25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. When recommendations for registration on the waterfront are received by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority from the Waterside Workers Federation, is it normal practice for an investigation to be conducted to determine whether each man has a clean medical record and whether any of the men sponsored have criminal records? If so, who is responsible for conducting the investigations and what form do they take? What action is taken by the Authority in relation to an applicant should it be discovered that he possesses a criminal record? Is his application rejected? What percentage of applicants is found to possess criminal records? If the Minister cannot give me this information now, will he give it to me before 6 o’clock tomorrow night?
– I think the honorable gentleman must know that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority is constituted under an act of this Parliament and that it is an independent body. It has the right to receive nominations submitted by the Waterside Workers Federation and it has limited powers to investigate the medical and other records of people whose names are submitted. I am afraid I cannot answer all the questions asked by the honorable gentleman; that is clearly impracticable. We have inserted a provision in the Bill now before the House to permit the Authority to refuse nominations in cases where the men have criminal records and it is thought by the Authority itself that the men are not fit to work on the waterfront. I will attempt to obtain answers to the remainder of the questions for the honorable gentleman and let him have them as soon as I can.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. I refer to the recent requests that welfare officers of the Salvation Army be eligible for war service homes finance and to the Minister’s recent reply to a question on this subject asked by the honorable member for Dawson. Whilst the difficulties of any retrospective action in respect of these and other duly accredited representatives can be appreciated, I ask the Minister whether consideration can be given to adopting a more enlightened approach in the future so that such accredited representatives as may be designated and who serve in prescribed areas are accorded reasonably similar benefits to those conferred on members of the armed forces who serve in such areas.
– As I intimated in the House some time ago, I propose to bring forward some amendments to the War Service Homes Act next session, assuming that the legislation is ready. At that time, the whole question of eligibility in the future will be gone into and the people mentioned by the honorable member will be considered.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, by saying that in my opinion the indecent haste in which the Government is putting the Stevedoring Industry Bill through this Parliament is similar to-
– Order! The honorable member must not make comments.
– I ask: Will the Minister give to the House an undertaking that in no circumstances will national service conscripts be used to perforin waterside workers’ duties?
– The Government has not contemplated the use of national service trainees on the waterfront.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Has his attention been directed to a statement in today’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “, signed by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Australia, to the effect that the Party employs 38 paid workers, including clerical staff, in New South Wales at an annual wages bill of £22,028, representing about £423 or £11 2s. 7d. a head a week?
Can the Minister ascertain first, whether these workers are members of the appropriate trade union; secondly, if they are, whether any industrial award is being broken by the Communist Party; and thirdly, whether any firm in New South Wales or anywhere else in Australia is known to pay lower rates?
– I am glad that the honorable gentleman has brought this information to my attention; I was not aware of it. But I would not be surprised if the Communist Party of Australia did pay its officials only £11 2s. 7d. a week, for that is all they are worth. It is worth while to remind honorable members that a few nights ago I made it clear to the House that the general run of waterside workers earned between £27 and £28 a week, or 33s. a week more than the average earnings generally. In answer to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I say that if the employees concerned were members of a trade union, action could be taken immediately to ensure that they were at least paid award rates.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question supplementary to that asked by the Leader of the Opposition. I ask: Has the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority now the power to reject a man who has a criminal record and who is recommended by the Waterside Workers Federation, if the Authority deems that criminal record relevant to considerations that would exclude the man from the job?
– I have been asked to give what is, after all, a legal opinion. I understand that normally it is inappropriate for answers to questions on legal problems to be given in this House. The best advice I have received is that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has power to take action of the kind mentioned by the honorable member if it deems the person concerned to be unfit to carry out work on the waterfront. Nonetheless, in order that this can be put beyond doubt, the Act will be amended.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Will he inform the House of the terms and conditions under which private companies have been granted leases to prospect for phosphate in the Northern Territory?
– I point out to the honorable member that the Administrator of the Northern Territory has power to grant authority to prospect for gold and other minerals in certain areas. It is not necessary for the prospector to state which mineral he intends to look for. On a few occasions, prospectors have indicated their intention to prospect for phosphate. The conditions laid down for prospecting are similar to those prescribed in most of the States. First, the prospector is required to prospect actively over the whole of the area concerned and to make monthly reports on his activities. Finally, the Administrator has power to terminate the authority to prospect on the application of the holder or if, m the Administrator’s opinion, the prospector has not fulfilled the conditions of the law applying to the authority.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that provision is made in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to empower the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to impose the penalty of deregistration upon any registered union if, in the opinion of the tribunal after a hearing, the union has committed an offence which warrants that penalty? If so, is it considered that this power is not now sufficient and why?
– It is obvious that in replying to that and other questions, I would be making my second reading speech again. I gave, from the Government’s point of view, the answer to this particular question when I spoke in the House last Thursday night. I then pointed out that there was a power to deregister under section 143 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act but that the Waterside Workers Federation had great powers and privileges under the Stevedoring Industry Act. I said that we were under a compulsion, if we wanted to have our legislation through and to become effective, to act under both the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Stevedoring Industry Act.
– The Minister wanted to set up scab unions.
– Those who will not work will be the scab unionists. If I may go a stage further, we have also provided for judicial process. A declaration must be made by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission before any action can be taken by the Governor-General by proclamation. The grounds upon which an application can be made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are exactly the same grounds as are contained in section 143 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– My question to the Prime Minister refers to the availability of copies of the Vernon Committee report to interested individuals and organisations. Can the right honorable gentleman give some information to the House regarding the number of roneoed copies produced and their distribution?
– The honorable member raised this matter the other day and I have provided myself with the information that he sought. The total number of copies produced in what is called the multilith form - that is the form that we have seen - was 1,500. These have been handled as follows: Parliament, 350; Commonwealth Government and instrumentalities, 250; State Parliaments, Governments and libraries, 60; the Press, 50; organisations - business, marketing, professional, etc. - 115; other governments, 45; universities and members of university staffs, 100; and individual requests that have been met, 90. That makes a total of 1,060, which means that we have somewhat more than 400 left. That is a fairly wide distribution, although it will be by no means adequate for the public requirement. We are still receiving requests up to the rate of about 40 a day and we will do our best to meet those requests.
Arrangements have been made for the printing of the report and my Department has been looking at the possibility of getting Volume I, which is of outstanding importance, printed and available for purchase without waiting for Volume II. If it is acceptable, as I think it will be, to proceed in this way by printing Volume I first, we think that there are good prospects of having the volume ready by the end of October, which is earlier than I originally anticipated.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House of the total number of fines imposed upon Australian trade unions under the vicious penal provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act? Will he also state the number of trade unions which have been so penalised?
– Naturally, I do not keep the figures in my head; but I shall obtain them and make them available to the House. I think it will be quickly found that the union that has been responsible for most invoking of the provisions of sections 109 and 111 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act is the Waterside Workers Federation.
– I address to the Minister for Housing a question supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, to which the Minister gave an answer indicating that action may be taken in the future. I am concerned with what can be done now. Under what conditions were members of the Salvation Army Red Shield Service appointed to serve with various units of the Australian Imperial Force? Were they issued with accreditation papers stating that representatives attached to and serving with the Australian Military Forces on active service overseas would be eligible for repatriation benefits under the same conditions and to the same extent as private soldiers of the Australian Military Forces serving overseas? On what grounds are people who qualify under this provision debarred from sharing in the repatriation benefits conferred under the War Service Homes Act?
– I do not carry in my mind the precise terms on which these people were accredited. The words mentioned were “ repatriation benefits “. I understand that there are a number of repatriation benefits which these people do not receive. The war service homes benefits, like those relating to war service land settlement and other general measures, are governed by an entirely different group of legislative provisions. One cannot interpret the term “ repatriation benefits “ as conferring rights to war service homes, to war service land settlement benefits or to various other benefits that are provided under separate legislation. I shall endeavour to get for the honorable member the precise terms under which these people were accredited.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Acting Treasurer, by referring to the startling fall in motor vehicle sales, with consequent dismissals in the motor vehicle industry, and to the steep fall in approvals in the building industry. Does the right honorable gentleman agree that the strong downturn in those two key industries must inevitably have a serious effect upon the economy? Is he aware that as a result of credit restrictions imposed by his Government applicants for home loans must wait six months for loans, the inadequacy of which is leaving larger and larger, and in many cases impossible, deposit gaps for home seekers to meet? Will he take action to free this credit and enlarge home loans in order to revive the building industry before it becomes too late to do so? Further, will he make a statement in this House setting out the Government’s plans for the motor industry and the level of production that the Government envisages for it?
– The question of what is happening in the motor car industry is by no means simple. There are a great many aspects of this matter with which I have become somewhat acquainted. If the honorable member wants to know with some precision what is going on in the motor car industry and what the consequences of the dismissals may be, and if he also wants precise information about the other points that he has raised, I would suggest that he allow me to treat his questions as being on the notice paper so that I can provide precise answers.
– I ask the Minister for Air:
Has he noticed an article, originating from the London “ Daily Telegraph “ and dealing with the F111 A aircraft, which suggests there will be a delay of nine months in the developmental programme, due to engine surging as a result of faulty air intake ducts? Is this report accurate or biased? If it is correct, is it expected that there will be an appreciable delay in supplying the Royal Australian Air Force with this aircraft?
– I did notice this report, which came from two sources. One source was the London “ Daily Telegraph “ aviation correspondent, who is fairly close to the British aircraft industry, and the other was the United States magazine “ Aviation Week “, which is fairly close to the American aviation industry. Both journals have been known to be fairly critical recently of the aviation policy of the United States Department of Defence, and therefore I have treated their reports with a certain amount of reserve.
– They could not be right, do you think?
– I will tell the honorable member now that they were not right. Because I thought they were not right I got into touch with the managing director of General Dynamics Corporation in Fort Worth this morning, and I received a categorical answer from him that there is no delay whatsoever in the overall programme of development of this aircraft, nor has there been any delay in the flight testing programme attributable to the engines of the F111 A. There is therefore no truth whatsoever in either of the reports. There have been extensions to the fuselage for reasons other than those stated in the reports. I knew that when I was over in Fort Worth last year. There is also no truth in the report about the need to alter the ducts for the engine. The aircraft has already flown at more than twice the speed of sound. It was limited to that speed only because it had a plastic windscreen. Now that that has been replaced by glass there are no further limitations on its stability to go faster if the testing schedule requires it to do so. Therefore, once again, both of these reports are completely unreliable.
– My question, which concerns national security, is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to a newspaper advertisement that appeared last Sunday in the Brisbane “ Sunday Mail “ - a newspaper of some repute - in which it was stated that .303 rifles and 10 shot repeater rifles are on sale at £6 17s. 6d., that .303 ammunition is on sale at 67s. 6d. per 100 rounds and 7 inch bayonets with leather sheath and web holder can be purchased for 37s. 6d. each. American army uniforms and boots are similarly available. My question is: Has the Government any power to prevent the sale of war equipment which can be used to equip illegal armies and for criminal purposes? If so, will the Prime Minister take action to implement those powers? If not, will be take up with the State Premiers the need for rigid control of the sale of the lethal weapons to which I have referred? I might add that I have the advertisement here if the Prime Minister would like to see it.
– The first thing to do on a matter of this kind will be for me to ascertain the facts - with which, I am of course, not familiar, but I have heard what the honorable member has had to say. I will find out from the defence authorities what the facts are and will then consider whether any particular step needs to be taken.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. I refer to reports of the recent establishment in West Irian of a large branch of the Indonesian Communist Party about 30 miles from the Papua-New Guinea border. Can the Minister assure the House that every possible precaution is being taken against Communist infiltration from West Irian?
– I have no official knowledge of the situation indicated by the honorable member, but in all areas of the Territory, particularly in the western areas, we have constant patrols and constant supervision of all that is going on. I can assure the honorable member that the circumstances about which he is concerned will be adequately taken care of.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Is it not a fact that, in the recent intake of waterside workers into the stevedoring industry in Melbourne, a large number, approximately 60 to 70, were rejected after being screened by the employers and that, in fact, all the names had been submitted to the employers? The applicants had been screened and some 60 or 70 were rejected on their nomination. Is it not a fact that all those who were admitted passed this screen and that nobody would be admitted who had not passed that screen?
– I have pointed out in this House before that the nominations are forwarded by the Waterside Workers Federation. Therefore, the Federation has the initial right of recruitment into the stevedoring industry. That is a powerful weapon that can be used by the Federation for its own purposes whether they are political or industrial. I also pointed out that about 25 per cent, of nominees submitted for employment on the Melbourne waterfront had criminal records-
– That is an insult to the waterside workers.
– That is not an insult. It has nothing at all to do with them. I have already gone out of my way to praise the great bulk of those on the waterfront, who are not included in the statement I made in the House. As to the balance of the honorable gentleman’s question relating to rejections on medical grounds, I will obtain the details for him. I can state also that the right of vetting by the employers is used, 1 believe, at a minimum.
– My question, which is to the Minister for External Affairs, relates to a statement made by the “ Australian “ of today’s date purporting to answer a question I put to the Minister yesterday as to whether Indonesia had the right of free navigation of the Fly River. Is this statement based on facts supplied by the Minister, or is it a gratuitous interpretation by that journal? Is there any substance in the further observation by this newspaper that this matter brings into question the definition of the border between West Irian and
Papua-New Guinea? Is this likely to bring a sharp reaction from Indonesia?
– Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question asked by the honorable gentleman because it gives me the opportunity to remove the possibility of an international misunderstanding on this matter. I must say I was amazed to read in the “ Australian” this morning an account of the answer that I gave to the question yesterday because that account was certainly not a report of anything that I said. It was from first to last an interpretation of what I said. The interpretation was not justified by any words that I used. The interpretation gave a wholly false impression of what the views of the Government are. Worse still, this interpretation is such as is likely to lead to international misunderstanding. I think it is to be very much regretted.
The answer that I gave yesterday referred to an agreement relating to navigation on the Fly River. That agreement was in these terms -
Navigation on the Fly River is free for the subjects of both contracting powers excepting as regards the carriage of warlike stores, and no duty shall be imposed on other goods conveyed by that river.
That agreement dates back to 1895. In my answer, I said that, in effect, the agreement had never been tested and that the exact meaning of it was being studied by our own legal advisers so that a correct interpretation of the effect of the agreement would be arrived at. Certainly, nothing that I said conveyed or even implied that there was any dissatisfaction on our part regarding the definition of the Papua-New Guinea border or any lack of expectation on our part that, in respect of the border, the Government of Indonesia would do other than respect that definition. This item in the “Australian” put up the heading “New Guinea River Row Likely “. It also suggested that the definition of the border between West Irian and Papua-New Guinea was brought into question. By making those statements, the report gave a wholly false impression. I wish to remove any misunderstanding that it may have created either in the minds of honorable members or in the mind of the Indonesian Government.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has power, under section 31 of the Stevedoring Industry Act, to recruit labour in any port at which the Waterside Workers Federation fails to provide sufficient members to fill the port quota? If so, how often has the Authority exercised this power? If it has done so, when did it last act under this provision? Did the Minister make any request to the Authority recently to take action to recruit labour in those ports where a shortage of labour exists? If he did not, why not?
– I must again state to the Mouse that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority is an independent authority and that I do not interfere with its day to day administration. As to the substance of the honorable member’s question, the Stevedoring Industry Authority has power, when the Waterside Workers Federation refuses to live up to its statutory obligations, to recruit labour. What has happened over the years is that when port quotas have not been filled, or when there has been an intention to increase or decrease quotas, the Authority has discussed the problems with the Waterside Workers Federation. But, as I pointed out in the House the other night, the Waterside Workers Federation is continually guilty of using frustrating tactics, lt is for this reason, amongst others, that we are determined that the Federation will no longer have the right of recruitment, and that this will be given to a statutory authority established by this Parliament.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of the interest of all honorable members in the Ord River area and the growing of cotton in Australia, can the Minister compare the results of cotton production, from the points of view of costs and output, in the Ord River area in Western Australia with those at Wee Waa in New South Wales?
– This has been a particularly successful year for cotton growing in the two areas mentioned by the honorable member. I think he will recall that last year the five farmers on the Ord River had an average production of 1,350 lb. of seed cotton per acre, and that at Wee Waa the average production was 700. lb. of seed cotton per acre, this lower production resulting mainly from heavy floods and rains at an unusual time of the year. This year returns in both areas have increased enormously. At Wee Waa the average return per acre has been 2,700 lb. of seed cotton, while on the Ord River production has gone up to just over 1,900 lb. per acre. The growers at Wee Waa have been operating for quite a bit longer than growers on the Ord River and so, I think, have more knowledge. It is difficult to compare the two areas. There is an advantage to growers on the Ord River in that they do not experience frosts and they get very little rain during the harvesting period, which is not the case on the Namoi. On the other hand, costs of growing cotton are definitely cheaper on the Namoi, and I think that the farmers there do not suffer quite as much from pests. However, I am glad to see both areas producing cotton at a markedly improved rate this year, and I think there will be adequate outlets for the sale in
Australia of cotton from both areas.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. The honorable gentleman will remember that when the estimates for his Department Were last debated the chairman of his party’s -industrial committee, the honorable member for Higinbotham, stated that a great deal of the fault on the waterfront lay with the shipowners and stevedores and that for too long many of the stevedores had been operating on a cost plus system, not caring a hoot about what the unloading of cargoes cost the community. I ask the honorable gentleman whether he agrees with these points of view and whether he has got around to considering a cure for the problems suggested.
– The honorable member for Higinbotham is not only the Chairman of the Industrial Relations Committee of the Government but he is extremely well informed on the waterfront and, I believe, has done an enormous amount of work in an attempt to find out the facts and to make recommendations to me and to the Government as to what should be done. So, Sir, to come back to the substance of the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I point out to the House that the Government has appointed Mr. Woodward to make an investigation into the long term problems of the waterfront industry. I have pointed out, too, that one of the problems to be investigated is permanent rather than casual employment. It is the desire of the Government that there should be permanent employment in this field. Any doubts we have are because, although over the years we have tried to find a means of introducing it so far we have not been successful, although I must state that the late Mr. Jim Healy told me, at one stage, that he would like a permanent employment system instituted. As to the second part of the question relating to port efficiency, this again is in the hands of Mr. Woodward. Mr. Woodward is expected to report upon port efficiency and I look forward with great interest to any recommendations he may make.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. I ask: Does the Department of Immigration encourage migrants to take up occupations and residence outside our metropolitan areas? If so, is it the desire of migrants to remain in the metropolitan areas, the lack of suitable employment and housing in country districts or some other circumstances that are contributing to the fact that such a large percentage of migrants reside in our cities and suburbs?
– I know of the interest of the honorable member for Mallee in this matter because of the large rural area he represents, which contains many comparatively big Victorian towns. There are several aspects to immigration, one of which is the personal nomination system under which people nominate friends and relatives and guarantee them jobs and housing. Another is the Commonwealth nomination scheme under which migrants apply to come to Australia and are brought here. When they come here without housing being available they go to hostels. The
Department of Labour and National Service advises them of the occupations and employment available to them. One fact that must be faced is that the average migrant, because of ready employment opportunities in the cities and the emphasis that is placed on skilled employees in various industries, tends to drift to the cities. At no time is there any barrier to migrants going to the country. This drift to the cities is worldwide and occurs even in countries like Switzerland and Holland. Some Australian industries have plants in the country as well as in the city, but when they try to send employees to the country they meet with resistance. We endeavour as much as possible to place migrants in jobs in rural areas, but generally if people want migrants in country areas their best plan is to nominate migrants personally and guarantee them jobs and housing.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In the event of the passage of the bill to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act, which will, of course, bring industrial chaos in its wake, does the Minister believe that the creation of the proposed new unions will mean a new form of scabbery-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to restrain himself.
– and will surely lead to an outbreak of physical violence similar to what has happened in the past?
– I rise to order. I think you, Sir, have been extremely tolerant of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, having regard to Standing Order No. 144, the fact that Order of the Day No. 5 on the notice paper relates to the Stevedoring Industry Bill and the fact that questions cannot anticipate discussion on an order of the day.
– Order! The position is quite clear. Any honorable member may seek information about business pending in the House. How the Minister concerned answers the honorable member’s question is the Minister’s affair.
– The creation on the waterfront of new unions will be a new form of scabbery-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I ask the Minister for Air a question about the Air Training Corps, I preface my question by pointing out that a number of secondary schools anxious to establish air cadet units seem to be experiencing great difficulty in doing so. Will the Minister arrange for the Royal Australian Air Force authorities to see what can be done to meet the wishes of a school which seeks to establish an air cadet unit? Also, will the Minister be so kind as to see whether flying facilities can be provided for members of the Air Training Corps? It would appear that at present the opportunities available to these lads are very limited.
– I am well aware of the wonderful work that is being done by the Air Training Corps. I am also aware of the great demand throughout the Commonwealth for new air cadet units. Unfortunately, due the cost of these units, we have had to limit the total number of cadets who may be accommodated in the Corps and the total number of Corps Flights in each State. T have been forced to rule that unless a Flight is wound up another cannot be started, because there are limits to the amount that we can spend on this work. Similarly, there are limits to the amount that may be spent in providing flying facilities. I would like to do more if we had more finance available. I will look further into this matter and see whether I can do anything more to satisfy the honorable member’s wishes. However, I do not hold out too much hope.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question. Is it a fact that the quota for the intake of additional men on the waterfront at Port Kembla was recently fixed at 65 mcn? Is it also a fact that the Port Kembla Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation agreed to an increase in the quota of 100 men and that a list of names was submitted? Is it a fact that the list was fully acquiesced in by the stevedoring authorities at the port and the various employers? Is it further a fact that eight of the men were rejected, that reasons were assigned by the authorities in respect of two of them, but that reasons were refused in respect of the other six? How does the Minister reconcile the rejection of those six men with his allegation that 12 of the men whose names were submitted had been guilty of criminal offences?
– I wonder whether it is sheer coincidence that I have had a barrage of questions this afternoon and that there are several members of the executive of the Waterside Workers Federation, including one vigilance officer for the Melbourne Branch, in the public galleries. Perhaps honorable members opposite are as closely controlled as the Sydney and Melbourne branches of the Federation. To answer the honorable gentleman’s question, I cannot remember all of the figures that he gave, but substantially I believe they are correct. When the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority legitimately refused to give reasons why it rejected several members, the Port Kembla Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation refused to submit for registration any of the names submitted earlier to the Authority. For that reason, the port quotas there are not now full.
Debate resumed from 28th September (vide page 1310), on motion by Mr. Sinclair -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This Bill comes to the House of Representatives from the Senate. Last year, the Bill amending the principal Repatriation Act was introduced into the House of Representatives. On this occasion, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is in another place and therefore the amending Bill originated in the Senate. The Minister in charge of the amending Bill in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), informed the House in his second reading speech of the new repatriation provisions. As far as I could see, he refrained from explaining the purport of an amendment that was made to the Bill in the Senate, but 1 understand that he has intimated unofficially that the Government does not propose to accept the amendment. I think that is unfortunate and I hope, when the amendment is dealt with here, that a sufficient number of honorable members on the Government side of the House will vote to ensure that the amendment inserted by the Senate remains in the Bill.
Looking back over a long period of years, I think I am able to say that on all occasions when I have spoken on repatriation legislation I have endeavoured to maintain a nonparty attitude. I will endeavour to do so today. I think I am somewhere near the mark when I say I have spoken in this House on every occasion that repatriation legislation has been before it for 27 or 28 years, sometimes at the second reading stage, sometimes at the Committee stage and so on. The improvements effected to the principal Act from time to time, do not, in my opinion, reflect the true measure of the gratitude that a grateful nation should show to the men who suffered and fought in the 1914-18 War, in the last World War and for that matter in Korea and in present engagements. It has been a long, hard struggle. Amendments have been introduced periodically to increase the pension rate by something approaching cost of living increases and to remove some of the anomalies in the Repatriation Act. On this occasion, the totally and permanently incapacitated rate pensions and the general rate pensions have not been increased. Some provisions of the Bill are designed to remove anomalies and to make some slight improvements to a variety of rates of pensions payable under the Act.
I do not intend to speak for very long; I will hand over to my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). But I would like to outline what is being done by this Bill. I think honorable members will realise that this is rather a poor contribution when compared with the needs of exservicemen and their dependents. A married member service pensioner will receive an increase only if his wife is receiving a wife’s service pension. I would like the Minister at this stage to give me an interpretation of the qualification, that the wife is receiving a wife’s service pension. Does that mean a wife who was herself formerly a member of the Services as a nurse or in some other capacity?
– I did not understand it to be so.
– It is rather obscure.
– I will check and let the honorable member know.
– I think it is important. The wife of a service pensioner could be an age pensioner. On the other hand, a wife who was in the Services herself as a nurse would perhaps be correctly called a service pensioner’s wife who receives a service pension in her right as an ex-service woman.
– I imagine it to be the first category, but I will check it.
– Does the Minister think it means that she is an age pensioner wife?
– That is right. I am sure that is so, but I will check it.
– That would give a wider coverage than would the other category. The Bill also provides that the wife of a service pensioner receiving the pension on the ground of age will qualify for a wife’s service pension if she has one or more children. That is some improvement. Then we have a change in relation to supplementary assistance. This will be paid to a wife who receives a service pension. Again we have the same verbiage. The maximum rate of the allowance will be subject to an adjustment according to the amount by which the pensioner’s means as assessed - that is, his income other than the service pension and/or his accumulated property - exceeds £26 a year. I understand that that conforms to the amendment made to the Social Services Act and we understand what it means.
– I understand that my interpretation was correct.
– It applies to those cases where the wife is an age pensioner?
– That is right.
– She is a service pensioner’s wife under the Bill. The Bill deals with the funeral benefit. With some qualifications, the old rate of £10 is increased to £20. That is little enough. The age limit for a student child is raised from 18 to 21 year’s. Again, this is in line with the provision in the Social Services Act. Payments for the children of war widows, which formerly ceased when they attained the age of 16 years, will continue for student children until they reach 21 years. Other benefits are provided. One of them is very interesting and may be of some value. I refer to the new intermediate rate of war pension. This rate will be paid to ex-servicemen who are seriously disabled and capable of only part time or intermittent employment. The rate of this pension will be £10 2s. 6d. a week. The Minister’s second reading speech does not make the meaning of this provision clear. It is true that it is a rate payable between the ordinary 100 per cent, general rate and the present T.P.I, rate. I hope the Minister will correct me if I am not right but it seems to me that the idea is to make provision for marginal cases. Let us take the marginal case of a man who is now receiving £6 a week. The authorities may argue: “ There is an element of doubt here. We will give him £10 2s. 6d. We will not give him the full rate of £14 that he would normally receive.” So we can say that this is a device created by the Government to extricate the Repatriation Commission and the Government from the difficult position and the embarrassments that now confront them from time to time in cases in which undoubtedly, in the minds of most people, the full T.P.I, rate should be paid. From that standpoint, I do not think much of it, but from the standpoint that it will help somebody and give relief, it is a good thing.
I do not like the idea in other respects. We are dealing here with men who receive the 1 00 per cent, rate of pension. Men who served in the First World War have mostly reached the age of 70 or more and cannot work. Quite apart from their war disabilities, they might not have been able to work any longer in any event. When exservicemen have reached that age, a pension of £6 a week is not adequate compensation for the war disabilities they have suffered. They should receive the full total and permanent incapacity rate. In this instance, we are now to get a half way house, as it were. There is to be an intermediate rate of war pension at £10 2s. 6d. a week. This is some improvement, and we hope that the interpreting authorities will be more generous than they have been in the past and that they will see that a lot more of these men get the rate of £10 2s. 6d. a week.
– This may have the effect of preventing more men from getting the T.P.I. rate.
– That may be how it will work out, and I ask the Minister for Social Services to clarify the situation. Is this a device to prevent men from getting the full T.P.I. rate of £14 5s. a week? If it is a device to achieve that purpose, it is bad. But if it is a device to help exservicemen and to lift more of them above the rate of £6 a week, it is very good and I welcome it.
– The honorable member knows that it must work that way.
– I do not know that at all.
– Between £6 and £14 5s. a week, is it not a good intermediate rate?
– The honorable mem ber does not understand it at all. This measure will effect some improvement in the sustenance allowance paid to an exserviceman who has to undergo outpatient treatment for a continuous period of four weeks or more. The allowance will be increased from £6 a week to the T.P.I. rate of £14 5s. a week. This represents a very desirable reform. It will not affect a very large number of people, but it is something worthwhile. By the time most returned soldiers are dead, of course, they will have great entitlements, the way things are going, but that will be too late to do them any good.
Now I come to the service pension. The rate for a married service pensioner whose wife receives a wife’s service pension will be raised from £5 10s. to £6 a week. The wife of an age service pensioner will now receive a pension of £3 a week if she has one or more children. An age service pensioner will also receive, under the provisions of this Bill, an allowance of 15s. a week in respect of each child after the first, and the children of an age service pensioner will receive a service pension at the rate of 15s. a week for the first child and 2s. 6d. a week each for the second and subsequent children. These are very sound improvements. Then we come to the supplementary assistance paid to certain service pensioners who pay rent or full board or lodging. The rate for a single pensioner is to be raised by 10s. to £1 a week. Eligibility is now to be extended to married pensioners at the rate of £1 a week. There is also to be a funeral grant of £20 payable to a service pensioner who is responsible for the funeral costs of a spouse, a child or another pensioner. Another improvement in repatriation benefits will be the introduction of a guardian’s allowance, which will be payable to an unmarried service pensioner who has the custody, care and control of one or more children. This will be at the rate of £2 a week.
All the additional benefits that I have mentioned, with the possible exception of the new intermediate rate of war pension represent worthwhile improvements in the scheme of repatriation benefits, and everybody welcomes them. However, we on this side of the chamber regret that there is not to be an increase in the 100 per cent. general rate of pension and in the T.P.I. rate, both of which warrant increases related to the substantial advance in living costs, rents, clothing costs and the like, all of which have risen substantially since repariation pensions were last increased.
I want now, Mr. Speaker, to discuss briefly the amendment in this Bill that was made in the Senate. I am afraid that the Minister’s indication to me yesterday was correct and that in this House the Government will not accept the amendment made in the other place. This is unfortunate. The amendment is designed to ensure that exservicemen who served in the Boer War and World War I shall be eligible for free medical and hospital treatment in repatriation hospitals. Not a great expenditure would be involved. A service pensioner is now entitled to free medical and hospital treatment, as is his wife. Most men returned from World War I are between 70 and 80 years of age. Many of them are age pensioners and therefore already are entitled to free medical and hospital treatment. In addition, a substantial number benefit under private hospital and medical benefit schemes. So we can safely say that only a small number of men, who are between the ages of 70 and 80, will be able to claim benefit under the terms of the amendment made in the Senate. I hope that wiser counsels will prevail on the Government side of the House and that the Government will be induced to endorse the Senate’s amendment. The number of men involved would not be anything like as great as some of the estimates that I have heard. Somebody has suggested that 40,000 returned soldiers would become beneficiaries under the terms of the amendment. I do not accept the proposition that anything like that number would benefit. I should like to hear the opinion of somebody who has adequately analysed the situation.
Other amendments were proposed in the Senate but were defeated. They related to the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability, the appointment of a joint committee on repatriation and other matters. Amendments in similar terms will be proposed in this chamber, and I shall have something to say about those matters at the appropriate time. May I say at this stage, Mr. Speaker, that unfortunately, in two or three divisions in the other place, a senator from Tasmania was conspicuous by his absence. Had he been present and had he voted for the amendments, there might have been beneficial results. My colleague, the honorable member for Bass, who is Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party’s Repatriation Committee, will deal more fully with this measure than I have attempted to deal with it in this speech. We on this side of the chamber happily accept the improvements in repatriation benefits provided for in this Bill. At the same time, we criticise the Government because these improvements are inadequate. We hope that wiser counsels will prevail when we have before us amendments in terms similar to those that were dealt with in the Senate, which rejected all but one.
– Mr. Speaker, I intervene in this debate not because I want to undertake to discuss the details of various aspects of this measure. These are in the hands of my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), and who will be able to say whatever needs to be said about those matters as the various stages of the
Bill are reached. But I find it desirable to say right away what the attitude of the Government is to the amendment made by the Senate in this Bill, which was introduced there by the Government. This is not a small amendment but one involving a very large expenditure, according to the information that I have received from the Repatriation Department. This amendment, though technically it may not be an amendment to a money bill, is one which, if carried into effect, would involve an additional expenditure of a very large order out of the annual Budget of the Commonwealth. This gives rise to a very important question concerning the relative powers of this House and of the Senate. I just remind honorable members - and perhaps it is worthwhile putting this once more on the record - that the Constitution deals with this matter. Section S3 makes the position quite clear. It provides -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate.
This is not a proposed law appropriating revenue or moneys, because there is no appropriation clause in the Bill.
– Therefore, it is in order.
– Therefore, notwithstanding the part of section S3 of the Constitution that I have read - the beginning of the section - this measure is in order. The second paragraph of the section states -
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
I do not profess that the amendment necessarily violates that. I would think, on the whole, that that provision is not violated. The section goes on -
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
That is the third provision in the section. This is a much more arguable one. If we look at the matter in point of substance - and the Government looks at it in point of substance - it is quite clear that if the Government were to accept an amendment which was carried against its will in the Senate, and which involved substantial expenditure, what would have happened would have been that the Senate would have amended the law and the effect of the amendment in fact, whether or not in law, would have been to increase the burden on the people. This is so because if carried on into the Estimates, it would add to the expenditure side of the Budget, by £2 million, £3 million, £4 million or, I have been told, up to £5 million. Without attempting to discuss the merits of the particular proposal, I just want to say that no government can accept a position in which the other place can, in effect, dictate what is to be spent on the annual accounts of the government.
– The right honorable gentleman is taking a technical point.
– No, I am taking now the great substantial constitutional point with which I am perfectly certain my friend would agree.
– Would the right honorable gentleman be prepared to take the initiative here?
– If my friend would not mind, I do know what I am talking about.
– The right honorable gentleman is being technical. What about taking the initiative here and deleting the provision?
– The initiative where?
– Here. Delete the provision now, send the Bill back to the Senate and suggest that we find in this House the modus vivendi whereby the initiative can be taken here.
– I assure the honorable member that we propose, at the appropriate stage, to move to delete the appropriate amendment. That is exactly what I am talking about. But I do want to demonstrate and to remind the House - this is a matter upon which I would think there was great common feeling on both sides of the House - that we are not prepared to accept a state of affairs in which the government, from whichever party it may come, having formulated its Budget and having brought forward its financial proposals, can have those proposals, so far as they relate to expenditure, increased substantially by an amendment moved in the Senate. The amount is irrelevant to this consideration. It might be £1,000. If the
Senate can validly do that, it can move an amendment involving £1 million; and if it can validly add £1 million to our expenditure it can add £50 million. In other words, it can dictate to this House what the financial policy of the Government in this House is to be.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman-
– I am sorry, but I would like to put this because I think that it is a very important constitutional problem. I am directing myself to it, not with any particular reference to the merits or demerits of a specific proposal, because there will be plenty of room for discussion about those, but because I want to make the position quite clear on behalf of the Government. I am sure that if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) were in my position he would be prepared to make it clear on behalf of any government of his.
– He can speak for himself.
– I know he can, but I can make a good guess at what he would say.
– The right honorable gentleman may be able to overcome the position by supporting an amendment in this House. There is a way around it.
– If the honorable member would not mind, I am trying to make my speech and I find that difficult at any time.
– The fact is that the right honorable gentleman is fiat against the proposal, whether it comes from the Senate or from the House of Representatives.
– The fact is that the Government is flat against being dictated to by the Senate on this matter. This is vital to the authority of government. Any government that will allow its own financial measures to be pushed around in the other House might as well give up being a government because it will have lost control of the vital element in government. I refer now to the particular amendment. My Government has, for many years now, had a steady practice - I think we were the first to adopt it– of having an exservicemen’s committee of the Cabinet which regularly meets the representatives of the Returned Servicemen’s League.
