24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
Mr. CAIRNS presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the pension increase of 10s. proposed in the 1963 Budget be granted to all age, invalid and widow pensioners.
Petition received and read.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to reports that President Kennedy may include Australia in his itinerary during his forthcoming visit to South-East Asia? If so, will the right honorable gentleman issue to the President a formal invitation to visit this country? Will the right honorable gentleman use his best endeavours to bring about such a visit? In the event of his judgment leading him so far astray as to accept the suspect advice of the Treasurer and the shrill urgings of the Minister for Labour and National Service to hold an early election, will the Prime Minister assure President Kennedy that the incoming Labour government will welcome him to Australia with all the warmth, admiration and affection due to a great American?
– The odd thing about the question is that I agree with almost 90 per cent, of the sentiments expressed in it. The honorable gentleman may be at ease.1 On the.’ last occasion f spoke with President Kennedy I raised the matter of a visit to Australia. The President is not short of an invitation. He has not as yet, for reasons that I appreciate, actually made a decision about visiting Australia, but when he does so I will be advised and will in turn advise the Parliament.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman will recall that a few days ago he informed me, in answer to a question, that he had not been approached by the Western Australian Government in relation to assistance for the deepening of Geraldton harbour. I now ask: Is he aware of the importance of the need to deepen and improve the Geraldton harbour and approaches in order to bring that port up to international standards and thus enable large overseas ships to enter the port safely and take on full cargoes? Also is he aware that a resolution was moved recently in the Western Australian Parliament, asking the Slate Government to make an immediate approach to the Commonwealth for financial assistance for the work? As the Prime Minister’s earlier reply to me shows that the State Government is loath to make the approach, will he, realizing the importance of the project, take the initiative and offer Commonwealth assistance to Western Australia so that the work can be pushed ahead?
– Obviously the honorable member is asking me about local matters with which I am not familiar, on which I am not expert and which are not handled in my department. He appears to be making some proposals. I will find out who is the Minister within whose jurisdiction they come and I will tell him.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry advise me whether more wool has been sold in Australia as a result of the Australian Wool Board’s sales campaign in which words such as “ young “, “ arrogant “, “ sexy “, “ smouldering “, “ intellectual “ and “ moody “ were used?
– I am not acquainted with the definitions used or with the basis of the question. I will need to have a look at the question and then I will give the honorable member an answer.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been directed to a report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ which stated that in September there was a large loss of man hours on the Australian waterfront owing to industrial disputes? Is that a fact? If it is, does that represent a break-down of industrial peace negotiations for the waterfront industry?
– The answer to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question is, “ I do not think so “. We cannot expect perfection on the waterfront; we never have expected it. The fact is that the loss on the waterfront last month was about 25,000 man hours, which was one-third of the average monthly loss that we have experienced over the last three years. So in comparison, on that basis, the figures are good. Perhaps I could let the honorable gentleman know that about 45 per cent, of the time lost was lost because of strikes in Sydney. Waterside workers in most other ports have acted with restraint and in a reasonable fashion.
The only other information that I can convey to the honorable gentleman is that the average loss over the last month has been lj hours per man which is not a great deal. Quite frankly, I think that speaks volumes for the negotiations that have been taking place and for the success of those negotiations.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, by informing him that I have received a number of complaints about incidents between Yugoslavs and Croatians in my electorate. Bashing and assault are included in the complaints that I have received. In fact, some of the complaints are serious enough to involve the liberty of the individual. In view of these matters, is (he Prime Minister able to inform the House whether, the promised investigations into the alleged activities of- Croation terrorist groups in this country have been begun? If the investigations have been started, can the Prime Minister inform the House of the result of any of them?
– I wonder whether the honorable member would care to put that question on the notice-paper. It deserves a full answer and at this moment I am not able to give one.
– You look full enough.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that people moving into home units and flats in Sydney suburbs designed for high-density living, such as Neutral Bay, Cremorne and Mosman, are experiencing inordinately long delays in obtaining telephones? Is the Minister aware also that, as large numbers of applicants for telephones are elderly people to whom for health reasons telephones are essential, this delay is causing grave concern? Will he ensure that telephone equipment in high-density living areas is adequate to meet expected demands and thus avoid delay in installation?
– I can assure the honorable member that my department is aware of the problem which is posed by the development of high-density living areas and is doing its best with what is available to meet the requirements of such areas. Suburbs such as Neutral Bay, Cremorne and Mosman have particular problems, to which the department has been applying itself for some time. There has been a considerable improvement of the position in those suburbs. For example, since the beginning of last year we have made between 1,500 and 1,700 connexions in each suburb. However, we realize that this rate of progress is still not sufficient to meet the full demand. Consequently we are planning for the provision of additional plant so that further connexions can be made. I think it is in Mosman that we will have to extend the present telephone building., in order to meet the increased demand, but I shall -check on that. I can assure the honorable member that the department is aware of this problem and is doing all that is possible to solve it.
– I address my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. When the Government took the decision to refuse to allow the importation of four second-hand oil tankers to ply on the Australian coast, was it satisfied that, as reported, six new tankers would be built in Australian shipyards? If the Government was so satisfied, will the Minister tell us the reason why it was satisfied, so that we may rest assured that the tankers will be built in Australian shipyards? Or is the reason a secret?
– Cabinet has this matter under consideration but so far no decision has been announced. As this is a matter of policy, I cannot give the honorable member any further information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. It is Government policy to increase the size of our regular forces. Will the Minister state whether recruitment is up to expectations?
– I answered a question on this matter only a day or two ago. On the basis of a full year, recruitment is up to expectations. At present we are passing through what might be termed a slow period, but we have increased our publicity and we expect that the rate of recruiting will speed up within the next few months.
– The Minister for the Army will be aware that no Papuans are members of the Papua and New Guinea Volunteer Rifles. What is the reason for this? What action is being taken to allow or encourage Papuans to join the Volunteer Rifles?
– This matter is at present under consideration. I am very much in favour of the suggestion. At present only certain technical difficulties stand in the way of Papuans being allowed to join the Volunteer Rifles, and’ I hope soon to be able to make an announcement in connexion with the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Supply. Is he in a position to inform the House of any proposal made by the chairman of the European Launcher Development Organization, who is at present in Australia, for a greater participation by Australia in the undertaking being carried out at Woomera?
– I know of no proposal which would tend to increase the Australian content in the Eldo programme. The honorable gentleman might well be aware that Australia is a member of Eldo for the first five-year programme without payment of fee. This results, of course, from our possession of the Woomera rocket range and associated facilities. The whole of the first five-year programme, as far as firing is concerned, will be conducted from Woomera and I think we are taking about as large a part in the programme as we can possibly expect.
-“My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. On 20th August this year, in reply to a question, the Postmaster-General informed me that the Government would adhere to its policy on television, that no person or company should control more than one metropolitan and one country station and that as far as possible country stations should be locally controlled. At that time the Minister said that the Government was making a complete survey of trends and would decide whether further amendments to the legislation were required. I ask: Has this survey been made and when is it proposed to introduce amendments to the legislation to ensure that Government policy is carried out?
– The survey to which I referred - as the honorable member for Lang rightly says - is not yet entirely completed. I have had reports from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and from other interested bodies and there has been some discussion of the position. All
I can say for the present is that the policy of the Government regarding the development of television, in both country areas and metropolitan areas, has not been changed.
– I ask the Minister for Trade: Is it a fact that Australian export procedures and documentation are involved and costly? I refer to the interesting article setting out current practices in a recent issue of “ Overseas Trading “. Will the Minister have his department, in conjunction with the Department of Customs and Excise, review procedures and documentation to ensure that unnecessary work is eliminated and Australian exports are further encouraged?
– I take it that the honorable member is referring to procedures required by the Government and not the procedures of businesses. I have not heard the comment before but it may be true that the procedures can be improved. The honorable gentleman having raised the matter I certainly will have it examined by my department and 1 will certainly consult the Department of Customs and Excise about it. I shall also ask the Export Development Council for its valuable advice on the question. The council consists of prominent private businessmen who are engaged in export, and who are working voluntarily to advise the Government. I assure all parties concerned that if anything can be done properly to improve the situation we will do it.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question which is somewhat supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Darebin. Has any decision been made regarding the application of R. W. Miller and Company Proprietary Limited to import tankers into Australia for the Australian coastal trade? If a decision has been made, what is the new policy? Should R. W. Miller and Company build tankers in Australia, will the Government give it preference in trade on the Australian coast as I understand that this all-Australian company was the first to apply for such rights? Will this company’s rights be guarded against such foreign overseas interests as the Royal Dutch Shell company, the Standard Oil group of oil companies of the United States of America, Caltex, British Petroleum and others?
– The question has already been answered by the Minister for Shipping and Transport. He has pointed out that, in spite of some of these categorical stories that you read in the press - they are usually a bit dogmatic - this matter is still under examination by the Government.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask the honorable gentleman whether, as Minister administering the portfolio associated with production from the land, he has given consideration to the impact of the proposed change to decimal currency upon the position of those men who are engaged in primary industries. Is it not a fact that if a man receives the equivalent of 200 pennies instead of 240 pennies for £1, that represents an appreciation of the currency by approximately 20 per cent, or, alternatively, a deflation of the currency available? Has the Minister given consideration to the impact of decimal currency upon fixed liabilities such as mortgages and so on connected with the land, and has he given consideration to the question whether primary industries are in a position to-day to bear a charge of that kind in addition to the heavy imposts they are already carrying? I ask the Minister whether he, as a representative of a country electorate, has reported to Cabinet upon the possible effects of a policy which does not provide for the payment to all concerned of the present value of money in terms of decimal currency.
– All aspects of this policy were discussed by the Cabinet and by the Government before a decision was taken. I would say to the honorable gentleman that it does not necessarily follow that all denominations of decimal currency will be equal in value to all denominations of our present coinage. I think they will be equated when values are taken into consideration. As to any future effect upon prices, the Government will naturally watch the position very closely in order to protect primary industries as far as possible.
– I address a question to the Acting Attorney-General. By way of explanation, my question relates to one asked yesterday by the honorable member for Moreton concerning Television and General Finance Company (Australia) Limited, Canberra, which finances sales by Goodwins of Newtown. I have in my hand a hire-purchase agreement signed with this company by J. H. Elliott of Newtown relating to the purchase of a television set for £419. I have also receipts showing payment in full. In view of the fact that this company, which functions under the Hire Purchase Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory, sent a representative to repossess the set because an amount of £5 5s. out-of-pocket expenses was alleged ro be owing, and refuses to issue a certificate of title, will the Minister investigate this case and the actions of the company in order to prevent threats of repossession for money evidently not due or payable?
– The honorable member for Moreton asked me yesterday whether I would examine a certain document which he suggested might involve an abuse of, to use his own words, judicial processes. It is rather a different matter to expect the officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to examine a case which clearly relates to a dispute between an individual and a hire-purchase company. The ordinary laws of the Australian Capital Territory are available, and it is not the province of the Attorney-General’s Department to give legal advice. But, if there is anything in this case which the honorable member suggests amounts to a criminal offence, or a breach of the law in connexion with which the Government should take action, I shall be happy to examine the case.
INDONESIA. Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES. - I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the most unfortunate but nevertheless very disturbed and delicate situation which still exists in Djakarta, and of the challenge in the speech made yesterday by Indonesia’s delegate to the United Nations, does the Government consider it wise for the families of Australian diplomats to return to Indonesia this week7 In times of emergency or crisis, does not the presence of dependants seriously affect the efficiency of those who have to make decisions, as happened in Singapore in 1941?
– In a matter such as that raised by the honorable member, the Government and the Department of External Affairs must be influenced very largely by the view of the ambassador on the spot. Our ambassador in Indonesia is, of course, a very experienced man of well-known ability and responsibility. It was on his proposal, considered at this end, that some movement of families to Singapore took place. Quite recently, he advised that, in his opinion, under the circumstances now existing, the families ought to go back to Djakarta, for family reasons and in the interests of the mission as a whole. Curiously enough, they were refused transportation from Singapore direct to Djakarta, which meant that they had to go through Bangkok, at considerable additional expense. We have no reason to dissent from the view put by the ambassador in the terms in which I have described it.
– I ask the Prime Minister: What action, if any, has he taken to consult Australia’s Anzus and Seato partners in view of his unequivocal declaration about military support for Malaysia in meeting Indonesia’s aggressive confrontation? Has the Australian Government received assurances of support for its stand? Will the right honorable gentleman advise the House of any practical proposals made by his Government to ease tension and stabilize peaceful relationships between Malaysia, Indonesia and the United Kingdom? Has he received any advice from President Soekarno of Indonesia indicating that the President is prepared to accept the long-standing and pressing invitation of the Australian Government for him to visit this country?.
– As to the last question, the answer is, “ No “. As to the earlier questions, I have every reason to believe that the statement made on behalf of the Government was warmly approved of in all the countries mentioned by the honorable member. We are in constant touch with the governments of both the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I do not feel called upon to indicate the nature of the communications that have passed. That would not be in accord with the normal practice. However, the honorable member may be quite certain that we are in almost daily contact with our friends on this very important matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade. In view of the growing market in Japan for Australian wool and the attention currently being given to wool promotion, is it the intention of the Australian Wool Board to emphasize promotion in the growing eastern market, or to lay greater stress upon promotion in those places where markets for wool are slow-moving or static?
– The Australian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat will, in co-operation, pursue promotion wherever in their judgment it will produce the best results. I think it is a pretty solid commercial adage that where you are getting results, you push along with promotion. It is also a pretty good commercial adage that you should try to diversify your outlets and to create -new outlets. I am sure that these are the lines that will be taken by the Australian Wool Board and the International Wool Secretariat.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General a question. Is it a fact that the old portion of the General Post Office in Sydney was built in 1881, the clock tower erected in 1885 and the clock installed in 1890? Is it a fact, also, that the exterior of the building has not been cleaned in any way since the structure was built more than 80 years ago? Has any consideration been given to the fact that the clean stonework of the clock tower, which is presently being restored after having been demolished many years ago, does not blend with the remainder of the building? If the matter has been considered, will the honorable gentleman inform the House whether the intention now is to discolour the stonework of the restored clock tower so that it will blend with the dirty, grimy appearance of the rest of the building, or will the exterior of the old portion of the structure be cleaned so that it will blend with the clock tower?
– I shall get the information that the honorable member seeks concerning plans foi any further restoration and improvement on the Sydney General Post Office building and shall advise him as soon as possible. I certainly do not have the particulars in my mind at the moment.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Trade, relates to the participation of Australia, sponsored by the Department of Trade, in sales missions, exhibitions and food fairs all around the world over the past ten years. I ask: Have sales of Australian products to new customers resulted and, if so, has it yet been revealed whether these sales are the forerunners of good, sound and continuing business?
– As a result of the total promotional efforts in which governments, statutory marketing boards, Australian businessmen and export interests all are combining - and, I am glad to say, have been joined by overseas commercial interests in our markets - there has been a quite noticeable increase of interest in Australian products. I think I can say that, wherever we are attempting to sell Australian goods, the reaction has been very satisfying. I have not the slightest doubt that the results of the promotional drive have been good, and that the drive will be continued and will have cumulative effects.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Services. Earlier this week, when I asked a question about inquiry officers of the Department of Social Services using dummy number-plates on official cars to help hide their identity, the Minister said that there was not the slightest vestige of truth in the suggestion. I now ask: Is it a fact that a Brisbane officer named Dell has been using a dummy number-plate on a Commonwealth car over a long period with full departmental approval and phenomenal results?
– In reply to a question addressed to me last Tuesday by the honorable member, I said that I had no personal knowledge of the allegations he then made. I have no personal knowledge of the allegations that he now makes. I am quite prepared to inquire into these allegations. However, I remind the honorable member that he is a member of this Parliament, that this Parliament makes the laws and that the officers employed by the Department of Social Services have an administrative responsibility for seeing that the laws are observed. To my certain knowledge, they administer the laws with humanity and compassion in the interests of the entire community. It is idle to make these allegations against working people who have to earn their living and discharge their duties to the best of their ability in circumstances that sometimes are not easy.
– My question is directed the Minister for Trade. I refer to the Minister’s answer to the honorable member for Gwydir in which he said that it is good commercial practice to diversify markets for our exports - with which I agree. Can he say whether any progress is being made in planning for diversification of our markets for beef, in relation to the export of which we are at present unduly dependent on the United States market?
– I can tell the honorable member that the Australian Meat Board - which represents, as the honorable member knows, producer and processing interests and Australian private exporters - and the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry, are continuously looking for additional opportunities for the export of beef. We do meet the paradoxical situation that when a certain market becomes quite magnificent we become uncomfortably dependent on that one market. We are quite conscious of this situation.
I have told the House already that strenuous efforts have been made to provide, within our trade arrangements with Japan, better opportunities for beef exports. These efforts, for reasons that I have explained, failed, but the trade with Japan has not failed, because since the negotiations failed Japan has agreed to take another 5,000 tons of beef.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it not a fact that despite the increase in our exports of cheese to countries in the East and to Britain, and despite the fact that we have large quantities of cheese in our cold stores, we still import a considerable quantity, particularly of fancy cheeses? I ask the Minister what encouragement or assistance is given to Australian cheese manufacturers to manufacture fancy cheeses. If such assistance or encouragement has been given, has it resulted in increased production of Australian-made fancy cheeses?
– Many of the immigrants who come to Australia have their own particular tastes, and this, to a degree, has prompted the demand for the fancy cheeses to which these people have been accustomed. Our Australian manufacturers are not meeting all such requirements. If representatives of the dairy industry think that insufficient protection is given them, they can, of course, approach the Tariff Board for extra protection against imports of products of this kind. They have not chosen to do so, but they have given every encouragement to the manufacturers of fancy cheeses in Australia, and I must say proudly that Australia produces some of the best fancy cheeses in the world. Dairy industry representatives have recently concluded successful negotiations with the very large Kraft organization, which is now being given a licence to increase its output of these kinds of cheeses. The dairy industry is ever ready to give assistance from the stabilization fund, if such is required, to enable this kind of manufacture to be undertaken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and
National Service. I remind him that recently the honorable member for Newcastle, in a speech to this House, advocated what he called full and free operation of an Australian overseas shipping line. With emphasis on the “ full and free “, I now ask the Minister whether this is a practical possibility.
– I am a firm advocate of the full and free in most aspects of commercial life. I would agree with the common sense implicit in the honorable member’s question, and I doubt very much that it would be practicable to have full and free operation of an Australian overseas shipping line. I have very grave doubts. The real problems confronting this country are problems of costs and efficiency of handling. I doubt whether we have yet reached the stage where we can think of establishing an overseas shipping line that could compete with the Conference lines. The honorable “member heard the answers given this morning by the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Prime Minister concerning interstate and intra-state transport. In due course an answer will be given to the honorable member dealing with this particular aspect which is related to the question that he has raised.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that a private individual is urging farmers in the south-eastern sector of South Australia to grow pyrethrum, which is used in the manufacture of insecticides? As it has been claimed that there are good prospects of selling pyrethrum at high prices on overseas markets, will the Minister examine the situation so that growers may be guided in determining whether pyrethrum will in fact prove to be a profitable crop?
– I have heard something about this matter and I think that this suggestion comes from a gentleman who grew pyrethrum during the war for use by the armed forces. He had some success. I think he grew his crop on that occasion in the north-eastern sector of Victoria. For a long time pyrethrum was the only effective insecticide on the market. It was displaced by D.D.T., but is now coming back into its own again as an item of very considerable importance. Historically it has been grown in Turkey and Kenya-
– And in New Guinea.
– Yes, it has been grown in New Guinea but historically it was produced in Turkey and East Africa. I know that it is now being produced to some extent in New Guinea. Australia would benefit greatly if it transpired that pyrethrum could be produced here in large quantities as a commercial proposition, because my understanding of the position is that there is a large world demand for this product. I have already indicated to the person concerned that I am prepared to interest myself in this matter and I have in fact already taken a good deal of interest in it.
– Is the Minister for the Interior satisfied that the slime dumps at Captains Flat will not pollute the waters of Lake Burley Griffin? Has an investigation been made into this matter?
– I am satisfied that there will be no pollution of the lake from the dumps referred to. I do not know whether any investigation has been made into this matter since the mine at Captains Flat was closed, but I will make further inquiries and advise the honorable member.
– When the Minister for Social Services recently referred to the granting of increased benefits to widows with children he indicated that in certain circumstances additional benefits are available to the children of widows. Will he give some details now of those additional benefits? If not, will he prepare a statement setting out the circumstances under which the additional benefits are available?
– As was announced by the Treasurer when he introduced the Budget, increased benefits amounting to an extra £3 a week are available to class A widows with dependent children. If it will serve any useful purpose to the honorable member for Mallee I will make a detailed statement setting out the increases as they affect both the mother and the children.
– by leave - The Government has decided to assist the wool-growing industry to finance an expanded wool promotion campaign. The decision to do this has been taken after consideration of a request put to the Government by the Executive Committee of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Government is willing to match £1 for £1 any additional funds which wool-growers are prepared to contribute by way of levy for wool promotion.
– Another hand-out.
– This is a serious topic. I wish I could be allowed to make this statement without interruption. This is a matter of great interest to all wool people, if not so much to woolly ones. I repeat: The Government is willing to match £1 for £1 any additional funds which wool-growers are prepared to contribute by way of levy for wool promotion. Honorable members will appreciate that this means that if wool-growers agree to increase their levy for promotion, which is at present 10s. a bale, the Commonwealth will contribute an amount equal to the additional funds provided by wool-growers as a result of an increase in the levy.
The Government’s offer to match additional funds contributed by wool-growers for wool promotion will apply for a period of three years. At the end of that period the Government will review its assistance in the light of the circumstances at that time. The Australian Wool Board will be asked to report to the Government annually on the operation of the wool promo:ion programme.
Although the executive committee of the Wool Industry Conference has also suggested that the Commonwealth should assist in providing additional funds for wool research, the Government has decided to defer consideration of this particular request for the time being. In making that decision, we took account of the fact that substantial reserve funds are at present available for financing wool research. At the same time, however, we have rioted that these reserves are being depleted and we will review the position after the Aus tralian Wool Board has taken over the administration of wool research and has had an opportunity of examining future financial requirements. The Commonwealth is at present contributing the equivalent of 4s. a bale for wool research while woolgrowers themselves contribute at the rate* of 2s. a bale. The Commonwealth will, of course, continue to contribute on this basis.
Mr. Speaker, this has been a major decision by the Government and it has been taken in the light of the special circumstances applying to the wool industry and having regard to its competitive position with other fibres and its significance to the Australian economy.
– by leave- This is certainly an important announcement by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I would say that it indicates that the holding of an election within a very brief time is a certainty.
– That must worry you.
– Not in the slightest. This proposal by the Government represents the adoption of another slab of Australian Labour Party policy.
– You can’t win.
– The Minister for Primary Industry says that I cannot get a win. Let us have a look at the inconsistency of the Government. In December, 1962, when the Wool Industry Bill was before the Parliament-
– Are you making a statement?
– Order! Honorable members will remain silent.
– When the Wool Industry Bill 1962 was before this Parliament, on behalf of the Opposition I moved this amendment to the motion that the bill be read a second time -
That all words after “ That “ bc omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House, having in mind the great impact of the wool industry on the Australian economy, is of opinion that wool-growers should not be called on to provide the whole of the funds required for the purposes of the bill and that a matching contribution of not less than-
It could be more -
At that time the levy imposed on woolgrowers was 10s. a bale. Every honorable member opposite, including members of the Australian Country Party, voted against that amendment which I moved - every one of them.
That bill was passed by this Parliament and an organization was set up. The Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Australian Wool Board were vested with certain functions. One of the functions of the board was to deal with the question of what it thought should be levied on woolgrowers to provide the requisite funds for the promotion of wool at home and abroad. The board, in its wisdom or otherwise, decided to launch a campaign for the payment by growers of a levy of 44s. a bale. The wool industry already is working on a very low margin of profit. Some woolgrowers hf.ve no margin of profit. The industry is of profound importance to every man, woman and child in this country. A great number of wool-growers considered that a 44s. a bale impost, in the absence of a marketing scheme, was excessive. Sir William Gunn, rightly or wrongly - I do not question his right and his industry - stumped the country endeavouring to persuade growers that the 44s. a bale was necessary and was a fair proposition. I need not mention the Hamilton meeting. He did not get a very good reception there. From the time the proposal was made there was hostility from a major section of the wool-growers of Australia.
I do not want to abuse my privilege to make a statement, by leave, on this issue, so I shall be as brief as I can. To make a long story short, the Wool Industry Conference, which is composed of 25 representatives of the more radical section of wool-growers and 25 representatives of the less radical section, arrived at a conclusion. The members of the Wool Industry Conference are the people who ultimately will decide the amount of levy to be recommended to the Government. Ultimately they arrived at the conclusion that they were in serious trouble. Sir John Crawford, who is the chairman of the Wool Industry Conference, Sir William Gunn and others came along and had an interview with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). I was not present at the interview, but it is quite obvious that the representatives of the Wool Industry Conference indicated that their prospects of getting the wool-growers to agree to a levy of 44s. a bale in the absence of an adequate marketing scheme were Buckley’s and none. In effect, they went down on their hands and knees and said to the Prime Minister and the other Ministers: “ Come to our rescue. We will never get away with this proposition.”
Right from the time the proposal was made by the Australian Wool Board, members of the Labour Party in this Parliament asked questions about what the Government intended to do about the proposal. It is obvious that the Government has found it essential to adopt a slab of Labour policy. Not only did I move in this House the amendment which I have quoted and which all honorable members opposite voted against; but in August of this year the Australian Labour Party held a conference at Perth. In the light of the proposal to increase the levy to 44s. a bale and in order to make quite clear our attitude on this matter, the Perth conference adopted this resolution -
Recognizing that -
Any change in the method of wool mar keting will require the approval of Australian wool-growers by referendum, and
the proposed increase in the wool promo tion levy from 10s. to 44s. per bale is excessive and will limit the capacity of wool-growers to contribute towards the cost of any new marketing system; . . .
The Government now realizes that the proposed increase is excessive and it is coming to the party. But it did not do that until we had moved.
– The Government is coming to the Labour Party.
– Yes, to the Labour Party and to the party. The resolution continues -
Reaffirming Labour’s view that - the introduction of a new marketing system providing for a reserve price at auction to protect the industry is an urgent necessity, the Labour Party opposes the proposed increase in Wool Promotion Levy until the introduction of a new marketing scheme.
Recognizing however - the necessity to continue the promotion of wool for’- the benefit’ of the “industry and the national economy, Labour restates its policy of matching the present wool promotion levy on a £1 for £1 basis by a Commonwealth contribution. Labour pledges itself to review this promotional levy annually and to keep its contribution in line with that of the wool growers.
Let us elucidate the effect of the Prime Minister’s proposition. This is the Prime Minister’s explanation -
Honorable members will appreciate that this means that if wool-growers agree to increase their levy for promotion, which is at present 10s. a bale, the Commonwealth will contribute an amount equal to the additional funds provided by wool-growers as a result of an increase in the levy.
Let us assume that the Australian Wool Board sticks to its proposal that 44s. a bale is . the amount required and that the Australian Wool Industry Conference endorses that decision. The Government’s promise will mean this: On the existing 10s. there will be no Government contribution; but on the balance of the levy the contribution from the Government will be 17s. a bale. The Government’s contribution will be £4,250,000 on a 5,000,000-bale clip, and the amount received from the growers will bc £6,750,000. Labour’s proposal of a £1 for £1 contribution would have meant that the Government and the wool-growers would have paid exactly the same amount.
The Labour Party is gratified that something is being done; but the whole of the credit for something being done goes to Labour for its determined, consistent and persistent attitude in this Parliament.
– The honorable member says, “ Nonsense “. In December, 1962, he, like the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is now interjecting, had an opportunity to cast his vote in favour of a Government contribution. The honorable members who are protesting now speak with two voices, but we have been completely consistent on this issue. The position now is that the Wool Board, which was supposed to raise the Australian woolgrowing industry to a pinnacle of fame, has proved itself to be incompetent to do the job that was vested in it. It is not necessarily the board’s fault that it is incompetent to do the job that was vested in it. The fault lies in. the Government’s muddling attitude ito this,’ matter.. . When the > wool industry found itself in marketing trouble the Government, instead of presenting a scheme to the wool-growers as it did in 1951, fiddled about with commissions, boards, conferences and authorities. Now we are told that there is no hope of a marketing system being introduced until some time in 1965.
The Opposition will support the Government’s proposal, which is another slab that the Government has taken from Labour’s policy. It is to the credit of the radical section of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation that the Government has decided to make this contribution.
– by leave - The Government has been completely consistent in its approach to the stabilization of primary industries. It is interesting to see the Labour Party grabbing here and there to try to gain some political kudos but, as I interjected when the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), was speaking, it cannot take a trick. It is far behind in its approach to assistance to primary industry.
Let us look at the wool industry. The wool industry was divided when I became Minister for Primary Industry and I called conferences in order to get the various wool-growers’ organizations to work together. I succeeded in getting the two major organizations to make a united request to the Government to set up a committee of inquiry. The committee was set up and eventually it made certain recommendations for the establishment of machinery to put the industry on a stable basis. We have established that machinery.
The honorable member slighted the Australian Wool Board. That is not to his credit. I remind him that the Wool Board is the product of the mouthpiece of the wool industry - the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Wool Board is representative of both major organizations in the industry. The decision to reorganize the International Wool Secretariat was based on a recommendation of the Wool Bureau which is now part of the functions of the Wool Board.
The Wool Board decided that the Australian wool-growers should be acquainted with its promotion proposals. Is not that a democratic process?.’ Does the honorable member object to the wool-growers being told? Of course he does! All he wants to do is to make some political capital out of this. The Wool Board - which, I repeat, is representative of both major woolgrowing organizations - made a recommendation to the Wool Industry Conference on promotion, and the conference sent a deputation to the Government on the matter. The honorable member said that the Government would not meet the request that was made by that deputation. That is not so. The Government agreed to the request that was made by the deputation on wool promotion, which was that it should match any contribution made by the growers over and above 10s. a bale.
We recognize the worth of this industry. We claim that it is too important to be made the political plaything of the Labour Party and used simply to obtain votes. It is of major importance. Obviously the honorable member’s reference to marketing was irresponsible. That is the only way in which I can describe his statement. About twelve months ago he asked me a question relating to a wool marketing scheme. I asked him to what scheme he referred, because no fewer than five had been presented to me. If you asked the wool-growers whether the Minister for Primary Industry had a right to determine the kind of marketing scheme that the industry should adopt they would tell you where to get off - and rightly so. They say that the Minister has no right to make that decision.
– That is Labour’s suggestion.
– Yes, that is Labour’s suggestion. We have established the necessary machinery and a committee is now enquiring into the proposals for a marketing scheme. The executive of the Wool Industry Conference, which met the Ministers, comprised representatives of both major organizations. There were about a dozen persons in the deputation and there was not one dissenting voice when a request was made for a thorough investigation of the marketing proposals. The deputation said that it would take some time to conduct such an inquiry, and that the promotion matter was so urgent that it could not wait for that. The Government and both major organizations have agreed that the growers will determine whether they will accept the final marketing recommendation. Obviously a marketing scheme is desirable. The necessary machinery has been established and the Government will keep its promise that the growers will vote on any recommendation that is made.
I accept the responsibility for having voted against the amendment which was submitted by the honorable member. It was completely immature and irresponsible. It sought only political kudos and paid no regard to our attempts to stabilize the wool industry. I am proud to be the responsible Minister in a Government which unanimously agreed to establish machinery to enable the wool industry to progress.
There is a difference between selling our wool and creating a strong demand for our wool. As a result of re-organizing the International Wool Secretariat, we are not only selling our wool; we also have a strong demand for our wool. As a consequence, the wool-growers are getting a much better price than they otherwise would have received.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. Is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in order in urging the honorable member for Bendigo to seek leave to make a statement, knowing that leave will be refused? This is nothing but a political stunt.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) making a statement.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Leave is not granted.
.- I move -
That, in view of conflicting evidence available on the value of fluoridation of water, this House is of opinion that the decision to introduce fluoride into the water in the Canberra area should be suspended.
I want to say, at the outset, that if water in the Canberra area should be fluoridated that will undoubtedly act as a spur to the introduction of fluoride into water throughout Australia. In my view, it would set the pattern for the commencement of fluoridation on a widespread scale. This motion is designed to cut off the introduction of fluoride into the water in the Canberra area. I have submitted the motion to the House because I believe there is anything but unanimity of medical opinion on this matter. I regard as one of the conspicuous fictions of our day the claim that there is complete unanimity on the matter of the value and benefit of fluoride in water supplies.
Before I proceed to submit the evidence regarding that opinion to the House for consideration, may I briefly say something about the question of numbers, because some of the most ardent protagonists of fluoridation say, “ In any eventuality, the great majority of medical opinion in this world is in favour of fluoridation “. It strikes me as being a strange display of intellectual honesty when the truth and the validity of any scientific matter should be and can bc determined merely by numbers.
I want to assume, for the purposes of my argument, that there is no disunity in this matter. I want merely to take the argument that the overwhelming number of medical practitioners take the view that the introduction of fluoride into water is of immense value. I am dealing now with the numbers argument. I want to remind those who embrace the argument that the overwhelming number of medical practitioners would have been prepared to certify to the professional incompetency of Lister, Jenner, Pasteur and Madame Curie. So I say to those who use the argument, “We have the numbers on our side in this matter “, that they should recall the fact that some of the most remarkable scientific discoveries of this age have been supported against numbers.
The adoption of any scientific truth and its installation as truth call, first, for intellectual honesty and then for an empiricism which is not to be denied. As an example of contrary opinion or opinion which would certainly build up some measure of doubt as to the value of fluoridation, the first person to whom I refer is Sir Arthur Amies. I interrupt myself to say that the readiness with which some of the protagonists of fluoridation say that those who are opposed to it or have any doubts about it are incompetent, bewilders and frightens me. They never deal with their opponents’ arguments; they deal only with their motives and character. Listen to what Sir Arthur Amies, professor of Dental Medicine and Surgery, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Science and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne has to say in a paper delivered some years ago in Adelaide and published in “ Australian Dental Journal “ volume 4, No. 2, of April, 1959, on pages 76 to 85. I am sorry to weary the House with this, but one must be meticulous in this matter, a trait, I am unhappy to say, which is not always observed in some of the protagonists of fluoridation. This is what Sir Arthur Amies had to say in that paper -
I suggest therefore, that the time has come when we should be prepared to agree with the wise philosophic comment of the late Professor Brash: “ There comes a point in the history of any subject in which much of the discussion has been of a speculative nature, when it is essential to clear the ground; to examine critically general conclusions which are currently repeated; to probe the basis of facile hypothesis; and face with frankness the sometimes not very welcome fact that speculation, though it may on occasion anticipate discovery is no substitute for enquiry “.
