24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BRYANT presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section SI, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
Petition received and read.
– Is the Treasurer aware that considerable discontent is felt by employees of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation because of the corporation’s refusal to accede to their request to revert to the 9 a.m. starting time instead of the present 8.45 a.m. starting time? Does the Treasurer agree that such discontent could easily affect the morale, and in some rases the loyalty, of the staff? If the right honorable gentleman agrees that the employees have a legitimate grievance will he discuss the matter with representatives of the Commonwealth Bank Officers Association or, alternatively, will he use his good offices with the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to have the corporation reconsider the matter in the light of the overwhelming opinion of the employees who render such sterling service to the public in discharging their daily duties?
– This matter has been raised on a number of occasions in the House by various members, and I have said that the Government’s view is that it is a matter of internal management, involving relationships between the management of the corporation and its employees. I believe the honorable member does less than justice to what he rightly describes as the fine body of employees of the bank when he suggests that their morale or their spirit of service could be seriously and deleteriously affected by this alleged discontent. This is a matter falling quite properly within the realm of management. I think it would be a bad thing if this Parliament, either itself or through the Government, got into the practice of interfering in what should properly be regarded as matters of internal management relationships.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that the Maltese Minister for Emigration and Labour, on his return from Australia, said that Australia was the America of to-morrow? What positive advantages were gained by Australia from discussions with that Minister concerning Maltese migration?
– I do not know whether Australia is the America of to-morrow; I think all Australians hope that by what we are doing we will make something even greater than America. Certainly, in our immigration policy we have avoided some of the mistakes made not only in the United States but also in other countries.
Coming down to the particular points that my friend from Swan has raised; it is quite true, as the honorable gentleman knows, that recently we had the pleasure of entertaining in Australia Dr. CachiaZammit. the Maltese Minister for Emigration and Labour. He came out primarily to sec how his own countrymen were faring in Australia. I and my department were able to see that he visited many parts of Australia and particularly that he became closely acquainted with the Maltese community.
As a result of the talks that I had with the Maltese Minister about the quality of the Maltese migrants who are available and especially the possibilities of our being able to obtain more skilled workers from Malta - we badly need skilled workers in this country - I was able to arrange with him for an extra 1,000 assisted Maltese migrants to come to Australia in this financial year. In addition, we have also been able to arrange for 250 single Maltese women to come here during the same period. I think the honorable member for Swan will agree that these negotiations will be of great benefit to us and will add welcome faces to the already well-regarded Maltese community in Australia.
– I ask the Treasurer why the Taxation Branch suddenly has decided to ask Returned Servicemen’s League clubs and other clubs to furnish returns of income derived from club visitors and associate members. I also ask the right honorable gentleman whether this new procedure was adopted on the initiative of the deputy commissioners of taxation themselves or by direction of the Government. Can he give an assurance that clubs will not be penalized for their omission to furnish such returns in earlier years?
– I shall deal first with that part of the question which refers to the initiative of the Commonwealth Government. The situation is, I believe, well known to all honorable members. It is not the practice of the Government to interfere in any way with the independence of the Commissioner of Taxation. I have not heard of the development to which the honorable gentleman referred. If there is any information which the commissioner feels could properly be made available, I shall secure it for the honorable gentleman.
– Can the Minister for Air give the House an assessment of how the equipment of the Royal Australian Air Force compares with that of other air forces throughout the world?
– I would sum up the position in this way: If I exclude the aircraft whose future is at present under close scrutiny by the Government and relate my remarks to those aircraft which are either operational now or are just coming into operation with the Royal Australian Air Force, I can say that we have aircraft which are equal or superior to those of any other air force in the world with the exception of the United States and Soviet air forces. I know that certain people will not admit this, so I shall refer to the various types that we have. The Hercules undoubtedly is the best aircraft in its field to-day. The Neptune P2V-7 is equal or superior to any anti-submarine aircraft of its type operating in the world at this time. The Iroquois helicopter, as a utility aircraft, again is better than anything else in its field. The Caribou, which will come into service after delivery to the R.A.A.F. in January of next year, has no equal in the field of close army support. The Mirage fighter is superior to any fighter aircraft operating in the European theatre to-day.
– What about the pilots?
– I believe our pilots are particularly well trained. Then we have the Sabre aircraft.- Some people may say that we have had the Sabres for quite a long time, but I point out that Sabres are still in use with the Tactical Command of the United States Air Force. The Sabres in use in America are inferior to those that we have. Ours are fitted with Rolls-Royce engines, which give a slightly greater thrust. The United States Air Force is still using the Sabre in a ground attack role, and it is using the F84 aircraft also, which is inferior to the Sabre. I have no hesitation in saying that, plane for plane, the equipment of the Royal Australian Air Force to-day is equal or superior to the equipment of any air force in the world, with the exception of the United States Air Force and possibly the Soviet Air Force.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Will he, as an act of good faith if not as an expression of confidence, now agree to amend the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act so as to remove all restrictions on the voting rights of the member for the Australian Capital Territory? Will the Prime Minister agree to the passage of this amending legislation through the Twenty-fourth Parliament, with a proviso that it shall come into effect with the commencement of the life of the Twenty-fifth’ Parliament?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is in the negative.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that quantities of hides suitable for the manufacture of footwear were imported recently from America? If so, what was the reason for such importation? Were the quantities imported large enough to have a depressing effect on the local hide market and consequently on the Australian cattle market?
– No hides have been imported from America in the recent past although I understand that a very small quantity of leather has been ordered from that source. Customarily, hides have been imported from New Zealand but only in quantities that are small by comparison with the total usage of hides in Australia. I gather that imports from New Zealand are diminishing.
– Does the Minister for Labour and National Service agree that youth unemployment will rise higher than the present level by the end of the year? Does he agree also that youth unemployment represents about 28 per cent. of total unemployment? Does he agree with the action of the Government of Western Australia in appointing a sub-committee to examine and report upon unemployment in that State, with special regard to youth unemployment? Will he arrange to set up a national committee to examine youth unemployment?
– The honorable gentleman should know that the number of registrants for employment in Australia fell last month to a little below 1.4 per cent. of the work force, and that the number is still falling.
– What about youth unemployment?
– Please be quiet. You asked the question. The critical factor in this matter is thatwe are now receiving notifications of job vacancies at the rate of about 12,500 a week, but we can find only 8,500 people to fit into those jobs. There is a hunger for employees.
– What about youth?
– As to youth, I have published a document in the course of the last few days which shows that there has been a considerable decline in unemployment as it affects male youth. Except for special cases it is easy to place young people, particularly young school leavers, in employment. We have one problem, and that concerns young women in country areas. If the honorable member cares to read in full the statement on employment - I am sure he has not yet read it - he will see that the real problem concerns young women in country areas. They are presenting us with some difficulties because their mothers do not like them to leave home in order to work in the cities. Apart from that aspect we have little or no employment problem. I insist that unemployment has fallen to the very low figure of 1.4 per cent. The position continues to improve. I assure the House that next year we could well be in great trouble trying to find enough employees to fit into the jobs that are now, and will become, available.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial -Research Organization. Does the organisation intend to establish new headquarters and regional laboratories in Western Australia? If so, can the Minister give details of the proposed buildings? When does he expect a start will be made on the project?
– The C.S.I.R.O. has been examining very carefully all of its plans for laboratory construction. It does propose to construct laboratories in Western Australia. It has been granted, by the University of Western Australia, an area of seventeen acres on which it proposes to build a laboratory. I cannot tell the honorable member when construction will commence. The project is at the moment on the design list in the Department of Works, and it is hoped that work on the project will commence in about eighteen months. That is the best information that I can give.
– I ask the Treasurer:
On what date did the Reserve Bank advise the Rural Bank of New South Wales that it should be more selective or restrictive in its lending? What are the general terms of the Reserve Bank’s advice to the Rural Bank and what is the reason for it? Further, was a similar request made to any other bank?
-I will examine the text of any document that may have gone from the Reserve Bank to the Rural Bank of New South Wales and see what information I can give to the honorable member. Of course, the Reserve Bank is periodically in touch with other banks in the system concerning the general level of credit and matters associated therewith.
– As the affairs of Australia appear to be very healthy, can the Treasurer advise the House of the state of Australia’s economy, both private and public? Can the gloomy predictions continually made by the Opposition be justified?
– I hope to present the latest facts relating to Australia’s economic situation when the estimates for the Department of the Treasury are before the committee of the whole House at a later hour to-;day. I believe that the facts arc a complete answer to what the honorable gentleman has described as the gloomy predictions of the Opposition. Those predictions certainly are not in accordance with the facts, and I think it is notorious that they are expressed publicly for no other than party political reasons.
– I wish to direct my question to the Prime Minister. Will he consider having a social gathering of members before the end of this week? ‘ I ask this question because I should like to have an opportunity to say farewell to some of my Opposition friends-
– Order! The honorable member will not make any comment.
– I ask this question because 1 probably shall not see-
– As Prime Minister, all I can do is refer my friend to the well-known passage in “Hamlet” - the funeral bak’d meats Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. . Was he .advised in the
United States of America that investment loans by that country would be severely curtailed next year? Can we expect that, in the unlikely event of the right honorable gentleman continuing in the office of Treasurer, a new credit squeeze will be imposed on the Australian people next year in the same way as a credit squeeze was imposed several years ago in similar circumstances?
– I know that the honorable gentleman and his colleagues will be greatly disappointed to learn that I received no such discouraging information in the United States of America. On the contrary, I found the same lively interest in Australia’s development and the same evidence of intention on the part of many businessmen and financial interests in that country to invest in Australia’s future as I have always found before. The total of loan raisings so far for this financial year, some details of which I shall give honorable members during the consideration of the Treasury estimates, is running well up to the estimates. By the time the current loan has closed; our loan raisings up to this stage of the financial year will have amounted, in round figures, to about £200,000,000. That is a good way along the road towards the target of £300,000,000 that we set ourselves in the Budget.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Supply. Is it a fact that the Woomera rocket range may be abandoned as the major launching site for the rocket programme of the European Launcher Development Organization? If this is a fact, what is the’ reason for the abandonment of this site? Will an alternative site in Australia be sought? Will the Woomera rocket range continue to be used for rocketry development apart from the Eldo programme?
– I am happy to be able to assure the honorable gentleman that there is no suggestion of the abandonment of Woomera by the Eldo organization, or of any curtailment of the present five-year Eldo programme in which Australia is engaged as a contractor to that organization. There may be some misunderstanding. The proposed Eldo vehicle is a three-stage vehicle^ of which stages two and three will bc engineered and produced in France and Germany respectively. These two stages will no doubt be tested in the French rocket range at Colomb-Bechar in North Africa. After testing, they will be shipped to Australia for marriage with the Blue Streak section. The entire programme from that point will bc carried on by the Australian Government. Outside the work being done by Eldo at Woomera, there is no call in the Australian programme for the launching of satellites. Indeed, that is beyond our immediate financial resources and beyond our domestic needs. We are conducting a programme of upper atmosphere weather research by rockets launched from Woomera.
– A couple of days ago I asked the Prime Minister whether he was aware that the Treasurer had issued an announcement that certain investments overseas by Australians would not be permitted. I ask the Treasurer now whether the restriction will prevent Australians from purchasing shares in companies that now operate in Australia, companies such as General Motors - Holden’s Proprietary Limited and the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited. I ask him also whether representations have been made by him to the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States of America, Mr. Dillon, in connexion with the limitation of loans to Australia and other countries by the imposition of an interest levy upon such loans, and whether such an imposition is similar in its effects and results to the restriction applied by the Australian Government. If not, what is the difference between the attitudes of the Australian Government and the Government of the United States of America in relation to the outflow of capital?
– It is not easy to disentangle the various elements in the honorable member’s question and deal with them in a manner which would throw much light on the subject. The honorable gentleman seems to be confusing an interest equalization tax imposed in the United States of America - which does not prohibit loan raising in that country but does make lt more expensive - with a policy which we have consistently maintained in this country against the investment overseas of our savings except in very special circumstances. The honorable member raised the point of investment by employees of organizations in Australia in their American principal companies. That would be regarded as a special situation, which we would examine to see whether the investment would be justified. There have been cases where we have permitted Australian investment in an Australian subsidiary overseas or In a firm marketing Australian products abroad, and in matters of that kind. I ask the honorable member to appreciate that Australia is a capital-importing country. It is by the importation of capital that we are able to bridge the gap between what we receive on current account’ and what we have to pay out by way of interest payments. The gap is covered by what comes into Australia from private capital investment, overseas borrowings and matters of that sort. We are in a very different situation from that of the United States of America, which is and has been traditionally a capital-exporting country.
– I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service a few weeks ago a question regarding the construction of the radio communication station in Western Australia. On that occasion the honorable gentleman said that strenuous negotiations were in progress. I now ask him: Has work on the station been started? If not, what precisely is holding up the commencement? Will the Minister give an assurance that prompt and appropriately firm action will be taken to get this vital work under way?
– Some work has commenced at the North West Cape communication base. As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, negotiations are still proceeding for an award, and in particular for an award relating to a remote site allowance because of the distance of the base from Perth. I have been informed in the course of the last week that it was hoped that negotiations would be completed yesterday, and . that an ‘ agreement would be ratified and made into an award. I assure the honorable gentleman that whilst I have informed the trade union movement that we are prepared to permit the normal process of negotiation to continue we are not prepared to permit negotiations to drag on interminably. The interests of the country must come first, and we are not prepared to permit undue delay.
– I preface a question addressed to the Postmaster-General by stating that on 19th September last, in answer to a question asked in another place, he stated that he had before him an application for the approval of the transfer to News Limited of 966,666 shares in TCN, his approval being required by section 92f of the Broadcasting and Television Act. I now ask the Minister: When was this application received? Has approval been given? If not, why not? Finally, if it has not been given, when can a decision be expected?
– The application referred to by the honorable member for Lang was received by me. It has been referred to once or twice previously in this House. All the various factors with relation to the transfer were investigated by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and by the Attorney-General’s Department. There was nothing in the application which was in any way at variance with section 92 of the act, and, under section 92f (3.),- approval was given.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he has any information about the proposed establishment of free trade zones in Indonesia. Can he say where these free trade zones will be located and what their effect on Australian trade is likely to be?
– I have no information relating to the proposed establishment of free customs areas around certain ports in Indonesia, about which we have all read. The Department of Trade will be watching carefully to see what does develop, in order to take steps or make representations that may be necessary to protect Australia’s interests., ……
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he is aware that the United States Government has made a strong official protest to Canada with respect to the sale of wheat at what are termed fixed prices. Is he aware that an American Government spokesman has said that this action taken by Canada has undermined historic world commercial market practices? Has he been informed that America is considering a fundamental change in her trading practices? Does such a threatened change imply a cutthroat price war in wheat? Finally, has Canada’s action affected Australia’s position? If so, has he made any protest to the Canadian Government, and what action has been taken to protect the position of our important wheat industry?
– I can say that there is a constant exchange of information and advice between the great wheat exporting countries. Canada made this great sale to the Soviet Union. Australia also has made important sales of both wheat and flour. They were for cash, but the Canadian sale was so gigantic that it would be reasonable to expect some price consideration to be attached to it. The American Government has acted in a manner very much approved by the Australian Government with respect to its own sales of commercial wheat. It has endeavoured to sustain commercial values, and I must say that in all our experience Canada has behaved in an equally responsible and satisfactory manner. I know of no grounds upon which there should be any complaint as between these three great wheat-exporting countries.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Now that the unemployment figure has dropped to 58,000 persons, is this figure, when expressed as a percentage, lower than the figure of 1.5 per cent, floating work force which the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. Monk, said at an immigration convention in Canberra was necessary to deal with seasonal and construction works? Is it not a fact that we can expect the percentage to decline still further? In these circumstances can the Minister give any indication of the prospects facing school leavers next year?
– As the honorable member has said, the figure of 1.4 per cent, is lower than the percentage mentioned by Mr. Monk as being necessary to cater for seasonal and construction work. But I should say, in deference to Mr. Monk, that he used the words “about 1.5 per cent.”. As to the balance of the honorable member’s question, I think I should point out to the House that the number of recipients of the unemployment benefit has now fallen to about .6 per cent., or 26,000. These figures must be recognized, because they indicate the. number of persons who must have been registered for one week or more and are receiving the benefit. They are important figures and they do indicate the trend. As to the future, I am sure that this month we will again see a very healthy figure. As to the last part of the honorable member’s question, I have said that there is now a hunger for school leavers and already employers are asking the department to try to find suitable school leavers for them. I am certain that the prospect is better now than it has been for several years past and that we will have no difficulty, other than in exceptional cases, in placing young people in employment fairly quickly. If the people who are genuinely interested in this problem will help the youngsters to take up apprenticeships and so to get into skilled trades, not only will their prospects be improved but also much will be done for the future of this country.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question. In view of the success of recent internal government loans, why did he have to involve Australia in another London loan of £25,000,000 at the highly gainful interest rate of 5.6 per cent., thus bringing our total interest debt on overseas loans to £26,600,000? Is not this interest rate about 1.1 per cent, higher than that offered to Australian investors?
– It is a reasonable question which the honorable member puts. A full answer to it would take rather more time than I think should be occupied at question time.. All I will say, quite briefly, to him is that details of the Australian loan programme are normally worked out by the Australian Loan Council. The markets available to us overseas are few and the approaches to those markets are far between. It is not a case of just going in when a government feels like it and raising whatever amount it may wish to raise at that particular time. A country such as Australia, with a large capital requirement, finds it important to have contacts in the money markets of the world and to take such opportunities as occur, from time to time, to make fresh cash raisings, and year by year, as the maturities occur, either to pay them off or re-finance them in those centres. It so happens that our latest borrowing was at a higher rate than the previous long-term domestic loan, but if we take the average of our overseas borrowings over the years - they fluctuate from time to time - if my recollection is correct the interest payable on them is somewhat lower than the interest payable on the body of domestic loans. The honorable gentleman will appreciate that by maintaining a steady course over the years, what we lose in one direction in one year we tend to make up in another. Australian bonds are kept regularly before the investors in overseas markets, and this is one of the reasons why our bonds are so popular and enjoy such a high credit standing in those markets.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade a question. Apparently, a manufacturing war has broken out between the two major motor vehicle companies, General Motors-Holden’s Proprietary Limited and the Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, in that motor cars in considerable numbers are being brought here or alternatively partly manufactured here. I ask the Minister: In view of the dislocation that occurred a few years ago when there was an over-production of cars, for which the Government accepted the brunt of criticism, has he any proof that our export market is growing to an extent which might take up the slack in the event of any over-production?
– I am not really aware of any- major new development in the automobile industry. Great vigour is put into the design, production and marketing of Australian-built automobiles, as we all know. They are being produced these days at a rate of more than 1,000 a day, and that represents a tremendous development during the life of this Government. I am glad to say that certain of the companies - all of the companies to some extent and certain of them to a very great extent - are trying to find markets overseas for Australian-built automobiles. This has been pursued with great success, so that really a very large number of Australian-built motor vehicles have been sold and are still being sold overseas. It was frankly quite a surprise to me to find, when the negotiation of the trade treaty with Japan was proceeding, that the Australian automobile industry wanted me to try to obtain a special provision which would enable Austraiian automobile manufacturers to sell in Japan. That provision is incorporated in the treaty, not on the initiative of the Government but because this great industry believed it would be able to sell some cars in Japan. I think this is quite a remarkable achievement for the Australian industry.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. How many persons have been removed from the pool of unemployed because of the extra grants made to State governments in recent months for the provision of work for the unemployed? When these grants are exhausted, will not the number of unemployed return to about the 80,000 mark, which was the level of unemployment before the grants were made?
– There is only one clear answer and that is, “ Certainly not “.
- Mr. Speaker, I address a question to you. Are you in a position to confirm as a fact that, when an amendment to a bill is moved to the effect that the bill be read a third time three or six months hence, from the viewpoint of parliamentary practice the amendment is regarded as a negative to the bill? Will you please arrange for the preparation of a paper which will set out the authorities and precedents on this question?
– I will give some consideration to the question raised by the honorable member, but I am sure that all members of the House are quite familiar with the position.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, relates to the recent dam disaster in Italy. Is it the intention of the Government to give aid to Italy in this matter? If so, will it be given in cash or in kind?
– I hope the honorable member will allow me to make an inquiry in the Department of External Affairs to see what the position is. After I have done so I will advise the honorable member to-morrow.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Leave is granted.
– Last night the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in a personal attack on me, complained that I would not stand up and be counted occasionally. I should be the last person on the Government side at whom to level such criticism. I am one of the few Government supporters who have voted against the Government during the last fourteen years, and I have done so on more than one occasion. If my memory serves me correctly, I am the only one on the Government side who has voted against the Government on a social services bill. The fact that I have done so can be confirmed by a perusal of volume 24 of “Hansard”, page 1410. Whenever I think that, on balance, anything useful can be accomplished by voting against the Government I will do so. I will not do so capriciously. On the occasion to which I have referred-
– Order! The honorable member may not debate the matter. He has made his personal explanation.
– I am saying, Sir,-
– Order! The honorable member will take his seat.
Motion (by Mr. Dean) - by leave - proposed -
That the select committee appointed to inquire into the grievances of certain aboriginal people of Yirrkala, relating to the excision of land from the aboriginal reserve in Arnhem Land, contained in their petition presented and read to the House on 28th August, 1963, have power to sit’ during any sittings of the House.
– The Opposition supports the motion, Mr. Speaker.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill asks the Parliament to approve an agreement between the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales in relation to the design and construction of the Blowering storage and certain other ancillary works. The four most important points of the agreement are these: First, it provides for the construction of a dam on the Tumut River at Blowering which will provide a storage with a capacity of 1,300,000 acre-feet of water and of all appurtenant works.. Secondly, it provides for the provision by the Commonwealth of a loan to the State of half of the cost of the proposed works. Repayment of the loan will begin ten years after the first payment made by the Commonwealth, and each payment made by the Commonwealth will be repaid by twenty equal consecutive half-yearly amounts. The rate of interest payable by the State shall be the appropriate rate on long-term Commonwealth loans. Thirdly, provision is made for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority as agent for the State to design and construct the dam spillway, outlet works and other incidental works; and it is provided that these works will be in service within six years’ of the date of the agreement.
Fourthly, it provides for the State, within six months after the completion of the Blowering storage works, to make available a minimum of 70 large irrigation farms within the Coleambally or other irrigation areas in the Murrumbidgee valley, together with horticultural farms, and to make provision for the full use of all additional water provided by the storage within ten years of the date of completion of the works.
At the same time as these works are ‘ being carried out the Snowy Mountains Authority will construct a power station to utilize the irrigation releases from the reservoir for generating electricity. The extent of this work has not yet been finalized but its cost has been estimated tentatively as £7,000,000.
The Blowering reservoir is an important work ancillary to the Snowy Mountains scheme, and it is essential that it be built as speedily as practicable. Honorable members are no doubt gratified at the very good rate of progress which has been maintained in the construction of the Snowy Mountains scheme. Works completed now make available water from the Eucumbene, Murrumbidgee, Tumut and Tooma rivers for storage or for use from the Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 power stations. These stations have a combined capacity of 600,000 kilowatts, and when the Guthega power station is added give a total present capacity of 660,000 kilowatts for the scheme as a whole. Works on the Snowy-Murray section of the scheme are now well advanced and the Government has recently given approval for increasing the capacity of the Murray power stations from 1,200,000 to 1,500,000 kilowatts. The first of this power will become available in 1966, the remainder becoming available progressively until the stations are completed in 1969.
The demand for power in New South Wales and Victoria is increasing at the rate of between 8 and 10 per cent, per annum. The Snowy scheme is providing a substantial proportion of this increasing demand at a satisfactory price and without capital investment by those two States. The power produced is without doubt a valuable contribution. It could, however, be obtained, if need be, from other sources. But Australia’s resources of water are very limited. In the long run, therefore, the . diversion inland of waters of the Snowy and their use for irrigation are of even greater importance than their use for power production.
The completion of the Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 projects has so far made available an increase of 500,000 acre-feet a year to the Murrumbidgee River. The construction of the Blowering dam will increase this amount by 600,000 acre-feet per annum - that is to 1,100,000 acre-feet- for use on that river. In other words, the great national benefits which the Snowy-Tumut section of the Snowy Mountains scheme offers will not be fully realized until the waters made available by this section of the scheme are put to work in irrigation in the Murrumbidgee valley. The Blowering dam has to be built before this result can be achieved.
Construction of the Blowering dam will permit the waters of the Tumut River, together with water diverted to the Tumut by works of the scheme from the Tooma, Eucumbene and the upper Murrumbidgee. to be controlled and released as and when required for irrigation along the Murrumbidgee. - At present the power station releases during the winter months cannot be utilized, and in addition the natural flow of the Tumut itself is not fully controlled.
Some of the additional water made available by the scheme is being used already in extensions to the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, in the new Coleambally irrigation area, and in similar irrigation developments elsewhere along the Murrumbidgee. Of prime interest here is the Coleambally irrigation area, the largest single irrigation closer settlement scheme ever attempted in Australia, comparable in size with the whole of the existing Murrumbidgee irrigation area situated on the opposite side of the Murrumbidgee River. Using the water made available to date some 156 farms have been allocated and occupied at Coleambally, and by the end of 1964 a total of 203 farms will have been settled. When all the water is available however it should be possible, after providing for other miscellaneous developments along the river, to establish at least an additional 650 farms. The gross value of additional primary production which will be made possible by the construction of the
Blowering dam will be of the order of £8,000,000 a year.
Under the Snowy Mountains agreement the New South Wales Government accepted the responsibility for constructing the Blowering dam. That Government, however, has indicated that it is not in a position to begin the construction of the dam immediately or to carry the work to completion with expedition. Whilst this position continues, Australia as a whole as well as the State of New South Wales cannot realize the great national benefits which 1 have outlined. The Commonwealth has therefore agreed to lend New South Wales half of the cost of constructing the Blowering dam, at present estimated at £22,000,000. This figure does not include the cost of the power station, which will be included in the works, tentatively estimated at £7,000,000.
New South Wales for its part has undertaken to carry out the works necessary to enable the water to be fully utilized within ten years from the date on which it becomes available. New South Wales has already spent some £6,000,000 on Gogeldrie weir and supporting works, lt will need to make a further expenditure of approximately £J 0,000.000 to complete the works necessary for full, effective use of the water that will bc available.
I should perhaps mention also that the construction of Blowering dam by providing regulation of the flow of the Tumut will eliminate the surges in the flow of the river which result from the operation of the Tumut power stations and will mitigate damage presently caused by flooding of lowlying land adjacent to the river. Honorable members will recall that the Commonwealth has undertaken to compensate landowners along a defined section of the river who may suffer damage by flooding until such time as the Blowering works “ are so far constructed and brought’ into operation as to commence to control the waters of the Tumut River “.
The agreement provides for the Snowy Mountains Authority to act as the agent of the New South Wales Government in the design and construction of the dam. This arrangement was. made because part of the Commonwealth advance is being provided by some deferment of works planned by the authority for construction after completion of the Murray 2 project. The arrangements which have been made will enable full use to be made of the authority’s staff and resources during the period of deferment of its own programme, and together with works planned and in progress provide a firm programme for the next seven years.
The Commonwealth decision to authorize the Snowy Mountains Authority to accept commitments for the completion of Murray 2 power station by 1969 was one of the most important made in the history of the Snowy Mountains scheme. It envisaged that the national investment in the scheme of approximately £200,000,000 would rise to an amount of the order of £340,000,000 by 1969. It set the time-table for giving Australia the opportunity of using all the waters of the Snowy and 70 per cent. of the power which could be produced. It was, therefore, naturally a time for stocktaking. That stocktaking emphasized the potential national advantage we were failing to capitalize without Blowering. It was against this background that the Commonwealth decided to give financial assistance to New South Wales. It is not that State alone, but the whole of Australia as well, which will benefit from the large-scale developments in the Murrumbidgee valley made possible by the construction of the Blowering dam.
It was consideration of these national aspects of the Blowering dam which primarily influenced the Commonwealth decision to give to the State of New South Wales the financial assistance provided for in this measure. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to extend the period of office of Sir William Hudson as Commissioner, Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, for three years. Sir William was the first commissioner appointed under the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority Act. His initial appoint ment dated from 1st August, 1949, and was for a period of seven years. In 1956 he was appointed for a further term which, in accordance with the provisions of section 9(2.) of the act, expired on 26th April, 1961, the day preceding his 65th birthday. Legislation was enacted in 1960 to extend Sir William’s term of office to 26th April, 1964.
We have seen the Snowy scheme progress and flourish over the last thirteen years until we now have 660,000 kilowatts of power installed for the ‘generation of electricity for New South Wales and Victoria. In June, 1959, the completion of the 14-mile Eucumbene-Tumut tunnel enabled, for the first time, the trans-mountain diversion of water from coastal rivers to the inland. As the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) announced in his Budget speech, the Government has now decided to expedite the complete control of these diverted waters for irrigation purposes by providing financial assistance to New South Wales for the construction of Blowering dam. The task of design and construction will be carried out by the Snowy Mountains Authority on behalf of the New South Wales Government.
Work is well advanced on the construction of the first stage of the SnowyMurray section of the scheme and the detailed design of the second stage of the SnowyMurray development is in progress. These works include by far the largest power stations in the Snowy scheme. Murray 1 station is planned to have an installed capacity of 950,000 kilowatts and Murray 2 station to have 550,000 kilowatts of generating capacity. As an indication of what this means in terms of construction requirements, these two stations together will have an installed capacity about equal to the maximum power demand of the whole of the Victorian electricity system in 1961-62.
As well as the power stations, the works now being constructed and planned include five major dams, about 44 miles of large diameter tunnel, more than 10 miles of concrete pipe aqueducts and tunnel as well as steel pressure pipelines, transmission facilities and a pumping station at Jindabyne. The Murray 1 station will operate, and the first diversion of Snowy water to the Murray River will take place, in 1966. All of the works previously mentioned will be completed by 1969.
The able manner in which the initial difficulties in the Snowy area have been overcome, the great public enthusiasm for the Snowy scheme, the rapid progress that has been made and the almost complete absence of industrial troubles in the Snowy area are some of the results of the initiative, drive and judgment of Sir William Hudson.
The Snowy Mountains Authority is facing its peak rate of construction and at the same time contracts for the second stage of the Snowy-Murray development are about to be launched. The design and construction of Blowering dam is an additional major task and, at this stage, the Government does not wish to lose the leadership and engineering abilities of Sir William Hudson, who is able and willing to continue in office for a further three years. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 15th October (vide page 1821).
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed expenditure, £17,642,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed expenditure, £16,000,000.
.- Mr. Chairman, my remarks, which will be directed to the proposed expenditure of the Department of the Treasury, will be brief and will have no party-political content. My example may or may not be followed in the remainder of this debate.
– The Treasurer is the most political man in this place.
– Perhaps we might have a word about that later. I shall direct my remarks to the appropriation sought for the Department of the Treasury. Despite what has been said by my loquacious friend, the honorable member forReid (Mr. Uren), I point out that in estimates debates we are carrying out the main responsibility of the Parliament. In theory, the Parliament is exercising the power of the purse and is controlling expenditure. As every honor able member is aware, this is not an uncomplicated task. There are something like 130 pages in the document now beforeus, containing thousands of items relating to the varied activities of government. Can we, as a collection of individuals or as individual members, really be expected to give to this document the close attention and the scrutiny that is demanded if the Parliament is in fact to exercise any authority over expenditure, irrespective of what government is in office? In blunt terms, this is extremely difficult. In practice, the control that the Parliament exercises over expenditure amounts to not more than a few brief words of theory. I am sure no honorable member will challenge that statement.