– The Government never takes any notice of them.
– Does the honorable member object to my telling him the facts?
– No, but the right honorable gentleman is not doing that.
– I am stating the facts. The manners on the other side of the chamber are deplorable - shocking.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that he is on weak ground.
– I know that I am on the strongest ground that I have ever stood on. I know that the honorable member does not want me to recite this, but I shall repeat it. We have established and have maintained for a long time an exservicemen’s committee of the Cabinet and representatives of the Returned Servicemen’s League come along every year - if necessary, more than once a year - and bring with them various proposals affecting the interests of ex-servicemen and, in particular, repatriation matters. They discuss those matters with the Cabinet committee and when the Cabinet comes to consider the Budget it has before it the advice of its own committee and also all the information that has been placed before that committee on behalf of returned servicemen’s organisations.
– And the lot is ignored.
– If I may explain this to somebody who will never sit in a cabinet, what happens is that the Cabinet works out what its overall financial policy should be. It decides whether, in the circumstances then existing, it should increase expenditure substantially and, perhaps, budget for a deficit because financially that would be a good thing for the economy, or whether in some circumstances it should budget for a surplus because the economic circumstances require that to be done. It may decide that it should adopt some other method. These are the great broad decisions that have to be made by the Cabinet.
When it comes to individual matters of expenditure, whether for social services, repatriation or whatever it may be, we have to sit down and do our very best to do as much as we can within the broad limits of the economic plan. Every time we have had a look at proposals - some of them of eminent merit and some of them most attractive - we have had to say, “ We put that on one side for the time being because this year we think we will deal with A and B”, just as this year we dealt with the problem of the intermediate rate of war pension and the problem of the Special (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated) Rate. We select certain matters and say that we can encompass those this year. That does not mean that the other matters have been thrown away; it means that the others remain for consideration on another day in the light of the circumstances then existing. This is the way that we operate on this matter. I should hate to think that any supporter of the Government, or anybody who was deeply interested in the welfare of exservicemen, as honorable members are on both sides of the House, thought that this represented some hostility to ex-servicemen. Of course, it does not. It merely represents the simple truth - this is true of all governments - that when it comes to the point we must make a selection of the things that we think that we can do and fit them into the broad pattern of the financial propositions that we are going to put before Parliament in the Budget. This is what we did this year.
Next year we will be having further conferences. We will have proposals put to us and we will examine them in exactly the same way. They will go through the sympathetic consideration of an ex-servicemen’s committee of the Cabinet and they will come to the Government. This is routine. Nothing is ever finally disposed of, but, let me repeat, each year we do what we think we can and the proposals then go into the Budget. We have done that and the Budget has been adopted and approved in this House. When that has happened it is not possible for any government, whatever anybody’s views of the merits may legitimately be, to say: “The Senate has passed an amendment to our legislation. It is quite true that it adds materially to our expenditure. It is quite true that it upsets the balance of our financial provisions. However, we must accept it because the Senate says so.” Sir, there can be only one master House on the finances of this country and that is the one that we are sitting in.
.- I listened with a great deal of interest to what the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) had to say in addressing himself to the Repatriation Bill. He made it quite plain to the House that he is not prepared to accept an amendment which was moved and accepted in another place. It has been very interesting to hear the Prime Minister’s statement of his attitude towards the other place. He made it perfectly clear that amendments moved there will not be accepted here. If that is the attitude of the Prime Minister, then surely he ought to say to this Parliament that the Senate ought to be abolished. In effect, that is what he is saying. When addressing himself to the amendment that was agreed to in another place, the Prime Minister did not indicate whether he believed there was some merit in it, or whether he disapproved of it. He merely said that it was not acceptable to the Government. In point of fact, he went on to say that any amendment agreed to in another place would not be accepted by the Government.
– He did not.
– Let me qualify that by saying that the Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that any amendment agreed to in another place and which had some relationship to the Budget proposals presented in this House would not be acceptable to the Government. Listening to the Prime Minister, one would be led to believe that there was no precedent for accepting such an amendment here. I remind the House that on 23rd November 1960 an amendment which would have had the effect of increasing an appropriation proposed in the Budget, and which had been moved and agreed to in the Upper House, was accepted in this place. It was an amendment to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill and it had the effect of extending to commercial carriers an exemption in respect of tanks for bulk-milk tankers. Its acceptance meant a decrease in an appropriation. This amendment, I repeat, was accepted by this House on 23rd November 1960. But the Prime Minister says today that the amendment to this Bill which was agreed to by the Senate is not acceptable to the Government.
The Prime Minister knows that there is merit in this proposal. It was debated, given full consideration and accepted in another place. If the Senate is to be the House of Review that the people of this country expect it to be, the amendment concerning the granting of free hospital and medical treatment to all returned servicemen of the Boer War and the First World War ought to be accepted, irrespective of what the Prime Mi’nister has said. The Opposition intends to pursue this matter when the Bill is being discussed in Committee. We shall support the amendment now incorporated in the Bill, and we hope that there are sufficient members on the Government side who will be interested enough to help us retain it. Those who are on the Government members’ ex-servicemen’s commitee should support us. Surely they have some interest in the matter. Surely they appreciate that this amendment is not merely something proposed by the Opposition. It was requested by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and was included in the 1965 pension plan that the League submitted to the Cabinet subcommittee to which the Prime Minister referred only a few moments ago. I repeat that the Opposition intends to pursue this matter. It is npt prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s statement that the amendment is not acceptable to this House, despite the fact that it was agreed to in another place. We believe that it should be accepted, and we shall press for its acceptance when the Bill is being discussed in Committee.
The first general comment I wish to make about the Bill is that, with monotonous regularity, repatriation bills are introduced by the Minister for Repatriation, or the Minister representing him in this House, at times when the proceedings of the House are being broadcast and, with equally monotonous regularity, the Opposition is obliged to debate the bills and reply to the second reading speeches at times when the proceedings of the House are not being broadcast.
I am confident that a study of the second reading debates on the various repatriation bills that have been introduced into this place will disclose that the Opposition has always been obliged to answer the Government’s case at a time when proceedings of the House are not being broadcast.
We will not oppose the legislation, but we will take the opportunity of pointing out that the Government’s attitude is most disappointing, particularly in view of the representations that have been made not only by members of the Opposition on other occasions, by way of amendments moved in this House to repatriation legislation, but also by the Returned Servicemen’s League, by those who represent the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and by numerous other organisations. Those organisations have all made representations to the Cabinet sub-committee to which the Prime Minister refers and to the Government members’ ex-servicemen’s committee. They have made certain requests to the Government. On this occasion, as on other occasions, the R.S.L. presented a pension plan, which has been made available to every member of the House. That plan was discussed by the R.S.L. with the Cabinet sub-committee, but not one of the improvements advocated has been accepted by the Government. Almost the only improvements that will flow from this legislation are those which have been found necessary because of amendments which were made recently to the Social Services Act. Apart from the new intermediate rate of pension, to which I shall direct my remarks in a few moments, the only alterations made are two minor adjustments relating to the wives and dependants of service pensioners and the rights of ex-servicemen so far as entitlement appeal tribunals are concerned.
I have read through the second reading speech delivered in this House but have been unable to find any real reason why this year the Government should reject every recommendation made by the returned servicemen’s organisations. I point out that the recommendation made by the representatives of the totally and permanently disabled soldiers association to the Cabinet sub-committee and to those on the Government side who represent ex-servicemen is identical with that made by the R.S.L. The two organisations which can be said to rep resent the great majority of ex-servicemen in this country have made identical recommendations to the Government and, in effect, the Government has said: “ We are not prepared to accept any of the recommendations that have been made by these organisations to the Cabinet subcommittee “. This is what the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) said in his second reading speech -
As honorable members know, this year the Government has had to provide for greatly enlarged expenditure in the defence area and has been obliged to meet very substantial commitments over the entire range of Commonwealth activity. Despite this, it has again reviewed the operation of the repatriation system including eligibility for, and rates of, benefit, and has been able to make some valuable changes. These will be of particular benefit to the more needy class of pensioner.
Does the Minister imply that the special rate pensioner, the ex-serviceman who is receiving a pension because of permanent incapacity as a result of his war service, cannot be regarded as being among those in the needy section of our community? After all, the special rate pension is far less than the basic wage. I shall have more to say on that point at a later stage in my address. Does the Minister believe that war widows, whose husbands were lost in the defence of this country, cannot be regarded as being among the needy section of the community? Yet this Government has made no increase in the war widow’s pension.
If the Government desires to use defence needs as a reason for refusing to increase repatriation benefits then surely those who represent the ex-servicemen in this country are entitled to point out to the Government that at the moment it is requesting the cooperation of returned servicemen’s organisations in its defence effort. Those organisations have already committed themselves to support the Government’s attitude towards its defence commitments, but the Government has made it perfectly plain to those who serve this country that, under the terms of legislation of the kind we are now debating, there will be a considerable reduction in their standard of living should they become permanently incapacitated as a result of their service. I hope 1 shall have the opportunity to prove to the Parliament that what I have said in that respect is factual.
As I have already said, with the exception of one or two adjustments that are to he made to various classes of war pensions and the amendment which will affect the right of appeal to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal and to the Commission, the Government is making no increases in benefits. In 1949, when the Prime Minister was in Opposition and was asking this country for a mandate to govern, he said -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility.
The Opposition parties contain a majority of members and an overwhelming majority of new candidates who are ex-servicemen. We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
Can that be said to be the position when one compares the pension rates of 1949 with those of 1965?
– They are better now.
– I hope to be able to prove to the honorable member for Maltee that that is not the position. This year, in a Budget of more than £2,600 million, this Government is providing for ex-servicemen increases in repatriation benefits to the extent of £860,000. In a full year the benefits outlined by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech, and since referred to by the Minister who introduced the legislation into this House will increase expenditure by £1,150,000. Today there are approximately 664,000 people receiving a benefit under the Repatriation Act. If we divide the last figure into the first it will be found that the average increase of benefit that will accrue to an ex-serviceman under this legislation will be £1 10s. a year.
I now turn to the pension for total and permanent incapacity. No explanation has been given by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), or the Minister who represents him in this House, of the Government’s rejection of the request of the Returned Servicemen’s League for an increase of the special rate of pension, that is, the pension that is paid for total and permanent incapacity to an ex-serviceman who, as a result of his war service, is no longer in a position to engage actively in the commercial or industrial life of this country. Such a pensioner is completely dependent upon the generosity of this Parliament for the income to enable him and his wife and family to live decently. This Government in 1965 rejected outright the request of the returned servicemen’s organisations for a reasonable increase in the T.P.I. rate. For what did they ask? In point of fact, they suggested that the T.P.I, pension, which now stands at £14 5s. a week, should be increased to bring it into line with the basic wage averaged over the six Australian capital cities. That basic wage today is £15 8s. The T.P.I, organisation and the Returned Servicemen’s League requested that the special rate pension should be increased by £1 3s. a week to bring it into line with the basic wage. It is not a very significant request, and it is supported by honorable members on this side of the House. While the Labour Party has never taken it upon itself to say just what rates should apply to the various classes of pensioners, because of increases in the cost of living and other factors, it has always maintained that the special rate pension should not be less than the basic wage. I believe that the Government should tell the Parliament why, on this occasion, it has rejected the request of those who represent special rate pensioners for justice in regard to the pension.
I have already said that the special rate pension is now £14 5s. a week. Let us look at the position back in 1920, for the benefit of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) who a few moments ago interjected and said that the rates today are better than those which applied under a Labour administration in 1948-49. In 1920 the special rate pension was £4 a week. It was then 9s. above the basis wage. To put it another way, it was 103 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1932, it was 18s. 4d. above the basic wage. The special rate pension had continued to increase in proportion to the basic wage. Thereafter there was a steady decline until in 1943 the special rate pension was again adjusted by a Labour Government, following a recommendation by a committee headed by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). In 1943 the special rate pension was restored to an equivalent of 101 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1965, T point out for the benefit of the honorable member for Mallee, the basic wage is £15 8s. averaged over the six Australian capital cities, and the special rate pension is £14 5s. So it is now only 92 per cent, of the basic wage. I ask the Minister or the honorable member for Mallee to explain how. in his opinion, there has been an improvement in the rate, or how this Government can argue that it has maintained the pension’s purchasing power when the figures I have given show that there has been a decline in that purchasing power when the rate of pension today is measured against the basic wage?
Let me turn next to the question of war widows. I have said, when addressing myself to this legislation before, that this class of pensioner is one of the most important classes so far as the Australian people are concerned. It is certainly a class for whom this Parliament ought to adopt a great measure ot responsibility. In the financial year 1965-66, war widow pensioners will receive no increase at all. In other words, their pension will remain at £6 a week. Then, there is the special allowance that is paid to those who are in receipt of a domestic allowance. If a war widow pensioner receives the domestic allowance which is paid to those who are over the age of 50 years or who have children under the age of 16 years, the additional rate of £3 10s. a week is paid to her. But the additional payment affects only a certain percentage of those who are accepted as war widows. We are concerned with those who receive the basic rate of war widow pension which today stands at £6 a week. In 1949, which was the last year in which a Budget was brought down by a Labour Government, the war widows’ pension was 53 per cent, of the basic wage. It is now only 38 per cent, of the basic wage. Perhaps the Minister for Social Services who is in charge of this Bill will be able to inform this House why the Government has allowed such a reduction of the war widows’ pension expressed as a percentage of the basic wage. In no other section of social services have the rates been allowed to fall by this Government to the extent that war widows’ pensions have. The only advantage that war widows enjoy is that their pension is free of a means test.
Civilian widows’ pensions are almost equivalent to the amount that is now paid to war widow pensioners, despite the sacrifices that they have made in respect of the defence of this country. What did the R.S.L. plan request in 1965? This plan, which was presented to the Government, requested that the war widows’ rate should be increased from £6 to £7 14s. a week. The plan proposed that the domestic allowance should increase from £3 10s. to £4 and that the rate to be paid to children should be increased from £1 19s. a week for the first child and £1 17s. 6d. a week for subsequent children to £2 7s. 6d. a week for each child. All of those recommendations or requests from the R.S.L. were rejected out of hand by this Government. No increase in the rates to be paid to war widows has been given this financial year. How does any honorable member opposite justify the attitude of the Government in view of the statement that was made by the Prime Minister, to which I referred only a few minutes ago, when delivering his policy on behalf of the Liberal Party in 1949.
I come now to the question of the 100 per cent, rate pension. This is a very important rate so far as ex-servicemen are concerned because it is paid to exservicemen who ace not permanently incapacitated but who have been incapacitated as the result of their war service to such an extent that is normally considered to be loss of time from work and consequent disabilities. In 1920, the 100 per cent, pension was 54 per cent, of the basic wage, in 1943, it was 52 per cent, of the basic wage. There had been a slight decline of 2 per cent, between 1920 and 1943. In 1950 the pension rate had fallen further and was only 51 per cent, of the basic wage. There was a steady decline between 1950 and 1965, that is, in the 15 years the present Government has been in office. The 100 per cent, pension has now fallen to 39 per cent, of the basic wage. Perhaps the Minister or the honorable member for Mallee can explain why the Government has allowed such an important payment as the 100 per cent, pension to decline in a period of 15 years from 51 per cent, to 39 per cent.
What did the R.S.L. request in regard to the 100 per cent, pensioner, lt presented, I think, a very reasonable proposition. It requested that the 100 per cent, rate should be increased from £6 a week to £7 14s. a week, an increase of £1 14s. a week, which is the increase which, it had suggested, ought to be applied to war widows. It suggested also that the allowance for wives of pensioners should be increased from £2 0s. 6d. a week to £3 7s. 6d. a week, with increases for children of the 100 per cent, pensioner. Once again, this Government, displaying the kind of generosity that the Prime Minister referred to only a few moments ago, completely rejected representations which had been made to it by honorable members in this House and those who represent exservicemen outside this House. 1 think I have said enough to show that, in respect of the three main rates of pension for which this Parliament must assume responsibility, the Government has neglected to provide a pension that one could say compares favourably with the standard of living that applies to most other sections of our community. The national president of the R.S.L. was most critical of the Government’s attitude in this respect in a statement which was issued to the Press after the Treasurer had delivered his Budget speech. The newspaper report of his comment on the Government’s attitude to the returned ex-servicemen of this country is as follows -
The Budget will come as an extreme disappointment to those who are aware of the needs of so many of our war and service pensioners,” said Mr. A. J. Lee, National President of the R.S.L., in commenting on the Budget provisions.
Mr. Lee made it perfectly clear that the R.S.L. was not satisfied with the attitude of the Government in this respect and that, in point of fact, they were disappointed with the result of the deliberations which they had with the Cabinet sub-committee and which were referred to earlier in this debate by the Prime Minister.
Certain amendments affecting various classes of war pensioners will be moved by the Opposition. The Opposition makes no apology for the fact that it has taken the opportunity to move similar amendments on other occasions. One amendment, which has already been referred to in this debate, and which was moved in another place, relates to the provision of free medical and hospital treatment for returned exservicemen of the Boer War and the First World War. We believe that there is merit in this proposal and we will pursue it in Committee. There are, in addition, other amendments which the Opposition will take the opportunity of moving in the Committee stages. These amendments not only have been supported by honorable members on this side of the House and by the Australian Labour Party generally, but also have been proposed on other occasions by the body which represents the great bulk of Aus tralia’s ex-servicemen. 1 refer, for example, to the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability, and medical treatment for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen and others. But time does not permit me to deal with all these matters.
Finally, let me say that the Opposition will take the opportunity of stating its point of view on a number of these matters when it has the opportunity in Committee to submit the amendments. I believe that this Government, as I think I have demonstrated quite forcefully this afternoon, has allowed rates of pensions payable to returned exservicemen to deteriorate despite the fact that, in 1949, it made a definite promise to the ex-servicemen of this country that pension rates would be maintained.
.- The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) earlier this afternoon dealt with the constitutional relationship between the Senate and this House. I have quite a lot of sympathy and understanding for those who wish to see free hospitalisation provided for veterans of the Boer Waa- or the First World War, but at the same time I deplore the manner in which another place has attempted to force the provision of such hospitalisation upon the Government at this stage.
When the States agreed, prior to 1900, to join in an indissoluble Federation they made it perfectly clear how the freedoms and liberties of the people of Australia were to be protected, and how the powers of legislation, administration and judiciary were to be delineated. In the Consitution under which we all live it is most clearly provided that it is the reponsibility of the Parliament to make the laws, it is the responsibility of the Government or the Executive to administer the laws and it is the responsibility of the judiciary to interpret the laws. The framers of the Consitution and subsequently the people of Australia agreed that the responsibility for raising the revenue for carrying out all the functions of the Commonwealth should rest with the Executive, and the Consitution makes it perfectly clear that a Bill cannot be introduced into this House, nor can an amendment be made in the Senate, to provide for taxation or an increase in the expenditure of the Commonwealth unless it is preceded by a request from the Governor-General who we all know must act upon the recommendation of the Government. Since Federation, therefore, no matter what government has been in power it has been commonly known that before a tax is imposed or expenditure is authorised a message must be presented to this House under the hand of the Governor-General and on the advice of the Government.
Surely there can be nothing more sensible than this. What would be the good of passing a Bill to provide a benefit if there was no money to pay that benefit? Yet this is exactly what the Senate has done on this occasion. It has included an amendment in the Bill which, it is believed, would be likely to cost about £5 million a year and not one penny has been or can be appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose stated without a Governor-General’s message.
The Government recently introduced a Budget in which there were substantial concessions provided both under the social services legislation and also under the Bill that is now before the House. It is idle for members of the Opposition to suggest that the benefits provided under this Bill are not benefits of extreme value to the returned servicemen involved and benefits that would be very much welcomed by them. But no self-respecting government could possibly allow another House of the Parliament, or even its own members, to take its responsibility out of its hands.
– Do you mean that the Parliament here should not take that responsibility?
– The honorable member for Wills is out of order.
– I mean exactly what I am saying. I mean that neither a Labour Government nor a Liberal Government nor any other government acting under our Constitution could possibly allow financial control to be taken out of its hands. If such control were taken out of the hands of a government that government would have no alternative but to resign.
– That would be a good idea.
– I can tell the honorable member that the people of Australia do not want this Government to resign. They have returned it year after year because they are satisfied with it and completely dissatisfied with the Opposition. Just let us look at what the Senate has done on this occasion. First, it has amended the Bill in such a way as to impose upon the Commonwealth the necessity to incur additional expenditure of an amount up to £5 millions, and it has made no provision, and could make no provision, for the raising of the necessary revenue for the purpose stated. But even if the Government at this late stage were to say: “ We will increase income tax by so much per cent, to raise this money” or “ We will increase sales tax to raise the money “ or “ We will budget for a deficit “, I. ask the House whether we are ready for these benefits. Where are the beds in the hospitals at present to accommodate the many thousands of people who would become entitled to hospitalisation under this Bill? As we know, at present 80 per cent, of the beds in Repatriation hospitals are full all the time. There are just not enough beds at present to accommodate the people who would receive this additional benefit under the Senate’s amendment.
If we do make all these extra people entitled to the additional benefit, what are we going to do to persons with war-caused disabilities who are at present entitled to free medical treatment in a Repatriation hospital? Are we going to .say to those very deserving people: “ We are sorry, you cannot go to a Repatriation hospital because all the beds in those hospitals are taken up by people whose disabilities have not been due to war service “? If we did this, those most in need of beds could be kept out by people whose needs were relatively not so great.
I hope that one day this reform will be made, but a tremendous amount of preparation will be necessary before that can be done. First we must make a survey of the number of beds that are available. Secondly, we will have to work out some system of priorities. I think we will have to say that as beds become available the first priority will be given to those who are suffering from war-caused disabilities. We are not going to shut them out and let others in. The second priority I would suggest would be for service pensioners - those whose needs are great and who qualify for a service pension because their income does not exceed £9 10s. a week if single or £18 a week if married. The service pensioners would need to have second priority. Then if beds were available we could give consideration to the people who are the subject of this amendment.
I know that there are many people among those covered by the amendment who have needs and who would be greatly helped by entitlement to free medical attention in repatriation hospitals, but if the way proposed by the Senate were followed a man with £10,000 a year or with £100,000 worth of property could be given a bed free in a repatriation hospital while a man who was suffering from a war caused disability could be kept out, or a service pensioner, who is subject to the very strict means test that applies to that pension, could be kept out. In other words, what the Labour Party is advocating, and what the Senate has decided, is that under present conditions wealthy people and people who are not in need and who do not have war caused disabilities are to be given an entitlement to beds even if that keeps out people who are suffering from war caused disabilities or who are in need. I believe there is a class of people who are just not entitled to the service pension because their income or capital is too much, and yet do not have very much money, who would be greatly aided by entitlement to hospitalisation in a repatriation hospital.
I hope that the Government will continue its investigation into this matter and will try to work out some formula which will enable need to be relieved but will not spend the taxpayers’ money on people who do not need it. I should like to point out again that all our social service and repatriation benefits are paid from taxes levied on the people. We levy taxes on people on the basic wage. We levy quite substantia] taxes on people whose incomes are £20, £22 and £24 a week. In fact, the main volume of taxes comes from the middle group of taxpayers which contains most people. We use this taxation revenue to pay our social service and repatriation benefits. Does the Opposition suggest that the man on the basic wage should be taxed more so as to give free hospitalisation to a person who is suffering from a disability which is not war caused and who has an income of £10.000 a year or capital of £100.000? That is the proposition that Labour is putting up in this amendment. Although I will be told that that is an extreme case, it points up how ill considered and ill thought out the present proposal is.
I believe that all of the men from the Boer War and the First World War are now entitled by age to the age pension, and most of them to the service pension. It is now so long since the First World War that all of the ex-servicemen from that war have qualified for the age pension or some other pension, and therefore they are all entitled to free medical attention and medicine unless disentitled by the social service means test. Therefore, the people that the Opposition is talking about are not the people who are considered, according to our social service laws, to be in need, but the people who have capital or income beyond the limit as measured by the present means test. Many times in this chamber over many years I have pointed out the inequities of the means test and I have advocated national insurance on a contributory basis. If we had such a scheme problems such as this problem would not arise, because people would be entitled to these benefits as of right, because they had contributed to the scheme and not because they were in need. However, until we have a scheme of national insurance on a contributory basis we have to measure needs; and the measure of needs has always been the means test. At present we provide service pensions and the age pension based upon needs. All exservicemen from the Boer War and the First World War are entitled to one of those pensions provided their needs fit in with the present means test.
What the Government should look at is the group of people who have needs but whose needs are not considered great enough to justify the payment of an age or service pension. I believe that there should be a thorough consideration of the whole problem, taking into account the beds that are available in the States in the various repatriation hospitals, the staff - both medical and nursing - that is available, the availability of capital for the building of new hospitals, where necessary, and an assessment of the number of additional people for whom we need to provide free hospitalisation. Then we should have some means of selecting from among the men from the Boer War, First World War and Second
World War those who need some assistance in hospitalisation. If we do that I believe we will really solve this problem. Although I support, in general principle, free hospitalisation for men of the First World War 1 say it has to be on a fair, just and sensible basis. This problem simply cannot be solved by accepting the Senate’s amendment, which will result simply in spending money without providing any means of obtaining the money to meet the expenditure. Therefore, I will not support the amendment proposed by the Senate or, in other words, I will support the proposal to delete the amendment. I believe that under present conditions, with the present state of repatriation hospitalisation and the staff and beds available, by carrying the amendment we would be virtually turning out of hospital people who are suffering from war caused disabilities and service pensioners with approved needs. 1 wish now to deal with some of the very worth-while benefits that are contained in the Bill. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) say that there was nothing worth-while in the Bill. First, the provision of an intermediate rate pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week is a most valuable reform. This rate is between the 100 per cent, rate and the totally and permanently incapacitated rate. A great many people with war caused disabilities are not totally incapacitated but their health is so impaired as a result of war service that they are able to do only part time or intermittent work. In the past they received no pension. The Labour Party gave nothing to these people when it was in power. It is now proposed that these people shall receive a pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week and this, according to the honorable member for Bass, is nothing. I am sure that the recipients of this benefit, who will still be able to carry on part time or intermittent work without any means test being applied, will consider it a most valuable benefit. I congratulate the Government for introducing this valuable reform. I commend the Government for providing in the Budget the finance for this benefit.
The Bill provides that the sustenance allowance payable in respect of out-patient treatment for a continuous period of four weeks or longer shall be increased from £6 a week to £14 5s. a week. That is a sub- stantial increase and I am surprised that the honorable member for Bass thinks it is not worthwhile. The Bill provides also for the service pension to be increased from £5 10s. a week to £6 a week in the case of a married service pensioner whose wife is also in receipt of a service pension. This is a very helpful addition to repatriation benefits. Another very helpful addition is the provision for the payment of a wife’s allowance of £3 a week to a service pensioner who has dependent or student children and whose wife is not entitled to a pension. It is true that not a large number of people will be covered by this provision but these circumstances have constituted an anomaly in the past and the provision will be very helpful to those people who ate so much in need.
Supplementary assistance has been payable hitherto at the rate of 10s. a week to single service pensioners who pay rent and who are deemed to have no income other than the pension. The rate is now to be increased to £1 a week. In addition, a married service pensioner will be able to receive supplementary assistance if his wife is in receipt of- a wife’s service pension. The maximum rate of benefit payable in these circumstances is governed by the means of the pensioners. But, in many cases, pensioners who formerly received no supplementary assistance now will receive supplementary assistance of £1 a week.
The Bill provides for the payment of a funeral grant in cases where a service pensioner is responsible for the funeral expenses of a spouse, dependent child or another pensioner. This provision fills a great need and once again we see that the people most in need are being helped. As a result of this Bill, a guardian’s allowance of £2 a week will be paid to a service pensioner who has unfortunately lost his wife and who has to employ somebody to care for his dependent children. Formerly there was no allowance in respect of this expense. This allowance will fill another gap i;i our repatriation benefits and is a valuable addition to those benefits.
In my opinion, the benefits provided in this legislation are extremely valuable. Nobody knows more than returned men the need for defence. Ex-servicemen are fully aware of the extremely difficult international situation. They have been loud in their advocacy of increased expenditure on defence. I am sure that all returned men give the defence of this country first priority. They realise that it is difficult for the Government to increase substantially social service and repatriation benefits at a time when additional millions of pounds must be spent on the security of this country. So, in all the circumstances, it is pleasing to note that, at a time when the general public did not expect any benefits of this kind, the Government was able to help service pensioners and those suffering from disabilities which were grave but not sufficiently grave to warrant the payment of a pension at the totally and permanently incapacitated rate. On the whole, I think the Government is to be heartily congratulated for what it has done for ex-servicemen. I am sure that when financial circumstances warrant it, consideration will be given to the hospitalisation of those who are not entitled to a service pension. As I said earlier, a lot of preparatory work will have to be done and an assurance will have to be given that those suffering from war caused disabilities and those entitled as service pensioners to beds in a repatriation hospital are not prejudiced because beds are given to people with less entitlement. I commend the Bill and, except for the amendment passed by the Senate, I will support it.
.- The provisions of this Bill will be a great disappointment to ex-servicemen in this country. I am sure that ex-servicemen in general will not agree with the views expressed by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson). He suggested that because they are so interested in expenditure on defence, ex-servicemen are not very interested in obtaining improved repatriation benefits. I am sure that my experience this year and in other years with the Returned Servicemen’s League is similar to the experience of many honorable members. This year the League went to great trouble to give an exposition of its 1965 pension plan. I recall that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) and some Government supporters met representatives of the League from the Illawarra area of Sydney and were given details of the League’s pension plan for this year. The honorable member for Sturt must know that the R.S.L. sent its top brass to confer with the Govern ment members’ repatriation committee. Surely he is aware of that. Why does he try to mislead the community by suggesting that ex-servicemen have no interest in matters of this kind and are prepared to spend the nation’s financial resources on defence? I believe that decent repatriation benefits have some association with defence. If more attention had been paid to repatriation benefits, there would not have been any need for the Government, in time of peace, to introduce conscription for overseas service. I mention that matter in passing. We know, of course, that many young mcn in the Services now will not receive all the repatriation benefits that are available to those who served in the last war. However, it is fair to contend that if some of these benefits had been offered, they would have been a considerable inducement to recruiting.
When we look at the Budget speech delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), we can see the measure of the Government’s interest in repatriation. He was able deftly to dismiss the whole business in a mere 16 lines of generalities. He concluded by saying that the cost of the additional benefits for all the ex-servicemen in Australia would amount to no more than £860,000 for this financial year. If the honorable member for Sturt wants to contend that this is a substantial sum, he will have difficulty in justifying his contention. In a full year, no more than £1.15 million will be spent on the additional repatriation benefits.
There is very little to the Bill. A number of fringe benefits of the kind that characterised the Social Services Bill, which we debated yesterday, have been granted. I think it is worth pointing out that this frugal attitude to repatriation is apparent at a time when the Treasurer announced that the Budget surplus would be £20 million. Yet all the outstanding propositions put forward by the R.S.L. have been ignored. It is true, as the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said, not one of the six points of the League’s pension plan has been accepted. One wonders just what kind of conference the Government has with the hierarchy of the R.S.L. I am becoming a little concerned at the absence of protests by the League about the indifference of the Government to repatriation. We find plenty of protests at the rank and file level of the R.S.L., especially in the sub-branches. We know that they are not very happy and we know that the regional councils are not happy. But I wonder what happens when the top brass of this great organisation comes to Canberra to see the Government. I understand that it is many years since the Federal Executive of the R.S.L. saw the Opposition’s Repatriation Committee; it has been completely ignored.
Now in September of 1965 we are once again debating repatriation when the proceedings of the House of Representatives are not being broadcast. This is the day when the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast. It is peculiar that, year after year, this treatment is meted out to the Opposition when it attempts to put the details of the R.S.L. pension plan and other injustices to which ex-servicemen are subjected before the public. I invite honorable members and I invite the League to look at the treatment we received last year. The debate on repatriation in the House of Representatives was held on Wednesday, 2nd September 1964, when the proceedings were not broadcast. The motion for the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability was gagged as we approached midnight. Then we put a proposition about section 47 of the Act. I moved an amendment that sought to clarify the meaning of the section. The proposition was identical to that put forward by t!>e R.S.L. It had taken the trouble to engage an eminent lawyer, a Q.C., who had prepared a definition that would clear away all the ambiguities.
– Order! I think I should draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the honorable member for Bass said that certain amendments would be moved in Committee. They are not before the Chair and section 47 is not before the Chair. I think all honorable members have the detailed list that is referred to in the Bill. I think it would suit the convenience of the House if we confined our remarks to the subject matters that are before the Chair. The other matters are more suited to a debate at the Committee stage.
– Thank you, Sir. I do not want to say any more about section 47. The principal point 1 am trying to make is that last year repatriation was debated when we were off the air, and I have no doubt that this will happen again this year. The debate on section 47 was gagged at 12.4 a.m. - the early hours of the morning. Then the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson) proceeded with another matter. He was concerned with the subject which has just been referred to by the honorable member for Sturt and that is the proposition that ex-servicemen from the 1914-18 War be given medical treatment.
– That matter is before the Chair. It is in the amendment that was adopted by the Senate, so the honorable member is quite in order.
– Thank you, Sir. I will be very pleased to elaborate on it. The only point I want to make now is that, when the amendment was moved by the honorable member for Batman last year, we had the same experience as we had when we move an amendment relating to section 47. There was no second speaker, although one attempted to rise. The debate was gagged at 1.9 a.m. Then we attempted to move an amendment to provide medical benefits for the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. This is part of the legislation we now have before us and we are able to discuss it. The honorable member for Barton moved this amendment at 1.21 a.m. The Minister delivered a speech that occupied 12 lines in “ Hansard “, and once again the debate was gagged. Every amendment that the Opposition attempted to move on behalf of the R.S.L. was gagged in the early hours of the morning. Then we came to the third reading stage, and the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) was gagged. This is just not good enough. The public is denied the opportunity to hear repatriation debates in this House. I invite the R.S.L. especially to have a very close look at this and to demonstrate its genuine concern and displeasure at the Government’s attitude.
I want to refer to the provision of medical treatment for veterans of the 1914-18 War and the Boer War. These veterans are now getting on in years. I suppose the youngest would be about 69 years of age. It is quite incredible to see the manner in which the Minister has attempted to escalate the estimated cost of granting this provision. On 1st May 1962, the Minister, in answer to a question on notice that I had asked, said that the cost of providing medical treatment to all returned servicemen of World War I would be £1.5 million. A little later, on 14th April 1964, again in answer to a question on notice that 1 had asked, he said the cost would be between £2.2 million and £3 million. Then on 20th May 1965, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, asked a question on the same lines and he was told that the cost of providing medical treatment for veterans of the 1914-18 War was £5 million. In the period from 1st May 1962 to 20th May 1965, the estimated cost rose from £1.5 million to £5 million. Surely we have a right to ask what is going on. I believe that the Government is simply reacting to the increasing pressure for free medical treatment for veterans of the 1914-18 war.
The Government must be aware that such a phenomenal increase in cost as has been mentioned would only be indicative of either the general inflation that is occurring throughout the country or rising medical costs. I do not suppose that even the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) would contend that medical charges are rising so much as that. I am not sure how many veterans of the 1914-18 war there were in May 1962 compared with May 1965, but I should not be at all surprised if in the three years between the number diminished. We on this side of the House are disturbed at what appears to be a deliberate attempt to delude and deceive the Parliament about the facts of the situation. What would be the cost of extending free medical. and hospital treatment to veterans of the Boer War and the 1914-18 war? Would it in fact be £5 million as the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) suggested a short time ago, or would it be only about £1.5 million, as the Treasurer indicated to me in 1962?
