25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Treasurer indicate whether consultations were held between himself and the Governor of the Reserve Bank in respect of the new proposals for charging interest on the unused portions of overdrafts? Will he make a statement indicating whether any other adjustments will be made in banking procedures to counter the increased profits which would otherwise flow from these measures?
– This matter has been under consideration for a considerable period. Indeed, the Government has felt some concern that there should be such a large area of unused overdraft limits without any reasonably accurate knowledge being available of the extent to which they might be drawn upon. This has been a weakness in the general management which the Government, through the Reserve Bank, sought to exercise over the general level of credit and liquidity inside the economy. So over a period, going back now for a few years, discussions have been conducted with representatives of the trading banks, either by me or, in more recent times, by the Governor of the Reserve Bank. We were recently advised by the Governor that the discussions had reached a point where decision was sought by the trading banks. We indicated our general approval in principle for an arrangement along the lines of the one that has subsequently been announced. I do not think it will have any substantial effect on the profits of the trading banks, which at the present time are rather on the low side, but that aspect can be watched as the scheme proceeds. I think the new arrangement will strengthen the position of the trading banks and should certainly achieve the objective of management of the currency and credit levels inside the economy.
– Will the Treasurer consider amending the income tax law to permit the full cost of conversion of business machines for use with decimal currency to be deducted in the year of expenditure, as the money so expended adds nothing to tha value of the equipment but is, in effect, an expense incurred in carrying on a business? I understand that the present proposal is for these costs to be depreciated over a period of 10 years or more.
– I am aware of the interest which the honorable gentleman has displayed in this matter. He has acquainted me with his views on it. The matter is not free from complexity. After hearing the honorable member’s view on this subject, I have arranged for a close study of it to be made by officers of the Taxation Branch and other Treasury officers. This question does raise an issue of policy and of course it would not be appropriate for me to indicate even at this point any governmental attitude towards policy on the matter, but I shall do so after the Government has been able to reach a final conclusion.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. Is it true that during the past two years 63 doctors have unlawfully obtained £40,000 through the pensioner medical service and that doctors have unlawfully obtained about £100,000 through this service since it was first introduced? Since the inception of the scheme have 225 medical practitioners been compelled to refund money illegally obtained by false pretences, and is it a fact that no criminal charges were levelled against them? Is it true that the charges against these doctors were dealt with by a secret committee and did the Minister issue instructions that the names of the doctors were not to be disclosed?
– The information that the honorable member has given to the House may or may not be correct. I cannot vouch for its accuracy. It is a fact, however, that a committee of inquiry consisting of eminent medical officers has been set up in each State to examine complaints regarding alleged breaches of the pensioner medical service. These committees of inquiries make recommendations which are submitted to me as the Minister for Health and I may either accept or reject the recommendations. This is the normal practice that has been followed for many years. The figures given by the honorable member may seem large. Again Icannot say whether they are accurate or not. But when we consider the number of doctors practising in Australia and the number of services that are given to pensioners, we must conclude that the number of cases that are heard by committees of inquiry throughout Australia is very small indeed. Far from being critical of the medical profession, I would like to pay a tribute to its members for the way they give their services to pensioners under this scheme. However, there will always be a few people who will fall by the wayside, and that is why these committees have been established. When they make recommendations for withholding certain payments, this is normally done. They may also recommend that a reprimand be administered. Recommendations may also be made that any such penalties be notified in the “ Gazette “.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. What tests, if any, have been made to ascertain the effects of the use of drugs of the “ quin “ family - camoquin and plasmoquine - by members of the Royal Australian Air Force serving in South East Asia? Does the Minister know that it is stated in the Pharmacopoeia that in some instances the taking of these drugs over long periods has affected sight? Has the sight of any member of the R.A.A.F. been affected in this manner, and is it because of the danger to sight that the Army sticks to paludrine instead of issuing camoquin as an anti-malarial drug? Will the Minister discuss the question with the Minister for Air and the Minister for Repatriation? I ask him to do this because a case came before the Government members ex-servicemen’s committee some time ago of a soldier who had acted as a guinea pig in tests of antimalarial drugs, who had been on camoquin or plasmoquine for some time, whose sight had been affected, and whose subsequent application to the Repatriation Department was rejected.
– The matter raised by the honorable member does not come directly under my jurisdiction. Where the persons affected are in the Services or under the care of the Repatriation Department the matters would be within the control of the relevant Ministers. However, there is close co-operation between the Service Departments, the Repatriation Department and the Department of Health in the matter of safety of drugs. Where any problem arises the matter is referred to the Department of Health and is considered by the Drug Evaluation Committee. Very careful tests are made of all drugs that are imported and sample tests are made of alt drugs that are manufactured locally to ensure a high standard of quality. If the honorable member has in mind any individual problem and refers it to me I will discuss it with my colleagues concerned and let him have an appropriate reply.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation by referring to the recent power blackout in the north east of the United States of America and, in particular, to the fact that many airports were found to be without emergency lighting. Can the Minister inform the House whether emergency power supplies are available for the lighting, radio and radar facilities of Australia’s major airports in the event of the failure of domestic electricity supplies? .
– Again I have to reply as I did yesterday - that this is a matter that does not fall in my direct jurisdiction. It is my understanding that all major airports are equipped with emergency supplies. I can say only that I will approach my colleague and get a direct reply for the honorable member.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware’ that cigarettes made from Australian tobacco, which the manufacturers class as reject tobacco, have been distributed to members of this Parliament and that the general opinion of those members who have tried them is that they are of passable to fair quality? Will the Minister bring this opinion to the notice of the Central Tobacco Advisory Committee with the object of its exploring possibilities for the sale of these cigarettes overseas? Further, will he arrange with the Minister for Trade and Industry for advice to be given to the companies concerned, through the Committee, on ways in which they may find markets for this grade of tobacco through the establishment of subsidiary manufacturing units in such cities as Singapore and Hong Kong?
– I find there is a considerable difference of opinion concerning the grade of this tobacco and also the principle of distributing cigarettes to members of the Parliament. As I am not a smoker I cannot very well express an opinion on the grade, but I think most members feel, in relation to the principle, that the distribution of these cigarettes was an unnecessary gimmick and the type of lobbying that is not appreciated. The idea of having this matter recommended to the Central Tobacco Advisory Committee is one that I will certainly forward, but I am afraid I do not know the implications involved in asking the Committee to look at this matter.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Recognising that the population of Canberra contains a very high proportion of migrant families from European countries, does the Minister realise that this creates problems in the teaching of English at Canberra infant and primary schools, particularly in suburbs where there is a concentration of people from non-English speaking countries and, most particularly, where the children faced with the difficulty of speaking English are classed as slow learners? Will the Minister have this matter considered with a view to possibly appointing specialist English teachers to help the Canberra schools overcome this problem? In particular will he have the case submitted by the Narrabundah Primary School Parents and Citizens Association in April of this year reconsidered? I remind him that the request that was made for specialist teachers was rejected on the grounds that it was not the policy of the Government to do this in the Australian Capital Territory.
– As the honorable member is well aware, the administration of schools in Canberra is undertaken by the New South Wales Department of Education which supplies the teachers and the curricula. However, it is a specialised matter that the honorable member has raised. I know that in certain parts of Canberra there is a high percentage of new Australians. If this creates a problem we will certainly look at it. I shall ask my Department to confer with the New South Wales Department of Education to see what appropriate steps should be taken.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to the monthly report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority on industrial stoppages for October. The first paragraph reads: “ Unauthorised stoppages: From October, 1,950 manhours were lost as the result of unauthorised stoppages throughout Australia. This is less than- “
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that he has directed attention to a report. Therefore, he cannot quote from it. Also, he will have to vouch for the accuracy of the report.
– The report states that 1,950 manhours-
– Order! Having quoted the report, the honorable member cannot refer to its contents. The honorable member will direct his question.
– Is it a fact that 1,950 manhours were lost in October as compared with an average for three years of over 74,000 manhours? Further, there was a loss of-
– Order! The honorable member is continuing to be out of order. He will direct his question.
– Is it a fact that 1,500 manhours were lost due to defective gear?
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Health, whether it would be possible to seize the opportunity presented by the supply of Australian leaf cigarettes that has been sent to members of the Parliament to have an analysis made of them by the Australian Medical Research Council to see whether the. variety being distributed as home grown is more prolific in the factors producing lung cancer than is the imported variety?
– A considerable amount of research work is being done in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Australia on this very matter. At the present time, the tobacco companies themselves have a research programme in regard to this problem. Also, certain grants have been allocated in the past by the National Health’ and Medical Research Council. Certain projects are being conducted within Australia at the present time. However, it may be possible to examine the point that has been raised by the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Professorial Board of the University of Sydney at its meeting early this week received a report from its selection committee regarding appointment to a senior lectureship in philosophy? Is he aware that certain members of this selection committee reported that the rejection of the application by Dr. Knopfelmacher for this post had not been made upon academic grounds since he was an academically qualified, competent and objective lecturer with an adequate record of publications and, further, that the selection committee was agreed on this point? As the report from the selection committee was incorporated in the minutes of the meeting of the Professorial Board, will the Prime Minister approach the authorities concerned at the University of Sydney and request them to make available a copy of the relevant portion of the minutes of the meeting of the Professorial Board for the information of honorable members? ‘
– Mr. Speaker, I have no personal knowledge of the matter at all. The honorable member asks me to get into communication with the University of Sydney and to request a document. That gives rise to the question of authority or of normal relationships with the University. I would like to consider this matter very carefully before giving a final reply.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Does the Government believe in the urgency of irrigation schemes as a boost to production and development? If it does, why was the request by Premier Reece of Tasmania for a £396,000 grant to establish the Poatina irrigation scheme - a scheme to irrigate 10,000 acres and 100 farms - in northern Tasmania rejected? If the Prime Minister says: “Let Tasmania find the finance itself,” what guarantee have we that the Commonwealth Grants Commission will not penalise Tasmania for such expenditure? Finally, will the Government reconsider this request next year? :
– If the honorable member will be good enough to put his question on the notice paper; I will explain in a considered answer exactly the reasons for the rejection, which, I must say, were very right and very sound, I thought.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he is aware that the Sunraysia Growers Conciliation and Labour League will later this month send a representative to sugar cane areas in Queensland with a view to interviewing co-operatives, employees and employers in the sugar industry in an endeavour to attract sugar cane cutters to Sunraysia for the grape harvest. Does the Minister know that the sugar cane cutting in Queensland should be finished by the end of the year, that the grape harvest in the Murray Valley commences towards the end of February and that the engagement of cane cutters to assist in the picking of the valuable dried fruit industry crop would have the dual advantage of a continuation of lucrative employment for seasonal workers and the overcoming of the labour shortage in the grape picking season? Will the Minister request Queensland officers of his Department to cooperate with those associated with this desirable proposition?
– Already the Sunraysia League has been in contact with my Department in an attempt to move sugar cane cutters from Queensland and parts of northern New South Wales to Sunraysia for the crop that will be harvested commencing in February. We have already made arrangements for interviews to take place between Commonwealth Employment Service officers and officials of the League. I think I can point out to the honorable gentleman, too, that it is normal for the Department, some time in September and October, to take preliminary action in order to ensure that as many people engaged in sugar cane cutting as possible should move to the Sunraysia area. That is the usual procedure and it will again take place in accordance with the normal events. I think it is worthwhile stressing, as the honorable gentleman has stressed, that this provides an opportunity for continued lucrative employment. Cane cutters have had lucrative employment in sugar cane cutting; they can have lucrative employment during the Sunraysia season working on the various types of crops grown and to be harvested there.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I ask: Is the Minister in receipt of a letter dated 10th November 1965 from the Mayor of the City of Greater Cessnock complaining that he has been betrayed by the Minister who has not kept his promise that tenders would be called in this financial year, 1965-66, for the construction of a new building to house the automatic telephone equipment for the City of Greater Cessnock? I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to ensure that tenders for the new automatic telephone exchange building will be called in accordance with his promise to the Mayor made some months ago when a deputation waited on him.
– Any promise I made to the Mayor will be carried out.
– I wish to ask the Acting Minister for Primary Industry a question supplementary to that asked a moment ago by the honorable member for Gwydir. Does the Minister not consider that it is his ministerial duty, despite his personal distaste, to test the sample of inferior tobacco submitted to him and to other honorable members? If he should decide to carry out this ministerial duty, will he inform the House whether he can distinguish this tobacco from desiccated cabbage leaf?
– Whether it is desiccated cabbage leaf or tobacco of high quality, I think I would still cough and splutter.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has he seen a statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service describing as eggheads people who were suggesting that there would be an economic recession? In view of the decline in the building trade, the drop in car sales, the increase in unemployment, the curtailment of overtime in industry and the lack of finance for drought relief does the Treasurer agree with his ministerial colleague’s description of the people mentioned or would he say that probably the boot is on the other foot and that any similarity between his colleague and the egghead is purely coincidental?
– I have the opportunity frequently to hear views on economic questions put in some detail by my colleague. I feel indebted to him, and I am sure the Parliament does, for the soundness of his economic judgments and the technical qualities and capacities that he brings to bear in arriving at them.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, by reminding the honorable gentleman of the major difficulties encountered by the Government last year in endeavouring to locate and bring to safety Australian nationals in the Congo because Australia did not have diplomatic representation in that country. 1 now ask
Is it true that Australia has no diplomatic representation in Rhodesia? If this is true, and should there be any unfortunate developments in that country that would endanger the lives of Australians resident there, what action can or will be taken by the Government to ensure their safety or in the last resort their rescue?
– At present we are handicapped by not having exact information about how many Australians, if any, there are in Rhodesia. A previous attempt before the recent troubles to establish a register of Australians so that we would know whether there were Australians in Rhodesia resulted’ in no registrations of Australian names, but there is a great probability that there are in that country Australians or some persons who perhaps have dual citizenship; - Australian and Rhodesian. At the present time we have no reason to believe that there will be developments that would imperil the lives of any Australians. If such circumstances arise the Australian Government will of course take every action that it can to protect the interests of Australians. We have never had diplomatic representation in Rhodesia and we have now withdrawn the trade representative who was previously in Salisbury. But the British High Commission still retains a small staff in Salisbury for the performance of duties similar to consular duties and the services of that staff would be immediately available to us.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has he noted the growing concern among employees under Federal awards with respect to redundancy of employment caused by automation? Has he examined the benefits for displacement under the Redundancy Payments Bill introduced in the United Kingdom last June? Is the Minister aware of the general period of notice of dismissal given to employees in the United States of America whose jobs are made redundant by automation? Will he procure for the information of this House details of the general periods of notice of dismissal, compensation and other benefits provided in all advanced industrial countries in respect of redundancy of employment as a result of automation?
– My Department Is constantly engaged in considering the problems of redundancy due to automation and has given careful consideration to the acts that have dealt with the problem in the United Kingdom. I think the honorable gentleman would know that the question he has asked involves a very complicated and detailed problem. It would be impractical for me, or for that matter for anyone else, to give a complete answer to his question. 1 shall have a short paper prepared - I do not know how long that will take; it may take a week or more - and if honorable gentlemen would like to inquire at my office it will be made available to them.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Is it a fact that at Canberra airport civilian aircraft would normally use the east west airstrip in a strong westerly wind but cannot do so because of foundation weaknesses? In view of the fact that aircraft which made dangerous landings in a 40 knot crosswind at Canberra on Tuesday carried many Government supporters representing swing seats, will the Government consolidate the east west strip and thus make itself more secure in giving continuous first class administration in this well governed country?
– I think it might be possible to issue an edict that in the event of any trouble members representing blue ribbon seats will be last out.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that hire purchase companies in Australia are outside monetary controls by the Government and thus present a strong threat to the success of Government economic policy? As an example of how that can circumvent this policy, I ask: Is it a fact that during the 1961-62 credit squeeze these companies were able to release credit in distinct opposition to the Government’s monetary policies at that time controlling the banks’ lending policies? Will the Government consider using taxation laws to encourage hire purchase companies to register as banking institutions by applying heavy taxation rates against hire purchase companies and allowing exemption from these rates to companies which register as banking institutions, and thus bring the hire purchase companies under Government monetary regulation in the interests of economic policy?
– The honorable gentleman proposes some rather drastic policy measures which would have to be viewed against the situation about which he speaks. I do not share the view which he appears to hold that the hire purchase companies constitute a threat to sound economic national management. Whatever might have been the experience in earlier years, I can speak with some close knowledge of the situation over more recent years. As part of the process which the Government has applied of consultation with various representatives of industry, through the years I have established the practice of holding consultations with the representatives of the Australian Hire Purchase and Finance Conference, at least at two regular periods each year. I must say that I have been impressed with the spirit of responsibility revealed to me in these discussions. I am certain that the members of the Conference have every determination to act in a responsible way and consistently with the general views which the Government holds on economic policy. In these circumstances I do not see the necessity for the type of measure which the honorable gentleman recommends.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Have scientists in Australia carried out any investigation into possible dangers resulting from side effects of contraceptive pills? In view of recent United Kingdom reports of suspected harmful effects, can the Australian public be given any definite advice on the subject by health authorities?
– The drugs concerned are imported, and certain tests have been conducted overseas. The Australian Drug Evaluation Committee is responsible for keeping a check on imported drugs. It has done that in this particular case. During my recent overseas visit, I had the opportunity of discussing this particular problem.
As a result of the information that has been given, and the articles which have appeared in the Press over recent months since the submission of the report of the Dunlop Committee in the United Kingdom there is a fear over there that there may be some side effects. For that reason, we in Australia have issued the same warning as has been issued in the United Kingdom. My advice - if one can offer advice on a subject of this nature - is that if people are considering using these drugs medical advice is essential.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for Defence. When officers of his Department were conferring in the last week with an admiral and technical officers from France who were visiting Australia in the course of a tour of French establishments in Tahiti and the Society Islands, did they discuss the preparations for French nuclear tests there, and did they make it plain that they would do nothing to assist a course of action which the Australian Government has hitherto officially deplored and regretted?
– I am sorry that 1 am unable at the moment to give an answer to the question asked by the honorable member. I shall have inquiries made and see what reply I can give him.
– I address to the Minister for Health a question which is prompted by the rise in doctors’ fees in some areas of New South Wales in disparity with medical fees charged elsewhere. Will the Minister endeavour to obtain a comprehensive estimation of the amount of public moneys, from all sources, being directed into the post-secondary training of students for certain leading professions, inclusive of moneys paid for subsidising instruction such as in teaching hospitals? I refer in particular to the professions of medicine, law, engineering and education. Will the Minister try to obtain an average or representative figure of the amount of such public contribution compared with privately paid fees per head of student population in each class? Will he also endeavour to obtain some estimate of the range of incomes and the average incomes earned by professional men in each of these categories, based on the latest scales of fees charged to the public?
– Whilst I appreciate the interest of the honorable member in this matter and know the objective behind the question, I point out that this is not a matter that comes directly under my control, although some of the information asked for would be available in my Department. As the question affects certain other Commonwealth departments and also involves a variety of statistics, I shall make some inquiries to see what information can be obtained and shall furnish a reply to the honorable member at a later stage.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether he has noticed a statement made by His Holiness the Pope, which has been described as a plea for the admission of China to the United Nations on the ground that this would be of great significance in the preservation of peace. Have this plea, and the circumstances of it, affected even to the slightest extent his own view on the matter?
– Decisions on Australian foreign policy are made after consideration of very many factors. Respectful attention is, of course, paid to the opinions of all persons qualified to speak on behalf of large communities on matters such as peace.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In view of the fact that advances in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis have contributed significantly to the steady reduction in the incidence of the disease, are there now spare beds available in chest hopsitals in Tasmania? If so, will the Minister consider the use of such beds for other purposes?
– Under the Tuberculosis Act the Commonwealth has provided capital for the construction of chest hospitals and also finance for the maintenance of those hospitals; but that does not give the Com monwealth any right to control the operations of the hospitals. However, with the success of the Commonwealth’s antituberculosis campaign there are now, throughout all States, beds becoming available in these chest hospitals. Where this does occur the procedure is for a State Government to approach the Commonwealth for authority to use the beds for other purposes. In every case where an application of this kind is made it is treated sympathetically.
– I also direct a question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the National Biological Standards Laboratory last year examined 1,323 pharmaceutical items which revealed a failure rate of 28.9 per cent? Since the vast majority of available pharmaceutical items have never been tested and may also represent a potential hazard to the health of the community, will the Minister say how long it will take to have all pharmaceutical products examined so that the public can be properly protected?
– I might say at the outset that the standard of control over all drugs, including pharmaceuticals, in Australia is about the highest in the world. First, the Commonwealth has the responsibility for imported drugs and it tests at the National Biological Standards Laboratory here in Canberra every drug that is imported. It is the responsibility of the State Governments to ensure the safety of drugs manufactured within each State. However, there is an arrangement between the States and the Commonwealth for a procedure whereby samples of various drugs are taken and regularly tested in the Commonwealth’s laboratories. The Commonwealth does that on behalf of the States and the system is working quite well. If, after discussion with the States, it was considered necessary to improve this procedure the Commonweal’s would certainly be pleased to do so.
– Has the Minister for Health requested his Department to prepare a summary of the extensive Victorian Government report on Scientology? If not, would he arrange for this to be done and copies to be distributed to members of this Parliament? Have any steps yet been taken with a view to introducing complementary legislation in the Territories, for which the Minister for Health exercises a health responsibility?
– The Department of Health has had an opportunity to examine this, report, but generally the matter is one that comes within the jurisdiction of the State Governments. Where it concerns the Commonwealth - in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory - the Department is keeping the matter under review. If action is found to be necessary it will certainly be taken. The suggested circulation of a summary of this report is a matter which I will examine. I do not know whether it comes within the responsibility of the Department of Health to do that. I have been informed that the matter will be referred to the State Health Ministers’ Conference early next year and undoubtedly will be discussed then. I believe also that copies of the report have been forwarded to the State Attorneys-General and the Commonwealth Attorney-General for examination. However, I will see whether a summary can suitably be circulated.
– I ask the Post master-General a question. Has permission been granted for the establishment of two private experimental frequency modulation broadcasting stations, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney? If so, on what basis were the applicants selected for allocation of permits or licences? What is the Minister’s attitude to other applications currently before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board? May these other applicants expect an early decision on their applications? Will favourable consideration be given to applicants with long experience in radio technology?
– The two applicants to whom the honorable member has referred applied to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for permission to conduct experiments in frequency modulation broadcasting. I cannot remember details of the six or seven conditions which were attached to the licences granted. The licences are very restricted and are for purely experimental purposes. I have no doubt that if other people apply for the same purposes the same conditions will be imposed on them and consideration will be given to the issue of licences on a similar basis. If the honorable member would like details of the conditions attaching to each of the licences issued, I will make them available.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 9.30 a.m.
.- I move -
That in the opinion of this House the recommendations set out in paragraphs 76 and 79 of the Report of the Select Committee on the Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines, Arnhem Land Reserve, should be implemented.
Honorable members will recall that when development of the bauxite deposits at Gove Peninsula in Arnhem Land was first begun the Aborigines of the Yirrkala area, believing that their interests were to be adversely affected, petitioned this Parliament. They petitioned the Parliament on a bark painting, which was without precedent. They petitioned the Parliament in their own language, with a translation. As a result of that petition a select committee was appointed which made certain recommendations. I believe that the most important recommendation was the one contained in paragraph 79 of the report of the Select Committee on the Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines, Arnhem Land Reserve. In paragraph 79, referring to a comment made earlier by a witness, the Committee stated -
Your Committee accepts this challenge and accordingly recommends -
That for the next ten years there shall be a Standing Committee of the House of Representatives to examine from time to time the conditions of the Yirrkala people and the carrying out of this Committee’s recommendations.
The report was brought up and ordered to be printed on 29th October 1963 - a little more than two years ago. It has not been particularly vital that the report has not been implemented, because development in the area was retarded, but now we understand that development is to be resumed. I would like to make one or two observations about the Committee’s experiences, as I view them. First I believe that the Committee was very unwelcome as far as the Administration of the Northern Territory was concerned. The Administration has had a great deal to say over many years about the citizenship, whatever that means, of Aborigines. The fact that the Aborigines exercised their citizenship and petitioned this Parliament was treated as something sinister instead of being treated as something with which the Administration ought to be pleased.
I visited Yirrkala. It was I who advised the Aborigines to petition this Parliament because I took seriously everything that has been said about the citizenship of Australian Aborigines by the Department. It is very clear from a lot of the evidence, particularly that given by the Northern Territory Director of Welfare, Mr. Giese, that the whole idea of the petition was deeply resented. This was the case notwithstanding that it became very clear during the Committee’s inquiry that the Administration did not know what was in the minds of the Aborigines and did not know the fears and concern that was in their hearts. In fact, a most responsible, gentlemanly and efficient officer, Mr. Evans, admitted that he did not know the facts about the Commonwealth Government’s intention to develop a town in the area. But the Aborigines did know of the proposal to develop a town for 3,000 people on land which they regarded as their own. This was a matter that deeply concerned them but Mr. Evans did not understand that this matter deeply concerned them. So there was a complete failure of communication - I use the expression of one of the Liberal Party members of the Committee - between the Aborigines and the Commonwealth Government.
The second point that I raise is that Aborigines in this area had been listened to by officers of the Department of Territories without interpreters. The Aborigines were not capable of any extensive self-expression in English and the officers were surprised when Aborigines speaking in their own tongue through interpreters revealed themselves as orators and as people having a very mature outlook on the needs of their particular Aboriginal community. Again, through the inability of the Administration to understand Aboriginal languages in the area, there was a failure of communication. The Committee made certain recommendations in paragraph 76 of its report. I take it that most honorable members do not have the Committee’s report before them. The recommendations are not extensive so I will read them. The Committee said -
Your Committee recommends -
That the excised portion of Gove Penin sula be declared a protected area in order that people other than Aborigines shall be prevented from hunting there.