We have the traditional conflict between the Parliament and the Executive on the one hand, and the Parliament and the Public Service on the other hand. 1 pay a tribute to my distinguished friend, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and to the Department of the Treasury. The honorable member for Reid may not agree with me, but those honorable members who approach these matters as members of the Parliament and not as members of a party will not disagree with me when I say that, as a result of the efforts of the Treasurer or of the Treasury, we had presented to us at Budget time a set of documents which went far along the road to giving the Parliament an opportunity to examine government expenditure intelligently. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who speaks with a great deal of authority on these subjects, will recall that we were presented, for the first time, with an index to enable us to follow the financial documents before the Parliament. I do not think he would differ from me when I say that those documents removed a great deal of the duplication which existed in the past, and that in the document labelled “ Estimates of Expenditure” information was available which made a good deal easier the task of examining the Government’s proposed expenditure - a task that none of us can evade.
There is, of course, a great field for further examination. I do not suggest for one moment that what has been done to date has solved the problem but it has made some contribution to placing in the hands of the Parliament, where it should reside, the real power of appropriation. In the last days of this Parliament, I venture to suggest that this is one matter which the new Parliament might well consider. Members of the Public Accounts Committee have devoted a great deal of time to this problem and I think have made some contribution to its solution. However, it is true that a committee of this Parliament, sitting under the conditions- under which the Public Accounts Committee sits, and with limited staff available to it, cannot possibly carry out the complete and thorough investigation and research that I believe is essential to recommending a system which will effectively transfer power from the Executive - in this case the Treasury - to the hands of the Parliament.
– I should like to make a few remarks upon the estimates for the Department of the Treasury. I join with my former colleague on the Public Accounts Committee, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), and commend the Treasury for the way in which information is presented to the Parliament. The department does its best to put in as small a space as possible as much as it thinks is required to comprehend the national accounts that come before us for examination. However, irrespective of how much information is provided it is still incumbent upon individual members to do a little home study on these matters if the documents are to become really understandable. In view of the. important role which a government plays in economic life to-day, there is also a responsibility, which I think is not being fulfilled at present, on the Government to see that much more information is disseminated to the public, in perhaps a more popular and attractive form.
As every one knows, this country is shortly to be plunged into the throes of an election campaign, during which all kinds of extravagant statements will be made about how healthy our economy is and how wrong it would be if certain expenditures which will be suggested were undertaken. It is pretty difficult -for the ordinary person to get some of these things in proper perspective. No matter which party is in office in a month or two - I, for one, am confident that there will be a change - the total expen diture by the next government will be £2,000,000,000, in round figures, just as it is to-day. To the ordinary citizen, sums like £2,000,000,000, taken in isolation, do not mean very much. It is very easy at election time to persuade the average elector that if expenditure is increased by, say, £100,000,000 you are on the road to ruinous inflation. I can remember what an event it was when the Budget of Australia exceeded £100,000,000.
– Even £100,000,000. I was not in this Parliament at the time, but not long ago a budget of £100,000,000 was considered a large budget.
– I was a member of the Parliament at the time.
– That is right. But to-day a sum of £2,000,000,000 for the Budget does not raise any eyebrows. If the Australian population continues to increase at the rate of about 2 per cent, a year and assuming that inflation is not allowed to rage again, total expenditure in the Australian economy has to increase by about £200,000,000 a year. The likelihood is that Government expenditure will increase annually at the rate of about £100,000,000. So, if it is suggested that a further £100,000,000 will be spent, that after all has been the order of the annual increase in recent times.
The public can become very mystified by a lot of the figuring that is done. I direct the- attention of the committee to Division No. 207 - Loan Consolidation and Invest- * ment Reserve. The appropriation sought last year under this heading was £51,000,000. Expenditure last year under this heading was a little more than £26,000,000. But this year no amount is sought under this heading. I think some explanation is required. Yesterday the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), when speaking on the estimates for the Department of Trade, referred to the likelihood of another credit squeeze, to use the popular term, occurring in the next few months. The Government of the country is responsible for our monetary policy just as much as it is responsible for our fiscal policy. Most authorities now regard the proper merging of the monetary and fiscal policies as a necessary task for governments to undertake. I was interested recently when reading some of the findings of the Radcliffe Committee in England to find that the committee had called on Dr. Coombs, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, to submit certain evidence to it. In conjunction with central bankers from other Commonwealth countries Dr. Coombs was asked a number of questions to which he supplied answers. The committee asked Dr. Coombs -
What arrangements, constitutional or administrative, govern co-ordination of policy between the central bank and the executive.
In other words, the committee wanted to know the relationship between the bank and the government. In his written reply Dr. Coombs stated -
The legislative provisions speak for themselves.
Dr. Coombs was referring to the legislative provisions under the banking legislation. He continued -
Almost inevitably, as is to be expected, there have been shades in opinion and variation in emphasis, but history to the present demonstrates that any internal differences have been resolved by discussion and negotiation without impairing the degree of autonomy conferred by the Act on the Bank.
Despite what some honorable members, particularly those opposite, may think, I am of the opinion that it would be a good thing for Australia if the Governor of the Reserve Bank were to make more statements than he does about the operation of monetary policy in Australia, because if it is true, as the Governor of the bank claims, that for the most part relations and co-ordination between the central bank and the Government have been harmonious, it surely cannot be claimed that that co-ordination has always been successful. From 1951 to 1960 we had the experience of inflation, which halved the value of money. That, of course, was the result of monetary policy operating in Australia. When the Government decided that inflation had reached dangerous proportions and that something had to be done we got the credit squeeze. Although it is true that the credit squeeze caused inflation to abate, it provoked unemployment of a substantial order in this country.
There is too much complacency about the fact that at the moment unemployment figures are lower than they have been for some years. Everybody wants to reduce unemployment to nil. I suggest that it is possible to get unemployment down to nil despite what some people say about a condition of over-full employment. The ideal circumstance in any community is one in which there are more jobs available than there are people seeking them. That is not the position in Australia to-day. There are still 58,000 people seeking jobs and only 29,000 vacancies are registered.
I do not want to develop that point at this stage. All I wish to do is direct attention to the results of the last census. I think I am in order in doing this because the Bureau of Census and Statistics is under the control of the Treasurer. Figures recently released by the bureau show the fluctuations in the number of persons employed in various industries between the census of 1954 and the 1961 census. Seven years elapsed between the taking of the two censuses. In that time our total work force increased by 523,000 - about 75,000 a year. It is anticipated that in view of the rate at which our population is increasing, in the future we will have to find about 100,000 additional jobs each year. It is high time we asked ourselves seriously how, between now and 1970, we are to employ the 700,000 additional persons who will be seeking jobs.
Looking at the results of the censuses it is rather disturbing to find that certain fields of employment which we used to regard as big absorbers of workers arc not nearly as healthy as we thought they were. For instance, most people would be surprised to know that in the seven years from 1954 to 1961 the number of persons employed in manufacturing increased by only 1 1 3,000 - an average of about 16,000 a year. Most people would be of the opinion that manufacturing industries absorbed a far greater number of employees than that figure reveals. The performance of commerce was even less creditable than that of manufacturing. In the same period, the number of people employed in commerce rose by only 109,386. In the category described as community and business services - that refers to the distributive channels in the community - the increase was 115,307. These figures show that quite significant changes are occurring in the Australian community. I suggest that one of the tasks of the Committee of Economic Enquiry, which is at present investigating the economy, is to examine this question. However, I believe that, primarily, the task is not one for that committee at all. It is a task for the government of the country in discharging its proper functions as a responsible government in a democratic community.
One of the biggest factors in the absorption of additions to the work-force was an increase of 48,037 in the category described as “ Industry inadequately described or not slated “. I suggest that the census description should be a little more specific. In this category, the increase is almost half as much as in manufacturing, but nobody knows precisely what kinds of employment arc included. The situation in any community is very serious when children leave school, perhaps not trained as well as they should be, but certainly better equipped than before to take their place in the community, not knowing with any certainty whether there are jobs for their talents or wither they have been trained for jobs that the community cannot provide for them. There must be much more systematic co-ordination and even-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the employment figures just cited by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) merely reflect the tendency that is world-wide and well known. The fact is that in some countries the number of people employed in secondary industry and in manufacturing not only is failing to rise, but, in fact, is falling. I believe that over the last fifteen years there has been virtually no increase in the number employed in manufacturing industry in the United States of America. This falling trend will continue. It is well known to any one associated with the Treasury and the central bank, and to many other people. I believe that it is well known, also, to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and the Department of Labour and National Service. 1 should like to join in the compliment paid by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) to the Treasury, and the officials concerned, on the financial documents presented to the Parliament. 1 compliment them particularly on the paper on national income over the last ten years that was issued by the statistical section of the Treasury in July last. That is one of the documents that enable us to obtain a more complete picture of what goes on in the economy. The Treasury, although not wholly responsible - nor could it ever be - for the workings of the economy, is the main co-ordinating authority in economic affairs. It behoves us, therefore, to pay attention to the current state of the economy and to the outlook for the immediate future.
We are now considering the state of the Australian economy in the financial year 1963-64. Our economy has very seldom been in a more satisfactory condition than it is at present. Price stability is evident, business is expanding and there is virtually full employment. At least, employment is nearly as full as it can ever be, except for a handful of people who are unemployed. Overall, the economy is in about as good a condition as any one can hope for at any time. This does not mean that there are not some industries that are experiencing difficulties and others that are booming. Sir Alan Westerman, addressing a conference recently, said that the electrical industry and some consumer-goods industries would pass through tough times. This could well be. A number of industries are languishing, but this is not due to the overall state of the economy, lt is due to the inevitable changes in industry caused by changing consumer demands which occur continually in any industrial country.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) suggests that the Government is holding an early election for the House of Representatives so that it will he able, in the very near future - say, in the New Year - to impose further repressive measures on the economy. If we are to make any sense at all of this, it means that the Leader of the Opposition recognizes that prosperity and almost boom conditions exist. If the economy were not in this splendid state, the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition would make no sense at all, regardless of its inaccuracy as a statement of fact.
Let us examine the facts. Let us consider some of the vast differences between the conditions of 1959 and 1960 and the conditions of to-day. I shall mention a few. Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition that, in the post-war period, all the serious repressive measures that have influenced the Australian economy have followed and largely been caused by a deterioration in our balance of payments and a consequent threat to Australia’s international solvency. On no occasion except when such conditions have existed have restrictive measures been enforced. What is the position now? Our international reserves are extremely high. Those under our own control seem to be well over £650,000,000, and we now have greater drawing rights in the International Monetary Fund than ever before, totalling £223,000,000. Not only are our reserves extremely high. The outlook is for them to go still higher.
In 1958-59, exports were sagging. They are now booming. Wool and metal prices are high. Wheat and sugar are finding more markets. This is particularly so in respect of wheat, following the failure of communism in farming. Communism, collectivism and socialism have had their most abject failures in matters touching the land, and especially in anything to do with farming. At present, we are shipping large quantities of butter to Britain. Most of the people who study the wool industry think that for at least two years wool prices will stay up. The meat industry has enjoyed a virtual bonanza in recent times. Even if meat prices weaken at all, production is likely to increase. Exports of Australian manufactured goods also are expanding as a result of earlier and follow-up measures taken by the Government and of a new enthusiasm for export on the part of both industry and government agencies, and, above all, because of the relative stability of Australian prices and costs compared with those of other manufacturing countries. Even for minor items of trade like beach mineral sands there is a favorable outlook in terms of both volume of sales and prices. With overseas reserves already high, our exports are bringing better returns than they have done for years - perhaps better than ever. The balance-of-payment troubles that we have had in the past have been largely caused by falling prices for exports.
Imports also can cause trouble. Recently, the -volume of our imports has not tended to rise much but has been moderately steady. Indeed, some months ago, the level of imports was actually falling. We can expect increases in imports, particularly of oil products and heavy equipment for industry, but there is at present no prospect of an excessive flood of imports like that which proved financially embarrassing about three years ago. Stocks are at good levels.
The other element in our balanceofpayments position is invisibles. Almost certainly they will continue to run strongly in our favour over the next twelve months. Thanks to the faith of other countries in Australia’s prospects, the capital inflow from overseas is likely to continue at a high rate. Several Opposition members have said that the recent closing of the New York- market to our loans and the slightly restrictive measures that the Americans have proposed in relation to the export of capital will be embarrassing to us. Loans raised in New York by the Australian Government, however, represent only a small part of our total loan raisings. A wise maxim is that you raise what funds you can when you can because you are always likely at some time in the future to require all that can be raised.
The result of this build-up of reserves, which has been a main object of Government policy, is that we can face this change, which is perhaps only temporary, with complete equanimity. In any case, the limitations are likely to apply only to portfolio investment, as far as private investment is concerned. That is something which the Opposition does not like anyway. There is no suggestion that investment in Australia by American industry is going to be curtailed in any way. Let us not overlook that one of the biggest factors in this socalled inflow of foreign investment is that profits made in Australia are ploughed back for future expansion. The factors I have mentioned add up to a basically healthy position of overseas exchange reserves with favorable prospects for the immediate future.
Another difference between, the present situation and that of 1960 is that in 1960 there was a highly speculative boom, but there are no signs now of any such development. There is little present prospect of any decline in overseas reserves - in fact tha reverse is the case - but, even if they started to fall now, the fall would be from a very high level. Stocks of imported goods are abundant and we could last for a very long time on present reserves - for twelve or eighteen months - supplemented only by restriction of imports of less essential goods in any but most unlikely circumstances.
There are other differences between now and 1960 which point against the imposition of restrictive measures. The big boom of 1960 followed the excessive basic wage and margins increases in 1959. We have no such legacy at the moment, lt is true that another basic wage case will be heard in 1964, but in the meantime the community, the trade unions and the Arbitration Commission have learnt a great deal. The sense of national responsibility in these matters has grown. More and more people are coming to recognize that if wage rates outpace increases in productivity, price rises and a general mess will result. Even so, whatever the Arbitration Commission does is hardly likely to operate effectively before next July and probably will not have any serious upsetting economic effects for a further twelve months. Any question of repressive measures based on this ground, therefore, is for the somewhat remote future.
Another basic difference is that the measures of 1 960 were preceded by inflation in 1 958-59 at the rate of 2 per cent, a year, and in 1960 at the rate of almost 5 per cent. For two and a half years there has been a complete absence of inflation, and it is not immediately in prospect. Some labour shortages, it is true, are beginning to appear. There is a tendency to pay overaward wages as an incentive and also as a means of acquiring skilled labour. On the other hand, there is the advantage that such payments entice people to become more skilled. Juniors who are looking around for jobs find that skilled workers are paid higher wages and this provides a motive for them to become skilled. Up to a point, there are very good reasons to welcome the tendency to pay over-award wages.
General business sentiment is now vastly different. In 1959-60 there was the culmination of huge consumer spending, particularly on television receivers and household domestic equipment. Hire-purchase companies and others were taking extreme risks. Land speculators’ activities were rampant and the whole atmosphere was charged with speculation. That state of affairs is entirely absent now and a much more sober mood prevails.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) touched upon the fact that there is mination of huge consumer spending, para tremendous build-up at the moment in liquidity. Savings bank accounts, undrawn overdraft limits and trade credits are piling up. In the conditions of 1960 this situation would present real dangers, but where the mood of the populace has changed it no longer poses the same threat. If our overseas reserves continue to pile up and add to the money supply, there may be technical reasons for adjusting the banking situation, but certainly no justification for the imposition of repressive economic measures. The tendency for liquidity to build up and remain unused is seen not only in Australia but in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The end of the appliances boom seems to be fairly general, and the boom is being replaced by a higher level of savings and more cautious spending. Spending has been directed more towards the purchase of new cars for about eighteen months and is now tending towards housing. We can expect the demand for building materials and all the things which go into houses to rise in the near future. You can go on. It is a favorable picture all round and certainly not a picture of threatening inflation which would involve violent measures. There seems no prospect whatever of repressive measures being introduced in the near future.
The balance-of-payments situation, which has hitherto sparked the introduction of repressive economic measures, is more favorable than ever. There is no legacy of extravagant wage adjustments and there is a sober mood, both in business circles and in the community at large. The only thing which could upset an otherwise very favorable outlook would be extravagant propaganda put out for blatantly political reasons of a nefarious character.
– I would like to reply to the political speech of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury). He said that he could not see any possibility of the introduction of economic restrictions in the near future.
He said that such economic restrictions generally follow a balance of payments problem, and I think that is generally agreed. He said that there did not seem to be any possibility of a balance of payments problem arising in the foreseeable future. However, I think it is generally admitted that there has been a very considerable increase in the demand for imports, and the economic indicators to-day point to an appreciable increase in the future. So much has the demand for imports increased that, compared with 1959-60, the value of imports has risen by about £300,000,000. There may be a far greater increase in the demand. There is the added factor of the difficulty of borrowing in the United States. I think that the possibility of a balance of payments problem arising in the coming year is very real. I am not usually a betting man, but a month ago I bet 10s. that there would be an election, based on the Government’s realization that a balance of payments problem is approaching. The Government is faced with the choice of adopting the Labour Party’s policy of restricting imports by import licensing, or of using the method that it adopted in 1960, the method of restricting the demand for imports by reducing the purchasing power of the community at large. It seems possible that the Government is thinking of re-introducing that policy. People everywhere are looking for the reason for the coming election. I considered a month ago that there would be ian election because of an approaching balance of payments problem and I still consider that is the reason.
I want now to turn to the thorny question of overseas investment in Australia. This is a thorny question which has created a wide rift between the Country Party and the Liberal Party; and I quote here the following extract from the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of 27th June, 1963-
McEwen Worried By Reliance On Imported Capital.
The Acting Prime Minister, Mr. McEwen, said today he was seriously troubled by Australia’s dependence on overseas investment to supplement its foreign exchange resources.
Further down, the article states -
He said the short-term convenience qf additions to foreign exchange resources did not compensate for the transfers from Australian ownership.
Again, on 27th June, 1963, we find this passage in the Sydney “Daily Mirror” -
Trade officials in Canberra said today that about 1800 Australian companies had overseas capital invested in them.
The Acting Prime Minister, Mr. McEwen, said yesterday he was seriously troubled by Australia’s dependence on overseas investment.
Here I think it important to understand clearly .just what the Labour Party’s policy is on this rather thorny question. First, we are not opposed to overseas investment as such. We have no opposition to capital which brings new know-how and techniques to Australia, which creates new industries, or which creates industries which replace imports. ‘ But we maintain that there should be a very decided element of Australian ownership of those industries in which such capital in invested. Also we make the point that we are opposed to capital which buys into or takes over existing industries and portfolio investment, which is of no use to the Australian economy whatsoever-
– Hot money.
– Quite right. In eff ect, it is hot money which creates speculation in Australian stocks and shares. We are particularly opposed to such investment in real estate which once again creates speculation and forces up Australian real estate prices to the detriment of the community at large and the home builder in particular. We feel that this type of capital is not conducive to the best interests of the Australian community. On the other hand, if the capital is used for import replacement or for the creation of new industries and so on, it can be of very great benefit indeed. By and large, we are putting forward .exactly the same case as has been espoused by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in this House.
One of the most important aspects to look at when dealing with this question is the growth of invisibles. There is a steady growth of invisibles to-day arising out of the importation of capital, and I am sure that if the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) were to ask the Reserve Bank and other authorities for statistics he would be shocked sometimes at the percentage of dividends and the amount of dividends being remitted out of Australia. This remittance of dividends will create heavy demands upon our balance of payments. As the years move on, the demand will be very much greater and we will be faced with having to export far more in order to meet the dividend bill. To illustrate my point I mention that whereas in 1948 our net invisibles amounted to £59,000,000, by 1958, a decade later, they had grown to £196,000,000, and to £247,000,000 by 1963. In other words, the dividend bill increased from £59,000,000 in 1958 to £247,000,000 by 1963.
Let us took, too, at the percentage of our overseas reserves compared with invisibles. In 1951, our invisibles totalled £126,000,000 or approximately 15i per cent, of our overseas reserves of £804,000,000.
– You picked a freak year.
– It was not a freak year at all. In 1963, our invisibles totalled £247,000,000 or approximately 39 per cent, of our overseas reserves of £634,000,000.
– You picked a year in which wool prices doubled.
– If you care to do a little exercise in mathematics you will find that the year J have picked favours your own argument. 1 have actually picked a year in which our exports were at their highest level; and a little exercise in mathematics will disclose that this benefits your argument, not mine. We arc leaning over backwards in favour of your argument. The point is that the proportion of overseas reserves taken up by invisibles increased from 15 j- per cent, to 39 per cent., even if we take as a basis a year in which our export earnings were high, not low.
We should also examine the relationship of invisibles to our export income. lt has increased from 15 per cent, in 1949 to 23 per cent, by 1963. In other words, a far greater proportion of our reserves and our export earnings is being used year by year in meeting our dividend bill. In another decade or fifteen years, this will be a very serious problem confronting Australia and it is one which we need to look at very carefully indeed. We should realize that this country is depending to-day on capital to overcome a balance of payments deficit. When we realize that many of the imports which this Government allows into the country are of a completely non-essential character, it must be admitted that there-is very little difference between this Government’s actions and that of a man who goes to the bank, borrows £100, takes it to the races and blows it. There is no difference whatsoever. This country is deliberately mortgaging itself overseas by borrowing money to pay for non-essential consumer imports.. What is the difference between that and the action of the man whom I have mentioned? There is no difference whatsoever. These are all important problems which we should look at very carefully. The Government already has a great deal of the power necessary to introduce techniques to control the direction of imported capital. It has that power under the existing monetary control regulations. It also has power to block funds, if necessary, when they first arrive in the country. I repeat that these powers are already in the Government’s hands, and I look forward to the day when, after the forthcoming election, we shall come into this House and find the present Minister for Trade agreeing with the Government’s policy on this issue because the government then in office will be a Labour government.
I should like to touch very briefly on two other matters. I refer to pay-roll tax and petrol tax. I feel that it is time something was done to assist local government organizations which are faced with the very serious problems resulting from great growth in their areas, problems related to the construction of roads and the provision of various essential services in bulk. Many local government bodies, especially in the outer fringe areas, are suffering greatly to-day from the heavy demands being made upon their resources by the impact of rapid growth. I feel that it is time that consideration was given to the abolition of the imposition of pay-roll tax on local government and semigovernment authorities and to the return of petrol tax revenue to the States in order to assist the States and local government bodies in coping with these problems. Another matter which the Government should have a look at is the payment of royalties. Many overseas companies operating in Australia are evading taxation through royalty payments and it is quite obvious how that is done. A royalty payment is an expense. It is something which reduces the gross and net profit of the company concerned. Accordingly such companies may remit royalties overseas to the foreign organizations with which they are connected and in that way evade’ taxation. I think the time has come when the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who is so concerned with the collection of taxes from the public at large, should review this matter in order to ensure that the position is corrected and that companies cannot evade taxation through the payment of royalties. These are vital questions which affect this country and I hope the committee will give them serious consideration.
.- I am not certain where the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) has been in the couple of years he has been a member of this Parliament, but he suddenly . appears to have awakened - or perhaps the whole of the Labour Party has awakened. On the question of overseas funds he now propounds as brand new Labour Party policy the sort of thing which we’ have advocated for years.
– It has been our party’s policy for years.
– You have only been in the Parliament for a short period. The policy has been advocated for years by the parties comprising the Government and has been put into practice. The honorable member condemns himself out of his own mouth. He said there is a requirement for us to export more in order to meet our overseas commitments. This Government created the Ministry of Trade for that very purpose, long before the honorable member became a member of this chamber. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen.) has been successful. He has persistently placed this requirement for increased exports before the people of Australia and in particular before industry and commerce. If you look at the volume of our exports and the continuing pressure that is applied by the Department of Trade to find export markets you will see the answer to what the honorable member for Mitchell said. Yet he put forward this policy as something brand new, which had never been heard of here! We have no need to talk about it as policy, because it is in practice to-day. I give the honorable member for Mitchell credit for having been able to draw me away from the subject I wanted to discuss. . ‘*
I was interested to hear the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) refer to the form of the Treasury accounts. I pay tribute to the Treasury officials for the way in which they co-operate with the Parliament. They did this when I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee and they are apparently continuing to do it. They have no light job. On the other hand, I have no condemnation to make of the conduct of honorable members in the handling of the Estimates. The honorable member for Deakin said that control of the public purse was the prime responsibility of Parliament. I have repeatedly said that that was the purpose for which parliaments were established. How much time does this Parliament devote to an examination of the various items in the Estimates? Topranking officials from each department attend this House while the Estimates are under consideration in order to advise Ministers so that they may answer questions asked by honorable members. But few questions are ever asked. Parliament has not the faintest control over the public purse in this country. The only one way in which it can. get that control is by the introduction of a system similar to that which operates in the United Kingdom. Here is something which the Opposition - because it will remain in opposition for a long time - should take hold of.
There is, in the United Kingdom, an estimates committee, the majority of members of which are members of the Opposition. That committee selects from the Esti- mates items which it will examine. In effect, the Opposition selects from the Estimates the items which the committee will examine and which the Parliament will discuss. In other words, the United Kingdom Parliament has control of the public purse. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allen), who is currently a member of the Public Accounts Committee, confirms this. It is necessary that this Parliament should appoint an estimates committee. In 1951 I advocated the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee and eventually succeeded in inducing the Government to accept that advice. However, one of the weaknesses of that system, which I mentioned at the time, is that the committee is able to try to close the door of the stable only after the horse has escaped. It can bring attention to-‘bear on unwise public expenditure, incorrect public expenditure, over-estimating and bad departmental accounting but it is then too late. We have to be able to take some action before money is expended. We need an estimates committee which can examine the Estimates both before and while they are being dealt with by the Parliament. That is a vital necessity.
How many items of the Estimates are actually discussed in this Parliament? I should be speaking now on a particular item of the Estimates and not, entering into general discussion. We all should be selecting items of the. Estimates to discuss, as the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) did. He dealt with the increased grant to the Australian National Travel Association. However, most honorable members, when debating the Estimates, get up and make a second-reading speech. I hope that, in the course of time, I will have some support from other honorable members in my efforts to induce the Government to establish an estimates committee. This is a reform which honorable members opposite should press for, because it would enable them to direct their criticism to the proper place. They should get on with this, because they will be on that side of the House for a long time.
I am grateful that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has provided in the Budget for an easing of estate duty. This will be welcomed particularly by the primary producers, because estate duty as it is imposed now in the State and Commonwealth spheres on the total capital assets of an estate, is an absolute injustice. It is a form of double taxation which should not be allowed. The development work which increases the value of a primary producer’s property is financed from the profit he makes on his operations. This money has already been subjected to income tax, but in effect it is taxed again when the property becomes a deceased estate and becomes liable for estate duty. No doubt there must be some form of tax on what is called unearned increment - a form of profit which has not previously been taxed.
I ask the Treasurer to look at this problem. The only fair way of dealing with it is to permit an estate, when submitting its accounts for probate or estate duty, to deduct from the valuation of i. the estate the whole of the costs that have been incurred from the time the property was first acquired right up to the time of the owner’s death. By permitting all of the costs to be deducted from the valuation, the injustice of double taxation would be removed. A tax would still be imposed on profit - that is, unearned increment and profit accumulated in the valuation which has not been taxed - and I quite agree with such a tax. I do make an appeal for this serious injustice to be removed from our taxation laws. At the same time, I commend the Government for what it has done. This is a heavy burden on the primary producers. We in the Australian Country Party have fought for some relief in this sphere for a long time, and in raising the limit of exemption the Government has acceded at least to part of our fundamental policy and thinking.
I want to deal with another taxation matter and that is the vexed question of sales tax. Back in 1953, I raised in the Parliament the question of sales tax on the freight component in the wholesale price of commodities which are subject to sales tax. The Treasurer at the time, Sir Arthur Fadden, submitted the question to the committee on taxation that was meeting then. It was reference No. 44, exemption from sales tax of freight charges. The committee duly examined the question and submitted a report to the Treasurer. The report was submitted to the Parliament and ordered to be printed on 22nd October, 1953. Unfortunately, this committee did not-
– Put a bit of ginger in it.
– This is not very interesting.
– Of course, it would not interest our friends on the other side of the chamber. This is a matter that concerns the people in country areas, so Opposition members are not interested. I suggest that they move out of the Parliament voluntarily before they are kicked out on 30th November.
The Commonwealth Committee on Taxation did not recommend that the sales tax laws be amended to provide for the exemption of the freight component from the wholesale price of goods. Let us look at what the Committee said on this matter. I am sure that our friends of the Opposition would endorse the committee’s view. In its report, the committee said -
Another point to be considered is that although the representations deal only with freight charges incurred by the wholesaler liable to pay the tax, any amendment designed to meet these representations would inevitably lead to other representations, for instance, that freight charges relating to the carriage of raw materials should also be excluded from the sale value.
Incidentally, raw materials are excluded now. The committee went on to say -
It would be difficult to justify any distinction between freight charges incurred by the taxpayer and other freight charges reflected in the price of the goods.
– When did the committee say that?
– You can ge.t a copy of the report. The committee also said -
From its examination of the subject-matter, the Committee is satisfied that theoretical equity is virtually unobtainable. It is fundamental that sales tax should be simple enough in form to be collected economically and, to this end, a small measure of equity might be sacrificed.
I condemn the committee for this attitude, as I condemned it when the report was brought before the Parliament. Its view is that a small measure of equity might be sacrificed. That is why I say that the Australian Labour Party would support the committee. The view of the committee is to be condemned. The rural dwellers in the distant State of Western Australia must pay sales tax on the freight charged on the goods brought to them from the eastern States. This represents a substantial sum each year. The people in the electorates of Richmond, Gwydir and Mcpherson, all rural electorates, are burdened with these charges.
Unfortunately, the Treasury has accepted the committee’s view that this is a sacrifice that must be made. Apparently, the committee believes the dwellers in the rural areas do not make enough sacrifices as it is. This is a shocking attitude. It confirms our contention that dwellers in the rural areas need the kind of specialized representation in the Parliament that they obtain from members of the Australian Country Party. It is because of neglect and injustices such as these that the Australian Country Party works as hard as it does and submits a longrange policy that is good for Australia. This party has been responsible “for the introduc tion of many good measures, all of them part of a long-range policy and all of them being imitated to-day by our friends on the other side of the chamber.
I see that I have almost exhausted the time allotted to me, so I will not start a new subject. I commend, the Treasurer for the taxation relief that has been provided, particularly to primary producers. I will not go through the list, because it is so long that I would not be able to complete it in the time I have available to me. We have been fighting for most of these things for a long time. They are of a long-range nature and are designed to do what the Minister for Trade is doing every day, and that is encouraging increased production in order to put the economy of the country on a sound basis.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The temporary member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has bitten the hand that fed him. We of the Australian Labour Party have been particularly patient with the honorable gentleman but we are not at all satisfied with him. I think we will send him back and get a refund on him at the next election. He may not be fed so well in future. Apparently, we have been too charitable to him in the past.
I interjected earlier when the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was speaking. He seemed to be quite pleased when I said that he is the most political member in this chamber. He certainly is political. As we know, he represents the very wealthy and privileged sections of the community. His actions in the last five years while he has been Treasurer have shown that this is so. He has been a sectional Treasurer. He has looked after only the “ haves “ and not the “ have nots “. Throughout its history, this Government has shifted the burden of taxation more and more on to the backs of the workers who are in the low income bracket by reducing the rate of direct taxation imposed on those in the top income bracket from 16s. 8d. in the £1 to 12s. 8d. in the £1. The Treasurer seems to be very proud of this. He should not be so proud of his record, because only a very small section of the community is in the top income bracket.
The Government has changed the emphasis of taxation from a direct tax, which is an honest tax that the people can see, to an indirect tax or a secretive tax. This has been the role of the Menzies Administration. I will give some of the figures on sales tax, but I ask honorable members to remember that these are only some of the figures. In the financial year 1949-50, we raised £41,000,000 by sales tax. In the last financial year, 1962-63, we raised £156,000,000. Sales tax falls mainly on the workers, who are the mass consumers in this country. The great bulk of the workers are in the low income bracket. Although they are the mass consumers of goods, they do not control the wealth of the country. They are the people who are purchasing goods on which is imposed this hidden tax that they do not know about. So we find that there is a great increase in receipts from sales tax and other indirect taxes.