He went on to say - 1 do not intend here to enter the fluoridation controversy as such, but I think all would agree that if we are to be forward-looking as a profession charged with advising the public concerning dental health, fundamental issues and their implications must be faced with scientific honesty. Fluoridation of domestic water supplies involves the administration with therapeutic intent of a chemical preparation to young and old dentate or edentulous, well and ill, without individual examination and regardless of individual desire.
If, therefore, people are to be asked to allow government medical instrumentalities to arrange such mass therapy, they have the right to be assured of at least two things - one, that the measure will bring about an economic worthwhile reduction in dental caries; the other, that it will be completely safe medically.
He continued - 1 submit that the dental profession is competent to deal wilh the first question but is not in a position to give an assurance concerning the second.
That is within the province of the medical profession.1- .’Next I refer- to a study made by Dr. Philip R. N. Sutton, Senior Research Fellow of the Department of Oral Medicine and Surgery, Dental School, University of Melbourne. I emphasize that the members of the Department of Statistics of the University of Melbourne have vouched for Dr. Sutton’s statistical survey. In his publication “ Fluoridation, Errors and Omissions in Experimental Trials “ Dr. Sutton reaches these conclusions -
The reliability of the results reported is affected by:
My next reference is to the opinion expressed by Dr. Geoffrey Dobbs, Bangor University, Wales. He is a doctor of philosophy and a biologist of some standing, and I do not dismiss his opinion lightly. Dr. Dobbs has this to say -
The claim that fluoridation is one of “ nature’s experiments “ is not valid because the salts put into the water supply, sodium fluoride or silicofluoride, are industrial products never found in natural water of in organisms: They are, furthermore, notoriously toxic, sufficiently so to be used as rat poison or insecticide. Calcium fluoride, on the other hand, which is the form commonly found in natural waters, is not toxic enough for such uses.
– Who is this?
– Dr. Geoffrey Dobbs of the Bangor University in Wales. I come now to report No. 2500 of the United States House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the Use of Chemicals in Foods and Cosmetics. Inter alia, the report concluded -
None of the witnesses was irrevocably opposed to the principle of fluoridating water supplies for the purpose of reducing dental decay. It can be said that a number’ of scientists are opposed to the program at this time. In substance, their position is that there are too many unanswered questions concerning the safety of this procedure to permit recommendations to be made that would result in the consumption of fluoridated water by many millions of people every day of their lives.
In the same report, on page 7, we find this -
The advisability of fluoridating the public water supply of the Nation is essentially a local problem, to be determined for itself by each community. Your committee ls not recommending that Federal legislation be enacted in this field. The committee strongly urges, however, that research now under way be continued and expanded and that further studies, not limited to an examination of the vital statistics, be conducted to determine the long-range effects upon the aged and chronically ill of the ingestion of water containing inorganic fluorides.
A resolution passed by the conference of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons Incorporated is the next evidence that I submit for the consideration of the House. This is an organization made up of not one but 15,000 doctors, and this is what the resolution spelt out -
WHEREAS, the right to determine what shall be done to one’s own body is fundamental, and
WHEREAS, water is necessary for life, and
WHEREAS, many people are dependent 08 public supplies for water.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Incorporated, assembled in San Francisco, California, this 12th day of April, 1958, condemns the addition of any substance to public water supplies for the purpose of affecting the bodies or the bodily or mental functions of the consumers.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be transmitted to the President of the United States, the members of Congress, the Governors of the several states, and the mayors of our principal cities, and released to the media of public information.
The last evidence I submit for the consideration of the House is a letter published in “ New York Times “ on 19th July of this year. It is a letter written by Dr. Ludwig Gross. To illustrate his competency, I point out that recently, on the recommendation of the World Health Organization, he was awarded a United Nations prize for bis research on cancer viruses. I mention that for the benefit of those who are disposed to traduce the professional competency of people who, if they have not voiced explicit opposition to fluoridation have at least sounded a warning on the matter. This is what Dr. Gross had to say -
I have been shocked by the uncompromising policy advocating fluoridation of the city’s .water supply system , expressed in your editorials.
I do not plan to question the merits of the application of fluorine as a measure against dental decay. I wonder, however, whether fluorine application is superior and more rational than other measures, such as curbing the excessive use of soft drinks containing a high content of sugar, trying to teach the population the importance of proper diet, improving personal dental care, etc.
Assuming that fluorine treatment is beneficial and safe, it should be applied on a voluntary basis. Anyone who wants fluorine treatment should be able to take this medication in tablet form, or have it applied on the teeth by his dentist.
In order to see the problem of fluoridation in its proper perspective it should be emphasised that fluorine is not added to the city’s water supply system in order to improve the water, to make the water safe from bacteria or more palatable for drinking. The sole purpose of the addition of fluorine is to use the water supply system as a vehicle for compulsory administration of this chemical to a captive population. Once we accept the principle ot a forced medication through the city’s water supply system, one could only speculate what will be the next suggested step in this direction. What other drugs will be suggested as beneficial and necessary?
Doctor Grove went on
The second point of considerable importance is that fluorine is a cumulative poison.
That is the doctor’s opinion, not mine. He further stated -
It is now suggested that one part per million of fluorine be added to the drinking water; assuming that the average consumption is approximately one quart a day a person. Nobody would recommend ten or fifteen parts per million of fluorine, because such a concentration would cause not only mottling of teeth, but other harmful effects such as osteosclerosis and would be potentially dangerous.
Doctor Grove concluded his letter by stating
New York City has one of the best drinking waters in the world. Let us keep this water clean, healthy and as free as possible from chemical additives.
I have referred to the fact that unfortunately some of the protagonists of fluoridation, if any person questions its medical effects, say, “ Overwhelmingly we have the numbers”. I have referred to that argument. I come back to the point that I object with bitterness to the way in which people will set out deliberately to smear and to slander those individuals who have reservations about fluoridation or who may have clear-cut opposition to it. I hope that I have shown to the satisfaction of honorable members that there is a division of opinion on the necessity for fluoridation. I, do not. adjudicate, on the -matter because
I am a layman, but if there is a division of opinion I think the issue should be settled before we proceed further with the matter.
Quite apart from the division of medical opinion, my objection to fluoridation rests upon fundamental questions of philosophy. I do not believe that this Parliament, as the National Parliament, should shrink from consideration of these fundamental questions because they involve the relationship of the State to the individual. Assume that fluoride is beneficial. Assume further that there is no division of medical opinion. These are two assumptions that I venture to suggest would be difficult to support. However, I put those assumptions as the basis of my argument. What a sad commentary it is on the vitality of a nation that enlightenment can come only by way of compulsion! The State says to-day, “ You must take this because it is in your interests to do so “. What is the State going to say to-morrow, in five years time or in fifteen years time? What is going to be the decision of the authorities of the day then? I do not regard the treatment of the word “ must “ with caution as an outward sign of social anarchism, but as a proper expression of independence.
One of the arguments of the protagonists of fluoridation is that X-ray examinations and vaccination are compulsory. However, compulsory X-ray examinations and vaccination are measures designed to harness or control contagious diseases, but fluoridation is intended to produce a positive physiological change within the body.
I am told, “You do not object to chlorination “. A lot could be said about that, but I merely refer the House to the report of the New Zealand commission on fluoridation, which refers specifically to the question of chlorination vis-a-vis fluoridation. The report states -
We think it necessary to refer to an argument put before us by some supporters of fluoridation that chlorination of water supplied is a process analogous to fluoridation and that the former process is accepted universally. The comparison is directed to the fact that chlorination aims at the prevention of disease by destroying germs in drinking water while fluoridation aims at the prevention of disease by making the task of germs in the mouth more’ difficult. .’ .
We do not accept the view of supporters of fluoridation that these processes are analogous. In the case of chlorination this action takes place outside the human body, while in the case of fluoridation the substance is intended to strengthen the resistance of teeth to the disease. The fact that each of the processes aims at preventing disease provides some similarity, but the methods by which this common aim is to be achieved are entirely dissimilar.
On the question of chlorination as opposed to fluoridation, I speak not as a chemist but merely as a layman. I can comprehend that when water containing chlorine is boiled the gas is driven out, but in the case of water that has been fluoridated boiling concentrates the salt.
Another argument put forward is: “You find in various parts of the world fluoride in natural form in the water”. I confess frankly that I am not impressed by the argument. I refer the House to the views put by Professor John Davidson of Vancouver. He pointed out that traces of a number of chemicals claimed to be medicinally useful occur in natural waters in various parts of the world. Where a trace of arsenic occurs, the people are said to be free of streptococcus boils and pimples; where the water contains magnesium sulphate, people and cattle are not troubled by constipation; and where the natural water contains a trace of fluoride, the children are said to have fewer cavities in their teeth. But it does not follow, the professor added, that we should resort to mass medication with all these chemicals because our natural water supply is free of them.
I come back to what is the essential feature of the fluoride issue - the question of compulsion. I hope that members of the House and people outside will take into account the considerations and submissions I have put forward. To-day it is the judgment of the state that fluoridation is good for you; ergo, anything that the state says is good for you must be done by you. I invite honorable members to take some heed of the fact that history enjoins us to recognize that to protect liberty calls for a keener sense of discipline than does the endurance of tyranny call for patience.
I come now to the argument that fluoridation is merely a display of benevolence on the part of the state. The state says, “ We are solicitous of your welfare; we want you to ensure that you have maximum good health “. If that is a genuine argument, I invite those who propound it to deny that refined sugar is deleterious to dental health. I invite them to say that soft drinks should not be sold. On the question of solicitude for the welfare of the people, I invite them to consider the mass of statistical evidence regarding smoking. I invite them to deny that alcohol taken in excess is dangerous to the human body. If there is to be solicitude on the question of dental care, why is there not solicitude on the questions of the effects of refined sugar, soft drinks, smoking and alcohol? I come back again and again to the thesis that the state knows best. For my part, I will attack it and attack it and attack it again, because it is the very opposite of the philosophy which I hold.
I refer the House to the concluding sentences of Aldous Huxley in his book “ Brave New World Revisited “. I hope that we have the sense and prescience to heed what he had to say. He wrote -
In my fable of Brave New World, the dictators had added science to the list and thus were able to enforce their authority by manipulating the bodies of embryos, the reflexes of infants, and the minds of children and adults. And instead of merely talking about miracles and hinting symbolically at mysteries, they were able, by means of drugs, to give their subjects the direct experience of mysteries and miracles - to transform mere faith into ecstatic knowledge. The older dictators fell because they could never supply their subjects with enough bread, enough circuses, enough miracles and ‘mysteries. Nor did they possess a really effective system of mind-manipulation. In the past free-thinkers and revolutionaries were often the products of the most piously orthodox education. This is not surprising. The methods employed by orthodox educators were and still are extremely inefficient. Under a scientific dictator education will really work - with the result that most men and women will grow up to love their servitude and will never dream of revolution. There seems to be no good reason why a thoroughly scientific dictatorship should ever be overthrown.
Meanwhile there is still some freedom left in the world. Many young people, it is true, do not seem to value freedom. But some of us still believe that, without freedom, human beings cannot become fully human and that freedom is therefore supremely valuable. Perhaps the forces that now menace freedom are too strong to be resisted for very long. It is still our duty to do whatever we can to resist them.
To which I add, Sir, this simple assent on my part: It would seem a trifle more than silly to become disenchanted with the responsibilities of a free society and to submit to the monotony offered by a completely planned society.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I formally second the motion and reserve my right to speak later, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I move
That all words after “ That “ bc omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ a select committee be appointed to inquire into the advisability of introducing fluoride into the water supply of the Australian Capital Territory.
That the committee consist of seven members, four to be appointed by the Prime Minister and three to be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition.
That every appointment of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the Speaker.
That the chairman be one of the members appointed by the Prime Minister.
That five members of the committee constitute a quorum.
That any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to the report of the committee.
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit during any adjournment of the House and to adjourn from place to place.
That the committee report to the House as soon as possible.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders “.
The features of the amendment that are of a mechanical or organizational character will be clear.
The Federal Parliamentary Labour Party, at its meeting yesterday, decided that a select committee of this House should examine the proposed fluoridation of the water supply in Canberra. The Opposition is fully aware that the use of fluoride additives in water supplies has been authorized by Labour governments in New South Wales and Tasmania. However, it was felt that, in relation to the Australian Capital Territory, this Parliament fills the roles normally exercised separately by Federal and State Parliaments and by city councils. Many people have been disturbed by the campaign in opposition to fluoridation, and the community needs to be assured that the decisions taken at the administrative level are checked by all elements in this Parliament. If the case for fluoridation is overwhelming, the presentation of evidence before the proposed select committee, and a favorable finding by the committee, should reassure disturbed people. I do not anticipate any finding one way or the other. However, the Opposition feels that honorable members have not been given the pros and cons of this question in the House and that a committee of the House should examine them.
We presume that the motion proposed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) in an effort to delay the adoption of fluoridation must have a purpose and that purpose must bc to have an investigation. We believe that any such investigation should be made by a committee of this House, which, alone, represents the Australian Capital Territory. The Senate has no part in that representation. The findings of the proposed committee would have an important influence on the question of fluoridation all over Australia.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment, Mr. Speaker, and reserve my right to speak later.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) spoke with a great deal of eloquence and a great deal of sincerity on a subject on which, obviously, he feels very deeply. I should like to say that this is a matter that has troubled me, as the responsible Minister, over a lengthy period, because, like the honorable member, I have been very keenly aware of acute divisions in the community on the subject. But I doubt very much whether the honorable member’s dismissal of the fact of fluoridation because divisions of opinion happen to exist is valid. I doubt very much, at this time, whether the motion or the amendment proposed by the Opposition will add very much to the total information on this matter now available to the community in reports of select, committees and royal commissions and in White Papers and the like. An enormous amount of literature and material based on scientific studies of almost every aspect of fluoridation of water supplies is available, and the canvassing of even one-tenth of that material during the brief time at my disposal to-day would not be within my capacity, Sir.
Let me first state the problem. It has been said in Australia that the teeth of Australians are among the worst in the world. This may be qualified in some way or other, but there is no doubt whatever that the Australian people suffer a great deal from dental decay. I have no reason to doubt the figures that have been given to me. They show that 99 per cent, of Australians under the age of twelve years have a substantial degree of dental decay. That is a very large percentage. Ninety per cent, of adult Australians under the age of 50 have lost all or a substantial number of their permanent teeth. This is a problem that, I think, calls for very close government consideration and, if possible, a fairly drastic remedy. The honorable member for Moreton referred to tobacco smoking being a cause of lung cancer, and the like. There are some analogies, but I think that, where an appropriate remedy is suggested, the Government has a duty to weigh the evidence as judicially as it can.
I shall now deal with the first remark that the honorable member for Moreton made. He said that we should not value mere numbers. Let me assure him that I do not believe that truth and validity are determined by mere numbers; far from it. But he himself will be well aware of the fact that, in courts of law, judges frequently have to consider and weigh the evidence of experts. There may be half a dozen experts on one side and half a dozen on the other, and, at some point of time, a layman has to weigh the value of their evidence. All I can say is that, on the weight of evidence, the value of the addition of fluoride to water supplies is proved beyond reasonable doubt and the dangers that have been mentioned are minimized.
I can deal with the matter only by describing some of the kinds of judgment that we have to exercise. In this matter, there are relative fields. First of all, there is the purely scientific field. On the question of the .effects of fluoride on the human body, we must look for scientific opinion. But, so many times, the opponents of fluoridation quote a scientist, a doctor or some other expert who has expressed a philosophical or an engineering opinion. So many times, the scientist claims a particular status for his view because he is a scientist and then states an argument that is neither scientific nor logical.
The honorable gentleman quoted Sir Arthur Amies, who said that speculation was no substitute for inquiry. I agree with that entirely. 1 do not smear these people who hold doubts about fluoridation. Some of them are most estimable people, but in many cases their logic can be refuted. He said that speculation is no substitute for inquiry. Well, there has been inquiry on a most massive scale throughout the world into this question of fluoridation. He says we have the right to be assured on two points, first that there will be a reduction in dental decay and, secondly, that fluoridation will be safe. As to a reduction in dental decay, all the weight of any judicial kind of consideration is to the effect that the addition of fluoride to water supplies in the proportion of one part per million will reduce dental decay in the population by from 60 to 70 per cent. That is quite a massive reduction. If you like to look at it in terms of hard cash, for every £1 that you spend on fluoridation of water supplies you will save £40 in dental bills.
One of the most interesting aspects of this matter, I think, is that dentists, almost world-wide, are in favour of fluoridation. It seems to me an odd thing that many people who are anti-fluoridation suggest that there are some hidden motives in the proposals to fluoridate water supplies. The British Dental Association and the Australian Dental Association are solidly behind proposals to fluoridate water supplies. Yet you hear - and I absolve the honorable member for Moreton in this connexion - the wildest statements made that this is a communist plot to stultify the minds of the population. Even if this were credible, it would be made more credible if the opponents of fluoridation did not shift their ground on it, because an alternative proposition is that this is a racket by the producers of aluminium to dispose of one of their by-products. Again, this is just not credible, and it is made even less credible because, as I say, it alternates with the communist plot theory.
You will find a great number of demagogues mounting platforms and asserting all kinds of wild propositions. I just mention in passing - and again I absolve entirely the honorable member for Moreton - that we often find that a man will get up on a platform with a little bottle in his hand to lend a touch of drama to the occasion. He will say, “Here is a bottle of sodium fluoride. It is marked ‘Poison’ in red letters. I challenge anyone who says fluoridation is safe to drink a teaspoonful of this mixture.” Of course he would be on safe ground, because a teaspoonful of that substance would be poisonous. But if a person were to drink that teaspoonful of sodium fluoride diluted with water in the proportion of one part per million, he would have to drink something like 50 bathtubs full of the mixture.
This is the kind of propaganda that makes it unsafe, in my view, to submit this question to a kind of public judgment. I realize that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), on behalf of the Opposition, does not want this matter to go to a referendum, and I think the Opposition is very wise in adopting that attitude. I know that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) has suggested a referendum. 1 am a little surprised at his doing so, but I feel that he is running away from having to make a decision one way or the other which is not his to make, and I can see some excuse for him on that account. You will find that this proposal for a referendum is brought forward by those same people who argue that you should not rely on mere numbers. Many of them will welcome a referendum because they can panic the population.
In most cases in which fluoridation as a proposition has been rejected, it has been rejected because of a most violent antifluoridation campaign, which has included all these panic propositions that I have referred to. This applies in some parts of America, where fluoridation has been adopted for a time and then has been rejected. The fact that this has happened has been one of the main arguments used by the opponents of fluoridation. They say, “ Why have so many American communities adopted fluoridation and then abandoned it? There must be something wrong with it.” But if you analyse every such instance you will find that the abandonment has been the result not of a scientific or judicial examination of the evidence, but as a result of political action, a political campaign involving all these grotesque statements to which I have referred, and also many others.
In trying to evaluate for the- House the scientific side of this question, I want to deal with some of the facts which have been alleged as to fluoride. First, it is not a cumulative poison. It passes through the human system very quickly indeed. The human skeleton merely absorbs an amount which is minimal compared with the amount which passes through the system. It is no more a poison than many other medicines or substances which are used by people to improve their health. Sodium chloride or common salt, iodine, strychnine, arsenic, digitalis and many other substances are beneficial in the right proportions or dilutions but are harmful when taken to excess.
It is also said that fluoridation increases the mortality rate from other diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, intercranial lesions, nephritis, cirrhosis of the liver and other diseases. In many communities where fluoride is present in the natural water supplies, or where it has been artificially introduced, there is no evidence of any significant difference in the mortality rate due to these diseases, as compared with other communities- and studies of this question have extended over periods of twenty years and more. I know that the honorable member for Moreton produced some statement by Dr. Sutton that statistical methods are not always soundly based. Even if we accept that argument, the weight of solid statistics on this question is still sufficient to say almost irrefutably that not only do you get the beneficial results claimed in relation to dental decay, but also that no harmful results follow.
Water supplies throughout the world contain fluoride in varying proportions. They vary from a minute proportion to one part per million, to a maximum of six parts per million in Great Britain, to fourteen parts per million in some parts of the world. In communities where the water supplies contain large proportions of fluoride, well above the recommended dilution of one part per million, the only ill effect has been a mottling or pitting of the teeth, but there has still been a beneficial effect in relation to dental decay.
Fears have been expressed that fluoridation makes the bones of elderly people brittle. All the evidence that can be produced indicates that it tends to toughen their bones, that it does not make them brittle, and that the benefits of fluoridation do not extend only to the relatively small proportion of juveniles in the community, but throughout the whole community.
– Order! As it is now two hours after the time set down for the meeting of the House, the debate is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) agreed to -
That the time for the discussion of notices be extended until 12.45 p.m.
– Whenever a proposal like this is before us argument rages as to the relative safety of it.
– We have never previously had a proposal like this before us.
– No. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) suggested that the fears of the Australian people would be allayed if a select committee of the Australian Parliament could examine this matter. With great respect I suggest that an examination by such a committee would do no more to allay the fears of anybody than would a close study of, for example, the document produced by the Ministry of Health in the United Kingdom on the conduct of fluoridation studies in the United Kingdom. An examination by a select committee would do no more to allay fears than a study of the findings of the New Zealand commission of inquiry in 19S7. An experimental area for fluoridation was set aside at Hastings, in New Zealand, six and a half years ago and an analysis of results there indicates that there has been a tremendous improvement in the teeth of people living in the area. The analysis shows that the incidence of permanent tooth decay among the population has been reduced from 24.4 in 100 to 6.3 in 100.
It is arguable that these statistics are in some way suspect because people move in and out of the area and one cannot say for how long some people have been drinking fluoridated water. In Australia we have areas, such as around Beaconsfied in Tasmania, where people have been drinking fluoridated water since 1953. For some years the people of Yass, Goulburn, Orange, Cooma, Condobolin and Tamworth in New South Wales and Bacchus Marsh in Victoria have been drinking fluoridated water. There is not the slightest shred of evidence to suggest that those people have suffered any harmful effects.
I do not have sufficient time to deal with the aspect of compulsion, but surely it is agreed that the liberty of the individual is subject to the right of the government to legislate for the good of the people as a whole. The overwhelming weight of evidence is that this is a matter which requires some government attention. After all, we legislate to compel a man who wants to go to sea in a boat to carry lifesaving equipment and we compel him to use a boat that complies with certain standards of safety. Are those requirements an infringement on the freedom of the individual to drown himself if he wishes? Of course, they are not. In the same way we believe that the Government clearly has an obligation and a duty to take this action on behalf of the whole of the community.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The arguments put forward by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) reveal a line of thinking that is both dangerous and frightening. I have never sought to dodge this issue of the addition of fluoride to Canberra’s water supply. I have said, and I say again, that I accept in general the weight of medical evidence which suggests that the addition to the diet of fluoride in some shape or form is beneficial in reducing the incidence of dental decay but I think we are entitled to have some reservations on the matter, bearing in mind recent disclosures about the effects, for example, of thalidomide and phenacetin, which doctors have been prescribing for many years. I do not think we should be obliged to accept without question the views that have been put forward by the Minister in his advocacy for the addition of fluoride to Canberra’s water supply. If we accept that fluoride is beneficial to the growth of healthy teeth, I still maintain my very strong personal objection to the means by which it is proposed to administer the fluoride, namely by adding it to the water supply. I object to being required to take a medicament which I would not myself choose to administer. The Minister’s illustration of a man being required to wear a lifebelt when he goes to sea in a boat is hardly apposite. I accept the compulsory examination for tuberculosis, which is a communicable disease. I accept vaccination for diphtheria, which again is a communicable disease. I accept the quarantine regulations which are designed to protect the community. But I suggest to the Minister and to those others who advocate the addition of fluoride to the water supply that teeth are essentially a matter for the individual. If I have bad teeth somebody else cannot catch decay from me. I do no harm to the community at large.
– You become a charge on the community and the health services.
– The Minister is entitled to that comment if he wishes to have it. He could, if he wishes, take that argument a good deal further. He could take up the points made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). If the advocates of fluoride are serious, let them really tackle the things that harm the community. Let them tackle the scourge of cancer. I do not doubt the medical evidence that the smoking of cigarettes is conducive to lung cancer. Let the Government say that it will not permit people to smoke cigarettes. Would that not be a logical extension of the argument the Minister has used in relation to the addition of fluoride? Is it not recognized that wholemeal bread is vastly better for people than is white bread? Would it not then be logical for big brother to demand that people eat nothing but wholemeal bread? Is it to be admitted that alcohol is harmful to the human system? If it is accepted that alcohol is harmful to the human system, could we hot have an ordinance in the Australian Capital Territory banning the consumption of alcohol except under medical direction, or would the drinking of beer be encouraged provided the beer was made from water that had been fluoridated? Those are all logical extensions of the type of argument used by the Minister - that the Government must legislate for the benefit of the individual; that it must decide what things are best for the individual and must compel him to do those things.
For years in Australia we have sought to discourage the smoking of cigarettes by young people in an endeavour to protect their health, but when they reach sixteen years of age we allow them to make their own decisions. In this matter the Minister will say that in order to protect the teeth of children the Government will add fluoride to the water supply and will compel people to drink fluoridated water for the rest of their lives. Already, in order to combat the presence in this area of goitre, iodized salt is added to the flour from which our bread is baked. If we take this argument a little further - I submit this is logica] although it sounds farfetched - should we not introduce legislation banning the consumption of sweets and chocolates because they are harmful to teeth, or should we continue to permit the merits of different brands of sweets and chocolates to be advertised and then put fluoride into the water in order to counteract the harmful effects of the chocolates and sweets that we have consumed?
If the Minister wants everybody to have good teeth, would it not be more logical to include the fluoride in the sweets, chocolates and other items in the diet which cause harm to the teeth? Will the Minister admit that the aboriginal people of this country do not have bad teeth and that the diet is the cause of bad teeth? I could go on with this style of argument for a long time. The pros and cons of the medical evidence could be argued for weeks and months. I do not doubt that they will be. But I object most strenuously to a decision of this kind being imposed on the community from above without the community being given any opportunity to express its views on the matter.
There is an analogy. If we suggest an amendment of the Australian Constitution, it is obligatory for the Government to prepare a case for and a case against, to put those cases in the hands of the electors and to require the electors to vote. For an amendment to bc carried there must be a majority of the people in a majority of the States in favour of it. Apparently the people of Australia can be trusted to sum up the case for and the case against an amendment of the political Constitution and to vote on it, but they cannot be trusted to weigh the pros and cons of a decision that will affect the human constitution.
I could say a great deal more on this subject. Personally, from the evidence I have studied, I accept that the weight of medical evidence indicates that fluoride added to the diet in some way or other does improve dental health; but I maintain the reservations that I have stated. I object most strenuously to the means by which it is proposed to force fluoride, this medicament, on the people of the Australian Capital Territory. Because the time allotted for this debate will expire in four minutes and because I believe it is important that there should be a vote on the matter now before the House, I move -
That the question be now put. (A division having been called for, and the bells being rung)-
– Mr. Deputy, Speaker, I ask whether, under the terms of the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act, the member for the Australian Capital Territory may vote on the question now before the House.
– The member for the Australian Capital Territory is not entitled to vote on this question.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority .. ..Nil
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
Minister for Service) [2.15].- I
– There being 55 “ Ayes “ and 55 “ Noes “, I give my casting vote with the “ Noes “, to provide for the continuation of the debate.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! The time allotted for the precedence of general business has expired. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under general business for the next day of sitting.
Silting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m.
Mr. McMAHON (LoweLabour and National move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is unique. It deals, it is true, with the stevedoring industry, an industry that hitherto has been the subject of much controversy. The uniqueness of the bill resides in the fact that on this occasion it gives effect to the agreed wishes of all parties engaged in the industry. This bill, and the negotiations which led to its introduction, can well mark a turn - a turn for the better - in industrial relationships. For this reason I have no wish to dwell on the past. Our eyes must be turned to the future.
The bill itself is short but it is important that I sketch some of the background to it. This bill and the other matters I will refer to have their origin in a conference held in Sydney on 30th May under my chairmanship. It was attended by representatives of the stevedoring employers, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and my own department. The conference decided that a small working party comprising representatives of the employers, the federation, the A.C.T.U. and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, under the chairmanship of the acting secretary of my department, should examine in more detail the matters raised at the conference. This working party met on a number of occasions over the following two months and its discussions were both frank and constructive. Its report - unanimous, I emphasize - was considered by the full conference on 30th July. That conference decided to refer the report to the organizations represented for their consideration. I am pleased to say that these organizations endorsed the report in toto.
I feel the House will be interested to know something’ about the conclusions reached because if they are carried through there are real grounds for hoping that the stevedoring industry will face a brighter industrial relations future. In the first place it has been decided that in all ports industrial relations committees comprising representatives of the stevedoring employers and the federation should be established. A major function of these committees will be to anticipate possible disputes and to deal with them on the spot if they should arise. It was accepted that once a matter in dispute had been brought to the attention of the committee in a port, work should continue without interruption, subject to the protective clauses of the award, until a decision had been reached either by the committee or a board of reference. It was taken as essential that when a decision was finally given it should be acted upon, subject to the right of appeal. In the event of a committee not being able to settle a dispute there would be resort to a reconstituted board of reference. It was agreed that the employers and the federation would seek a variation of the waterside workers’ award to give effect to these arrangements.
Redundancy among waterside workers because of the introduction or extension of mechanization, was another matter dealt with. The Government has approved in principle that financial assistance towards travelling costs and removal expenses should, in certain circumstances, be given to waterside workers who become surplus in a particular port as a result of mechanization and whose services are required in another port.
Perhaps the most critical issues considered by the conference concerned section 52a of the Stevedoring Industry Act. This is the section which provides that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority may declare a port stoppage if one-third of the registered waterside workers in the port, or 250, whichever is the less, are involved in an unauthorized stoppage. As a result of this declaration the men concerned lose their entitlement of four days attendance money. The conference recognized that in some ports the operation of the section was no longer achieving the objectives the Government had in mind when introducing it. The conference considered that the development of the better industrial relations engendered in the various discussions would be improved if the operation of this section were suspended for a period of twelve months after which the position could be reviewed. It was agreed nevertheless that if the circumstances in any port or ports justified it the operation of the section could again be restored provided that before considering such action the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority would confer with the parties and the Government. The conference also felt that greater rank and file interest in participating in this new industrial relations attitude would be likely if all existing attendance money debits were, as it were, frozen as from the date of the suspension of the operation of section 52a.
The bill now before the House gives effect to these two conclusions. In the first place, it suspends the power to make declarations under section 52a as from 17th September. It does not, however, say that the suspension is to operate for a specified period of twelve months. All of us hope that in fact the suspension will bc indefinite but if our hopes are not realized and the question of removing the suspension has to be considered the agreement come to at the conference about prior consultation will certainly be honoured. Secondly, the bill freezes, as it were, the attendance money debits which registered waterside workers had accumulated as at 17th September, 1963, because of the application of either section 36 or section 52a of the act. So, as from that date waterside workers who become entitled to attendance money payments in accordance with the provisions of their award will receive them, subject to any action that may be taken in future under section 36 of the Stevedoring Industry Act.
Over the years the stevedoring industry has received much attention at the hands of this Parliament. This has been the case under this Government and the previous Labour government. The industry is, as we all know, a vitally important one. Upon the state of its health - upon the state of the relationships among those concerned in it - depends the free flow of our growing trade and commerce. Industrial relations and efficiency on the waterfront can powerfully affect our costs and prices. In the search over the years to create a favorable situation on the waterfront successive governments have pursued a variety of courses. Now we are making another attempt.
I trust the optimism that the bill will make a real contribution to the problems of this industry will not prove to be misplaced. The grounds on which this optimism is based are, first, that I believe that those participating in the discussions made a genuine attempt to reach a better understanding of each other’s problem. I have been greatly encouraged by the spirit of reasonableness, the constructive attitudes and the evident sincerity which prevailed throughout these discussions. Secondly, while none of the members of the conference was so starry eyed as to imagine that what has been agreed will solve all waterfront problems in the immediate future, or for that matter that there will be no stoppages whatever in future, I share their confidence that a substantial improvement in the situation can bc expected. We all must be encouraged by what has happened since the holding of the first session of the conference at the end of May. In the four months since then - June, July, August and September - the total man-hours lost due to unauthorized stoppages were, roughly, less than one-eighth of those lost over the preceding four months. I should like to repeat that sentence, Mr. Speaker, because it is worth while emphasizing. In the four months June, July, August and September the total man-hours lost due to unauthorized stoppages were, roughly, less than one-eighth of those lost over the preceding four months. Thirdly, I emphasize that a system has been developed for closer relationships by the parties immediately concerned in this industry.
This bill represents the Government’s contribution to the successful outcome of the package deal arrived at by the conference. Now the Government looks to the parties to carry out their parts of the agreement. This legislation is, by its very nature, of a transitional character. The way in which the industry functions over the next twelve months or so under this new deal will have a profound bearing on the question whether any further legislation is needed. If all parties continue to show the same spirit of co-operation over the next twelve months as they have during the period of the conference and if this can be further consolidated, the stevedoring industry may indeed have entered a new era - an era which can bring great benefits to the nation and all engaged in the industry. For ail those reasons, Sir, I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. James Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8lh October (vide page 1516), on motion by Mr. Roberton -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. DALY (Grayndler) r2.27].- The bill which we are now discussing follows the pattern of the Aged Persons Homes Act, which was introduced in 1954 and has been slightly amended since then. That act was for the purpose of setting up machinery so that the Commonwealth could provide grants to churches and other recognized charitable bodies and institutions to assist them in providing homes for aged people.
It is not my task or that of the Opposition to take up the time of the House in praise of Government legislation. 1 merely pause to give the Government credit for the limited benefits that the legislation has given to the aged, bringing to many of them a measure of comfort and security which has been a further step in the solution of a great human problem. Having said so much, let me now say that the Opposition supports this measure.
It would be safe to say that no honorable member on either side of the House docs not approve in principle of this humanitarian legislation. At this stage. however, the Opposition parts company with the Government in regard to praise. We consider that certain further amendments to the act are necessary in order te improve the legislation and bring within its scope many thousands of unfortunate people who to-day are denied its benefits because of the limitations imposed. I therefore move -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ whilst not in any way opposing (he passage of this limited bill, this House is of opinion that legislation should be introduced immediately to make available to disabled persons generally the benefits proposed under this bill “.
During the committee stage the Opposition will move the amendments circulated in my name, which are designed to give effect to the proposal to permit the Commonwealth Government to subsidize State government instrumentalities and local government on all moneys spent in building homes and infirmaries for the disabled. The Opposition will also indicate the need to include other bodies such as trade unions in the programme for providing homes for the disabled.