I might say that Aboriginal methods of hunting crocodiles, for instance, with spears do not exterminate the species and a continuing food supply exists for the Aboriginal people, who live substantially by hunting. But if into this area of the reserve come efficient hunters with guns, they can very swiftly exterminate the species. What for these hunters is just an accumulation of crocodile skins represents to the Aborigines the destruction of an important item of diet. The second part of the Committee’s recommendation reads -
It is clear that there should be a development of water reseources in the Gove Peninsula area. It is also clear that the Administration does not think of concentrations of Aboriginal population in the way that it thinks of concentrations of European population. It is quite unthinkable that a concentration of 1,200 Europeans - there are 1,200 Aborigines on Melville Island - would be left without the water supplies that were necessary for them when there were running creeks and so on which could be easily dammed. But we do not, in spite of our pretensions, think of a concentration of Aboriginal people with the same care and concern as we would think of a concentration of European people.
I want to say another thing about these water supplies. The Director of Health in the Northern Territory, Dr. Byrne, came thundering in to Yirrkala in the Department of Health aeroplane to give us evidence that the water supplies at Yirrkala contained the hepatitis virus. No attempt was made to refute his evidence in his presence or in the Committee’s sessions, but we heard a very great many personal reflections about him outside - not strictly on his evidence before the Committee but plainly
Intended to discredit his evidence. Notwithstanding this, we were told, as members of the Committee, to go to the Canberra Community Hospital when we returned and have injections of gamma globulin to ensure that we did not succumb to hepatitis. All members of the Committee did so, which is a pretty fair testimony to their acceptance of the evidence of Dr. Byrne, and also to the real beliefs of the Department of Health. But one of the interpreters who were there, a European, succumbed immediately afterwards to hepatitis, and so did one of the European teachers in that area. I do not believe for a minute that this casual attitude to European water supplies would have been adopted.
I am making these comments not as a denunciation but simply as a statement designed to show that there is a very clear case for having a standing parliamentary committee to which these Aboriginal people can speak.
The third recommendation of the Select Committee on Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines was -
The fourth recommendation was -
I understand that since then certain officers have been charged with the protection of these sacred places, and that it was revealed in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory that when these officers were questioned by a committee of that Council it was found that they did not know that the protection of the sacred places was their duty. Another recommendation of the Committee of this House was -
Then the recommendations continued -
And then one is referred to paragraph 69 of the report -
And one is then referred to paragraphs 72 and 74 -
And one is referred to paragraph 70. The recommendations continued -
Lastly, the Committee recommended -
That for the next ten years there shall be a Standing Committee of the House of Representatives to examine from time to time the conditions of the Yirrkala people and the carrying out of this Committee’s recommendations.
Development in the Gove area is being resumed and nobody on the Committee felt that development should not take place. But what we were concerned about was that there might develop another quite large town for Europeans, with the Aborigines being reduced to the status of fringe dwellers. Nobody who has seen the Aborigines around Tennant Creek or Katherine wants the development of another fringe dwelling Aboriginal population in the Northern Territory. However, a fringe dwelling population will certainly develop if positive steps are not taken to lift the status of the Aborigines and to educate aboriginal women who are going to come into a European area in home management and domestic science, if necessary paying them while they are obtaining training in domestic science so that their families may be maintained while they are getting such training. This, however, was not a recommendation of the Committee; it is a comment of my own.
It appears from a letter which the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) most graciously sent me, being a copy of a letter that he had sent to one of the Liberal Party members of the Committee, that the Government is satisfied with the idea that a committee of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory can look after the interests of the Aborigines of Yirrkala and that there is, therefore, no need for the committee recommended by the investigatory Committee set up by this Parliament. I would like to say several things about that.
First and foremost I think it shows discourtesy to the Aboriginal people. They petitioned this Parliament, not the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. In ordinary courtesy this Parliament should accept continuing interest as its responsibility. We may have to face the fact that although we are supposed to be a National Parliament we cannot legislate for Aborigines in the States, but there is no need for us to rush to abdicate our responsibilities towards the Aborigines of the Northern Territory and allow those responsibilities to be taken over by what is not yet a State parliament, namely the Northern Territory Legislative Council. The appointment of the committee would mean that this Parliament is accepting the responsibility of dealing with a petition for protection - a continuing need - directed to it by the Aboriginal people. It should, for that simple reason, set up a standing committee of this Parliament.
The second thing I want to say is that this Parliament is independent of the Department of Territories, against the actions of which the Aborigines sometimes appeal, whereas the Northern Territory Legislative Council is not independent of the Department of Territories. It includes a great many nominated officials, and to appeal to that Council from the actions of the Administration, however wrong-headed the Administration may feel any appeal against its actions may be, is to appeal from Caesar to Caesar, at least as far as the official members are concerned. I do not regard the Northern Territory Legislative Council as being an entirely independent body which can look into the grievances of the Aborigines.
As for the non-official members, there are several things to be said. First, I think some of them have, for many reasons other than Aboriginal policy, a highly developed sense of grievance against the Administration and I do not think they are as objective as this Parliament is on some Northern Territory questions. Secondly, some of them are employers of Aboriginal labour and I am quite certain that when on an earlier occasion they came before the Select Committee on Voting Rights of Aborigines as witnesses, the one thing they had in mind all the time as their great concern was that Aborigines should not be paid wages equal to those paid to Europeans. It is the old, old story: Very often the white man on the spot feels that he knows the native and that more remote people do not, when the plain truth is that he often has certain vested interests in relation to the natives that more remote people do not have, and he does not want their intervention. So I do not believe that the Northern Territory Legislative Council on any count is the body to which should be diverted this recommendation of the Committee that there should be a permanent parliamentary committee to look after the interests of the Yirrkala people.
This Parliament is independent of any vested interest in the Northern Territory and in my view by necessary nature the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is not. It is not independent of the vested interest which the Administration has in being free from challenge; it is not independent of the vested interest of the employers of native labour. There is need for an independent body. All departments resent the idea of parliamentary committees. I am not speaking of any supervision of the acts of the Administration, I am speaking of a body of members of this Parliament hearing from time to time what the Aboriginal people have to say about their interests and the way their interests are affected in this very important development of mineral resources in the Northern Territory.
The recommendations of the Committee were far-reaching; they were defensible; they were designed to meet Aboriginal needs in housing, in water supplies, in health; they were designed more than anything else to demonstrate to the Aboriginal people once and for all that their voice would be heard, that they would be listened to. The standard complaint of the witnesses was that they were not listened to. All the time attempts are being made to establish that somebody can speak for them but that they cannot do so themselves. One of the witnesses was a missionary who was not very well disposed towards the Administration. We did not hear very often a suggestion that the European missionaries of the area were the ones qualified to speak for the Aborigines. By and large there was a tendency on the part of the Administration to treat missioners in any area as spokesmen for the Aborigines, just as there is a tendency to treat them as the housing authorities. I want the Aborigines to be treated in exactly the same way as the rest of the community in this respect. When the Commonwealth Government or a State Government is running a housing project in some area it does not consult the local Presbyterian minister as to what Presbyterians will be housed. It treats all people as citizens. All manner of responsibilities are loaded on to the missions by the Commonwealth Government - responsibilities they should not be asked to assume. The Aborigines’ citizen relationships with the Administration and with this Parliament should not be considered as proceeding via missionaries. A committee of this Parliament should be responsible to hear from the Aborigines direct. This responsibility to be a check on the Administration cannot be exercised by welfare officers, who are subject to the instructions of the Administration. They necessarily are not objective advisers of the Aborigines when the Administration affects their interests. If we were genuinely sensitive to the great disabilities of the Aborigines I am sure that when there were major actions by the Commonwealth Government that might affect their position we would be willing to give them independent legal advice, which is something they might find difficulty in arranging for themselves because they cannot manipulate legal, political and social institutions.
My last point is that we do not expect great numbers of them to conduct sophisticated Correspondence with this Parliament. When I go to the Fremantle pickup of the Waterside Workers Federation I find a great many inarticulate Europeans who approach me and put verbally all manner of cases. I can express their views in writing and I virtually become the electorate’s amanuensis in this respect. If this is true of Europeans it is much more true of Aborigines. At the present time they could speak directly . to a parliamentary committee through interpreters whereas they would find difficulty in writing letters to members of this parliament. I ask the Minister to consider the request that we now set up the committee that was recommended in October 1963. There was nothing inflammatory about the Committee that went to Yirrkala. Its recommendations were responsible. There is a tendency on the part of the Northern Territory Administration to regard any outsiders who intrude into the field of Aborigines as probably
Communists or ratbags or, at any rate, very irritating people. The parliamentary Committee did not consist of irritating people, at least not in any wrong sense. It consisted of responsible people and I ask the Department of Territories to take seriously all the things the Department itself says about citizenship, to stop making these liberal statements as international window dressing and to make them genuine statements, genuinely to welcome citizenship actions by the Aborigines and genuinely to encourage their critical exercise of citizenship rights by establishing a parliamentary committee to which they can speak.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– In speaking against the motion I should like to say that I appreciate the sincerity of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) in his efforts to advance the Aborigines. Where we disagree is on the methods by which this can bc done. He made the point that in view of the recommendation of the Select Committee which visited Yirrkala we should appoint a standing committee for 10 years. I will deal with that suggestion in relation to the other recommendations made by the Committee and my colleague, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), another member of that Committee, will deal in detail with them. Most of the Committee’s recommendations were agreed to. The honorable member for Fremantle has recited the history of the negotiations on this matter and has referred to the activities of the Committee in the area. I disagree with his criticism of the Administration. This, of course, is a matter of opinion. He objects to the fact that I have taken the stand that the existing committee on integration appointed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council is the proper body to investigate these matters. When the Select Committee visited the area there was no such committee on integration in the Northern Territory. That committee was appointed in August last year. It is the policy of this Government as far as possible to gradually advance the responsibility of the Northern Territory Legislative Council to the responsibility of a State type government. When this will occur, I do not know, but as indicated to the delegation that came to Canberra in June 1964 we have made small concessions of a constitutional nature. We have indicated that the best way to progress to a responsible State government form is to develop local government and government enterprise. We believe that it is important they should take an interest and active part in State type activities
The honorable member for Fremantle is concerned that the local attitude to Aborigines may be a factor and that the Aborigines may not get a fair hearing. I point out that the Aborigines in the Northern Territory now have the vote and that the elected members of the committee on integration are subject to the vote of the Aborigines. The committee, which is responsible for the wellbeing of Aborigines, should be sensitive to their views. Regarding our attitude to and ambitions for these people I should like to quote what was said by Rev. Ellemor in evidence given at Yirrkala, because it embodies the attitude of the Administration and of the Department of Territories. He said -
First, it seems to me that a deposit of bauxite such as we have here is a national asset. It is bound to be developed in some form by somebody, and we have to accept that as a basic fact. I believe that this bauxite development - because it is in this area - presents us with a challenge to the whole policy of assimilation. I believe that challenge must be accepted by everybody concerned - the Government through its Welfare Branch, our mission as such, the mining company and the Aborigines themselves. We all have a share in grappling with this challenge. . . .
I further believe that the place to grapple with this problem of assimilation is here. I myself would be quite opposed to the moving of this mission. I think that would be backing away from a challenge. I do not think we can talk about assimilation in words and then dodge it in deeds. I know that problems will arise. There will be costs to be faced and possibly losses by the Aboriginal people. There will be adjustments to be made and some suffering to be borne. But this should all be faced here, and we should not draw away from the challenge.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I think that that is a statement with which everyone has to agree. This is the attitude of myself as Minister and, consequently, of my Department and it is the attitude of the Administration of the Northern Territory. I would point out that deeds speak better than words. I do not think the honorable member for Fremantle has visited Groote Eylandt.
– Yes, I have.
– I apologise to the honorable member but I would point out to him the operations which have taken place there. We have had great co-operation with the mission at Groote Eylandt. In this matter, things are going very smoothly indeed as far as the mission is concerned. I recollect a union official from the Northern Territory giving great approbation to what has been done in regard to opportunities for employment of Aborigines in this area. My last figures in relation to the employment of Aborigines in the mining of manganese at Groote Eylandt by the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. show that approximately 30 Aborigines are being paid full award wages. Several of them are being paid at the rate of £29 per week. One of these men operates and maintains most successfully one of the largest implements in the area. This is a most successful operation which I believe shows, in a sense, the bona fides of the Government in its efforts to help in the advancement of these people.
I think this would be an opportunity for me to place on record the arrangements which have been made to safeguard the Aboriginal population and the mission at Groote Eylandt. These are the welfare conditions relating to the Groote Eylandt Aborigines and the mission. These conditions were written into the lease -
to operate in accordance with good mining practice and, subsequent to mining operations on any part of the said land, to take all steps necessary to restore and leave the surface of the mined area in a condition satisfactory to the Administrator so that - (0 there shall be no abnormal batters or contours; (if) the surface soil existing prior to the mining operations is preserved and subsequently spread to maximum advantage over the mined area;
The letter of understanding accompanying the lease contained the following conditions -
As the project on Groote Eylandt develops and the need for increased services arises, further consideration will be given to the respective responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the lessee in the provision of the increased education facilities and health services necessary, and that, in those considerations, regard will be had to the practice in the Northern Territory in- these matters.
The lessee will be granted such leases of land and rights tinder the appropriate legislation to take water, timber, stone, sand, lime and other materials, except those which can be readily supplied on reasonable terms and conditions by the Church Missionary Society or the Aborigines, as the Minister or the Administrator is satisfied are reasonably required to be granted to the lessee for its purposes.
I think that that covers the matters of particular interest with which we are concerned here. However, it might be of interest to honorable members to have on record the provisions in relation to the welfare of Aborigines and the Church Missionary Society. These are–
The lessee, wherever possible, will make use of normal on-the-job training and apprenticeship schemes as a means of training and employing Aborigines to the extent practicable. If the lessee employs Aborigines it will accept in principle the preservation as far as practical of the family unit, so that employees will either live on the mission while working for the lessee or be provided by the lessee with suitable housing units of a standard applicable to similar classes of employees. In the latter case the mission authorities will continue to have full access to the Aborigines and their families for spiritual, physical and social welfare purposes.
All the problems that arise are covered by safeguards. We are making a success of this operation. As the honorable member for Fremantle quite properly pointed out, we really assumed that activities would continue from the time of the visit of the Select Committee to Yirrkala, but, of course, the negotiations with the previous company broke down. We now have approved of the terms of an agreement with a company named Nabalco Pty. Ltd. to operate these areas. The lease has not yet been formally signed, but all the measures I have mentioned to safeguard the situation of the mission and the Aborigines will be repeated in that agreement. This operation is working splendidly..
We are keeping in touch with the Aborigines in this area. The present Administrator of the Northern Territory was the Chairman of the Select Committee and obviously he is very conscious of the importance of the decision that has been arrived at. Information I received some weeks ago is as follows -
The views of the Aborigines have in the past been sought in relation to decisions which may affect their welfare and this practice will be continued … the Administrator has personally kept in close touch with the Yirrkala people and has made a number of visits there during which he conferred with the Aboriginal Council. He last visited Gove on the 9th October when he had discussions with representatives of the local Aboriginal groups. He explained to them what would be involved in the mining proposition, the employment opportunities and the developments that would result, the benefits that could be expected from royalties to be paid into the trust fund and the arrangements that had been made to protect areas of significance to them. The Aborigines expressed their agreement with what had been done to look after their welfare and interests. Some of them said they hoped mineral deposits would be found in other parts of the reserve to encourage similar development. Arrangements were made for six Yirrkala leaders to v.’sit Groote Eylandt to see there mining operations, new roads, new houses, township and port facilities.
As the Reverend Ellemor said, this is a challenge to all concerned, and we will make sure that the venture is a success.
.- The Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) has amply demonstrated that it is important for the committee to examine the position on Groote Eylandt too. He has taken great pains to quote the Reverend Ellemor. In our report we referred to the statement of the Reverend Ellemor and we recommended to the Parliament -
That for the next 10 years there shall be a Standing Committee of the House of Representatives to examine from time to time the conditions of the Yirrkala people and the carrying out of this Committee’s recommendations.
That recommendation was made by a Select Committee of this House to the Parliament. The Committee’s report was tabled in the Parliament on 29th October 1963. The report was signed by the Minister for Territories, who at that time was the honorable member for Mcpherson only - he had not been elevated to the Ministry. But for the last 20 minutes he has told us why he, as a member of the Parliament, should deny the character placed on him by this Parliament and should prevent members of the Parliament from looking at activities in the area. Some members of the Australian Country Party are interjecting, but I consider that the attitude of the Australian Country Party on these matters is absolutely disastrous. This has been proved throughout history. However, that is not the subject of the debate today. The discussion now is whether the recommendations made by committees of the Parliament are important, whether members of the Parliament who become Ministers are answerable to the Parliament and whether we are answerable to the people of the world for our actions towards the Aboriginal people..
The Minister for Territories was careful not to quote what the Reverend Ellemor and the Reverend Croxford put before him last week. They came here to visit him. They did not come at my request. They had originally approached some of us and asked what they should do. They were told: “ See the Minister himself. This is a matter between people. Let us treat it on a man to man level.” In their statement to the Minister they said -
The Commonwealth Government is the authority negotiating with the bauxite mining companies and has final legislative powers. . . .
The companies operating in this field have ramifications extending beyond the Northern Territory. They also said- -
The Legislative Council is concerned only with Territory affairs, whereas the condition of the Yirrkala Aborigines is a matter of national and international concern.
In the limited time available to me in this debate, I cannot read all of the statement. I have it here and I will see whether I can have it circulated amongst honorable members so that they will know that the Reverend Ellemor and his colleagues are deeply concerned with operations in the Northern Territory.
– That was issued before they saw me.
– After they saw the Minister, they were in even deeper despair. The Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory are our special responsibility. The Minister for Territories has mentioned Groote Eylandt and the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. In the first instance, let me point out that Groote Eylandt is 100 miles or more away. I do not think the mining operation there is being carried out on the actual site of the township, as it will be at Yirrkala. It is all very well to speak about the working conditions that are being demanded in the lease. It is all very well to read out with loud acclaim the conditions contained in the lease. But the fact, is that these conditions apply to the people who are working. We are concerned with the other hundreds of people who will not be working, who are not functions of mining but are people in their own right. The Parliament must face the challenge arising from this issue - with every consideration of morality.
I support the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). From the very time that this matter was first placed before the Parliament, every ‘ attempt has been made to prejudice and inhibit those of us who have taken up the issues. What are the duties of the Minister? First, he brings the lease before the House and tells us of the position at Groote Eylandt. He signs the lease. I understand I am correct in saying that. But how does he sign it? Does be sign it as a member of the House? Does not his charter as a Minister flow from his membership of this Parliament? Are not the import of his signature on the lease and his power as a Minister derived from his membership of this Parliament and his membership of the Ministry? He is answerable to this Parliament and to no-one else.
– Does the honorable member think that the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is incompetent?
– I say that the Minister is answerable to us; the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory is not. The Minister’s answer should be to this Parliament. As far as I am concerned, his attitude on this matter supports every contention that was made here during the debate on the estimates for the Parliament that the Ministry is arrogant in its complete disregard of the rights and duties of the Parliament and the members of the Parliament. This is where the challenge lies. The Minister put his signature on the report of the Select Committee. Why did he not submit a minority report at that time? Why has everything changed? Has any aura of social advancement descended on the whole of the Northern Territory because he is now the Minister for Territories in place of the former Minister who is now the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck)? Of course, it has not. This Parliament has an important function to perform in this matter. We have an obligation that we cannot abdicate. First, we are answerable to the people of Australia in a way that the members of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory can never be.
We are here concerned with a social operation of extreme delicacy that has both national and international implications. We are here attempting something which, so far as I can tell, has not previously been successfully attempted in Australia. The impingement of white communities on Aboriginal communities in the past has always brought disaster to the Aboriginal communities. This is a social operation of extreme delicacy, as I have said, in a field that is almost unknown, and all the resources of the Commonwealth and the sympathetic scrutiny and complete regard of this Parliament ought to be brought to bear on the question. I say that the duty qf the Minister for Territories is to this Parliament and to the Aboriginal people of Yirrkala and of the Northern Territory. In taking the view that he has adopted he has abdicated his duty to this Parliament and in that respect, I believe, he is being arrogant in his disregard of this House and its membership and of the considerable obligation imposed on it.
What is the position of the Aboriginal people of Australia? They are unfortunately the victims of what has happened in the past. I do not think that anybody has acted against the interests of the Aboriginal people with malice. I believe that we have operated in the field of Aboriginal advancement- or lack of advancement - mostly out of ignorance and under the influence of the traditional attitudes of white communities of the day. But there is a growing conscience, and the people of Australia like the people of the world are aware of it. There are not too many parts of the world in which people have not now heard of the Aborigines of Australia. The Australian community is a singularly prosperous, stable and homogeneous one. It is a community in which we ought to be able to set an example for the rest of the world to admire rather than one on which we are quizzed in critical fashion.
The Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory are not exclusively a proprietary interest of the Legislative Council for the Territory. They are part of the general Aboriginal community of Australia. Therefore, this Parliament must accept responsibility for them. It is of no use, if somebody, down the road asks what we are doing about the people of Yirrkala, to say: “That is a matter for the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory.” Surely a better answer than that could be freely given, for the next question after an answer like that would be: “Did not a member of the House of Representatives sign the lease at Yirrkala? Was not the whole arrangement initiated by a department that gets its charter, its rights and its powers from the Commonwealth Parliament? “ Of course that is the situation. So I believe that this matter is a responsibility of this Parliament.
But we have other responsibilities, too, apart from those flowing from our membership of this House and of the Australian nation. Australia is a member of the International Labour Organisation and it signed the Constitution of that Organisation and other necessary documents for its admission as an original member of the reconstituted Organisation in 1947. The Constitution of the Organisation states - . . all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity; . . .
Would anybody say that the Aborigines of the Northern Territory or any other part of Australia have equality of opportunity, freedom and all the other things of which we have spoken so freely in the past? I believe that only by constant scrutiny by the members of this Parliament acting, with others, in the role of propagators of the national conscience will the task of protecting the interests of the Aborigines be carried forward. The Minister for Territories and perhaps his departmental officers look upon private members of this Parliament as irritants - as irresponsible people who know little of these things.
I believe that this is a question of bringing the Parliament’s will and wit to bear on a problem of great social importance and international significance. I say that our membership of the International Labour Organisation carries with it an obligation to honour the principles laid down in the. Organisation’s Constitution. Australian delegates go to conferences of the Organisation not as members, for example, of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory or as Victorians or Tasmanians but as Australians. It is a sad fact that when in 1957 the Convention Concerning the Pretection and Integration of Indigenous and Other Tribal and Semi-Tribal Populations in Independent Countries, Convention 107, was voted on by members of the Organisation Australia abstained from voting. We seem to have a very fragile conscience in these matters. I believe that our duty lies not only to this Parliament but also to international organisations beyond it of which Australia is a member. This applies equally to the United Nations and, I believe, to the Australian people as a whole.
The next question that the Minister for Territories has raised relates to the role of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. In answer to a member of another place he stated that a standing committee of this House to examine from time to time the conditions of the Yirrkala people would be unnecessary and perhaps undesirable if there were also a committee of the Legislative Council acting in the matter. Why should there not be also a standing committee of the Commonwealth Parliament? I believe that for too long the Government has worked on the presumption that the other legislative bodies of Australia belong to a different planet. Is there no field for co-operation between the Legislative Council and this House? I believe there is. Is there not ample evidence in the past that when we want something effective done the objective would be more readily achieved if all legislative bodies concerned cooperated? Why should not both the Legislative Council and this House operate in the field that we are now discussing? The responsibilities of the Legislative Council are different from ours. Its responsibilities are to the citizens of the Northern Territory. But what is the Government’s regard for the Legislative Council? For long enough we have had remonstrances, demonstrations and petitions to this Parliament as a direct result of the disregard in which the Legislative Council is held by the Government. What note is taken by the Minister for Territories of anything that the Council does?
I now refer to a very important matter - the report of the Select Committee on the Native and Historical Objects and Areas Preservation Ordinance 1955-1960 which was presented to the Legislative Council in August of this year. After all, one of the recommendations of the Select Committee of this House related to the preservation of the sacred places of the Yirrkala people. It was in these terms -
That the sacred places be set aside (perhaps under the Historical Objects Ordinance) for their exclusive use.
The Select Committee of the Legislative Council, at page 4 of its report, stated -
Your Committee is convinced that the Ordinance might as well never have been passed by the Council. No matter how well drafted a piece of legislation may be it will serve no purpose if it is not administered efficiently in the manner intended by the legislature.
This, of course, is relevant to the observations made in the report presented to this House by its own Select Committee two years ago. The report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council continued -
In this case there is evidence of gross neglect and maladministration of this Ordinance by the Welfare Branch of the Northern Territory Administration.
I remind the Minister for Territories that this is a report by a Select Committee of the Council which he said would be adequate to carry out the task required at Yirrkala. The report, referring to officers of the Wel fare Branch who had been called as witnesses, added -
Two of these officers were not aware that they had been appointed as “ authorised officers “…
I understand that there are six official members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, six elected members and three non-official members. First of all, some of these members are servants of the Minister. Indeed, they are devoted and dedicated servants. Nobody can challenge the capacity, ability and integrity of the public servants of Australia. But the members of the Council operate in a context different altogether from that of the kind of representation that Australians expect in their parliaments. The members of the Council have restrictions on their movements. These are restrictions not in law but of fact. Members of that body are unable to travel in the same way that members of this Parliament can travel. I presume that members of the Council have to work during the week. Their attitudes will be different from those of members of this Parliament and the set of resources at their disposal is completely different. It is not possible for the Council to bring to bear on the subject at issue here the same kind of scrutiny that can be given to the matter by a body of members of this Parliament. Furthermore, I believe that the report of a committee of the Council, when it is presented, is not examined with anything like the same measure of public scrutiny that is possible in this Parliament.