What has been the record of this Government in connexion with the Post Office? We know that everybody uses the Post Office. In 1949-50 the PostmasterGeneral’s Department showed a deficit of £3,000,000. That was in the days of the Chifley Government, which took the view that the Post Office was a public utility providing a service to the community. This Government, however, has decided that it should be a revenue raiser, and in the financial year 1961-62 the Post Office had a surplus of £22,000,000. In the previous year its surplus was £23,000,000. This year, I remind our honest Treasurer, you cannot discover the surplus of the Post Office in the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure. Previously it was shown honestly and frankly and openly as a surplus. Now, however, the figure is hidden. It is camouflaged, and one has to do a great deal of research to achieve some understanding of the position, and even when one has done this the true surplus is still not apparent.
My friend, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage), reminds me of the increase in the pay-roll tax. We know that in the year in which the Chifley Government went out of office, and in which this
Government was in power for the second half of the year, pay-roll tax receipts amounted to £19,800,000. In the financial year 1962-63 they had risen to £64,000,000. This is another hidden tax, an indirect tax, which falls upon the consumers of goods, the great bulk of the workers. They are the ones who pay the bulk of it, not the wealthy members of the community. We find similar increases have occurred in excise payments in respect of tobacco, cigarettes, beer, wine and spirits. Here we have another good old hit-the-worker tax, another indirect tax.
The trend under this Government has been towards an increase in these indirect taxes, and the trend has been accentuated by the present Treasurer. I have said that he is a political Treasurer, and I repeat it, because he represents the wealthy and privileged in the community. Even though he looks forward to the grandeur of one day leading Australia as Prime Minister, we will see that his dream is shattered on 30th November. The people of Australia are critical of this dishonest, indirecttaxation Government, and it will return a Labour government, with Mr. Calwell as Prime Minister, on 30th November.
The present Treasurer was responsible for the credit squeeze of 1960 which resulted in the running sore of unemployment on the Australian scene. Even now we have nearly 60,000 persons registered for employment. This takes no account of the married women who want jobs but cannot get them. They are forced to seek employment because of the economic conditions that now prevail. The main wageearner in the family cannot earn enough to be the sole breadwinner.
Let us examine what has happened in connexion with loss of productivity in Australia. I have before me the March, 1962 issue of the “ Economic Record “, which contains an article by Professor Lydall, Professor of Economics at Perth University. This gentleman said:
Broadly, it appears that in the slump of 1961 Australian gross national product fell by about 5 per cent.
This represented, in that year, £350,000,000. Professor Lydall went on to say, in the conclusion of his article -
The decline in economic activity during 1961, accompanied by continued growth in the productive capacity of the economy, has made room for a substantial expansion of real gross national product. The potential increase in gross national product up to the end of 1962 is likely to be of the order ot 10 per cent., or £700,000,000 in 1960-1961 prices.
There was actually an increase of £567,000,000, so this means there was an actual loss in the gross national product of £133,000,000. Last year there was an estimated loss of gross national product of £100,000,000. Taking the three years since the credit squeeze was imposed by this tragic Treasurer, we have lost nearly £600,000,000 of gross national product during that time.
What does this loss mean? It means that a lesser volume of goods is produced, fewer homes are built and production of many commodities is not so high as it should be. We know that in Australia more than 100,000 people are homeless, and this figure takes no account of immigrants who are arriving all the time or of people who may be rendered homeless by the demolition of slums that have to be pulled down. We know that our tragic Treasurer imposed a credit squeeze in November of 1960 which resulted in a loss of £600,000,000 of gross national product over three years. He is going to the people on 30th November, and the the people will remember this. They will censure the Menzies Government and return a Labour government.
There are two other matters I wish to raise, and I hope the Treasurer will give consideration to them. With the growth of petrol companies in Australia service stations are being built from day to day on sites made available by the demolition of homes purchased by oil companies in the outer suburbs of Sydney and, no doubt, all the other capital cities. In many of these homes people have been paying rent. The homes have been sold over their heads, and then the purchasing company has said, “We will give you £1,000 or perhaps £1,500, if you will vacate this home by a certain date”. The worker who is renting such a home will say to himself: “ I cannot argue against this company. It has power and wealth on its side. It will take me to the courts and I cannot afford to indulge in litigation. “ Consequently he takes the money that is offered and at the end of the year he gets a “ Please explain “ from the Taxation Branch and has to pay income tax on the money that he has been given in return for vacating his home.
The Government allows this practice to continue, and then it imposes income tax on the money obtained by the tenants, money which is needed to start them off in new homes. In many of these cases the homes have been old, and they had been paying only a fairly reasonable rent for them. Nevertheless, the rent was as much as they could afford. When they get out and go on to the market they find they have to pay three or four times as much in rent as they paid previously. The money they received to vacate their homes would assist them to start off afresh, but this Government makes them pay large amounts of tax on that money.
On the other hand the Government, and the tragic Treasurer, allow great wealth to be accumulated in capital gains. Let mc give just one example. I shall read portion of an article which appeared in “ Nation “ of 16th July, 1960. It referred to the sale of shares in television station GTV Channel 9 in Melbourne by Electronic Industries Limited -
For Sir Frank Packer, the decision to pay £6 a share, which gives Electronic Industries a capital profit of over £3,000,000 for a five years’ investment of some £600,000, was an easy one.
Electronic Industries Limited made a capital profit of more than £3,000,000 on an investment of £600,000 - and did that company pay a penny in income tax on that profit? Not one penny did it pay. Yet the ordinary worker, the battler, on whom pressure is brought to bear to vacate a house, and who is paid £1,000 or £1,500 to do so, must pay income tax on that money. This constitutes one of the crimes of this Government, one of the injustices that are so frequent under its administration.
The other matter is that in New South Wales a new movement has arisen in the post-war years - the clubs. There is no doubt that many of them have prospered; but many of them are struggling. Every government seems to want to get in for its share. With the concurrence of honorable members, I incorporate in “ Hansard “ the following letter written by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales to the secretary of the Granville Returned Servicemen’s League: -
Sydney. 4th October, 1963.
Your attention is drawn to the provisions of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1963, Sect. 6(1) of which defines “company” as including all bodies, associations, corporate or incorporate, other than partnerships. As a “ body or association “, a club falls within this definition and, unless covered by exempting provisions of the Act, is liable for lodgement of annual returns of its income and payment of tax as a company.
Because of the principle of mutuality, income derived by a club from transactions with its members is not assessable for income tax purposes. However, income derived from sources other than club members, such as income from investments and non-members is so assessable.
In arriving at the taxable income of a club for Income tax purposes, deductions from assessable income are allowable in respect of -
If the running expenses of the club cannot be allocated precisely to assessable and non-assessable income, a reasonable apportionment of the total expenditure for deduction against the assessable income is acceptable. This is unnecessary in relation to land taxes, rates and allowable gifts, which arc allowances of a concessional nature and deductible in full from the assessable income.
There arc two exempting provisions of the income tax law which particularly affect clubs. The first is Section 23 (g) of the Assessment Act which wholly exempts from tax - “a society, association or club which is not carried on for the purposes of profit or gain to its individual members, and is - (1) . . . (2) a society, association or club established for musical purposes, or for the encouragement of music, art, science or literature; or (3) a society, association or club established for the encouragement or promotion of an athletic game or athletic sport in which human beings are the sole participants “.
The second provision, which is contained in the annual Income Taxes Rates Act applies in the case of a non-profit company (or club), which is defined as “ a company that is not carried on for the purposes of profit or gain to its individual members and is, by the terms of the memorandum or articles of association, rules or other document constituting the company or governing its activities, prohibited from making any distribution whether in money, property or otherwise, to its members”.
In the case of a club satisfying these conditions, tax is not imposed unless the taxable income exceeds £104. Associated with this exemption there is also a shading-out provision whichlimitsits the tax payable - taxable income is between £104 and £260.
There is no record in this office of returns of income having been received from your club, and your early advice on the matter in the light of the information given above would be appreciated.
If your club is in receipt of assessable income and does not fall within the exempting provision mentioned, a return of income for the year ended 30th June, 1963 on Company Return form C should be furnished by 8th November, 1963. The Return should be accompanied by a copy of the Constitution and Rules or other document covering the conduct of the club. If the club claims to be entitled to exemption, advice to that effect should be forwarded by the date mentioned, together with the Constitution and Rules or other document covering the conduct of the club, and the club’s published accounts for the last three years.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) R. R. GRAY.
Deputy Commissioner of Taxation.
Mr. Gray has sent similar letters to all clubs, asking them to explain why they have not been paying tax on income derived from sources other than club members, including visitors and non-members and also money that they invest to try to supplement their funds. The Deputy Commissioner of Taxation is determined to take action in respect of clubs that make a profit out of non-members and from investments.
We know that most of the clubs are community centres. They are part of the community, and to some extent they are making a contribution to the community. They are fellowships and co-operative concerns. They are not trying to exploit the community. I want the Treasurer to declare in this debate whether or not this is to be Government policy; whether or not the Government intends to force this action to be taken; and whether or not it intends to make claims on the clubs in respect of past profits on which, according to the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in New South Wales, they should have paid tax. I would like the Treasurer to make his position clear. Does the Government intend to enforce the relevant provisions of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act? Will the Government give the clubs an opportunity to express their point of view? These clubs are giving a service to the community. Many of them are doing a particularly good job. Only last weekend, in my electorate, members of the Granville Returned Servicemen’s Club planted many hundreds of trees in Granville with the idea of giving some leadership in service to the community. In many respects, we need more and more of that type of club.
.- The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) seems to believe in the principle that if you tell an untruth often enough it will eventually be believed. The honorable member said that this Government had given tax relief only to the rich. How untrue that statement is and how ungrateful he is to the Government! He makes that statement after a budget under which incomes up to £208 per annum are exempt from income tax, instead of the previous figure of £104. Has the honorable member for Reid forgotten the tax relief that was given to the poorer sections of the community by the total abolition of sales tax on foodstuffs? Has he forgotten the tax relief that was given as a result of the reduction of sales tax on furniture? Has he forgotten that it was the Menzies Government, which, for the first time, introduced taxation exemptions for aged people who receive incomes which are less than the amount of their pensions plus the permissible income, which for a married couple is as high as £17 10s. a week?
What hypocrisy this is from the honorable member for Reid who, after criticizing this Government for not giving tax relief to the poorer sections of the community, comes forward and advocates the abolition or reduction of the pay-roll tax! That tax is paid only by people who pay £10,400 or more a year in wages. It is not paid by the poorer sections of the community. The Labour Party talks with two voices, simply to gain votes. It will buy votes from the rich. It does not hesitate, on every possible occasion, to offer bribes and inducements to the richer sections of the community in an endeavour to get votes. The people of Australia will judge members of the Labour Party by their actions and not by their words. The people of Australia know that when the Labour Party is in office it is the rich combines that prosper rather than the average sections of the community. It is well known that indirect taxation affects the poorer sections of the community more adversely than does direct taxation. This Government has gone out of its way to reduce indirect taxation from time to time, in line with reductions in income tax and other direct taxes.
I rose to speak on these proposed expenditures in order to pay a tribute to the Government for its outstanding achievements in relation to the public debt of the Commonwealth. When the Menzies Government came into office in 1.949 it inherited a frightening public debt which had risen steeply as a result of the Second World War. At that time the public debt of the Commonwealth was £1,842,000,000, or £232 19s. lOd. for every man, woman and child in Australia. The Government was faced not only with that huge Commonwealth debt but also with the need for development. During the fourteen years for which this Government has been in office, it has embarked upon a development programme such as no country has ever attempted. Our development has been the envy of every other country. Notwithstanding the huge capital expenditure that was needed for that development, the Menzies Government year by year has reduced the public debt of the Commonwealth.
As I said, in 1949 the public debt of the Commonwealth was £1,842,000,000. By 1963 it had been reduced to £1,560,000,000. - a reduction of £282,000,000 during the period of office of this Government. The public debt of the Commonwealth represented £232 19s. lOd. per head of population in 1949; by 1963 the figure had been reduced to £142 18s. 3d. So, it has been almost halved notwithstanding the fact that the Government has had to finance a tremendous developmental programme. In 1949 the average rate of interest was 2.77 per cent.; in 1963 it is 3.28 per cent. Notwithstanding the slightly higher rate of interest that is paid on the public debt, the interest burden per head of population has been reduced from £6 lis. 6d. in 1949 to £5 ls. 7d. in 1963. The people of Australia must be thankful to the Menzies Government for the splendid way in which it has managed the finances of the Commonwealth not only in financing the huge development that has occurred but at the same time reducing the war debt which it inherited in 1949.
When the prudent businessman has the opportunity to do so he converts his shortterm securities into long-term securities. In other words, he gains a breathing space and can plan his business without the worry of meeting short-term commitments. At present, ample finance is available for investment in Commonwealth loans. Due to the high credit of this Government and of Australia as a whole all recent Commonwealth loans have been heavily oversubscribed. In fact, the Government cancelled a loan recently because it had secured in the financial year all the loan moneys that it could possibly use.
I suggest to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and to other members of the Government that they seize this opportunity to acquire whatever funds are available from the general public by way of loans and convert the short-term debts that will become due for repayment within the next few years. In February, 1964, a loan of £62,000,000 will become due for redemption; in May, 1964, a loan of £82,000,000 will become due; another loan of £203,000,000 will become due in August, 1964, and two loans of £46,000,000 and £98,000,000 respectively will become due in April, 1965. At this time, when money is so readily available, the Treasurer should consider giving bond-holders the option to convert or to subscribe to such loans as become available. In effect, we should convert short-term securities into long-term securities.
I congratulate the Treasurer and the Government upon their financial management. I feel sure that the Government will be returned to office again so that it can continue to give this country wise leadership and financial stability and security.
– It has become obvious in recent days that the Labour Party has embarked upon a certain course of action, either on the assumption that an election would bc held very shortly or in the hope that it would be able to create for itself a favorable political atmosphere. I refer to the new line of propaganda which alleges that the Government has in contemplation restrictive economic measures, that a credit squeeze is just around the corner and that a horror budget awaits the Australian people. When I first saw a report that attributed this propaganda to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) I must say that I did not take very much notice of it, because the propaganda seemed to be typical of the wild and irresponsible speech that Opposition members make on economic matters. We have become accustomed to them. But when the line of propaganda was taken up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), when it emerged more noticeably over the last 48 hours from a number of Opposition members, and when one of the pseudo-intellectuals of the Labour Party in the person of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) set out to rationalize this propaganda yesterday, using the estimates for the Department of Trade as his vehicle, the whole campaign took on a much more sinister appearance.
The Labour Party, as I have said on other occasions, has never hesitated to sacrifice the national interest to serve some party political end. At no stage of the difficult economic period through which we passed in recent years did the Labour Party ever attempt to help the nation by uttering a comforting word or by giving some encouragement to the sane economic course on which we had embarked. Instead, at all times it set out to paint the blackest possible picture; to forecast a trend of events likely to discourage business, industry and commerce; to exaggerate grossly the incidence of unemployment; to forecast spectacular increases in unemployment; and altogether to do all that it could to create an unfavorable economic atmosphere.
Despite the best or the worst efforts, according to the way in which you view them, of the Labour Party the country has gone steadily ahead and has prospered. The base on which our economy rests is as sound as it has ever been. Confronted now with the undeniable facts of steady progress and widespread prosperity, the Labour Party has embarked on this new line of propaganda. It knows that a phrase not readily understood by people unaccustomed to these matters can create apprehensions, uncertainties and perhaps hesitancies in business which could have an adverse effect and an unfavorable reaction upon the Government.
I take this opportunity to deflate the argument put forward by the Opposition. The most effective means available to me is a simple recital of the facts as they can be ascertained by any one who cares to turn to them. In the first place, I shall give the latest available information on the present state of the economy, as shown by some of the basic and more meaningful indicators. I shall turn from that to an examination of the prospects relating to our balance of payments and I shall then try to explain the implications of the situation as they affect the future of the economy. Some of the latest economic indicators have recently been put in the possession of this committee and of the Parliament. My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), has announced in the last few days the latest figures on employment. These show a heartening strengthening of demand for labour, with an overall average of 1.4 per cent, of the work force unemployed. In one of the principal industrial States, Victoria, registrants for employment represent only 1.1 per cent, of the work force. Only in Tasmania - where there is a relatively small population and where movements in employment normally are not very great - do registrants for employment represent above 2 per cent, of the work force.
Our experience in past years has been that when registrations for employment approach the levels I have just mentioned very real pressures develop in relation to man-power. For a long time now we have had over-full employment in many of the skilled trades, and in certain parts of Australia we are now reaching the position of over-full employment for unskilled labour. That is certainly the case now in Victoria, and I believe that position is developing in South Australia and in New South Wales. The people of Australia can see from the strengthening of the demand for labour and from the low number of registrations for employment that there has been a general increase in demand, reflecting steady progress in all the major sectors of the economy.
I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) - the shadow Treasurer of the Labour Party - say that he thought it was practicable to get registrations for employment down to nil. I have heard the Leader of the Opposition make that statement, but, as everybody knows, he does not pretend to have any economic judgment or knowledge. That fact has been well known throughout Australia for a very long time; but 1 have always had more respect for the views of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. But when the shadow Treasurer of an alternative government says in this place that he thinks it is entirely practicable to get registrations for employment down to nil, I wonder what kind of administration would come from a government drawn from honorable members opposite. What would be the position of somebody who wanted to start a major new project and who required thousands of employees? What would be the position of somebody who wanted to engage in building operations on a large scale? What would be the position when seasonal workers are required in their thousands at various times in the year, whether they be required for the sugar season in Queensland or for the fruitpicking season in the south?
One of my colleagues has reminded us of the entirely realistic and sane statement made by Mr. Monk to the effect that we should not get worried if registrations for employment are between 1 per cent, and 11 per cent, of the work force because the economy requires an availability of labour. It does not require chronic unemployment; nobody wants to see so many registrations for employment as to represent a state of chronic unemployment. All we want is a situation representing temporary availability of somebody who has just completed one job and is moving to the next. That situation is part and parcel of a soundly conducted economy. If honorable gentlemen opposite attempt to reduce registrations for employment to nil they will set up the gravest inflationary pressures in this country, as past experience has demonstrated to us.
Turning to the current situation of industrial production, it is clear that the basic industries, such as steel, fuel and power and building materials have shown very substantial gains. Production of motor vehicles is, of course, at record levels. The main fields in which production has not increased over the past year are some sections of the consumer durables field and cotton and woollen textiles. When we turn to rural production we find every indication that it y/ be at a high level in most areas during this year. Some areas have experienced poor weather conditions but in general the season has been good and production is likely to be high in all the major areas of rural activity.
Wool production is expected to total a record 1,738,000,000 lb. of greasy equivalent in 1963-64 compared with 1,663,000,000 lb. in 1962-63. Wool prices !this year have been steady at about 62d. per lb. - a little below the closing prices of last season but well above last year’s average of 59d. per lb. So the value of wool production should be greater this year than the £405,000,000 of 1962-63. The wheat crop is expected to be close to 300,000,000 bushels - perhaps between 270,000,000 and 300,000,000 bushels. It will be only slightly below the record level of 307,000,000 bushels in 1962-63. The sugar crop, while probably being below the record of 1,850,000 tons in 1962-63, will nevertheless have an export price considerably greater than the average of last year.
When wc turn to evidence of demand it is clear from the employment and production figures that the trend of demand is strongly upwards. The value of retail sales, excluding motor vehicles, petrol, parts, &c, in July and August of this year were respectively 3.4 per cent, and 3.6 per cent, higher than in the corresponding months of 1962. The only weak spots in retail sales have -been in the clothing and consumer durables field, which have shown little increase in the past year. Demand for durables should soon begin to reflect the high level of new residential construction. I have already referred to record sales of motor vehicles, “which in July and August reached the highest figures ever recorded. In July, 35,898 vehicles were registered - the highest recorded figure for any month. In August, 33,370 vehicles were registered - the second highest number for any month. Registrations of motor vehicles in July and August of this year exceeded those in the corresponding months of last year by no less than 17 per cent.
Housing, which is a very good indicator, continues to expand. Building approvals for new houses and flats in the three months to August last totalled 27,473, compared with 24,029 in the corresponding period of 1962. Demand for non-residential building has been at peak levels in recent months. The total value of this class pf approvals in the three months to August was £67,900,000 compared with a value of £63,600,000 in the corresponding period of 1962. It is interesting to note that in 1959 the relevant figure was £46,900,000 and in 1960, which is regarded as a boom year for building construction, the figure was £60,800,000. Compare the figures for 1959 and 1960 with that for 1963. The total value of building approvals, including alterations and additions in the three months to August was £194,600,000 - an all-time record for any period of three months. Housing finance has been more readily available. Loans for new houses approved by the finance and major life offices for the three months to July, 1963, totalled £32,700,000 - an increase of 66 per cent, over the figure for the corresponding months of 1962. The number of loans approved in the period was 49 per cent, greater.
Turning to monetary conditions, the economy continues to bc highly liquid. The money supply rose by 7.5 per cent, during 1961- 62 and by a further 8.6 per cent, in 1962- 63. The current financial year should see further substantial injections of liquidity as a result of increasing overseas reserves and of the Commonwealth Government’s transactions. The hire-purchase debt, which had been increasing relatively slowly in the first six months of 1963, moved ahead more rapidly in July and August. During all this time prices have shown relatively little tendency to increase. The latest information on retail prices, released for the June quarter shows that the consumer price index was less than 1 per cent. - actually 0.7 per cent. - higher than in the June quarter of 1962. Not many countries enjoying prosperity can point to price stability of this order. It remains to be seen whether the margins increases, which would have had virtually no effect on the consumer price index figures for the June quarter, will tend to push up prices as recorded in the next figures released.
Now I come to the balance of payments. I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that it is on the balance of payments position that the Labour Party bases its claim that this Government will in the course of the next year introduce restrictive measures. The Opposition claims that the knowledge that it will introduce restrictive measures next year is the principal reason why the Government has chosen to go to an election at this time. Opposition members paint a picture of falling reserves overseas and they argue from this that the Government will take restrictive action, because, on earlier occasions when reserves have fallen, governments have taken restrictive action to reduce the pressure of the demand for imports. I have already mentioned some of those in this chamber who have been advancing this argument with increasing intensity in recent days.
It is quite significant to find that, last night, the president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party, my namesake, Mr. R. W. Holt, made a statement, which was reported in to-day’s issue of the Melbourne “ Sun News-Pictorial “ in these terms -
He, at least, was honest enough to acknowledge that the Opposition has been pressing us repeatedly ever since the last general election to go to another election. The newspaper report continued -
With declining returns from Australia’s export trade and with a further credit squeeze envisaged, the Prime Minister’s abnegation of responsibility could be understood . . .
The whole statement rests on the proposition of declining export trade, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The honorable member for Yarra advanced the further argument that our reserves would be declining and that the Government was only waiting to get the election out of the way before adopting restrictive measures.
The simple facts of the matter are that all the trends are in a direction opposite to that alleged by the Australian Labour Party. The Labour Party says that our overseas reserves are falling. In point of fact, they are mounting quite rapidly and there is plenty of evidence that they will continue to do so in the period immediately ahead.
– What about the import bill?
– I shall come to that, too, if the honorable member will give me time. In the two months to the end of August, 1963, our interational reserves rose by £19,000,000 to £645,000,000. By the end of September, they had increased further to £667,000,000. The estimates given to me by the Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia indicate that this financial year we shall add more than £100,000,000 to our overseas reserves. Let us see where that will take us. At present, we have international reserves totalling £667,000,000. We have second-line reserves in the form of drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund, totalling £223,000,000. I have heard not one Opposition speaker mention these rights in discussing our present situation. Not only arc our front-line reserves higher than they have been at any time over the last twelve years, but also our second-line reserves stand at a higher level than ever before. Between the two, we have at this stage reserves totalling £890,000,000 to which we can look if need arises. If we add to this figure the £100,000,000 by which our reserves will increase this financial year, in twelve months from now we shall have near enough to £1,000,000,000 of reserves that can be drawn upon if the need arises. So, far from having to face an economic situation in which liquidity is decreasing because there is a down-turn in our reserves, we shall have increasing liquidity as our reserves build up and as deposits with the banks increase considerably in the period ahead. So the position is just the reverse of that which honorable gentlemen opposite are trying to picture.
A few moments ago, one honorable member opposite asked, “ What about the import bill? “ The advice given to me is that, on the latest figures, the trend is for a decrease in the flow of imports. In any event, the present flow is steady at an entirely manageable level.
The honorable member for Yarra tried to argue that capital inflow was falling away. In point of fact, capital inflow is being well sustained and tends to increase. So, again, we have the Labour Party wilfully falsifying the economic picture because it wishes to mislead the Australian people or because it has no real awareness of the facts, which can be quite readily ascertained if honorable members opposite take the trouble to seek them. I think that this has been one of the most discreditable chapters in the long history of the Labour Party in this country. Day after day, week after week and month after month, Labour has set out to paint the blackest possible picture of the state of the economy and its prospects. It has done whatever it can to depress the state of mind of those engaged in business and commerce. All this has been done for no other reason than that the Labour Party hopes thereby to embarrass the Government and gain some political advantage. I hope that the Australian public will be put on notice that this is the kind of campaign that can be expected in the weeks ahead. But such a campaign will have no justification in fact. The facts that I have stated are irrefutable. They reflect the healthiest state that the Australian economy has known for many years.
There are many honest differences between the parties that sit on this side of the chamber and the Australian Labour Party, which occupies the benches opposite. I would hope that those honest differences could be the substance of the election campaign that we shall have to fight, but there will be no honest contest if this kind of argument that has been advanced deliberately, and, I say, with an almost sinister purpose, in recent days and weeks is to be the kind of argument that the Labour Party will expect the public to swallow in the general election campaign.
The economic objectives of this Government remain now as they have always been throughout our term of office. We stand for the growth and development of Australia. We stand for full employment for our people. We stand for an immigration programme contributing to national development. We stand for prosperity spread through all sections of the Australian community. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) charged me wilh being a political Treasurer in the sense of being a sectional Treasurer. I should like to know of a time when the prosperity of this country has been more widespread and more justly shared than it is at present. My colleague, the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), gave illustrations of the way in which our taxation policy in recent budgets has directly benefited those on the lower levels of income through reductions in the sales tax - an indirect tax - on furniture, foodstuffs and similar lines, and the raising of the minimum taxable income. He could have mentioned, for good measure, the doubling of the exemption limit for estate duty, which helps people of modest means, as provided for in our last Budget. Sir, my approach to taxation policy has been to ensure that the greatest possible incentive is given to production.
If a government were so short-sighted, so foolish and so unfair as to deal inequitably with great masses of the Australian people, it would not last very long. After all, the maximum period between elections is three years, and the people have not so short memories that they would forget such things in three years. The fact is that repeatedly, since 1949, the Australian people have responded to the policies of this Government. We have every confidence that, fairly and justly weighing the policies that we have pursued throughout the life of this Parliament, the people will recognize that we have made the same honest-minded approach throughout and have endeavoured to deal fairly and equitably with all sections of the Australian community.
I express my appreciation to those of my colleagues on the Government side-
– What about my question about clubs? Will the Minister answer that? Does he support the policy that applies to clubs?
– I will come to that in a moment. I was expressing my appreciation to those of my colleagues who not only paid tribute to the Treasury officers but, by their analysis of the present situation, helped to introduce some realism into our considerations.
The honorable member for Reid raised a point about taxation of the incomes of clubs. There is nothing new in the Government’s policy on that matter. It is not a policy suddenly adopted by the Commissioner of Taxation, by the Treasury or by myself. It is a policy which proceeds from legislation passed by this Parliament. I would be very surprised if the legislation now applying to clubs were not the same as that which obtained in the life of the government formed from the party to which the honorable member belongs. If it is the will of the Parliament to change the policy, the Commissioner will effectively enforce the legislation. But it is his duty - and we do not interfere with him in the discharge of that duty - to apply legislation as it comes to him from the Parliament. I have no doubt that that is what he is doing, with the objectivity and competence which have always attached to his high office.
I do not think it is necessary for me to detain the committee for much longer. The honorable member for Reid said that during our term of office we have brought the maximum level of income tax down from, I think, 16s. 8d. to 12s. 8d. in the £1. At what level would the Labour Party put the maximum rate of tax? People are entitled to know these things. If the honorable member thinks that 12s. 8d. in the £1 is too small an exaction on those in the community who take all the risks that go with the earning of additional income and who are subject to the additional effort and worry that are involved, let him state his opinion frankly so that the people will know what to expect from a government supported by him. I gathered from what he said that he. believed that 16s. 8d. in the £1 was little enough and that he would like to take the lot. When he accuses others of a sectional approach, I think he might have a good look at his own policies and at the attitudes of some of those who sit alongside him.
This country is proceeding steadily and prosperously on a sound economic basis. If the Opposition wants to fight an election on the issue of. the economic consequences of the Government’s policies, I for one will gladly accept that challenge. I am entirely confident that the public will give us its support to an even greater degree than it did on the last occasion, matching that of earlier and happier times.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– May I suggest that it would suit the convenience of the committee to consider next the proposed expenditures for the Department of Territories and the Territories of the Commonwealth, and to consider them together?
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Department of Territories.
Proposed expenditure, £664,000.
Proposed expenditure, £10,119,000.
Australian Capital Territory.
Proposed expenditure, £6,364,000.
Proposed expenditure, £37,700.
Papua and New Guinea.
Proposed expenditure, £25,477,200.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Proposed expenditure, £46,000.
Proposed expenditure, £100.
.- I propose to devote my attention to the estimates for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The current estimates provide for a total amount of about £37,500,000. Of that sum, £25,250,000 will be the Commonwealth’s contribution, £10,500,000 will be raised within the Territory and £1,700,000 will represent a loan raised within the Territory. It is interesting to compare the, proposed expenditure on the Territory of Papua and New Guinea this year with the expenditure of £7,000,000 in 1952-53. In 1960-61, the total expenditure was approximately £23,000,000. In the current year the total expenditure will be about £37,500,000. This acceleration of the provision of finance for the Territory is an earnest of our intention to develop the Territory as fast as is possible. Honorable members who have visited the Territory realize that there is a considerable amount of work to be done in the provision of hospitals and facilities for medical attention, in education, agriculture, communications and many other fields which are under the aegis of the Administration of the Territory.
In relation to the field of agriculture I can do no better than refer to the notes provided by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). He said -
In agriculture, high priority has been given to the work of agricultural extension and training in order to improve agricultural techniques and productivity in native subsistence farming and to promote cash crop cultivation . . ,
During 1962-^3 there were 125 professionally qualified expatriate agricultural extension staff and approximately 460 indigenous agricultural assistants engaged in field work. It is expected that during 1963/64 the Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries will be increased by 20 officers and about 100 indigenous agricultural assistants. By 1966/67 the number of professionally qualified agricultural extension staff is expected to be 242 and the number of indigenous agricultural assistants 900.
A great deal of attention has been paid to the training of indigenes in agriculture, and on this subject the Minister said -
The training of selected indigenous farmers is being conducted at agricultural extension training stations and agricultural extension centres where training courses are carried out. The present intake of farmer trainees is at the rate of nearly 1,000 per annum and it is proposed to increase this rate to 1,500 per annum by 1966/67. Small scale demonstraions for the benefit of indigenous farmers are conducted at these centres in addition to the training courses.
There are eleven agricultural extension training stations and provision has been made in the five year programme to increase the number of stations to sixteen by 1966/67.