I want to refer briefly to the definition of *’ disabled person “. Because of the nature of this bill and for clarity, let me say that for the purposes of this debate and the amendment the definition given in the bill will be accepted at this stage by the Opposition. This does not overlook, the fact that a review of this definition may well be long overdue. No. doubt the next Labour government, to be elected in the immediate future, will give consideration to that aspect of the legislation.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for assistance by the Commonwealth towards the provision of residential accommodation for certain disabled persons. In his secondreading speech, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said -
The purpose of this bil! is to enable the Commonwealth to make grants to religious, benevolent and other approved welfare organizations to assist them in providing accommodation for disabled persons working in sheltered workshops so that they may reside near their places of employment.
Clause 2 of the bill includes the words -
The Minister continued -
This bill will enable the Director-General of Social Services on behalf of the Commonwealth, to make grants to eligible organizations on a £2 for £1 basis to assist in meeting the capital cost of accommodation for such persons … the bill, however, defines a person who may reside in subsidized accommodation as one who is sixteen years of age or over and is permanently incapacitated for work to the degree necessary to qualify for an invalid pension or who is permanently blind.
This is in accordance with the Social Services Act 1947-1963. The Minister then went on to say -
This docs not mean that only invalid pensioners can reside in such accommodation, but indicates the extent of the disability before an applicant may qualify for residence. Persons not entitled to an invalid pension on means test or other grounds may reside in subsidized accommodation if they are disabled to the extent indicated.
That, broadly, summarizes the words of the Minister. The provisions of the bill and the details associated with its administration will be dealt with more fully during the committee stage.
This bill, relating to disabled persons, is another occasion - I regret to have to say it - when the Government has seen fit to plunder the policy of the Labour Party in this matter. This is the second occasion on which the Government has done something which it previously resisted in the field of social services. We saw another example of this to-day on another issue far removed from this one. The first occasion was when the Government reduced the residential qualifying period for aged persons from twenty years to ten years. For the purpose of eligibility for a pension this promise was given in the last election speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). In fact it was the only promise given and after the election it was implemented. But during the budget debate in 1960, when this modification was proposed by Labour, the Government voted against it to a man, thus defeating a proposal which it subsequently adopted. This was done in order to deny the Labour Party the credit due to it.
I believe it is only fair to say - as I said a few moments ago - that the proposals contained in this bill originated from those put forward by the Opposition. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) may say that he was the sponsor of this move. I give him the credit at least of having had the thought, but I do not go any further with him. On the first day after the new Parliament assembled - that is, 21st February, 1962 - the honorable member gave notice of his intention to move -
That this House is of the opinion that legislation should be enacted to make available to disabled persons benefits similar to those available to aged persons under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
For this action he was bitterly criticized by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and by members of the Government parties, because, it was said, the motion was embarrassing the Government because it had no intention of implementing the proposal. The records of this Parliament show that the motion proposed b.y the honorable member for Mackellar remained on the business paper for more than twelve months and the Government took every opportunity to prevent it from being discussed. In that period the motion was listed on no fewer than nine occasions as item No. 1 on the business paper, but the honorable member for Mackellar made no effort to bring it forward for debate.
As a matter of fact, all kinds of devices were used and motions of minor importance were substituted by the Government, evidently with the approval and connivance of the honorable member for Mackellar. The records of the Parliament show that the honorable member would not have done anything other than submit his motion, had it not been for the action of the Labour Party, through the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in taking the initiative and forcing the Government at least to discuss the subject. In view of the fact that the honorable member for Mackellar had committed himself to vote for the motion, the Government evidently feared that because of its slender majority the motion would be carried if it came before Parliament and, therefore, made certain that it would not do so.
Because of the action of the honorable member for Mackellar and the Government, and in an effort to get the matter before the House, the honorable member for EdenMonaro, on behalf of the Opposition, was compelled to propose a motion for leave to introduce our own bill on this subject. This action was taken on 9th May, 1963. A perusal of page 1191 of “Hansard” for that date will disclose that discussion took place on the following motion proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to make available to disabled persons the benefits provided for aged persons under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
However, because of Government opposition, the honorable member for EdenMonaro was prevented from proceeding with that motion and was able only to make a statement on the subject. This measure has now been introduced only because the Government can no longer resist the pressure for it, particularly in view of the state of the Parliament and an impending election.
The honorable member for Mackellar will have a unique opportunity to-day to prove the sincerity of his intentions by voting for the amendment to the motion for the second reading which is similar to the proposal which he put before the Parliament but made no effort to discuss. Those of us who have watched him and other Government supporters lime-lighting themselves at times on this issue will watch to-day with interest the reaction of the honorable member for Mackellar in particular to this proposal. We will watch with interest how he votes on this amendment, which, in substance, is the same as the one he put before this Parliament and said he wanted to be implemented. I conclude my remarks on that aspect of the subject on that note. I have indicated in some detail that I am correct in saying that once again the Government is plundering the policy of Labour with regard to disabled persons.
It is our view that the benefits extended to disabled persons under this legislation are founded on a very niggardly basis. As stated by the Minister, they will apply only to disabled persons who are working in sheltered workshops or those likely to be employed or desiring to be employed in such workshops. Disabled persons who are unable to be so employed, or who are living in areas where there are no sheltered workshops are to be denied these benefits. This attitude would appear to be utterly without justification. The Labour Party believes in extending the benefits of the act to genuinely disabled persons and it introduced a bill for that purpose. Furthermore, we believe that the act should be broadened to provide subsidies for local government authorities and other bodies. We believe, too, that it should be amended to authorize the Commonwealth Government to subsidize State government instrumentalities for the moneys they spend on building homes or infirmaries for the disabled. In other words, we would bring within the scope of the act other disabled persons than those who are to enjoy the benefits. We would bring within the scope of the act those who are being denied these benefits by this Government under this legislation.
If what we proposed had been followed, the Opposition would have no quarrel whatever with the Government, but the Minister has seen fit to include in the benefits of this legislation only those disabled persons who are working in . sheltered workshops. Genuine as the need of these persons may be, we believe that the Government is not going far enough in this measure. The very title of the measure indicates that its application is limited in that it is a bill for an act to provide for residential accommodation for certain disabled persons. The measure provides that the subsidy will be paid only for the provision of residential accommodation for disabled persons employed in sheltered workshops, or persons seeking employment in a sheltered workshop. From figures that I shall cite later in the debate, it will be seen that not more than 2 per cent, of the disabled persons will benefit under the accommodation proposals contained in this bill.
Furthermore, the measure will apply only to those working in sheltered workshops or seeking employment in sheltered workshops. There is no mention of what is to be done to provide accommodation for these unfortunate people after they have been rehabilitated in sheltered workshops. In other words, their accommodation disappears overnight. Once they are rehabilitated, they are outside the scope of the legislation and, irrespective of their disability, they have to make their own way in the world again. This is extremely harsh and demonstrates the inadequacy and narrow scope of the measure.
There is no provision in the legislation for disabled persons under sixteen years of age, and there is much . to be said in support of the argument that the benefit should be extended to persons, sixteen years of age who would qualify for the invalid pension. It is also significant that no grant is to be made for sheltered workshops. They must carry on as best they can without Government assistance. This is a matter about which there is grave discontent. I have received several letters about it. One was from Dr. B. F. Dickens, M.B., B.S., of the Dubbo Sheltered Workshop. In the final paragraph of that letter to me, he said -
The continual lack of financial aid towards assisting sheltered workshops is a matter of concern. We require at least one-third of our total turnover to be found in one way or another to balance the budget.
The letter goes on to say that there is a very great need to provide something of that nature. I suppose every member of the Parliament has received a letter from the Spastic Centre at 6, Queen-street, Mosman, in which a plea is made again for capital expenditure for its sheltered workshops. The letter says -
Therefore, Sir, we are pleading with you to examine or have examined, as lies within your power to do, all means by which a financial grant for capital expenditure could be made to The Spastic Centre to assist it to train more young people.
The bill does not go far enough and the deserving few who are benefiting are still limited with respect to capital outlay for the purposes I have mentioned.
It may be correct to say that the greatest need was for accommodation for disabled persons in sheltered workshops; but it is also correct to say that the proposal gives very restricted benefits to the minimum number of deserving cases. It is difficult to obtain accurate figures relating to the number of sheltered workshops in Australia and, therefore, the number of people covered by this legislation. Such an eminent authority as Mrs. Hazel Bedwin, O.B.E., co-administrator of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association, estimated the number of sheltered workshops in Australia to be between 45 and 50, and that they care for from 1,100 to 1,200 persons. Miss Gwen Forsythe, honorary secretary-treasurer of the Association of Sheltered Workshops, states in a letter to me dated 1st October, 1963, that the total number of sheltered workshops throughout Australia is 65, and that there are facilities for approximately 1,500 people in New South Wales. These figures come from accurate sources, but it is difficult to arrive at the actual numbers. Taking an average of known figures, I suppose there would be between 50 and 60 sheltered workshops in Australia catering for not more than 2,000 people at the most. Probably the number would be about 1,500. It will be seen, therefore, that the number of people in the disabled categories who are to benefit will be very limited. I do not quibble at the benefit being given to those who so richly deserve it, but we on this side of the Parliament point out that the benefits of the legislation should be considerably extended.
According to figures compiled on the basis of a survey made by the International Labour Organization, it is estimated that 7 per cent, of all adult Western populations are aged, disabled or mentally ill. The results of a sickness survey conducted by the Canadian Government in 1950-51 revealed that 7 per cent, of the Canadian population were suffering permanent disability in some degree. With this as a guide, plus the limited information available in Australia, the indications are that one-half of .1 per cent, of the total Australian population, or 50,000 persons represent the unmet need in rehabilitation. All things considered, this estimate would appear to bc reasonable and acceptable. Of this number, it is estimated by experts in this field that 25,000 people, or i per cent, of the Australian population need special accommodation, but not institutions. If this estimated need were to be met immediately on the basis of a capital cost of £1,000 per person for housing, it would represent the enormous sum of £25,000,000. On the basis of their existing establishments and immediate past performances, the organizations active in this field have estimated that even without subsidized ‘housing they will accommodate some 350 persons within the next year. It will be seen therefore, that at the rate of benefit proposed in this measure many thousands of people will still be suffering and will still not be properly accommodated.
A further indication of the magnitude of the problem is given by Miss Forsythe in a letter to me dated 26th July, 1962, in which she said -
We estimate that they-
That is, the workshops - are catering for no more than 2 per cent, of the need. … In other words, there could be 50,000 handicapped people in Australia capable of working under sheltered conditions for 98 per cent, of whom there is no provision.
In other words, only 1,000 out of 50,000 in Australia will be catered for. It would be safe to say that that would be the position to-day. This means, in effect, that 98 per cent, of those urgently in need of accommodation receive no benefits whatever under lhe legislation. Whilst we cannot disagree that this bill is a start and is better than nothing, we can also say that it is only scratching the surface.
It appears that there are no official statistics showing the number of disabled people in Australia. It is therefore necessary to base an estimate on the reliable information forwarded to all honorable members some time ago by Mrs. H. Bedwin, O.B.E., the coadministrator of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association. It is worth mentioning that there are 709,000 age and invalid pensioners in Australia at the present time. This figure does not take into account those persons who are ineligible for pensions because of financial and other reasons, there are in Australia 100,000 invalids under 65 years who do not qualify for admittance to aged persons’ homes under this Government’s legislation. In the light of these figures, the estimates given by Mrs. Bedwin are very conservative. The position is further aggravated by the fact that of the estimated 50,000 persons in Australia who are disabled, the great majority are of adult age and are now being overlooked. On the figures available from the Sheltered Workshops Association, the result of this legislation is that 49,000 disabled people in Australia will not get any benefit whatever from this Government.
Apart from the hardship suffered by the people who are not assisted, there is another consideration. It is estimated that for every person who goes off a pension, the saving in the first three years is equal to the part of the capital cost of his accommodation borne by the Commonwealth, lt is estimated that for every person who, by the use of this kind of accommodation, avoids going to an institution, the capital cost will be absorbed in the first eighteen months. For every person who can leave a hospital, the capital cost will be liquidated in 20 weeks.
The allocation as a Government subsidy for the coming year will be only £150,000. In these days of high building costs and inflation, this amount is significantly small when one bears in mind the demands which will be made. It is beyond doubt that limiting the benefit to people in sheltered workshops, valuable and necessary as the benefit will be - it will be supported by us - offers no solution to the long-range problems of complete rehabilitation and reemployment. The solutions of these problems are dependent to a great extent on adequate and suitable housing being readily available for disabled persons; in close proximity to rehabilitation centres and places of employment. At present it appears that the only course open to many persons, after losing the assistance of their parents, relatives or friends, is to enter an institution for chronically ill or aged persons or a mental hospital. One can imagine the effect on a young intelligent person, possessing limited mobility, of surroundings of that nature. It has been demonstrated that many disabled persons have been restored to useful income-earning work and in some cases have become selfsupporting. The rapid expansion of rehabilitation is dependent, however, upon the Government making all disabled persons eligible for subsidized housing. There is no such provision in the bill.
I have dealt with the difficulties confronting disabled persons, and I have shown the limitations of the bill as it has been introduced into this Parliament. It is true that the amount required for the immediate settlement of this problem would be enormous, but the Labour Party believes that a great deal could be done by government action to make more organizations entitled to benefit under the provisions of the bill. The Government should remove the limitations that have been placed upon the Department of Social Services by the legislation that has been introduced.
Let us look at the situation of State government instrumentalities. Under this legislation, which we will seek to amend in the committee stage, they are denied a subsidy for homes and infirmaries which may be built. What argument can be advanced against a subsidy from the Commonwealth to State government instrumentalities, based on all moneys spent on homes and infirmaries for disabled persons? The original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, introduced in 1947 by the Chifley Labour Government, provided a rental rebate scheme for age and invalid pensioners and people on small fixed incomes, so that they could rent homes for one-sixth of the existing weekly pensions. As from 1st July, 1956, however, following the expiration of the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the Menzies Government took away from the States the rental rebate system, which was the only method they had to provide aged and invalid pensioners with homes. In addition, the interest rate was raised from 3 per cent, to 4 per cent, and the housing commissions were faced with the necessity to let all new buildings at the higher economic rentals. In other words, the rebates and concessions to disabled persons, so far as the States were concerned, were removed by this Government. Invalid pensioners thus lost the help with accommodation previously provided by the States and, at the same time, were ineligible for help from the Aged Persons Homes Act. This was indeed a miserly approach by the Commonwealth Government to the problem.
To give honorable members an indication of what the State governments are endeavouring to do, let me quote the record of the New South Wales Labour Government, which has been in office for 22 years because of the sound legislation it has introduced, lt is to the credit of the New South Wales Government that since 1956 it has included in its housing schemes a percentage of specially designed dwellings for aged married couples and single age and invalid pensioners. Women are eligible at 55 years and men at 60 years. Up to the termination of the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement by the action of the Menzies Government, single persons occupying these dwellings paid less than the economic rental. They paid as low as 8s. a week in some cases. The units were built and maintained on the basis of the lower rentals. The New South Wales Government, concerned at the action of the Menzies Government in imposing a further liability on these people, approved a new scheme of sub-economic housing for aged and disabled persons, bearing the cost from the State housing allocation without any subsidy being paid by the Federal Government. Dwellings erected and approved under the scheme are let at 30s. a week for double accommodation, and 20s. a week for smaller single accommodation. No assistance in the form of subsidy was paid by this Government. The dwellings have been built in appropriate surroundings and give a measure of security and comfort to aged people which would not be possible without finanical assistance.
The responsibility for the provision of adequate and cheap housing for disabled people falls upon many shoulders. Much creditable work has already been accomplished for the under-privileged by individuals, organizations and the New South Wales Government, but there is still much to be done. The State governments are doing as much as they can with their limited resources, without any assistance from the Commonwealth Government. State governments possibly can do more, because of their resources, as has already been indicated, than others. The preparation of plans and specifications and the conduct of investigations could be done from Commonwealth sources. Advice and assistance in regard to undertakings and types of dwellings could be provided with some form of assistance from the Commonwealth. It is not too much to expect that the State governments should be included in the subsidy provided by the Commonwealth, so that they may directly participate in solving this great human problem.
I have obtained some interesting figures from the New South Wales Government. There are 7,000 aged or disabled people in New South Wales waiting for homes. Of that number, 1,200 are elderly couples and 4,700 are single persons. There is a long waiting time before these people can be given homes. The State Government has built 1,067 units for them. About 470 units are still under construction. Last year 306 units were completed for disabled persons. Had this Government paid a subsidy, the State Government would have increased the number completed to 1,000. The New South Wales Government housing programme for disabled persons is said to be more extensive and better than the programmes of other State governments.
On the basis of the figures I have quoted, do not honorable members agree that the New South Wales Government is entitled to assistance from the Commonwealth through humanitarian legislation? If this Government is sincere, it will support the amendments which will be moved in the committee stage. State governments which undertake charitable and humanitarian work are entitled to participate in the subsidy. If this is done, I have no doubt that it will be a major contribution and a stimulus to action to overcome the problem of housing for aged and disabled persons. It is for the reasons I have given that we are going to move amendments in the committee stage.
Why does not the Government extend the bill to cover local government organizations? In an amendment moved in the committee stages we will endeavour to see that local government organizations receive a subsidy under this scheme. In the field of social services, particularly for the disabled and sick, local government organizations do remarkable work. They have rendered great service by providing, amenities centres, meals on wheels and nursing services and by giving rebates on rates on pensioners’ properties. Those are just a few of the services and concessions extended to aged and invalid people by local government authorities. Last year, for instance, the Sydney City Council undertook considerable expenditure on the welfare of age and invalid pensioners. In addition, in the current financial year, the council will spend £190,000 on flats, a big percentage of which will be occupied by disabled people. Indeed, many of these flats have already been completed and are now occupied by people whom this measure is designed to benefit.
If local government authorities are prepared to spend money on housing for disabled people, surely those authorities are entitled to a £2-for-£l subsidy when subsidies are being handed out under the terms of this measure. Similar observations apply to local government organizations throughout New South Wales and the other States. Denial of subsidy to those organizations, we consider, cannot be justified.
The Sydney City Council has sent me a letter outlining its housing programme for the welfare of aged and disabled people. At the committee stage, in support of our contention that local government authorities should be brought within the scope of this bill, I hope to quote the figures given in that letter to show that not only is the council justly entitled to a subsidy but also that the payment of subsidy would enable it to continue to meet the needs of the people.
We think that the scope of this measure should be extended to other organizations. I have studied records of the contributions made by the Government by way of subsidy paid to organizations throughout Australia engaged in providing housing for aged and disabled people, and I notice that trade unions are not listed as having received any assistance. If there is any doubt about whether trade unions are eligible for assistance under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act or of this bill, surely we could adopt some method - perhaps trusteeship or something similar - ‘that would enable these organizations to be included. They could also be listed directly as eligible organizations under this bill.
We consider that the Government might well write into these legislative measures provision to cover great organizations like the trade unions. This would encourage the unions to participate to an even greater degree in the provision of housing for those in need.
The quarterly summary of statistics for the March, 1963, quarter, issued by the Bureau of Census and Statistics, shows that in 1962 there were 347 registered trade unions in Australia with a total membership of 1,950,484, of whom 765,000 were in New South Wales alone. When we consider the membership and financial and organizational resources of the trade unions, and their genuine desire to support the welfare state and particularly to see that justice is done to the disabled, it is apparent that there is a huge untapped reservoir that could be used if the unions were sufficiently encouraged, by the means that I have suggested, to participate in schemes for the housing of aged and disabled persons. I suggest that it be made easy for them to take part in these schemes without having to observe difficult qualifications under the present administrative arrangements.
Again, the Government should adopt a practical approach to registered clubs throughout the country. In my own State, New South Wales, the example which I cite because I know it, official figures show that there are 1,306 registered clubs. They include ex-servicemen’s organizations - I know that they are provided for under the legislation - sporting clubs, trade union clubs and businessmen’s clubs. The majority of these clubs are financially stable and many of them are extremely wealthy. No doubt, in other States similar clubs exist in great numbers.
Without doubt, given encouragement, registered clubs would contribute te funds fa provide for the aged, the sick and the disabled, even if only those numbered among their own membership. In that way, distress in many sections of the community would be relieved. I do not doubt that if we care to go further into the matter we can find numerous other examples of organizations that are anxious to participate in housing schemes for the disabled. The Minister for Social Services may say that many of these organizations are now provided for, but very few of them are listed among the organizations that have received subsidies from the Government. The proposals that I have made would give a great stimulus to schemes for the building of homes for disabled persons.
Before I conclude, I should like to discuss one other aspect of the matter. This concerns the administration of the measure. As long ago as 8th March, 1961, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) listed on the notice-paper a motion relating to the administration of the scheme for the housing of aged persons and to proposals for the housing of disabled persons. That motion remained on the notice-paper until 26th October, 1961, without debate and was then removed on the prorogation of the Parliament just prior to the general election of that year. I relate that motion to this bill by asking whether the Government will allow to creep into the administration of the measure now before us anomalies of the kind that have become apparent in the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Minister no doubt is aware that the administration of that act, on which this measure is based, has been the subject of some criticism.
I make passing reference to this point because I do not want similar defects to become apparent in the administration of the measure that we now have before us. Apparently, under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act, there is no provision for first consideration to be given to the most deserving cases. Instances have been cited of people urgently in need of accommodation being passed over in favour of less deserving cases. I do not say that those who were admitted to the scheme were not genuine cases, but I do suggest that perhaps others should have had priority.
I am also led to believe that there is no public control over aged persons’ homes and that maintenance costs are not checked and that they vary considerably. Although the Commonwealth contributes on the basis of £2 for £1, no control whatever is exercised over the homes in respect of which grants are made. The Opposition considers that the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act requires investigation. We believe that factors such as the standard of accommodation, administration costs and maintenance should be supervised and that the Government should adopt some method by means of which urgent cases can be given priority. We suggest that the Minister should keep in mind our criticisms about administration, priorities and other relevant factors in relation to the Aged Persons Homes Act and avoid similar injustices, disharmony and anomalies in the administration of this measure.
Mr. Speaker, the Opposition, at the committee stage, will submit the amendments that 1 have foreshadowed. I do not propose now to discuss particular clauses of the measure. I merely record again the Opposition’s view that the scope of the bill is too limited. We support it, but we say that its limitations are too severe, and we seek to improve it by the amendment submitted. I have constructively discussed ways in which we believe that a stimulus could be given to the work of solving this great human problem of the housing of disabled persons, which represents a challenge to the people of this country.
Adequate housing for the aged and disabled in our community is one of the great human problems of our time. Every encouragement should be given to all who desire to contribute to the solution of this problem, whether they be individuals, private organizations or governments. This is a task for people of goodwill everywhere, because we all, I am sure, share the wish to participate in this contribution to the comfort, security and betterment of the disabled.
On behalf of the Opposition, I acknowledge what has been achieved. At the same time, we on this side of the chamber urge the Government to give effect to the constructive, humane and practical suggestions that we have made on this important subject, and thereby to take a further step towards the complete fulfilment of the objectives and ideals of us all in working towards the solution of this great problem of providing homes for the aged and disabled.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak later, Mr. Speaker.
.- Mr. Speaker, this bill represents another milestone in the social legislation of the Menzies Government. This was the first government in the world to introduce a measure like the Aged Persons Homes Act, which was designed to assist in the housing of aged people in need of help. That act adopted an entirely novel procedure, which was given effect to by a form of partnership between the Government on the one hand and churches and charitable organizations on the other, those being organizations that for many years had been doing their best to provide accommodation for aged people. The bill now before us provides for a similar form of partnership between the Government and churches, charitable organizations and approved societies that are providing or are willing to provide homes for disabled people in association with sheltered workshops.
It is quite obvious from the speech of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that there is a fundamental difference between the Liberal Party and the Labour Party in their approaches to these matters. The difference is that while the Liberal Party wishes to provide homes for the disabled, the Labour Party wishes to provide institutions. The honorable member for Grayndler criticized the Aged Persons Homes Act because, he said, it did not provide for Government supervision. He said that no control was exercised. In other words, the Labour Parry’s view is that the accommodation to be provided should be controlled or supervised, while the Liberal Party’s approach is that we should help these people to get homes in which they will be free to carry on their own lives, in which they will be free people.
I mentioned that Australia had led the world in the provision of homes for the aged and that it is now leading the world in providing similar homes for the disabled.
Ever since 1910 the Commonwealth has recognized its . responsibility for disabled people. It was in 1910 that the first provision was made of a pension for disabled people.
– By a Labour government.
– It was by a Labour government, and the pension provided was 10s. a week for those suffering 85 per cent. incapacity who did not have an income in excess of £1 a week - in other words, the permissible income apart from the pension was 10s. a week - and who did not have assets in excess of £50. I give the then government full credit for making a start, but the restrictions imposed by the Labour Government when it granted such a small pension to people who had virtually nothing amounted to such a limitation that few disabled people received any benefit. Mainly as a result of the generous attitude of the Menzies Government the pension has now been tremendously increased and liberalized. The pension granted by the Labour Government in 1910 was 10s. a week, and it has been increased so that it is now £5 15s. a week. Permissible income has increased from 10s. to £3 10s. a week, and the capital amount that may be held has gone up from £50 to £5,010 in the case of a single person, and £9,500 in the case of a married couple.
The provision of a pension is necessary and of great importance for disabled people. But even more important is rehabilitation. Disabled people do not want to remain on the pension. Their one desire is to be rehabilitated so that they can play their part in the economiclife of the community. The bill before us bears that in mind. Its purpose is to aid in rehabilitation. The Government recognized the need for rehabilitation in 1941 when certain vocational training was provided for under our social services legislation. This was liberalized and improved in 1948, 1951, 1952, 1955 and 1958. At the present time we have, under the Department of Social Services, a most complete set-up for rehabilitation of the disabled. Physiotherapy, remedial physical training, occupational therapy, vocational training, job placement and follow-up are all provided for.
Alongside this Government provision for rehabilitation, churches and charitable organizations have established many shel tered workshops. Many non-profit-making organizations have set out to give these disabled people another chance in life. They train them to play their full part in the economic life of the community. A very high proportion of those entering the workshops have been, after training, restored to health and returned to the economic life of the community. As a result, many thousands of pounds have been saved in pensions. After a disabled person is rehabilitated and returned to normal life he earns a normal wage and so the Government is saved the cost of his pension. Although it is difficult to obtain accurate figures, it is reasonably clear that the cost of rehabilitation is infinitesimal compared with the saving that has resulted in pension payments.
One of the great difficulties that sheltered workshops have experienced is in providing means of getting disabled people from their homes to the workshops. A great many of these people are in wheel-chairs, and it is difficult, if not impossible, for a person in a wheel-chair to use public transport. Consequently a large proportion of the cost of running these sheltered workshops has resulted from the need to provide transport, usually motor transport, together with the necessary drivers and assistants to help the people into the vehicles and then to take them to the workshops and to their homes after work.
The purpose of the bill is to eliminate this waste of time and great expense. It will enable the sheltered workshops to build flats or other accommodation such as hostels in close proximity to the workshops, so that the people will be able to go to and from the workshops under their own steam, with the aid of wheel-chairs or sticks as the case may be. The Government has followed the principle embodied in the Aged Persons Homes Act and has issued a challenge to churches and charitable organizations. It has said, “If you will build homes or hostels for these disabled people we will give you £2 for every £1 that you spend on the purchase of land or the building of homes “. The bill provides for the subsidy to be paid to those people who provide homes for persons working or about to work in sheltered workshops. Such persons must be sixteen years of age or over and must be 85 per cent. incapacitated. They need not be in receipt of a pension. The provision is made in respect of disabled persons whether they are in receipt of a pension or not, provided they are 85 per cent incapacitated for work.
The honorable member for Grayndler referred to the matter of supervision. I am sure that the last thing the Government wants to do is supervise the activities of these organizations. Having approved of the church or charitable organization as the proper authority to provide homes for disabled people, the Government will trust it to give the love, care and understanding that the disabled person requires. I am sure that disabled persons do not want inspectors going around; they do not want government supervision. The churches and charitable organizations are trained in the work of providing human understanding. They can be trusted to ascertain the needs of the disabled and to fulfil those needs to the best of their ability. The Government is encouraging them to do that and is making a very liberal subsidy for the accommodation to be provided. The bill provides that the church or charitable organization or other approved organization must be a non profit-making body. The bill is not designed to help people or organizations to make profits. The purpose of the bill is a social service - to help people to meet the needs of the disabled. The bill deals not only with churches and charitable organizations but also with other approved bodies.
It is hoped that people will realize the need of the disabled and will set aside in their wills sums of money for the provision of homes for disabled persons, just as has been done in many instances in respect of the provision of homes for aged people. It is quite competent under this legislation for the trustee or trustees of a will to erect homes for disabled persons and to receive a subsidy of £2 for £1. The bill gives all the protection that is necessary. It prohibits the subsidy being granted to a profitmaking organization. The bill very properly limits the provision of a subsidy to that type of organization that is experienced or willing to undertake the social work that is contemplated by the bill.
I would like now to deal briefly with the sheltered workshop. Sheltered workshops have given new hope and life to dis abled people. Not long ago a man who was seriously handicapped was virtually condemned to spend the rest of his life as a pension beneficiary. Now we treat those people differently and say that the responsibility of each of us is to do what we can to restore them to sufficient health so that they may carry on a normal job. The sheltered workshop is the place where such people receive training to fit them to undertake normal occupations. The legislation provides that the organization wishing to qualify for the subsidy may purchase an existing building and adapt it as a home or hostel for disabled persons or may purchase a block of land and build upon it flats or homes for disabled persons. Provided the disabled persons are working or about to work, in sheltered workshops, the organization will be entitled to a subsidy of £2 for £1 in respect of the building or buildings purchased or erected.
I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Grayndler say, on behalf of the Labour Party, that the Opposition would support the bill, but it is regrettable that he was not so generous as to give the Government full praise for introducing this legislation. The Opposition could support the bill and allow it to be the foundation for expanded legislation to cover the other matters dealt with by the honorable member for Grayndler. As always, the Opposition seems to want to go one better. This bill is the first of its kind, lt will be a foundation upon which we can build to fulfil the housing needs of disabled persons. The honorable member for Grayndler has stated that he proposes to move a number of amendments to the bill. I suggest that the Opposition should allow the bill to pass in its present form. It is the foundation and upon it we may build from time to time as the need becomes apparent.
This is what has been done with homes for the aged. Under the Aged Persons Homes Act as originally drafted, no subsidy was provided in respect of the purchase of land. Now the purchase of land is the subject of subsidy. Under the original act the subsidy was not available for the building of infirmaries. Now a subsidy is paid under certain conditions in respect of infirmaries. The original subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act was £1 for £1. The subsidy now is £2 for each £1 found by the organization. Just as we have built on the foundations of the Aged Persons Homes Act to meet needs as they arose, so we can build on the foundations of this legislation as it becomes apparent that there is a need.
It is regrettable that the Labour Party is jeopardizing the passing of this bill by proposing certain amendments which could not be carried at present because the bill arises, as honorable members well know, out of the Budget. The Budget consists of the financial accounts of the Commonwealth and each account is related to the others. It is well known to all honorable members that you cannot amend a budget. If the opposition wishes to amend the legislation, the proper course for it to take is to bring forward its amendments next year for consideration when the Budget is under discussion. Some of the proposed amendments are designed to bring this legislation into line with the Aged Persons Homes Act and to provide for things that may become apparent as time goes by. Let us get this legislation established, and then, on the foundation so established, we can make amendments from time to time.
There is one of the amendments proposed by the Opposition which I hope will not be carried either now or in the future. The whole basis of the Aged Persons Homes Act and this bill is a partnership between the Government and organizations performing charitable work. If we made the subsidy payable to State governments or local governing bodies we would immediately dry up all the charitable money that comes into this field. Obviously people would say: “ If we are to be taxed in the federal sphere to provide money for the £2 for £1 subsidy and in the State sphere to provide money for the remaining one-third, this is purely a government show.” Then there would be no part for the churches and charitable institutions to play. It would be a wholly government or semi-government concern.
– What is wrong with that?
– That would be the position whether it was a State government or a local governing body that was called upon to provide the remaining one-third. The honorable member asks, “ What is wrong with that?” I believe. that there is a place in this world for charity and there is a place in this world for human effort. The socialist mind thinks that the government should do everything; that it should take over all industry, all property, all homes and all charitable work. On the other hand, I believe that there is a part for human beings to play in helping others. In our charitable organizations and churches we have men and women who devote not only their time but also their money to helping others. I believe that they should be encouraged. A bill such as this one gives that encouragement.
Therefore, I commend this bill to every honorable member of the House. I ask for wholehearted support of it. I know that in the long run members of the Labour Party will be forced to support it because they will realize that the bill is a good one. The Opposition has proposed these amendments simply because it is trying to play party politics. It would be very much more gracious of members of the Opposition if they came forward and said: “ The Government has done a good thing in introducing this bill. We give it our wholehearted support. But on future occasions we will suggest such alterations as experience shows to be necessary from time to time.” I strongly support the bill. I believe that it represents a great step forward in the social services legislation of Australia. [Quorum formed.]
– I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). I was sorry that he started his speech by recapitulating the social service pensions that were granted about 20 or 30 years ago. That is really not covered by this bill. I do not think it was necessary for him to try to boost the Government’s slocks as he did. I wish to refer to a statement that he made towards the end of his speech about the Labour Party moving amendments which could not be put into operation because no money was provided for the purposes of the amendments in the Budget. The point that struck me most forcibly was that the honorable member said that it would not be possible to appropriate money for this purpose; yet to-day the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) told us that the Government will provide millions of pounds for wool promotion, although there was no provision in the Budget for that. There would be no more difficulty in providing money for the purposes of the amendments that we propose than in providing the money for wool promotion.
I give credit to the Government for introducing this legislation. I do not intend to say that the Labour Party forced the Government to introduce it; but I do say that a very small pressure group got the Government to introduce it. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has mentioned Mrs. Bedwin and what she has done. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) spoke about the Apex clubs. Those people have been pushing for this legislation. Two or three years ago Mrs. Bedwin came to Adelaide and saw the honorable member for Sturt and me. She was in a wheel chair; she was crippled. She told us about the work that was being done in the sheltered workshops and the need to do something for them. Ever since then she has been pushing for legislation such as this. I know that some honorable members on the Government side have had every sympathy with her and have helped her, but it has taken quite a long time for this measure to be introduced.
This measure has been introduced to meet the needs of incapacitated or disabled people who are working in sheltered workshops, but we in the Labour Party believe that it is only a drop in the bucket, as it were, compared with what those people need. Although I agree with the Minister for Social Services and the honorable member for Sturt that this subsidy represents another step forward, it is not a big enough step. We have gone along very slowly. We have tottered quite a lot. We can do more for these people. 1 do not know the exact number of people employed in sheltered workshops in South Australia, but I do not think it would exceed a couple of hundred. Those people could benefit from this legislation if they needed a home in which to live. Some of the people who work in sheltered workshops are single. They live with their parents. They do not want to go into a home for disabled people. We have to be very careful in implementing this legislation. We must not deprive people of the oppor tunity to continue to work in sheltered workshops. I am not suggesting that that will be done. If a home is provided close to a sheltered workshop for the 10, 15 or 20 people who work in that workshop, what happens to the people who do not want to live in that home? What will we do with them?