The honorable member for Sturt made heavy weather of his arguments on this matter. It is true that an amendment of the kind that was made in the Senate has been proposed by the Opposition year after year. It is true also that many ex-servicemen who returned from the 1914-18 war are covered by the social services legislation and are in receipt of age and invalid pen- mons. From 1st January of next year, those in that position will be entitled to medical benefits, because the means test that was imposed in 1955 is to be removed. It is true also that those who are described as age service pensioners - those who qualify for the service pension on account of age and who get it at ah age five years younger than that at which others in the community obtain the age pension - receive free medical treatment. But there are 50,000 1914- 1 8 war veterans who are not at present pensionable. These are the people whom the amendment made in the Senate is designed to benefit. We are delighted that in the other place this amendment received so much support as to make it necessary now for the proposition to be brought before this House.
I was absolutely amazed at the action of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), who was prepared to come into this chamber for the express purpose of deterring Government supporters who may have been tempted to support the Opposition and back this proposition. The right honorable gentleman did not show any great interest i; repatriation matters when he addressed the House. He simply came in here to make the point that there was some constitutional ground for rejecting the proposition. For him, the technicality was far more important than the humanitarian considerations involved. The right honorable gentleman stated that the Government and honorable members in this place should not support the amendment that was agreed to in another place. It is absurd for the honorable member for Sturt to describe tha proposition contained in the amendment as being unacceptable because people on low incomes will be paying, in taxation, for free medical and hospital treatment for exservicemen of the 1914-18 war who may receive other income. After all, as I understand the repatriation legislation, there is no means test on the total and permanent incapacity rate pension. The honorable member may like to correct me by way of interjection if I am wrong. An exserviceman may receive the T.P.I, pension regardless of his assets or of any income that he may have. I do not know whether the honorable member for Sturt contends that there should be a means test on the T.P.I, pension. Perhaps he contends also that there should be a means test on the general rate war disability pension. His principal argument against giving free medical and hospital treatment to veterans of the 1914-18 war is that those in the community who may be on low incomes would be required to pay for benefits given to people on higher incomes, because those benefits would have to be paid for out of taxation.
– T.P.I, pensioners already receive those benefits.
– Of course they do, and they get them without any means test. If the honorable member is prepared to accept that, obviously he should be prepared to accept the proposition that veterans of the 1914-18 war should receive free medical and hospital treatment without a means test. I suppose he could oppose child endowment and other benefits that are not subject to a means test. If he were, to be consistent and apply this premise that he has invoked in what is obviously an artificial argument, he would rule out half the social service and repatriation benefits that prevail in Australia today. It is appalling to hear anyone talking in such an old fashioned and discredited way in 1965.
I should like now to discuss some of the benefits and increased rates for which this measure provides, Mr. Speaker. One is the guardian’s allowance that is to be introduced. This will be paid at the rate of £2 a week to a service pensioner who is unmarried and who has the custody, care and control of one or more children under the age of 16 or up to the age of 21 if a child is receiving full-time education. In fairness, I say that the Opposition welcomes this benefit. We contend that it is long overdue. The only point that we make is that we regret the Government’s tendency to overstate the importance of this allowance. Not many service pensioners have children under the age of 16. Furthermore, there are only 49,236 service pensioners in Australia. The latest annual report of the Repatriation Commission shows that they have only 15,688 dependants, including wives. So, as you can imagine, Sir, this allowance will not be paid in respect of many children.
I turn now to supplementary assistance, which is commonly known as the rent allowance. This is now to be increased to a maximum of £1 a week, depending on one’s ability to qualify under the means test that is imposed. Supplementary assistance will now be paid to a married service pensioner if his wife receives a wife’s service pension. But the wives of many service pensioners do not receive a wife’s service pension. Yet these are the people who need most of all the benefit of this supplementary assistance. How does a wife qualify for a wife’s service pension? She may get it only if her pensioner husband is unemployable. There are many service pensioners aged 60 or more whose wives are not old enough to get the age pension, and many of these wives are unable to go to work. So the family has to live on an income of £6 a week. It seems to me that supplementary assistance could well be extended to a family that is compelled to live on an income of only £6 a week because the wife is unable to work. As I pointed out before, there are 49,236 service pensioners in Australia, and they have 15,688 dependants, including wives and children. So this benefit will not help a large number of people.
I suggest that the wife’s service pension should probably be payable five years earlier than it is, just as an ex-serviceman may get a service pension at an age five years younger than that at which others in the community may get the age pension. It is reasonable to assume that a similar age relationship should be maintained, since the wife of a service pensioner who qualifies for his pension at 60 would probably be aged between 55 and 60. The present situation is often a deterrent to an exserviceman’s applying for a service pension when he reaches 60, since his wife will not be able to obtain a pension until she is 60. There is a distinct differentiation between the provisions in the Repatriation Act and those in the Social Services Act. Under the Social Services Act, a man may qualify for an age pension at 65 and his wife at 60. I say simply that if a man may obtain the service pension at 60, his wife should be able to obtain the wife’s service pension at 55. Is it reasonable to expect the wife of an ex-serviceman, when he ceases employment, to go out to work for the first time perhaps for 30 years? I put it to the Minister that the wives of many service pensioners are deprived of a wife’s service pension by the existing provisions of the Repatriation Act and that it is high time the matter was looked at.
This Bill, also for the first time, introduces a new category of war pension known as the intermediate rate of war pension, which is £10 2s. 6d. per week. It is to cater for those who can work only part time. I think that this is a very dangerous provision. I do not suggest that the Opposition does not welcome it, but I think there is a need for it to bc defined.
– We ought to know more about it.
– I think we should know a great deal more about it. I should be pleased to have the Minister’s assistance on this provision which is to provide for those who can work only part time. The wording is ambiguous. How much time must be worked by those people before they can receive the intermediate rate of war pension? There are 22,694 ex-servicemen receiving the 100 per cent, rate of pension for war caused disabilities. This is known as the general rate pension. In addition, those ex-servicemen have a large number of dependants. There are also nearly 200,000 ex-servicemen who receive some part of the general rate pension. One wonders how the 100 per cent, general rate pensioners differ from invalid pensioners. I have known of ex-servicemen who have been receiving the 100 per cent, general rate pension and have gone to the Commonwealth Employment Office only to be told that they cannot qualify for the unemployment benefit or for a sickness benefit as they are completely unemployable. They are told that they must be employable before they can receive either the sickness or the unemployment benefit. It has been suggested to them that they should go elsewhere and get the invalid pension. On a point of principle the exserviceman says: “The complaint from which I am suffering is war caused and is pensionable. 1 am receiving the 100 per cent, rate of pension. Why should I be sent to get an invalid pension which is payable only at the rate of an 85 per cent, incapacity when, obviously, I should receive a higher rate of pension from the Repatriation Department?”
I believe that it is fair to propose that no person receiving the 100 per cent, general rate should have an income lower than the Special (Total and Permanent Incapacity) Rate when he is suffering a loss of employ ment. The Government would do well to introduce a provision which would make up the difference. It just is not good enough to pay an intermediate rate of £10 2s. 6d. in these circumstances. I believe that if an exserviceman is losing time from work because of a war caused disability it is not enough to pay him £10 2s. 6d. a week. He should receive as much as the T.P.I, pensioner receives. If he receives occasional employment and can work for two or t:ret days a week, what would be wrong with providing legislation whereby the Government would make up the difference between what he receives and the T.P.I, rate at any given time? I wonder whether the Minister would be reasonable enough to answer that proposition when he takes the opportunity to reply.
– If the ex-serviceman is a World War I man he has reached retiring age.
– Order! The honorable member for Hughes has the floor.
– That is very good of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate your courtesy. It is nice to see that you are enjoying my contribution to the debate. I am sorry that I missed the interjection from the honorable member for Lalor.
– I was pointing out that the men from World War I are over 70 and are well over the retiring age.
– That is so, but I think the honorable member has misunderstood the point that I am making. The intermediate rate pension is payable not only to diggers from the First World War but also to the young diggers. If I may clarify the position, the intermediate rate pension, which is £10 2s. 6d. a week, is payable to those who can work only part time. I think the Minister should clarify what is meant by “ part time “. While the intermediate rate stands at £10 2s. 6d. a week the Government should be prepared to make up the difference between what is paid to the ex-serviceman on that rate and what is paid to the man receiving the T.P.I, rate at any given time.
Time is racing away and I will not be able to cover all the ground that 1 had proposed to cover. I refer now to the sustenance allowance which is payable under these provisions at the T.P.I, rate. This allowance is extended to those who, for a month or more, cannot follow their usual occupation because of the requirements of outpatient treatment. The first question that I ask about this provision is: Why is it limited to those who are unable to work for at least one month? If an ex-serviceman, by reason of his war caused disability, is unable to continue his employment and is required to attend for outpatient treatment for two weeks, one week or three weeks, why should he be out of pocket when it is the outpatient treatment by the Repatriation Department that is the cause of his loss of regular employment? If one looks at the report of the Repatriation Commission one will observe that there has been an increase in outpatient attendance at what are referred to as outpatient clinics. The report discloses that the attendances at outpatient clinics have increased by 23.9 per cent, over the last eight years. I think it is a matter of concern that the report of the Repatriation Commission admits that there is now a movement to outpatient treatment which has arisen because the Government is unable to provide the facilities for inpatient treatment. But this is the situation, and it is only one aspect.
New techniques are now used. It is not necessary now to put people into hospital for many of the complaints that required hospital treatment in bygone years. We are able to keep them on their feet, which is much better for them if it is possible to do so. But the Government comes out of this on the cheap. If the Government increases the number of outpatients and gives them only a proportion of the T.P.I, rate, it obviously comes out on the cheap. There should be a preparedness to pay a more reasonable rate to ex-servicemen receiving outpatient treatment and it should not be limited to those who are outpatients for a period of four weeks or more. The report of the Repatriation Commission says that the increase in outpatients is due to policy, and it then states that its purpose is to reduce the load on inpatient services which are already heavily taxed. The report states that major hospitals are more than 20 years old and that these buildings suffer from limitations in design, building materials and construction by comparison with modern hospital standards and are expensive to maintain. As a result of these two important considerations, we are finding that the number of outpatients is increasing tremendously and that the Government has to pay this new sustenance allowance. I contend that the Government should be prepared to pay the allowance to those who require outpatient treatment for a period shorter than four weeks.
I condemn the Government for its failure to increase the T.P.I, rate, which was as high as 103 per cent, of the basic wage in 1940 but which is 23s. less than the basic wage in 1965. It is incredible that these people who have served and who have been denied the right to work, are not receiving more consideration from the Government. I take this opportunity to register my protest. During the Committee stage of the debate I, with my colleagues, will move in a more specific way to gain justice for those who have received such poor treatment from the Government.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want, very briefly, to pass a few remarks on the legislation before us, but before doing so and while it is fresh in my memory I will make some comment to rebut some of the things that have been said. The honorable member’ for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has just made one or two remarks that I think are worthy of comment. He asked why this Bill is debated at a time when the proceedings are not being broadcast. He said that this is a shocking thing. Yesterday, when the proceedings were being broadcast, we were debating the Social Services Bill. Had we dealt with the Repatriation Bill yesterday and the Social Services Bill today, the honorable member would have suggested that the debate on the Social Services Bill should have been broadcast. According to what he says, this House should be on the air all the time. Then, of course, he would be perfectly happy. But the honorable member forgets that there is an organisation known as “ Hansard “ which records what happens. Just by chance, when looking for something else to which I wish to refer concerning the honorable member for Bass, 1 came across a speech on repatriation by one honorable member who referred to “ The people who are listening in to this debate “. That was on 20th October 1948. Mr. Archie Cameron interjected to say: “ The debate is not being broadcast “. The honorable member for Hughes has gone out of the House now. He cannot take this; it is a complete denial of what he has said. I repeat that during this repatriation debate in 1948, which was the second last year of the Labour Government’s term of office, Mr. Archie Cameron interjected to say: “The debate is not being broadcast “. The fairness of the system of broadcasting the proceedings of this House cannot be doubted. It is hard to understand the assertion made by the honorable member for Hughes, because what he says is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. The division of broadcasting time as between the Senate and the House of Representatives is fair in every possible way.
The honorable member for Hughes went on to criticise the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), who came into the House for the specific purpose of explaining the constitutional position with regard to the amendment made by the Senate. The honorable member said: “ The Prime Minister does not seem to take a lot of interest in repatriation matters generally. He only came in to speak about certain procedures in this House.” That last statement is perfectly true, but why did not the honorable member go on to relate that the Prime Minister explained why he adopted that course? Let me remind the honorable member that the Prime Minister said: “ I am leaving the Bill to be dealt with by my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, who is in much closer touch with what is taking place”. Surely that is a fair proposition. The Prime Minister came in for one specific purpose, and he said what it was.
Let me deal now with one or two comments made by the Prime Minister. First, he said that no self-respecting government - this would apply equally to a Labour Government as to this Government - would allow an Opposition to take the business of the Parliament out of its hands. He also said that he believed that his opposite number, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), would agree with that. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition came in and sat down shortly after the Prime Minis ter made that statement. He had probably heard it on the system which carries speeches to his room. But he did not say anything then, and he does not say anything now. It is problematic whether the Labour Party will ever be in office again. Even k it does become the government, it is doubtful whether most of the honorable members opposite will ever be in the Cabinet. Therefore, the people whom we want to hear speaking on this subject are the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It has been suggested that the Prime Minister has not taken a great deal of interest in this Bill, but he did explain one thing about the amendment, and we have not heard anything at all on that from either the Leader of the Opposition or his deputy. That is very easy to understand. Perhaps T, too, am guilty of doing what I am about to suggest with relation to honorable members opposite. Members sitting on the back benches can get up and suggest all sorts of things, knowing that they will never have to carry them into effect. That is the fundamental reason why the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition refrain from taking part in these debates. It is only logical that they should keep out of them. The back benchers can talk as much as they like, but the leaders have to implement policies when their parties become the government.
After having stated his case, the Prime Minister said that fundamentally the position with regard to this amendment is the same as that relating to a money bill, in that if the amendment that has been agreed to by the Senate were accepted here money would eventually have to be found to meet the additional cost involved. Everybody knows that to be the position. The members of the Labour Party say: “ But there are only a few of these men involved, and this concession would not cost very much “. Let me remind them that the Prime Minister spoke of millions of pounds - and he did not do that without first having got reliable information from the Repatriation Department. Talk is cheap, but it takes money to pay for suggested improvements.
The fact of the matter is that this Government has carried out a progressive repatriation programme. It has improved repatriation benefits year after year. To hear honorable members opposite speaking, one would be led to believe that the benefits provided by this Bill are the only repatriation benefits available. However, it must be remembered that this Government has been in office for almost 16 years and that each year during that time it has increased repatriation benefits, with the result that they have now reached a fairly high standard.
I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Bass say that he wants repatriation benefits to be improved to the degree that repatriation pensioners will enjoy the same standard of living as is enjoyed by most other sections of our community.
– Why not?
– When it suits the honorable member for Bass and other honorable members opposite, they argue that this country is verging on bankruptcy and that poverty stalks the land. On other occasions, when it suits their purpose, they talk about the great prosperity enjoyed by the country. That has been the attitude of honorable members opposite right down the years. The honorable member for Bass was on very thin ice when he spokeabout the pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen not being equal to the basic wage. He also said this last year. He brought in a copy of “ Hansard “’. I have also brought in a copy of “ Hansard “ to show him the position in this respect. When I was a very new member of this House, the Minister for Repatriation at the time was a Mr. Barnard.
– And a good one, too.
– I do not deny that. I do not hit at personalities; I hit at policies. He was a good man, and probably would have been a lot better man if he had had the opportunity to put into operation the policies he wanted to introduce. But he was under the control of Cabinet and could not do those things. The honorable member for Bass referred to what I said on a previous occasion. I made the same mistake then as he has made today, but I made a genuine mistake. I was new here and at that time I thought the basic wage was much better than the T.P.I. pension. The then Minister for Repatriation, Mr. Barnard, very quickly put me on the right track, and I accepted his correction.
– It was a kindly gesture.
– Of course it was. I have accepted his correction ever since. The honorable member for Bass does not seem to understand these things. Although the position has been explained to him year after year, he continues with this misrepresentation which surely does not impress anyone. Let me state what the actual position is. The rate of the T.P.I. pension today is £145s. a week and the basic wage is £15 8s. a week. At the very least, the basic wage is designed to provide for a man, his wife and one child. If a T.P.I. pensioner had a wife and one child, he would receive £14 5s. a week, plus £20s. 6d. a week for his wife and 13s. 9d. a week for the child. His total income would be £16 1 9s. 3d. a week - well above the basic wage. Mr. Barnard, the then Minister, explained to me that the basic wage was designed to cover a man, a wife and one child. I can read from “ Hansard “ what he said at that time, if necessary. He corrected me as a new member.
– The honorable member had better read it.
– I have a lot of other things to read, but I can read that if necessary. Mr. Barnard- said that I was completely wrong in my argument, as of course I was.
It has been suggested that the Returned Servicemen’s League has been ignored by this Government, that the Government does not take any notice of the pension plan put forward by that organisation. Let me point out what happened in 1948 when a Labour Government was in office. On that date, 25th October 1949, I said-
The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has summarised its recommendations in 36 points, consideration of which by the Government is being sought.
We, as an Opposition, were asking the Government to consider them. I asked for leave to incorporate the 36 points in “ Hansard “. The “ Hansard “ reports reads -
– Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
– Then I shall have to read the document. It is as follows: -
I endeavoured to read the 36 points. I got down to point 21 and the Deputy Speaker said: “ Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.”
– Did they not grant the honorable member an extension?
– The honorable ment! .r for Bass asks whether the Labour Party granted me an extension. The reply to that question is: “ No “. The Labour Party did not want the 36 points to be put into “ Hansard “.
We have heard in this debate talk about the Returned Servicemen’s League. Suspicion has been cast upon the League by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). He has suggested that there is some sort of doubtful co-operation between the Government and the executive of the R.S.L. That statement was made last year also. It is made year after year. Of course there is not. The R.S.L. is a great organisation. To say that it has agreed not to criticise the Government is highly ridiculous. Such things are being said, and I think that the Opposition wants to take a check on itself. Those 36 points were put up at that time but Labour did not implement any of them. If I were to read them through, as has been suggested by the (honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) who sits near me, I could show that nearly all of those points have been implemented by this Government. This was not done in one year, but over the years. As I go round the electorate of Mallee and other places, and as I travel in trains, I find that ex-servicemen are much happier now than they were in 1949. One of the great things that Sir Walter Cooper did when he was Minister for Repatriation was to allow the service pension to be paid to T.P.I, and other pensioners and build up their incomes. Immediately after the legislation to do that was passed I visited the town of Sea Lake in the electorate of Mallee. Two exservicemen came up to me and said, “ Congratulate Sir Walter on the great effort he has made to give us a little more income.” The raising of the income ceiling was one of the greatest things that has happened to returned soldiers. The record of the Government on repatriation is especially good.
Questions have been asked about the intermediate rate of £10 2s. 6d. The Minister has been asked to explain it. He did explain it in his second reading speech. He said - lt will cater for the special needs of war pensioners who, although not so disabled as to qualify for the special rate of pension payable to the totally and permanently incapacitated, are seriously disabled because of war caused incapacity to the extent that they are able to work only part time or intermittently and thus cannot earn a li ing wage.
Those are the men who will get this pension. The T.P.I, pension is in a different category. The men who will receive the intermediate rate can do some work but they cannot work in such a way as to earn a living wage. This will be one of the best things that has happened to ex-servicemen for many years. How often have honorable members on either side of the House spoken to a man who is in receipt of a 100 per cent, pension. He is not really incapacitated sufficiently to be classified as permanently and totally incapacitated. He cannot get the £14 5s. a week, but he will come into the category described by the Minister, which I have just read. A man receiving £10 2s. 6d. a week will be £4 2s. 6d. better off than he was before, and if his condition deteriorates the Repatriation Department will always reconsider his case for a. T.P.I, pension.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the provision to pay the T.P.I, rate to out-patients receiving treatment for a continuous period of four weeks or more. Honorable members opposite have asked: Why make it four weeks or more? Why not make it one or two weeks? The increase is a magnificent one. It is an increase from £6 a week to £14 5s. a week.
– That is not much help to the man who is a fortnight out of work.
– If a man is incapacitated for four weeks or more he requires this help more than a man who is incapacitated for two weeks. Although we would like to see it paid in the case of a person receiving treatment for one, two, three or four weeks, when the whole position is summed up it is a satisfactory increase. When people who come out of hospital have to attend as out-patients, when they are convalescing, they need this extra money.
The Bill does not provide for a tremendous number of advances in rates, but those increases that are to be made are the ones that are definitely required. They go a long way towards solving the problems of exservicemen. I think I should speak briefly on the amendment, as Mr. Speaker has said it is in order to do so. When the amendment is put to the vote I will oppose it.
– I will oppose it first, as I said earlier, on the ground that no government can allow the Opposition to take the business of the House out of its hands. Secondly, on an amendment such as this it would be possible for the Government to be defeated, and I remember the state of ex-servicemen when Labour was in office. I do not want them to have to face those conditions again. The honorable member for Watson is trying to interject. It is no use his interjecting. I can see only three honorable members who were here at the time Labour was in office so it is not much good to interject. It is my sincere opinion that ex-servicemen are better off today than they ever were.
– Why should they not be?
– I should like to see them better off still. They should get the very best treatment, but if this legislation were to be defeated and the Opposition came back into office all the suggestions that honorable members opposite have made would not be implemented. That has been proved in the past. The Opposition would not implement the improvements that we asked it to put into operation when it was in office, but they are now operative. It completely disregarded them. As I proved today from “ Hansard “, the Opposition disregarded the Returned Servicemen’s League and it disregarded many things that were in the best interests of ex-servicemen.
Finally, I appeal to the honorable member for Bass not to make again the misrepresentation about the T.P.I, pension not being as high as the basic wage. He is definitely wrong. I have proved him to be wrong every year and I have proved it on the word of a gentleman who was Minister for Repatriation. I refer to that well loved member whom we all respected, the late Mr. Barnard.
.- I intend to make my speech in the same way as the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) made his remarks in dealing with policies and not personalities. May I begin by saying that it is problematical that some of the members on this side of the House who have or will be speaking in this debate will not make government. It is problematical also that if they do make government they will not make Cabinet. But it is an absolute certainty that the honorable member for Mallee will not make Cabinet. He has been in this Parliament and in government since 1949, yet he has the audacity to stand up and say that men on this side of the House will not make government and Cabinet. Because the honorable member does not indulge in personalities, I do not indulge in personalities either.
The arguments that were advanced by the honorable member for Mallee on this Repatriation Bill certainly would have entertained an afternoon tea party of the Country Women’s Association, but they did not do anything to add to the standard of debate in this House. The honorable member criticised the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) by saying that the figures the honorable member quoted are incorrect. The honorable member for Mallee is still living so far back in the old days that he does not realise that the concept of the basic wage is not based on the needs of the family - husband, wife and child. It is based predominantly on the capacity of industry to pay. The honorable member disregards the submissions that were made by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association and by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia which outlined the figures comparing the T.P.I, pension rate with the basic wage at the present time. It is always interesting to note the lack of interest taken by the Country Party in matters dealing with ex-servicemen. But if the Bill before the House deals with the reserve prices scheme for wool, every member of the Country Party will speak on it.
– Or the superphosphate bounty.
– Or the superphosphate bounty, as my friend the honorable member for Batman advises me. The honorable member for Mallee spoke in this debate only at the very last minute. Honorable members could see by the fact that an attendant brought some papers in to him while he was speaking that the honorable member had not given the topic more than five minutes’ consideration. But, on a bill relating, for instance, to the wool reserve prices plan, the honorable member for Mallee is whipping all his back benchers into line so that they will speak on that matter.
In 1946, just after the conclusion of the Second World War, the Country Party and the Liberal Party went to the Air Force, the Army and the Navy, got hold of young men with good war records and asked them to stand as Liberal and Country Party candidates. The Liberal and Country Parties wanted to play on the fact that these young men had good war records. In 1949, as part of their plan, these Parties again used the argument that a Liberal-Country Party Government would do something for returned servicemen. These parties pointed to the number of men who had fought for the country, who had excellent records, and who were standing as candidates for those parties. They used this fact to obtain votes in order to defeat the Labour Government at that time. The Liberal-Country Party Government allows the R.S.L. to have personal deputations to the ex-servicemen’s committee of Cabinet. It is the only exservicemen’s organisation in Australia which is granted that privilege.
– Does the honorable member object to that?
– Yes, I object to it for the simple reason that the R.S.L. has no more right to have entrance to a subcommittee of Cabinet than the Chamber of Manufactures has to meet a sub-committee of the Cabinet. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has no right to go to a Cabinet sub-committee and put its claims as to what should be done in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or what should be done on a basic wage judgment.
– But the honorable member knows that the Government seeks the advice of those organisations.
– The Government certainly seeks their advice in the same way as it sought the advice of the Vernon Committee, and in the same way as it spent £250,000 or more on the compilation of the Vernon Committee report which the
Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) absolutely rubbished in this House. So, when the Government seeks the advice of the Vernon Committee or the Returned Servicemen’s League, it adopts exactly the same attitude with respect to both. It takes no notice of them at all. The Government completely disregarded the views put forward this year by the R.S.L.I intend to read the 1965 national pension plan of the League in the same way as the honorable member for Mallee in 1948 read what the R.S.L. tried to do then. The League supported this plan because it thought that these proposed increases were the most important that could be granted. The plan set out six proposals. These are -
Wife pension from £2 0s. 6d. to £3 7s. 6d.
Children pension from 13s. 9d. to £1 4s. 6d.
War Widows from £6 to £7 14s.
Domestic Allowance £3 10s. to £4.
Children Allowance £1 19s. and £1 7s. 6d. to £2 7s. 6d.
Double Orphans Allowance £311s. 6d. to £4 8s.
Service Pension from £5 10s. and £6 to £65s.
Wife from £3 to £3 10s.
All Children from 15s. and 2s. 6d. to £1.
That was the 1965 national pension plan submitted by the Returned Servicemen’s League. The R.S.L. organisations in the various States, after this plan had been put to the Cabinet sub-committee, wrote to members of the Australian Labour Party - I do not know whether they wrote to members of the Liberal and Country Parties; I suppose they did - and asked us to meet their district councils. We met their district councils and this plan was submitted to us. I take it that the plan was submitted also to any member of the Liberal Party or the Country Party who was prepared to meet an R.S.L. district council. Supporting evidence was given not only to the ordinary members of Parliament but also to the Cabinet sub-committee. The R.S.L. pointed out that there have been three general reviews of pension rates. These took place in 1920, 1943 and 1950. All those reviews kept ex-servicemen’s pensions fairly constant in relation to the basic wage.
Now, in 1920, 1943 and 1950 there was a needs concept in the basic wage so that if we are to make comparisons between pensions and the basic wage, we must realise that the T.P.I, pension, expressed as a percentage of the basic wage, was far greater then than it is now. This is the stock of the argument advanced by the R.S.L. In 1920 the T.P.I, pension rate was 103 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage. The 100 per cent, ex-servicemen’s pension rate was 54 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage. In 1943, the T.P.I, pension rate was 100 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage and the 100 per cent, ex-servicemen’s pension rate was 52 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage. In 1950 the T.P.I, rate represented 101 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage, while the 100 per cent, exservicemen’s pension rate was 51 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1965 the comparable proportions were 92 per cent, and 39 per cent, respectively. There has been a decline in the T.P.I, rate since 1950 of 9 per cent., when that rate is represented as a proportion of the Commonwealth basic wage, and there has been a decline in the 100 per cent, pension rate of 12 per cent.
Again I pause to deal with the argument that the honorable member for Mallee tried to use. He claims now that the Returned Servicemen’s League is getting mixed up in its conception of the basic wage, that the basic wage has a needs concept in it. It has not a needs concept in it now; it is a wage for one person, a wage that industry can afford to pay. But in the earlier days it was a wage based on the needs of a man with a wife and a child. The position of the T.P.I pensioner now is relatively worse. In previous comparisons it had to be borne in mind that the basic wage was fixed for three persons and the T.P.I, pension for only one person; now both the basic wage and the T.P.I, pension are for only o.ie person.
– What does the wife of the basic wage earner get?
– The wife’s allowance for a T.P.I, pensioner at the moment-
– No, I mean the wife’s allowance for a basic wage earner.
– When we speak of the component in the basic wage for a wife we must also remember that child endowment is available and various other benefits are available, so that the relative values of wage and pension would remain the same.
The Returned Servicemen’s League pointed out the decline in the family group level of the 100 per cent, pensioner since 1950. It took the case of a husband, wife and two children and showed that in 1950 the basic wage was £6 1 8s. while the family rate for a 100 per cent, pensioner was £6 3s., being 89 per cent, of the basic wage. In 1965 the basic wage was £15 8s. and the family rate for the 100 per cent, pensioner was £9 8s., being 61 per cent, of the basic wage. There was a reduction of 28 per cent, between 1950 and 1965. The honorable member for Mallee pats himself on the back and says how he has demolished the arguments of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), but never let him come back to this House and do so again because T have quite clearly shown that in fact the honorable member for Bass is correct and the honorable member for Mallee is quite wrong.
The honorable member for Mallee spoke about the 31-point plan of the R.S.L.
– The 36-point plan.
– Well, I stand corrected. He spoke of the 36-point plan of the R.S.L. in 1948, but there were pertinent facts that he did not mention. These are the kind of things he never does mention. He has the most convenient memory of any member of this Parliament. He forgets everything that he does not want to remember, particularly when those things can be used against him. He did not mention that in 1943 a committee of inquiry, of which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a member, if not the chairman, investigated all repatriation benefits being paid at that time. That was at the height of the war. The war ended in 1946 and in 1948 the recommendations of the committee of which the honorable member for Lalor was a member were beginning to be implemented. Of course it is correct for the honorable member for Mallee to say that certain benefits have been introduced by the present Government. It has been in office since 1949 and it has done some things, but certainly it has not moved as rapidly as it should have.
– Why was I not given permission to have those 36 points incorporated in “ Hansard “? That is the question.
– For the same reason that members of the. Opposition at the present time are refused permission to have matter incorporated in “ Hansard “. I want to include in my speech certain interesting facts, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I want to send copies of relevant issues of ^Hansard “ to the ex-servicemen’s organisations and ask them to have these things reprinted in “ Reveille “ and the other magazines that they put out, so that the members of those organisations will know exactly what happened in these debates on the Repatriation Bill. I believe that those organisations owe a debt of gratitude to members of the Opposition both here and in the Senate for the fight they have put up on behalf of members of those organisations. Unless these matters are printed and sent to the various organisations they will have no opportunity of knowing what happened. They could not hear the debates broadcast and they would have no opportunity of reading reports of them in the newspapers because our arguments are very seldom printed in the Press. I intend to take up a little of my time this afternoon in recounting what happened in the Senate last week when the debate on the Repatriation Bill took place. The debate in this House is taking place at a time when our proceedings are not being broadcast. The Committee stage of the debate in the Senate took place last Thursday when the proceedings were not being broadcast.
– The Government watches that.
– This is a tactic that has been adopted by the Government for a great number of years. We can go back over the last three or four years and point to repeated occasions on which the Repatriation Bills have been debated on a Wednesday, the debate going through until the early hours of Thursday morning.
In the Senate last week the Opposition moved an amendment dealing with a proposed joint committee on repatriation which would go into all the faults and anomalies that exist in the present repatriation system. Every member of this House and every ex-servicemen’s organisation can point to these anomalies. No general review has been made since 1950, so it is about time a review was made. The amendment to set up this committee was moved by the Opposition and the Senate divided on the proposition. There were 22 members in favour of the amendment, all members of the Opposition, and 27 against it. They were all Government supporters plus an independent and certain others.
– Did they say why they were not in favour of it?
– They gave no answer at all, no argument. The next amendment moved by the Labour Opposition in the Senate was to have cancer automatically accepted as a war-caused disability. On the division there were 24 in favour, all members of the Labour Party, and 26 against, being members of the Government parties and others.
– The honorable member’ is getting a bit wide of the Bill before the House.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, what I am doing is indicating that in the Senate we endeavoured to do something for ex-servicemen. We endeavoured to have the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) improve the benefits granted to exservicemen. In this place at the Committee stage we will try to do the same thing. I want to point out to honorable members opposite and to you, Sir, that the Government has failed the ex-servicemen’s organisations. The next amendment moved in the Senate was designed to have the onus of proof clause interpreted correctly. In the division on that amendment one Government senator voted with the Labour Opposition, the voting being equally divided, 25 to 25.
– That Government Senator was a distinguished barrister, was he not?
– Yes, he knew the importance of the amendment and the interpretation that was being debated. He was well aware of the vote that he was recording. The voting was equally divided, so that the amendment was defeated. Then we moved an amendment designed to give a right of appeal to Salvation Army personnel. This was defeated by 25 votes to 24, with all Government supporters voting against it. We then moved an amendment to provide free medical treatment for all members of the Forces who served in the 1914-18 War. On that occasion one Senator from the Government parties and two members of the Democratic Labour Party voted with the Opposition. That was carried 25 votes to 24. The next amendment related to medical benefits for wives of special rate pensioners and here again every Government senator - 25 of them - voted against the amendment and the Labour Opposition voted for it. Today we find the Prime Minister coming into this House and saying that the vote of the Senate in the matter of medical treatment for 1914-1918 soldiers is to be completely disregarded. I want all senators to realise that the Prime Minister and the Government think that the Senate is playing at parliament - that the motions it goes through in moving amendments, accepting amendments and voting on them do not make a scrap of difference to the Government’s decisions. In th2 mind of the Government the Senate should not exist. Senators expressed a point of view that is to be completely disregarded by the Government in this House.
Ex-servicemen’s organisations must realise that the Government is not taking much notice of the plans they put before it. Two or three weeks ago I put a question on notice. It asked what ex-servicemen’s organisations had made representations to the Government, prior to the introduction of the Budget, for increases in repatriation benefits. The answer I received yesterday said that 1 1 ex-servicemen’s organisations had made representations to the Government. The 11 organisations concerned were the Returned Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the Partially Blinded Soldiers’ Association, the Sailors,
Soldiers and Airmen’s Fathers’ Association, the New South Wales Railway and Tramway Ex-service Association, the Air Force Association, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association, the Incapacitated Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Association of Queensland, the Federated T.B. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association, the War Widows’ and Widowed Mothers’ Association, the Diggers’ Association of Queensland and the Australian Legion of Ex-servicemen and Women. Some of the representations were on the same point, but none was granted by the Government. In one instance only did one of those organisations - the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association - write to the Minister asking him to give further consideration to the plans that had been submitted. The Government does not take any notice of the representations that have been put forward by ex-servicemen’s organisations and it is time those organisations appreciated this. The plans they put before the Government - and which they have put before the Repatriation Committee of the Labour Party - are said to contain the most urgent features of repatriation requirements. However, the Government, instead of taking notice of the plans, looks at things that will cost very little but which it will be able to claim it has done. Figures have already been given relating to what the repatriation benefits granted in this Bill will cost in this financial year. They will cost less than £1 million, yet the Government in. reply to the question I mentioned earlier, listed half a dozen of these benefits as benefits that were requested by and were gladly accepted by the ex-servicemen’s organisations.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was endeavouring to show that the claims by members of the Country Party and members of the Liberal Party that they had an interest in the affairs of ex-servicemen were, in a great many instances, merely pious platitudes and that their deeds in the field of repatriation benefits often belied their words. I had mentioned that an answer to a question that I placed on the notice paper snowed that no fewer than 11 ex-service and kindred organisations made representations to the Government before the introduction of the
Budget for increases in various repatriation benefits and that not one of the major requests of any of those organisations had been granted by the Government. So I think the Opposition is quite correct in criticising the Government for its lack of interest in the affairs of ex-servicemen and its failure to do more for ex-servicemen and women and their dependants. In its handling of repatriation matters in the House the Government has shown a lack of responsibility not only towards this Parliament but also towards ex-service organisations.