The Minister referred to agricultural production and said -
The expansion of cocoa and coffee production in the Territory has been reflected in greatly increased exports of these products during the last ten years. Exports of cocoa beans increased from 477 tons in 1951/52 to 10,014 tons in 1961/62 and coffee exports rose in the same period from 307 tons to 3,444 tons, There has also been an increase in the production of rubber from 2,850 tons in 1951/52 to 4,680 tons in 1961/62.
The Minister’s notes show that the economic position of the Territory is extremely healthy. I think most honorable members will agree that the Territory’s economy is basically an agricultural economy. The figures I have given from the Minister’s notes indicate a very healthy trend of increasing production. The training of personnel will bring about a further increase in production. There is, therefore, a very bright outlook for the economy of the Territory.
Another field in which there has been a dramatic increase in results is that of the native local government councils. I have visited the Territory on a number of occasions and I know that the local government council is an extremely important facet of the community life of the indigines It is one facet of the territorial life which the Minister has very earnestly and continuously encouraged. As I think honorable members are aware, the Government has a five-year programme designed to increase the population covered by local government councils to 800,000 by 30th June, 1967. During 1962-63, there were twenty new local government councils proclaimed, and there are now 79 such coun cils covering a population of approximately 700,000. That again represents a very substantial increase in the coverage by the local government scheme in the Territory.
I come now to the fisheries activities within the Territory. I admit at once that there has been some excellent work done in this respect, but I believe that some of the activities of the officers could be a little more vigorous in developing fish as a native diet. Some good work has been done in pond farming where tilapia were introduced into the highlands. They have not been entirely successful, but I understand that another type of fish has been introduced which, on present trends, will be quite successful. Where I feel much more encouragement ought to be given is to estuary fishing in coastal areas, particularly around Port Moresby. There is at Kanudi marine base a research station which is doing quite a fine job, hut one could say frankly that up to this point of time one would have expected more to have been achieved, perhaps, by way of results to the native population. As honorable members will no doubt be aware, the native diet is lacking to a very marked degree in proteins, and fish is possibly one of the few means locally of meeting this protein deficiency. I suggest to the Minister that he might consider increasing the present rate of experimentation and research going on around the coastal areas with a view to getting more effective results in the long run.
As we know, a new council is to be elected. It is expected that it will be elected by March, 1964, when, instead of the old council of 37 members, there will be 64 members of whom 54 will be elected from the common roll. It is interesting to note in passing that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) was instrumental in having one small alteration made to the voting procedure. In its recommendations, the select committee of inquiry recommended that the voting age be eighteen years as that was the age at which tax was paid to the local council; but the Minister has decided, I think very wisely indeed, that the voting age shall be 21 years, which is exactly the same as the procedure adopted in Australia.
I want to turn now to tourism in relation to the Territory because I believe it has a tremendous future there. I notice from the information issued by the Minister that earlier this year an investigation was carried out in the Territory by an officer of the Australian National Travel Association. The report on this investigation will be studied by the Administration for the purpose of assessing the possibility of developing the tourist trade. Here, I want to be somewhat critical of the standard of accommodation in the Territory. I think most members who have been there will agree with me that quite a number of the hotels in the Territory provide a rather low standard of accommodation, which in seme cases could probably be described as rather grim. Of course, there are some very fine exceptions. For instance there is the Pine Lodge Hotel at Bulolo. Then, the Goroka Hotel at Goroka and the Papua Hotel at Port Moresby are first class hotels. I suggest that the Minister might consider taking a leaf out of the book of the Tasmanian system. Not so many years ago, it could be truly said that accommodation in hotels in Tasmania, especially in the country areas, as could be said of many other parts of Australia, was of a poor standard. In recent years, just subsequent to the war, a licencing court was set up with a committee which travelled continuously around the State investigating accommodation in the various hotels. That committee not only made recommendations to the licensing court but also recommended that as a condition of the licence the court should insist that a certain standard of accommodation and service be given to the travelling public. I should think that this example might very well be followed in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
I understand that at present in the Territory a magistrate’s court grants the licence to the hotel but, so far as I know, does not require any standard either of accommodation or service to be observed by the hotelkeeper. With the increasing flow of visitors to the Territory, particularly by sea these days when cruises are once again becoming a very popular facet of our life, and with increasing numbers arriving by air with the great intensification of air traffic, the influx of tourists into the Territory is of quite considerable magnitude, and I should say that one day this inflow could be of very great value to its economy.
Therefore, I suggest that the Minister might well have a look at the proposition of setting up a small committee of three, similar to that operating in Tasmania, and empowering it to inspect potential accommodation for tourists and to require a satisfactory standard of accommodation and a reasonable standard of service. I am firmly convinced that the adoption of such a suggestion would certainly be in the best interests of the Territory in the long run.
In the few moments I have left, I want to refer briefly to war service land settlement in the Territory. Under the terms of the War Service Land Settlement Agreement in the Territory, an eligible person may get a loan of up to £25,000. I would say that this has been an extremely successful scheme. One has only to look at places like Popondetta, Talasea, Goroka and other centres where war service land settlement is being carried out to see that the scheme is most successful. Unfortunately, I have found in discussing the position with service settlers that some of them have misgivings about their future. A personal friend of mine in the Territory said that when he was an officer of the Administration in Kenya he decided he had had enough of the Mau Mau and he attempted to sell his house and property but had to come back without having sold his house, and after having sold his property for a very small amount indeed, in the final result he had an asset there which was not of any great value to him.
How this problem is to be solved, I do not know. I do not think that the war service land settlers themselves need to fear any special form of insecurity because both the Minister and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) have made very positive statements indeed of our intention to stay in New Guinea and to protect the people of New Guinea until they are ready to run their own Territory if they so wish. Clearly both the Minister and the Prime Minister have allayed any fears anybody up there might have had as to our intentions in the future, but I suggest that some consideration might be given to the future of these war service land settlers when they come to retirement or when they have some special reason for leaving the Territory. The only way in which 1 can put it is to suggest that they have some form of insurance scheme which would enable them to preserve their assets at a reasonable capital value. That may sound a somewhat nebulous suggestion, but I think it worthy of consideration. I conclude by saying that I believe every member of the Parliament will congratulate the Minister on the job he has done.
– At the outset I want to bring to the notice of the committee the difference in the attitudes which the Government takes towards different territories. Specifically, I want to compare the attitude it adopts towards problems occurring in the Northern Territory with that which it adopts towards the problems of the trust Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In the Northern Territory, where there is no external pressure on the Government for development there is, in the main, very little developmental work going on, and the vote for the Northern Territory in this year’s Budget is very little in excess of what was provided in last year’s Budget. On the other hand, in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, where the United Nations takes a keen and very often helpful interest in development, the Govrnment is making efforts far beyond those it is making elsewhere. In Papua and New Guinea the Government has to appease an outside international organization which is continually breathing down its neck.
If we compare the increase this year in the vote for the Northern Territory with the increase in the vote for Papua and New Guinea we find a vast difference in the Government’s approach. These figures are taken from the notes supplied by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). Whereas there is an overall increase of £2,400,000 in the vote for the Northern Territory, there is an increase of £8,000,000 in the vote for Papua and New Guinea. The revenue of Papua and New Guinea is shown as £10,500,000, as against £2,025,000 for the Northern Territory. Of course the Northern Territory figure does not take into consideration - as the Minister points out at the bottom of his notes - the revenue raised by direct and indirect taxation, that is, sales tax and excise, nor does it take into consideration the very substantial revenue which the Commonwealth derives from the mining and sale of uranium in the Northern Territory. Taking all these factors into consideration we find that the £2,025,000 is greatly increased and is a very substantial figure indeed.
This is the approach of the Government not only in the economic field but also in the political field. In Papua and New Guinea, self-government, or a substantial step towards self-government, is just around the corner. Next year the majority of members of the Legislative Council will be indigenous people. In the Northern Territory however, there is still the same basic set-up as there was live or ten years ago. There the council is controlled by a majority of nominated and official members. It is true that during this month there was to have been a conference between members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and the Minister and his officers in Canberra, to discuss reforms for the council. I think that with an election approaching and probably a change of government, that conference may not be proceeded with and it will be left to the future government to decide the fate of the Legislative Council. This illustrates what happens when there is an outside body pressurizing the Government for development in one territory but having no such influence in regard to another.
Sifting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I want to make it quite clear that when I compared the expenditure in the Northern Territory wilh the expenditure in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea before the suspension of the sitting, I was in no way being envious of the extra appropriations that have been made for Papua and New Guinea. I still believe that the provision made for that Territory is not adequate. I merely wanted to show the relative treatment that was given to the two Territories, one an internal territory and the other an external territory.
I want to deal with the need for proper, long-term planning of water supplies in the centres of population in the Northern Territory. As an instance, let me refer to Alice Springs, which is a very popular tourist centre these days. It is a growing town and the centre of a very prosperous district, but it has suffered recurring water restrictions and shortages for a period of 15 years or more. Planning for water for that town has been done on a day-to-day basis over that period. When the taps run dry, another bore is put down and that tides the town over for another twelve months. But no long-term planning was ever attempted until last year, when the Government was forced into the position of having to adopt a step in a long-term plan for the development of water supplies for the town.
Unfortunately, the planning was two or three years too late. The bores that were to be put down 15 miles out of the town are not yet ready to be linked up with the town supply, and it is doubtful whether they will ever be linked up. The boring difficulties that have been encountered seem at this stage to be well-nigh insuperable. If the difficulties cannot be overcome, a crisis will rapidly develop. Indeed, a crisis has arrived, because already water restrictions have been imposed in Alice Springs though this is only the beginning of the summer. We know what will happen if early rains do not fall before midsummer. Should a late wet eventuate, the people, who, over a period of years, have taken the time and trouble to grow gardens and plants of all types, will find their work brought to nought. They will find years of effort thrown down the drain.
In addition to all this, the planning authorities in their wisdom have decided, despite the lack of water, to put in a sewerage system. They do not have enough water to drink, but still the diminishing water supply is also to be used for a sewerage system. I would say that it will be eighteen months before any use will be made of the system at the present rate of providing additional water. I do not know who is responsible for the blunder. I do not know whether it results from the planning of the Department of Works or whether the fault lies with the Government officials in Canberra who do not provide funds for these services when they are needed. I believe that the fault lies with the Government. The Department of Works in the Northern Territory consists of men who have lived in that part of the country for many years, and some of them for all their lives. They know the problems that arise from inadequate water supplies. I believe that the blame must rest largely with the Government departments in Canberra or the Government itself for failing to make adequate funds available when required.
These problems also arise in Darwin. The Public Works Committee has inquired into Darwin’s water supply and it has approved of a scheme to augment it at a cost of about £330,000. However, if this work has started, it has only just started, and by the time the work is completed in 1964, the augmented water supply will be totally inadequate. The committee itself has said that by 1965 or 1966, provision for further water supplies will be necessary. The Government should realize that it is necessary to plan water supplies in the Territory ten to fifteen years ahead of the need. What will happen if a sudden demand by the defence forces is superimposed on the demands of the civilian population in a town like Darwin? This is a rapidly expanding town of some 15,000 to 20,000 people. I should say that in the interests of defence some attention should be paid to this problem without delay. Some provision should be made not on a yeartoyear basis but on the basis of ten to fifteen years.
Then we have the mining industry. Such an industry in the past has been the making of every State in Australia. The Northern Territory has mineral deposits that can be exploited. Unfortunately, the prospectors at present are not receiving the assistance that is necessary to encourage them to go out to look for mineral deposits and to develop the mineral deposits to the point at which they can be exploited. Only recently, two compressors were purchased to help prospectors do this work. I would say that it would be necessary to purchase 20, 25 or 30 compressors and spread them throughout the mining areas of the Northern Territory to help miners. They could be spread from the mica fields in Harts Range, through Tennant Creek and through the Rum Jungle area. They would be a boon to the mining industry in those parts.
Rum Jungle has produced millions of pounds’ worth of uranium, and the money has gone into the coffers of the Commonwealth. The mining section is about to close down most of its operations. Mining operations will cease very shortly and the plant will be thrown open for the treatment of outside ore. 1 think it is up to the Government at this stage to grant subsidies for the cartage of the ore to that plant, just as it has given similar assistance to every other treatment plant in the Northern Territory. Batchelor is a town of some 600 to 1,000 people, and towns of that size in the north are a bit hard to establish. It is worth granting a subsidy to keep it afloat, and a subsidy to the mining industry is a subsidy to a worthwhile industry.
Prospectors should be encouraged to look for phosphate deposits in the north. We know that some of these deposits have been located and some of them have been developed to a point. Unfortunately, they have not realized the high hopes held for them in the early stages of their development. In view of the diminishing overseas sources of phosphate, I think the Government in the interests of Australia should offer substantia] rewards to encourage prospectors to go out and discover deposits. At present, of course, the ordinary prospector has no hope of treating deposits of phosphate. It is too big a task, so he looks for minerals. but he does not look for phosphate. If a substantial reward were offered for the discovery of phosphate deposits of economic significance, I think that prospectors would be looking all over the north for such deposits. There are surely additional deposits to be found in the north.
I should like to deal for a moment with the policy of the Government on beef roads. This policy was first introduced by the Commonwealth Government on the basis of cattle in the Northern Territory being hauled interstate and not treated within the Northern Territory. At that time, the Northern Territory did not have treatment works to handle cattle grown in the Territory. Cattle were hauled into Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. Recently, however, three export meat treatment works have been established in the Northern Territory and the position has now changed. Meat works, with an investment value of some £500,000 in one case, are available for the treatment of virtually all the cattle that can be grown in the north of
Australia, lt is essential that good roads be provided so that cattle may be brought to these works instead of having to be taken interstate. The whole of the works policy needs to be recast. I am pleased to note that the Public Works Committee has recently rejected or queried a proposal for a road through Wave Hill and over a particular route. In my view the Wave Hill road should follow reasonably closely its present site. Our efforts should be directed towards bringing cattle from that part of the country to the meatworks at Katherine and Darwin. I impress upon the Committee, too, that it is no use providing dirt roads for this purpose. Beef roads must be sealed, because that part of the world experiences tropical rainfall, and roads rapidly deteriorate. Roads similarly deteriorate in the drier parts of the centre.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One of the most stimulating aspects of Australian thought at the moment seems to be the interest we are all taking in the development of the northern part of our continent, particularly the Northern Territory. I find this stimulating in the extreme, and infuriating in some ways. When I was a member of the Forster committee that was given by the Minister the particularly interesting job of drawing up an agricultural system for the Northern Territory that would work, we often found ourselves looking at experimental farms, or at farms on which, in some cases people were engaged in clearing land, and an aeroplane would fly over very high and very fast. We would look up and say, “ There is a member of Parliament who is going to give an eloquent speech in the House, telling us how to proceed “. I pay a tribute to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) for having refused to give way to that kind of easy temptation. He knows the difficulties of development better than most. He knows that the problems are not solved with easy eloquence.
Talk is cheap and easy when discussing the problems of development, but I think that we in this place have a responsibility to look at the situation from the factual point of view. I will give the committee some examples of the kinds of easy solutions that have been proposed with the loose eloquence to which I have referred. I do not want to be unduly critical, but I must say I have heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) saying that the Northern Territory should be used as an experimental station to see what can be done in tropical areas, and what can be grown. If he does not know then he should know that there is no area in the world, except in Nigeria, with which the Northern Territory could be said to be a homoclime. What is the good of setting up an experimental station in the tropical area of the Northern Territory, to see what can be done there, if the conditions cannot be shown to apply in any other country? We have particular responsibilities in this matter, so let us be factual in our comments.
I have heard it said that all the agricultural and pastoral problems of the Northern Territory have been solved, and all that we have to do now is to solve the administrative problems. We in this chamber should be careful not to give way to the temptation to make this kind of criticism and take the easy way out. I have had a look at the list of speakers who are to follow me in this debate, and I know that many of them will take the easy way out, saying that economic considerations do not matter, that the development of the north is above economics. For those people I would recommend a study of the speech made by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) during the Budget debate. The people who support the easy view that economics should not matter are the people, and they are members of the party, supporting high tariffs as a solution of our economic problems. Everybody is entitled to his point of view on that subject, but these people should realize that such a policy deliberately makes development harder, deliberately encourages centralization and the growth of the big cities, making development of outlying areas more difficult.
This is the kind of policy - and I do not argue whether it is right or wrong - which deliberately increases the cost of development, which deliberately increases, for instance, the cost of weedicides that we expect the farmers to use if they are going to do a proper job of development. The people who espouse such a policy are the ones who say that Australian cement, produced, say, in Cairns, should be given a particular advantage in the Darwin area over the cement imported from, say, Japan. They are entitled to their point of view, but I repeat that they should remember that this is a policy that makes development of remote areas more difficult. They are the kind of people who say that the Navigation Act is excellent. Let us not argue whether the Navigation Act is right or wrong, but let us recognize immediately that its operation makes development harder. They are also the people who say that high award rates are splendid and desirable. This is something we should strive for. But again this makes development more difficult. Such a policy results in the position in which a wharfie in Darwin gets £4 a ton to load rice onto a ship, and when the ships gets to Hong Kong it costs only 4s. a ton to unload that rice.
These same people of whom I have been speaking are the ones who advocate a system of rental land tenure, while anybody who has had anything to do with development knows that such a policy inhibits development. It is only when a person gets control of his own land that he is prepared to spend money on it. Let us accept a sense of responsibility in these matters. It is easy to talk with eloquence about what should be done, but we must accept our responsibility to try to make development possible. Such people say, “ Let us press on in spite of all the arguments against us. Let us press on with development. That is all that matters. Let us have a large-scale settlement scheme at once.” There has never yet been a large-scale governmentsponsored land settlement scheme that has worked well. Remember the Peak Downs fiasco. Remember what happened to the ground nuts scheme in Africa. Remember that in all Communist countries agriculture has not been successfully carried on. It is not for nothing that Russia and China are now buying our wheat. That they have been unsuccessful in agriculture is not because they have not meant well; it is just that it is not easy to farm well under a governmentcontrolled settlement scheme. In all cases such schemes have proved practically disastrous.
Yet we are told, “ Let us press on. These things do not matter.” People who say these things forget that suffering can be caused by such easy eloquence. What do they suggest should be grown in these areas, these people who say we should press on regardless of the economics of the matter? What would they have us grow? I think they have a responsibility to tell us this. They tell us we should spend £50,000,000, £60,000,000 or £80,000,000 in developing the Northern Territory. What would they grow?
– Well, peanuts is one commodity I would not have suggested. That is one of the crops that everybody says we can grow. I am surprised at the honorable member falling into that easy trap. Let me ask him this: If they grow peanuts where are they going to sell them? Similarly I ask: Are we to grow cotton in the north? Everybody says that we can grow cotton there. Yet the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has proved quite conclusively that we can grow cotton a lot more cheaply in the Namoi district. Will we say to the people now growing cotton there, “You cannot grow it any more; we will grow it at much greater expense elsewhere “? Are we to grow linseed in the north? This is the kind of thing we ought to do, according to those who tell us to press on regardless. I have seen linseed being grown in the Esperance area on cheap land at much less cost than it can bc grown in tropical areas, with the aid of urea. Are we going to say to the people in the Esperance area: “No, you cannot grow any more linseed. We are going to do that in the northern areas”? Are we going to grow sugar? We know that we can grow sugar at the Ord River; but we also know that if we grow it there we will inhibit the sugar industry in Queensland. The people who ask us to press on regardless ought to have some regard for those facts of life. I know some of the things we can grow and some of the things which we think we can grow and which later we may prove we can grow economically. But do not let us fall into the easy trap that we can grow things just because we speak eloquently about them in this chamber.
I certainly would not say that I am content with the present position. I do not want to give that impression. I have a tremendous faith in the area and some knowledge of what can be grown and what can be done. But I refuse to succumb to the temptation to make eloquent speeches and to say that our problems can be solved by the easy methods that some people advocate. Let us keep plodding on as we are doing and spending money slowly. It is true that we are not spending as fast as many people would wish, but let us keep plodding on with economic objectives in view. I am sure that the right approach is being followed by the Government. It is putting the money that we have into services in order to make the economic development of areas possible later.
I admit that we must do better than we are doing. I am not making a political appeal. There are no votes in this for me. I believe that we in this chamber have a responsibility to look at things clear-eyed.
I hope that in the future two improvements will be brought about. One is the establishment of a separate civil service in the Northern Territory. I know that this is not easy. I know the problems that will arise - problems of recruitment and so on. This is a deliberate choice that we must make. If we are to have a solid administration it must include people who live there and who will stay there. Under the present system there are too many people who are like comets that flash across the sky. They stay in the Territory for three years. In the first year they are learning a little about the environment; in the second year they are doing useful work; and in the third year they are packing up. There is too much of that. We have to make a deliberate choice if we are to do the job that challenges us.
The second improvement is to have a one-line budget. I recognize the seriousness of recommending this. I also realize that it is an easy solution to propound. But until the Legislative Council and the people in the Territory learn to ride the bike of self-government, money will not be well spent. During the early stages things will be difficult and in some cases expensive. But no one learns to ride a bike with some one else holding the handle-bars.
– How would you ride it?
– If I did what you would do, I would fall off every now and again.
Do not let us have any illusions about the job that faces us. It will not be easy. Doing anything worth while in that area has never been easy.
I recognize that there is room for improvement; but the alleged improvements that many people advocate so earnestly and eloquently would make things worse. We must remember that there was not one crop that the Forster committee examined which had not been tried before 1900. We must remember that the Northern Territory is covered with the bleached bones of past failures. There is no easy answer to the problems of developing this area. If you want to have more bleached bones offailures, do what some people are advocating we should do - have quick development irrespective of economic aims and have some more half-baked schemes. You will win votes, I grant you, if that is the object of the exercise. But I am much more interested in the development of the Northern Territory. A continuation of the easy eloquence of the past will break the hearts and backs of the settlers who go out into the area and put back the clock of development. One of the tragedies of the area is that the kind of thinking which has been common throughout Australia, has led to those bleached bones of failure in the past.
There is a real responsibility for us in this chamber. I feel very deeply about this matter. I have a tremendous belief in the capabilities and potential of the area. I give way to no one in my belief that one day we will tackle the job. But do not let us have any illusions about the difficulties. Do not let us have any of this soft thinking that the problem can be solved by people making eloquent speeches in this chamber. The problem will be solved by people who have the courage to go ahead, who have the courage to go without things and who have the belief that this is a job for them and for Australia.
.- I wish to refer specifically to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In doing so I shall make one or two - criticisms of the administration of that Territory. They are made in all sincerity, and I hope that the committee will accept them in the spirit in which they are made. First, it should be remembered that this Territory is the front window of Australia in our relationships with all the non-white countries of the world. Our attitude to, and the job that we do in, the Territory will determine the attitude that many other people throughout the world will take to Australia. Accordingly, it is very important - in fact it is vital - that we should do all that we can to ensure that our case which is put to the people of the world will evoke support. If we, as one of the last colonizers, or perhaps the last colonizer, of the world, fail in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, that will have a reaction throughout all the other countries of the world.
Some questions need to be looked at. I refer particularly to the New Guinea timber leases. In Papua and New Guinea to-day leases are being let out to private organizations to be utilized to their full extent. It is freely rumoured that people, organizations and companies from other countries, including Japan, are very interested in those leases. I am not suggesting that leases will be given directly to such companies; but the companies might find Australian dummies who will make the greatest possible use of the leases. The greatest need in Papua and New Guinea to-day is for capital to develop the Territory and its resources. To undertake tasks such as making roads and educating the people requires capital. For that reason, any natural resources of the Territory at all times must be utilized for the benefit of the Territory itself. Under no circumstances should the benefit from those natura] resources leave Papua and New Guinea and the Australian continent. In other words, it should not go to overseas interests.
Let us look at the position. If timber leases are developed by overseas companies, all foreign currency that will accrue from the development of these leases will go overseas instead of being used in the Territory for the development of educational and medical services and so on. This very important matter needs serious consideration by the Government. There probably arc not sufficient resources of private capital in the Territory to develop the leases so we should be considering the proposal that the Administration set up a commission to develop the leases and ensure that the profits are re-invested in the Territory. In the first instance, of course, this commission could be financed by the Australian Government and the loan repaid over a short term. It has been suggested that in the lower portion of Bougainville there is a stand of timber which will take 30 or 40 years to cut. This lease should return at least £10,000,000. If that lease were financed by a government commission, the profits earned would remain in the Territory and bc utilized for developing essential services there. That is a question which needs to. be considered from the policy point of view but, whatever happens, the natural resources must be developed at all times for the people of the Territory, not in the interests of outsiders whether they be private individuals or large companies.
The Public Service of the Territory does a very good job. I think that the majority of the public servants arc dedicated people, but I know that they are very concerned about their future. The Department of Native Affairs is a case in point. This is one of the most important departments in the Public Service, because, through it, we are still making contact with people in the inland of the Territory, but all the younger men in the department are taking courses of study with the Brisbane University because they feel that their future in the Public Service is not secure. As soon as the opportunity arises they will leave the service and take up positions on the Australian mainland. This is not for the island’s good. Australia must do a good job in the Territory. It is important that we give some guarantee of permanency to the public servants in the Territory. I can see no particular objection to incorporating the Public Service of the Territory in the Australian Public Service. If this were done, we would ensure that we kept our good men in the Territory, the men who are most likely to do a good job because they genuinely have the interests of the people of the Territory and of Australia in mind. We then would not have to depend upon a number of people who may be regarded as adventurers. I am not being offensive when I say that, but we must realize that some young people in Australia decide that they would like a few years’ excitement so they get a job in the Territory and after two or three years return to the mainland. They are not the people upon whom the
Australian Government should depend. We should make sure that we retain the dedicated officers who will do a sound job in the Territory. For that reason, I advocate that some guarantee of permanency be given to them. Otherwise, I am sure that the majority will leave the Territory at the first opportunity. If this happens the standard of the Public Service will fall.
It is important also that we keep in mind the extent of the job to be done. Although £25,000,000 is being spent this year this is only a small amount when compared to the job to be done. The construction of roads alone, not to mention the provision of education and health service, is a tremendous job. I admit that great steps forward have been made in the provision of health services. The decline in the terrible infant mortality rate is most commendable. Whereas a few years ago there were between 200 and 300 deaths for each 1,000 live births - this relates to children under twelve months old - according to the Minister there are now only 100 deaths for each 1,000 live births. I understand from doctors who practice in the Territory that one-third of the children born in the Territory still die before they reach five years of age. Nevertheless, the dedicated people there have done and are doing a very fine job in reducing the dreadful infant mortality rate.
It is imperative that we obtain whatever assistance is available from outside. I believe that we should call for financial assistance from the United Nations or its agencies to enable us to do some of the work that must be done in the Territory. It is not a matter of pride. Our own great problem is to develop the Northern Territory, so it is most likely that we will need assistance to develop the vast Territory of Papua and New Guinea where there is so much to be done. We must do our utmost to improve the educational facilities in the Territory. Far more effort must be directed towards an agricultural bias. For many years Papua and New Guinea will depend largely upon an agricultural economy, but most of the children there are being taught in accordance with a curriculum similar to that used in Australia, which is largely an industrial country. This is not logical. When a child is first taken to school in the Territory he should bc taught that there is great credit in learning to farm properly and to develop a plantation. Unless we do this we shall find in the future, as we are finding to-day, that the natives will not accept that the best method of earning a living is through agricultural pursuits. Instead they are flocking to the towns seeking work as drivers and clerks and taking any job that is available. We must take urgent and positive steps to give a bias towards agricultural pursuits.
As I have stated, the Territory is our front window. It is not a question of whether there is a wild hurry to develop the Territory. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) is reported in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 6th September as having said that there is no wild hurry to develop New Guinea. 1 do not think we can afford not to take that attitude. It is essential that we develop this Territory as fast as possible. If we do not our image in the eyes of the rest of the world, and particularly in the coloured sectors of the world, will be seriously damaged. Money spent in Papua and New Guinea is good advertising for Australia. Tt is important that we present an attractive front window to the rest of the world at all times.
.- In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Territories I would like to say something first in general about the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and later refer to the Northern Territory. On many occasions in the past, both in this Parliament and in speeches, else where, I have said that Australia’s future is becoming more and more linked with the future of Asia. We must strive to become partners with other countries in the Asian and Pacific areas in working for progress and peace. We must remember at all times that Australia’s hope for the future lies in peace and friendship in the Asian and Pacific areas. The next decade will be a difficult one in these areas as newly emerging nations strive to gain their rightful place in the world. When clashes occur between them, as no doubt they will from time to time, we must be able to distinguish genuine growing pains from Communist provocation. I refer to Communist provocation because international communism is endeavouring to turn the Asian countries against the West.
Communist propaganda proclaims that many nations of the free world are imperialistic and efforts are made often to provoke incidents that will justify that propaganda. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea is a national responsibility. The majority of Australians understand the difficulties that confront the Government in fulfilling its obligations in the Territory. Not only is Papua and New Guinea close to our shores; it is also in the forefront of our minds. It is an area to which Australia has over the years given money, law and good government, not to mention the lives of its mcn and women, for the future development and the continuing freedom of the area. This is a view shared by the great majority of Australians.
Let me refer now to the Northern Territory. From time to time people ask: What has the Government done in the Northern Territory? Suggestions are made that more money should be spent in the Territory. I was interested to hear the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) say that we must give to the people who live and work there a feeling of permanency. I agree with that submission. Let me tell the committee something of what this Government has clone in the Northern Territory in the last few years. On some of the projects that 1 will mention work has been commenced and on others it is nearing completion. I will not refer to these projects in any particular order but simply indicate those which are a representative cross section of the effort that has been made in the Northern Territory. As to giving the people of the Territory a feeling of permanency, I believe that the people we should attract to the Territory are those whom we describe as the younger generation. Those of us who have visited Darwin and other parts of the Territory have heard the people refer to Darwin as a frontier town. If we arc to attract the right people to the Territory we must give them the best possible living conditions. We want them to stay there for some time. The people we want in the Territory are the young people, whether they follow a profession, a trade, a commercial life or are in the government service. The type of person whom we want will probably have children of school age. Understanding the problem, the Government has during the last few years undertaken a programme of modernization and expansion of the Darwin hospital. The original proposed expenditure on this work was £1,537,800, but the Public Works Committee recommended an expenditure of £1,632,800. The additional expenditure resulted from a recommendation to provide air-conditioning in all rather than in only part of the proposed nurses’’ home. If time permits I shall return to the subject of air-conditioning later.
A great deal of work has been done in engineering services for sub-divisions in the Rapid Creek area to provide further homes in the environs of Darwin. The cost involved last year was £395,000. The Darwin water supply is to be augmented at a cost of £377,000. The first stage of the Darwin High School has been completed. When I was in Darwin a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see the school functioning. The Public Works Committee has recently approved the second stage of the Darwin High School at a cost of £380,000.
A good deal of work is going on in and around Alice Springs. A new school has been approved at Traeger Park at a cost of £325,000. The Alice Springs water supply is being augmented at a cost of £271,000. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) earlier tonight referred to the construction of beef cattle roads in the Territory. Some of those undertakings are the road from Stuart Highway to Yuendumu at a cost of £300,000, the road from Barkly Highway to Anthony’s Lagoon at a cost of £700,000, the road from Stuart Highway to Top Springs-Timber Creek and on to the Western Australia border at a cost of £2,520,000, the road from Stuart Highway to Jervois Range at a cost of £250,000 and the Top Springs-Wave Hill road proposal at a proposed cost of £600,000. Despite what the honorable member for the Northern Territory said, the Public Works Committee has not yet reported to the Parliament on the Top Springs-Wave Hill road proposal. I have given some examples of the programme that the Government has undertaken in developing the Northern Territory. Quite apart from what this Government is doing, the Northern Territory Administration itself undertakes with its own finances numerous works.
