a sort of general statement regarding: the provision of benefits for ancillary services.
Let me say something about questions that have been raised recently by optometrists themselves. One is the- suggestion that a medical benefit should be payable to the patient of an optometrist. I have already dealt with that matter. The other suggestion; is that if as- optometrist refers a patient to an. ophthamologist - that is, to an eye specialist1 - the patient should receive a medical’ benefit equal to the benefit he would receive if fie had been referred’ by a medical practitioner. As the committee will realize, it is the- patient who receives the benefit.. The position is that if a patient is referred by a medical practitioner; to- an eye specialist,, he receives a higher benefit when he pays the: eye specialist’s, bill than he would if he went direct to the eye specialist himself. If the patient is sent to a specialist by an optometrist, he is regarded as having gone direct to- the eye specialist himself. The reason for this is that it is considered to be in the proper interests of the national, health service and to maintain the proper status of the ophthalmologist, as a consultant..
If the optometrist wants to refer one of his patients to a doctor, he will often have to do so because he believes the patient to be suffering from a systemic disease and it is to the general medical practitioner, that is to his ordinary doctor, that he should be referring the patient. So the question of a benefit in such a case, does not arise. On the whole,, I believe the provisions of the. act are- just, and until the provisions of the. act are expanded, as they may be some, day;, to include optometry, there is. no alternative but. to proceed1 with the present, arrangements.
Let me return to the allegation that has been made by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) - and I hope he will correct me if I am wrong - that although the National Health Act prohibits the payment of a Commonwealth benefit if a patient goes to a doctor’ and has spectacles prescribed for him, some doctors disguise the fact that they have given such a prescription, evade the act and allow the patient to receive the benefit by the nature of the certificate they give. I have two things to say about that allegation: One is that the act expressly excludes from benefit an attendance- at which spectacles are prescribed1. W a patient seeks a refund fromhis medical benefit fund, tie fund’ itself1 should assure itself before it pays the Commonwealth- benefit that spectacles have not been prescribed1.
– How could it do that?
– That is the legal position. The other point is that no law has yet been devised by the wit of man that somebody will not evade; but if doctors evade the National Health Act, they are open to penalties that are provided for anybody who breaks the law.
– The penalty is applied to the patient.
– No, it is on the doctor; but the fund has no right to pay the benefit until it assures itself that the payment is proper. The other matter that has been raised in this regard relates to dental benefits. I have answered questions about dental benefits in the House before. Might I repeat this about them: The suggestion that is made is that dental benefits similar to medical benefits should be paid. In other words, we should have a scheme of voluntary insurance for dental benefits similar to the scheme of voluntary insurance for medical benefits. The difficulty is that the level of premiums required to be paid would be so high as to discourage contributions. This is not a simple matter. The fact that it has not been brought to solution does not mean that it cannot be brought to solution, but that that solution will not be found readily. We have been in consultation with the Australian Dental Association and officers of the Department of Health have pursued the question of providing assistance for dental expenses, and it does not appear easy if it is to be done under a system of voluntary health insurance. If it is to be said that we should depart from a system of voluntary health insurance, it is as well that those who advocate compulsion should understand what compulsion means. It means that the government which employs compulsion must also ration expenditure under that scheme. In other words, it must fix the fees of everybody providing the services and that is a state of affairs which the people of this country have vehemently rejected up to the present.
These are what one might call replies to criticisms. I do not want to sit down in this debate on the Estimates before I say something on the positive side of the ledger, because perhaps what one might call the social welfare side of the Depart ment of Health looms far more greatly in the public eye than do the other great activities of the department which are administered without many people being aware that they are going on throughout the year. I should like to say a few things about some of the great activities of the department which it is well that we should all realize are being carried on constantly. Not the least are the quarantine activities. I hope it is widely recognized that the efficient administration of quarantine has kept major epidemic diseases out of Australia, apart from one or two minor outbreaks, ever since federation. It is continuing to do so even in circumstances of modern high-speed transport, of aircraft and ships arriving at a much faster rate than they did previously of ever so much faster communications and of all the added problems of modern communications. Australian quarantine still functions with great efficiency, and it is a great tribute to the officers of the Department of Health that this is so. Quarantine covers not only humans but also plants and animals, and the quarantine of plants and animals has helped to keep our primary industries free of the serious diseases which have been the cause of great economic loss in other parts of the world.
May I say something also about the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories? We say very little about this subject when we debate the Estimates each year. It is something which is taken for granted. The ordinary amenities of medical life; the antigen with which every child in Australia is immunized; the Salk vaccine which virtually has immunized the child population of Australia against poliomyelitis; smallpox vaccine; veterinary products; the anti-venene for snakebite, all come from the great laboratories at Parkville. It is a pity that we do not say a little more about the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories during the debate on the Estimates because much of the relevant expenditure is devoted to providing all those things to which I have referred.
Let me refer also to the Institute of Child Health which is run by my department. The very distinguished first director of the institute has just retired. I suppose that he has done as much as any man, and more than most, in the cause of child health in Australia. All sorts of childhood disorders are investigated at the institute and research is done into them. Research is carried out amongst other things, into rheumatic fever, endocrine disturbances and heart diseases in children. All these things go on unnoticed and unmentioned.
Then there is the National Standards Laboratory which has been established in Canberra. This is one of the most important sections of my department. It is practically unknown to every one, but it determines the efficacy of the biological and pharmaceutical products that are used in Australia, setting a standard so that we can be certain that in this country we use nothing but the best. If it were not for the lateness of the hour, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I could read a very long list of activities of my department on the positive side, things that are very little noticed, about which very little is known, and which are very seldom mentioned in this House, but which add up to a great service for the health of this country and reflect great credit on the officers who so ably administer them.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 1291), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– I approve the suggestion of the Minister that, in addition to discussing the terms of the bill which is before us, we should have the opportunity, if we so desire, to discuss at the same time the contents of his statement on Australia’s policy, delivered in this House on Tuesday, 23rd August, and of his policy statement in relation to land tenure in Papua and New Guinea, delivered on 7th April last.
The Papua and New Guinea Bill is not just a machinery bill; it is a bill which deals with an improvement in the conditions of the natives of New Guinea. It is a bill which has very great significance to the Australian people, because the island of New Guinea means a lot to us. From the point of view of geography, it is our nearest neighbour; from the point of view of our defence, it is of tremendous importance; and from the point of view of human welfare, we have a responsibility to discharge. We have been discharging that responsibility very successfully, and we have no reason to be ashamed of anything connected with it. We are not a colonial power. We have never been a colonial power. We are not a colonial power because we have never exploited anybody in New Guinea or in any other dependency of ours. In spending money in New Guinea we have been guided by altruistic considerations, and the Australian public are still prepared to keep on spending in that spirit as the Parliament decides for the welfare and benefit of the peoples of Papua and New Guinea. We may not be able to spend all that we would like to spend; indeed, we cannot. If we could do all that we would like todo for Papua and New Guinea, we would have to spend six or seven times as much as we are spending now, and that is beyond our resources.
At times, I think those who criticize us in the United Nations and elsewhere should accept the moral obligation that goes with criticism, the obligation to do something themselves to help to rectify the deficiencies about which they make very strong, and oftentimes very vigorous protests. The Australian people cannot of themselves, out of their own resources, find all the money that ought to be spent on education, health, public works and scientific aid to agriculture and the like without some assistance from the United Nations or some such body. But if we ever did receive any assistance from the United Nations in discharging our obligations in Papua and New Guinea, we should insist that it must come from the United Nations itself, and not from individual nations, because, if it came from individual nations, it would possibly involve us in many dangers and difficulties.
– -It is a pity Mr. Khrushchev could not hear you speaking like this.
– I do not care who listens to me and who does not. These are my own views. I have derived them from my own somewhat slight experiences of Papua and New Guinea. Unfortunately, they are experiences which are not shared by most Australians. Too few of our people have gone to this island which lies to the north of us. It is a territory of 350,000 square miles, and would fit into Australia ten times over. It is peopled by 500 different groups or races, and there are great differences in their languages. They are not one people. They are a collection of tribes, or clans as they are more commonly called to-day.
The island was divided by European powers. One geographical half belongs to Holland and of the remaining half one part is owned by Australia and the other part is administered by Australia under a mandate from the United Nations. This mandated territory was once German New Guinea. In the area for which we are responsible, we have something like 2,500,000 people. Some statistics give the number of natives as lower than that but, because of the work in the field of medicine, first of the missionaries of all denominations, without whom there would have been no development there and, secondly, because of the work of the Government, people are living longer now and more children are surviving the first year of life. The population of Papua and New Guinea is increasing remarkably, and our responsibilities are increasing commensurately. We try to meet those responsibilities by appropriating each year a considerable sum of money. This year, we have voted £14,500,000 for the work. Last year, the amount was £13,000,000. The year before that, it was £12,000,000, and .in the year before that it was £11,000,000.. This year, it is expected that £7,500,000 will be raised locally. The amount raised from local sources last year was £6,500,000. The year before that it was £5,500,000 and in the year before that it was £4,750,000. Expenditure on Papua and New Guinea is increasing, therefore, by at least £2,500,000 yearly.
But we still cannot meet all the requirements of the people. It is pathetic to travel in Papua and New Guinea and see the thirst for knowledge among those who are sometimes referred to as bush natives or kanakas. Even the most primitive of these people want teachers. They want agricultural experts to advise them. They want doctors and hospitals, and they have the idea that any request they make in that connexion to the Administration can be met by the despatch of a letter or some message to the mainland. They think the people of Australia have unlimited supplies of all the people who are required. Of course, that is not so, and we can only do a certain amount.
I have found, as I think those of my colleagues who have been to Papua and New Guinea have found, that the New Guinea natives are completely dependent upon us at this moment. They have no hesitation in saying that. They are not subservient or sycophantic people. They are proud and independent. They have no sense of inferiority, and they have no feeling of superiority. They are still a collection of tribes or clans and they will depend on us for a generation or more before they can be assured that they will be able to decide for themselves the type or form of government that they will wish to have. That opinion is widespread, although a few may disagree with it.
The general opinion was well expressed by an old lulua’i, at Lae, who, when he was told that we Australians were staying in New Guinea not because we wanted to stay there but because we wanted to help them, and when he was pressed to state the approximate date of self-determination that he would fix, shrugged his shoulders and through an interpreter indicated the date in words something like this: “ When old man passem out and young man passem in “. In other words, he was prepared to let the matter be decided at least a generation hence. I know that world -opinion is pressing on “us and .that we must do something earlier than that. Our neighbours, the Dutch, have made a decision in the matter, They have fixed a date for their territory and at may be given self-government in something like .a decade. That, of course, obliges us to speed up the development of our Territory of Papua and New Guinea -and hasten the process that we would ordinarily have allowed to develop more easily and in a way more .naturally.
– The .Dutch could be .making a mistake.