In 1955 the Government took action to remove what were then called the ceiling limits on repatriation pensions. It allowed those who were eligible for a war pension to receive, in addition to the war pension, an amount by way of social service pension which would bring the total income up to the maximum allowed to a social service pensioner by way of pension and permissible income. In 1955 the social service pension was £4 a week. The maximum permissible income was £3 10s. a week. This meant that a social service pensioner could have a total income of £7 10s. a week and a married pensioner couple could have a total combined income of £15 a week. At that time the total and permanent incapacity or special rate pension was £9 15s. a week and the wife’s allowance was £1 15s. 6d. a week, making a total of £11 10s. 6d. a week. If the T.P.I, or special rate pensioner was eligible, he could receive an amount of social service pension up to £3 9s. 6d. a week, bringing the total amount received in that case to £15 a week.
As I have said, in 1955 the maximum permissible income was £3 10s. a week. That amount has not been increased since 1955. Today the social service pension is worth £5 10s. a week. So one pensioner may, with the permissible income of £3 10s. a week, have an income of £9 a week and a married couple may have a total combined income of £18 a week. When I refer to the pension payable to one pensioner I have in mind the rate paid to a married pensioner. Today the T.P.I, pension is worth £14 5s. a week and the wife’s allowance is worth £2 0s. 6d., giving a total of £16 5s. 6d. Those in this category who are eligible may receive a social service pension of £1 14s. 6d. a week, making a total income of £1 8 a week. The Government took great credit for lifting the ceiling limits in 1955, but whereas at that time the social service component paid to the T.P.I, pensioner amounted to £3 9s. 6d. a week, today it amounts to only £1 14s. 6d. a week, which is a decrease of £1 15s. a week. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask that the same amount of social service pension should be paid today as was paid in 1955. I ask the Minister and his advisers to look into this matter.
It was quite evident from happenings in the House today that members of ihe Government parties are being brought into line as far as the amendment passed in the Senate is concerned. It has been the custom for Government supporters to claim that the Labour Party is controlled by faceless men, but after today’s happening, when the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) came into the House and whipped his supporters into line, there can be no doubt that the man who controls the policies of the Liberal Party and the Country Party is the old man in the dark blue double-breasted suit.
.- For a Government supporter to claim that Australia’s repatriation programme Tanks very high amongst those of other countries could sound glib, but I find it necessary to make this affirmation because of the outrageous claims made during the debate this afternoon by some members of the Opposition.
– Aren’t we lucky that we have the honorable member in this place?
– I hope that my colleagues and I may continue to speak in this vein even though the honorable member for Grayndler may find our remarks most dissatisfying.
In my opinion, our scheme of repatriation has been constructed on simple and sound fundamentals. First, if humanly possible, the target of our repatriation scheme is to restore ex-servicemen to sound health with the best medical treatment available. The second aim is to compensate ex-servicemen and their dependants, if this can ever be achieved, for disabilities due to war service. I emphasise that our repatriation scheme is renowned around the world for its achievements in the restoration of health, both mental and physical. The compensation that this Government has paid to Australian exservicemen over recent years is a clear indication o, the Government’s understanding and sympathy. Whilst it is almost impossible to compensate ex-servicemen fully, the Government is prepared and has been prepared to do its best. For this reason, and without any apology, I say that within the limits of the economy we have done a fair thing by those men and women whom we admire for their service during the years of war.
The Government’s consideration for exservicemen is reflected in the total financial provision for repatriation. We have been reminded recently that not only has there been an increase in the amount allocated for repatriation this year but that there have been commendable increases year by year. I remind my colleagues that the provision for repatriation this year is no less than £132 million, compared with an expenditure last year of £119 million. This year we propose to spend £13 million more on repatriation than was spent last year. Of the additional expenditure, £1 million is attributable to the additional benefits provided in this Bill.
Earlier this afternoon my genial friend, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), endeavoured unsuccessfully by interjection to hasten the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) into some dilemma or difficulty as he presented to the House a very challenging and helpful speech on the amendment passed in the other House and which is being used by members of the Opposition in an effort to embarrass the Government and Government supporters. The honorable member for Lalor should be well aware that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) is a strong believer in the constitutional power of this House and would never agree that this move by the other House should be countenanced, supported or sustained in any way. As I said, the honorable member tried to distract the Prime Minister this afternoon by his interjections. The honorable member in pressing for the amendment, 1 suggest, does himself no credit as a member of this House because, as the Prime Minister has said so clearly, there is a constitutional stand that should be taken and there is the right that this House has to resist’ a move of this nature, which has a financial impact upon the Budget that was recently brought down.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) in his contribution each year to the debate on repatriation speaks genuinely. As my colleague from Warringah (Mr. Cockle) said last’ year, the honorable member speaks with very deep conviction. We recognise this, but we do not recognise the basis on which he makes his claims. This afternoon I noticed the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) quickly placed in the hands of the honorable member for. Bass material that he thought would be helpful at this stage of the debate. The material referred to the amendment some five years ago, in 1960, of a sales tax bill. The honorable member tried to prove a case for the amendment from the other House by pointing out that in November 1960 an item in a sales tax bill had been amended in the other House. What I noticed was that the honorable member failed to quote the remarks of his own Leader at that time. He also failed to make any reference to the analysis by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in that debate of the type of bill that was then dealt with, of the circumstances that prevailed and of the relatively minor impact made upon the country’s revenue by the amendment that was accepted.
– It is a matter of principle.
– Do not forget that the principle was enunciated very clearly and that we must also take into account the type of bill. This afternoon the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) overlooked the attitude of his own Leader. I have referred to it in passing and I think we ought to remind ourselves that the Leader of the Opposition is a great supporter of the powers of this House. He is a great constitutional leader and is recognised as such. He came into the debate to which I have referred, saying that he was only too pleased to say a few words in support, it would appear, of the Treasurer. He reminded the House that the Chifley Labour Government had experienced difficulty in this sphere. He pointed out that Mr. Chifley, who was then the Treasurer, had to accept an amendment by a hostile Senate in similar circumstances, but he did not use that, as members of his own party would try to use it in this debate, to show that there should be a breakdown of the constitutional power that this House has in relation to money matters.
– Is it a constitutional power or is it merely a convention which we are trying to establish?
– There is a constitutional power; that cannot be denied. The honorable member for Lalor, to whom I always listen with interest, this afternoon made a preposterous statement when he said there was no merit in the new intermediate rate pension that the Government has been pleased to introduce. 1 have never heard anything so outrageous as this.
– I did not say there was no merit.
– The honorable member said it represented no advance. The inference to be drawn from his speech was that the new rate was not important.
– Why don’t you stick to the truth?
– I am speaking the truth. This was the inference to be drawn from the honorable member’s speech. Let all those who have not yet won their claim for a total and permanent incapacity pension take note of the honorable member’s speech, for I am well aware of very many men who genuinely have sought a T.P.I, pension and have not obtained it for a variety of reasons. These men stand a very good chance, in my estimation, of obtaining the new intermediate rate war pension, for the simple reason that they will be able to prove that they are not fully employed and that they have to depend upon part time employment or, because of the state of their health, they find they can work for only a period, must take a rest and then return to work. That is the way I interpret the provision in the Bill.
We should also remember the words used by the Treasurer in his Budget speech. It is quite apparent that the Government genuinely intends that this provision should be an advance in repatriation benefits. The Treasurer said - we are putting forward a new intermediate rate of war pension which will fall between the Special (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated) Rate and the General (100 per cent.) Rate. Its purpose will be to provide for the needs of seriously disabled ex-servicemen whose war-caused in capacities render them incapable of working other than part-time or intermittently.
I think I am fully justified, when I remind the House of that provision, in saying that this is a tremendous advance when one takes a sensible look at it. In his anxiety to complete his speech or to make a point, I am sure my good friend from Lalor did not do justice to the Government’s action. There is a vast difference between the 100 per cent, war pension of £6 and the T.P.I, pension, and this lifts the 100 per cent, war pension by more than £4. I believe that the new intermediate rate will be a tremendous boon to many who in no way, by obtaining this intermediate war pension, will be barred from pressing their claim at some later date for the T.P.I, pension.
The Government has effectively demonstrated its sympathy with the claims of exservicemen throughout the years it has been in office. Our repatriation system has been under regular review. It has been expanded, virtually year by year, and consequently the benefits have been improved. The Government has always been eager to be alerted to anomalies that arise under all pieces of legislation and, particularly in the interests of ex-servicemen, it has openly sought to have anomalies revealed. This is the basis upon which the representatives of the various organisations have had open access to the Government Members’ Exservicemen’s Committee and to the subcommittee of Cabinet that was mentioned by the Prime Minister this afternoon. There has been this ready access. Correspondence has flowed year after year between the various organisations and the Government, and I believe that the ex-servicemen recognise and appreciate this. New and helpful benefits were announced in the Budget this year and the Bill provides for the benefits so announced to be implemented. Whilst we do not limit this debate, we are always keen to meet the request of the Minister to ensure that his legislation is put into effect on the target date so that ex-servicemen can receive the full benefit of the amendments.
This leads me to spend a moment or two on the estimable work of the ex-servicemen’s associations throughout Australia. We all recognise that they exist to protect the interests of their members and also to give wider service to the community. I have never been one who has said that exservicemen get together in fellowship selfishly. If we have eyes to see, we can recognise that throughout the country today the exservicemen are making a very valuable contribution in a variety of ways to the community in which they are placed. We all appreciate the activities to which I have referred and we know that the associations press their claims in the interests of their members with tenacity. We admire them for it and we have to take it on occasions as they press a particular claim. Honorable members are pleased to co-operate, as I know my friend, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Benson), is.
– But are their claims just?
– In my opinion, they are not always just.
– Are they exaggerated?
– They are exaggerated, just as many of us can exaggerate claims. None of us is perfect. My friends in the ex-servicemen’s associations are big enough to say: “ We recognise that at times we have overstressed a claim and ask for too much”. That is why they are grateful to this Government for what has been so often given to them. I believe that members of these organisations are fair and reasonable and appreciate what the Government does for them. As I have said, they recognise that they can press their case beyond a reasonable point at times, just as others sometimes do with other claims.
Ex-servicemen are just like other people that I have met who perhaps sometimes ask for more than they expect to receive. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that after many of the Budgets that have been presented by this Government, ex-servicemen have gathered together and celebrated, soundly and justifiably, the achievements reflected in the Budget of the day, because much work has been done by their organisations in formulating requests and there is always a sense of satisfaction when one wins something. I respect ex-servicemen also for being men who come up smiling the next year with a renewal of their unsatisfied requests. In this respect, they are very like members of Parliament, particularly backbenchers on the Government side. We cannot expect every theory that we have to be readily adopted by the Government. Some of us in this House have worked for years with a deep conviction, presenting our case through committees or personally year after year, and we know something of the sense of achievement when a good idea of ours eventually sees the light of day. In the same sense, my friends in the exservicemen’s organisations appreciate their cwn achievements.
I acknowledge the requests that I, like other honorable members, have received from many branches of the Returned Servicemen’s League and other ex-service organisations in the last few days concerning the amendment made in this Bill by the Senate. I am sure that the local branches of the ex-service organisations in my electorate will fairly assess the facts that I and my colleagues on the Government side have presented and will present in this debate. I am sure that ex-servicemen will face those facts with the continuing conviction that this Government is generous and understanding. I am sure also that they will try again to put their claims, perhaps in the modified form that I want to suggest before I conclude my speech. Next year, the Government may find it possible to meet them at least to a reasonable degree.
– Plenty of ex-servicemen will be dead by then.
– I” do not think so. Looking back over the years, we see that there has been a transformation in the services provided for ex-servicemen under the terms of the Repatriation Act. I have already referred to the new intermediate rate of war pension for which (he Bill provides. I have emphasised that it is intended to meet the special needs of war pensioners who, though not entitled to the total and permanent incapacity rate of pension, are able to work only part time or for short periods owing to a war disability. I expect in my district, and I trust that every other honorable member expects likewise in his own area, to have many a man come to me and say: “I wonder whether I can now make good my claim for this intermediate rate of war pension “. It will be the pleasure of every honorable member to assist these cases and to guide the ex-servicemen concerned until this very valuable pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week is theirs.
As other honorable members have pointed out, the Bill provides for an increase in the rate of sustenance allowance. Here, again, the humanity of the Government is evident. Approval has now been given for the payment of the T.P.I, sustenance rate to ex-servicemen who have to undergo continuous periods of outpatient treatment of war caused disabilities for four weeks or more. This represents a considerable improvement.
– Why not make the period three weeks or more?
– The honorable member knows that anybody can easily make an interjection like that. Is there not a need for a cut-off line in every field of social service benefits?
The Bill also provides for an improvement in respect of medical treatment for the children of war widows. The decision to extend medical treatment for student children up to the age of 21 is sound and thoughtful. This proposal is parallel to the extension of concessions in other fields of benefits to student children from 18 to 21 years of age. Honorable members on both sides of the House naturally have expressed their appreciation of the proposal to introduce a guardian’s allowance of £2 a week. This is to be paid to an unmarried service pensioner who has the custody, care and control of one or more children under the age of 16.
– I suppose there is the better part of 100 of those.
– This concerns just one of the anomalies that have been adjusted. Who claims this to be a costly or extensive benefit? But is it not fair and commendable? Furthermore, the age limit for pensions and allowances in respect of student children of service pensioners is to be raised from 18 to 21 years where they are receiving full time education. On another occasion recently, we dealt in this House with supplementary assistance in the field of social services. The decision to which we gave effect then is now reflected in this Bill, Mr. Speaker. A married service pensioner whose wife receives a service pension is to be eligible for supplementary assistance, or rent allowance, as it is often called, where rent or board and lodging are paid. We recognise with pleasure that the rate for a married service pensioner will be £1 a week and that for a single pensioner will be increased by 100 per cent, to £1 a week. This is a very sound proposal. For the first time, the allowance will be graduated according to the pensioner’s means as assessed.
There is, of course, a repatriation liability for pensioner medical service. This Bill provides that the income limitation relating to the eligibility of a service pensioner is to be removed. Who could argue against this? Perhaps some would say: “Why was not this done earlier?” At least, it is now being done, and the Government’s action will be appreciated. The medical accounts of service pensioners’ wives and children, where these, too, receive service pensions, will now be met by the Repatriation Department. This represents an extension of the pensioner medical service into the field of repatriation.
These additional benefits, which will be so helpful in each case, have been costed by the usual methods of calculation, and, as I stated early in my speech, the Budget makes provision for them. Any move to alter the provisions of the Bill in such a way as to make an impact on the appropriation will not be acceptable to the Government, of course. The amendment that was made in the Bill in the other House, if it were approved in this chamber, Mr. Speaker, would widen the benefits provided under the terms of the Repatriation Act in a broad and significant way. Consequently, it would be appreciated by exservicemen, to whom I have already paid tribute.
But let us consider the consequences if the amendment were adopted and its provisions made an integral part of the repatriation legislation. I submit that it would expand the basic concept of need throughout our entire social services structure and would make ex-servicemen who are now excluded by the means test from free hospital treatment eligible for free treatment. In the second place, as one of my colleagues pointed out this afternoon in an excellent speech, the bed resources of the repatriation hospitals would be seriously strained. In fact, the situation would become impossible. I remind the House that the
Repatriation Department sustained a heavy increase in the demand on its bed capacity some years ago as a result of an amendment to the Act. But this particular proposal, on the Prime Minister’s advice, is simply beyond fulfilment. There is another aspect that must be considered. Such an influx of patients into the repatriation hospitals if the amendment were to be adopted would in these circumstances, in my opinion, seriously affect the admittance of exservicemen with war caused disabilities that have already been accepted. The last thing that any thinking or considerate person in this House or outside would desire would be just that.
The Government has introduced its Budget and, even if the facts of the case fully justified the move - and that I will never accept - to embrace at this stage these new provisions with a financial commitment of some £5 million probably is just beyond consideration. There is, of course, in all of us, a streak of understanding which is more pronounced in some individuals than in others. But I would say that where these estimable ex-servicemen of the far distant Boer War - the few who are still with us - and the men who served in the First World War learn through their representatives, as they endeavour to achieve one of these claims under the Repatriation Act for a benefit which would be so helpful, that their medical records are non-existent or deficient, a very good case exists in this restricted field to be considered. I would be one who would advocate with the Government that the onus in that case should be in their favour and that their deficient or non-existent records should be no bar to the achievement of the pension or benefit for which they make application. I have no hesitation in saying that because I have such a personal sympathy for ex-servicemen in that situation. But this is a restricted field which must be looked at in the future quite apart from the proposition that has been put before the Government by the amendment which we propose should not be accepted. I am of the opinion, therefore, that the Government could be influenced by ex-servicemen’s organisations to which I have referred, provided that they submit again a request for benefit - hospitalisation and concessions of this nature - for those whose records are incomplete.
– Why wait until they come again?
– I believe that the Government, as a result of this debate, would be quite ready to look at this suggestion without waiting for the representations. It might well be that Government supporters will have some success as they press this claim, but that must be looked at in isolation and quite apart from this amendment, for the principle that we have clearly indicated is that it is entirely unacceptable to the House of Representatives that an amendment of this nature, having a vast financial impact upon the Budget, should even be considered.
I refer now to another vigorous speaker from the Opposition to whom we listen with interest year by year. I refer to the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), who implied this afternoon that the Government does not take notice of the requests submitted by the ex-servicemen’s organisations. I suggest that the Repatriation Commission’s annual report, which is so splendidly printed and produced and which was submitted to the House recently, gives the lie to such an assertion, for in it are listed features of the year just concluded. The report shows the improvements in benefits which, I suggest, are the direct outcome of representations by those organisations to which the honorable member fa Lang referred. The features of the year included an increase in the special rate war pension payable to the totally and permanently incapacitated, an increase in the general rate war pension, an increase in the pension rate payable to the wives of incapacitated ex-servicemen, an increase in the pension rate payable to war widows, increases in the rates payable to married and single service pensioners, and an increase in the additional amount payable to certain double amputees. That is the achievement of one year to be seen and read at page 7 of the report. Yet the honorable member for Lang would lead the House to believe that the ex-servicemen’s approaches and requests of recent years have been set on one side. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear can place no credence in that suggestion. This Repatriation Bill reflects again, as I have said, the announcement in the Budget of special benefits and an adjustment of anomalies. We are delighted to say in this debate that this represents the thoughtfulness and consideration of the Menzies Administration in the field of repatriation. The final point is well worth reiteration. The amendment made by the other House is basically and constitutionally unsound. It has a very great impact upon the financial position of this Government and it is entirely unacceptable as an amendment to the legislation.
– I support the amendments that have been moved by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard).
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that no amendments have been moved by the honorable member for Bass.
– -The amendments are forthcoming, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable member for Bass indicated that he intended to move amendments in Committee. Therefore, they are not before the Chair.
– I have foreshadowed them.
– The amendments have been foreshadowed. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) has supported the Government on the measure that it has introduced in the repatriation field, but I do not think he was sincere. Last year when the Repatriation Bill was before the House the honorable member was not one of the Government supporters who spoke in favour of the Bill or gave any support to the Minister who then represented the Minister for Repatriation. The honorable member may have been away at the time, but he never supported the measure. He was not greatly concerned about what benefits ex-servicemen were receiving under the Repatriation Act.
A few moments ago the honorable member for Swan read from the annual report of the Repatriation Commission and told us of the benefits that had been given by the Government in the past year. We know that the benefits to which he referred were conferred by measures passed by this House within the last 12 months. We know also that although an increase of 5s. was given to most ex-service pensioners, that sum was soon absorbed by increasing costs. We know that as a result of the Budget presented last year the effect of the increases in benefits, which were referred to by the honorable member for Swan, was practically nil. I was surprised to hear him claim tonight to be a member of an exservicemen’s organisation. He told us that such organisations exaggerate in many of their claims for better conditions for exservicemen. If the Government of the nation, whether it be a Liberal government or a Labour government, sends men overseas to fight, it has a responsibility to look after their welfare when they come back. Today we have troops committed to overseas service and many more of our young people will be sent away. All honorable members know that the casualty lists are starting to come out. Some of our servicemen who went recently to Vietnam have suffered with war nerves and are being repatriated. It is natural that their welfare should be looked after and it is the responsibility of the Government to undertake that task.
There is to be a great increase in the number of repatriation benefits. Members of the Australian forces who are now overseas are committed by Australia’s obligations to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. Many of bur troops, because they are not stationed in what is classed a war zone, will not come within the scope of the Repatriation Act. I believe that any Australian serviceman who has been sent overseas by the Government should corns within the ambit of that Act. He should be looked after and well protected. The honorable member for Swan spoke of the great benefits to be received by ex-servicemen from this Government under this Bill. He referred mainly to the fact that the Government has decided to introduce an intermediate pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week, and stated that the Government has taken this action in order to assist those whose disabilities are such as will enable them to work only part-time. This question needs a great deal more consideration.
First, how many employers would permit an employee to come to work only when it suited him? The great majority of our industries are conducted by private enterprise. They depend on production for their profits. These industries must produce profitably in order to exist and in order to satisfy their shareholders. There are many small and medium businesses which are unable to carry the number of staff necessary to permit of the employment of a man who wants to come to work only when he feels well enough to do so. For these reasons, a great many of the ex-servicemen concerned will not be able to find employment in private industry. The only places where they may be able to find employment will be perhaps Commonwealth departments, State departments and semi-governmental authorities, and it is probable that these avenues of employment would not be open to them either but for the fact that they are exservicemen. It is going to be very difficult indeed for those men who qualify for the pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week to find employers who will be prepared to allow them to come to work only when they feel well enough to do so.
Further, it is obvious that those who are to receive this intermediate pension will be able to work only in light industries. Because of their disabilities, which must be admitted to be war caused before they become entitled to the £10 2s. 6d. a week, it will be impossible for them to work in any of the heavy industries. The Government’s action in introducing legislation providing for an intermediate rate of £10 2s. 6d. a week is unjust to these ex-servicemen. If a man is not fit enough to work full-time, the Government should pay him the full total and permanent incapacity pension. I do not think a great many people will benefit from this proposal. Those who receive this new pension will be required to live on only £10 2s. 6d. a week; they will not be able to supplement their incomes by finding employment in industry.
The introduction of a repatriation bill each year gives us the opportunity to discuss repatriation matters generally. This Bill fails dismally to provide increased benefits for our ex-servicemen. When introducing the Budget, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated that expenditure by the Repatriation Department for next year will increase by approximately £13 million to approximately £132 million, as against an expenditure of approximately £120 million last year. Of this £13 million increase, £11.5 million will be absorbed by administrative expenses. The cost of the benefits to be extended under this Bill will be only £1.5 million, and I remind the House that they cover all ex-servicemen from the Boer War, World War 1 and World War II. The Bill falls far short of what was requested by the organisations which look after the welfare of ex-servicemen.
Reading yesterday’s “Hansard”, I noticed that the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation how many ex-servicemen’s organisations had made representations to the Government, prior to the introduction of the Budget, for increases in repatriation benefits. On going through the Minister’s answer, I find that 1 1 organisations made requests for increases in a great many of the benefits paid to exservicemen. Amongst other things, they requested that the T.P.I, pension be increased from £14 5s. to £15 8s. - an increase of 23s. a week - and that the allowance of £2 0s. 6d. a week payable to the wife of a T.P.I. pensioner be increased by 19s. 6d. to £3 a week. The Government has failed to increase the allowance to the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner, despite the fact that the wives of such pensioners in a great many cases are, in effect, nurses to their husbands. They have to do for their husbands many of the things that, because of their disabilities, the husbands are unable to do for themselves. In effect, the Government is getting the benefit of nursing services for £3 a week, which is a very cheap rate indeed.
The Government was also requested to grant free medical benefits to the wives of T.P.I. pensioners. We of the Labour Party believe that the benefit should be granted. After all, these wives have to give up a great deal of their domestic lives in looking after their husbands, and to grant this medical entitlement to them would not impose any great burden on the Government. A request was also made for an increase in the funeral grant. This request has been made each year for several years now but once again the Government has turned a deaf ear to it.
A perusal of the 49th annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia discloses that this organisation is greatly concerned about the decrease in the value of the pensions being paid by this Government. For instance, the report discloses that the special rate or T.P.I, pension paid in 1920 was equal to 103 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage, that in 1943 it was equal to 100 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage and that in 1950 it was equal to 101 per cent, of the Commonwealth basic wage. At the present time, due to the increase in the cost of living over the years, the general rate pension has greatly declined in purchasing power. In addition to this, the amount paid now is equal to only 92 per cent, of the present Commonwealth basic wage. The proportion it bears to the basic wage has declined, without any effort being made by this Government to rectify the position. Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that T.P.I, pensioners who have no income other than their pensions are finding it very difficult indeed to make ends meet.
The report also makes reference to hospital and medical benefits for exservicemen of the First World War and prior wars. We all know that within the last couple of days an amendment was agreed to in another place relating to the granting of this entitlement to all such exservicemen. Today, however, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) stated that the amendment was unconstitutional and that the Government must reject it. In my view, this is unjust to the Senate. I was under the impression that the Senate was a House of Review - that it was entitled to make or request amendments to legislation. Now we find that, after having considered this matter thoroughly, the Senate has suggested an amendment, only to have the Government refuse to accept it in this House. This is something that will be deplored by the returned servicemen’s organisations in Australia because after all it is something for which they have been battling for a great many years. They were fortunate to get a small breakthrough in the Senate, but now we find that the Government has once again refused to accept the proposal. This refusal is an utter disgrace to the Government. I heard the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) say that if the Government were to accept the Senate amendment we would find the wards at Yaralla full of patients. We know that at present many wards at Yaralla are not even in use. There would be plenty of room for new patients there. It was very poor, I thought, for the honorable member for Swan to say that if the amendment were allowed the hospital would be filled.
I think that every member of the House has received a letter from the Returned Servicemen’s League. The one I received came from the New South Wales Branch. It reads -
The R.S.L. in New South Wales would appreciate your support to the Senate amendment providing for Repatriation Medical and Hospital Benefits for veterans of the Boer War and the First World War which, I understand, is to be discussed in the House of Representatives this week.
The amendment has been a feature of R.S.L. Pension Plans during the past five years and is based on a plea that these veterans, now 70 years of age and over, are in an age group where the provision of Repatriation medical benefits is most important. The hardships imposed upon them, where by virtue of the means test, many narrowly fail to qualify for the Service Pension or part pension, are accentuated by the burden of increasing costs of medical and hospital treatment. We earnestly believe that some relief should be provided.
Our members will be grateful if you would give your approval to the amendment when the Repatriation Bill comes before the House and we accordingly invite your co-operation.
I am sure that every member of the Opposition will support any amendment to provide that veterans receive at least free medical benefits. I sincerely hope that Government supporters, particularly those who wear badges of returned servicemen’s organisations, will be sincere enough to cross the floor and vote with the Opposition in order to see that these people get the benefits they so richly deserve. This Government, following the policy it has adopted in the social services field has cast the onus of looking after many ex-servicemen on their dependants and on charitable organisations. I spoke on one occasion about a charitable organisation which I believe is doing a remarkable job in looking after the welfare of widows and dependants of ex-servicemen. I refer to Legacy. Legacy, as we know, has been doing a great job for widows and children over many years, but this year it had to ask for £280,000 to assist these people. It should make us ashamed to think that we have in our community those who, because their husbands were killed at the war, have to depend on some charitable organisation to look after their welfare and the education of their children. That is an utter disgrace. I am sure that those servicemen who are overseas today, whom this Government has committed to fight on foreign soil, would not be very happy to think that if they were killed a charitable organisation would have to assist with the welfare and education of their families. It should be the responsibility of the Government to look after the dependants of ex-servicemen.
We know that over many years returned servicemen’s organisations have repeatedly requested the Government to have an inquiry into repatriation, but the Government has always refused this request. I do not know why. It was in 1943, when a Labour government was in office, that we had the last inquiry. It was held at a time when Australia was at war. That is 22 years ago, and we have not since had an inquiry into repatriation. I cannot imagine what the Government has to hide. If an inquiry were held many organisations would be relieved. They would be able to appear before the select committee, or whatever body was appointed, and put up their propositions. The tribunal could then submit a report to the Government. This is a funny government. It has spent a lot of money on reports but has taken no notice of them. I sincerely hope that the Government will in the near future accede to the request to conduct an inquiry into repatriation matters.
Another matter to which I should like to refer is one that has been raised by ex-servicemen’s organisations. They have been trying to have cancer accepted as a war disability.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that cancer does not come within the provisions of this Bill. The Bill refers to certain benefits and eligibilities, but cancer is not a matter for consideration at this time.
– I have to bow to your decision, Sir, but as an ex-serviceman and an old digger I am just trying to bring up some matters about which many diggers are concerned. I think it is an injustice if we cannot discuss them here. I might say that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar), during the debate on this Bill in another place, did bring this matter before that chamber. If he could bring the matter up in the other place we should be allowed to discuss it here, because after all it is something that needs to be discussed. It needs bringing into the light of day. I believe that by referring to some of the facts stated by the Minister in another place I can enlighten many honorable members on both sides. The Minister in another place gave details about cancer. He stated that from 1st October 1964 to 31st August 1965 there were 2,004 claims made in respect of cancer and that 517 of these claims were accepted by the Government. From the beginning of 1959 to the end of August this year, 3,328 cancer claims were accepted. The Minister stated also that each case was treated on its merits, lt is difficult for us to understand how each case can be treated on its merits. Doctors the world over have stated unanimously that they do not know the origin of cancer. How can doctors arrive at a decision if they do not know how the disease originated? They have created a precedent by accepting 3,328 cancer claims since 1959.
– How many have they knocked back?
– I can only say that in the last 12 months they have knocked back 1,487 out of 2,004.
I should like to refer to a constituent of mine. At least he was a constituent of mine. His wife is a constituent of mine.
– He is a constituent in another place.
– Yes, that is right. This man’s widow came to me and stated the case concerning her husband. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Chaney) is in the House. I think he has three other members of the Liberal Party with him. This woman’s husband was in the Navy for 16 years. During that period, he contracted a disease which necessitated a major bowel operation. After the operation, he continued his duty for a period of 18 months during which time his condition deteriorated until finally he was discharged medically unfit. Six months after his discharge, this man, who had been a member of the Navy for 16 years, died of a cancer of the bowel. His widow-
– Order! I remind the honorable member for East Sydney that there is no reference to this question in the Bill. The provisions of the Bill are specifically set out, and were outlined in the Minister’s second reading speech. However, I understand it has been foreshadowed that certain amendments will be proposed in Committee regarding the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability. That will be the appropriate time for consideration on that subject-
– I rise to a point of order. Is it not correct that a member may speak to anything in a major Act which is being amended by a bill of this nature?
– No. That is not the case.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I point out that this is a Bill for an Act to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1964. Therefore, the Bill is open to debate as wide as the wide world. It is put in that category.
– I am sorry to inform the honorable member that that is not the case.
– I differ from your ruling.
– Is the honorable member disagreeing with the ruling of the Deputy Speaker?
– Of course I am disagreeing with the ruling.
– Order! I call the honorable member for East Sydney.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, if amendments relating to this matter are proposed when the Bill is in Committee, I will probably be able to discuss my point then. In the few minutes which are remaining at this juncture, I would like to refer, if I am permitted, to another aspect of this Bill. This relates to women who have lodged many appeals to the Repatriation Department for war widows pensions, only to have their appeals rejected. I asked the Minister for Social Services the following question, upon notice -
– Order! I am sorry to interrupt the honorable member, but I remind him that there is no reference to war widows in this legislation.
– They are receiving benefits under certain sections of the Act.
– But there is no specific reference to war widows in the Bill or in the Minister’s second reading speech on the Bill.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I direct your attention to the fact that there is a reference to war widows in this Bill. They are provided for specifically-
– Will the honorable member for Lalor indicate that reference?
– Of course I will. Here it is, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You have asked me to refer to the particular matter?
– Yes, but only in very limited circumstances.
– If you are going to be harsh in your interpretation of the Standing Orders-
– Order! I do not want to be harsh at all. I want a reasonable interpretation; but I also want to follow the principles laid down.
– I ask for a reasonable interpretation. You asked me to quote the relevant material. In the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services - and nobody challenged this - the following passage appears -
At present medical treatment may be provided under the Repatriation Act regulations for the children, up to the age of 16 years, of war widows.
Is not that a reference to war widows? If the Minister can say that, it ought to be pertinent and relevant for any member of this Parliament to traverse the hardships and the conditions in which a war widow has to live.
– I appreciate the point that the honorable member for Lalor has made, but this matter has nothing to do with the Bill before the House. The Minister merely referred to that question in passing. I do not mind if the honorable member for East Sydney refers to it in passing. But to make a speech on the particular aspects to which he was referring is quite outside the ambit of the Bill.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think your ruling is outrageous. I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– Order! The honorable member should state his objection in writing.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I appeal against the light? The clock indicates that my time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, at this stage, may I move that an extension of time be given to the honorable member for East Sydney?
– The honorable member for Lalor is in the process of moving dissent from a ruling given by the Chair.
– And we are in a state of suspense until that is done?
– After that is done, I take it that I may move an extension of time for the honorable member for East Sydney?
– Yes. (Mr. Pollard having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing) -
– Is the motion proposed by the honorable member for Lalor seconded?
– Yes, I second it.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Hon. W. C. Haworth.)
Majority .. ..13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed (vide page 1416).
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) put -
That the honorable member for East Sydney be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Hon. W. C. Ha worth.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- As one of the last four of the old and not so bold in this chamber I welcome the opportunity to make a few remarks, particularly with regard to the amendment which was inserted inthe Bill in the Senate. But first I should like to say that I agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) that the repatriation administration and benefits that we have built up in Australia over the years are among the best in the world. They are certainly among the best that I have seen in any part of the world. In that respect I should like to pay a tribute first to the Opposition, because it was a Labour Government that laid the foundation for them and, secondly, to the present Government which, over the last 16 years, has steadily built up the superstructure to the position that we now have in our Repatriation Act.
I do not suggest for one moment that there are not still a certain number of anomalies. Most honorable members would like to see further amendments made to the Act. On the other hand, I want to make it quite clear at the outset that as the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has said that the amendment made by the Senate is, in effect, a no confidence motion so far as the Government is concerned, I do not intend to vote for it, because I do not think the principle involved is big enough to justify that action. At the same time, I feel that the Government cannot look at that particular clause through a pair of cold, legal spectacles. There are certain anomalies with respect to the old diggers of the First World War, of whom the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe). the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and I are the last four in this chamber.
– What about Mr. Speaker?
– And Mr. Speaker. Not seeing him ensconced in the Chair I temporarily overlooked him. I believe, too, that there are anomalies regarding medical records and, as a result, free medical treatment is not granted to some men of the First World War. The money that would be involved in the payment of these benefits would not be, I believe, anywhere near as large as has been suggested. A sum of something like £5 million has been suggested, but taking into account the number of people concerned I doubt whether it would be that much. I understand that the figures I will give are as near as possible correct. The actual survivors of the First World War total 116,000. Those service pensioners who are receiving full medical benefits or who will receive them after January next total 38,000. Totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen total 13,000 and 100 per cent. pensioners 4,500, making an overall total of 55,500. Because of the overlap of service pensioners who also have a war pension, the estimated number who would not be receiving full medical benefits at present is 50,000. To this can be added those who receive part time treatment and who are on a general pension rate of from 10 per cent. to 95 per cent. These are estimated to number 15,000. Therefore, the actual total is 50,000 plus 15,000 receiving part time treatment. Many of these, of course, would have means and would not be suffering from a war disability.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) read from a proposition put forward by the Returned Servicemen’s League. It was different from the letter I received from the Victorian branch of the League. The letter he quoted contained the words -
We earnestly believe that some relief should be provided.
I think that is a proper attitude for this House to adopt regarding the First World War and the Boer War diggers who are perhaps in a sort of twilight zone between those who receive full medical benefits - through being service pensioners, T.P.I. pensioners or full pensioners - and those who are not in necessitous circumstances or suffering from a war disability. By now the youngest of the First World War servicemen are 65 years old. The vast majority of us have reached the biblical age of three score years and ten, and many are nearer 80 than 70. Many of us have suffered in health as a result of our war service. On the other hand I have had many years of experience, possibly because I am one of the old group, of men putting their cases to me so that I could try to help them with the War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal.