I believe that, our request that the assistance apply to all disabled people is reasonable. Let us think for a moment about how this legislation will come into operation. The only way in which it can come into operation is through one of the bodies set out in the bill, whether it be a religious body, a body set up by the Returned Servicemen’s League, a charitable institution or some other institution. I notice from the records relating to aged persons* homes that only a very small number of such homes have been provided by what I might call other institutions - that is, those not associated with recognized church or charitable organizations.
I do not know whether there is a sheltered workshop in my own district of Port Adelaide but I know of several in the city and near-city areas. We know that many people are engaged in those workshops but what about all the other disabled people? The people working in sheltered workshops receive an income but what about those disabled people who cannot work and have to rely solely on the pension? Very often they are in a worse financial position than the people working in the sheltered workshops. While we limit the provisions of this bill to those persons either working or trying to get a job in a sheltered workshop we shall deny to other disabled persons the consideration to which they are justly entitled. They have every right to assistance by the Government and community to obtain a home but we say to them, “ You are not in a sheltered workshop and you are not looking for a job in a sheltered workshop, so even though you are unable to work, we shall do nothing for you “. The Government should consider extending the provisions of the legislation to bring those people within its ambit.
We know that the organizations which conduct aged persons’ homes do good work. I give credit to the honorable member for Sturt, who is a leading figure in an organization which provides such homes. But it has been mainly the church bodies which have undertaken this work. The honorable member for Sturt chided the honorable member for Grayndler and said that we wanted to put these disabled people into institutions. How can he say that? We want to put them into homes similar to those that have been provided for aged persons in practically every capital city and large town, but I do not think that the provisions of this bill will enable homes to be provided for disabled persons similar to those that are provided for aged persons.
Only last Sunday I attended the opening of extensions to the aged persons’ home in my own district, so my knowledge of this subject is right up to date. At present about 30 people live in the home, which is built with a corridor down the centre and rooms opening off it. I was reminded of Army barracks, although this home was solidly constructed and a really nice place. It has a dining room and a lounge in one section. In addition, provision has been made for seventeen beds in the infirmary. Now that the extensions have been opened the home will care for about 90 persons. The construction of this borne was subsidized under the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act. We claim that homes should be constructed for all disabled persons who cannot look after themselves. I do not have in mind the aged couple - the. wife of, say, 60 and the husband of 65 - who still have their health and strength and who can occupy and look after one of the aged persons’ homes. I have in mind the disabled person who cannot do any work and who very often is unable to look after himself. As the bill now stands, provision will be made for aged persons who are working in sheltered workshops and who obviously can look after themselves. It is all very well to talk about the invalid pensioners, as the honorable member for Sturt did, and to say that years ago these people could earn an income of 10s. a week without affecting their pension. My recollection is that the permissible income was 12s. 6d. a week except for the period when the Lyons Government was in office and decided that for every half-crown the pensioner earned his pension was reduced by a similar amount. I do not suggest that the honorable member’s statement was incorrect, but
I can remember the restrictions that applied in the middle ‘thirties.
Although we are taking a step forward in this bill I believe that we are differentiating or drawing a line of demarcation between disabled persons. I remember that some twelve months after I first entered the State Parliament I was asked what was the thing that struck me most as a member for parliament. I replied: “The thing that has impressed me most of all is the line of demarcation. One person may be entitled to something but because another is just over the line he is not entitled to it. That line of demarcation is what struck me more forcibly than anything else.” It applies to taxation, hospital charges, the right of entry into charitable institutions and to everything else. By this bill we shall draw a line of demarcation between two groups of disabled persons, the group that is engaged in a sheltered workshop and the group that is not. The Government proposes to contribute £2 for every £1 that is required by an organization to construct a home for disabled persons who work in a sheltered workshop, but the other group will have to get on a? well as.it can. The honorable member for Sturt’ asked where the additional finance would be obtained to provide assistance to disabled persons who are not engaged in a sheltered workshop but I do not think that is a major consideration.
The honorable member for Grayndler has stated that if we fail in our proposal to amend the bill at the second-reading stage - candidly I do hot think that we shall succeed because the. Government has sufficient numbers in the House to defeat us - we shall advance our proposals in the committee stage. I appeal to the Government to accede to our request now. Amend the bill to cover all disabled persons, redraft it and present it again next week.
I should like the Minister to reply to one question. The bill refers to organizations approved by the Governor-General which may provide for disabled persons. Can we take it that a strong trade union which has many members who have been injured and consequently are out of work can set up an institution which will come within the ambit of the bill now before us? A union might have perhaps £20,000 which it would be prepared to use, if the Commonwealth contributed £40,000, to house those of its members who had been disabled. We want to know whether such a union would be covered by this legislation. As the honorable member for Grayndler, said, we feel that the provisions of the measure should be extended to allow bodies other than those at present set out in the bill to benefit by the Commonwealth subsidy. We are concerned about the limitation as to the organizations that can’ receive the subsidy for engaging in the housing of disabled persons. Our main desire is that local government authorities may be included among the eligible organizations.
If the benefits under this legislation are extended to cover a wider field than just disabled persons employed in sheltered workshops - the honorable member for Sturt said the Government might take that further step if the legislation comes up for review in another twelve months - we will need more finance than charitable minded people can subscribe to house all those in need. The honorable member for Sturt said that he did not want the legislation to discourage charity. I do not know whether experience of the operation of this measure will be similar to that of the Aged Persons Homes Act. I know persons have sold their homes for a few thousand pounds and have paid perhaps £1,000 or £750 to an organization of the kind which then provides them with a home for life. Only last week a lady came to mc for advice. She said her husband had died several years ago, that she still had her home and that she had been looking at various church homes in the Adelaide area. She gave me the name of the organization which she had decided to approach for accommodation and said that it required her to pay about £850 before it could even put her name on the waiting list. It would then be about three and a half years before she could obtain the accommodation. She wanted to know whether her pension would be affected if she sold her home in order to obtain the £850. At present, living in her own home, she has only £200 or £300 available. The organization which she had approached about accommodation was not concerned how much money she had left after she paid the £850, but she wanted to know what effect selling her home would have on her right to the pension.
Our aged persons homes legislation should be instrumental in making accommodation available to people who really need it. In any of our large cities one can find elderly people who have no money other than the age pension and who are in very poor circumstances. They pay more than half their pension in rent and are just struggling along, but they cannot get the benefits provided by the Government under the act. Government subsidies, in many instances, are not assisting to provide accommodation for those poor people, but are used towards providing accommodation for which people have subscribed.
This legislation does not go as far as it should. Somebody recently spoke to mc about the pressure tactics adopted by various interests to influence the Government. I said that a government - whether this Government or any other government - was always approached by pressure groups, before it brought down its budget. I said that the main objective of these people in approaching the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) within the last few months was. to get some benefit for their own particular section. Honorable members know that there are numerous bodies that approach the Treasurer for taxation concessions, and so on. I have to admit that there is one section of the community in which I am interested and for which I am prepared to do the most battling. I refer to the bottom section, which needs the most help. When I use the expression “ bottom section “ I do not refer to the person who, possibly through no fault of his own, is a boozer and is destitute. I am referring to the family man on an ordinary wage, who is trying to support and educate his children. That is the person in whom I am most interested.
– When are you going to come to the bill?
– Some honorable members opposite are so fond of talking about everything except the matter before the House that they cannot appreciate that what I am saying is leading up to the bill. I am most concerned about the ordinary family man and not the person who can sell a house for perhaps £5,000 and then pay £1,000 to some institution in order to get first choice of a home. I am speaking for the person who has no home to sell, who cannot afford to pay the rent he is paying and who needs a home. Admittedly we are not debating the Aged Persons Homes Act, but I think we should do something for the people to whom I have referred. The Government has acknowledged the need of disabled people engaged in sheltered workshops, but I am not sure how far the provisions of this bill will go.
Let us take the case of a single person who receives the invalid pension and has no other income. What will happen to his pension if he earns more than £3 10s. in a sheltered workshop? The bill will help such a person to a degree, but it is our hope than when the committee stage is reached we will succeed in having its provisions extended to help all disabled people.
The financial effect of the amendments we advocate would not be reckoned in millions of pounds a year, because if an organization could provide home units for as little as £3,000 each it would have to raise £1,000 towards the cost of each unit before the Commonwealth would have to contribute £2,000. I am sure that, while in the initial stages charitable people will be willing to help house disabled persons engaged in sheltered workshops, there will not be any large sums made available to provide them with accommodation. I have already pointed out that a good deal of the money paid by way of subsidy goes to people who are in a position to contribute a fairly large sum towards the capital cost of £2,000. Some years ago some members of my own party suggested, both inside this House and outside it, that people were paying £700 or £800 to get preference of selection for entry to a home. I said at the time that I could not understand that because I had not known it to happen in my own State. But shortly afterwards, the same practice began to grow up there, and accommodation was given to certain people while those who really needed it had no hope of being admitted to homes. I know it can be said that if those people who have paid money to get into the homes should happen to die after entry into the home their interest in the homes becomes the property of the organizations conducting them and the accommodation may be given to others, but in many cases it is a long time before that happens.
I do not know whether I am right but the provision relating to infirmaries would appear to me to be another instance of plundering of the Labour Party’s policy. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) knows that originally the provision applied only to buildings that were erected for occupation by aged persons. By that I mean individual buildings, but after some time the Reverend W. Forsyth was responsible for the taking over of Aldersgate, a big building containing a large number of rooms. In it he accommodated people in rooms. Later he was faced with the problem that when the aged occupants of the rooms became ill and needed medical attention they had to be taken to the hospital and brought back after discharge from hospital. Subsequently, the subsidy was extended to cover infirmaries provided at homes for the aged. The honorable member for Sturt referred to the subsidy paid on moneys expended on the purchase of land for this purpose. This bill makes provision for the payment of a subsidy on money expended on the purchase of land for these homes. I have not seen any specific reference to the matter in the legislation, but I am told that money expended on the purchase of land for the erection of infirmaries for aged persons will also attract the subsidy. If that is so, then that is another step forward in making proper provision for those who are not able to obtain accommodation in hospitals. 1 welcome all these provisions in the legislation because they extend benefits to those who really need help.
I hope that the Government will be prepared to give favorable consideration to our proposal that these benefits should be extended to disabled persons generally. I mean that they should be extended, not to all disabled persons, for that would be impossible, but to those disabled persons who are in need of help and who may be in even greater need than those who are able to work in sheltered workshops.
I should like the Minister to clear up one other point when he replies to the debate. I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Government to make provision for the building of single homes, or whether it is intended that the legislation shall apply only to those cases in which a number of cubicles or structures of the type are erected on the one area of land. I am not clear as to whether the benefit is to be applicable to the erection of single units or whether it is to apply only to those cases in which an organization is providing accommodation for a number of persons in the one building. I support the legislation, but I hope that the Government will accede to our request for its extension.
.- I was highly amused to hear the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) chiding the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) for going back over past history in the field of social services and then going back still further himself. However, I know that the honorable member for Port Adelaide displays a very genuine interest, both inside and outside the House, in social service problems.
It has become evident from the debate so far that members of the Opposition are really whipping the cat in an endeavour to find any grounds upon which to criticize this bill. The bill can be described as a further extension of the Aged Persons Homes Act. I think it is true to say that everybody in this country has come to accept the Aged Persons Homes Act as a major advance in social services, and this measure will be a most welcome addition to that legislation. To date, the Government has expended £18,250,000 in giving effect to its policy of paying a subsidy of £2 for every £1 finally raised by approved organizations, and this has resulted in the provision of 16,500 beds for the accommodation of aged persons. Those figures, I think, speak for themselves. It is now proposed to extend the same form of financial assistance in respect of disabled persons.
– Of special disabled persons.
– That is so. The provision is to be extended to help organizations eligible under the act to meet the capital cost of providing accommodation for disabled persons. The organizations eligible for the assistance are churches, charitable and benevolent bodies and ex-servicemen’s organizations. Incidentally, the honorable member for Port
Adelaide asked whether or not a trade union which used its own funds for the provision of such accommodation might become eligible for assistance. I am told by an officer of the Department of Social Services that there is nothing in the legislation which would debar it from obtaining benefit. In fact, voluntary organizations which do not come within the provisions of the bill can be given assistance, as was stated by the Minister in his second-reading speech.
Certain restrictions do apply to the payment of subsidy. For example, no organization may qualify if it is conducted for the purpose of profit or gain by individual members. A most important point, and one on which the honorable member for Sturt dilated, is that organizations which qualify shall be independent of such Government intrusion, such as a Government appointee on their controlling bodies, although Government appointees may be members so long as they cannot exercise control. That is the clear point of difference between the Government and the Opposition in connexion with this bill. I believe this to be a vital and most desirable principle of the legislation because it means, first, that the voluntary aspect of the organization cannot be lost, secondly, that it cannot lose its identity, thirdly, that the body itself cannot lose control of its own destiny, and fourthly, that Commonwealth assistance cannot be given to intergovernmental grants under the same provision. As I said, I believe all these conditions to be most desirable and in the best interests of the organizations which will be concerned.
I come now to the intended accommodation. The Director-General of Social Services must be satisfied that the intended accommodation is to be used permanently for persons engaged or likely to be engaged in employment in a sheltered workshop. The persons engaged in a sheltered workshop must receive payment for their work, although there is one provision which says that this does not mean that the individual must receive what might be called a normal wage, but must receive some payment, if even only an incentive allowance. The building itself must be declared by the Minister to be a factory or workshop in which all or a substantial number of the employees are disabled.
This proposal was announced on 13th August last by the Treasurer (Mr Harold Holt) in his Budget speech and therefore the legislation will apply to buildings either purchased or being purchased after that date, or buildings proposed to be commenced or purchased after that date. Of course, the persons who will be eligible to benefit will be disabled people. With regard to the qualifications a person requires in order to be able to occupy subsidized accommodation, let me quote from the Minister’s speech. He said -
As sheltered workshops cater mainly for severely disabled persons, who because of the nature and extent of their disability are unable to engage in normal employment, the bill defines a person who may reside in subsidized accommodation as one who is sixteen years of age or over and is permanently incapacitated for work to the degree necessary to qualify for an invalid pension or who is permanently blind. This does not mean that only invalid pensioners can reside in such accommodation but indicates the extent of the disability before an applicant may qualify for residence.
Honorable members can see that the definition of eligibility is not by any means completely rigid.
In order to clear up a point raised by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), I propose to quote again, and for the last time, from the Minister’s speech. In relation to the question of the money which is raised by charitable organizations and its relationship to the Government grant the Minister said -
The aim of the bill is to encourage philanthropic endeavour by providing Government assistance to voluntary effort and for the subsidizing of funds actually raised by an eligible organization and used for (he provision of approved accommodation. A grant may not exceed two-thirds of the capital cost of the approved accommodation. In addition to this, the grant may not exceed twice the moneys actually raised by an eligible organization from donations, appeals, public subscriptions or its own resources. In the bill this intention is expressed negatively, and the amount of the grant is limited to twice the moneys expended or available for expenditure which did not become available as the result of borrowing of these moneys or of the borrowing of other moneys; or moneys which were received from a Government source or a Government authority.
Having dealt with, the provisions of the bill, I want to make one or two general com ments. I believe that the ramifications of the scheme may be very wide. There are many organizations which will be interested in the application of the scheme and I believe it is almost a certainty that one of the vexed questions will be the question of eligibility. I believe that, after some experience of the scheme in operation, the Minister will probably do some revision. He may consider the desirability of appointing a suitable committee to examine the future of the scheme. I feel that each one of us here appreciates that the bill we are discussing now is but a beginning and, once it becomes an act, will need some improvement. 1 would like the Minister to examine the age qualification. At present the minimum qualifying age is sixteen years, but I suggest that some persons less than sixteen years of age, who are physically or mentally retarded, should be considered for eligibility under the scheme. 1 cannot help but feel that in that regard some improvement will be necessary. Young persons who are physically and mentally retarded are entitled to live reasonable lives. Those of us who have had contact with mentally and physically retarded children through charitable organizations, through family life or through friends, know that the most important thing in their lives is that they should be made to feel they are useful members of the community. I believe this will- be one of the valuable results of this scheme and will be a monument to the legislation.
I do not want to speak at great length on this matter but I think I should say that there is in each State a Commonwealth Rehabilitation Committee, and these committees are doing very fine jobs indeed. The major hospitals and some of the smaller hospitals have their own committees to assist disabled persons. Quite a number of voluntary organizations of this kind will be affected by this legislation when it is passed. Rehabilitation of this kind is an endless job, and sometimes a thankless job, but many people realize that the rehabilitation committees and voluntary organizations, with self-sacrifice and great devotion, are doing a remarkable job in helping our less fortunate fellow men and women. I cannot forbear from mentioning that private enterprise and the trade unions also do a remarkable job in their efforts to absorb into industry those who are in any way crippled or maimed. Their efforts are greatly to their credit. However, there remain those people with whom this bill deals. 1 believe this will be a piece of very useful legislation and that we can look forward with pride to its application in the future. I commend the Minister for introducing the bill and wholeheartedly support it.
.- I do not believe there is one member of the Parliament who will oppose the passage of this bill. It certainly will not be opposed by any member on the Labour Party side and I suppose there will not be any opposition from the Government side. That does not mean however, that we are satisfied with the bill. We are worried about it because it seriously limits the number of people who may be advantaged by it. I do not think that the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) are opposed to our point of view. The honorable member for Sturt said to us: “ Do not move any amendments. Let us pass the bill in its present form and use it as a foundation. Later on, we will widen its scope.” The honorable member admitted that the bill is inadequate in its scope. The honorable member for Franklin said that this legislation is but a beginning and will need improvement. That is what the Opposition is saying, but we arc also saying that the bill should be improved now. Those disabled people who will gain no advantage from the bill will find very poor consolation in the words of the honorable member for Sturt and the honorable member for Franklin, who say, in effect: “ Do not try to widen the scope of the bill now. Do not bring in any more people. On some occasion, some day, others will receive advantage.” As I have said, the disabled persons who will gain nothing from this bill will receive very small satisfaction from the speech of the honorable member for Sturt, who is a very good worker in voluntary organizations. The honorable member for Franklin is also a man who has given great public service. Neither of those honorable members offers much satisfaction to the disabled persons who are excluded from the provisions of the legislation.
– You cannot build a top story before you have laid a foundation.
– What is the good of putting down a foundation if you do not erect a building? That is what is happening with this bill, as I propose to demonstrate. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grayndler.
The purpose of the bill is to assist disabled people by helping to provide them with adequate housing. However, it places limits on the persons who are eligible. The bill is described as -
A bill for an act to provide for assistance by the Commonwealth towards the provision of residential accommodation for certain disabled persons.
The key word is “ certain “. The honorable member for Franklin, very carefully and very rightly, explained how the bill restricts the numbers of disabled persons who will receive assistance. That is the important thing. Nobody in this House will be prepared to say a word against the sheltered workshops and the good people who have built them. We all want to support the great voluntary agencies which work in this country. Many of them work internationally. They do tremendous work in supporting the government instrumentalities which aid handicapped persons.
I had the very great privilege of being one of the founders of a sheltered workshop. I am president of an organization that in 1954 established a sheltered workshop for aged and partially disabled people. There are between 60 and 80 people in that sheltered workshop, most of them aged, many of them disabled and quite a number of them mentally retarded. In this sheltered workshop, those people have been able to carry on since 1954, most of them undertaking simple assembly work on manufactured goods. The effect on the people who have been employed in this sheltered workshop has been very marked and has given happiness and contentment to everybody who has had anything to do with the establishment.
People who apply for admission to sheltered workshops, whether aged, mentally retarded or disabled, have usually been reduced to a state in which they are almost hopeless and have no faith in the future. Indeed, most of them almost believe that their lives are at an end and that they are of no use. Many of them have no association with other people in like circumstances. However, when those people are admitted to a sheltered workshop, they make the startling realization that they can be useful and can make some contribution to society. Even after the first day, they go home feeling the great difference in their whole personality. Once more, they feel that they arc part of society - and a useful part, however small may be their contribution. Association day by day with others in like circumstances and the knowledge that they are doing useful work, however simple it may be, give these unfortunate people great satisfaction. In many instances, their lives arc lengthened. To all of them are brought happiness and contentment and the feeling that they are once more useful members of an organized society.
This bill, Sir, will affect only very few people, as I propose to show. I have been made very happy this afternoon by the fine tributes paid to Mr. Bedwin, O.B.E., and Mrs. Bedwin, O.B.E., who are the leaders of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association. They have done magnificent work in this field. I have watched them from the inception of their activities and have seen the effect that their work has had on both young and old people who had felt that their lives were almost completely useless and who have since been rehabilitated because, in sheltered workshops, they have found a purpose in life and learned that they could still make some contribution to society. It is proper that tribute be paid to the Bed wins. Both are themselves paralysed to a very great degree and both arc confined to wheel chairs. Mr. Bedwin, unfortunately, recently had a coronary occlusion. These two fine people have been able to build up this very great institution of sheltered workshops, which now extends all over Australia. In addition, by means of pressure and with the help of some members of the Parliament, they have even been able to get the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to bring in his bill.
This measure, however, Sir, is part of a piecemeal programme. This is the sort of policy that the Government always adopts. When dealing with housing, for example, the Government does not ascertain the need and then try to meet it, but adopts only a piecemeal housing programme. As a result, we have a growing housing problem. The approach to education is similar. At the university level, this Government has done a great deal, although not enough, and it refuses to do anything at all about primary, secondary, or technical education, because it will not look at the whole problem. As a result, these problems will never be completely alleviated and will never wholly disappear. The Government just does not work in that way. The Minister said that the Government was bringing in this bill to assist in providing accommodation for disabled persons. Anything done by the Commonwealth to assist disabled persons is useful. The Government, however, has chosen to help the smallest possible number - between 1,000 and perhaps 1,300 or at most 1,500 or 2,000. That will be the total number of disabled persons throughout Australia in need of assistance who will be helped by this bill.
The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Grayndler envisages that all disabled persons be brought within the scope of this bill. We estimate that there are 50,000 disabled people in Australia who are capable of benefiting by rehabilitation. Yet only about 2 per cent, of that number are at present in sheltered workshops. There are 40, 50 or possibly 60 sheltered workshops in Australia. Estimates of the number of disabled persons in those sheltered workshops vary from 1,000 to 1,500 or, at most, if you like, 2,000. Under the terms of this bill, as at present proposed, £150,000 will be appropriated for the housing of disabled persons. On the basis of a contribution of £2 for £1 by the Government, that pre-supposes that £75,000 will be collected by voluntary organizations that provide homes for people in sheltered workshops. So, altogether, under the Minister’s great and grandiose scheme, which receives a fantastic measure of support from honorable members opposite, a total of £225,000 will be provided this financial year for the provision of homes close to sheltered workshops for disabled people.
The honorable member for Sturt, in a sort of political tirade against the honorable member for Grayndler, said very grandiosely that the Liberal Party of Australia was concerned about providing hostels and that the Australian Labour Party wished to provide institutions. What is the difference between an institution and a hostel? Tks greatest sociologists in the world to-day do not believe in institutions, and neither do I, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that, where possible, people should live in their own self-contained units. Unless they are physically unable to attend to their own needs, they should not be in institutions.
If we think in terms of hostels, the minimum sum needed to provide for each person, in terms of capital expenditure, will be £1,000. So this grandiose scheme, under which a total of £225,000 will be provided this financial year, will provide accommodation for only 225 people. As there are 50,000 disabled persons in Australia who could usefully benefit by rehabilitation in sheltered workshops, what sort of impact on the situation will the provision of accommodation for only 225 make? This honorable member for Franklin and the honorable member for Sturt say: “This measure is pretty good. Leave it alone, even though it needs some improvement. We know that it needs improvement.” We on this side of the chamber, too, know that the bill needs improvement, and we are impatient to see it improved.
I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Sturt use the word “ charity “. That word ought to be struck from the English language. Every disabled citizen has the right to rehabilitation and to government assistance. Who believes in charity in 1963? That is an archaic term that should have been forgotten many years ago. All citizens have a right to be provided for by the community, and any disabled person has a right to be provided by the community with proper accommodation and opportunities for rehabilitation. That is his right, and there is no question of charity.
The Government and the honorable member for Sturt believe that sheltered workshops are very good. They are wonderful, and those who run them deserve the greatest praise from everybody. The honorable member is chairman of the Government Members Social Services Committee. If he thinks that sheltered workshops are so good, why does he not ask the Government to support them? Is it not important to provide sheltered workshops for the rehabilitation of the 50,000 disabled people in Australia? There should be many more than the present 40,. 50 or 60 sheltered workshops. Why does not the
Government adopt a realistic attitude? Why is it not far-sighted enough to realize that sheltered workshops for the rehabilitation of disabled persons will cost, not more, but less, because the cost of maintaining institutions and accommodating disabled people in them will be saved?
– And the Government will be be relieved of the payment of invalid pensions.
– Yes, the Government will be relieved of the payment of invalid pensions. I thank the honorable member for that interjection.
There are in Australia 100,000 aged people who are entitled to accommodation provided under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act. The honorable member for Franklin said that this measure is similar to that act. However, does that act discriminate between people in the way in which this bill will discriminate? Does that act, for example, provide that only persons with red hair or old people with warts on their noses shall be entitled to assistance? Under the terms of that act, does the Government try to define the categories eligible for assistance in the way in which that is attempted in the measure now before us? There is no analogy between the two pieces of legislation except that each provides for a subsidy on the basis of a government contribution of £2 for £ 1 . Is the Government telling the people of Australia that it is doing something for disabled people and in reality restricting the application of the terms of this measure to only 1,000 or 1,200 people? It is picking out the 1,000 or 1,200 whom I am delighted will get support, but it is saying to the other 50,000, “ There is no support for you under this bill. There is no hope for you if you are not working in a sheltered workshop. If you are not fortunate enough to be able to work in a sheltered workshop you cannot get any support or a home.”
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) pointed out that there are disabled people who cannot get work, that there are some who cannot even use their hands and legs, paraplegics. They cannot get any assistance for housing under this bill. At least 25,000 disabled people need homes, and I ask why the Government will not extend its legislation to cover Slate instrumentalities, local government instrumentalities or any other bodies ‘that’ can find money to give disabled people homes at the least possible cost. State housing authority rents are too high for these people. Everybody knows that when the Chifley Government instituted the first Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement it provided for a rental rebate scheme for invalid and aged persons, so that they could obtain homes at weekly rentals amounting to one-sixth of their pensions. But when the Menzies Government renewed the agreement in 1955 the rebate system was abolished, so that the only opportunity for invalid or aged persons to obtain homes through State housing authorities with the assistance of Commonwealth money was completely removed. Although some provision was made for some aged persons to get into homes provided under the £2-for-£l scheme, invalid pensioners were denied the opportunity of obtaining homes under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
– What about the rebate of interest?
– The Minister for the Army is talking about interest, but he should be thinking about taking an interest in disabled people. I am showing an interest in disabled people because I am an Australian and I want what is best for Australians. I believe there is an obligation on every citizen to make a contribution to those who are less fortunate - and not as an act of charity but as an act of duty.
Under the Aged Persons Homes Act there is no provision for the Commonwealth Government to subsidize State governments for money spent in providing homes for aged persons. New South Wales has built more than 1,000 of these units in the last three years. It built 360 last year, but there is still a waiting list of 7,000 or 8,000. Similar conditions exist in other States, because the limited finance available to the States does not allow them to build enough of these home units. If the Government was serious in its desire to help old people it would provide that State governments receive the benefit of the subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act, just as it would provide that State governments should benefit under the terms of this bill.
The Minister said in his second-reading speech that if a State government makes a contribution to a voluntary organization for the purposes set out in the bill, then that contribution will not attract the £2-for-£l grant by the Commonwealth. If a voluntary organization is able to plead with a State government and get support for this very worthwhile project, and the State Government says, “ We will give you £10,000 towards this scheme “-
– They frequently do - not the New South Wales Government but all other State governments.
– But you will not give the grant of £2 for £1. That is what I am complaining about. I say that if a voluntary organization collects, say, £30,000, it should be given the grant of £2 for £1, irrespective of where it gets the money from. But the bill provides the restriction; it says, “We will give you £2 for every £1 provided by you, except in respect of money made available by the State governments “.
There are some clauses in the bill that worry me exceedingly. Clause 4 says -
Where the Minister is satisfied that -
This means that if only one person who is 85 per cent, incapacitated is employed in a factory it cannot be considered a sheltered workshop, because all or most of the persons employed in it are not disabled persons. In that case the benefits provided under this bill are not available to that one person.
Let me give the House some details of a case I have in mind in this connexion. The central figure in this case is a young man who was knocked over by a motor car when going to a meeting of a unit of the Citizen Military Forces. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) ought to be interested in this, because he knows something about the case. This young man was involved in a very serious accident. The Army took control and had him admitted to the Yaralla hospital, where his life was despaired of. But somehow he survived and finally he went to Mr Wilga. He was paid compensation, and I have no complaint about the Army’s treatment of him.
Suddenly he left Mr Wilga of his own volition. He was in a wheel chair and he was taken home, where he lived under very poor conditions. He went back to the firm that had employed him previously. This firm was a benevolent employer, and although he is more than 85 per cent, incapacitated, being paralysed from the chest down and barely having the use of his hands, the organization decided to give him some employment. It found simple tasks for him. He has great courage and dedication, and he is working again for the firm that had employed him prior to the accident.
This young man and his family live in a fairly dilapidated little house, and they cannot get money to provide new accommodation under this legislation. He is more than 85 per cent, disabled, as the Department of the Army and the Department of Social Services have recognized. He has rehabilitated himself and is now doing simple work in the factory in which he is employed; yet this legislation specifically precludes him from obtaining a subsidy towards the provision of a home. If a church or a voluntary organization were to collect money to provide him with a residence the Commonwealth would not make the grant of £2 for £1. Why is he considered differently from the other 1 ,200 who will benefit from the legislation? This is a clause that I think the Minister should pay some attention to.
Clause 5 is a reasonably proper provision, but sub-clause (1.) says -
. an organization is eligible for assistance under this Act if -
Most sociologists throughout the world, and many graduates in social welfare in universities that have such faculties, are of the opinion that it is very beneficial for groups of people to find their own rehabilitation, to get together and plan for the future. That is why I am concerned about this clause. If a co-operative is formed of disabled persons, within the definition of this bill, and they decide to set up a sheltered workshop, they are not eligible for the benefits of the legislation because they will be getting wages from the workshop. They wil] not be able to claim the subsidy of £2 for £1 towards the provision of accommodation. The Minister should encourage the formation of co-operatives among disabled people. Some of them are only physically disabled. Many are not mentally disabled or retarded and are quite able to look after themselves if given the proper encouragement. For that reason I arn quite upset about this clause.
I join with the honorable member for Franklin in his comments on the failure to provide for children under the age of sixteen years. There are many cases of disabled children of fourteen or fifteen years of age, and even much younger children, whose parents are in desperate straits. Because of the condition of the children the parents may wish to live near a hospital or some other place where the children can get treatment. They are not eligible for assistance under the legislation because the bill specifically states that it is to apply only to persons sixteen years of age and over. I thought the honorable member for Franklin made a most worthwhile contribu-tion in his discussion of what is a very, serious social problem, and I am hoping that his words, if not mine, will have a serious effect on the Minister, who certainly looks serious enough most of the time. I hope that he will heed the words of the honorable member for Franklin and make these benefits available in the case of children under sixteen years of age.
The cost of hospital accommodation is very high, and the establishment of sheltered workshops means that many people who are now in institutions can be taken out of those institutions, because the sheltered workshops can educate them so that they will have a utility value in the community. Many disabled persons are to-day confined to what are called mental institutions because no other institution is available in which to place them. Many young people are in State homes for old people or in institutions which should be reserved for mentally retarded people. There is nowhere else they can go, and in many cases their families cannot properly look after them and provide for them.
Let us look at the cost of maintaining disabled persons in hospitals. A recent survey in New South Wales shows that the average annual cost per person on gross maintenance expenditure after deduction of contributions such as pension is, in respect of the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick, £1,800. In respect of the Lidcombe State Hospital the cost is £487. In respect of the Callan Park Mental Hospital the cost is £438. The average cost in any State hospital is £638. The cost in the Newington State Hospital is £568. Is this not a short-sighted policy. Would we not save more than the costs incurred by those hospitals if we were able to extend this bill to enable more people to obtain accommodation in the institutions for which the bill provides and to find useful work? Aside altogether from the human problem and the problem of efficiency, is this not something that concerns the Government? If the capital cost of one unit is £1,000, the cost to the Commonwealth would be £666, 13s. 4d. So for every person who goes off the pension the saving to the Commonwealth would equal in three years the capital cost. For every person who, by the use of this accommodation, avoids going to an institution, the capital cost will be absorbed in the first eighteen months. For every person who can leave hospital the i capital cost will be liquidated in twenty weeks. If you add to this the gain from income taxes and indirect taxes, plus the increase in overall productivity, you find that an astonishing profit in pounds shillings and pence will accrue to the Government if assistance is given to build more sheltered workshops and to provide generally for the rehabilitation of disabled people. These propositions are not new. As the honorable member for Grayndler has said, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has had a motion referring to this matter on the notice-paper for a long time. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has had a similar motion on the notice-paper since 1961. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allah Fraser) had a similar motion on the noticepaper on which some debate took place. Honorable members will remember that when the debate was instituted on the motion of the honorable member for EdenMonaro the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) did everything that he could to hamper discussion on the motion.
I read in this morning’s newspaper that yesterday at the meeting of the Government parties the honorable member for Mackellar was pilloried and criticized by some of his colleagues for having the impertinence to foreshadow amendments which would have the effect of widening the scope of this bill. The honorable member for Mackellar is treated almost as a pariah by his colleagues. He sits in this chamber at the extreme rear of his party’s section and almost no other member of his party is prepared to speak to him. As far as this legislation is concerned I think the honorable member for Mackellar is honest. He is anxious to help disabled people. But what has happened? He has been sent to Coventry. He does not have the courage even to listen to the debate in this place - a debate on a subject in which he has been interested for a long time. His seat in this place is empty. Somebody should place a wreath over his seat bearing the inscription “ Here lies an honest man pilloried and criticized by his colleagues “.