– I do not say that they are -making a mistake. I am not here to criticize anybody. The Dutch have their responsibilities, and they discharge their obligations according to their judgments. I am just saying that because of the decisions of other people -we are obliged .perhaps to move more quickly than would otherwise have been the case. .It is not only what the Dutch have decided that .makes the matter so important to us, but also what is happening in the United Nations and what happens when representatives of the United Nations Trusteeship Council visit Papua and New Guinea. I should like to say in passing that none of the missions from the Trusteeship Council has ever yet criticized the administration of Papua and New -Guinea -severely,. All that .they have :ever suggested is that we .should fix a date after which the -natives shall be free <to choose for themselves the .form of government .that they require. 1 am -satisfied that If the United Nations were to say to-morrow that the people of New Guinea had to make their choice immediately, those people would want ‘New Guinea to become another State of the Commonwealth of Australia or at least would want a ‘very close association with this Commonwealth. But we are prepared to allow the matter to wait for a generation or more in the hope that the whole of the people of the island - there are now more than 3,000,000 of them and there may be 4,000,000 when the time comes - will decide ;as one people the form of government that they want. Whatever, decision they make, we must accept - and the world must .accept. They will have ito .decide whether they want .to he part of a Melanesian ‘federation or part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, -whether >they want to work out -a .closer association with us than -we can visualize at ^present other than as separate States .of the Commonwealth, or whether .they -want to tie themselves to Indonesia. That will be for them .to ‘decide and nobody ought ito .-hinder them. But /for ‘the time being, they are under the tutelage .of ourselves and the Dutch, and they are very happy to foe in that position at present.
Those are the things that I wanted to say broadly about Papua and New Guinea before I come to the statement which the Minister for Territories made on 23rd August. This statement, if I .might say so, was a very carefully prepared, temperate document in which the history of Australian administration in Papua and New Guinea since the end of World War II. was set out - and set .out lucidly, very simply and very tellingly. Anybody who reads this statement cannot help .but have very great, admiration for those who are mentioned in it for the work they have -done - the missionaries, the Administration officers, and those returned servicemen of World War 31. and others who have been working in Papua and New -Guinea over an any years. I know that there have been some bad cases -of disregard for the sights <of natives on the part of a Jew individuals. That sort >of thing will always happen. There have ‘been examples, some bad examples, of exploitation in Papua and New Guinea. There is a ‘good deal of exploitation on :all sides going on in Australia to-day. It :is hard to curb human nature, but the post-war Administrators, J. K. Murray .and D. M. Cleland, have done their best to protect the natives against any wrong-doing on the part of what are generally called the Europeans, or Australians. I know that some people can criticize quite fairly .and trenchantly things that .have happened in the Territory, but I do not propose to utter .any particular criticisms this evening, because my time is limited, for one .thing, .and I want to deal with some .aspects -of, the bill and some, of the things which the Minister said in his statement.
I cannot repeat all that the Minister said about (the Administration in -the post=war,era and I ‘ do not want to try to repeat it. It is quite easy to throw our minds back to the days immediately after World War II. ended and to think of the destruction of property and the loss of life - especially the loss of so many great administrators and officers during the war - and the dislocation of the whole community life in Papua and New Guinea. When we think of those things, we can readily understand the great difficulties that confronted the people who went into the Territory and were charged with the responsibility of rebuilding the Administration after the war. I am pleased that my colleague, the former Minister for External Territories, is in the chamber this evening. It fell to his lot to appoint the first post-war Administration. It fell to his lot to play his part in rebuilding the whole edifice of the Administration. He started the local government councils. He started the whole education system. And he started the co-operative movement.
– The honorable member refers to the honorable member for East Sydney, does he not?
– Yes, I refer to my friend, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). There were no local councils in pre-war days. There was no native participation at the administration level. There were no co-operatives. To-day, there are flourishing co-operatives. When Labour went out of office in 1949, we had no local government councils established, but we had prepared the machinery for them. To-day, after almost eleven years, there are 36 of these councils operating. However, they are only a fraction of the number that will ultimately exist throughout the island. The process has been long and tardy.
The co-operatives had a turnover of £36,000 in their first year. Last year, the co-operatives in the Territory had a turnover of £1,250,000. When the price of copra was higher than it is now, the turnover has even been greater. For my part, I should prefer to see the native co-operatives grow even faster than they have been growing. I should like to see much of the trade of Papua and New Guinea in the hands of co-operatives. There are co-operatives, I think, in the cocoa and in the copra industries. I should like to see co-operatives in the robber industry and the coffee industry if there are none in those industries yet. Again, it is all right for the outsider to look in and say what ought to be done. We have to consider the mentality of the native peoples and their own wishes. We must let them work out their own future in their own way. They certainly are accepting a great deal of assistance and they are ready to accept the advice of the Australian people who are among them and who work with them.
The Minister has told us that there are now 3,623 Australian public servants in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, 334 native members of the Public Service there, and 7.500 native employees of the Administration. That indicates how rapidly the administrative forces have grown over ten years. Those people have supervised all the great work of airfield construction, the provision of water and electricity supplies, the building of houses, the provision of sanitation and the conduct of schools. When that work is measured against what other people have done anywhere else at any other time, I think that we, as a people, have every reason to be proud of the performance of our fellow Australians who have laboured there so long and so successfully.
The other statement which the Minister read to this House dealt with land tenure in New Guinea. There is a feeling among a number of people that the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is very wealthy, that there is a lot of land available, that the natives are not a work-minded people, and that if only the land could be made available to Australians the whole country would be better off than it is. I think that that idea is completely wrong. The Territory is largely mountainous or swampy. There is not much arable land available. A lot of land is very sour and there is very little that could be compared with the best land in Australia. Of the land that is available, only 3 per cent, has been alienated from native ownership. Therefore there is not a lot of land available for settlers from outside.
It cannot be said that we have deprived the native of his access to land. The cause of most revolutions down through the centuries has been over land and the use of land. We have no reason to be unhappy about our attitude towards land in New Guinea. I am* glad that the Minister, in his statement, retained the principles which I think were laid down by his predecessor when he said -
Land held under native custom may not be acquired outside of native custom by other than the Administration.
He also said -
For the time being land may not be acquired by the Administration unless the native owners are willing to sell and, in the opinion of the Administration, the land is not required by them; and conversion of title from native custom to individual registered title may take place only if the majority of those interested in the land under native custom consent to conversion and the method of conversion.
So the safeguards are very explicit in regard to the right of the native to the ownership of his own land and its use, and with regard to its acquisition by a foreigner or its alienation by any tribe or people.
In some parts of Papua and New Guinea there is a real land hunger because of the rapid growth of population. Despite that fact, I did not find anywhere any hostility by the natives towards Australians living among them and occupying territory on which crops are grown. The only stipulation - and a very reasonable one - that was made by native leaders was that there should be no such thing as absentee landlordism or, as they put it, nobody should own land who was not prepared to use it. If a man was not prepared to use his land he should sell it back to the native people. That seemed to me to be reasonable and proper.
The bill before us sets out conditions under which a new council shall be elected to guide the destinies of the people of Papua and New Guinea. At the present time we have a council of 27 members of whom three are elected and they, to use the common term, are European. Three natives are appointed and the rest of the members are all government appointees. Under this legislation the number of councillors is to be increased to 39, six of whom are to be elected by Europeans, and six by natives under an indirect system. At least five are to be appointed by the Minister from among the native leaders and another five will be appointed, presumably from among the European population. Two appointees will represent the missions. To day, the missionaries have three representatives.
I know that there is a complaint on the part of some of the missions about the reduction from three to two. For my part, I think it would be better if the missions were not represented on the council at all. I think that the less the churches have to do with administration the less likelihood there is of their becoming involved in arguments between the native peoples and the Administration. But there is a good case for appointing the missionaries because of their long association with the people of the land. As the Minister has argued, they can, in a sense, because of their knowledge of the native peoples, be representative of native interests as well as of the missions.
The Minister proposes, under his indirect system of election, to divide the Territory into six areas. The local government councils will appoint delegates in each of these areas and they will elect a native representative. Up to date, as I have said, there are only about 36 councils. Therefore, the number of natives covered in those areas by the council will be about 250,000. A lot of others who are not yet under the control of the Administration will not be even indirectly represented. The Minister proposes to give them representation through the appointed native members. That means, of course, that there will be five appointees for 2,250,000 natives and six elected members for 250,000 natives, in place of the three nominated native representatives who sit in the council as it at present exists. Instead of having three Europeans elected to the council we will now have six. They will represent 20,000 Europeans.
The Minister has said, very rightly, “I am not going to provide for two sets of separate rolls. There will be one roll for Europeans and this indirect system of indirect representation will pass after a transitional stage”. Unfortunately, he has not set a date at which that transitional stage will pass and the Opposition proposes to move an amendment to test the feeling of the House on the question of a common roll. We think that a common roll should not wait too long. We think it should come into operation at the first election. If it cannot come into operation at the first election, it should come- into operation at the next ensuing election.
The Government feels,, apparently,, that it* proposal- should be judged by perform.ances. It. is a sort of trial and error scheme. The. Minister, said that in five, of six years there; should be another review of the system and? that. then,, perhaps,, more native: members will be- elected- and,, perhaps; fewer white Europeans will be elected, or there will! be: fewer appointed people: But. he. is> certainly on the: right track,, in our view, when be- says- that, all- the people who go> to live in. Papua and. New Guinea,, no matter what, their racial origin, must regard themselves ass citizens of. that Territory and there must be no racial distinction or discrimination ia future. Those who go from Australia to live in the Territory, will’ be subject to the l’aws of the Territory just as a person, who was born there is subject to these. laws.. That is in accordance with modern thought, so modern, indeed,, that if it had been enunciated ten years ago it would have caused quite a lot of people to have very grave views about the. sanity of those who advocated such, an idea. But the. world’ is moving on. There, is a phrase, “ the winds of change “’. It is. a very much battered! and misused phrase in these, times, but if there is any legitimacy left ia its use the. winds of change are moving, over Papua and New Guinea just as they are. over other places in the world.
We do not. propose- to; oppose the second reading- of the; bill-, but! we don propose- to move- an amendment at the committee, stage to. provide- that every adult resident, ia the. Territory shall be- entitled to’ enrolment asan. elector for the electorate in which he resides. We do- not advocate- compulsory enrolment- or compulsory voting. But wefind ourselVes faced with- the position- in- theTerritory that?, as- f have said; there aremore than- 4,000 native leaders and people working for the- Administration, made- up of 3-34 native members of the- Public Service and’ 7,500’ Administration’ employees; who. have reached the’ educational: standard which’ fits’ them; and should give- them’ the right, to vote. None of-‘ them- will be elected! to< represent the natives. The- only way, under the- indirect system that the Minister’ proposes; in which these- people can. be represented1 is by some: of the- native: legislators; whom the. Administrator- will1 appoint. There are also, of course, mem* bers: of the. Pacific Islands Regiment, and members of the Papuan Constabulary, who have many duties to perform. Some members’ of the constabulary- can direct traffic quite as well as any policeman in any city in Australia. None of them will- be directly represented. We think, that these people - and- they are the- ones we have in mind principally - should have the- right to’ go’ on’ the common electoral roll at this stage if they wish to da so. They should, also have the right to vote, in the. election for Europeans if they want to- do so. We feel that we would stand better in- the eyes of the world if: we took, that step.
If we can secure passage of the amendment - and; I am very doubtful of ft- - we would then move to1 omit from clause. 8 proposed new sub-sections* (3.), (41.)1 and (4a.)1 of the act.