This whole matter is important. The Minister for Territories is answerable to the Australian people on this issue and whatever is done ought to be done under the open scrutiny of the Australian people and their representatives in the National Parliament. It ought to be done in the full light of the publicity that flows only from this institution. There is no other way in which this matter can be dealt with. The Commonwealth Parliament is made up of responsible persons. I believe, as I said during the recent debate on the Estimates and as I have said before quite often, that the Ministry loses a great deal by refusing to avail itself of the capacities that are present in this Parliament. I believe that in this instance the Government is flying in the face of history and of the experience of other nations. What has happened in this matter would not have occurred in another country. The land with which we are concerned in this discussion would not have been treated as it has been if it were in Canada, the United States of America or New Zealand. Two centuries ago George III of Great Britain laid down the principles to be used for guidance in dealing with the Indians in Canada. I shall not read them to honorable members. They have been quoted here before and they can be found in the Canadian Archives for 8th October 1763. lt is time we in the Australian community took up the challenge that history lays before us and accepted the privilege - we might well call it that - of bringing the Aboriginal people of Australia to full development. I do npt believe that we can avoid our responsibilities by any kind of sophistry, casuistry or other verbal exercise. This, is a plain question of humanity and of our duty. The Opposition will do everything in its power to keep the plight of the Aboriginal people under constant scrutiny and our duty to accord them their rights before the public. Neither I nor my friend, the honorable member for Fremantle, will be deterred by any suggestion that we are acting in ignorance or without the best of motives. I make no claim to moral standing for my recognition of the plight of the Australian Aborigines. I came upon it shortly after I entered this Parliament 10 years .ago. 1 have since travelled widely discussing their situation and I have done everything in my power to keep myself well briefed on the problem.
The people of Yirrkala petitioned this Parliament as a result of a visit by my colleague, the honorable member for Fremantle, and me to the area. This House decided that a select committee should be constituted and the Select Committee that was appointed recommended that a standing committee be - constituted. I shall not deal with the rest of the Committee’s recommendations now because of the shortness of time. It believed that the standing committee recommended by it could undertake the task required at Yirrkala. I believe that the Minister is denying the rights of this Parliament by refusing to accept this recommendation. More importantly, I believe also that he is refusing to avail himself of the capacity, integrity, goodwill and wit of members of the Parliament, which I am sure are equal to or above any available elsewhere in the community. Frankly, as a plain piece of commonsense and logic, I find this difficult to understand.
.- Before replying to some of the points raised by the two Opposition speakers I think I should first say I am particularly sorry that the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) is now overseas and cannot take part in this debate. He, as were other honorable members who have spoken, was a member of the Select Committee on Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines, Arnhem Land Reserve. Honorable members who have worked with the honorable member for Higinbotham will realise that he has, in many ways, quite outstanding qualities. The first is that he holds his views with tenacity and courage and expresses them with a complete fearlessness. I think we will all agree with that, whether or not we agree with his opinions. Those of us who were with him on the Yirrkala Committee - I think this is true of Opposition members particularly - realise that he brings to these tasks a warm humanity which, perhaps, we did not all know that he had until we worked with him on the Committee. I do not know whether he would agree with what I am about to say, but I am particularly sorry that he is not here to take an active and, I think, a somewhat critical part in the debate. This brings me to the point that I think is the nub of the debate, as it turns out.
I believe that if the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) were rewriting his motion he would not express it in the way that he has. He moved that the recommendations set out in paragraphs 76 and 79 of the report be implemented. Most of the debate has been about paragraph 79 of the report of the Committee. I have the rather easy duty to explode the attitude which his motion sets out on the items that were mentioned in paragraph 76. But before embarking on that rather too easy exercise, because it has been spelled out very comfortably for me to be able to reply to most of the points, I want to say something about the main portion of the debate which has centred on the failure of the Government to appoint a standing committee of the Parliament. This matter was mentioned by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) and the honorable member for Fremantle. I should like to say, particularly to the honorable member for Fremantle, that I have no objection or sense of criticism at his bringing forward this motion. I think it is a proper thing to do. The honorable member has demonstrated on many occasions his complete intellectual integrity on these things. I do not say that that makes him right - he may be wrong - but at least he thinks he is right. Certainly I would not deny to him the forum of this House to express his opinion on such a human problem. I wish in some ways that the honorable member for Wills had been as temperate in his criticism, but I know that he finds it difficult so to be.
As has been mentioned by the two honorable members to whom I have referred, the question relates to paragraph 79 of the report of the select committee. This paragraph deals with the failure of the Government to appoint a select committee of the Parliament. Let us be clear on this. When we signed the report no select committee had been appointed from the Northern Territory Legislative Council. The two honorable members who have spoken have been critical of the ability of a committee appointed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council to be as independent as they would like. I am not arguing this point. Perhaps I know better than some honorable members - I do not say better than the two honorable members who have spoken - because of my work in the Northern Territory that there is some small element of justification in this charge. Obviously when there are six Government members in a legislative council it is under some government influence. I am not denying that Nor am I denying that I certainly would not be happy about the thinking of some people in the Northern Territory on native problems. This is a matter of judgment and I do not say whether I am right or wrong. However, if I had to make a choice between the ability of a select committee from this House and a select committee from the Northern Territory Legislative Council, I would back the judgment of those who live in the Territory and who are among the problems. I know the two honorable mem bers who have spoken do not agree with that.
Two points have emerged from this debate. First, it is no good trying to give members of the Northern Territory Legislative Council increasing responsibility while at the same time trying to take it away from them by saying to them that they can have the responsibility of doing what they can about the government of the Northern Territory but are not to tackle the Aboriginal problem. Secondly, if the Legislative Council appoints a committee on integration, as it has done, to exclude from the consideration of that committee the problems in Gove or in Yirrkala would be, I think, to make an exception of the Yirrkala people which would be dangerous. I admit to honorable members opposite that this is a matter of judgment. My own judgment would be - I have expressed this to the Reverend Ellemor and Reverend Croxford - that the people who live among the problems are better able to make a decision than people who live down here. I repeat that I cannot prove this, but it is my belief. Although I do not know, I believe also that the native people think that. They know that they can more easily get in touch with people in the Northern Territory than they can with us. They can influence them through their vote and through their conversation. Let us accept then that it is a matter of judgment.
I strongly adhere to the principle that it is no good giving people a job with one hand but taking it away with the other. Secondly, I adhere to the principle that the person who lives closest to the problem has generally a better understanding of it than those who live far away. That certainly goes for me and I was a member of the Select Committee. I would not pretend to have any peculiar knowledge or understanding of the native problem. I do not say that this would be true of every member of a committee, but it would be true of a large number who were appointed from Canberra rather than from Darwin. Having said that, I think I should embark on the rather too easy exercise of exploding the first part of the motion proposed by the honorable member for Fremantle. It states that the recommendations contained in paragraph 76 of the report have not been carried out. I shall read the recommendations, but I shall not labour them because I think the job is rather tod easy. The first recommendation stated -
That the excised portion of Gove Peninsula be declared a protected area in order that people other than Aborigines shall be prevented from hunting there.
The position is, as probably the honorable member for Fremantle now realises, that the largest portion of the area so excised has since been returned as a native reserve. It is true that some of the special mineral lease still remains . excised, but it is not possible to have a mineral lease without that area being excised from the natives’ land.
– But the recommendation was about establishing at Yirrkala a town of 3,000 people and the movement of those people into the area.
– I shall come to that point later. Those of us who were there will admit that anyone who did not know what bauxite looked like would think, at first glance, that it was rubble ironstone. I know that, as a farmer, I would. Anyone who knows bauxite can recognise it from the surface by the paucity of the soil. No-one could pretend that this was a select part of the mineral lease. I know that the two honorable members opposite who have spoken do not say that it is.
The second recommendation was that early action be taken to carry out a complete survey and early development of water resources. As honorable members will appreciate, the availability of adequate water resources has always been a source of anxiety to the Mission authorities and the native people. This anxiety has sprung from talk of the propected development. The water resources have already been explored and it is now obvious that there will be ample water available not only for the development of the mining exercise but particularly for the Aboriginal mission at Yirrkala.
The third recommendation was that the Yirrkala people be consulted as early as possible on the location of their sacred places. I understand that this has been done with great thoroughness since the report has been submitted. I understand that Professor Berndt of the University of Western Australia went up there to help delineate the areas. As those who have been up there will know, it has not been easy to find out not only which are the sacred places but also their order of sacredness because there are certain areas that are sacred during a particular person’s lifetime but which cease to be so on his death. I would be surprised to hear any word of criticism from the Opposition about what has been done with relation to sacred places. I understand that their delineation has been carried out with proper care and a proper understanding of the intricate human problems involved. I am confident, too, that as development continues there will be continuing consultation and I am relieved to know that the two honorable members opposite who have spoken have expressed no dissatisfaction at what has been done about this recommendation which, judged from the wording of the motion submitted this morning, they think the Government has not implemented.
The next two recommendations were that the sacred places be set aside, perhaps under the Historical Objects Ordinance, for the exclusive use of the natives and that the hill from which the artists obtain their pigments be set aside, as an inalienable reserve for their use and benefit. So far as I know - and I think my information is correct - both these particular areas have since been returned to the reserve. If they have not been returned, they are in fact already part of the native reserve area and only a few Europeans who have special permits are allowed to go there. Therefore I think this matter is covered at the moment, as I am sure it will be in the future.
The next recommendation suggests that a proclamation be made to prevent unauthorised persons entering the mission area. As the mission area is now an Aboriginal reserve, this precaution already applies. I do not think there is room for any argument there. The next two recommendations were that some building lots within the town site be reserved for Aborigines and that homes for European and Aboriginal Australians be developed simultaneously. I am sure that the two honorable members opposite who have spoken would not be critical about the fact that the Government has not yet done anything about implementing those recommendations. The truth is that no town site has yet been developed and the Government could not be expected to do something about houses in a town that does not exist. But I have been assured by the Department that this matter will be watched very carefully in the future and that proper regard will be had for the problems - and they will not be easy ones - associated with bringing these people to a position of equality.
– Order! As it is now two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr. Barnes) agreed to -
That the time for discussion of Notices be extended to 12.45 p.m.
– I do not think we ought to labour the question of what we have not done. We could not have done anything because the development of the site has not proceeded. This is an easy matter for me to take debating points on, but I do not think that is the proper way to proceed. I simply repeat my previous statement that I am sorry that the honorable member for Fremantle phrased his motion in the way that he did.
One question on which some might feel there is good cause for criticism in the future is the problem of compensation. The Committee has recommended that compensation for loss of traditional occupancy be made by way of land grant, or capital grant, or monetary compensation. It would have been easy for me to dodge this immediately by saying that the question has not yet arisen and that when it does no doubt the Government will adopt the course recommended in the report. But I think honorable members will admit that the Government has made a proper effort to implement the recommendation relating to monetary compensation. I remind them that £12,000 was taken from the Royalty Trust Fund to be expended specifically on the provision of native housing. I submit that is some acceptance of the recommendation.
One recommendation about which I am worried is that relating to land grants. I should be clear about a report which I myself signed, but it seems to me that what is suggested is the grant of particular land to particular people. When one examines the matter more closely, the difficulty that one sees is the question of deciding to which people the grant is to be made. As honorable members will know, the Aboriginal people, as a race, have access to the reserves and therefore could in truth claim to be the owners of the land. To whom are the land grants to be made?
A further point is that there is not much sense in making grants to the Aboriginal people if they do not know how to use the land. No doubt we shall be teaching them how to use it, but it would be foolish for us to decide to whom the grants of land should be made only to find that those people have no knowledge of how to use it, and I would be greatly surprised if at the moment there are any Aborigines who have knowledge of how the land should be used or who have the ability to use properly the land so granted.
The honorable member for Fremantle will probably accuse me of discussing the last recommendations in more particularity because they are the easy ones to discuss. I think he will admit that, on balance, the Government can be quite proud of what it has done towards implementing paragraph 76 of the Select Committee’s report.
There is one matter to which I should refer in conclusion. I emphasise that I speak not for the Government but for myself on this matter, although I do think that the Government should take an active interest in this problem. I should certainly do my best to see that it did, if it were not doing so. I know that the Minister takes an interest in it. I know also that the present Administrator, who, as the honorable member for Robertson in this chamber was Chairman of the Select Committee, also takes an interest. It was gratifying to learn in discussions with the Reverend Ellemor and the Reverend Croxford that the natives at Yirrkala have a greater feeling of being looked after and being cared for than they have ever had in the past. They have this feeling because a Select Committee was appointed, because the Committee visited the area, and because the Administrator, who was Chairman of that Committee, has returned to the area quite often since then. I understand from my conversation with the Rev. Ellemor that the native people have no feeling of being neglected. I do not think the honorable member for Fremantle was quite fair in saying that it was a discourtesy on the Commonwealth’s part not to appoint a committee from this House. We appointed a committee in response to the request of the native people, and having done so we have fulfilled our main obligations.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is a wonderful thing that two years after the report of the Select Committee on Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines was completed, the House is again discussing the question and keeping the matter under some sort of review. I listened with great interest to the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes) when he outlined the Government’s objectives for the development of the Northern Territory. He said that the Government’s aim was to develop the Northern Territory Administration in such a way that it will eventually carry the responsibilities of a State Government. He did not suggest how long this would take, but he rather suggested that it would take some time. I should think that that is an objective which all members of the House would support. Certainly if the Opposition were in office it would proceed in this matter rather more speedily than the Government has done.
The weakness of this whole position seems to me to be the dual role played by this Parliament in conjunction with the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. The Government is in effect asking the Parliament not to proceed with the recommendations of the Select Committee but to hand Government responsibilities over to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, although the Government has not seen fit to give the Legislative Council the other responsibilities outlined in the report. For example, who will sign the lease with the aluminium company? It will not be any member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. It will be the Minister for Territories as a representative of this Parliament. The Minister referred to what had happened at Groote Eylandt. Who were the people responsible Cor carrying out the agreement and signing the lease with Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd.? It was not the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, it was the Minister, who is answerable to this Parliament.
Indeed, there is a great deal of frustration in the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory in relation to its other restricted powers at the present time. Only this week I received a copy of the “ Legislative Council Debates “ in which k is reported that on 11th August 1965 Mr. Drysdale, a member of the Council, asked a question about the Aboriginal welfare conference on which the Northern Territory had two representatives - the Administrator and the Director of Social Welfare. In reply the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Atkins, said -
Mr. President, in answer to that question, I would be prepared to convey the request to the Administrator but, of course, I can make no undertaking as to whether the report will be presented or not.
In other words we are asked to hand over this responsibility to a Legislative Council which has not yet full responsibility in its own House. We are told that we ought to place this responsibility on the Legislative Council because it is closer to the site in question. Arnhem Land has an area of 31,000 square miles and the member of the Legislative Council who lives nearest to Yirrkala lives 400 miles from there. I venture to say that he, or other members of the Council, have been to this reserve much less frequently than has the Administrator.
I was interested to hear that a report had been made by Professor Berndt on sacred sites in Arnhem Land’s reserves. I should like to know whether that report has yet been made available to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory or to the officers charged with the administration of these reserves. In other words I should like to know whether the Government is being consistent. Recently the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court heard claims regarding wages for Aboriginal workers in the Northern Territory. It was this Parliament that raised its voice on the desirability of award wages being paid in the Northern Territory; it was not the Legislative Council. I do not think that the Government can have it both ways. I do not think that the Government can take this issue away from the limelight which normally focuses on the proceedings of this National Parliament and relegate it to what is after all a backwater in the Northern Territory. I am not reflecting on the personality or the capacity of individual members of the Legislative Council, I am merely saying that the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory operates under very restricted provisions at the present time.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) dealt in some detail with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines. He referred to paragraph 76 a) of the report, which reads -
That the excised portion of Gove Peninsula be declared a protected area in order that people other than Aborigines shall be prevented from hunting there.
He pointed out that the areas which had been returned to the Aboriginal reserve had been returned by an enactment of this Parliament and not by any action of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. The honorable member referred also to paragraph 76 (b) which recommends that early action be taken to carry out a complete survey and early development of water resources, and he referred also to paragraph 76 (c) which recommended that the Yirrkala people be consulted on the location of their sacred places. I am interested to know whether such surveys have been made. I think that the reports of such surveys should be made available either through the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies or in some other manner to members of this Parliament, to members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and to other interested people in order that proper scrutiny may be kept on this aspect of the Committee’s report. We have been told that the other recommendations are to be carried out when a township has been established. I think the point we have to emphasise - it was one that the honorable member for Wakefield developed to some extent, and it is important - is that we are not only concerned with the position today. I have no doubt that when the Administrator went to Yirrkala and discussed this matter with the Aborigines concerned they expressed themselves as being happy at that point of time. But they have been given a lot of promises. There are various areas in the north of Australia about which a lot of promises have been made from time to time. I put it to the House that it remains to be seen whether the Aboriginal people will be happy when this industrial development takes place. We all have had the experience in our own home towns and cities of a new factory coming into an area. We welcome the development, but when we find effluent being discharged into the river, or smoke pouring from smokestacks, or other things connected with the industry that are objectionable, we are inclined to be not so happy. We are not concerned with whether the Aborigines are happy today; we are concerned with the future, because any industry which is set up will operate for decades or generations to come. The Parliament ought to be concerned with this long term aspect of the development of the reserve at Yirrkala. Honorable members ought to be concerned to see that, as it is this Parliament that has to do the negotiating with any body or any industry, it will be legislation of this Parliament that will cover the conditions under which the future development takes place. We should also be concerned to ensure that the Parliament is kept well informed. It will not be kept well informed if the reports are being made to a restricted Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Fremantle on behalf of the Labour Party. I believe that the Government has been remiss in not carrying out the recommendations of the Select Committee, and I hope that the Minister will give further consideration to the matter.
.- It is not only members of the Select Committee on Grievances of Yirrkala Aborigines who should have a voice in this debate. I do not look upon this debate as a dog fight between the Labour members on the Select Committee and the Government members on that Committee. At the request of the then Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) I was happy to participate in the debate on Yirrkala that preceded the appointment of the Select Committee. My link with the mission board that supervises this area at Yirrkala was advanced to me as the reason for my non-participation in the responsibility of that Select Committee. Naturally I have had a definite interest in the report of the Committee and the outcome of that report. I have to be frank and say that the Government’s attitude does not completely satisfy me. It is a good thing that some other voice should be raised.
– Order! As it is now 12.45 p.m., the time allotted for precedence of general business has expired. The honorable member for Swan will have leave to continue his speech when this debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under “General Business” for the next day of sitting.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill presented by Sir Robert Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is the third occasion on which the Government has proposed amendments to the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act in order to provide additional funds for State universities during the 1964-1966 triennium. With this Bill we are recommending Commonwealth grants for capital works at medical teaching hospitals of £1,555,850 and further grants of £184,900 for the recurrent costs of those hospitals which are directly attributable to the instruction of undergraduate students in teaching hospitals. This sum of £1,740,750 will raise the total amount of Commonwealth financial assistance to State universities during the present triennium to approximately £73 million. In addition the Commonwealth will find £24 million for the Australian National University.
The Government provided grants for certain capital projects at medical teaching hospitals during the 1961-1963 triennium. Earlier this year the second report of the Universities Commission’s Committee on the Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals became available. It recommended further capital grants and, in addition, assistance with some elements of the recurrent costs of medical teaching hospitals. I remind honorable members that the Government’s decisions on that report were announced on 5th August last during the Parliamentary recess. The report itself was tabled in both Houses on 24th August.
The Government did not accept all the recommendations of the Committee, but did agree to support, £1 for £1, such of the capital projects recommended by the Committee for various medical teaching hospitals as the States thought could be completed, or nearly completed, by 31st December 1966, the end of the present triennium. We also agreed to support from 1st July 1965, on the usual £1 to £1.85 basis, certain items of the recurrent costs of teaching hospitals which are directly attributable to the clinical teaching of undergraduate medical students. The items with which we will assist are: The cost of the administration concerned solely with the planning, organization and supervision of teaching programmes within the hospital; maintenance and service costs of the areas and of activities used by clinical students and university staff; the costs of providing books and periodicals for undergraduate students in teaching hospital libraries. Particulars of the grants to individual universities with teaching hospitals are set out in the schedules to the Bill.
As the Bill provides only for those capital projects which the States have indicated can be completed or nearly completed by 31st December 1966, there are several variations from the amounts recommended in the report of the Committee on the Teaching Costs of Medical Hospitals. I would emphasise that these variations have been made on the basis of information received from each State after each had been told of the Commonwealth’s willingness to support the whole of the programme recommended by the Committee ssubject to each State’s views on what it would be practicable to construct in the time available. I have little doubt that subject to changes because of revised priorities, the teaching hospital projects now deleted will find places in the 1967- 1969 programme. This, however, is a matter for decisions which will be taken on the recommendations yet to be made by the Universities Commission for the 1967- 1969 triennium.
So far as the recurrent grants arc concerned, our share of the cost of the items accepted for grant purposes will be a maximum of £184,900 for the period 1st July 1965 to 31st December 1966, of which up to £123,000 will be required during this financial year, 1965-66. The allocation of this sum among the States concerned is set out in the Sixth Schedule. But I wish to emphasise that the amounts for recurrent grants listed in that Schedule are. in each case, maximum amounts so far as the Commonwealth is concerned and are payable only on certification by the States to the satisfaction of the Minister that the amounts claimed have been legitimately incurred in respect of the three elements of cost approved by the Commonwealth and are within the limits of the sums set out in Table 7 of the Committee’s report for those clements of cost. These amounts are provided on the basis of estimates only by the Committee and I emphasise that (he Commonwealth Minister will need to be satisfied that the amounts claimed in respect of the various elements of recurrent expenditure are reasonable. The amounts set down in the Schedule are not to be regarded as an automatic entitlement.
Honorable members will note the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, among the capital works in the Fifth Schedule to the Bill. Provision has been made for Concord also in the recurrent expenses of the University of Sydney in the Sixth Schedule. For many years Concord has served as a teaching hospital for the University of Sydney and the Commonwealth has met all the costs incurred. However, under the new arrangements universities will accept responsibility for certain capital and recurrent costs directly attributable to teaching, and it is appropriate, therefore, that the Commonwealth and State Governments shall share responsibility for those costs at Concord just as they will for State teaching hospitals.
This Bill also provides for a minor amendment to the main Act to allow the University of Melbourne to attract a Commonwealth capital grant of £15,000 for an animal breeding unit which it wishes to build at Werribee instead of Mr Derrimut where it was originally intended to be and which is the location given to it in the principal Act. The change has been approved by the Universities Commission. Funds are not affected. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of ite Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Provision of buildings and services to terminal complex, control and equipment building, D.C.A. maintenance area, fire station, &c, at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport.
The proposal involves the provision of buildings and elevated road, engineering services, car parks, roads and street lighting at an estimated cost of £9,348,262. In reporting favourably on the proposal the Committee has. made several recommendations. Recommendations Nos. 4, 5 and 7, which relate to the size of escalators, the position of wheelchair lifts and the provision of hot meal facilities for employees, will be implemented during further development of the building design. Recommendation No. 8 regarding the planning of commercial airline operations to reduce peak loading of airport facilities to produce a more economic utilisation of installations and staff has been referred to my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) for attention. On the concurrence of the House in this resolution the work can proceed.
– I do not want to say much about this resolution, nor am I very happy at striking a discordant note. I must point out however, that a remarkable position exists with regard to ingress and egress at the proposed new airport at Tullamarine. The Commonwealth Government is to spend a very large amount of money on the project and one would expect the Victorian Government to cooperate by making available facilities for getting to and from the airport when it is completed. I have made some inquiries about this because the proposed Tullamarine freeway is to pass through my electorate. I have found that the Victorian Government has not yet even prepared a plan for the freeway. It seems to me absurd to have a new Commonwealth airport - one of the best in the world - established in this location while the State Government, which is most intimately concerned with the operation of the airport from the point of view of traffic, has not yet even prepared a plan for the freeway.
– Yet preference is given to Tullamarine over Mascot.
– I do not know all the details of that but I do know from my own inquiries in Victoria that the appropriate committee of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works has not yet prepared a plan for the freeway and that it will not be prepared for some months.
– I do not like to interrupt the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Speaker, but I must raise a point of order. The last time we had a motion of this sort before the House the debate ranged over a tremendously wide field. What the Leader of the Opposition is saying is hardly relevant to a recommendation of the Public Works Committee for a specific work to be carried out. What the Victorian Government is doing in relation to the freeway is quite irrelevant to the matter now before the House.
– Order! This raises a difficulty. The Leader of the Opposition is allowed some relaxation of the rules but I hope this privilege will not be abused. I think he is endeavouring to make a contribution.
– Thank you, Sir. This airport cannot operate unless roads are provided that will take traffic to and from it. I do not think we should appropriate the money unless we get a firm undertaking from the Government of Victoria to have the roads ready by the time the airport is completed. As matters stand the airport will be completed before the roads are ready because, as I was saying, the plan has not even been prepared. After the plan has been completed the Government of Victoria will have to approve of it, and then the land and property will have to be acquired and the road built. In 1969 or 1970 we will have a modern airport in Victoria with bush tracks leading out- of it.
– Does the Minister contemplate using helicopters?
– I suppose that would be an alternative. What I did suggest in a letter which I sent to, I think, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) - at least it was one member of the Ministery - was that the money proposed to be appropriated now be spent on more urgent Commonwealth works in Melbourne and not be appropriated for this proposed airport until such time as the Commonwealth Government has an assurance that the freeway will be completed. The freeway will not be built, on present plans, before about 1969 or 1970.
There is a Rip Van Winkle attitude in Victoria in regard to a lot of these matters. I suggest to the Minister that it is all very well to appropriate this large sum of money on the recommendation of a very competent committee, but that there will be congestion on the roads and there will be complete inadequacy of approach to the airport unless and until the Victorian Government plays its part in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government in enabling those who travel by air to Tullamarine to have a swift passage along a good roadway to the city of Melbourne.
I have many views on how Melbourne should be developed, but I point out to the Minister - it applies also to Mascot - that by the end of this century, which is only 35 years away, both Sydney and Melbourne will have a population of five million. That will be at least twice as many people as they have now. Yet as far as I know there are no plans being prepared for the year 2000, for the time when these cities will each have five million people.
– That time is just around the corner.