The problem with which we are dealing in this measure is a social problem. I have referred to the financial problem, but think of the social problem. Think of the problem of rehabilitation. Think how important these things are to the disabled. Is it not dreadful to think that people born with a deformity or who meet with a serious accident may spend the remainder of their lives as invalids without hope or faith in the future? Some terrible tragedies happen to people. When tragedy struck the thalidomide babies only pressure from the Labour Party brought some reaction from the Minister for Health. The problem of the disabled is a human problem, but who wants to face up to a human problem? Think of the profit to be gained by rehabilitating somebody who thinks that he has no future in life. Think of the profit to society and the individual in terms of productivity if the disabled are assisted to find gainful employment. Think of the real feeling of human kindness that will result from the rehabilitation of disabled people who have been ignored by the Government. The fact that now the Government will recognize about 1,200 out of the 50,000 or more disabled persons in the community is of little satisfaction to the remaining 48,000-odd. lt is of little satisfaction to them to know that the Government has chosen about 1,200 handicapped persons to be assisted. Is it not sad and sorry and a grievous situation for them to sit back in their wheelchairs or to lie back in their invalid beds in institutions and realize that the Minister for Social Services has once again ignored them? I hope that even at this late stage the Minister will heed the words of the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and the honorable member for Franklin, who said that the bill does not go far enough. The Opposition hopes that the bill will be improved. I hope that the Minister will heed what the honorable member for Grayndler said and, immodest as it may seem, I hope that he will heed what I have said and will redraft the bill and bring down something worth while.
.- The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld) waxed eloquent about this bill. The bill is a simple one. As the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said -
The purpose of this bill is to enable the Commonwealth to make grants to religious, benevolent and other approved welfare organizations to assist them in providing accommodation for disabled persons working in sheltered workshops so that they may reside near their places of employment.
Despite the bill’s simplicity the honorable member for Phillip found all sorts of faults in the bill. He criticized the bill and even went so far as to say that the very thought of charity is abhorrent to him.
– I said “ the word charity “.
– If the honorable member will consult his Bible he will find that the meaning of charity is love.
– That is an archaic meaning.
– If love is embodied in this bill and is part of the purpose of the bill - if it is in everything associated with sheltered workshops - it is not an archaic thought; it is a permanent thought running in the hearts of men, such as the man who wrote to me from the Dubbo sheltered workshop and said - i have been associated with “ Westhaven “
School for Handicapped Children and Dubbo
Sheltered Workshop since its inception and it is with pleasure and a feeling of relief that at last some move is being made to assist financially.
Has he not a love for the handicapped children? Is he not displaying charity in devoting his time and love to helping those people who are not as well off as many of us? That is the purpose of this bill.
The honorable member for Phillip said that the bill is restricted somewhat in its application. He said that the bill should be drafted along the lines of the Aged Persons Homes Act. I think the bill is very largely based on the Aged Persons Homes Act. There are some restrictions in the bill. There were restrictions applying to the Aged Persons Homes Act. The subsidy was limited under that act to buildings for people of pensionable age. This bill is intended to apply to a specific section of people - not only people who are handicapped but also people who are working in sheltered workshops. Perhaps the bill does not go far enough, but at least it is a start on this great problem which has been tackled by individuals without any assistance from governments. I refer to the lack of assistance from governments because I doubt whether the State governments assist very much in this matter. They may be providing some assistance in the field of education, but they do not do much to assist with the day-to-day problems.
The bill will, by the provision of a subsidy, assist those organizations of an approved standard which are prepared to build hostels in order that the people who are employed in a sheltered workshop will not have to travel great distances to their work. The bill will enable the organizations to build hostels close to the workshops. In line with the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act this bill will enable people who work in sheltered workshops to live near their places of work. When the Aged Persons Homes Bill was being debated I said that one of its great virtues was that people would not have to go away to metropolitan areas; that they would not have to be taken from the surroundings in which they had lived and in which they expected to spend the evening of their lives; that they would be able to live in surroundings with which they were familiar; that they would wake up in the morning and see the sun shining through the gum trees and not through haze and fog; that they would hear the birds singing in the trees; and that their friends from close by would be able to visit them. That is exactly what has happened. When that bill was introduced it was criticized by the Opposition; but it has been a magnificent success. It has been such a success that the voluntary contributions offered to the various funds that have been set up are putting great pressure on the Government in regard to the payment of the subsidy; but the Government is playing its part very well.
By the introduction of this measure we have made a start in the provision of hostels to accommodate people employed in sheltered workshops. I pay great tribute to the people who have been associated with two such establishments in my electorate - the Westhaven school for handicapped children and the Dubbo sheltered workshop. The latter establishment is now employing some 28 or 30 people. I have had the privilege of going around and seeing them at work. I saw mentally retarded and physically handicapped people doing jobs with smiles on their faces and being encouraged by people who voluntarily give their time to assist these people with their work and to keep this grand establishment going. It is a great joy for those voluntary helpers to know now that if they can raise sufficient money, in conjunction with the £2 for £1 subsidy that will be provided by the Government, they will be able to build a hostel. At present many of the disabled people are conveyed to the sheltered workshop in a bus which is provided by the Westhaven school. Instead of those people having to be transported for long distances by bus, they will be able to live close to the sheltered workshop. These homes will be established in country towns - not in the metropolitan area, not away from the people’s homes; but in the towns in which their families live.
The children are given a rehabilitation type of education and vocational training. Then they graduate to the sheltered workshop in which they perform very useful tasks. Honorable members might be interested to hear some of the things that these people do in the Dubbo sheltered workshop. I realize that the bill does not relate strictly to this, but it will enable the people who do these jobs to live near their workshop. That will be of great benefit to them. They do cane work, such as making baskets and trays, repairs to mechanical toys, the wrapping of newspapers, car cleaning, the mending of wheat bags, making show dolls, furniture repairs, painting, leather work such as saddles, cattle canes, trotting boots and bridle repairs, stamp sorting and packaging, ironing, the collection and sale of rags, domestic mending, the tying of strings for abattoirs - the local abattoirs require a lot of strings to be tied - making photo wallets and work on roofing screws for plumbers.
That is particularly interesting. A roofing screw has a washer. Normally the plumber puts his hand in his bag, gets a washer, gets the screw, puts the two together and screws them in. But often in doing that the washer falls off and rolls down the roof, so he has to get another washer. These disabled people make a particular type of screw which holds the washer on the screw. That is just one of the ingenious things that are being done in the Dubbo sheltered workshop. The work also includes the dismantling of cordial cases and the packaging of parts. About 30,000 cases have been handled. These people are going in for gardening and are making cartons for groceries at the rate of about 1,000 a week. And so the varied list of the jobs that these people are doing goes on. When we look at these people we wonder whether they would be able to do anything at all. Yet they have a joy in life.
Our job now is to come to their aid and help to build a hostel so that they may be accommodated near their workshop. The first point is that the hostel should be near the sheltered workshop. These hostels should not be restricted to a particular part of a State. They should be available throughout Australia and particularly in country districts. Provision for that is made in the bill.
There is certainly a need to assist children under sixteen years of age. As honorable members know, this legislation does not provide for hostels to be built for children under that age. That has been questioned. At first, I thought that this was a bit of a problem because younger children might be very much in need of hostels and treatment. But I believe that honorable members, on mature consideration, will realize that there comes a time when we have to say that we will not impinge on the States’ privileges and powers. People over sixteen years of age obviously are within the scope of assistance granted by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Social Services. The necessity for education is not overlooked, but the suggestion is that that might well receive more consideration from the State governments. They have the responsibility of education. They can extend their activities into the field of education for handicapped children, which would include vocational training and, at a later stage, rehabilitation insofar as children would not be required to go into a sheltered workshop on leaving school. They might be able to take a job in outside industry and become useful members of the community. If they are not capable of doing that, the sheltered workshops are provided for them. The Commonwealth is assisting in the provision of hostels so that such people will be able to live near their places of employment.
As I said before, I do not consider that this bill requires a great deal of attention at all. It is. a good bill. It is based on good, solid and sound charitable principles. I use the word “ charitable “ in the sense in which it is properly understood; that is, giving it the meaning that I applied to it earlier in my speech. No doubt amendments could be made to the legislation and will be made as time goes on. When any new measure or new idea is introduced into this House, it is not uncommon, in the process of time, to see that alterations and improvements can be made. In fact, improvements have been made in the Aged Persons Homes Act. In my opinion, this legislation will prove to be equally as satisfactory as that act. I have no hesitation in suggesting that honorable members should not look for little flaws and little odds and ends. I know very well that the average member of this House is not averse to this type of assistance being given to people. Therefore, honorable members should not try to pick holes in this legislation, but rather should give credit to the Government and to the Minister for Social Services, who introduced it.
.- This legislation arises out of the fact that to-day denser population, the increase in the pace and stress of living, more lethal automobiles and’ a spread of mechanization in domestic, social and sporting spheres are all adding to the number of people whose health breaks down or who suffer injuries which in many cases qualify them for pensions. In considering this legislation, I suggest that, first, we should look at the nature and dimensions of the problem that has to be solved; secondly, we should examine the requests that have been made to the Government by interested bodies; thirdly, we should look at what other countries are doing about problems similar to the one that confronts us; and finally, we should look at the legislation itself.
In regard to the need to assist physically handicapped and mentally retarded people, the problem is stated very clearly by Dr. R. G. Robinson in an article entitled “ Problems of the Physically Handicapped “ in the March, 1963, issue of a magazine called “Fortitude”. As the title of the article indicates, Dr. Robinson is referring specifically to the problem of physically handicapped persons. He has this to say -
A change in the attitude of the community at all levels and in all spheres, towards the handicapped is required. Optimum functional recovery from incapacity must be mandatory, and failure to become maximally self-sufficient must become socially unacceptable.
The problem is further highlighted by another eminent authority in this field, no less than Howard Rusk, Director of the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, New York University Medical Centre. He stated the problem quite dramatically in economic terms as follows: -
If we do not do something about using the disabled, the chronically ill, and the older age group in our economy, by 1980, for every able-bodied worker in America, there will be one physically handicapped, one chronically ill, or one beyond the age of 65 on that worker’s back.
He suggests that over one-half the population will be in this non-working category. Just to bring home the importance of the whole problem of getting these people back to work and the economic gains that are to be obtained from it, Dr. Robinson went on to say -
Disabled persons, when given the opportunity, are almost fanatically keen to prove their worth and to measure up to or to surpass the healthy worker’s standards.
According to reliable estimates about onehalf per cent, of our population could benefit from the services of sheltered workshops. This estimate - very conservative when compared with the estimates made by other people - would lead us to believe that there are 52,500 people in Australia capable of benefiting from these workshops. I have heard the figure 50,000 quoted. All these are only estimates and in our own case in Australia are based on what has been found by a close analysis in comparable countries overseas, notably Canada and to a lesser extent the United States.
Other people make their estimate as high as 1 50,000, basing it on the figure of 50,000 physically handicapped people in the community capable of benefiting by sheltered workshops and another 100,000 who are mentally retarded but would also be capable of benefiting. I am rather inclined to think that this second estimate of 150,000 is the more reliable. I point out that I am not using this figure for any political purpose. We have to take into account that even to-day there is still a natural reluctance of parents to exhibit their mentally retarded sons or daughters to the community. However, whether there be 50,000 or 150,000 people involved, there is a great problem in terms not only of economic wastage but also of the loss of human happiness in our community. It is this which is so important. lt is a case not only of putting them back into productive effort so that they can become independent, but it is a case also of effecting a saving in the ever-increasing bill for social services. About 26 per cent, of our national budget is being devoted to repatriation and social service benefits. Any saving that can be effected will be our gain, especially as we recognize that an everincreasing proportion of our community has been in the older age group. Admittedly our immigration programme has been something of a counter to that trend.
We have to consider not only the increasing allocations of funds for repatriation and social service benefits but also the very considerable amount that is being paid out in workers’ compensation benefits. Any enlightened effort that can be made to reduce the number of people who are involved in prolonged dependence on workers’ compensation benefits will be not only to their benefit, in terms of self-respect and economic welfare, but also will be greatly to the community’s benefit. Thus we must bear in mind the cost involved in providing medicine, hospital treatment and compensation payments as well as social service and repatriation benefits. The community ‘has a very great stake from the economic viewpoint in getting these people back to work. Despite the use to which the word “ charitable “ was put earlier this afternoon, I think that we are all of a charitable bent to the extent that we have compassion for individuals who are mentally retarded. Sometimes I think that the parents deserve more of our compassion than do the unfortunate individuals. We must remind ourselves of the medical findings that mental retardation can happen in any family. It does not select the rich or the poor, the uneducated instead of the educated. Any segment of society can be afflicted. We all feel very relieved that this has not happened in our own families and involved us in the travail and burden that has come to those unfortunate enough to have this happen to them. I think that problem has been highlighted enough. I pass now to the requests which have been made by the interested bodies - very laudable voluntary bodies - to the Government and to the community at large to help solve this problem. First of all, they have asked for a Commonwealth subsidy for the building of suitable homes for the disabled, similar to the homes which have been built under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act. Secondly, they ‘have asked for a Commonwealth subsidy for the capital costs and running costs of sheltered workshops. Thirdly, they have asked for Government assistance by way of work contracts to keep these sheltered workshops in business. Fourthly, they have asked for assistance in the training of personnel to administer the centres and to give guidance to those who are working in the sheltered workshops. This may involve the part-time employment of social workers and psychologists to give professional guidance. Rehabilitation has much more than an economic connotation. It involves social, mental and psychological rehabilitation. The regaining of self-respect is probably the most important target in any such programme.
Having noted the requests, and before turning to the legislation, let us look at what some other countries have done in relation to this problem. In 1962 the Netherlands Government spent the equivalent of £A. 18,000,000 on the rehabilitation of people regarded as invalids or who normally would receive an invalid pension. Though Australia spent £157,900,000 on age ‘and invalid pensions, by contrast it spent only £750,000 on the rehabilitation of physically handicapped and mentally retarded persons. In other words, Australia spent .26 per cent, of its allocation to social services on rehabilitation work. AH of this work was done through the agency of rehabilitation centres conducted by the Department of Social Services. In a moment I shall refer to how effective that section of the department has been in coping with the problem.
In Britain the central government has subsidized sheltered workshops very heavily as well as making provision for homes for disabled persons. That government extends benefits to a whole range of voluntary organizations by giving them capital assistance and helping to meet their running costs. In addition to that, that Government has set up a public committee consisting of persons chosen for their eminence in various spheres of life - medical knowledge, business administration and all sorts of special capacities. They have been drawn together to run a large enterprise called “ Remploy Limited “. This body - I speak from memory - is given assistance of the order of £1,000,000 a year towards the capital and running cost of its great enterprise. The organization is reaching the stage where it will be able to pay its own way from the profits it makes out of its own business. A little later, in another context, I will refer to what the British Government does in making contracts available to sheltered workshops. There is a great lesson for this Government to learn from that source.
In April of this year, the British Government announced a ten-year good Samaritan drive, costing £200,000,000, to improve health and social services. Included in that programme was the allocation of £46,000,000 for centres to care for mentally sub-normal and mentally ill citizens. In addition, that government is to provide £7,000,000 for centres which will cater for physically handicapped persons, by way of sheltered workshops.
Even more dramatic than what the British Government has done is the work being carried out by the federal government of the United States of America at the behest of President Kennedy himself. In that country there is the world renowned President’s committee, dealing with the welfare of the mentally handicapped and mentally retarded. Even quite dramatic figures in foreign currencies do not mean a great deal to us, but they do give some indication of the awareness of problems. In the United States, 128,000,000 dollars was allocated this year by the federal government to deal with mental retardation. Another 23,000,000 dollars was specifically allocated for research and professional training in activities related to mental retardation. Incidentally, it has been found that one out of every 30 children in America is mentally retarded. It has also been found this unfortunate happening pays no respect to social or economic class but can occur in any family in the community. The incidence of mental retardation has been found to be greater among the poorer sections of the community mainly because mothers in those sections have not had the pre-natal and post-natal care which seems to be so desirable.
The President’s committee found, further, that mental retardation occurred with greater frequency in premature babies and that, in turn, premature birth occurred more often in low income groups where expectant mothers received inadequate prenatal and maternity care. The committee, therefore, has asked the States to help local government bodies and voluntary aid organizations to locate the areas in which the federal government should make special grants available for prevention programmes in order to cut down the incidence of mental retardation resulting from premature births.
Holland has an outstanding programme to deal with mentally retarded and physically handicapped people. Not far behind that country are the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden. I recently had the pleasure of visiting some of those countries. What local government bodies there do for elderly people and mentally and physically retarded people with the finance provided by the central governments is an eye opener. There, again, the central government plays the important part in planning and financing the programme. Those governments do not rely only on voluntary organizations, but also give assistance to local government bodies to do some of the work. This is one of the purposes of the amendments which we intend to move when the bill is in the committee stage. We think there is a place for governmental action not only in financing but also in actually carrying on sheltered workshops and establishing hostels under supervision if the work is not done by voluntary bodies. 1 will now be brash and perhaps stick my head out, by saying that even though I recognize the amount of goodwill in the community and respect the good work done by charitable organizations, I have great misgivings that voluntary bodies, even with considerable government subsidies, will not be able to cope with the dimensions of this problem as we see it. I think that any suggestion to the contrary is simply an excuse for leaning back on the oars and not taking on the responsibility that government ought to take. By all means give every encouragement to church and other voluntary organizations to do these things but, whatever the result of their efforts, I think there is room for governmental action as well and it should not be restricted to subsidies. I know that the voluntary bodies do not share my opinion in this respect. They think they can do the task and the challenge is there.
The voluntary organizations have had much more notable success in dealing with the problem than have governmental agencies. Last year I asked the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) a number of questions about rehabilitation centres established in the capital cities under the Department of Social Services and what the Government was doing to help to rehabilitate physically handicapped people. The question arose out of a statement by Mr. Bedwin; he and his wife are co-administrators of the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association. He said that if we tackled this problem as it should be tackled there would be not a cost to the community, but a tremendous economic gain
I asked the Prime Minister what he thought were the chances of increasing governmental action to make this kind of saving possible. He was most pessimistic about the possibility of the gain which Mr. Bedwin thought would be made. He said that in 1961-62, 1,623 persons from sixteen to nineteen years of age - this seems to be the most rehabilitatable, if I may use that word, group of people - were examined by the rehabilitation section of the Department of Social Services. The section considered that only 4.3 per cent., or 71 of those 1,623 young fellows, were suitable for rehabilitation assistance. It would seem to be enough to suppress any one’s optimism about what can be done by rehabilitation to find that in such a youthful group only a small percentage were suitable.
Then my feelings got a lift. I visited the Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association’s sheltered workshop at Camperdown, in Sydney. Besides seeing it in operation I was told that, over the last five years, 502 persons had been put through that centre, all of them having previously been rejected by the rehabilitation section of the Department of Social Services as unsuitable for rehabilitation. I was told that of the 502 persons 102 had been totally rehabilitated so that they were able to go back into normal full-time employment. In other words, 20 per cent, of them were fully rehabilitated to take their places in normal employment. Of the remaining 400, it was possible to rehabilitate 200 to employment to the extent of 40 per cent, effectiveness. These were all people who had been rejected by the governmental agency as being unsuitable for rehabilitation. I think it is a tribute to the persistence, compassion, enthusiasm, dedication and zeal of these voluntary organizations that they were able to achieve those results.
Admittedly, the governmental agency can work with them for only from thirteen to twenty weeks. If they are not successful in that time, the persons concerned are out, but these voluntary bodies are prepared to persist with them for up to two, three and even more years. So I think they have something in their favour when they say that they are better able to treat cases of this kind than is the governmental agency, although I do not think that is necessarily so. I think it just means that from a governmental point of view we need a new approach. One of the things which the Government certainly could do is carry out an infinitely greater amount of research into the whole problem of the causes, incidence, prevention and treatment of mental retardation and of the plight of physically handicapped people.
The limiting factors in this legislation are first that it is restricted to those disabled people who are employed in or who apply to be employed in sheltered workshops. I suppose that cuts out perhaps 70 per cent, of people who otherwise would be eligible. These people are human beings, and in many cases they want to remain in their own family circles. Although many of them will be seeking housing accommodation, there are many who will not be doing so. The second restriction is that the bill excludes all those physically disabled or mentally retarded people who are not able to work at all and who are not able to make an effective application for entry to sheltered workshops. For the life of us, we of the Opposition cannot understand why the Government should bring all aged persons within the ambit of the Aged Persons Homes Act and yet, when drafting this legislation relating to people who are probably more urgently in need of help, impose the tremendously severe limitation that they must be in sheltered workshops or be about to enter them. Then there is a further limitation in the small number of sheltered workshops that exist. One would imagine that a government that really wanted to deal with this problem would have come down with a comprehensive programme along the lines of that suggestion by the voluntary bodies who have suggested that along with the provision of these housing conditions for those who need them in order to work in the sheltered workshops the Government should say, “ We will make sure that there are adequate workshops available for all disabled persons desirous of entering them “. But not one penny is provided for the establishment or running of sheltered workshops. In fact, if the whole programme is to succeed one of the most urgent needs is the provision of a capital subsidy and a running cost subsidy for sheltered workshops. If that is not done - and this Government has neither done it nor shown any willingness to do it - it simply means that the legislation pro viding for the housing needs of these people will be infinitely more limited than it ought to be. This money to be provided in this legislation may be likened to a drop in the ocean, a grain of sand on the shore; it will enable the Government merely to touch the edge of the problem. Such limitations are not imposed under the Aged Persons Homes Act, yet in this legislation, which is designed to deal with a more urgent social problem and which could make for greater economic gain for the community, we have the severe limiting factors that people who are unable to go to a sheltered workshop will not be accommodated at all and many of those who are able to go and who want to go will not be able to do so because there are no workshops provided for them.
Apparently the Government estimates that its present proposal will cost it £150,000 which, together with £75,000 to be contributed by approved societies, makes a total of £225,000. I think it costs something like £2,000 a head to accommodate the people for whom the measure is designed, and it could easily be that the cost of this kind of housing would be greater than that of normal housing.
– You know it does not cost that. °
– I speak subject to correction. On a conservative estimate that means that we shall be able to accommodate about 225 persons out of a community of between 50,000 and 150,000 eligible persons.
– That is 225 at £1,000 a head.
Mr. REYNOLDS__ Yes. That gives some idea of the dimensions of the Government’s bequest and of the tremendous limitations imposed on the whole scheme.
As my time is running out, there are one or two matters to which I should like to make fairly quick reference. The first relates to the structure of the hostels, homes or whatever they may be, that are to be built. I have been told by the voluntary organizations that they hope that the Government will not impose the same rigid kind of controls with regard to the structure of the hostels as it apparently applies under the Aged Persons Homes Act. This has some relevance to what the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) had to say about rules and regulations. Apparently a single room must be provided for each person under the Aged Persons Homes Act. The Civilian Maimed and Limbless Association, and other bodies, have indicated to me that they hope that this requirement will not be imposed upon them because, while they do think it desirable in many cases for persons to have their own rooms, there are cases in which, because of the disabilities of the people concerned, it is very often desirable for a couple of them to share a room. For instance, people without arms can ‘be assisted by somebody else who has arms. Again, people hi wheel chairs can be helped by somebody else who is friendly to them and sharing the same accommodation, people who have disabilities complementary to their own. In those cases, the occupants could help one another greatly.
These organizations also reiterate the importance of sheltered workshops together with the provision of government contracts. Those sheltered workshops that are already in existence, to say nothing of those thai must come into existence if we are to deal with this problem effectively, badly need government contracts. I am sure it will interest honorable members to know that the British Government gives priority of contracts to bodies of this kind. When public tenders are to be advertised, all these organizations have to be informed, and if they can supply at a price equal to the lowest tender, they must get at least a share of the contract. That is mandatory. I have a copy of the programme of the British Ministry of Labour in connexion with this matter which I commend very strongly to this Government.
In conclusion, I could sum up in no better way than did President Kennedy in his message on mental illness and mental retardation to the United States Congress when he said -
We as a nation have long neglected the mentally ill and the mentally retarded. This neglect must end, if our nation is to live up to its own standards of compassion and dignity and achieve the maximum use of its manpower.
The same could be said, of course, about the physically retarded.
.- When I emphasize that this is a bill for an act to provide for assistance by the Commonwealth towards the provision of residential accommodation for certain disabled persons I believe that I answer largely a number of the points raised by the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) who preceded me. This is not a proposal that is proffered by the Commonwealth Government to solve all of the problems of disabled people in one fell swoop. I shall show, I trust, in the remarks that I am about to make, that this is a genuine attempt to introduce for the first time another humanitarian measure which will be hailed not only by the unfortunate people who will benefit, but also by those members of the general public who have a mind and would turn that mind to thinking for other people. This Government has been praised throughout Australia and beyond for its humanitarian concept of the Aged Persons Homes Act. This House is well aware of how that act came to be introduced. It commenced as an idea. It came into this House as a very small piece of legislation, based upon a subsidy from the Commonwealth Government of £1 for £1. To-day, after quite a number of years’ operation on the basis of £2 for £1, it is providing acceptable modern accommodation for aged people in capital cities and virtually every main provincial town. I think that honorable members are well aware that at least £18,000,000 has new been expended under that act, after such a small beginning.
This bill, in my opinion - I am quite firm in my belief - will prove to be just as successful. In the initial year provision is made for an amount of £150,000 to be made available. But let me re-emphasize what the Minister said in his second-reading speech. He made it plain enough, I suggest, for the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) to remember what he said. He made it clear that should the demand exceed £150,000, no restriction will be placed on the number of applications for subsidy and on the total subsidy involved. This is a matter of estimating. How difficult it is for any government to say what the demand will be in the initial year of a subsidy. The demand in this case may be for £500,000, but we do not know. It is estimated, purely as a guide, that £150,000 will suffice for the first year. Perhaps it is wise to commence a scheme of this kind in a small way and gradually develop it. I join with the honorable member for Barton in saying I am sure that, as the years go by and as the Government finds that it has gained valuable experience, that its encouragement of voluntary organizations has been accepted and that such organizations have been inspired to go further in their planning, we will see brought into effect many of the things we have suggested prior to this debate and will bc suggesting again as the debate continues. We will find that the Government will provide for an expansion of this scheme.
Appreciative letters are coming in from organizations which, as every honorable member knows, have battled to help disabled persons without government assistance of this kind. I am sure that those who have not received a copy of the letter I am about to read will be interested to hear the genuine expression of appreciation that it contains. The letter is from the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of the Disabled. It is dated 26th August, addressed to me, and no doubt many other honorable members have received a copy of it. It states -
Correspondence has been directed to you previously on the subject of accommodation for employable handicapped people and the member organizations of this council wish me to express to you their very sincere appreciation of the provision made in the recent Budget to assist this phase of the work of rehabilitation of the disabled in Australia. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the provisions made on behalf of these less fortunate people by this council and its affiliates has resulted in such a generous response from the Government. We must now hope that the public will respond generously, too, to special appeals for hostels and make an effective combination of the efforts of Government, voluntary agencies and public benefactors. It is hoped that legislation brought down to facilitate the effectiveness of the proposal will recognize that true rehabilitation for the disabled is employment in commerce and industry and that hostel facilities are often needed after the training and adjustment period in sheltered workshops.
Little publicity has been given to this aspect of the recent budget. However, voluntary organizations which form this Council are well aware of the tremendous impetus given to rehabilitation by the Commonwealth Government and are sincerely thankful. We believe that this is the first occasion on which sheltered workshops have been mentioned in a budget and we hope it is a happy augury for the future.
The letter is signed by Miss Jean Garside who is the secretary of the council. I am deeply impressed by the work which I have seen, similar no doubt to that which is being done in so many electorates of the Commonwealth. I have seen the work of Good Samaritan Industries, which is sponsored by the Central Methodist Mission, in the heart of my electorate in Western Australia. I have noticed that the Minister has expressed his appreciation of what he has seen when he has visited sheltered workshops. I follow up his remarks by saying that it is an inspiration, surely, to any thinking person to go into a sheltered workshop like that of the Good Samaritan Industries and see men and women - some of them young - working with their hands to put things together, doing a task which, perhaps for the first time in their lives, is making them feel independent.
I pay my tribute to those who are providing effective and satisfying employment for disabled persons in the sheltered workshops. The honorable member for Barton caught my attention when he referred to the assistance being given to disabled persons in the United Kingdom. I have here a booklet entitled “ Rehabilitation and Care of the Disabled in Britain “. Perhaps I can add a couple of interesting points to what the honorable member said in relation to Remploy Limited in the United Kingdom. The British Government has designated employment for disabled persons. Under the Disabled Persons Employment Act the Minister for Labour can designate occupations which are then reserved for the registered disabled. Only two occupations - car park attendant and passenger electric lift attendant - have been so designated and the scheme is unlikely to be extended to other occupations. But at least two occupations are designated for people who are disabled. Disabled persons who are capable of work of some economic value may yet need to work in special sheltered conditions for a number of reasons. I believe that honorable members will be interested to hear them. It is suggested that these folk may not be able to stand the racket of ordinary work in competitive employment; or they may require special medical care or expert supervision as they endeavour to do their work. Another point is that they may work too slowly to earn what is regarded as a normal wage for the work. With these things in mind, the British Government, under the 1944 act to which I have referred, gave the Minister for Labour authority to make arrangements necessary to provide sheltered employment in factories, workshops or even in homes, for severely disabled persons and to defray the resultant expense or loss out of public funds by making grants to voluntary undertakings or local authorities, or by arranging for one or two non-profit-making companies to be formed. Under the latter heading, in 1945 the company now known as Remploy Limited was established. It has its own board of directors, who are appointed by the Minister for Labour. It includes prominent businessmen, trade union officials and persons with particular interest and experience in the employment of disabled persons. The object of the company is to provide employment under special sheltered conditions for those who are registered as disabled persons.
I support all the good things about this work that have been stated by the honorable member for Barton. I add that at the present time it appears that there are in operation in the United Kingdom about 90 factories employing over 6,000 severely disabled persons. There are also nearly 200 home workers who are affiliated with the organization. I think that this is a pretty clear indication of the approach to this problem in the United Kingdom. As the honorable member said, there are also splendid examples in other countries of the world. I have noted that in the residential care of disabled persons in the United Kingdom there is a trend away from large institutions and towards accommodation on a smaller and more homely scale. There is also a trend, which I note with approval, towards single and double rooms rather than those containing many beds.
I noted what the honorable member for Barton said about the association between people in similar circumstances. I think it is a splendid idea that disabled people be given the companionship of people in similar circumstances. However, I simply abhor the institutional kind of building in which a number must share the accommodation. I think that we all are in general agreement about wanting to encourage organizations to provide modern accommodation of the kind with which all of us are now familiar as a result of what has been done under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act. I believe that our thinking in Australia in relation to the disabled has been brought up to date quite quickly in the last few years, and that it will be furthered a little more quickly because of the introduction of this measure.
I wonder how many honorable members have had their attention directed to the wise observations made earlier this year by Dr. R. G. Robinson in a splendid paper in which he pointed out that the oldfashioned philosophy that assumes that money can compensate for disability and for suffering has turned our thoughts and our legislation away from man’s greatest need. He went on to emphasize that that greatest need is the maintenance of health and financial independence. The maintenance of health and financial independence is the very basis of this measure that we approve to-day. Dr. Robinson also pointed out that a re-assessment of Values is an urgent economic and moral need, and he stated also that a change in the attitude of the community towards the handicapped is required at all levels and in all spheres. This is what we want to emphasize to the whole of the Australian public to-day as we pass this legislation.
I agree with the honorable member for Barton that Commonwealth departments, through the agency of the Public Service Board, must investigate every possible opportunity to designate, as the United Kingdom Government has done, certain tasks that may bc allocated to disabled people.
When we come to the question, “Does rehabilitation pay? “, there is ample reason to answer in the affirmative. I was interested to read, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Ontario workers’ compensation and rehabilitation programme includes accident prevention, financial support, physical rehabilitation and vocational rehabilitation. The Ontario authorities, setting what they had attempted against what they had accomplished, found that very great savings had been achieved. In Canada, the Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, reporting on a series of cases, including 36 cases of spinal cord injury, on which rehabilitation had been undertaken, found that, far from increasing medical costs, rehabilitation makes possible considerable savings. The total cost of rehabilitation of the completed cases under review was something like 676,000 dollars. The total estimated savings in indemnity costs amounted to 72,000 dollars and the total estimated savings in medical costs to something like 3,000,000 dollars. These are statistics that just cannot be thrust on one side. We must recognize that rehabilitation pays off.
Not so many months ago, my colleague, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), had the pleasure of welcoming in Western Australia a world authority on rehabilitation of the disabled, in Dr. Ludwig Guttman. who was associated with the honorable member in the first Paraplegic Games staged in Australia, which were held in Perth. In less than twenty years, Dr. Guttman saved the lives of 2,000 paraplegics, and, at the same time, returned almost 70 per cent, of them to competitive employment. Let us go back and think what the position was before this work was undertaken. My friend from Moore has reminded me to-day that once a paraplegic was a person shut away and useless. Dr. Guttman, who has been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen for his work in rehabilitating paraplegics, has shown the world what can be done with disabled people. There have been great achievements in this field, which would appear to have been the most hopeless. The death rate was 80 per cent, before World War II.
I was disturbed when my honorable friend from Barton criticized in some measure the effective work of the rehabilitation section of our own Department of Social Services. I remind the House that this rehabilitation work has been done by the department for fourteen years. It has been calculated that the department’s work in this field saves the nation £2,750,000 a year in the payment of invalid pensions alone and, at the same time, adds to the gross national product something like £6,000,000 a year. Some splendid men have been and are now associated with the rehabilitation section of the department. I wish, however, that some new buildings could be provided in Western Australia for the use of this section, for conditions in the existing accommodation are trying, particularly in summer time. I should like to take the Minister for Social Services to visit the section in Western Australia when the heat is at its worst. If he were to do so, perhaps we would get a new building. But that does not detract from the value of the work already accomplished.
One agency in Sydney that conducts sheltered workshops, I find, has reestablished in competitive employment 100 of 500 people who previously were thought to be totally incapable of undertaking any kind of work.
– That was the organization that the honorable member for Barton mentioned.
– I wonder whether it was. If it was, let me emphasize the fact. I need make no apology to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) for emphasizing something good. I shall say something about a few of his erroneous statements before I finish.
– I may have something to say to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, too.
How practicable is rehabilitation? Dr. Guttman. whos<: work I have already mentioned, in his writings on the subject has pointed out that men in business, and men conducting various organizations, to whom he has had the pleasure of sending paraplegics and other disabled people for employment have invariably said, when he has inquired about the progress of the disabled workers: “ Send us more. They have fitted in so well.” The Hughes aircraft company in the United States of America has stated that a person with a physical disability is a much better financial and insurance risk than is his non-disabled counterpart, provided that appropriate safety measures apply in the industry in which the disabled worker is employed. Another authority in the United States has said that handicapped workers are not accident prone and that absenteeism is often less among them than among the nonhandicapped. The view of that authority is that disabled people make good long-term employees and that the overall quit rate, as it is termed, is equal in the two groups.
