23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House of ministerial arrangements during the absence of the Treasurer on official business overseas. The Treasurer is now on his way to Accra in Ghana for the annual meeting of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers. Following that meeting, he will represent Australia at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation, which will be held in Vienna. The right honorable gentleman will also take up other matters of government business and will return to Australia at the beginning of October. In other words, he will miss about a week of the sitting of the House.
During the absence of the Treasurer, I will act for him and will be assisted in the detailed administration of the Treasury by the Minister for Supply. The Minister for Territories will act as Leader of the House.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that elderly patients of public hospitals who are members of a hospital benefit society receive £8 15s. a week in benefits, but when they are transferred to a private registered medical and convalescent hospital they receive only £4 4s. a week in benefits? As many of these patients are taken to such private hospitals to make accommodation at public hospitals available for more serious cases, why do they suffer such unfair discrimination in the payment of benefits?
Dr. DONALD CAMERON__ The honorable gentleman is probably referring to the special account procedure. In fact, contributors to hospital benefit funds receive the amounts for which they are insured, irrespective of whether they are transferred to a special account or not, until they have exhausted their maximum benefit period.
They then receive payments from the fund at the special account rate. Before the introduction of special accounts, they received no further fund benefits at all.
The question of whether they receive special account payments in different types of hospitals is decided on whether a hospital is recognized for special account purposes. If the hospital is not so recognized, in ordinary circumstances they would not receive special account benefits nor would they in the past have received fund benefits. However, if they are in the special account, as most elderly patients are - in fact, contributors of 65 years and over must be transferred to the special account - they will still receive special account benefits while in a hospital not recognized, provided they satisfy two conditions. The first condition is that they shall be suffering from a condition normally requiring treatment in a public hospital, and the second condition is that they are receiving hospital treatment of a standard equivalent to what they would receive in a public hospital.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. The House will recall that some weeks ago there was some concern about the number of government-assisted immigrant workers in migrant camps at Bonegilla and Benalla who were seeking work. Will the Minister inform the House whether there has been any increase or decrease in the number of persons in those camps waiting to find their way into employment?
– During the course of the last few weeks, there has been a quite noticeable fall in the numbers of Commonwealth-assisted migrant workers in Bonegilla camp awaiting first placement. I think the numbers as at this morning totalled something less than 900 workers there. That is a substantial fall from the peak period of a few weeks ago. There is a second fact that is encouraging also: The number of Commonwealth-assisted migrant workers now moving out of Bonegilla and Benalla is somewhere of the order of 200 a week. So, I can say to the honorable gentleman that the outlook for workers in Bonegilla now is much more encouraging that it was five or six weeks ago.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister concerning the present negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the world bank in respect of our proposed borrowing for the purpose of continuing the Snowy Mountains scheme. Recently, when the Government borrowed from the International Monetary Fund, the loan was given in consideration of the Government stating its intention of following a restrictive economic policy. I now ask the Prime Minister whether the world bank negotiators are requiring any similar undertakings, or any undertakings from the Government at all, in respect of the economic policy to be followed in Australia.
– The honorable member has been regrettably misinformed abou! our drawing from the International Monetary Fund. He will find nothing in the documents that have been tabled here to support his suggestion that we have bound ourselves to some particular restrictive policy. That charge has been dealt with so frequently that I do not need to refute it again. As to any negotiations with the world bank, we have had a great number in the past and they have been very successful. I do not remember that in any of those negotiations the world bank did anything but help us. I cannot remember any restrictive conditions. I do not imagine for one moment that the bank will ask for them or that we will offer them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation. On several occasions the Minister has spoken of the development in the Repatriation Department of a new type of hospital for elderly ex-servicemen who need hospital care, but of a lesser standard than that required by people who are seriously ill. Will the Minister inform the House whether such a hospital is being established in the Lady Davidson Home at Turramurra and, if so, when it will be opened?
– The Lady Davidson Home at Turramurra, which is in the Bradfield electorate, has been, since World War I., the principal sanatorium in New South Wales for ex- servicemen suffering from tuberculosis. The great success in dealing with the disease in recent years has enabled the number of patients in the home suffering from tuberculosis to be reduced by more than half. This has made accommodation available for the new type of hospital to which the honorable member has referred. Work of the sort mentioned by him is already being done there. There has been no formal opening as for a new institution; but one ward was taken over for these elderly patients last year and another one this year. About 70 of them are there now, and I hope that the number will be doubled in the near future. The rehabilitation of these elderly patients is a strong feature of the work that is being done at the Lady Davidson Home I welcome the interest of the honorable member for Bradfield in this matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Now that the Minister is prepared to give some information concerning the number of unemployed immigrants in migrant camps will he undertake to publish in the monthly bulletin of the Department of Labour and National Service the number of immigrants in each of the migrant camps, the numbers receiving special benefits and the length of time that these immigrants have been in these camps without having work provided for them? In addition, will the Minister say whether the immigrants who leave the migrant camps are going out to full-time work or merely going out to relatives and friends, being still registered for employment, and hoping to find it outside the camp?
– The honorable gentleman has asked far too many questions for me to give a full and accurate reply. What I can say to him is that the Government Statistician publishes full information on the numbers of immigrants receiving special benefits. That information is available in published statistics, and can be obtained from those statistics by the honorable member. I see no reason, as I said in reply to a question in this House a few weeks ago, why the figures should be duplicated. As to the second question, I repeat what I said previously, that the number of persons initially awaiting employment in the Bonegilla camp has fallen quite substantially, and I believe that this is a very heartening sign.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has been able to make any progress in fixing a date for a debate on the constitutional position, especially on the points raised by the New England new state organization. If no such progress has been made, would it be possible to discuss this matter under some item of the Estimates and, if so, under which item?
– I have taken this matter up with my colleagues of the Government, and we are quite prepared to arrange for a day to be devoted to this matter by some appropriate procedure which I would be very happy to discuss with the right honorable gentleman.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether he has resolved the dispute between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments in respect of financial assistance offered to South Australia for railway development? Does the refusal of the South Australian Government to accept the Commonwealth offer of £1,325,000 indicate that the two governments have different policies in respect of railway development?
– I am indebted to the honorable member for telling me about a dispute. My position in the matter is this: On Saturday week last, I wrote and caused to be delivered to the Premier of South Australia a letter on the subject of railways, a letter which contained a certain limited proposal. I have received no reply of any kind, so it would be, I think, a little gratuitous to say that we were having a dispute.
– I should like to ask a question of the Postmaster-General. Yesterday, the honorable gentleman issued a statement about representations which he had received after the introduction of the Elsa telephone system, in which he said that the purpose of these representations was, in part, to have trunk line call charges reduced and to have other general changes made. In certain sections of my electorate where the Elsa system was recently introduced some subscribers apprehend that they are being charged for calls which arenot answered. Can the Minister give an assurance that this is not the case?
– The problem of ensuring that calls are properly charged to subscribers has received considerable attention. The honorable member himself has spoken to me about this matter, and I am glad of the opportunity to assure the House that procedures have been designed by the department to meet some of the new circumstances arising as a result of the introduction of the Elsa system, and to ensure that there will be no improper charging. 1 should like to outline the procedures briefly for the information of honorable members generally. I shall refer particularly to the situation which arises in a district in which there are several exchanges on the local call basis, and in which usually there is what we call a controlling exchange through which some of these Elsa charges have to be routed. In such a case when a subscriber rings for connexion to another exchange in the same local call area, the telephonist at the controlling exchange makes the connexion and then, in the normal course of her duty, she is required to attend to other calls. But it is part of the procedure that within a very short period the telephonist must check on the call which has been connected to ensure that an actual conversation is taking place. No charge is levied against the subscriber until it has been proved by this procedure that the call is alive one. That is one check which is applied.
Referring to an exchange through which some Elsa and trunk line calls go, when the telephonist connects an Elsa call - that an untimed call costing fourpence - a plastic ring is placed over the key through which the call is connected. A further check is made and the plastic ring is not removed until the call is completed. The telephonist then enters the charge correctly. That is a protection against the possibility, in such an exchange, of an Elsa call to another exchange in the area being treated wrongly as a trunk call and charged accordingly.
The procedures which I have outlined are laid down, and are followed in practice throughout the department. I think it will be seen that every care is taken to ensure that no improper charges are made. I shall conclude by saying that it is one of the duties of the monitor to keep a check on the operations of the telephonists to see that these procedures are followed correctly.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In view of the unusually long dry season in north Queensland this year and the adverse effect that it is having on the sugar, grazing and other primary industries, will the Minister ask the C.S.I.R.O. to seed what seem to be very favorable clouds that appear from time to time along the coastal strip?
– I think I can best answer the honorable gentleman’s question by making a few remarks about the nature of the cloud-seeding work that is done by the C.S.I.R.O. The first thing I should say is that it is a mistake to imagine that we have a drought-breaking weapon. What we have really is a method of increasing rainfall in areas where otherwise it may be inadequate. I should add also that this project really is still in its experimental stages. One of the great difficulties about using the rain-making apparatus in dry seasons is that just at that time the conditions necessary for augmenting rainfall are not present. Even clouds which seem to the layman to be suitable may be quite unsuitable in fact.
There are other difficulties. We have only a limited strength of personnel, aircraft, &c. These are operating in various areas which have been proved to be suitable. However, if any specific request is made, I will ask the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to have a look at it. I do not want to give the honorable gentleman the impression that I am trying to discourage him in this matter; but it would be equally wrong to encourage the idea that wherever there is a drought we can divert planes to the area and produce results.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Will he assure the House that the renewed campaign in the name of trade for the export of stud merino rams will be resisted by him? In view of the fact that the wool industry is the nation’s principal income earner, will the Minister give a definite assurance that this industry will not be jeopardized by a change of government policy?
– This is not a matter which specially comes within my jurisdiction; but I think the wool industry very well knows that the present Government has at all times acted in no other manner than in the best interests of the Australian wool industry.
– I ask the Minister for the Army: Has the recruiting rate for the Citizen Military Forces been maintained throughout all States? What is the present situation regarding training depots where the existing C.M.F. strength is at a low level? Has the Minister taken any recent action regarding these areas?
– I am very pleased to be able to tell the honorable member that the recruiting rate in the C.M.F. in all States is now very satisfactory. With regard to the other part of his question, there are a few depots or units which are somewhat under strength. In these cases we take action to give them every possible opportunity to get to full strength. It might be of interest to the House to know that the strength required for a C.M.F. unit is at least 30 troops regularly on parade. This generally means that we need a roll of about 40 to 50 to establish a C.M.F. unit on an economical basis. I can assure the honorable member who, I know, is very interested in certain units of the corps, that action will be taken at every opportunity, and encouragement will be given, to ensure that units attain the proper strength.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. When can the Parliament, the electoral officers and the electors expect him to announce the date of the forthcoming federal election? Is it a fact that the Prime Minister has a soft spot for the second Saturday in December as election day, but that Government supporters want the election to be postponed until after Christmas?
– The honorable member appears to be even more full than usual of misleading information this morning. I was not aware that a dispute was going on. However, so that he will be put out of his misery, in a technical sense, I will be able to announce the date next week in this place.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Recently, the Minister has expressed optimism about the employment position. Is he able to state reasons to support that view?
– It would take a second-reading speech from me to indicate why I have the feeling that, except in one or two industries, the employment position will now show a steady improvement, which is the statement that I made, and my belief has been somewhat strengthened by what has happened over recent weeks.
– I think you are cooking the figures.
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– A few days ago, in answer to a question by the honorable member for East Sydney, I did mention some facts which indicated an improvement in the trend. Again, in the speech I made on the Budget, I made known to the House certain other factors which I thought were heartening. To-day, in answer to my friend from Fawkner, I have made known certain facts relating to migrant workers at Bonegilla. As I know the honorable member for McPherson is a member of the industrial committee of Government supporters, I shall obtain a crystallization or synthesis of all these facts, and make them available to him and to any other member who wants them.
– I ask the Minister foi Trade whether he has been informed thai some 211 coal mine workers have been given one month’s notice of dismissal because of the decision to close down the Excelsior Colliery on the south coast of New South Wales. Is it a fact that this most serious and alarming situation is due to the loss of both domestic and overseas orders by the operating company? Will the Minister, as a matter of urgency, investigate the position with a view to taking all possible action to ensure that sufficient overseas orders for coal are diverted to this colliery to keep it in production aa-j its employees in their jobs? Will he also assist in obtaining additional overseas orders for Australian coal?
– I am not familiar with the particular incident to which the honorable member refers, but the Government would be concerned that there should be unemployment at any coal mine. I point out that the Government has been most vigorous in promoting the sale of coal overseas. I can say that it has been very successful in establishing a new and, 1 think, permanent trade in coal overseas. But the Government cannot tell overseas buyers what type of coal they are to buy. All we can do is promote the sale of what we have to sell. I shall discuss this matter with my colleague, the Minister for National Development, within whose jurisdiction the Joint Coal Board comes, and with my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. The Government will not be indifferent to the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he has received any overseas reaction to his imaginative proposal for the disposal of world surpluses of primary products. Can he say what will be the next step in promoting this proposal?
– There has been no direct governmental reaction to certain observations that I made, but there is clearly considerable interest in this matter both in the United States of America and in Europe, as the many reports coming to me have emphasized.
There is nothing novel in what I have been discussing in this regard. Indeed, there have been many discussions and negotiations in various forums, in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and with the United States of America and other countries, and I believe thai in due course there will be set up an organization by which those countries which have the capacity to produce food will see that the food they produce goes increasingly to those countries which are in need, but not exclusively at the cost of the producing countries.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that a film entitled “ The Outcasts “, an Australian production with an Australian cast at present being televised over national television stations, has met with outstanding success because it is well acted and is based on Australian history. Would it not be a splendid idea for television stations to show more films related to early Australian history, thereby encouraging our local acting talent?
– I agree with the honorable member for Watson that the television programme known as “ The Outcasts “ is an outstanding success and an example of the quality of programme which can be produced by Australian producers, artists and television companies. Therefore, I think that it is highly desirable that this form of film production should be encouraged as much as possible. As honorable members will know, I have, from time to time, expressed to licensees generally the desirability of building up, not through some form of quota, but by steady progress, the use of Australian talent in the production of Australian programmes. I repeat that in that objective I have received a great deal of co-operation, not only from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is foremost in this matter, but also from commercial licensees. I believe that as a result of successes such as “ The Outcasts “ - and this is not the first successful film - there will be a greater use of Australian talent, and more Australian programmes will be produced.
– I preface a question to the Prime Minister by stating that at the time at which the Commonwealth Development Bank legislation passed through this House it was generally understood that the purpose of the bank would be to assist those properties and businesses which, while not ordinary banking risks, had prospects of development which would warrant national assistance. Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the fact that surveys carried out in the northern parts of New South Wales by organizations inspired by university rural science and agriculture sections have elicited the fact that there is a grave misunderstanding both as to the purpose of the assistance and its scope? Could the Prime Minister make appropriate representations to the Commonwealth Development Bank authorities with a view to having experienced officers address representative groups of people on the land and others who are interested, not only in the north of New South Wales but wherever this would be justified, on the scope and purpose of the bank’s assistance and the manner in which that assistance is extended?
– My attention had not been directed to this matter. I would be very happy if the honorable member could let me have such information as he has on this point. I will then take it up in the appropriate quarter.
– 1 desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question about country television services. He has received the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on the next phase of television development and now has it under consideration. I make no apology for asking him again, because of the acute isolation of the south coast of New South Wales and the Monaro high plain in so many ways, whether he will ensure that these areas are included in the next phase of television development. My anxious questions to him are: Have I made sufficient representations to him on this subject? Axe the needs of this area adequately and clearly in his mind? Will he take this opportunity to build for himself a memorial-
-Order! I think the honorable member is getting out of order. He should ask his question.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take some action in this respect in the few weeks that remain to him as Postmaster-General?
– I could join issue with the honorable member on several points in his question, but I think that they are minor ones and I shall let them pass, particularly his last comment. I have very recently received a report regarding the form which the fourth phase of television could take. That report is the result of discussions between the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, all these bodies, naturally, being interested and involved in the further development of television. I shall consider that report in detail and immediately I am in a position to refer it to Cabinet for decision, I shall, of course, do so.
The honorable member has .asked about his own representations in this matter. To be quite fair, I must say that he has discussed the problems of the development of television with me on several occasions on behalf of the residents of his electorate. But I should add that a great number of other members of this House, and of another place also, have discussed the matter with me as it affects the areas with which they are concerned. I know from the representations of a number of members of the Parliament that the development of television is important to country areas, and that all country people are displaying a lively interest in the form that the fourth phase of television will take in their own areas. I would take too long if I looked round the chamber and named all those honorable members who have made representations to me on this subject. So
I tell the honorable member for EdenMonaro that he has been by no means on his own in making representations in this matter.
– I address a question to the Minister for Repatriation. I ask: ls the honorable gentleman able to report on his drive to modernize expressions and words used in departmental correspondence? Is it also his intention to institute an efficiency and economy programme similar to that which proved so successful in the Department of Customs and Excise when he held the portfolio of Minister for Customs and Excise?
– Suggestions that I am undertaking a drive to avoid needless verbiage in the correspondence of the Repatriation Department arise, I think, only from the fact that I have sought from officers who prepare letters for my signature their co-operation in writing them in the simple form that I use. The drive for efficiency and economy in the department is continuous. It continues under my administration as it continued under that of my predecessor.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Is he aware that 300 or 400 tobacco-growers in Victoria face ruin because of lack of demand for this year’s crop? Is it a fact that the Minister has received submissions from representatives of the industry, but that these submissions concern only the future of the industry? If any proposals have been put to him by representatives of the industry for assistance to growers in relation to the unsold crop, what are those proposals? If such proposals have not been put to the Minister, can he intimate why they have not been put to him?
– I am not aware that the tobacco-growers are in a position such as that outlined by the honorable member. In fact, 1 would think it is an exaggeration to say that 300 growers face ruin. Action has been taken by a banking institution which has a branch in the tobacco-growing area in Victoria. 1 cannot recall its name at the moment, but I have seen some indication of its approach to the matter. I understand that this institution has assisted some growers and is completing an investigation into the position of others. Furthermore, a growers’ committee which has the blessing of the Commonwealth Government, and with which are associated Commonwealth technical officers and an official who will inquire into the financial position of the growers in order of determine the degree of hardship and so on, will begin inquiring into these matters this week. The committee will also inquire into future prospects and make recommendations to the Tobacco Growers Council. I will await the result of its inquiry.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Does he recall that last year, when introducing the Meat Export Control Bill, he said -
Indications are that the outlook for the export of lamb is such that future action may well be required next season to promote the sale of lamb throughout Australia.
I ask: Does the amendment to the Meat Export Control Act allow the Australian Meat Board now to expend funds on publicity designed to promote the sale of meat within Australia? If so, will the Minister confer with the board to ascertain whether a publicity campaign, using television, radio and newspapers, can be undertaken to encourage the sale of Australian lamb to the Australian people?
– The amendment to the Meat Export Control Act, passed by this House last year, authorizes the Australian Meat Board to engage in promotion on the domestic market as well as overseas markets. Some little time ago, the board discussed with various producers’ organizations the wisdom of promoting the sale of meat, particularly lamb, in Australia. The board decided that available funds for this purpose would be better spent in the United Kingdom, and advanced £25,000 for that purpose. However, not being content with this, and having in mind the weakness of the lamb market, the board has now provided £2,000 for a survey of the possibilities of promotion on the Australian market and of the form that any such promotion should take. That survey is now being made.
-I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that in the last seven financial years the Parliament has made £11,000,000 available under the Aged Persons Homes Act, but that charitable organizations have been able to claim only about £8,000,000. What consideration has been given to extending the scope of the act to cover organizations catering for invalid and totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners who are not yet 65 years of age, and organizations sponsored by State governments and local government bodies?
– In the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act, which is one of the most successful pieces of legislation ever introduced by any government, it is necessary for approved organizations, Churches and charitable organizations, to make an application for a grant under the act. Usually the application is granted immediately. Then the home is constructed and furnished, and accommodation provided. Progress payments are made from time to time on an architect’s certificate. It naturally follows that there will be a time lag between the approval of the grant and the actual completion of payment of the grant, depending for its duration on the time taken for the construction and furnishing of the building. Because of this, there is always a delay between the total of grants approved and the total of grants actually paid. The total of grants approved now exceeds £10,700.000.
From time to time, the Government has considered the extension of the Aged Persons Homes Act to include people other than those of pensionable age, but the most urgent need for accommodation at the moment is for people of pensionable age. For this reason, the Government has not seen fit to extend the scope of the act to include other people.
Departmental Correspondence - Business of the House - Government Office Accommodation, Perth - Taxation - Hospitals Finance - Gold Coast Tourist Facilities - Proposed Amendment of Standing Orders - Atomic Energy - Pensions - Search for Oil - Northern Territory.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
.- lt is a long time since f had an opportunity to speak on Grievance Day, and I should like to take this limited opportunity to make some comments in a minor key about the correspondence that passes between various departments and honorable members, whether they be on the Government side or the Opposition side of the House. In many instances, the correspondence follows a stereotyped form, restating the reasons why nothing can be done, and in most instances the correspondence is of a negative character. I have collected a few examples of this type of correspondence for the edification of the House, and I shall deal first with the Postmaster-General’s Department.
I have in my electorate a man named Robert Bruce of Earlwood. He is wellnamed Robert Bruce, as the correspondence with the Postmaster-General’s Department shows. In June, 1956, he asked for a telephone to be installed. That was a reasonable request, particularly when we have in mind the buoyant statements of Government supporters telling us how the telephone position has improved. The department wrote to Mr. Bruce in June, 1956, in the following terms -
We regret very much the inconvenience caused by your lack of a telephone, but before an installation can be made a major project must be undertaken in the area. This project is in hand and the matter is engaging our attention. Action will be taken at once to provide the necessary facility.
In August, 1961, Robert Bruce, still sitting in his suburban cave watching the spider go up and down the wall and being encouraged by the adage “ Try, try and try again “, found another letter from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in his letter box. In June, 1956, he made his application for a telephone and in August, 1961, he received the final letter. This letter said -
We regret very much the inconvenience caused by your lack of a telephone, but before an installation can be made a major project must be undertaken in the area. This project is in hand and action will be taken.
That letter was received five years after Mr. Bruce made his application, and he is still without a telephone. Surely the department could vary its excuses so that after five years a man with an exhausting pile or correspondence from the department may be cheered by some new approach to the matter. The man next door has a telephone and people along the street have a telephone. I understand that certain bookmakers are flourishing in the district; of course, that is a part of the industry of the country. But Mr. Robert Bruce still sits in his cave watching the spider go up and down. For five years, he has had no progress and he is wondering what is happening. In another five years, something may be done.
That is the humorous side, but on the serious side we hear the paean of praise from Government supporters about the great progress we are making and how all departments are moving forward. There are no longer any workers in the camps. A back-log of telephones has been fixed up. If every honorable member reads his correspondence he will see that it is a lot of hooey. Most of the requests of honorable members are refused for various reasons. I call that exhibit No. 1 - the reply of the Postmaster-General to a man who wanted a telephone after five years’ negotiation. The best they can do is to send him the same letter.
Now we turn to the Department of Immigration. We have had trouble about migrants, and we have broken down the categories very solidly. We have insisted that those coming into the country must be nominated by close relatives. It appears that while the migrant camps are fUll of unemployed and there are people overseas who can come here and be sponsored by their relatives and be given a job, they get this sort of letter through me for their information -
We are sorry to inform you that Mr. Giovanni is not eligible for admission to this country because he is not the wife, sister or mother of the nominator and thus does not fall within the category of people coming from Italy. Therefore, we regret that your request must be refused.
The point is that if you cut migration, which is essential to be done, you introduce a new form of category and try to admit migrants who will go straight to a job. Even that is open to some question, for in any case the migrant is taking a job that could be filled by an Australian. But if you are serious about that, surely we should not be getting these negative letters. Honorable members know thatwe get them time after time. Every member of the Commonwealth Parliament becomes a sort of staging camp for negative replies to his constituents. If honorable members look at their correspondence, they will see that they get a win only occasionally. Mostly they get a flat bureaucratic refusal of requests written in stereotyped terms. This makes it worthless for honorable members to put stamps on the refusals that go out with their compliments. You build up a wall of resistance to your own prospects in your own electorate wherever you come from through the stereotyped and negative letters. The departments ought to go into some sort of reason why these things are refused and hold out some ray of hope. As it is. you tell your constituents who come to you: “ Don’t ask me why you cannot have a telephone; you can’t have one. Don’t ask a migrant to come to this country. We can’t get him through and you can’t get work.”.
Then we come to the Department of Trade. We hear about the European Common Market and the terrible necessities we must face for markets. I applied for a licence for a man to export scrap metal to China. A letter came from the Department of Trade as follows: -
Sorry your constituent cannot have an export licence to China because the person concerned geeks a permit to export scrap metal. This category is now full, but if your elector cares to export scrap rubber we will re-examine the position in the light of circumstances existing at the time.
Have you ever heard such utter nonsense? My constituent wants to export scrap metal. He is dedicated to the Labour proposition that all pig iron should be exported from this country, and he has been most assiduous in collecting a huge stockpile. Then they tell him, “ We do not want any more pig iron. We have plenty “. I understand what they mean; but then they say to me, “ If you want to export anything, we could export scrap rubber if your constituent can pick up some “. That is completely ridiculous.
The third example is the stock letter from the Repatriation Department. A digger of the First World War comes along, obviously very ill, and tries to get a pension. If it were not so tragic it would be humorous. You do what you can for him through the forms of the process which is absolutely bureaucratic in its approach. You put him through the first hurdle - the Repatriation Department. Then you go to the various tribunals. The jumbo, which is an historic jump at Flemington in the steeple and hurdle races, is nothing to the hurdles you ask the old diggers to get over in making their requests to the Repatriation Department. So the first refusal comes - there are usually three - and it is something in this form -
The Repatriation Department has decided that your elector, whose claim for multiple sclerosis, arthritis, multiple hernia and dropped stomach cannot be accepted as due to war service . . .
This is the rub in the letter, because it continues -
Your constituent can, of course, appeal against the decision.
So you do appeal and then comes the gem of a reply that the old digger is again rejected unless he can supply new and substantial evidence of his disability. If he has multiple sclerosis, arthritis, multiple hernia and dropped stomach, it should be evident to even the dumbest bureaucrat that there is something wrong with the man. Of course, then the old onus of proof comes into it. Does it not make a fool of us when we get these letters? I hate to send them out. Apart from the cruelty of the rejection, the letters could be phrased differently.
There you have three of them. You play a sort of political yo-yo in this place through the letters you receive from the departments which are of no earthly use in the service you want to give your constituents. Those are three examples which I think should be looked into. From many other sections of departments, you get reasonable replies. I have to pay a tribute here to the Department of Social Services with which I have had several rows in the course of my not unturbulent career. In view of the fact that, due to the errors of government policy, they have had to put very many people very quickly on the pension and provide for persons who had not thought of going on the pension, they have done a very good job indeed. It is a strong department which has existed for a long time. There is not a member of the House who does not know something about the operations of social services. The department gives you a booklet which sets out extensively what you can do and how you can get through, round or under the merged means test and the other more or less rigid benefits.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I want to take this opportunity to put on record certain facts in relation to the incident surrounding the motion on the noticepaper which still stands in my name. I do not intend to debate the substance of this at all. This motion was put down by me immediately on the resumption of the House.It was done, not with any idea of a party political matter, but because I sincerely felt it would be a good thing if the Australian Parliament, speaking for the Australian nation, could find itself unanimous on a matter like this and should at least put on record our national reaction to the kind of thing that has happened in Berlin and elsewhere. This is an important matter which I would have hoped would have been treated on a non-party basis.
I took an early opportunity to see the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and put to him this point of view. I stressed to him - and I hope through him to the party he leads - the hope and the expectation that this would be treated on its merits and on a non-party basis. I did honestly and sincerely hope that would be done. Subsequently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) very generously arranged that the matter should come on because of its potential importance in regard to our national policy. Immediately that decision was made, it was conveyed through the proper channels to the Opposition. I want the House, if it would, to follow the course of events carefully from that point. As honorable members know, when the Opposition intends to propose a debate on a subject as a matter of urgent public importance on the Thursday, it usually comes to a decision on the matter at its party meeting on the Wednesday. In this case, no such decision was conveyed through the normal channels; and 1 took it that no decision therefore had been made. But when it was known that through the action of the Prime Minister this motion - which must have been embarrassing to Russia, even if only in a minor degree - was coming before the House, the Opposition cooked up at the last moment and against the normal practice a matter of urgency.
– Order! The honorable member for Mackellar is going a little beyond the latitude allowed him by the Standing Orders in imputing improper motives to the Opposition for proposing a matter of urgent public importance for discussion. I suggest that the honorable member withdraw the words “ cooked up “.
– Very well, Sir. I shall merely say that the matter was proposed for discussion, contrary, I repeat, to the usual practice, as being something very urgent.It had regard to naval shipbuilding, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) referred to it, as is reported on page 448 of “ Hansard “, as a matter of urgency that should have priority of discussion.
Now, Sir, I ask you to consider what followed. This matter, which was considered so urgent, was dropped and forgotten for the next fortnight. Nothing at all was done about it. The House did not go on to discuss it, it is true, a fortnight ago, but ever since then the Opposition has had opportunities to bring it forward.
– We have not had an opportunity.
– Opposition members have had exactly the same opportunity as they had originally, but they have not thought it worth while to bring the matter forward. This is evidence, I think, and almost conclusive evidence, that the matter was not proposed for discussion because of its own substantive value, but in order to block discussion of a matter which would have been, if only in a minor degree, embarrassing to Soviet Russia. This was the apparent purpose of the proposal of a matter of urgent public importance for discussion, a proposal which was not made according to the normal practice.
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member is imputing motives to members of the Opposition which, I think, would reflect seriously on us. He should be stopped forthwith.
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member for Mackellar remembers the remarks I passed when I called him to order earlier.
– Thank you, Sir. I simply repeat that the Opposition considered this matter to be of such importance that it has forgotten it for a fortnight.
– That is not true.
– The Opposition has had every opportunity to bring it forward, but it has just not bothered to do so. 1 ask the House to draw its own conclusions as to the motives of the Opposition.
The debate on my motion was conducted a fortnight ago on what is normally Grievance Day. The motion did not, as some honorable members of the Opposition have suggested, displace other notices of motion submitted by other honorable members of this House. The debate took the place of the normal Grievance Day debate, lt is noteworthy, perhaps, that the debate on Grievance Day is not usually well attended in this House. There is not a large attendance at the present moment, for instance, nor was there when the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was speaking. This is natural and normal, because the Budget and Estimates debates afford plenty of opportunity for honorable members to raise matters of the kind that are brought forward on Grievance Day.
I next direct your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to what happened in the debate on my motion, because this all forms part of a pattern. It is not for me, perhaps, to impute motives to honorable members oppo site, but it is certainly competent for me to direct attention to these facts. “ Hansard “ will show, and the newspaper reports will show, that 1 did not in my speech-
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in referring to anything that happened during that debate in the House.
– Very well, Sir, I bow to your ruling. I simply say that the newspaper and “ Hansard “ reports could well be consulted to find out what happened in that debate, and how certain honorable members behaved during the course of it. This matter of urgent public importance was proposed, and then dropped like a hot brick, when there was no further need to use it for the Opposition’s purposes. It was proposed for a delaying and diverting purpose when a motion unacceptable to Soviet Russia was being brought forward.
.- The facts surrounding this matter were put before the House a fortnight ago. The Opposition had decided, at its party meeting on the first Wednesday of this sessional period, 16th August, that as soon as there was a convenient opportunity it would bring forward for discussion, as a matter of urgent public importance, the position of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. I told the Leader of the House, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) that we intended to raise this matter for discussion as a matter of urgency. On Thursday, 17th August, which was a General Business day, the House debated the first notice of motion, of which notice had been given by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), over five months before concerning repatriation law and the onus of proof. Thereafter, Sir, the Leader of the House made known to me that the Budget debate and the ensuing debate on the Estimates, would not be interrupted by general business or by Grievance Day or by the discussion of matters proposed as being of urgent public importance. The reason for this was that the Government took the view that during the debate on the Budget and the Estimates wide latitude was allowed for the discussion of matters that honorable members might wish to raise, and that if it was the wish of an honorable member to raise the matter of shipbuilding, or any other matter, he could do so during those debates. Therefore, it was made known to us that this matter of urgent public importance would not be accepted for discussion.
In circumstances of which 1 have told the House, a fortnight ago, on Wednesday, 24th August, due to be Grievance Day, the Government decided to depart from its proposed procedure and to interrupt the Budget debate by bringing forward for discussion the fifth and last of the notices of motion, none of which would have been ordinarily debated until General Business day a week later. The Government having taken that attitude, the Opposition decided it would go ahead with its proposal to discuss the question of shipbuilding, which it had had in mind to propose at the first opportunity.
One may speculate why the Government decided to bring forward a matter which was at the bottom of the notice-paper and put it at the top, thereby displacing many other matters which were ahead of it on the notice-paper. some of which had been on the notice-paper for many months, and one of which, in fact, had been partly debated and was on the notice-paper awaiting a resumption of the debate. The Government was worried at the reception given in the press and by the public to the Budget speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on the night of Tuesday, 22nd August. But whatever the reason was, the Government departed from the arrangement that had applied up to that stage. It decided to. bring forward a matter from the bottom of the notice-paper and to interrupt the Budget debate. It was the Government, in fact, which departed from the earlier arrangements and understandings.