The only other thing’ I wane to- say about the: bill1 is; that it represents* a major constitutional change for the Territory, that it is ai desirable and necessary change, and’ that it is; a change that all Australians should welcome.. It certainly does’, mark an important- stage towards- self-government in the- Territory, and; I think that all people im the Territory, whether they are of Augtralian origin oe whether they are; indigenouspeople capable of- making a> judgment, Believes, that it is. a good-‘ thing– that reform of the; legislative Council is being tackled at this time.-
The Minister made several visits to Papua, and New Guinea,, and- he tells us that this- legislation- is based’ upon his observations, during; those- and previous visits,, and is also- a. direct result- of his consultations with representatives, of. the European and native, communities; there. There are people ia- the: native community who- are quite ableto, express- themselves fluently and convincingly on- all- matters! affecting; their own territory. Dr. Reuben Taureka-, the other day, when it. was announced that the. Opposition, intended to move these, amendments, said that he did not agree- willi- the: proposal. He feels- that the time is? not yet ripe.. That is. his: view.. He is; entitled to express it, and’ he- is; speaking fox’ quite a number o£ people.. We,, orr the other hand, feet that. from the Australian point of view we cannot afford to take any further .risks with world opinion on the question of the common roll, and that we should move more quickly ‘man the Government proposes to do.
I met Taureka for only an hour or so, but j formed a very high opinion of his ability and integrity, and I did admire his forthrightness .as I did .admire -the opinions expressed by other native leaders with great native ability but no learning - men like Simogun, Yarriga .and Byas. All of them said, in effect: “ If you want to make clear our views on .the future of Papua and New Guinea attach some of us to the delegation you are sending to the United Nations, and let us talk to the Afro-Asian group. We will be .able to tell them what we, who Jive in the country, want, and disabuse their minds of a lot of the opinions they hold to-day in regard to what we ought to have.”
We regard this island of New Guinea as a whole. What we in the Opposition would like .to see effected is a t-ri-partite .agreement between the Indonesians, the Dutch and ourselves for the preservation of the peace .and security of Indonesia and .the whole island of New Guinea against the day, a generation hence, when the native peoples, who are nearly one race even if they are of ‘different clans, will be .able, as an educated democracy, to make their .own choice, to make it sensibly and make it finally, for the peace, order and good government of their -own .country. We would not want others interfering with them. We do not believe in Indonesian .claims to succeed the Dutch in sovereignty over the last territory in this part of the world in which the Dutch exercise suzerainty. We “believe that the Indonesian claim to the possession of Dutch New Guinea on the ground that the Indonesians are the successors to the Dutch in that area is only a form of neo-colonialism, .and we think that that is completely wrong. We think that such a claim rests .on the right of conquest, and the right of conquest is no right. We think that the peoples of the whole island are almost akin, ethnically, historically and culturally, even if not linguistically. We would hope that what comes ‘of this legislation, what ‘.happens in the years ahead, and everything else done by this Australian Par liament -will always be conducive to -the peace, order and good government of that great Territory.
– In view of the vast importance of this subject to both present and future generations of Australians I -think that the most -refreshing thing that I have experienced in my -time in ;this -Parliament is the realization that at least on this very important matter we are at uniformity within this chamber. I was in New -Guinea during the time the Leader -of the Opposition (Mt. Calwell) was th,ere, and I think I can say without reservation that an opportunity that he might have used -for political -advantage he used with a tremendous sense of .responsibility in relation to all the statements he made. They -were -objective and factual, and I believe they were of vast importance because of the impression they made on Australian opinion and naturally, .through press reports, on world opinion generally. On this subject there is -no room for dissension, .because it is so important <to our future, and especially at this time when we have the eyes of the world upon us. The matter is probably Australia’s greatest immediate political and economic problem, on account of its proximity to our shores and also in view of the very considerable importance of the production of New Guinea and Papua, which is complementary to the production on our Australian mainland. I do not think anybody with any sense of responsibility in Australia - and particularly in this place - would allow himself to prejudice the future of Australia and the future of the people of New Guinea merely to try to take some petty political advantage which, in the eyes of the world, may prejudice not on’ly what we are doing for the people of New Guinea, but also their future and the accomplishment of what might be best for them.
As has been :said, Mr. Speaker, the legislation
before the House is another step forward An the
progress towards mme form of .eventual
self-government for the people of -New Guinea. The main innovation contained in the bill
deals with the introduction of a system of election of .native members by members of the
native voting public. There is .also in the -bill a provision which reduces the number .
of official .members in the existing Legislative Council. This is perhaps not so
significant as it might appear because obviously the other section which composes the
Legislative Council under the proposed legislation - the appointed members - will still,
in conjunction with the official members, retain a majority should they vote together.
However, in relation to those appointed members, another significant point arises, as
mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition
I believe, from the way he phrased his amendment, that, in actual fact, he realizes the impossibility of introducing a common roll at this stage. The excellent speech of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on this subject, explaining in considerate and moderate terms the difficulty of the Administration in implementing a common roll for elections in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea to-day, presents a situation that it is impossible to overcome; so, while I realize the sincerity of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, I believe that he knows that the time is not ripe for the implementation of a common roll. And, as he himself has said, in his contact with the native leaders in the Territory the policy of a separate roll was supported by the remarks they made to him. He also pointed out in regard to that section of the native community which would be debarred from being members under the voting system because they are members of the Administration, that it is available for them to be included as appointed native members. The Minister covered the objects of the legislation very well in his speech when he said - we have dedicated ourselves to the political advancement of the people and . in deciding what is best to do, we will apply the test of the welfare of the people rather than the satisfaction of a theory.
I think we should ponder well on those words, because I think they
imply a genuine approach to a difficult problem and one which cannot be overcome
readily. At the same time we have also to consider our responsibility, as a parliament
and a government, to the people of Australia. On behalf of the people of Australia we
have to anticipate a situation which could arise if conditions went wrong in New Guinea.
After all, as the Leader of the Opposition
That leads me to my next point. In my mind the real difference between the situation in which Great Britain or France has made a grant of independence to an African people - as has been done freely during the last six months when some twelve or thirteen new nations have been admitted to the United Nations - and a hypothetical grant of independence on the part of Australia to Papua and New Guinea, is that in the former case it was a grant giving independence to an East African or Central African country and although economic interests of Britain or France might be prejudiced they would not, by transferring sovereignty, threaten the integrity of their own metropolitan countries. I suggest to you, Sir, that this situation is very different from that which arises in our case with regard to New Guinea. We must make sure that whoever takes over in New Guinea in the future is going to be friendly to us. We have to lead the people there to their own ultimate self-government in a friendly spirit and make sure that they are strong enough economically and politically to develop their own country so that they will have a stability which will make New Guinea a good neighbour to the Commonwealth of Australia.
After all we, in this place, are members of the Commonwealth of Australia and the proximity of New Guinea is such that we cannot, for considerations of the defence of Australia in the future, allow that situation to arise where New Guinea might be in hostile hands. As more and more of the non-self-governing territories of the world receive their independence, the few that remain under the tutelage of the so-called colonial powers are attracting the concentrated attention of the member nations of the United Nations Organization, particularly where the area concerned includes trust territories under the supervision of the United Nations Trusteeship Council. This is the case in regard to Australia’s Territory of Papua and New Guinea, the latter being under the surveillance of the Trusteeship Council. It is natural, therefore, that in this atmosphere, unfortunately further clouded by the tendency in the United Nations Organization to give automatic support to any alleged anti-colonial case, and to use such cases as chopping blocks irrespective of their merits, the position of New Guinea as a whole, including our own Territory, is attracting more and more attention from members of the United Nations Organization, many of whom are illqualified to express any opinion on the subject of human rights, and whose vote unfortunately is not based on any realistic or logical approach but automatically follows the bloc when anti-colonial matters come up.
At this very moment we have that situation there and it is obvious to anybody in this chamber that that is the type of atmosphere in which the problem of New Guinea will be discussed - not on its merits but purely in the anti-colonial light. Evidence of this rising interest or, more properly, interference, is clearly available when some mischief-making press reporter looking for sensations reports such incidents as the recent Epinery case near Rabaul. Whether this was deliberate or not it achieved international cover, and it is certain that the subsequent amending story giving the true context of the whole situation was never promulgated. Equally unfortunate - and I say this almost with despair - was the illinformed and gratuitous attack on the Administrator, based on this misinformation by a newspaper which I have previously respected for its standard of ethics; and I feel certain that the editor, after mature reflection, will realize the grave disservice he has done to a man who has given years of efficient and devoted service in a position of great difficulty, and also the great disservice he has done through this article to his own country, which is doing so much for the Papuan people.
My recent visit to the Territory, during which I had the opportunity to avoid the beaten track of the normal political runaround, has convinced1 me that Australia has nothing to fear from any objective critical examination of its administration of Papua and New Guinea. An unbiased study of the reports of members of the Trusteeship Council following their visits will bear this out. I think the Leader of the Opposition made comments similar to this. Obviously, there will be disagreement on the scale of expenditure, on the rate of progress and on many other details of administration; but I believe that we are fulfilling with care and honesty the requirements of Chapters XI. and XII. of the Charter of the United Nations. We should consider our achievements in the light of recent events in parts of Africa, where physical problems - the problems of geography - are nothing when compared with those of New Guinea.
We would be betraying our responsibility to this trust if we allowed ourselves to be
stampeded into premature action simply because we may be faced with a criticism that we
know is likely to be illfounded and not disinterested. To put this more specifically, I
point out that Soviet Russia has been very strong on this subject of anti-colonialism,
particularly in the recent remarks of
She naturally is always ia favour of hastening: independent government for peoples: who, through lack: of preparation,, most have, serious difficulties* both political and economic^ when asked to, fend for themselves. I am afraid that there are, unfortunately, too many instances of this readily available in the world to-day.
What is really required for the social, political and economic development of the. Territory above all else is an atmosphere of security. Nothing could be more damaging to the continuity of development than the derogatory criticism of certain nations at the United’ Nations, and the misinterpretation, which- has been given great publicity, of the Prime Minister’s “ better too- soon than too late “ remarks, dragged from their context and given the most extreme meaning. Not only is security a prime requisite but there must also be a satisfactory element of inducement. In both these directions, members- of the Commonwealth’ Parliament can play a leading’ part. I hope that the statement of the Minister for’ Territories, a- well-thought-out, constructive statement, will have gone a long way towards- dispelling the feeling of insecurity ia the minds of both Europeans- and native people in the Territory.
If a reasonable and1 sensible rate of progress is to be maintained, it is obvious that the Administration must be maintained and expanded by retaining present personnel and. by attracting more of the right type from Australia and from the native people tq.- enter service within the Territory. One obvious impression I gained, and this would be certainly common’ to other members of this House who have recently visited the Territory, is that there is a very real1 sense of. uncertainty amongst members of the Administration, as. to their future. It will readily be appreciated that if this feeling is prevalent amongst the present members of the Administration, it will not be very easy to enlist: new officers in> a. service- which, by implication, may be described as living on borrowed time. Again, in the professional and commercial- spheres, young men’ or women, will not regard New Guinea as a place fox their life’s work, if they have the sword of Damocles, hanging over their heads, with the disastrous: example of what is happening to Europeans’ hi certain parts of- Africa, at this; very* moment.