– It is, for many of the younger men in this Parliament, not so far away. Therefore, there should be a coordinated Commonwealth-State plan for the development of air transport serving all our capital cities, and also for road access to those airports. I do not know what is going to happen at that not so distant time, but I do know that if we continue to pursue the methods we are following now the position in the year 2000 will be frightening. A master plan for Melbourne was prepared in 1954, and it has not yet been brought into effect. There was only one freeway provided in that plan; it starts in confusion at one end and ends in chaos at the other.
This sort of thing cannot be allowed to continue. I say to the Minister that it is all very well to pass resolutions of this kind in the House, but the problem still remains unsolved. I am not debating the question whether Tullamarine ought to go ahead before Mascot or vice versa. I do know that at Tullamarine an area of 5,250 acres is available while at Mascot the available area is 1,450 acres. There ought to be a new airport in Sydney. It is of no use for the Minister to try to push his resolution through without discussing or without hearing points of view that ought to be highlighted at this time, because they do have a very significant bearing on the future of aviation in this country.
– Order! Before I call the honorable member for La Trobe let me remind the House that the subject matter before the Chair is the provision of buildings and services to terminal complex, control and equipment building, Department of Civil Aviation maintenance area and fire station at Melbourne (Tullamarine), and therefore a general debate on the question of policy and future trends in the city of Melbourne, at Mascot or in the State of South Australia will not be relevant.
.- I rise immediately to support the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr. Freeth) in this matter. I realise, naturally, that everything the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has said will be published in the Press and unless one can answer his statements immediately nothing that anybody else will say on the matter will receive much publicity. It seems to me that in the Leader of the Opposition’s search for friends Victoria could find itself being sold down the river. I have spoken with the appropriate Minister in Victoria in relation to the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Order! The honorable member will not develop that line.
– If I may not develop that line, Mr. Speaker, I will sit down under protest.
– Order! The honorable member will not sit down under protest; he will sit down under right.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to remedy an anomaly in the provisions of the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act which has come to notice in the course of administration. Honorable members may recall that benefits for Torres Strait Islanders enlisted in special units for the defence of that area during the 1939-45 war were originally provided by act of grace, but were given a statutory basis with the introduction of the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Act in 1957. Other Australian Aboriginals who served under normal enlistment conditions had already been covered under the Repatriation Act. It will be recalled, too, that over the years the rates of benefit have been increased and the range of benefits extended so that now, in all practicable respects, the repatriation system available to the Torres Strait members of the Forces is identical with that available to other Australian ex-servicemen.
When the legislation was first introduced to provide repatriation benefits for and in respect of these ex-servicemen, it was thought that only natives of the Torres Strait Islands themselves had been enlisted for service in the Torres Strait Island units. Hence the definition of “ native member of the Forces “ refers to “ a male aboriginal native … of an island in Torres Strait”. In the course of administration, it has been discovered that of the approximately 700 servicemen enlisted in these special units, some 40 were Aboriginal natives of the mainland. Thus, they are technically not covered by the legislation. This Bill remedies the situation by expressing the definition so that it includes a mainland Aboriginal native who served in one of the Torres Strait Island units.
There is sometimes difficulty in determining the ancestry of these ex-servicemen and it appears that some pensions have been granted to mainland Aborigines who served in the special units in ignorance of the fact that the persons concerned were not covered by definition. The Bill, therefore, includes a provision to validate such grants. The Bill is a routine one of machinery character, and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 17th November (vide page 2814).
Clause 18. (1.) Notwithstanding the provisions of Part II., a payment, a sale or a security for money, or any other contract, agreement, deed, instrument’, transaction, dealing, matter or thing relating to money, or involving the payment of, or a liability to pay, money (but not including a bill of exchange or promissory note), that is made, executed, entered into or done may be made, executed, entered into or done according to the currency provided for by the repealed Acts. (2.) Section 10 of this Act does not apply in relation to a reference to an amount of money in the currency provided for by the repealed Acts in a security for money, contract, agreement, deed or other instrument executed or entered into in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section.
.- I move-
Omit sub-clause (2.), insert the following subclause - “(2.) Section 10 of this Act does not, before the date fixed by Proclamation in pursuance of section 21 of this Act, apply in relation to -
a reference to an amount of money in the currency provided for by the repealed Acts in a security for money, contract, agreement, deed or other instrument executed or entered into in pursuance of the last preceding subsection; or
a reference in any other manner to an amount of money in the currency provided for by the repealed Acts, being a reference made in pursuance of that sub-section.”.
The Bill is intended to provide that references to amounts of money in contracts, &c, entered into in £ s. d. during the transitional period under clause 18 will be automatically converted at the end of the transitional period from £ s. d. to decimal currency. This is necessary to ensure that after the transitional period a creditor has the right to recover a debt contracted in £ s. d. during that period. There is some doubt as to whether the Bill has this effect and, to remove any uncertainty, amendments are proposed to clause 1 8 (2.) and clause 21. The amendments to clause 21 are proposed solely for the reason I have given.
A further reason for the proposed amendment to clause 18(2.) is to ensure that it applies to judgments and orders of courts which are covered by sub-section (1.) of clause 18. Clause 18 (2.) (b) has this effect. Perhaps it would be convenient for me to explain to the Committee and, in particular, to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), that the matters he raised I propose, with his concurrence, to deal with at the third reading stage, at which time I shall bring to the attention of the House a few more recent developments that have occurred since the Bill was introduced.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 19. (1.) For the purpose of making a payment-
– I move -
Omit sub-clause (1.), insert the following subclause - “(1.) For the purpose of making, in the currency provided for by this Act, a payment-
that is payable in pursuance of, under or by virtue of a sale or a security for money, or any other contract, agreement, deed, instrument, transaction, dealing, matter or thing made, executed, entered into or done in pursuance of sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section; and
is made by a bill of exchange or promissory note; or
is not so made but was payable before the date fixed in pursuance of section 21 of this Act and is not made until after that date, the amount of money in the currency provided for by this Aci that corresponds to an amount of money in the currency provided for by the repealed Acts is, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, an amount calculated on the basis of the equivalents specified in sub-section (4.) of section 8 of this Act.”.
During the transitional period if a payment is made in cash, the customer will have the choice of tendering for an article priced at, for example, 7s. 4d., exactly that amount, with the 7s. made up of any permissible mixture of £ s. d. or decimal coins and the 4d. made up of £ s. d. coins only. Alternatively, he may tender any higher coin which is a multiple of 6d. or 5 cents in any mixture of new existing coins or notes. It is considered important that a shopkeeper should have the legal power to insist, if he wishes, on payment in this way, even though most transactions of this nature will undoubtedly be settled on a common sense basis by a payment of the nearest amount in either currency. Some questions have been raised as to whether the Bill, as drafted, has this effect, and the proposed amendment to clause 19, together with the related amendment to clause 20, are designed to put the matter beyond doubt.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 20. (I.) This section has effect notwithstanding section 16 of this Act. (2.) A tender of payment of money is a legal tender if it is made in coins that are made and issued under this Act and are of current weight -
– by leave - I move -
The change to sub-clause (5.) of clause 20 proposed here is closely linked to the new sub-clause (6a.) proposed in a later amendment. Together, these amendments have the effect of exempting wage and salary payments from the special legal tender provisions of clause 20. Under the existing provisions of the Bill, sub-clause (5.) and (6.) of clause 20 would, in some circumstances, make it possible for an employee to insist on payment of an amount converted from the currency in the relevant award to the next highest 6d. or 5 cents.
With these amendments an employer operating under a decimal currency award after C day will be able, if necessary, to pay wages by tendering amounts in £ s. d. coinage which represent the next highest penny. They will also enable an employer, subject to an award or private agreement made in £ s. d. after C day, to change to decimal currency operation and pay wages in that currency by offering not more than the next highest decimal currency equivalent of his £ s. d. obligation. This may sound a little forbidding but nothing in these amendments contradicts the agreement on wage payments after C day which has been reached by the A.C.T.U. and the National Employers’ Policy Committee.
The second of these amendments is complimentary to the amendment to clause 19(1.) which I have already explained. I have explained the third amendment in discussing the first of these amendments.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Upon a date to be fixed by Proclamation, section 18 of this Act shall be deemed to be repealed and section 8 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1964 shall be deemed to apply as if section 18 of this Act had been repealed by an Act other than this Act.
– by leave - I move -
These amendments have already been considered in connection with the amendment made to clause 18 (2.).
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 22 and 23 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-section (3.) of section 98 of the Bills of Exchange Act 1909-1958, the tenth, eleventh and twelfth days of February, One thousand nine hundred and sixtySiX are non-business days for the purposes of that Act.
– Mr. Chairman, I move -
At the end of the clause, add the following new sub-clause: - “ (2.) Notwithstanding any provision of the Bills of Exchange Act 1909-1958, a cheque may be presented for payment by a banker (including the banker on whom that cheque is drawn) on any of the days referred to in the last preceding subsection.”.
The purpose of this amendment is to permit banks to present cheques for clearance during the four days prior to C Day during which they will be closed. If banks were not able to present cheques on each other during the closure period, they would nol be able to process any cheques received after the Wednesday, the last day on which they are open. This would mean a tremendous volume of cheques having to be held for processing until the banks re-opened. Each cheque would then have to be converted individually to decimal currency before being processed.
This amendment will enable banks to process pounds, shillings and pence cheques lodged with them up to about the Thursday night, before balancing each account an- then converting the balance to decimal currency while they are closed for normal banking business. It is anticipated that the.e will be some 2i million items in transit during the critical period, and banks plan to process as many of these as possible during the closure period, thus lightening their burden during the following week.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Mr. Speaker, I did indicate at the Committee stage of the Bill that I would take the opportunity at the third reading stage to comment on some of the constructive suggestions which have been put forward by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and which I felt it was desirable to have some time to consider. I would like to take this opportunity, also, before the debate concludes to report to the House on one or two subsequent developments which could not be mentioned in the same detail when the Bill was formally before us. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggested that a half cent piece might be useful in mitigating price increases which could arise from decimal currency. He asked whether it would still be possible to have a half cent coin included in the new coinage and available at C day. The answer to the latter question is in the negative. It takes considerable time to design and tool up for production of a new coin, and it would be quite impracticable to do this and commence production prior to C day. The mints would in any case be fully engaged on production of other decimal coins.
The question of policy in relation to the half penny was considered very carefully by the Government. The present half penny has been losing popularity in the community for some time and is not used nowadays as much as it used to be. In some pricing details, particularly in the smaller stores and chain stores, we do see reference to the half penny quite frequently. But there have been proposals for some years to discontinue its use in Australia and, indeed, the use of coins of this value in other countries has been discontinued also. I believe it is fair to say that it is probable that if the pounds, shillings and pence system had continued the half penny would not have lasted for very much longer. It is very doubtful whether a half cent coin would have any very useful function at all in mitigating possible price increases. We think that competition is a much more effective regulator than the size of this particular coin. The tendency in the Australian community today is away from pricing in units of this size. So we do not feel it desirable to maintain the half penny in the form of the half cent in the decimal coins. I have not mentioned a technical aspect which I think is not without importance in a decimal system. That is that we would not have a pure decimal system if we introduced a half cent coin. Such a system would have 200 units and not 100 units. In any event, putting the policy aspect on one side, it is impracticable to design and produce in the quantity required coins of this value. I assure the honorable gentleman of that fact.
With regard to the supply of coins at C day, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports also mentioned that there might be a shortage of coins available at C day. It was never intended that all pounds, shillings and pence coins would be replaced by new decimal coins at C day. As the honorable member is no doubt aware, pounds, shillings and pence coins will be necessary during the transitional period to enable persons or businesses to carry on in that currency until they have changed their accounting systems and machines to the new decimal system. This period is expected to last for about two years, but all pounds, shillings and pence coins of the denominations of sixpence and higher will be freely interchangeable with the new decimal coins and their withdrawal will be undertaken gradually as stocks of the new coins become available. The decimal coins which are more important to the changeover in February are the one cent and two cent bronze coins which have no equivalents in the present currency. The three mints in Australia have already produced far more of these coins than have been asked for by the Australian banking system. In fact, all one cent and two cent coins requested by the banks have already been despatched from the mints which still have stocks in hand and are continuing to produce them at a most satisfactory rate. This production will be continued for as long as necessary and we shall embark later on production in Australia of the 5, 10 and 20 cent cupro nickel coins.
Since my second reading speech on 15th September there have naturally been a number of developments in the decimal currency project. The most important of these was the release by the Decimal Currency Board of details for its zoning programme for the conversion of those cash registers, adding machines and accounting machines which are eligible for free conversion or replacement at Government expense. Honorable members may appreciate a little background on the zoning programme. The programme involves the conversion of approximately 250,000 machines throughout the country by 20 converting companies employing over 1,000 technicians who will be using about 10,000,000 machine parts. Other machines such as petrol pumps, price computing scales, taxi meters and so on will be converted outside the zoning programme.
Each State has been divided into three areas - city, suburban and country. Each of these areas will be split into zones - five for the city, ten for the suburbs and ten for the country areas. Thus there will be 25 zones in each State, and 150 zones throughout the country. Conversion will commence simultaneously in city, suburban and country areas of all States. The conversion teams will move from one zone to another in an order which is indicated in detailed maps which have been reproduced in large numbers for the information of machine companies and interested machine owners. Because of the large number of companies involved, and the even larger number of individual models of machine, it is not possible to ensure that each zone will have one-fifth or one-tenth of each model of each company’s machines. Some companies may have few, if any, in the first zones, and will be permitted to move into later zones before those zones are reached by the majority of the companies. It will, therefore, be seen that the zones are no more than a rough indication of the order in which the bulk of the machines will be converted.
The zones will not be “ currency “ areas. There will be no fully £ s. d. areas during the conversion period as all banks, postoffices, railways, and most Commonwealth and State Government Departments and other transport authorities, will be changing over to decimals on C Day. Many retail stores will also be changing over quickly because of their purchases of new decimal machines. As all new and old notes, and all coins - 6d. or 5c and above - will be freely interchangeable with their counterparts in the other currency, shoppers will be able to make their purchases anywhere at all with the same pocket or purse of mixed notes and coins. They should not find it any more difficult in a decimal shop than they will in an £ s. d. shop.
The order of the zones has been decided on technical considerations only. As the conversion centres are mainly in the State capital cities, the zones tend to radiate outwards from these cities, and the decision whether the movement from zone to zone should be clockwise or anticlockwise has been determined mainly in relation to transport arrangements and the population spread of the machines. Despite reports I have seen that political considerations entered into the settling of the zoning programme, I can assure honorable members that no member of Parliament, including myself, knew anything about the details until they were given to the Press. It was undoubtedly much better that way, as some zones must be first and some must be last, and I would challenge anyone to set up an order of precedence that would satisfy each and every member of this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 17th November (vide page 2835).
Clause 6. (1.) The Board shall consist of twelve members, namely -
one member to represent the Commonwealth;
one member to represent the State of
New South Wales;
Upon which Mr. Pollard had moved by way of amendment -
Omit sub-clause (1.), insert the following subclause - “ (1.) The Board shall consist of thirteen members, namely -
one member to represent the Common wealth;
one member to represent the State of New
– The Opposition has moved an amendment intended to change the proposed structure of the Australian Tobacco Board. The amendment seeks to reduce the manufacturers’ representation from four to two and to increase the growers’ representation by three. Before speaking to this proposal, I should like to reply to a suggestion that was made yesterday by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton). When he was speaking during the second reading stage, he asked what would happen in a year in which the pro duction fell short of 26,000,000 lb. Under the stabilisation agreement, the tobacco manufacturers have agreed to purchase suitable grades of tobacco up to this amount. It is quite possible that in some years production may not reach 26,000,000 lb. If production is greater than 26,000,000 lb., the manufacturers can, of course, voluntarily buy more leaf, but this is not a part of the agreement. I have taken note of the honorable member’s remarks and will refer them to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) when he returns. I am quite sure that he will have discussions with the State Ministers, but the eventual proposal is most likely to be that the figure will be an average of 26,000,000 lb. over the period of four years of the stabilisation scheme. I cannot speak for the Minister. However, I will certainly convey the honorable member’s remarks to him.
I shall deal now with the Opposition’s amendment. The Government proposes that there will be four grower representatives and four manufacturer representatives on the Board. The Commonwealth and State Ministers have agreed to this. The grower organisations support the principle in the Bill of equal representation of growers and manufacturers. Because it is most important that both manufacturers and growers should reach agreement within the scheme on such vital matters as the grade and price schedule to operate at auctions, it has been the view of the parties concerned that the main operators at auction should be on the Board that will determine the grade and price schedule to be used. The success of the plan will be influenced greatly by the cooperation of all manufacturers.
The Australian Tobacco Board will be a regulatory board. The actual physical marketing of the leaf will remain in the hands of the State tobacco leaf marketing boards, which are completely grower controlled. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) compared the representation on this Board with the representation on the Australian Wheat Board, which has two grower representatives for each mainland State. The situation of the two Boards is not analogous. Wheat is grown in immeasurably larger quantities over wide areas in each State. Tobacco is produced in relatively small pockets in the producing States. Moreover, the Australian Wheat Board is a trading board. The Australian Tobacco Board will be a regulatory board only. As details of the plan set out in the Bill, including representation on the Board, have been negotiated over a long period and have been agreed upon by all sectors of the industry and by the State Governments, the Government cannot accept the Opposition’s amendment.
.- Mr. Chairman, we in the Australian Labour Party cannot accept the explanation just given by the Acting Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Anthony). It is our policy that the producers shall control the marketing of primary products. Indeed, this is the policy not only of the Labour Party but also, I understand, of the Australian Country Party. I have with me a copy of that Party’s platform and policy which, under the heading “ Stabilisation of Primary Industries”, states -
Commonwealth and State co-operation for: 63. Maintenance of producer control in the marketing of primary products.
That accords with the attitude of the Labour Party.
– The Minister must have forgotten about that plank in the platform.
– The platform and policy of a political party mean nothing if they are completely disregarded. The Australian Labour Party, as its history shows, believes in producer control of the marketing of primary products. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Chifley Government, appointed a number of boards to control the marketing of various primary products. It is quite clear from the Labour Party’s performance that it considered in the past, as it believes now, that primary producers should control the marketing of their products. This applies fis much to the industry that we are now discussing as to any other.
In Queensland there are two tobacco growing areas more than 1,000 miles apart. It may happen that the growers in one area will not have any representation on the proposed Australian Tobacco Board. The north Queensland tobacco areas embracing Mareeba, Dimbulah, Mary River and Emerald Creek are more than 1,000 miles north of the tobacco growing areas round Texas, Yelarbon and Inglewood in southern Queensland. The clause provides that there shall be one representative of the tobacco growers in each of the three States concerned - New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland - and that there shall be one additional member representing tobacco growers. That additional member could be a Queenslander but it is conceivable that the growers in northern Queensland will have no representation and will be regarded as being represented by a growers from the southern part of the State, more than 1,000 miles away.
The amendment proposes that growers in each State shall have two representatives and that there shall be one additional representative of growers. If this were accepted there would be an opportunity for growers in each of the two tobacco producing areas in Queensland to have a local grower as their representative on the proposed Board. After all, the two tobacco areas in Queensland are farther apart than the tobacco areas of Victoria and New South Wales. There is certainly a case for additional grower representation, as the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Fulton) so ably pointed out yesterday, and this is another reason why the Opposition has proposed the amendment. As I have said, the Australian Labour Party believes that the producers should have control over the marketing of their products and the Australian Country Party supposedly supports this idea, and says so in its platform, but it does nothing to put it into effect.
I turn now to the third matter that I want to mention, Mr. Chairman. As the clause stands, it provides for one member of the Board to represent the Commonwealth, one to represent each of the three States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland and one member from each of the three States to represent the growers in the respective States. There is no guarantee that the State Governments will appoint as members representing the growers men who are tobacco growers. There is nothing in the Bill to ensure that this will be done. 1 can find no requirement that a representative of tobacco growers shall be a grower. It seems to me that here again the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) and the Government have fallen down. I should like some guarantee that the States will nominate for appointment to the Board as grower representatives men who are tobacco growers.
I am aware that sub-clause (4.) provides that a member representing tobacco growers shall be appointed from among the members of the State board if one exists. There is a board in each State now. Two of the members of the New South Wales board, 1 understand, live at Inverell and neither is a grower. I believe that one is an accountant and the other a bank manager. The question is: Will the New South Wales Government appoint either of these two gentlemen as the representative on the proposed Commonwealth Board of the New South Wales growers? I do not know and the Minister probably does not know. I want some assurance, therefore, that tobacco growers will be appointed to represent the growers. I know that in the other two States it is more likely that the members appointed to represent growers on the proposed Board will themselves be growers because the boards in both those States are predominantly composed of tobacco growers. I think that in Queensland the proportion is eight to one in favour of the growers and in Victoria four to one. However, as I have said, in New South Wales there are at least two members of the State Board who are not tobacco growers. I want some assurance by the Acting Minister that the States will appoint tobacco growers to represent the growers.
I now wish to turn my attention to subclause (9.), which reads -
The appointment of a member is not invalidated, and shall not be called in question, by reason of a defect or irregularity in connexion with his appointment.
This provision looks a bit strange. I have not seen a similar one in a bill before, though provision in similar terms may have been made in other legislation. This may simply represent a drafting device needed to give effect to the Government’s policy. But I do not know. I should like from the Acting Minister for Primary Industry an explanation of what this means. On the surface it appears to me to mean that if a person is appointed to the proposed Board and there subsequently turns out to be some irregularity in his appointment, so that he should not really have been appointed, he shall remain a member of the Board and cannot be displaced from it. This appears to me to be something that would be grossly unjust if an election were involved. I should like to know exactly what this sub-clause means and I shall await with interest any explanation that the Minister may make.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I state that the Opposition insists on its amendment being put to the vote. We in the Australian Labour Party believe in producer control of the marketing of primary products. We believe that principle should operate in this instance. Yesterday the honorable member for Lalor stated sound reasons why the tobacco manufacturers should not have representation equal to that of the growers. Equal representation would afford them an opportunity to control the Board. There is nothing in the clause to suggest that the State representatives apart from the representatives of growers will not be appointed by the State Governments from the ranks of the manufacturing interests. There is nothing to prevent the domination of the proposed Board by manufacturers. Consequently we insist on our amendment being put to a vote. We believe that the growers should have majority representation on the Board. Indeed, we demand it.
– Mr. Chairman, I shall make a quick reply and try to remove the puzzlement of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) about sub-clause (9.). There is nothing unusual about this provision. A similar one appears in most Commonwealth legislation on matters such as this.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be omitted (Mr. Pollard’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 15 - by leave - taken together.
.- The clause that we have just disposed of is equated in importance by clause 15 which sets out the functions of the proposed Australian Tobacco Board. Among the functions of the Board stated in clause 15 is -
Clause 18, which will become section 18, states -
For the purpose of enabling the Board effectively to control the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of tobacco leaf, the regulations may prohibit the export from Australia of tobacco leaf by a person other than the Board unless -
That is a substantial power, but I have no doubt whatever that the power could be exercised even without this legislation because, obviously, the Commonwealth has power over exports at any time. However, that provision makes clear for the proposed Tobacco Marketing Board the operations which may be necessary to control exports. Clause 15 (b) states as a further function of the Board - to make reports and suggestions to, and to formulate plans for the consideration of, the Minister with respect to the interstate marketing, and the export and the marketing overseas, of Australian tobacco leaf.
When replying to the Opposition’s request that the composition of the Board be altered, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony), who is in charge of the Bill, emphasised that in his view this did not create a marketing authority but merely a regulatory authority. However, I am doubtful about that. It must be obvious to the Government and to the Minister that there have been and are still in operation a number of Federal acts related to primary producers which vest in certain bodies a power to regulate the export of meat, wheat, honey or some other product. The authorities created under those acts exercise a power almost of life or death in the marketing of the commodity that they control. To all intents and purposes the power of the authorities to control marketing is as effective as if the authority were itself making the sale of the products. In those circumstances I suggest that it would be right and proper for the Government to accede to the Opposition’s request to give the growers more adequate representation on the Board.
It is quite obvious from the Minister’s remarks that some difficulties were experienced in obtaining agreement between State Governments, between some of the State marketing boards and between the growers and manufacturers. It appears that, in effect, the manufacturers delivered an ultimatum by saying that unless they had four representatives on the Australian Tobacco Board they would not play ball. Surely it is a weak government that will yield to such pressure, if the manufacturers did use tactics of pressure in this instance, The composition of the Board may well prove to be one of its great weaknesses. If the position should be as I have outlined, the manufacturers will not hesitate to obstruct the Board if they feel that it would be more advantageous to them not to play ball. That is all the more reason why the Government should now insist that the manufacturers should not be allowed more than two representatives on the proposed Board.
It has been suggested by the Minister that it is not intended that the Board shall actually physically market the tobacco itself. I point out, however, that the wording of clause 16 is such that it could be interpreted as enabling the Board to actually physically market the leaf. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 16 reads -
Nothing in this Act prevents the Board from exercising or performing, unless the Minister otherwise directs, a power, function or duty in relation to the marketing of tobacco leaf, whether in Australia or elsewhere, conferred or imposed on it by a State Act.
If that does not come very close to giving the Board power to take control of the tobacco and market it, I do not know what would give the Board such power. Subclause (2.) gives the Board power to set down the conditions upon which any marketing machinery shall operate. The Board could set out such conditions as would in effect give it direct physical control of the leaf.
This Bill imposes on the Board an obligation to ensure that the Commonwealth legislation and the complementary State acts shall have interdigital operation and work smoothly, one with the other, and clauses 15 and 16 have some application here. If the Commonwealth and State Acts do not make for smooth working, there cannot be effective management. The legislation contains no mention whatever of price control. Of course, the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to impose price control but I take it that the States may do so under their respective marketing Acts. I take it, therefore, that determinations relating to schedules and prices will be arrived through the integration of Commonwealth and State legislation.
I also doubt very much whether the Commonwealth can determine quotas for internal trade. This again will be a question on which the authority of complementary State legislation will be required. Another problem may arise from the fact that it will be necessary from time to time to determine the dates of sales. This, too, will probably be done through the complementary State legislation.