Last Thursday, Sir, due to be General Business day, the matter that we had proposed for discussion as of urgent public importance could not be brought forward, because again the Government decided to interrupt the Budget debate to discuss another matter. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) had given notice of motion for the disallowance of an Australian Capital Territory ordinance. Appropriately enough, the Government decided that it would deal with that motion. This again, however, was a breach of the arrangement that had been made that the Budget debate would not be interrupted.
As honorable members will remember quite clearly, it was proposed that the House would divide on last Thursday night on the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition to the motion that the first item in the Estimates be agreed to. This was in accordance with the practice of previous years of having a fortnight’s debate on the Budget. But because of the interruptions that the Government decided on a fortnight ago and a week ago, the vote was taken last Tuesday night. The procedural alterations were made by the Government, and in each case were made at a late stage. The Government made it plain that it would not accept a matter of urgent public importance for discussion, in this case the matter of the shipbuilding industry, while the debates on the Budget and the Estimates were still proceeding. Any departures from that announced procedure have been made by the Government, and not at any suggestion of the Opposition. If there is no appropriate opportunity during the Estimates debate to discuss this matter of shipbuilding - although it is hoped that there will be an opportunity during the debates on the Estimates for the Department of the Navy and the Department of Shipping and Transport - then the Opposition will bring the matter forward as being of urgent public importance. The Government, not the Opposition, departed from the arrangement. When the Government decided to do so. the Opposition then decided to proceed with a motion which, eight days previously, it had planned to sponsor at the first opportunity.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask for the withdrawal of the suggestion that was made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that we are subversive. He used the word “ subversive “.
-The point of order should have been taken at the time if the honorable member desired the word to be withdrawn.
.- I do not want to enter into this controversy because obviously I do not know the full background of the remarks that were made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). I was surprised to hear that the
Government decides whether an urgency matter shall be proposed. I am not disputing it, but I am surprised because, under the Standing Orders, if an honorable member has the support of eight others, he can initiate an urgency debate although the Government may gag it.
– That is all I said - that the Government made it known that it would not allow debate to proceed on this subject.
– Now I understand the position. I have risen to speak about two matters which concern my electorate and my State. The first relates to the accommodation that is provided by the Taxation Branch for its employees. With another honorable member I inspected the building which houses the Taxation Branch and I am amazed that the branch reaches such a high standard of efficiency in view of the conditions under which its officers work. Immediate attention should be given to the question of providing a new building because, if the local government authority’s health inspector had jurisdiction over Commonwealth buildings, he probably would condemn one-half of the building that is now in use.
The building is situated in the City of Perth. It was purchased for £50,000 in 194.0, during the war, from a firm of merchants which had used it as a warehouse. Being war time any building was accepted as suitable. It was a matter of not being able to choose carefully. In addition, men and materials could not be used to any great extent to make major alterations to the building so it was altered only slightly to make it fit for some kind of office accommodation. However, no consideration was given to light or ventilation. Due, I believe, to some foundation problems, it is not possible to add additional floors to the building, so major reconstruction would be necessary to make it a practical proposition.
When the building was first taken over in 1940 it was considered to be fully occupied with the staff that was then employed. Very little room was available for a cafeteria or for staff amenities. A visit to the building now will reveal that many members of the staff are working in little cubby-holes - almost pigeon holes - in the basement, and that the officers are performing their work under great difficulty, not only there but throughout the building. As a result of this overcrowding, outside buildings are being rented by the Taxation Branch. The suggestion has been made that it occupy, at a rental of some £20,000 a year, three floors of a new very tall building which is being erected in Perth by the T. and G. insurance company. At present the branch is renting one floor of an adjoining building and a store in a nearby street in which to keep its files. If the plan to rent the three floors in the new building to house the staff is adopted, the present indications are that the branch will be paying a total rental of £22,300 a year, made up of £20,000 for the new building, £1,000 for the floor in the adjoining building and £1,300 for the store. This represents a return of 5 per cent, on an investment of £446,000, so it will be seen that there will be a continuing process of pouring money down the drain if outside accommodation is rented. The Government should take the bull by the horns and plan immediately to erect a new building.
The staff situation is almost hopeless. In 1940 the staff totalled 311, but now it has risen to 625. Honorable members on both sides of the House will realize that this increase in staff has been necessary if they compare the work that was done in 1940 with the work that is done in 1961 to meet the needs of the public generally. In addition, in the rush season when returns are received, seasonal staff is employed. This further increases the discomfort and difficulties of accommodation within the existing building.
A recent check indicated that whereas the recognized minimum average space in which an officer is expected to work has been laid down by the authorities as something like 80 square feet, each member of the staff in the Taxation Branch has only 59 square feet of space. Each year there is an average increase of staff of about 5 per cent., so, in fact, the difficulties now being experienced increase annually by 5 per cent. The branch now has 87,000 square feet of space and it is estimated that in the foreseeable future, making the maximum allowance for each officer, the branch will require some 150,000 square feet of space, not including a basement. To erect a building of this size would cost in the region of £1,000,000 or if it is air-conditioned, which I believe is necessary in a climate such as Perth enjoys, £1,200,000.
Sites are available within the city block. For obvious reasons I shall not mention them because, if it became known that the Government was interested in them, something would happen to the sale price. The sites that are available are ideally suited for the construction of a new building. Having regard to the rapid growth of the city and the recent announcement that was made in this House relating to an agreement with the Government of Western Australia on the further industrialization of the States, it is apparent that if the Government does not act quickly no sites will be available within a very few years for a building of the kind that is necessary. The Government will be too late. If it did erect a new building and vacated the present one it would receive, on present valuations, in the region of £150,000 or £200,000 for the building which cost £50,000 in 1940. I urge the Government t.o consider this matter. It is urgent and vital to the Taxation Branch in Western Australia.
I should like to raise another matter relating to the zone allowances which are granted under section 79a of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. As honorable members know, under that section of the act the zone allowance is granted to a person working in that area for a period of twelve months or for a greater period than six months. It seems to me that there is need for a slight amendment to the act to cover the case of a person who is transferred to a zone at the beginning of the year which always happens in the case of school teachers. In many other public departments, both State and Commonwealth, appointments date from the beginning of the year, due to the ease of transport for families in the holiday period; and postings mainly date from January to December. If a person does a two-year tour of duty in a zone he receives only one year’s zone allowance, because he cannot claim for the first period of six months owing to the fact that he has only been there six months, and when he leaves he cannot claim for the last six months, because he has not completed the required time in the area.
Provision should be made to amend this section of the act so that the person concerned can claim for a half year’s zone allowance. 1 say this because he is subject to whatever conditions are laid down to qualify him for the zone allowance, and he does not have to live there for twelve months to suffer those conditions. Immediately he gets there he begins to suffer disadvantages such as the high cost of food, travel and everything else. I therefore ask the Government to look at this section of the act so that this anomaly can be removed, and persons who are now moving to the north in ever-increasing numbers as a result of the developmental work going on there will not be penalized under this section of the act when they spend a longer period in that area.
– I direct attention to the dangerous drift in hospital finance in Victoria, which I think possibly applies in other States also. For years now there has been a big deficit in the finance of Victorian hospitals and unless something is done - ‘and only the Federal Parliament can do it, as it holds the purse strings pf the nation - I am afraid that the people of Victoria will not get the hospitalization they should have. To-day you have to wait literally for months to get into some of the public hospitals in Melbourne because there is not sufficient accommodation and there are not enough hospitals. Such a state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue much longer. In Victoria these vital institutions are left to flounder from crisis to crisis. Their struggle to attain solvency has been going on for years and is causing grey hairs to appear in the heads of the members of the boards of directors or boards of management who have the unenviable job of controlling the finances of these institutions.
Unless some comprehensive programme to provide financial security for the ViC.torian hospitals can be evolved - and what I say undoubtedly extends to other places as well - grave consequences to the health of the community will ensue. If a person is told by his doctor that he has to go to hospital, and his doctor says to him, “ I will see what I can do about getting you into hospital “, and later says to him, “ I am sorry, but you will have to wait for a few weeks or a few months “, it is obvious that the health of the community will be detrimentally affected. In Victoria every hospital is leading a hand-to-mouth existence financially. The present system of finance is by no means satisfactory. Hospitals in that State receive the federal subsidy, State grants, charges for patients, proceeds from lotteries and voluntary gifts on which to finance their operations, lt is a hotch potch system of finance that has completely failed to give satisfaction to the people of Victoria.
Hospital managements find it impossible to plan ahead and meet the demands of a growing population in the present circumstances. Many smaller country hospitals in Victoria can carry on only through the generosity of local tradespeople who are asked to wait for months before their accounts car. be settled. The alternative to the present unsatisfactory set-up is a curtailment of the service; but surely nobody in this age and generation would suggest that we should curtail our already inadequate hospital services. No civilized community should be asked to accept a position where because of lack of money we have to reduce or dampen down hospital accommodation and services. We have to find the money, and it will have to be found on a big scale. I know it is always asked, Where are you going to get the money from? “. But it is obvious that it has to be found from some source, because there is nothing more important to a community than the health of its members.
There must be a collective Federal-State effort if we are to achieve some sort of stability in hospital finance. I know that the Commonwealth Government is asked to do very many things. But I would suggest that this is a national question and that greater federal financial assistance is imperative if the hospitals are to give adequate service to the community. I point out that Victoria has the greatest strength of new Australians on a State basis. Over 40 per cent, of our migrants have settled in Victoria, and as migration is a matter of Federal Government policy this Government has some responsibility for the increase in the problems of hospitals in Victoria. In the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne one of every three mothers is a migrant, and in the Queen Victoria Hospital one in every four mothers is a migrant. So, the problem in Melbourne hospitals has been brought about to a great extent by the implementation of Federal Government policy which has resulted in heavy migrant concentration in that city.
At present the Commonwealth Government has an agreement with the States in respect of hospital benefits. I am now speaking about the direct hospital benefit and not the benefit which is made available to patients under the national health scheme. The benefit of 8s. per day per bed has remained unchanged since its introduction in 1945. lt is true that that 8s. is raised to 12s. per day in respect of a patient who is insured under the national health scheme. But that does not help the hospitals; it helps only the patients. As one who has been in and out of hospital more times than I like to remember during the last two years, 1 know that the bills are pretty high. When the 8s. per day was given to the States in 1945, the daily cost of a hospital bed in Victoria was 16s. 2d., whereas it is now nearly £6 per day. Yet the 8s. payment goes on, like the brook, apparently for ever and ever. The present agreement has not achieved the purpose which it set out in 1945 to achieve, because the Commonwealth contribution has remained fixed and inflexible and has not risen in proportion to rapidly rising hospital costs.
This Government should give immediate consideration to increasing the 8s. per day to £1 ls. This is not a figure which I have conjured out of the air; it was suggested by the State Ministers for Health when they met some time ago and considered this very serious problem. There should also be a new national scheme to cover the cost of hospital buildings, because in Victoria it is impossible to get a hospital built under ten or twelve years. 1 know what I am talking about because I am a member of the board of management of the PrestonNorthcote Hospital, which was commenced in 1950, but will not be finished until 1963. a period of thirteen years. The work on that hospital has been stopped and started a couple of times owing to lack of finance, and to-day we find that although there is a desire on the part of the hospital board to give a complete service to the community, when the hospital is finished it will be unable to do so. Many hospitals in addition to those I have mentioned are subject to inordinate delay because of lack of finance. Many new areas in Melbourne require hospitals because of the rapidly expanding population, but they have no chance of anything being done in this regard because the requisite finance is not available.
This kind of crisis is expensive, and it is unpardonable because nothing is more important than the health of the community. lt is quite inexcusable that there should be inadequate hospital accommodation in Melbourne to-day.
Another great defect in the Victorian hospital system is the condition of the teaching public hospitals. Everybody knows that the success or otherwise of a hospital system depends upon the efficacy of the teaching hospitals. Everybody knows, too, that if the teaching hospitals are inefficient, then we cannot possibly expect to produce nurses who will be able to give the best possible service in the future. These teaching hospitals are definitely the hub of the State hospital services. They alone have facilities for medical research, specialized diagnosis and treatment, and the standard of hospital service in any State must necessarily depend upon the standard of the teaching hospitals. These hospitals also train medical undergraduates and graduates, nurses, hospital pharmacists, physiotherapists and other personnel indispensable to hospital work. In Victoria, there are six teaching public hospitals which, unfortunately, are in very old buildings, some of which are literally falling down. Working space in them is cramped and the services are strained to capacity. These hospitals should be put in order as early as possible, but this work cannot be undertaken under the present system of financing hospitals. Sooner or later, there will be a crisis in the Victorian hospital system.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 should like to speak this morning about the Gold Coast, which is in my electorate. I do not think that either the Parliament or the people realize just what a valuable asset to Australia the Gold Coast is. Over the last twelve months in particular, we have come to realize the importance of developing our overseas income, and the Gold
Coast, with its great tourist attractions, is an invaluable asset in this field. On the Gold Coast are ocean beaches on which first-rate surfing may be enjoyed for a longer period of the year than can be done at any other beach in Australia. Some may argue that there are excellent beaches farther north, but I remind honorable members that as the balance of the Queensland coast is protected by the Barrier Reef there are no first-rate surfing facilities north of Caloundra. Because of its latitude, the Gold Coast has a most equable climate and its beaches extend for the full distance between Coolangatta and Southport.
The problem for this area is accessibility. We know that in Europe the tourist trade is a very important industry in France, Switzerland, Austria and other places. Those countries attract tourists not only because of their historical interest but also, and primarily, because they are accessible. Certainly they have large populations confined within small areas, but the means of transport are so plentiful and of such excellent standard that the utmost advantage can be taken of the tourist trade. Although at the moment Australia is isolated from most countries from which we can look for visitors to the Gold Coast, that state of affairs will not obtain for ever because, as time goes on, the people from the Near East and Asia generally will undoubtedly come to Australia to enjoy their vacations, and the Gold Coast will be one of the areas that cannot help but attract them. At the present time, the only way of getting to the Gold Coast is by air service to Brisbane or to Coolangatta, or by train service to Brisbane and possibly bus service from Brisbane. Certainly, Australian residents may drive along good roads to the Gold Coast, but the important point is that on the Gold Coast there is no aerodrome capable of catering for the larger planes which are essential if we are to provide efficient service for tourists. I know that there are no large jet aircraft operating within Australia, but I am confident that very soon they will be, and we should be prepared to provide the funds necessary to build al Coolangatta runways capable of taking these larger aircraft. There is an aerodrome at Coolangatta, and I am very grateful for the fact that recently the Department of
Civil Aviation installed an excellent control tower there. That is a beginning, but an urgent need there is a runway capable of taking large jet aircraft carrying tourists from overseas. Overseas tourists will not be satisfied, after coming to Australia in Boeings, to travel in the old Friendships on the milk run from Mascot to the Gold Coast. And it is a milk run, because these Friendships land at many places on the way up the coast. Such a service falls short of the standard that should be maintained in the way of facilities and amenities for visitors to such an area as the Gold Coast, where there are some of the best hotels in Australia. They are set in beautiful surroundings, and are the starting point for glorious scenic drives up the ranges into the hinterland and through the rain forests. The Gold Coast, with all these glorious features, also has the advantage of being situated close to a large metropolitan area. Despite all these assets, the Gold Coast still needs an aerodrome capable of providing easy access for overseas visitors. I do not want to reiterate what I have been saying, but I do emphasize that the success of the tourist trade in Europe is due mainly to the easy access provided to all centres. Until we have easy access by first-rate transport to the Gold Coast we will never reap the reward which its assets naturally attract. I feel it my duty to bring this before the House because it is very important, particularly with the problems of the European Common Market coming up, for us to explore all avenues by which to safeguard our overseas balances.
.- Mr. Speaker, 1 wish to raise a very delicate matter and I crave your tolerance as far as that can be given. What triggers off my talk this morning is something that happened to me last week and also the incident that occurred in this House during the adjournment debate last night. In discussing this matter, I do not want to reflect in any way on your decision, but there is one aspect which 1 believe should be raised in the interests of the over-all dignity and prestige of the Parliament and of the protection of individual members from unjust, untrue and perhaps vindictive personal attacks.
My first request, Mr. Speaker, is that you try to arrange a joint meeting of the Stand ing Orders Committee of this House and the Standing Orders Committee of another place in order to bring about some uniformity in the Standing Orders, particularly in the interpretation of the question of personal reflections by one member upon another. This is a tough life here. 1 fully appreciate that. Political work is tough, whatever way you look at it and whatever side of the House you are on. We do not expect that we should be immune from criticism of actions or statements. But surely we should not tear each other to pieces. That is partly why I am speaking this morning.
To my knowledge, there has never been a joint meeting of the two important committees to which I have referred.It is not of much benefit to the Parliament for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing. I am referring specifically only to this one issue of a member reflecting on the integrity of another member. Standing Orders are quite clear concerning a joint meeting. Standing Order 33 of another place provides -
A Standing Orders Committee, to consist of the President and Chairman of Committees and seven Senators, shall be appointed at the commencement of each Session, with power to act during Recess and to confer with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Standing Order 23 of the House of Representatives reads as follows: -
A Standing Orders Committee, to consist of the Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and seven others Members, shall be appointed at the commencement of each Parliament, and such Committee shall have power to act during Recess, and to confer with a similar Committee of the Senate.
So the machinery exists, Mr. Speaker, for a general meeting of these two committees, but this, to my knowledge, has never taken place.
Last night, you interpreted the standing order on personal reflections in a particular manner. Last week, I was accused of being a former member of the Australian Communist Party. This, I immediately and forthrightly denied, but my accuser had been allowed to get away with those utterances. This was a grave, damaging, personal reflection on my integrity, my family, my loyalty and my beliefs. I have been a Labour voter since I first voted in 1933. I was a ministerial candidate and a Methodist minister from 1934 to 1946, when I entered this Parliament. In 1942 I became an active member of the Australian Labour Party in Foster, Victoria. I make a complete denial of the senator’s accusation, which was published in the press of Australia.
I make a plea for uniformity where possible in the interpretation of this admittedly difficult-to-interpret standing order about personal attacks by one member on another. I feel that reckless, unfounded accusations, whenever they may be made, are an abuse of parliamentary privilege, damaging to the member against whom they are made and detrimental to the prestige of this Parliament. These attacks gain momentum on the eve of an election and they have already done so on this occasion. T am therefore pleading for uniformity in interpretation on this difficult matter so that the left hand will know what the right hand is doing. After all, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) who was involved in the incident last night is a great exponent of uniformity, with the uniform divorce laws and uniform marriage laws which he introduced into this Parliament. It is for these reasons, Mr. Speaker, that I respectfully ask you to give consideration to calling a joint meeting of the two Standing Orders Committees of this Parliament to try to iron out this very difficult matter which has arisen with such intensity - in this place last night and in another place last week with differing interpretations. I am grateful to you for letting me skate on such thin ice this morning without ruling me out of order.
I want to refer now to the possibility of establishing a thermal power station in the Fingal Valley in my electorate, on the east coast of Tasmania. With the inexorable decline in the coal industry, mainly due to the intrusion of fuel oil into industry, there has been a grave loss of employment in this area of my electorate where about ten coal mines operate. The workers who are still employed in the mines fear the future as do the business people of the towns involved. If the decline continues inexorably, the towns will fold up, the value of property will decline and an exodus will take place with great personal loss to many people.
An alternative .project to save the industry for the economy of the nation has been put forward. There is to be a power station at Fingal in the middle of the coal area in order to supplement our hydro-electric power. In Tasmania, as honorable members probably are aware, all of our electricity - available to 98 per cent, of the island - is produced by water power. There is a great argument there at the moment about the relative cost of thermal-electric and hydro-electric power. The Western Australian Government is setting up a thermal power station at Collie in order to save that coal field. It will cost £10,000,000 and will produce 100,000 kilowatts, and 123 men will be kept in constant employment.
Premier Reece of Tasmania has set up a parliamentary committee to inquire into this project in the Fingal Valley. He has made an approach to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for finance to cover the capital cost of this big station which I believe would cost about £12,000,000 to establish. The Prime Minister has rejected the approach. Yet the Commonwealth Government is taking £9,000,000 out of Tasmania by the sale of the Bell Bay aluminium works to overseas interests. I claim that that money should be re-invested in Tasmania by providing the capital cost of this power station.
Labour believes that only federal aid will enable this power station to become an economic proposition. I arranged for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator McKenna, to meet the chairman of the Fingal Valley Development Committee in July in order to get an idea of what this project involves. In order that members of the Australian Labour Party may inform themselves on this matter, the Opposition members’ mining committee will visit Tasmania as soon as the Parliament goes into recess for the election. This is the first public announcement of the visit of this committee to Tasmania. I am a member of the committee, of which the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) is chairman. In Tasmania, the committee will meet representatives of local government authorities, the Fingal Valley Development League and the coal-owners concerned, as well as leaders of the coal-miners’ federation. The committee will report back to the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party in Canberra on the evidence that it obtains as the result of its comprehensive investigation of costs and so on. I think it is an excellent idea to inform ourselves about projects of this type.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, 1 want to touch on two matters very briefly. First, I think that, with certain legislation projected, the time may now be opportune for the Government to have a look at the nomenclature used in relation to pensions. I think it is time that we abandoned the phrase “ age pension “ and used the term “ senior citizen’s retiring allowance “, for that is what this payment is in this modern day and age. In my view, the Government should seriously consider amending the wording in the Social Services Act to alter the term used in this instance, and also to change “ invalid pension “ and “ widow’s pension “ to “’ invalid allowance “ and “ widow’s allowance “, for that is what these payments are in fact.
The second matter with which I want to deal is the search for oil in Australia. This is an important subject, because oil is vital to our economy and the need to find it is becoming urgent. In fact, I make no bones about saying that the need to find oil has become a national emergency and that the search for oil should be given No. 1 priority. In 1960, only 22 holes were drilled in the search for oil in Australia. A total of 970 were drilled in Canada and 11,204 in the United States of America. In Communist China, where the sedimentary basin is only 20 per cent, of the size of Australia’s vast sedimentary basin, 900 exploration teams were out and 480 drilling rigs were in full use.
Oil is a very dear commodity, Sir. United States oil is 60 per cent, dearer for Australia than is oil from the Middle East. Oil is costing us a fantastic amount. In 1959- 60, the cost of the oil imported into Australia, including freight and other charges, was some £125,000,000, or approximately one-quarter of our total income from the export of wool. Present indications are that the figure will reach the fantastic level of more than £250,000,000 by 1970, if not sooner. The high level of the consumption of oil and oil products in Aus tralia may not be generally realized. The nation may be startled to learn that our annual consumption of oil and oil products is at present about 2,463,000 gallons, or more than twice the volume that was consumed annually when this Government took office. Present indications are that, by 1964-65, Australia will be consuming the fantastic total of 3,664,000 gallons of oil and petroleum products annually.
This poses some very serious problems for us when we realize that, in 1959-60, we had an unfavorable balance of trade with every country from which we imported oil. We know that the international scene is very uncertain at the moment. We can see all sorts of threats blowing up on the red horizon. This situation raises the question of the defence value of developing our own Australian oil supplies. Furthermore, we have the prospect of coming developments in the European Common Market and their effect on Australia’s balance of trade. Therefore, we must look carefully at the situation with respect to oil, on which we incur our largest single item of expenditure on imports, the next largest item being expenditure on imports of motor cars and components of motor cars. These two items combined easily represent the largest single factor in imports. In view of the defence aspect that I have mentioned, owing to threats looming up on the red horizon, and our need to keep our overseas balances at a high level, and not spend our overseas funds on imports, because of the possible effects of developments in the European Common Market on our balance of trade, I say quite frankly that the Australian people ought to realize that the need to find oil in Australia represents a national emergency and that the search for oil should have No. 1 priority.
We know that government budgets must provide funds for all sorts of things, Sir. But if we do not provide more money for the search for oil, we may find that, as a result of the two overseas factors that I have mentioned, we shall face petrol rationing once again by 1970 or even very much sooner. This is not a matter to be sneezed at or laughed at. It is an important factor in our economy which we must consider very carefully. If we are to have available funds for the great development that we need, for the expansion of all the various services, especially social services, and for education and everything else that the country requires, we must conserve every penny of our overseas balances that we can conserve by not making unnecessary imports. Therefore, we must find oil. As I have said in this place once before, if we find oil we shall solve a very considerable part of Australia’s economic problems and establish a standard of living that nobody could reasonably criticize.
Can we find oil? That is the question. This is a subject to which I have devoted a lot of time, thought, study and personal research and investigation, and 1 say that there is not the slightest doubt that we shall find oil in Australia. The only reason why we have not found it already is that we are not putting enough effort into looking for it. We know that, in the Western Australian basin, the Sydney basin and the great basins back from the ranges, particularly in the electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), there are great prospects if we can get under way a crash programme of seismic investigations and drilling. We have to undertake such a programme. 1 urge the Government, the investing public and the press to present the story fully to the people so that they mav know what is needed. I am sure that if that is done the people will be prepared, if necessary, to forego a percentage of expenditure in one or two other fields in order that more may be spent on a crash programme of oil drilling. The rewards are great and the future of Australia depends on our having supplies of oil owned and controlled by Australians. I am sure that there is not one person in this place or throughout the country who will not support me in this contention.
I repeat that the need to find oil represents a national emergency and that the search for oil should have top priority. We are providing some funds for the search foo’l. but I believe that all governments and all sections of the press and free enterprise should unite in the determination to institute a crash programme of drilling for oil. If we undertook such a programme, we might not need to continue it for more than a fe-v months, because the prospects are very bright indeed, as anybody who has taken the trouble to understand the situation knows.
Mr. NELSON (Northern Territory> [12.30]. - I want to direct the attention of the House to the present conditions applying to Northern Territory housing commission homes, with particular reference to the anomalies that appear when the scheme in the Northern Territory is compared with the scheme in the Australian Capital Territory. A housing commission has been set up in the Northern Territory, financed by Commonwealth funds, to build houses for rental purposes only. The cost of construction is subsidized to the extent of £500 for each building to compensate for added costs in the Northern Territory. Such costs, of course, are caused by the addition of cartage, freight and similar items to brins materials from the capital cities.
My figures relate mainly to construction in the top end of the Northern Territory - that is, Darwin, Katherine and Tennant Creek. The cost of construction of a twobedroom house is about £3,500 and about £4,000 for a three-bedroom house. After allowing for the £500 subsidy provided by the Commonwealth, the rental charged for a two-bedroom house is £4 5s. and for a three-bedroom house, £4 14s.
– Would air-conditioning be included in that?
– No. It is a bare house. There is a stove, a sink and a minimum of cupboard space. The house is completely unfurnished and certainly no provision is made for air-conditioning.
No rebate system similar to that in the Australian Capital Territory applies in the Northern Territory. I shall give the position for each Territory. The Commonwealth Government allows a rebate of 20 per cent, on the capital cost of homes constructed for rental purposes in the Australian Capital Territory. That is a substantial rebate and worth while when the rental charge is being fixed. It is particularly beneficial to those people on low incomes. A person on the basic wage renting a home in the Australian Capital Territory, under the rental rebate system, is charged £2 18s. a week. A person on the basic wage in the Northern Territory pays a rent of £4 14s. A person with an income of £20 a week pays a rent of about £4 15s. a week in the Australian Capital Territory, and £4 14s. in the Northern Territory. In this instance, the rentals are similar. A person on a low income in the Australian Capital Territoryis far better off than a person on the same income in the Northern Territory.
The position is even worse when the rental rebate system is applied to a widow receiving a pension of £5 5s. a week. With the rebate system in the Australian Capital Territory, a widow can obtain a- house for a rent of 13s. a week, but in the Northern Territory a widow must pay the normal rate of £4 14s. a. week. The comparison is so unfavorable to the Northern Territory that something should be done. I could give instances of hardship inflicted on widows in the Northern Territory. In one instance, a widow I know of with a small superannuation pension of £4 a week pays £4 14s. a week under the housing scheme in the Northern Territory. The rent is actually more than her pension. I believe it is only right and proper that some assistance be given to these people; they should have some relief from the high rentals that are charged in the Northern Territory.
I want to protest at the discrimination against the Northern Territory, when compared with the Australian Capital Territory. If the rent is based only on the rebate system, we find that the Australian Capital Territory is favoured. The subsidy on construction costs there is 20 per cent. If that 20 per cent, were applied to the cost of a home in the Northern Territory, which is about £4,000, the subsidy would be £800 and not the £500 that is at present paid by the Commonwealth. If the rebate rental scheme is also applied, we find how much better off are the people in the Australian Capital Territory when compared with those in the Northern Territory.
We in the Northern Territory are not looking merely for a hand-out. All we want is some recognition of the disability that arises from the remoteness of the area. It is all very well for people like the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) to build homes in the cities or within 50 miles of the sources of supply in the capital cities. But people living 2,000 miles from the nearest large city must pay very high prices for materials that are taken to them. It is not difficult to understand their feelings. We want people to go into the remote areas and to do the actual work of development. AH I ask is that they be compensated for the added hardships and the high costs created by the long distances from large cities. The rebate system in the Australian Capital Territory has been working satisfactorily and it should be extended to the Northern Territory.
Civil servants in the Northern Territory have their own housing scheme. They can eventually purchase the home in which they live. But other people in the Northern Territory could pay rents all their lives and still not be able to own the home in which they live. The ordinance makes no pro. vision for the purchase by tenants of these homes. That is another point that should be considered. After all, housing is the basis of settlement. The sooner adequate housing is provided, the sooner we will have a contented and reasonably efficient population.
.- If the intention of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) is to improve living conditions in the Northern Territory, I think every honorable member on the Government side would support him. We believe that everything should be done to create a new approach and a different attitude of mind not only of people who live in the Northern Territory, but also of those who are involved in any way with the administration of the Territory.
It would be presumptuous of me tq follow the honorable member through an analysis of building costs, comforts, amenities and living arrangements in the Northern Territory. I do not know as much about these matters as he does, or as much as the people who live there or the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) know. But it is becoming clear to us that there is a job to be done by the Parliament, not by the Government. The Government is bound by the Constitution, by Ministers in their departments and by a multiplicity of commands. I must compliment the honorable member for the Northern Territory for the analysis he has made, and I would urge him to rise on every occasion that the forms of the House permit so that this matter can be ventilated. The Parliament must bring home to the Government and the people the fact that it is taking an interest in the Northern Territory, and that the Territory must come under administration of a kind quite different from that employed in the six States.
It is a case of different procedures. The Department of Works might adopt a procedure in Sydney for the production of homes, for example, which is quite successful, but the same procedures might not necessarily succeed in the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory is different. It has no State government. It has an Administrator who is virtually a governor; but what is his position? If we turn to the 36th and 37th reports of the Public Accounts Committee, prepared under the chairmanship of the distinguished member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), we find that the Administrator of the Northern Territory has an Assistant Administrator who, I believe, is a member of the Department of Territories and therefore is under the control, supervision or advice of the permanent head of the Department of Territories under section .25 of .the Public Service Act.
But these are only two of the chains of command. There are nineteen departments with local head-quarters in the Northern Territory and officers employed there. There are eleven other departments which have jobs to do in the Northern Territory. So you get control through the Minister for Territories to the Administrator, through the permanent head of the Department of Territories to the Assistant Administrator and then the Department of Works operates through its chain of command - Darwin, Melbourne, Canberra, and the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Works. The Department of Health and other departments follow a similar chain of command. The full list would weary the House, but it is contained in the reports of the Public Accounts Committee for all to see.
When the Public Accounts Committee was examining the Northern Territory Administration, it went into the buildings where the people work there. For four months of the year during the wet season, the climate in parts of the Territory is extremely difficult. For eight months of the year it is excellent, and it is attracting a growing tourist industry which the honorable member for the Northern Territory has said might become the biggest activity there. The reports of the Public Accounts Committee show that in the difficult four months, the public servants in the Territory were forced to work under incredibly bad conditions. That is not the position now. One administration building has been finished and another has been started; they will make a big difference. I thank the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) who is at the table for the work that has been done there, which, of course, should have been done.
When there is an efficient, smoothly working administration in the Northern Territory, there will be no need to make such an analysis as that made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory; but the Administration cannot work completely smoothly at present because of the multiplicity of controls and the many chains of command. If it is true that there are 30 separate departments working under 30 separate departmental heads in the Northern Territory, with an Administrator and Assistant Administrator both working under different chains of command, we must be mad to allow such a system to contine. This Parliament is responsible for the existing position.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 291.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 5th September (vide page 801), on motion by Mr. Osborne -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is> the first occasion for eleven years on which the House of Representatives has had the opportunity of debating a bill on repatriation introduced by a Minister in this House. It is a very welcome change. I am one of those who believe - and I am sure my opinion is shared by honorable members on both sides of the House - that repatriation matters represent one of the greatest responsibilities that this Parliament has to accept. I take the opportunity of congratulating - for what it is worth - the present Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) on his appointment. At the same time, I would like to extend congratulations to his predecessor, who, I believe, applied himself wilh a great deal of diligence and enthusiasm to repatriation matters generally. I have not always agreed with the policies of the previous Minister, who was in another place, but I feel, nevertheless, that he did what he thought was best in the interests of ex-servicemen.