This, sense of. security is equally important in; the economic sphere No- doubt somehonorable members, opposite, particularly the mischief-making member for Hindmarsh. (Mr. Clyde Cameron),, will- refer to the levels of native wages in the Territory, and will burst forth in- simulated wrath about exploitation’, much to. the. pleasure of our critics behind the iron curtain. However.,, to look at this, problem sensibly should not be beyond the reach of most members of this House. It. is a fairly elementary principle of. economics that the standard of living, and hence the value of wages, must be closely related to the gross national product, of a country, and the share of national income available for the provision of wages and. salaries, will rise as. production values rise;. It is therefore,, ridiculous at this, stage to approach the. problem of the wage structure in the Territory on the basis of the narrow doctrinaire Australian trade union organizer outlook, which seems, to be the sole mental, exercise of fortunately only a few gentlemen, opposite,, apart from the other condition applicable that the native artisan or workman,, while definitely becoming, more efficient,, requires far more supervision and much more time for a set task than does the average person of European descent. Although the stepping up of economic development, during’, the last decade has been quite remarkable; there is opportunity for even greater development in the present decade;, provided inducement and security are available.
However thorough and painstaking, our administration, has been,, particularly during the. last ten. years, there are obvious directions in which we can exert more effort provided finance, coupled with additional administrative personnel, becomes available. I think that all who have studied the problems of the Territory will agree that there is a need to increase educational’ facilities, and to do this we must not. only attract more people with the necessary qualifications from Australia but also increase the availability of teachers drawn from- the indigenous people. The suggestions, which have been given some publicity, that the State Departmentsof Education- may be approached to allow members of the teaching profession to serve in New Guinea without loss of promotion or other benefits, is worth investigating, but at the same time it must be remembered that the State departments themselves are constantly facing a shortage of staff to deal with the. increasing numbers of children reaching school age.
One of the most significant developments in the sphere of education in the Territory is the increased attention being given to the education of girls. It seems reasonable to expect that, with a generation of girls who have received education during their youth taking their places as mothers in the future, the influence of a higher level of culture in the home - I stress this point - will provide that additional spur to the formal education of the school without which a real advance in general enlightenment would be impossible. As qualified men and women of Papuan birth become available through the spread of education, there should be encouragement for those who wish to enter the Administration. I think this is a very important point and one that we should consider. The figures have already been given in the very useful statement of the Minister, but I think we should go even further. It must be realized that there are tribal problems which would make it difficult for a native Papuan to exert authority in certain areas in which a person of European descent would be accepted. But as time goes on, this will be overcome, and surely it is wise to train persons for administrative functions in close association with, and under the supervision of, competent European officers while the opportunity is available, so that they will be able to assume more and more responsibility when the appropriate time arrives. In. that connexion, I want to read a passage from a very good leader which appeared in the London “ Times “ of 14th July last. It was brought to- my attention by a member of the Administration in New- Guinea. The leader is entitled’ “ The Backbone “ and reads -
The Congo disaster has driven home the lesson, if driving it home were necessary, that the granting of independence in Africa is. not possible merely through, a. political act. The colonial ruler cannot just wave a wand and declare “Let there be in-, dependence “. The technique of preparing a country is long- and1 complicated requiring painstaking: effort and> application. The- declaration of independence, if. this> preparatory work is neglected,, merely leads to a state of chaos which is neither, independence nor self-government- but anarchy, which- may welt be’ superseded by some- form- of neo-colonialism. The preparation needs to be proportionately more thorough as the grant of independence is made to increasingly more backward peoples.
The element, more than any other, which holds a colonial territory together is the colonial- service, whether administrative or technical. This service used at one- time to be regarded, as a scaffolding to be knocked, away when independence is achieved. It would be more aptly described as the vertebrae, without which the newly independent country cannot be held together. The truth.- of this has been demonstrated time and again, in India, in the Sudan, in Ghana. In order to achieve a smooth transfer of power, the colonial service needs both to be steadily Africanized prior to independence, and to retain a. slowly diminishing cadre of Europeans after independence.
There seems to be an all too-prevalent impression that the economy of the Territories cannot be developed sufficiently to provide a reasonable standard” of living in the future without constant recourse to grants from the Australian taxpayer. This year we are providing £14,500,000- by way of direct subsidy. There are, however, many fields of production which have been hardly touched. Timber, rubber, coffee, cocoa, possibly tea and tobacco all can be, and are being produced in growing quantities and in most cases of good quality, in addition to the traditional plantation production of copra. In certain areas there are suitable conditions for raising beef cattle, and. I was. interested to learn of the project by Bulolo Gold Dredging- Limited for the establishment of a meat canning plant in conjunction with cattle raising in the Markham Valley.
The Administration, through its many agricultural and animal industry centres, is giving a good lead in encouraging the production of better quality animals and: better methods of animal husbandry. I was particularly impressed with the Animal Industry Centre at Goroka, under the efficient and imaginative control of Mr. Dick Bell. Furthermore, the work being undertaken at the Lowlands Agricultural Experiment Station at Keravat and other centres, such as Bisianumu, is not only of value to our territories but is also providing much useful information for the whole of the South Pacific area. I think the members of the South Pacific Commission would realize the importance of the work that is going on in such centres, and its relation to problems confronting all parts of the South Pacific area.
Already some of our Australian companies are interested in and associating themselves with the production in New Guinea of products required for our normal needs in Australia, such as cocoa; but I believe there is room for an extension of this association. For instance, it would appear that rubber production could be increased if some of our larger tyre manufacturing concerns would take a more direct interest in the industry.
There are two important points in connexion with production and consumption in the Territory. As a general rule the production is complementary to demand in Australia, where a ready market can be found for most of the products, and a visit to any private or co-operative trading store in the Territory shows the markets available for Australian goods, particularly canned foods of all varieties. There are few of us who have not been into a co-operative store in the Territory and seen the shelves lined with Australian canned foods of various kinds. The importance of this market to Australian producers is quite obvious.
There have been from time to time irresponsible suggestions that some of the larger corporate or individual concerns in Papua and New Guinea have depended for their success on alleged exploitation of native labour. I was particularly unimpressed with a recent article in a leading Melbourne journal, in which the author applauded, with little or no knowledge of local conditions, the provocative attitude on native wages adopted by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). The conditions of native employment in New Guinea are very complex. There is provision, for instance, for transport to and from the place of employment at the beginning and the end of a set period, usually eighteen months. The practice of limiting the period of employment results in serious wastage, because much time and patience have to be expended in the elementary training stage to make employees reasonably efficient. Furthermore, while the cash wage may appear to the uninformed to be rather meagre, it must be realized that it is accompanied by full keep for the employee, and possibly for members of his family, health supervision and the other benefits that go with paternal supervision. Having in mind the labour conditions applying in the Territory, I believe that the general run of employers have carried out their responsibilities to these primitive people with thoroughness and honesty.
I would like now to refer to the status of our administrative officers in the Territory, and in particular to that of the Administrator himself. With the exception of the lamentable and mischievous attack to which I referred earlier, I think that Brigadier Cleland’s administration, which has extended for almost ten years, has been widely recognized as being responsible for the most pronounced and concrete progress in the history of Australia’s association with the vast problems of the Territory. I believe that Australia owes a real debt of gratitude to the Administrator and his good wife, Mrs. Cleland, for the thorough, imaginative and sympathetic manner in which they have both carried out the heavy responsibilities thrust upon them. Furthermore, I believe that the status of the Administrator should be given greater recognition, particularly in the eyes of the rest of the world, by changing the designation of the office to high commissioner. This would represent but a small recognition of the way in which this officer’s responsibilities have increased, and of the extent to which they exceed those of earlier occupants of the post.
I realize that the efficiency of the work of the Administrator must naturally bear some relation to the quality of the men and women who make up the Administration service generally, and in this respect I think it will be widely agreed that the interests of Australia and the Papuan peoples are being well served in the finest traditions. I would suggest that this Parliament should show practical appreciation of the work of the Administration by tackling the problem of providing greater security for those now serving and those who may be attracted to the service in later years. I would like at this stage also to mention the vast work that is being done by the Christian missions.
The bill now before us is a genuine step forward in the task of preparing the people of New Guinea for the responsibility of making their democratic institutions work. It may, and probably will, require modification or alteration from time to time. I visualize the probability that in the not so very distant future the amendment suggested by the Opposition will be accepted as a suitable one. On this note I would like to conclude. I believe that Australia has nothing to fear from an objective analysis of what the Administration is doing in Papua and New Guinea.
– Orderl The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Undoubtedly the Territory of Papua and New Guinea presents many difficulties and problems for the Australian Government. Having agreed on that point, I part with the Government, because in my opinion it has not been as active as it might have been in certain directions, and probably too active in others, as I will show in a moment. I think the United Nations Trusteeship Council is to be congratulated on prodding the Government and getting some activity from it, because undoubtedly if it had not been for the criticism of that council we would not have had this measure before us this evening.
In his statement on 23rd August of this year the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) said -
It is worth recalling that Australia herself took a notable part in the discussions which led to the setting up of the trusteeship system of the United Nations, and that at the first general assembly in 1946 we were among the first nations to make a declaration indicating readiness to conclude agreements respecting the mandated territories under our control. We did not come reluctantly to the trusteeship system. We helped to promote it and we were among the first to embrace it
If he had been addressing those remarks from this side of the House, he would have been correct because if the Liberal Government had been in control at the time the decision had to be made, this Territory would not be under the control of the Trusteeship Council at all. It was the Labour Government of the day which was responsible for putting it under the Trusteeship Council. Let me refer briefly to the attitude of various supporters of the present Government who spoke on this subject back in 1945 when the Labour Government of the day was setting out to create the machinery of government that was to replace the machinery destroyed by the intrusion of war. The present Postmaster-
General (Mr. Davidson) opposed bringing the Territory under the Trusteeship Council. The present member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who was then the honorable member for Swan, said -
I object to such a proposal.
Mr. Howard Beale, who is now the Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, said -
Now, let us turn to the words of the Treasurer
What is all this talk about trusteeship? . . . Why do supporters of the Government object so indignantly to the suggestions that New Guinea might be annexed?
Sir Percy Spender,
Australia should have retained the Territory as South Africa has retained its territories.
The late Mr. H. L. Anthony, who was then the
member for Richmond, was of the same opinion.
These persons, or persons of the same political faith, now claim the credit for
having placed this Territory under the trusteeship of the United Nations. The policies
of the Opposition and the Government on this matter are fundamentally opposed. I was
rather interested to hear the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) talk about there being no difference of
opinion between the various parties in respect of policy in relation to the Territory of
Papua and New Guinea. Let me tell the House what
Fundamentally the Labor Party’s policy differs :from that of the present Government because wc in the Labor Party have always accepted the equal rights, the equal humanity, under God of all human beings. . . .
That statement was made in the policy speech of the Labour Party. There are fundamental differences. Let me tell the House of some of Labour’s achievements, because the Government to-day, where it has followed the policy which was commenced by the Labour Government, claims full credit for it although in many important respects it has departed from the policy that was then laid down. We set out to end the indentured labour system. We declared our intentions, and if we had remained in government the indentured labour system would have ended in 1950. We abolished it immediately in respect of the Administration, and although the Government to-day does not call it an indentured labour system, it is still an objectionable contract system which, in most respects, is the same as that which existed before the Second World War. We set up a government shipping line which this Government has now destroyed and sold to private enterprise. We set out to reduce the hours of labour worked by the natives. They were working 55 and 50 hours in the respective Territories. We set out to make it a uniform 44 hours and forbade the working of overtime ;except in an emergency. The wages of the natives were 5s. .a month in one Territory .and 10s. a .month in the other. We increased the wages to a uniform 15s. a month. Every speaker on the Government side, then in Opposition, who spoke in the debate opposed the reforms which were introduced by the Labour Government.