However, because there are no medical records, or incomplete medical records, the appeals to the tribunal have been unsuccessful. I think that in many cases the men have not had a fair deal, and I have two or three cases very vividly in mind. Therefore I agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan that there should be an investigation to see how many of these old diggers from the First World War and perhaps from the Boer War have been handicapped in their applications because of the incompleteness of records. The four or five First World War Diggers in this place well remember what happened after the First War. Men were in such a hurry to get home that they did not bother about medical records: Sometimes a man would tear up his medical records so that he would not have to go back to hospital for a check up before returning to civilian life. I remember one case that I submitted to the repatriation authorities. It concerned a man who was more than half buried by a shell blast. He did not report sick but stayed with his unit. About 25 years later, like an old football injury, his back started to go on him. But there were no medical records and there was nothing anybody could do for him. I obtained from men who had served with him in the same unit statements indicating that he had suffered from shell shock and been half buried as a result of a shell blast, but they did not have any influence on the repatriation appeal tribunal. I feel that this is an area which the Government could well investigate.
We do not want our old diggers to go through the experience of diggers who returned to England after the First War and who were made to feel unwanted by the younger generation. I remember well the book “Testament of Youth” written by Vera Brittain, who was a V.A.D. who lost her fiance in the First War. She wrote -
So, passing through the careless crowd alone,
Ghosts of a time no future can restore,
We desolately roam for evermore
An empty shore.
Some old diggers feel, as I do, that due to the incompleteness of medical records they have not had proper justice from the repatriation appeal tribunals. I suggest that the Government appoint a select committee - this could be done in another place - to investigate the extent to which the absence or incompleteness of medical records from the First World War or the Boer War have affected the rights of exservicemen to repatriation benefits, and what special administrative machinery, if any, is necessary to deal with any case of hardship to diggers or their widows. This would meet to a large extent the request put to me by the Victorian Branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League, the State President of which in a letter to me said -
May I respectfully draw your attention to the amendment recently passed by the Senate for the extension of automatic repatriation hospital and medical benefits to men who served in the Boer War and the First World War.
The League has been pressing for the introduction of this measure for many years.
The next part of the letter is the important part -
Because of the incomplete or non-existent medical records from the First World War and the Boer War, which are necessary to establish a relationship between an ex-serviceman’s condition and his war service, many ex-servicemen are unjustly denied a right to medical benefit to which they are entitled.
My experience in the cases I have put forward can be matched time and time again by other honorable members. This is why in all earnestness and sincerity I ask the Government to consider the appointment of a select committee or some other body to inquire into the effect on ex-servicemen of the incompleteness or absence of their medical records. These men are in the twilight zone, so to speak. They may have more means than will permit them to obtain a service pension, but at the same time they are not so well off that their war caused disabilities, which are now becoming apparent in their old age, do not create hardship. It may not apply to many, but even if only four or five ex-servicemen were involved - I think the number would be closer to 5,000 - this is an aspect that warrants close investigation. The amendment passed in the Senate has done a lot of good in bringing these facts before not only members of this House but the public.
I agree with some honorable members that there is little necessity to provide repatriation medical benefit’s for old diggers who have, lived to what is admittedly a fairly good age and who are not suffering from war caused disabilities. If the Government has any money to spare I think those old diggers will agree with me that it would be far better to use it to help the families of certain Vietnamese soldiers who have died in our defence. If we have any money to spare this should be our number I priority. Although I am not very happy about rejecting the amendment passed in the Senate, I am not prepared to vote against the Government on what is looked upon as a motion of no confidence in the Government. However, I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who is handling this legislation in the House, to bring to the attention of the Prime Minister the fact that the cases of these old diggers in the twilight zone merit investigation. I ask the Minister to point out that in the past many of these exservicemen have not received the full benefit of the onus of proof provision. One old digger whom I knew died quite recently. He should have received certain medical benefits, but he did not get any. 1 am aware of the difficulties faced by the repatriation authorities in view of the incompleteness of the records but I feel that special attention should be given to this section of First World War soldiers rather than provide full medical benefits for everybody. After all, thanks to the Government’s health service it does not cost much to join a hospital benefits association. We may insure against illness in our old age if we are not on the breadline or in the twilight zone. I ask the Minister to give careful consideration to my suggestions.
.- I register a protest against the holding of the debate on a repatriation measure on a day when the proceedings of the House are not being broadcast. I think this is about the seventh occasion when repatriation matters have been dealt with in this way. Members of the Sydney southern districts regional body of the Returned Servicemen’s League were amazed when the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and I told them when we met them recently that debates on repatriation matters are kept off the air. They were amazed when we told them how discussion on the amendments that we move at the request of the R.S.L. is gagged in the Parliament. We showed them the “ Hansard “ record. It is no coincidence that discussion of the Repatriation Department’s estimates and of repatriation legislation in particular is kept off the air. The Government has good reason not to want these discussions advertised too freely because the cost of the benefits provided in this Bill will amount to no more than £1.15 million in a full year or about £850,000 this year.
I shall refer later to some of the provisions in the Bill, small as they are. I shall refer also to some of the requests of ex-service organisations which have not been heeded by the Government. But before I do so I want to refer to the amendment passed in another place. The amendment provides that World War I diggers and Boer War diggers shall have a right to repatriation hospital and medical treatment. This afternoon we saw the most unusual spectacle of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) participating in a repatriation debate. It is most unusual for the Prime Minister to interest himself in a matter of this kind. He laid before us what he said was a great constitutional issue - the fact that the Senate had passed an amendment with financial implications. He gave this as the reason for the Government’s intended rejection of the very beneficial amendment that was made to the Bill by a majority in the Senate. I would say that, whatever the cost of the benefit provided by the amendment, whether it be £5 million or £3 million, it would be many times the cost of the other benefits and improvements included in the Bill. It would also be the most beneficial provision in the Bill; yet it is the one provision that will be deleted. It would extend benefits to very many ex-servicemen, but this is the provision that the Prime Minister says must go out. On the face of it, it looks as though honorable members on the Government side, for all their so-called independence, will toe the line and vote to delete this very beneficial provision from the Bill.
I am not sure that the great issue that has been made about the constitutional position of the Senate, particularly its right to introduce financial provisions, is right. If it is right, our debate in this House can be for no purpose at all. If, as a result of our debate, we came to the same conclusion as the Senate did, we would be precluded from making this amendment to the Bill simply because the Senate had chosen to make it. Is this the position? Are we precluded from reaching a decision similar to that reached by the Senate, in its wisdom or otherwise?
– This is simply because of the accident of the amendment having been made in the Senate.
– That is so. I would have given more weight to the Prime Minister’s argument if the House of Representatives, after debating the Bill, had passed it without including this provision, had sent it to the Senate and the Senate had then inserted the amendment. In this situation, I would have given more consideration to the case presented by the Prime Minister. But that is not the situation. This House has not yet completed its discussion. I would assume that, not having completed our discussion and not having voted on the Bill, it is quite in order for us to move amendments. Indeed, we propose to move amendments at the Committe stage. Seemingly, it would be quite in order for us to move an amendment in the terms of the amendment adopted by the Senate. As a matter of fact, we will be moving an amendment that will be almost in the terms of the Senate’s amendment. In my view the Prime Minister’s position is quite untenable.
I think the truth is that the Government is not willing to give this benefit to exservicemen. It has not done so this year, it did not do so last year, and, according to the Returned Servicemen’s League, it has not done so for the last five years although it has been asked to do so. I understand that the League has asked the Government to provide hospital and medical treatment through the Repatriation Department for all surviving ex-servicemen of World War I and the Boer War - and I wonder how many men who fought in the Boer War would be alive now. I think some honorable members on the other side of the House who have already spoken have recognised the weakness of their position. They recognise that they could be found out and so they try to play one group of ex-servicemen against another. They have suggested that if we opened the doors of the repatriation hospitals to all presently non-entitled surviving ex-servicemen of World War I - I understand they number about 50,000 - we would possibly squeeze out some pensioners whose disabilities have been accepted, some war widows and some of their dependent children. In view of this argument, we could expect honorable members opposite to intimate that they would do something about this in the future, but apparently the position year after year will be that the Government will say it cannot open the doors of the hospitals to these ex-servicemen because there is not enough room for all of them. No suggestion is made that the Government has decided that this provision should be made but is unable to grant it this year for practical reasons and that it will make money available for the construction of additional repatriation hospit :1s to meet the needs of these people.
The amendment contained another aspect that has not been mentioned by honorable members on the Government side. The amendment referred not only to accommodation in repatriation hospitals but also to the provision of medical treatment. Is there a shortage of the doctors who would be needed to cope with the medical requirements of these ex-servicemen? They must be receiving medical attention somewhere, if they are sick. So the issue simply comes back to this: Is the Government prepared to make available the money that is needed to give this attention to decent exservicemen who did so much to protect our country and to ensure the survival of our way of life? This is the time of life when they most need attention of this kind. The position seems to be that, except for one or two independent minded Senators on the Government side of the other chamber, the Government en bloc is not prepared to accept the amendment and has already decided to reject it. I think this is most discreditable.
– Will the honorable member for Chisholm vote for it?
– I am not too sure what he will do. I think if a challenge threatened the survival of the Government he would rather protect the Government than protect the welfare of ex-servicemen.
The Bill effects improvements to some seven areas of repatriation benefits. Some of the benefits do not affect many persons, but some of them are worth while. 1 am prepared to applaud any provision that helps ex-servicemen, or anybody else in the community for that matter. I do not begrudge any person a benefit he may receive. But this should not be interpreted as meaning that I am ready to be completely satisfied with any measure simply because it helps some people in the community. The first measure mentioned by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) in his second reading speech is the intermediate rate of pension, which is a new rate. I do not need te say much about it because what I would say has been said quite adequately by my colleagues. The intermediate rate of £10 2s. 6d. will be payable to those exservice.men who, in the judgment of the repatriation authorities, do not quite qualify for ihe total and permanent incapacity rate but who, in the view of the repatriation authorities, deserve something more than the general rate of pension, which is £6 a week. The intermediate rate is mid-way between the general rate and the T.P.I, rate.
I must admit to some misgivings because the definition of the ex-serviceman who will be entitled to this rate is anything but precise. We have been told that it will apply to people who cannot engage in full time employment, to people who can work only part time or who can work only intermittently. Of course, we are not given any definition of the rather broad terms that are used. What is meant by part time? What is meant by intermittently? We all know the general meaning of these expressions, but here we are dealing with important legislation that will- affect the lives of many people. To my mind, too much legislation containing vague terms has passed through the House recently. I call to mind such matters as the discretion given the Commissioner of Taxation and the rules for the allocation of Commonwealth scholarships. Too much is being left to the bureaucracy to interpret, and now we are leaving another provision to be interpreted outside the Parliament.
We are not told what is meant by part time employment and by intermittent employment. Will an ex-serviceman who has an interruption of, say, one week in every 10 weeks be regarded as having part time employment or as having intermittent employment? What will be the position if an ex-serviceman works for three months, is away from work for six months and then back at work for three months? Is he the sort of person who will benefit from this kind of provision? I hope it does not mean that those who have been fighting hard to get the total and permanent incapacity rate will be fobbed off with this lower rate. We all will be watching to see whether that happens. I would have preferred the Bill to contain precise definitions. We would tuen have been able to judge whether it was fair, adequate and reasonable and we would have been better able to test the administration of the legislation by the Repatriation Department. Since definitions are so lacking we shall just have to wait and see how the terms of this measure are interpreted by the authorities.
The second improvement in benefits relates to the extending of eligibility for sustenance allowance at the T.P.I, rate. Here, again, we have some misgivings. At least in this instance the definition is more precise. Sustenance allowance at the T.P.I, rate will be paid to ex-servicemen who are war pensioners and who attend full time for four successive weeks at an outpatient clinic conducted by the Repatriation Department. At least, that is clear enough. But a couple of thoughts occur to me. First of all, as my colleague, the honorable member for Hughes, asked, why is the period four weeks? Why has an exserviceman to totter along for four weeks before he becomes eligible for sustenance allowance at the T.P.I. rate? I presume that he will become eligible immediately for the general rate sustenance allowance of £6 a week and that if he qualifies for the higher rate at the end of four weeks the higher rate will be made retrospective. This kind of thing causes of lot of misgivings in ex-servicemen’s homes, with members of the family wondering which rate will ultimately be paid and whether they can meet the burden of debt that bears down on them at a time of sickness.
I believe that it would have been fair enough to embody in the Repatriation Act the same kind of provision as is made in relation to the sickness benefit under the terms of the Social Services Act. If a person is away from work for a full week and the doctor gives a certificate stating that that person will be absent from work for a further period, that is the time at which the decision ought to be made. If the doctor is prepared to certify, before four weeks have passed, that the exserviceman will undergo outpatient treatment for four weeks or more, why cannot the decision be made when the certificate is given? I hope that attention will be given to this proposal.
A third provision in this Bill will extend free medical treatment for the children of war widows up to the age of 21 if they are full time students. I have several things that I want to say about this. I regret that the same Minister has had to listen to both this debate and the debate on the Social Services Bill. What I and others said in the debate on that Bill applies here. In the earlier debate 1 said that if we wished to help widows, whether war widows or civilian widows, we should do all we could to help them educate their children. Therefore, I have some misgivings about fixing the age of 21 as the limit for this kind of assistance for student children. I applaud the Government for extending this assistance to that age. Gradually the limit has been raised from 16 to 18 years, and now to 21. As I said yesterday, if we want to help the student children of widows to obtain a university education, we must bear in mind a few important facts. In the debate on the Social Services Bill, the Minister went on record as saying that we should be prepared to give widows ali possible encouragement to educate their children.
There is hardly any faculty in the universities in which a student can expect to complete his studies by the age of 21. As I stated yesterday, the secondary school course in New South Wales and Victoria now covers six years to matriculation. So, in those States at least, most students will be 18 when they matriculate, even if they do not have to repeat a class or a form. A student might be able to complete a course at the pass level in Arts or one or two other faculties in three years. So that a student could have a pass degree in one of these faculties by the age of 21. But an honours course takes an additional year, as does a Diploma of Education. In most of the faculties such as Science, Engineering, Economics and Medicine a student will be well beyond 21 before completing his studies. Indeed, a medical student will probably be about 24. So the provision now being made is inadequate to meet all the needs of those with student children. I believe that there is a need for some flexibility to provide for student children until they complete full time education. Doubtless, a reasonable limit would be needed. However, the sons and daughters of widows will be precluded, by the very fact that they are children of widows, from remaining students for long and attracting any benefit such as the small sum provided under the terms of this Bill.
The fourth improvement in benefits concerns the increase of 10s. a week in the service pension payable to a married service pensioner whose wife receives a wife’s service pension. The new rate will be £6 a week. Here, again, I return to a point that I brought to the Minister’s attention yesterday in the debate on the Social Services Bill. However, I doubt whether I got it across to him clearly. This additional 10s. a week will be paid only where the wife is entitled to the wife’s service pension, which corresponds with what is described under the social services legislation as a wife’s allowance. But certain requirements have to be satisfied if the wife is to be eligible for the wife’s service pension of £3 a week. The ex-serviceman service pensioner to whom she is married must be either an invalid pensioner or an age pensioner who has dependent children. I tried yesterday to make the Minister understand the situation of those who are in a third category, but I do not know whether I was successful. As I understand the situation, under the social services legislation, where the wife is under 60 and has no children, husband and wife between them receive £6 a week. She does not receive the wife’s allowance of £3 a week.
– No, but they can get supplementary assistance.
– They can get supplementary assistance, but she does not receive the wife’s allowance. I want to avoid confusion over this. Supplementary assistance will be paid only if the means test and rental conditions applied to it can be satisfied. However, that is another argument. I raise here a point that I believe the Minister does not recognise. I imagine that the Government has not noticed the implications. An age service pensioner may be only 60 years of age, and his wife may be 57 or 58 and unable to get a job. But, as she cannot obtain a wife’s service pension, the couple are required to live on £6 a week. Imagine any couple being asked to live on only £6 a week, even though they may be paying off a home and paying municipal and water rates and all the other charges that home owners have to meet. This sort of situation forces many wives to try hard to get an invalid pension, though this is not in fact a good thing. Even the Minister has said that it is not a good thing to put people on invalidity pensions if this can be avoided. Yet some of these unfortunate wives are forced to try to have themselves declared to be invalids.
The Bill provides also for the payment of a guardian’s allowance of £2 a week to an unmarried service pensioner who has the custody, care and control of one or more children. This allowance will be paid up to the age of 21 in respect of a full-time student or otherwise up to the age of 16. This will not benefit many people, though I suppose it will be worthwhile even if it helps a total of only about 100 people throughout Australia. But probably it will not benefit even as many as that, though I do not know for sure. The best that can be said is that a similar provision in the social services legislation helps comparatively few. Here, again, the same argument about restriction to a limit of 21 years of age for a full time student applies.
Under the terms of this measure, supplementary assistance of up to £1 a week is to be paid to single repatriation pensioners and now to a very restricted class of married pensioners, subject to a means test, where rent is paid. I do no propose now to reiterate the argument that I advanced yesterday about the number of deserving people in the community who are buying their own homes and meeting all the other costs of home ownership. I showed yesterday how they are put at a disadvantage by being denied supplementary assistance and I tried to point out the anomalies that exist. The Bill provides also for the payment of a funeral grant to a service pensioner who is responsible for the funeral costs of a spouse, a child or another pensioner. This grant will amount to £20. No provision is being made for an increase in the funeral benefit for T.P.I, ex-servicemen, though this was requested. As we all know, these are men who are classified as being totally incapacitated because of war caused disabilities. I think that the provision of £25 only for the burial of such an ex-serviceman has existed since about 1950. To all intents and purposes this man has been killed in the course of war. Although he is a war victim we provide only £25 for his burial. We have heard a good deal of talk about paying the expenses to bring home the bodies of the unfortunates who have been killed in Vietnam, but here we can do something about people whose death in Australia has been caused by war injuries. The Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association, the Returned Servicemen’s League and various other bodies have asked that this benefit be increased from £25 to £50.
There is to be a provision under the pensioner medical service for some wives of service pensioners to receive the benefits of that service, but they will not be able to do so until the beginning of January next year. The wives of T.P.I, ex-servicemen will be covered by the pensioner medical service only if they can qualify under the means test. They will be eligible only if they qualify for a part age or invalid or service pension. So many will be disappointed by the provision. The biggest disappointment of the whole Bill is that it makes no improvement in the pension for a vast number of ex-servicemen. Service pensioners will have to get by on their £5 10s. a week if they are married and £6 if they are single. All those receiving the war pension, right up to the full T.P.I, rate, are to receive no increase under this Bill. We have all noted the increased cost of living since the pension was increased last year. The cost of living has gone up quite considerably and has more than eaten up the grant that was made last year.
I am reminded of what the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) said about the T.P.I. pensioners receiving an increase of 10s. last year. Many who received that increase had the 10s. taken away under the means test. There was no easing of the means test which put a ceiling limit on the income of a married couple at £18 a week if they had no more than £418 in assets, other than their home and a car. Many T.P.I- ex-servicemen last year received no benefit whatever from the nominal increase of 10s. given at that time. This year again they get nothing and, what is more, apparently they have to face up to another 12 months of continuing price increases without any protection from an increased pension. In real terms, under the regime of this Government, ex-servicemen have had their pensions decreased. In real terms their pensions have been cut. They have already been cut somewhat, and the chances are that the buying capacity of their pension will be cut substantially more over the next few months. Everybody with eyes to see is aware of the increasing price of nearly every commodity. Sometimes price increases have been attributable to the drought, but sometimes they have been attributable to other causes. So ex-servicemen’s organisations have good reason to protest at the Government’s failure to increase pensions.
We have been told that the special T.P.I, rate of pension in 1920 was 9s. more than the Federal basic wage at the time. In 1932 it was 18s. 4d. above the basic wage, but today the T.P.I, rate is 23s. below the basic wage. It is no wonder that exservicemen’s organisations have had deputations to the Government and to the Opposition asking that something be done to remedy this state of affairs. It rings rather hollow to pensioners when Government supporters talk about the unbounded prosperity that Australia is supposed to have at the moment. I have related the T.P.I, rate of pension to the basic wage, but the Government frequently tells us that everybody gets more than the basic wage. If we relate the T.P.I, pension to the average adult male weekly rate - the take home pay - we see that the T.P.I, pensioner, as well as other war pensioners, is well behind on what the Government gives him. I do not know offhand what the average weekly adult rate is at the moment, but I understand that it is more than £24 a week. I believe that it has reached almost £26 a week. Yet all that we provide for an adult man who is totally incapacitated as a result of service on behalf of this country to protect us is about 23s. less than the basic wage. Admittedly the pensioner receives some other concessions, but they are not comparable with what he should be getting and what is given to his fellow men who today enjoy increased long service leave, increased recreation leave and increased sickness benefits. The T.P.I, ex-serviceman gets a very small share of these things.
Another matter of concern is that there has been no alleviation of the means test. For 11 years since 1954 the Government has failed to provide any alleviation of the means test. The ex-service pensioner - the burnt out digger, as we term him - is still restricted to earning not more than £3 10s. a week. That limit applied 11 years ago, and it still applies. The same situation applies to other pensioners and it has a similar effect on them. The means test serves as a penalty to ex-service pensioners who happen to have some superannuation or even a part war pension. These men go along to an assessment tribunal and have their war pension increased, but immediately the whole benefit is taken away because their service pension is reduced. This happens because the Government has resisted any relaxation of the means test. If time had permitted I would have talked about the need to adjust automatically all these pensions to cost of living fluctuations. This is a step that is badly needed. Further, even the small concessions that are to be given this year should have been made retrospective to the beginning of the financial year instead of coming into operation two or three months after mat time.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired. [Quorum formed.]
– in reply - Every member of this House meets exservicemen in his electorate and in the Australian community. Every member has dealings with ex-servicemen’s organisations. Every member of this House is naturally concerned with the wellbeing of exservicemen and of ex-servicemen’s dependants. It is for those reasons that the debate this evening has been of such interest not only to those of us who are here but also to all members of the Australian community.
Since this Government has been in office, it has initiated a proceeding through which, each year, negotiations are conducted with the various ex-servicemen’s organisations, and an understanding is reached with those organisations as to the benefits which they think most desirable in a particular year. Frequently these benefits are put in order of priority. On each occasion deference is paid to the reasons put forward by the representatives of the organisations for suggesting the types of benefits which they feel are in particular need at a particular time. This year, as in each other year, these negotiations have been bilateral negotiations. The organisations have made their submissions to the Government and the Government, in its turn, has discussed with the representatives of the organisations the budgetary position as it appears to the Government and has explained to them the types of benefits which it feels can be provided.
In this instance, as I detailed in my second reading speech the other day, there has been an extension of the provisions available in two principal categories. The first relates to war pensions and the second to service pensions. As honorable members will appreciate, the extensions to service pensions relate principally to a very similar field of normal social service benefits, the extension of which we discussed at some length yesterday. For this reason, I do not intend to run over the arguments that have been put before the House tonight with relation to service pensions.
As to the provision relating to war pensions, a number of matters were raised by honorable members on both sides of the House and I propose to spend a few moments in speaking about some of them. Since this Government came to office, there has been a tremendous and continuing development in the range and extent of repatriation benefits. I think it might be of interest to detail some of the increases that have occurred during that period. For example, in 1949 the special rate pension payable was £5 6s. a week. In 1965, it is £14 5s. a week. This year, for the first time, an intermediate rate of pension has been introduced. That rate is £10 2s. 6d. a week. The general rate pension has increased from £2 15s. a week in 1949 to £6 in 1965, and there has been a tremendous extension of other pensions and benefits over that period. Even though much has been said m this chamber tonight about the proportion of the basic wage which repatriation benefits represented at a point of time in the past and at the present, it must be acknowledged by every honorable member that there has been a tremendous increase in the actual money value of the benefits paid over that term.
Some of the other matters that have been raised here tonight related to individual rates of pension and there was a suggestion that this year there should have been a general rise in pension rates. Yesterday, when dealing with another matter. I discussed some of the reasons why it has been felt this year that there are particular areas of need towards which Government assistance should be directed. Just as was done in connection with the social services legislation, so here tonight in connection with these repatriation proposals consideration has been given to those areas where it is felt further assistance should be provided and where further assistance is needed.
One of these areas which has been discussed at some length tonight has relation to the intermediate rate of pension. Some honorable members opposite have expressed the opinion that this is a benefit which may not necessarily be to the advantage of the ex-service community. In fact, some honorable members have said that they feel completely opposed to this benefit. They have stated that they feel that it might well have been preferable for a benefit to have been provided at the T.P.I, rate, less the income earned each week or part of a week by the pensioner. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) mentioned the background to this intermediate rate of pension. He said that there is an area where in the past people have just not quite qualified for the T.P.I. rate pension and he expressed the hope that this intermediate rate was primarily designed to cover people in this category. I can assure the honorable member for Lalor and all other honorable members that that is the intention.
Eligibility for the intermediate rate of pension is to be determined on the individual merits of each particular case. The first test is whether the ex-serviceman is unable, because of his accepted disability, to follow a full time occupation. It would seem that anyone unable to work for more than an average of three days a week would obviously qualify. Again, if a person is able to work for four days a week, it may well be that he also will qualify. It will be a matter for individual examination in each case.
The second test is that the ex-serviceman is capable of earning. If he cannot earn more than a negligible proportion of a living wage, then he is clearly eligible for a special rate pension. If he can earn a living wage by working part time, he is reasonably compensated by the 100 per cent, or general rate pension of £6. If his earnings fall between those limits, the purpose is to supplement those earnings by the intermediate rate pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week so that, in total, he will have a reasonable living .wage. In both the tests that I have detailed, the question is whether the person concerned is precluded from earning more than a negligible percentage of a living wage. I can assure honorable members that decisions will be made on the merits of individual applications. It is intended that those people who previously have not been eligible for the special rate pension shall now become eligible for the intermediate rate. In this provision for an area of relative need, we see another of the many extensions made by this Government over the last 14 years of the substantial benefits provided for a very deserving section of the community.
The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) raised two matters. He was supported by some other honorable members, including the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver). Firstly, the honorable member for Chisholm cast some doubts on the number of people who would be covered by the amendment which was inserted in another place in the Bill now before the House. I can assure the honorable member that I shall have those figures investigated, but if he cares to look at the reply given to Question No. 1187, which was asked upon notice, he will find there a full explanation of the apparent escalation in the cost of extending this benefit. I think he will be completely satisfied and that the doubts he expresses will be removed.
Another matter raised by both the honorable member for Chisholm and the honorable member for Swan related to a suggestion that there should be a further investigation of the area of need of those people who are covered by the amendment that was inserted in the Bill in another place. I refer to the extension of hospital benefits to persons returned from the Boer
War o- World War I and who are not otherwise eligible for such benefits. As honorable members know - and the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) explained this to the House in some detail tonight - there are already, for those persons who come within the means test qualification, free medical services available. In this way there is already some considerable advantage given to these persons. However, the people to whom this extension principally relates are those who are outside that means test qualification who would otherwise be ineligible because of their means. The persons covered by this benefit are persons who, as the honorable member for Sturt has already, I think most effectively, explained to the House, are normally able to provide for their own hospitalisation. The point is that the injuries in respect of which the benefit is sought are other than war caused.
There is in the mind of the honorable member for Chisholm some doubt as to the availability of records. I shall certainly have the matters that he has raised investigated by my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). However, I assure the honorable member that whenever these matters are considered by the Repatriation Commission, and by the tribunals, considerable weight is given to any probability that the injury resulted from war causes. If there is some element of doubt, then in every instance the benefit of the doubt is given to the ex-serviceman. I am quite sure that the doubts that are in the honorable member’s mind because of the absence of sufficient records are not justified, but I can assure him that I will have the matter investigated, and if the position is not as I have explained it to the House I will certainly advise him accordingly.
There is one other matter that I want to mention. Several Opposition members have said tonight that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) claimed that it was not constitutionally permissible for the Senate to do what it has done. The word “ permissible” might not be correct, but that was the idea. As honorable members will recall, the Prime Minister read the third paragraph of section 53 of the Constitution to honorable members. It reads -
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) drew a distinction between a bill introduced in this House and a bill introduced in another place. He suggested that because this Bill was first introduced in the other place and had not been discussed here when the amendment was passed, section 53 of the Constitution would not apply. I point out that section 53 uses the words “ any proposed law “ and this surely is a proposed law.
To extend the argument presented by the Prime Minister I think honorable members might be interested in reading a contribution made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). I am indebted to the honorable member for Bass for pointing it out to me. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, as honorable members may recall, dealt with the acceptance by this chamber of an amendment inserted by the Senate in the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1960. The amendment to that Bill certainly was slightly different in effect- as its acceptance brought about a reduction in revenue of an estimated amount of £8,000, whereas in this instance the effect of the amendment will be to increase expenditure by approximately £5 million. At the risk of taking up the time of the House I think it worth while to put on record once again the statement of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on that occasion, He said -
However, I suggest, that if we are not very careful, a significant loss in the authority of the lower house of the Parliament as the taxing branch of the legislature may be involved in the proposal.
We have before us, in principle, an amendment moved by another place to the Budget proposals announced by the Government here in August.
If I might interpolate, this once again is another one of the facets which should be considered by the honorable member for Barton in view of his statement that the measure we are considering was not in the first instance introduced in this chamber. In this Bill that we are implementing Budget proposals that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) brought down in this chamber approximately a month ago. I shall continue to read the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports -
In another week or two we may face another matter involving a most significant loss of revenue. I think that the House of Representatives ought to be very careful of its historic role. In the last few days we have heard a lot about common law, historical privilege and traditions. It is an accepted principle of the British parliamentary system that the levying of taxes and the total amount of the Budget are matters for the lower house of the Parliament to determine.
It is true that, to a degree, the Senate, in our parliamentary system, does not occupy the same role as the House of Lords occupies in the United Kingdom. But it ought to be recognised that this, the lower house of Parliament, elected on a popular franchise and by roughly equal electorates throughout Australia, is the house which ought to determine the level of taxation, the matters which are to be subject to taxation, and the matters which are to be exempt from tax.
That quotation comes from pages 3183 and 3184 of volume 29 of the House of Representatives “ Hansard “.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was referring to matters of taxation. The Senate amendment in this case has no relation to taxation.
– The point I am endeavouring to make is that there is a distinction between loss of revenue and increase of expenditure, but it seems to me that the cases are still related to a similar province and a similar distinction between the roles of the two chambers. I think that this was very effectively explained to this chamber earlier in the day by the Prime Minister. Accordingly, as the Prime Minister has intimated, the Government does not intend to accept the amendment that has been moved to the Bill but, apart from that one instance, presents the Bill as it stands to this chamber for its support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 2a.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “2a. After section 21 of the Principal Act the following Part is inserted: -
Part IIa. - Joint Committee on Repatriation
– (1.) As soon as practicable after the commencement of this Part, and as soon as practicable after the commencement of the first session of each Parliament, a joint committee of nine members of the Parliament, to be called the Joint Committee on Repatriation, shall be appointed according to the practice of the Parliament with reference to the appointment of members to serve on joint committees of both Houses of the Parliament. (2.) Three of the members of the Committee shall be members of, and shall be appointed by, the Senate, and six members of the Committee shall be members of, and shall be appointed by, the House of Representatives. 22a. The members of the Committee shall hold office as a Joint Committee until the House of Representatives for the time being expires by dissolution or effluxion of time. 22b. - (1.) Any member of the Committee may resign his seat on the Committee by writing under his hand addressed to the President of the Senate if he be a Senator, or to the Speaker of the House of Representatives if he be a member of the House of Representatives. (2.) The seat of any member of the Committee shall be deemed to have become vacant if he ceases to be a Senator or a member of the House of Representatives, as the case may be. 22c. Where the seat of any member of the Committee becomes vacant, it shall be filled by appointment according to the practice referred to in section twenty-two of this Act within fifteen sitting days after the happening of the vacancy if the House of the Parliament of which he is a member is then sitting, or, if not, then within fifteen sitting days after the next meeting of that House. 22d. There shall be a Chairman and a ViceChairman of the Committee, who shall be elected by the members of the Committee at their first meeting, or as soon thereafter as is practicable. 22e. At any meeting of the Committee -
This amendment proposes the establishment of a joint committee of this Parliament. A similar amendment was proposed on another occasion when similar legislation was before the Parliament. The Opposition believes that the amendment has a great deal of merit and it again brings it forward for the consideration of the committee. While the greater portion of the amendment refers to the machinery of the proposed committee, proposed new section 22j. sets out the functions of the committee proposed by the Opposition. The proposed new section provides -
The Committee shall examine the Repatriation Act and regulations and, in a Report to the Parliament, recommend amendments necessary to be made in the Act and regulations to remove existing anomalies and improve their provisions.
It should be clearly understood by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) and the Government that the Opposition does not suggest that, as a result of this amendment, the policy of the Government relative to repatriation matters should be taken out of the hands of the Government and transferred to the proposed Joint Committee of this Parliament. That is not the intention of this amendment; nor is it the intention of the Opposition. We believe that a Joint Committee can investigate the Repatriation Act. It would have the responsibility to suggest to the Minister for Repatriation and the Government whether improvements could be effected, and how anomalies might be removed.
Mr. Chairman, the last joint committee of this Parliament appointed to investigate the Repatriation Act was established in 1943. That is to say, 22 years ago this Parliament decided to establish that committee. The committee was under the chairmanship of my distinguished colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). As a result of the deliberations of that committee, a great many improvements were effected to the Repatriation Act. I merely refer at this stage to section 47 of the Act which provides that a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal shall discharge the onus of proof requirement. As a result of the deliberations of that committee, section 47 which incorporates the onus of proof clause was written into the Repatriation Act. Had it not been for the establishment of this committee, section 47 might never have been written into the Act. While it may be argued by some honorable members that section 47 is not being applied in the generous way in which I believe the committee indicated it should be applied originally, this does not alter the fact that section 47 has given at last to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal the right to discharge the onus of proof where a doubt exists concerning an ex-serviceman’s case.
When one considers the arguments which have been raised by those who have opposed the establishment of joint committees of this Parliament on other occasions, it is difficult to find in the arguments which have been advanced by honorable members from the Government side any real reason why a joint committee should not be established. Surely, after a period of 22 years, this Parliament can concede and should concede that it is necessary for a review of the Repatriation Act to be carried out by a joint committee of this Parliament. After all, this Parliament has been able to establish other joint committees to consider various matters. For example, the Constitutional Review Committee was established by this Parliament to make certain recommendations on the Commonwealth Constitution. In due course, that committee reported back to the Parliament. The Government felt it necessary to appoint a committee to consider the economy of this country. We listened to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) only last week indicating the opinion of the Government on the deliberations of that committee. The Government has appointed a committee to examine questions relative to education at various levels in Australia. The Government has forecast the establishment of a joint committee of this Parliament to consider the site of a new Parlaiment House. I understand that a committee has been established to consider the future development of Canberra. But there is no obligation on the Government to accept the recommendations that these committees may make. The same position would apply with regard to a joint committee established to consider the Repatriation Act.
Having listened to the debate that has taken place here tonight relative to the Repatriation Act, nobody can deny that anomalies exist. The anomalies have been mentioned by honorable members on both sides of the House. Mr. Chairman, at this stage I merely refer to the point that has been made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and, I understand, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver). This matter was subsequently referred to by the Minister for Social Services. The honorable member for Chisholm and the honorable member for Swan asserted that there could be some doubt as to whether ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 War could secure sufficient evidence to present to the Repatriation Commission, the Repatriation Board or to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal to substantiate claims for the acceptance of war-caused disabilities. Surely this is one of the anomalies that might be considered by a joint committee of the kind suggested in the terms of the amendment which I have moved on behalf of the Opposition. . .