These are significant points indeed when we think of people who previously sat at home, did nothing and thought themselves to be in a hopeless situation. What a wonderful thing it is to find that they are dependable and able to feel independent when given rehabilitation training and placed in work!
– If they heard the honorable member, they would be disappointed.
– As the honorable member for Grayndler comes from New South Wales, let me pay a tribute to one of these organizations operating in the honorable member’s own State. I do not remember hearing him praise this particular organization. I do not think it is out of place for a Western Australian member to pay tribute to this organization. What I have read about it I have found most inspiring. I understand that the Poliomyelitis and Physically Handicapped Society of New South Wales has set itself the task of establishing a planned rehabilitation village on some 90 acres of its own land at Kingswood, near Penrith. In the article I have before me there is an explanation of this magnificent vision. There is a master plan and there are photographs to show that the society is working along the right lines. But as this bill before us deals only with accommodation, I will content myself with referring only to the remarks about the residential section of the village. The article states -
It is planned that the residential section, comprising approximately 100 one, two and threebedroom homes for the handicapped and their families during rehabilitation, and self-contained flatettes for single people, will form the second stage of the five-year £500,000 project. The society plans for at least 200 people to be rehabilitated at the centre each year.
What is spoken of here is not all entirely within the concept of this legislation, but part of it is. Early in my remarks I said that I was confident that this measure represents but a start on the part of the Commonwealth Government.
This bill is patterned, as other speakers have said, and as I have said, on the Aged Persons Homes Act, and, notwithstanding the criticism of some honorable members opposite, I believe that this is a sound move. How better to do something for the disabled than to take the established legislation which has proved to be so helpful for aged persons? This is a subsidy scheme similar to that of which we have had experience. Therefore it is better to try to implement this scheme on a basis that is known and proven than to try some new system.
The honorable member for Grayndler is again quite off centre when he criticizes the Aged Persons Homes Act and say that he wants government control for this accommodation for the disabled. To us on this side of the House the suggestion is fundamentally wrong. The very genius of these two schemes, the aged persons homes scheme and the one outlined in the bill before us, is contained in the provision for basic co-operation of voluntary bodies and organizations with government. We abhore government control in this field. We want homes and not institutions. I have already mentioned the disadvantages of institutions. May I remind honorable members opposite that there are many vocational fields in which a sacrifice is demanded of people who have to care for others. I remember vividly that all the efforts of the Government of Western Australia to care for natives in native settlements controlled by it were eventually proven, to the satisfaction of government authorities, to be unsatisfactory. Some years have now elapsed since the Government of Western Australia said: “This calls for something more than just the appointment of a civil servant. This calls for dedication.” So it was that the various churches were asked to take over the native settlements, and to-day there are native missions administered by the churches. All of us from Western Australia, I am sure, are proud of what has been accomplished.
When you come to institutional care, in institutions administered by the Government, again you have the question of appointing a person. You are not necessarily finding a man or woman who says to a church or society or benevolent organization; “I feel called to this job. I will do it notwithstanding the time and sacrifice that will be involved “. In this scheme we are discussing we have basically the value of the co-operation of voluntary bodies with the Government, and I suggest that the honorable member for Grayndler will find little public support for his claim that there should be hard and fast Government administration of these schemes. It is far better to give to men and women who are called and inspired the authority to administer these schemes. We should pay a further tribute to-day to the churches and benevolent organizations of Australia which have done so much in recent years to house the aged, and which will now be given the opportunity of doing something similar for the disabled. Again I say that the Government scheme is based upon building homes. We do not want institutions. We want to minimize institutional care. We want to provide singleroom and double-room accommodation for these people who are so worthy.
State government and local government moneys do not qualify for the subsidy. This is in line with the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act. Honorable members opposite say that this is not fair. They would like contributions from State governments and local government authorities to attract the £2 for £1 subsidy. Perhaps on some occasions we have had cases in our own electorates in which local authority representatives have said to us, “ Don’t you think our contribution should also be trebled?” Basically this is not a sound proposition, and honorable members opposite know it. Having become accustomed to this principle in the Aged Persons Homes Act I think that honorable members opposite are making a very ineffective run when they make this kind of suggestion in the debate on this measure.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not think I have ever spoken with more enthusiasm on any bill before this House. Again I say that it is a small commencement, but that the potential is great. I add my words of commendation to the Government on having brought down this measure. I hope it will pass through the House without any difficulties, and I believe that it will stand, as the Aged Persons Homes Act has stood so effectively, to the credit of the Government that had the courage to bring it forward.
.- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) was very careful te read the preamble to the bill before giving us his views on the measure. As he said, it is described as: -
A bill for an act to provide for assistance by the Commonwealth towards the provision of residential accommodation for certain disabled persons
The honorable member very effectively underlined the word “certain”. He conveyed the impression that this is a bill for a certain few. It has been stated by honorable members on this side of the House that those who will benefit may represent 2 per cent, of ail disabled persons who need assistance. As I was scheduled to follow the honorable member in this debate I thought I would have the opportunity to criticize him on many matters, but I find that he spent 25 minutes advocating greater development of sheltered workshops. He told us of the great progress that has been made in Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries, and then he harked back to what this Government is going to do for certain disabled people. He pointed out that in this country to-day there are thousands of people in need of assistance, thousands of people in need of rehabilitation. For the life of me I cannot understand why, when an honorable member on the Government side tells us that there is a great need to rehabilitate paraplegics, the blind, spastics and subnormal persons, a bill is introduced to benefit only a certain section of disabled people. The only conclusion I can draw, having in mind a statement made in the House to-day by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on another matter, the wool subsidy, is that this is a sprat thrown to the electors of Australia which may catch a mackerel if the Government decides to go to the people.
Obviously the Government has some knowledge of the fact - and it is certainly well known on this side of the House - that assistance must be given in the matter of rehabilitation. Obviously the first step to be taken is to provide assistance for the creation of sheltered workshops. Yet we find a bill coming before the House to provide homes for the people in sheltered workshops.
The bill states clearly that a disabled person is one who is incapacitated for work or is permanently blind and has attained the age of sixteen years. Hearing of the passage of this bill the people of Australia may wrongly come to the conclusion that the Government is proposing to do something to assist disabled persons. People may come to the conclusion that the Government is aware, for example, of the trials and tribulations of persons in the metropolitan area of Brisbane who need to be conducted by their parents to the sheltered workshop operated by the Queensland Blind Institution in Brisbane. I agree that in that instance it is perhaps best for such people to live in their own homes. We would hope that financial assistance would be given to such people to help them to travel to and from their place of work. But would you not think that, if the Queensland Government could be a beneficiary under this legislation, a home or a hostel could be conducted adjacent to the blind institute in South Brisbane to which people from outside the metropolitan area of Brisbane who suffer from this disastrous affliction could come in order to rehabilitate themselves in the sheltered workshop? But no. This bill specifically precludes any assistance being given to State instrumentalities. A similar situation exists in many small towns and concerns local government authorities. As most honorable members know, there is in Queensland a greater degree of decentralization than there is in most other States. There you have one State looking to this Parliament for some assistance in this matter but assistance will be given only to a certain few people who work in sheltered workshops.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) made some elaborate quotations. In fact his was a speech of quotations. He referred to the work that is being done in this field in other countries. His remarks indicate that the Government is well aware of the urgent need of church and other organizations for financial assistance to create sheltered workshops. It is obvious that many speakers on the Government side of the House are aware of this need. If they are aware that Australia needs ten times as many sheltered workshops to cater for the needs of disabled persons as it now has, why is the bill introduced in its present form? The bill deals with the problem in only a small way. The honorable member for Swan admitted that the Government was dealing with this matter in a small way. The Government is handling this problem as age and invalid pensions were handled in 1909 and 1910 - in a small way. The Government will provide a subsidy if a person is 86 per cent, incapacitated. The honorable member for Swan said nothing to convince members on this side of the House that the bill will do anything to meet the urgent needs of disabled persons in the community..
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Before the dinner suspension we had the opportunity of hearing the honorable member for Swan explain to the House and the people of Australia that there is an urgent need for Commonwealth assistance to people working in sheltered workshops. He said that the Commonwealth had a responsibility in respect of certain disabled persons. We on this side of the House recognize that the Government has introduced this bill, which is important and is welcomed by us; but we cannot help coming to the conclusion that the bill has been introduced as a propaganda measure, possibly for a forthcoming election, as I mentioned earlier. That is quite obvious to thinking people and certainly to people associated with church and charitable organizations which accept the responsibility to care for disabled people.
We members of the Opposition consider that the responsibility of financing such organizations rests heavily with the Commonwealth Government, but we find that a similar bill to this one - the aged persons’ homes legislation - has had a result which is different from the intended result. One hopes that the assistance granted to church and voluntary organizations throughout Australia under this bill will not be used in the way assistance granted under the Aged Persons Homes Act has been used. I wish to draw a few parallels between activities under that act, which was introduced in 1954 and amended in 1957, and this bill. In particular I wish to direct attention to the activities in my home State of Queensland. I sincerely hope that the organizations associated with arranging applications to the Commonwealth Government for assistance under this bill will not create circumstances similar to those which have occurred in Queensland in relation to homes for the aged and invalid.
Under the Aged Persons Homes Act certain church and charitable organizations are providing magnificent homes for the aged and invalid. As a result of that activity and the application of that act in Queensland there is a segregation of people in need of this assistance. There is a differentiation between the church organizations and the State institutions which are precluded from the benefits of that act and also from the benefits of this bill, although the honorable member for Grayndler has foreshadowed an amendment under which this bill would apply to State and local authority institutions.
Let us look at activities under the Aged Persons Homes Act in Brisbane. The Church of England has established the Symes Grove Homes for the Aged at a capital cost of £122,753. The Commonwealth Government made a contribution of £81,436. The Queensland Government, to encourage church and voluntary organizations to accept the responsibility of maintaining such homes, also makes contributions. In this instance it made a contribution of £12,000. That home accommodates 58 aged persons who are able to move around and care for themselves in very adequate accommodation. In my opinion it is excellent accommodation. The John Wesley Home was established at a capital cost of £141,058. The contribution by the Commonwealth Government was £83,923. The State Government, in order to shift responsibility to the voluntary organization, contributed £10,000 for furnishings and fittings. They are quite reasonable contributions. That home accommodates 62 people. These organizations want to provide bigger, better, more glamorous, more comfortable and more luxurious homes for the invalid, disabled and aged. I have no argument with that. I believe that nothing is too good for our aged people.
The Holy Spirit Homes at Aspley - a magnificent institution - was constructed on many acres of land at a cost of £338,754. The Commonwealth contribution was £167,700 and, in order to shift the responsibility, the State Government made a donation of £80,000 for furnishings and fittings. The capital cost of £338,754, without furnishings and fittings, works out at close to £4,000 a bed. We know that the usual cost of a bed in a general hospital after all factors have been taken into account, is £5,000. What is the net result? Fit and able citizens are going into these magnificent homes, and the State institutions, which are neglected by the Common wealth in its implementation of the Aged Persons Homes Act, have all the people who did not have the knowledge or the knowhow, were unable to make the necessary donation or were too sick and would be too much of a nuisance, to get into other homes. I give all due credit to the church organizations, but in the metropolitan area of Brisbane there is a definite segregation of aged, invalid and disabled people.
The Eventide Home, a State-owned institution, is a magnificent place. It was a Royal Australian Air Force training centre during the war. It is composed of huts with long corridors. Partitions have been erected and a bed has been given to each of the inmates of that institution. I spent six months there, cooking in the summer and freezing in the winter. The annual report of the Eventide Home for 1961-62 shows that of the average number of 917 people accommodated in that institution no fewer than 487 are classified as “ incontinent or bed-ridden patients, helpless cripples and residents temporarily in hospital beds suffering from various ailments”. So 487 of the 917 people are helpless cripples in hospital beds - very infirm cases. A total of 253 people are classified as “ residents requiring meals and conveniences in self-contained wards, weak or having poor ambulatory powers but not requiring constant hospital attention “. The remainder of 268 people can get about.
That is the result of an act which is designed not to assist State or local authority institutions. Because of the wishes of this Government and current costs, the State governments cannot provide properly for aged people. It is the very sick people, the infirm people and the people suffering from senile decay and discharged recently from the Goodna Mental Hospital in Queensland who enter the Eventide Home. Will this happen with the 2 per cent, of people who may derive a benefit from the bill?
Here is a bill introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament which is designed to give assistance to church and charitable organizations, in areas where a voluntary organization has been operating for years, to provide accommodation for people working in sheltered workshops. Surely the responsibility of this Parliament, which has access to the vast amount of knowledge available in the Department of Social Services - which, incidentally, operates very creditable rehabilitation centres - goes beyond this. Honorable members know that shortly after receiving an invalid pension a disabled person is called to a rehabilitation centre, where he is given a good deal of assistance. I congratulate the people concerned for the work that they are doing. In a certain number of cases the invalid pensioners are rehabilitated to a degree but they receive no assistance from the Department of Social Services to enable them to return to employment. Instead, they are transferred to a Commonwealth employment agency which registers them in the section covering physically handicapped persons. They then must wait for a suitable job.
If any man in Australia knows the requirements of disabled persons, it is the Minister for Social Services ( Mr. Roberton) . For the life of me, I cannot see why a bill is introduced into this House only to provide finance to construct homes for people employed in sheltered workshops when it is well known that we have not one-tenth the number of sheltered workshops that we need. What kind of a way is this to do things? Every speaker who has participated in this debate has mentioned the urgent need for assistance to rehabilitate people who have been injured in employment, people who were born with disabilities, the spastic and the sub-normal people, people maimed in their occupations and people who no longer enjoy good health because of general debility. Everyone knows this assistance is needed. Why is not something done about it? I hope the Minister is not introducing this bill, which relates to such an important matter, merely to influence the electors at a forthcoming election but in view of the important statement which was made this morning and the debate so far on this bill that appears to be die intention.
According to the bill, blind persons are entitled to come within its scope. In Queensland we have a blind institution operated by the State government which is run along much the same lines as are the sheltered workshops. Eighty people attend the institution in Brisbane where they manufacture various articles such as bedding. matting and furniture. In 1961-62 they sold £73,858 worth of goods but there was a net loss for the year of £35,000. That is not particularly important but it highlights the fact that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Grayndler, to the effect that State and local government authorities should be beneficiaries under this act, is eminently desirable. In all conscience, the Government must give urgent consideration to that amendment. Is the blind person who lives in the metropolitan area to receive an advantage over the blind person who lives in the country? If the Government really means to help by providing for the construction of homes for people employed in sheltered workshops, surely it must consider the number of blind people who cannot get transportation to the sheltered workshop which in Brisbane is known as the blind institution. If the Queensland Government, which has been operating the institution in that State for 60 years, were a beneficiary under this bill it would be able to provide accommodation near the institution for those people who live outside the metropolitan area. Instead they are left to sit in dark rooms in outback towns listening to the radio and twiddling their thumbs. They should be given the opportunity to live within their means in a hostel in Brisbane and to attend the blind institution.
The problems inherent in this subject are legion. If the Government is concerned about the people in sheltered workshops why has it not provided for them? Why does not the Government say to the organizations concerned with sheltered workshops: “ We will help you to help rehabilitate these people. In fact we will help you to do our job by giving you £2 for every £1 that you raise for the construction of a sheltered workshop.” If the Government is prepared to pay a subsidy for people who are in hospital, to provide homes for the aged and to provide assistance for rehabilitation, surely it should handle all matters associated with the rehabilitation of people who are disabled, maimed and born with disabilities. But no. The bill was presented and the honorable member for Swan described it very sedately as applying only to certain people. He went on to acknowledge all the work done in this field in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The Government has taken no cognizance of its responsibilities. Instead it has encouraged church and voluntary organizations to take over its job.
The State governments found the funds and are continuing to provide additional subsidies to encourage organizations in this field to carry on. I refer particularly to the Church of England Symes Grove Home, the Methodist John Wesley Home and the Catholic Holy Spirit Home at Aspley. At the Eventide Home one employee is necessary to care for every three aged persons. In each financial year the home loses between £200,000 and £250,000. This Government continues to neglect persons who come within the scope of the Aged Persons Homes Act and the Social Services Act. Those who are in the Eventide Home and can walk about receive £3 14s. of their pension and the remaining £6 16s. is collected by the Public Curator and paid to the State institution. When they become ill the £6 1 6s. is stopped in accordance with section 50 (2) of the Social Services Act and the Department of Health takes over and pays £14 a fortnight to the institution because the patients are in the public nursing section of the home. What happens then? Private nursing homes spring up like mushrooms and operate under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Already there are 80 of these homes in Brisbane- A person is taken in and registered as a permanent patient. The patient receives £14 a fortnight from the Department of Health as well as the full pension, of which the private institution takes the lion’s share as well as the £14 a fortnight. This continual discrimination against State and local authorities must be recognized and removed.
In Queensland we have local authorities in towns which cannot provide for disabled and ill people, so shanty towns spring up on the edge of the main town. In one town which I shall not mention 25 aged persons are living in tin sheds because there is no other place for them to go. That could happen to people who are disabled and cannot walk. Many such cases can be brought to the notice of the House. My colleague, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Hansen) has made continued representations on behalf of a young spastic girl in the city of Maryborough. She has rehabilitated herself and has become proficient in handling the telephone switchboard in an enterprise in that town. She handles the switch, during her working hours, just as any other young girl would, but she must be transported to work by taxi. Because of her condition she must return home for lunch, then back to work and home again at night. She has to use the taxi four times a day, but no amount of representation by the honorable member for Wide Bay has been successful in getting her taxi fares accepted as a tax deduction or any consideration by the Minister for Social Services, who is famous for turning a deaf ear to people crying in the wilderness.
We on this side of the House are not satisfied with the application of the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act, which are almost identical with those in the measure before us. The Aged Persons Homes Act has brought segregation, the haves and the havenots and, as I have mentioned, the State institutions are neglected and struggling and local authorities in the smaller towns are completely ignored. The bill with which we are dealing goes the same way. It says to the churches and charitable organizations, virtually, “We recognize what you have done and will help you to provide homes for these people, but we are not going to help you build more workshops because you would then want more money for homes to accommodate these people “. I do not know what is the position in the other States, but in Queensland the blind are totally cared for by the State. This may apply throughout Australia. But the Commonwealth Government has completely turned its back on blind people and, in particular, on those who reside in townships and cities where there is no institution for them.
I support the amendment. The Government has brought in legislation which we must support because it gives something - in the way the Minister usually gives something. I wonder how he ever catches a fish. He would be too mean to bait his hook.
– This bill provides, for people engaged in sheltered workshops, benefits in parallel with those provided for aged people under the Aged Persons Homes Act. I think the House will recognize that the aged persons homes legislation, which this Government brought in and which has been operating for many years, is one of the constructive and excellent measures that has been put on the statute-book for a long time. It has been a successful act; it has been an original act. It broke new ground and it brought immense benefits both to the people who use the homes which it provides and to the general fabric of our society.
Under the act, a subsidy of £2 for £1 is given by the Commonwealth to institutions providing homes for aged people. So far there has been no restriction whatever placed on the funds provided under the act to eligible applicants. I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the good that this act has done.
In this measure, the Government proposes to extend benefits, in parallel with those granted under the Aged Persons Homes Act, to invalid and incapacitated people working in sheltered workshops. I am not going to traverse again the need to do this, as honorable members have already spoken of that need during this debate. I have had the opportunity of bringing this need to the notice of the Government on a previous occasion. This is one of the most constructive ways in which we can help invalid people who are employed in sheltered workshops. There is nothing but good in what this measure seeks to do. Of course the bill should not be postponed and of course it should go through! I regard with some distaste the attempts of the Australian Labour Party to make political capital - as it is trying to do - out of the second reading of this bill. I say - and I am going to say certain other things - that the Opposition’s amendment is, to put it bluntly, a shameless thing. Whatever one may think as to whether or not the provisions of the bill should be extended, surely we all recognize that what the measure does is good and should not be impeded.
– You have been brainwashed!
– Interjections of that kind by honorable members on the opposite side of the House confirm my unhappy belief that the Labour Party is playing politics with the bill and is not primarily concerned with the good of the invalid and incapacitated, which should be their first objective. They are concerned with the politics of this matter. I am concerned with doing the best than can be done for invalid and incapacitated people. In my view it would have been better had the scope if the bill been a little wider. I agree with by friend the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) that first things should be done first, that you cannot expand the administrative machine overnight and that the foundations have to be laid first. With all this I agree, but it seems to me that one need not be worried, in the first instance, about extending the scope of this bill a little further, because the measure does not make an appropriation. It does not make grants. It is only an empowering bill - empowering the Minister or the appropriate authority to make grants. I think my friend the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) must be numbered - unhappily - among those who are trying to make political capital out of the plight of invalid people and is not concerned with their good.
– Why do you not vote how you talk? You are a squib.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler has already spoken.
– The honorable member for Mackellar is an imitation of the real thing!
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will get his opportunity to speak.
– Unfortunately, it is true beyond dispute that honorable members opposite are looking on this measure as a means of obtaining political advantage. I hope I will avoid that kind of error. I hoped this bill could go a little further, not that I would say that what it does is not the first thing to do. To give the Minister a little more discretion to go a little further in this matter might not be altogether a bad thing at this stage. I ask honorable members to consider the pros and cons of this measure dispassionately, not as a political exercise, but in the light that it represents an attempt by the Government to do the best that can be done for these people at the present stage.
If honorable members will look at clause 6 they will see that it restricts the scope of the bill to those invalid people who are employed in sheltered workshops. I agree that this is the first place, the most productive place where help should be given, but, while we are considering this measure might we not, perhaps, confer on the Minister power to go a little further in certain other directions? Not all invalids by any means are employed in sheltered workshops; only a small proportion of them are so employed. I think it would be a good thing if more were thus employed because employment of this character is good not only for the economy, which is only a minor consideration, but also for the people concerned. It allows them to rehabilitate themselves, to enter into the normal processes of society and that is the major consideration. I believe that we should extend the workshops.
There are some invalids who cannot obtain employment in sheltered workshops because the degree of their affliction is so great as to preclude them from doing so, or it may well be that personal circumstances make it impossible for them to find a sheltered workshop which can receive them and give them the employment they want. I agree with honorable members on this side - again with the honorable member for Sturt - who said that the number of sheltered workshops available was not great enough by any means to cater for those who could, with advantage, make use of their facilities. I disagree heartily with some of the sentiments that were expressed earlier to-day in this debate by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Einfeld) who said that we want to forget the word “ charity “. I do not think that is the right approach. I agree with him only to the extent that there are responsibilities and obligations on this Commonwealth to make available facilities for invalided and incapacitated people, but, over and beyond that, there is surely room for the personal approach, the approach of charity, not in any bad or demeaning sense, but in an ennobling sense. I disagree entirely with the sentiments that he expressed to-night, rather vociferously I am afraid, because they seem to me to be unethical sentiments - that is a word which comes to me - for a member of this House to express. I hope that we do believe in charity, although that does not entitle us to shrug off the proper obligations of the State.
Let me go back to the question of the invalids who are not working in sheltered workshops. As I have said, some of them, by reason of their physical incapacity, are incapable of taking on such employment. Surely such people should have the first call on the charity of their neighbours and the obligations which should be assumed by this Parliament. There are, as has been said, people who would like to get into a sheltered workshop but cannot do so because there is not one available to absorb them. Then there are invalids, who, by reason of their place of residence, are unable to participate in the work of a sheltered workshop. When dealing with these things, one has to speak in generalities, but, surely, as a class, the people to whom I have referred are entitled to as much as are the aged people. I would not suggest for one moment that we should limit in any way the benefits available to aged persons under Aged Persons Homes Act. That would be the last thing that would come to my mind. But, surely, those invalids in the classes that I have described are entitled to parallel benefits. One of the excellent things abor’ the Aged Persons Homes Act is that i. recognizes the obligations of the Commonwealth on the one hand and the call on charity on the other, because that act uses the forces of private charitable organizations to augment the money supplied by this Parliament. We give them £2 for every £1 of capital expenditure that they incur. But are not invalids entitled to as much? After all - and again I speak in generalities and what I say might well be untrue of particular cases - the aged person has had a chance, probably a much better chance, to save and provide accommodation for his old age. The invalids, many of whom, though not all, have been invalids from the early years of their lives, have not had the same chance to save and provide for their own accommodation. It is true that many invalids have had accommodation provided by their families, but that is not true of all of them by any means. It is certainly not true of the aged invalids who, in childhood were supported by their parents and in later life were made orphans and are just as helpless as they were when they were children. It seems to me that these invalids have as good a claim upon our revenue? and upon the charity of private organizations as have the aged persons.
I would not suggest for one moment that we should do everything at once or that we should establish overnight the organization necessary to deal with this problem. I would think that the amount spent under this measure for a year or so will not be very much, whether or not we amend clause 6. As it is now drafted, the clause makes it necessary for the help given to be confined to sheltered workshops; that is, to provide residential accommodation in conjunction with sheltered workshops, and I agree that this is the best thing to do first. But, after all, it is only a question of giving the Minister discretion; it is not a case of compelling him to exercise that discretion. Indeed, I would feel that there is force in the argument for the retention of clause 8 in the bill in its present form. Honorable members will see that clause 8 makes it possible for the Minister, when giving a grant, to impose conditions with regard to the maintenance of a sheltered workshop. This may be a very useful lever - and I would give it in as a part of the argument against what I am saying - to encourage the provision of additional sheltered workshops. So I do not think that the amendment of clause 8 is desirable.
I feel that there is something to be said for the amendment of clause 6. What I suggest, if adopted, would not impose any obligation whatsoever on the revenue. It would give the Minister only a little more discretion. Let us suppose that the Minister were to exercise the discretion I am contending for. Even then the outlay from the revenue would not be very considerable. I ask honorable members to consider the figures. At the present moment, according to the figures in the latest report of the Director-General of Social Services, there are about 607,000 age pensioners in Australia and about 104,000 invalid pensioners; that is to say, in round terms the invalid pensioners are in numbers one-sixth of the age pensioners. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that if the proposed facility were available for those who are organizing on behalf of invailid pensioners, it would be used in much the same proportion as it is used by those who organize on behalf of age pensioners. If one looks again at the report, one sees that the amount spent under the Homes for the Aged Act reached its peak in 1961-62. In that year there was an expenditure of just on £3,500,000. This level was not sustained but the expenditure may go up again. This peak was not reached immediately, but only after some years. The organizations took time to get under way. I think it reasonable to assume that the proportion of one to six between the age and invalid pensioners would be roughly maintained in the applications for grants for invalid homes and aged persons’ homes. In making this calculation it must be remembered that, so far, no application for an aged persons homes grant has been refused on the ground of financial impediment.
One can gauge from the figures in the report the kind of peak expenditure which might be expected if the Minister were to exercise his discretion in an unfettered way. That suggestion has not been made. The peak would be only about £600,000 per annum and, as against that figure, the amount of £150,000 is suggested by the Minister as the expenditure under his proposals. Therefore, the extra expenditure one is talking about is only of the order of £450,000 or £500,000 per annum, a figure which would be reached only if the Minister did not impose any discretionary bars at all. It is not suggested that he would follow that course, even if there were an amendment to the act allowing him to make this kind of decision.
There is another point, a point of drafting. I ask honorable members to look at clause 6, which is a clause I find not altogether easy to interpret. It states that grants may be given for buildings to be used permanently by or on behalf of the organization as, or as part of, an establishment that provides residential accommodation for disabled persons employed in sheltered workshops. I am not clear whether the clause means that the grants are only for this purpose. What happens in the case of a mixed institution which may have some people employed in sheltered workshops and some people who are merely invalids and, perhaps because of their degree of incapacity, are incapable of being employed? But that is not the main difficulty. The main difficulty arises because people coming within the care of the institutions in the early days of their occupancy may be incapable of employment in sheltered workshops but, later on, by reason of their training in the institutions, may become capable of being so employed. So it is not just the mixed institution that may cause difficulties in the interpretation of the clause as it is drawn at the moment. There is also the case, if I may so describe him, of the mixed individual, who starts in an institution as a helpless invalid and by reason of the training he receives there subsequently becomes employable and is employed in a sheltered workshop. I am not a lawyer and I find that it is a little difficult to find my way through the meaning of this clause. I hope that the case of the mixed individual, as I have termed it, is not rare, because one of the great things that sheltered workshops can do is to take people who are completely incapacitated, train them and rehabilitate them so that they can, in spite of grave physical incapacity, finally take their places in a sheltered workshop. Although I am sure that the Government will interpret the clause in a spirit of generosity, it is nevertheless wise to have it drafted so that it is clear beyond dispute.
I think I have made my position clear. What I have suggested is not beyond the means of the Government or the Budget. I have suggested giving to the Minister only a little more discretion, which, even if exercised to the full, would incur extra expenditure of the order of only £500,000 a year. Surely this is a small sum when set alongside the social and individual good which may be done by a scheme of this character.
I repeat that the homes for the aged legislation devised by this Government, brought into operation and administered by this Government, has been one of the greatest achievements in the field of social services in the life of this Parliament. Some would say that it is not one of the greatest, but the greatest. Surely invalids should be entitled, for the reasons I have given, to similar and parallel benefits. I know that these things cannot be done all at once. I agree with other honorable members that you have to start somewhere. It may be said that the scheme could be amended in the future. But why not put it in its proper form now? Why not give to the Minister a discretion which he may not be inclined to utilize for some months but which, nevertheless, he will have? This is an excellent bill, but I appeal to the Government to widen its scope just a little. Not much would be involved in terms of money, but a great deal would result in terms of social achievement, and the work that the Government has done so excellently over the years in providing accommodation for those in need would be rounded off.
.- Sir, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has just directed at the Opposition all sorts of wild accusations that it is playing politics with this measure trying to gain political kudos out of the amendment that we have proposed and trying to score off the Government. Let us compare the Opposition’s amendment with that circulated in the honorable member’s name. If there is any humbug, the honorable member is responsible for it. The Opposition’s amendment is in these terms -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ whilst not in any way opposing the passage of this limited bill, this House is of opinion that legislation should be introduced immediately to make available to disabled persons generally the benefits proposed under this bill.
If the honorable member is sincere and fair dinkum, he will vote with Opposition members when the vote on the amendment is taken. We shall see how sincere and how fair dinkum he is. Let us consider the honorable member’s record a little further. In February, 1962, he placed on the noticepaper a motion intended to achieve the provision of the kind of benefits that will be given under the terms of this bill, but he did nothing more about the proposal. Neither he nor the Government made any move to introduce legislation. When Mr. Allan Fraser, the Labour member for EdenMonaro, on 9th May, sought leave to introduce a bill to provide for financial assistance for the accommodation of disabled persons, the Government, with the assistance of the honorable member for Mackellar, did everything possible to stonewall the discussion and to ensure that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro would not be given leave to introduce his bill. Government supporters took points of order and, finally, after the time for the discussion of general business had expired, the Government permitted the honorable member for EdenMonaro to make a statement on the matter.
That was very generous of it! So I suggest that if there is any talk of humbug the honorable member for Mackellar will be right at the top of the list of those who are guilty of it. This is the role that he has played in this Parliament ever since I have been a member. He has no respect for any one in this Parliament but himself. He continually makes speeches of the kind that we have just heard, which was pure and simple humbug on his part.
– Order! The honorable member must not reflect on another honorable member.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not wish to reflect on the honorable member. I was just stating facts.
– I will not permit the use of the word “ humbug “.
– The honorable member for Humbug!
– He is the honorable member for Humbug.
– Order ! The honorable member for Newcastle will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
This bill is part of the Government’s electioneering programme of measures that it is introducing because it thinks that they will be popular. However, under the terms of this bill, the smallest possible benefits at the lowest possible cost to revenue will be given by the Government, consistent with creating ‘the impression that it is really doing something, though in reality it is doing little. The Australian Labour Party, when in office under Mr. Chifley, presented to the Parliament in 1945 a Commonwealth and State housing agreement that provided for the States to make accommodation available for all citizens, including age, invalid and widow pensioners. Under that agreement, there was a system of rental rebates applicable to housing commission homes. This Government, in 1955, at its earliest opportunity, entered into a new agreement from which was deleted provision for this rebate system, which enabled all kinds of pensioners, including age, invalid and widow pensioners, to live in housing commission homes or flats at a rental no greater than the equivalent of one-fifth of their income. From 1955 until the introduction of this measure, there has been no provision for this kind of assistance to pensioners for housing.
Not only disabled persons but all invalid pensioners are worthy of assistance, as honorable members know from their daily contact with numerous invalid pensioners in their electorates who are forced to live in all sorts of inadequate accommodation because they cannot afford, on the inadequate pensions that they receive, accommodation of decent standard. This Government is notorious for the bad deal that it has given pensioners. The wife of an invalid pensioner, for example, is paid a pension of only £3 a week. What is the difference between the needs of the wife of an invalid pensioner and the wife of an age pensioner in a case in which a pensioner couple receive £5 5s. a week each? The permissible income of invalid pensioners is severely restricted. There is no argument about the fact that the invalid pensioner is the worst-treated pensioner under our entire social services structure.
As I have pointed out, in 1955 this Government deleted from the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the provision under which pensioners could obtain rental rebates for housing commission homes, and until now nothing has been done to provide for the needs of invalid pensioners in terms of housing. The Government must be for ever condemned for its failure to do something practical to enable these pensioners to live decently in proper accommodation.
I consider that there are numerous shortcomings in this measure, and I propose to discuss them. I am firmly of the opinion that the £2 for £1 subsidy payable under the Aged Persons Homes Act, and to be payable under the terms of this bill, is completely inadequate. We all know that various charitable and religious organizations that provide homes for the aged are finding ever more difficult the provision of funds for the purpose. Likewise, those organizations charged with the responsibility for providing housing for invalid pensioners will experience difficulty in raising the necessary money. I know that in my electorate there are in numerous nursing homes many people who would not be in those places if churches could provide accommodation for them under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act. For accommodation in nursing homes, these unfortunate people have to pay £21 and fifteen or fourteen guineas a week. These are actual weekly charges made by some of the homes. I admit that the Government itself contributes £1 a day, but a person who has to pay £21 a week needs much more than that. There is nothing exceptionally elaborate about these nursing homes that charge £21 a week. A typical one in my electorate is excellently run by a very charitable and fine lady. An inmate of such a nursing home somehow has to make up the difference between the charge of £21 a week and the sum of his income from pension and the contribution of £7 a week made by the Government.
At present, there is not enough accommodation for aged persons and I believe that the government subsidy of £2 for £1 provided by private organizations is not sufficient. The subsidy should be increased. Furthermore, a greater number of organizations should be made eligible to receive it. If the Government intends to retain the basis of £2 for £1, why does it not at least extend the subsidy to State governments, trade unions and local government authorities? I understand that in Queensland local government organizations provide housing for aged people. Why does it not .provide the subsidy of £2 for £1 in respect of contributions by State governments towards providing homes for the aged? In the Newcastle district over 200 aged persons who qualify for admission to an aged persons’ unit are seeking accommodation through the housing commission. The persons on the waiting list with that commission applied for accommodation as far back as August, 1956. This is the position of the old people in the community to-day, and when the Government boasts of what it has done in this regard I suggest it should have a look at the actual position, because I believe it will become even more serious in the near future.