We -established an organization to give the natives decent health and education services. We were the people who established the annual conferences with mission representatives for which we were thanked by the missionary bodies. We extended the payment of compensation for war damage to the natives, ft was not .included -it? the original scheme and we .extended it so that th? natives were -compensated for losses they suffered from enemy action. We -provided workers’ compensation for the natives .and we saw -that their outstanding wage claims were met. We established the Australian School of Pacific Administration. We allowed native labour, which had been conscripted in many cases by the Army for war service, to return to the villages, .and we established the village .councils. We established the Native Labour Department and were responsible (for establishing the co-operatives. That is .the Labour Party’s record achieved in a very short space of time after the .cessation of hostilities.
What was the .attitude of supporters of the present Government to the reforms we then introduced? The honorable member for Balaclava at that time who led the debate for the Opposition in 1945 said -
Generally speaking ,the natives have been well treated in the past . . . We should act wisely and not spoil native races “who are not ready for some .of .the proposals which .the Government has advanced in this bill.
The proposals .were those that I have enumerated. The honorable member for Balaclava at that lime also .said -
The food and housing of the .natives are among the matters with which the bill deals . .. .
Control from Canberra of a Territory thousands of miles from the Commonwealth capital with regard to the pay and other working conditions of the natives is too disastrous to .he supported :by any democratic Government.
What we were doing by Canberra control was lifting the wages of the natives from 5s. .a month to 15s. and according to an honorable member who was a supporter of this Government, those . reforms . were too disastrous to be supported by any democratic government. The same gentleman also said -
If we suddenly .enforce labour laws which might he applicable to -a completely civilized democratic community, .over-pay the natives for their work .and give to them too much leisure, we shall be spoiling them . . .
Talk of a 40-iour week, treble pay, a dieting scale laid -down by a dietitian, and the waiving of written contracts of employment would fill these men–
That ds, .the employers - with amazement . . . Here we have a coprosperity plan conceived possibly by the Trades “Hail for the benefit of -the Papuans and a sort of New ‘Deal for New -Guinea . . . 1-har.e should be a minimum of Government interference .with the operations of planters . . .
That was the attitude of the present Government parties atthat time. The former Speaker, the late Mr. Archie Cameron, said - 1 ‘hope that our approach to the problem of government of NewGuinea and the adjoining islands is not that we shall regard ourselves as a Father Christmas to the native population . . .
Then the honorable member for Richmond at that time, the late Mr. H. L. Anthony, said - . . any legislation or administrative acts that will cause discontent amongst the native population, or weld them into a social force, must be examined with the greatestcare … if theybecomean educated force, they may one day join our enemies . . . Consequently, the Government in introducing this legislation-
That was the (Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Bill - is embarking on a very risky experiment that may ultimately threaten the security of Australia.
So the member for Richmond of that day did not want to educate the natives because he said, in effect, “ If you educate them, we will never be able : to control them “. Let meturnto this questionof education becauseit is not merelythe Labour Party : that has been critical of the slow progress made in this field of endeavour in the Territory. Reference was made to this matter by S. W. Reed in a book entitled “ The Making of Modern New Guinea “. Referring to this Government, he said -
One inevitably receives the impression that the Government’s policy is shaped on the do-nothing model in response to the attitude of the nonofficial population. . . . The exploiting class has a very real fear thatintellectual training will make the native less amenable to labour.
The then honorable member for Bendigo, when referring to the compulsory return of natives to their villages for three months after the completion of twelve months’ service, said -
This increase, plus the increase resulting from the ‘improved ration standard and wage levels, would raisethe daily cost of a ‘native labourer from1s. 3d. to approximately 2s. 6d.
As , a result of this, he was opposed to it because hethought that was a tremendous increase inthe cost of native labour. I repeat: We had liftedthe wages of the natives to15s. & month and had refused theirhoursof work to , 44 aweek. The then honorable member for Bendigo continued -
If the Government wants ‘to be sentimental and to give the native races conditions which they have never previously had, it should not do so at the expense of a small section of white men who are not represented in this House.
During the whole of that debate in 1945 - honorable members can read it for themselves in “ Hansard “ - not one member of the Liberal Party or of the Country Party supported! either placing the Territory under the auspices of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations or any of the reforms which we then proposed. In fact, they tried to delay the reforms that Labour wanted to effect because the then honorable member for Balaclava, who led the debate for the present Government parties, moved a motion Which would have had the effect of postponing indefinitely these great Changes that we proposed. In his statement on 23rd August last the Minister said -
We have established town and district advisory councils on which natives are represented; we have setup a Legislative Council on whichthere are native members . . .
The Government has done nothing of the kind. It was the Labour Government which gave the natives representation on the Legislative Council and it was the Labour Government which gave statutory effect to village councils. The Minister also stated -
There is a growing interest in local government - a movement originally promoted by the Government rather ‘than being sought by the people themselves.
It was not promoted by this Government. In fact, the parties which comprise : the Government to-day opposed it. Local government was established by the Labour Government of the day.
Let me turn now to the very important question of self-government. During a discussion on the Papua and New Guinea Bill on 2nd March, 1949, the present Postmaster.General (Mr. Davidson) had this to say -
Provision is made in the bill for the establishment of a legislative council, an executive council, advisory councils for native affairs, native villagecouncils, a public service and a judicial system. There is nothing in the world to prevent us going ahead with those proposals if we consider that they are all necessary - andI do not agree that they are.
So in 1949 all those things for which members of the Government parties now claim credit were opposed by them. During the same debate the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) stated -
By providing for the establishment of a legislative council consisting of 29 members of whom only three are to be elected and the remainder nominated by the Government is merely creating a facade of self-government.
Are those proposals any different from the Government’s present proposals except that the Government now seeks to increase the numbers on the council to give greater native representation? Is it not still a facade of self-government because irrespective of the decisions made by the Legislative Council or by the other body which the bill proposes to establish - the Administrator’s Council, for instance - if the Government of Australia or the Administrator disagree with those decisions, they can exercise their right of veto. Mr. Howard Beale, who was then a member of this Parliament, said -
The bill contains a fantastic proposal to have native representatives on the Government councils.
The so-called fantastic proposal of that time is the proposal for which this Government now claims credit.
I want to deal now with the question of indentured labour because I regard the decision which was made by the Labour Government of the day in relation to it as of the utmost importance. We gave the natives of the Territory an undertaking to abolish the indentured labour system by 1950. That undertaking has been dishonoured. In 1945 we abolished - or set out to abolish - the professional recruiter and indentured female labour. We raised the minimum age for male indentured labour from fourteen years to sixteen years; we reduced the period of employment from three years to one year, and we provided that at the end of each year of service the native had to be returned to his village and could not be re-engaged for a further three months. In the pre-war period in New Guinea the period of employment was three years and in Papua two years, but the natives were allowed one renewal before they returned to their village. There were instances of natives in New Guinea having been away from their villages for eight years. We set out to end that system. In fact, we abolished the indenture system completely in Administration labour to show we had faith in our own policy and to bear out our contention that our policy would work. If we had remained the Government of Australia, by this time there would have been no indentured native labour in the Territories.
Speakers on the Government side repeatedly have quoted Mr. Robson ,the editor of the “ Pacific Islands Monthly “ as their
authority. Every one knows that the “ Pacific Islands Monthly “ is the
mouthpiece of private enterprise in the Territory - the great Burns Philp organization,
W. R. Carpenter and the others. This is what
The great majority of these primitive people have no understanding of a contract.
If they have no understanding of a contract, why do Government members say repeatedly that the natives enter into these labour arrangements of their own free will and with full knowledge of that to which they are committing themselves? Mr. Robson believes otherwise. He continues -
There were great disadvantages in the indenture system - the fact that these men were concentrated in barracks and were not permitted to bring their women folk with them . . .
That was one of the objections that
She offered to lend me her cook, purchased when twelve years of age by a postal official, and loaned to any friend who promised to return her as arranged without any wages because she said, “ Oh, that would spoil her for us if you paid her any wages “.
So the native cook was to receive no wages, otherwise she would be spoiled. Before Labour took office Mr. Arthur Blakely, a former member of this Parliament, was sent to the Territory to investigate an industrial disturbance. This was in the pre-war period when the indentured labour system was all the vogue. In his report he said -
In places where the natives were housed, sodomy frequently occurred and the natives were known to fight for the possession of young boys who had been put into the compounds.
This is the system which we set out to abolish but which this Government evidently is showing no alacrity to end!
At the time to which I have referred we also dealt with the question of penalties which were imposed upon the natives. These penalties were savage, having regard to the income that the natives received. We decided to fix the penalties for various offences in relation to the natives’ income. We put an end to the idea that there could be imprisonment without the option of a fine. Previously, for being absent without leave from employment the natives were fined £1 which, in some instances, meant four month’s pay and, in other instances, two months’ pay. For insulting words, they were fined £5, and if they deserted their employment they were imprisoned for three months without the option of a fine. We put an end to those penalties.
Now let me turn to the question of racial discrimination, which still exists in the
Territory. Australia can claim credit for many good things that it has implemented in
the Territories. I believe that Labour’s record during the brief period that we had
control of the Territories will bear comparison with the record of any other
administration of its kind in any part of the world. There is no doubt that this
Government has sabotaged Labour’s policy. You have only to remember Colonel Murray
who was the Administrator of the day. You would not have got a better administrator or a
more understanding and knowledgeable man for the job than Colonel Murray. But this
Government was not satisfied until it had got him out of his position. It put pressure
on him because he was not prepared to reverse the policy in which he believed, or
because he would not vary it to the extent required. Honorable members know this
Government’s attitude to racial discrimination in the Territory. I paid a visit to
the Territory years ago, and when I returned,
One prominent person who visited New Guinea recently was under the impression that the native should be placed on an equal footing with the white man. He refused to allow himself to be carried ashore on the shoulders of a native.
He also said -
The honorable member for Swan believes that natives can be educated and still remain contented.
Now, of course, the Government tries to make us forget the past and says that what it wants to do is to emancipate the natives of Papua and New Guinea - to give them self-government. Mr. A. Rentoul, a former official in Papua, speaking during an Australian Broadcasting Commission “ Forum of the Air “ session on 15th May, 1946, said -
The trader - for some peculiar reason - had a habit of charging natives a much higher price for commodities than that payable by the white man.
I am given to understand that that practice still exists in the Territory, without any effective action being taken by the Government to correct the position. On one occasion, Colonel Murray, the Administrator, invited to Government House two natives who had been decorated for distinguished war service. Mr. Robson, the editor of “ Pacific Islands Monthly”, said -
It was a stupid thing to do . . . it is absurd for the ruling white race in Papua to treat these primitive stone-age natives as their social equals.
This is the gentleman whom Government speakers are always quoting! On
23rd August last, the Minister for Territories
There have been exaggerated stories, and even some untrue stories published about racial discrimination in the Territory.
But the Minister has admitted in this Parliament that in the Territory there are stores which are partitioned off, one side being for Europeans and the other for natives. He has admitted that there are milk bars in which there is one set of glasses for natives and another set for Europeans. Why is not something being done to end this? We do not want that type of discrimination by an Australian administration.