I hope that the Commonwealth and State Acts will work as effective complementary legislation and that a satisfactory arrangement will be achieved. I should like the Minister to tell the Committee whether the three States concerned - Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria - have yet enacted their complementary legislation. I know that there is a State Tobacco Marketing Board in Queensland and that it .las been operating there for some time. I know, too., that a comparatively nev marketing board has been set up in Victoria. I am not sure of the position in New South Wales. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), when introducing the Bill, said that the States intended to set up State marketing authorities but he did not say whether this had yet actually been done. I think we should know that. I hope that the Minister for the Interior, who is acting for him on this occasion, will give some indication as to whether these boards have been set up and whether the complementary legislation has been passed by all the States.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I mentioned a few minutes ago that the Board is mainly a regulatory authority. It is not intended to be a marketing board similar to the Australian Wheat Board. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) referred to clause 18, which reads, in part -
For the purpose of enabling the Board effectively to control the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of tobacco leaf, the regulations may prohibit the export from Australia of tobacco leaf by a person other than the Board unless–
But, in reading that clause, we must remember that clause15 states -
The functions of the Board are -
to make recommendations to the Minister with respect to the making of regulations for the purposes of section 18 of this Act;
That indicates clearly that the Board is a regulatory authority which merely advises the Minister as to what action should be taken. Under the agreements reached with the three tobacco producing States - Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland - those States will have their own tobacco marketing boards.
The honorable member for Lalor asks whether those States have yet introduced the complementary legislation necessary to enable the proposed boards to be established. Queensland hopes to have its legislation passed before the end of this year and both Victoria and New South Wales intend to pass their bills early in next year.
– Will the Minister give us an assurance that the growers’ representatives on the Board will be tobacco growers?
– I cannot give that assurance. The growers themselves will decide who is to represent them on the Board. Surely, if a man who has had lengthy experience in the tobacco industry, and who may have been a tobacco grower at one time, wishes to stand for election, he will not be excluded? It is a matter for the tobacco growers themselves to decide who will represent them, and no doubt they will make their recommendations to their respective State Governments.
– The State Ministers make the appointments.
– A State Minister will make the appointment after receiving recommendations, I should think, from the tobacco growers’ association in the State concerned. The procedure would not necessarily be the same in each State. The States are jealous of their respective organisations. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) knows, the formula for apportioning the prescribed area of production for each grower will not be the same in each State. The States each have their own methods of arriving at how quotas will be distributed. In the same way, they may have different methods of appointing members of the Board, but I should think that in any case a Minister would have the interests of the growers very much in mind when appointing the growers’ representatives.
When speaking about the composition of the Board, honorable members opposite have given the impression that the manufacturers will have equal representation with the growers and could possibly dominate the Board. I point out to them that there will be four Government representatives on the Board. There will also be four growers’ representatives and four manufacturers’ representatives.
– There is no guarantee as to what the Government representatives will do.
– The Government representatives will be concerned with the public interest, and I should think that in most cases they will look after the interests of the growers because that will be in the interests of the nation as well. I do not think the growers need fear that they will be dominated unfairly by the manufacturers.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) asking certain questions on this subject. It appeared to me that the honorable member for Bendigo tried to confuse the issue. He should read the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) who unfortunately, or should I say perhaps fortunately, is leading a delegation of parliamentarians in New Zealand at the present time. If the honorable member for Bendigo were to read the Minister’s second reading speech he would know the new powers of the Board that is to be set up. The honorable member asked whether the people on the board will be growers. They will be representatives of the growers.
– They could have a bank manager on the board?
– If the growers so desired, yes. The members will be growers’ representatives and they will come from a panel submitted by growers.
– There is nothing in the measure to say that.
– Under legislation covering wheat or dried fruits such boards consist of growers’ representatives. After the honorable member has been here for a little longer he will have a good knowledge of these things, as the honorable member for Lalor has. The honorable member might as well claim that the Labour Opposition here should be made up of workers because it claims to represent the workers. If that were the case there would be no Labour Opposition at all. If the honorable member’s idea was to be put into effect he himself could not represent the workers here, because he is not a worker in that sense of the word. I do not want to read out the whole of the second reading speech of the Minister, but I bring to the honorable member’s notice the following statement by the Minister -
The Australian Tobacco Board will have the following powers and functions, derived from complementary Commonwealth and State legislation -
The States have to legislate for these things. The Minister went on -
All the powers are set out if the honorable member cares to read them -
All these powers are given to those who will comprise the board. They are set out plainly in the second reading speech of the Minister. As a matter of fact there are no tobacco growers in the Mallee electorate. Are there any in the Bendigo electorate?
– What has that to do with this?
– Nothing at all. That is what I am saying.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member for Mallee that I allowed him to speak on the subject he is pursuing because I had allowed the honorable member for Bendigo to ask a question of the Minister for the Interior on a subject matter contained in a clause that had already been agreed to by the Committee. In fairness, when the honorable member for Mallee raised the subject I allowed him to make some comments, but I suggest that he should now leave matters that are quite irrelevant to the subject matter before the Committee.
- Mr. Chairman, I should not like to take any advantage of your tolerance towards the honorable member for Bendigo. If you say that I have reached the stage where the honorable member and I are just about level, I will leave it at that.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Anthony) - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 9th November (vide page 2476), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Anthony) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 9th November (vide page 2476), on motion by Mr. Adermann -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Anthony) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 2603), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a very small Bill but it is a measure of profound importance. It deals with the subject matter of foot and mouth disease which I suppose is one of the most awful diseases that could get a hold in this country. Most people associated with the land know of : he ravages of foot and mouth disease in European and other countries where serious outbreaks occur from time to time and devastate the cattle industry. It would be a shocking thing if this were to happen in Australia.
I think I should say in passing that it is in the nature of a miracle - it is an example of our very effective quarantine as well - that up to date this country, with all the comings and goings between Europe and Australia, has been fortunate enough to escape the ravages of this disease. As I have said, it is because of the extra good precautions and quarantine restrictions that we have imposed. The Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) has introduced this measure which amends the Foot and Mouth Disease Act of 1961. The amending Bill seeks to add to the definition of foot and mouth disease by including in the definition of that disease two diseases known as vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis. The Minister for Health said in his second reading speech that vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis are clinically indistinguishable from foot and mouth disease. It may be that the authorities, having determined that certain cattle showed symptoms of foot and mouth disease, would give instructions for those cattle to be destroyed and for sheds and pastures which they had frequented also to be destroyed, only to find subsequently that the cattle had been suffering not from foot and mouth disease but from vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis. But it is essential to act quickly when there is any suspicion of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. That is the position as I understand it. The principal Act of 1961 provides for the payment of compensation where cattle or property is destroyed as a preventive measure. The Act authorised the setting up of a trust fund to which the State and Commonwealth Governments would contribute. Up to £200,000 was allowed to accumulate in the trust fund. The Act provides machinery for refunding to the States amounts accumulated in excess of £200,000. The Opposition fully supports the Government in this legislation which will enable adequate compensation to be paid to persons whose cattle or property is destroyed in the belief that the cattle were suffering from foot and mouth disease. We wish the Bill a speedy passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Giles) adjourned.
– I move- [Customs Tariff Proposals (No.10 ).]
[Customs Tariff Proposals (No.11).]
Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 10 and 11 which 1 have just tabled, relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1965. The amendments will operate from tomorrow morning. Amendments contained in Proposals No. 10 give effect to the Government’s decision to accept the recommendations of the Tariff Board in its report on pigments and colour lakes. In accordance with the Board’s recommendations, synthetic organic pigments, colour lakes and preparations based thereon will become dutiable at rates of 45 per cent, ad valorem general and 30 per cent, ad valorem preferential. These rates are higher than the former protective duties, but lower than the present combined ordinary and temporary protective duties. New protective ad valorem duties of 25 per cent, general and 15 per cent, preferential will also apply to cadmium pigments.
Amendments contained in the Proposals include increased duties on mica capacitors and on certain measuring, controlling and recording equipment. These changes were recommended in Tariff Board reports previously tabled in this House, but their introduction was deferred pending international negotiations. Arising out of these and other international negotiations, the duties on electric typewriters, safety razors and outboard engines are being reduced. Honorable members may recall that when the Tariff Board’s report on internal combustion piston engines was presented, it was announced that a most-favoured-nation rate of 371/2 per cent, ad valorem was being adopted for outboard engines, but that the Government would be prepared to reduce the rate to 25 per cent, ad valorem, as recommended by the Board, depending on the result of international negotiations. Proposals No. 10 leaves the preferential rate at its existing level of 15 per cent, ad valorem but reduces the general rate from 371/2 per cent, to 25 per cent, ad valorem. Details of changes to which I have referred are contained in the summary of amendments being circulated to honorable members.
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 10 also includes amendments, which are changes necessary to correct discrepancies which resulted from the translation from the old to the new Brussels nomenclature tariff, in accordance with the undertaking given when the new tariff was introduced last May. Details of these tariff changes are contained in the precis of tariff alterations being circulated to honorable members. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 11 provides for the imposition of a temporary duty of1s. 6d. per lb. on raw yarns wholly of, or of which not less than 50 per cent, by weight of the man-made fibres, are continuous filament polyamide fibres. The temporary duty is imposed in accordance with the recommendations of the Special Advisory Authority.
The temporary duty, which will operate from tomorrow morning, is in addition to the existing duties. It does not apply to yarns in direct transit to Australia on 15th October 1965, which are entered for home consumption within 21 days after importation. The Tariff Board is already conducting an inquiry into the longer term protective needs of the Australian industry producing these yarns. The temporary duty will operate only until such time as the Government takes action upon receipt of the final report of the Board. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Reports on Items.
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject -
Pigments and colour lakes.
I also present a report by the Special Advisory Authority on the following subject -
Continuous filament polyamide raw yarns.
Ordered to be printed.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate -
Without amendment -
Meat Industry Bill 1965.
Meat Research Bill 1965.
Without requests -
Livestock Slaughter Levy Bill 1965.
Debate resumed (vide page 2910).
.- I support the Bill. This Bill and its parent Act are designed to allow rapid action to be taken to isolate and eliminate any possible outbreak of foot and mouth disease that may occur in Australia. This type of action must be immediate and efficient if it is to deal with this disease which could cause an appalling loss of livestock in Australia with a consequent serious effect on the Australian economy.
The Bill amends the Foot and Mouth Diseases Act 1961 to extend the definition of the disease to include vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis - two names that were admirably pronounced a little while ago by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). These diseases are accompanied by mouth lesions similar to those which occur during an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. The States have complementary legislation to that of the Commonwealth and each of them contributes 50 per cent, of the cost of eradication. In South Australia, for instance, the State Parliament has passed legislation to deal with this problem. It is the Foot and Mouth Disease Eradication Act 1958. But this Act has never been proclaimed, and I imagine the situation in other States is somewhat similar. Proclamation will occur when or if an outbreak of foot and mouth disease takes place.
It is interesting, I think, to note that the Act now before us will become law by proclamation and not by regulation. I believe that when a position of some great urgency, affecting the interests of the nation, occurs, then in the field of subordinate legislation at any rate action should be taken by proclamation. It is equally obvious that when no emergency exists the Parliament should retain its right to study the legislation and that the legislation should then go forward by regulation. I take the point in passing because I think it is a clear illustration of the logical approach to legislation which covers an emergency contingency and to that which does not.
Foot and mouth disease is one of the so-called exotic diseases and an Exotic Diseases Committee exists consisting, I gather, of representatives of the States - the chief inspectors of livestock in the various States - and of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and also the Commonwealth Director of Veterinary Hygiene who, I believe, is the Chairman of the Committee. I think this is one of the many important committees of which he is Chairman. The Committee conducts central planning and administration. I point out in passing that in the administration of this Act and in the vital planning that will be necessary if an attack of foot and mouth disease should occur, the importance of this Committee is extreme. The economy of the country could suffer great loss if planning at the central point was not efficient, on the ball and timely. All States are subject administratively to the provisions of the Commonwealth Quarantine Act. At State level the Stock Diseases Act or similar legislation takes over.
I gather that the legislation is now before the House as a result of action by the Exotic Diseases Committee. It may have been introduced partly as a result of the visit to Australia recently of Mr. Eichorn of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation. Mr. Eichorn is an expert in this field and after inspecting the Commonwealth and State Departments concerned he recommended the inclusion of vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis in the definition in the Act. I commend the Government for heeding the advice it was given, whether it came from the Exotic Diseases Committee or from Mr. Eichorn.
As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) said in his second reading speech, these two diseases which have been added to the definition are clinically indistinguishable from foot and mouth disease. As foot and mouth disease is caused by a virus, microscopic examination is of no use as a means of differentiation between the diseases. One cannot take a swab and examine it microscopically because viruses are not visible under a microscope. The identity of the organism cannot be established by this means. It is therefore necessary to carry out laboratory tests on other animals. Horses, for instance, cannot contract foot and mouth disease. Therefore a differential diagnosis can be carried out to see whether lesions will grow inside the mouth of a horse. If these lesions are present then it is probable that the disease in question is either vesicular exanthema or vesicular stomatitis and not foot and mouth disease.
The foot and mouth virus is a very difficult one to control. The disease can be transmitted by various forms of contact and the virus itself can live for about 30 days after some form of initial contact. Within the meaning of contact it can also be transmitted by insects, the shoes of human beings, car tyres or other mechanical devices. It is most necessary, then, to incorporate in legislation the power to hit hard first and ask questions afterwards. Foot and mouth disease is pretty well out of control in Africa today and also - and this is possibly more important to Australia, and certainly to the northern areas of Australia - in Indonesia. We have no proof or indeed any indication that it has reached West Irian but obviously this possibility cannot be ignored. In fact I would think there is a strong likelihood that it could break out in the future in West Irian.
If an attack of foot and mouth disease does occur in Australia it is probably very desirable that it should take place in southern Australia rather than the northern areas. In the south it could be far more readily controlled by stock inspectors in areas well known to them and where wholesale slaughtering and quarantine measures could be effectively carried out. These precautions could not readily be taken in the northern parts of Australia. In Papua and New Guinea wild pigs and wild deer abound and foot and mouth disease in that Territory would be extremely difficult either to locate to identify or to stamp out. The members of the Government members’ Food and Agriculture Committee who took a trip around Australia recently will remember talking to people who own fishing boats operating from Thursday Island and who carry out fishing operations in the Fly River which constitutes the boundary between Papua and New Guinea and West Irian. It is most necessary that quarantine officials and stock inspectors exercise extreme vigilance in Thursday Island and similar places, because once foot and mouth disease reaches the areas of Australia where there are Balinese cattle, many of which are running wild at present in the York Peninsula, and buffaloes and other free grazing livestock, in the Northern Territory and northern Queensland, it will be most difficult to take appropriate action.
There appears to be no foot and mouth disease in either Madagascar or Mauritius. This may be comforting if in the future airline companies operate from Perth through these islands. It is perhaps not so comforting to realise that aircraft now take off from the southern half of South Africa and arrive in Australia within a few hours. I visited the Brisbane Royal Show not so many weeks ago and while there I was invited to a beef cattle dinner where I met a young Hereford breeder who had actually been in a killing works in South Africa where cattle suffering from foot and mouth disease were being killed. Within 30 hours of being amongst those diseased cattle he was at Perth airport. He had wrapped up a pair of boots separately from his other effects and he had very great difficulty in having them inspected by officers whose job it was to do so. I brought this to the attention of the Minister for Health at the time because I had noticed in the Press just before hand that certain measures relating to shoes and boots were being applied as a means of preventing the possible introduction of this sort of disease to Australia. However, this occurred a week or two before the newer and more stringent regulations came into force. We now know that quarantine is being applied effectively at the ports of entry to Australia. In fact, i noticed in the various documents accompanying the Estimates that there has been an increase in the number of quarantine officials. I was glad to note that. There has also been a small increase in the funds available for quarantine purposes, although it was not as much as I should have liked to see bearing in mind the extreme importance of the livestock industry to the Australian economy.
In his second reading speech the Minister referred to the aerial spraying quarantine measures that at times prove vexatious to air travellers; but many passengers are unaware of the great dangers to Australia’s economy of these diseases. Precautions are extremely desirable and it is to be hoped that air travellers will be tolerant and that the quarantine precautions will be well received. Foot and mouth disease has proved the most terrible scourge in Europe. It can cause considerable losses to any country where it appears. In Australia we have no acquired immunity to virus diseases of this nature and if they appeared in this country it is reasonable to suppose they could spread very rapidly. Quarantine measures will try to keep foot and mouth disease out. If it enters this country then this legislation administered efficiently by the various stock inspectors and Commonwealth veterinary officers will assist in stamping it out. I support the Bill.
.- When we consider Australia’s 12,000 miles of coastline, its many ports of entry and the variety of ways in which people can enter Australia from countries that are infected with foot and mouth disease it is, as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) truthfully said, a complete miracle that we have survived this scourge for 177 years of our history. One must congratulate the Commonwealth Department of Health for its foresight, its stringent methods of search and its dedicated officers who are working constantly every day on this problem. These men would deserve the Victoria Cross if it were awarded for this type of service. Considering that more and more people are coming to Australia from infected areas it is a wonder of the highest order that we have escaped the scourge to date. I commend the Government for adopting the Boy Scouts’ motto - “ Be prepared “ - with the original Foot and Mouth Disease Act, quite apart from this amending legislation. We have legislation to cope with this disease should it be discovered in Australia. This is highly commendable and I wish we had more preventative legislation rather than legislation being introduced to deal with a problem after it has become apparent. The Opposition supports this legislation in every aspect.
The Bill extends the provisions of the existing legislation to include two exotic animal diseases, vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis in association with the foot and mouth disease, because we cannot be sure whether stock has foot and mouth disease or one of these exotic diseases, as symptoms are indistinguishable in early stages and as time is an important factor in combating this trouble the inclusion of these diseases is to enable the immediate implementation of precautions. It is essential that all the quarantine machinery at the ports of entry and in the States be brought into operation immediately to prevent a disease getting a hold in Australia.
Admittedly this is not a large Bill, but in his second reading speech the Minister said -
Under arrangements already made with the States the Commonwealth will contribute SO per cent, of the cost of eradication of foot and mouth disease should that dreaded disease ever gain entry to the country. The States collectively would contribute the other 50 per cent, of the cost of eradication.
At this point I should like to mention the return to Australia of the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer for the Department of Agriculture in Tasmania, Mr. R. J. Green who in a statement to the Press on 27th October said that there is a very real risk that Australia will be faced with a major animal disease problem in the next few years. Mr. Green had an overseas trip financed by the Commonwealth Department of Health. The main object of his tour was the study of exotic animal diseases. Fortunately our men have to go overseas to study these diseases because we do not have them in Australia, thank God. Mr. Green is not pessimistic about Australia’s ability to meet a crisis should it occur. He said -
Australia is doing what it can to get quarantine and veterinary services ready. The Commonwealth Department of Health, which administers animal quarantine in Australia, has paid the fare of two Australian veterinary officers every year for three years to attend the exotic diseases school in Canada. Precautions at sea and air ports are also being intensified.
Mr. Green went on to say that no country he had visited had implemented precautions against foot and mouth disease more thoroughly than Australia. The Press report of his statement continued -
But Australia was not doing enough research into prevention and cure of major animal diseases. “We don’t want infectious diseases here to Study because of the possibility of their escaping from a laboratory,” he said. “ It is just not worth the risk.” However, an Australian biologist was working on research into foot and mouth disease in Britain.
Mr. Green was away for five months. I congratulate the Minister and his Department on their foresight in enabling two Australian veterinary officers every year for three years to go overseas to study the diseases covered in this legislation. That, too. is statesmanship as far as our primary industry is concerned. The interesting point about foot and mouth disease is that it was once in Australia. I shall quote from volume 2 of the “ Australian Encyclopaedia “ at page 292 as follows -
By 1803 the government herds, including the wild cattle in the Cowpastures (q.v.), numbered 1530 and those owned by settlers amounted to 650. In 1804 Governor King reported a disease among the cattle, “ a spongy substance on the tongue . . . bad feet … all those of Government’s have recovered, but, I am sorry to say, several belonging to individuals have died.” This was probably foot-and-mouth disease which later was entirely eliminated from Australia. On 8th August of the same year the first considerable consignment of cattle reached the new settlement at Hobart Town in Van Diemens Land. These were 139 cows, 1 bull and 60 oxen brought from India on the “Lady Barlow”. Early in 1805 King sent 622 cows to Lieutenant-Governor Paterson at Port Dalrymple, the second Tasmanian settlement.
That is an interesting piece of history from the “ Australian Encyclopaedia “ in respect of the first occurrence of foot-and-mouth disease in Australia. This disease was beaten back in the early days of our history. It has never recurred.
Foot and mouth disease is called also aphthous fever. It is highly contagious and affects practically all cloven footed animals. Foot and mouth disease is characterised by the formation of vesicles or blisters on the tongue, lips and other tissues of the mouth, and on parts of the body where the skin is thin, as on the udder and teats, between the claws of the feet and around the coronary band above the hoof. Foot and mouth disease appears suddenly and spreads very rapidly. Within 24 to 48 hours, it enters the blood stream causing fever. During this phase lasting 24 to 36 hours, the virus is excreted in the saliva, the milk, the urine and the faeces. The characteristic smacking of the lips then usually becomes prominent, ushering in the phase of the formation of secondary vesicles. These rupture in about 24 hours, leaving raw painful surfaces.
The losses caused by foot and mouth disease are tremendous, as the honorable member for Angas said a little while ago. Interestingly enough, my research on the subject has shown that in the United States of America the annual loss through all animal diseases is 2,000 million dollars in stock value, which is £A1,000 million We must do all we can do to prevent disease in our stock and to increase our veterinary services. We should do everything to improve the conditions of our veterinary surgeons and encourage more students to study veterinary science. My plan for an animal sickness benefits scheme has this as one of its aims. What a tremendous saving we will ensure for Australia over a period of years by beating diseases which cause such great losses as those caused by foot and mouth disease. Immunisation by vaccination in treatment of this disease is possible but it confers immunity for only four months. Quarantine and destruction are the most effective counter measures. The problem with foot and mouth disease is that it recurrs in the same stock. While a person may think he has beaten it the first time, he will find that it can come back again and again. That is one of the great worries about this disease.
Diagnosis of the type or types of virus is important. This has been an expensive process. But in 1952, the Foot and Mouth Disease Research institute at Pirbright, England, announced a test which determines the type of virus involved within a few hours. This is saving a tremendous amount of time in tackling the disease. Foot and mouth disease is reputed to be more than 2,000 years old but not until the 17th and 18th centuries was trustworthy evidence of its presence found. The disease is present in most countries of the world. In the early 1950’s the only countries reporting freedom from this disease were the United States of America and its territories, Australia, New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland - there are not many cattle there! - Norway, Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Central America and the islands of the Carribean and the West Indies. The disease first invaded England in 1839 and quickly spread throughout Great Britain. There were 11 more outbreaks in Britain between 1839 and 1902. Then there was none until after World War 1. Each outbreak was stamped out as it occurred, but re-infection from other countries came with disturbing frequency. This is the problem faced by England because it is so close to countries where foot and mouth disease is found. Apparently the methods used at the English ports have not been able to keep the disease out even after one particular outbreak has been eradicated.
Foot and mouth disease first invaded the United States of America in 1870 through cattle imported via Canada from England. I must mention one outbreak in particular which occurred in Mexico. This illustrration will show honorable members what it costs when this disease hits a country with full force. The outbreak which occurred in Mexico during 1946 caused grave concern to the United States. To fight it, a MexicanUnited States commission was formed which carried on an extensive campaign, leading in 1952 to the final elimination of the disease in Mexico. It did not spread into the United States. At the height of that campaign, about 8,200 workers were employed and more than 1 million dollars a month were spent. This again shows what a dreadful disease this is economically once it finds its way into a country. In five years, from 1947 to 1952, 60 million vaccinations of cattle, goats, sheep and swine were made. It took five years to eradicate this disease. In September 1952, Mexico was given a clean bill of health from foot and mouth disease, but in that time, 1 million animals were destroyed by the joint Mexican-United States commission. So what is the expenditure of a few pounds on preventative methods to keep such a scourge as foot and mouth disease out of Australia? We would agree - and surely the farmers of Australia would agree - to the expenditure of any amount to keep this sort of disease from Australia. I wish to quote, finally, from a book entitled “Diseases of Cattle” which was issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry. The following information appears at page 383-
The tremendous ravages of the disease are seen in the number and variety of the species attacked. While it may be regarded as essentially a disease of cattle, hogs would seem to be as easy a prey. Almost in the same grade of receptivity are sheep and goats. Next in order of susceptibility come the buffalo, American bison, camel, chamois, llama, giraffe, and antelope. Horses, dogs, cats, and even poultry may occasionally become infected with the disease, the last three being particularly dangerous as carriers of the contagion. Man himself is not immune, and the frequency of his infection by coming in contact with diseased animals is established by numerous observations.
At page 384 of this very valuable book it is stated -
A wide distribution of the virus and a rapid infection of a herd is the result. Animals may be infected directly, as by licking, and in calves by sucking, or indirectly by such things as infected manure, hay, utensils, drinking troughs, railway cars, animal markets, barnyards and pastures. Human beings may carry the virus on their shoes and clothing. . . .
As the honorable member for Angas pointed out in relation to the man returning home from South Africa - and transmit it on their hands when milking, since the udder is occasionally the seat of the eruption. It may also be carried by dogs, cats, rats, chickens, pigeons, etc. . . .
Unlike most other infectious diseases, foot and mouth disease may repeatedly attack the same animals. The immunity conferred by an attack is of limited duration.
The mortality rate is very high in malignant cases. It ranges from only 3 per cent, in what we may call the ordinary cases to 30 or 40 per cent, in malignant cases. The pestilence can cause havoc.