I should like to refer now to what I call the dedication of the officers of the Public Service who work in the Northern Territory. We who visit the Northern Territory from time to time are always impressed by the sincerity of purpose with which those officers go about their duties. One thing that worries me from time to time is the staffing of the branches in the Northern Territory Administration. In this instance, I refer particularly to the Welfare Branch, which, I believe, is under-staffed. I can see that in the next few years the responsibilities of this branch especially may increase even more than those of some of the other branches.
As honorable members are aware, a select committee of the House of Representatives visited the Gove Peninsula two weeks ago. I do not wish in any way to forecast what the report of that committee will be, but I should like to discuss briefly a little of the evidence that was given to the committee in public. We were told that there could be visualized the development within the next three or four years of a town of some 3,000 European Australians and a neighbouring town of some 600 aboriginal Australians. This suggests to me the need for stationing an officer of the Welfare Branch permanently on the peninsula. As I understand the situation, if officers are to be permanently stationed in places like this, we shall need to attract additional men to the staff of the branch. We are at present considering the situation at Yirrkala, but no doubt there will be need for us to. consider what assistance and co-operation we can give at Groote Eylandt when development really gets under way there. If the development of the Northern Territory continues as we hope it will, other instances will be brought before us.
While I am speaking of the visit of the select committee to the Gove Peninsula and the discussions that we had with the mission authorities and the aboriginal people at Yirrkala, I should like to say that one of the many things that impressed themselves on my mind was the desire of the aborigines themselves to take part in the development of the area. Their main worry seemed to be the safeguarding, during this development, of their rights to their own sacred places. They believed that they should receive adequate compensation for the use for mining development of what they believe to be some of their own lands. They considered also that the Government should make adequate provision for preservation of their own water supply. When they were told that there was a possibility of the establishment in that area of a town of 3,000 people, they showed that they believed also that provision should be made for a twin town for the aboriginal inhabitants. I think this is a fair claim and one that we should duly consider. When we make arrangements for the development of a town for the incoming European Australians, we should allow for the proper development, side by side with the European town, of a town for the accommodation of the aborigines of the area.
In taking this as an example, may I refer to what I like to describe as the challenge presented to us by a proposal such as this for the development of the bauxite deposits on the Gove Peninsula. I believe that there is a challenge to the mining company itself to see that the development is properly undertaken and that the agreements made adequately safeguard the interests of the aborigines. There is a challenge to the mission in the area to assist in all ways possible in ensuring that the development goes smoothly and that its sudden impact does not cause difficulties. There is a challenge to the aborigines themselves to ensure that they are able to work alongside those who participate in this development and to take part in it themselves. There is a challenge to the Government, which has final responsibility, to ensure that this development exercise is a success. I believe that there is also a challenge to the people of Australia as a whole to understand what is happening on the Gove Peninsula and to realize that, as the years go by, Australians must be prepared to channel more of their money into our Territories and in particular into the development of the Northern Territory.
.- Mr. Chairman, may I briefly continue to discuss the matter that was the subject of the remarks made by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). There is a challenge to this Parliament to see that its responsibilities to the aboriginal people at Yirrkala on the Gove Peninsula are dis charged fully and completely. We have no right to throw down any challenges to the aboriginal people. We have not prepared them in any way to accept any challenge of that kind.’ There is a social challenge to this Parliament, of which the Government is an integral part, to discharge its responsibilities in the situation that has arisen. This Parliament and the Government will have to see that the aboriginal people suffer in no way. I am not interested in throwing down challenges to the aboriginal people or to any one else. I hope that the select committee, in its deliberations, will keep in mind one thing - the advantage and prospects for social advancement of the people of Yirrkala.
Addressing myself to the estimates for the Department of Territories, I remind the committee that this department represents one of the Government’s and the Parliament’s biggest administrative empires. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) , one may say, is emperor of the Northern Territory and of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He rules over the 500,000 square miles of the Northern Territory and, in Papua and New Guinea, over 2,000,000 people who inhabit an area that is twice the size of Victoria. The Minister administers those Territories, I believe, without enough assistance from other Cabinet Ministers and colleagues.
– He has no permanent or hereditary right to his throne, though.
– As the honorable member says, his right to his throne is neither permanent nor hereditary. That, of course, is a good thing. In the near future, we shall be able to change the imperial destiny of that empire.
I believe that we ought to consider four points in the administration of our territorial responsibilities. I admit that advances have been made, and whilst we may feel that, in our administration of the Territories, with particular reference to the aboriginal people of Australia, there is nothing of which we need be ashamed, there are certainly many things of which we cannot be proud. There are some serious deficiencies in the way in which we have conducted ourselves, particularly in relation to Papua and New Guinea, of which I wish to speak particularly, although most of my remarks will be relevant also to our administration of the Northern Territory.
I come now to the four criticisms that I have to offer. We have shown extreme political caution. We operate with extreme economic conservatism. Our administrative system operates in isolation. In social matters, we operate with extreme timidity. I shall deal first with the political challenge, as it may be described, of Papua and New Guinea, and particularly of the Northern Territory. The 2,000,000 people of Papua and New Guinea represent a pretty high and important trusteeship that has been reposed in us, and the world will not wait for us to take timid and cautious steps towards ensuring the political self-sufficiency of the indigenous people of that Territory. The points that were raised by the Opposition when honorable members were considering the measure under which the House of Assembly for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was constituted ought to be continually before the Government and the people of Australia. We said then, and we still hold, that the proposed chamber was too small and that the Government was conferring on it insufficient powers. In other words, the Government placed insufficient trust in the ability of the people of Papua and New Guinea to guide and control their own destiny.
There is no substitute for selfgovernment. By “ self-government “ I do not mean the immediate abdication of Australia’s responsibilities in the Territory. We have to find a more profitable and more adventurous approach to the political rights of the people. This has been a basic feature of the continuing struggle throughout our own history. At every point, people have been denied the right to control their own affairs. So I say that, despite the fact that we have held ground, one may say, in Papua and New Guinea, and perhaps have done no great barm, we have not done what I believe is Australia’s duty towards the people of Papua and New Guinea. We have not put up a signpost of faith in human endeavour by giving the people of Papua and New Guinea a greater say in their own affairs. These observations, of course, apply equally to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory.
I know of the argument that most of the money that is spent in the Northern Territory, like the money that is spent in the Australian Capital Territory, comes from outside the Territory, and that therefore the final responsibility ought to rest with the people who raise the money that is spent in the Territory. These are mostly valid arguments. But consider the position in the Northern Territory. It is one of the ironies of the Australian democracy that when we speak of the Northern Territory we almost always think of its population as 18,000 people, when, in fact, it has a population of about 35,000 or 36,000 people. We forget about the aboriginal people. In the Territory’s representative government - the Legislative Council - half of the population is not represented. The aboriginal people now have votes, of course. They are gradually accepting their duty to vote and are enrolling. Why is it that in a community such as the Northern Territory, where half of the population is made up of aborigines, the Minister has been unable to exercise the power that lies with him to nominate an aboriginal to the Legislative Council? Surely that is not a proper reflection of the way in which he has administered the Territory, nor is it a reflection of the abilities of the native people. This is another article of faith. I suppose it will not be long before one of the native population - perhaps from Arnhem Land - is elected. These people are not so completely primitive and down-the-hill that they cannot be trusted. One of the things that impressed me on recent visits to Arnhem Land was that over an area of 31,000 square miles where 4,000 people are living there was not, as far as I could see, one policeman. In other words, if they are left to themselves or have proper guidance these people are not unruly, dangerous or violent. Surely the Governor-General in Council, acting on the advice of his Ministers, could appoint at least one of the native population to sit on the Legislative Council. We are toying with democratic practice and we are tinkering with the ideas of democracy, integration and progress if we do not show that we have enough faith in these people to allow them to speak for themselves.
Only a few weeks ago I introduced to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) a delegation of aboriginal people from all over Australia. Its members represented every State, the Northern Territory and the Torres Strait Islands. They sat around the Cabinet table and spoke to the Prime Minister, man to man, Australian to Australian. Not many of them were full-bloods, in the sense in which the term “aboriginals” is used in the Northern Territory. They spoke for the first time to the Prime Minister. He received them in a spirit of equality and graciousness and they spoke to him as man to man. Why is it that we have been unable to find any native people such as these visitors to sit on the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and speak there man to man, or even as woman to man, as indeed may well be the position? This is part of the challenge we should be facing. We are avoiding our responsibilities to these folk unless we give them equality in consultation. Australia once upon a time was written up in the textbooks as the world’s most advanced democracy. I think it is time that we started to look at the political problems in our territories with more vision, more spirit of adventure and a greater sense of what democracy really means.
I come now to the second point of my criticism of our administration of the Territories. I believe it suffers from economic conservatism. In all its economic policies this Government is doctrinaire. It is inclined to bc materialistic and mechanistic and to forget what human beings can do. Why has it not stepped into the field of economic development in Papua and New Guinea by establishing governmentcontrolled factories? This seems to me to be the logical thing to do. In the Northern Territory - despite the smallness of its population - and in Papua and New Guinea there is unlimited scope for the establishment of industry. What is wrong with having public industry for the production of clothes, shoes and such items? There will be no future for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea unless it is given an industrial base. It will not have an industrial base unless that is given by the Government. There is a lot to be said against imported investment in Papua and New Guinea. The history of investment in underdeveloped countries shows that, with it, a millstone is tied around the neck of a developing community. We have only to look at the history of railway systems in this country for an illustration of this point.
I would like to see something along the lines of a Bank of Papua. At present the Papuan banking system is an appendage of the Australian banking system, sharing its liquidity ratios and other factors. We could develop inside Papua and New Guinea a feeling of self-sufficiency. This is a case for financial adventurism and exploratory attitudes. A new nation is developing. Fortunately, it is uninhibited by the exploitation that most developing countries have had inflicted upon them. Let me say here that I believe that the Minister has been largely responsible for the fact that the people of Papua and New Guinea have retained ownership of the land. I only wish that he had carried out the same policy in the Northern Territory for its aboriginal people.
These are simple things I ask for. They could happen, even in places such as the honorable member for Robertson mentioned. The native people wear clothes. Why could they not make the shirts, shoes and other articles of clothing that they wear? There will be no future for the aborigines of these Territories until we raise their living standards by paying them adequate wages.
– And doing away with onevoteonevalue.
– I know exactly what the members of the Country Party feel about political values. I know how they have gerrymandered electorates to retain political power, to the shame and disgrace of our parliamentary system. They have done this from one end of the country to the other. Their days are numbered as a political force. Eventually even the Liberal Party, slow as it is to protect democracy, will awake to the evils of sponsoring gerrymandering attitudes.
I want now to refer to administrative isolation. I disagree with the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) about the separatism of the Northern Teritory Administration. I think that administration is a matter of great importance in such places. Any administrative unit is strengthened by the kind of support lines it has throughout the community. Let us take Papua and New Guinea for a moment and consider its postal system. I think that the Post Office there is a separate unit. It would be a stronger unit if it were integrated with the Australian Post Office. If in Papua and New Guinea communication problems were encountered, they could be ironed out by research and by the support of the technical know-how of the Australian postal system. I do not think we can develop the territories through this kind of isolated public service. I believe that Papua and New Guinea would be better off if all the 22 Ministers of this Government - for what they are worth - had an interest in the Territory and if it was not the sole dominion of the Minister for Territories. I think there ought to be an investigation of the administrative policy. However, the Labour Party will be able to do something in this respect - and right early.
The last point I want to refer to is social timidity. If this Government is to tackle properly the problems of developing a new nation of Papua and New Guinea and of raising the standards and attitudes of the aboriginal people of the Northern Territory, it must have a completely new approach to social questions. Adult education is necessary - not just education in the schools, but education which takes in the whole family group. A study should be made of what is being done overseas in order to bring to the territories the advantages of the experiments carried out there. We have to consider placing the native people in higher appointments, particularly in Papua and New Guinea. Why is it that the Government has not granted to native people higher appointments in the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea? Why is it that the aboriginal people are not raised to a consultative level in the Northern Territory in relation to their own affairs? After all, they have lived there with some selfsufficiency for about 12,000 years. I realize that they lived in a closed community and that their society has been static. But these arc things we have to face.
I make this last appeal for the aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. It is a tragedy that Australia has not found a new approach to their legal disabilities. These people have suffered from an obverse view of their legal rights. They have had to grow into them and fight for them, while the rest of us are born with legal rights or inherit them. For us they are inalienable except by court action. In particular we must find a new approach to the legal disabilities of the aboriginal people and give to them a social status in the community. It will be achieved only when they have full equality.
.- During the winter recess I took the opportunity to visit the Northern Territory to observe conditions there, to see what was taking place and to discover what the main causes of complaint were in the area. It is quite obvious from what has been said in this House and from what has been written in a number of periodicals in this country that there is a considerable amount of discontent in the Northern Territory. It appears that the main cause of the discontent there arises out of the autocratic system of control of the area, a control which emanates from the very peak of the pyramidal structure of the Department of Territories.
I remember reading an article in the magazine “ Nature “ during last year in which reference was made to this factor. If one had to take a single paragraph to sum up the problems of the citizens of the Northern Territory as they see them, it still could be the observation of Royal Commissioner Mr. Justice Eweing who considered the disturbances of 1918, which was quoted again in Part I. of the 36th report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. It was -
The Parliament of Australia, his Majesty’s Ministers and their appointees, have governed and controlled the Northern Territory autocratically. They have refused to its people in any reasonable sense of the term the right of citizenship, and then imagined that there could be permanent peace. How sensible men could think this, is beyond my comprehension.
Over the years some concessions have been made to the people of the Northern Territory, the principal one being the creation of a legislative council by a Labour government; but since then extensions of responsibility have been too little and too late. The results are that the time of this parliament is occupied with the affairs of the Northern Territory in a way which is wasteful because we have to deal with matters which should be in the hands of local citizens who pay taxes and who have the intelligence and ability lo look after themselves. At the same time, it frustrates them and brings them to a point where the energies of their elected members are devoted to kicking against a system which they cannot beat rather than being concentrated on the development and welfare of their part of Australia. : On 9th May last, in another place, Senator McKenna sought a select committee to look into the question of full voting rights for the member for the Northern Territory, the granting of Senate representation to the Northern Territory, and internal constitutional development of the Territory. I note from reading “ Northern Territory News” of 13th August that the Minister has advised the council that whilst he and other Ministers are prepared to meet with representatives of the Legislative Council there is no chance of the present Government changing its stand on the proper representation of the Northern Territory in this Parliament. Accordingly, I must leave this matter in the hands of the electors, but I want to urge the Minister to think again about the internal constitutional structure of the Territory with a view to transferring to the people of the Northern Territory, through their elected representatives, such power as the Commonwealth Parliament and Government can transfer without adversely affecting their responsibilities to the people of Australia as a whole.
The report of the select committee on political rights of the Northern Territory Legislative Council sought five things. They were, first, an elected majority in the Legislative Council to be brought about by roughly doubling the number of elected members, withdrawing the nominated nonofficial members and reducing the number of the oflicial members; secondly, the right to elect their own speaker; thirdly, an executive council drawn from the members of the Legislative Council; fourthly, the creation of an area of executive, legislative and financial control in which the people of the Northern Territory could control at least some part of their own affairs; and fifthly, the reduction of external control over that field, with a promise of regular reviews of the constitutional position.
In dealing with Senator McKenna’s motion, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) conceded that the political rights of the people of the Northern Territory were not the same as those of the residents of a State, but defended this inequality on two grounds - or perhaps two and a half. They were that there are too few residents of the Northern Territory, the half reason being that too many of these too few were public servants and they made too small a contribution to the expenditure of the Government in the Northern Territory. Let me deal with the half reason first. I would have thought that the time was long since past when an Australian government would argue that public servants made suspect voters. This may have been the view of the reactionaries in Victoria at the turn of the century, but it is shocking to hear it advanced to-day. As to the size of the electorates, the Minister pointed out that they average fewer than 2,000 voters, although, of course, he made no mention of the vast areas which those members outside Darwin and Alice Springs represent. Of course, in terms of population the electorates are small, and they will continue to be small for many years to come.
It is hard to project these things, but say that the effective political population of the Northern Territory doubled between 1954 and 1961 partly by movement in, partly by natural increase, and, partly, as most recently, by the enfranchisement of some of the aboriginal population; it is unlikely that the Territory can do better than that for some years to come because expansion will come first in those sectors of the economy which do not employ large numbers. By the end of the decade, if all goes well, the average Northern Territory electorate might have 3,500 or 4,000 electors - barely two-thirds of the smallest State electorates save for those in the north-west of Western Australia where the State Government has recognized that special problems warrant special steps. How long are we going to deny Territorians the right to govern themselves because their electorates do not average out at a figure that we pluck out of the air? What we must ask is: How many people can a part-time representative serve? And we compel them to be part-time by reason of the salaries and allowances we pay them. I would ask the Minister to put first things first, to ask whether the people of the Northern Territory are capable of deciding their own affairs in some things and let the size of the electorates look after itself.
The argument for refusing an elected majority must turn on whether the representatives of the people will carry out their duties properly, and not, as the Minister for Civil Aviation says, on whether it will be convenient for the Administrator to have to seek the support of elected members for his legislation. If a piece of legislation is so unpopular that he cannot win the votes of some elected members, should it be forced on the voters? I would expect that in a transitional period when the Administrator still retained immediate responsibility for the admission of the Territory’s affairs, an elected majority would be more than willing to work with him. So long as the elected members are constantly frustrated over trivial matters - some like the question of judicial discretion in cases relating to the supply of liquor, on which the Government eventually backs down, and others like the lotteries and gambling ordinance on which the wishes of the elected members on a matter which can be of concern only to residents of the Territory are repeatedly rejected - obviously there will be a solid bloc of elected members. The Minister has shown clearly and repeatedly by his attitude that he is not willing to trust the elected members.
I ask the Minister to consider the implications of what is about to happen in New Guinea, for he must be optimistic about this experiment to put it in train. I ask him to look at the record of the numerous British colonies which, since the war, have evolved through a period of divided responsibility, with, in the great majority of cases, no great difficulties, because the placing of trust in the elected members has always been met by a greater sense of responsibility. Can the Minister honestly say that the methods about which he and the elected members have quarrelled were such that had the policy of the elected members been implemented grave and permanent harm could have been done to the citizens or the economy of the Northern Territory?
This brings me to the question of the financial powers for the Legislative Council. It was admitted that local revenue measures produced about £2,000,000. Some £1,500,000 is collected as income tax by the Northern Territory Taxation Office. With the information presently made public, it is difficult to produce an exact total, but certainly several millions of pounds are raised from the Northern Territory citizens and their businesses and spent without their having a chance to say a word about it. I ask the Minister to consider whether it is not possible to allocate some sum, commensurate with the contribution made by residents of the Northern Territory to Commonwealth revenues under the control of the Legislative Council, for such public works as are not of a defence or developmental character and local services in respect of which the elected representatives should have the final say. This situation is not unique. Many British colonies receive subventions from the Treasury or the Colonial Development and Welfare Organization on a substantial scale running up, in the case of some small islands, to 50 per cent. Montserrat would probably be the extreme example, but most of the Windward and Leeward Islands would be in this category. But this need for outside assistance has not stopped their constitutional development to the verge of selfgovernment. A sum of money is allocated by negotiation between the United Kingdom and the local government - local Ministers responsible to a local parliament in which elected members are in an overwhelming majority. Where there are official members retained it is to provide special expert knowledge to assist the legislature, for they vote according to the decisions of the local cabinet in which elected members are in the majority. Admittedly, in none of these territories does the proportion of local contribution to expenditure fall as low as it does in the Northern Territory. But then in none of them does the national government concerned have such a stake, military and economic, as the Commonwealth Government has in the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth has to develop northern Australia for the safety and welfare of the whole continent, but I do not think that we have the right to ask the men and women who are pioneering there on our behalf to remain second-class citizens. The Commonwealth will have to continue to spend money in the Northern Territory - we, on this side of the chamber, doubt that the present Government has been spending enough - on such a scale that local revenue cannot hope to equal one-half of . the total expenditure for many years to come.
As honorable members are well aware, it is difficult to get figures which show the exact sum raised in the Northern Territory, but we might take table No. 44, headed “ Revenue and Expenditure “ in a publication of the Bureau of Census and Statistics, “ Northern Territory Statistical Summary, 1961 “, as indicative of the relationship between revenue and expenditure. The Commonwealth Statistician states in a note at the top of the table, “ The information in the following table covers the transactions of the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund in relation to the Administration of the Northern Territory and the operations of the north Australia railway “. In 1955-56 the revenue of the Northern Territory was £822,000 and the expenditure was £6,533,000. In 1959-60, the revenue was £1,698,000 and the expenditure £10,550,000. In 1955-56, the revenue was 12 per cent, of the expenditure and by 1959-60 it had risen to 16 per cent. However, if the figures given for revenue and expenditure in appendix 4 of the report of the Select Committee on Political Rights of the Northern Territory Legislative Council are comparable - they appear to be, but I cannot assure honorable members that they are, for they come from the Assistant Administrator rather than from the Commonwealth Statistician - in 1961-62 the revenue, that is, the receipts of the Administration and the Attorney-General’s Department, the two ingredients of the Statistician’s table, was £2,011,389 and the expenditure was £17,312,762. The expenditure was on both general services and maintenance and capital works, as was the case in the Statistician’s table for the earlier years which I have already quoted to the chamber. Revenue has fallen to just over 1 1 per cent, of expenditure, so it is back to where it was in 1955-56.
Will the Minister indicate the ratio of revenue to expenditure which he believes the Territory should achieve before it has some degree of financial self-government? In view of the figures I have just quoted, can he say whether this is likely to be attained in the twentieth century? We cannot expect the population density of the Territory to equal that of the States for many years. When representative institutions were granted to the Northern Territory it was hoped that they could grow with the resources of population and finance, but it now appears that they must grow in advance of these bases. Otherwise, we will only generate such dissatisfaction among the present population - and, at the present rate, among the children and grandchildren of the present population - as will prevent the work of development. I hope that the estimates for the next financial year will contain provision for the transfer of a substantial sum of money to the control of the elected representatives of the people who contribute to our revenues.
– I do not propose to speak at length to-night, but I seize this opportunity to pay what is probably the last tribute I will be able to pay in this chamber to the work that has been accomplished in the Territories of the Commonwealth - particularly in the Northern Territory and in Papua and New Guinea - since I entered this chamber fourteen years ago. I think it will be agreed on both sides of the chamber that the overwhelming share of the praise can be allocated to the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck). It is a long while since I heard a Minister who was administering the Northern Territory remark, after he had made a tour of that Territory, that not even a policeman could be married there without his august consent. It was little surprise to me when I looked at the figures to find that there were actually fewer people in the Northern Territory, apart from the aborigines, than there were when New South Wales handed the Territory over to Britain which in turn handed it to the Commonwealth. We now find that there has been an extraordinary reversal of form. Up to the outbreak of World War II. - if my memory serves me correctly - about £27,000 annually was spent on the Administration of Papua and New Guinea. The estimate for the current year is no less than £25,477,000.
Through the courtesy of a former Minister for Territories, I was fortunate enough to visit Papua and New Guinea. During that visit 1 had the opportunity, together with some of my parliamentary colleagues, to meet a very interesting group of people who I think might be considered to be the Malay-New Guinea Club of New Guinea. They put up to us certain proposals and discussed their problems with us. At least some of those problems have been solved by the enlightened policy of the present Minister for Territories. On that occasion, as it happened, the duties of chief spokesman fell, by accident, on my shoulders and I said to those people something which I think is as true to-day as it was then. I said: “ We cannot develop this country for you, but we can help you to develop it. We cannot defend this country, but we can help you to defend it. “ That is the position as 1 see it. Unless the 2,000,000 people of Papua and New Guinea are imbued with the knowledge that it is their country and that they, in the final analysis, are responsible for holding it inviolate against those who would interfere with it or take it from them, anything we could do would be defeated by the inertia, apathy and lack of cohesion among those people.
The Minister has been criticized because he has moved slowly. I do not agree with this criticism. The administration was practically shattered during the war and it had to be rebuilt. In 1950, it barely existed. It was most important to give these people an education system that would enable them to have a common language, a common medium of communication between themselves, and so overcome the disability arising amongst people with some 500 different languages who are scattered through the valleys and the mountains and along the seashore of New Guinea. The Minister has set himself to the task.
I can recall having visited a school at Kerema a few years ago. The school was attended by about 200 or 300 boys and about 200 girls. The boys were a very good type indeed. I would say they were from twelve to sixteen years of age. The girls also were the pick of the little village schools. These children had been brought in to be trained, if possible, to become within their capacity the leaders of their own people. I said to the superintendent of the settlement, “What do you propose to do with these young men?” He said, “Well, we hope that they will become teachers “. I asked, “What will you do with the girls?” He said, “We hope the girls will marry the male teachers so that when they go back to their village they will have the moral support, one of the other, and a common understanding that would not come to them if they remained in their villages “.
Right through the whole of the policy of the Minister is the expression of a cultured mind and of a practical idealist. It may be that in some respects there has been delay, but if this Government deserves the highest praise for anything it deserves it for the work done by the Minister for Territories.
We find that the same development is going on in the Northern Territory. Education is being spread throughout the Northern Territory. The status of women as educated human beings is recognized as being important, so that family life may be balanced, and that is one of the most important features of any community, backward or sophisticated. It is particularly important amongst native people that the child should find in its own mother the means to sustain and to advance the knowledge it receives.
In the Northern Territory the development and training of the people raises real problems which cannot be resolved simply by a stroke of the pen or by a superficial dismissal of certain factors. By that I mean that these factors are based upon the ageold practices of the people, their inherited tendencies and their long inherited training in certain beliefs and activities. I am sure that, unless we can persuade these people to come into the stream of modern progress and development, nothing we can do can save them, or perhaps us, in the final analysis from passing out. There are those who cling to the idea that the native should be left very much to his primitive way of life and that his old tribal customs should not be destroyed. On one occasion some years ago, I was travelling with a senior officer of the Papuan Administration. We were discussing this problem and he said, “ We are on the right track, but I think we are 200 years too late “. Whether we like it or not and however much we desire, and quite rightly, to preserve the old arts and crafts of these people - some of them possess these arts and crafts to a high degree - the fact remains that the scientific axiom that the organism must adjust itself to its environment or die is as true in this modern world as it is in any laboratory experiment.
I believe that the Minister has, on the whole, proceeded at the safest pace possible. However, we are conscious of the fact that we lag behind in preparing these people for a way that is slowly engulfing us all in change and will engulf them without preparation unless the policy is carried out. It may be that I could give figures to-night, but I do not propose to give any figures. I want to discuss those matters that I consider are involved in the philosophy with which we approach this subject. 1 conclude my remarks by saying that Australia owes a great deal to the vision, the cultured mind and the practical idealism of the man who has so ably administered the Department of Territories.
.- The list of items in the estimates of expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory illustrates what has been said so frequently in this place, that here the National Parliament must stand to the people of the Australian Capital Territory not only as the National Parliament but also in the role of a State parliament or of a municipal or city government. When the committee shortly passes the estimates now under discussion, it will have committed the National Parliament to listed expenditure for such items as these -
Flats - Caretaking and maintenance.
Garbage and sanitary services.
Swimming pools - maintenance.
Care of aboriginals at Jervis Bay settlement.
Fire Brigade - maintenance.
Canberra Cemetery - payment to trustees.
Artificial insemination of dairy cattle.
Soil erosion and water conservation.
Safety measures at swimming resorts.
Weights and Measures Ordinance - administration.
Goodwin Homes for the Aged - subsidy.
There are other similar items. Elsewhere in Australia they would be included in the budgets of Stategovernments or city, municipal or even shire councils. However, it is a fact that this. Parliament must concern itself with these matters, although usually - I should imagine it would happen on this occasion also - the estimates are passed without any real consideration of these comparatively minor items.
I want to refer briefly to one or two of the matters that 1 have mentioned.. In the list of expenditures under Australian Capital Territory Services there is an item for social, cultural and community services, for which an amount of £22,000 is allotted in. this financial year. Problems arise in this rapidly growing city which cannot be entirely met by government provision or government act. Much of the responsibility for the development of cultural and community activities falls here, as it does in other centres, on the shoulders of the people who make up the community. But here the community which requires these services is always the new part of the city. The suburbs extending outwards create their own problems and they must be solved largely by the people in those suburbs, at a time when those people themselves are facing heavy expenditure in the establishment of homes and the provision of furniture and furnishings.
One particular aspect of this matter to which I want to direct the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), through the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is now at the table, is the excellent work that is being done in this city by the people who support the boy scouts’ and girl guides’ organizations. In the newer suburbs these people are facing real problems in trying to provide something for the young people in a city which, according to some statistics at least, has the highest rate of juvenile delinquency in Australia. Figures in this connexion have been quoted from time to time, but I take them with a grain of salt because I think they are not arrived at on the same basis as figures compiled in the States. However, it is recognized that there is a great need in this community to provide assistance, to provide opportunities for activities, to provide interests for the young people.
In this sphere the boy scouts’ and girl guides’ associations are doing a great job. But because this is a planned city, and because we have a National Capital Development Commission which demands a certain standard of others although it does not always meet that standard itself, the parent organizations, when seeking to establish head-quarters in the newer suburbs for their branches, find that they can readily be provided with a piece of land but that there will be placed on that land a building covenant which creates a very serious problem for the parents and citizens. It may not sound unreasonable to ask people to provide, say, £10,000 for a hall which can be used for boy scout and girl guide activities. But in a new suburb, in a new area, in the conditions I have already described, this kind of money is not easily found. Parents are doing a magnificent job in raising money, and the boy scouts and girl guides themselves are, of course, contributing their own efforts, and in some of the more fortunate suburbs quite substantial buildings are in course of erection from funds raised by the community. In other suburbs it is not so easy.
It has been suggested to me, and I put the suggestion forward for the consideration of the Minister for the Interior, that provision of these buildings might be made by the Department of the Interior itself in much the same way as housing is provided in this city. Housing is provided here and made available in accordance with a priority list. A tenant moves into a house and may then, on payment of a 5 per cent, deposit, commence to purchase the house. The suggestion that has been made-r-and I think it is an excellent one - is that for organizations of this kind the Department of the Interior might say: “ We will provide the building according to the covenant demanded by the National Capital Development Commission. We will allot it to the council of the boy scouts or girl guides as tenants on conditional purchase “. The organization then is faced with finding a deposit and with paying off, by way of rental over a period of years, the capital cost of the building. If that capital cost is amortized in the same way as the cost of housing, the Government is not the loser. It is making money on the proposition, and in the meantime it is providing assistance to a most worthy youth organization. I hope that the suggestion will be taken to the Minister and that he will give it favorable consideration.
Amongst other items listed here is an item for expenditure for the pre-school centres in Canberra, and there is also mention of certain expenditure relating to the Government schools established in this city. Canberra is justifiably proud of the pre-school system that has been established here, and the Government is, indeed, to be complimented on having provided buildings of a high standard throughout the city and suburbs for the pre-school activities of children. We have seen an excellent example of co-operation between citizens and government, with the Government providing the buildings and the citizens of the area raising the money required for furnishings and equipment, sometimes even before the building has been completed. Here again the burden falls largely on the parents who have moved into the newer and rawer areas of the city, where they are themselves facing the expenditure associated with developing a home, providing furnishings and so on, at a time when their own children are attending school and requiring considerable expenditure.
Recently some citizens’ committees have expressed concern that money is not being made available for pre-school centres to the extent that it is required in some of the newer or some of the expanding suburbs. The answer has been given that funds are not available. I think the Government should have another look at that proposition because it is completely wrong, in my view, to differentiate at all between the needs of children in one suburb and those of children in another suburb or another area - because not always can the various areas be delineated by the boundaries of particular suburbs. I suggest that where the numbers of pre-school children are such that the establishment of a pre-school centre is warranted there should be no question of the funds being made available. The children of that area should not be deprived of a facility available to children of other areas. If it means altering the boundaries of the various pre-school centre areas, that should also be considered, because there are long waiting lists at some of these centres. In fact, some of the kiddies who would expect to attend will probably be of school age before there is any possibility of their attending the centres in some suburbs.