The Repatriation Act is now 41 years old. It was introduced in 1920, and it has been amended several times in the intervening period. The amendments have dealt with various aspects of the rights and privileges of ex-servicemen. Apart from changes made in the pension rates according to the needs of ex-servicemen, and changes in the economic position of the country generally, there have been a few other amendments that have affected exservicemen. I refer particularly to those covering entitlement to repatriation benefits. There are some particular matters concerning rates to which we think attention should be given, and the Opposition, therefore, will move amendments, six in all, in the committee stage, which we believe would improve our repatriation legislation.
I acknowledge at once that the Government itself, during its eleven-year period of office, has been responsible for various amendments to the act. We give it full credit for having introduced certain amendments which have unquestionably been of benefit to ex-servicemen. We believe, however, that various amendments are still necessary to improve the legislation further. We shall, therefore, move six amendments in the committee stage. Some of them have been proposed by the Opposition on earlier occasions. No doubt the arguments that we will now present in support of them will be much the same as those that were put before the House previously. However, we believe them to be valid arguments, and I have no doubt that we can show conclusively that the points of view we express, and that have been expressed on earlier occasions, are the correct ones, and that the adoption of our suggestions would undoubtedly improve the legislation.
The first amendment will have relation to the rate of pension now payable to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. This is the special rate pension, generally known as the T.P.I, pension. I have always believed, as have other honorable members on this side of the House, that the T.P.I, rate should never be less than the basic wage. I do not propose to debate the matter at this time, because 1 hope to have the opportunity to deal with it more fully at a later stage. We believe, however, thai the rate should be at least equivalent to the basic wage. We have stated this on other occasions. It has been part of our platform when we have gone before the people at elections. We will take the opportunity, therefore, in the committee stage, to express our point of view once again.
The second amendment concerns the rate of pension now payable to wives of permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. No doubt you are aware, Mr. Speaker, that during the term of office of this Government this rate remained unchanged until provision for an increase was made in the Budget for the current year. The Opposition believes that the amount of pension is still far too small, having regard to the difficulties that the people involved have to contend with. We will therefore move that the rate be increased.
The third amendment is one that we have proposed in this House on other occasions. It deals with the hospitalization and other medical treatment of ex-servicemen who served during the 1914-18 war. I shall not enlarge on it at this stage, because honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss it during the committee stage.
The fourth amendment is a further very important one. It relates to the provisions governing onus of proof. This is a matter that has been the subject of debate in this House on numerous occasions, but as we regard it as a very important matter we have chosen again to make it the subject of an amendment.
I now turn to the proposals outlined in the Minister’s second-reading speech. Since the Government introduced its first Budget in 1950 various changes have been made in the Repatriation Act, and the Opposition acknowledges that some further benefits have been provided for certain classes of exservicemen. The Minister said that pension rates have been reviewed on every occasion on which a Budget has been prepared since 1950. I join issue at once with the Minister on that contention. It would not be correct to say that the rates have been reviewed on every occasion. They may have been considered by the Government but they certainly have not been increased, at least as far as certain aspects of repatriation benefits are concerned. 1 know that the Minister pointed out that in the policy speech of the Liberal Party in 1949 the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) i,aid, if I can recall his statement, and 1 do so only from memory, that repatriation matters would be dealt with with speed and sympathy. They certainly have not been dealt with speedily, and they certainly have not been dealt with always sympathetically. t he Prime Minister also stated on that occasion that not only would the rates be maintained but indeed that they would be increased, i hope to have the opportunity during this debate to show conclusively that at least some of these rates have not been maintained or increased. However, that is a point of view which may be disputed by honorable members on the other side of the House. 1 acknowledge at once, and I have stated before in this place, that the rates paid to recipients under the Repatriation Act always will be a matter for dispute, but on this occasion the Minister for Repatriation has made certain comparisons between the rates that were paid in 1949 under the outgoing Chifley Government and the rates that now are applicable under the legislation before us. Let me say at once that 1 accept the Minister’s challenge because, as 1 have already indicated, I shall show conclusively that some of the rates have not been maintained. In fact, measured in terms of the cost of living which applied in 1 949 and which applies now, some of the rates have declined in value.
We acknowledge that when this Government assumed office some increases in the rates that then applied may have been necessary. 1 have always held certain opinions in relation to repatriation benefits and whatever happened in this House prior to 1949 has nothing to do with me because I was not a member then. At this stage, I express my own opinion. I do not hesitate to admit quite frankly that if this Government has been at fault in relation to some benefits, other governments certainly have been at fault also.
Let me deal now with the rate which is to be paid to the totally and permanently in capacitated ex-serviceman. All honorable members no doubt will agree that the T.P.I, rate, which is sometimes referred to as the special rate, is probably the most important payment that we have to consider. According to the 1960-61 report of the Repatriation Commission, there are now 20,807 T.P.I, ex-servicemen in Australia, so whatever increase the Government applies to the pension certainly will not result in any great financial outlay. In his secondreading speech the Minister stated that the T.P.!. rate - the special rate - was £5 6s. in 1949. Under this legislation it will be increased to £13 5s. Therefore, since this Government has been in office the rate has increased by £7 19s. The general rate pension has increased from £2 15s. to £5 15s., while the war widows’ rate has risen from £3 7s. 6d. in 1949 to £8 17s. 6d. this year, inclusive of the domestic allowance. The Minister has stated also that the service pension has risen from £2 2s. 6d. to £5 5s., as provided by this legislation. But how do these rates compare with the rates that were suggested by the returned servicemen’s organizations?
All honorable members are aware that Cabinet has a committee of ex-servicemen which each year meets representatives of the returned servicemen’s organizations and hears their case for increased benefits for returned’ soldiers. This year was no exception. A case was submitted to the committee, and I should like to inform the House the details of the amounts that were specifically requested by the organizations. In the first place, they asked for an increase in the general rate war pension - the 100 per cent.- from £3 10s. to £6 10s. This certainly is considerably in excess of the amount that will be provided by this legislation. They asked for an increase in the war widows’ pension from £5 15s. to £6 10s., and an increase in the war widows’ domestic allowance from £3 2s. 6d. to £3 10s., making a total benefit for war widows of £10 a week. The proposal is £1 2s. 6d. a week less than the amount that was requested by the returned servicemen’s organizations. They asked also for an increase in the pension payable in respect of dependent children of war widows to £2 a week. Under this legislation, it will be £1 19s. a week - one shilling less than the amount that was requested.
– For the first child.
– Yes. Some improvement has been effected in relation to the first child, but the organizations asked that the present amounts be increased to £2 for all dependent children.
The amounts that were requested by the returned servicemen’s organizations certainly are far in excess of those that will be paid under the legislation which has been introduced by the Minister for Repatriation. The organizations also asked for an increase in the service pension from £5 to £5 10s. a week. The proposal under this legislation is for the amount to be increased to £5 5s.
I hold the opinion that the recommendations which were made by the returned servicemen’s organizations were quite reasonable. I do not believe that it was asking too much for the Government to so regard them. With the exception of one or two minor requests by the organizations, the Government certainly has not m;t the recommendations of those bodies which represent the great bulk of returned servicemen in this country.
Let me return to the matter of the relativity of the T.P.I, pension to the basic wage. As I have indicated already, the Minister has maintained that the T.P.I, rate has been improved. It is true that the relativity which this rate enjoyed to the basic wage at the time when the Chifley Government left office in 1949 has been maintained. In that year the special rate pension was £1 3s. less than the basic wage of £6 9s. Under this legislation the rate still will be £1 3s. less than the basic wage of £14 8s. In other words, despite the Prime Minister’s statement in 1949 that not only would these rates be maintained but also that they would be improved, there has been no improvement at all. The fact ;s that the special rate pension remains exactly as it was in 1959 in relation to the basic wage.
As honorable members opposite have said, it may be true that if the rates have remained the same the position of the recipients has not deteriorated. But let us look at the other side of the picture, because the special rate pension is not the only matter which should be under consideration by this Parliament. The wife of the special rate pensioner receives a certain allowance. In 1949 it was £1 4s. In 1950 it was increased to £1 10s. 6d., and in 1952 it was increased again to £1 15s. 6d. During this Government’s term of office the allowance has risen by the princely sum of lis. 6d. and has remained unaltered since 1952.
We must consider the special rate pension in conjunction with the allowance that is made to the wife of a special rate pensioner. In 1949, the wife’s benefit represented 23 per cent, of the basic wage of £5 6s. Under this legislation it will represent only 12 per cent, of the basic wage of £14 8s. Stated another way, during this Government’s term of office, the wife’s allowance has declined by not less than 11 per cent. In view of the statements contained in his secondreading speech, perhaps the Minister will be prepared later to explain why the Government has allowed the value of the wife’s allowance to decrease by not less than 11 per cent. I come now to a further important aspect of repatriation benefits and refer to the amount paid to war widows in this country. No doubt honorable members would agree with me if I said that it is probably one of our greatest responsibilities in repatriation matters to see that those who have been left as widows, as a consequence of their husband’s war service, are provided adequately with the material things of this life. Under this legislation the war widow’s pension is to be increased to £5 15s. a week. That represents a small increase of 5s. a week. The domestic allowance is to be increased to £3 2s. 6d. per week, making a combined pension of £8 17s. 6d. a week. We are told by the Minister that 90 per cent, of the war widows in this country are entitled to receive the domestic allowance. So far, so good; 90 per cent, of them are then paid at the rate of £8 17s. 6d. a week, but the fact remains that 10 per cent, of the war widows in Australia are to be paid at the rate of only £5 15s. a week. Perhaps 10 per cent, might be quite an insignificant figure so far as the Minister is concerned, but that opinion is not shared by honorablemembers on this side of the House.
It might be perfectly true to say that inthis grade the Government has maintained’ the position of the payment in relation to- the basic wage in 1949, but it has effected no improvement at all and has merely maintained the rate of pension which was applicable to war widows in 1949. I have no hesitation in saying that the Government has not been over-generous in its approach to the payments to war widows generally. A further important aspect, upon which the Minister issued a challenge during his second-reading speech, is a comparison between the rates now payable as against those payable at the time of the last Labour Government. I turn, therefore, to the general rate pension - the 100 per cent, pension. It is to be increased, like most of the other increases contained in this Budget, by the princely sum of 5s. a week, from £5 10s. to £5 15s. a week. But it should be remembered that there has been no increase in the 100 per cent, general rate pension over the last three years. Since 1949, the basic wage in this country has increased by not less than 123 per cent, and the figures I am using are the pegged basic wage figures, the average basic wage measured over the six Australian capital cities. On that figure alone there has been an increase of 123 per cent, since 1949. If I took, for example, the unpegged basic wage, the increase would be substantially greater.
The. general rate of pension has been increased by 109 per cent, during the period of office of this Government, as against an increase of 123 per cent, in the basic wage during the same period. So, the Government has allowed the value of the pension of those on the general rate pension to decline, in point of fact, from 123 per cent, to 109 per cent. There, again, T have shown conclusively that the Government has not maintained the value of the rate of this type of repatriation payments. The Government’s attitude towards the general rate pensioner has certainly not been all that it should have been during its period of office. One has to understand the type of disability which affects the 100 per cent, general rate pensioner. It is true, of course, that he is not subject to a means test and is able to continue actively in employment. But I think that if a thorough investigation was made of the statistics applying to the 100 per cent, general rate pensioners, it would be found that many of them’, as a consequence of their dis ability, are not able to continue in active employment. I refer to the time which must necessarily be lost by those people as a consequence of the treatment required for their disabilities. But their rate will be increased by 5s. to £5 15s. a week. This increase of 5s. a week means that the 10 per cent, pensioner will receive an increase of only 6d. a week. The 100 per cent, pensioners constitute the largest section of repatriation benefits in this country. Again I refer to the figures which have been supplied in the 1960-61 report of the Repatriation Commission which indicates that there are 191,354 pensioners in receipt of the general rate pension or in receipt of a proportion of that 100 per cent. rate. The Government has not been overgenerous in its attitude towards the payment of this genera] rate pension.
I come again to the fourth proposition referred to by the Minister during his second-reading speech in relation to the payment of service pensions. This rate will also be raised by 5s. per week to £5 5s. a week. According to the Minister, the rate was only £2 2s. 6d. a week in 1949, and therefore the new rate will be exactly double that of 1949. It has therefore been increased by not less than 123 per cent, and point out that during that period the basic wage has increased by 123 per cent. So, the service pensioner, in terms of percentages, is 23 per cent, worse off to-day than he was in 1949. That is a further instance in which the rates of payment have not been maintained during the period of office of this Government. To put it in another way - a way in which I hope the Minister will understand the significance of the figures - in 1949, with a basic wage of £6 9s. a week and a service pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week, the service pensioner received £4 6s. 6d. less than the basic wage. In 1961, the pegged basic wage is £14 8s. a week, and the service pension has risen to £5 5s. a week, so the service pension is now not £4 16s. 6d. less than the basic wage, but, in actual figures, £9 3s. less than the basic wage. I challenge the Minister to dispute the fact that there has not been a decline in the value of the service pension during the period of office of this Government.
I want now to deal with another very important aspect of service pension payments. I refer to the amount paid to the wife of the permanently unemployable pensioner. The Opposition in this House has frequently referred to this matter not only during debates on repatriation matters but also during previous debates on social service matters and has pointed out that the amount paid to the wife of a permanently unemployable ex-serviceman or to the wife of an invalid pensioner has remained unchanged during the period of office of this Government. The payment was £3 10s. a fortnight, but under this amending legislation it will be increased by 12s. 6d. a week, so that as a consequence of this legislation the wife’s pension will rise from £1 15s. a week to £2 7s. 6d. a week. The Minister ought to understand that where a service pensioner has been accepted on the grounds of permanent unemployability his disability may have been accepted as war-caused only after all other avenues had been explored. Those honorable members who, like myself, frequently have the opportunity of appearing before tribunals to assist an ex-serviceman in the presentation of his case will know that very often it is only the element of doubt that prevents the applicant from having his disability accepted as being due to war service. If his disability were accepted as being due to war service, and if he were permanently unemployable, he would receive a special rate pension, and his wife would also receive a special pension. But, because his disability is not accepted as being due to war service, his wife must remain on the rate of £2 7s. 6d. a week. It is probable that the husband’s disability is such that the wife must remain at home to care for him. The Government is not prepared to accept the principle that a wife who is prevented, because of a husband’s disability, from engaging in active employment should be compensated to the extent which we on this side believe to be necessary. At the beginning of my speech, I said that the Opposition would be moving an amendment when this bill is being considered in committee because we believe that the amount to be paid under this legislation to the wife of a service pensioner is inadequate. We believe that it should be increased, and we propose to take the steps necessary to ensure that this is done.
The remainder of the bill refers merely to machinery matters. There are certainly some useful provisions in it, and the Opposition gives the Minister full credit for them. I refer to two in particular. One is the decision by the Government, or the Minister - I hope it was by the Minister because we would like to give him full credit for it - to allow those people who are selfemployed the same right to claim for loss of employment on medical grounds as hitherto has been granted only to those who are not self-employed. That is a useful amendment, and the Opposition acknowledges it as such. The second again reflects credit on the Minister because it relates to a matter which has been canvassed in this Parliament on many occasions during this Government’s term of office. It is referred to again in the submissions made by exservicemen’s organizations to the Government’s ex-servicemen’s committee. I refer to the sustenance that will be payable to those ex-servicemen who have been obliged, at the request of the department, to seek hospital treatment of their disabilities. We commend the proposal, but I disagree with the requirement that convalescent treatment must be authorized by one of the department’s medical officers before sustenance will be paid during the period of convalescence. Nobody is in a better position to understand an ex-serviceman’s disabilities than his own repatriation doctor, and I suggest that if the repatriation doctor considers that the ex-serviceman who is receiving treatment from him needs convalescent treatment his recommendation should be accepted by the department. I hope the Minister will give favorable consideration to that suggestion.
I turn now to the basis upon which an ex-serviceman’s disability is accepted by the Repatriation Department. This Parliament has been instrumental in setting up by way of legislation an organization that should give the applicant or appellant every opportunity of having his disability accepted as being due to war service; but, good as the legislation is, many anomalies still arise. A moment ago, I referred to the process through which an ex-serviceman must pass in seeking to have his disability accepted. First he applies to the Repatriation Department. The matter is then referred by the department to the Repatriation Board. If the board rejects the application, the exserviceman may appeal to a repatriation commission. If the commission rules that the disability is not war-caused, the exserviceman has a final right of appeal to an entitlement appeals tribunal. Upon making his original application, the ex-serviceman is requested to supply to the Repatriation Department information relating to his employment and any sick leave that he may have had during that employment. Information is also sought regarding his sobriety, life insurance and many other matters. But it should be remembered that, in many instances, especially where a widow is applying to have her husband’s death accepted as being due to war service, she, because of grief at her recent loss, is not in a position to give all the information required by the department at that time. Similarly, the exserviceman from World War I., who applies for acceptance of a disability in 1960 or 1961, is far too prone to lay stress on the disability which is obvious in 1960 or 1961 and to overlook the factors which obtained many years ago, and which led to his present disability. The process might be fair and reasonable, but at this stage I wish to offer some suggestions relating to the Repatriation Board. I have every reason to believe that the board is in no position to examine the case properly or adequately when the data is presented to it by the department. The board is comprised of three members. First there is the chairman, who is usually an officer seconded from the Repatriation Department. As a general rule, he is an officer who has served as pensions officer in the department and therefore should have some knowledge of the disabilities suffered by ex-servicemen. Of the other two members, one is a nominee of the Repatriation Department and the other a nominee of the returned servicemen’s organizations. Once the department collates all the medical evidence it can obtain from the doctors, it submits the case to the Repatriation Board. When it is passed on to the Repatriation Board by the department, the evidence is not summarized in any way at all, and the board members are required to rely upon the written evidence of the doctors. It is often very difficult for them to decipher the handwriting of the medical men. It is also difficult sometimes to decipher the written evidence submitted by the applicant himself. Prior to 1939, ex-servicemen applying for pensions had the benefit of the assistance of a clerk of the Repatriation Department in preparing cases for submission. That procedure was dispensed with in 1939, and I suggest it would be of considerable help now if it were re-introduced.
A moment ago I said that, in my opinion, these repatriation boards are not able adequately to deal with all the cases that come before them. We all know the process, for example, when an application has been dismissed by a repatriation board. The board does not give its reasons why it disallows the claim. After disallowance, it merely sends out a standard type of letter. I shall quote one of them which reads as follows: -
I have to advise that the case of your late husband was submitted to the Repatriation Board, which after careful consideration of all the evidence was unable to accept the cause of death as being attributable to war service.
This relates to the case of a widow of an ex-serviceman who was seeking to have her late husband’s death accepted as due to war service. The letter continued -
In these circumstances, you do not qualify for the grant of War pension but against this decision you have the right of appeal to the Repatriation Commission. If you decide to appeal you should do so by completing the enclosed Form C.A.2 setting out the ground of your appeal and supporting it by any additional evidence that you would like to submit.
It will be noted that the letter states that the appeal should be supported “ by any additional evidence you would like to submit “. An ex-serviceman, or an applicant, having submitted to the Repatriation Board all the evidence that he thought he could gather, is not in a position to know why his case was rejected by the board. Surely it would not be too difficult for the board to inform the applicant of the basis upon which his application was rejected - why his medical evidence was not sufficient. If he knew those things, he might be in a better position to supply the additional evidence required by the Repatriation Commission.
I have some very compelling figures in front of me which I secured from the 1959-60 report of the Repatriation Commission. I regret that a later report is not available. In New South Wales the number of cases dealt with by the Repatriation Board was 13,991. Of that number, 6,981 cases were accepted, representing 49.2 per cent, and 7,010 cases were rejected, representing 50.8 per cent. I have not sufficient time to give the figures for Victoria, but a similar position exists in that State.
The point that I want to make and which I hope that the Minister will refer to his department is this: The approximate maximum number of days on which the board would sit in each year would be 250-. The board- has a full-time officer and two part-time officers. It is known that the board does not sit on every working day of the year because two of its members are part-time members. Apparently, approximately 56 cases per day are dealt with in New South Wales by the board. The members must, therefore, consider all the evidence of 56 cases a day, which is no small task. I am not sure on this point, but I have reason to believe that many cases are not heard by the full board but by one member, probably the chairman, who then makes a decision.
That procedure is not upheld by the Repatriation Act which quite clearly lays it down that each case must be considered by the board as a whole. I could quote many other figures which would substantiate what I have pointed out. If the fact that the board is dealing with 56 cases a day indicates - and it does indicate, in my opinion - that the board is overworked, obviously the Minister has a responsibility to ensure that more boards are constituted. If applicants’ cases were dealt with adequately at the board level many of them would certainly not have to go before a tribunal.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) was so gracious as to pay a tribute to the work which has been done by Senator Sir Walter Cooper in the field of repatriation. I was also pleased that the honorable member, speaking for the Opposition, welcomed the appointment of our present Minister for Repatriation, the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne). I would like to associate myself with those remarks and I would go further and say this: Our Government has been most fortunate in having the services of two such distinguished ex-servicemen. The war record of Sir Walter Cooper is known to members of this House. He had a most distinguished war record, first in the Army and then in the Royal Flying Corps. So, both the Army and the Air Force were well represented by Senator Sir Walter Cooper as Minister for Repatriation. Therefore, it is most appropriate that the honorable member for Evans, who gave outstanding service in the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Navy, should now be the Minister for Repatiration. I think it is worth recording that the records of both these gentlemen were of a very distinguished character, the honorable member for Evans having been twice decorated for his gallant service in World War II. So, the ex-servicemen have come to know that their problems will receive the most sympathetic consideration possible from this Government, and that everything that is reasonably possible will be done for them. The Government has proved conclusively during the twelve years that it has been in power that it has the interests of the ex-servicemen at heart.
I should like, too, to pay a tribute to the work being done by the officers of the Repatriation Department in all States. There is no government department with which I come into closer contact than the Repatriation Department. On no occasion have I been able to find any reason to justify any complaint that an ex-serviceman had not had the best consideration that could be given to him by the officers of the Repatriation Department. Indeed, it is a fact that officers of the department lean over backwards to try to give the exserviceman the benefit of every possible doubt and to help him in every possible way.
The honorable member for Bass referred to the difficulties experienced by exservicemen in filling in forms. I have never known an occasion on which any ex-serviceman, his widow or dependant, has not been able to find an officer of the department who was prepared to volunteer to help fill in the necessary form and to give advice such as, “ Do not say that. Say this. Leave it as wide as possible. Do not nominate your complaint too specifically. Leave the doctors to make the interpretation specific.” Every possible consideration and help is given.
There could be something in what the honorable member for Bass said with regard to the volume of work which members of the repatriation boards are required to deal with, but I cannot possibly support any criticism of individual members of the boards. I do not know whether there was any suggestion of criticism.
– There certainly was not.
– I am glad of that assurance. I thought that there could have been a criticism when the honorable member referred to the fact that one member of a board was a government appointee and that another was a repatriation appointee. The members of these boards are all ex-servicemen. Many of them have very distinguished war records. They, too, go out of their way to do everything that they possibly can to assist the individual ex-serviceman. They will always resolve any case in favour of the ex-serviceman if that is possible. I remind the Opposition member who has just interjected that the honorable member for Bass, who has had considerable experience in repatriation matters, will support me when I say that the individual officers of the Repatriation Commission do everything they possibly can to ensure that the benefit of the doubt is given to ex-servicemen.
– I have frequently said that in the Parliament.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s assurance, and I hope that other Opposition members will observe the spirit of it.
Ex-servicemen in this country have two institutions of which they have great cause to be proud. One is the Repatriation Commission and the other is the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The repatriation benefits that are extended to ex-servicemen in this country are greater than the benefits extended to ex-servicemen in any other country. Australia has every cause to be proud of the manner in which it has honoured its obligations to the exservicemen of two world wars. We realize that we perhaps have not reached perfection, but this Government has gone further than any other Australian government has gone, and this country has gone further than any other nation has gone, in honouring its obligation to the men who served in the forces.
One thing that I believe is of great value to governments is the kind of support that they obtain from the national executive of the Returned Soldiers League in the framing of legislation which will be of the optimum assistance to ex-servicemen. A subcommittee of the Cabinet from time to time meets representatives of the national executive of the league, and this Government has never introduced legislation dealing with the problems of repatriation, or other problems of ex-servicemen, without the closest possible consultation with the national executive. That, indeed, is a compliment to the league, Mr. Speaker, because it indicates that this Government and previous administrations have looked upon the league as a most responsible organization which is not given to irresponsible statements and irresponsible claims as a rule. It is an organization with which the Government can consult in order to ensure that legislation which is in preparation will give the maximum benefit and advantage to ex-servicemen.
It is a fact that before this bill was introduced the Cabinet sub-committee consulted with the national executive of the Returned Soldiers League, and that the executive submitted for the Government’s consideration nine proposals which the excutive felt that ex-servicemen in this country could fairly ask the Government to implement. The league is very pleased with the results of those discussions, because six of the nine proposals submitted to the Government are to be implemented by this bill either wholly or in part. Spokesmen for the league, such as the presidents of the State branches, have publicly expressed their appreciation of the Government’s action. I can say with authority, having discussed this with the presidents of certain State branches of the league, that they did not expect to get so much success from their representations after the phenomenal success which they achieved last financial year when they made representations that all service pensioners be given free treatment in repatriation hospitals. We cannot isolate the increased benefits to be given this financial year from those which were won for ex-servicemen last financial year. When we consider the tremendous benefit given to ex-servicemen by granting service pensioners free treatment in repatriation hospitals, and add the advantages that will accrue from this bill, we realize that, every year, this Government has progressed further towards perfection in repatriation matters.
One point that was mentioned by the Minister for Repatriation in his secondreading speech gave me great personal pleasure. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), particularly, will recall that over a number of years I have on various occasions in this House pressed the Government to consider paying the total and permanent incapacity or special rate pension, during the period of essential rest, to exservicemen who are discharged from hospital and for whom a rest-essential period is prescribed. The Minister, in the first amendments to the Repatriation Act which he has submitted, has seen fit to implement that proposal. Previously, unless an exserviceman had been in a repatriation hospital for thirteen weeks he could not receive sustenance or payment at the special pension rate on discharge, notwithstanding the fact that his medical officer had prescribed for him a period of convalescence under medical advice which was considered to be essential if a reaction detrimental to his health was to be avoided. I congratulate the Minister on implementing this proposal. I am very pleased to see that it is to be made effective.
I turn now to the amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member for Bass. I refer particularly to his proposal to increase to the equivalent of the basic wage the rate of pension payable to a totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman. The honorable member proposes that the special rate pension be increased to £28 16s. a fortnight. There is nobody in the Parliament who is not sympathetic towards totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen. Sir. But let us look at the facts. Does the Government force the totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman to exist on an income that is less than the basic wage? The answer is “ No “. I believe that the honorable member for Bass has distorted the picture somewhat. The fact is that the basic wage is determined on the basis that it is required to maintain a man, his wife and two children. The children of an ex-serviceman of World War II., if there were only two of them, would be aged perhaps twelve and fourteen. Let us consider the income that such a family will receive from the Repatriation Commission and compare it with that of a similar family in which the breadwinner receives the basic wage.
The ex-serviceman will receive a war pension of £13 5s. a week. He will be entitled to receive a service pension of £1 14s. 9d. a week, making a total of £14 19s. 9d. a week. To that, we add the allowance paid under the act in respect of his wife, which will be £1 15s. 6d. a week, plus service pension of £1 4s. 9d. a week, making a total of £3 Os. 3d. a week for the wife. The first child, who, I have suggested, would be fourteen years of age, will receive war pension of 13s. 9d. a week and service pension of 15s. a week, together with an education allowance of £1 5s. a week, making a total of £2 13s. 9d. a week. The child of twelve years of age will receive a war pension of 13s. 9d., a service pension of 2s. 6d. and an education allowance of 16s. 6d., making a total of £1 12s. 9d. The income of this family group would be £22 6s. 6d. a week.
If we accept the figures given to us by the honorable member for Bass that the basic wage is £14 8s. a week, we can compare the income of the two families. The basic wage earner with a wife and two children will receive £14 8s.; the totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman with a wife and two children will receive £22 6s. 6d. But in addition, the totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman is entitled to all the medical benefits and hospital treatment available to him through the Repatriation Department.
I would not wish any one to suggest from my argument that I believe that too much can be given to the totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman. That is impossible, and it is physically impossible to compensate him for all he has suffered in the cause of the nation. But the fact is that the amount paid to him and his family must be assessed on the reasonable assumption that there is a limit to the amount that 4,000,000 taxpayers can contribute to the National Welfare Fund for social services and for repatriation benefits. No member of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association would agree with the honorable member for Bass if he suggests that £22 6s. 6d. for a man, his wife and two children is a miserable contribution. I do not know of any totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman who to-day complains that he is not receiving a reasonable pension. These men are not dissatisfied, and any one who suggests they are is distorting the truth and should visit the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Club and discuss the matter with the exservicemen. 1 see no advantage in considering the proposition put by the honorable member for Bass; it is a specious argument. A family of four on the basic wage has an income of £14 8s.; the totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman has an income of £22 6s. 6d.
– That is if he has two children aged 12 and 14.
– We accept that the basic wage is computed on the basis of a man, his wife and two children, and we compute the pension paid to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman on exactly the same basis. How can any one dispute this comparison? 1 think it is fair enough at this stage to look at the increase in the payments made for war pensions in the period during which this Government has been in office. In 1949, the amount paid by the Commonwealth for war pensions was £18,754,492. To-day, under this Government, the estimate of the amount that will be paid in war pensions in 1961-62 from money taken from the taxpayers is not less than £66,708,000. Compare the two figures - £18,754,000 as against £66,708,000. I suggest that this Government has cause to be very proud of its record. Now let us look at the service pension. I remind honorable members that in some circumstances an ex-serviceman is entitled to both the war pension and the service pension. In 1949, the amount that came out of the Treasury to meet the cost of service pensions was £1,328,955. To-day the amount is not less than £9,176,000. Again, I say that this Government has cause to be proud of the work it has done to improve the lot of the ex-servicemen of two world wars.
I do not suggest that all the amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member for
Bass are unreasonable. Many of them have the sympathy of a great number of honorable members on this side of the House. But responsible legislation cannot be based entirely on emotionalism; it must be based on reason. One matter raised by the honorable member for Bass is the incidence of cancer amongst ex-servicemen and the need to amend the section of the act dealing with tuberculosis so that all forms of cancer may be dealt with on the same basis as tuberculosis. The honorable member for Bass will remember that some years ago I raised this matter in the House and pressed the Government to amend the section. 1 can, in fact, claim to have been the first member to introduce the matter into the House and to press for it. The honorable member for Bass may remember the figures on the incidence of cancer that were quoted.
– Order! The amendments are not yet before the House. A passing reference to them is in order, but detailed discussion is not in order.
– Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I presume I am in order in suggesting that the acceptance of cancer as a disability is a matter that may have to be considered seriously by future governments. The figures show that an average of one person in six in this country is dying from cancer. We know that the figures for females are higher than those for males. The last figures I was able to obtain show that 16.2 per cent, of all deaths in females in all age groups was due to cancer.
You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I placed a number of questions on the notice-paper for the previous Minister for Repatriation and asked that we obtain the figures on the incidence of deaths in the various age groups of ex-servicemen. The Minister intimated that at that time the department was finding great difficulty in obtaining the statistics. I suggest that these statistics are important to the Parliament, that the Parliament has a responsibility to consider this matter as a national problem and particularly as a problem affecting exservicemen. If the Parliament is to make a decision based on reason, and a responsible decision, it must have available to it all the facts and all the figures that are obtainable. To suggest that the Parliament can, on an emotional basis and without the knowledge it needs, come to a decision at this stage and say this should be done is to me unreasonable.
We must act as a reasonable Parliament and therefore we must insist that action be taken to obtain from the Repatriation Department all possible figures of the incidence of death from cancer in the various age groups of all ex-servicemen of World War II. I have been informed that it is almost impossible, if not completely impossible, to get these figures for exservicemen of World War I. But let us get the figures for World War II., dissect them into the various age groups and the various types of cancer from which these people died, and see whether we can compare them with figures relating to the incidence of cancer in the civilian population.
It is reasonable to assume from these figures that the incidence among exservicemen would appear to be low. We will be investigating the cases of a number of men with accepted disabilities and, of course, many of them will die from disabilities which are accepted as being due to war causes. Therefore, they would die before the onset of the cancer that could kill them. I submit that if we are able to get these figures for specific age groups and compare them with the relevant figures affecting civilians in similar age groups we would prove, if the figures were anywhere near balanced, that war service contributes in some way to the susceptibility of exservicemen to cancer. On that basis, the Parliament could then honestly say to the taxpayers that as a nation we owe something in this connexion to the ex-servicemen, because it would be apparent that war service contributes to the onset of the disease.