Now let us consider the assistance that has been given. Let us look at the money that has been spent and the money allocated since the Aged Persons Homes Act was introduced. Almost £17,500,000 has been spent on these homes. The number of people accommodated is 15,860, which represents about £1,100 per person. The Minister has told us that under this bill £150,000 will be allocated. On the basis of £1,100 per person, this means that accommodation can be provided for between 130 and 140 people. The Government must indeed be proud of this marvellous effort, especially when it knows that about 1,200 people are working to-day in sheltered workshops. How long will it take the Government to provide accommodation for all those people? How long will it take the Government to provide accommodation for the people who cannot at the present time gain admission to a sheltered workshop and who need accommodation, people who will have to be brought to the more populous centres because there is not sufficient work available for them in the more sparsely settled areas? Obviously what the Government is doing constitutes only political humbug. It will not provide facilities for the people who need them.
I suggest also that the Government should give assistance in ways other than are contemplated in this bill. What is wrong with extending the benefits of the legislation to cover all invalid pensioners? What is the difference between an invalid pensioner who is able to work in a sheltered workshop and one who is not? I ask the Minister, or the next speaker on the other side of the House, to answer that question. It is because we have asked ourselves this question that we of the Labour Party will move an amendment in the committee stage that these benefits be extended to all pensioners, whether in sheltered workshops or not. We believe that this kind of assistance should be given to all pensioners who have to avail themselves of accommodation provided by various charities. At some of these places the inmates have to be out by 10 a.m. and in not later than 10 p.m., irrespective of climatic conditions. Whether a gale is blowing or the temperature is over 100 degrees, they must still go out in the morning at 10 a.m. The benefits of this legislation should be extended to such persons.
If the Minister and the Government are sincere in wanting to help these people, why do they not grant assistance in the provision of transport from the accommodation that will be provided to the workshops? Why does the Government not provide some subsidy in respect of such transport? This is an important matter. Obviously the accommodation cannot always be provided right alongside the workshop, and so the Government should provide some assistance in the matter of transport.
Again, the bill makes no provision for maintenance of the buildings that will be constructed. I suggest that some assistance should be given in respect of maintenance. The people who will occupy the accommodation will have to use wheel-chairs and other aids because of their many and varied disabilities. Consequently a good deal of damage will be done to the premises, not deliberately but accidentally. Therefore I suggest that there should be a subsidy in respect of maintenance.
Let us examine the Government’s record in rehabilitation. I have a table here which shows the results from 1959 to 1963. It is an extract from the annual report of the Department of Social Services. I ask for leave to have it incorporated in “ Hansard “. (Leave not granted.) In that case I shall read it-
The point I am making, Mr. Deputy Speaker, having been forced by the Minister to go through the process of reading that table, is that in five years the Minister’s own rehabilitation section has succeeded in training and placing in employment only 385 people out of a total number of 56,092. While the Government has been able to assist people to a very limited extent by the rehabilitation process, I believe that the sheltered workshops will do much more to assist disabled persons and give them employment and an income, and so remove them from the area of Government responsibility. Most important of all, these people will be made to feel that they are a part of the community and not a drag on it. They will realize that they are producers. I find in all these incapacitated persons a great desire to work and not to draw the pension. They do not want to be invalid pensioners for the rest of their lives. They want an opportunity of earning a livelihood in the same way as other men and women in the community. The only people who can be assisted in sheltered workshops at the moment are those in metropolitan areas, who can be picked up and taken to work in the mornings and taken home again at night. The excellent results of these workshops have been the achievement not of any government but of public-spirited citizens who have thrown their weight behind these projects.
I say to the Minister that this bill is quite inadequate. It is only scratching the surface. It does not extend sufficient benefits to people outside the metropolitan areas who could come to the cities and earn their livelihood and who could be trained. I ask the Minister to extend these benefits, not only by increasing the subsidy beyond the present rate of £2 for £1, but also by encouraging other people to come within the scope of the scheme.
In various ways local government authorities have played an important role in assisting aged people by the provision of such things as elderly citizens centres, where during the day and even the night the aged may while away the hours, and the mealsonwheels scheme. If local government authorities are prepared to assist the aged I am sure that, given encouragement by the Government, they would do as much for invalids. I ask the Minister to look into this matter.
When I was in England some years ago I noted that the trade unions there have a very positive approach to the problem of disabled persons. In the south of England the London bus employees union has an excellent home for those of its members who need assistance. If the trade unions in Australia were encouraged to assist incapacitated people by providing residential for them I am sure that they would assist, because the trade union movement is aware of its responsibilities and desires to help these people.
I would like to refer now to the interpretation clause of the bill. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 2 of the bill defines a disabled person as one who-
Part III. of the Social Services Act 1947-1963, permanently incapacitated for work or is permanently blind;
I want to deal with paragraph (a). In restricting the operations of the bill to persons who have attained the age of sixteen years the Government is not facing up to its responsibilities. I have discussed this sub-clause with managers and organizers of sheltered workshops and they all have told me that many people who are sent to them for training and assistance cannot be trained adequately because they have not been properly educated. This problem is not so acute in the cities, where special schools are available for handicapped children and where special buses operate to transport the children to those schools, but in outoftheway places special facilities for the education of handicapped children are not available. Accordingly I urge the Minister to provide in the legislation for the accommodation of children. The Minister should delete the reference to a person having attained the age of sixteen years and should provide for children to be brought into the residentials and into the necessary schools.
The Crowle Home School for Sub-normal Children in Sydney at present provides accommodation for 105 non-resident pupils and 45 resident pupils. The non-resident pupils are children who live in the immediate vicinity of the school. Those who are boarders have been brought over considerable distances to attend the school. In Newcastle I have spoken with people who conduct schools for crippled children and sub-normal children and they have told me that if residential accommodation was available, many more children would be able to avail themselves of the facilities offered by the schools. The Government should do something to provide residential accommodation for these children. Such a provision should be incorporated in this legislation so that children may be brought into the schools and educated. Then, when they reach the age of fifteen or sixteen, they can leave the schools for crippled or sub normal children and go to the sheltered workshops having had some education to equip them for the training that they will be given in the workshops. This is important. If you lack the necessary education you cannot avail yourself of all the training opportunities that would otherwise be open to you. I may have overlooked some provision in the bill for assisting with the provision of accommodation for children attending special schools but I do not think boarding schools or residentials which cater for crippled and sub-normal children are receiving any assistance from the Government.
There is another weakness in the bill so far as sheltered workshops are concerned. We will support the amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) if he in turn will support the amendment to be moved by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), which seeks to extend the benefits of this bill to invalid pensioners. At present the sole objective of the sheltered workshop is to train people so that they may accept normal employment in the community instead of being forced to rely on a pension. Many people who will be trained to take their places in industry and commerce still will suffer from disabilities. Many of them still may have to move about their place of employment in a wheel-chair and when they return home they will need similar facilities to enable them to get around. Under this legislation, as soon as they leave the sheltered workshop and move into outside industry they will be forced to leave the residential that is the subject of a subsidy under this legislation. I hope that the Minister has overlooked this problem and that he will now amend the legislation so that such people are not forced to leave the residentials. I have spoken to organizers of some sheltered workshops and they are greatly concerned over this problem. They say that the necessity for a person to leave the residential will act as a deterrent to their being trained fully in the sheltered workshop. It is felt that the incapacitated person may be reluctant to leave the residential in which he has resided. I urge the Minister to do something that will enable people who have become trained in a sheltered workshop to remain in the residential in which they have been living while training in the sheltered workshop.
I would like to refer briefly now to the regulations governing the conduct of residentials, I concede that the Minister and his department must be practical and realistic when dealing with the operation of these residentials. I concede that it may not always be possible to give everybody a room to himself. I am informed that it is not always desirable for ever/ occupant of a residential to have a room of his own. For example, the incapacitated person with good hands is an asset to the person without hands. Similarly the incapacitated person with sound legs can be ot assistance to a person whose legs are not sound. An incapacitated person may be the eyes for a blind person. The Minister and his department must take these matters into consideration and ensure that there is no ridiculous provision requiring every employee in a sheltered workshop to be given single-room accommodation in the residential. This matter must be looked at in a practical and realistic manner and, if necessary, discussed with the people who will be conducting the residentials
Looked at broadly, the bill has many shortcomings, but it is a start. It is, as it were, a foot in the door. Once we get started we can extend the provisions of this legislation. I am sure that many of the shortcomings in this bill can be rectified if the Government will only accept the amendments proposed by the honorable member for Grayndler. If that were done this legislation when passed could be one of the most important acts on the statute book, in the interests of the people who need the greatest assistance - the incapacitated and the invalid, who are, after all, a part of the community. We must do what we can to assist them so that they may become in all respects normal members of the community and not be a burden on the community.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. At the beginning of his speech the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) said that having placed a motion on the notice-paper, I did nothing about it. That is entirely and completely untrue. Together with certain other members of the Government parties, not only did 1 work to have changes made in the legislation but to the extent that the legislation embodies those changes I, with those other honorable members, worked both hard and successfully.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I have been misrepresented, too. The honorable member for Mackellar stated that he had been misrepresented by the honorable member for Newcastle. Earlier to-day I said precisely what the honorable member for Newcastle said. I produced the records of the Parliament to show that the honorable member for Mackellar had dodged this issue on every occasion and that on no fewer than nine occasions his motion was at the top of the business paper and he connived with the Government to prevent it being debated. I am prepared, with the permission of the House, to support my explanation by incorporating the records of the Parliament in “ Hansard “ in order to show that the honorable member for Mackellar dodged the issue. Have I the permission of the House to do that?
– Order! Permission is not granted.
.- The bill before the House provides for assistance by the Commonwealth in the provision of residential accommodation for disabled persons who are employed in sheltered workshops. Let me say at the outset that I am very appreciative of the efforts of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and the Government in introducing this bill, and I shall appreciate very greatly the action of members of this Parliament in passing this bill. Much of what has been said during this debate will contribute to the knowledge of the problem of physically handicapped people. I believe that each honorable member who has spoken has contributed something. When what has been said is read and studied, I am sure that some constructive suggestions will be found in it. The discussion so far has certainly done one thing; it has proved how complex and how wide are the ramifications of this problem of handling physically handicapped people. Each honorable member who has spoken has detailed some circumstances which are peculiar to his electoral division. I have no doubt that many other circumstances exist in an honorable member’s electoral division, of which he would not be aware.
Because we are dealing with people who deserve every ounce of help that can be given to them from every individual in the community who happens to be blessed with a whole body, this measure should be dealt with - I propose to deal with it in this way - not on party lines and no even on a government line, but as a human question. I am not concerned about what government introduced which legislation. I take my hat off and pay tribute to any government that has introduced any measure or taken any action to assist in solving one of the greatest problems which have faced the world and which face the world to-day. I have no doubt that the efforts of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), in proposing amendments, and the efforts of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) are made with the sincere intention of providing some measure of assistance.
Before the House votes on this matter we should look at some of the background, particularly the historical background, to this vexed question of handling physically handicapped people. Let us go back to the time - not very long ago - when a person who was deformed or who suffered a congenital handicap, a traumatic handicap or a handicap caused by a disease was classified as a cripple and was literally spat upon and forced to beggary. That is not going back very far. Such people were regarded as sickening sights. Even to-day some people are so sensitive that when I invite them to have a look at my spastic centre in Western Australia they say to me: “Hughie, I just could not go. It would upset me.” I have every sympathy for those people, and we are steadily curing that feeling and getting over it.
That was the state of affairs a few years ago. Then suddenly somebody realized that we had a problem on our hands, and some dedicated people, including medical and benevolent people, and the physically handi capped people themselves started a form of assistance for the “ cripples “. That is the most obnoxious word in the English language. Dedicated medical people and dedicated benevolent people, through their gifts, their work and their energy down the years, have converted cripples into physically disabled people. I believe we have something to be grateful for in that we do not hear the word “cripple” so much now. I say that it should be wiped out of the English language because the circumstances of people who once were classified as cripples have been changed completely. They are physically disabled. Now we are reaching the stage where we are converting them into physically handicapped people.
I do not like to approach this problem by calling a person a disabled person. There is no such thing as a disabled person. He is handicapped. When I interview employers in order to find positions for such people, I say: “ I am not asking you to employ a disabled man. If a man is disabled he cannot work. But this man can do something. He has a handicap. We all have a handicap of some kind. He has a handicap which limits him in a certain direction. When you see him do not say to him, ‘ What can you not do? ‘; be positive and say, What can you do? ‘ Let faim tell you what he can do.”
We are advancing steadily in solving the problem of handling physically handicapped people. Honorable members might be interested in this: This afternoon the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) referred to the work of Dr. Guttman. As he said, only twenty years ago a person who was a paraplegic - this is a person paralyzed from the waist down, either congenitally or as a result of an accident or disease - was admitted to hospital, put in a corner and neglected because there was no known way of curing his condition, as there is to-day. Such a person was left there to die from malnutrition, an infection of the bowel, an infection of the bladder or bed-sores. It is no good honorable members saying “ Oh “ about this. There is medical and documentary history to prove that only twenty years ago nearly 90 per cent, of paraplegics died within three to five years of the attack or accident. Now, more than 90 per cent, of paraplegics live the normal span. The change has come about steadily and slowly because of the work, not of governments, but of organized bodies which took the task in hand. Their first job was to tell their neighbour that he had to accept the physically handicapped person as his individual responsibility. He had to learn to apply the God-given principle of love thy neighbour whatever his neighbour looked like and whatever his neighbour could do. They set about creating a public awareness of physically handicapped people, and they succeeded. Some people who did this job were interested in it either for themselves or for members of their family. Many people dedicated their time to the job and worked voluntarily.
The first hurdle in creating a public awareness of this problem was to remove the physically handicapped person from the position of being an object of pity in the eyes of the average able bodied man. No one can deny that he was so regarded. You would see a spastic child or adult, a deformed person, a deaf and dumb person, a blind person or a paraplegic and if you had a heart the first thing that welled up inside you was a sense of pity for the poor unfortunate individual. We tried to instil in the disabled persons a sense of usefulness. Instead of being pitied they were to be helped and given an opportunity to live normal lives. That was the first requirement.
These people were hard to discover. Some honorable members have mentioned statistics relating to the number of physioally handicapped people in Australia. I defy any one - successfully so, too - to state the number of physically handicapped people in Australia. Let me tell the House what happened in Western Australia. When we set up our spastic organization we made every effort to learn how many spastic children there were. We learned of 40 so we bought a house, made some alterations to it and were ready to cater for 40 children. We had barely poured the first truckload of cement before spastic children were coming in by the dozen and in the short period of twelve years the number of children being treated daily at the centre increased from 40 to 240. So far as we know there are about 400 spastic children who require treatment and even then we are not sure that that is the total number.
Spastics are only one group of physically handicapped people. What about the slow learners, the mentally retarded, the polio victims, the deaf and dumb, the blind, and those suffering heart trouble as a result of rheumatic fever? Those are only children. What about adolescents and adults?
– None of them is over sixteen years of age?
– I am referring to all ages. This is a problem which commences at babyhood. Most of the spastic centres in Australia commence treating children when they are at the nursery stage and then take them through kindergarten, through schools, into adolescence and into manhood. They are given treatment, education and training. They cannot be helped otherwise. The first thing that we aim to do is to provide a physically handicapped person with a sense of self-respect and dignity or to restore a sense of self-respect and dignity if the person concerned is an adult who has suffered an accident. Imagine what it would be like to have to go through life being fed, dressed and toileted. That is why we start with the babies. The treatment, education and training of these unfortunate people should be the responsibility of whatever government is in office.
After we had made the public aware of this problem we attempted to make governments aware of it. The request that was made last year or the year before for funds to provide accommodation for physically handicapped people engaged in sheltered workshops was not the first request that was made to this Government, to previous Commonwealth governments and to State governments. Dozens of organizations are involved in this. The Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Physically Disabled has a full membership of eighteen organizations and an associate membership of another seventeen or eighteen. I believe that there are three times as many organizations which are not associated with the council. They have all been asking for assistance. To indicate the extent of this problem and the fact that we are still in our infancy in dealing with it let me read an extract from the February issue - the most recent - of the Journal of the World Veterans Federation. The journal contains a report from the Second Pan-Pacific Congress on Rehabilitation held in Manila from 3rd to 7th December last year. Dr. Raden Soeharso, an Indonesion for whom I have great respect, a director of the Solo Rehabilitation Centre in Indonesia, is reported in this way -
Dr. Raden Soeharso, of Indonesia, who was awarded the Rehabilitation Prize of the Federation In 1954, on the occasion of its Fourth General Assembly in Vienna, stressed the fact that, “ During the past twelve years there has been remarkable progress in the development of rehabilitation services” and that, “to an unusual degree, this has been the result of international co-operation in sharing knowledge, skill, material sources and inspiration “.
That indicates that we are still very young in dealing with this problem of rehabilitation.
Now let me refer to the requirements associated with the treatment of the physically handicapped. I have referred already to the fact that particularly in the case of congenital handicaps treatment, education and training start at babyhood. Those are three basic requirements in the field whether you are dealing with babies, children, adolescents or adults. As a result pf industrial and motor vehicle accidents the number of adolescent and adult physically handicapped persons is increasing. Nevertheless the three fundamental requirements of treatment, education and training remain.
The first step is to remove from physically handicapped persons, whether they be children or adults, that sense of frustration that makes them want to hurt someone, that sense of frustration which discourages them and which can make them helpless and useless for life and perhaps an object of pity. Let me describe that sense of frustration in this way: Take the case of a man who wants to thread a needle with a piece of cotton. Have you ever seen him try it? Have you seen how he will poke the thread at the needle over and over again until he throws the thread and needle away and says, “ Damn it, I will get someone to do it for me “? He is frustrated because he cannot do something which a little schoolgirl can do. Our first job is to help those people overcome that sense of frustration. They need help in feeding themselves, dressing themselves and attending to their toilet requirements unaided. The sheltered workshop is only one phase of rehabilitation of the physically handicapped.
I have here the report of a seminar on the theme “Sheltered Workshops” held in Adelaide from 17th to 20th May, 1963, which was attended by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). Many experts in the field as well as many other people from various organizations attended the seminar. I do not propose to read the 90 page report but I shall summarize the discussions which took place. I will quote quickly from the list of topics for future seminars, so that honorable members may realize the tremendous complications attached to rehabilitation through workshops and employment. They include -
Future trends in view of automation. Further clarification of social services. Further consideration of therapy and the demands of industry. Training programmes. Trade unions.
Assessment of workers medically and vocationally.
Role of specialists, e.g. medically, occupational therapist, social worker.
Methods of creating public awareness.
Accommodation for the handicapped.
Living-away from home allowances.
Discussion of the establishment of overall public relations to give publicity to skilled workshops generally and impartially.
Work simplification- value of time and motion study, methods of improving administration.
Employment of disabled in normal industry.
No definite recommendations were made, but it proved to be a very valuable seminar. I mention this in order to indicate the complex problems in relation to the people with whom we are dealing. Workshops are only one phase of the question. Had the Government said to me, “We have X-million pounds - or hundreds of thousands of pounds - which we propose to devote to alleviating in some direction the circumstances of physically handicapped people; what do you suggest? “ I would not have given the provisions contained in this bill my first priority. I support the bill. Make no mistake about that, but its provisions would not have been my first priority. If the Government had consulted various individuals associated with a number of organizations, each person would have suggested a different priority and advanced a sound argument in justification of his opinion. The submission that I am making is honest.
The Government has tackled one of the complex problems associated with the rehabilitation of physically handicapped people. It has attacked one of the most complex problems, as appears from the seminar of experts at which the question of rehabilitation through workshops was discussed on a worldwide basis, lt is definite that the most serious side of the complex problem has been attacked, but there are plenty of other aspects that must be dealt with.
Had the Government consulted me - there is no reason why it should have - my first suggestion would have been for custodial care. Let us consider the position of the paraplegics - the people in wheel-chairs. Most of them require help in dressing and getting into bed and many of them require toileting. Most spastics, whether children or adult, have to bc splinted in daytime and splinted differently when they go to bed. They have to be turned in bed and they have to be washed. Many paraplegics and spastic children and some with other congenital diseases have to be constantly examined to make sure that parts of their bodies in which they have no sense of feeling have not been damaged, injured or bruised in some way which could set up a septic condition and shorten their lives by many years. They require constant attention. It is all right when they have Mum or Dad or a sister or brother to look after them, but what happens when there is no one there? Do you, Sir, realize that there is not a place in the whole of Australia where such a person can go to receive proper care? These people are not mental and so one cannot put them into a mental home. I suppose they could be put into a C class hospital, but that is not where they belong. If they go there they are not allowed to do any work and many of them can work and are working to-day. The answer is custodial care.
From my personal knowledge, through association with many of these people, I say that the biggest worry of relatives and of the handicapped persons themselves is what is going to happen to them when there is no longer any one to look after them and there is nowhere for them to go. What happens then? We go back to the dark ages - back to the time when they were classified as cripples. Custodial care is the first need and that would have been my number one priority. That would provide peace of mind. Is there anything better in this world? That would have provided peace of mind for the physically handicapped person who needs it so badly. It would have provided peace of mind and a sense of security for the relatives who are at present charged with looking after the physically handicapped persons and who are worrying themselves to death with the thought chat when they go their loved one will be left uncared for and unheeded in this world.
My next priority would have been not the provision of accommodation for physically handicapped people employed in workshops but the provision of means for treatment, education and training. That is the biggest burden that the organizations dealing with physically handicapped people have to bear. The provision of a building or workshop for an invalid pensioner is the easiest way for a government to escape its responsibility. It is easy to say “ Yes, we will give you a pension “, or “ We will put up so much money for a building or will equip a workshop “, but the major consideration is what goes on inside the person’s mind. So I have made my second preference, because the need is so great.
The Government provides vocational training. It provides training in rehabilitation centres but the value of that is limited according to the possibility of a person being restored to a state where he can earn a living. Nothing is taken into consideration tut the economic aspect. The necessity, in many instances, to restore these people to a condition where they have self respect in the matter of the way they live is not taken into account.
I said at the start of my speech that I accept the bill. I commend the Government on having brought it down and I will praise the Parliament for passing it. I appeal to honorable members to vote on this bill according to their consciences and not according to political dictates. This is a human bill dealing with people who need our sincerest help. I shall vote according to my conscience and will be guided by my knowledge, study and understanding of the problems associated with this question.
This measure is the gate. There are a lot of things about it which I do not like, but it is something. So for heaven’s sake do not let us r-k the possibility of these people getting nothing at all or only a small measure of assistance which will not count! I am fearful of the consequences of interfering with this measure in any way. Let us interfere with the legislation later, if necessary. To interfere with it now is too big a risk to take.
– The scope of the bill could be widened without any risk.
– I remind the honorable member that he was not here when I started to tell the story of the physically handicapped. It has taken twenty years to reach the present stage, but tremendous things have been done in that time. In the few minutes remaining to me I will tell the House what resulted from a small start. We started a spastic centre in Western Australia with £3,000 and within three years we were incurring an annual cost of £70,000 to run that centre, every penny of it raised from the public. Now we have some government help.
– It is hard to get, isn’t it?
– Of course it is hard to get, but you do not knock back a gift. You do not look a gift horse in the mouth. If you are handed a piece of bread, for goodness sake be thankful for it and hope that the next time it will have butter on it, that the next time it will have jam on it and that the next time it will have cheese on it. That is the way to get things. I appeal to this House to consider not only those in sheltered workshops but the tens of thousands of physically handicapped people who live in the community. This measure is but the start. It represents the establishment of the principle that the nation is accepting the responsibility of caring for the physically handicapped people, that it is accepting the responsibility for their rehabilitation as children and their rehabilitation later on should they become injured. I repeat, this is the establishment of a principle. Let us accept it. Let us be glad of it. Let us be proud of it. Let the Parliament be proud of it. Damn the Government; it is the Parliament that is doing this. I say to honorable members: Be honest with your conscience and vote for the bill; do not let us knock it back.
– in reply - Mr. Speaker, I want to express by personal appreciation of the generous remarks that were made by honorable members on both sides of the House who can see merit in this novel piece of legislation. This is the first time anything of the kind has ever been introduced into the National Parliament. There are one or two misapprehensions that I should like to clear up, if I may. The first is that this is not a bill to provide housing. There are members who apparently have that impression. If it were a bill to provide housing, it would not have been introduced by me. It is not a bill to provide sheltered workshops. If that were the purpose of the bill, it would be stated in the measure. That may come, but it is not in this bill. It is not a bill to provide accommodation for disabled people. That, too, may come, but it is not in the present bill. This is a bill to assist to provide accommodation for certain disabled persons who are employed or who are likely to be employed in sheltered workshops.
The question of the accommodation of disabled persons has never been seriously raised with me by any organization other than the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia whose disabled members who are not of pensionable age are excluded from the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act. That is the only organization that has made serious representations to me for assistance to provide accommodation for the disabled.
As a general rule, disabled people are accommodated at home, and, if I may say so, that is the state of perfection. It is because their homes are invariably remote from sheltered workshops that the voluntary organizations are involved in prodigous transport arrangements and in formidable transport costs in getting disabled people to and from the sheltered workshops where they are or may be employed. That is the acute problem as the voluntary organizations see it, and that is what this bill proposes to help to solve. If the words “ employed in sheltered workshops or likely to be employed in sheltered workshops “ are deleted from the bill it then becomes a bill to assist to provide accommodation for all disabled people, regardless of their need and regardless of their age or circumstances. Any departure from the expressed purposes of this bill could only serve to prejudice the voluntary organizations in their valiant attempts to establish sheltered workshops in the first place and to operate them unaided, in the second place, in their valiant attempts to solve the almost insuperable transport problem of getting hundreds of people to the sheltered workshops, and their singularly courageous efforts to provide accommodation for the disabled who want to win back their place in normal society. These are the purposes of the bill, and, if I may say so, they are expressly stated.
When the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) led for the Opposition in this instance, he deplored the fact that there was no provision in the bill for assisting the States to build hospitals, infirmaries, convalescent homes, hostels, and sheltered workshops for these people. Mr. Speaker, there is nothing whatever to prevent any State in the Commonwealth from exhausting its resources in building houses, hospitals, infirmaries, convalescent homes, hostels and sheltered workshops anywhere within its territorial boundaries. The States can devote their resources to that purpose. Indeed, if they wanted to, they could impoverish themselves to that end. Here is a piece of legislation brought for the first time into any Parliament of the Commonwealth, and exception is taken to it because no provision is made to assist the States which get millions of pounds and multiplications of millions of pounds from the Commonwealth Government every year.
Then the honorable member for Grayndler suggested that there were certain faults and frailties in the Aged Persons Homes Act and that they should be corrected in the administration of the measure which is now before the House. He suggested that the way in which these faults and frailties might be corrected would be to police these establishments, to police the homes for the aged, to make a critical examination of the administration of these splendid establishments, to engage in processes of supervision, going to the organizations which run these places with consummate skill to supervise their operations. He wants this Government to police the costs of the various organizations and reduce them to a common level. He suggests that the homes for the aged and the homes for the disabled should be controlled by the Depart ment of Social Services, and presumably by the Minister for Social Services. He wants us to manage these places; he wants us to allocate priorities, to say to the churches who shall go into their homes and who shall be excluded from them.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that this Government will have nothing whatever to do with proposals of that kind. An organization makes application under the Aged Persons Homes Act, and, on the sheer merits of that application, if it qualifies, a grant is paid, and that is the end of the matter so far as the Government is concerned. These places are now spread all over the six States of the Commonwealth and the two Territories, and they are among the finest homes in our country where people are enjoying , the peace and tranquility that the aged richly deserve.
Now I want to answer two questions addressed to me by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). He suggested that the trade union movement might be considered as a qualified organization under the Aged Persons Homes Act and the Disabled Persons Accommodation Bill now before the House. There is no valid reason why reputable trade unions should not qualify under either of those pieces of legislation, and I hope they db. Indeed, the honorable member for Grayndler took some pride in the fact that within the trade union movement there were no fewer than 2,000,000 men. The time must surely come when they should start building houses for their members or at least start helping to build accommodation for the disabled people among their members. The honorable member for Port Adelaide also asked me whether some restrictions would be imposed with regard to a man and wife living together, or whether there would be single persons in single rooms. Where homes are being provided for disabled people who from time to time will need the care and custody of other people, single accommodation would not be appropriate, but the condition will be relaxed to meet special circumstance.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) mentioned in the course of his remarks the visit of Dr. Howard Rusk, Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of New
York. It has been the privilege of the Commonwealth to bring Professor Rusk to our country on at least two occasions. On each occasion he inspected in a detailed way the rehabilitation centres of the Commonwealth Government and the major hospitals. On each occasion that we visited these places Professor Rusk said to me that Australia has nothing to learn with regard to rehabilitation from any other country in the world.
I thought, Mr. Speaker, that I should make these explanations because this is the kind of scheme that is urgently needed. As the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) and many other honorable members on both sides of the House have said so succinctly, there are a great many disabled people who are in need of facilities for their rehabilitation in which the provision of sheltered workshops is a major facet. These sheltered workshops should be encouraged in every way. The most effective way, so far as I am in a position to judge, is by the provision of accommodation close to sheltered workshops where facilities may be provided for a greater number of people.
I have had a series of conferences with the trade union movement to see whether the industrial conditions under which* the sheltered workshops are operating are considered by the trade union movement to be satisfactory. It was not an easy task, but ultimately unanimity was reached and for the moment the conditions have been accepted by the trade unions. They have agreed that the conditions which apply to to rehabilitation centres and sheltered workshops are consistent with what they believe to be industrial peace, if one might be permitted to use that term.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Daly’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.) Ayes . . . . ..57
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5. (l.) . . . . (3.) An organization conducted or controlled by, or by persons appointed by -
.- Mr Chairman, I move -
In sub-clause (3.), omit “ or of a Stale; or (b) a local governing body established under the law of a State”.
We appreciate the good that this bill will do for handicapped persons, but we believe that it is altogether too circumscribed as the text is drafted and that it denies to many people the advantage of assistance that could be given by authorities like local government organizations that are well versed in the problems associated with the care of handicapped people. State authorities and local government bodies are expressly excluded from the provisions of this measure, and that is anomalous, because those organizations are so closely associated with the life of our community. They should be enabled to help house handicapped people under the terms of this measure, with particular reference to disabled people engaged in sheltered workshops.
The Government’s attitude in this matter is in distinct contrast to the attitude adopted in the United Kingdom, where the National Assistance Act of 1948 acknowledges the work of local government authorities and provides for grants to those organizations that seek to help disabled people engaged in sheltered workshops by providing hostels and other accommodation for them. Surely we in Australia would not do less than is done in other countries. I refer not only to the United Kingdom but also to certain of the Scandinavian countries in particular, which use the agency of local government bodies. I believe that the Government has no reasonable excuse for refusing to accede to the Opposition’s suggestion that local government bodies and State authorities be afforded the advantage of co-operating with the Commonwealth Government in the work of providing urgently needed accommodation for handicapped people who require accommodation near sheltered workshops. Local government bodies are not likely to be engaged in these activities for profit. They do much good work in relieving distress in particular localities by making direct payments out of funds provided by the local ratepayers. Therefore, the Government, by bringing these organizations within the scope of this bill, would be directly subsidizing the local community through subsidies paid to local government bodies and State authorities, which, as I have said, are so immediately associated with local problems.
Local government organizations already provide many essential services for handicapped people. They provide amenities centres, meals on wheels and, under certain conditions; housing, and they give rebates on rates. In all respects, these organizations seek to help physically handicapped and mentally retarded people and therefore should be brought within the scope of this measure. The Opposition believes that, since the Government has acknowledged the claims of disabled persons for housing, it should extend the field as widely as possible. Local government organizations and State instrumentalities are better able to provide for the housing of disabled and handicapped people than are most other organizations.
In proposing this amendment, I appeal to the Government to recognize the merits of the proposal that local government organizations and State instrumentalities be brought within the scope of the bill in order that we may extend all possible help to those handicapped people who urgently require housing or hostel accommodation convenient to sheltered workshops.
.- Mr. Chairman, the amendment is unacceptable to the Government.
– Mr Chairman, I second the amendment proposed on behalf of the Opposition by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr Makin). In this matter, the Opposition is concerned by the apparent enthusiasm with which the Minister rose to intimate that the Government was not prepared to accept the co-operation of local government bodies.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr; P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Mukin’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6. (1.) Where the Director-General is satisfied that a building erected or to be erected, or purchased or to be purchased, by an eligible organization is intended to be used permanently by or on behalf of the organization as, or as part of, an establishment that provides residential accommodation for disabled persons employed in sheltered workshops, he may, in his discretion, approve that building or proposed building for the purposes of this Act.
– I move -
In sub-clause (1.), after “persons” insert “ including those “.
The amendment, if carried, will have the effect of including disabled persons other than those employed in sheltered workshops. The amendment is similar in detail to that circulated by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth)-
– Mr. Chairman, it is my manifest duty to take a point of order, namely that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is not an admissible amendment. The relevant standing order is Standing Order No. 227, which provides -
Any amendment may be moved . . . provided-
These are the important words - the same be within the title or relevant tothe subject-matter of the bill . . .
It is therefore necessary to consider the effect the amendment would have if agreed to by the committee.
I shall refer first to the title of the bill. The title indicates that the bill is one to provide for assistance by the Commonwealth towards the provision of residential accommodation for certain - I emphasize the word “ certain “ - disabled persons. That is to say, the title indicates that the bill is to provide assistance not for all disabled persons but only for a particular category of disabled persons. The particular category of persons for whom the assistance is to be provided may be ascertained by looking at the bill itself, from which it appears that there are several characteristics of the category - for instance, a person must have attained the age of sixteen years. But the dominant, or predominant, characteristic is that the person must be employed in a sheltered workshop. Unless he is so employed he is not one of the certain disabled persons contemplated by the title. The effect of the honourable member’s amendment, if carried, would clearly be to make the bill one to provide assistance not for that certain category of disabled persons contemplated by the bill but for a much wider category of disabled persons. Such a bill would not be a bill, I suggest, within the contemplation of the present title.
Alternatively, and perhaps even more forcibly, I submit that the amendment is out of order as not being relevant to the subjectmatter of the bill. When the bill is read it will clearly be seen that its subject-matter is not the provision of assistance to all disabled persons but assistance for a limited and defined category of disabled persons the predominant characteristic of whom is that they must be employed in sheltered workshops or likely to be employed in sheltered workshops.