I want to mention the losses and inconvenience that arise as a side effect of the foot and mouth disease. This is the indirect commercial loss. Dairy farmers are put out of business for a time. Necessary quarantine restrictions greatly interfere with the movement of livestock and such commodities as hay, straw, hides and farm produce. The business of the stockyards and slaughtering centres is greatly interfered with. Sometimes it is necessary to close stockyards for disinfection for quite lengthy periods. The whole business of marketing, transporting, feeding and slaughtering is interrupted and deranged. Losses of this character, as side effects of the disease, can often reach enormous proportions in any country. When we consider the effects of this disease, as they have been outlined by the two previous speakers and by me, I feel that this country would not quibble at any expenditure that is absolutely necessary to keep the disease out of Australia. If necessary, we should have more veterinary scientists. About 184 veterinary scientists are employed on quarantine work by the Com monwealth today, but, if it is necessary to increase the number, we should do so. We should do anything at all that is necessary to keep the disease out of Australia. It is essential for our economic salvation as a nation that this scourge be kept out.
We should be very appreciative of the day by day and hour by hour vigilance of the officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health. These dedicated officers, especially in the quarantine section, meet people arriving here by ship and plane from countries where the disease is prevalent. I trust that the forecast of Mr. Green will not become reality and that we will be able to remain free not only of foot and mouth disease but also of the other terrible plagues that infect cattle throughout the world.
.- I am sure that any thinking person will support enthusiastically the Bill that we are now considering. It simply adds further protection to the quarantine methods already used to ensure that foot and mouth disease does not enter this country because of a wrong diagnosis. I have seen this disease and I have seen rinderpest. I have seen what I now know was probably blue tongue. I have an idea of the terrors that these diseases bring and the tremendous losses that they cause. Vesicular stomatitis and vesicular exanthema are being included because in their early stages they are very similar to foot and mouth disease. “Vesicle” means a blister. These diseases are clinically similar in the first stages to foot and mouth disease. The difference is in the end result. Foot and mouth disease is an acute disease that is very contageous and all cloven footed animals are subject to it. Vesicular stomatitis affects horses and vesicular exanthma affects only swine, but this does not preclude the possibility of the mistaken identification of the diseases and the confusion of them with foot and mouth disease in the early stages. I mention blue tongue briefly, because it is likely to be confused with foot and mouth disease in its early stages. My authority is Blood and Henderson. Professor Blood is the Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene at the University of Melbourne.
Foot and mouth disease is enzootic in Africa, in parts of Europe, in Japan, in the
Philippines, in the eastern portions of Indonesia and in practically all of Asia, lt does not matter whether the disease has been in Australia before. With the greatest respect to the encyclopaedia used by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), I again rely on the authority to which I have referred, which states -
Australia and New Zealand have never experienced the disease and the U.S.A. has not had an outbreak since 1929.
I think all the evidence is in favour of this conclusion. The diagnosis in the early 1800’s may have been mistaken, but that is a matter of small moment. The big terror of foot and mouth disease is that it is highly contagious. It is thought that the outbreak in Canada was caused by an immigrant. There is a degree of evidence to support this belief, because where this man worked there was an outbreak, and where he went a little later there was another outbreak. The disease is estimated to have cost Canada 400 million dollars in the direct loss of revenue. It is impossible to estimate the indirect loss. 1 would suggest that if there were ever an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Australia, despite our vigilance and despite our awareness of the disease, it would be very difficult to control in our wide open spaces and with our vast distances.
Foot and mouth disease will remain potent for a long period. The virus is known to be potent for as long as 90 days on wearing apparel, on an intermediate agent, and this is one of the very bad features of it. It will remain dangerous for as long as a year in ideal conditions in certain sheds and buildings. The virus will remain active for a month on hair. This makes the disease very difficult to control. We have spoken of vaccination, but the accepted method of control throughout the world, once the disease has broken out, is the immediate destruction of animals. The authority I quoted earlier states -
When all possible sources of infection are destroyed the farm should be left unstocked for six months and restocking permitted only when sentinel ‘ test animals are introduced and remain uninfected. Disinfection requires the use of 1 to 2 per cent, sodium hydroxide or formalin or 4 per cent, sodium carbonate solutions after suitable cleaning. Human movement to and from infected premises must be reduced to a minimum. Persons working on the farm should wear waterproof clothing which can be easily disinfected by spraying and subsequently removed as the person leaves the farm. Clothing not suitable for chemical disinfection must be boiled. Because of the rapidity with which the disease may spread immediate quarantine must be imposed on all farms within a radius of 10 to IS miles of the outbreak. No animal movement can be permitted and human and motor traffic must be reduced to a minimum.
Honorable members will realise the extent of the problem that would present itself to us. Our difficulties would be greater than those of some other more closely settled countries.
– The disease could bring a district to a standstill.
– Exactly. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) mentioned the possibility of the movement of fishermen between Thursday Island and New Guinea leading to the introduction of the diseases into Australia. Thursday Island fishermen fish in New Guinea Waters and New Guinea natives visit Thursday Island at regular intervals except in the monsoon season. I am pleased to say that I have been assured by departmental officers that they are well aware of this danger and that an officer of the Department of Health is to be stationed at Thursday Island with the object of preventing the introduction of foot and mouth diease into Australia through that port
The disease can be carried also by migratory birds. This could be a great danger to us if it were ever to spread to West Irian, for we already have in the buffaloes in the Northern Territory a ready means of the disease spreading should it be introduced in northern Australia. Foot and mouth disease can also be spread by the carriage of infected goods on ships. However, these possibilities are already well taken care of by our quarantine authorities. I asked the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) a question about this very subject, I think in April last. He then assured me that the quarantine authorities had the problem in hand, and I know that that is correct. There is no need for anybody to question it. The quarantine officers in our northern ports are well alive to the situation. I should say that the chance of foot and mouth disease being introduced inadvertently through those ports is fairly remote, especially as it is a considerable distance from Indonesia to our north west coast.
– Precautions are taken by spraying.
– That is so. The article by Blood and Henderson on virus diseases in “Veterinary Medicine” from which I quoted points out the interesting fact that foot and mouth disease is resistant to almost all the common disinfectants. The authors of the article mentioned that for this reason the two disinfectants to be used against the disease are specifically stated. The infection can remain active in meat tissues for long periods. It can live in both pickled meat and brined meat. It is suspected to have entered Canada in salami sausage.
Vesicular stomatitis, one of the two diseases now under review, did not occur in great proportions until the 1914-18 war when it appeared in military horses in the United States of America. It has since spread to cattle, sheep and swine. The death rate is very low although considerable loss of condition results. There are known cases of infection in humans. So human health is involved also. Vesicular exanthema affects only pigs. It has a fairly low mortality rate of about 5 per cent, to 10 per cent. Like the other diseases that have been mentioned it causes tremendous loss of production, abortion in sows and loss of lactation and is generally undesirable.
I wish to make a brief reference to rinderpest. This disease is not mentioned in the Bill but it is of interest because of the outbreak that occurred in Western Australia in the 1920’s. This outbreak illustrated the vigilance of our quarantine authorities, whose strength has since been multiplied to a very great degree. The outbreak marked an epoch in health quarantine because it resulted in the appointment of a veterinarian to the Department of Health. All the animals infected on that occasion were destroyed, though not without a great deal of resistance from stock owners in the area involved. The strict measures taken stamped out the disease. It has a mortality rate of 100 per cent, in animals that have never been in contact with it before. Foot and mouth disease, on the other hand, will kill as much as half the animal population. It is particularly bad in cattle - even worse than in sheep - and the surviving animals are left in a more or less debilitated condition. So it is easy to imagine the effects of foot and mouth disease on the economy of this country.
Blue tongue is an entirely different disease. It is not to be confused with these other diseases. It causes swelling of the mouth and affects the joints. Our authorities are well aware of the dangers of this disease also. I mention it in passing because the embargo on the import of cattle and sheep from overseas has caused heartburnings in some stud circles. However, I suggest that the risk of introducing the disease is so great as to more than justify the action taken by the authorities.
This Bill commends itself to honorable members in every way, I am sure, Mr. Speaker. I am certain that the precautions that are being taken are no more than are necessary. We just cannot help the inconvenience and irritation that may be caused to travellers. It has been said that the Government apparently pays more attention to foot and mouth disease than to certain human diseases, but I believe that that statement was made in a moment of rash irresponsibility, and I so regard if. If this disease were to enter Australia and inflict the damage which I have described and which we all are aware it could do, our cattle and sheep population would be greatly reduced. Indeed, the possible effects on our general economic welfare are beyond imagination. I support this Bill earnestly.
.- Mr. Speaker, I should like to associate myself with the passing of this Bill by making a few brief remarks. I represent a large primary producing area in which, although there are not many cattle, there are large numbers of sheep and other livestock. I believe that this Government has been vigilant in seeing that exotic diseases do not enter Australia. Quite a number of my constituents and the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association have at times asked me to make representations to the Minister for Health about the dangers of exotic diseases in stock and measures to prevent those diseases from entering Australia. Each time the Minister has assured me that the Government is doing everything possible to prevent the introduction of these diseases.
I am very pleased that the present Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) has on the occasion of the consideration of this measure, directed attention to the unceasing work of the quarantine service and to the efforts made to obtain the co-operation of travellers and their compliance with the quarantine requirements laid down. Every now and again we read that some traveller has become rather vexed because he has had to comply with certain regulations. But I believe that this inconvenience is as nothing compared to the importance of the work that the quarantine service does for Australia. This is an excellent Bill. It will extend the provisions of the Foot and Mouth Disease Act to include the two exotic diseases named. The purpose is to give the quarantine service legislative authority to take action promptly if these diseases are ever noted in Australia. I commend the Bill to honorable members. I consider that it is an excellent one. We in this country are always talking about increasing our production. We must maintain and indeed increase our stock numbers if we are to boost our production. I am glad that honorable members on both sides of the Parliament are in favour of this measure. This being so, there is no need for long speeches on the subject. I support the Bill.
.- I am pleased to say that the Bill now before us has the support of all sections of the Parliament. It is desirable that it should be given a speedy passage. However, it is so important providing safeguards for most important industries in Australia, that it should not be passed over very lightly. It is worthy of some commendation and some observation. The Bill will provide safeguards for important export industries. I am conscious of the importance of the Bill, not so much in relation to my own State because although it relates to the Foot and Mouth Disease Act 1961 it applies to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Diseases have a nasty habit of not recognising State borders. If there is an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the Northern Territory, within quite a short space of time it could spread to Queensland. I understand that there is wonderful co-operation between the State and Commonwealth Departments of Health in quarantine services to ensure that where diseases which affect our industries do break out they are quickly dealt with.
Unfortunately Australia’s history is one of intrusion of pests into this country. The Northern Territory and northern Queensland have been plagued with an imported pest which has cost the cattle industry many millions of pounds and continues to cost the industry enormous sums. I refer to cattle tick. We have seen the introduction also of such great pests as prickly pear and the sparrow, and in the Northern Territory the buffalo, which have cost Australia many millions of pounds over the years. These pests were introduced into Australia when there was no great desire to prevent importation of goods from other parts of the world and people enjoyed an almost complete freedom. Thank goodness for the stability of the nation and that those days of irresponsible freedom are gone. There is now a sensible system of control on the articles we import. One honorable member who has spoken during this debate - I accept his word because I believe he spoke with authority - said there has never been an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Australia. That should make us all the more vigilant. Whilst we are, with good cause, proud of that fact, which reflects great credit on the permanent officials of the Public Service in the Health Department, we must not slacken our activities in this regard. The meat industry, which is the one primarily affected by this disease, is of major importance to Australia.
I have been given to understand that the disease will attack any cloven footed animal. As honorable members will be aware, the cloven footed animals are cattle, sheep, pigs and goats. It is perhaps unfortunate that horses do not come under the heading of cloven footed animals for the purpose of this legislation, although some of us may regard horses, particularly those at Eagle Farm, as being cloven footed at times when they cannot raise a gallop. I have referred to the importance of the meat industry to Australia. I remind the House of the great economic value to Australia of the beef, mutton and lamb industries. Honorable members will realise the importance of these industries when I state that last year we exported from Australia beef, veal, mutton and lamb to the value of £120 million. That is a lot of money. If there were an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Australia the meat export industry would be very gravely bit.
The Bill, as I have said, applies to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Although I have been unable to obtain figures to show how many stock are affected in the Australian Capital Territory - these figures are included in the livestock numbers for New South Wales and it would be idle to quote those figures - I can say that there are more than 1 million head of stock in the Northern Territory. That is a tropical area and is very much subject to the importation of diseases which would affect the health or economic stability of the industry. As other honorable members have pointed out, there is a grave risk in these days of fast travel of diseases being brought in by air travellers and by the aeroplanes themselves. Those of us who have had the good fortune to travel overseas can, when we realise what is involved in the incidence of disease, understand and be sympathetically disposed to the officers who first apologise and then spray one with insecticide. We know that this is for the good of the country.
The Bill provides for the inclusion in the Foot and Mouth Disease Act 1961 of two diseases known as vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis. Perhaps I may be permitted to make some observation on what these diseases are. The Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) has said that these two diseases are clinically indistinguishable from foot and mouth disease. He said that it is not desirable to wait until there has been an analysis to discover that an animal does not have foot and mouth disease because too much risk is involved in the delay in making the diagnosis. It is a good move to include these two diseases in the definition of foot and mouth disease. In an article on foot and mouth disease the “ Encyclopaedia Britannica “ states -
The diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease is complicated by the existence of two other vesicular diseases, vesicular stomatitis and vesicular exanthema. Careful study is necessary to differentiate among the three. As is generally the case in virus diseases, an exact diagnosis can be made on the basis of animal tests. The horse is not susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease. The cow and the guinea pig are not susceptible to vesicular exanthema. When a fever, followed by characteristic vesicles, develops in swine, cattle and guinea pigs, but not in horses, a diagnosis of foot-and-mouth disease is justified. When all four of the animals develop vesicles, a diagnosis of vesicular stomatitis is justified. When lesions are seen in swine, but not in cattle or guinea pigs, and infrequently and to a mild degree in horses, a diagnosis of vesicular exanthema of swine is justified.
That paragraph, to a minor degree, explains what is involved in the two diseases. Australia has been very fortunate in that it has not had the experience of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. I say that advisedly because it is a historic fact that the elimination of these diseases where they have been detected in overseas countries has been very costly. It is pointed out in the document from which I am quoting that an outbreak in Mexico in 1946 caused grave concern to the United States of America. To fight it, a Mexico-United States Commission was formed. This Commission carried out an extensive campaign which led to the final elimination of the disease in Mexico in 1952. At the height of that campaign, about 8,200 workers were employed and more than one million dollars a month was being spent.
Outbreaks of disease such as foot and mouth disease, vesicular exanthema and vesicular stomatitis could be a source of real worry to the economy of this country. They know no State boundaries. Australia has 18,776,000 head of cattle, 170 million sheep and 1,661,000 pigs, so honorable members will realise just what a great field there is here for an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. They will appreciate, too, that eternal vigilance must be kept to prevent any outbreaks.
The virus can be carried in a multiplicity of ways. It can be carried on hides, boots, clothes, packing straw and other packing materials. Because of that, its detection is difficult and a concentrated effort by our inspecting officers is necessary. The disease develops rapidly. The incubation period is from two to ten days but the majority of cases show clinical signs in from 48 to 72 hours after infection. The disease is a febrile one. Fever may be present for a few hours before the typical lesions develop. In cattle, the development of lesions in the mouth is accompanied by profuse salivation. Discomfort in the mouth is shown by the animal when eating its food or chewing the cud. The characteristic lesion in the mouth is a vesicule or blister which contains clear, straw coloured fluid and may be small or confluent. The most common site is the tongue, but lesions also occur on the dental pad, gums, palate and cheeks. On the feet, vesicules occur in the interdigital spaces, coronary band and bulbs of the heel, and causes lameness. Separation of the horn of the hoof from the underlying structures may occur, and frequently the whole of the horn may be shed. In sheep, goats and pigs lesions may be seen on the snout.
I am very enthusiastic about the Bill. I take a keen interest in any bill relating to the beef industry because so many of my electors are employed in this great exporting industry. Anything that is done to ensure the maintenance of the beef industry in the electorate of Griffith will certainly receive my blessing. I am very happy to associate myself with the speedy passage of the Bill.
I would say in conclusion that some years ago there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in one of the southern States of the United States of America. It is an historic fact that at the same time, a former Prime Minister of Australia, the late W. M. Hughes, had been invited to the United States of America to give a series of talks. It is also known that the outbreak of foot and mouth disease there coincided with the visit of that former Prime Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Swartz) read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment -
Public Works Committee Bill 1965.
Public Accounts Committee Bill 1965.
Debate resumed from 11th November (vide page 2602), on motion by Mr. Swartz -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition supports the Bill, but when it is being discussed in Committee we shall move that the pensioner medical service be made available to all dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated persons. The second reading speech which the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) delivered in his usual vibrant, enthusiastic and compelling manner, was designed to convey the impression that the Bill heralded the introduction of a monumental change in the national health scheme - a great step along the road to the perfect welfare State.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. This legislation in fact represents nothing more than the restoration of a benefit which was taken from the pensioners at the dictates of the British Medical Association in October 1955. It was done in brazen defiance of the Liberal Party’s promises and policy at that time. Recently it was announced that medical fees for pensioner treatment are to be increased. The Australian Medical Association - as it is now called - has relented and decided that this legislation should be implemented, not on humane grounds, I would say, but on financial grounds. This is indicated by the proposed increase in fees. So, a past benefit is to be restored to the suffering pensioners - those of them who are still alive. A benefit of which they should never have been deprived is to be restored under the guise of a new benefit by the Minister for Health.
The Bill has been cleverly limited to prevent discussion of the inadequacy of the national health scheme. This is a device commonly adopted by the Government to prevent criticism of a scheme which has many shortcomings as has already been stated in this Parliament. By its very nature and its title, we are prevented by the Bill from covering the full range of medical services. So frightened of criticism is the Government that we are not even able to discuss the full range of benefits enjoyed by pensioners. The Bill provides for the removal of the restriction on the eligibility of pensioners for enrolment in the pensioner medical service. At this stage about 120,000 pensioners are affected. Under these provisions the pensioner medical service will now be available to all receivers of full or part social service pensions - age, invalid, and widows pensions, tuberculosis allowances and repatriation pensions to pensioners and their dependents - who have qualified or will subsequently qualify for full or part pensions under the means test as at 1st January 1966. In addition medical benefits will be available to pensioners’ full time student children up to 21 years of age. About 2,000 people are covered at this stage by that provision and will cost £2 million in a full year.
I could not allow this opportunity to pass without making a few references to the second reading speech of the Minister. It was a strange speech. The Minister took certain pride in what he was doing and gave the impression that the legislation was a great achievement. As I pointed out a moment ago the legislation does not give a benefit; it merely restores something which should never have been taken away. In accordance with the usual pattern of Liberal Party policy in taxation and other avenues the Liberal Party takes away a benefit one year and gives it back the next year, or when it suits it, for political purposes. This measure follows that pattern. I wish to quote from the Minister’s speech, lt is interesting to record this as an indication of how the Minister and the Government get carried away with their own legislation and attempt to create an entirely false impression. The Minister said -
The Austraiian Medical Association has indicated that its members are prepared to provide a medical service for this enlarged group of pensioners at the concessional rates of payment made by the Government which I mentioned earlier.
The Australian Medical Association has indicated this. This is exactly what happened when the service was taken away in 1955. The British Medical Association then did not just indicate its views, it told the Government that it would not provide the service for reasons that I will show later. So the pattern of the Australian Medical Association - although the name has been changed - is still the same in regard to its dictation to the Government on matters of health. The Minister went on -
The cost of introducing these measures is expected to be £2 million in a full year. The Government regards this expenditure as well worth while as a positive step forward in improving the lot of the pensioner.
It has taken the Government 10 years to decide to do this. This change is being made now although for a long time the plight of the pensioners went unnoticed by the Government in the face of great pressure from this side of the Parliament that justice be done for the pensioners. In another part of his speech the Minister said -
At the same time, the Government has always kept well in its mind its responsibilities towards the elderly people who have helped to build this nation, and it gives me great pleasure to introduce this Bill which provides for increased assistance in meeting the health needs not only of age pensioners, but of other pensioners as well.
The Minister is entitled to take a little measure of pride in this. Very few of us thought we would live to see the day when the Government would restore what it had taken away. We forgive the Minister for taking that little measure of pride in restoring a benefit the removal of which has caused untold suffering to many people. Listen to this drivel in another part of his speech -
May I be permitted to state, in support of what I have just said about the Government’s progressive National Health policy, that in 1948-49, the last full year before the present Government came into office, expenditure from the National Welfare Fund on health services was £6 million. This year the Government had budgeted for an expenditure of £115 million on its National Health Service.
If the Minister wants to make silly comparisons I will give him a few other silly ones just to bring him up to date. In 1939-40, when the Tories had been in office for 10 years, the expenditure on health through the National Parliament was £289,174. In 1940-41, before that Tory Government was thrown out of office by its own supporters because it could not organise the country for war, the expenditure was £295,932. These figures are taken from the “ Financial Bulletin “ of that time. By 1949 when the value of money was much higher than it is today, the expenditure had been increased to £6 million. If that comparison holds water, it shows that the Government, in times of peace, when it had nothing else to do but protect the health interests of the people, was prepared to spend less than £300,000 on medical benefits. I give those figures to show that the comparison that the Minister has made does not take into consideration increases in costs and other factors. The Minister’s comparison is a silly one, and I give him a silly comparison to dispose of his argument.
I want now to trace very briefly the history of this legislation in order that the people may see the three card trick that was put over them by the withdrawal of this benefit in the first place. On 4th October 1950 Sir Earle Page is recorded as saying, at page 259 of “ Hansard “ -
I have prepared a scheme, for which the enabling regulations appeared in the “Commonwealth Gazette “ about four weeks ago. It will provide free medicine and medical treatment for age and invalid pensioners and widows, quite apart from the benefits to which they are entitled under the free life-saving drugs scheme.
This announcement was made following a promise in 1949 by the Liberal Party that no means test would apply to medical benefits for pensioners and others. The Liberal Party was at one stage going to abolish the means test on all social services by 1952. The scheme commenced on 21st February 1951 in accordance with what the Government said was its pledge, and from that time until the middle of 1955 Government supporters enthusiastically told the nation how every pensioner, irrespective of his income, was to get this benefit of free medical treatment under the scheme. The “ Hansard “ of this Parliament is studded with examples of how between 1951 and the middle of 1955 the Government took great pride in giving this free treatment to pensioners in accordance with its policy.
About the middle of 1955 there were rumblings in the Parliament that a change was impending in the policy of the Government and questions were asked of the late Sir Earle Page. He was a very astute politician and in the manner common to him, and known to all who were here, he dodged these issues in a way that was easy for him after years of politics. He was notorious for this kind of thing. The matter came to a head on 13th October 1955 when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Alan Fraser) introduced a matter of urgent public importance. I shall quote from the “Hansard” report of 13th October 1955, which reads -
– I have received from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely -
The retrograde decision announced by the Minister for Health for the alteration of the pensioner medical scheme.
This was the first thing that forced the Government to say that it was repudiating its policy of giving to all pensioners the benefit to which they were entitled. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said -
The circumstances of the decision to whittle down the entitlement of pensioners to medical services appear to constitute one of the sorriest chapters in the whole history of Federal Government.
Last year, the Government announced that 90,000 additional pensioners would come within the scope of its much vaunted free medical service. The Government took the utmost credit for that situation. It proclaimed it as a bold step forward. If it was a bold step forward twelve months ago, the reversal of the decision today is surely a shameful step backwards.
Under this decision that free medical entitlement is to be taken away from every future pensioner who is entitled to only a few shillings as a pension.
In what circumstances has this decision been made? This decision has been made in surrender to an ultimatum issued to the Government by the British Medical Association.
The honorable member said he would quote a passage from the statement of Sir Earle Page. This is what Sir Earle Page said -
Consequently, the British Medical Association informed the Government that it would continue the pensioner medical service . . . after 31st October 1955, only if the service was restricted to pensioners able to satisfy the means test in force at 31st December 1953.
That is dictation by an outside body to the elected representatives of the people, and it is still being done in respect of this legislation today although the change being made on this occasion is for the better. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro then said -
Was that a request to the Government for consideration of the British Medical Association’s case? It was a decision by the British Medical Association, conveyed to the Government of this country and accepted by the Government of this country. In that sense this is a shameful surrender indeed.
We frequently hear the Government make bold statements of its ability to resist sectional pressure in this community, but on this occasion it has surrendered and surrendered abjectly to such pressure.
Now the Government, at the direction of the British Medical Association, takes a step right back to 19S3 - a retrograde step indeed. This is the repudiation of one more solemn promise, made as recently as last year by the Prime Minister when he stood on the election platform, asked for votes, and made a compact with electors. In his policy speech of April 1954 the Prime Minister said: “Whatever rate of pension is drawn they are also entitled to the benefit of the free medical and medicine service.”
I mention this to show that the provision was changed at the dictates of an outside body for economic purposes. The honorable member continued -
Now the right honorable gentleman has permitted Cabinet and the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to accept the ultimatum of the British Medical Association to withdraw that free entitlement which he then so explicity stated would be available to every pensioner in the community.
That is how this legislation is born again today. This benefit was taken from pensioners because the British Medical Association indicated to the Government that this was one pledge which the Association would not allow the Government to carry out. I spoke on this matter in 1955. Outlining the attitude of the British Medical Association, Sir Earle Page told Parliament that the British Medical Association had informed the Government that it would continue the pensioner medical service after 31st October 1955, subject to pensioners satisfying the means test as it existed at 31st December 1953.
This meant that since 1955 any pensioner receiving more than £2 by way of income additional to the pension or any married couple receiving more than £4 in additional income would be denied benefits under the pensioner medical service. It is true that the Government did not withdraw benefits from people already in receipt of them but, as I shall show, countless thousands of pensioners suffered because of the dictates of the British Medical Association. On 27th March 1953, Sir Earle Page said-
It must be remembered that the pensioner medical service is available to all receiving an invalid, age or widow’s pension, as well as those in receipt of a service pension under the Repatriation Act or a tuberculosis allowance.