Now let me turn to the question of justice. We find that a European who was
convicted on a charge of manslaughter, having killed a native, was fined £100. On
the other hand, a native named Mus Gunafaf - I asked the Minister a question on this and
he said, that this man had’ no previous convictions, recorded against him - was
sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment with hard labour for having stolen food-.
Do not honorable members, think that that is an illustration of discrimination against
natives of the Territory? There is no doubt that some people believe that there should
be a form of European supremacy in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I do not think
there should be. I think we ought to be setting out to develop the country, that we
ought to. be sending our young men to help the natives in the administration of the
Territory. There is no reason why the unrest in the Territory Public Service that has
been referred to by the honorable member for Corangamite
I am afraid that this Government is setting- out. to encourage the exploitation of the resources of the Territory by private capital. I think that is a wrong policy. I think it could lead to many difficulties for us in the long run. In my opinion, we ought to be pumping in government capital to help the expansion and development of the native co-operatives. We ought to be helping the natives to engage in every form of activity in the Territory. The Minister has pledged himself to protect the rights and interests of the minority about which he talks, but I emphasize that if self-government is to mean anything it cannot have any strings attached to it. It must be remembered that some day people who want to remain in the Territory, regardless of their colour, will be under the control of the government of that area and that we will have no responsibility for them. If Australians who are there at that time want to leave, this Government ought to assist them to do so.
Surely we do not propose to tie ourselves to- this present slow-moving Government. It talks- about reviewing the situation, in- five or six years’ time. Why should! it not be reviewed, within ai shorter, period? Things ase moving rapidly in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, and we ought to have more frequent reviews. The measure, that is now before us meets with the support of the Opposition because it is a step forward. It provides for additional native representation, hutt do. not let us: pretend- to. ourselves that we- will, not: rapidly reach the point of time when we shall have to take another step forward. I do not think that time is five or six. years; ahead-. If we are content merely, to move along in. a leisurely fashion,, we shall, be building, up at great deal of difficulty for ourselves in the future.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it should, not be solely the responsibility of Australia to finance the great works that are required for the development of the Territory. Despite the opinions expressed by some honorable members on the Government side, and despite their antagonism to the United Nations Organization and to the United Nations Trusteeship Council, I am quite satisfied that if our difficulties were properly explained to those organizations they would be prepared’ to cooperate with Australia in providing the- finance necessary to bring about the development necessary for eventual self-government by the native peoples. Labour stands for that. Let us get: away from this, humbug about there being no difference between Labour’s policy and the Government’s policy in connexion with the Territory. We want the Territory to be developed in the interests of the natives. We want the natives to have the right eventually to decide their political future, and we want to give them that right without any strings attached to it. We believe that it will be of great benefit to Australia, to- have a friendly nation to our north.
.- As a Government member, I express my appreciation of the way in which- the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) approached this: bill. Once again, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) did not follow his- leader. For a moment, during his concluding remarks, I thought, he. was going to do so;, but then, as I understood him. he. described, some of his leader’s. remarks as humbug. I can. understand his attitude. I know that he feels- keenly the great progress that has been made under -the present Minister and the present Administration, compared with that made, when he was Minister for External Territories. I feel that- it was a pity that the honorable gentleman- spent so much time in referring to the past, to 1945 in particular. He plays the old record too often.
The bill proposes what one might describe as a constitutional change for the Territory. It is an early event in the programme to give the Territory selfgovern:ment. The bill comes before this Parliament at a time when many people are thinking seriously of the problems, connected, with nations obtaining independence from former colonial powers and of the difficulties that the peoples of those nations encounter ia their attempts to establish democratic government. As all honorable members know, there is an unhappy state of affairs in the Congo now. Last Saturday Nigeria became an independent and free nation within the British Commonwealth of Nations, enjoying confidence, respect and co-operation as between the retiring and the incoming administrations. This is in contrast to and a. great improvement on what is happening in the Congo.
Last week, in the United Nations General Assembly, the Russian dictator, Mr. Khrushchev, said among other things that Australia should set a target date for what he called the liberation of New Guinea. Some, people both outside and within Australia say that we must hurry towards the goal of self-government for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea with, the same speed as that at which the Dutch are supposed to be moving.
I suppose there are a few people who disagree- with, the proposals contained in this bill. Indeed, I understood disagreement to be the tenor of the. remarks madethis evening by the Leader of the Opposition. However, the real criticism of this measure seems to be that, it does not go far enough quickly enough. This is a catch phrase and is easily said. Therefore, we should be wise to examine what the b–ll proposes to do.. First, I should like to say that, these proposals are not the result of sudden decisions,, as they were said to: be by the honorable member for East Sydney a few. minutes, ago, They are the result of a. great deal of work by. the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the officers of the Department of Territories and the Territory’s Administration, all of whom have had a great deal of experience oil lTerritory. These, proposals are part of a well planned programme. Too many critics, of this, programme have had little experience, and in a sense too many cf them have just reached the stage of discovering the- Territory.
For a long time, one of- the main points in this programme- which the Governmenthas set itself has been the establishment of a common- electoral- roll for all adults of the Territory in due course. As recently as July of this year, the Minister made :.i statement on this matter which I should like to quote. He said -
The proposals for reforming the Legislative Council are not the direct result of any recent announcement about plans in West New Guinea or the recent report of the Trusteeship Council..
You, Sir, will remember what the honorable member for East. Sydney had to say in that regard. I return to the words of the Minister, who continued -
They were being worked out before either of these events.
May I comment on that and say that democracy cannot be thrust upon people; nor can it suddenly be adopted, as quite a number of our neighbours in South-East Asia have already found for themselves.
So it is that the Australian Government has been working in- New Guinea for the educational, social, economic and political advancement of its people. The first three of. these fields; had to be given priority in the beginning and, as you,. Mr. Deputy Speaker, know, great progress, has been made in them. In working for political advancement, we see the future of all the inhabitants of Papua and New Guinea as the future of a single people, and this bill will make a major contribution towards the attainment of that objective. Secondly, I point out that one of the great problems in helping people with little education and social organization, and, by our standards, a low standard of living, to attain democracy is that their long-established rituals and customs often conflict with our own moral and political codes and our technical know-how. The native leaders and the democratic leaders must be given time to find a way of working and training together in order to solve these problems, so that the native leaders will be able to cope with the entire administration of their country when the time comes and they find themselves taking over complete control. I agree that these things must be done as quickly as possible, but I think that I have said sufficient to show why it is silly to set target dates for any of these proposals.
I believe that the problem is complicated further by outside pressures. To a great degree, these pressures come from Communist countries or from those who represent Communist thought. These people say that target dates must be set. I believe it is true to say that the Communists want self-government to be given to countries like New Guinea before their people are ready for it and before their leaders have had sufficient experience, so that anarchy and confusion will follow and the young and free democratic government will be lost and the way made easy for the establishment of a Communist dictatorship.
– That is perfectly true.
– I am supported in this belief by the honorable member for Corangamite, though perhaps I have stated it in words slightly different from those which he used earlier this evening. This problem in New Guinea has too many of the characteristics of the familiar pattern of events which we have seen happen too often, especially during the last decade. We must not let such events be repeated in New Guinea. One of the reasons why I am so enthusiastic about this bill is that it contains important proposals that will ensure that such things do not happen in New Guinea.
These proposals, if I may summarize them very briefly, are to increase the membership of the Legislative Council for the Territory, to reduce the present official majority, to increase the proportion of elected members and to provide, for what I believe is the first time, for the election by the native people themselves of native members. Furthermore, the present Executive Council is to be abolished and in its place is to be established an Administrator’s Council. This new council will be formed of both official and non-official members, and will have defined powers regarding the administration of the Territory.
As I have indicated, Sir, some people say that we should copy what the Dutch are doing in West New Guinea. Before I deal with what our Dutch allies are doing in this regard, I should like to say that we should remember that Australia formulated its own programme for self-government in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea long before the Dutch formulated a programme for West New Guinea. In saying this, I do not intend to be critical of the Dutch. I am only stating the facts. I believe that it would be true to say that the Dutch got down to their present programme only about four years ago. As you, Sir, know, we laid the foundations of our programme years earlier and indeed had already done quite a lot of work, especially in the fields of health and social and educational organization.
Secondly, it is generally believed that the Dutch, for their own reasons, want to get out of New Guinea as soon as possible, having regard to their own special responsibilities in that area. Thirdly, and quite understandably, the Dutch constitutional requirements are different from ours. In the time available to individual members in this debate, it is not possible to go into any great detail, but I should like to summarize some of the requirements and objectives of the Dutch in West New Guinea to prove my point, having in mind the summary that I have already given of what we have done in the Territory and the proposals contained in the bill. I shall quote from a paper which I have concerning proposals of the Netherlands Government for the creation of a New Guinea council for Netherlands New Guinea. Dealing with the present administration of Netherlands New Guinea, the paper reads as follows: -
An explanatory note states that provision is made in the Netherlands bill to give legal status to district, village and town councils.
Apart from the work that we have been doing for a number of years in promoting local representation in local governing bodies, from the extract that I have quoted, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you can see the difference between the actual objectives of our Administration and those of the Dutch. That is why I say, without criticism, that the Dutch constitutional requirements are different from our own. Earlier in my remarks I gave other reasons for the impractibility of our following the Dutch. In many senses they have followed us because we established our programme much earlier and it has obviously been a success.
While 1 am giving examples, I think I should briefly emphasize how advantageous it has been to other countries to go through this process of gaining selfgovernment and independence, after having been governed by a former colonial power. I cite, for instance. Malaya and India. I have already mentioned Nigeria as the most recent example. Under the wise administration of the colonizing power, the British, these countries gradually received self-government and because of the training, instruction, and experience gained by the native public servants the change in the form of government has been without violence. There has been confidence, respect and co-operation on both sides.
If you compare that happy state of affairs with what happened in Indonesia where there was distrust and fighting, and with what happened in Indo-China and Viet Nam where there was hatred and fighting between the Viet Namese and the French, you will see immediately how fortunate we have been in association with our British cousins, in colonial administration, and how we have set ourselves what I believe to be the right programme in order to meet our own responsibility in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I feel that I have not mentioned quite a number of other things which are of importance and which could be included in this debate, enlarged as it has been at the suggestion of the Minister for Territories and with the agreement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
I have not mentioned, as the Leader of the Opposition did in his opening remarks, the importance of New Guinea to Australia as our nearest neighbour but I. hope that my remarks have conveyed to the House my belief in these important matters. I summarize what I have said by saying this: We, the Commonwealth of Australia, through our Minister, through the officers of the department, and through the Administration, have set our own special target - not a target date, but our own target - for the building of a racial composite society in Papua and New Guinea where, if there is a class difference, it will be a difference of ability and not of race. The theory that the mass must come up first and that we must not help advance the few is a denial of the right of the people to produce leadership and, in fact, of any leadership that they may have produced already.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the excellent speech
made by the honorable member for East Sydney
There is no doubt, as the honorable member for East Sydney said in his speech, that this Government is acting now only because of pressure of world opinion.It is not acting as a consequence of any genuine desire to help the indigenous people of New Guinea. It is acting only because of rapidly changing world opinion. It is acting half-heartedly but we support it because, at least, it is taking a step forward and any step forward, no matter how slow or short, is preferable toremaining in the almost static position it has occupied for the last eleven years. It is : true that the Government atlong last - long after everybody else noticed it - has discerned the winds of change. Perhaps the Government discerned these winds earlier than we imagine, but it wasnot prepared to act until otherevents took place, among them the decision of the Dutch to get out of West New Guinea. That decision has itself created pressures from within the United Nations Trusteeship Council which have forced the Government’s hand and made it at last do something - because thereport of the United Nations Trusteeship mission that investigatedour stewardship of iNew Guinea was not a very happy one for us. It was not something ofwhich we could be very proud.