If the amendment were carried, the scope of the bill would be considerably extended. lt would become one to provide assistance for all disabled persons as defined by clause 2 of the bill, whether employed in sheltered workshops or not. This, I submit, would be to make such a substantial change in the subject-matter of the bill as to turn a bill whose object is clearly to assist only those employed in sheltered workshops into a bill to assist persons of a different category altogether.
For these reasons, Mr. Chairman, I submit that you should rule the amendment not to be an admissible amendment.
To illustrate my point, if a bill were introduced to provide compensation for Commonwealth employees above the age of sixteen years, and an amendment were moved to delete the word “ Commonwealth “, the amendment could only destroy the original purposes of the bill even if the qualification as to age remained intact. If a bill were introduced to provide a standard rate for single pensioners - as, indeed, such a bill was introduced a short time ago - and an amendment were moved to delete the word “ single “, the amendment could only serve to defeat the explicit purposes of the bill and present an entirely different bill to the Parliament.
These illustrations can bc repeated ad nauseam, and I submit that this amendment, like all amendments of the kind, should be rejected as inadmissable
– Speaking to the point of order, I did not realize that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) would go to such lengths to prevent assistance being given to disabled persons as to make on a point of order what was virtually a second-reading speech. Without reflecting on you, Mr. Chairman, the freedom that you gave to the Minister would give me plenty of scope to cite cases which have no relevance to the matters under discussion. I contend that the bill, by its title does permit of an amendment to include within its provisions disabled persons other than those classed as certain disabled persons. Why should a bill of any kind be presented if it cannot be amended in some way relevant to the title or to certain aspects of it? What we seek to do is bring within the scope of the bill all disabled persons, including those employed in sheltered workshops. Our amendment is along those lines. To my way of thinking it is in conformity with what has been laid down here from time to time, namely, that a bill may be amended by adding something to it. The appropriation will not be affected. We have full authority under this measure to expend further money. If we can do that, I submit that we can alter this clause. I submit that the Minister’s point of order should be disregarded.
Minister for Social Services has cited the title of the bill and has emphasized that the word “ certain “ is the limiting factor. The bill defines a disabled person as a person who is over sixteen years of age and who has an 85 per cent, or greater disability. Persons under sixteen years of age and persons with a disability of less than 85 per cent, are excluded from the provisions of the bill. That supports the point made by the honorable member for Grayndler that in this instance the word “ certain “ in the bill need not necessarily relate merely to those who are within the sheltered workshops.
With regard to relevance to the subjectmatter of the bill, I agree that there may be scope for argument. It may be of interest that a sidenote to clause 6 refers to approval of buildings for accommodation of disabled persons. Standing Order No. 227 allows an amendment to be moved if it is within the title of the bill or relevant to the subject-matter of the bill. If the amendment qualifies on either ground it is in order. While I say there may be query and doubt as to whether the amendment is relevant to the bill, I personally think that it is. I also feel that the amendment is within the title. That being so the amendment is acceptable.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your impartiality and the justice of your decision. I shall proceed to speak to the amendment that I have moved, which is designed to bring within the scope of this bill all disabled persons including those employed in sheltered workshops. This amendment is right in line with an amendment that has been circulated by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The amendment would include the disabled people for whom the honorable member expressed so much concern to-night. We on this side of the Parliament believe that not only disabled people employed in sheltered workshops, who genuinely deserve consideration, but also the countless thousands of other disabled people who are not covered by this bill are entitled to consideration. In Australia today there are 50,000 disabled persons, 49,000 of whom are not covered by this bill. We believe that those who are not fortunate enough to be in sheltered workshops should also come within the scope of legislation of this kind.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As no other honorable member has risen I shall take my second period now. I did not realize that my time had gone so quickly. I cannot understand why the Minister for Social Services and the Government will not accept this amendment. I am also amazed at the silence of the honorable member for Mackellar on this question. I am amazed that to-night he will not take any part in this debate. I cannot help thinking that in respect of this amendment members of the Government, who speak so much of the caucus-dominated Labour Party, certainly have their own methods of pulling their members into line. On 10th October-
– Order! I suggest to the honorable member that references to the honorable member for Mackellar are not relevant to the amendment. I ask him to relate his remarks to his amendment.
– I realize that, Mr. Chairman. I was merely mentioning that the honorable member for Mackellar expressed his desire to support this amendment. I noticed a report to the effect that at a meeting of the Liberal Party yesterday he was criticized for proposing to bring before the Parliament an amendment to this bill relating to disabled persons. I am sorry if these remarks are distasteful to honorable members opposite, but those are the facts. The honorable member has been ironed out and to-night we have seen him trying to get out from under when the crisis has arrived.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler will relate his remarks to the amendment.
– Yes, I will. I can see that the attitude of the honorable member for Mackellar is a very touchy subject. I stated the position in my second-reading speech. Our positive policy is incorporated in the amendment I have moved. We believe that disabled persons other than those in sheltered workshops should come within clause 6 of the bill. Whilst it may be true that the demand for accommodation for disabled persons in sheltered workshops is great and genuine and that they are deserving people - they have the full support of all members of this Parliament - consideration should be given to the countless thousands of other disabled persons who are not fortunate enough to be in sheltered workshops, who cannot get work or who, because of their inclinations, do not desire to work. Those people are entitled to some form of accommodation.
The Minister for Social Services stated, in a remarkable speech he made not long ago, that this bill did not cover housing; it did not cover accommodation; and it did not cover anybody but certain disabled persons. As a result of his comments, we were at a loss to understand what it did cover. There is one thing that the bill does not cover. It does not cover the people whom we seek, in this amendment, to include. That is why we on this side of the Parliament believe that the bill, useful as it may be, does not fulfil all the requirements of disabled persons. We have great sympathy for the people in sheltered workshops; but in Australia there are 100,000 invalid pensioners under 65 years of age, who are not eligible for assistance under the Aged Persons Homes Act in the form of housing or residential accommodation. One might say that there is an urgent need to amend clause 6 to include that section of society.
I have moved this amendment in the hope that at this late stage the Government will heed the wishes of the Opposition and give consideration to the oft expressed and well known views of some of its own supporters, including the now silent honorable member for Mackellar who has expressed in this Parliament a desire to give effect to legislation of this kind. I can see no reason for the limitation. 1 do not know why disabled persons generally are not included. I cannot see why, with a budget expenditure of approximately £2,000,000,000 the Government cannot spend more than the £150,000 which has been allocated, to cover all the disabled people in Australia. Therefore, I hope the Minister will consider the amendment I have moved.
I could not conclude without placing on record, so that the Australian people will be aware of it, the fact that the Minister, supported by the Government, has endeavoured to stop me moving this amendment, although he has indicated to the Parliament that he believes in social justice. I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your tolerance and understanding of the position in ruling against a point of order which was taken by a Minister who professes to believe in social justice and which was against the interests of the disabled people in the community. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) is interjecting. I ask him to obey the Standing Orders and not to interject while I am on my feet. He has been in this Parliament long enough to know that interjections are grossly disorderly. I can understand his impatience to get the floor, but he can blame the Minister for Social Services who has broken every arrangement that has been made in respect of the consideration of this bill. I hope that my amendment will be carried because it will give justice not only to the people covered by the bill but also to countless thousands of other people who deserve consideration.
– Mr. Chairman, it was a little unreasonable for the . honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) to say that I was silent. I have spoken on this bill. The only reason why I did not rise when his time expired was that much of his time had been taken up with the discussion of a point of order and I thought that in courtesy 1 should give him the chance to finish the speech that he wanted to make. I think he owes me something of an apology in that respect.
I again ask the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), who is now in the chamber, whether there might be some relaxation of the Government’s stand on this matter. 1 believe that arguments that have been put forward have some substance. It has not been suggested that every application, of necessity, should be accepted under the proposed enlargement of this clause. All that has been suggested is that the discretion of the Minister for Social Services might be enlarged a little and that the clause might be clarified by removing certain potential confusion, particularly in regard to people who are incapacitated when they enter an institution, but who, because of the care and attention that they receive, in that institution, become capable of taking their place in a sheltered workshop.
The amendment has been phrased in a form that can involve, at the most, only a very small annual liability and can never involve a liability beyond the consent of the Minister and the Government. As yet, no arguments to the contrary seem to have been put. I appeal to the Prime Minister, even at this late stage, to make this minor change. It is not a major thing;’ it is a minor thing.
I resent very much the implication that I have not pressed this matter in the Parliament. It may be that from time to time I have let matters take their course in the House. T remind the honorable member for Grayndler that on many occasions his party has proposed for debate a matter of urgent public importance to prevent my proposal being discussed, but effectively the work was done. The work shows in the bill which is now before the committee. But it is not quite complete.
I do not propose to put this to a vote, for the reason that, as the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has said, there are indications that if there were a change in this clause the bill might not be proceeded with. Our objective is to get the most for the people who are incapacitated. It is not our objective to make this a political issue. I think honorable members will agree that I have done everything possible in this regard. Now I am making this plea to the Prime Minister, who is present in the chamber, in the hope that even at this late stage he will consent to some minor amendments to the bill along the lines that I have suggested.
– lt has been interesting to listen to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). It is very important for the committee to realize that even though the honorable member has indicated that he does not intend to proceed with his own amendment he now has the opportunity to support the Opposition’s amendment, which would have an effect identical with the effect of the amendment that he proposed and would be in accordance with the spirit of his contribution to the debate this afternoon. I do not need to labour the point that we have an opportunity now to make an important alteration to this proposed legislation. I think it worth while to indicate the nature of the amendments which have been proposed by the Opposition and by the honorable member for Mackellar. Clause 6(1.) of the bill is in these terms -
Where the Director-General is satisfied that a building erected or to be erected, or purchased or to be purchased, by an eligible organization is intended to be used permanently by or on behalf of the organization as, or as part of, an establishment that provides residential accommodation for disabled persons employed in sheltered workshops
The honorable member for Mackellar wants to omit the words “employed in sheltered workshops “, whereas the Opposition wants to insert after the word “persons” the words “including those employed in sheltered workshops “. The clause continues - he may, in his discretion, approve that building or proposed building for the purposes of this Act.
It is apparent that’ the Opposition’s amendment and the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar and not now to be proceeded with would have identical effects. If either were accepted the legislation would be widened to a very considerable extent so that attendance at sheltered workshops would not be necessary to attract the subsidy for an establishment to provide residential accommodation. The honorable member for Mackellar has indicated how strongly he feels about the need for this accommodation. He knows that there is a grave housing problem in Australia.
– Order! The honorable member is getting a little wide of the clause before the committee. The proposed amendment of the honorable member for Mackellar is not under consideration by the committee, neither is the subject matter which the honorable member is now debating.
– I hope all honorable members will realize that it is not uncommon for disabled persons to have real difficulty in obtaining accommodation. In fact, persons receiving high incomes have experienced this kind of difficulty. If a person is disabled to the point at which his income is seriously reduced the opportunities to obtain accommodation are very greatly restricted.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has made the very important point that the considerations which will attract the subsidy should apply to disabled persons just as they apply to aged persons under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Every one realizes the purpose of that legislation. It is very significant that this evening the honorable member for Mackellar pleaded with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) to manifest his genuine feelings in this matter, and it is also very significant that the Government parties have felt so strongly about this that they have actually intimidated the honorable member for Mackellar.
I was interested to read in the “ Age “ of 10th October, 1963 - that is as contemporary as you can get - the following article which relates to a matter which was revealed to us a short time ago -
CANBERRA, Wednesday.- -Government backbenchers at a party meeting to-day strongly criticized a colleague who has proposed widening a plan to aid disabled persons.
At the party meeting to-day, backbenchers accused Mr. Wentworth of embarrassing the Government with his proposed amendment, which would probably be supported by the Opposition.
The backbenchers claimed that Mr. Wentworth was trying to take control of a financial problem out of the hands of the Government
– Order! I have already suggested to the honorable member that he keep to the subject-matter before the committee, which is clause 6 of the bill. Newspaper reports of party meetings have nothing to do with the committee at this stage.
– As a result of the debate this afternoon we have established that not only the honorable member for Mackellar but also the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) have very strong feelings about this matter, which affects disabled persons. The Government has exhibited a brutal attitude. Why can it not extend some leniency to disabled persons and allow them to obtain the benefit of subsidies which already are available to aged persons under the Aged Persons Homes Act? This benefit is available to aged persons without any means test being applied. What the honorable member for Mackellar, the honorable member for Moore and other honorable members have said, in effect, during this debate is that the Government cannot justify giving assistance to homes for aged people without the application of a means test - even though the people concerned may be millionaires the Government is prepared to assist them with accommodation - while it denies such assistance to people who are suffering from deformities or physical or mental retardation.
Let me remind the committee that a very real problem exists. The organizations concerned estimate that only 1,000 disabled persons are attending sheltered workshops at present. They estimate also that there are 50,000 physically handicapped persons, of which number 25,000 are capable of benefiting to a considerable extent if given the opportunity to do so. But the benefits to be provided by this legislation will be available only to that small percentage which has the opportunity to attend sheltered workshops. If this Government had any genuine interest in the problem it would give the other 49,000 disabled persons the opportunity to attend sheltered workshops. Under this legislation you cannot attract any assistance unless you actually get into a sheltered workshop, and at present only 1,000 people have the opportunity to do so. Can the Minister for
Social Services (Mr. Roberton) be unaware that this is the very basis of the problem? It is vital that this bill should be widened to the fullest possible extent.
I remind the Government that there is much co-ordination work to be done. When we have regard to the fact that there are 50,000 disabled persons in Australia capable of entering sheltered workshops and that at present only 1,000 are so employed, we must realize that the present proposal is just not good enough to obtain the spontaneous goodwill of the community. There must be real co-ordination. We know that this is one of the major problems associated with the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act. In many areas there are people who have a very real housing need, but because of the failure of the Government to carry out-
– Order! The honorable member again is going into subjects completely wide of the clause and the bill at this moment.
– My time has nearly expired, as the result of the difficulty in interpreting the Standing Orders in this situation, but I impress upon the honorable member for Mackellar in particular the need to display some real morality in this matter which very seriously effects the unfortunate people in our community. We know how he feels about this question and we sincerely hope that he does not succumb to the intimidation and stand-over tactics which have manifested themselves during the debate this evening. We hope that he and other members opposite will cross the floor so that a large number of disabled persons in the community, who have not the opportunity of attending sheltered workshops, may attract government assistance in financing their accommodation.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Daly’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8. (1.) A grant to an eligible organization under this Act may be made upon such terms and conditions, not inconsistent with this Act, as the Director-General thinks fit. (2.) Before making a grant under this Act to an eligible organization, the Director-General may require theorganization to enter into an agreement with him with respect to the terms and conditions upon which the grant is to be made. (3.) An agreement under the last preceding sub-section may, if the Director-General considers the circumstances so require, include an undertaking by the eligible organization with respect to the continued use of the approved building as, or as part of, an establishment that provides residential accommodation for disabled persons employed in sheltered workshops, and provision for the repayment of the grant to the Commonwealth in the event of a breach of the undertaking, and for the giving of security for the carrying out of the undertaking.
.- I move -
In sub-clause (3.), after “persons” insert “ including those “.
The purpose of this amendment is to bring within the scope of clause 8 people who are disabled but who are not working or likely to work in a sheltered workshop. The proposal is to bring within the scope of the bill many thousands of other people, as was instanced earlier to-day, who are at present denied the benefits of this legislation. It deals with the terms and conditions of the grant, and one of the conditions which we think should be adhered to is that people other than those at present in sheltered workshops should be included among those eligible.
I have been advised that it is estimated that in Sydney alone, in a population of 2,000,000 there are 10,000 people eligible to enter sheltered workshops. In New South Wales, in a population of 4,000,000, there are 20,000 such people. When people leave the sheltered workshops and go into industry, as about 20 per cent. of them do, they must be able to use the accommodation temporarily or permanently. It is four or five years from the time a person goes into the sheltered workshop until he can be rehabilitated sufficiently to have his own place to live. His family can then take him back if he is not too much of a burden or if other circumstances permit. This makes it more important than ever that the provision should include disabled persons other than those in sheltered workshops. I see no reason at all why honorable members should not support the amendment and
I appeal to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) to redeem himself by doing so.
When all is said and done, nobody has much respect for a sham fighter who talks one way and votes another. In this Parliament, you back up your judgment, opinions and sincerity by standing up and being counted. You are judged in this place by your vote. My amendment gives every member of this Parliament who desires to see all disabled people really assisted an opportunity to vote in accordance with his conscience and bring all disabled persons within the scope of the measure. What is £1 50,000 to the Government? Earlier tonight the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) stated that it would not cost very much more to widen the scope of this measure to include disabled persons other than those in sheltered workshops. Their inclusion would bring urgently needed benefit to the community and to humanity.
For my part, I hope that the Government will heed what we are saying on this issue because I know that Mrs. Bedwin and others like her realize the urgent need of such a provision as we have suggested. Every person who is interested in the disabled knows that these unfortunate people must have some form of accommodation, and unless it is provided for in a measure such as this, we cannot possibly hope to give the sheltered workshops the assistance that we all want them to have.
Earlier to-night, the Minister dealt with the terms and conditions under which grants may be made. He pointed out that a grant to an eligible organization under this measure may be made upon such terms and conditions, not inconsistent with the measure, as the Director-General of Social Services thinks fit. He said that we on this side wanted organizations that cater for the disabled to be policed and controlled by the government of the day. At no stage did any member on this side of the Parliament suggest that. All we ask is that the administration of this measure should be sound and that the many anomalies that have become apparent in our experience of the operation of the Aged Persons Homes Act should not be permitted to arise under this legislation. We do not suggest the policing of these organizations or their workshops, or taking them over. Rather do we ask that, in his wisdom, the Director-General might see that this provision is properly administered and that the standards required to meet the needs of the people concerned are adhered to.
I have no desire to delay the passage of the bill. The inclusion of the two words we have suggested is of tremendous importance. What we propose is in conformity with the suggestion of other members of the Parliament who desire that all disabled persons be brought within the scope of this bill. A large number of disabled persons will suffer if these words are not included in the measure. I appeal again to honorable members on the Government side to judge the proposal we have submitted in that light and not to be influenced by the few pounds of expense involved. I remind them that it seems to be quite easy to-day to provide £4,000,000 for the wool-growers or some other section of the community. Surely, there should be no difficulty about providing a little more than the £150,006 mentioned in this bill for the benefit of those about whom we are concerned. I hope the amendment I have moved will be accepted by the Parliament. The inclusion of the relevant words will bring a great deal of comfort to the many thousands of people who will have nothing to look forward to if my proposal is rejected.
– I do not propose to take up much of the time of the committee. I rise only to seek some guidance from the Minister with respect to one or two matters. I agree wholeheartedly with the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that there is ample evidence of the great need to widen the provisions of this legislation in the way suggested in the amendment he has proposed. There is no doubt that a large number of persons other than those who attend sheltered workshops have these accommodation problems.
Motion (by Mr. Dean) put-
That the question te now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Daly’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority .. .. 1
– I have an amendment to move in connexion with clause 9, which reads in part - (3.) For the purposes of this section, the amount of the funds of an organization available for expenditure towards the capital cost of an approved building shall be deemed to be the sum of the moneys (if any) expended, and the moneys presently available for expenditure, by the organization towards the capital cost of the building, being moneys that the Director-General is satisfied -
The clause relates to moneys raised by organizations which desire to build homes for disabled persons. The committee has decided that persons other than those entitled to enter sheltered workshops may not be admitted to homes built from funds provided under this measure.
I move -
In clause 9, sub-clause (3.), omit “ or of a State, or from a local governing body or other authority established by a State Act.
The reason for proposing this amendment is that there may be a sheltered workshop in an area where it is difficult to raise enough money to erect a building to accommodate the disabled persons working in the sheltered workshop. The organization concerned may not be able to raise enough money. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, referred to this possibility- and to the possibility that an organization may commence the erection of a building and find that it cannot raise enough money to complete it. He stated that in such circumstances the organization could borrow the money or get it from the State Government. However, it would not be entitled to receive a subsidy on that money. I contend that we should make it possible for an organization in that position to get money from State or local authority sources.
We might take as a comparison the “ Meals on Wheels “ organization. It needs for its activities a kitchen, proper cooking facilities and funds to provide meals for distribution. Very often a local governing body erects a kitchen or subscribes to the organization to enable it to function. The organization does not depend on public subscriptions. In South Australia, the State Government says to the children’s hospitals, “ You raise so much and we will assist you “. It could not do the same in this case as a subsidy in respect of the money so given would not be payable.
I hope that the Minister is prepared to accept the proposed amendment. Local governing bodies cannot erect buildings for disabled persons and receive subsidies from the Commonwealth, as would have been possible had the amendment proposed earlier been accepted. If the amendment I propose were accepted it would be possible for a local governing body or some other body set up under a government regulation to say to an organization, “ You want that building there. You are not able to raise sufficient funds to build it. We will give you so much and with the subsidy from the Commonwealth you will be able to put up the building.” The building would be run by an organization not controlled by the State or the local governing body. As the bill is now, a State Government would say to an organization close to a sheltered workshop, “ You have not a hope of putting up accommodation for the disabled persons who work in that sheltered workshop. If we made a contribution towards a building, you would not receive the Commonwealth subsidy. You will not be able to build “. Approval of my proposal will give to these bodies the opportunity that they seek. It may be true to say that the circumstances to which I have referred do not apply in the big cities, but there are many country towns in which there are disabled persons. In those towns a workshop could be set up where these people could be employed and thus come within the ambit of this bill. I feel that we are not asking for any substantial extension of the existing provisions. We are asking the Government to enable local people who are interested in helping other charitable people in these areas to get sufficient funds to go on with the job. As I have said, the Minister maintained during the debate on the second reading of the bill that these people could get money elsewhere, but the Commonwealth Government would not subsidise any contribution made by a local government body or a State body.
If the Minister has made up his mind not to accept the Opposition’s proposal I cannot help it. But I believe that if it accepted our proposal the Government would not be extending assistance to people other than those whom it wishes to help under this bill. It would simply make it easier for organizations that wish to assist these people to get the financial aid that they require. Even a State housing authority might say to these people, “ We are not able to put up the type of place you want In answer to a question which I asked, the Minister stated that the assistance proposed by the Government would not be given for the building of ordinary houses but for structures in the nature of institutions. I refer to places in which a number of people would live, each having a cubicle or a room to himself, perhaps. This is a type of construction that a State housing authority would not be prepared to undertake. However, the authority might be prepared to say, “As you are trying to raise the money to construct a building for these people we will endeavour to help you “. But if the Commonwealth Government will not subsidize the project the authority may not be in a position to say that. I move this amendment in order to enable State and local government bodies to help in this matter.
– In seconding the amendment moved by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) I want to point to the Government’s inconsistency in this matter.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) put -
That the question be now put -
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . l
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Thompson’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
(The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The Parliament - Document issued by Department of Health.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to refer to an incident that occurred in the House this morning. Every one who was present at the time will recall that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) sought leave to make a statement on wool promotion. I do not intend to debate the merits of that statement. I wish only to deal with the attitude of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). I believe that it should not be passed over without a very strong protest. For the enlightenment of honorable members who were not present at the time, I should like to relate that after the Prime Minister, at the conclusion of question time, had made his statement on wool promotion, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was granted leave to speak on the same subject. Naturally, every one assumed that there would be only one speaker on each side of the House. When the honorable member had completed his remarks, the Minister for Primary Industry sought leave to make a statement. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in his usual fairminded way - no one can deny that he is ever anything but fair-minded - decided to grant leave, because he believes that every one has a right to express his opinion.
Immediately after the Minister had concluded his remarks, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) rose. He is secretary of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Primary Industries Committee and last year, during the consideration of a bill dealing with the wool industry, on behalf of the Opposition proposed an amendment that provided for a £1 for £1 subsidy for wool promotion. This morning, the honorable member, on the initiative of the Minister for Primary Industry, was denied the right to make a statement. The Leader of the Opposition then moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would have prevented the honorable member for Bendigo from stating his case. The motion was taken to a vote by the Minister for Primary Industry and was negatived by 56 votes to 54. However, I am sure that the vast majority of the 56 members who voted on the Government’s side believe in fair play and would have voted in favour of the motion had the vote been a nonparty one. I appreciate the fact that honorable members opposite, like us on this side of the chamber, are bound to vote on party lines.
I believe that the Minister for Primary Industry, this morning, gave one of the worst displays of narrow-mindedness that we have seen. It was low, despicable and unbecoming of any member of this House. I venture to say that neither the Prime Minister nor the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) would have acted in like manner and refused the Australian Labour Party a second speaker. The Minister for Primary Industry, if he is a man at all, should apologize to the Leader of the Opposition for the despicable attitude that he exhibited in the House this morning. If he refuses to apologize, let him now explain his reasons for denying the honorable member for Bendigo the right to speak this morning, for, had the honorable member spoken, there would have been two speakers on each side. Is there any member on the Government side who would say that two speakers on each side on this issue would be an unfair arrangement? I do not think there is. If there is, let him speak later in this debate. I appeal to the Minister for Primary Industry to apologize to the Leader of the Opposition for denying the Opposition its right to a second speaker.
– Finish the story.
– The honorable member may speak later.
– Tell the whole story.
– Tell what story?
– The whole story.
– I told the story. There had been no arrangement that the Minister was to speak. The arrangement was that there should be two speakers - the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Lalor. By the good grace of the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister for Primary Industry was given leave to make a statement. The Minister then denied the Labour Party a second speaker to put its case. I concede, however, that the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor were at least equal to the combined remarks of both speakers on the Government side.
.- Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the House for delaying it. I shall not trespass upon its grace. I wish to refer to some notes that were circulated on the authority of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) and which bore upon a recent debate in this House. You have my assurance that I shall in no way seek to revive the debate. I believe that these notes represent an unutterable piece of impertinence “and that they involve a principle which no member of the Parliament should treat lightly. All members of the Parliament are indebted to Ministers and to the staffs which work for Ministers in preparing notes and in giving facts and information to members during the course of a debate. This country has been very fortunate in having a civil service that works in the finest traditions of integrity and neutrality. But whenever those traditions are impeached in any way, I believe it is incumbent upon those who believe that they are impeached to say so quite plainly and explicitly.
I wish to read one brief paragraph from those notes. I shall then leave the matter to the judgment of the House. It states -
The active anti-fluoridationists and their recruits are usually well known locally for their record of dissenting over many other issues. They arc the ideological descendants of those who in their own day opposed chlorination, anaesthesia in childbirth, and other advances in the social application of medicine.
I describe that as an unutterable piece of impertinence on the part of the civil service. I resent the distribution of this statement to members of the Parliament, and 1 hope that prompt action will be taken to correct it.
– It is a matter for the Minister. The Minister approved it.
– Does the honorable member want to treat this as a trivial matter? I know he has not the wit to understand what I am talking about. I should hope that he at least could find the stomach to listen to my argument. I ask the Minister for Health, under whose authority this statement was handed out to members of this Parliament, to take appropriate action in relation to the civil service and promptly to tender an apology to members of the Parliament.
.- I rise to make a suggestion to the Government, particularly as there has been an casing of the cold war since the sighing of the nuclear test ban treaty in Moscow a short time ago. We have read in the press in recent days about the devastating hurricane which struck certain parts in the Caribbean, including Haiti, Tobago and’ Cuba. This Government acted rather wisely and in a Christian manner when it gave financial aid to the island of Bali, to Skopje when an earthquake occurred in Yugoslavia a short time ago and, if my memory is correct, to Chile when a national calamity occurred there. The Government should consider sending immediate financial aid to these islands in the Caribbean to relieve the sufferings of the unfortunate people who have been so badly hit by the hurricane Flora.
I was iri Cuba late last year on my way to the conference of the Inter-parliamentary Union in Brazil. I did not seek out any of the government officials, but I can inform the Parliament that at that time food was in short supply in Cuba. Perhaps that was attributable to the economic sanctions that were applied against Cuba by certain Western countries. It is the belief of the common people in the world to-day that the people of all nations should come together in an atmosphere of goodwill, irrespective of political ideologies, so that another world war will be put further away from the minds of certain people. The Government should display to those people who are suffering as a result of this hurricane the feelings of the Australian people by giving them immediate financial aid so that they will realize that the Australian people feel sympathetic towards them in their sufferings. I hope that supporters of the Government will urge the Prime Minister (.Sir Robert Menzies) to accede to my request.
After being treated with an extraordinary degree of courtesy in Cuba some months ago, I received a letter from the only Australian I could find in that country. He asked me whether, if I got the opportunity, I would send a parcel of tea over to him. I sent him a parcel containing 3 lb. of tea and some powdered milk. I experienced great difficulty in getting it aboard a Swedish ship in Newcastle to be transported to Cuba. The agents informed me that they were most reluctant to take the parcel, which was addressed to Cuba, because they did a lot of work for the Matson Line - an American shipping line - and they thought that line might take action against the company by diverting its business to some other shipping company when Matson Line vessels came to Newcastle. I explained that I was merely sending a personal parcel to a friend in Cuba who had treated me with great courtesy. Actions like this on the part of a world-renowned shipping line to prevent a small private parcel being sent to Cuba and to have it left at Kingston, in Jamaica, are not conducive to bringing the people of the world together in an atmosphere of brotherly love and friendship and according to the true Christian spirit which we all claim to uphold.
– I wish to reply very briefly to the matter that has been raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). My colleague, the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), and I made available to honorable members for the purposes of a debate earlier to-day a number of notes that had been compiled in the Department of Health but which were not compiled specifically for the purpose of to-day’s debate. I cannot disagree with any of the matters that are contained in those notes.
– May I interrupt my honorable friend and ask him whether he thinks it is right as a matter of principle that the civil service should tender this sort of advice.
– I do not find anything in these notes to be offensive. If the honorable member will bear with me for a little while and not interject, he might come to see something of my way of thinking. These notes were compiled from a number of sources. The paragraph about which he complains was lifted verbatim from an article by G. Wynn Griffith, M.D., County Medical Officer of Health, Anglesea. If the honorable member looked at the article, which is headed “ Observations on the Fluoridation Controversy”, he would see that it agrees almost word for word with the preceding paragraph, the one of which he complains, and the following one. The only fault is that the source was not acknowledged, and that it was not put in quotation marks. But let us face the facts. A great proportion of the campaign against fluoridation is conducted by people who are “ anti “ quite a lot of new things.. If the honorable member for Moreton wants any more evidence of this I can show him a bundle of correspondence from crackpots all over Australia, and the fact that these letters are sent from such people is something that any public servant is entitled to take notice of. If the honorable member would like to refer to an article called “ The Secret Life of Eric Butler “ which appeared in the “ Nation “ of 26th September, 1959, he will find that this gentleman was quoted as saying that the danger of nuclear fall-out is not as great as the danger of fluoridating water supplies. Well, really, is it a great exaggeration for a public servant to say that there are some people who are antifluoridation just because they are “anti” quite a lot of other things as well?
I do not intend to detain the House very long on this matter. I simply point out that this paper was prepared as a collection of facts dealing with arguments for and against fluoridation, and the kinds of people who advance these arguments. It was not intended for the debate to-day. It was made available to honorable members as part of the evidence in the department, and I believe that the circulation of it was quite justified.
.- I want to make a brief protest against the attack by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) on public servants for issuing a document from a department over which there is ministerial authority. 1 think this is a most contemptible action. If a document is issued from a public department, then that document is issued either with the consent of the Minister, at the direction of the Minister or because the Minister has not taken action to prevent its issue. It is the Minister who is responsible, not the members of the Public Service.
Honorable members should not seek in this Parliament to make attacks upon anonymous public servants - it was not made on any particular individual - in connexion with the issue of a particular document from the Department of Health, when the responsibility for the issue of the document rests upon the Minister for
Health (Senator Wade). The honorable member for Moreton dare not attack the Minister, so he accuses, in a contemptible manner, a public servant of an action for which the Minister is responsible.
– I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr. Speaker.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do indeed. I had hoped that the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) would have perceived that I had made it quite clear that I regard the composition of this document as impertinent, but the Minister, of course, must answer to Parliament. No public servant can answer to Parliament. That was precisely my point. It was not on the Public Service that I issued any summons for apology but on the Minister. Honorable members opposite are trying to interject, but they cannot “ yahoo “ their way out of this. I repeat -
– Order! The honorable member has made his personal explanation. He will resume his seat.
.-I do not wish to detain the House for more than one minute. While I do not disagree with much of what the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has said, let me ask him this question: If a newspaper is issued with the notation “ Official viewpoint of the Labour Party “ may I refer to it as the official viewpoint of the Labour Party?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.5 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Shipping Freights. (Question No. 211.)
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
What are the freight charges per ton on steel - (a) imported into Australia from (i) the United Kingdom, (ii) the United States of America, and (iii) Europe; and (b) exported from Australia to - (i) the United Kingdom, (ii) the United States, and (iii) Europe?
– In reply to the honorable member’s question I set out examples of freight rates for a range of steel items to and from Australia. Due to the variety of types of steel products, and the different classifications adopted by shipowners for the purpose of fixing freight rates, a true comparison of rates is not always possible.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
s asked the Minister for Supply, upon notices -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The proceeds from these sales averages approximately £3,000,000 per annum. It is therefore, far more advantageous and satisfactory for these sales to be conducted by licensed professional auctioneers from whom a selection can also be made of those most suitable to conduct sales of special types. The auctioneer’s responsibilities and services include far more than is involved merely in actually selling the goods at the sale.
1958- 59…… 61,301
1959- 60 .. .. .. 82,040
1960- 61…… 85,424
1961- 62…… 73,098
1962- 63…… 68,865
This expenditure represents 2½ per cent.. of the gross proceeds of the sales.
Shipping Freight’s. (Question No. 246.)
r asked the Minister for
Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Freight on Exports. (Question No. 251.)
n asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
What is the estimated amount of freight paid overseas on exports for each of the years 1946-47 to 1961-62, inclusive?
– The Commonwealth Statistician has advised that no statistics are available showing freights paid on exports. These are not included in Australia’s balance-of-payments estimates and, accordingly, no estimates have been prepared for them.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The basis of the medical benefits scheme is that Commonwealth medical benefits are payable only for those professional services rendered by or on behalf of registered medical practitioners. Consideration has been given from time to time to extending the scheme to provide Commonwealth benefits for ancillary services such as optical treatment, nursing and physio-therapy, but it has not been found practicable to do so up to the present.
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - .
During the period October, 1945, to June, 1963, Australia received 1,976,686 permanent and long term arrivals. These were mainly settlers, but the figures also include returning residents of Australia and long term visitors. New statistics on movements of settlers were published by the Commonwealth Statistician in 1962. These statistics show the composition of permanent and long term arrivals since 1959. They are included in the following tables.
y asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
As naturalization is granted as a general rule only after five years’ residence in Australia, most persons who have arrived here within the last five years would not yet be residentially qualified for the grant of naturalization.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 October 1963, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19631010_reps_24_hor40/>.