Honorable members opposite have been elected on a policy of abolishing the means test. Let them tell me now why they capitulated in 1955, bringing suffering to pensioners in their later years. The reasons given by the British Medical Association and the Minister for Health at that time are worth considering. Sir Earle Page said -
The British Medical Association expressed to the Australian Government its willingness to treat pensioner patients for a concessional fee, subject to alterations of the means test. This has been done since February 1951 - for almost five years. However, the liberalising of the means test in 1954, and the 10s. a week increase of each pension in 1955, made it possible for a married pensioner couple to have £15 a’ week joint income, including their pension. This is roughly £3 a week greater than the basic wage. The anomaly was created that this income was above the wages of many hundreds of thousands of young working men with families, who do not receive concessional -medical treatment, but who mostly provide for their medical attention by some form of insurance. To overcome this anomaly the Government has decided and the British Medical Association has agreed that all pensioners shall be entitled to continue to receive free concessional medical treatment so long as they have been received into the pensioner medical service by 31st October 1955.
I will explode that argument shortly. It was argued that taking into account permissible income, at that time the total income of a married pensioner couple was about £3 more than the basic wage. Today the basic wage is about £15 8s. A married pensioner couple may have a total income of £18 a week so they still have £2 12s. more than the basic wage. If the argument that was used in 1955 was good, why is it not good today? If the Association saw fit in 1955 to deny free medical treatment to these people, why has it relented today? I know why. A further increase in medical fees has been approved. This will absorb the £2 12s. over the basic wage that may be received by some pensioner couples. Everybody knows how the means test was applied in 1955 and the records of this Parliament show how people suffered as a result of it.
The Labour Party was not slow to tell the people of Australia just what was happening. The Minister said that only 2 per cent, of pensioners would be affected. He also said: “You have jumped the gun on me. I was going to deal with this when the health legislation was before Parliament.” He. did so on 27th October 1955, but the
Labour Party got inside knowledge and realised what was being done to pensioners and others. I have given the background of this matter so that people may realise that this Bill is not providing a new benefit; it is merely a continuation of something that never should have been taken away. The removal of mis benefit caused great suffering to many pensioners.
The Department of Health has been kind enough to provide me with some statistics which I will not quote in full but which later, with the concurrence of honorable members, I will incorporate in “ Hansard “. The Department has shown me that 640,089 pensions were current in 1957. At that stage 41,028 people, representing 6.4 per cent, of pensioners, were enrolled in the pensioner medical service. The Minister said that only 2 per cent, of pensioners would be affected, but in 1965 no fewer than 120,225 pensioners, representing 13.4 per cent, of pensioners, are affected. This proves that a great many people are suffering disabilities through not getting proper medical attention. Doctors’ fees for surgery attention under the pensioner medical service have increased by 166 J per cent. - from 6s. to 1 6s. The fee for domiciliary service has also increased by 166i per cent. - from 7s. 6d. to 20s. In other words, the percentage of pensioners adversely affected by this legislation has increased but, as time went on and medical fees have been increased, the British Medical Association has been prepared to bring more people within the scope of the legislation. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall have incorporated in “ Hansard “ details of pensioners enrolled in the pensioner medical service and of doctors’ fees.
I have given these background details to show why this legislation is needed today and why we support it. There has been too much suffering amongst pensioners. As soon as the legislation was announced in 1955, the Labour Party took action to protect the interests of 41,000 people affected. That number has now grown to 120,000. Questions have been asked in the House and debates initiated for the purpose of bringing to light the sufferings of these people. Since 1955 it has been Labour’s policy to restore this benefit to these people from whom it was so wrongly taken. The Minister knows that in debates on the Budget and on health legislation, as well as in questions, the Opposition has highlighted the Government’s failure to provide for the medical needs of these people. Every attempt by the Opposition in this Parliament to have this benefit restored to pensioners has been rejected until now. Pensioner organisations and individual pensioners, as well as other people and other organisations, have requested the introduction of this legislation. For ten years the Government has refused to grant justice to this section of pensioners. Now the Government introduces this as a new benefit. As I said earlier, this is nothing more than a three card trick. As late as 3rd September 1 964 the late Senator Wade, who was then Minister for Health, said in another place when speaking on this matter -
The matter raised by the honorable senator has been before us from time to time and I am sure that in future it will be further considered.
On the same date, in answer to another question, he said -
The Government has this matter continuously under review but it is not proposed to amend the existing means test at present.
On 1st October the Minister said in reply to Senator Ormonde - 1 emphasise that whilst honorable senators on my side have not, on this occasion, risen to press their views, they have been just as vocal, and just as determined to place their views before the Government as honorable senators opposite have been. I said last night that the time might well come when this matter was again under review.
The quotations I have read merely indicate to the Parliament that this matter was ignored by the Government for reasons best known to itself. For 10 long years it has refused to honour its pledge of 1949. It was honoured temporarily and then thrown aside abruptly in 1955. Ruthlessly, inhumanely, without regard to political integrity and pledges, without honour or humanity the Government in 1955 turned its back on suffering people at the behest, for economic reasons, of the organisation which was then known as the British Medical Association. It refused to provide treatment for 120,000 of the people who were most in need of that treatment, despite a promise it had made to the contrary. Injustice and suffering, innumerable instances of which have been given by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) and others, and probably a lack of necessary medical attention have been the inevitable result of the Government’s action. Demands from all sections of the community have been disregarded until today, when the Government gives its blessing to the scheme because the Australian Medical Association has now been allowed to increase its charges. I do not quarrel with the proposition that members of the medical profession should receive a fair return for their efforts, but I remind the House that the national health scheme has provided a very good guarantee for doctors against bad debts and has been a source of regular income for members of the medical profession, for chemists and for the drug houses.
I took the trouble to find out what had been paid by the Government to members of the medical profession since the pensioner medical service was introduced. I have before me a publication issued by the Department of Health. Table 1 6 on page 77 shows that in 1952 there were 3,502 doctors participating in the scheme. An amount of £1,035,000 was paid to them, the average amount paid to each doctor being £310. By 1961 the number of participating doctors had grown to 5,861, the total payments to £4,200,000 and the average amount paid to each doctor was £789. Since 1952 a total amount of £46,994,000 has been paid to doctors for the treatment of pensioners. The amount paid to doctors increased by 334 per cent, since 1952. Between 1952 and 1965 the average receipts of individual doctors increased from £310 to £789, an increase of 160 per cent.
I have given the House the average income of members of the medical profession from the treatment of the limited number of pensioners who came within the scope of the legislation during the period in question. Each doctor received, on the average, between £15 and £20 a week. To the medical profession this has been a good scheme and those pensioners covered by the legislation have received a certain amount of attention, but, as I said earlier, it is a fact that many thousands of pensioners were denied attention during that period. In the period to which I have directed my attention a total of almost 750,000 pensioners have had no access to the ‘benefits of the legislation because they were specifically excluded.
The same publication of the Department of Health shows that since 1952 the average number of services for each enrolled person has increased from 5.0 to 8.6. This is not a very significant increase, but it does indicate that there were some obligations on the A.M.A. and others during that period to see that all pensioners were treated in accordance with the Government’s promise. There can be no forgiveness at this stage for the failure of the Government to give effect to the policy on which it was elected in 1949.
I have also obtained figures relating to pharmaceutical benefits provided. I find that pharamtceutical benefits for pensioners last year cost the Commonwealth £10,782,210, and that the total cost for the five years 1961-65 was £47,434,289. I give these figures to show that there has been plenty of scope under the provisions of the legislation during the last 10 years for pensioners to have been given full treatment, and that there was no reason to exclude 120,000 of them. It is shameful that they have had to wait 10 years for these benefits and that they are now getting them only because the A.M.A. has been successful in raising the charges of its members. I put another question to the Government. If it was only the question of an increase of fees that was preventing the extension of these benefits to all pensioners, why could not the government of the day at least have negotiated with a view to alleviating the hardships suffered by pensioners?
I also make the comment that although many more pensioners are now to be provided with this service, the service itself is a long way from being adequate. Everybody knows that the scheme covers only general practitioner services. Specialist services are not available, there is no provision for dental care and there is only a limited formulary for pharmaceutical benefits. If drugs are required that are not included in the formulary, the Lord knows where the unfortunate pensioner will get them. Hospitalisation benefits are strictly limited because public ward beds are not always available.
I also wonder whether the Government is not persecuting unnecessarily certain medical practitioners who are endeavouring to give proper treatment to pensioners. Let me read the following passage from page 14 of the report of the Department of Health-
In accordance with the provisions of Section 110 of the National Health Act, Medical Services Committees of Inquiry have been established in each Slate. These Committees finalised 46 inquiries into the provision by medical practitioners of medical services to pensioners during 1964-65. These inquiries resulted in the reduction of doctors’ claims by a total of £17,334 in 28 cases and of these two medical practitioners were reprimanded by the Minister and one agreement was terminated.
The Sydney “Sun” of 28th August 1964 carried an article headed “Doctors to Fight “, portion of which I will read to the House -
A group of Sydney doctors have decided to form a “ protection league “ against fines imposed on them by the Pensioners’ Medical Service Committee.
At least 20 of the doctors who will join the “league” have been fined by the committee for being “ too kind “ to their pensioner patients.
Most of them paid fines between £100 and £500 each for giving their pensioners too much treatment.
A spokesman for the doctors said: “ There was one case when a doctor was asked why he had prescribed a maximum quantity of pills for a certain patient, a pensioner. “ When the doctor answered that it was to prevent the patient returning to the surgery for another visit he was reprimanded for prescribing an overdose of medicine. “ Another doctor who was questioned because of the small dose of medicine he prescribed was reprimanded because his patient returned to the surgery for more.”
There is a good deal of doubt in the minds of many members, particularly those who have many thousands of pensioners amongst their constituents, about whether these doctors have been treated fairly. I have had many complaints by pensioners about action taken against doctors. I respect the integrity of the medical profession. I think pensioners and others who come within the scope of this legislation would probably require more attention than other persons. Undoubtedly they have felt considerable concern when action of this kind has been taken against their medical practitioners. In my own electorate I have received numerous letters from patients of certain doctors who, I understand, have successfully defended action taken against them. All this shows that all is not well with the pensioner medical service and that an attempt is being made to save money at the expense of pensioners while the drug houses make unlimited profits. I should like an assurance from the Minister that pensioners who come within the scope of this legislation will receive full and proper treatment in keeping with their needs and that doctors will not be persecuted for treating them when necessary. Of course, committees of inquiry investigate pharmaceutical benefits, too, and we understand that action has been taken in respect of certain matters. It will be interesting to know whether they are in connection with prescribing for pensioners drugs required by them.
The Opposition believes that the health service generally is inadequate and by no means meets the requirements of the aged, sick and infirm already entitled to treatment, quite apart from the additional 120,000 pensioners who are to be included in the scheme. The expanded scheme will not commence until 1st January 1966 - 10 years after it was discontinued. The Government must have known early this year that it intended reintroducing this scheme, yet in a mean and niggardly way it will not bring it in until 1st January 1966. Many who might now benefit might not be alive then. Why is the Government delaying its introduction? Why could not this provision have been introduced immediately? The Labour Party contends that it is being introduced so late that it is impossible for it to do anything to remedy the situation. The Government cannot escape the criticism that this is a benefit reluctantly given, delayed to the last moment and only then begrudgingly bestowed.
In his second reading speech the Minister mentioned free hospitalisation for pensioners and suggested that this was a great benefit being granted by the Government. The Labour Government provided free hospitalisation to every citizen in Australia without a means test - pensioners and all others - long before this Government had this bright idea. The Labour Party provided free hospitalisation and free medical treatment. The hospitals got into trouble, however, when the Liberal Government abolished the Labour scheme, which was based on an all party recommendation with which honorable members opposite agreed at that time. Today the Government pays 36s. a day for pensioners under this scheme, yet I am told that it costs many times more than this a day to maintain a hospital bed. The States, not the Commonwealth Government, are providing free treatment to pensioners. The States have to maintain the hospitals and the beds occupied by pensioners. The Government boasts of free hospital treatment for pensioners but it has again plundered the policy of the Labour Party and is claiming it as its own. If we did not have elections frequently the Government would not have one bright idea for its legislative programme.
I will be interested to hear the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) later today. If he is in favour of this legislation why has he never supported the proposals of the Labour Party for the restoration of the benefit? He is a comparative newcomer in the Parliament and be has yet to speak in support of the legislation. He must know how many people are suffering because of the Government’s policy. At long last, 10 years almost to the day since its cancellation, a reluctant Government - this time on the instructions of the Australian Medical Association - reluctantly restores to thousands of suffering pensioners a benefit for so long, and so wrongly, denied them. To those who have survived to participate in the scheme the Labour Party says that had it not been for the constant pressure and demands of the Opposition the benefit might never have been restored in their lifetime. With those critical comments, but appreciating that at long last the Government has awakened to the suffering of these people, I welcome the legislation and announce that the Labour Party will support it - with one amendment.
.- I support this Bill wholeheartedly. It will make a significant contribution to the alleviation of suffering in one section of the community. Before I speak further I should like to comment on the speech made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). Of course we are accustomed to the sophistry we saw displayed, but I really must say that whenever I hear him speaking I am forcibly reminded of a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe- “ The Haunted Palace “. This poem expresses the thoughts that pass through my mind whenever the honorable member speaks and a torrent pours so glibly from his tongue - a torrent charged with righteous indignation. The poem relates to a man who, owing to adversity, lost his reason, and it concludes with the words -
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
The hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh - but smile no more.
That is the impression I have always been given by the honorable member when he speaks in tones of righteous indignation, denigrating what is done by this Government. This was sophistry, because there is no doubt that this legislation is not restoring something that was previously taken away. The fact remains that the scheme was never implemented. When it was seen that there was going to be a greatly increased body of people who would be in receipt of the pension - in other words, that this Government was going to grant a pension to more people; and I fail to see anything reprehensible about that - the then British Medical Association rightly had the gravest forebodings as to the effect of this on the future of its members’ practices. Certainly the British Medical Association indicated that it would not co-operate in this matter, but I would put it on a much higher plane than the honorable member for Grayndler put it. The Association seriously considered that a widening of the scope of the pensioner medical service would diminish the effectiveness of its members’ practices and consequently it indicated that it would not co-operate.
– What is the argument today? How does the Association regard it now?
– This body of doctors very responsibly considered the matter and decided it. They thought that if the scope were broadened the amount of governmental interference would increase. In other words the person who holds the purse strings largely dictates what is going to happen. The medical profession rightly was filled with apprehension about this matter, and that is why it decided not to co-operate. I point out that this in no way reflects on the Government because if the medical profession of this country - or any other country - announces that it will not cooperate in a health scheme then, such a scheme is doomed to failure unless the doctors can be made to co-operate. The Government is in no way to be criticised because of this. I remind honorable members that when the Chifley Government tried to bring in its much vaunted free medical scheme, which the honorable member mentioned but which never applied, the medical profession indicated it would not co-operate. This was a very responsible decision. It was made before there was any widespread implementation of national health schemes in other parts cf the world. They were about to be implemented, but they had not been implemented. I put it that the survey made by these doctors resulted in the correct conclusions. This has been amply borne out by the effect on medical practices in other parts of the world. In other words, when a national health scheme is implemented the standard of medical practice does not improve. Usually, it falls off significantly. The community as a whole has definitely not benefited as I have shown on previous occasions.
We know what will happen again because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in his speech to the College of General Practitioners in Melbourne said that doctors were displaying too much individualism. I am quite sure that the members of the medical profession pricked up their ears immediately the Leader of the Opposition said this because if there is one profession which demands almost complete indivi dualism in its practitioners it is the medical profession. It would be almost catastrophic if a doctor were to have his individualism taken away from him. To illustrate that, let me remind honorable members that in Russia doctors work to a time schedule. They must see so many patients in an hour. They are penalised if they do not keep up with this time schedule. It does not matter whether the doctors have in this hour a group of patients whose cases are unusually difficult and which require more of their skill and attention. This quota must be fulfilled. This is the sort of thing that doctors realise will be implemented under a national health scheme.
This is not the only problem which occurs in such a scheme. The more a government controls a health scheme the more another character makes his appearance. This is the control doctor. This is a very likely eventuality if the pensioner medical scheme is broadened extensively to cover even more significant sections of the community.
– Is the honorable member concerned with patients or with doctors only?
– The honorable member for Hughes suggests that I have not mentioned patients - only doctors. Of course, I would not expect the honorable member to understand that it is only by having a doctor work to the best of his ability without outside distractions and worries that the cases and problems of patients will be adequately dealt with. Certainly there is no doubt that the patient does suffer under excessive government control of the medical profession. I defy the honorable member for Hughes to say that under this present scheme the patient, be he pensioner or privately paying patient, has suffered at all or has been discriminated against. This state of affairs has been made possible only by the scheme under which doctors are working at the present time.
I was referring to the control doctor. He has made his appearance in Australia through State Government insurance schemes which very frequently employ control doctors. A control doctor, metaphorically speaking, is standing over the ordinary doctor’s shoulder, at all times watching what that doctor does. If the practitioner institutes a form of treatment for his patients which is not pleasing to the control doctor, the control doctor steps in and tells the other doctor what to do. In other words, the control doctor takes away the individuality of the ordinary doctor. This is to the detriment of the patient. These and others are the considerations which determined the Australian Medical Association not to accept the increased scope of the scheme. I must say that it is greatly to the credit of the Australian Medical Association and the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz), who is sitting at the table, that this arrangement has been reached and that the Australian Medical Association has been persuaded to grant approval to the widening of the scope of this scheme. I know the Association must be doing this with very many misgivings.
Now that the Association has done so, one can see that quite a significant proportion of a doctor’s practice is occupied by pensioners. The Minister for Health has told us that 863,000 pensioners are now included in this scheme. Of course, the number of people being seen by doctors under this scheme is much more than that number. When one includes the dependents of the pensioners, one reaches a figure of approximately 1 million people. This is a very significant proportion of the population. But it is an even more significant proportion of the number of patients being seen by doctors. As the honorable member for Grayndler indicated, old people accumulate more and more diseases and must see doctors more frequently than younger people. But even this does not give quite an accurate idea as to the proportion of doctors’ patients which this very large body of people form. In some figures he gave us, the honorable member for Grayndler said that the average general practitioner now receives £789 per annum from the pensioner medical scheme. Of course, this is certainly a substantial sum of money. But I think we ought to get this matter into perspective. For example, that £789 per annum would not pay the cost of a doctor’s receptionist. The overhead for a doctor’s surgery or consulting rooms is very high nowadays. The cost of a doctor’s equipment is extortionate. A doctor works extremely long hours. He does not receive time and a half or double time for his work out of ordinary hours.
We have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite about the increase in doctors’ fees which was granted recently. It has been indicated by honorable members opposite that this is simply a horse trade. But I put it to you, Sir, that doctors have been very restrained in the matter of fees. If we are going to have a look at this matter fully, I think we should go back to the time of Federation. At that time, a doctor’s consultation fee was 10s. 6d. We can only obtain a rough idea of the cost of living at that time. But this will give some indication of the state of affairs. Since Federation the cost of living has gone up about 51 times. Patients are being treated better now than they were treated at the turn of the century. But the consultation fee received by a doctor for treating a patient has gone up since Federation only one and a half times. The 25s. fee about which we hear so many grumblings represents two and a half times the fee at Federation. I contrast this with the increase in the cost of living which is now five and a half times more than it was at Federation. In other words, doctors’ fees have risen by approximately half the amount that the cost of living has increased since Federation. But that does not take into consideration the fact that, in this time, the doctor is faced with greatly increased expenditure in every sphere. In those days a doctor did not have to employ a nurse and very rarely was a receptionist engaged. A doctor rarely had consulting rooms. Consequently, his expenses at that time were far less than a doctor’s expenses are today. So, I think it is a fact that doctors have been restrained in regard to the matter of fees.
I object to the innuendo that a horse trade was entered into between the Australian Medical Association and the Government by which the Government allowed the Association to jack up doctors’ fees to some astronomical level in return for which the Government was enabled to increase the scope of the pensioner medical service. I consider that the reason for the increased scope of the scheme is that the Government considers that the state of the economy is such that it can afford to increase the scope of the service now. Once again I congratulate the Minister and his officers who were responsible for persuading members of the medical profession with regard to this scheme. They quietened the misgivings of the medical profession. Those misgivings were very real. They are still present at this time. But the Minister and his advisors quietened these misgivings so that the people could receive this benefit which certainly is needed. I do not deny that fact for a moment.
The problem of social services which is intimately associated with this matter is a difficult problem. I will not dilate upon this matter now because it is not within the scope of the Bill. But the problem of social services is a difficult one. If the Government were to run at this matter like a bull at a gate, if the Government were to give benefits here, there and everywhere, the economy would be very adversely affected. In fact, the economy would suffer such a severe setback that it could not recover without the introduction of very extreme measures. In proof of this statement, I point out that the social service benefits provided by this Government are far more beneficial to the recipients than those which were provided by the last Labour Government. The simple reason is that the economy under this excellent Government is far more soundly based than it was under the Labour Government and we can afford to grant this relief in areas where admittedly it is very badly needed.
I shall deal with a few other points made by the honorable member for Grayndler. He referred to drugs not being available to pensioners. This is a very vexed question. I know some pensioners have been upset by it. However, the honorable member knows as well as anyone else in this chamber does that the decision to include drugs on the approved list is not a political or governmental decision. It is made by an expert body of men who objectively consider whether the drug should be included on the list. If they consider that effective drugs covering a broad range are available on the list and that the drug under consideration has no significant advantage to offer, they do not include the drug, but the decision is not made out of any political bias or under any pressure. The decision is completely objective. If occasionally we do not agree with the decision made about a drug, it is our privilege and prerogative to disagree. But one cannot doubt the goodwill that goes into the making of the decision. I know that certain drugs for asthma, for example, were not included in the list at one time and a lot of capital was made of this by members of the Australian Labour Party and by certain members of the pharmaceutical industry whose product was not included. But’ the fact remains that no definite proof was offered to establish that the drugs already on the list would not do the job equally well. I point out that not so very long ago an excellent new drug for the treatment of asthma was included on the approved list.
Then we had some inconsistencies from the honorable member for Grayndler. He referred to the group of doctors - very few in number, as the Minister said this morning - who have been disciplined by a committee for what the committee considered to be their improper conduct in seeing a patient too frequently. The honorable member made a big song about this and in the next breath he said that he had been approached by many pensioners who claimed that the doctors who were being disciplined did not see them frequently enough His remarks were to that effect. I put it that the honorable member cannot have it both ways. The fact that only a very small number has been disciplined and the fact that some pensioners considered that they still were not being seen often enough by these doctors indicates that the matter has been fairly adequately judged and that the medical profession has not come out of this too badly. I think the medical profession did not come out in a very bad light. The number that has been disciplined is very small. After all, the doctors have maintained it was their opinion that the patient had to be consulted on this number of occasions. If the committee found to the contrary, that is its decision, but I do not think that this warrants a wholesale denigration of the medical profession. Of course Opposition members repeatedly criticise doctors as though they were a lot of money bags. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) referred to the rackets of doctors and the honorable member for Grayndler has criticised them.
– He was right.
– The honorable member says that they were right. This is the attitude of Opposition members when they speak in the chamber or amongst themselves. But when speaking to the doctors they are all smiles and affability as the Leader of the Opposition was some weeks ago. Opposition members then recognise that doctors have problems, such as accounting and secretarial work, and other worries. They pretend that they want to solve the doctors’ problems and relieve them of their troubles. Opposition members are then well disposed towards doctors, but they let the cat out of the bag when they are vapouring here in the House. They reveal that they have a deep rooted antipathy towards doctors. I think that this antipathy in no small measure has been responsible for many of the completely socialised health schemes in other parts of the world.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
- Mr. Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting I was replying to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Grayndler. One of his misleading comments concerned the hospitalisation of pensioners. Here again it would be a very refreshing experience if the honorable gentleman would give us a few facts occasionally. Pensioners in this country, almost without exception, are able to attend hospital free of charge. There are a couple of very minute areas where this is not possible, but then they have the alternative of nearby hospitals. The fact remains that broadly pensioners in this country may receive full medical treatment from general practitioner level to specialist level and they may also obtain hospital treatment and have operations - indeed, they may have any treatment at all that is necessary- completely without worry as to charge. Drugs also, where necessary, are available free of charge. The honorable member for Grayndler said something to the effect that specialists are not available. This also was very misleading. Naturally, a pensioner patient, if he wishes to attend at a specialist’s own consulting room, is expected to make payment. But the specialist almost invariably will make a greatly reduced concessional charge.
– Has the honorable member ever performed a surgical operation on a pensioner free, of charge?
– That is a personal question in dubious taste, but the honorable member may like to know that for many years I spent a large proportion of my week, beginning at 7.30 in the morning, operating on patients without charge, whether or not they were pensioners. I now proceed with my speech, Sir. If a pensioner patient wishes to consult in a specialist’s private rooms, naturally a charge is made, but it is strictly a concessional one. Specialists’ services are made available to pensioner patients within the framework of the services provided by the hospitals that they attend. I challenge any honorable gentleman opposite to indicate any area of hardship or neglect in this regard. The fact is that we have in Australia the finest free scheme in the world. As I intimated earlier, this scheme is possible only because it operates within the framework of private enterprise organisation. The doctors are able to maintain their standards by virtue of the fact that they are free and untrammelled and can give their full attention to patients without the kind of outside influence of dictation that invariably occurs when a health scheme is fully nationalised.