I congratulate the honorable member for East Sydney for the excellent point he made whenhe commended the action of the Trusteeship Council in directing the attention of the United Nations to the slowmoving attitude of this Government towards lifting the educational, political and social standards of the indigenous population of New Guinea. There are many people, among them scientists and great writers, who are of the opinion that the coloured races will very shortly - I do not mean to-morrow ‘morning, but very shortly in termsof history - dominate She world scene. The coloured raoes already outnumber toy many hundred -of millions the white -peoples of the world. Through the advancement of China and other Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan, andnow through the emergence of the numerous African States, we find that the coloured peoples not only -outnumber us in population but that gradually, though at an increasing Tate, they are catching up with us militarily. Indeed, the day may not be far distant when they will outstrip the influence of the western half of the white races at any rate on the councils of the United Nations. It is pretty fair to assume that by next year the Afro-Asian bloc, together with the Soviet bloc, will have a majority of votes on ‘the Trusteeship Council. And it will nol be very many years after that when the nations of the Afro-Asian bloc will have a majority of votes in rthe General Assembly and the Trusteeship Council in their own right without the Soviet bloc.
So that is our situation. It is a position that we cannot afford to ignore. I said that this Government cannot plead that it has not had advice on which to operate. The Government has had plenty of advice. It has had good advice, but it refuses to accept that advice tendered by its advisers when it cuts across the interests of foreign entre preneurs like Burns Philp, Lever Brothers, Collier Watson, W. R. ‘Carpenter, wealthy planters and other people who have invested money in New Guinea for no other purpose than to get rich quick They are not there for the benefit of the native people. They are there for the sole purpose of doing what investors in other colonial areas in the worlddo - of exploiting the natural resources of the country and exploiting the native peoples by using them for cheap labour. It is of no use for anybody to say that there is no exploitation of natural resources. Look at what the Bulolo Gold. Dredging Company Limited has done to the Bulolo Valley, one of the most magnificent valleys in New Guinea. It has turned it into something like the Gobi Desert. That company has churnedup thousands of acres of magnificent valley country. It has dug down 80 feet inorder to pull up great gibbers and boulders the size of a man. It has thrown down, to 60 or 70 feet below the surface, the beautiful rich topsoil that wasthere.
The value of the goldextracted from the Bulolo Valley would not half compensate for the permanent damage that. that, company has’, done- to that: magnificent valley. Is not’ that, exploitation* of natural resources? Is it not exploitation, of the native people when they had tO’ work’ for five- bob’ a month, which was the case until the honorable member for East’ Sydney stepped: in and’ stopped it? Is it not exploitation of native labour when now; after eleven years in office - and after the Labour Government* had stepped in- to begin a- reversal of the previous policy - this’ Government still only pays- 6s. 3d. a week and single rations- to people who have only their labour to sell? If that is- not exploitation of cheap native labour I should” like to know what it is.
Let me direct attention to some of the reports; that this Government, has had to guide it. A report was tendered to the Labour Government by General Blamey at the time of the resumption, of civil administration in New Guinea. He pointed out that one of the essential things to do in New Guinea was to establish native land settlements and co-operative schemes of various kinds for the growing, milling and marketing of cash crops. It is true that the Labour Government was not in office long enough after the resumption of civil administration in order to implement the recommendations made to it; but this Government has been in office for eleven years, and when one hears the story told by the honorable member for East Sydney and compares what the Labour Government was able to achieve in the short space of four years between the resumption of civil administration in 1945 and its defeat in 1949, with what this Government has achieved in eleven years, one sees the great contrast between the two governments. Do not forget that when we re-established civil administration in New Guinea in 1945 we did so in a country that had been so ravaged by war that £70,000,000 was paid out in compensation for war damage done by the Japs. The whole of the native village life had been uprooted and disrupted and civil administration had completely collapsed.
Not only has this Government had the benefit of the magnificent advice tendered by the advisers of the Chifleys Government advisers who were specially appointed by that Government in order to assist it to implement sensible means of developing the Territory - but it has also had the report of the royal commissioner Mr. J.D. Barry,. K.C., as he then was, who is now a judge of the Victorian Supreme Court. Mr. Barry sat as a royal commissioner to inquire into the collapse of Civil Administration in New Guinea. This Government, I dare say, has never even looked at that report. If it cared to examine the report it would see therein an explanation of some of the reasons why we have bottlenecks occurring in relation to government policy and its implementation, on both the ministerial and the administrative levels.
There was also a Cabinet sub-committee: which inquired into New Guinea. This too> was appointed by the* Chifley Government to make a special investigation into the problems of the Territory. It met and’ later brought down a report: which this” Government has at its disposal, and which it could examine if if cared to do so. That report has been, completely ignored by the Government.
The. Chifley Government also appointed an economic, planning committee to inquire-
into New Guinea’s economic problems.: It- sat for months- and. brought down a
voluminous: and- magnificent report.. Among other, things it recommended the
construction of roads and airstrips;, and inr particular it directed attention to the
need for the construction, of a. road from Mount- Hagen- to Madang. Had that road been,
constructed: as recommended by that economic planning committee in- I947 it would have
been, there to enable- the produce of the highlands to be transported easily and cheaply
to the coast. One of the greatest impediments to’ the development of New Guinea: is
that the* only means, of get,ting:produce from the highlands to the- coast, is. air
transport, which- is; not completely reliables Mrc. Tom Ellis,, the commissioner, at
Mount- Hagen;, has told mec that there has been as
route, surveyed from: Mount Hagen-: down to; Madang! and that he is in the- eour.se,
or,- shortly, will be,, of surveying’ another^ - evens shorter - route-: from* Mount
Hagen <down to Madang. This- Government has> been- in- office’ eleven- years
and has not yet?., done a’ single’ things towards ‘ implementing that parti,
of; the economic’ planning- committee’s report. Then- we* have a report that was
tendered to the Prime Minister of the day by Colonel J. K. Murray, in which he made
excellent recommendations to that government which, unfortunately, was not there long
enough to implement them. But this Government has been there for eleven years, and I
venture to say that the Minister for Territories
I believe that our children and our grandchildren will either praise or curse our names according to whether or not we are at this time prepared to face realities and show a willingness to help the New Guinea natives attain self-government for selfgovernment’s sake, or merely to perpetuate the present position of exploitation by foreign investors. The Congo is an example of where socialist pressure on the Belgian Government forced it to give selfgovernment to the people of the Congo. But the wealthy investors with money invested in the Congo decided they would not be beaten so easily. So they created chaos by getting out of the country before the native people were ready and able to govern themselves, believing that their interests could be safeguarded by armed forces sent into the country under the guise of restoring order; and incidentally that is one of the difficulties and dangers that face us in New Guinea also,
I disagree - and this might seem odd to honorable, members on the Government side who heard the beginning of my speech - with those people who say we ought to set a target date for giving self-government to New Guinea and that on that date - no later and presumably not earlier than the ring around a date on the calendar - we should give the Territory self-government. Nothing could be more stupid, more absurd, more dangerous or more damaging to the native people of New Guinea than to say that on such-and-such a date they are to look after themselves, because if on that date they were not ready to govern them selves a greater form of exploitation than is now going on would take the place of the existing system. It is true that this Government, with all its faults, has not been game to alter some of the decisions taken by the previous Chifley Government; and it was the decisions of that Government, to which I have referred, that have prevented the exploitation of the natives to an even greater extent than is now the case. Give New Guinea natives self-government before they are ready for it and the exploiters will move in and become the government of New Guinea, and not the native people, as we fondly imagine will be the case when we give them self-government.
Let us not fool ourselves that selfgovernment means that there will be government of the native people, by the native people and for the native people. It means nothing of the kind. The granting of self-government before they are ready for it means that we are simply handing the primitive indigenous native people over to even greater exploiters than those who are there at the present time. For that reason it is nonsense to talk about target dates. I am sorry if I have to disagree with my good friend, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) who, being a good friend, is one of those people who can agree to disagree with me on a point like this. It is a matter of opinion and the honorable member may eventually be proved to be right when he insists that there ought to be a target date set. He certainly knows as much about New Guinea as does anybody else in this chamber but I, as one who has been to New Guinea and seen it - and not posing as a greater authority on it than the honorable member for East Sydney - believe that to set a target date would be damaging to the people of New Guinea.
We have to remember that here there is a people numbering 1,800,000, who speak SOO different languages, not dialects; and that one language is as different from the next as Eskimo is from Chinese - and only the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) would really know the difference between Chinese and Eskimo - but the difference is great. Just as we have 500 different languages in New Guinea, so we have as many different tribal customs or religions, if one can call them religions, and as many different kinds of taboos or ideas which are peculiar to the particular language group. What we need to understand is that deep down under these differences in language and custom, are tribal hatreds which go back for centuries - centuries of tribal hatred built on wifestealing, pig-stealing and land-stealing, and those three things are going on in New Guinea to-day. Land-stealing by the whites is still going on. I said “ land-stealing “, but perhaps I ought to qualify that. The Government, to its credit, does not compulsorily acquire land from the natives. It does buy land and there are instances where it buys land from natives who do not really understand that in selling it they are giving it up for ever, never to have it again.
Before we talk about target dates we must first of all understand what are the elementary requirements of selfgovernment. Education, of course, is one of them; an understanding of administering government is another, whilst an understanding of law and order is yet another. Until the people have those things it is silly to talk about giving them selfgovernment at all. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), who said that he does not think the people of the Gazelle Peninsula should be made to wait for the benefits of selfgovernment until the last primitive native in the Sepik Valley learns to govern himself. I think self-government should be a creeping thing, creeping over the country as and when the people are able to govern themselves through the native council system, and exercising their votes in the Legislative Council. What I would do is to accelerate the speed at which the native people are given the native council system of government. There are only 240,000 natives working under the native council system of government in New Guinea after eleven years of government by this Administration; and yet the native council system was introduced by the Chifley Government in 1949. It is true that that government was not in office long enough to implement the system, but in eleven years of the present Administration it seems to me to be very slow progress indeed for this country to have to admit that we now have only 240,000 natives under the native council system of government.
The Leader of the Opposition and I saw instances where native people from the villages had come to the Administration officers and pleaded with them for the right to be taxed and to have their native council system. Why should native people who want the native council system have to plead with the Administration to be given that first step towards self-government? I believe that the Leader of the Opposition has established a great precedent to-night in outlining the amendment he has intimated he will move at the committee stage, to the effect that this bill which is now before the House, though it represents great advancement in many directions - and for that reason the Opposition supports it - should be amended so that every adult person living in New Guinea, whether European or native, whether male or female, whether educated native or uneducated native, shall, as a fundamental human right in accordance with the universal declaration of human rights, have the right to vote and to be enrolled for voting purposes. This Government has no right to reject the proposal that the Leader of the Opposition has put forward. It has no right, in the face of the Declaration of Human Rights and of the debate which is now going on in the United Nations, to reject this proposal by the Leader of the Opposition, which is the first major step towards real selfgovernment.