I should like to include in the “ Hansard “ record figures that have been supplied to me by the Minister for Repatriation. The figures relate to ex-servicemen who were in receipt of a pension and who died of cancer. The percentage of these cases in succeeding years is shown in this table -
I have been able to obtain from the Commonwealth Statistician statistics relating to civilians for the years 1956, 1957 and 1958 respectively. These statistics show that of the deaths among males and females of all ages in civilian life, the percentages of deaths due to cancer were -
Those figures show an increase in the rate of death due to cancer. I hope the Minister will give consideration to this matter. I hope that by some means statistics will be obtained through the Repatriation Department that will enable the Parliament to come to a reasonable, honest and responsible conclusion on this matter. I conclude by extending to the Minister for Repatriation my congratulations on the bill before the House. I congratulate him on having been able to implement, either wholly or in part, six of the nine recommendations of the R.S.S.A.I.L.A. I wish the Minister success in this position during the ensuing three years.
.- The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) has conferred on the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) a blessing for continuance of office for three years instead of for three months. I was in agreement with about 75 per cent, of the honorable member , speech, but every now and again he drifted back into the ranks of the Liberal Party and lost ground. Let us take some of the arguments he advanced. First he took the point that this was a matter for reason and not for emotion. That is fair enough perhaps unless we examine the basis on which wars are caused and on which servicemen are called up and serve.
Let us examine for a moment the simple recommendations that the Australian Labour Party has put before the Parliament as being reasonable propositions at this stage of the nation’s history in relation to its exservicemen. First, we suggest that the T.P.I, pension should have a base rate equal to the basic wage. What is emotional about that? Is there anything unreasonable about adopting the basic wage as a basis for the pension of a T.P.I, ex-serviceman? Our other amendment concerns cancer. As the honorable member pointed out, this is a matter on which we can base a strong case. I am sure- he would agree with us that the causes of cancer are so remotely understood that- the course we suggest ought to be adopted. What is emotional about that? Is that not reasonable in view of section 47 of the Repatriation Act?
Then we come to the onus of proof provision. We suggest in the light of our experience that there should be some basis of appeal to a non-repatriation authority such as a judicial authority. What- is, unreasonable about that? We say it is reasonable. It is not necessarily an expensive proposal; it would not cause a great deal of expense. Our third, proposal- is that medical! benefits: should- be payable to members of the forces who served in the 1914-18 war whether their condition was caused by- wai or not. Of course, this- should be accepted. It has been accepted in principle, I believe-
– Order! I must direct the honorable member for Wills on this point- just as I directed the honorable member for Lilley. I’ ask him not to go into detail on amendments which are not yet before the House.
– The honorable member for Lilley, suggested that our proposals were unreasonable and emotional. That might be taking his argument further than he meant; but 1 point out that arguments were put forward- on the question of medical benefits for wives and special rate pensioners. Those arguments are reasonable and should be adopted1 by honorable members on both sides of the House. We believe that these are questions to which the Repatriation Department should direct its attention.
The interesting thing about the Repatriation Act is that it represents a slow march towards the nation’s acceptance of its full duty to Australian ex-servicemen. This is not a matter affecting- only a small section of the community. In its totality, it is an extensive matter which covers a tremendous number of people and a large proportion of the population. Something like. 1,000,000 persons served in the Australian services during World War II. and about 430,000 enlisted in World War I. If you include their wives and dependants you find that a large proportion of the population is concerned with the Repatriation Department.
It is symptomatic of the approach of this country to this matter that the Repatriation Act has a schedule of amendments totalling 35, beginning with the first amendment made to the principal act in 1920. This indicat.es. a continual searching for perfection in a field in which there is. no such thing as perfection but in which we might have gone further than any other country has done. What does this mean? Are we to stop there and measure these matters by the standards of other people? Australia is one of the wealthiest nations of the world; and so we say that this is no time for speaking or thinking with hesitation and complacency. We believe that the hesitant steps that have been taken over the last twelve- years, or. even the last 35 years, could well have been taken with more firmness, and that the time has now come to take firmer steps.
The matter was raised in a debate in this House by the Minister for Repatriation himself not long ago. On 17th August, answering the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), the Minister asked how much further the honorable member wanted the Parliament to go in this matter of assisting ex-servicemen. Yet in introducing this bill the Minister is taking further steps and bringing more facilities to bear upon the problem of the ex-serviceman.
M*u Osborne.: - That was said with regard to section 47 only.
– You are prepared to admit there is scope for improvement in other fields?
– I admit nothing; but you are distorting the argument ‘by taking out of their context my remarks to the honorable member for Bass.
– I withdraw any suggestion that the Minister was prepared to admit there was any room to advance in any other field. I hope the Minister does not mean that I was taking his statement out of context merely to use it as a debating point. I took it simply’ as a point of view, that is accepted; at any particular point by anybody administering the act. Then after a month or two, when the Budget is introduced, further steps are taken. I believe we could take more of these steps with less hesitancy; Many of the. improvements that are being made to-day could well have been introduced twelve months or two years ago.
We found, last year, that it was possible to provide for medical benefits for service pensioners. This was a big advance. The honorable member for Lilley gave the impression that this was done as a result of pressure from the Returned Servicemen’s League. No one, of course, can precisely locate the points of pressure which produce results in the parliamentary system. We on this side of the House have raised a question over the last five or six years concerning the particular disabilities of people who served in the First World War. In our last policy speech we made particular mention of this. In that speech may be found these remarks -
The time has come when medical and repatriation hospital attendance and treatment should be available to all returned servicemen and nurses of the first world war irrespective of whether war entitlement is established.
This showed a simple acceptance of the fact that there was a group of ex-servicemen who needed special consideration. They are, generally speaking, the service pensioners. They are the people who, because of age, have become no longer employable. We believe that it was a major advance to provide medical benefits for them. From the point of view of the service pensioners themselves it was a major psychological victory. We are all associated closely with ex-servicemen. We number many of them among our constituents, and we are also connected with them through the various ex-servicemen’s organizations. We all know the effect upon the ex-servicemen of bringing them under the umbrella of the Repatriation Department. It has given them a sense of belonging to the system that has been built up. They feel that they have been given a bonus for services to the country. As I say, this was a psychological advance, a major advance, and it was greatly appreciated by many of the men who benefited by it.
We contend that similar advances should be made in other fields. When an exserviceman or his dependants receive benefits as a result of that man’s service to his country, the administration of those benefits should be in the hands of the Repatriation Department. This would have two advantages.
There would be an administrative advantage to be gained from bringing everything under the control of one department, and there would be a psychological advantage in that ex-servicemen and their dependants would realize that the country was recognizing the service that had been performed for it.
Despite all the praise that has been heaped on the heads of the Minister and his predecessor during the last hour or more, it is symptomatic of the Government’s approach to the repatriation system that there has been during the last twelve years only one fundamental change in the repatriation structure. That is the change in relation to service pensioners to which I have already referred. In the 41 years since the Repatriation Act was first placed on the statute-book there have been several fundamental changes. I think 1943 was a year of fundamental change in the repatriation system, and perhaps it is fair to admit that another fundamental change, so far as service pensioners were concerned, was made in 1960. Seventeen years is a long time to wait for fundamental changes, and we on this side of the House are concerned that the principles laid down in the 1943 amendments, for which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was largely responsible, are not being implemented satisfactorily.
We think the time has come for some further fundamental changes. In 1943, the question of onus of proof was, we believed, resolved by this Parliament in a satisfactory way, but we say that the provisions then introduced into the legislation are not being implemented in the way in which we believe they should be. We agree that in many cases there have been satisfactory results, but there is still a serious problem with regard to people who are not receiving the kind of justice that they should receive, and one has only to turn to statistics given in the speech of the honorable member for Bass to find support for this view. Perhaps “ justice “ is hardly the word. I do not think it is a matter of justice. I think that what is involved is a kind of duty that the community should accept in connexion with this group of people. In any case, we do not believe that the onus of proof provisions are being correctly implemented. However, 1943 was, as I say, a year of fundamental change.
The other important new principle thai was adopted in 1943 was the acceptance of tuberculosis as a Repatriation Department responsibility, whether or not it was proved to be war-caused. Then we had to wait until 1960 before another fundamental change was made. For the people affected by this legislation time is marching on. it is 43 years since the end of the First World War, and sixteen years since the close of the. Second World War. Only a very small number of people who served in the firs! war can possibly be under 60 years of age at the present time. Most of them are rising 70. Most of them have reached the stage at which they need medical attention ant! medical benefits to a far greater extent than they ever did before, lt is becoming increasingly apparent that medical benefits Should be available also for all those who served in the Second World War.
Honorable members on this side of the House believe, and I am sure that many on the other side will agree with us, that the time has come to extend the principle established in 1943 in relation to tuberculosis. We believe that other illnesses should be accepted as Repatriation Department responsibilities, whether war-caused or not, and we have chosen cancer as, shall we say, the set piece for our attack. We believe, however, that the principle could be extended to cover an even wider field. We believe that medical benefits should be extended to a wider field of ex-servicemen, and that the administration of the onus-of-proof provisions of the legislation should be more closely examined. We will deal with all these matters more thoroughly in the committee stage.
Let me turn to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) in reply to our first suggestion, that the pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen should be examined and the base rate increased to the level of the basic wage. The honorable member for Lilley is quite a good performer in these matters. He is a good supporter of the Government, but I know that in his heart he is in complete agreement with many of the things that we advocate on this side of the House. I wish that those honorable members opposite who speak in the way that the honorable member for Lilley speaks would come over and vote with us on occasion. We would then feel that they were more adequately supporting their points of view.
Le: us consider the position of the T.P.I, pensioner. We can always, of course, consider extreme cases. There is, for instance, the case of a man with a wife and two children reviving the service pension, together with special allowances for the children. I think the honorable member for Lilley built up the position of such a man to that of a somewhat fortunate citizen receiving £22 6s. 6d. a week. But we must remember that we are considering a man who is totally and absolutely incapacitated. He may not earn any money, because if he did he would not get the service pension at the special rate. Therefore, the totality of his income is £22 6s. 6d. a week - and this, as I pointed out, is a special case. Is that such a mammoth sum in this day and agc? This, remember, is 40-odd years after the First World War. I think if was only last year that one of a visiting group of T.P.I, pensioners came to me and asked to see the honorable member for Lalor, whom he had not seen since serving in his platoon in France on the night on which he had been knocked. That was somewhere on the Somme in 1916 or 1917. That man had never walked since then, and had never worked since then. Nothing that any one can say will convince me that the payment to him of slightly less than the basic wage for 40 years was anywhere near adequate compensation.
– He would have got more if he had been knocked over in the street by a car.
– Yes, as the honorable member for Bass has said, he would have received more in compensation if he had been knocked over by a car. A person who is knocked down by a car can claim compensation under third party insurance legislation, and if he goes before a jury in New South Wales or Victoria he will probably be awarded a good deal more than the T.P.I, pensioner has been able to get.
– What result do you get if you capitalize that weekly amount?
– The honorable member for Isaacs may take his part in the debate later and explain why he thinks the T.P.I, pensioners are adequately compensated.
– 1 did not say that, and you know very well I did not say it. Why do you try to distort questions?
– I did not even know-
– Order! I would advise the honorable member to address the Chair, and not to conduct a discussion with the honorable member for Isaacs.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I did not even know that the honorable member for Isaacs had interjected. I know he is a temporary chairman of committees, and that he would not do anything so disorderly as to interject. We believe that the basic wage is totally inadequate as a worker’s wage, but at the present time it is a fixed base rate of payment in the community. If you accept any other standard you ought to be able to justify it. You ought not to pick an amount out of thin air and use it as a basis. Nor should you accept as Holy Writ the principles laid down 20 or 30 years ago, or even twelve or fifteen years ago when the Labour Government was in power. But, as the honorable member for Bass has pointed out, it can be shown statistically -that the exserviceman is not so much better off in relation to the basic wage.
This, therefore, is our first point. The T.P.I, pensioner is entitled at least to the basic wage as a basic pension. We were not suggesting, as is almost implied in the argument that was advanced by the honorable member for Lilley, that we ought not to pay him any more and that he ‘ought not to get the additional components that are paid to ex-servicemen by way of wife’s allowance^ children’s allowances and so on. Generally speaking, the community accepts some kind of scientific basis on which decisions are made, and in relation to the pension-, we ought to accept the same basis as that used in the arbitration system, namely, the basic wage.
The honorable member for Lilley also stated that perhaps there are financial limits beyond which the 4,000,000 workers in the community cannot reasonably be ex pected to go. That is accepted. It is true that these 4,000,000 workers have to provide for 6,500,000 wives, children, retired employees and recipients of social services and health benefits of all kinds. In other words, the 4,000,000 have to produce at such a rate as to provide a decent standard of living for the other 6,500,000. We accept that as a basic principle of a democratic community.
What is involved in the acceptance of the basic wage as a basic rate for T.P.I, pensioners? The Repatriation Department has produced its report within the last few days. I congratulate the department upon having done so within kicking distance of the end of the financial year. Other departments present their reports two or three years late. Perhaps the Minister’s streamlining programme has had some effect, but I rather think that he inherited an efficient department. We have been singularly fortunate in obtaining some of the statistics that are made available in the department’s report. It shows, for instance, that last year there were 1-9,167 T.P.I, pensioners. If we increased the base rate to the basic wage, which would involve an increase of £1 or £1 3s. a week, this would represent £20,000 a week or a little over £1,000,000 a year. Such additional expenditure would be accepted by the -community without hesitation if it followed a decision by the Arbitration Commission or the Public Service Board.
If the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) decided that he needed an additional £1,000,000 in revenue from postage and telephone services, approval for the increased charges would be given without hesitation, at least by honorable members on the Government side. I think that the annual cost of telephone calls and weather telegrams for the Bureau of Meteorology alone is £1,000,000. So £1,000,000 is not a tremendous sum, particularly when we remember that the 20,000 people involved in this instance are a specialized group in the community. Perhaps a large number of them can get around the house or the garden doing odd jobs, but I know a number who are in fact totally and permanently incapacitated. They are the people who should receive special consideration. We do not believe that anything we pay them could compensate them adequately.
There.- are about 13,000 T.P.t pensioners of the First World War, most of them now in their late sixties-.. I do not know what proportion of that number have had their T.P.I, pension for the last fifteen or twenty years, but they are people who had no chance of increasing their earning capacity during their mature years. Other men in the community as time. goes, on reap an increasing benefit in employment advantages from the- experience that they have gained. However,, the T.P.I, pensioners have remained comparatively static. These are the considerations which face the Government and the nation. The .05 per cent. - perhaps less - of the adult male community which is represented by T.P.I, pensioners are, we believe, entitled to the same basic scientific judgment of their remuneration as is given to the basic wage earner.
I thought that the honorable member for Lilley was a little less than fair in. his argument when he took the extreme specialized case of an ex.-serviceman. with two. children who attracted- the children’s allowance and so- on. As- the honorable member for Barton- (Mr, Reynolds) pointed out, under the arbitration system the single man in the community receives the same basic wage as does the married’ man. The basic wage is paid to a man whether he is single or married, or, if he is married, whether’ he has two children- or fifteen children. We believe that this is. a. reasonable state of affairs. Apart from the £1 3s. a week that is involved in our proposal, there is the psychological or administrative effect which would flow from the pension having the same fixed character as has the basic wage. The basic wage is not something that is dreamed up by the Treasury, handed to the Minister who battles it through Cabinet, and is then presented finally to Parliament as something that has been almost winnowed before it reaches us. lt is an accepted basic payment. We think that it would be to the advantage of the whole system if the T.P.L. pension had a fixed ratio to the basic wage.
To what is the 100 per cent, disability pension related? It is simply another figure plucked out of the air. For twenty or 30 years there have been continual battles to add another ls. or 2s. here or there. We believe that pensions should be determined by some- other authority in the community, thus removing them from the Parliamentary battleground. I am sure that pension changes would then be accepted- in the community in the same way as judgments in relation to the basic wage are accepted. The T.P.I, pensioners deserve special consideration.
In the few minutes that are left to me I should like to refer to other matters. As we have pointed out already, we are disappointed that there has been no reference to an amendent of the act in relation to the onus-of-proof provisions of section 47. The honorable member for Bass has painted out the extraordinary difficulty that the tribunals experience in processing all the cases that come before them. His arithmetic is pretty good. He said that the report indicated that one tribunal handled 56 cases in a day. What does this mean? It means simply that the cases are being “ processed “. They could not possibly be examined as thoroughly, as they should be.
– lt would be about ten minutes for each case.
– Yes, about ten minutes for each case. A file half an .inch thick may have to be considered, or an examination of a multitude of medical reports may have to be made. A decision of a basic nature so far as the Repatriation Department is concerned, is involved. We on this side of the House believe that this position is unsatisfactory. The administrative procedures need assistance, perhaps by the appointment of additional tribunals. Perhaps the tribunals need closer surveillance. The onus-of-proof problem could be rectified quite simply by an amendment of the act or a parliamentary resolution.
Before lunch I obtained from the library the “ Macmillan Medical Cyclopedia “ inan effort to learn what case the Repatriation. Department could advance- to prove that cancer, diabetes or rheumatism cannot be war-caused disabilities. The act itself is explicit. It states, that the onus of proof shall rest upon the department. The cyclopedia, is quite clear that the cause of malignant growths remains undiscovered;. When1 the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr:. Clyde Cameron) questioned the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) about this matter a couple of years ago he was told that the cause of lung cancer, or indeed of any other cancer, was unknown. The Minister for Health made that statement after persistent questioning by the Opposition. We say that if you cannot prove what causes a disease, you cannot disprove the argument that it was warcaused or at least war-aggravated. That is the simple proposition. Just as tuberculosis was accepted some seventeen or eighteen years ago as a war-caused disability, so cancer should be accepted now.
We have taken cancer as a test case and have mentioned it continuously in the Parliament, but that does not mean that that is the limit of our proposals. Let me refer to diabetes which is defined in the cyclopedia in this way: This authority says -
In adults the disease usually appears insidiously and has in most cases been present for some time before an examination of the urine reveals the condition by chance.
And this is an important point in the case of people who served in both world wars -
Exposure to wet and cold, privation, depressing mental conditions or mental overwork are predisposing causes.
How, then, could you reject an applicant if diabetes was the subject of an application? 1 had one instance brought to me last week. lt was the case of a man who left the services five or six years ago and whose claim for a pension for diabetes has been rejected. The same position would apply to disabilities in the category of rheumatism or arthritis. In the case of non-articular rheumatism we read -
The actual cause is still to be found. The onset may be acute, as in certain cases of lumbago, or gradual. Undue exertion may precipitate an attack.
Throughout the medical dictionary it is easy enough to find examples of diseases which now afflict ex-servicemen and for which there is no known cause. As far as this side of the House is concerned there is ample evidence that service in both the First World War and the Second World War was of such an arduous nature that it was likely to induce in the serviceman a breakdown in later life. It is not good enough to say that an application by a serviceman now is 40 years later and that he is too old. When I came here five or six years ago and sat down in preparation for my first debate on repatriation matters I was struck by the singular disparity between the granting of pensions to ex-servicemen of the First World War and those of the Second World War.
I have cited the figures often. The statistics show for the Second World War a total of 183,000 casualties, and there are now 153,000 pensioners fifteen or sixteen years after the war. Admittedly, over 1,000,000 served. But in the First World War - one does not have to read much to realize it - service was more arduous than in the Second World War. Yet in the First World War 330,000 sailed and there were 314,000 casualties - 95 per cent, casualties. The official history of Australia in that war sets out the tremendous casualties, the terrific hardships and the arduous nature of service, whether on Gallipoli or in France. Yet we find that the ratio of pensioners to casualties for the First World War at no stage is relative to that of the Second World War. This is reasonable enough. The Second World War man had his father, his brothers, his uncles and his friends down the road saying to him, “ Don’t get out until it is all cleared up. Get it all down on paper.” That was the first thing; and the second was that experience had made the Repatriation Department more competent to handle the case. We on this side of the House believe that a special and particular duty devolves upon the nation in regard to First World War ex-servicemen. And there are other people concerned in this. So many of them have passed on, and so many of their widows are left-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The present Government has an extremely proud record in the matter of repatriation. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was elected in 1949 he said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in all our administration of soldier problems.
Prior to this Government coming into office, there was great dissatisfaction among the returned men in Australia. In 1948, the Returned Servicemen’s League had put up to the then Labour Government what was known as “The Thirty-eight Point Plan”. The Labour Government had nearly two years in which to give consideration to that proposal and to bring in the amendments asked for by the R.S.L. Notwithstanding that fact, only five of those 38 points were in any way implemented by the Labour Government. Consequently, when we came into office at the end of 1949, there was great dissatisfaction, lt is pleasing to note that of those 38 proposals which were put up in 1948, and only five of which had been implemented by the Labour Government, all of the five being very minor amendments, this Government has carried into effect 21 of them, including all the major ones.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) candidly admitted that the Labour Government was at fault, but the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), during his speech, tried to suggest that this Government had made only one fundamental change in repatriation since its election to office in 1949. That forces me to detail the tremendous number of amendments and very substantial changes that have been made by this Government in favour of ex-servicemen. The eligibility for benefits has been tremendously widened. For example, under Labour there was a restriction which debarred the wife of an exserviceman married after 1938, or his child born after that date, from receiving a war pension in respect of incapacity. That restriction was removed at the request of the R.S.L. Provision was made to extend the Repatriation Act to ex-servicemen who fought in Korea and Malaya. Similarly, repatriation benefits were provided for those who served in the Far Eastern Strategic Reserve in Malaya. Provision was also made for repatriation benefits of a special kind for those who served in Papua and New Guinea. In 1950, this Government provided for the war widow a re-marriage gratuity, something which had never been granted by a Labour government. In the same year, the Government provided for motor cars for double amputees. In 1953, provision was made for travelling expenses for war widows admitted to repatriation hospitals.
In 1952, the next-of-kin of an exserviceman was provided with travel facilities during hospital treatment. Provision was also made in 1952 for a training scheme for disabled members and war widows. In 1958, provision was made for supplemental pensions for service pensioners when there was only one pension coming into the home and where they had to pay rent. Then we introduced the merged means test, which provided tremendously increased pensions to a great many thrifty aged ex-servicemen in relation to their service pensions. It also brought into the entitlement field a very large number of additional service pensioners. Then we saw the provision of dependants’ allowances, recreational transport allowances, special medical sustenance, travelling expenses and attendance allowances in connexion with medical treatment, and clothing allowances for amputees. The domestic allowance for war widows has been increased from the 7s. 6d. paid by the Labour Government in 1949 to the £3 2s. 6d. which will be payable when this bill becomes law. This allowance was also extended to cover widows who are unemployable. Education allowances were provided under the soldiers’ children education scheme, and special allowances were granted under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Further, medical benefits have been provided for 100 per cent, general rate pensioners for treatment of complaints not due to war service. Again, medical benefits have been provided for war widows and their children, and for certain widowed mothers. The funeral grant has been increased from £20 to £25, and special signalling and driving devices have been provided for the motor cars of disabled ex-servicemen. Provision has been made also for business loans, and there have been tremendous increases in all ranges of repatriation benefits. In face of a record like that, it seems odd that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) should say here that this Government has made only one substantial change in repatriation benefits. Since this Government has been in office, returned servicemen’s organizations and servicemen generally have been extremely pleased with the reforms it has made and the increases it has granted in all benefits. Needless to say, the ex-servicemen have not been granted all they asked for, but that is not uncommon in this world. Every section of the community places its needs before the Government, and the Government must of necessity consider the needs of each section in relation to the needs of all the other section and in relation to the country’s capacity to pay. Taking all these factors into consideration, this Government can truly say that it has a proud and magnificent record of achievement.
I am disappointed that on this occasion the Government has not been able to provide that a sufferer from cancer shall be automatically entitled to a war pension, but 1 am confident that it will give “further consideration to this important matter at some future date. A number of us on this side of the House have advocated from time to time that a sufferer from cancer should be automatically entitled to a war pension. Let me now state my reasons for advocating this reform. As I understand the position, the medical profession is unable to say what causes cancer. I have never been able to understand how. if the medical profession is unable to state the causes of cancer, the Entitlement Appeals Tribunal can rule that the disability did not arise from the applicant’s war service. Parliament has already stated most emphatically in the Repatriation Act, first that the onus is on the Repatriation Department to prove that a serviceman’s disability was not due to war service and, secondly, that the department must prove its case beyond any reasonable doubt. In those ‘circumstances, 1 think that in all cases where the applicant is suffering from cancer the Entitlement Appeals Tribunal should rule that the disability is due to war service. To date that has not been the position. Of 4,135 applications by living ex-servicemen for a war pension on the ground that cancer was caused by war service, 2,030 have been accepted, and of 1,577 applications where death has been caused by cancer, the tribunal has ruled in 386 cases that the cancer was caused by war service. Therefore, in quite a large number of cases, the appropriate repatriation authority has decided that in its opinion the cancer causing death or disability was due to war service. How, when the -causes of cancer appear to be completely unknown, these tribunals can say that in the other cases the Repatriation Department has discharged its obligations under the onusofproof provision, I do not know. It is because of the feeling of many people that the Repatriation Board, the Repatriation Commission and the Entitlement Appeals Tribunal may not be administering the act according to the intent of Parliament, that I believe that a sufferer from cancer should automatically become entitled to a pension. This would not be any radical departure for there is no worse disability than cancer. There is no case which calls for greater compassion than that of the sufferer from cancer and 1 feel that, on humanitarian grounds alone, we could properly say that an ex-serviceman suffering or dying from cancer should automatically become entitled to benefit under the Repatriation Act.
I realize that at a time like this when the Budget has been framed, when all the revenue has already been allocated, it is impossible to hope -to amend the act. The Government has taken all this into account when considering the many other claims made upon Consolidated Revenue. As the Budget stands at present, every penny that is being received by the Government by way of taxation, and every penny that it expects to receive by way of loan, has been allocated to the items detailed in the Budget. Not only has every penny been allocated, but it is expected that there will be a deficit of some £15,000’,000. We know that once the Budget has been framed and the moneys allocated, a special appropriation is necessary if additional moneys are required to be spent. There has been no special appropriation for a reform such as the one I advocate, and therefore it would be only idle, and would be fooling the people to move for any such reform. But I do urge the Government to give most earnest consideration to this proposal because I believe that, just as we have provided that those suffering from the dreadful illness of tuberculosis are automatically entitled to a pension, so should we provide that those unfortunate people who suffer from cancer, and the dependants of those who have died from cancer, shall automatically be entitled to repatriation benefit.
There is some merit in some of the other proposals that have been foreshadowed by the honorable member for Bass, but I think it is only playing politics to bring them up at this stage as proposed amendments. Members of the Opposition know perfectly well that the Budget has been framed and that the whole of the available money has been appropriated for particular purposes.
They know that no government, even if it were their own, could accept any amendment to a bill based on the Budget which would cause an additional appropriation from revenue. For Labour to move such an amendment as this is just sheer humbug.
At the same time, I believe that consideration should be given by the Government to those suggestions of the honorable member for Bass which have merit, for possible incorporation in subsequent bud gets. Personally, I would like to see cancer made an automatic entitlement next year. With that reservation, I would like to congratulate the Government and the Minister upon carrying on, year by year, their magnificent record of achievement in removing the repatriation anomalies that existed in the act in 1949, and in improving the lot of those to whom we owe so much.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Griffiths) adjourned.
. -I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment (No. 24).]
Mr. Temporary Chairman, Customs Tariff Proposals No. 24 provides for a temporary duty of a penny each on ball point pens and pencils which, have a value for duty not exceeding4½d. each. The new rate which will take effect to-morrow morning, is being imposed on the recommendation of a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. I shall table the relevant report at a later stage.
The normal protective needs of the local industry have been referred to the Tariff Board for full inquiry and report. The temporary duty will remain in effect only until the Government has taken action on the final report of the” board but, in any case, not longer than three months after the receipt of the report. I commend the proposal to honorable members.
– 1 lay on the table a report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board on the following subject -
Ball point pens.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed (vide page 989).
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 join with other members of the Parliament in adding my congratulations to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) on his appointment to the portfolio of Repatriation. This is the first time in my twelve years in Parliament that we have had the privilege of having the Minister for Repatriation in this House. Although I violently disagree with him in many respects 1 have always found the present Minister lo be ready to assist wherever possible.
The Minister has already told Parliament that the purpose of this bill is to give effect to the Budget proposals. In addition, it will amend certain provisions of a machinery nature in the administration of the act. The Opposition, naturally, is disappointed to know that the proposals in the bill do not meet those of returned soldier organizations. It is the intention of the Opposition, at the appropriate time, to move amendments to which I shall give my wholehearted support.
The bill contains only one provision which can be called a major gain for exservicemen. It is the provision to pay recuperating ex-servicemen the total and permanent incapacity pension rate during their recovery from an illness. That improvement is long overdue. Aged exservicemen who are receiving age pensions and not service pensions are still without free medical and hospital services. 1 am completely unable to understand why the Government quibbles about such a minor issue as providing free medical services to ex-servicemen in receipt of the age pension. Every ex-serviceman who is a pensioner, irrespective of the type of pension he is receiving, should receive free medical and hospital treatment. I hope that the Government will soon wake up to this and extend this benefit to all ex-servicemen.
In dealing with repatriation matters, the greatest problem with which 1 am faced from time to time is in presenting the cases of ex-servicemen whose applications have been rejected by the Repatriation Department. The Minister has said that disappointment is bound to be expressed by men whose claims have bean rejected. He implied that only the “ no-hope “ cases came to ;he notice of members of Parliament because, by that time, the ex-serviceman concerned had exhausted every other avenue of endeavour to get a pension. I assure the Minister that thai is not the case. I am sure that if the Minister were to take time to examine some repatriation files on rejected cases he would get the shock of his life.
– I have examined many.
– I ask him to examine more. I hope he will give me an opportunity to look at some of them with him. From my own observations, 1 submit that the files of some ex-servicemen are literally stacked agains, them. As long as the department allows persona! matters to be included in the files, numerous ex-servicemen will never receive a pension, nor will they ever obtain justice in their fight for security through the reparation pension.
I shall refer to one such case. The exserviceman concerned, whose name I have permission to mention, is Gibson-Brown. He had not been able to work at his job for a very long time and he had sought an increase in his pension because he had been refused unemployment benefit. On looking through Mr. Gibson-Brown’s papers. I saw a document which purported to be a report on him in connexion with repatriation matters. In my opinion, the contents of the document would be damaging in the extreme to any application for increased pension that Mr. Brown might make, and I immediately brought the matter to the notice of the Minister. The document was in these terms -
Hereunder copy of medical report in respect of the abovenamed: - “ 17/3/ ‘54. Gibson-Brown is of simple dull intelligence and postwar has had a stormy vocational history. With much effort - in past from this Department - he has been placed in employment and has been able to develop some stability in his life. Recently admitted here from 2/2/’54 to 25/2/’54- his third admission in 2 years and seen by me on 15/2/’54 and reassured and recommended to return to work. Now for some reason - obscure to me - he has returned, and tells me he is ‘ absolutely exhausted ‘ and wobbly ‘ on his feet in the mornings, and so therefore is once more in R.G.H. Concord, yet was swimming in the baths here yesterday.
Gibson-Brown is dependent and childish. Such character weaknesses are only accentuated by hospitalisation and I am fearful he willlose his employment with absences from work so needless as this. Could he please be reviewed by physician and if cleared, firmly once more be discharged to work, and a copy of reports to be sent to Local Medical Officer. . . . “ 1 now propose to read a reference which was given to Mr. Gibson-Brown by an Army doctor whom he accompanied over the Owen Stanley Ranges in New Guinea during World War II. It is as follows: -
This is to certify that D. Gibson-Brown was my Hygiene Sgt. attached to the 2/3 Bn. during the Campaign on the Owen Stanley Range, New Guinea.
During the time he was in perfect physical condition and carried pack and loads in excess of any other unit member.
While crossing the Kokoda Trail, Mentally D. Gibson-Brown was always alert and intelligent and showed no sign of nervous tension. I have here a copy of an application which Mr. Gibson-Brown made to the Repatriation Commission for the hearing of his appeal against the rejection of his application for an increase in pension, and, with the concurrence of the House, I incorporate it in “ Hansard “ for the purpose of putting the record right. The document reads -
I do not know if this procedure is correct in presenting my case to your Tribunal, I do know that I can have representations, but I feel that I should present my own written case history.
My chief reason for doing this is having been before many Doctors. I have found that after leaving their presence, one has forgotten to mention some salient fact and also inclined to become muddled and thus not giving the Doctor the true picture, more so if one is suffering some mental stress.
It is not my intention, nor do I wish to convey that I am trying to belittle anyone or that I am a bush lawyer. I just want to try and give an honest history.
In the year 1930, I commenced work at the B.H.P. Co. Ltd. Newcastle, on the Clerical Staff and after doing all types of clerical work for four years, was transferred to theCoke Ovens Dept., for training in the recovery of Benzol or Motor Spirit from Coal. I was later transferred to the Aust. Iron and Steel Works, Port Kembla.
My recreation was boxing and surfing, I loved the surf and was considered a good surfer. I kept myself in good condition going to the Gym three nights a week.
On Mr. Menzies’ declaration of War, for the Commonwealth of Australia I felt it was my duly to serve my Empire and Country in the A.I.F. But there was a stumbling block I was in a reserved occupation. I was producing Motor Spirit and a higher distillate called Toluene. Toluene being used to give aeroplane engines a higher octane power and also being nitrated to make T.N.T.
To get over this problem I gave my occupation as a labourer and joined the A.I.F. on 20th Oct. 39. I was in the Army and attested before anyone was any the wiser, being the only one from the Benzol Plant, Port Kembla who was able to join the Services.