The last joint committee to consider the Repatriation Act was established, as I have already indicated to the Committee, in 1943. Great improvements were effected to the Repatriation Act generally as a result of the recommendations of that Committee. One of those recommendations was that a permanent joint committee of this Parliament should be established to consider the Repatriation Act. The present Prime Minister, who was then not the Leader of the Opposition but a member of the Opposition, objected to this recommendation. The Labour Prime Minister of that day accepted the recommendation of the committee but the present Prime Minister, who was then the honorable member for Kooyong in the Opposition party, opposed the proposal which was not accepted. As far back as 1943, a committee appointed by this Parliament recommended that a Joint Committee should be appointed to consider the Repatriation Act from time to time. I have not sufficient time to refer in great detail to the anomalies that I think a joint committee of this Parliament should have the opportunity to examine. The objections that have been raised by Government members in the past when this amendment has been proposed have not been substantiated in fact. I believe on this occasion that there is every reason why the Government should accept the proposition for the establishment of a joint committee which, even if it did not do any good, certainly could do no harm.
.- Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has moved an amendment seeking the establishment of a joint committee of this Parliament to consider the Repatriation Act. As I served my apprenticeship in a State Parliament where members of the party to which the honorable member belongs were in Government and were bitterly opposed to the idea of a joint committee being set up to consider any matter, it never ceases to amaze me to see the frequency with which this proposal is put before this Parliament. In this instance, the honorable member for Bass has suggested once again that a joint committee should be established to investigate certain general proposals, as he says, that may develop from time to time and which may need investigation within the repatriation legislation. In fact, at one stage, the honorable member referred to the joint committee established in 1943. But I point out to the honorable member that the appointment of this committee related to the adoption or not of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act to meet the needs and conditions of Second World War service. The question that prompted the establishment of that committee has long ago been answered, and any acceptance of the suggestion to appoint at this stage a parliamentary committee on repatriation would be, to my mind, an abrogation of the Government’s responsibility to review repatriation proposals each year in the context of the Government’s normal Budgetary deliberations.
As honorable members know, there are each year - and this has been referred to during the debate in this House tonight - discussions with various ex-service groups. There are, in addition, discussions with persons who are interested in particular aspects of repatriation legislation. Discussions are conducted with such organisa-irons as Legacy which are perhaps outside the accepted field of ex-service organisations. Consequently there is a constant pattern of discussion between representatives of this Government and outside bodies. In addition, of course, there is still an ex-servicemen’s committee within the Cabinet, and the R.S.L. and bodies representing various exservice groups have access to this exservicemen’s committee. Consequently they can make their applications in a direct way to the Government and can continue to present for Government consideration any proposals which they feel have particular merit at a particular time.
Accordingly the Government does not accept the proposed amendment to the Bill as submitted by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I ask members of this Committee to oppose it.
.- The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) came to this House from the Upper House in the New South Wales Parliament, where he was a member of the Opposition. He takes a view here, as a member of the Government, exactly the opposite of the one he took as a member of the Opposition in the Upper House in New South Wales, where he and other .members of his party suggested the establishment of special joint committees of the New South Wales Parliament to go into specified matters. One of the proposals they were continually raising in the New South Wales Parliament was that a public accounts committee be established similar to the one that operates in the Commonwealth sphere. The Opposition in this place feels that there is merit in our Public Accounts Committee and that there is merit in the Public Works Committee. As the Government has continued to allow these committees to operate for so long, apparently it also believes that they have merit.
The Opposition on this occasion, and on previous occasions, has moved an amendment for the establishment of a joint committee to look at the Repatriation Act. At members of this House and of the Senate know how often requests are received from ex-servicemen for the examination of cases involving the onus of proof provisions or the interpretation of certain sections of the Act. Even in the Bill before us there are provisions that could well be looked at by the suggested joint committee. I refer particularly to some of the smaller amendments, for which the Government is taking a great deal of credit, such as the guardian’s allowance and the provision for an appeal by an ex-serviceman to be heard if new evidence having a substantial bearing on the case is produced. All these are matters that could be looked at by the joint committee. This would take a great deal of work off the shoulders of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). The subject of repatriation is generally regarded as being at least partly non-political, and this is another reason why the joint committee should have power to look at many aspects of repatriation. It could give a decision on many matters submitted by ex-servicemen’s organisations.
The Minister spoke a moment ago of the number of organisations that send deputations to the Government, but the answer I received yesterday to one of my questions revealed that only two organisations had actually sent deputations. There was a deputation to the ex-servicemen’s committee of Cabinet by the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and there was a deputation to the Minister by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association. The other exservice organisations apparently wrote to the Minister setting out their proposals in detail. I appreciate that the Minister for Social Services has not had to handle the Repatriation portfolio and consequently could easily have made a slip when he said that deputations were being continually received by the Minister on these repatriation matters.
– Representations rather than deputations.
– There is a great deal of difference between representations and deputations. I believe it is much more satisfactory to sit down and talk to representatives of these organisations about the matters they wish to bring before the Parliament than to have them try to put their arguments in writing.
I have referred to some of the things that I believe the joint committee could do. There is another matter that I have mentioned before and which I shall repeat. I believe that some of the lower rates of pension, the 10 per cent, or 20 per cent, rates, are not of great advantage to the exservicemen or ex-servicewomen receiving them. The joint committee could inquire into this question. The ex-service organisations could send individuals to appear before the committee and give evidence on questions such as whether the base rate of war pension should start at, say, the 50 per cent, level, and whether the lower rates should be cancelled entirely with the proviso that when a person has established that a disability has been war caused he should automatically receive free hospital and medical treatment. I believe there might be some saving in the acceptance of this proposal. Any such saving should be passed on to ex-servicemen in other directions, perhaps even by granting free medical treatment to 1914-18 War veterans.
As the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has said, it is not intended that this joint committee should be a policy making body, just as it was never intended that the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee should be a policy making body. These committees look at matters referred to them and make their recommendations. If the Government does not wish to adopt those recommendations they are not adopted. But it seems to me that the Repatriation Act as it now stands is rather like Topsy. It has just growed, and in various ways. If honorable members look at the Bill before us now they will see that there is a little being granted to cut out an anomaly. The repatriation legislation has not been looked at in full since 1950, when it was considered by a Cabinet sub-committee. The previous full-scale inquiry was the one led by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in 1943. The Opposition believes that this topic of repatriation can be taken out of the realm of politics, and that by means of this joint committee we can frame a Repatriation Act and a list of benefits which would be the admiration of soldier’s organisations throughout the world. In moving this amendment we merely want to do the best we can for those men and women who were prepared, in the 1914-18 War and the 1939-45 War, and even in the present war, to take their places on the field of battle on behalf of their country.
.- I rise to support the amendment which moves for the establishment of a joint committee on repatriation. I believe that such a committee could do a lot of good. At least if it did no good it would do no harm. There are many anomalies in the Act. Honorable members often have exservicemen coming to them with their difficulties. I do not cast any reflection on the repatriation authorities, who are doing a mighty job, but they are bound by regulations. The onus of proof provision worries most honorable members, particularly as applied to First World War diggers. The first thing many exservicemen wanted to do when they returned to Australia was to get back to work. Many of them were young and seized the opportunity to obtain jobs. They forgot about their war disabilities, particularly those who had been affected by gas and who thought they were cured. They never imagined that it would affect them later. I could name one man who, when he returned from the First World War, started in business on his own account driving a taxi. He was fit, but his doctor - also a returned soldier - told him not to be silly but to claim for a war-caused disability as a result of being subjected to gas. The man said that he was all right, and for the next 40 years drove a taxi. Taxi driving is not a hard task. However, when he became affected by the gas it was too late for him to succeed in his claim.
I thought it was recognised that the onus of proof lies with the Repatriation Commission, but when this man went to the Commission he was asked to prove that he was affected by gas. I endeavoured to get as much evidence as I could for him by writing to the various exservicemen’s organisations throughout Australia to try to establish that he had served in a gas affected area. Unfortunately the men who had served with him were dead. Even the doctor who had examined him, and who had advised him so many years earlier to apply for a pension, was dead. He had no-one to help him prove that he had been in a gas affected area. Of course, as honorable members know, the records kept in the First World War were by no means as comprehensive as those of the Second World War. The Services learned their lesson. This is but one of many similar cases. I believe that a joint committee could do much to help in circumstances like those I have mentioned. It could call on officers of the Repatriation Commission to help it decide on the cases brought to its notice. It could then make recommendations to the Government. As was said by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart), the Government would not have to accept the committee’s recommendation, but at least the committee would be a guide and would relieve the officers of the Repatriation Commission, many of whom believe that they are too restricted by regulations.
The onus of proof provision is one of the greatest problems confronting First World War men. It does not so greatly affect Second World War men, although there are some on whom this burden has fallen heavily. The onus should be on the Repatriation Commission to prove that a disability was not caused through war service. However, in most cases the Commission tries to make the ex-servicemen prove that his disability is due to war service. Honorable members on both sides of the House know that this is a fact. They have probably received as many representations from exservicemen as I have done. Some of the young doctors coming on have never served in a war - and this is no discredit to them - but they say to the ex-serviceman: “ I do not know that this is due to war service. After 40 years how can you claim it is due to war service? “ How can the doctors say that it is not due to war service after 40 years?
In the case I mentioned, the exserviceman who worked as a taxi driver for 40 years had had attacks of bronchitis, for which he had been treated, but had been able to carry on his job until his health became affected to such an extent that he had to give it up. However, the Repatriation Commission would not accept his claim that his illness was due to his war service. They asked him to supply evidence that he had served in a gas affected area. He could not find any men who had served with him io support his claim. The Repatriation Commission admitted that part of his battalion had served in gas affected areas, but they wanted him to prove that he belonged to that section of his battalion. He could not get that proof because those who had served with him were all dead. We tried to get the necessary evidence through exservicemen’s organisations. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) said that ex-servicemen’s organisations have access to the records of the Repatriation Commission, but this is not so. They can approach the Repatriation Commission, but the Commission’s officers do not give them the information they require and they are wiped aside. The ex-servicemen have to go before a tribunal and the onus of proof is placed on them. They have to prove that their disabilities were caused by their war service. Long before I became a member of this Parliament I thought it had been decided by the courts that the onus of proof was on the Commission and not on the individual. If that is so, the tribunals are not acting in accordance with that decision.
If a joint committee were formed it could correct many of the anomalies of the existing legislation, some of which have been mentioned by the honorable members for Bass and Lang. A joint committee could do justice to ex-servicemen and could assist the Repatriation Commission. It could also help the Government to formulate a repatriation policy of which this country could be proud and on which the world could judge the beneficence of the Government to the person who has served his country and suffered for it.
.- I address myself to the question of establishing a standing committee on repatriation. I believe that every time the Government and its supporters consistently and almost inevitably reject a suggestion to establish committees of this Parliament it is a vote of no confidence in the Parliament and a vote of no confidence in themselves. This is the Parliament of the people of Australia, and it represents the people of Australia. It is not the representative of departments or of departmental activity. Every Minister of the Crown is a member of this Parliament and this is where his responsibility and principal duty lies. He is not to be a public relations officer for his department, neither is his department to be simply his instrument for carrying out his personal policy. It is an instrument created by the Parliament to carry out the functions proposed by the Parliament, representing the people directly.
I believe that in this country, based as it is on a fundamental democratic vision in which the community is basically egalitarian and where the community is basically literate, there should be greater consideration for the opportunity of members of Parliament to participate in the examination and development of public administration.
I believe that this is one of the real challenges to parliamentary democracy. We have to find an answer to government by executive - to the domination of the nation by executive control - or parliamentary democracy will fail to function.
– This is what the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said also.
– Yes. I believe this is one of the challenges of the times. At present in this world there are two distinct themes of government. There is the Communist theory and practice of government, both economic and political, which in many respects means a party dictatorship. There is the effective democracy operating through the parliamentary system. There are also many countries struggling to find some method of governing themselves in accordance with the needs of the people. At present, of the 120 members of the United Nations and of the 70 or so members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, no more than 30 or so have parliamentary democracies in the sense in which we use the term. I believe that we ourselves have come to the stage where ours is no longer a parliamentary democracy in the strict Sense. This is not a deliberative assembly. The Parliament is pointless except for enabling members to make speeches and to put their deliberations on record for public scrutiny. It is almost pointless for honorable members on this side of the chamber to speak, because we know that the Minister will not accept anything proposed from this side. In the 10 years that I have been here nothing proposed from this side has been accepted. In that time hardly ever has anything proposed by back benchers from the Government side been accepted. Only on very rare occasions has the Government accepted anything proposed in the other place. Indeed, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) poured scorn on the idea of accepting the Senate’s amendment. No longer does the Government accept recommendations made by committees appointed by the Parliament or by the Government. Only a couple of years ago I was a member of a select committee that inquired into matters affecting Arnhem Land Aborigines and so far none of that committee’s recommendations has been implemented.
Here the Parliament has an opportunity to take an active interest in and make a continual scrutiny of one of the large measures of public administration - the Repatriation Act - and the things that flow from it. A committee of this Parliament has three functions. First, by examination of the subject, it has to advise the Parliament. Secondly, it keeps the large measures of public administration under constant scrutiny. Its third function is to establish a line of communication to the Parliament free from the trammels and trappings of departmental practice. Now, in my opinion, the easiest access a person has to government authority is to go to the office of a member of Parlia-ment. In a way, a member of Parliament is a standing committee on public administration. I think we can dispense with ideas of an ombudsman if we give greater status to the member of Parliament. I have always been impressed by the way in which public authorities receive and attend to the representations of honorable members. One may. not get an answer that suits the case, but one will certainly get courteous treatment. In this country we have established a very effective line of communication front a member of the public to the member of Parliament, and from the member of Parliament to the public departments, but this is different from the role of the Parliament as a deliberative assembly. Until we reach the stage where honorable members from both sides can sit as a committee and consider matters free from bias and as objectively as possible, to the benefit of the aspect of administration they are examining, we will not move one step further towards public and parliamentary democracy. This is the challenge of the times.
I am not easily depressed, having watched Liberals in action as a government for 15 or 16 years and having lived for half a century, principally under such governments, but I am consistently depressed by actions such as those of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair). I admit that in this place he is only the spokesman for the Minister in another place. He appears to be young and is probably vital and vibrant in his administrative attitudes, hut he does not appear to have any faith in this Parliament. He has a cold attitude towards honorable members on this side of the chamber. He does not believe that we, as citizens or as representatives of important segments of the Australian people, have anything to offer. Each of us is sent here by large numbers of Australians. Those of us representing the smallest electorates represent 40,000 or 50,000 people. Some of us represent 80,000 or 90,000 people. We are not insignificant cyphers. Almost everybody here is a person of significance in his own community and above average in his attainments. He can hold his own in any place where he and others might assemble.
– The honorable member will get on.
– I certainly will. In becoming a member of Parliament I have got as far as any Australian can get. This is the highest honour a community can bestow. It is a demonstration of the great wisdom of the people of Wills that they continue to send me here.
In every discussion that takes place in this Parliament we are treated as if nothing we can say can have a significant impact on legislation. We are never consulted before legislation is brought down. Take the contentious Stevedoring Industry Bill for example. Would it not have been a sensible action to have this legislation examined as deeply as possible by a committee of the Parliament, which would have tried to reach some comprehensive conclusion on the issues involved? It is all very well for honorable members to consider my remarks as unreal or irrelevant, but committees of this Parliament usually arrive, not exactly at a unanimous conclusion, but at a consensus much closer to the real objectives of public administration than is ever achieved by open debate in this place. I do not believe that we should discard open debate, but often we see people whose philosophies appear to be diametrically opposed and whose points of view are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum arrive at the same conclusion in the reports that they submit as members of a parliamentary committee. This happened in the select committee on the Arnhem Land Aborigines. On that occasion members from both sides examined the issues and arrived at’ a unanimous conclusion. Almost the same thing may be said about the findings of the Constitutional Review Committee. Some members of that committee had completely different views about the Constitution, but they arrived at an almost unanimous conclusion.
I believe that each Minister has an opportunity to throw into the public administration of the country all the intellectual and human resources that lie within the 184 members of this Parliament. By treating members as it does on these matters the Government is wasting a tremendous amount of integrity and intellectual capacity. 1 know that the Minister proposes to press on regardless with this Bill. I know that we will probably sit all night - that resort will be had to every parliamentary procedure to inconvenience members and enable the rubber stamp of parliamentary approval to be placed on this legislation. I hope that in the near future the Minister and his colleagues in the Government will recognise the capacity that lies in this Parliament and will seize the opportunity to use those resources for the public good.
.- I regret that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) has not seen fit to accept the amendment. One had only to listen to the debate today to notice that the trend was towards party scoring over a matter that should be exempt from any ‘such spirit. The Minister referred to the committee appointed in 1943 to inquire into the Repatriation Act and the necessity for amending the Act to cope with circumstances arising out of the 1939-45 War. The Minister said that the committee inquired into whether the Act should continue to operate. That is not quite correct, and I do not say this to rebuke the Minister. The Repatriation Act existed as far back as 1917-18. That Act replaced the War Pensions Act of 1914-16. In 1920 the Repatriation Act was amended substantially. By 1943 it was obvious that the existing provisions of the Act would not be suitable to the circumstances that were already arising. The committee was asked to inquire into and report on the general question of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - it was not a matter of whether the Act should be continued - and the amendments, if any, which the committee thought desirable in the light of the conditions caused by the war.
There were seven members of the committee, drawn from each side of party politics. One member was Colonel Collett, now deceased, who was a member of the Senate. The differences between the members of that committee were in many instances as substantial as have been the differences today between the respective sides of this Parliament. So great was the committee’s desire to reach unanimity that matters such as those associated with the amendment now before us - matters that have remained unresolved - were relatively easily resolved by that committee. The end result was the presentation of a unanimous report. The report was adopted by the Parliament, after a satisfactory debate. For a substantial number of years, the Act proved to be satisfactory. But that was 22 long years ago. I think I am the only surviving member of the Committee. Many changes occurred between 1943 and 1965. It is quite evident that amendments and improvements in an Act such as the Repatriation Act cannot be made without the party spirit being apparent. This could be done under the committee system. Differences of opinion about an amendment, such as the amendment relating to the hospital and medical treatment of ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 War, could be easily resolved by the committee system.
It is clear from the contributions made by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes), the Minister and others that the big problem in these matters is cost. Nobody seems to know accurately how many ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 War would be eligible for hospital and medical treatment. A committee could collect the necessary information within a week, but this Parliament will not have the information perhaps until next year. In the meantime, thousands of men who could be enjoying the privileges of hospital and medical treatment will be without this benefit. When we consider medical and hospital treatment in the repatriation field, we must remember that vast changes have been effected in public hospitals, in social service work, in medical treatment and so on. These changes are, of course, intimately linked with repatriation services, and we need to consider how we can make them work more effectively. We should also try to keep the question of costs in its proper perspective and try to determine how costs should be assessed. Many ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 and 1939-45 Wars already are contributing to hospital and medical funds.
However, when we suggest the extension of hospital and medical services to them, the question of costs always arises and very little notice is taken of the fact that, when this Parliament shoulders such a cost as this, it relieves State public hospitals, municipal hospitals, private hospitals and other institutions of charges that would otherwise be incurred by them. After all, whether we are using State funds or Commonwealth funds does not really matter so long as the person concerned is adequately treated without being involved in the ramifications of means tests and so on.
All these questions could be resolved by a committee such as the committee that has been suggested in the amendment moved by my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I say no more about the amendment. I hope that common sense will prevail. I believe that a committee is the right way to collect information relating to the problems that face us. No parliament will ever deal with a subject in a manner that is completely free of partisanship. Today the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) came into this chamber - I do not object to that - and told us of the, problem that was caused by the amendment moved in the Senate. This problem, of course, arose because the amendment cut across the rights of the House of Representatives on money matters. But the Prime Minister was really driving home the point that his Government did not want the amendment. He was quite right to raise the other factor, but everyone should know that if he had wanted to adopt the Senate amendment he could easily have worked out a means of doing so.Instead of adopting it, he used the excuse that the Senate has no right to introduce a money matter. His point was apt and it holds force, but after all his objective was to get rid of the amendment. If the matter had been raised here, his excuse would not have been valid. He could have said only that the Government would not accept it. I leave it at that. I regret that the Minister does not see fit to adopt the Opposition’s amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Barnard’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 2b.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “2b. Section 37 of the Principal Act is amended - .
by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the words ‘pulmonary tuberculosis’, the words ‘ or cancer ‘; and
by omitting from paragraph (b) of subsection (3.) the words ‘pulmonary tuberculosis ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘pulmonary tuberculosis or cancer ‘.”.
This amendment is exactly the same as that which was moved by the Opposition last year on the occasion of the debate on the Repatriation Bill. We are supporting this amendment because we believe’ that a substantial number of men have cancer but are not able to obtain a pension for a variety of reasons, one of which is probably difficulty of diagnosis and another of which is hesitation on the part of the medical fraternity to accept cancer as being due to war service. In view of the scourge that cancer is, being as bad as or worse than the scourge of tuberculosis, we believe that it should be accepted as being attributable to war service in the same way as tuberculosis has been accepted under the Repatriation Act. The inclusion of cancer in the provisions of the Act would give relief to a large number of people. It would not involve a substantial addition in cost to the public because many returned soldiers who now suffer from cancer are a charge on the public purse in public hospitals and other institutions. There would be no great shift of cost if cancer were accepted as a war caused disability. We believe it would be reasonable to include cancer sufferers in the same category as sufferers from pulmonary tuberculosis. An amendment in the same terms as this one was moved by my colleague in another place and, in the course of the debate, a Tasmanian senator who is a member of the medical profession said -
– Order! I remind the honorable member that he may not quote from the Senate debate.
– He said that to keep on saying that ex-servicemen are suffering from cancer due to war service is so much tommy rot and has no basis in fact. That is the opinion of a medical man of some note who is also a parliamentarian. I come now to a very important point. On the occasion of a debate on this- issue in this chamber last year I suggested that it might be of benefit to honorable members to have the opinion of the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) on the causation of cancer, as he is a medical practitioner. Unfortunately, when I made that suggestion the honorable member was not in his place in the chamber but the Whip went out and brought him in. He then made a first class contribution to the debate on the causation of cancer. Unfortunately, the honorable gentleman again is not in his place. But let us consider what the honorable member said. It is in marked contrast to what a member of the medical profession said in other circumstances and in another place recently. What the honorable member for Bowman said completely refutes the opinion expressed by another medical man, who is in another place. As reported at page 907 of “Hansard” of 1964, the honorable member said -
We know that there are probably two main causes, chemical causes and infective causes. Chronic irritation may be taken as a combination of both chemical causes and infective causes. These causes tend to operate more as people get older, because there is more time for them to operate. Therefore, an elderly person-
This applies particularly to men in their sixties and seventies - is more prone to cancer than a younger person and, consequently, many more exservicemen are now developing cancer.
That is the opinion of an honorable gentleman whom I hold in high personal esteem and who, I believe, stands very high in the medical fraternity of this country. He continued -
In some circumstances these cancers can be attributed to active service. For example, if a serviceman’s nervous condition were accepted as being caused by war service and he developed ulcerative colitis and then a cancer of the bowel, that would clearly be a case in which war service was responsible. Similarly, if the privations of war service produced a gastric ulcer from which later a cancer of the stomach developed, that would be a case where, clearly, there was an association between war service and the development of the cancer.
At that stage the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) interjected -
But how much later?
The honorable member for Bowman replied -
It could develop some considerable time later, but the ulcer must be present all the time.
Let me be quite fair and say that he added -
I am sure that in this case the benefit of the doubt is always given.
I am not at all sure of that. On the one hand, a medical man in another place says that it is tommy rot to say that cancer can be caused by war service. On the other hand, in this place another medical man says that it can be caused by war service and gives a very simple and very clear explanation of how it can be caused.
The causative effects that the honorable gentleman advanced have application to a very wide range of returned soldiers from World War I who have developed stomach ulcers, gastric ulcers and all sorts of troubles which probably have been diagnosed by some of the repatriation doctors along the lines of the thinking of the honorable senator who gave vent to the opinion that I have quoted. Under those circumstances, in order to remove any possible doubt, surely at this stage this Parliament ought to be generous enough to say: “We will add one more disease - cancer - to those that are accepted, without any further question, as being war caused.”
If the acceptance of this proposition involved the Government in the expenditure of millions of pounds, there might be some hesitation; but I emphasise that, whilst its acceptance would involve this Government in a substantial increase in expenditure, it would remove anxiety from the minds of many men and women - the sufferers themselves, their dependants and others - and at the same time it would remove from the State medical treatment institutions, such as the public hospitals, many costs that they how incur in the treatment of exservicemen. So, if we consider the public revenue of the States and the public revenue of the Commonwealth as one, the real cost to the people of Australia would be very little.
I plead with the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) to accept this suggestion, which has been put forward in this
Parliament on two previous occasions. Tuberculosis has been accepted as war caused. Why should not cancer be accepted as war caused? It has been said that tuberculosis is identifiable, in the sense that the tubercular germ can be picked up. In the case of cancer the cancerous cell can he picked up. But mere is a difference as to the reason why-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). It asks this Committee to agree that cancer shall be automatically accepted as a war caused disability. The reasons why the Opposition believes that cancer should be so accepted have been advanced in this chamber on other occasions. We do not submit the amendment merely as one emanating from the Opposition; the Returned Servicemen’s League has on several occasions requested the Government to accept cancer as a war caused disability. Other organisations which have some responsibility towards ex-servicemen in this country have made similar requests. As recently as 10th August of this year, at its annual conference, the New South Wales branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League reaffirmed its belief that section 37 of the Repatriation Act should be amended by the addition of a new sub-section (4.) to provide for cancer in the same way as tuberculosis is already provided for in sub-section (3.)
The reasons why we believe that cancer should be accepted automatically as a war caused disability have already been stated by my colleague the honorable member for Lalor. The main reason is that the causes of cancer are largely unknown. I remember that during a previous discussion of the matter in this Parliament a former Minister for Health, Dr. Donald Cameron, told us that, so far as the medical profession was concerned, the causes of cancer were largely unknown. I submit that until the medical profession can say with absolute certainty that it knows how a cancerous condition originated, this Parliament has a responsibility to give the benefit of the doubt to ex-servicemen and to accept cancer as a war caused disability.. That is the only way in which the benefit of the doubt can be extended to them.
Why, in 1943, were honorable members opposite, then in opposition, so adamant that tuberculosis should be accepted as a war caused disability? At that time members of the medical profession were able to say with a great degree of certainty how tuberculosis originated. They could certainly say that with a greater degree of certainty than they are able to say in 1965 how a cancerous condition has originated. I say that it is impossible for doctors to say in many cases that cancer has not been caused by war service. In 1964, we listened to an exposition of this matter by the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs). The reasons then advanced by the honorable member for Bowman as to why some cancerous conditions should be accepted as being due to war service have been read to the Committee by the honorable member for Lalor.
This is not a new proposition. It has been submitted to this Parliament by the Australian Labour Party on a number of occasions. We believe that because it is not possible for the Repatriation Department or the various entitlement tribunals to say with absolute certainty that an applicant’s cancer is not due to war service, at least he should be given the benefit of the doubt. Honorable members opposite were most vocal in 1943 when in opposition that tuberculosis should be accepted automatically as a war caused condition. Why then in 1965 are they not prepared to extend the same argument to a condition, the cause of which doctors are not able to say with alsolute certainty was not war service? In the circumstances, this Parliament ought to be generous enough to accept cancer as a war caused condition.
I have indicated to the Committee that not only has this matter been presented to Parliament by the Opposition, but it has also been raised on numerous occasions by the Returned Servicemen’s League and other organisations which represent the majority of ex-servicemen in this country and are concerned that benefits should be granted to ex-servicemen generally.
All honorable members could cite cases to indicate that there is a great deal of merit in the Opposition’s suggestion. Every honorable member has had brought to his notice cases of ex-servicemen who have applied to the Repatriation Department to have cancer accepted as being due to war service. 1 know of a number of cases in which doctors have submitted conflicting evidence. A doctor from the Repatriation Department may testify that in his opinion a condition had been of recent origin. In the same case a private doctor giving evidence on behalf of the ex-serviceman may indicate that in his opinion it would not be possible to say when the cancerous condition originated. Surely in those circumstances the onus of proof provision ought to apply and the ex-servicemen’s condition ought to be accepted as being due to war service. We do not know in how many cases conflicting medical evidence has been presented because these figures are not made available to Parliament. It can be said, however, with certainty that a great many ex-servicemen who have applied for the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability have had their claims rejected because they have been unable to provide the evidence required by the Repatriation Department that the condition originated while on war service.
Because of the uncertainty created by conflicting medical opinions the Opposition believes that the Repatriation Department is not able to say that a cancerous condition did not originate on war service. That is one reason why members of the Opposition believe that this Parliament should agree that cancer ought to be automatically accepted as a war caused disability. Parliament was generous enough in 1943 to provide for the automatic acceptance of tuberculosis as a war caused disability because of the peculiar conditions related to that disease. Surely it ought now to apply the same argument to cancer. 1 suggest, therefore, that the Committee accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Lalor.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) because I am a firm believer that a precedent has been created by the Repatriation Department. Seeing that this precedent has been created, all ex-servicemen who apply to the Department to have cancer accepted as a war caused disability should have their claims accepted. We have heard many honorable members this evening speak of conflicting evidence that has been given by doctors. Honorable members have said that a doctor in this House has stated that doctors cannot prove how cancer originates. In another place another doctor who, I might say, has made an independent decision - it appears that as a doctor he is an independent also - said that, as I think everybody realises, the great majority of doctors the world over say that they do not know how cancer originates.
It is interesting to know that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) has made a statement on this matter and I think that at this juncture I should read to honorable members the figures supplied by the Minister in relation to people who have had cancer accepted as a war caused disability. The Minister stated that from 1st August 1964 to 31st August 1965, 2,004 claims were made and of those 2,004 claims 517 were accepted by the Repatriation Department. He said that since the beginning of 1959 to the end of August this year, 3,328 cancer claims had been accepted by the Department. We do not know whether the rejection of so many claims was the result of disagreement among doctors. I believe, however, that in many cases a doctor’s evidence is not accepted by the Department but is overruled. I do not believe that the Department puts enough emphasis on recommendations made by doctors. When recommendations by doctors outside come before the tribunals or the Commission they are rejected. I believe that the Minister should look into this matter and have cancer automatically accepted as a war caused disability.
I should like to refer to a case that I tried to deal with during the second reading debate. The Deputy Speaker would not allow me to finish what I was saying. He ruled me out of order, or no-balled” me, however one likes to put it.
– Who completed the honorable member’s speech for him?
– I was greatly assisted by the honorable member for Lalor who completed the speech for me. The case to which I refer concerns a chap who was in the Navy for 16 years. When he joined the Navy he was classified medically as Class
A.’ During his period of service he developed an illness which necessitated a major bowel operation. After this operation he continued as a member of the Navy for another 18 months, but during that time his condition deteriorated with the result that he was discharged by the Navy as medically unfit. Six months after his discharge he died. The cause of death was diagnosed as cancer of the bowel. The widow applied to have his disability accepted as war caused, but the claim was rejected. She appealed, and the appeal was rejected. The doctor who had been looking after him sent to Melbourne for all the medical records. He spent a great deal of time looking into the case and his opinion was that the disability should be accepted as war caused.
The widow came along to me and I made representations on her behalf. Once again, there was no success. The result is that if she is to appeal again she must find further evidence to present. She has canvassed all of the fields available to her. She has obtained all of the medical papers and presented to the Department all of the evidence. I suggest that something must have been wrong with the patient for a doctor to have had to perform a major operation. Doctors do not perform these operations just as butchers with a wish to cut people up. They do so because the operations are warranted.
The Government should accept cancer as a war caused disability. No doctor could state that the disability was not caused by war. We do not know how long the development of a cancer takes. This man had been a member of the Service for 16 years. The cancer could have been developing for three years, 10 years, 16 years, or 20 years. We do not know and the doctors do not know. The history of such cases should be examined much more closely. When there is any doubt, the benefit should be given to the person who is applying to the Repatriation Department. The Opposition has moved many times in an attempt to have the onus of proof clause amended. On every occasion on which we have brought the matter before the Parliament we have failed to gain the support of honorable members opposite. We have been unable to persuade those honorable members opposite who are members of the Returned Servicemen’s League to support us. If they were sincere and had the welfare of ex-servicemen at heart they would have crossed the chamber and voted with Labour.
A great many members of the Parliament believe that these are not political issues. They should be treated in a non-party manner and honorable members should have an open mind and vote on them according to their consciences. Unfortunately, again on this occasion we cannot get honorable members opposite to support us. I submit that this is a matter that requires a great deal pf thought by the Minister. A great many other members share this view. We sincerely hope that the day will come when cancer will be accepted as a war caused disability.
Thursday, 30th September 1965.
– Mr. Chairman, I am sure the Committee must have been impressed with the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) who, after all, enjoyed considerable experience as a medical orderly during the course of the Second World War. It is good to have the benefit of someone with experience of that kind.. I rise to encourage the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who is sitting at the table, to provide whatever information might be available on this matter so that the Committee can be assisted in its deliberations. Senator Tangney, in another place, raised this question with the former Minister for Repatriation on 14th October 1964. She obtained a number of answers to the questions which she asked. It was pointed out in the reply from the then Minister for Repatriation that the Repatriation Department was not in a position to provide the statistical information required to enable the presentation of an effectively documented case. The Minister explained that, since 1959, the Department had been engaged with the International Clasification of Diseases system which had become a widely recognised medical classification for the recording of statistical information. He went on to say -
It contains over a thousand main disease classifications, and the complexity of converting records and maintaing analyses of all diseases by conventional means can be readily appreciated.
I am sure the Committee understands those complexities. The Minister indicated that a great deal of information was coming to hand. He went on to say -
However, in view of the honorable senator’s question, and the general interest in this subject, the Department has undertaken a special survey to obtain the information sought by her in regard to cancers. It is a large project and will take a little time to complete; the information will be made. available as soon as possible.
I repeat that that answer was given on 14th October 1964, nearly 12 months ago. I believe it is now reasonable to express the hope that some information may be available to indicate what the International Classification of Diseases has revealed, particularly so far as the incidence of cancer among ex-servicemen is concerned.
It is true, as the honorable member for East Sydney and others have pointed out, that for some years now the Opposition has been pressing for the recognition of cancer as a war caused disability. As the Minister for Social Services can justifiably say, oppositions of several political complexions have pressed for it. I note that, in the debate on this matter the year before last, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) quoted Sir Eric Harrison who, when he was a member of the Opposition, had put forward the same kind of case that we are putting forward on this occasion. Nevertheless, there are figures to indicate that there is a substantial increase in the incidence of cancer. Whether or not this simply results from the fact that cancer is identified more effectively these days, I am unable to say. But there seem to be records to show that more ex-servicemen are reporting cancer to repatriation authorities. This fact justifies more urgent consideration of the matter by the Government.
The ex-servicemen’s organisations have been indicating their increasing concern about this matter over the last five years. The Returned Soldiers’ League, in particular, has strongly advocated the automatic acceptance of cancer, along with other diseases, as a war caused disability. It has spoken of the need to accept heart disease, mental illness and bronchitis also. But I think cancer has priority on that list. In its submissions, the R.S.L. particularly makes this point: Prisoners of war especially seem to have this susceptibility to cancer. Also, this applies to those who served in gas affected areas. Although I do not have the information at my finger tips at the moment, it seems to be beyond question that those who served in gas affected areas have demonstrated this conclusive susceptibility.
I do not want to labour the point, because it has been covered very effectively by previous speakers; but I specially ask the Minister whether the information sought by Senator Tangney in another place is yet available. It is apparent that that information would provide the Committee with something worthwhile that it could get its teeth into. Many people in my electorate are concerned about this subject, and I believe that the comments made by honorable members justify some observations by a representative of the Government. Up to this point in the debate we have not had the benefit of any such contribution.