What we have to have in self-government of any kind is a universal franchise; that is No. 1 requisite. Then there is the right of the parliament that is elected by that universal franchise to determine the whole of the policies or laws of the land. As I said earlier, we cannot as yet give to the Legislative Council in New Guinea full and complete power to make the laws, because that would be dangerous for the reasons that I have indicated. I think, however, that the native council system of elections has one serious defect, and that is the use of the whisper system. Under the existing system, as each native registers his vote, he whispers the name of the candidate he chooses in the ear of the returning officer. I believe that we should do as a missionary at Rabaul told me he has been recommending for some time, and that is introduce what is known as the symbol system. Though the natives cannot read or write, they can be given a ballot-paper bearing a symbol corresponding to the name of the candidate. They place a cross alongside the symbol that corresponds to the name ofthe candidate they favour. This would be a secret system, the votes could be counted and scrutinized, and it would guard against any corruption.
Inow wishto mention a matter that represents only : my personal view; my party has not expressed an opinion on it. My view is that instead of -having six districts, we should have fifteendistricts because there are already fifteen administrative districts inNew Guinea. Each of these fifteen administartive districts should be an electoral district, each returning three candidates electedunderthe proportional representationsystem of voting. I believethat unlessthe proportional representationsystem is adopted and unless we have smaller districts than thesix ‘now proposed, the native people for many years will not vote for their own people. Thehatreds ‘built up throughcenturies of warring and bitterness will be so intense and deep-seatedthat in many instances the natives will prefer to vote for a white manthan for anative belonging to some other tribe. That, however, is a matter that can be adjusted as a machinery measure.
One shortcoming from which I feel we suffer in New Guinea is a lack of real understanding of what the native people themselves want. It is not possible to go to the ordinary native villager andhave a conversation withhim. Very fewof them speak pidgin and hardly any at all speak English. In the main, we must rely upon the opinions expressed on their behalf by the luluais and the tul-tuls. These are the hereditary chiefs of the tribesand in a sensethey are the privileged people of the village. Through the centuries, they have enjoyed a privileged position over their fellows. J am -not -suggesting that : all the tul-tuls are corrupt; far from it. Mostof them believethat their people are entitled toa better deal than they are getting.Itis true, (nevertheless, that, like whitepeople, likepoliticians, doctors andothers,there aregoodandbad among them.Ioften wonderwhethertheopinionsexpressed by some of the luluaison behalfof thenative people are in fact a genuine expression of native opinion. I do not blame the Government for using the influence of the luluais to secure acceptance of ourconception of law and order. This is surely preferable to the forcing of our conception of law andorder upon them at the point of a -bayonet. This only causes thekind of bloodshed that has characterized the acceptance of the white man’s law and order in so many other parts of the world. All Isay is that weought not to hang on to the luluai system of government any longer than is absolutely necessary.
In the timeI have at my disposal, I cannot deal with all the points I should like to raise. However, I think that one of the great needs inNew Guinea is to develop amongst the native people greater wants than they now have. The trouble with New Guinea is that the -wants of most of the native people are so meagre and so primitivethat they are quite happy to sit in the shade of a banana tree while their Marys growsweet potato andother crops which they sell at the market twice a week for a few shillings. This meets their needs at the moment, because they know no different. We must develop greater wants in the minds of these people and teach themto want such things as (bicycles, sewing machines and transistor -wireless : sets. These arethree things that the native people like : and will do anything to get once they learn the value of them and once they see them in use. Ifthese wants were encouraged, wewould find that there would then be generated a greater incentive in the minds of the native people to want to get on, to want to get more valueout of their land, and to adopt better systems of growing cash crops. If thecash crop system of livelihoodwere developed, the natives then would not be willing to workfor the white man for a miserable 6s. 3d. a week. There is no doubt that many planters and others in New Guineato-day, thinking of selling out, are asking prices for plantations that do not represent thetrue priceof the plantation itself. To put it -starkly, ‘they are capitalizingon the cheap labour available.
If I hadmyway, I would develop the natives : to such apoint by the use of cooperatives that they would not haveto work for white peopleat sucha miserable rate of pay. They wouldbe inthe position of being able to enjoy a farbetter livelihood working for themselves than they are mow able to enjoy working for the white man. 1 believe that the cheap wage rates and the rotten working conditions of the unfortunate nativepeople are unfairto the Australian manufacturersof plywood and growers of such products as peanutsand passionfruit. How can plywood factories in Australia compete against the lowrates paid by the Bulolo timber -mill, which produces plywood more cheaply thanwe can produce it on the mainland with our rates of pay? The contract system, to which the honorable . member for East Sydney referred, ought to be wiped out. Why should a native be compelled to sign on for two years and to leave his wife and family, never to return to them, until the expiration of the two years? Why should a native notbe employed by the week, just as other persons are employed, able to leave on a week’s notice and able to be dismissed on a week’s notice, if necessary?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- After listening to two members of the Opposition, I can easily understand why they are in opposition. First, we had the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who spent a considerable time telling us about what happened yesterday and what happened wayback in 1946. I personally am not interested in what happened yesterday; I am interested, as I am sure the Government is interested, in what is about to happen to-morrow. I suggest to the honorable member for East Sydney that if he concentrates on what is happening to-day and what may happen to-morrow, he will be in a better position than he is in to-day.
A few minutes ago, we heard the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). I am afraid that I disagree with all of his ideas on New Guinea. In the concluding part of his speech he referred to capitalizing on cheap labour. I venture to say that there is no such thing ascheap labour in New Guinea. The honorable member seems to forget that there isa difference between Shequality of labour to be found in NewGuineaand the labourto be found in Australia. The native people are not educated to work as the average Australian is. They are not used to it. They are used to living more or less from hand to mouth, day to day. They are not interested incontinuing their employment from day to day.
Let me say at the outset that this bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation concerning New Guinea, and affecting its future, evertohave been introduced in this House. I might go further and say that what is contemplated by this legislation exceeds all our expectations. Until now the Legislative Council for the Territory hashad three appointed native members, ‘but when this bill becomes effective it will have not less than eleven native members of out 22 non-official members. There will also be, of course, the fifteen official members. When I had the privilege of visiting the Territory recently I heard much talk about the Legislative Council. As there are only three white elected members, they naturally have a very small voice, and ‘this has caused some concern amongst the white residents of the Territory. They haveasked for morenon-official members. They do not necessarily want the non-official members to constitute a majority, but they want them to be numerous enough to exercise some influence in the council.
A good deal has been said to-night about a common roll for natives and whites. No doubt this is the objective of the Government, but I believe it is almost an impossibility at this stage. There are many thousands of natives who have not even a recognized name. They may perhaps be known by the village in which they live. It is out of the question that those natives should be on the same roll as other residents of the Territory. In places like Port Moresby, Madang, Lae, Rabaul and some other towns, there would be some natives who have been in close touch with civilization, if I may put it that way, and who would be in a position to accept greater responsibilities than other natives. It is difficult, however, to place those natives on a common roll with white settlers while excluding the other natives. For these reasons I believe that the time is not ripe for the indigenous people to share a common roll with white settlers in the Territory. I agree with the Minister that although the natives are very primitive, they can, perhaps, show the whites a point or two in the way of loyalty to their leaders. When they appoint a luluai they have full confidence in him, and the loyalty that they show to him could prove an object lesson to others.
This bill is an important forward move towards self-government in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. When one studies the operations of local councils in the Territory one can appreciate the potential of the native people. No doubt they have a long way to go in the matter of education, but they are achieving a good measure of success in controlling their own respective areas through their local councils. I think it was the honorable member for Hindmarsh who said that the natives are eager to come forward and pay taxes. This indicates that they have accepted a full measure of responsibility in the task of improving their various districts. But while they have shown themselves to be effective in controlling the indigenous people in their various districts, these local councils still need guidance.
The main problem, I believe, is that of education. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea there is a population of just on 2,000,000 people. It is estimated that there are about 650,000 children. I say that this number is estimated, because it is very difficult to decide who should be classed as a child. The natives have no idea how old they are and an estimate must be made from their general appearance. Of these 650,000 children fewer than onethird are receiving any form of education. About 50,000 attend registered and recognized schools. About 140,000 are attending various types of schools which are, unfortunately, not recognized schools, and which, I believe, are doing very little to educate the children effectively and so assist the future development of the Territory. I realize that they are giving the children some acquaintance with a form of civilization, but as far as educating them to our standards is concerned they leave a lot to be desired. The proportion of children receiving real education is very small. About 54,000 are being educated in recognized’ schools out of a total of about 650,000.
Of the 50,000 odd who attend these recognized schools, a high proportion will not be satisfactorily educated. These people are not brought up with the idea that attendance at school is necessary. They go to a school when they feel like it, and if their parents want a bit of assistance they do not hesitate to stay away from school. Naturally, the results from the education angle are not very satisfactory. There is a risk that, even after a few years, the children will drift back to their native villages and environment and that the educaiton they have received will be almost completely wasted. One must remember that for New Guinea to have selfgovernment, a very high standard of education will be needed. The responsibility of governing such a country could possibly be just as great as that of governing Australia, because in New Guinea are many thousands of indigenous people whom it is more difficult to look after than educated people.
The standard of schools in New Guinea is at present not very high; that is only to toe expected. It will be many years before the standard can be expected to be high. Looking back over a life span, most people readily agree that a very high education is not gained in primary schools. The most important education is received after moving into the fields of secondary or tertiary education, or even after leaving school. We have heard it said that it is not until after going to work that one starts to knuckle down and learn. To my way of thinking, the people of New Guinea do not really know what education means. While only some children are receiving education and there is a risk that these will revert more or less to their primitive state, it will be a long time before there will be sufficient native people to accept the responsibility of self-government. The immediate background of those whom we are educating to-day is such that they could not carry the responsibility. Even with an increase in their numbers it will be generations before we will have sufficient for complete self-government. In other words, the children of the present children may have a chance. To my way of thinking, the children of to-day will have no chance of achieving effective self-government.
The future of New Guinea depends on many things. There are many bridges to cross.
The most important of these is education, and the major requirement is time. Then there
is the economic angle. To-day we see greater advancement in New Guinea than we saw a few
years ago. There have been big improvements in the various industries. Unfortunately,
the cost of development that is needed would far exceed the money that would be
available if we gave independence to the people. I repeat that Australia has a very
great responsibility from a financial angle. We have many obligations. I do not agree
with the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition
I believe that New Guinea is one of Australia’s most vital concerns. There is no doubt that we have many problems in the development of Australia but while New Guinea in its primitive state will be a financial burden I still think that we should give its development one of our highest priorities. This bill could be said to be a commencement towards the all-important goal of self-government for the native people. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister and the Government upon the measure. I am sure that the bill will receive the approval of all Government supporters and a mighty big percentage of honorable members opposite.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bryant) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d1 asked t&e Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2.. The circumstances, in which, the Administrator of the Territory of Papua, and’ New Guinea, refused permission for. Professor Gluckman to enter the Territory have been explained’ to the House by the Minister for Territories.
d asked the Minister for the Army,, upon notice! -
Mir. Cramer. - The answers to- the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1’. The course which is known as a “Code of Conduct Course “ is of one week’s duration, and is attended by volunteer Regular’ Army officers. It consists of a two- to three day exercise, followed by a series of lectures, general discussions and demonstrations in the classrooms.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19601004_reps_23_hor28/>.