This is not an unjustifiable expenditure. The Government has embarked on the scheme of pre-school education in this Territory, and it has done a remarkable job under successive Ministers. I’ believe it should not allow the system to fail through lack of funds for pre-school buildings, which, after all, cost very little more than an ordinary house. I hope the Minister will have this matter brought to his attention.
A problem of a somewhat similar nature exists in relation to schools in various suburbs. Because of exigencies of finance it has happened, from time to time, that schools in different suburbs arc provided with differing facilities. In some suburbs we have schools that we show to people from all the States and from overseas as the very models of what schools should be. We have in Lyneham a high school of this extremely high standard. The school is provided with an assembly hall and gymnasium. Other high schools in Canberra are not provided with these facilities, although I am not saying that all are not provided with them. Canberra High School, for example, which has been in existence for many years, has only recently been given its assembly hall. Narrabundah High School, plans for which provided originally for both assembly hall and gymnasium, has had to discontinue its physical culture activities because it has neither gymnasium nor changing rooms. The headmaster, in his wisdom - and I give him credit for it - has said that with the children of that school approaching sixteen and seventeen years of age he will not permit the continuation of physical culture classes that should be held, because of the lack of proper changing rooms and a gymnasium.
In the field of primary schools I mention the Griffith Primary School. In this instance plans were prepared for a school which could have been a model for primary schools anywhere in Australia. The plans contained provision for an assembly hall, but at the time of the construction of the school the then Minister for the Interior became concerned about the capital cost of the building. Having made inquiries from Victoria about what school buildings were costing in that State in terms of capital expenditure per head of school population, he made the decision that the assembly hall should be deleted from the plans.
– We do not have assembly halls in Victoria.
– I believe that you should have them. I do not believe that the excellent system in Canberra should be held back because one State does not have these facilities. These facilities should be provided. What has been established in Canberra could well be the pattern for the whole of Australia. Perhaps Victorian schools could have assembly halls if the Commonwealth accepted its responsibility to provide additional finance for education.
I merely point out that because of that decision generations of school pupils have been deprived of a facility which is available in comparable schools in other suburbs. The burden of what I have to say is that there should be no differentiation at all in the provisions made for the education of children in the suburbs of Canberra. If what is provided in one suburb is considered adequate and proper, it should be adequate and proper in the other suburbs of this city. I know that a suburb does not lack these facilities because of the nature of that suburb; the reason is that the necessary funds were not made available when the school was constructed. But the impression left in the public mind, although it is erroneous, is that the suburb is not good enough to have these facilities. The Government should quickly disabuse the public mind of that impression. I do not think it is a just criticism, but it is one of the impressions in the public mind. I stress that facilities should be provided for all children at all schools and that there should be no differentiation whatsoever.
.- I should like to thank honorable members on both sides of the House for the contributions that they have made to the discussion of the estimates of the Territories of the Commonwealth. Helpful intentions have been shown by all who have contributed, and all the contributions have been expressed in moderate terms. The debate has revealed quite clearly the diversity of the problem which Australia faces in the administration of the Territories, both in the external Territories and the Territory on the mainland. The debate has also revealed that honorable members on both sides of the House, recognizing that these problems call for thoughtful analysis, have lifted them above the ordinary political controversy and have tried to make constructive and helpful suggestions regarding the way in which the problems might be tackled.
I should like to express a special word of appreciation to my friend and colleague, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), for his extremely generous words. I would have thought them too generous if it were not for the very high respect in which the honorable member is held not only on account of his personal qualities but also on account of his long and honorable service as Minister in New South Wales and as a member of this Parliament. Because of the wide range of interests in the Australian Territories, I will not attempt to canvass thoroughly the various points that have been raised in this debate; but I shall make one or two comments in the hope that they may provide extra illumination on some of the remarks that have been made.
The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) produced arguments, which obviously had been prepared very carefully, about the constitutional development of the Northern Territory. I recognize the force of the facts he produced and the arguments he put forward. The only comment I want to make is that if we were not in a federation today the whole situation would be as simple as he presents it. If we were still back in the colonial days, there is no doubt that any community of people with the population and resources of the Northern Territory of today would receive the grant of responsible government from the mother country and, without receiving any outside aid, would be recognized as a colony in much the same way as the colony of Victoria, the colony of Western Australia or the colony of South Australia received responsible government in past years.
But the situation cannot be handled as simply as that, because we do live in a federation and the existence of the federation does complicate the claim of a community to have responsible government side by side with the States which already are members of the federation. I do not want to labour the point. I just put it forward as an additional factor which makes the solution of this problem of the political advancement of the Northern Territory considerably more difficult than it otherwise would have been. Another point is that, whereas in the colonial period the grant of self-government left a colony entirely on its own financial resources, the whole trend of our thinking today is that substantial provision has to be made for development in the north - provision on a scale which would be quite beyond the capacity of a wholly self-governing Northern Territory from its own resources.
I wish to touch very briefly on one other topic, that is the point raised in the speech made by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) regarding the public service of Papua and New Guinea. I put before him the fact that basically in respect of the public service of Papua and New Guinea we are facing the problem of what happens at the time of self-government. In preparation for self-government in Papua and New Guinea we have to prepare for a public service in which the local people themselves will have an increasing share. Selfgovernment without a public service is just a sham. You might as well have self-government without a legislative body as have selfgovernment without a public service. So, part of our deliberate work of political advancement for that Territory is the preparation of an indigenous public service.
We know as a matter of reality that it will be many years before the provision of public servants for all branches of administration will be within the capacity of the local population. It will be a long time before they can produce from among themselves the doctors, lawyers, engineers, technical and professional people, scientists and so forth that the Territory needs. It will be a long time before they can produce the people for higher administrative posts. The need will be met from the local population in some fields earlier than in other fields. But we have to work consciously towards the time when the public service of the Territory will be the Territory Public Service, serving a responsible parliament elected by the people of the Territory themselves.
In preparation for that time, as has been announced to honorable members, recently we have approached the question of how we should separate what is called the expatriate element of the service from the indigenous element of the service. That matter has been the subject of considerable discussion between the representatives of the public service and rae. I may say quite frankly that my own strong disposition at the beginning of consideration of this problem was to have a single service in which both the Australian and the territorial members would be combined, without separation, but in the discussions it became apparent to me, as a politician obliged to take practical decisions, that a proposition of that kind would not gain acceptance by the Australian public servants. It was at the wish, indeed as a result of the choice of the representatives of the Australian members of the Public Service there that a proposition was advanced to have two divisions, one to be called the territorial division and the other to be called the expatriate division, which would act as an auxiliary of the territorial service.
wish to bring before the honorable member for Mitchell the fact that I also said to the public servants that, if they wished, the proposed expatriate division could be appointed under an act of this Parliament, but that is a choice which the Public Service hitherto has been unwilling to make. I just mention that by way of background to illuminate somewhat the remarks made by the honorable member for Mitchell. Matters relating to the future of the Public Service are at present under discussion in the Territory, where a bill to create a public service with a territorial division and an expatriate division has been introduced into and submitted for the consideration of the Legislative Council and for fuller examination by people in the Territory. Any amendments to that measure which may be suggested even at this late stage will be considered very carefully by both the Administration and the Government.
Again I thank honorable members on both sides of the chamber for the very thoughtful and constructive criticisms that they have made. I assure them that their remarks will be taken into very careful consideration.
Proposed expenditures agreed to,
Department of Health.
Proposed expenditure, £5,242,000.
.- If the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) wants an election issue, his Government’s scandalous administration of the nation’s health scheme could well be regarded as a fair example of an issue to become excited about. We have in Australia to-day a miserable apology for a national health scheme. It is a disjointed jumble of inadequate services provided at unjustifiable expense. It is thoroughly confusing and unnecessarily complicated and is not comprehended by the Australian people.
It is interesting to note that Australia is spending £29 per head of population on its national health scheme whereas the United Kingdom is spending only £26 per head on its scheme. In other words, we are spending £3 a head more than is the United Kingdom on our respective national health schemes. Compared to the comprehensive and integrated services provided in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the Australian scheme suffers from many shortcomings. We on this side of the chamber, representing as we do the great mass of the Australian working people, believe that whatever can be done in the United Kingdom, in New Zealand and in many other parts of the world can also be done in Australia.
We want to put to the committee that in the not far distant future Labour intends to contrast its attitude with the Government’s attitude towards a national health scheme. It is important for every one to realize the essential difference between our points of view. In all of these matters Labour has, as a fundamental motivation, a deep underlying appreciation of humanity and its needs. What kind of national health scheme is it that does not make any provision for dental care? Labour plans to broaden the scheme to include dental care for all persons up to the age of eighteen years and also for all age, invalid and widow pensioners. We intend to take the scheme further to embrace optical care, which is substantially disregarded at present, and to extend optical care to school children in the early stages.
Then we want to look at hospitals because we know that hospital standards in other parts of the world have advanced well beyond our own. Honorable members on the Government side want to dismiss this subject airily. They say that constitutionally this is a matter for the States, but we on this side of the chamber claim that the States should be assisted by a Commonwealth Parliament which has a genuine desire to provide the kind of service that is provided already in other parts of the world. We want to encourage the States to provide salaried specialist services because we know that the old honorary system of caring for people in hospitals went out of existence in many parts of the world in the nineteenth century. It is time that we started to contrive ways and means of making the necessary finance available to put this kind of service into operation. Then there are such obvious things as improved mental care and domiciliary care. Very few of our hospitals provide services of that type at present. We believe that in agreement with the States financial assistance can be made available for these purposes. We are particularly intent on ensuring that all pensioners in the community shall receive the benefit of the Pensioner Medical Service. At the end of December last year no fewer than 96,000 pensioners were denied that service as a consequence of this Government’s amendment of the legislation in 1955.
We on this side of the chamber believe that drug companies are entitled to receive a reasonable price for their products. Given the opportunity, Labour will encourage the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to play a leading role in the manufacture of drugs and in research. This Government has allowed the drug industry to fleece the national health scheme and to exploit the sick and the aged in the community. Recent probing by the Opposition has brought about some dramatic slashing of prices, mainly by overseas-controlled drug companies. We realize, of course, that those companies are interested in deterring the Government - any government, this Government or one that may follow - from conducting a thorough investigation into the drug industry. So far only gentle persuasion has been applied, but it is interesting to see the results.
The price of the antibiotic, erythromycin, has been reduced by 25 per cent. This is expected to save the Government £250;000 in one year. The reduction in price was announced only last Friday. Erythromycin is an important drug. It costs the Commonwealth £8,000,000 a year. It is used to treat infections such as pneumonia and septicaemia and conditions such as osteomyelitis. A reduction of between 10 per cent, and 161 per cent, in the price of diuretic drugs was announced. That reduction will save the Government about £350,000 a year. There has been a reduction of 10 per cent, in the price of tetracyclines, which will mean a saving of £600,000 a year. There has been a 25 per cent, reduction in the price of Chloromycetin and a reduction in the price of penicillin, which will mean a saving of about £400,000 a year.
Already the interest taken in this subject by members of the Opposition has brought about a saving of about £2,000,000 in one year. There is no doubt that a saving of at least £5,000,000 a year could easily result if the Government showed the drug companies that it meant business and that it would not allow the Australian people to be fleeced in the future as they have been fleeced in the past. The unmerciful exploitation that has resulted from the charging of excessive prices must have cost the Australian taxpayers £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 during the lifetime of this Government. We could casually suggest 1,000,000 ways in which such a large amount of money could be spent to good advantage in the interests of the people.
The national health scheme price list shows that the Government is paying fancy prices for fancy names in drugs and pharmaceuticals. This practice is adding millions of pounds to the cost of the national health scheme. Expensive promotion campaigns by drug companies are financed by the Australian taxpayer. The national health scheme should list drugs by their generic names and not by their brand names. AH products should be of the highest standard. Nobody would suggest that the Australian public should be given second-rate, third-rate or fourth-rate drugs. All drugs should comply with the highest possible standards. Despite the present disparity in the price of particular drugs, there is no difference in their quality. Chemists should be required to dispense the cheaper brand except where doctors prescribe a specific brand. In particular we should adopt the system used in many parts of the world of referring to drugs by their generic names.
I wish to cite some figures to indicate the wide range of prices of various brand name drugs. I refer first to item No. 634 in the schedule of benefits under the national health scheme. The cost of 30 fivemilligram tablets of prednisolone ranges from 27s. 8d. to 37s. according to the brand. The cost of 30 five-milligram tablets of prednisone ranges from 27s. 8d. to 45s. 8d. according to the brand. Is there any real difference in the various brands? If any brands are inferior obviously they should not be dispensed. The price of 50 1 00-milligram quinalbarbitone sodium tablets ranges from 9s. lid. to 15s. 8d. according to the brand. Any honorable member may look up the schedule and see these variations in price. There are many other examples that I could give. One hundred 50-milligram tablets of rauwolfia cost between 23s. 8d. and 33s. according to the brand. Carbimazole tablets cost between 19s. Sci. and 32s. 4d. according to the brand. 1 Jo not know how the range in prices cun be justified. It would appear that the drug companies are having a Roman holiday at the expense of the Australian taxpayer.
Dealing with this matter of the wide range of prices of drugs, the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), in another place, on 25th September last said, in reply to a question -
We are well aware of the situation and something will have to be done about it.
This Government allows drug companies to charge as much as 100 per cent, more for a drug than is charged for the same drug marketed under a different brand name. We are still waiting for some action by the Government in this matter. The Government cannot claim that it has not been aware that the national health scheme was being ruthlessly exploited by the drug companies. It has in fact willingly participated in providing the most lucrative bonanza that international drug mono:polies have enjoyed in any part of the world. The Government has purchased drugs for its Commonwealth departments, such as the Department of Health and the Repatriation Department at prices five and six times lower than prices paid for similar drugs supplied under the national health scheme. Why has the Government not sought to obtain under the national health scheme drugs at the lowest prices and thus save the Australian taxpayer millions of pounds each year? I challenge the Minister for Health to make available to the press or to the Parliament figures comparing Commonwealth tender prices and national health scheme prices for drugs. Such information will provide a first-class election issue if the Prime Minister has no other, because I believe it will indicate blatant collusion with the drug companies. Each State has a stores contracts and tender department or similar organization which buys drugs at 500 per cent, or 600 per cent, cheaper than they are supplied to the national health scheme.
Various hospitals also buy their drugs cheaper than they are supplied under the national health scheme. Let me give two illustrations of what I mean. Whilst hospitals pay 12s. 6d. for fourteen cortisone acetate tablets, the price paid for a similar quantity under the national health scheme is 69s. 8d. Hospitals pay 9s. 5d. for 100 prednisone tablets, but under the national health scheme 33s. 8d. is paid for 30 of the tablets. It is high time the Minister had a careful look at this matter.
– There should be a royal commission.
– If there were a royal commission I am satisfied that the Government would suffer the greatest embarrassment that any government has ever suffered in respect of any issue. If the drug companies are making fair and reasonable profits on the sale of their products to hospitals, the national health scheme is being driven into the ground by the greed of overseas drug companies and the laziness and ineptness of this Government. It is interesting to compare prices paid for drugs under the Australian national health scheme with prices paid under the British national health scheme. I am now giving not my figures but those supplied by the Minister. Prednisone tablets costs 8s. 2d. in the United Kingdom and 18s. 6d. in Australia for 30. Ethisterone tablets cost 5s. 5d. for 25 in the United Kingdom and 2 ls. for 50 in Australia. Procaine penicillin, for a specified quantity, costs 5s.. 3d. in the United Kingdom and 14s. 7d. in Australia. This Government has a great deal of explaining to do, particularly in the face of the inadequacy of our national health scheme and the need to provide more services. The figures that I have given this evening reveal the extent of the exploitation that the drug companies are being allowed to get away with and the disinterest of the Minister for Health and the Government generally. The people of Australia realize that it is time for a change of government, even if only because of the present inadequate state of the national health scheme.
A short time ago, the Minister stated -
Of 114 firms in Australia manufacturing or distributing drugs … 66 are owned or controlled by companies or persons outside Australia.
We know, of course, that there is a substantial degree of overseas ownership of the balance. I believe that dramatic action should be taken to ensure that Australians receive much better value for the large expenditure that is being made on the national health scheme. This expenditure, though large, is not large enough. We in this country once had hopes of leading the world in social services, and we hoped to give our people a feeling of genuine security, but we know now that, under the administration of the Menzies Government, the resources available for these purposes have been whittled away. We hope that in the near future a Labour government will change this situation.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), quite early in his remarks, said that the national health scheme as a whole was not comprehended by the Australian public. After listening to him for about one-quarter of an hour, I came to the conclusion that he, in his own eyes, would be a completely representative member of the Australian public, because, obviously, he does not comprehend the scheme. He spent much of his time trying to cast a slur on a very important section of Australian manufacturing industry - the ethical drug manufacturers. The honorable member insinuated that they are. exploiting the scheme purely for their own profit. Many people are trying to exploit the scheme. Let us have no misunderstanding about that. The Government is spending a lot of Commonwealth money on the health scheme. 1 shall have something to say later about the money being put into the scheme by benefit funds. Because all this money is being made available, naturally a lot of people are after it. But the cock-eyed figures concerning differences between prices here and elsewhere, and other information that the honorable member for Hughes cited, show that he docs not understand how governments work, let alone how businesses work.
Surely no honorable member opposite will tell me that there is no liaison between the Repatriation Department and the Department of Health in determining the prices that they will pay for drugs and services. Surely no honorable member opposite will tell me that the officers of these departments do not understand why there is a difference between the price of a certain quantity of a specific drug packaged and delivered in a certain way and thai of another drug. Did the honorable member for Hughes see in the newspapers in the last couple of days a reference to aspirin being sold in tablets of .2 of a grain instead of .5 of a grain? That is the sort of thing that can happen. Under the present Government’s administration of the national health scheme, with all the controls that we have at all stages, we are getting the best national health service in the world.
– That is not right.
– 1 know that honorable members opposite do not agree, but their attitude docs not make any difference to the facts. Ours is the best national health service in the world. The Minister for Health, in an address to the AntiTuberculosis Association l.1 New South Wales only last week, pointed out that within the next year there will bc some dramatic improvements in the family benefits paid by insurance organizations. He said that this would be very welcome and that it would be a confirmation of the progressive forward thinking in the Department of Health concerning the national health scheme. He added that, after ten years of operation, we have established a sound voluntary health scheme that is ti. j best in the world. That is what 1 said a moment ago, and I repeat it. 1 know that a lot of people dispute that. But they are only trying to bring in nationalization. Like the honorable member for Hughes, they want to bring everything under the control of bureaucracy. They want to tell everybody what to do. They want to push ali the manufacturers about.
Under our voluntary system, the people have a free choice of doctor, and a doctor has a free choice in prescribing for his patients. Our system works. Honorable members opposite talk a lol of nonsense about the United Kingdom and the New Zealand health schemes. One has only to talk to some of the migrants who have come here from England to find out what the United Kingdom scheme is really like. Many migrants have left England because of the conditions there, and one of the features of English life that they regard as completely unsatisfactory is the United Kingdom health scheme. That scheme works on massproduction lines. Patients arc seated on long forms waiting for some doctor. They do not know which doctor, because they do not have any choice. The doctor, working t nder a scheme that has been forced on doctors by the development of the drug houses, prescribes whatever remedy comes Thickest to hand so that he can. get the patients through. He has to put them through on a continuous mass-production system like that adopted in industry This is not what we want in Australia if we are to have a health service that is really worth anything to the people.
The Government’s object, under our national health scheme, is to assist people to pay hospital bills, doctors’ accounts and the cost of medicines. Under this scheme, because a lot of money is channelled into the hands of organizations and individuals, payments are made regularly and promptly, and this is a valuable feature of the scheme. A lot of people, like the honorable member for Hughes, are getting on the band-wagon and trying to make some popular appeal. The Government is making available (his financial year £97,000.000 for hospital, i dical and pharmaceutical benefits apart from pensioner medical an-‘ ceutical benefits, and is spending some £4,000,000 I am very pleased to note, on free milk for school children.
The national health scheme is based mainly on the 110 hospital benefit organizations and 78 medical benefit funds that have been established. They have a total membership of approximately 6,000,000 - just under 3,000,000 in one category and just over 3,000,000 in the other, giving 73 per cent, and 71 per cent, cover respectively. In addition, pensioners are treated without cost under the pensioner medical service. A certain number of people are covered by the repatriation scheme, and some prefer to carry their own risk and meet their own cost. Altogether, 90 per cent, of the people are provided for by this Government’s national health scheme. So nobody can say that the scheme is anything but a success.
This year almost £40,000,000 will be provided for the payment of hospital accounts. This’ sum will be provided by the Government and the hospital benefit funds on the basis of £21,540,000 and- £18,630,000 respectively. We do not hear many complaints about hospital benefits because most contributors cover themselves in the tables available for the amounts they expect to have to pay to the hospitals. I believe that this has been a factor in the alarming increase in hospital bed costs. It is another unfortunate example of how people climb on the band-wagon. We have to watch these things. Because so much money is made available to pay hospital accounts, hospitals have a rather luxurious way of looking at hospital costs. They provide more than is necessary, and the result is that to-day b.ed costs are up to £7 a day in some hospitals.
The medical benefits of £12,700,000 will be matched by a contribution of about £18,000,000 from the funds for payment of. doctors’ bills, which are expected to total close on £50,000,000 in the coming year. It is unfortunate that doctors have raised their fees because of the fact that the Government and the funds are making contributions towards payment of their accounts. The doctors have realized that, because of these contributions, the public docs not have to pay the whole of the cost of surgery visits. As fast as the Government and the funds increase their contributions, doctors increase their charges. Surgery visits account for about 72 per cent, of medical services and therefore represent the major cost to be met by the scheme. Unless doctors will agree to stabilize their fees for five years at the present rate of charges, there seems to be little prospect of closing the gap between the fees charged and the contributions made by the Government and the funds. This aspect is causing quite a lot of concern. The cost of living in the ten years since we started the national health scheme has increased by 24 per cent. Over that same period doctors’ fees have increased by 33£ per cent.
Australian doctors have copied the British health scheme in the formation of clinics. They have grouped themselves, so that we no longer have the general practitioner who was the trusted friend of so many people in the community. Nowadays people go along to the clinics and take their chances on which doctor they will see. By this method, doctors are able to examine more patients a day. Their earnings per hour are on such a huge scale that instead of increasing their charges to 21s. and then to 25s., there was ample opportunity to keep charges at the previous rates. In many cases, I believe that their charges could have been reduced.
At the present time in New South Wales there are two funds - the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited. The Hospitals Contribution Fund is to enter into the field of medical benefits. It is advertising widely that it has a comprehensive scheme, equal in all respects to the scheme that was previously available. If the Minister intends to allow the Hospitals Contribution Fund to seek contributions to a 4s. table, which returns 10s. for each surgery visit and pays on the basis of 166J per cent, for matching contributions for other items, I see no reason why this treatment cannot be extended to a Victorian fund, to which it was previously denied by the Minister. Victorian doctors have now raised their charges to 25s. for surgery visits and the new contribution table should be introduced into Victoria if we are to have a fair and equitable scheme for payment of the costs imposed by doctors on the public.
Sugestions have come from many quarters that an inquiry should be held into the operations of the present health service. The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has made the suggestion on several occasions and 1 would like to support it. I believe such an inquiry would be most valuable in bringing to light many of the things which are now talked about in a vague way. There have been many articles in newspapers calling for an overhaul of our national health scheme. We would no! be obliged to adopt fully the findings of a comprehensive inquiry, but the inquiry would be of great value in assembling all the statements that have been made on the subject. We could then have a really good look at the matter and be in a position to inform the public of what the Government is trying to do. I believe that by means of an inquiry it would be possible to adjust the anomalies which, I am afraid, are inevitable in any scheme of the size of our national health scheme.
– 1 am rather interested in the debate that has taken place on the estimates of the Department of Health. I do not intend to abuse the national health scheme because of what I consider to be some of the causes of dissatisfaction amongst the people. We have to examine the nature of the benefits that are paid. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) has been speaking about hospital benefits. Any person who enters a hospital pays very dearly for what he receives there. We have various hospitals in Adelaide, apart from the public hospitals. These hospitals charge up to £45 a week, towards which the Government pays £7. A portion of the remainder is paid by the hospital benefit fund and the balance is paid by the patient. The payment he receives from the fund is calculated according to the table to which he contributes. As he receives from the Government only £7 towards the payment of the weekly charge of £45, he has to contribute towards a table which will make a payment nearly sufficient for him to be able to meet (he balance of £38.
A difficulty that arises is one that I remarked upon when the scheme first came into operation. A person has to be a member of a fund in order to receive payment of the benefit from the Government. 1 am talking now about the medical benefit funds. 1 said to members of friendly societies who were concerned about what would happen under the scheme, “ Before the scheme came into force, you may have had an operation for which you paid £25. What I am afraid of is thai when this fund gets going the doctors will say, “ They are now getting so much out of the Government contribution and so much out of the fund and they will have to pay the balance “, and the cost of the operation will go up. This has happened in the past, and people are becoming very worried now about what they will be required to pay by way of contributions to medical benefit funds.
When the Labour Government was in office, and Senator McKenna was Minister for Health, consideration was being given to the introduction of a scheme under which the Government would pay half the cost of medical attention and the patient would pay the other half. But before introducing such a scheme, Senator McKenna wanted the British Medical Association to draw up a schedule of charges so that he would know exactly what the cost of the scheme would be. He did not want to introduce a scheme which merely provided that the Government would pay half the cost and the patient would pay the balance. He wanted a definite schedule of charges to guard against any likelihood of an increase in fees for medical services. For instance, if the normal charge al the time for a certain operation was £25 he wanted to guard against any increase in that cost which might mean (hat the patient would eventually pay as much in his half of the cost as he was paying before the scheme was introduced. But the British Medical Association refused lo draw up a schedule of charges. Eventually the present scheme was introduced Under it the Government agreed lo pay 6s. lor each visit to the family doctor. Under Hie act a medical society must have its constitution and rules approved by the Government before it can be registered. It must set out in its application just how much a quarter it proposes to charge each member. If the Government does not approve of the proposal, the society will nol be registered. Under the original scheme, the Government also agreed to pay something above 6s. for the first visit to a specialist and half that amount for the second visit. But it was also provided thai (he medical benefit society must match the Government’s contribution. In other words, if the
Government paid 6s. the society also had to pay 6s.
This meant that at that time in South Australia a patient who visited a doctor’s surgery would receive a refund of 1 2s. after having paid the then ruling charge of 15s for a visit to a doctor’s surgery. The Government’s contribution is still only 6s., despite the fact that the fee for a visit to a doctor’s surgery has been increased. It is now 17s. 6d., but, as from 1st November, the doctors in South Australia propose to charge £1 for each visit to the surgery. For a visit to the patient in his own home, the fee will be 25s. As I have said, the Government’s contribution towards that charge will be only 6s. This means that all that the society is required to contribute is 6s. - the equivalent of the Government’s contribution. The medical benefit societies in South Australia increased their contribution to 1 3s. 9d., but, in order to be able to pay this extra benefit, they introduced a new table for which a higher charge is made to the contributor. As the Government still pays only 6s. of the charge of £1 for a visit to a doctor’s surgery, the patient has to bear the burden of the increase because, in order to obtain payment from the benefits society equal to what he might have to pay, the patient roust make higher contributions to the society in order to build up a fund capable of bearing the extra cost.
The present schedule covers 990 items and the act provides that the medical benefit society must match the contribution made by the Government. During the past twelve months I had an interesting experience of just what refund one does get under this scheme. As honorable members probably know, there are various types of hernia operations for which the fees vary. For one particular hernia operation the Government’s contribution is set at £7 10s. The medical benefit society must match that contribution. The particular society to which I contribute in South Australia will pay an extra £5, or one-third of the £15 paid by the Government and the society between them; but it makes this extra payment only if the member contributes to a special table for which a higher rate is charged. The total payment I received from both the Government and the society between them was £20. My operation was performed by a specialist and the total cost to me for special attention and extra expenses was £42. As I have said, of that £42, the Government paid only £7 10s. and I had to pay £34 10s. Government supporters say that the present scheme is wonderful. Let me remind them that had the Labour Government’s scheme been introduced the Government would have paid half the £42 and I would have been responsible for finding the balance of only £21. Instead of that, we now have a scheme under which the Government pays £7 10s. and I am responsible for the balance of £34 10s. The balance over what I received from the medical benefits society for the contributions I make has to be found out of my own pocket.
I firmly believe that the Government must go thoroughly into the question of the schedule of charges with the Australian Medical Association. I have already stated that when the Labour Government wanted to introduce its scheme the British Medical Association refused to set out a schedule of charges and said that its members would charge what they liked. One specialist told me that in his opinion the charges set out in the schedule are too high for the service rendered in some cases and in other cases they are far too low. It seems to me that this schedule is in need of a thorough overhaul. I have had vast experience of friendly societies and their charges. My experience goes back to the time when, on the payment of a small quarterly fee, we could get all the attention we needed. Away back in what some might call the dim days of 50 or 60 years ago, doctors attended to us and supplied medicine for 2s. 6d. a quarter. A family man could get this same service for his whole family for 6s. 3d. a quarter. When I was a little older, I was connected with the dispensary movement and the doctors refused to continue rendering the service they had been giving at the old quarterly fees. They said that in future they would charge for every visit they made. They proscribed the old system under which, by co-operation with friendly societies, the doctors provided all the attention members needed for a set quarterly fee. We found that the friendly societies were then able to come to an arrangement with the doctors. I was closely associated with the scheme that operated in those days. The next step was that the friendly societies decided that contributors should make a quarterly payment and receive a rebate according to what they paid the doctor. That was in line with what is done to-day. The Government claims that it introduced the present system but, on going back over the years we find that it has built up the present scheme on what other bodies and societies did in the past. I would have liked to spend half an hour on this question, as it is an interesting one to which we could apply constructive debate instead of just attacking what has been done. The Government and the Department of Health must look into this question in conjunction with the hospitals.
If I go into hospital I receive a rebate from the fund according to what I pay into it, but only a very small proportion of the charge for the use of the operating theatre is rebated to me. All these things need looking into. A number of officers of the Department of Health are well aware of the present difficulties, but so long as the Australian Medical Association is in a position to say, “We will charge what we like “ there will be complaints from people who will have to go to medical practitioners for medical attention or operations about having to pay such a large proportion of the cost. At one time it was usual to receive an 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, refund of medical costs, but if any one now receives a 50 per cent, or 60 per cent, rebate he is lucky.
.- Before dealing with the estimates- of the Department of Health I wish to congratulate the Director-General of Health and his department on their annual report, which is full of valuable statistics. I think it is the best report we have had from this department for many years. It is accompanied by a brochure showing a comparison of expenditure for the last thirteen years, as well as the estimated expenditure for 1963-64. Both these documents should be of great assistance to members of the committee. It is not surprising that the Opposition, in discussing the estimates of the Department of Health and, in particular, the cost of the national health scheme- has taken-as -typified.? by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) - full advantage of the political fiction that everything this Government does is wrong and that once Labour returns to office - if, indeed, it ever does - it will put everything right. This is just political humbug and will be accepted as such, but in justice we must admit that here and there in the remarks of the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) there were flashes of realistic thinking about the difficult problem of providing a real national health service. There is nothing new in this. It relates to matters that my colleagues and I have referred to on many occasions.
I submit that a compulsory service is the easiest health service to administer and the cheapest in the long run. But is such a service a good thing for the sick? I do not think it is.
– It is all right in Britain.
– It is just as well to remember that . the honorable member for Hughes said that if the Labour Party comes into power the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories will be commissioned as a government manufacturer of drugs and, I presume, will be the sole supplier of drugs under the national health scheme. This is the first step towards excluding free enterprise from taking part in the health service.