My pre war wage today, would be approximately twenty five pounds per week. That is without any promotions and I naturally would have had quite a few by now. I have checked the above figure.
Sailing with the first convoy from Australia, I saw action with the 2/3 Aust. Inf. Bn. Bardia, Tobruk, Greece, Syria and the Owen Stanley Ranges.
At Owens Corner, just before the beginning of the trek across the Ranges, I was transferred to the R.A.P. Staff and told by the C.O. to give every assistance possible to the M.O., Dr. Goldman, keeping medical gear up with the R.A.P.
Up to this period I had never known a days sickness in the Army. My early physical training had stood me in good stead. Dr. Goldman informed me that my endurance, strength and stamina were incredible.
Then seven days after Kokoda I commenced to vomit, I was not able to keep my meals down. An evacuation ticket was placed around my neck and I commenced the long trek back to Kokoda. It took approximately nine dayswalking sot being able to keep meals down.
On admittance to hospital I was diagnosed as having Yellow Jaundice. Whilst in hospital I contracted B.T. & M.T.Malaria. Back in Australia I was boarded and discharged on the 31st Jan. 1944 - anxiety state.
I returned to my old position at Aust. Iron and Steel Works, commencing on 29th Feb. 1944, but I was not a well man. I used to get bouts of hot and cold shivers, sweating, breathlessness and palpitations and the feeling that there was something wrong with my stomach, also for years in the Army I had dreamed of the Australian surf. I used to spend ,my spare time on the beach, but I found I could not get out to the breakers, half a dozen strokes and I became exhausted. Although I went swimming every day for weeks, it was of no avail, my condition did not improve. I was not my old self. I felt that I was not rehabilitating myself, so I resigned on 4th November, 1944.
I joined the firm of Patons and Baldwins in Sydney, carrying out nominal warehouse work. My -promotions came rapidly, country traveller, City -of Sydney and in Feb., 1947 I was given their Newcastle Branch. But my condition did not improve, in fact my attacks became more frequent. I was never able to keep my breakfast down. I felt it was effecting my job and I consulted a ‘Repatriation -Doctor. He blamed my anxiety state and that my job was worrying me and that if I kept it up I would end up in a mental home.
I resigned from Patons & Baldwins in November 49 and commenced work with Commonwealth Oxygen, hoping that with the hard work I would be my old self again and be able, with my references and experience, to get back into the travelling game and get some stability in my life.
Instead I found that I began to get worse. With heavy lifting the blood would rush to my face and I would .have palpitations. I lost months of .work and was naturally put off and was not able to get another .position until twelve months .later.
I was. still not satisfied that anxiety state was the base of my trouble and on the advise of a Dr. Bourke I went to see a Dr. Le Gay Brereton, a Newcastle Specialist, with a -good reputation on diagnosis. That was in March 1952. He .told me that he could feel my spleen and in his opinion the base of my trouble could be found from this. J referred his finding to the Repatriation and I was told by letter from them, ‘17th July 52, there -was no -evidence to -support same. However, my symptoms were considered part of my already accepted disability- -anxiety state. :in Feb. 1957 I applied to the Broken Hill Pty. Co. for re-employment but on an examination by their own Medical Officer, I was informed that this was not possible owing to my physical condition due to War Service. 1 have not worked since January of this year and although 1 go to the Government Employment Office each Monday morning, there is no work available for me, owing to my -physical condition. When one sees Germans and Italians getting employment there, one looks back over the years and feels a sense of humiliation.
MY thoughts are knowing that something was wrong inside my body and being told that there was nothing wrong, has been the main cause of my anxiety state. The only medicine I have been given over the years has been bottle after bottle of Phenabarb tablets or Phenabarb mixture to stop my anxiety state and through constant taking has dulled my powers of concentration and ability to remember.
I also think that the period of sickness on the Owen Stanley Ranges, left a physical weakness which could have been rectified years ago.
In concluding I wish to state that I am not holding myself up as an authority on Medicine or psychiatry, 1 have not the qualifications to do that, I have just written what my conscience and my own mind tells me and hoping I will be understood.
In .the remaining .time available to me, J wish to discuss that ever-controversial subject, the onus of .proof and the application of section 47 ,of the Repatriation Act. The Minister .for .Repatriation, in his second-reading speech, stated how proud he was to have become the nineteenth member of the Parliament who had .been privileged, as Minister for Repatriation, to take part, in the development of the Australian repatriation system. I regret to say that I somewhat doubt the Minister’s sincerity there. Having listened to him on two occasions when he has spoken on repatriation matters since he has been Minister, I feel that he sometimes wants to stifle discussion on repatriation matters.
– I shall just show the honorable member that what I have said is correct. On 17th August, the Government gave my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), an opportunity to move a motion which had been standing on the business-paper in his name for some months. The purpose of that motion was to declare that, in the opinion of this House, the repatriation law relating to the onus of proof was not being administered in a proper way. Apparently, the Minister for Repatriation wanted to get the subject of the onus of proof off the business-paper.
The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley), who was at the time in charge of the House, moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders in order to permit the honorable member for Bass to propose and speak to the motion, even though the Minister for Repatriation knew then that the debate on this measure would shortly come on. I would have thought that the Minister, since he was new to the portfolio and it had been entrusted for the first time in twelve years to a member of this House, would have welcomed the opportunity to have a fullscale debate on the subject of the onus of proof, even if only to vindicate the Government’s action in consistently refusing to heed the Opposition’s continual barrage of criticism against the Government’s ineptitude in the matter of the onus of proof. But what did we find? After the honorable member for Bass had outlined the Opposition’s case, the Minister himself spoke for seventeen minutes in defence of the Repatriation Commission’s administration of the act. At the end of his speech, he abruptly said that he would ask the House to reach a conclusion on the subject of the onus of proof and record a vote on the motion, as the honorable member for Bass had not submitted any proof in support of his charges.
– That did not prevent the Opposition from bringing the matter up again in this debate.
– This debate should be used for the discussion of repatriation matters other than the onus of proof. In my view, the Minister did not want to hear the Opposition’s criticism, nor did he want the House .to obtain evidence about the way in which the onus-of-proof section is being administered, although he had afforded an opportunity for debate. Two more honorable members spoke in that debate after the Minister, one from each side of the House, before he gagged the debate and a vote was taken. Mr. Speaker, the Opposition’s voice will never be stifled or silenced in relation to the onus of proof until we are satisfied that justice is being done by all ex-servicemen in repatriation matters.
The Minister said that, after being responsible for eight months for the administration of the act, he was satisfied that the onus of proof was being applied correctly, as he had carefully studied the opinions that had been given by former Senator Spicer when he was AttorneyGeneral and by the honorable member for Parramatta ,(Sir Garfield Barwick), who is the present Attorney-General. I tell the Minister that I do not disagree with the opinion given by Mr. Justice Spicer, as he now is, but I suggest that that opinion, which was given in 1956, is not being followed by the .Repatriation Commission, the repatriation boards or the tribunals, as the evidence will show.
Mr. Speaker, before I become further involved in this subject, I want it to be clearly understood that I make no complaint whatever against the rank-and-file officers of the Repatriation Commission, and that I make no .complaint against the deputy commissioners, because I know that all those officers are only carrying out their duties. They have at all times extended to me Hae maximum courtesy and assistance, which I greatly value. My fight is against those persons who have vested in themselves a dictatorial authority which, 1 submit, the Parliament did not intend them to ‘have. The more I study section 47 of the act, and the more 1 see of some of the decisions handed down by the Repatriation Commission, the repatriation boards and the tribunals, the more certain I am that the claims of a certain percentage of applicants will always be rejected.
– That .charge is completely false.
– I say -that -in all seriousness, .Mr. Speaker.
– The charge is completely false.
– If the Minister wants proof, 1 shall provide him with evidence. I often wonder just how many exservicemen have been refused pensions to which they are entitled. I personally know of a great many ex-servicemen whose applications have been rejected and who have believed to the day they died that they would at some time receive justice. The records show that from 1930 to 1939, 31,506 claims for pension were rejected. In that period, about 90,000 pensions were cancelled, and in all fairness to the Minister, I take it that the pensions of wives and children are included in that figure. Some 25,000 pensioners died. If we subtract the deaths from the number of pensions cancelled, we find that about 65,000 pensions ceased to exist in those ten years. If we add the 31,506 rejected applications to that number, we find that almost 100,000 exservicemen had claims wiped out in ten years. No doubt many applicants whose claims were rejected would again apply for a pension, but it would be interesting to know just how many ex-servicemen and their families have had their pensions taken from them. I remind the House that they were all ex-servicemen, and their dependants, of World War I.
I believe that many applications for war pension have been lost because the exserviceman’s service record has not been complete. Others have been lost because the medical records have not been thoroughly perused or because the medical officers have been lax in compiling the applicant’s case history. Other cases have been rejected because the Repatriation Commission has sent the applicant from doctor to doctor until it obtained the opinion it required. From 1930 to 1939, hundreds of war pensioners lost their pensions after a review had been made, and they were never able to get the pension back again. In my opinion, the government of the day was responsible for what happened in that period. I believe war pensions generally were the target of an attack at that time to conserve the Consolidated Revenue Fund. If this is not so, I should like to know why ex-servicemen lost their pensions on the recommendations of repatriation medical officers who in some in stances had never seen the ex-serviceman. I will say more about this a little later.
The onus-of-proof provision has been the subject of prolonged criticism for more than 30 years. Many eminent members on both sides of the House in the past have been most vocal in their criticism of its interpretation. The general dissatisfaction with the decisions of the commission, the boards and the tribunals prompted Opposition and Government Ministers and members alike in 1942 to call for the setting up of a committee to inquire into the Repatriation Act generally. It is true that the entry of Japan into the Pacific theatre of war also directed attention to the inadequacies of the act at that time. I am sure the Parliament is greatly indebted to those honorable members who had striven so hard to place the meaning of the onus-of-proof provision beyond any doubt.
Amongst the members who had made the most noise about the interpretation of the provision were Sir Eric Harrison, Mr. W. M. Hughes, who was Leader of the Opposition at that time, Sir Percy Spender, Sir Frederick Stewart, Sir Charles Marr, Mr. Anthony and Mr. Rankin. Many other Liberal and. Australian Country Party members also complained about the interpretation of the provision. I invite honorable members to study the remarks made by these men when they spoke on the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Bill 1943. The speeches on that occasion show clearly that both the Government and the Opposition did not intend that the repatriation authorities were to set themselves up virtually as dictators in interpreting the onus-of-proof provision. The views expressed in 1943 have been strengthened by the interpretation of Senator Spicer. In referring to both the repatriation law and the normal processes of the courts, Senator Spicer said -
He went on to say -
In every case the question is not: Has the claimant satisfied the tribunal that he is right? but has the opposing person or authority satisfied the tribunal that the claimant is wrong?
In my view, Senator Spicer’s interpretation of the onus-of-proof provision forms the crux of the whole matter. To me, it is as plain as a pikestaff that the commission, the boards and the tribunals have banded together in a dictatorship, or they have formed an alliance, to assert their power and authority in the interpretation of this vital provision.
The Parliament, in 1943, meant that section 47 should be interpreted to give the widest possible benefit to the ex-serviceman. 1 will show that there can be no doubt that this is so. Even Sir Eric Harrison in those days was all for the ex-serviceman. At page 1577 of “Hansard”, of 11th March, 1943, he said -
Every enlisted man is subjected to the most rigorous medical examination. He has to undergo X-ray examinations, blood tests - in fact the whole gamut of medical inspection at the hands of a score of all kinds of medical men. Therefore, when a man is taken into the forces, he is accepted as being 100 per cent, fit, and, if subsequently he suffers any ailment it should be accepted as being due to war service.
Unfortunately, Sir Eric Harrison repudiated those views some years later; he absolutely betrayed the claims of ex-servicemen after he became a Minister in the Menzies Government in 1950. Following the report of the committee on repatriation, the Labour Government, in its desire to place the onus-of-proof provision beyond doubt, sponsored a series of amendments designed to strengthen the section. One such amendment is now section 48 of the act. I consider that section 48 is complementary to section 47 and on no account at any time should any repatriation authority, except perhaps an assessment tribunal, be allowed to discharge the onus of proof against an applicant for a pension while aqualified medical practitioner has given an opinion that his patient is suffering from a war-caused disability or has expressed the view that a doubt exists as to whether the condition was war-caused. Those views were expressed in the Parliament in 1943.
Mr. W. M. Hughes, who was the Leader of the Opposition at that time, led the fight for reform. He sponsored many amendments and some were accepted by the Government. I direct the attention of the House to some of the views expressed by Mr. Hughes, Dr. Evatt and others at that time. To my mind, these views confirm the opinion of the Opposition that the repatriation tribunals are not discharging their duties as the Parliament had directed. The views expressed in 1943 are interesting, because they reveal clearly what was intended at that time. In outlining what he intended by his amendments, Mr. Hughes said -
The Minister is thoroughly seised of the import of the amendments. I wish only to say, although I do not press the matter, that I should have taken the gravest exception to the clauses providing for reference to a medical practitioner of matters which go to the very root of the claimant’s position, were it not for the fact that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has been assured that men suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis will not be placed in the position where such a reference is necessary. I am satisfied that no man, no matter how expert he may be, can say whether pulmonary tuberculosis from which the returned soldier is now suffering twenty years after the war is, or is not, due to, or has been aggravated by, war service.
Mr. Hughes expressed a doubt as to whether even medical practitioners were competent to discharge the onus of proof. In replying to Mr. Hughes, Dr. Evatt said -
In other words, if any question which is material to the case before any of these tribunals cannot be placed beyond doubt, the question must be determined in favour of the member of the forces.
Mr. Spender. ; It is usually claimed by the authorities that there are no doubts.
– If there be, in fact, no doubts, then another position arises.
– What is the significance of the words “ conclusive proof “ in proposed new subsection 2 of this new section?
– I shall come to that point presently.
A little later, Dr. Evatt said -
Proposed new section 39c is an attempt to give some reality to the real benefit of the doubt. When the medical practitioner - and that includes the medical practitioner at every relevant stage . . .
I ask officers of the Repatriation Department to consider that point. It means whether a departmental practitioner or a private practitioner is concerned. Dr. Evatt continued -
Later, Dr. Evatt said - 1 emphasize that if any fact .arises or , nas to be determined, the onus of negativing anything of benefit to the soldier rests with the commission or tribunal.
– That has always been so. f)r. EVATT- It is useless for the honorable member to repeat that claim. Any doubt that arises must be resolved in ‘every case, in favour of the men.
Mr. Beck. ; That clarifies the whole matter.
Speaking later on another -clause of the bill, Dr. Evatt said -
Every doubt that arises in any portion of the case will be resolved in favour of the member.
– Would not the provision be strengthened by the addition of the words “ beyond reasonable doubt? “
– No; because it says earlier that any doubt whatever in the case - it may be said to be either reasonable or unreasonable - shall be resolved in favour of the applicant. It may be said to go further than the amendment of the honoable member for Warringah because that introduces the idea -of “ reasonable “ .doubt. -I do ‘not, however, elaborate that point. We are dealing with an administrative tribunal. We are -reinforcing the object of administration, by reversing the practice in all such cases - instead of the onus being on the man to prove his claim, he is to be -given the benefit of any doubt in every portion of the case. That is a direction by the Parliament to these bodies. They must cany it out.
Mr. Rankin. They had the opportunity on a previous occasion, and did not avail themselves of it. In about one case in .ten thousand did they change their view.
Later, Dr. Evatt said -
It is being made stranger, in that the medical officers who deal with the …. at any stage will have to stale what doubts they have. These statements will always be on -record, and may be ‘relied on by the soldier. He will be able to say, “ The doctor had a doubt, and it .must be,resolved in my favour “. Irrespective of what the medical man may say, both the commission and the appeal tribunal are being told by the -Parliament, in this direct and absolute way, to give to ‘the “member the benefit of the doubt.
I intended to cite a case which is typical at this stage of just how the tribunal is doing the opposite. I have a paper here from a doctor ‘who has said specifically that ‘he ridicules the statements made by tribunals in respect of this case. In ?the> debate on .the Estimates. I shall give to honorable members the information I have on this and another case. 1 .hope that on some occasion the Minister for ‘Repatriation will examine these cases and particularly this one, on which il have -all the ‘evidence in the world that this man has’been: railroaded. A pension of seventeen years was taken from him.
– I have never refused to examine any case you ‘bring before rae, and you know that.
– I have not .had an opportunity to do that in this case, but for five months it “has been before the commission and 1 am told that we cannot get before it. They did not accept the evidence I have as new evidence. I hope to show you this case. I am sure, as I said, that the man has been wronged and that he has been railroaded. For 30-years he ‘has ‘been -done out of a pension to which -he is entitled.
.- In a debate of this kind, there is an onus on the Government ,to justify its stewardship on ,an important humanitarian and national responsibility. There is also an onus on the Opposition to prove weaknesses in the Government’s measures. When this Government was elected to office twelve years ago on the joint policy speech of the parties that formed the ‘Government, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) described the responsibilities crf the Government towards repatriation in these words -
Repatriation remains a great .and -proud responsibility … We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
Two previous ‘speakers on the Government side have covered “many -points which support that policy speech. The whole history of this -Government has been one of continuing to improve the lot of the exserviceman. Indeed, I can say with knowledge that -this -‘Government has the great confidence of the soldiers’ organizations.
The two previous -speakers covered points with which I am entirely in agreement although J -have (reservations -about -the acceptance of cancer as a disease caused by war service. That point was made by the honorable member for ‘Sturt (Mr. Wilson). I am a layman and so also is he. We do not know enough about the causes of cancer. If you allow acceptance of cancer without proper ‘knowledge of its causes, .there are many other diseases that could also be accepted. So, .until .something .more ,is learned about the .causes .of .cancer- rand .it will not be long - I think .it wise to reserve my .judgment.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who led for the Opposition in this debate, can always be expected to make a sound and reasonable speech. I have no doubt in my own mind that if in time - it will be in the far distant future - his side gets into office as the Government, ‘he would make a good Minister for Repatriation. But if he does reach that responsible position, he will find a tremendous difference between leading forthe Opposition in a debate and trying to impress on a hard-headedCabinet with many conflicting interests that he should get what he suggests this Government should supply. There is a big difference ‘between being in and out of government. Indeed, as the honorable member for Sturt has said, there wasa classic example of this. When the present Government was elected to office in 1949, there was a 36-pointplan in which the Returned Soldiers’ League asked for improvements and new benefits for exservicemen. The Labour Government refused to accede, but the great majority of these points were implemented within the first two or three years that this Government was in office. I dislike comparisons. The honorablemember for Bass compared benefits which were applicable in 1549 with the basic wage at that time. Then he took the equivalent benefits of 1961 and compared them with the current basic wage.
That might sound a very fair and reasonable way to draw comparisons but it is not really, because there is a very big difference between the way thebasic wage was reached in 1949 and how it is arrived at to-day. In 1949 the basic wage was based on a means test but now it is on the much wider basis of industry’s capacity to pay. One has only tolook at the tremendous difference between the standard ofliving in 1949 and in 1961. In 1949 hundred of thousands of families did not even think of owning a refrigerator or a car. Now there are a very few families without refrigerators and cars and there are more than 1,000,000 television sets for the population of about 10.000,000. The basic wages of 1949 and to-day just are not the same thing.
This year the R.S.L. presented a ninepoint plan to members of the Government parties. I think most people who considered that plan would agree that the requests were reasonable. I am glad to say that the Go vernment has adopted six of those requests either in part or in whole. The others have not been accepted. No doubt in time some of them will be accepted. We have to consider that when we increase repatriation or social service benefits we must equate the increased benefit to the nation’s capacity to pay. Increases in social services or repatriationbenefits just cannot be handed out as widely and as generously as one would like to distribute them. One has to equate increases with the nation’s capacity to pay. Before a government makes a splendid payment in one year it must consider whether it can continue to make that payment in future years. There is only one source from which a government can get money, and that is the taxpayers.
Inmodern life there is an inclination to pass on to the Government all thetasks of welfare, not only in repatriation but also in social services. That is an unhealthy idea. I believe that a great deal of welfare must be left to private conscience. That applies to social welfare as well as repatriation. There are good reasons for the individual soldier to remember that he has some obligations to his comrades as his own private duty. The lot of service pensioners has been improvedgreatly because they have been entitled since 1960 to complete medical services under the repatriation scheme. That has meant that more than 50,000 service pensioners receive free medicine, and free dental, optical and hospital treatment. The honorable member forShortland (Mr. Griffiths) wishes to extend those benefits to all pensioners.
– No, to all ex-servicemen on pensions.
– An ex-serviceman can transfer from a social service pension to a repatriation pension.
– My brother-in-law was not–
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member for Shortland has spoken already in this debate.
– Sir, the honorable member for Shortland is only asking why an ex-serviceman on an age pension cannot receive the benefits to which I have referred.
There is nothing to prevent the exserviceman transferring from a social service pension to a repatriation pension.
– You do not understand.
– I do understand, because 1 have had that done. A pensioner can transfer from one department to the other and the transfer is so arranged that he does not lose any payment during the transfer. If he is paid fortnightly by the Department of Social Services, when he is transferred to the Repatriation Department he continues to receive fortnightly payments. If these benefits were to be given to all pensioners, as 1 understood the honorable member suggests, they would be given to about 212,000 people. That would be a tremendous load and it would be no good at all.
The onus of proof is raised very often. 1 have never been satisfied that the benefit of the onus-of-proof provision is not given to the claimant. It is interesting to consider the results in the year 1960-61. The total number of claims and appeals dealt with by repatriation boards and the commission was 33,869. The commission, boards and appeal tribunals accepted 19,449 of those claims, which represent 57.5 per cent. That is a very high percentage of claims accepted. We know that in addition to the many genuine claimants there are some who are swinging the lead. That is natural in every society. The position is no different in a soldier society. But I think that the record is extraordinarily good. There were 12,303 appeals to assessment appeal tribunals. The number allowed was 5,008; the number disallowed was 3,682; in six cases the pension was reduced; 564 appeals were withdrawn or lapsed; and the number outstanding at the end of the year was about 3,000, which was a little more than the number outstanding at the end of the previous year. Again, a very high proportion of the appeals were allowed. I think everybody recognizes that the members of the repatriation boards and assessment appeal tribunals are very fair in their work.
The question of allowing appeals to the High Court of Australia from decisions of those tribunals has been raised several times. The returned servicemen’s organizations do not approve of that suggestion. They believe that ex-servicemen are getting a better deal under the present system than they would get if they had to meet the enormous cost of appeals to the High Court. The High Court would be completely jammed with these appeals.
It is interesting to compare the casualties in the 1939-45 war with the number of people receiving repatriation benefits. Fortunately, the Repatriation Commission sets out the figures for the various wars and one is easily able to cite those figures. The number of battle casualties in the 1939-45 war - that is, the number of men wounded and injured in action - was 23,214. The number of non-battle casualties in operational areas was 34,874. That is a total of about 58,000. The number of pensioners in respect of that war is 159,700. The number of casualties in non-operational areas was about 122,000. I am afraid 1 do not know what those were. They may not have been very serious. So, in respect of the Second World War, the number of pensioners represents a very high proportion of the number of casualties.
I have great sympathy for the survivors of the 1914-18 war. I do not intend to enter into an argument about which was the worst war. I think it is generally accepted that a much higher proportion of soldiers were engaged in actual combat in the First World War than in the Second World War. They were engaged not only in combat but in long, drawn-out battles in which they were constantly at the front. Of course, many of them have passed on. It is 43 years since that war finished. The number of casualties, wounded and gassed, in the First World War was about 166,000, compared with about 58,000 in the Second World War. These figures are very disturbing. Many of the people who were wounded in the First World War, of course, have passed on.
It has been claimed that all survivors of the 1914-18 war should have the right to full medical treatment in Repatriation Department hospitals, and I have much sympathy with that claim. I am told, however, on first-class authority, that if the Government were to adopt this practice our repatriation hospitals would be so crowded that the proper treatment of those who are now entitled to treatment would be interfered with. A big proportion of survivors of the First World War would now be service pensioners and entitled to repatriation treatment. However, I suggest that, in time, perhaps in five or ten years, this matter will have to be looked at again and a further decision made as to whether it would not be just to grant to all survivors of the 1914-18 war the right to full medical treatment by the Repatriation Department. This should not be granted, however, if it would result in overloading our hospitals so that they could not adequately deal with those who are now entitled to treatment.
The whole repatriation history of this Government is a proud one. I do not propose to go through it in detail, but I have before me a list of improvements that have been made during the Government’s term of office. The list shows the rates of benefits payable at the time the Government came to office and the increases that have been authorized since then. In many cases, the rates have doubled, trebled and more than trebled. It is a record of which any government could be proud. I believe that the Government has the confidence of all ex-servicemen, and that it has faithfully carried out the responsibilities that it pledged itself to accept in the policy speech that was made before the Government was returned.
In my association with the Repatriation Department I have been impressed by the courtesy of departmental officials, and by their determination to see that everything that could be done to help the ex-serviceman was done. This has been the policy not only of the department, but also of the gentlemen who have filled the post of Minister for Repatriation. Senator Sir Walter Cooper had a fine record as Minister, and I am confident that the present Minister will equal that record in the years to come.
.- Insofar as the attribute of bravery is concerned, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) stands second to none. So far as sympathy, understanding and compassion are concerned, I am afraid he runs almost a bad last. During the whole of his speech the honorable member put forward arguments designed to show that repatriation benefits should not be increased. He took a great deal of time in recounting the wonderful record of the present Govern ment in this field. He talked about what he called fallacious arguments being put forward by the Opposition in comparing the rates of pension in 1949 and the present rates of pensions with the basic wage. He maintains that the basic wage to-day is of much greater real value than the wage in 1949. He contends that the basic wage in 1949 was decided on what was known as the needs concept.
The point on which we part company with the honorable member for Hume is this: The standard on which the honorable member contends that the basic wage was determined in 1949 - but on which, in effect, it was not - was the standard laid down in 1907 in the Harvester award, when Mr. Justice Higgins decided upon a just and reasonable wage to be payable to a husband with a wife and a family of three children. When he made his decision, His Honour took into account only what was needed for the provision of food, clothing and shelter. He did not take into account many of the things that it is now considered should be available to the people of Australia. He made no allowance for entertainment, or for more than the most essential items of clothing, for trade union subscriptions or for many other items of expenditure that are now regarded as normal. Yet the honorable member for Hume suggests that a basic wage determined on that basis is an adequate one.
The 1907 Harvester standard remained in force until 1919, when a Royal Commission inquired into the basic wace. That Royal Commission recommended a wage about 25s. a week above the Harvester award wage. But even then the basic wage was never increased to the recommended amount. Yet we have the honorable member for Hume talking about the basic wage of 1949 being able to maintain a man, his wife and three children, and saying that the basic wage of to-day is more liberal. Why. the basic wage at present is far below the amount arrived at by a recent gallup poll, in which the question was asked, “ What is the minimum amount on which a husband, wife and two children can be kept? “ The poll indicated that the minimum amount was £18 14s., while the basic wage to-day, on the six capital cities basis, is £14 8s.
The Opposition is completely justified in claiming that the pension should be related to the bask wage or to the average earnings of males throughout the community. The sooner the honorable member for Hume realizes that marry people in Australia have not as much money to live on as he has, the sooner he will understand some of the problems of the Australian people. The honorable member cited figures from the 1960-61 annual report of the Repatriation Commission to support his contention that the on us-of -proof provisions of the legislation were being correctly interpreted. The point to be borne in mind in considering the onus-of-proof provision is that section 47, sub-section (2.), of the Repatriation Act says, amongst other things - . . the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal determining or deciding the claim, application or appeal shall be entitled to draw, and shall draw from all the circumstances of Hie case, from the -evidence furnished and from medical opinions, all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, applicant or appellant . . .
There is no doubt that whichever authority is dealing with the case, whether it be the commission, the board or an appeal tribunal, it must give the benefit of doubt to the serviceman or dependant concerned.
Let us have a look at the figures of claims and appeals appearing on page 27 of the 1960-61 annual report of die Repatriation Commission. The tables on that page show that the total actions brought for the year ended 30th June, 1961, were 42,827. Of the number of these determined, 16,495 were accepted, either partially or in full, and 17,374 were rejected. Fewer than 50 per cent, of the applications made in the first instance were granted. We then come to appeals made to the commission, and we find a total of 12,817. Of these, 1,869 were accepted and 8,704 were rejected. Then we come to appeals made to the entitlement appeals tribunals, the last avenue of appeal that is open to ex-servicemen. The total number, covering ex-servicemen of all wars, was 10,573, of which 1,085 were allowed and 5,475 disallowed. In addition, 165 were referred back to the commission and allowed. There were still 3,542 outstanding as at 30th June, 1961. A total of 42,827 claims was lodged. Of those, 19,634 were accepted and 23,193 rejected. We must deduct from that number the 3,542 claims that are outstanding at the moment. The -effective number of rejections fast year was 19,600. As over 42,000 claims were made, this means that slightly more than 50 per cent, were accepted either partially or completely by the Repatriation Commission.
If the onus-of-proof provision .is being interpreted correctly, one or two inferences can be drawn from those figures. The first is that the people whose claims were rejected either made claims without any basis for them at all, or did so knowing full well that their disabilities were not associated with war service. In other words, they were just trying it on, to get something from the Repatriation Department. I am prepared to admit that of the 19,600 exservicemen whose claims were rejected last year, some would have been trying to pu; something over. But surely no member of this House or of the community is prepared to say that most of the 19,600 ex-servicemen whose claims for repatriation benefits were rejected in 1960-61 did not believe that their disabilities were attributable to war service.
The point that must be borne in mind is not that 50 per cent, of the claims were accepted, but that 50 per cent, were rejected, although the onus of proof is supposed to rest with the department rather than with the appellant. It is necessary to convince the board, the commission or the entitlement appeal tribunal, that an element of doubt actually exists. Unless an exserviceman is able to convince the authorities that there is a doubt, his appeal is rejected. ‘To my way of thinking, a true interpretation of the act does not involve proof of doubt. So long as there is a degree of doubt raised in the application, that doubt should be resolved in favour of the ex-serviceman.
The Opposition in this House has stated in many debates of this nature that the onus-of-proof provision is not being interpreted correctly. Most honorable members could cite examples to support that contention. I should say that all the ex-service organizations agree with the Opposition that sections 47 and 48 are not being interpreted correctly.
– That statement is not correct.
– I am afraid I must take up the cudgels with the Minister in this respect, because the Returned Servicemen’s League, in its annual reports over the last half dozen years has included statements or motions regarding the onus of proof, emanating from the organization’s annual conference.
– What is the latest report of the R.S.L. that the honorable member has seen?
– The latest report is the 44th annual report. That is the report of the conference that was held in “Melbourne in October, 1960. For the benefit of the honorable member, I inform him that the next R.S.L. conference will be held in October of this year, and the report of that conference will be the 45th report. Publication of the reports is about ten months behind. I happen to have read the latest report and most of the others that have preceded it.
The latest report of the league, shows that discussion has taken place about the benefit of the doubt provisions in relation to arthritis and trench feet, if my memory serves me correctly, there are other examples, that could be given from the report, relating to cases in which the benefit of the doubt had not been .given to exservicemen. During this debate, honorable members have spoken of the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability, because there is a doubt about the causes of cancer. I am sure that the Minister realizes that quite a number of ex-servicemen have been successful, possibly because of better preparation of the evidence and of reports submitted by former colleagues in their units, in having cancer accepted as due to war service. If the department is prepared to give the benefit of the doubt in such cases, the benefit of the doubt should be given to exservicemen generally.
As I have said, 19,600 applications were rejected last year. It should be renumbered that many ex-servicemen did not bother to go right through the procedure because they were dissatisfied with the treatment they had received previously. No one can tell me that 19,600 servicemen would claim repatriation benefits unless most of them were firmly of the belief that they were .entitled to have their diabilities recognized as being due to war service. The R.S.L. and the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia were the only organizations, to my knowledge, which submitted to members of this Parliament or to the Minister for Repatriation proposals for increases in repatriation benefits this year. It is true that certain of the points in the nine-point plan of the R.S.L. were acceded to by the Government. In three instances the league’s requests were granted in full. Those related to rates of sustenance, the amount of pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, and the rate of pension for double orphans. In the latter case, the rate at present being paid is £3 3s. a week. The R.S.L.. asked for £3 10s. and the Government has granted £3 lis 6d. The Government has granted smaller increases than those asked for by the R.S.L. in some categories and in five cases no increase has been granted at all. Admittedly - and I want to be completely truthful and to give due credit to the Minister - the amending legislation includes one or two matters that were not requested by the R.S.L. on this occasion.
It is interesting to compare the pensions that are being paid to the various types of war pensioners to-day with those paid in 1950. For purposes of comparison, the rates may be compared with the basic wage, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) did, or with the average male earnings, .as the R.S-L. did when it submitted the .plan .to most members of this Parliament. In 1950, the 100 per cent, rate war pensioner was receiving £3 10s. a week, or 30.84 per cent, of the average male earnings which, at that time, were £11 10s. a week. In 1960, the average male earnings were £23 il5s., or 113.63 per cent, higher than they were in 1950. The rate of pension then was £5 10s., or 23.16 per cent, of the average male earnings. The R.S.L. asked that the rate be increased from £5 10s. to £6 10s., and the Government granted an increase of 5s., making it £5 15s. But had the Government increased it to £6 10s., as requested, the amount would still have been only 29.99 per cent, of the average male earnings, or about 1 per cent, lower than the rate being paid in 1950.