– The basis of this amendment is that the words “or cancer “ should be inserted in section 37. There seems to be some difficulty in the interpretation of “ cancer “. As honorable members are aware, this disease is the subject of considerable medical examination throughout the world. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) mentioned medical opinions which have been expressed in this House and in another place. These opinions indicate that medicos have very different views on this matter. Consequently, some element of doubt remains.
In addition, it is very difficult to generalise about service conditions. The words “ service conditions “ can be as misleading as the description of a particular disease. Naturally, conditions of war service vary considerably according to the theatre of war, the duration of service and even the individual physiological makeup of serving soldiers. Therefore, it seems very difficult to find any justification for the insertion of the words contained in the proposed amendment. Although it has been suggested, and there is no doubt, that in some instances cancer has resulted from war causes, there also seems to be at this time sufficient medical evidence to prove that cancer has not always resulted from war service, or perhaps I should say that there seems to be more certainty on the factors which do not contribute to cancer than on those which do.
– That applies to tuberculosis too.
– The honorable member has referred to tuberculosis. There appears to be so much evidence of cause and effect as a result of the use of gas in the First World War that there is certainly not quit& the same area of doubt in relation to tuberculosis as there is in relation to cancer. This would seem to be the medical opinion but, as I have explained, so far as the definition and the disease of cancer are concerned, this is something about which we have still a tremendous amount to learn. As to the cause of cancer, much research still remains to be carried out.
The honorable member for Hughes (Mr.’ L. R. Johnson) asked for some figures relating to claims. In the period from 1st January 1959 to 30th September 1964, of a total 8,975 claims for the acceptance of cancer as a war caused disability, 2,811 were accepted and 6,164 were -rejected. In the period from 1st October 1964 to 31st August 1965, of 2,004 such claims, 517 were accepted and 1,487 were rejected. In other words, from the beginning of 1959 a total of 3,328 claims have been accepted as being due to war causes.
The honorable member for Hughes actually wanted an answer in extensd to a question to which a reply was given in another place last year. Apparently the reason for the earlier lack of figures, as was then explained, was the problem connected with the International Classification of Diseases, which contains more than 1,000 main classifications. To convert records and maintain analyses of all diseases by conventional means is an impossible task, and until automatic data processing is installed in the Repatriation. Department it will be impossible to undertake these analyses. The statistics from 1949 have been compiled as a result of interest displayed within the Parliament and elsewhere in the breakdown of war-caused cancer. These figures are now kept separately.
I submit to the Committee, Mr. Chairman, that this amendment should be rejected. I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Pollard’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority .. .. 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 3a.
. -I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill - “ 3a. After section 47 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 47a. - (1.) Where a claimant, applicant or appellant under this Act considers -
This particular provision has been discussed in previous debates. It will be recalled that often the wording of section 47 has been claimed to be ambiguous. It causes a great deal of difficulty to applicant ex-servicemen. It is interesting to note that section 47 (2.) provides -
It shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal . . .
Further on it provides -
This is the particular provision about which there is much concern and consternation, and which causes a large number of applicants to be disappointed.
I propose to refer briefly to certain figures that are contained in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission. When one looks at those figures, even in the briefest possible way, one notices that there is an extremely large number of outstanding applications. Figures relating to claims and appeals that were received and determined by the Repatriation Boards and the Repatriation Commission in the last financial year reveal that the total number submitted for action was 45,837 and that the total number accepted was only 17,021. The total number submitted to the Repatriation Commission for action was 18,923, and the number accepted was only 2,034. The total number of appeals submitted to the Entitlement Appeals Tribunals for action was 15,210, and the number allowed was only 1,887. The total number of appeals submitted to the Assessment Appeal Tribunals was 15,974, and the number allowed was only 6,429. One can imagine that a tremendous number of ex-servicemen must be very much disillusioned about their application to the various repatriation authorities.
Various Attorneys-General have commented on this matter. They have shown that there is considerable scope for interpretation. Indeed, some of them have shown that the various repatriation authorities have been interpreting section 47 in different ways. A former Attorney-General, now Mr. Justice Spicer, said on one occasion -
Ordinarily the onus lies on the party who makes a claim to prove the facts necessary to support it.
Then he said -
In the Repatriation Act, Parliament has completely reversed the normal process.
But it is common knowledge to anybody who is aware of the provisions of the Act and the manner in which they are being applied that section 47 is not being honoured in the way former Attorney-General Spicer claimed it should be. It is also interesting to note that Dr. Evatt said something on this matter. On 24th September 1959 he said -
I say that it has not been given, and there is no way of checking it at present-
He was referring to the onus of proof provision - by appeal to any tribunal. There is no way in which a doctrine of that character can be given effective enforcement except by the presence of some tribunal which will say to the entitlement tribunal, “ You have not really given the benefit of the section to the ex-serviceman “.
On various occasions the Opposition has sought to clarify section 47 of the Repatriation Act. Only last year I moved an amendment that had been drafted by a Queens Counsel engaged by the Returned Servicemen’s League. My amendment proposed that -
In all cases a doubt shall be deemed to exist where the origin of any disability cannot be ‘properly determined or where authoritative medical opinion conflicts as to the origin of the disability.
Unfortunately there has never been much support for that proposition! The tribunals have on various occasions indicated that they interpret these provisions in different ways. I doubt whether I will have time to deal with this matter now. What I wish to point out is that in other parts of the world the same kind of problem was encountered, but other governments were not content to give up and leave the matter unattended, as is the inclination of this Government. On the 18th September 1956 the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeals Tribunal published1 in its annual report -
As they read the Act, all that an ex-serviceman needs to do is claim that his incapacity is a repatriation responsibility without alleging when, where, or how it had its origin or in what manner it was caused or contributed to or aggravated by or during his service. Then the onus of proof is on the Commission to disprove the claim. If the critics’ idea of onus of proof were correct, the ex-serviceman would win his case without putting forward one word of evidence of explanation to support it. It is not a reasonable inference that a claimant has a good case when he does not put that case up. Until he puts up some sort of case to answer some fact or theory or suggestion from which a reasonable inference in his favour may be drawn there surely can be no onus on the Commission to disprove his case.
That is the very antithesis of everything that has been put forward so far as the provisions of section 47 are concerned. I know that the former honorable member for Balaclava, now Mr. Justice Joske, has said that an interpretation is required from the Attorney-General and that failing this there is much to speculate about as far as section 47 is concerned. Obviously these matters need interpretation. In the United Kingdom Mr. Justice Denning - now Lord Denning - decreed -
That the condition must be accepted unless the authority can say, as a jury would before convicting, that the condition was not due to war service and be sure of that beyond reasonable doubt.
He went on, as a consequence, to recomment that a tribunal be established. In the United Kingdom to this very day that tribunal operates and it is pleasing to note that it operates to the wellbeing of large numbers of ex-servicemen. There are so many disillusioned people in our society that we must provide them with some additional form of redress. These ambiguities in our legislation must be interpreted by people with the requisite judicial qualifications. I strongly urge the Government, in view of the experience that we have had over the years, to accept this amendment.
.- I think this discussion highlights the point that we made earlier in the debate on the necessity for a standing committee. This is an instance in which administrative and financial considerations have transcended the spirit of the Repatriation Act. I think that the Parliament, when it wrote section 47 in its present form into the Act 60me 20 years ago, believed that if a man had served in the forces that was a measure of proof that any future health disability that he suffered from was war caused. This might be an extreme point of view, but I believe I am supported in it by other people. This matter has been raised in the Parliament many times in the 10 years that I have been here, and- 1 suppose that if we look through the records we will find that it was raised before then. It is my view that if the Repatriation Department, the Repatriation Commission or whichever part of the repatriation echelon is dealing with the question cannot say positively that a particular disability is war caused, the serviceman or woman should be entitled to the benefit of the doubt. That seems to be the very essence of the onus of proof provision.
Let us examine certain diseases. Take heart disease. Does anybody know what causes it? Can the medical profession or the scientists tell us? There are honorable members on the Government side who say they can, but it is interesting to note that they do not make their living in the medical profession. They should possibly hand over their knowledge to the medical profession. Arthritis, rheumatic conditions and diabetes are other diseases in point. The onset of these diseases is often quite sudden, after apparently years and years of lying dormant in the body. Nobody knows what causes the initial onset. I believe that in these instances the exservicemen are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
I am fortified in this opinion by a debate which took place in this Parliament in 1956. My colleague, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), has mentioned various opinions put forward by Mr. Justice Spicer, by the Lord Chief Justice in the United Kingdom and by various other authorities. I suggest to honorable members that they turn to page 892 of “ Hansard “ of 26th September 1956 and read the remarks of the then member for Balaclava, now Mr. Justice Joske, on the question of the onus of proof. He pointed to some of the doubts that can be cast upon the origin of heart ailments. He explained that a large percentage of young Americans who were killed in Korea, 1 think, had heart complaints even in their early 20’s. It might be 30 years before heart failure finally develops. Who is to say that the effect of shot and shell upon the human frame and nervous system does not aggravate heart conditions?
Let me quote Mr. Justice Joske on the question of the onus of proof. No doubt he was appointed to his present position because of his great skill in the law. These are the principles that he said ought to prevail on the question of onus of proof -
I suggest that a simple statement could very well be given to the tribunals, and that copies could be given to repatriation doctors. This statement could be in the following terms-
There is a presumption that the claim is to be allowed even though the claimant calls no evidence.
It is for those opposing the claim to produce evidence sufficient to establish that the claim should fail. Unless this evidence is produced, the claim must succeed.
A finding that the claimant has not satisfied the tribunal that his claim should succeed is a bad and inadmissable finding.
Unless the tribunal finds that the evidence establishes that the claim should not be allowed, the tribunal must allow the claim.
I think those are very important principles. They are very clearly expressed by a man who has been elevated to a very high judicial post in this country. I believe that they are the principles upon which this Parliament intended the onus of proof provision to be operated. Let us take the first of them. I think the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) interjected in a way that suggested that he disagreed with our attitude. The first principle is -
There is a presumption that the claim is to be allowed even though the claimant calls no evidence.
I believe that this is the very spirit of the section and that this ought to prevail. In other words, the ex-serviceman or his widow places a claim before the Commission or the appropriate authority that the exserviceman’s death or disability was caused by war service. These people consistently come to us, as members of the Parliament. They have reached the end of their evidence. They, perhaps, had access to files when they were before the tribunal, but they are not skilled in law or medicine. It is now 20 years since World War II and almost 50 years since World War I.
I think the most tragic instance of deprivation of rights arises with the widows, particularly the widows of ex-servicemen from the First World War. I hope when we come to the appropriate provision I will have a chance to present some of the figures that I think prove a case for the ex-servicemen from the First World War and particularly their widows. What hope have they of producing evidence? They know that for 10, 20 or 30 years the ex-serviceman has suffered from various ailments and afflictions. These ex-servicemen die in their late 60’s before they have had a chance to enjoy their retirement. Ex-servicemen, particularly from the First World War, suffer a whole lifetime of what might be called modified misery because of the injuries, wounds and diseases they suffered during their service. I think we ought to apply to this subject the principles that Mr. Justice Joske put before the House almost 10 years ago when he was a member. They will be found at page 892 of “ Hansard “ of 26th September 1956. I would like the Minister to state his reasons for not supporting our proposition.
Mr. SINCLAIR (New England- Minis amendment before the Committee seeks to extend appeals beyond the present system to the High Court or to the Supreme Court of the State or Territory of the Commonwealth in which the appellant resides. The present system of appeals is a three stage system. Claims are determined in the first instance by a Repatriation Board with a right of appeal to the Commission and a further right of appeal to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. The members of these tribunals are all ex-servicemen who have had overseas service. One member is a person selected from a list of names submitted by the ex-servicemen’s organisations. The Chairmen of the Entitlement and Assessment Appeal Tribunals are qualified lawyers.
There seems to me to be a misunderstanding about the onus of proof and the question of doubt as it is determined under section 47. The position is that where there is any doubt in the mind of the determining authority the appeal is allowed. No doubt, an unsuccessful applicant is not happy with the decision, there is a doubt in his mind and he feels that his claim should have been allowed. But it is not in that area that the doubt is relevant. Misunderstandings about the section come from persons who do not understand the relevance of the area in which the doubt referred to in section 47 arises. It is not just a doubt that remains in the mind of a claimant who has been unsuccessful or of some third party.
This amendment has been moved in this chamber and in another place from year to year. There is no doubt that many people feel that, having applied for a benefit and their application having been rejected for one reason or another, they have not secured a fair measure of justice. However, the provision in the Act, as it is applied now, is designed to provide, as far as possible, every opportunity for any person whose claim is based on genuine entitlement through war injuries to receive the advantage of the beneficial provisions of the Repatriation Act. Consequently, Mr. Temporary Chairman, there have been various interpretations of just what is meant by the onus of proof and the question of whether considerations of justice are adequately met has been raised. This matter has been raised from time to time by the Opposition members who have felt that there is not sufficient protection for the claimant. But I believe that if any honorable member cares to peruse the provisions of the principal Act, he will be quite satisfied that every possible opportunity is given to the individual applicant to establish his claim.
– We perused the Act for a long time before the Minister became a member of this place.
– What I have just said applies also to the honorable member who, I can see, is not particularly concerned about ensuring that justice is done to exservicemen. It is not an element of doubt that may exist in the mind of an unsuccessful individual applicant with which we are concerned, Mr. Temporary Chairman. We are concerned with an element of doubt in the mind of a presiding official or in the minds of members of tribunals. When these people have an element of doubt in their minds, they give the benefit to the ex-serviceman. Accordingly, the Government does not accept the proposition that the amendment is necessary, and recommends that it be rejected.
.Mr. Temporary Chairman, I support the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) and supported by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). Nothing that has been said by the Miinster has convinced me, nor, I am sure, will it convince other honorable members on this side of the chamber, that this amendment, which is in terms similar to amendments proposed by the Opposition in previous years, should not be accepted by the Committee. What does it mean? In effect, it will provide a further right of appeal for ex-servicemen who believe that the onus of proof has not been discharged in their favour.
I have had considerable experience of War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, and I would not for a moment reflect on the integrity of their members. I have appeared before Tribunals and I believe that they have a fair approach to the needs of exservicemen. They sympathetically consider every case that goes before them. But we on this side of the chamber are not satisfied that sympathy is sufficient, Mr. Temporary Chairman. We do not believe that in all instances an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal is able to discharge the onus of proof satisfactorily. We believe also that in some cases there are legal complications that intrude. If a case involves a legal technicality, it is not always possible for the onus of proof to be satisfactorily discharged by a Tribunal. I am sure that one could excuse a Tribunal for experiencing difficulty in deciding whether or not the onus of proof ought to be discharged in favour of an ex-serviceman.
Time and time again in this Parliament, honorable members have pointed out that in many cases there is a conflict between the evidence of a medical practitioner who supports the contention of the Repatriation Department and that of a doctor who supports an applicant and who has probably been treating him over a long period. In a case in which a repatriation doctor asserts than an ex-serviceman’s disability is not due to war service and the civilian doctor who has been treating him asserts that the disability is due to war service, surely the onus of proof should be discharged in favour of the ex-serviceman. But that does not always happen. Every honorable member who has had some experience of repatriation matters will know that there have been cases of this kind in which the decision has gone against the applicant.
What is the process by which a case comes before an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal? As every honorable member knows, an ex-serviceman who believes that he has a disability which was war caused applies to the Repatriation Board which processes his application. In due course the ex-serviceman is advised whether his disability has been accepted or rejected as one due to war service. He then has a right of appeal to the Repatriation Commission, but he has no right to appear before the Commission. The Repatriation Commission makes its determination in the absence of the exserviceman who is advised whether the appeal has been upheld or dismissed.
I do not want to refer to the figures as they have already been mentioned by the honorable member for Hughes who said that only a ridiculously small percentage of the appeals to the Repatriation Commission against decisions of the Repatriation Board are upheld. When the Repatriation Commission has given a decision there is a further right of appeal to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. Every ex- serviceman who has had experience of appearing before Appeal Tribunals fully understands that if his disability is one in respect of which there can be a dispute between the medical practitioners representing the Repatriation Department and his own medical practitioner who has probably been treating his condition for a long time, section 47 of the Repatriation Act should apply and he should have the benefit of the doubt.
Members of the Opposition have asserted that section 47 is not being applied in the generous way that Parliament originally intended. This is not the fault of the Tribunals. I do not believe that a tribunal would deliberately set out to reject a case if it thought the ex-serviceman’s application to the Repatriation Department ought to be approved. However, I believe that the Tribunals are not always able to decide for themselves whether section 47 should be applied in a particular case. This is a point that has been contended on numerous occasions by people in this place who have some knowledge of these matters. The honorable member for Hughes referred earlier to what had been given as correct interpretations of section 47 of the Act. The honorable member mentioned the interpretation that was given originally by a former AttorneyGeneral, now Mr. Justice Spicer. His interpretation was that where a doubt existed the onus of proof should be applied in favour of the ex-serviceman and that in no case should the ex-serviceman have to prove his case. He said that an application should be rejected only when the Repatriation Department could overthrow the contention of the serviceman that his condition was due to war service.
Ex-servicemen and others who have appealed before Appeal Tribunals must know that this situation does not apply. The ex-serviceman is compelled to prove that the condition in respect of which he has applied to the Repatriation Department is due to war service. The Opposition suggests that this is not the spirit of the onus of proof provision in section 47 of the Repatriation Act. That section does not require an exserviceman to prove that his condition is due to war service, but in fact he is required to do so. Every ex-serviceman who appears before a War Pensions Entitlement
Appeal Tribunal is obliged to place before the Tribunal convincing evidence that his condition should be accepted as a war caused disability. No. advocate for an appellant before the Appeal Tribunal ever knows the reason why the appeal is rejected. He has no knowledge of the evidence that is being used by the Entitlement Appeal Tribunal or of the reasons for the final decision to reject the ex-serviceman’s application.
All that we suggest in the terms of the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Hughes is that, in cases in which a question of law is involved, if the ex-serviceman believes that the onus of proof provision has not been applied correctly be should have a further right of appeal to the High Court of Australia or to a State Supreme Court. We believe that this is a matter of common justice. Whilst it may be said that some ex-servicemen who are not entitled to receive a pension may receive one as a result of the acceptance of this proposition, it can also be said that it would ensure that ex-servicemen who should receive a pension will not be denied one because a certain section of the Repatriation Act has not been applied correctly.
This matter may be summed up by saying that in every case in which an exserviceman appears before an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal justice not only must be done but also must appear to be done. It cannot be said that in every case that comes before an Entitlement Appeal Tribunal today the onus of proof provision is applied correctly. How does the ex-serviceman know that the provision has been applied correctly by the Repatriation Department? If his case is rejected, he has no further right of appeal unless he can produce further evidence which in the opinion of the Department, is material to his case. I believe that this amendment should be accepted by the Committee.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. L. R. Johnson’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. E. N. Drury.)
Majority .. ..11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 4 to 10 - by leave - taken together.
– I wish to address myself to clause 10 which relates to the payment of supplementary allowances. As the Minister has explained, these supplementary allowances extend, not only to service pensioners, but also to married service pensioners whose wives also reveive a pension. I wish to direct my attention to the definition of “ wife “ as laid down in the Repatriation Act because I feel that as it stands at present, that definition reacts to the detriment of the dependants of a number of ex-servicemen. Section 42 of the principal Act describes a wife in these terms -
Where, at the time of the occurrence during his war service of an event that resulted in the incapacity or death of a member of the Forces (including a member of the Forces within the meaning of section one hundred or section one hundred and seven b of this Act), a person was recognized as the wife of the member though not legally married to faim, and the Commission is satisfied that that person was wholly or partly dependent upon the earnings of the member, a pension under this Division may be paid to that person at a rate not exceeding the rate of pension which would have been payable to her under this Division if she had been legally married to the member.
The point I draw attention to is that for the purposes of the Repatriation Act a woman who wishes to be recognised as the wife of an ex-serviceman must have been married to him at the time of his war service. I wish to contrast that provision with the provisions of two other Commonwealth Acts which describe a wife or female dependent in other terms. For instance, the Social Services Act contains the following provision - a woman who has lived with a man (in this Part referred to as her husband) as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis, although not legally married to him, for not less than three years immediately preceding the operation of that provision in relation to that woman or man;
The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act describes a wife in these terms - . . any woman who for not less than three years immediately prior to his death or incapacity was wholly or mainly maintained by the employee and who, although not legally married to him, lived with him as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis and who, at the date of his death or incapacity, is maintaining one or more children under 16 years of age or is not less than SO years of age;
In other words, both the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and the Social Services Act recognise as a wife a woman who has lived for three years as a wife with the man concerned. The Repatriation Act, however, provides that the woman must have been married to the pensioner at the time he served in the forces before she may be recognised as his wife for the purposes of the Act. I draw the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) to this position and ask that he bring it to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in another place.
I have had referred to me the case of a lady who went through a form of marriage at a church with an ex-serviceman of World War 1. She was, as she thought, married to him for more than 30 years. It was only after his death that she found he had married her bigamously. Although she spent 30 years living with the exserviceman as his wife, she was not his wife under the terms of the Repatriation Act and was not entitled to receive the benefits payable to the wife of a repatriation pensioner. The man she lived with became a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner before he died. She received no wife’s allowance and although she cared for the man she believed to be her husband for three years during his illness, she did not even qualify as a war widow. Under the Social Services Act she qualifies as a civilian widow.
I ask honorable members: Who is justly entitled to repatriation benefits - a woman who marries an ex-serviceman, leaves him a few years later, subsequently re-marries and is still living with the man of the later marriage, or a woman who goes through a form of marriage at a church believing that she has become the legal wife of an ex-serviceman? In the latter case, she lives with the man she believed to be her husband for more than 30 years and cares for him during his period of illness, only to find that she is not entitled to repatriation benefits. 1 believe that if it is good enough for two Commonwealth Acts to recognise as a wife a person who lives with a man as his wife for three years, the Repatriation Act should not be less generous. I ask that the attention of the Minister for Repatriation be drawn to this position.
– 1 rise to assure the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) that I will have investigated the circumstances of the case to which he has referred. Perhaps if the honorable member could furnish me with more details of that case, it might be possible to prove to him that the law is not as narrow as it appears to be.
Clauses agreed to.
Proposed new clause 10a.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “ 10a. Section 100 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after paragraph (b) of the definition of ‘ member of the forces ‘ the following paragraph: -
a representative of the Salvation Army,’.”.
It is obvious from the terms of this amendment that it suggests that the Committee approve certain benefits to be paid to those who served during the second world war as representatives of the Salvation Army. The history of the service of those who served on behalf of the Salvation Army is quite clear from the records. Perhaps for the information of the committee I ought to point out that when it became apparent early in 1939 that war was inevitable the Salvation Army, as an organization, offered its assistance by providing chaplains and welfare representatives. In point of fact, early in 1939 three representatives were appointed. One was appointed as a chaplain and two were appointed as welfare representatives.
These three sailed with the first convoy of Australian troops that left this country early in 1940. It should be clearly understood that the representatives of the Salvation Army were taken on strength under the same conditions as applied to any other member of the Australian Military Forces. They were subject to the same laws and they received the same rations and the same rate of pay. Of the three officers from the Salvation Army who left Australia in the convoy to which I have just referred, the chaplain was attached to the first Australain General Hospital in Gaza, Palestine, while the welfare representatives were attached to the 16th and 19th Infantry Brigades respectively. The officers served the two brigades throughout the North African campaign at Bardia, Tobruk, Derna and Benghazi. They went over to Greece with the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and both served with distinction near the Bulgarian border. One representative was captured in Greece and was a prisoner of war for four years. The other served in other areas until the end of the war.
Early in 1940 a new establishment was approved for representatives of the Salvation Army. The regulations approved by the then Minister for the Army provided that rations and quarters would be provided free of charge and medical attention would be provided under the same circumstances and conditions as applied to any serving member of the forces. Representatives of philanthropic organizations were subject to military law when accompanying troops on active service. In other words, to all intents and purposes, they were members of the serving forces. In addition they were given to understand at the same time under paragraph J of the appointments procedure which was presented to them at the time they were medically examined by military doctors that they would be issued with accreditation papers. Paragraph J provided -
Representatives who are attached to and serving with the Australian Military Forces on active service overseas will be eligible for repatriation benefits under the same conditions and to the same extent as private soldiers of the Australian Military Forces serving overseas.
The accreditation paper was signed by the Secretary for the Army. This took place early in 1940. As a result of this these officers believed that they were to serve under the same conditions as applied to any other member of the Australian Military Forces.
But what happened in the meantime? While the Government was promising certain benefits to those who served with the Australian Military Forces as representatives of the Salvation Army, the Government moved to eliminate from the War Service Homes Act the provision which entitled these men to war service homes assistance. I am not directing further attention to this matter, because it relates to another Act. I am merely pointing out that the government of the day moved to take away a benefit that had applied to welfare representatives who served in the 1914-18 war. They were given to understand that they would enjoy the same conditions, and that on their return they would be entitled to the same repatriation benefits, as any serving member of the Australian forces. A great many welfare representatives served in the 1939-45 war; the numbers are readily available. Four hundred and eight representatives of the Salvation Army served overseas and in Australia with various units during that war. Not all of those, of course, would require repatriation benefits, but they were given to understand that the repatriation benefits that would normally apply to ex-servicemen who had served overseas as members of the Australian forces would apply to them.
The position today is well known to the Government. A welfare representative may apply to the Repatriation Department to have a disability accepted as being due to his war service. That is fair and reasonable. He makes the same application as is made by any ex-serviceman who believes he has a disability due to war service. The welfare man’s application is lodged with the Repatriation Department and is processed in the same way as any other ex-serviceman’s application is processed. He is medically examined, and the responsible repatriation doctors decide whether or not his condition should be accepted as being due to war service. If his application is accepted by the Repatriation Board he is entitled to the normal repatriation benefits that flow from that decision, but if his case is rejected he has no right of appeal. I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) to explain why the Government believes that, although an ex-serviceman is entitled to appeal to the Repatriation Commission and, finally, to an entitlement appeal tribunal if his application is rejected, a welfare officer of the Salvation Army whose case is considered but rejected by the Repatriation Department ought not in normal circumstances to have a right of appeal to the Repatriation Commission and to a tribunal.
One of the disappointing features of this debate is that no Government supporter has risen to support or even to oppose any of the amendments that have been proposed by honorable members on this side of the chamber. Surely some Government supporter can see merit in the amendment now proposed on behalf of the Opposition. Surely if a welfare representative is accepted in the service of this country and is subject to the same regulations as apply to servicemen, he ought to be entitled to the benefits that flow as a result of that service to any ex-serviceman who applies to the Repatriation Department. The Government says that a welfare representative may apply to the Repatriation Department to have a disability accepted as being due to war service but if the application is rejected by the Repatriation- Board he shall have no right of appeal to the Commission or an entitlement appeal tribunal. Why should there be a distinction between those who had the same type of service? I say that it is the Act that is at fault. I hope that even at this late hour the Minister will seriously consider accepting the amendment, which has the support of ex-servicemen’s organisations.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, the time is twenty minutes past one in the morning and we are discussing one of the most important amendments moved in the course of this debate. I record my disgust at the disgraceful conduct of this Government in allowing a debate of such importance to take place at this hour. It knows lull well that people outside this Parliament cannot hear what is going on. The Government is endeavouring to cover up the wise remarks made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) in the presentation of his amendment. The conduct of the Government tonight and in years gone by in dealing with this aspect of repatriation is completely opposed to the principle of justice for ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Bass has moved an amendment dealing with the Salvation Army. He has pointed out the magnificent service given by this great body of men and women not only in civilian life but also in both World Wars. He has moved an amendment which I believe is going to be treated with the contempt with which this Government continually treats amendments moved by the Opposition to improve the lol of exservicemen and women.
I ask the Committee to consider the comments of the honorable member for Bass and the facts that he has pointed out relating to the magnificent service given by the Salvation Army. The amendment which the honorable member has moved and circulated seeks to have members of the Salvation Army granted entitlement to the provisions of the Repatriation Act. I hope the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) will give a reasonable explanation of why the
Government will not accept this amendment. In another place, a very important amendment to this Bill was carried. This morning, we saw the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) walk into this House, rubbish both the amendment and the other place where the amendment was proposed and carried. I think that members oi the Opposition are just as silly as other members of the Parliament in being here at this hour and putting up with this kind of conduct from the Government. There would be every excuse for the Opposition turning the Parliament into a bear garden if this kind of conduct- is to take place in relation to the most important legislation which can come before it, namely legislation dealing with matters affecting the welfare of eXservicemen and women.
So, at 22 minutes past one in the morning, we are dealing with a matter concerning the Salvation Army. This great body of men and women will certainly be surprised to know that the Government does not consider it worthwhile to deal with the matter other than at this hour. Why is the amendment being discussed at this time? Why is “the clause under discussion at this time? It is because the Government does not want the people to know that the Salvation Army will be rebuffed by the Government’s refusal to accept this amendment.
– The Salvation Army is already receiving benefits.
– The Minister says that the Salvation Army is already receiving benefits. If the Government is not ashamed of the proposal, why is the legislation not discussed tater this day, say after half-past 10?
– The Salvation Army is already receiving benefits as an act of grace.
– The Minister says that the Salvation Army is receiving this, that and the other thing-
– Precisely. The Salvation Army has done a wonderful job.
– For the Minister to say that the Salvation Army has done a wonderful job is really helpful to the members of that body who are trying to live on the benefits provided. Would it not be a wonderful thing to give the Salvation Army some recognition? If this proposal is not worth considering, why has the Salvation Army bothered to put it forward? The fact is that it means much for the Salvation Army to have this proposal recognised in the scope of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bass. The fact that the Government will not discuss the amendment until this hour of the morning shows that the Government seeks to ignore the Salvation Army and to say: “You are not entitled to any consideration. We are going to put this matter through in the dead of night so that only a few interested people will know about it.”
If I am to be kept up until this hour I am entitled to be heard. The fact of the matter is that for the second, third or fourth year in succession this Government has shown that it will discuss matters affecti’ng the Repatriation Act only in the dead of night. I would not be surprised to learn that the debate had been extended to this time and the clause brought on al’ this very late hour in order that the Government might hide its shame at the fact that it is not prepared to give any consideration to the Salvation Army. In both World Wars, in civilian life and in every way the Salvation Army has rendered magnificent service, yet this Government is not prepared to discuss our proposal when all might hear the discussion because it is ashamed of its policy on this important issue. Therefore, I rise to support the attitude of the honorable member for Bass, to record my request that the Government consider favorably the amendment which has been proposed, and to register, on behalf of the Salvation Army and all people who believe in giving justice to those who serve, my complete contempt for a government which, in the dead of night, debates this issue because it is ashamed of the way it is treating the Salvation Army and is refusing to give it the justice that it deserves.
What did the Minister say in reply to the letter he received from the Salvation Army? I will bet that every honorable member on the Government side who received a copy of the letter replied to the Salvation Army: “We will consider your proposals when they are under discussion in the Parliament, and you may be assured of our support”. That is what they told the Salvation Army.
At 25 minutes past 1 this morning the Government is discarding the claims of the Salvation Army, is refusing to accept the proposal which has been advanced and in every way is declining to give effect to the amendment-
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) put -
That the question be now put. The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 12
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Barnard’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 11 (Medical treatment - members of the Forces 1914-18 War and South African War).
Chairman, this clause was dealt with to a considerable extent during the second reading stage of the debate. I do not wish to cover the legal grounds, which have been dealt with at some length by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and also by myself in summing up the second reading debate and detailing some other matters that were mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) on an earlier occasion. However, I think the Committee might be interested in some of the physical reasons why it would be impossible, administratively, for this clause to be implemented if it were passed by the Committee.
The annual report of the Repatriation Commission, tabled a week ago, contains an appendix and in table 15 figures are given concerning the average stay per patient in hospitals and the average number of beds occupied daily. For all States, the average stay per patient is 22.7 days, and the average number of beds occupied daily is 3,370. As far as the normal operating capacity of repatriation hospitals is concerned, the position is that at the present time there are 3,795 beds available. If we take all repatriation institutions into consideration, there are something like 4,459 beds. At the moment the number of beds occupied constitutes something like 93 per cent, of the normal operating capacity. If all institutions are taken into account, the proportion would be about 92 per cent. The average for normal hospital operation is apparently about 10 per cent. The reason for there being a bit of a gap between the actual beds occupied and the availability of beds is, of course, related to the fact that between discharge and admission there is frequently a time lag - sometimes a matter of days. There is also the necessity for maintaining a certain residual bed space available for the admission of emergency patients. There is also the disability of not being able to put males in female wards and vice versa. The problem is mainly a matter of administrative detail in keeping a certain residual capacity available within the hospitals. In consequence it would not be practicable at this stage, with the present available bed space, to admit all the persons who would become eligible within the terms of this particular clause.
The position so far as building new hospitals and extending present facilities is concerned was also dealt with in the report. 1 draw honorable members’ attention to page 34 of the report where some detail appears under the heading “ Departmental Works”. The Repatriation Department continues to investigate the available bed space and endeavours, within the availability of funds, to provide additional hospitalisation wherever and whenever it is possible and practicable. But the opposition to this clause is that, in effect, we would be extending, as the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) so effectively described in his second reading speech, this particular benefit to persons who are not the most needy of those from the 1914-1918 War and the Boer War. Those persons who are already eligible within the means test restrictions are, of course, entitled to free medical assistance by virtue of an amendment passed a few years ago. The Government does not feel, at this stage at least, that it is possible to accept the amendment that has been inserted in another place and accordingly asks the Committee to reject clause 11.
.- I quite understand the situation in which the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) finds himself. He. has explained to the Parliament why from the Government’s point of view it is a physical impossibility to implement this provision, but let us have a look at it. First of all I want to point out that there is not one word anywhere in this clause that provides that those who require medical attention or hospitalisation must necessarily go into a repatriation hospital. What the Minister does to get himself and the Government out of a very awkward corner is to point to the number of beds available at the various repatriation hospitals and to say in effect: “ It is a physical impossibility to accommodate these men or women, as the case may be “. If that is true I ask this Parliament what the. repatriation hospitals would do in the event of very severe war casualties. Where would they be accommodated? Is the Minister telling the Parliament that the Repatriation Department and the Government have not accommodation available to handle a disaster? If he is, I think it has come to a pretty bad state of affairs. The point I emphasise is that there is nothing whatever in this provision that in any way requires the Repatriation Department itself to treat these people who need medical attention or hospitalisation. The plain fact is that these people, who are not now eligible under the Repatriation Act, are being treated somewhere. Does the Minister deny that? They are treated in public hospitals and in private hospitals. They are visitors to doctors and chemists.
– They can afford to pay for it?
– That is another story. The myth about the impossibility of handling this problem having been exploded, the Minister now resorts to another stunt. He says that these people who are now getting accommodation in public hospitals or private hospitals, or who are getting medical attention at the doctors’ surgeries, can afford to pay for it.
– I put it as a question. I asked, in effect, whether the honorable member was suggesting that they could afford to pay for it.
– No, I am not. The provision obviously is designed to exempt them from the requirement to pay. If the Repatriation Department cannot accommodate them, let it pay for them from the financial resources that are provided by the Government for the Department.
– How can they be in these hospitals at the present time?
– They are. Surely the Minister is not suggesting that an exserviceman of between 70 and 80 years of age who has required attention has not been able to get into a private hospital or an intermediate ward. Never let it be said that, with the hospitalisation system we have, that man could get into a public ward. That would be almost an impossibility. Such men are in intermediate wards and are paying their own doctors. They are paying the hospital £35 or £40 a week, or are attending at the surgery and receiving injections or getting a prescription for a dose of physic and are then going down to the chemist for it. I suggest that the Minister’s story about the Government’s lack of capacity to deal with this problem is a pretty thin one. He put it over very cleverly. The Minister knows very well that in country areas medical attention is provided. Such persons do not necessarily go to a repatriation hospital. The Department has an arrangement with doctors in country areas and provincial towns whereby anybody who is eligible for repatriation attention may be attended to by the local doctor and that doctor may charge the Repatriation Department for the services he renders. If the patient has to be hospitalised, he does not necessarily go to a repatriation hospital in one of the big cities. By arrangement, he may go into a local public hospital.