– Give free enterprise away.
– -The honorable member for Kingston says we should give free enterprise away. I believe that is the idea of the Labour Party as far as the Department of Health is concerned. I believe it is the first responsibility of the Department of Health to provide a real national health service, capable of keeping pace with the fantastic growth of medical science, while still keeping its costs within reasonable bounds. The Opposition is not an authority on national health services, or at least on a service that really works. Let me remind the committee that in 1949, when the Chifley Labour Government fell, it fell among the ruins of its ill-starred ChifleyMcKenna Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. Let us not forget, also, that the Menzies Government has built up a health service where others have failed. The late Sir Earle Page was the principal architect and planner of the present health scheme, which is based upon voluntary contributory insurance for medical and pharmaceutical benefits through approved medical benefit funds and approved pharmaceutical chemists.
Nobody will deny the brilliance of the theory from which the so-called Page health scheme evolved and nobody will deny that it has bad a substantial measure of success. It is only fair to say that it has weaknesses, but it was the only government scheme to get off the ground. Two previous schemes with which we are all acquainted failed from their inception. Adequate coverage of such health problems as dental and optometrical care, home nursing and physiotherapy have been referred to to-night. They must be added to the scheme and I have no doubt that that will be arranged in the very near future. The other weakness of the present scheme is the failure on all sides - Government, Opposition and the professions and benefit societies involved - to devise, as it were, an efficient braking system that would take care of the rate of acceleration of the expenditure under the present system. It is obvious that this matter has given the Government cause for concern. It is obvious that both the Department of Health and the Commonwealth Treasury have long been aware of the lack of a braking system against the terrific momentum of the present method of providing - I quote from the second paragraph of the Director-General of Health’s latest report -
Expenditure on benefits amounted to £78,400,000 in 1962-63 compared with £72,700,000 in 1961-62. It is also apparent that the Government has obtained a mass of facts and figures relating to the present scheme, as one can see from the report to which I have referred. I am sure that nobody in this Parliament doubts that the Government has given this matter a great deal of attention. The annual report of the Department of Health is proof of that. Nobody doubts that the Government must and will overhaul the present national health scheme. Nothing is static in this world, and medical science least of all. We must ensure that the rate of growth of the national- health scheme .is in .keeping with the realm of economic sanity and that it is a national health service in fact, covering those professional and ancillary services to which I referred briefly a few moments ago.
I believe that there is a need for a national attitude towards the future of our health services and that this attitude should come from both sides of the Parliament as well as from interested parties outside the Parliament. 1 have in mind the medical, optometrical and ancillary professions such as physiotherapy and home nursing. The present Ministry is well aware of these facts and problems. This knowledge is not the monopoly of the Australian Labour Party or indeed of any party or any individual member of the Parliament. Sometimes I think that too few members of the Parliament know sufficient about the details of the National Health Act to enable them intelligently to form an independent judgment. They rely too much upon the sweeping generalizations of those who set themselves up outside the Parliament as critics and judges.
It is very easy for the Opposition to criticize the health services, but the fact about the present service is that it functions and functions well. In fact, it functions very well, although I admit that there are some things that I would like to see rectified or included in the present service. The Government has not tried to evade the inevitable tidying up that must be undertaken to bring the rapid growth of the present scheme within the limits of the country’s ability to afford it. The weakness and the fallacy here in the Parliament is that the Opposition pretends that Labour and Labour alone can provide a satisfactory, efficient and controllable national health service that the country can afford. As I said, the easiest scheme for any government to administer is a compulsory scheme - a nationalized scheme. Senator Cant foresees what Labour will do if it is returned to power. He referred to this question of providing a compulsory national service only a few days ago in the Senate.
Labour has had no experience of administering a national health service that really works. When it had the opportunity, it failed. We have had this experience and from our experience over the last ten years we have ‘accumulated a. mass of statistical information. This information is contained in the latest report of the department. One would be downright foolish not to admit that the present scheme has some imperfections. But a well-planned overhaul by the best expert minds available would very quickly overcome the difficulties. As time progresses, there will be changes, improvements and additions. The planning and orderly management of the national health service of the future are not matters that can be examined and decided upon in weeks or months. Obviously, there must be an enlargement of the scheme. Inevitably, there must be some drastic changes in the light of experience. Medical science is not static; neither can a health service be static. Changes must be made from time to time and new services must be added to the existing services.
We are all aware that in the last four or five years the medical and hospital insurance fund has been improved. The embargo on age and existing ailments was lifted and subsidies for convalescence were added. The range of drugs has been considerably widened. I have no doubt at all that if Labour had not lost its case in the High Court on the so-called conscription of doctors issue and had not been defeated by the present Government parties at the election of December, 1949, Labour would have tried to foist some form of socialistic hand-out scheme upon the people of Australia, without the co-operation of either the doctors or the chemists. We must keep two points uppermost in our minds. First, a free medicine scheme must be paid for in the end by the taxpayers. Secondly, the Australian way of life unquestionably demands a national health service based upon private enterprise and the freedom of choice of all practitioners engaged in it - doctors, dentists, optometrists, chemists and physiotherapists. It must be based also upon voluntary co-operation by all the members of the health professions, the approved medical and hospital benefit societies, and indeed by the people of Australia themselves. The people who are on the receiving end of the service, too, must always remember that in the long run it is the general taxpayer who in fact foots the bill. Therefore, the taxpayer must face the fact that you cannot get something for nothing out of a voluntary health scheme, because in the. end the taxpayer’ must pay..
Opposition members who have spoken in this debate on the estimates for the Department of Health have told us a lot of things that we know. None of them is new. We know more about them than a lot of pertinent and relevant things that Opposition members have omitted to mention. For instance, Labour has never in this country administered a national health scheme that really works. But to suggest that there is a monopoly of actual experience and know-how of these matters amongst Opposition members is false and misleading. When they have had their opportunity to put these things into operation they have failed. True it is that we have learned a great deal of know-how about the health service during the last ten years. The profession also has learned a lot. Every opportunity should be given to members of the profession to make this information available. It is only by constant examination and review of the present act that we shall continue to have one of the best national health schemes in the world. I am glad to say that the Government has shown that it desires to take this course of action.. I have much pleasure in supporting the estimates for the Department of Health.
.- I disagree with the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). I think the Government has failed completely to provide adequate health services for the people of Australia. It has failed to pay its fair contribution towards the cost of hospital treatment for the sick and the needy. I believe that health care is a very important national function and that this Parliament, being the parent parliament in the Commonwealth, should set a better example than it does in providing a health service. Immigration to this country has increased our population by more than 2,000,000 people. Our population has increased by one-fifth in a very short time. But the Government has not taken this factor into account. It has left the responsibility for dealing with most of the extra people to the States without paying its proper share. The Menzies Government is to blame for the high rates that have to be paid by patients in hospitals to-day.
The re-establishment of the system of free public wards in hospitals, which was initiated by the Chifley Government when it was in power in 1946 and abandoned by the Menzies Government in 1949, is the firm pledge of the Australian Labour Party, which will be the Government after 30th November. Hospital patients in Australia to-day carry a heavier financial burden than they should, because they are paying a share of the costs that should rightly be borne by the Commonwealth Government. The States are doing their part. The New South Wales Government was compelled recently to raise hospital charges because the Menzies-McEwen Government still refuses to pay its proper share of hospitalization costs. The next Federal Labour Government will rectify this injustice by simply making the Commonwealth responsible for providing enough additional money to cover free hospitalization in every public ward. That was the Chifley scheme, and it was being properly administered until Labour was wrongfully removed from office in 1949. This hospital scheme operated with great success until the Menzies Government abandoned it when it came to power.
At present throughout Australia the cost of maintaining a patient in hospital averages about £6 a day. This means that the Commonwealth should pay £2 per patient per day, but the Commonwealth Government, in gross breach of faith and in repudiation of its social service responsibilities, pays a mere Ss. a day for uninsured patients and only 20s. a day for insured patients. For some pensioners - not even for all of them - the Commonwealth contributes only 36s. a day, which is still below the minimum that it should bc paying overall. We know of the means test, the vicious means test, which is a test upon a test, which provides that if a pensioner earns £2 a week over and above his pension, giving a single pensioner £7 15s. a week or a married couple £14 10s. a week, such a pensioner has to pay the same hospital fees as a com- pany director or some other wealthy member of the community.
There is an historical background to the Commonwealth’s liability for one-third of v- hospital bed costs. It is linked with the transfer to the Commonwealth of uniform taxation powers and the acceptance by the people of the social service proposals at the 1 946 referendum, which gave the Commonwealth constitutional authority in this field.
With the States deprived of their former power to raise revenue by income taxation, the Chifley Government, under the 1946 Commonwealth-States hospital agreement, agreed to pay an amount then equal to onethird of the cost of maintaining each occupied hospital bed. The bed cost at that time was 18s. a day. The Commonwealth put its signature to an agreement binding it to pay 6s. a day, which was one-third of the cost. We believe that agreements arrived at by one government bind succeeding governments.
The Menzies Government inherited a pledged agreement. Before it came to power in 1949 it gave no indication that it intended to repudiate the hospital agreement with the States. But the Menzies Government has refused to renew the agreement and it is still making a basic bedcost payment of only 8s. a day. It is paying no more to-day than it did in 1948, before Australia was hit by the Menziesinspired inflation. The breach of faith wilh the States is undeniable, because since 1948 the hospital bed cost has risen by 360 per cent, to £6 a day.
The 1946 agreement also provided for free treatment in public wards of hospitals for every one, without means tests. Now we know that this Government has a means test even on pensioners. Labour claims that an Australian citizen should pay taxation on a graduated scale, according to his ability to pay, and that he is then entitled in return to free treatment in hospital public wards. The Menzies Government, in destroying the agreement, virtually blackmailed the States into charging fees in public wards, lt wielded the financial bludgeon in 1951 by refusing the States additional Commonwealth aid of 12s. a day - to insured patients - unless such charges were imposed.
In addition, the Menzies Government fostered the system of flat-rate contributions through hospital benefits funds, to which it is compulsory to belong to obtain the Commonwealth benefit. I am informed that it is the best scheme, and you must accept it, but it is being administered in this country by no fewer than 131 benefits societies. I believe that the overhead costs of so many societies have been responsible to a significant degree for the increased payments that patients, even pensioners, have had to make. The scheme now operating requires the poorest citizen in the community to pay as much as the richest towards the cost of financing his hospital treatment.
The Menzies standard of social service justice is repugnant to Labour and a denial of the democratic principle of a fair go. The real social service advance made by the Chifley Government in 1946 has been destroyed by the Menzies Government. In 1946 hospitalization was financed by the system of progressive income taxation, based on ability to pay. All in public wards were treated free, without means test. The Commonwealth paid one-third of hospital bed costs. The whole approach to social service policy fostered by Labour was directed towards casing the burden on the Australian people of the cost of illness. We believe that many industrial casualties are suffered by people who have worn themselves out earning Australia’s income, and who have had to pay the piper for doing so.
The Menzies policy is a negation of our ideal. The Menzies Government’s cynicism towards social services was revealed by the Minister for Health, Senator Wade, when he said on 27th August, 1962 -
New South Wales hospital fees are too low. The remedy lies in the State Government’s hands, lt should increase the fees.
So we find that by intimidation the Commonwealth Government and its Minister for Health have forced the State governments to increase fees. The month in which the Minister for Health made that statement was the month in which the New South Wales Labour Government, in conjunction with every other State government, sought a new Commonwealth-States hospital agreement based on the Chifley model. The Commonwealth flatly rejected the proposal of the States. One result is that in New South Wales public hospitals face heavy deficits.
State governments cannot raise by taxation the extra money required to balance hospital budgets. They have been forced by the Commonwealth into raising hospital fees. This, in turn, has forced up Australian families’ flat-rate contributions to the voluntary organizations. In this way, by refusing to pay at least a one-third share of hospital bed costs, the Menzies Government has transferred hospital debts to the pa’tients. The New South Wales
Labour Government has recognized to the full its social service responsibility by providing New South Wales with some of the finest hospitals in Australia. More are under construction. The State is spending to the maximum in expanding hospital services, but its capacity is limited because it depends on the Commonwealth for the bulk of its finance. Population is increasing and costs rising, yet the Menzies Government’s contribution in this important field is failing to keep pace with public needs. The Menzies Government, on these facts alone, is shown to have been recreant to its trust. Only by the return of a federal Labour government - and I think one will be returned - can the Australian people be guaranteed restoration of free treatment in hospital public wards and adequate aid to the States for hospital maintenance costs.
A federal election is coming, and we are glad that it is, because we want the people of Australia who have the misfortune to fail in health to get a fair deal. The Labour Government will give them a fair deal. In order to illustrate exactly how this Government has failed in its responsibility, let me put some of the figures before the committee. Go back to 1946-47, when we had a Commonwealth Labour government running this country. At that time the New South Wales Government was paying only £2,600,000 a year, or 52.1 per cent, of the total hospital maintenance cost; the Commonwealth was paying £1,100,000 a year, or 22.1 per cent, of the total cost; and the patients were paying £1,300,000, or 25.8 per cent, of the total cost. The picture to-day shows that the Commonwealth has transferred its responsibility to the patients. These official figures prove that. In 1962-63 the New South Wales Government subsidized hospitals to the extent of £20,800,000, which still represented 52.1 per cent, of the total cost; the Commonwealth contribution had moved from £1,100,000 to £4,900,000, which represented 12.5 per cent, of the total cost. The Commonwealth contribution fell from 22.1 per cent, to 12.5 per cent. - a drop of 10 per cent. To whom has the cost been transferred? It has been transferred to the patients who should be looked after. To-day patients are paying £14,000,000 a year, or 35.4 per cent, of the total cost of hospitals. The percentage paid by patients has increased from 25.8 per cent, to 35.4 per cent., whilst the Commonwealth contribution has decreased by 10 per cent. 1 maintain that the Commonwealth Government has failed badly in this matter. It has committed a grave repudiation of its responsibility. It signed an agreement under which these matters were to be dealt with nationally. It said, “ We will pay one-third of the cost “. We challenge the Government to honour that agreement. The Chifley Labour Government, when it was in power, honoured its agreement. I repeat that when the Labour Party is returned to office in this Parliament on 30th November one of the first things that we will do is look after the people who seed to be looked after. I believe that the sick people come within that category. We will change the present situation. We will not repudiate the agreement. We will renew the agreement that the Labour Party undertook to honour in 1946 and 1947.
.- Under the estimates of the Department of Health I want to refer to a subject which is of great interest at present, which has received a great deal of press publicity recently, and on which certain honorable members hold very strong views. I refer to the fluoridation of water supplies. The people who oppose fluoridation do so mainly on two grounds. One is that it is an infringement of civil liberties. The other is the practical aspects of fluoridation - whether it can achieve all that its supporters claim for it and whether it has any harmful effects.
I say at the outset that almost every new proposal affecting public health has aroused virtually the same reaction as has been displayed by the opponents of fluoridation. I refer to vaccination against smallpox, immunization against diphtheria, the introduction of Salk vaccine and even the pasteurization of milk. Not all of those processes are compulsory. Therefore they are not entirely comparable with the fluoridation of water supplies. However, in most Australian States it is compulsory for people to undergo regular x-rays in the fight against tuberculosis. Although an excessive number of x-rays can be harmful, I have heard very few persons protest against having to submit to regular x-rays.
I am not very impressed by the argument that fluoridation is an infringement of civil liberties, because I believe that we largely tailor our views to suit our own convenience. As an example of that, I point out that quite a number of honorable members opposite who would oppose fluoridation on the ground that it is an infringement of civil liberties would support compulsory unionism. They are quite entitled to those views but I maintain that they are hardly consistent. There arc members on this side of the chamber who oppose fluoridation on the ground that it is an infringement of civil liberties but who do not support so enthusiastically the civil liberties laid down in Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as they affect members of the Communist Party. That is an inconsistent attitude. It is one which I support but I do not claim to hold consistent views on the subject of so-called civil liberties. In Australia education is compulsory. If we hold the view that the individual should be the master of his own fate, why cannot he decide whether he and his children should be educated? If we choose to argue on the score of principle, surely we cannot choose where we want to depart from our stated principles.
In the United States of America the powers of Congress, the State parliaments and all municipal bodies are subject to the Bill of Rights which forms part of the United States Constitution. The American courts, therefore, have jurisdiction to review legislation, whether it be at the Federal, State or municipal level, in order to determine whether it conflicts with the fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution. In 1957 the New Zealand Government appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate all aspects of the fluoridation of water supplies. The published report of that commission of inquiry referred to the fact that the courts of tcn States of the United States of America had held that the fluoridation of public water supplies was a valid exercise of power by the authorities concerned. On only one occasion was an adverse opinion delivered, and that opinion was reversed on appeal. Invariably it was held that the fluoridation of public water supplies did not involve an infringement of constitutional liberties.
I refer now to some of the practical aspects of fluoridation. What is hoped to be achieved by its introduction? Briefly, the purpose of fluoridation is to reduce the incidence of dental decay. In order to understand the reasons underlying the decision to fluoridate any water supply, we should be aware of the extent of dental decay in Australia. Professor N. D. Martin of the Department of Preventive Dentistry of the University of Sydney has stated that examinations of large groups of children have shown that dental decay affects 98.5 per cent, of all children in Australia in the age group of six to fifteen years. Surely that is a serious state of affairs. If we accept that figure, I believe that we should be doing something to improve the position. We should ask ourselves whether by the fluoridation of water supplies we can effect any material improvement.
I believe that most thinking people would concede that the progressive accumulation of dental disease is a national calamity, not only in terms of health but also in terms of expenditure. Dr. Freeman, the chairman of the fluoridation committee of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Dental Association, has said that, assuming that fluoridation reduces dental decay by 60 per cent., treating the New South Wales water supplies alone with fluoride would save the population £36,000,000 in dental treatment charges over a period of fourteen years. I have taken that period because it is regarded as the period that fluoride needs to achieve its maximum effect on tooth formation. Dr. Freeman estimates that the capital cost of fluoridating all water supplies in New South Wales would be only £288,000 and that the annual running cost would be only £194,000 - a total cost of £2,000,000 over the same period of fourteen years.
I must confess that, in forming my opinion on fluoridation, I have been influenced by the very impressive list of official and .professional organizations and bodies which have given their blessing to it. Those organizations include the dental associations of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand; the British Medical Association; the Australian Medical Association; the British Ministry of Health; the United States Public Health Service; the American Public Health Association; the New Zealand Department of Health; the national health and medical research councils of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand; and the World Health Organization. There are quite a number of others.
I have never heard it argued that there is no relationship between the amount of fluoride in the diet and the incidence of dental decay. The opinion that there is a relationship has been held for nearly 100 years and investigations carried out in a number of countries have shown that where fluoride occurs naturally in the water supply the incidence of dental decay is not present. In 1944 studies were instituted in Canada and the United States to determine whether mechanically added fluoride would produce the same benefits as naturally occurring fluoride. After twelve years experience of artificial fluoridation the United States Department of Health reported -
It can be positively stated that the dental and the general effects of drinking mechanically fluoridated water are identical with those associated with the use of waters containing natural fluoride.
The World Health Organization in a press release of 4th September, 1957, said -
The effectiveness, safety and practicability of fluoridation as a means of preventing dental caries, one of the most prevalent and wide-spread diseases in the world, is now established.
The experts based their opinion on a study of hundreds of controlled fluoridation programmes in seventeen countries, some of which had then been in progress for more than twelve years. At that time 32,000,000 people in more than 1,500 communities in the United States alone were using mechanically fluoridated water. I have endeavoured to ascertain the up-to-date figures and the latest available relate to 1962. They indicate that there were then 23 countries with mechanically fluoridated water supplies, the number of communities in the United States had increased to 2,429 and more than 46,000,000 were drinking artificially fluoridated water. I believe that more than 51,000,000 persons were drinking water with a fluoride content in excess of one part per million which is the proportion used in mechanically operated schemes.
The World Health Organization experts made their statement after studying the observations and experiments of scientists, biologists, physiologists, toxicologists, chemists, veterinarians, pathologists, physicians and dentists, and their report concluded with these words -
AU of these findings fit together in a consonant whole that constitutes a great guarantee of safety; a body of evidence without precedence in public health procedures.
The findings of a commission of inquiry set up by the New Zealand Government to inquire into the desirability of fluoridating public water supplies were published in 1937. Among its conclusions the commission stated that fluoridation is a desirable process; that the benefits of fluoride cannot be effectively made available by alternative means, and that it is a completely safe process. Two of the specific questions which the commission was asked to resolve were, first, whether benefits to dental health may reasonably bc expected in New Zealand from the addition of fluoride to public water supplies, having regard to the results of the fluoridation of water supplies in other countries - the answer to this question was yes - and secondly, whether any disadvantages may result from the addition of fluoride to waters naturally containing less than one part of fluoride per million. The answer to this question was no.
In the short time remaining to me I want to refer to a fluoridation scheme which has been in operation in Yass, New South Wales, which is not very far from Canberra. In 1956 the Municipality of Yass introduced artificial fluoridation into the city’s water supply. Yass was the first Australian city or town to do so. I spoke to the Town Clerk of Yass only last week and ascertained a number of interesting facts. First of all, the cost of fluoridation to the people of Yass is approximately ls. per person a year, and secondly, the council has never received a complaint concerning fluoridation.
As the aspect of safety has often been mentioned by opponents of fluoridation I was interested to learn that the council is required by the New South Wales Department of Health to take samples of water daily for analysis to ensure that the quantity of fluoride is never excessive, and that these samples must be. taken from’ widely. separated areas to prove that concentrations of fluoride do not build up in any part of the water supply system. In addition, once a month, a sample must be sent to the New South Wales Department of Health for analysis. Honorable members might be interested to learn that after more than six years of fluoridation in Yass the Department of Preventive Dentistry of the University of Sydney, with the co-operation of the Director-General of Education and the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn examined the majority of the primary and infant school children of Yass. A report published in June this year indicated that 806 children aged from five to twelve years were examined. Of this number 403 had lived in Yass all their life or since 1955, 201 had used the town water supply exclusively, 101 had used tank water at home and 101 had used both town and tank water at home. Of the children examined 149 lived outside the town and 154 had moved to Yass from elsewhere. The majority of these - 115 - had used the town water supply exclusively. A report issued on 5th July, 1963, contained this passage -
The condition of both the deciduous and permanent teeth of all the children resident in Yass was substantially better than the conditions observed in other New South Wales children. The group of resident children who used the fluoridated town water supply had less decay in the deciduous and permanent dentitions, and a greater percentage of the children were free from decay than those children in the group which used tank water in their homes. The percentage of children free from decay was more than twice as high in the group using fluoridated water.
The report concluded -
After only six and a half years of fluoridation in Yass it is apparent that those children who have been fortunate enough to drink the town water supply have received considerable benefits since fluoride was first added.
.- The estimates for the Department of Health contain provision for a contribution of £920,000 towards capital expenditure on mental institutions in the States. I understand that there is still about £2,000,000 unexpended of the original grant of £10,000,000 but despite this fact I appeal to the Minister for Health (Senator Wade), through his representative in this chamber, and to the Government to give further consideration to the representations made by the Tasmanian Minister for Health, the
Honorable W. D. McNeil, on behalf of State Ministers for Health that a conference of officers be held to discuss further Commonwealth assistance to the States.
Some States - I refer specifically to Tasmania and Victoria - have spent their allocation of the f 10,000,000 granted in 1955. Now they urgently require additional assistance but this Government holds the view that no consideration will be given to any request to allocate additional funds under the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act for capital expenditure on mental health facilities until such time as the other States have absorbed the amount allocated to them under the act which was passed in 1955.
The placing of this act on the statutebook in 1955 followed publication of the report made by the psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stoller after his investigation of conditions in mental hospitals in the various States. The report indicated that over-crowding and lack of facilities, with consequent inadequacies of treatment, were the most serious problems in all States. In the act which was passed following presentation of the Stoller report the Commonwealth Government offered a total grant of £10,000,000 to be made available on the basis of £1 from the Commonwealth for every £2 of capital expenditure on mental institutions by the States. Of the £10,000,000 New South Wales received £3,830.000, Victoria £2,740,000, Queensland £1,460,000, South Australia £895,000, Western Australia £721,000 and Tasmania £355,000.
If honorable members look at the publication “Commonwealth Payments to or for the States 1963-64” which accompanied this year’s Budget Papers they will see from the table on page 54 that Victoria had spent its allocation by the end of 1960-61. The same applies to Tasmania. At that time the Tasmanian Government had embarked on a major re-building project at Lachlan Park Hospital at a total estimated cost then -in 1960-61- of £3,500,000. I point out that 60 per cent, of this project for the mentally ill had been completed when Tasmania’s share of the Commonwealth grant ran out. The then Tasmanian Minister for Health, Dr. Gaha, pressed the claims for a further grant for Tasmania at the conference of Ministers (or Health in
Sydney in 1960. Those claims were taken up at meetings of State Ministers and of State Premiers held since that time, but still the Commonwealth, apart from its grant in 1955, has run away from its responsibility to assist the States to care for the mentally sick. I deplore this attitude that differentiates between the physically sick and the mentally sick. We have hospitals and medical benefits for physically sick patients, but when a person enters Lachlan Park Hospital or a similar institution in the other States, he receives no medical benefits at all. The only benefits he receives are provided by the States in the way of amenities. Even the basic and paltry 8s. a day is not paid by the Commonwealth. If a person enters a hospital for an appendectomy or with some other complaint, even if he is not a member of a fund the Commonwealth pays 8s. a day benefit, but if a person enters a mental hospital for treatment the Commonwealth refuses to pay even 8s. a day. Further, a pensioner entering a mental hospital for treatment immediately forfeits his pension. This distinction is scandalous, particularly when we know that the number of persons suffering from mental illness is increasing fairly rapidly each year. I have no medical knowledge and I do not know why the number of persons suffering from mental illness should increase. AH I do is make a case for increased Commonwealth aid in the care of these people.
Authorities in Tasmania have repeatedly requested the Commonwealth Government to extend subsidies of the type set out- in the 1955 legislation so that the Tasmanian Government, which always has to rely on hand-outs from Canberra, may continue with its rebuilding programme at Lachlan Park. We thought we were getting somewhere when the former Minister for Health, Dr. Donald Cameron, stated in the Parliament in October, 1961, that the Commonwealth would probably make special grants to Victoria and Tasmania for the building of new mental hospitals. But that statement was made immediately prior to the last Federal election and nothing has come of it. Therefore it must have been pure party political propaganda on the part of the then Minister for Health. Only this week the present Minister for Health stated that in twelve months’ time the Commonwealth will provide considerable benefits for the care of the mentally ill. Although I have a good deal of time for the present Minister for Health, I think his statement was pure party political propaganda of the type indulged in by the former Minister for Health immediately before the last Federal election. After Dr. Cameron was defeated the present Minister visited Tasmania and inspected Lachlan Park. On 16th October last year, he said -
The Tasmanian Government has made great progress in its attempts to provide a better way of life for the people under its care in its institutions. Lachlan Park has seven new wards which would do great credit to any State.
That was a very fine tribute to the great work being done by the Tasmanian Minister for Health and his Government. But despite the fact that the Commonwealth Minister for Health has seen for himself and appreciates the great effort made by Tasmania in the care of the mentally sick, he has refused to do anything to help that State. He has stated that his hands are tied until all the other States spend their shares of the 1955 grant. He hides behind the fact that some States have not yet spent their grants. He states that until they do so he cannot give any more assistance to Tasmania and Victoria, which are both anxious to push on with their programmes. The other States that have not spent their grants have had eight years in which to do so. According to the papers that accompany the Budget, New South Wales at the end of the last financial year still had £200,000 of its grant unspent, Queensland had £793,000, South Australia £263,000, and Western Australia £425,000. Victoria and Tasmania had expended their grants by 1961 and ever since have been seeking further recognition and assistance from this Government in the care of the mentally sick.
The Minister should have agreed to the latest proposal for a conference on this matter. If he then found that some of the mainland States cannot spend their grants for building programmes, as specified by the 1955 legislation, he should amend the legislation to allow them to spend the outstanding amounts on whatever psychiatric projects are decided upon by the States concerned and the Commonwealth. Such a decision would assist1 Queensland: If the
Minister cannot see his way clear to amend the act, then he should consider allocating the unspent grants to the States that are at present in financial difficulties with their building programmes. As the Tasmanian Minister for Health, the Hon. W. D. McNeil, pointed out recently, in view of the large building programme for Lachlan Park hospital it is essential that some financial aid be given by the Commonwealth because not only is Tasmania bearing the full brunt of the capital expenditure on Lachlan Park but as well it is not receiving one penny from the Commonwealth to assist with the maintenance of inmates of Lachlan Park Hospital.
I have outlined two proposals for the Minister’s consideration- the need to agree to a conference to discuss Commonwealth assistance in the care of the mentally sick and the need to amend the act if necessary. If those two proposals are not acceptable the Commonwealth should make a special grant to Tasmania for the purpose of capital expenditure at Lachlan Park Hospital. Tasmania has missed out every year whilst the other States have obtained special grants for such purposes as jetty construction, beef cattle roads and improved port facilities. Surely improvement of facilities for the care of the mentally sick should qualify for a special grant. The completion of the magnificent humanitarian project at Lachlan Park by the Tasmanian Government will cost more than £5,000,000, of which this Government contributed a paltry £355,000 back in 1955.
I want to refer to the fine work being done by the Tasmanian Department of Health apart from its rebuilding programme at Lachlan Park. It is following the modern trend in all aspects of mental health and is in the course of establishing psychiatric wings in general hospitals. The first of these will be at the Launceston General Hospital, to be followed by the provision of wings at the Royal Hobart Hospital and the Spencer Hospital in Wynyard. In addition, the department has acquired a property in Hobart to be set aside solely for the treatment and rehabilitation of alcoholics. The department has acquired another property for the establishment of a child psychiatric unit. The cost of these new ventures, together with the rebuilding of Lachlan Park, is being borne wholly by the State.
Tasmania should receive some special financial assistance from the Commonwealth in this work.
I have dealt mainly with Tasmania, but I remind the Minister that Victoria spent its allocation by 1961 and the position in that State now is desperate. When Victoria’s allocation ran out, Dr. Dax, who is chairman of the Victorian Mental Hygiene Authority and an eminent and highly respected authority on mental health, said, as reported in the Melbourne “ Herald “ of 6th October, 1961-
The Commonwealth has crippled our programme for tackling effectively the problem of mental illness in the community.
The newspaper report added -
A clamp-down on money by (he Federal Government has forced Victoria to shelve plans for six urgently-needed new psychiatric centres in the country. “The centres are needed to relieve overcrowding in mental hospitals, cut waiting lists and promote early treatment to prevent chronic mental illness in the future….. “
When Victoria had spent its money and the programme had been stopped in 1961, Mr. Bolte came into the picture and stated that the Commonwealth was completely unrealistic in discontinuing mental hygiene finance for Victoria in the middle of its rehabilitation programme. He said -
I will lake the matter further with the Prime
Minister, Mr. Menzies.
That was two years ago, and he is still taking the matter up with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). I speak for people in mental hospitals in Tasmania, Victoria or anywhere else. Mr. Bolte has been taking the matter up with the Prime Minister for two years. Yet, in July of this year, statements by Dr. Cunningham Dax were reported in these terms -
Lack of a Commonwealth grant for menial health services in Victoria bad severely crippled the State’s program. . . .
. . new work had bad to be suspended.
This consisted of work on wards for old people at Mont Park, wards for intellectually retarded children at lanefield and the’ Kew Cottages, and work on a new early treatment centre.
He went on to speak of over-crowding and the list of people awaiting admission, lt is to the credit of the Melbourne “ Herald “ that, in leading articles, it has supported Dr. Dax throughout.