A similar comparison can be made in relation to the service pension. In 1950, the rate was £2 10s. a week, or 21.75 per cent, of the average male earnings. In 1960, it was £5 a week, or 21.05 per cent, of the average male earnings. This year, the R.S.L. has asked for £5 10s. a week, or 23.16 per cent, of the average male earnings, an increase of 2 per cent, on the 1950 figure, but the amount granted is £5 5s. So far as pensions for widows and children of widows are concerned, the rates paid by this Government are below the amounts that would place them on a comparable basis with average male earnings in 1950. The Government can hardly take a great deal of credit, therefore, for the benefits that it has granted to returned servicemen, or that it proposes to grant in this legislation. Except in the three cases to which I have referred, the increases that have been granted are far below those contained in the 1961 R.S.L. plan. The honorable member for Hume referred to the claim as being moderate and reasonable. Perhaps that is the only point on which I agree with him. Every other honorable member should also view the requests in that light. The Government has no right to congratulate itself on its activities or the benefits that it has granted to ex-servicemen since it has been in office.
I wish to refer now to the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. The R.S.L. pension plan asked for their rate to be increased from £12 15s. to £13 5s. That request was granted. But the T.P.I, organization itself which, I believe, has a far more intimate knowledge of the needs of its members than has the R.S.L. federal council, suggested that T.P.I, ex-servicemen should be paid a special pension of £14 a week and their wives £3 a week. As the Minister well realizes, at present the T.P.I, ex-serviceman and his wife are entitled to receive the base rate of £12 15s. plus £1 15s. 6d., making a total of £14 10s. 6d. In addition to that amount many are entitled also either to a social service or a war service pension of £2 9s. 6d. subject, of course, to the means test. So the £14 10s. 6d. plus the £2 9s. 6d. give a total of £17 a week. The T.P.I, association asked that its members receive £17 a week, and that the whole of the pensions for themselves and their wives should be paid under the Repatriation Act. A great deal of money would not have been involved in granting this concession, as I hope to be able to show to the Minister and the House in the next few minutes.
Earlier this year I placed on the noticepaper a question addressed to the Minister for Repatriation in these terms -
What would be the cost involved in increasing -
As was requested by the association - and (b) the allowance for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners to £3 per week?
The “ Hansard “ report of 16th May, 1961, contains the Minister’s reply which states -
According to the 1961 report of the Repatriation Commission, that number had increased to 20,807 at 30th June this year. The Minister’s reply continued -
In other words, about 80 per cent, of them - 3. (a) An increase of the special rate T.P.I, to £14 per week would cost approximately £1,300,000 per annum, (b) To increase the rate of war pensions for wives of T.P.I, pensioners to £3 per week on the estimated number of 16,200 would cost approximately £1,030,000 per annum.
The total payment would amount to £2,330,000 a year.
As I said earlier, the majority of T.P.I, pensioners are married. That statement has been substantiated by the T.P.I, association. The majority of those who are married are, for the most part, receiving the maximum amount of social service and war service pensions, so there would have to be a deduction of the amount of £2 9s. 6d. that is being paid to each of these couples from the £2,330,000 a year. The association has informed me that 80 per cent, of its members are married. Of the married members there would be in the vicinity of 75 per cent, receiving the whole of the additional benefit that is paid by way of social service and war service pensions. Instead of having to pay pensions to 20,249 T.P.I, pensioners and to 16,200 wives, the Government would have to find only the amount payable to single pensioners or those affected by the means test. At a conservative estimate I would say about 25 per cent, of the pensioners would be concerned, so only 25 per cent, of £2,^30,000 would be required if a T.P.I, pensioner were paid £14 a week and his wife £3 a week.
I asked the Minister to tell me the exact amount which would be saved by way of non-payment of social service and service pensions and he replied that this would take a great deal of time and research. He asked me whether there was some other way to get over the difficulty. I asked him then to give me an approximation. He acknowledged my letter on 4th August, and I am still waiting for the approximation. The T.P.I, association’s request was not an expensive one. I believe that T.P.I, pensioners come into a special category. Their pension is known as the special rate pension. They are now totally unable to earn anything. Some of them suffer continuously; some are bedridden, and some are semi-bedridden. Most of them suffer pain from time to time. In many instances their wives have nursed them back to the state of health that they enjoy at present. They are unable to participate in many activities that an able-bodied person can enjoy. They have to employ people to do any manual work that might be necessary around the house. Surely this above all war pensions is a compensation payment. If many of these people had not been disabled, they would have been able to earn at least the average male wage, but between themselves and their wives they are able to receive at present, subject to the means test, £17 a week. The proposal now is to increase that amount to £17 10s. a week.
A minority - say, 25 per cent, of them - are widowed or single or, because they have some other means, are expected to live on the amount that is paid either to a single T.P.I, pensioner or to a pensioner plus the wife’s allowance. So that 25 per cent, is being treated on a basis different from the basis on which the other 75 per cent, is treated. The T.P.I, association’s request that the whole of their pension be paid under the Repatriation Act, that there be no social service or war service pension in the payment, and that each of the T.P.I, men be treated on exactly the same basis, is most reasonable. All of them are totally and permanently incapacitated. They are receiving only meagre compensation for their injuries. All of them should receive the same compensation. I ask the Minister to consider this aspect and to do something about it. On the next occasion when this matter is being considered he should take into account the direct submissions that are made to him by the T.P.I, association instead of agreeing only with the suggestions that may be submitted by the R.S.L.
In the few minutes that remain to me I desire to comment on the following passage in the Minister’s second-reading speech: -
So much has been achieved in the past thai the field for new extensions in the future has necessarily become restricted. In the period ahead the main efforts of mv department will be directed to making full use of the remarkable advances in the medical sciences and so to maintain and increase the high standards of treatment for those entitled to it.
From the nature of our responsibilities and the passage of time, we have to deal mainly with an ageing group in the community, so special attention will be given to the care and treatment of elderly people. With this in mind a new type of hospital is being developed within the department. Another field of special effort will be the treatment of the mentally ill.
I feel that the only interpretation which can be placed on those remarks is that the benefits that are being granted to exservicemen and their dependants will be maintained, but not to the extent that the Government promised in 1949. At that time, the present Government parties, in their preelection policy speeches, said that the existing benefits would be not only retained but actually increased. Figures that have been quoted by the honorable member for Bass, myself and others indicate that the Government has not done so, but that it has maintained benefits on about the basis that existed in 1949.
The Minister’s statement that “ the field for new extensions in the future has necessarily become restricted “ seems to indicate that he or his departmental officers, or both, cannot see much scope for increasing benefits that have been granted to exservicemen. I do not think that that is going to meet with the approval of the returned servicemen’s organizations at all. They believe that the Government should be prepared to give consideration to a number of very worthy suggestions they have made rather than adopt the attitude that “ the field for new extensions in the future has necessarily become restricted “, and that in the future the Government will concentrate on the provision of hospital facilities for the elderly and the ageing group: and the treatment of the mentally ill.. These are two points that have been enunciated and advocated by various ex-servicemen’s organizations for a number of years, and the Minister and his department are to be congratulated on concentrating on those two points. However, I hope that the Minister does not mean–
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. CHANEY (Perth) [5.37).- Mr. Deputy Speaker, in dealing with the measure that is before the House, I think the tendency should be to widen the scope of the discussion in order to cover the whole field of repatriation. In my opinion, it is wrong to look at repatriation only from the stand-point of the amount of money that is being paid out or by how much the rate of the basic pension is to be increased. I was most interested in the submissions that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) made to the House, but I do not think that because an organization, even though it be the largest single exservicemen’s organization in Australia, submits certain claims, automatically they have to be accepted. If that were the case, we would not need a Minister for Repatriation and a Commissioner for Repatriation; we could accept what the Returned Servicemen’s League said and adopt that as the policy of the commission. I do not think that the honorable member for Lang would imagine for a moment that that would be a practicable proposition.
If we turn to page 7 of the 44th annual report of the Returned Servicemen’s League for 1959, from which the honorable member for Lang quoted, we see in the section devoted to repatriation a very interesting passage - I do not want to read the whole of it because my time is extremely limited. It reads, in part -
Repatriation, as always, remains a most important aspect of our activities. The need for actual pension adjustments at a time when the cost and the standard of living in Australia is rising constantly cannot be denied.
However much importance is placed on the direct money value of pensions, it would be wrong to place importance on this aspect out of all proportion to other benefit’s which are not of direct monetary nature.
Hospital and medical treatment and the widening of eligibility for repatriation attention and similar benefits are vitally important.
There are then mentioned a great number of things which have been obtained as a result of the league’s approaches to the Government over the past decade. These include -
Free cars for double amputees and paraplegics . . .
Air crew insurance;
Reimbursement for loss of wages or salary for repatriation attendances;
Payment of a sum equivalent to 26 instalments of pensions to war widows on re-marriage;
It covers a whole field of things that the Government has granted following approaches from the league and from other quarters. Particulars of the league’s 1959 pensions plan appear on the next page. The relevant portion under the heading “ Pensions plan “ shows that the league asked the Government to increase the general rate war pension to £6 per week. By the increase granted in this bill, the rate of that pension will rise to £5 15s. per week. Going down the itemized plan, we find that paragraph 7 reads -
That any returned ex-serviceman over the age of 60 years who is in receipt of any part of a service pension be eligible to receive free hospital treatment in repatriation hospitals.
As a matter of fact, the Government has gone a step further; it has not stipulated that a returned ex-serviceman must be over the age of 60 years in order to be eligible for this benefit. The only qualification needed by an ex-serviceman in order to qualify is that he is in receipt of a service pension or part of a service pension. Paragraph 9 of the league’s pensions plan of 1959 reads -
That renewed efforts be made to obtain repatriation benefits for Boer War veterans on the same scale as other war veterans.
As was recently stated by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne), this is now an established fact, although I should like to say at this stage - T know that a few honorable members concern themselves with Boer War veterans who have resided in Australia since early in this century and who served in British regiments - that those veterans should be entitled to receive the benefits that are payable to Australians who served in the Boer War. I think that this would be a very small thing for the Government to do for this vanishing race. This request will have to be granted in the next Budget, because if the Government leaves it for much longer there will be no need to worry any further about the matter, because these veterans are getting very old.
Some people, when they speak about the faults of the Australian repatriation system, do so without a realization of many things. In the first place, they accentuate what has not happened without having a proper knowledge of what does happen. Information concerning the whole field of pensions was given by me during a debate on the onus of proof in this House recently. If we look at the number of pensions that has been granted without any reason to appeal and then look at the final number granted, we see that the number of applicants who do not receive complete satisfaction is small indeed. Consider the jury system under which our law operates. A condemned man does not think that the jury system works very satisfactorily, while an acquitted man thinks it is a wonderful system.
– If he is guilty!
– This brings me to my second point concerning what happens in other countries. There, ex-servicemen in similar conditions have a much harder fight to gain acceptance of any disability as warcaused. I remember a most learned discussion in this chamber between the former member for Balaclava, Mr. Joske - who is now Mr. Justice Joske - and the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, concerning certain points under section 47 of the act.
I humbly assume the right to disagree with such learned gentlemen. I contend that if applicants for war pensions had to establish their claims in a purely legal fashion in a court of law, only one-third of the people who are now receiving repatriation pensions would in fact be granted pensions. I think those learned gentlemen-
– Sometimes legal questions enter into the matter.
– As the honorable member knows, the chairman of a tribunal is always a qualified legal person. I say that none of the tribunals hears applications or appeals in a purely legal manner. The onus-of-proof section was designed to give ex-servicemen the benefit of any doubt and the composition of the tribunals is such that they can appreciate what an ex-serviceman has been through. It has been said that an appeal should lie from the decision of a tribunal to a court on points of law. I have never been able to establish what is meant by the term “ point of law “. It is interesting to see what happens under the British system, on which i should like to comment for a few moments.
If you take the number of men in the services - I am told that 1,000,000 were discharged from the services in Australia after the Second World War - it is a considerable percentage of the population. I do not know the number that were under arms in Britain, in the Army, Navy and Air Force, in the auxiliary services, in the women’s services and in other services, but I think that it would be many times the 1,000,000 that we ourselves had. Yet it is strange to see that in England the total annual pensions bill for both world wars was £98,000,000, in the last year for which the figures were available, and that the Australian bin is £94,000,000. If honorable members will consider the numbers that the two countries had in their forces, and the casualties and the disabilities the servicemen suffered, they will see that those two figures point to one very potent fact.
– Is the honorable member referring only to accepted disabilities?
– No, I am not. I will give a break-down of the figures. I think honorable members opposite, who are genuinely interested in this problem, should study the reports on war pensions issued by the Ministry of Pensions and Social Insurance, which are available in the library. My point is that it is obvious that the Australian system is much kinder to the ex-serviceman than the British system. That is proved by the amounts paid out for disabilities. No one can tell me that the British serviceman had an easier war in any respect than the average Australian.
– You do not want to make our system the same as the British system?
– I certainly do not. I would not change the Australian system. If you talk to anybody who has had anything to do with British ex-servicemen and their attempts to get pensions, he will tell you that the one thing they would like would be to have the Australian system in Great Britain.
– What is the comparison of ordinary pension rates?
– 1 hope to get to that. The system is so different in Great Britain. They do not have the T.P.I, rate, but there is a flat rate which you could take as being our 100 per cent, disability rate. The basic rate of pension is £4 17s. 6d. a week, and to that are added certain allowances. In Great Britain a wife and children do not get a separate payment, as they do in Australia. The ex-serviceman is given it all in one sum. It is a bit difficult for me to unravel the intricacies of the British system in the time available.
In Australia we had 712,381 people in receipt of pensions and in Great Britain there were 724,000 people in receipt of pensions. The break-down shows that in Australia - I am using round figures - pensions were paid to 212,000 incapacitated ex-servicemen. 398,000 dependants, 250,000 dependants of deceased ex-servicemen and 789 miscellaneous, giving a total of 622,000. In addition, 50,302 service pensions were being paid, which includes dependants’ allowances paid under the service pensions scheme. The actual number of service pensions is 36,000. I think my friend from Hume, in his speech, gave the figure of 50,000. These pensions and allowances cost us in the region of £94,000,000. The British annual report on war pensions for 1960 states -
At the end of 1960, the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance was paying 724,000 war pensions at an annual cost of about £90,000,000. Of these pensions about 287,000 were for the 1914 war and 437,000 for the 1939 war. The total of 724,000 includes about 522,000 disablement pensions, about 142,000 widows’ pensions and 60,000 pensions for parents, orphans and other dependants.
There were 522,000 disabled men from both world wars. The cost of their pensions and of pensions to dependants adds up to £90.000,000. 1 noticed that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) said he was not disgusted, but disturbed, by the fact that only 18 per cent, of Australian ex-servicemen were successful on their pensions appeals. In an earlier speech, I pointed out that much depended on how you used the figures. In the Australian system there are three phases. First, there is the decision by a board. An appeal against that decision can be made to the commission, and from there an appeal can be made to a tribunal. The percentages of applications granted were 47 per cent, in the first case, 18 per cent, in the second case and 14 per cent, in the third case. If anybody fails to appeal at any one of these levels, it is probably because he accepts the decision of the board or the commission, not because he is disgusted with the treatment he has received. I cannot speak for the whole of Australia but I know that in Western Australia the Repatriation Department has a most sympathetic set of officers, whose aim and object is to assist the ex-serviceman.
– It is the same in Queensland.
– I cannot speak for Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales or other States. This annual report of the British Ministry of Pensions states -
During 1960 there were nine independent Pensions Appeals Tribunals sitting regularly in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. During the year, 2,409 appeals were made against decisions on entitlement compared with 3,026 during the previous year. Altogether 3,089 such appeals were decided including those allowed by the Minister without recourse to a tribunal. Decisions in favour of the appellant were given by the tribunal in 18 per cent, of the appeals decided by them.
We have two figures showing the proportions of entitlement appeals allowed. In this case there is only one. The report goes on -
At the end of the year there were 2,202 appeals outstanding compared with 2,885 at the end of 1959.
The Tribunals’ decisions on entitlement questions are final and binding upon the Minister and the appellant, subject only to an appeal on a point of law to the High Court in England and Wales, Court of Session in Scotland and the Supreme Court in Northern Ireland. There were ten such appeals decided during 1960. Of these, five were dismissed and five were remitted to the Tribunals for a further hearing. None was allowed.
I think that in the year previously, of some eleven appeals one was allowed. The report continues -
The number of assessment appeals for the year was 3,222 as compared with 4,570 in the previous year. About 4,260 appeals were settled during the year including 1,111 appeals allowed by the Minister without recourse to a Tribunal. The Tribunals increased the assessments in just over 24 per cent. of the cases decided by them. At the end of the year there were 1,904 appeals outstanding as compared with 2,986 at the end of 1959.
An interesting thing is that the First World War man has no right of appeal. Here again you see a great difference between the two systems, because the Australian system is all in favour of the Australian ex-serviceman. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.54 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - I have already laid on the table of the House a chronology of events since the end of the war and a collection of documents relating to the period from May, 1959, to the present time. Copies of a comprehensive collation of papers prepared for the United States Senate and covering the period before May, 1959, have been available to honorable members in the Library. The two collections are not confined simply to Berlin but relate to the larger question of a post-war settlement in Germany, of which the problem of Berlin forms part.
How did the Berlin situation come about? It is a product of the unconditional surrender of Germany and of the arrangements made in the closing stages of the Second World War for the future occupation of Germany by the four principal victorious belligerent powers. These arrangements were intended to be temporary, and to govern the administration of Germany pending the negotiation of a German peace treaty.
Perhaps we might begin by looking at the situation in early 1945, when the allied armies were advancing into Germany. At that time, for military reasons which need not detain us now, the Western strategy was not to race for Berlin, but rather to concentrate on objectives which were judged to be of more importance for the early destruction of the German armies. Sir Winston Churchill, in his war memoirs, tells how he questioned this strategy, because of the political importance of Berlin. But it was adopted; and in consequence, the Western armies were halted along the general line of the Elbe, west of Berlin. and it was there that the meeting with Soviet forces advancing from the east took place. In some cases, Western troops were in fact withdrawn to this general line.
In the agreements worked out in the European Control Commission, which gave each of the chief belligerents a zone of occupation in Germany, the zonal boundaries were so drawn as to leave Berlin as a special area within the Soviet zone of occupation by which it was surrounded. For Berlin itself, arrangements were made for a special regime of joint four-power control. For administrative purposes, the area of Greater Berlin was divided into four sectors, each allotted to one of the four occupying powers; but Berlin itself was to be administered as a unit by a four-power Kommandatura of the United Kingdom, United States, French and Soviet military commands.
These early agreements were made in the period from before the surrender of Germany until a time immediately after it. As I have said, they were intended to lay down the general lines of the arrangements that would obtain pending the conclusion of a peace settlement.
In addition to the rights of the four major powers, these agreements also defined certain rights of the other belligerents against Germany. As one of these belligerents Australia was enabled to establish a military mission in Berlin, which it still maintains.
The rights of the victors include the right to maintain garrisons in Berlin and the right to free access to the city for this purpose. Such a right is essential to the Western position in Berlin. Without it Western forces cannot be maintained there, and without these forces there would be little physical obstacle to the extension of Communist control over West Berlin.
The manner in which the Western powers and the Soviet Union exercise their rights - notably for the Western powers this right of access - forms the subject of the various agreements among the four powers. But it is important to stress that the rights themselves, being derived originally from the unconditional surrender of Germany, do not depend for their validity upon the continued acquiescence of any one of the four. Accordingly, the rights of the Western powers in Berlin cannot be lawfully cancelled or reduced’ by the Soviet Union.
The divisions which after the War opened up between the war-time allies have prevented the effective negotiation of a German peace treaty. However, having consolidated its physical hold on the zone of occupation in Eastern Germany which fell to it on the surrender of Germany, anc1 having installed Communist officials in key positions, the Soviet Government set up in 1949 a Communist regime there, the socalled German Democratic Republic.
Since then, it has worked to place its special sector of occupation in Berlin formally under the control of that regime. These developments were accompanied by measures to restrict freedom of movement from East Germany to West Germany. These measures were and are in breach of various four-power agreements, and most strikingly of the Paris Agreement of 1949. which ended the blockade of 1948-49. It is understandable that in these circumstances the existence of a free West Berlin, enjoying the protection of the Western- powers, and with living standards so superior to those of East Berlin, has been an increasing embarrassment to the Russians. They showed early signs of wishing to put an end to this state of affairs, in the imposition of the Berlin blockade in 1948. This attempt was defeated, by Allied resolution and the air-lift and for some years there was little trouble.
But towards the end of 1958 Mr. Khrushchev faced the Western powers with an ultimatum calling for the conclusion of a separate peace treaty with East Germany - which would formally legitimate the Communist regime there and perpetuate the division of Germany - and for the establishment of West Berlin as a so-called “ free city. “
There followed a Foreign Ministers’ Conference held in Geneva in the European summer of 1959. At this conference, the Western Powers made constructive proposals designed to ensure free elections for the whole of Germany and at the same time, to safeguard both Western and Soviet security. Mr. Khrushchev refused to agree, and though he temporarily withdrew his ultimatum there were- indications that he would again, raise the subject when he judged the time was ripe.
The present crisis was set in train by a Soviet memorandum delivered to United States officials in Vienna at the time of President Kennedy’s meeting there with Mr. Khrushchev, on 3rd and 4th. June, of this year. The text of this memorandum is set out in the paper I have tabled. I shall describe its contents in a moment.
Although I am bound to say to honorable members that it occasionally uses words to the opposite effect, essentially, the Soviet Union wishes to perpetuate the division of Germany, because it knows that a freely elected all-German Government would certainly not choose the Communist social, economic and political institutions which the Soviet Union has imposed on the people of East Germany. The aim of its policy is to strengthen and stabilize the Communist regime in East Germany, to obtain international recognition of it, to dim the beacon light which West Berlin shines into- the darkness of East Germany, and to close off the escape route which it offers to the oppressed population of the Eastern zones.
Each year since the war, some 200,000 refugees from Communist rule have fled by way of West Berlin. The flight of these refugees has naturally disturbed the rulers of Eastern Germany, because of the consequences both for the economy of the eastern zone and also for the prestige of the Communist regime which the Soviet Union supports there; according to official figures, some 2,700,000 people have fled from the Eastern zone of Germany since 1949. Some estimates place the total number who have fled since 1946 at nearer 4,000,000. Of a total population of 17,000,000, either of these is a formidable figure. It shows, more dramatically than anything else could, the misery and oppression which rule in the eastern zone, in striking contrast to the freedom and prosperity of West Berlin and of Western Germany. It is small wonder that the Communists regard West Berlin as a “ cancer “, in Mr. Khrushchev’s term, and that they wish to seal off the means of escape which it offers.
The theme of the Soviet memorandum of June this year and of subsequent speeches by Mr. Khrushchev is that there is an urgent need for a peace treaty to be signed with ‘* both German states “, that is the Federal Republic of Germany and the Communist regime in East Germany, by all the powers at war with Germany; that, if the Western powers refuse to sign, the Communist powers will conclude by the end of this year a separate peace treaty with East Germany;, and that this treaty will terminate the present basis of Weserr rights in East Germany and in Berlin and will define the status of West Berlin as a “ free city “. The Western powers would then be obliged to work out with the East German regime new arrangements for their right of access to Berlin. I want to emphasize that to honorable members. Mr. Khrushchev has stated that any attempt to maintain Western rights by force would be met by force. But he has also suggested that, after the signature of the peace treaty, Western rights of access to Berlin would not necessarily suffer interference. The Warsaw Pact powers have issued a declaration stating that a demilitarized “ free city “ of West Berlin would itself enjoy free communications. But nothing was promised in this declaration about access for Western troops and clearly, if the Soviet view were accepted, this would be a matter for the East German Government to determine.
The Russians have not suggested negotiations except on. their own terms. Any conciliatory signs from them have been balanced by statements of their willingness to resort to force if necessary to defend the so-called sovereignty of the German Democratic Republic.
The Western attitude towards the Berlin problem has always been that it is, essentially, part of the wider problem of a German settlement, and indeed of a European post-war settlement. They have long considered, as the Soviet Union claims to believe, that a peace settlement in Germany which would make it possible to end the occupation regime in Berlin is overdue. In a series of unsuccesful negotiations with the Soviet Union extending over many years, they have endeavoured to reach agreement on arrangements which, while meeting legitimate Soviet fears about its own security - fears which, in the light of modern history, can be well understood - would ensure a stable and peaceful Germany in future.
Together with the Soviet Union, the Western powers are committed, by signature of the United Nations Charter, as well as by agreements specifically relating to Germany, to respect the principle of selfdetermination.
The Western attitude has also been based on the conviction that a divided Germany would prove a source of constant tension in Europe and that the only really permanent solution lies in the reunification of the country by means of free all-German elections followed by the conclusion of a peace treaty with a single German government. Such a treaty could be combined and must be combined with various measures constituting a European security system to guard against any revival of German militarism. For the same reason, the Western powers have been opposed to the recognition of a separate puppet state in the eastern zone of Germany, which would involve acceptance of the permanent division of Germany. They have withheld formal recognition of the Oder-Neisse line as the eastern frontier of a future Germany on the ground that the determination of Germany’s frontiers is properly a matter for an all-German peace treaty.
The Western powers have, however, made it clear in the past that they are prepared to enter into negotiations and they have on various occasions in the past made constructive proposals. At the Foreign Ministers’ Conference at Geneva in 1959 they proposed an advance in three phases towards the conclusion of a peace settlement with an all-German Government: First, free elections throughout Berlin to establish a united city there; secondly, a mixed German committee from West and East Germany to draft an electoral law and submit it to plebiscite; and thirdly, elections for an all-German assembly and the formation of an all-German Government to conclude a peace treaty. They proposed that, concurrently with stages two and three, there should be certain reductions in military strength in central Europe. These proposals were not accepted by the Soviet Union.
The Western Powers will, no doubt, be prepared to enter into further negotiations. In such negotiations, they would undoubtedly continue to defend and secure the freedom of the inhabitants of West Berlin, the rights of the Western forces to be there, and the rights of access of these forces.
In the years since the unconditional surrender of Germany a democratic state has been established in Western Germany with a government deriving from the freely exercised vote of the population. Under’ the able leadership of Chancellor Adenauer, the Federal Republic of Germany, though not a member of the United Nations, has developed into a loyal member of the free world, to the strength of which its economic vitality contributes. Similarly, the zone of Western occupation in Berlin - West Berlin - has prospered as the result of its inhabitants’ efforts and under the protection of the rights that the Western powers enjoy there.
Two and a quarter million people now live in West Berlin. They have steadfastly resisted Communist pressure and the Western powers have a responsibility for their future, to see that they are not abandoned to Communist oppression. They cannot be allowed to share the fate of the other German millions in the eastern zone, the nature of which is so eloquently attested by the refugee figures which I quoted jus a few minutes ago.
The existence of free Berlin is of importance not only to Germans, but to all the peoples of eastern Europe - and, indeed, to people everywhere in the world. To hand the Berliners over to communism would not only be wrong in itself and a denial of every principle of justice; it would also be a fatal blow to the hopes and confidence of people everywhere in the determination of the Western powers to defend their freedom. What happens in Berlin will affect the balance of power and reputation between the Communists and the West in areas geographically much closer to us than Berlin itself.
Sir, what may we expect to see in the next few weeks and months? It is likely that there will be a series of measures and counter-measures over Berlin by the Communists and by the allied powers. The sealing off of West Berlin by the East German authorities on 13th August, and their subsequent action to draw the ring around Berlin tighter is an example of the action open to the Communists, as is their apparent threat to air communications with Berlin in their latest note to the Western powers. This note, it may be observed, has been speedily and firmly rebuffed. Against this background of tension there may well be a new series of negotiations. I will not venture any prediction about their exact timing, location or outcome.
It is possible that at some stage there will be a recourse to the United Nations. Article 107 of the Charter envisages that action in relation to former enemies may be taken “ by the Governments having responsibility for such action “. It will be recalled, however, that the problem of Berlin was placed before the United Nations at the time of the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948. A Security Council resolution was vetoed by the Soviet Union, and an appeal by the President of the General Assembly and Secretary-General produced no perceptible result. The lifting of the blockade was the result primarily of the steadfastness of the Western powers and of their patient negotiations with the Soviet Union. But the United Nations’ interest may have helped to bring to bear on the Soviet Union the force of world opinion, and it was the Soviet United Nations representative through whom the Soviet Union announced its willingness to lift restrictions as soon as a date had been set for a meeting of Foreign Ministers. The possibility of the United Nations playing a useful role in the present crisis can therefore not be excluded.
The Berlin situation is both difficult and dangerous and much patience, firmness and good sense will be needed to avoid its manifest dangers. These dangers will be recognized by both sides. In particular, I believe that the Communists will do well to realize that, though the Western nations will never be the aggressors, they will if necessary defend their rights.
As to Australia, we shall of course continue to support the Western position in Berlin and the right of Berliners to freedom which we have maintained in the past. 1 might recall our contribution in 1948 to the Western airlift, in which Royal Australian Air Force aircrew helped to man the aircraft which beat the blockade. We are in close touch with other governments and with our own missions - including those in Bonn and in Berlin itself - about the developing situation; and I shall inform the House from time to time of events as they occur.
Indeed, since this statement was first drafted, Mr. Speaker, a new move has been made by the Soviet Union. It has in substance abandoned the negotiations for a cessation of nuclear weapon tests, first by the dramatic statement that the Soviet would test another bomb, and then, within a matter of hours, the actual carrying out of that and further tests.
In order that this entirely cynical and dangerous action may be fully understood, I should like to remind the House that on 28th August, 1959, the Soviet Government made the following announcement: -
The Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union have decided not to resume nuclear explosions in the Soviet Union if the Western Powers do not resume the testing of atomic and hydrogen weapons. Only in the event of the resumption by them of the testing of nuclear weapons will the Soviet Union be freed from this self-imposed undertaking.
The Soviet Union has professed to believe, as the Western world certainly does, and as the Commonwealth Prime Ministers unanimously publicly declared earlier this year, that the cessation of further nuclear testing would be a step in the direction of disarmament, would serve to reduce tension, and would offer to the people of the. world some hope of a reduction in international tension.
Honorable members will be well aware that the Soviet Union has, by every instrument of propaganda, including statements made by Mr. Khrushchev to me in New York at the end of last year, professed a desire for complete disarmament to be arrived at by organized stages. The first stage clearly would be to hold up the development of new and even more terrible weapons of destruction. The Soviet Union has now, by its action, exhibited its contempt for such an idea. We will no doubt be told that the decision to explode these further bombs is due to the tension resulting from the Berlin crisis. But, as I have pointed out earlier in this statement, this is a crisis manufactured by the Soviet itself.
The immediate effect of this last action by the Soviet Union might well have been to produce an immediate resumption of testing by the Western powers and an abandonment of hope that so sensible a measure could ever be achieved. It is therefore of significance - all honorable members have read of it, but I think it ought to be on the record - that on Sunday last President Kennedy and Mr. Macmillan made the following statement: -
The President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom propose to Chairman Khrushchev that their three Governments agree, effective immediately, not to conduct nuclear tests which take place in the atmosphere and produce radio-active fall-out. Their aim in this proposal is to protect mankind from the increasing hazards from atmospheric pollution and to contribute to the reduction of international tensions.
They urge Chairman Khrushchev to cable his immediate acceptance of this offer and his cessation of further atmospheric tests.
They further urge that their representatives at Geneva meet not later than September 9th to record this agreement and report it to the United Nations. They sincerely hope that the Soviet Union will accept this offer, which remains open for the period indicated.
They point out that, with regard to atmospheric testing, the United States and the United Kingdom are prepared to rely upon existing means of detection, which they believe to be adequate, and are not suggesting additional controls. But they re-affirm their serious desire to conclude a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and regret that the Soviet Government has blocked such an agreement.
The reply which will presumably be made - perhaps that is putting it too high; I do not know - to this statement will be a complete test of the good faith and pacific intentions of the Communists.
On Tuesday of this week, on the day that the third Soviet nuclear atmospheric explosion was announced, President Kennedy, after careful thought and a thorough review of all the factors involved, issued a statement ordering “ the resumption of nuclear tests in the laboratory and underground, with no fall-out”. It must be emphasized, Sir, that this announcement did not qualify in any way the Western offer to make an agreement. Nevertheless, in the circumstances, which clearly show that the Soviet has embarked on a series of tests which, it must be presumed, will materially increase Soviet nuclear weapons capability, the steps taken by President Kennedy are, in his own words, those “ which prudent men find essential “.
Sir, I will reserve further comments on this subject until next week when - I think that my honorable friend opposite would agree - a further statement to the House may become appropriate.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Berlin - Ministerial Statement.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) proposed -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 1007).
.- Mr. Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting for dinner, I discussed the relative merits of the repatriation systems of Australia and the United Kingdom, and I intend, if time permits, to return to that topic to complete my remarks. I think it is rather appropriate that the House, having just heard a statement of the possible threat of mass extinction, is now discussing what the Government plans to do to repair the ravages of the recent wars.