The people of Australia ought to know of the perfidy that this Government is talking and is trying to put over them. That is the sort of thing that is going on. I resent it, and I think that everybody else will resent it. If the Government had said straight out that it was not prepared to accept the amendment because of the cost involved, at least it would have been honest. Instead, it has come up with this sham fight. These cases are being dealt with every day. Even though their numbers may change or increase, all that is required of the Government in the terms of the proposed new section is that these men be given medical attention and hospitalisation when they need it, whether it be at a repatriation institution or, by arrangement with the Government, some other institution.
.- Proposed new section 123a provides for free medical and hospital treatment for all exservicemen of the First World War and the Boer War. As was pointed out by honorable members at the second reading stage, this provision was accepted in another place. Now the Minister for Social Services has indicated that it is not acceptable to the Government. That means, in effect, that the Government intends to oppose clause 11. The proposed new section reads -
The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide medical and hospital treatment for a member of the forces as defined in section twenty-three of this Act and for a person to whom section one hundred and twenty of this Act applies.
The point that was made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a valid one. The matter does not revolve around hospital accommodation at all. If there is not sufficient accommodation in repatriation hospitals, there is no reason at all why the Repatriation Department should not provide treatment in a public hospital. Already many of the public hospitals in the various States are used by the Department. The Launceston General Hospital is no exception in this respect. The Repatriation Department has in that hospital a ward that is used exclusively for repatriation patients.
Earlier today we witnessed the remarkable spectacle of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) indicating, in the course of the debate on the second reading of the Bill, that the Government was not prepared to accept the amendment that had been passed in another place. It was obvious to honorable members on this side of the chamber that the Prime Minister’s real reason in addressing himself to this matter was that he wanted to indicate not only to Government supporters in this place but also to members of the Government parties in another place that they had better change their attitude towards the provision of medical treatment and hospitalisation for exservicemen of the First World War. This was the clear inference gained from the Prime Minister’s attitude during the debate. The right honorable gentleman- submitted that it was not proper for those in another place to pass an amendment which would have the effect of increasing expenditure under legislation. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) has made great play of the point made some time ago by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) during the debate on another matter. The Minister confirmed the point made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports by quoting what the honorable member had said. The honorable member indicated that he did not believe that the Senate should have the right to amend a tax bill that had originated in the House of Representatives.
In addressing himself to this amendment the Prime Minister did not at any stage discuss its merits or demerits. He was not at all concerned whether there was any merit in the Senate’s amendment. He did not suggest that it would not be proper to provide free medical and hospital attention for returned servicemen of the First World War. He did not discuss this mater at all. So far as the Opposition is concerned the only principle involved is whether it is proper to provide free medical and hospital treatment for returned servicemen from the 1914-18 war and from the Boer War. I do not think many men would be involved if this amendment were agreed to. That point has been covered by honorable members during the debate on the second reading. Ex-servicemen of the First World War will, in the majority of cases, be at least 70 years of age and will already have an entitlement under the Repatriation Act. Most of them will already be in receipt of a service pension and will be entitled to receive treatment in a repatriation hospital.
Various estimates have been given to the Committee of the cost to the Government if the amendment becomes law. The figure of £5 million was mentioned. I understand that on another occasion the former Minister for Repatriation was not quite so conservative in his estimate of the cost that would be involved if the Government had agreed to this amendment. I think that on another occasion the Minister referred to a figures that varied between £H million and £3 million.
– It was £5 million.
– I accept the correction in this respect. Various figures have been suggested by those who have some responsibility on the Government side, but none of those who regard themselves as being in the position to be able to estimate the cost has agreed. The Opposition believes that until the Government is prepared to consider this question, carry out an accurate survey and secure the information that would enable it accurately to assess the cost, it ought to proceed with this amendment.
I have already mentioned that the amendment has been agreed to in another place. It has been requested, not only by the members of the Australian Labour Party, but also by the Returned Servicemen’s League, which submitted the proposal to the Government in its 1965 pensions plan. This is one of the proposals that was submitted to the subcommittee of the Cabinet which considers matters referred to it by the ex-servicemen’s organisation. This matter was discussed earlier in great detail by the Prime Minister. The League submitted the request. Now, because it has been accepted in another place, the Minister for Social Services supports the stand that was taken by the Prime Minister, and declares that the Government will not accept the amendment. But the Minister used another type of argument this evening. He said that the Government would not accept the amendment because there was not sufficient space in repatriation hospitals to accommodate the greater number of persons who would be eligible for admission. The Prime Minister said he objected to an amendment being approved of in another place that upset legislation submitted to the House of Representatives.
What is the real reason? Why is the Government not prepared to accept the amendment which honorable members opposite surely agree contains a great deal of substance. One assumes from what was said earlier this evening by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) and, to a certain extent, by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), that anomalies exist in regard to those who served in the 1914-18 war. As I understand their remarks, the anomalies referred largely to the question of medical treatment and entitlements under the Repatriation Act. We do not believe that a great deal is involved in this amendment. The Government ought to reconsider the attitude that it has adopted on this matter and accept the amendment.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall be very interested to know whether the Government intends to oppose this clause, which was inserted in the Bill by the Senate, for what may be called a constitutional reason, that is, that it believes that the amendment ought not have been inserted into the Bill, or for what may be called the physical reason that the Minister has outlined about the impossibility of performance. I have been cited here this evening as having mentioned a certain course of action on another occasion. I am one who is very conscious of propriety in procedure, as far as money bills are concerned. On another occasion I indicated that one of the difficulties in this Parliament is that there is no provision in our constitutional arrangements under which the Speaker may define what is a money bill. As I understand the measure now under consideration, it is not a money bill at all. It originated in the Senate. It is a bill which the Senate had the capacity to amend. The only occasion on which the money bill question arises is in the terms of the Constitution that there are certain bills which the Senate has the power to reject but not to amend. This is not such a bill. Yet it was on that ground that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) this afternoon chose to raise objection to the clause. I think it is time that there was some definition of these matters. If the Government intends to take the stand that was taken by the Prime Minister here this afternoon, it should have the courage, after it has deleted this clause, to move a separate resolution setting out why the clause has been deleted. The resolution should set out that the clause has not been deleted on the ground that this provision cannot be made physically, but on the ground that the Senate has exceeded its powers. There ought to be some precision about this matter.
As I understand the terms of the Constitution, this is not a money bill and it was therefore competent for the Senate to move the amendment that it did move. The difference between this Bill and a bill of the type mentioned by the Minister for Social Services is that all that would happen because of the amendment to this Bill, even if a certain increase in expenditure is involved, is that the appropriation for the total activities of the Repatriation Department would be exhausted sooner rather than later. When the Parliament passes legislation for socia services or repatriation, in which hundreds of thousands of people and a multiplicity of circumstances are dealt with, it surely cannot define precisely how many people will enter hospital for certain illnesses or incapacities. The provision can only be general. The money to pay for the various services that are provided by the Repatriation Act is not appropriated precisely, item by item or line by line. An amount is appropriated in general terms.
I would have thought that, if the Government were to rely on the sort of argument that the Prime Minister used this afternoon, this Bill ought not to have originated in the Senate at all. Surely it is only a matter of accident that a Minister happens to be in one House rather than another, and the mere fact that a Minister happens to sit in another place should not limit the capacity of the House of Representatives to move an amendment. The position in which the Australian Labour Party finds itself is such that, if the Bill had come down without the amendment, we would have moved this same amendment. We are, as it were, in a dilemma. The clause that we wanted to insert is already there.
The Government has been reluctant to say that it does not want to provide this benefit. It has tried to lurk behind the constitutional procedures that attach to the Bill. The honorable gentlemen on the other side of the Committee, when it suits them, pose as the champions of the Returned Servicemen’s League, but now apparently they intend to lurk behind what might be called a “ constitutional defence “. They should have the courage to say that they are lurking behind a constitutional limitation. After they have voted against this clause, as they inevitably will in a moment or two, they should move, at the third reading stage, that a message be sent to the Senate setting out why the clause has been deleted. They would then at least be dinkum.
– If the Opposition were fair dinkum, it would do the same.
– I would have had the Bill introduced in this chamber in the first instance and I would have known what I wanted in it. The honorable gentleman is the last one who should raise what is nothing but a quibble. Let us be honest about the matter. Do honorable members opposite believe that the clause that was inserted by the Senate was inserted by an amendment that it was not within the Senate’s capacity to make?
– No one has ever claimed that.
– If honorable members opposite do not claim that the amendment was not within the capacity of the Senate to make, let them vote against the clause honestly; let them say that they do not want it in the Bill. Let them be honest and say that they do not want the 50,000 people who would benefit under the provisions of the clause to benefit. If that is their view, let them say so. Surely no one here would honestly assert that this Government, with a total Budget commitment this financial year of £2,667,030,000, cannot afford an extra £2 million or £3 million to do what ought to have been done many years ago. I am simply trying to suggest what the two poles are between which the difference lies.
I like to be consistent in these matters. If this had been a money bill, I would have thought there was some merit in the Government’s attitude. But, if it had been a money bill, it could not have originated in the other place. The fact that it originated there shows that it was not a money bill. If this is not a money bill, the argument that was raised this afternoon by the Prime Minister was specious and constitutionally dishonest. He of all people should know what is constitutionally right and what is constitutionally wrong. In matters such as these, surely a House of Parliament ought to know what it is doing.
I give a simple challenge to honorable members opposite, who, in the next few minutes, will vote against this clause: Will their vote against it be based on the ground that was breathed this afternoon by the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) - the ground of constitutional impropriety - or will their vote be cast against the clause because the Government has not the courage to face up to certain physical limitations that ought to have been met long ago? I hope that if the clause is rejected, action will be taken by the Prime Minister, who came into the chamber this afternoon to tell us what he thought of the Senate’s amendment, to transmit an appropriate message to the Senate.
.- Mr. Chairman, we have just heard an amazing speech from the shadow Treasurer of the Australian Labour Party - the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). We have already heard quoted in this chamber the very correct statement that the honorable member made on a previous occasion. It is extraordinary that he now tries to suggest that public moneys can be expended without appropriation. I would have thought that an honorable member who had belonged to this place for even a few months would have realised that government money cannot be expended without an appropriation. An appropriation can be made in several ways. It can be made in a bill on the basis of a message from the Governor-General. Such a measure is described as a money bill. Secondly, an appropriation can be made through the medium of the annual Estimates. The annual Estimates for the current financial year have already been presented to the Parliament. They provide for items of expenditure consequent on the Budget, which has already been debated by honorable members. In the Budget there is no provision for expenditure on the item that is the subject of the Senate’s amendment. lt is a mockery for the Australian Labour Party to imagine that it can make itself popular with the general public by offering a benefit to servicemen of the Boer War and the First World War when it knows perfectly well that not one penny has been appropriated for that purpose. Therefore, this amendment is a complete sham. The Labour Party is saying to the men of the Boer War and the First World War: “ We are good fellows. We have moved an amendment to the Act so that you will be entitled to go to a repatriation hospital for treatment and to get free medical treatment.” But not one penny has been appropriated for that purpose. I might have expected that sort of conduct from some honorable members opposite, but I would not have expected it from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, for whom I have the highest regard. 1 would not have expected him to fall into the trap of imagining that the Opposition could carry out the stated intention of providing free medical attention and free hospitalisation without an appropriation for the purpose.
– Honorable members must be puzzled as to why there is so much controversy about this matter. On Tuesday afternoon the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), who represents the Minister for Repatriation in this chamber, introduced the Repatriation Bill. On the clause that we are now debating he said -
The Bill also contains a clause inserted following an amendment in another place, the effect of which is that medical, hospital and related treatment is to be provided for ex-servicemen of the Boer War and the 1914-18 War for disabilities which are not accepted as war caused.
He then went on to another matter. The Minister gave no indication to honorable members at that time that there was anything improper or obnoxious in that clause in the Bill which he introduced. In fact, he concluded his speech by commending the Bill to honorable members. But on Wednesday afternoon, suddenly we found that there was a matter of great constitutional and fiscal propriety involved and the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), for the first time in 40 years’ parliamentary service, spoke on a repatriation bill. He said that in another place a grave constitutional solecism had been perpetrated. He and his colleagues had certainly overlooked this for years past Repatriation bills have originated in the chamber where the Minister for Repatriation has been a member. Throughout the period of Sir Walter Cooper’s Administration as Minister for Repatriation that was the practice. Now that Senator McKellar is Minister, we can expect that amendments to the Repatriation Act will originate in another place. In the last decade and a half, only during the couple of years when the present Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) was Minister for Repatriation did amendments to the Repatriation Act originate in this chamber. Surely it is rather belated for the Prime Minister or any of the lesser lights to suggest that there is something improper in the House where the Bill originates receiving and accepting an amendment to that Bill. When the Opposition in this place has moved amendments to a repatriation bill the point has never been taken, that they were unconstitutional because they exceeded some message from the Governor-General. The Governor-General does not send messages asking for an appropriation under the Repatriation Act. This point is a complete afterthought. I have checked on the debate in the other place - I do not know whether it is proper to refer to it - and this matter was not mentioned there at all.
Of course, the real reason why the Minister for Social Services did not state the attitude of the Government on this matter is that the Government was not sure, until the meeting of the Government parties on Wednesday morning - that is, yesterday morning - whether it could get away with its attitude. At that meeting the Prime Minister paraded his dissident members. He let it be known that this was a question of confidence in the Government and said that there would be a double dissolution if his supporters in another place persisted in this amendment. Then, when he understood that his dissident supporters in another place would change their attitude, he came into the chamber on Wednesday afternoon - that is, yesterday afternoon - and told honorable members that a matter of prime constitutional and fiscal propriety was involved.
The Minister for Social Services, to his credit, did not put this line. He said that it was physically impossible to give veterans of the Boer War and the First World War medical and hospital treatment in repatriation hospitals. In fact, as my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) - a veteran of the First World War - said, the amendment does not require that these veterans should receive treatment in repatriation hospitals. Everybody with a scintilla of knowledge of these matters knows that it is quite possible for eligible ex-servicemen to receive treatment at surgeries or in private hospitals or public hospitals, where they are available and are more convenient than repatriation hospitals.
I wish to refer to one other matter in conclusion. This appears to be the latest hour at which honorable members have been called upon to debate even a repatriation bill. Honorable members will recall that last year the last amendment to the Repatriation Bill was disposed of at half past one in the morning; the year before it was at a quarter past one; and it is now after a quarter past two.
– Well, sit down.
– The PostmasterGeneral’s lack of interest in repatriation matters is notorious. It is the practice of this Government to see that every matter concerning repatriation, on which there is any dispute or is to be any vote, is debated on a day when the proceedings of the House are not broadcast and that when votes are taken they are taken too late for the morning newspapers to report on them. That has been the practice for years past. As an honorable member opposite says, the vote is always the same, in that members of the Opposition all line up in favour of these amendments and members of the Government parties all line up against them.
This is an extraordinary piece of conduct by the Government, which would have the Returned Servicemen’s League believe that it enjoys some particular access to or influence with the Government parties. Yet, year in and year out, the League has asked for these amendments, and particularly for the amendment now before the Committee, and on every occasion members of the Government parties have voted against the amendments. Even in the two years 1962 and 1963, when only one member of the
Government parties would have been required to cross the floor in order to pass one of these amendments, every member of the Government parties remained solid.
We know that every honorable member has received a letter from the Returned Servicemen’s League in his State. In fact, I am told that telegrams were sent to South Australian members asking for their support of these amendments which the League seeks annually.
– That is not true, for a start.
– No Country Party member has spoken on this Bill. I think one is entitled to make the first interjection.
– What about the Minister?
– The Minister spoke; that is true.
– And the honorable member for Mallee.
– The Ministerfor External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) never speaks on these matters. No Government members have spoken on these measures except the Minister for Social Services, and, except for one occasion, he has spoken only to move the gag. If the Minister for External Affairs is prepared to deny his parents in voting against justice for Salvation Army personnel who have served with the Forces, then I suppose we need not worry about persons with less propriety and pride voting against all the principles which they so loudly espouse during the daytime, and on sacred occasions. The Government at least is consistent on this occasion, even if it is more belated than usual; that is, it is voting, on specious reasons, belatedly discovered reasons, as always, against all these amendments, and I have no doubt the R.S.L. will take it lying down, as on previous occasions.
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) proposed -
That the question be now put. [Incident] -
– You are one of the filthiest objects ever to come into this chamber.
– Order! The Committee will come to order. The honorable member for Mitchell will resume his seat. I think I have proved during the time I have been in the Chair that I am quite capable of conducting the proceedings of the Committee when it is in session. I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he apologise to the Minister for External Affairs for what he has just done.
– Did you not hear what he said, Mr. Chairman?
– It was too indecent. I will not repeat it.
– Order! The honorable member will keep quiet.
– I was trying to apologise.
– I suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition apologise to the Minister for External Affairs for his action.
– Mr. Chairman, I apologise to you, I apologise to the chamber, and I apologise to everyone in it, including the Minister, but I would expect you to call on the Minister to withdraw the unparliamentary and provocative terms which he used and which were heard by several of my colleagues. I was provoked. I have apologised and I expect the Minister to apologise as well.
– Order! I did not hear the words of the Minister for External Affairs. I assume that there was some reason for the action of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– Order! If interjections do not cease, I shall take action against the next person who interjects. I therefore say to the Minister for External Affairs that if what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said is correct - and I am not questioning that because from my position it was impossible for me to hear - I would ask the Minister for External Affairs to extend the same courtesy to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I apologise to you, Mr. Chairman, and to the Committee. The remark was made in a personal and direct way. It was not part of the proceedings of the Parliament. I apologise to the honorable member.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 11a.
.I move -
That the following new clause be inserted in the Bill- “11a. After section 123 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 123b. The Commission may, subject to such conditions as it from time to time determines, provide for the wife of a person in receipt of the Special Rate of pension under the Second Schedule to this Act such medical benefits as she would receive if she were the wife of a person eligible for medical benefits under the Pensioner Medical Service.’.”.
The purpose of this amendment, of course, is to provide for the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman free medical treatment, such as is already available to the wife of a service pensioner and to a pensioner who will receive a medical entitlement card as a result of the Social Services Bill which this Parliament discussed last week. This matter has been represented to the Government Members’ Ex-Servicemen’s Committee during the year. It has been represented also to the Cabinet sub-committee by the Returned Servicemen’s League. It has been put before the Government on a number of occasions by the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers’ Association of Australia. Indeed, last year this organisation made a similar request. On that occasion, the then Minister for Health suggested that, in his opinion, it was quite properly a matter for the then Minister for Repatriation. But the Minister for Repatriation said that it was a matter for the Minister for Health. That is the kind of treatment these people have received from this Government despite their representations over a very long period.
Now, under the terms of the legislation which we are now debating, some wives of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners will be granted the medical treatment that they have been seeking for a number of years. In point of fact, those special rate pensioners who are also in receipt of part service pensions will obtain medical treatment or the issue of a medical entitlement card for their wives. But it should be pointed out to the Committee that this does not cover all wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Those ex-servicemen who are not in receipt of a part service pension or an age pension, will not be issued with a medical entitlement card. I point out to the Minister for Social Services (Air. Sinclair) that, in the opinion of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association, indeed, in the opinions of honorable members on this side of the House and, I am sure, of all those people who are interested in the welfare of our ex-servicemen, an anomaly has been created by the Government in this respect.
I do not want to deal with the history of the issue of medical entitlement cards. Honorable members are familiar with the tactics adopted as far back as 1955 by this Government. Prior to that year, the wives of all T.P.I, ex-servicemen were issued with a medical entitlement card. As a result of the means test applied in 1955 by this Government, that card was no longer made available to this class of pensioner. As a result of the legislation now before this Committee, some wives will now receive that card again if their husbands qualify for a part service pension within the means test. Let us take as an example the case of a T.P.I, pensioner who, prior to his enlistment, was engaged in an occupation that required him to contribute to a Commonwealth or State superannuation scheme. In other words, he provided for his retirement. Now, in addition to his special rate pension, he receives a small superannuation payment. The special rate pensioner is entitled to a total income of £18 per week which is now the ceiling limit applied to these pensioners. The superannuation payment together with the special rate pension could mean that the special rate pensioner is either on the ceiling limit or probably above it. Because he has contributed to a Commonwealth or State superannuation scheme, and because he is not able to qualify for a part service pension as a result of the means test, he will not be issued with a medical entitlement card to cover medical benefits for his wife.
We say that an anomaly exists in this regard. Surely if it is good enough to issue a medical entitlement card to some classes of T.P.I, ex-servicemen, it is good enough for the same concession to apply to all classes of these ex-servicemen. As I have already indicated to the Committee the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers
Association has requested on a number of occasions, that the Government should recognise that special circumstances apply with regard to its members. It should recognise that because of a T.P.I, pensioner’s war caused disability and permanent incapacity, his wife is subject to certain disabilities and inconvenience. For instance, she is unable to seek employment. I am sure that the Minister for Social Services will acknowledge that the attention that the wife of a T.P.I, exserviceman must provide to her husband must ultimately affect her health. This Government has consistently refused to issue a pensioner medical card to the wives of pensioners in this category. However, under the terms of the legislation we have debated today some of the special rate pensioners will receive this concession but they must be able to qualify for a part of the service pension.
While we do not deny that the benefit will be appreciated by those who receive it we believe - I want to emphasise this point - that the Minister, as the Minister representing the responsible Minister in another place, has created one more anomaly which will not be appreciated by those who represent the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association, which has repeatedly made representations to the Government for recognition of the special conditions that apply to the wives to whom I have referred. We on this side of the chamber believe that they have justice on their side. We have represented their case on other occasions. This is not the first time that we have moved an amendment in the terms of the one now being discussed. Because of the Government’s action in now providing medical benefits for some of the wives of T.P.I, pensioners we believe that it should, at least at this stage, accept the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition which will have the effect of providing medical treatment for the wives of all totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. There should be no distinction in this matter.
In 1963 the Minister for Repatriation of the time said that to meet our request would cost the Government £750,000. That may be true. The amount could even be more today. The Government has acknowledged that there will be additional cost because it is granting the concession to some of the wives. Even if it cost more than £750,000 the Government, in common justice, should agree to accept the amendment which we have proposed.
Mr. SINCLAIR (New England- Minister for Social Services [2.48 a.m.]. - As the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has said, the purpose of the proposed amendment will be partly met when the altered arrangements for the application of the pensioner medical service take effect early next year. However, there will still remain a section of the people for whom this extension is sought who, unfortunately, will not fall within the ambit of this provision. As all honorable members know, repatriation legislation has been designed basically to provide benefits for persons suffering from war caused disabilities. To this end benefits have been provided for service pensioners, war widows and their children, direct dependants of deceased exservicemen and so on over the years. When the Budgetis being framed an effort is always made to extend the benefits to as many fields as possible. Unfortunately there sometimes are certain fields where it is not possible, for the time being, to provide a benefit. In this instance there still remains a section of peoplewho will not be eligible for the benefits conferred under the pensioner medical service. However, as the honorable member has explained, after the extension of the pensioner medical service from 1st January next year there will be a substantial increase in eligibility. The position has been improved to that extent.
Because of the necessity to allocate funds in the most equitable way, and in order to extend these benefits to as broad a field as possible, it has been necessary to restrict extension in some directions. The Government does not see its way clear, therefore, to accept the Opposition’s proposed amendment in this instance, and accordingly I ask the Committee to reject it.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. Barnard’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- If Government supporters feel that we should not be sitting here at this time, they should not blame me. I regret that I have to delay the Parliament. I will admit that it is a farce to sit here at this hour, but it is the res ponsibility of the Government and not of the Opposition. As far as I am concerned, in the Committee stage we have every right to examine closely every clause in the Bill, and I am going to do so. There are two matters I want to raise briefly in respect of clause 13, under which provision is instituted a new intermediate pension. The clause states -
Where the incapacity of a member of the Forces is such that he is unable to earn a living wage by reason that he is unable to engage in a remunerative occupation except on a part-time basis or intermittently-
I want to have clarified the intention of the Government in this respect. I think there is need for a definition.
– How many votes does the honorable member think this is worth?
– Oh shut up.
– Order! The honorable member for Grayndler must cease interjecting.
– Tell the donkey to shut up.
– Order! The honorable member for Kingston will remain silent.
– Shut up. You are nothing but a Fascist.
– Order! I suggest that at this hour of the morning the Committee should come to order. If it does so, we may get through the business a little more quickly. I am addressing honorable members on both sides of the chamber.
– I want to know what the word “intermittently” means. I have a dictionary before me, but I do not want to bore honorable members by quoting what it has to say. I want to know what is the intention of the Government. The term “ part-time “ means, as it would under various industrial awards, that a person works for three, four or five hours a day for five days a week. Does “ intermittently “ refer to an ex-serviceman who works for, say, three or four days a week and then has a day off because of his illness or disability? Is it the intention of the Government that it should apply also to a person who may work for three months, who may then have a fortnight off because of his disabilities, and who may work for another month or six weeks and then have a week off? Does the Minister intend the term to have that definition? I should like this matter to be clarified. I should like him to be more precise about it.
The other matter I want to raise is important. The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), who has been interjecting, may not be concerned about it, but 1 am. There are more than 22,000 pensioners who are in receipt of a 100 per cent, rate pension. In the past many of those men might have qualified for the intermediate pension that is to be introduced under this legislation. It may be that many of them will now qualify for the intermediate pension. In the past two or three months many of them may have been before an Assessment Appeal Tribunal but have been rejected by the tribunal, having been 100 per cent, rate pensioners. Having been rejected by the Tribunal, which found that their incapacity was such that they were not entitled to a T.P.I, pension, they now have another four or five months to wait before they are able to apply for a reassessment.
This Bill brings in a new provision. I ask whether the pensions of the 22,000 100 per cent, rate pensioners will be reviewed automatically or whether it will be their responsibility to apply for reassessment. I know of some 100 per cent, rate pensioners in my electorate who will be going before an Assessment Appeal Tribunal in the coming week. If they are rejected by that Tribunal, unless they can put forward extremely good medical evidence they cannot re-apply for six months. Are we to understand that the men to whom I have referred will have to wait for six months merely because they will happen to have had their appeals heard in this coming week instead of the following week?
– That is absolute rot.
– That is all I want to know, and I am entitled to ask. We are entitled to know what the position is. What I am afraid of is that these people might have to wait for six months. I again ask: Will it be the responsibility of each 100 per cent, rate pensioner to apply again? This matter should be clarified by the Minister. I would appreciate his giving a more pre cise definition of the term “ intermittently “ also.
.- With respect to the second part of the honorable member’s query, the practice has always been for a service pensioner to apply if he thinks that he is not receiving his entitlement, that his condition has worsened or that there has been a substantial change that entitles him to a higher pension. It is intended that it shall be necessary for the individual ex-serviceman to apply for a reassessment of his entitlement. It appears that, in the circumstances, this would be the only practical way to implement the extension of this benefit.
– What about the delay of six months if the ex-serviceman has been rejected by a tribunal?
– This would constitute a substantial variation of his condition, so there should be no delay in the reassessment of his position. The position in this instance is different to a position where an individual has only the same facts to present to a tribunal. The facts in this instance are different and consequently there is no question of any delay. The problem, as the honorable member will know, is mainly where no new facts are to be presented for reassessment by the tribunal. In this instance the new facts are an amendment to the Act.
With respect to the definition of the intermediate rate of war pension the honorable gentleman referred to the description in clause 13 and in particular to the phrase “ except on a part-time basis or intermittently”. During the second reading debate I endeavoured to explain that the basis of determining eligibility is first on the merits of each case. This means that there is to be no overall blanket rule which will apply exclusively to determine when a person will be eligible for the intermediate rate and not eligible for the special rate, or when he will be eligible only for a lesser benefit. As I explained earlier, the tests will be first that he is unable, because of his accepted disabilities, to follow a full time occupation. Members of the Committee will remember that earlier in the evening I said that a person who worked three days in a week would presumably qualify but that a person who could work for four days a week might not. However, qualification would depend on the individual circumstances of each case. The honorable member mentioned the case of a person who could work one week and not the next. The circumstances of every case vary. These cases would be examined individually and a determination made on the merits.
– Is it definite that if he worked only three days he would qualify?
– It would appear that he would qualify but it would depend on the circumstances of the individual case. In other words, this is the first part of the test. The second part is that it depends on an estimate of what he is capable of earning. Honorable members will be aware that if he can earn more than a negligible portion of a living wage he is clearly entitled to a special rate pension but if he can earn a living wage by part time work he is reasonably compensated by the 100 per cent. pension. The idea of the intermediate rate war pension is to cope with people whose earnings fall between those two extremes. The intermediate rate pension of £10 2s. 6d. a week will increase whatever his other earnings might be so that he can receive a reasonable living wage. The idea is that in each instance the rate will come as something between the total and temporary incapacitated rate on the one hand and that of persons who at this stage are not entitled to anything more than perhaps the 100 per cent. general rate. This provision is intended to cover those people.
Earlier tonight the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred to people who do not quite qualify. These people will certainly be in. The problem of people at the other end of the scale - those who are on the border line division - will have to be determined on the individual merits of the particular applicant.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) - by leave - proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I do not wish to detain the House at great length but I wish to record my complete disgust at the conduct by the Government of the debate on this measure affecting the repatriation rights of ex-servicemen. At 15 minutes past 3, for about the third or fourth year this Government, in the conduct of the debate at the Committee stage, has used the most disgraceful-
– Order! The honorable member must not get too far away from the Bill or he will be out of order.
– I am just making a passing reference, Mr. Speaker. I remind a number of honorable members opposite who have been asleep for most of the night that the Opposition has endeavoured to debate this Bill-
– Order! This is not in the Bill.
– That is true, Mr. Speaker. The Opposition, in accordance with the highest traditions of the Parliament, has endeavoured to give proper consideration to this Bill which affects the welfare of exservicemen and women. In a few brief words let me record our disgust at the manner in which the debate has been conducted by the Government and at the arrogant, overbearing attitude adopted in respect of this important matter, and our complete condemnation of the Government-
Motion (by Mr. Sinclair) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in tha affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 3.23 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
n asked the Minister for Ship ping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answer to the honor.orable member’s questions is as follows -
The following is a list of vessels under construction or on order through the Australian Shipbuilding Board in Australian yards for Australian owners -
In addition to the above sixteen vessels an order for a large sea-going dredger for the Victorian Public Works Department is being executed by Walkers Limited of Maryborough, although this order was not placed through the Australian Shipbuilding Board. A number of smaller vessels are under construction at various yards in Australia.
As far as my Department is aware there are no trading vessels on order overseas for Australian ship-owners.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Contrary to numerous press reports during and subsequent to my visit to Vietnam in July, Australian troops serving in that area have made no complaints about the quality of clothing and equipment in use. This was confirmed during my own visit and by subsequent visits and investigations by Army authorities.
The critical press reports apparently arose initially in Vietnam during my inspection in the Quartermaster’s store of worn clothing and boots which had reached the end of their useful life and had been replaced following rugged patrolling. The discussion on that occasion in fact related to the demonstrated severity of the climate and physical conditions in this area and not to any suggestion that items of clothing or equipment were of sub-standard quality when issued.
I might mention that the conditions in Bien Hoa area are amongst the worst in South East Asia, and the climate, terrain and type of operations facing our forces causes accelerated wear and tear and deterioration of clothing and footwear. Reserve supplies of all items in use in the theatre are designed, however, to meet these conditions and have proved completely adequate for the task.
The Army is continually trying to improve its equipment of all kinds. To this end, overseas developments are under constant review and continuous liaison is maintained with Commanders and their troops, not only in Vietnam but in Malaysia, New Guinea and throughout Australia.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Schedules are appended showing the number of knighthoods and other honours and awards approved by the Sovereign each year since 1945. These schedules do not include awards of the I.S.M. This medal is not awarded on the usual half-yearly Sovereign’s List; it is awarded upon the retirement of the recipient from the Public Service and thus may be bestowed at any time during the year. Statistics of such awards are therefore not readily available.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Where and when have discussions taken place and what decisions have been made concerning metric weights and measures in the last five years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Under Commonwealth weights and measures legislation, metric units of measurements are provided for in parallel with imperial units. In most States, the use of the metric system as an alternative to the imperial system is already permitted by law. Steps are being taken so that this will be so in all States within the Commonwealth in the near future.
There is some defence use of the metric system. In 1961, the Government approved a proposal for the Australian Army to adopt mils and metres instead of degrees and yards for most military purposes in the field. This action is bringing the Australian Army into line with the armies of the United States, Britain, Canada and S.E.A.T.O. countries. The conversion of Australian Army equipment is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
As from 1st May this year, pharmaceutical benefits have been prescribed in metric measures. This follows discussions with the organisations concerned and with the States.
There are many major considerations, particularly economic ones, which must be carefully weighed before moves can be made towards the general adoption of the metric system in Australia. The Government is examining the recently announced decision of the British Government to change to the use of the metric system over the next ten years, and is also examining the move in the United States to study the question of a change in that country.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
.- On 21st September the honorable member for Evans, (Dr. Mackay) asked me a question about matriculation standards for universities and his remarks were directed towards the position in New South Wales when the six years secondary schooling course is in full operation there. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) asked me a related question on 28th September.
Having made inquiries, I confirm that there has been no consultation with the Commonwealth Government or the Prime Minister’s Department about the new matriculation standards. The determination of entry standards to a university is the responsibility of that university and in New South Wales there would no doubt be consultation between the university and the Board of Senior School Studies which is responsible for the syllabus in secondary schools in New South Wales and in the Australian Capital Territory.
The question is whether, and if so to what extent, the new matriculation requirements will set a higher standard, having regard to the additional year spent in preparation and to the use of the new syllabus.
There have been press reports of contradictory views expressed by various responsible and informed persons in New South Wales about the performance required of a student to gain matriculation. I am pleased to learn that, in addition to the attention which the Minister for Education and his officers have been giving to the matter, a discussion has been arranged among representatives of the universities, the Education Department, the Board of Senior School Studies and Government and Independent School Masters. I hope that this discussion will at least clear the air as to the facts.
The honorable member for East Sydney asked about the effect of the new matriculation requirements on students who prepare for matriculation by the two year evening course at various technical colleges in New South Wales. I understand that the New
South Wales Department of Technical Education has revised both its two year evening matriculation course and its one year full-time matriculation course in the light of the new syllabus and that it is not contemplated that students in those courses will be at any disadvantage.
In the field of higher technical education to which the honorable member for Evans made particular reference, the Commonwealth is encouraging the development of colleges of advanced education and will also award scholarships for competition among students entering such colleges. The standard at which Commonwealth Advanced Education College scholarships will be awarded in New South Wales at the end of this year is the Leaving Certificate. As to the future our intention is to provide capital and recurrent grants for Advanced Education Colleges and award scholarships tenable in those colleges, provided that the standard of entry to the courses is the satisfactory completion of full secondary schooling. That is not the same thing as the precise matriculation standards of a university. It is too early yet to say exactly what entry standards will be set for Advanced Education Colleges in New South Wales when a six years secondary school course is in operation. The Commonwealth will not require university matriculation as the standard of entry to Advanced Education Colleges before it will assist those colleges or students in them. In fact, the Commonwealth would not wish such a high standard to be applied.
I recall that in announcing the Government’s policy on tertiary education on 24th March last I stated that the new Colleges of Advanced Education would provide an alternative to the universities for those who preferred to go there, or who indicated by their performance at the qualifying examination that they had a poor chance of graduation from a university in minimum time but could complete a tertiary level diploma course. As a corollary to the establishment of these new colleges, the universities should be able to establish entrance standards which will give matriculants a good chance of graduating in the minimum time or the minimum time plus one year.
The Commonwealth will keep in touch with the development of entrance standards for universities and Colleges of Advanced Education not only in New South Wales but in all States.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19650929_reps_25_hor48/>.