I pay tribute to Dr. Cunningham Dax for the very fine work that he has done. In a book, “ Asylum to Community “, he has traced the remarkable development in the provision of comprehensive services for mental illness and health in Victoria from 1952 to 1961. Dr. J. R. Rees, director of the World Federation for Mental Health, has high praise for mental services in Victoria. He has said that the Mental Hygiene Authority in Victoria may indeed have provided a major training ground in psychiatry and mental health work for all the Englishspeaking population of the South-Western Pacific region and that this was a matter of very great importance. Docs the Commonwealth Government recognize this? No! Dr. Dax having got on with the job and spent the money provided initially, this Government, from that day on in 1961, just as it does in respect of Tasmania, has refused to help in the great work being done in the care of the mentally sick.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, it is pretty obvious why (he Government has made sure that these estimates would be debated when the proceedings of this chamber were not being broadcast. Government supporters have described legislation brought down by this Government in recent times in nearly every field of activity as being the best in the world. Apparently, we are not to bc saved from the expression of similar sentiments in respect of this Government’s clumsy, utterly confusing and grossly inadequate national health scheme, so-called. Honorable members opposite talk about it being (he best in the world, but 1 wonder whether they have ever made any objective valuation of the present scheme. Has it occurred to them, for instance, that, in 1961.-62, under the medical benefits scheme, only 37.1 per cent, of the patient’s service costs was paid by the benefit fund, 36.3 per cent, by the patient himself direct to the doctor and only 26.6 per cent, by the Commonwealth? As the third partner in this scheme, the Commonwealth pays the lowest proportion of all.
We are now told that the Commonwealth is not in a position to increase its contribution in respect of medical benefits because the medical fraternity will give no undertaking to stabilize doctors’ fees. Earlier this year, on this subject, I asked a question, which was answered on 30th April last by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Health. The question was -
What progress has the Government made in its negotiations with the Australian Medical Association to establish a stabilized scale of medical fees for services rendered under the national health scheme?
The answer was -
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The Commonwealth has not been engaged in negotiations with the Australian Medical Association regarding a stabilized scale of medical fees for services under the national health scheme. However, I understand that representatives of registered medical benefits organizations proposed to seek a conference with the Australian Medical Association with a view to discussing this matter but do not know whether any progress has been made.
What an appalling situation! Services provided by doctors constitute one of the main elements of the national health scheme. Yet the Commonwealth has made no approach to the medical fraternity, let alone reached agreement, about a stabilized scale of medical charges. The Government admits that it is making no effort to get doctors to stabilize their charges, but insists that it will not increase its very paltry contribution towards the payment of patients’ costs, because doctors will not stabilize their charges.
At this late hour of the night, I do not intend to go into all the ramifications of hospital benefits. They have been debated in this chamber on many occasions. One of the important things to note is that the people who most need help in the payment of hospital charges are those who are being least assisted. These are people with chronic illnesses, people with pre-existing illnesses, as they are called - that is, conditions that existed before joining a fund - and people, who are in hospital for more than the specified 84 days in any one year. One would think that people who have been prevented from earning income for at least 84 days in one year and who have been saddled with heavy hospital expenses ought to have .priority in any national health scheme if that scheme was intended to give security to people who are ill, and particularly those who suffer most from illness. Yet, after 84 days in hospital in any one year, the total combined benefit payable by the fund and the Commonwealth is limited to £12 12s. a week, although hospital charges may be anything up to £42 a week. This is only one of the problems.
It is important to recognize, also, that the so-called national health scheme does not provide for 1,000,000 Australians. About 10 per cent, of our population is not covered by the national health scheme, repatriation benefits or the pensioner medical service. Presumably, some of the 1,000,000 people who are not covered could afford to cover themselves, but, for some reason or other, do not choose to do so. I think every honorable member will recognize that a considerable proportion of the 1,000,000 people not covered are not able to contribute regularly to a fund. For instance, all those who in recent times have been unemployed could not be expected to meet regular commitments for any scheme of insurance. I would have expected any proper national health scheme to provide for the payment of health insurance contributions by the Commonwealth for unemployed persons and for those who are ill and unable to work. Nobody pretends that unemployment and sickness benefits do more than enable people to lead a handtomouth existence. The burden becomes very heavy indeed for those who have to depend on unemployment or sickness benefit for long periods. People such as these are not covered by the national health scheme. When they go into hospital, they receive the benefit of a princely Commonwealth contribution of 8s. a day to help meet the cost of their hospitalization. Not being insured in a fund, of course, they receive no other benefit. These are some of the 1,000,000 people who are not covered by the national health scheme.
We have been told this evening that 96,000 pensioners, according to the latest statistics, are not covered by the pensioner medical service because of the 1955 amendment of the National Health Act in relation to the means test. That figure does not include the dependants, who would ordinarily be covered, as well. It may well be that there are 130,000 to 140,000 people whose breadwinners are dependent on age or invalid pensions and who are not covered by the pensioner medical service. 1 hope that at another time I will have an opportunity to explain how awfully unjust is the operation of the means test for the pensioner medical service.
It has already been mentioned that the national health scheme is not comprehensive and makes no provision for dental services, optical services, physiotherapy services, hearing aids or domiciliary services. It makes no provision for assistance to cripples or spastics, aor for any assistance to mental patients other than a contribution to the capital cost of mental hospitals established by the States.
I hope what I am saying is registering with those who have referred to the scheme as being the best in the world. It is clumsy and inadequate. Members of the public are required to contribute to the scheme through taxation and to contribute to fund organizations, yet often they are confronted with the necessity to pay one-third of thenmedical costs. They have the doubtful benefit of knowing that they are helping to maintain 188 medical and hospital benefit fund organizations, each with its own overhead and administrative costs and each one limited in the extent of the benefits it is able to make available. The organizations are limited in that way because they must have reserves to enable them to meet heavy calls upon them at any time. Would it not be much better and more fruitful - if there have to be funds of this kind - if there were a consolidated national fund to cover all of the contributions? Then each separate fund would not have to try to insure itself against a heavy demand.
– I can just imagine the cost of such a scheme!
– Can you imagine what it costs to run 188 organizations whose functions overlap and who compete with each other in advertising, as we have seen in recent weeks in New South Wales?
I want to deal now with a matter that has been referred to on previous occasions by me and other honorable members on both sides of the chamber. 1 refer to the services provided by optometrists, which are not covered by the national health scheme. It is true that some of the benefit organizations make a contribution to the cost of refraction testing performed by opthalmologists, but not by optometrists. The optometrists present the argument that, because of their professional training, they ought to be included in a full-blown national health scheme. In New South Wales, for instance, optometrists are required to take a university degree in the faculty of science. Recently an all-party select committee was set up by the New South Wales Parliament to determine whether optometrists are fit to administer drugs in the carrying out of their professional duties. The committee made a recommendation that, because of their professional training, optometrists ought to be granted such professional status. Optometrists are not allowed to participate in the national health scheme, and that is discrimination against them. It is a restriction of the freedom of choice of the public. It is said, and I accept it, that 70 per cent, of people who require to be tested for spectacles - to have refraction tests, as they are called - go to optometrists. But one of the difficulties encountered by people who go to optometrists is that they may have subsequently to undergo a medical examination by, for instance, an opthalmologist. If people have to go to a specialist for an examination or for treatment for some disease of the eye and they go directly from an optometrist, they receive only a very limited benefit under the national health scheme. No benefit is payable in respect of refraction tests, even if carried out by an opthalmologist. If people are referred to an eye specialist - or an opthalmologist, as he is called - by a general medical practitioner, a much greater benefit is paid than if they go directly to the opthalmologist or are referred to him by an optometrist. This discrimination against optometrists is unworthy treatment of people who have professional status and is a gross limitation of the freedom of the public to choose the service it prefers - a freedom about which we heard so much in the past.
Reference has been made to-night to the scandal of drugs. It is worthy of note that between 1958-59 and 1962-63 there has been an enormous increase in the cost of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. In 1958-59 the total cost of the scheme was £20,972,797, or roughly £21,000,000. By 1962-63 the cost had risen to about £45,800,000. The Opposition claims that this is a scandalous state of affairs. In recent times a lot of evidence on this subject has been adduced by questions in this chamber and by outside investigation. It seems that drug companies - particularly overseas drug companies - have been grossly exploiting the sick people of the community. No reference has yet been made to the efficacy of drugs. In Canberra there is a national laboratory which investigates the purity of drugs, but we have nothing like the Cohen committee in Great Britain to investigate the therapeutic value of drugs. I refer not only to new drugs coming on to the market but to many drugs that have been on the market for some time. Investigations in Great Britain have belatedly shown that drugs which have been on the market for some time have no therapeutic value whatsoever. In view of the amount of money spent on pharmaceutical benefits, we should investigate whether we are getting value for our money. I suggest that a committee such as the Cohen committee should operate in Australia.
Thursday, 17th October 1963.
.- I regret taking up tha time of the committee at this late hour. However, as I have been gagged in two debates on two successive days, I feel that I am entitled to say something in this debate. The matter of public health, administered by the Department of Health is, by its very nature, of tremendous importance to the nation. It is therefore a very great disappointment to me and to the Australian people that the. national health scheme - if you can call it that - of the Menzies Government has fallen far short of the basic requirements of such a scheme. In 1950 the then Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page, was confident that the voluntary scheme he then introduced would meet a major proportion of medical and hospital expenses. I think he expected that it would meet 90 per cent, of the medical and hospital expenses of any citizen who chose to join a benefits organization, a lodge, or whatever it might be.
To-day there are countless Australians to whom the financial burden of the illness of themselves or members of their families is a perpetual horror and a depressant which worries them into further illness. Because of their inability to meet the costs involved, parents have refrained for years from seeking medical or surgical attention from specialists, or from obtaining hearing aids or dentures. They make this sacrifice because of what they consider are more urgent needs of their families. The tragedy is that the sacrifice is necessary in these so-called more enlightened times.
I spoke earlier of a health scheme, but it could hardly be termed that while it completely disregards dental and optical treatment of any description. Important as they are, they are only two of the many deficiencies which brand the Menzies’ Government’s efforts in the field of health as muddled and mediocre. The health scheme which now prevails is shot full of defects and short-comings. More than 2,000,000 Australians - 20 per cent, of our population - are not covered by the scheme, and many of these are people who cannot join contributory schemes. It is obvious, too, that these people - basic wage-earners and those on fixed incomes - are the ones who need financial assistance most in times of illness.
Those who are members of medical contributory funds and consequently receive both Commonwealth and medical benefit fund rebates are still faced with the need to meet an average of nearly 40 per cent, of their medical expenses. Clearly, the aim of the Government in 1950 is far from being achieved. Too much of the financial burden falls upon the person who is afflicted with illness. I know that the reason for the view that some financial responsibility should remain with the patient, has been the professional patient, the unfortunate who, being either wealthy enough, or being free of medical expenses, would virtually live on the doctor’s doorstep. But surely, if a financial restraint is needed, a 10 per cent, share of the cost would be sufficient and surely such a restraint should not apply to accident or maternity cases where, on the one hand, misfortune strikes and, on the other, every encouragement should be given. On neither hand could the label “hypochondriac “ be levelled, and in both cases greater assistance should bc provided.
The Minister for Health (Senator Wade) has forecast great improvements in the health scheme within the next twelve months. Of course there will be great improvements because a Labour government will come into office after 30th November, lt will widen the scope of the health services so that it can be truly called a national health scheme, and these anomalies will be eliminated. As I have said, two of the vital deficiencies making our national health scheme one of the poorest in the Western world are the complete omissions of dental treatment and optical treatment. That these two services of medical science should be excluded condemns the scheme as incomplete and unworthy to be called a national health scheme.
For some considerable time now members of the Labour Opposition, particularly the honorable members for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and Barton (Mr. Reynolds), have highlighted the remarkable disparity in the prices which the Australian community and the Australian Government pay for drugs in comparison with what is charged in other countries. They, along with other honorable members, have listed a great variety of the drugs for which excessive charges are made; and the Minister for Health no doubt as a result of Opposition urging, has announced the reduction of a few prices. He made that announcement in answer to a question, and the drugs for which prices have been reduced are listed in “ Hansard “. 1 will not go through them now; but the Australian Government and the Australian people have provided overseas drug companies with a virtual bonanza for years now. One giant United States concern, Merck, Sharp and Dobson, made a 200 per cent, profit in the last financial year. That is staggering enough, but the managing-director was a little gloomy in his annual financial report for he said that this result was below the level of the previous year, and that consequently a dividend of only 75 per cent, would be paid instead of the previous 100 per cent. Another United States-based firm, Schering, returned a mere 140 per cent, on paid-up capital. Not all pharmaceutical company figures are available to me, but there are enough to indicate that the companies, probably 75 per cent, of which are foreignowned, Shylock-like, get the tost pound of flesh out of the Australian Government through its free drug list, and out of every
Australian who buys drugs or medical preparations.
To be fair, I must say that, generally, Australianowned companies show a lesser profit than those owned overseas, lt has been estimated that some overseas-controlled companies must be selling their products at gross profit margins averaging at least 100 per cent., and probably varying from 75 per cent, to 150 per cent. For how long are these circumstances to continue? There is no reason to believe that this bleeding of the Australian community has noi lasted for years already. What has the Menzies Government done about it? Politely, cap in hand, the Minister for Health has asked the companies to review their prices. Surely the Australian public are entitled to protection, and, where the expenditure of public moneys on pharmaceutical benefits appears to contribute to profiteering, urgent action to investigate and remedy the situation is the duty of any government.
What is needed is an urgent inquiry into all aspects of the pharmaceutical industry, with emphasis on profit margins, the degree of overseas ownership, safety standards and all other aspects of the industry affecting the Australian community. During this financial year, Australian families will probably spend some £90,000,000 on drugs and drug products, and the Australian purchaser is entitled to see the veil of secrecy lifted from the operations of this industry which is so necessary to his health and wellbeing. It has been termed Australia’s mystery industry, and, frankly, I and my colleagues in the Labour Party would welcome the uncovering of its secrets, because information concerning its operations, especially its financial operations, has long been difficult to obtain. The failure of the Menzies Government to take action to investigate the industry over the past few years could only mean that it concurs wilh the enormous profits exacted from the Australian community.
Another commodity used in ministering to the ailing in our community is oxygen. Here is another aspect which requires the closest investigation. I am informed that in this field the number of suppliers is dwindling rapidly and that the interests supplying oxygen plant and equipment are similarly limited. Furthermore, a principal supplier of oxygen and oxygen equipment, Commonwealth Industrial Gases Limited, has swallowed one of its competitors, Pacific Oxygen Limited, leaving in the industry, I think, only one other competitor. Thus, in this particular field, as in so many others, competition has been reduced to almost nil to the detriment of Australian hospitals and other oxygen-using authorities.
Some weeks ago I placed on the noticepaper a question seeking an assurance from the Minister for Health that essential competition would be maintained in this field. The answer I received a few days ago covers only the Australian Capital Territory and is very far from being conclusive. Following publication some months ago of critical comments I made about pharmaceutical companies and profits in the industry, I received a letter from a medical practitioner in which, referring to what he called my tilt at the drug houses, he said -
I wondered if you had not overlooked an even more important issue. The gas suppliers would appear to mark up goods in a manner that would make a drug company chiller with envy. I was offered a respirator for £350. This respirator sold in the United Kingdom for £50. Or. Beaver built the prototype for £ 14-odd.
He went on to talk of a monopoly of the supply of bulk oxygen plant and oxygen and what appeared to be exorbitant estimates for bulk oxygen plant and supplies as given on a take-it-or-leave-it basis to Australian hospitals. I ask the Minister for Health to take a closer look at these matters. If respirators are costing Australian doctors and hospitals seven limes as much as is paid by their counterparts in England, it is obvious that government action ‘ is long overdue. If supplies of life-giving gas such as oxygen and the necessary plant and equipment are in the hands of a monopoly, the Australian public is entitled to Commonwealth action to remedy that state of affairs. For protection in regard to this vital service, the public will require, as my Labour Party colleagues and I do, something better than the pie-in-the-sky proposals put forward by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick).
The fluoridation of the Australian Capital Territory water supply has occasioned very spirited debate in (his chamber in the last few days and has raised conjecture on the part of the public. I do not want to occupy the last few minutes available to mc in putting forward a case for or against fluoridation. Except in the Australian Capita] Territory the decision as to whether water supplies should be fluoridated is the responsibility of municipalities, burroughs and shire councils. It is obvious that, having taken this decision in the Australian Capital Territory, the Government thinks that the fluoridation of the water supply is the proper thing to do. and 1 also, am inclined to think in that way. But to allay the fears that exist in the community and to enable municipalities, shire councils and other authorities to weigh the pros and cons of this subject I think the Minister for Health should arrange for the publication of all the evidence which the Government obviously had before it in determining whether to fluoridate the water supply in the Australian Capital Territory. I suggest that, to be fair and to enable the authorities concerned to come to a decision (he Government should provide the evidence for and against fluoridation. Some time ago, because organizations in my electorate were interested in the matter, I asked the Minister whether he had any inform;) lion on this subject, hut no information was available cither for or against fluoridation, lt would be a good thing if the Department of Health provided the Australian community with an opportunity to examine the pros and cons of the case for fluoridation so that people could take a balanced view and arrive at a balanced decision as to the best thing to do.
, - The first of the matters with which 1 wish to deal is the question of chronic illness and in this regard I refer to the Governor Phillip Special Hospital at Penrith, New South Wales, which was opened only in the last year, lt is a State Government instrumentality, and I think il is probably the most advanced organization of its type for the treatment of the chronically ill. The hospital has, on a number of occasions, applied to the Commonwealth Government for recognition under section 82 e of the National Health Act. Unfortunately the Commonwealth has consistently refused this recognition, and, accordingly, the hospital is being deprived of the payment of 12s. per day in respect of each patient. The hospital is beautifully equipped and has an excellent record. Unlike some of the private nursing homes to which chronic invalids often go, it can do a really first-class job for its patients. Furthermore, it is able to discharge a large number of patients back to their homes which the normal private nursing home is unable to do.
The Government seems to use as the basis of its refusal the argument that the granting of recognition would establish a precedent and that it would then have to look at all the private nursing homes, whose conditions, of course, cannot measure up to the standards of the Governor Phillip Special Hospital. This is a rather ridiculous approach to the problem because this hospital is a State Government instrumentality. It is the first hospital of its type in New South Wales and probably the first in Australia. The establishment of this institution was an attempt by the Government of New South Wales to face up to a very serious problem.
– It has taken twenty years to face up to it.
– Your Government has not faced up to it. The Government of New South Wales is doing an excellent job in trying to overcome this problem. As the Governor Phillip Special Hospital is one of the few of its type in Australia, the question of establishing a precedent hardly arises. Many of the cases admitted to this hospital can be classed as acute rather than chronic. I have here a list of cases transferred to the Governor Phillip Special Hospital. One patient was a man aged 79, who was admitted from the Gosford District Hospital, the diagnosis being -
Congestive cardiac failure, diabetes; had a large ulcer on the left leg on admission and advanced gangrene of left heel.
Surely that man was not a chronic case but an acute case. Yet owing to the action of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) in refusing to recognize this hospital, the patient and the institution itself are deprived of the Commonwealth daily payment which would otherwise be paid. The next case is that of a patient admitted from the Hawkesbury District Hospital. The diagnosis was -
Aphasia diabetes mellitus and congestive cardiac failure, gangrene of the left leg.
These are basically acute cases and the important thing is that the Commonwealth’s action in this matter does not under any circumstances encourage the State government to establish other institutions like the Governor Phillip Special Hospital, which should be only the first of many to come. I understand that approaches to the Commonwealth for recognition of this hospital have been made not just by the hospital itself but also at the State government level. This is something that needs looking at and I ask that serious consideration be given to it. We must keep in mind the fact that this hospital is taking from the public hospitals acute cases which might require leng hospitalization. Yet the moment a patient is moved to this hospital the 16s. a day payment ceases. This question must be examined if the great problem of chronic illness generally is to be overcome. There must be a new approach to this matter, quite apart from the refusal to recognize the Governor Phillip Special Hospital.
– There must be a new Commonwealth government.
– Yes, there must be a new government and a new approach to the problem of chronic illness. To-day, with the advent of life-saving drugs and a completely new social framework, this problem of chronic illness is increasing. Daughters can no longer be kept at home to look after elderly members of their families and people can no longer afford home nursing care. Furthermore, because of the life-saving drugs, people are living to a greater age, and so the problem of chronic illness is becoming more acute as time goes by. For that reason, it is essential that there should be a complete reappraisal of the whole of the community’s attitude to this question of chronic illness. In another ten years, this will be a most serious problem. Provision must be made for the care of these people. In the conditions of to-day, when wives are working and so on, it is not physically possible for families to accept responsibility for those who are chronically ill as they have in past decades.
I would also like to deal with the national health scheme. It is interesting to note that the medical health scheme of the United Kingdom to-day, taking the cost as a percentage of the ‘ national income, is cheaper than the Australian health scheme. Supporters of the Government have claimed that this is not so, but they do not take account of the whole of the health costs. They look only at the Government’s contribution. The annual expenditure for the national health scheme in the United Kingdom is about 31 per cent, of the total national income. This figure is given in an official handbook prepared by the Central Office of Information, 1963 edition, at page 147. On the other hand, in the last two years in Australia about 5 per cent, of the national income has been spent on health. We must keep in mind that the Australian scheme is far less comprehensive than the United Kingdom scheme is. The scheme introduced by this Commonwealth Govern. ment is not only extremely complicated but is also extremely wasteful. In the United Kingdom, a far more comprehensive programme is given at a cost of only 3i per cent, of the national income, and this must bc compared with the cost in Australia of 5 per cent, of the national income.
There will, I believe, soon be a change of Government, fortunately. The Australian people will in the very near future have the opportunity to embrace a national health scheme proposed by the Australian Labour Party. This scheme will cover all aspects of health, including optical and dental care, lt will repeal the requirement that in order to obtain the Commonwealth benefit the patient must be a subscriber to a registered society. Some financial responsibility will remain with the patient. A national hospital service will be provided and will include hospitalization without charge and without means test in the public wards of public hospitals, and equivalent financial benefits for patients in approved private hospitals and in intermediate and private wards of public hospitals. Patients in all wards of public hospitals will have the option of utilizing, without charge, the services of specialists, particularly surgeons, remunerated by salary or sessional fee, the number of such specialists to be increased as demand for their service increases. There will be a free dental service for all persons up to the age of eighteen years and a free dental service to the age, invalid and widow pensioners. There will also be pre-natal and maternity care and treatment and pharmaceutical benefits, on a. free basis., , . .
These proposals represent a real national health scheme, and the Australian people need such a scheme. As we move around the family groups to-day, we learn that one of the most important needs of the people is a new national health scheme that will be a comprehensive national health scheme and not one such as this, which is so extraordinarily complicated that I doubt whether even the Government can understand it. It is for this reason that we must face up to the responsibility of providing a true national health scheme. I believe that the Australian people will ensure that they will have a decent scheme after the next election.
We should also examine the pensioner medical scheme. Entitlement to a medical card it still based on the 1953 means test - a means test that is ten years of age. Pensioners who receive more than £2 a week, or £4 a week for a married couple if both are pensioners, are unable to receive a medical card. If a single pensioner earns say, £3 a week to-day then loses his job and for a period earns 30s. or £2 a week, he can get a medical card. However, if he obtains a job which returns him an income of more than £2 a week, he loses his card. How extraordinary! It is almost impossible to understand the logic of such a proposal.
The pensioner medical service is based on a means test which to-day is ten years old. It should have been revised many years ago and it must be revised in the very near future. Fortunately, the Australian people will shortly have the opportunity to provide for its revision, because Labour makes the submission that all pensioners should receive a medical card. That is the only logical approach, because people need medical assistance at low cost when they arc aged, lt is important that they be given medical services during this period of their lives. The problems of the health of the aged and of the family are the important issues that f;.ce us to-day. We cannot avoid these issues and important reforms designed to cope with them must be introduced.
– If the
Government should be proud of any matter, it should be proud if the Australian national health scheme, and I think that hundreds of thousands of Australians who participate in the scheme recognize this. The scheme has been criticized by the honorable members for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage) and Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and some other Opposition members. However, I think the test of this scheme is a comparison with the lack of a scheme when Labour went out of office. We can quickly compare the amount that was allocated during the last year of office of the Labour Government with the amount allocated for this year by this Government. In 1949-50, which was the last year in which Labour had control of the Budget, just over £7,000,000 was allocated for national health. The amount allocated for this year is £96,400,000. I think this comparison answers the criticisms that have been made, and also reveals the lack of sincerity in the promises that were read by the honorable members to whom I have referred. Apparently, these promises are to be incorporated in some form of policy speech, but they are only political promises. They were certainly not implemented when Labour was in office previously.
There are one or two other matters that must be answered, and I will refer to them very briefly. The first matter I wish to deal with was raised by the honorable member for Mitchell and it relates to the Governor Phillip Special Hospital. He said that this hospital, which is recognized under the New South Wales law as a public hospital, had applied for recognition under the National Health Act, but at .present is recognized only as a nursing home for the purpose of Commonwealth benefits. The reason for this is that the patients are principally suffering from chronic illness. However, some acute cases receive benefits from the special account. This matter was raised just recently in this chamber by the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). I indicated to him at the time that a further application had been submitted by the Governor Phillip Special Hospital for recognition as a hospital under the National Health Act. The investigation will be carried out as a matter of priority.
The honorable member for Hughes and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) referred to drug prices. It was claimed that certain changes that are taking place at the ‘present time are the result of action that was taken by the Opposition. That is not so, as the figures I shall mention will show quite clearly. This is quite a serious matter and it is receiving a lot of publicity. So I think the record should be put straight. The matter has been very carefully examined by the Commonwealth Department of Health, That examination shows that not all the profits of the drug companies have been made at the expense of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. A large proportion of the profits that have been mentioned in press statements and elsewhere have been found to be the result of the sale of over-the-counter lines, ethical products that are outside the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and a number of veterinary products.
The Commonwealth has no control over prices, but it is constantly negotiating with the organizations concerned. The effectiveness of those negotiations can be gauged by figures which indicate the savings which have been effected over the past two years. The average price per prescription dropped from 20s. as at 30th June, 1961, to 18s. lOd. as at 30th June, 1962. The Minister for Health announced just recently that a further reduction had been made by a large group of companies that are supplying drugs under the national health scheme. In one case the saving was between 10 per cent, and 16$. per cent., and in another case it was up to’ 25 per cent. These negotiations are still continuing, and the. Minister for Health has indicated that he expects to be able to make further announcements in the near future.
The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) referred to hospital grants to New South Wales and raised other matters which have been dealt with in this chamber in the past. I reply to him merely by saying that the estimated cost of hospital benefits for this financial year is £28,200,000’ and that the total amount of Commonwealth benefits and fund benefits paid to the States last year was well over £34,000,000. Several other important matters were raised by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson). Some of the figures that he quoted were at the lower end of the scale of benefits which can be obtained by insured persons. The Commonwealth benefits that arc specified in the .schedules to the National Health Act range from 6s. to £22 10s. Normally, fund benefits are equal to 1662/3 per cent. of the Commonwealth benefit. The result is that the total amount that is payable for a major operation is approximately £60. The figures I have quoted are quite different from those mentioned by the honorable member.
The last matter I want to deal with is the assistance that is given to mental hospitals, which was raised by the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies). As the honorable member said, this matter has been raised on a number of occasions and it has been the subject of recent correspondence. Following the submission of the Stoller report in 1955, the Commonwealth undertook to make a grant of £10,000,000 to all the States. An amount of more than £2,000,000 is still outstanding. The Minister for Health has made it clear that when the total amount has been disbursed the Commonwealth may be in a position to review the situation. Of course, the treatment of mental diseases in the States is purely a State responsibility. Since the submission of the Stoller report there has been a substantial increase in loan moneys and taxation reimbursements that have been made available to the States. I believe that we should pay a tribute to the States for the work they have done in this field. Not only Tasmania but also all the other Stales have made very big advances in recent years.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
The following bills were’ returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Submarine Cables and Pipelines Protection Bill 1963.
Wine Overseas Marketing Bill 1963.
Disabled Persons Accommodation Bill 1963.
House adjourned at 12.48 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answerto the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
It is and’ will remain the Government’s basic policy objective to sustain the policy of full employment of our man-power and resources. There is no place in the Government’s policies for the existence of an “ employment pool of between 70,000 and 100,000 persons “. . Not only does the total number of persons registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for unemployment as at 27th September, i.e., 58,886, of whom 26,575 were in receipt of unemployment benefit, provide ils own denial of the honorable member’s premise, but those numbers will continue to decline in response to the Government’s measures to give effect to its basic policy objective.
Powdered Milk. (Question No. 299.)
n asked the Minister for
Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions arc as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Immi gration, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Terri tories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1.The honorable member’s question did so.
Repatriation. (Question No. 310.)
s asked the Minister for
Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Postmaster- General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Telegraphs, and personal staffs; Assistant Director, Postal and Transport Services, and Assistant Director, Telecommunications, and personal staffs; Telephone Service Brunch (part), Personnel Branch (certain sections). Rent nil - Commonwealth-owned property. 673. Bourke-street- Post Offices Branch (Administrative Section) and Planning and Development Branch, Postal and Transport Services Division; Personnel Branch (part). Rent 5s. 6d. per square fool per annum. 59 Kensington-road, South Yarra - Assistant Director (Engineering) and personal staff. Rent nil - Commonwealth-owned property. 737 Punt-road, South Yarra - Planning Branch, Engineering Division (part). Rent nil - Commonwealthowned properly. 162 Toorak-road, South Yarra - Planning Branch, Engineering Division (part). Rent nil - Commonwealth-owned property. 2 Avoca-street, South Yarra - Planning Branch, Engineering Division (part). Rent 20s. per square foot per annum. 541 St. Kilda-road, Melbourne - Planning Branch, Engineering Division (pari). Rent 24s. per square foot per annum.
Elizabeth-street Post Office - Administrative Branch, Engineering Division (part). Rent nil - Commonwealth-owned property. 8 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne - Telephone Service Branch (part) and Development Branch, Telecommunications Division. Rent 10s. per square foot per annum. 114 King-street, Melbourne - Personnel Branch (certain sections). Rent 7s. per square foot per annum. 666 Bourke-street, Melbourne - Personnel Branch (part). Rent nil - Commonwealthowned property.
No, because - (a) present wide dispersal of staff causes serious and costly administrative problems;
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The whole of the Australian population is eligible for pharmaceutical benefits. Recent amendments to the National Health Act have resulted in the coverage for hospital benefits and nursing home benefits being extended, in varying degrees, to the whole population. 71 per cent, of the population are insured for medical benefits, .and the pensioner medical service covers 830,950 pensioners and their dependants. Briefly, the benefits are -
Hospital benefits - 8s. a day for uninsured patients in approved hospitals; 20s. a day for insured patients in approved hospitals. At 30th June, 1963, 73 per cent. of the population or 7,895,000 persons were eligible for this benefit; 20s. a day for patients in approved nursing homes (there is no requirement fiar the patient to be insured to be eligible for this benefit).
In addition, arrangements exist with public hospitals for pensioners and their dependants enrolled in the pensioner medical service to receive free public ward treatment. The Commonwealth provides to public hospitals 36s. a day for each pensioner patient under these arrangements.
Pharmaceutical benefits. - Pharmaceutical benefits comprise a wide range extending virtually over the whole field of drugs and medicines. These are available to the general public on payment of 5s. per prescription. Pensioners and their dependants are eligible to receive free of cost all drugs available as benefits to the general public, together with a number of other drugs available only to pensioners.
Medical benefits. - An extensive list of medical benefits covers all medical services and surgical procedures. 71 per cent. of the population, numbering 7,686,000, are covered. General practitioner medical services are available free of cost to pensioners and their dependants enrolled in the pensioner medical service.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19631016_reps_24_hor40/>.