The Opposition has foreshadowed certain amendments, and although the Standing Orders will not permit me to discuss them fully at this stage, I want to say that I consider them in the light of the amendment to the first item in the Estimates which was before the Committee of Supply in the general debate on the Budget. Since the Opposition’s amendment, which sought the reduction of the first item by £1, was defeated, I take it. that the. Budget has been accepted as presented by the Treasurer (MrHarold Holt). Therefore, I intend to support this bill and the other bills consequent on the Budget which are to come before us later. I believe that some of the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition are worthy of consideration. Only an absolute fool would say that ideas or suggestions come from only one side of the House, and I hope that support for this bill will not be taken to mean that the proposals, envisaged in some of the amendments foreshadowed by the Opposition are barred from consideration for ever.
It is obvious that expenditure on repatriation in the current financial year will be about £94,000,000. But no one here, except those who are privileged to sit in the Cabinet, knows whether the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) originally submitted a higher estimate of expenditure in order to enable something more to be done in the field of repatriation. Indeed, other Ministers may have been similarly placed with respect to the estimates of expenditure for the departments that they administer. I think that by rejecting the Opposition’s amendment and approving the Budget in the general Budget debate, we have become duty bound to accept the various legislative measures that are presented in consequence of the Budget.
During this debate, Opposition members have stated that the benefits paid to-day do not compare with the benefits paid some ten years ago. I think that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) suggested that we take the basic wage as the basis of comparison. He said that that was a standard set by a court, but that the rates of repatriation benefits seemed to be plucked out of the air. I do not recall the honorable member’s exact words but I think that that was the effect of what he said. In order to make an effective comparison between the present repatriation benefits and those paid about ten years ago, I have attempted to equate the money value of the rates of 1950- the first year in which this Government was in office - with that of the rates proposed in this bill. I have used as a basis for my comparison the C series index, which I believe is not now accepted in the nation’s arbitration circles. I have taken the 1950 rates, multiplied them by the C series index for 1960 and divided the result by the C series index for 1950.
In 1950, the special rate pension - the total and permanent incapacity rate - was £7 a week. The 1960 equivalent, on the basis of comparison that I have adopted, is £11 14s. 10d., whereas the actual rate of benefit proposed under the terms of this bill is £13 5s. a week. This represents an increase of £1 10s. 2d. in terms of 1960 money value. In 1950, the general rate pension was £3 10s. a week, and the rate provided for in this measure is £5 15s. a week. On my basis of calculation, this represents a decrease of 2s. 5d. a week in terms of 1960 money value. In 1950, the repatriation pension paid to a widow was £3 10s. a week, and the rate stipulated in this bill is £5 15s. a week. This represents a decrease of 2s. 5d. a week. The domestic allowance paid to a widow was 10s. a week in 1950, but, under the terms of this bill, the rate will be £3 2s. 6d. a week. On the basis of calculation that I have adopted, this represents an increase of £2 5s. 9d. a week.
If one goes right through the benefits, one finds that, in most instances, on this basis of calculation by means of the C series index figures, the benefits proposed in this bill represent an increase in values. The only declining tendency shown in a comparison of 1950 and 1960 payments is in relation to assistance for specialized education in such fields as the professions, agriculture and industry under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme. In actual fact, we could say that the rises given by the Government, which, as set out in the Minister’s statement which was made available to all honorable members, was £7 19s. for the totally incapacitated pensioner and £5 5s. as allowance for attendance of blinded pensioners who have lost their speech, even equated on the decreasing value of money would still show a substantial increase in most instances.
There has been a good deal of discussion on the application and interpretation of section 47, but, as I have said before in this House, I do not believe there is any need for any alteration. I believe that some method should be devised to assist the exserviceman to a far greater degree in the preparation and presentation of his claim. I think the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Chresby) mentioned that in 1939 a clerk was available at the Repatriation Department to give this sort of advice to intending appellants. One of the faults with the system of tribunals is that they try to take too many cases in too short a time. This does not allow the tribunals, or those who appear for the ex-servicemen, sufficient time to consider all the evidence available.
I should like to describe to the House the system adopted in Great Britain. I remind honorable members that I have already said I would not change the Australian system for the British system, but if there is anything of value in the British system, we could well incorporate it in our system. When a British ex-serviceman considers that he is suffering from a war-caused disability, he may lodge a claim for acceptance of the condition with the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. That is precisely the situation that obtains in Australia. Then the Minister has investigations made, including medical examinations, and the claim is decided. When the decision on the claim is reached by the Ministry, the man is notified accordingly and, where applicable, arrangements are made to pay a pension and to provide treatment of the accepted disability at Ministry expense.
A salient point, and a point of difference, is that where the determination reached is adverse to the ex-serviceman, either on the grounds of entitlement or assessment, he has a right of appeal to a Pensions Appeal Tribunal under the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act 1943-1949, but there is no right of appeal in respect of entitlement for 1914-18 war cases. These ex-servicemen may submit further evidence in support of their claims for consideration by the Ministry. I think most honorable members would agree with me that the British ex-serviceman of the 1914-18 war is far behind his counterpart in Australia.
The Pensions Appeal Tribunals are entirely independent of the- Ministry of
Pensions and National Insurance, as they are in Australia. The appeal is commenced by the ex-serviceman giving notice of appeal on an official form which is obtainable in England from the Ministry of Pensions. The appellant may also submit forms containing details of his employment, medical and service history and a statement in support of his appeal. The details of employment are given, I understand, because of certain awards that are made under British Ministry of Pensions legislation, which provides for disability payments to compensate for employment difficulties. The Ministry then sends the appellant a “ statement of case “, which is a statement of the facts relating to the case as understood by the Ministry and includes the Ministry’s reasons for giving the decision against which the man has appealed. We could well consider adopting this procedure in Australia.
The appellant may, if he so desires, complete an answer to the “ statement of case “ in which he may dispute any of the facts set out in the statement, and also mention any fresh facts which he thinks are relevant. It is possible that the new facts submitted by the appellant may enable the Ministry to review the original decision and give a new determination admitting the claim. In such cases, the man is notified and the appeal is automatically withdrawn. A decision of the tribunal is final, except where the appellant or the Ministry is of the opinion that it is wrong on a point of law. In that event, an appeal may be made to the High Court. As I have said, there were ten cases in 1960, not one of which was granted.
I have already made the point that the figures available to us show that the whole of the British war pensions system cost £90,000,000 in 1960, whereas our estimated expenditure in this Budget is £94,000,000. This proves quite conclusively that the whole British system does not provide as great an advantage to the ex-serviceman as does the Australian system. However, I repeat that if there is some section of the British system of more advantage to the ex-serviceman than the provision we have, we should look at the British provision with the idea of incorporating it in the Australian system.
I do not think that the Government has any need to apologize for the repatriation benefits it has provided over the past ten or eleven years. The Minister can be proud of his department. The tributes paid to Senator Sir Walter Cooper during the debate have been well deserved, as have been the tributes paid to the present Minister. Taking over the portfolio, as he did, from a man so highly respected throughout the community is a challenge, but it is a challenge that the Minister can well meet. When the history of repatriation in all countries is written, the treatment accorded to ex-servicemen in Australia will compare very favorably with any other system. Any honorable member who has any doubts about the advantages and the benefits obtained by our exservicemen would be well advised to study the systems in other countries and to study the annual reports of Ministries of Pensions or Repatriation Departments in other Commonwealth countries.
I support the bill in its entirety. As I said before, having accepted the Budget and this being a part of the whole Budget, I intend to support the bill and to support the Government when the bill reaches the committee stage.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) has not engaged in an almost uncritical adulation of the Government, as have some Government supporters who have spoken during this debate. I am prepared to concede, and the Australian Labour Party concedes, that there have been some worth-while achievements in repatriation legislation. However, I intend to make a few comments that may sound a little harsh and certainly will not sound like the adulation that has come from honorable members opposite.
May I intimate at this stage that the Labour Party will, during the committee stage, move five very important amendments to the bill. I shall mention them briefly now. First, we intend to move that an ex-serviceman suffering from cancer shall be automatically entitled to a war pension. Secondly, we intend to move that a final right of appeal to a judge of the. High Court or the Supreme Court be provided in cases where appellant ex-servicemen or their dependants believe they have been denied the benefit of the onus-of-proof provision. Thirdly, we intend to move that all ex-servicemen be provided with repatriation hospital and medical treatment.
I interrupt myself at this point to say that references to the cost of the British system do not take into account that in Great Britain a very comprehensive national health scheme is provided. Whether a person is an ex-serviceman or a civilian, he is entitled to free medical and hospital treatment. Quite a range of treatment is available. The situation in Britain is not quite comparable with the situation that exists in Australia. It has occurred to me and to my colleagues in the Labour Party that to give free hospital and medical treatment to all veterans of the First World War and the Boer War may in the long run be an economic measure. Many of the 42,000 persons who made application last year to the department, to the board, to the commission or to the appeal tribunals were not seeking pensions. They were not particularly worried about getting pensions. They were, however, concerned about protecting themselves against the cost of medical and hospital treatment. If free hospital and medical treatment was available at least to all First World War veterans and Boer War veterans, our tribunals would be spared the necessity to deal with thousands of applications. Although we are not happy about the way these tribunals function, nevertheless they are costly affairs. It costs a lot of money to run the tribunals and to arrange for representation of ex-servicemen before them.
In its fourth amendment the Opposition will propose that much-needed hospital and medical benefits should be granted to the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. I am sure that in this instance the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) will not suggest that a great amount of research is necessary in order to establish whether that proposition is desirable. Many of us know that many T.P.I. ex-servicemen are broken in health and cannot work, but they are cared for in their homes by attentive and loving wives who relieve the Commonwealth of the expense of caring for them in repatriation hospitals. Those women are at present denied free hospital and medical treatment. However, when their husbands pass on they become eligible for such treatment as war widows.
Recently in the area that I represent in the southern districts of Sydney I and my colleagues the honorable members for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), St. George (Mr. Clay) and Banks (Mr. Costa) met representatives of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Imperial League of Australia. Those representatives put before us the R.S.L. pension plan. I asked them why they were not seeking free hospital and medical treatment for the wives of T.P.I, ex-servicemen. They answered that they were not seeking that benefit because at present the repatriation hospitals are overcrowded. They said that this was not so much because of lack of accommodation - some wards in repatriation hospitals were not being used - but rather because nursing staff was not available to provide services in those wards. They said - I would like to hear the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) on this matter - that nurses were not available because the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to pay nurses as much as the State governments were prepared to pay them in State hospitals. The -Minister indicates that he disagrees with that proposition. However, that is what I was told by the R.S.L. officials.
– They did not represent the federal executive body.
– They represented the federal executive body; they were from the New South Wales branch of the R.S.L.
– The shortage of nursing staff in repatriation hospitals is not as acute as the shortage in State hospitals.
-At any rate the Minister admits that there is a shortage of nurses in repatriation hospitals. That is unfortunate. I will say more about that aspect of the matter later.
The fifth provision that the Opposition will seek to have incorporated in the bill is that the pension paid to T.P.I, exservicemen shall never be less than the basic wage. Later I will deal further with that matter also.
We have often been told in this place that the R.S.L. is quite pleased with what the Government has done for exservicemen, that it has no criticism to offer of the Government. I am not exaggerating what has been said here to-day. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is interjecting, is one member who has suggested that the R.S.L. should be and, indeed, is very satisfied with what this Government has done for ex-servicemen. 1 am referring now particularly to the administration of the onus-of-proof provision in the Repatriation Act. For the benefit of those who may not be well acquainted with it, the onus-of-proof provision places upon the repatriation boards, the commission and the tribunals the responsibility to disprove the claim of an exserviceman who is seeking to have some disability from which he is suffering accepted as being war caused. That provision does not exempt an applicant from having to make a case in support of his claim, but if the repatriation authorities wish to reject his claim the onus is on them to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that the ex-serviceman’s disability was not in fact war caused. 1 have heard several Government supporters, including the honorable member for Hume, express the firm conviction that the onus-of-proof provision was being properly administered. The honorable member for Lilley was another Government supporter who held that view. I heard one Government supporter claim that in Western Australia the R.S.L. was perfectly satisfied with the way the onus-of-proof provision was being handled. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) said that in Queensland the R.S.L. was perfectly happy about it. Another honorable member, whose name I cannot recall, said that the R.S.L. in Victoria was also quite happy about it. It would appear that the league is so happy about the onus-of-proof provision that it intends to place its pension plan before both parties prior to the general elections. In New South Wales the league feels that it has been let down badly. I propose to quote from an article which appeared in “ Reveille “ which is published by the R.S.L. This article was written by the State secretary of the Victorian branch of the league. Apparently not all members of the league are as happy about this matter as some Government supporters would have us believe they are. This article will show what it thinks about the administration of the onus-of-proof clause.
– Who wrote it?
– The article was written by Mr. Charles W. Joyce, secretary of the Victorian branch of the R.S.L.
– It is one man’s view.
– He is secretary of the Victorian branch. I wonder how close the liaison is between Government supporters and the R.S.L., particularly in view of the things that I have heard as a member of the R.S.L. myself and from many of my colleagues who are members also. The article to which I refer states -
The R.S.L. has long held that returned men who endured the rigors of war in battle areas should be given free medical treatment by the Repatriation Department for all illnesses that could have been caused by war service, and of which no clear evidence exists to the contrary.
This desire of the R.S.L. requires no more than that the present onus principle should operate as intended by Parliament, that is, in favour of the appellant.
Returned men are asking how soon the Repatriation Commission will recommend to the Commonwealth the acceptance of the League’s view, and how soon it will be before the Commonwealth adopts it.
I am trying to represent to this Parliament what the R.S.L. thinks about the application of the onus of proof clause. The statement continues -
The question uppermost is whether these men, too, will have to die before the community can be given an opportunity of paying practical tribute to them- whether they can be given now that ounce’ of practical help that is worth a ton of flowers at the graveside.
Just before that, they said-
– He said; not they said. It is not an official document.
– This appears under the name of the State Secretary and he is the spokesman for the R.S.L. The statement is -
If the Commission were completely honest it would freely admit that over the past 40 years, tens of thousands of returned men have suffered because medical treatment has been denied them . . .
To-day, one needs again to stress the fact that sick men lessen national production - that if men are not treated for their illnesses in their early stages, they will become heavier burdens on the community later.
Another extract states -
The Repatriation Commission knows, as every R.S.L. welfare worker knows, that there are thousands of men who are ill, but who continue working because they are afraid to go to a doctor - afraid because they are on their own with their believed war-caused illnesses, instead of having the Repatriation Department and a staff of medical men at their back.
We talk of what is done in other countries. This article points out that in the United States of America complete health services are provided for all veterans. The article cites a report by a Dr. Pearson, who had been to Russia, to the effect that free medical treatment was available there to the community generally. The league has no particular sympathy with Russia, but the report states that in that country -
Sickness is regarded as nationally uneconomic to be overcome as soon as humanly practicable.
That is what is represented to us by an executive officer of the league - the secretary of the Victorian branch - as the attitude of other countries.
I have no doubt at all that the R.S.L. is dissatisfied with the onus-of-proof clause. In the three years that I have been in this place, I have had my fair share of dissatisfied ex-servicemen coming to ask me as a member of Parliament to take up their cases as a last resort and to try to get them the justice that they feel is denied to them. Many of them find it impossible to prove that their illnesses are war caused.
The act does not ask you to be sure that their disability was caused by war service; it requires you only to have some sort of doubt. If there is a doubt, it must be resolved in favour of the ex-serviceman. I am sure that that provision is not being observed. I could quote plenty of cases in support of that statement. I have in mind a gentleman who lives not far from me in Ramsgate in Sydney. He was an officer and served for 24 years in the regular army. For seven years he was in the A.I.F. and served under the most trying conditions which I have not time now to describe. He worked particularly long hours because relief was not available to him. His commanding officer went before a tribunal and vouched for the accuracy of his claims. He told the tribunal that this man had suffered tremendous hardship and had strained himself because there were no reserves to relieve him.
After 24 years in the Army and seven years in the A.I.F. he had to try again and again to get justice. He brought forward all sorts of evidence from the most eminent practitioners in Sydney in support of his case, but he had one knock-back after another. Obviously, he was, as one would expect, a man who would not give up, and after years of trying and years of rejection, he was accepted about three months ago.
But did the acceptance of his disability go back to his first application? All the symptoms were there when he made his original application. Did the pension go back to that date? Did the repatriation authorities say, “We have made a mistake “? Of course not! The pension was made retrospective for only six months. His disability was accepted as war-caused but the acceptance was not made retrospective to the date of his first application. Accordingly, this man feels that he has had shabby treatment. This case is only one of many. I do not intend to decry the good work that is done by our repatriation authorities.’ Those I have dealt with have been outstanding in their service and co-operation.
– Do you think the Government initiated any of this assistance?
– I have not time to answer interjections. I merely want to make the point that I am not reflecting on these people; but somewhere the system that denies justice to so many must fall down. I know that, in the minds of the Returned Servicemen’s League and other ex-servicemen’s organizations, many people unfortunately are still being denied justice. It is put to us that not only are we denying justice but we are denying ourselves the opportunity to secure able-bodied men who could lend a hand in production.
I do not intend to labour statistics. I have no particular liking for statistics in this connexion, but they will help me to make a few points. The latest report of the Repatriation Commission for 1960-61 which was released to-day states that of the applications received and determined by the commission and by repatriation boards in 1960-61, 16,495 were totally or partially accepted and 17,374 were rejected.
As the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) said, there might be a few malingerers: who might try to sponge on the community and the Repatriation. Department and who- might try to get a pension to which they are not entitled, but I am not prepared to believe that there are more than 1.7,000 o£ them or actually over 19,000 in one year, who were prepared- to go through the business of- making an application for a. pension knowing that- they would have to put forward a convincing case. I am not convinced that the vast majority of these people are not sincere in the belief that they have a disability due to war service. However, the fact is that half of those’ who applied were rejected.
Having been rejected at the board level, a number of ex-servicemen lodged appeals with the Repatriation Commission. Last year, 10,573 were determined and 1,869 or 17.7 per cent, were accepted. These were men who thought they had a good case and1 they were prepared to exercise their right of appeal. Going beyond that, I find that 6,725 appeals to the Entitlement Appeal! Tribunal- were; determined. Of that number, 1,250’ or- 18.6 per cent, were accepted. I leave it to the Parliament to decide whether the onus of proof clause is being administered justly.
Let us not be smug about this. I am not trying to wound the Government. If you like, I am prepared to say that these men did not get justice when a Labour Government was in power; but I am speaking for the ex-servicemen whom I represent in this Parliament. They expect me to rise in this place and to lodge a protest on their behalf. They do not expect me to say that the R.S.L. is happy, about the way things are going and that it has no criticism to make. Of. course, the league is grateful to the Government because it has done some worthwhile things. The provision of hospital and medical benefits for service pensioners last- year was appreciated1. That is very helpful, as also is the provision which is made in this bill for ex-servicemen who have been in repatriation hospitals and are discharged for convalescence to receive the full- allowance that a T.P.I, pensioner receives. That is very worth while. But, for goodness sake, do not let us imagine that everything in the garden is- lovely.
Let us consider what happened to the R.S.L.’s submissions- on pensions. This body acts very responsibly, as the honorable member for Lilley said this afternoon. It does not approach the Government with the. attitude: Let us ask for the top and expect to get something in about the middle. It has made the most modest applications to the: Government.. Let me show what happened to some of its applications. I do not think it is worth while to compare pensions provided by the Repatriation Departmentwith the basic, wage,, the C series index, on anything- of. that kind. I and the R.S.L. believe that: the only appropriate criterion by which any kind of comparison can- be made is what is called the “ average weekly, earnings per employed! male unit”.
– Why do you choose that?
– I believe, that it is only fair. If the nation is. acknowledged to be in a state of prosperity and if people are earning at an average rate which is more than the basic wage, why should we condemn ex-servicemen who fought to protect this, country to. living on a portion of the basic wage? If there is prosperity - undoubtedly there has been increased productivity in this country - the people who fought to: give-. Australia the opportunity to achieve that, prosperity should be sharing in it. That is. why I suggest that the pensions should be related to the average weekly earnings, per employed male unit.
The R.S.L., in its pension plan, requested that the 100 per cent, or general rate pension should be increased from £5 10s. to £6 10s. Instead of being increased by £1, it was increased by only a quarter of that amount - 5s. In 1950, when this Government had its first opportunity to implement its pension legislation, the 100 per cent, pensioner was receiving 34.3 per cent, of the average weekly earnings per employed male unit, which were £10 19s. In 1961, even with the latest addition, the pension has dropped back to 24.8 per cent, of the present average weekly earnings per employed male unit. In other words, it has fallen by 9.5 per cent. I will not go through all of these figures. I will cite just a few. The 100 per cent, or general rate pensioner and his wife, taken together, now receive £8 2s. 6d. a week. In 1950 they were receiving 49.3 per cent, of the average weekly earnings per employed male unit. To-day they are receiving 35.4 per cent. of the present average. In other words, they have lost 13.9 per cent.
The R.S.L. asked that the pension of war widows be increased from £5 10s. to £6 10s. Instead, the Government increased it by only 5s. The league asked that the domestic allowance payable to war widows with dependent children and war widows over 50 years of age, who cannot go out and work, be increased from £3 to £3 10s. The Government increased that allowance by 2s. 6d. In 1950 the combined total of the war widow’s pension and the domestic allowance represented 39.2 per cent. of the criterion that I am using. To-day the combined total is down to 33 per cent. In other words, it has dropped by 6.2 per cent. And so I could go on. The same pattern applies all through. In 1950 the T.P.I. ex-serviceman was receiving 68.7 per cent. of the average weekly earnings per employed male unit. To-day he is receiving only 57 per cent. of the present average.
The honorable member for Lilley quoted a hypothetical case in which a T.P.I. exserviceman, his wife and two children could receive as much as about £22 a week. I am reminded that quite a number of such ex-servicemen are single men and they are asked to live on less than the basic wage.
– That was not hypothetical.
– Whoever it was who mentioned it, I do not think it reflected very great credit on him. The pension payable to a widowed mother is £2 5s. That has been the amount since right back in 1952. After all those years, the R.S.L. asked that it be increased to only £4. What did the Government give them? Nothing. The pension payable to wives and children of war pensioners is £1 15s. 6d. The Government had given no increase to the wife of a man who receives a service pension, which is equivalent to the age pension, since 1952. It has now increased that pension from £1 15s. 6d. to £2 7s. 6d.
– That is £2 7s. 6d. a day, is it?
– No, £2 7s. 6d. a week. That is what the Government expects the wife of a service pensioner to live on. The R.S.L. believes that after all these years the Government should do something about increasing the funeral allowance of £25. That is what it was in 1952. It is still £25. Pick a box!
I am saying this to offset to some extent the Government’s self-adulation because of what it has done for ex-servicemen. Some worth-while things have been done, but there is a lot still to be done. The pensioner ex-serviceman to-day is not receiving a fair share of our national prosperity. Many other men are not getting even as far as being pensioner exservicemen. They are not even getting pensions because I believe the onusofproof provision is not being administered in the way it should be administered. It is in the interests of the nation that medical attention should be provided to make them able-bodied men again.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Sir. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), in the course of his speech, said that it was stated that in Perth every one, including the R.S.L., was satisfied with the administration of the onus-of-proof provision and that somebody said that also applied to Queensland. What actually happened was that at that stage I was paying a tribute to the staff of the Repatriation Department in Perth and I said that I could not speak for the other States. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) then interjected and said, “ That applies to Queensland, too “. The two things were not related.
.- I hope that things are not quite as gloomy and horrible as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has portrayed them in his speech to this House. I am afraid that he has taken a leaf out of the book of Dr. Evatt, his predecessor as the member for Barton. As everybody in this House knows, he was one of the greatest apostles of gloom that we ever encountered here.
I suggest to the honorable member that he should tear up that leaf and throw it away, although it is one of the things in which he takes so much pride. I believe that things are infinitely better than he has told us they are. In fact, I believe that the ex-servicemen ‘ themselves know that very well indeed.
Unfortunately, I did not hear the speech of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) this afternoon. He made the first speech for the Opposition in this debate. I am told that it was made with great sincerity. That is the manner in which he approaches this subject on every occasion -on which he speaks. We do not agree with what he says, nevertheless he presents a case with sincerity. He foreshadowed a number of amendments which I understand relate to variations in pensions and allowances. Of course, if the proposed amendments were adopted it would be necessary to re-cast the whole of the Budget. That would be impossible. The Opposition knew very well, even before the proposed amendments were considered, that the Parliament could not accept them. I suppose the only construction one can place on the intention of the Opposition is that it is seeking to make political capital. As a matter of fact, I think that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) tried to do that in his speech. He used every trick in the debating textbook. His words lacked the ring of sincerity that we heard in the speech of his colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). The honorable member for Wills criticized almost every section of the Repatriation Act with machine-gun rapidity. According to him, nothing is right. Criticism simply poured from his lips like the noise that comes from a juke box after a suitable coin has been inserted. I am certain that he gave no thought to his remarks; otherwise he would not have made the statements that he did.
I wish to make some observations during this debate, first, on the proposed amendments, and secondly, on the administration of the Repatriation Act. The bill before the House is of a kind that we are accustomed to see at this time of the year. It relates more particularly to the proposed increase of rates of pensions and allowances for ex-servicemen and their dependants. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr.
Osborne) said that he introduced the bill with considerable pride. Although he did not say so, I take it that he also had much satisfaction in introducing the measure. I am sure he was very pleased to be able to do so. As has been said earlier in the debate, the Minister has taken over a portfolio which previously was administered with a great deal of sincerity and success by Senator Sir Walter Cooper. I know that the present Minister for Repatriation will apply himself to the task in the same manner as his predecessor did.
I cannot recall a budget session during the last ten years when the Government has not increased war service pensions and allowances, either generally or by the extension of particular benefits for ex-servicemen and their dependants. Considerable progress has been made in this respect, but of course money alone is not sufficient compensation for illness or injury caused by war service. I think everybody will agree that the efforts which have been made by the Government in this field are in keeping with the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in 1949, when he said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility … We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
I do not propose to enumerate the benefits that have been granted during the last ten years. My colleague, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), referred this afternoon to the great chronicle of efforts made by this Government to discharge the responsibility that it believes it owes to exservicemen. We feel that it is our duty to provide for ex-servicemen who have suffered in war, and for their dependants, pensions and allowances that are in keeping with the times, as well as the capacity of the country to pay.
I have no doubt that next year at this time the Government will again be acknowledging its responsibility in this regard, and that that will be the case in succeeding years. Our responsibility is a continuing one. We have been guided by the ex-service organizations on the question of the increase of benefits. There has been a very happy arrangement between the Government and the federal executive of the
Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The representatives of that organization know that they may approach the Minister for Repatriation and the Government members exservicemen’s committee at any time and place their problems before them. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) referred a short time ago to the dissatisfaction of the R.S.L. with the Government’s scheme of medical benefits and pensions. There is no truth in that statement, and it is certainly not borne out by the reports which the organization presents each year. On the contrary, the reports indicate that it is very pleased with the Government’s efforts. Naturally, of course, it would like to see repatriation benefits increased. Nevertheless, it appreciates that this Government is sympathetic to a section of the community to which we ali are indebted.
The thing that worries me most in repatriation matters is the operation of section 47 of the act, which has been referred to by honorable members on both sides of the House during this debate. I need not remind honorable members that that section relates to the onus of proof and the benefit of the doubt. If the Minister is able to study this problem and concentrate his attention, during his administration of this portfolio, on finding ways and means to remove the anomalies that arise because of the ambiguous wording of the section, he will do a great deal of good. He will earn the gratitude of the staff of the Repatriation Department who are endeavouring to administer the act in the fairest and squarest way. This controversial section has caused great trouble and a tremendous amount of concern, not only to ex-servicemen but also to the Government and private members of Parliament who see from time to time the anomalies that arise in the application of its provisions.
I have no doubt that the Minister will endeavour to give some thought and consideration to the advisability of reframing the section or amending it. The officers of the Repatriation Commission, in the many discussions that I have had with them on this subject, have always been able to produce a very convincing set of figures to show that the administration of the section by the tribunals has been overwhelmingly in favour of ex-servicemen, and when one looks at the statistics relating to applications made to entitlement appeal tribunals, one finds that that is so. However, that argument leaves me rather cold. The important thing for the ex-serviceman whose application is rejected and who has not received the benefit of the doubt, is the fact that the tribunal has not been prepared to agree that his disability was war-caused. That is understandable. The fact that a very large percentage of appeals to the tribunal are accepted is of little consolation to the serviceman whose appeal is rejected. In fact, it is of little consolation to me, particularly in cases of which I know the background.
My many approaches to the Repatriation Department in relation to the onus of proof and benefit of the doubt provisions have always produced the same result. I have been told that tribunals have been set up specifically to hear appeals and that the number of appeals allowed is far in excess of the number rejected.
Lack of uniformity in the decisions that have been reached by the tribunals is the chief cause for complaint. It is no good telling me that there is uniformity in the way in which the Repatriation Act is applied. Lack of uniformity occurs in the civil and criminal courts of this country. If it happens there, how much more likely is it to happen in tribunals where conditions are much less rigid? When an exserviceman’s pension is at stake, it is all the more difficult to concede any error of judgment, because very special circumstances exist. The ex-serviceman is battling for his rights. His claim may be supported by a medical officer who has told him that he is entitled to a pension. Although that medical officer is probably the family doctor, the ex-serviceman nevertheless accepts the opinion and, naturally, he is gravely distressed when his application for a pension is refused.
The lack of uniform practice in the presentation of medical evidence to the tribunals seems to be the cause of the trouble. At some hearings, the opinions of the department’s medical officers go unchallenged and are accepted by the tribunal although there may be several contrary opinions. Sometimes the commission advises the claimant that a contrary medical opinion has been advanced against him, but sometimes the ex-serviceman is not given this information. I know of such cases. That is one of the gravest deficiencies of the system. If an applicant knew before the tribunal hearing commenced that the department’s medical officer had given a certain opinion, and if cross-examination were allowed, I believe that the results in many cases would be different. I know of cases in which the department’s medical officer would not have been able to stand up against the opinion expressed by another member of his profession. This, in itself, is a serious matter.
Having read the opinion which has been expressed by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) in relation to section 47, 1 am more convinced than ever of the necessity for some kind of crossexamination of medical officers at these tribunal hearings. Let me read to the House an extract from that opinion. It is in these terms -
The next inroad which the section makes on the usual case is that it places the onus of proof on the Crown rather than as in the ordinary case on the claimant
We know that quite well. The opinion continues -
It is important to realise that the shift of onus of proof does not of itself relieve the serviceman of the need to give any evidence.
We know that quite well, too. Now this is the point to which I wish to direct attention -
It merely means that, if the mind of the tribunal is left in a state of equipoise, the claimant must succeed in contrast to the ordinary case where in a like circumstance he must fail.
If cross-examination of the commission’s medical officer is not permitted, I cannot see how the tribunal can possibly get itself into a state of equipoise which will result in the claimant receiving the benefit of the doubt, because there are so many cases in which the tribunal makes a decision on the medical opinion of the department’s medical officer, and that is final. No contrary opinion is stated; no cross-examination is conducted. That seems to me to be one of the great anomalies of the system, one that will give this House constant worry, one that will be the subject of controversial debate year after year, and one that will cause the Repatriation Commission continuous difficulty.
I suppose one might describe the position as being the result of the frailties of human nature. One tribunal will give an interpretation of section 47 which is different from that of another tribunal. As this lack of uniformity continues, no end of trouble is caused to the unfortunate claimants, to ex-servicemen’s organizations, and to members of Parliament whose assistance is sought. This lack of uniformity is the fundamental weakness in section 47. Even in his opinion to the then Minister for Repatriation, Senator Sir Walter Cooper, the Attorney-General made some oblique reference to it. In the final paragraph of his opinion he stated -
Consequently, although they have as chairmen trained lawyers, it is not improper in my opinion that through yourself, as Minister, they should be afforded the benefit of the opinion of the Law Officer on the meaning and effect of a section such as section 47, or that they should accept and act on that opinion. Such a course would not only make for certainty in administration but would also remove any lack of uniformity in the practice of the tribunals themselves.
When the Attorney-General gave that opinion he felt that it was necessary to convince the tribunals of the importance of uniformity. I say to the present Minister for Repatriation that that is just another reason why he should give very serious consideration to the question of providing a form of words and amending this section so that this troublesome aspect of the Repatriation Act may be cleared up for all time. There is great confusion in the minds of many ex-servicemen. When they go before these tribunals they believe that the same interpretation of the words “ benefit of the doubt “ is given as in many courts of justice. But there is a distinct difference. There is this difference: Section 47 of the act places on the commission the onus of saying that the ex-serviceman’s illness was not war caused. The commission is not required to go to the extent of saying that it is satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that the exserviceman’s disability was war caused. I think that sometimes ex-servicemen who go before a tribunal do not understand the difference between those requirements. If the report of the commission’s medical authority on which the commission relies could be made available for examination by the applicant appellant, I am quite sure that in many instances a different result would be reached. The applicant’s doctor ought to be allowed to cross-examine the commission’s doctor in a controversial case before the tribunal.
I am very glad, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to have had this opportunity to register my dissatisfaction with the operation of section 47 of the Repatriation Act; and I trust that the Minister will continue to examine this controversial section with a view to improving it. I am not prepared to subscribe to the views of the honorable member for Barton concerning the amendment of section 47 suggested by the Opposition, because it is due to the way in which that section was drafted in 1943 by the former right honorable member for Barton, Dr. Evatt himself, that we are in our present mess. Therefore, I would not trust the re-drafting of the section to the Opposition. I should much prefer that the Minister for Repatriation do some research work on it in the light of experience of the operation of this section over the last four or five years. I am sure that this bill will be received warmly by all ex-servicemen as effecting a great improvement in repatriation legislation, because it gives to them extra benefits which they have been promised from time to time.
.- I am sure that it will be very poor consolation to the ex-servicemen of this country to hear the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) exhort the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) to continue to examine the anomalies arising from section 47 of the Repatriation Act which, as every one knows, is the onus-of-proof provision. Such a suggestion is in keeping with the Government’s full employment programme; it would be one way of keeping the Minister fully employed ad infinitum. We on this side of the House would have preferred to hear the honorable member for Isaacs call on the Minister to find an early solution to the very vexed question of the onus of proof, because the existing provision has denied justice to Australian ex-servicemen over such a long period of time. Having heard the honorable member for Isaacs and other honorable members express their concern about the operation of section 47, we are waiting eagerly to see what happens when a vote is taken on this matter later in the proceedings.
Before I go further, Sir, I should like to say that I am very pleased that after a period of eleven years has elapsed responsibility for the administration of the repatriation legislation has reverted to a Minister in this House. I congratulate the Minister on his assumption of what I believe to be a very responsible position. He has taken over the portfolio from Senator Sir Walter Cooper, who distinguished himself in this role. We wish the Minister good luck and we hope that he will apply himself keenly to the tremendously important problems of repatriation generally which are of vital concern to the representatives of electorates having from 40,000 to 60,000 constituents and who make themselves available for interview, such as my colleagues, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) and myself. It is desirable that we have a close association with the Minister in order that we can put to him the points of view of our constituents who are ex-servicemen. We hope that this innovation by the Government will be extended in respect of other portfolios. For instance, it would be good for all of us if the portfolio of National Development was assigned to a member of this House so that we could come to grips with him about the Government’s inactivity in that sphere. The new Minister for Repatriation will be confronted with many problems concerning eligibility for pensions. Many exservicemen feel that they are not getting a fair go in this respect; and he will be apprised of many things that cause aggravation to exservicemen. He will hear about exservicemen having to go backwards and forwards to repatriation offices, how they are told to wait, and having waited for two or three hours in some instances are told to come back the following week.
It has been mentioned by the honorable member for Barton this evening, and it has been previously mentioned to me by eminent members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that at present there are empty beds in our repatriation hospitals, and in some instances empty wards. The reason for this position is that the Government has not been prepared to pay the nursing staff and other staff associated with the administration of repatriation hospitals the same rate of salary as is paid by State governments. It is all very well for the Minister to shake his head; we know that there are vacant beds in repatriation hospitals, and we know that there are some wards in which most of the beds are vacant. We also know that numerous ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen who need hospital attention are not able to obtain it Consequently, we would like to know why vacant beds are not in use. The first important job that the Minister can undertake is to examine that position. I look forward to hearing his answer in this matter when he replies to the debate.
I want now to commend the R.S.L. pension plan. I regard it as a good idea, because I believe that it is always a good thing for any body to define its objectives and set its targets. For the last two or three years, certain honorable members on this side of the House have directed attention to the R.S.L. pension plan, and during this debate several honorable members on the Government side also have commented on it. We know, of course, that the R.S.L. was anxious to win a lot of support for its programme. We have been told by the honorable member for Isaacs that we have a very happy arrangement with the league. As far as the rank and file members are concerned, there is often too close a liaison between the Government and the top brass, the hierarchy of the R.S.L, about seven out of twelve of whom have been knighted on the recommendation of this Government. It has been said that this year the R.S.L. pension plan was undermined and sabotaged.
– Only one member of the executive has been knighted on our recommendation.
– I have looked at the last annual report of the federal executive of the league, and it shows that on seven of the twelve members of the executive honours of some kind have been conferred on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). There has been too much compromise. There could have been a lot more organization in connexion with the R.S.L. pension plan, but, apparently, there has been some connivance between the top brass of the R.S.L. and the Government with the result that the original plan was not pressed with determination. The Budget provisions fall far short of the R.S.L.’s pension plan. Because of the way in which the organization’s executive has been honoured, as I have indicated, there is no question that its submissions would be irresponsible. This is the considered viewpoint of the rank and file of an organization comprising thousands of members, a great secretariat and professional people who have put down their log of claims and asked for realistic consideration. We know full well that some of the suggestions they have made have been conceded, but the bulk of them have been disregarded by this Government.
Over the years, the Opposition has fought very hard for the R.S.L. point of view and asked that injustices be corrected. In many instances the proportion that pensions bear to the basic wage has declined since this Government has been in office. Of course, as the honorable member for Barton has said, the Labour Opposition is not satisfied that everything was done that might have been done for the service pensioners during Labour’s regime. However, when Labour vacated office it was in the process of building a welfare state to provide real social security not only for ex-servicemen but for everybody in the community. We had not reached the zenith of our aspirations in that regard. It is a shocking indictment of this Government that it has allowed things to deteriorate to such an extent that to-day the proportion that pensions bear to the basic wage is lower than it was eleven years ago.
We have fought for and initiated some of the most worthwhile provisions. Now that the Commonwealth post-war reconstruction training scheme is going out of existence, let me remind the House that it was the Labour Government which, away back in 1943, initiated this great scheme. It is quite appropriate, I think, to recall that no fewer than 122,000 ex-service men and women have benefited as a result of this wonderful plan, on which we have expended about £50,000,000. Nobody can doubt our sincerity in respect of the welfare of exservicemen.
Over the years we have fought for the relaxation of the onus-of-proof provision.
As I have mentioned, we shall submit another amendment in the committee stage of consideration of this bill. We hope to make it possible for those who are not satisfied with the application of the onusofproof provision to have recourse to some other sphere of justice, the High Court of Australia or the Supreme Court of a State. We shall hear quite a deal about that later from my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). We intend to press again this year, as we have done over a long, long period, for the acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability. No honorable member in this place can stand up and declare with certainty, with or without scientific backing, that cancer can be dissociated from war service. Some of us know of ex-prisoners of war who were in Changi camp for years, who left it as emaciated, broken-down remnants of manhood in many respects. Who can say that their experiences did not lower their resistance and leave them susceptible to diseases such as cancer? Maybe one cannot say for certain that this is the case, but one certainly cannot say that it is otherwise. So we shall test the sincerity of Government supporters. We shall ask for the adoption of that provision by way of an amendment to this bill. Of course, this is only a pilot case. There are many other ailments one finds very difficult to prove as attributable to war service. In respect of heart conditions, arthritis, even rheumatism, cerebral complaints, and a number of other disabilities, an element of doubt and speculation is introduced. We are only contending that where there is doubt about these things the authorities should always be prepared to resolve it in favour of the applicant.
– Do you want to go further and include those ailments, too?
– If we went as far as that, we would not be greatly out of step with the provisions of section 47 of the Repatriation Act, to which I shall later make more substantial reference.
Then there is the question of medical benefits, in respect of which we also intend to test the sincerity of Government supporters. We shall test their sincerity on the question of treatment for the 1914-18 digger and the South African veteran, the feeble old man of 90, who is tottering around now on a walking stick or pushing along in bis wheel-chair. We shall seek medical treatment for them in a repatriation hospital, regardless of whether or not their disabilities have been accepted as being due to war service. We think that this is a fair and reasonable proposition.
Many of these old gentlemen - not South African veterans, because there are so few of them around, but old diggers of the 1914-18 war - come into my office, trying to find some ground upon which to submit a new appeal, or something that will have a substantial bearing on their case. Many years have gone by since 1918. What chance is there of finding a mate, a comrade who was in France or Gallipoli, to substantiate their claim? Even the doctors who treated them after they came out of the service have long since passed away. There is nothing of consequence on their medical records. That is because, like decent, fair-dinkum down-to-earth Australians, their main concern when they came back was to get out of the Army. Have not honorable members heard that story a dozen or a hundred times? Everybody has heard it. There is no point in any honorable member sitting in his office, listening sympathetically to his constituent, acquiescing in the point of view expressed, unless he is prepared to support the action that we shall take to-night in the committee stage, when we shall test honorable members by way of an amendment.
The matters that I have mentioned are not of great magnitude from a financial point of view; they are infinitesimal. There is no generosity or humanitarianism in the Government’s attitude. The extra repatriation benefits that are being provided under the Budget will cost £2,500,000 this year and £3,400,000 in a full year. The Government intends to spend an extra £4,600,000 on defence. As the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) pointed out, the extra amount that the Government will spend on repatriation, despite all of these anomalies, will be less than the cost of one Boeing aircraft. We say that this is very mean recognition of the things that ex-servicemen have done for Australia. Why, the Government is increasing taxation this year by £57,000,000, but it will hand back to exservicemen only an extra £2,500,000! Last year, the Government increased taxation by £174,000,000. It seems to me that it is not being over-generous. We think of the other large sums that the Government is spending on development. By way of passing reference, I mention the £4,100,000 is to be expended in subsidizing oil exploration by private speculating companies. There are many other instances of that type of thing.
The fact of the matter is that inflation has sapped the real value of pensions. There have been substantial increases in the basic wage since 1949. In fact, the basic wage has increased in that period by 133 per cent. In respect of many pensions, there has been no corresponding increase. My colleagues have enumerated the pension rates, which, as a proportion of the basic wage, have seriously declined over the eleven years that the Government has been in office. In any case, it is fair to contend that the basic wage is not any longer the yardstick in Australia. My colleague, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), was well and truly on the ball when he referred to average male weekly earnings. This is a far more appropriate test to apply. In any event, it is the basis of the R.S.L. pension plan submission. We argue the proposition from that point of view. lt seems to me that one of the deficiencies of Government activity in respect of R.S.L. and pension matters is the failure of ordinary members of Parliament to maintain a close liaison with the league. This year, just as was the case last year and the year before, I went along to the annual meeting of the league in the Illawarra area. I was accompanied by the honorable members for Barton, Lang (Mr. Stewart), St. George (Mr. Clay) and West Sydney (Mr. Minogue), and a Labour senator. On most of these occasions I have seen no Government supporters present, though all were invited. I must confess that one Government senator attended on several occasions. The R.S.L. knows this and has made reference to it on countless occasions.
One of the subjects raised when we were present was the general rate, the 100 per cent, pension, which the Government pro poses to increase by 5s. a week to £5 15s. The league asked for a rate of £6 10s., so the new rate to be paid is 15s. down. There are about 191,000 of these pensioners, the vast majority of whom do not receive a 100 per cent, pension. They receive merely a proportion of it. The average rate received by 1914-18 diggers is 48 per cent, and the average for 1939-45 diggers is 36 per cent. In spite of the rise in average male weekly earnings, there was a decline in the general rate war pension between 1950 and 1960. Whereas the pension was 30.84 per cent, of average male weekly earnings in 1950, it had fallen in 1960 to 23.16 per cent. So it is obvious that the 5s. increase which has been granted under the Budget did not resolve this discrepancy. I think that the Government is taking earning capacity into account in respect of the general rate pension.
I want to refer, too, to the payments made to the dependants of general rate war pensioners. At present, these are at the rate of £1 15s. 6d. for a wife and 13s. 9d. for a child. No increases are provided in this Budget. In fact, no increases have been provided since 1952. We do not know whether the Government thinks that these are immovable figures. We do not know whether these rates will be altered at all. This Government did alter them in 1952. It seems to me that the principle that these rates can be adjusted was well and truly established at that time. Why have we ignored them since? In replying to the debate, will the Minister tell us whether the Government has steadfastly decided to abandon any alteration to the payments made to the dependants of general rate pensioners? Is he prepared to say, “ This is an anomaly. The basic wage has increased tremendously since 1952 and we have not given justice to the wives and children concerned.”
I understand that there are 35,000 war widows who receive the war widow’s pension and the domestic allowance. I know something about the way in which they live, because my mother was one of them from the time that I was six years of age. I can assure the House that things were not too good in those times. I see many of these ladies from time to time, and I know that things are still pretty bad. The war widow’s pension now is £5 10s. a week and an increase of Ss. a week is proposed in this bill. The R.S.L. has asked for an increase of £1.
What would happen if an industrial worker were killed in an industrial accident? If the accident happened in New South Wales, his widow would be in fairly fortunate circumstances. She would be much better off than the widow of a worker who had the misfortune to live in the Liberal State of Victoria. In New South Wales the widow of the worker would receive a lump sum payment of £4,200 from the State Government for a start, as a result of New South Wales legislation. This could be invested, say, at 5 per cent. Under the Menzies Government you can get 10 per cent, from many avenues of investment, but an investment at 5 per cent, is fairly safe. It could be made with a water board or a similar public instrumentality. It would return £210 a year, which is more than £4 a week. On top of that, the Commonwealth would pay the widow another £5 10s. a week if she were over 50. She would get an A class widow’s pension. The war widow, however, gets only £5 10s. a week plus the domestic allowance, which, I think, will be £3 2s, 6d. a week. So she is worse off than the industrial worker’s widow. I suggest that the Government have a good look at this matter, because this is certainly not adequate compensation for a war widow who is left with a young family as a result of her husband’s making the supreme sacrifice on behalf of his country. This matter is well worth looking at because the war widow is obviously at a disadvantage compared with the ordinary widow in New South Wales. The increase in the domestic allowance of 2s. 6d. is a miserable, paltry thing, of no consequence. The R.S.L. was reasonable in asking for an increase of 10s. and I do not think that the Government has been fair in this matter.
– What sort of a reception did you get for the deputation to the Minister?
– What deputation?
– The deputation that you took to the Minister.
– It is unusual for the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.
Clyde Cameron) to be labouring under a misapprehension, but I am afraid that he, like the Government, is well and truly ofl the ball at the moment.
The pension for totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen - the special rate pension - has been £12 15s. a week. It is proposed to increase it by 10s. to £13 5s. a week. At the present time, the basic wage, averaged over the six capital cities, is £14 8s. a week. I often think of these chaps going away in 1914 or 1939. I imagine the Prime Minister standing on the end of the wharf or at the airport, waving them goodbye. He says, “ Farewell, boys. Away you go. Don’t worry. If you get bowled over we will make sure that you get a pension, if you are totally incapacitated, which will be well and truly over the basic wage that prevails at any given time.” Precisely the opposite has happened. It is happening in this year of grace, 1961. The pension for the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is £13 5s., while the basic wage is £14 8s. There is no doubt about Labour’s policy in this respect. In 1958, the then Leader of the Opposition said -
We are specially concerned about the pension for totally and permanently incapacitated returned soldiers. This will be raised immediately to the basic wage as an irreducible minimum.
Is there any honorable member opposite who thinks that the totally and permanently incapacitated pension rate should be less than the basic wage? If not, we are going to have a very fine time in an hour or two when we vote on this matter. The Opposition will move an amendment designed to raise this pension to the level of the basic wage. Our policy has never been in doubt and we are pursuing it to-night relentlessly, as we have done for so long. The Government has allowed the T.P.I, pension to fall well below the basic wage on many occasions. In 1951 it was £1 4s. below the basic wage; in 1953, £2 2s. below; in 1955, £2 lis. below; and in 1957, £2 5s. below. The new pension rate will be £13 5s. The Prime Minister often talks about repatriation matters at election time. In 1949 he said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
That was said eleven long years ago, but there are still all these apparent anomalies. Justice delayed in this case is justice denied, especially to the 13,000 totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen from the 1914-18 war who have waited so long for a fair deal and for the 7,500 men who became totally and permanently incapacitated as a result of the 1939-45 war. It is hard to get a totally and permanently incapacitated pension, and it should be something worth getting.
In the early part of this year I fought one of these cases strenuously. It concerned a man with a skin complaint so terrible that you felt embarrassed tolook at him. It was apparent all over his face and hands. For sixteen years he put up with this accursed thing, trying to take employment and leaving job after job. He could not hold one for more than three or four days. His condition was so bad that he had to wear pyjamas under his clothes. This man lived a life of misery. For sixteen years he fought hard for a totally and permanently incapacitated pension. He came to me, and I and the R.S.L. officials put up a concerted case and finally won it for him - sixteen years after he had contracted this disease. A short time afterwards, he passed away. The pension was a very poor reward for him.
Just a short time ago I handled the case of a man who, as a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, had made 35 operational flights over Germany. This man, who had five young children, was suffering from an ulcer condition. We fought and fought and finally we won. But he had suffered from this condition for years, had lost employment and was still trying to maintain his wife and family on the sickness benefit. Fortunately, we won the case just a couple of days before he died. When these men succeed in their claim for a T.P.I. pension, they feel that they are winning something worth-while. Some of them have been deprived of earning power for as long as 42 years.
I wanted to speak about the onusofproof provision, but I have very little time in which to do so. I should like to impress upon the Government the very great need to look at this matter. We are satisfied that things are not working out very well in regard to the onus-of-proof provision.
Honorable members on both sides of the House have suggested that the present provision should be examined. The Minister for Repatriation has a responsibility to make the section work. We ask him to make a statement to the Repatriation Commission and the various tribunals setting out the spirit that is to be observed in the application of this provision so that the complaint of ex-servicemen throughout Australia, thousands of whom have had their claims rejected, may be redressed in the long run.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the onus-of-proof provision has again been the subject of a good deal of consideration. I shall devote a short space of time to a discussion of the provision, but I indicate that I do not propose to support the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. Section 47 provides -
The Commission, a Board, an Appeal Tribunal and an Assessment Appeal Tribunal . . . shall give to the claimant, applicant or appellant the benefit of any doubt -
as to the existence of any fact, matter, cause or circumstance which would be favourable to the claimant, applicant or appellant; or
as to any question whatsoever . . . which arises for decision . . .
The section further provides that the body hearing the case, whether originally or on appeal - shall draw, from all the circumstances of the case … all reasonable inferences in favour of the claimant, applicant or appellant, and in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed.
We know that a former Attorney-General gave an interpretation of this section.
– Who was he?
– He is now Mr. Justice Spicer. We know, too, that since then the present Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) has given a further detailed interpretation. Recently an Opposition member rose in his place to say, in effect, that the opinion given by the present AttorneyGeneral was of no value. Although the honorable member who made that strange claim against the Attorney-General was a layman and therefore could not be presumed to be able to set himself up against a distinguished person like the AttorneyGeneral, he did not attempt to bring forward any opinion expressed by eminent counsel to establish his claim. If you claim that somebody’s opinion is wrong, surely the first requirement in this House, as in any court of law, is that you must advance some solid argument to establish that you are right.
Be that as it may, the Opposition has claimed that the onus-of-proof provision is not being correctly administered. It has suggested, therefore, that there should be a further right of appeal. The first matter we should bear in mind is that, if the amendment were agreed to, four bodies in turn could consider a claim brought by an ex-serviceman. If it were necessary to have four bodies to deal with a particular matter - or course, it would be open to the exserviceman who lost his appeal in the earlier jurisdiction to go to the fourth body - necessarily it would be a long drawn out affair. Furthermore, it could be somewhat costly to the appellant, because all appellants do not live on the doorstep of the Repatriation Commission, a board or an appeal tribunal. Even if, as is proposed in the amendment, no costs are to be awarded in relation to that further appeal, there would still be quite a deal of delay and appellants would be put to a good deal of expense.
The main reason why I object to a fourth stage is this: I believe that the basic weakness of section 47 does not lie in the fact that human nature enters into the picture and that conceivably some board members may make a wrong decision. Rather does it lie in the fact that the hearing is not a full-scale hearing; it is not sufficiently complete. I venture to suggest, as a result of some experience, that in order to achieve a correct decision in any case it is vital that all the facts be put before the court or the tribunal concerned. Secondly, the fullest opportunity must be given for crossexamination. When bald statements are made by people who are not cross-examined, you cannot possibly expect to get complete justice on every occasion. Sometimes cross- examination elicits information concerning an entirely different aspect of the whole matter.
Let me refer, by way of illustration, to a case that I know of. A witness was giving evidence in a will case. After he had given evidence to establish that a certain will was valid, counsel for the opposite side crossexamined him and asked, “Is it not a fact that if this will is established you will receive approximately £15,000 from the estate? “ He replied, “Yes”. Then counsel for the party in support of whom he was giving evidence re-examined him and put this question: “ You have just told my learned friend that if this will is established you will receive about £15,000. How much approximately will you receive from the estate if the will is overthrown? “ His answer was, “ Fifty thousand pounds”. It will be seen, therefore, that it is vital in every case for the full facts to be brought out. The only way in which that can be done is to have a fullscale hearing and to make provision for cross-examination.
Section 47 of the Repatriation Act does not require a full formalized hearing as we know it. It provides that the body hearing the case “ shall act according to substantial justice and the merits of the case, shall not be bound by technicalities or legal forms or rules of evidence “, and shall do certain other things. In short, the section provides that a strict method of obtaining proof need not be followed. But that part of the section need not frighten or deter us. In the Land Court in Queensland, for example, a somewhat similar procedure applies. Although the court is not bound by technicalities and so on in the hearing of land cases, there is, nevertheless, a full right of cross-examination. As a result, some cases may last for an hour and some may last for a day. I have seen some last for two days. The point is that in each instance the appellant has the right to have his case heard to the full extent necessary in his interests.
There is something significant about the figures that appear in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the financial year 1960-61, which has already been quoted in this debate. If we look at table ten, at page 27 of the report, we find that 16,495 claims were accepted by repatriation boards in 1960-61, and 17,374 were rejected. Some of the disappointed claimants appealed to the Repatriation Commission. The commission allowed 1,869 appeals and rejected 8,704. It is obvious immediately that if every repatriation board had been perfect - if there had been no question of the human element intruding and each board had been able to exercise its judgment perfectly - the claims that succeeded on appeal to the commission would have been successful before the boards in the first instance. The very fact that 1,869 appeals to the commission from decisions of the boards were successful shows that the human element does enter into the determining of all these claims.
Then we go further. At the third stage - that of appeals to war pensions entitlement appeal tribunals - 1,085 appeals were allowed during 1960-61, 5,475 were disallowed and 165 were referred back to the Repatriation Commission and allowed. Here, again, we have an illustration of what happens when human beings are called on to give decisions in matters such as these. The 1,085 appellants who succeeded at this stage had to take three steps and go before three bodies in turn before they received decisions in their favour.
I know that Opposition members may say: “ Let us have a fourth stage. If appeals to the High Court of Australia or the Supreme Court of a State or Territory are permitted, another 100, 200 or 300 appellants may succeed.” I could extend that argument in a logical way and say that an appellant who does not succeed before a fourth body ought to have the right to go before a fifth body. But, by increasing the number of appeal tribunals, one merely creates difficulties by adding to the time and expense involved. If a great number of cases were to go before the High Court or a Supreme Court, repatriation might bog down, because, obviously, a good deal of time might be taken in having each case that went before a High Court or Supreme Court judge determined. So, in any event, we have to consider whether the time factor would be so serious as to prevent decisions from being made quickly enough for justice to be done.
Since, as I have pointed out, so many appeals are granted by one or another body, it is obvious that there is room for the human element to operate. I suggest that if errors of judgment on the part of those making decisions are to be reduced to the minimum, those who make the decisions must have the full facts before them. As I have already stated, the full facts can be brought out only if there is a full-scale hearing. Freedom from the rules of evidence would not matter. Hearings can be conducted without technicalities quite satisfactorily. The essential thing is a full-scale hearing in which the right of crossexamination is allowed. This presents us with the risk that repatriation may bog down if there are thousands of appeals, each requiring a full-scale hearing with the right of cross-examination. Therefore, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne) may see fit to examine various aspects of this question of hearings before repatriation boards, the Repatriation Commission and the entitlement appeal tribunals.
Our object ought to be, after examining quite a number of cases, to consider, first, whether full-scale hearings entirely free of the rules of evidence would cause repatriation to bog down. Secondly, we should consider whether such full-scale hearings would have deprived some exservicemen of benefits which they already receive as a result of decisions that they had obtained, because full-scale hearings might show that they had no just entitlement to those benefits. In short, there could be a risk that full-scale hearings would deprive of repatriation benefits some ex-servicemen who would otherwise receive them under the present loose system of hearings by the existing tribunals.
I suggest that the Minister also consider whether, right from the beginning, a full set of facts could be given to each claimant by the repatriation commission immediately he has lodged his claim and stated his grounds for making it. He would then know exactly what evidence requirements he would have to meet when he went before a tribunal.
– Does the honorable member suggest that that information be given to the appellant or to his advocate?
– The advocate must have full rights in the conduct of every case on the appellant’s behalf.
– Would the honorable member give the information to the appellant?
– There would be certain cases in which an appellant perhaps should not be given information if his possession of it would be against his own interests. But I think that those cases would not be numerous. Generally speaking, the advocate should be given all the facts so that he may know exactly what case he has to meet on the appellant’s behalf. Assuming, then, that at the very first stage the applicant has lodged his claim and has stated his grounds, and the commission has given its statement, if the decision goes against the applicant, the board then should give a full statement of findings of fact and its reasons so that the applicant or his advocate will know what he has to meet. This would mean that when the applicant appeals to the commission, he will know precisely what he has to face. The same provision could be considered if the appeal is refused by the commission and and the appellant has to go to the entitlement appeal tribunal. He would then know exactly the facts and findings of the body against which he was appealing.
I suggest that the fault does not lie in the lack of opportunity for appeal. Any defect that does exist lies in the fact that all the evidence is put before human beings and that therefore they make decisions which are sometimes variable. I suggest that the Minister may care to investigate these questions with a view to improving the practice and procedure. It is obvious from the way the Minister has acted since he accepted this portfolio that his intention is to ensure that every ex-serviceman receives justice.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– On Wednesday of last week, I undertook, when speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House, to bring certain details before the House, and I now do so. Honorable members will remember that. following a speech by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), I remarked that the Australian Labour Party had a double standard in dealing with unity tickets. If a member of the Australian Democratic Labour Party was concerned with a unity ticket, the A.L.P. came down like a ton of bricks. If it was a unity ticket where a Communist was concerned, its touch was feather-light.
The matter arose, as I said, out of some remarks made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I said that I had information about the Federated Clerks Union of Australia which would show that the A.L.P., in dealing with members who stood with D.L.P. adherents on the tickets, was much firmer than when dealing with members who stood with Communists. That evidence I now produce. I refer first to the Federated Clerks Union ballot of 1958. At that ballot, a man I think called Roger Gray was a D.L.P. candidate. A Mr. OToole and a Mr. Peter Brown were members of the A.L.P. on the same ticket. I correct myself there; one was a member of the A.L.P., the other was not. What happened? As soon as this ticket came out, a telegram was sent to Mr. OToole demanding that he dissociate himself from it. Then without giving him any opportunity to reply or any opportunity to state his case, as he had a right to do I think under section 51 of the A.L.P. rules, he was summarily and, I think, illegally expelled. Furthermore, Mr. Peter Brown was also expelled; but as it happened, Mr. Peter Brown was not then a member of the A.L.P. He had been a member, but had ceased to be a member at the time. The A.L.P. was so keen to get rid of anybody who had any association with the D.L.P. that it even went to the lengths of purporting to expel Mr. Peter Brown, who was not even a member. The A.L.P. did not tell him anything about it until the purported expulsion had been completed.
This shows the precipitate way in which © the A.L.P. acts where the D.L.P. is concerned. In this instance, it acted while the election was in progress with the hope of influencing the election and, I am afraid, helping people who are sympathetic to the Communists to attain office. The A.L.P. should be particularly sensitive about the Federated Clerks Union. For long, under the command of the notorious Jacky
Hughes, this was a Communist stronghold, the officers of the union keeping themselves in office mainly by ballot rigging. This is very near to the A.L.P. because, although Mr. Hughes was at the time a member of the central committee of the Communist Party, he also purported to be a member of the A.L.P. He was, in fact, the Hughes of the Hughes-Evans group, a group which could almost be called the father of the State Labour Government in New South Wales, because the authority of the controlling clique here stems from the HughesEvans intrigue of twenty years ago. This same group was responsible for the preselection of some honorable members who have sat on the opposite side in this chamber. The Hughes-Evans group, a Communist group, got into the Federated Clerks Union, kept control of it by devious means and was closely associated with the A.L.P. When measures are taken to get rid of the D.L.P. and keep them out, the A.L.P. is very quick on the draw; it expels.
The same kind of thing happened in March of this year when Mr. Vince Higgins, Cec Davies and Miss Spears stood for election with Miss Gray, who was a member of the D.L.P. In this instance again I think the rules were not followed. They were hailed before a kind of kangaroo court consisting of Mr. Oliver, Mr. Colbourne, Mr. Dale and Mr. Mulvihill. They were asked certain questions and were then expelled. In this instance also it is noticeable that the people concerned - the three expelled - were unopposed at the ballot. I say this because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, speaking in this House on Wednesday of last week, implied that it was not a bad thing to be on a unity ticket if you were there unopposed. He mentioned a Mr. Fred Campbell and tried to excuse Mr. Fred Campbell. But what Mr. Campbell did, on the say-so of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was exactly the same as that for which Miss Spears, Mr. Higgins and Mr. Davies were expelled from the A.L.P. last March.
It is noteworthy that concurrently with this action being taken against them, something was happening in the Amalgamated Engineering Union, Australian section. I have in my hand the ticket concerned - the actual document. It is a government- printed document, which was circulated in accordance with the union rules. It is printed by Mr. Blight, the Government Printer. I have it here in my hand. Here is an appeal to support Mr. Alan Wilson, the Communist, and it is signed by a number of Labour men, including Mr. H. Whitton, Mr. E. Pakes, Mr. H. Cowan, Mr. A. Shaw and Mr. J. Langton. I have their addresses here if honorable members are interested.
No action was taken against those A.L.P. members because in this case it was a Communist with whom they were standing. The matter was brought to the attention of the Labour Party on 18th May, 1961. I have before me copies of the letters in which this matter was brought to the party’s attention. The Labour Party did nothing because in this case it was essential not to prevent the Communist Wilson from being elected to the controlling body of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Because it did not want to get in the way of Mr. Communist Wilson, the Labour Party did nothing. It took no action whatever against the A.L.P. members concerned. It is all right to go on a unity ticket with a Communist or to support a Communist in a union election, but if you so much as brush against or support a member of the D.L.P., the Labour Party is down on you like a ton of bricks. This double standard exists. I have the documents to prove that. Any honorable member who so wishes may inspect them. There is not the slightest doubt on the facts as I have set them out that this double standard exists. It is there all the time.
The Labour Party does not worry about the Communists, but it hates the D.L.P. To quote the words of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Labour Party considers the Communists to be “ just another Labour party “. This is the position.
Finally, I say this to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: What he said to the House on Wednesday of last week was in fact misleading. He–
– Mr. Speaker, I ask that the term be withdrawn.
– Order! I think the honorable member is reflecting on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition if he suggests that the Deputy Leader misled the House. I must ask the honorable member to withdraw his remark.
– I let the facts–
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw, and I let the facts speak for themselves.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, I was interested in the discussion by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) on the Labour Party. It would not be a bad idea if the honorable member directed his attention to some of the habits of the Liberal Party. The honorable member is interested in ballots. Let us observe this man, this gentleman, this honorable member, and the party to which he belongs. Let us examine the way that party controls this Government and certain sections of the country. Let us observe this high model of rectitude who is so concerned with the way the country is being run. Why does he not turn his mind to the Government of South Australia, which for years has made a travesty of democ- racy and parliamentary government by the gerrymandering of electorates and by its maintenance of a legislative council.
The honorable member speaks with some -concern about trade union ballots. The interesting thing is that if a trade unionist takes ballot-papers away and spoils them or does something to prevent people from voting, that is a bad thing. But if a member of the Liberal Party does that, his party will make him Premier of South Australia and recommend him for a knighthood. I am interested in the morality behind honorable members opposite - the people who flog and who hang; the people who preserve their political hegemony by plural voting, gerrymandering of electorates, a restrictive franchise, and prostitution of municipal government all over Australia. The way these people in this House postulate and crusade as they do is hypocritical in the extreme. It is high time honorable members opposite turned their glances inwards and realized where they stand on the fundamental values of human decency in the conduct of parliamentary government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
son asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Which States have passed acts complementary to the Civil Aviation (Damage by Aircraft) Act1958 and the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following information: -
As I have indicated previously, the Civil Aviation (Damage by Aircraft) Act 1958 gives effect to the Rome Convention, and is directed at establishing and limiting the liability for surface damage caused by aircraft engaged in international air navigation. The question of State legislation complementary to the Commonwealth act really does not arise. Discussions are proceeding, however, on the question of uniform legislation covering surface damage caused by aircraft. Two States - Victoria and New South Wales - already have legislation on the matter. In the case of the Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959, all States have agreed in principle that uniform State legislation should be enacted and have had the opportunity to examine a draft model bill prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Draftsman at the Minister’s request as a means of assisting the States to achieve uniformity in the legislation on the subject. No States have yet enacted legislation, but at least two have prepared the necessary bills.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 September 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610907_reps_23_hor32/>.