On this matter of free hospitalisation about which honorable gentlemen opposite talk so much, I ask them to consider some other countries where free hospitals are available to the whole of the community. Is the picture that they find in those countries very pretty? We do not have to go beyond Great Britain to see what the situation is. We see very clearly that not one new hospital has been constructed there since the national health service was instituted in 1948. The hospitals were then well out of date because of the war which had put them behindhand. For about 20 years before 1948 no hospital construction had taken place. So we can readily see how out of date the hospital system in the United Kingdom is today. I wonder how adequate this much vaunted national health scheme in Britain is considered to be by the total of more than 450,000 people who are on hospital waiting lists awaiting admission to receive treatment. However, I point out that the position in Britain is not unique. The same sort of thing has happened in Sweden. In the city of Lund in particular a whole host of seriously ill people died, before they could be admitted to hospital, because the hospital system was inadequate. This is the sort of thing that happens when a health scheme is socialised, Sir. This sort of thing must be resisted.
These problems that I have mentioned could be seen very clearly by the medical profession in the time of the Chifley Government when they rejected that Government’s scheme out of hand and when later, as has been mentioned, it seemed that the scope of the pensioner medical service would be increased indefinitely. The medical profession considered that the scope of the scheme would be extended too much and that the government of the day would obtain too much control. I am glad that the fears of the profession in this regard have now been somewhat quietened.
The honorable member for Grayndler said also that people outside the scope of the pensioner medical service are not covered by any medical scheme. We all know this to be false, because such people are covered by the medical benefits scheme, which is greatly assisted by and, indeed, is made, possible only by the policies of this Government. This is a very good scheme. Honorable members opposite have hinted that it is falling down on its job, but their allegations are quite false. The medical benefits scheme is being utilised more and more. There are more doctor attendances per patient annually now than ever before and the number is increasing. This must mean that the financial barrier is still not sufficiently great to deter patients from consulting their own doctors. I admit that any scheme can be improved, for nothing in this world is perfect. Certain improvements could perhaps be made in the medical benefits scheme. In some respects, funds could bring greater efficiency to bear and certain new ideas could be adopted. One of these is mass insurance. I believe that this is a very important aspect of possible future improvement of the scheme. I cannot deal with it at length now. I say only that it is well worth considering because mass insurance would be far more economical, since overheads would be much less.
There is another matter in respect of which honorable gentlemen opposite perhaps have not been doing their jobs properly. Why could not trade unions, in Australia as in the United States of America, seek to have health insurance made a fringe benefit when they are negotiating conditions?
I believe that this is well worth considering in Australia and I am rather surprised that apparently nothing has happened up to the present to bring it about. Finally, Sir, I say that I wholeheartedly support this progressive move by the present Government to extend the scope of the pensioner medical service without interfering with the independence of doctors and with what the Leader of the Opposition would describe as their excessive individualism.
.- Mr. Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of interest, as I usually do, to the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) who, at least initially, dealt with the Bill now before the House. This measure is concerned basically with the pensioner medical service. The honorable member, as is usual in discussions on health matters in this Parliament, took the opportunity to criticise the health schemes in all countries other than Australia.
– I did not criticise all others, though I would criticise some.
– The honorable member spent a good deal of his time criticising the national health scheme in Great Britain. I have no doubt that he adopts the same attitude to health schemes in all other countries where there is not complete freedom of choice for the medical profession. He went on to say that the health scheme that has been adopted in Australia provides a measure of security for every Australian. He does not fully understand the position in respect of the health services in this country or, if he does, he misrepresents it. The honorable member must know, for example, that the Australian national health scheme does not cover any pensioner for treatment for an ear disability or for treatment for eye complaints. This matter was dealt with in this place only a few weeks ago when another matter was being discussed. It was pointed out at that time that the Government at no time had appeared to give consideration to bringing treatment by optometrists within the scope of benefits provided by medical benefit funds. The honorable member for Bowman completely overlooks these matters. Surely he will not continue to argue in this place that a health scheme such as the one we enjoy in Australia is satisfactory when it does not provide a complete coverage of all aspects of medical services that one would expect to find in a national health scheme. He knows only too well that this situation applies in Great Britain and that a pensioner in Great Britain has complete coverage for all disabilities, whether they relate to hearing or to any other aspect of health. There is a complete coverage.
The honorable member for Bowman said that he wholeheartedly supports the Bill. So does every honorable member in this place. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have been advocating for 10 years that these provisions be included in the Act. We have consistently pointed out to the Government that as a result of the means test which was applied in 1955 a large number of pensioners in Australia have been treated in a way one would not expect in a country where it is agreed that we should provide the best medical attention that is available for every person who requires it. But the Government has consistently refused to recognise the proposition that has been put before the Parliament on a number of occasions by honorable members on this side of the House who have suggested the removal of the means test which was applied by this Government in 1955. The honorable member has suggested tonight that the Bill has been introduced by the Government because it recognises that there is a need to provide a further measure of assistance for some pensioners. If that is the situation in 1965, it was certainly the situation also in 1955 and 1956, and in the intervening years. The honorable member had an opportunity only last year to support an amendment which had been moved by an honorable member on this side of the chamber and which would have given effect to the provisions of the legislation that we are now debating.
In resuming the debate on the second reading of the Bill this afternoon, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that there have been a number of occasions when members of the Opposition in this place have requested the Government through the forms that are available to honorable members on this side of the chamber to abolish the means test which the Government applied in 1955 and which prevented 120,000 pensioners at least from obtaining full medical benefits or enjoying the benefits of the pensioner medical service.
The honorable member for Bowman referred to a number of other matters. He confirmed what honorable members on this side of the chamber have suspected for a long time, that it was the then British Medical Association which demanded that the Government refuse to provide a great number of pensioners in Australia with the type of service that the Government now recognises should be made available to them. He did not hesitate to say that in 1955 the Government was compelled to provide the means test because, if it had not done so, the British Medical Association would not have co-operated with the Government, to use his words. I think that that is a shocking admission to be made by a member of the British Medical Association, or the Australian Medical Association as the Australian body is now known.
The honorable member said that doctors throughout Australia would not co-operate unless the Government was prepared to provide a means test which would have the effect of denying to a great number of pensioners - as late as 1964 it was 120,000 - the type of benefits which the Opposition believes should have been applied since the inception of the scheme. The honorable member knows only too well that before the Government came into office there was in Australia a system of free hospitalisation and free medical treatment. Every pensioner - indeed, every citizen - in Australia could obtain free medical treatment in the public wards of public hospitals. They still can obtain that treatment in Queensland, the State from which the honorable member for Bowman comes. This is the situation that applied when the Government came to office in 1949. Since then we have had the type of national health service that this Government has seen fit to provide. As a result of the actions of the Government in 1951, when the scheme came into operation, pensioners were issued with a medical entitlement card which entitled them to free treatment by doctors and to free treatment in public wards of public hospitals. In this respect the scheme differed very little from the type of service that had been made available by a Labour Government prior to 1949. In 1955 when the Government applied the means test the then Minister for Health said that it was being applied because it had been demanded by the British Medical
Association. Tonight the honorable member for Bowman, who is a doctor and who, I should think, is highly respected in his profession, confirmed that the means test was imposed because the British Medical Association, as the association of doctors was then known, had not been prepared to cooperate with the Government. I believe that the medical profession has just as great a responsibility to co-operate with the Government on matters affecting the health of the people of Australia as any other section of the community. The honorable member should appreciate that. This is the attitude that was adopted by a Labour government prior to 1949 when the present Government took office. The Labour Government believed that the British Medical Association had a responsibility to cooperate in providing the best possible health services that could be provided for our people.
The honorable member went on to say tonight that pensioners in Australia had done much better under a Liberal government than they had fared under a Labour government. I merely emphasise what has happened since 1955 when the Government applied the means test which restricted and kept out of the scheme many pensioners who would otherwise have been entitled to a measure of medical treatment, hospitalisation and free services from doctors. Immediately the means test was applied a great many pensioners were denied the services which we believe should be available to every citizen, particularly to those who are no longer in a position to provide the finance needed to ensure that their health will be adequately safeguarded. When the Government applied the means test in 1955 it said, in effect, that those whose income was greater than £2 a week, in the case of a single person, were not entitled to be enrolled for the pensioner medical service. Prior to 1955, every pensioner in this country was entitled, under this Government’s legislation, to be enrolled in the pensioner medical service. One can see how stupid the Government’s means test was from the way in which it was actually applied and the many ways in which honorable members had to seek assistance on behalf of those who, in the opinion of honorable members on this side of the House, should have been issued with medical entitlement cards. An income in excess of £2 a week excluded the single pensioner from the issue of a medical entitlement card and therefore from enrolment in the pensioner medical service. If, for example, a person on superannuation received no more than £2 a week he was entitled to be enrolled in the pensioner medical service, whereas the pensioner whose income exceeded £2 a week by even Id. was debarred from enrolment in that service. I know, and I am sure the Health Department and the Minister appreciate, that all a pensioner whose income exceeded £2 a week needed to do to become enrolled in the pensioner medical service was to cease working for a short period, and apply for a medical entitlement card. Once he ceased working, the medical entitlement card was issued. Then, upon receipt of the card, the pensioner would resume his former employment. All these practices were attempted by pensioners who wanted to be enrolled and who, in the opinion of honorable members on this side, were entitled to be enrolled in the pensioner medical service.
We on this side agree with this legislation. We do not hesitate to congratulate the Minister upon introducing it. I hope it may be truly said that it is because of the efforts of the new Minister for Health - he is in his first year of office - that the Government has at last recognised the inequity of the means test that has operated since 1955 and which, according to the Minister himself, has prevented 120,000 pensioners from being enrolled in the pensioner medical service.
We say that this legislation is 10 years too late. There was no reason why the means test should have been applied in 1955. As I have already indicated, the circumstances that apply today applied equally strongly as far back as 1955. I think it was the honorable member for Bowman who pointed out that one of the reasons why the medical profession was not prepared to co-operate with the Government on this matter then was that it anticipated that there would be a steep rise in the number of pensioners as a result of legislation to be introduced by the present Government with relation to pensioners generally. I do not know that there has ever been any steep rise in the number of pensioners who have been registered at any one time. The plain fact is that the number of pensioners has increased proportionately
With the increase in population and with the development of other factors affecting the eligibility of persons for age and other classes of pension. But even if one accepts the argument adduced by the honorable member for Bowman that there has been an increase in the number of pensioners since 1955 - and of course there has been - one can assume that there has also been a proportionate increase in the number of doctors and in the facilities available for treating pensioners. Therefore, I submit that the circumstances applying in 1965 are no different from those which obtained in 1955 when the Government imposed the means test, and that the argument of the honorable member for Bowman on this point falls to the ground.
The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) pointed out that the Minister for Health made one or two comments during his second reading speech which indicated that this was a benefit which he had very great pleasure in bestowing upon an additional 120,000 pensioners and their dependants. When referring to those who were to be enrolled as a result of the passage of this measure, the Minister said -
At the same time, the Government has always kept well in mind its responsibilities towards the elderly people who have helped to build this nation, and it gives me great pleasure to introduce this Bill which provides for increased assistance in meeting the health needs not only of age pensioners but of other pensioners as well.
Surely what the Minister was saying in 1965 applied with equal effect between 1955 and 1965. If the Government believed that it had certain responsibilities towards the elderly people who helped to build this nation, then surely it should have given consideration to the amendments that have been moved from time to time by honorable members on this side of the House requesting the Government to abolish the iniquitous means test which was applied in 1955. At last it has acceded to the request that has been made by us on so many occasions to abolish this means test and now proposes that all pensioners should receive medical entitlement cards, irrespective of their means.
I believe, also, that it is not beyond the capabilities or resources of the Department of Social Services to provide this additional facility to age and other classes of pensioners before 1st January 1966. The Government ought to agree to that. Pensioners have already waited far too long for this additional benefit.
There is one other aspect of this legislation to which I should like to direct my attention. It relates to a matter about which the Minister for Health has some knowledge. From time to time, he has received deputations from representatives of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association requesting that consideration be given to the provision of free medical treatment for the wives of totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen. These deputations have waited upon him not only as Minister for Health but also previously as Minister for Repatriation. They have also waited upon the former Minister for Social Services. The Minister for Health acknowledges that these deputations have waited upon htm from time to time. I remind honorable members that prior to 1955, the year in which the means test was applied by this Government, the wife of a totally and permanently disabled ex-serviceman was able to obtain a medical entitlement card and, therefore, free medical treatment. In many instances the wives of totally and permanently incapitated ex-servicemen retain a medical entitlement card because the card had been issued prior to the means test coming into operation in 1955. What has been the attitude of the Government since that time? It has consistently refused to recognise the right of the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen to receive free medical treatment. Is there any reason why a wife should not receive the same consideration as her husband? After all, her husband’s ability to earn on the labour market has been restricted. Their income is limited to a ceiling today of £18 0s. 6d.
Let me point out the anomalies that can arise. Under the legislation we are now debating the wives of some totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen will be able to qualify for the issue of a medical entitlement card. I refer to wives of married T.P.I. pensioners who can qualify for a part service pension. In other words, if such a pensioner has no income apart from his special rate pension, and if his assets do not exceed £418 a year, he can apply for a part service pension to supplement his income up to a total of £18 a week. For the benefit of the record let me indicate exactly what happens in these cases. Take the case of a person whose weekly income is £14 5s. and whose wife in her own right is receiving a war pension of £2 Os. 6d. That makes a total of £16 5s. 6d. a week which is £1 15s. below the ceiling limit allowed by this Government. I am sure that it is fully understood by all honorable members that two age pensioners can receive social service payments of £1J and in addition earn an income of £7 a week if their assets do not exceed £418. This gives them a total income of £18 a week. This is the ceiling limit that is placed on the income of the T.P.I, pensioner. Therefore if a T.P.I, pensioner and his wife are able to qualify for a service pension of £1 15s. a week, or if the wife is over the age of 60 and can qualify for an age pension of at least £1 15s. a week, the wife is able to receive a medical entitlement card. I think that the Minister will agree that a card would be issued in those circumstances.
But what happens to the wife of a T.P.I, pensioner who cannot qualify for a part service pension? Let me give an example, and I do not believe that the example I give is an isolated case. A T.P.I, pensioner might have, in addition to his special rate pension, an income of £1 15s. a week not from a service pension but from superannuation. If his additional income from superannuation gives him a total income of £18 a week his wife would not be entitled to a medical entitlement card. This in my opinion is a gross injustice. I hope that the Opposition will have the opportunity at a later stage to debate this matter more fully and to convince the Government that even at this stage it ought to agree with the point of view that has been put to the Minister on a number of occasions by those who represent the T.P.I. pensioners, namely that the wife should receive a medical entitlement card in all circumstances. These people are pensioners and they ought to be regarded as such.
In the case of an invalid pensioner whose wife is not in a position to work because of family responsibilities a medical entitlement card is issued and the dependants of the pensioner are covered by the card. But this Government denies this right to the wife of a T.P.I, ex-serviceman. If is an injustice, and the Minister must recognise it as such. The Opposition says that the Government ought to amend the legislation which we now have before us to extend the benefit, without means test, to other classes of pensioners, and the extension should cover the wives of the pensioners to whom I have just referred.
There are many other matters to which I could direct the Minister’s attention. The Opposition has already indicated that it does not oppose the legislation. Indeed, it appreciates that even after 10 years - and despite the objections that were raised on other occasions by the British Medical Association, as mentioned by the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) - the legislation is being adjusted to provide for free medical treatment for all pensioners in this country. I have already mentioned that the scheme will not provide a complete coverage for all types of disabilities that people might suffer as a result of their age. Because of age one can understand that people suffer from diseases of the eyes. The hearing of aged people is inevitably affected. This Government provides no coverage for these types of disabilities. The pensioner medical service is restricted to that extent, and as the honorable member for Grayndler pointed out earlier this afternoon, the free drugs that are available do not always include those that are prescribed by doctors. In such cases the drugs needed have to be paid for out of the pensioner’s meagre income. Until these anomalies are rectified the Government cannot accept full credit for the legislation which it is now introducing. Nevertheless, the legislation does restore a benefit to an additional 120,000 pensioners. This benefit should have been made available to them long ago, but since the Government is going to provide the benefit, now to that extent what it is doing is appreciated by honorable members on this side of the House.
.- I want to make only a few remarks about this Bill but before doing so 1° wish to comment briefly on some remarks made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) this afternoon, although I am quite satisfied that the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs) very effectively answered all the comments that the honorable member made about this Bill and other matters relating to the National Health Act. Those who have heard the honorable member for Grayndler speak on health matters on previous occasions are always sure that he will raise some fallacious or specious arguments against the medical profession and its allied industries. This afternoon he lashed himself into a fury about the National Health Act and about what this Bill proposes to do.
The Opposition is always politically embarrassed when health bills are introduced by the Government, because of the Opposition’s very poor record when it was in office. It made many attempts to introduce a national health scheme when in office but largely they were never successful due mainly to the fact that Opposition members could never quite agree amongst themselves as to what was actually required by the people of Australia. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said that Labour’s 1949 health scheme was a good one. He said that public wards in public hospitals were free to all and that no means test was applied to persons seeking a bed in those wards. We know that in relation to public hospitals this is true, but it was quite impossible to get a bed in a public ward in those days because all the beds were occupied by people who could well afford to pay for a bed in a private hospital. In those days pensioners were not able to obtain hospital treatment in the normal way. By devious means they had to persuade hospital managements and doctors to get them a bed, even in urgent cases. However, I do not propose to refer at length to what I might describe as the tragic McKenna health scheme. The people of Australia know only too well what that scheme was like. I know that it is a constant embarrassment to the Labour Party when health matters are raised in this House. I leave the matter there.
I now wish to say something briefly about the Bill. I compliment the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) on bringing down this measure, which will extend the pensioner medical service to all eligible pensioners and their dependants. Eligible persons are those in receipt of an age, invalid or widow’s pension under the Social Services Act, persons in receipt of a service pension under the Repatriation Act, and persons in receipt of a tuberculosis allowance under the Tuberculosis Act. It is proposed also to widen the definition of dependants so as to make a pensioner’s full time student children up to the age of 21 years entitled to free medicine. What does this all mean? It means that eligible pensioners will be issued with a pensioner medical card, enabling them to go to a medical practitioner and receive attention free of charge. They may go to their chemist also and get medicine free of charge.
If one turns to the annual report of the Director-General of Health one will see how many pensioners are enrolled in the pensioner medical service, as well as details of the number of services rendered in doctors’ surgeries and in pensioners’ homes. The report shows that in 1952 there were 501,000 persons enrolled in the pensioner medical service. By 1965 the number had increased to 849,000. As from 1st January that number will be increased by a further 120,000 provided for in this legislation. In 1964-65 about 7± million services were rendered by the medical profession to pensioners, either in the surgery or in the pensioners’ homes. Last year these services cost the taxpayer £4i million. It is anticipated that the additional services for which this Bill provides will cost about £2 million, so that in 12 months time the annual cost will be about £61 million.
Those figures remind me of what a great help this pensioner medical service has been to the major public hospitals in the States and to the medical profession. Over the years the pensioner medical service has removed a considerable pressure of work and expense from the outpatients departments of the public hospitals. The fact that many pensioners are treated in their homes has also meant a reduction in hospital public ward bed occupancy figures. Prior to 1952, pensioners, by and large, were treated free by the medical profession. In other words the doctors looked upon their treatment of pensioners as a contribution towards the welfare of this section of the community. But since 1952 the Commonwealth has accepted liability for the treatment of pensioners and last year payments amounting to £4,660,000 were made to the medical profession in respect of treatment of pensioners. The average amount paid to doctors registered under the pensioner medical service last year was about £789. In addition, the hospital dispensaries have gained something under this scheme. Instead of going to the hospital dispensary to have their prescriptions filled, as everybody knows pensioners now go to their local chemist. This has helped to reduce the liability of our public hospitals.
The proposed extension of the pensioner medical service also will help our medical benefit societies. Social service pensioners who now come within the scope of the pensioner medical service will no longer be required to belong to a medical benefit fund. I imagine that some of these funds or societies will more than welcome this legislation because it will free them from *£he obligation of retaining on their books contributors who, at a certain stage in their life, need more medical care than they needed earlier in their life.
Today, the financial position of the medical benefit funds is seriously threatened by a new type of unfair competition. Unless the Minister intervenes the financial structure of existing funds may be seriously damaged. I refer to the closed medical fund societies which have been organised in some departments of our Public Service. This type of society operates for the express purpose of attracting people who are medically fit and who must retire from employment at the age of 60 or 65 years. When they retire they cease to be members of the closed medical societies. Naturally the closed societies are glad to pass these retired persons, who represent a medical liability, over to the older established societies, which cannot refuse to accept them. To permit a Public Service medical society to operate in this way is unjust to the former contributor who has retired from the Service, to the old established medical benefit societies and to the Australian taxpayer.
I believe the Minister should stop this practice as it strikes at the very financial foundation of the medical benefits scheme. I remember when the late Sir Earle Page propounded his scheme for national health benefits, which included hospital and medical benefits. I had the pleasure of discussing with him on many occasions this national health service which is now in operation. He said then that one thing that could seriously injure the hospital and medical benefits scheme was for fund societies to engage in some price cutting campaign which might affect the services they were committed to provide, or to become closed organisations of the kind to which I have referred, accepting only the lesser risks in the community and avoiding any doubtful cases. In order to overcome the possibility of this happening he introduced some protective measures, but in spite of them. I see some positive signs of certain societies endeavouring to become selective in the contributors they accept.
I do not wish to detain the House any longer. The proposal in the Bill to extend the operation of the pensioner medical service is a sound one. It is just and it is good. I welcome the proposal and I am sure that everybody else in the community will also welcome it and feel pleased that the Commonwealth Government has provided this extra benefit for pensioners.
.- The House is probably at a disadvantage in discussing this Bill tonight because of the tendency that has been evident of late to resort to the short title technique with legislation, as has been done on this occasion. This measure is described as an amendment to the National Health Act in relation to pensioners, and this means that in 1965 the House will not have before it a national health bill of a general nature which will enable it to engage in a detailed and thorough analysis of the so-called national health scheme. We are confined to a consideration of the problems of pensioners. This is something in the nature of a trick. I want to say, as my colleague the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said on behalf of the Opposition, that we deprecate this tendency. Surely this Parliament is entitled to have a full scale review of all the ramifications of the national health scheme at least once a year.
Nevertheless, this Bill does include some important provisions. The purpose of the Bill is to eliminate the means test which this Government imposed in respect of the pensioner medical service. I do not want to leave any room for ambiguity as to where the Opposition stands. We are not having two bob each way on this matter. We support this Bill to the hilt. We have always contended that this Government was remiss in imposing the means test in 1955 which, at this very moment, and until this
Bill is passed here and in another place, has the effect of depriving 120,000 pensioners and their dependants of the benefits of the pensioner medical service. Ours is the only political party in Australia that has always taken the view that all pensioners should have the benefit of the pensioner medical service.
– Who introduced the scheme?
– We of the Opposition do not want to quibble about that. We do not want to become retrospective. When all is said and done, the Labour Government provided a scheme which gave more benefits to all the people of Australia than this Government is giving to the pensioners, and our present policy is still along those lines. But we do not want to be sidetracked in this fashion. There are some important constructive considerations to be dealt with and I am sorry that there are not more honorable members On the Government side inclined to deal with them.
This measure involves a bit more than the pensioner medical service and it is considered important by many pensioners in the community because of these other factors that are involved. In some States, for example, if a pensioner has not a pensioner medical card he cannot get a public transport concession from the State Government. This is the case in New South Wales. In some parts of New South Wales if a pensioner has no medical card he cannot obtain a rebate of local government rates or a deferment of payment of those rates. This matter is therefore tremendously important to elderly people. They want the pensioner medical card not only for the medical advantages but also so that they may obtain transport concessions and participate in local government rates rebate schemes.
Until 1955 this Government took the view that all pensioners who qualified for even a part pension should, without having to pass a means test, be given the pensioner medical card. Then, right on the eve of the closing of a parliamentary sessional period, almost in the dead of night and in a surreptitious way, just before the members of the Parliament were to engage in an election campaign, the Government brought forward a conglomeration of jargon which the pensioners could hardly under stand and by this means imposed the means test. The effect of it was to exclude about 100,000 pensioners from the pensioner medical service. From then on a crusade has been conducted throughout Australia to have the means test removed. As my colleague the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said earlier, on numerous occasions we have expressed on behalf of pensioners and by way of amendments the need to rectify this dreadful anomaly.
When I say that the Government brought in this means test in a skulking and surreptitious way I mean that it was done under cover of a lot of jargon that most people, including many pensioners, could not understand. For an illustration of this type of jargon I need look no further than the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz), on this Bill, which was delivered on 11th November 1965. The Minister said -
Pensioners whose income from sources other than their pension would have rendered them ineligible to receive a pension at the maximum rate under the pensions income means tests in force at 31st December 19S3 are at present barred from enrolment in the pensioner medical service.
That is the kind of language that was used in 1955 in talking about the provisions of the means test that prevailed in 1953, and of course no pensioner knew what those provisions were all about. Pensioners were thoroughly confused and we did our utmost in the election campaign to enlighten them. The Government bowed the knee, not to all the individual doctors in the community but to the Australian Medical Association, or the British Medical Association as it was known at that time. The idea of giving a sense of social security to every pensioner apparently did not please the Government, nor did it meet with the approval of the top brass of the Australian Medical Association who seemed to be in cahoots with this Government. We are prepared to extend this scheme to all pensioners and I am surprised that this Government was ever intent on depriving aged persons, invalids, widows and other underprivileged members of the community of these benefits.
I was staggered tonight to listen to the honorable member for Bowman (Dr. Gibbs), who is himself a medical practitioner. I want to say now that he is probably a better doctor than he is a politician; he is probably a better doctor than he is a humanitarian. I do not consider him to be typical of doctors by any means in the views that he expresses. He may represent the hierarchy of the Australian Medical Association but he certainly does not represent the rank and file. I know that not all doctors are concerned solely with maintaining and securing their own privileged place in the community. There are large numbers of them who are not devoted solely to ensuring their own personal aggrandisement. Most of them would not be prepared, if the question were put to them point blank, to sacrifice 750,000 age and invalid pensioners and service pensioners and widows as this Government did with the approval of the executive of the Australian Medical Association. Doctors are not generally like this, and I do not think that the honorable member for Bowman speaks authentically for them. He said: “He who holds the purse strings calls the tune “, and so doctors do not want a national health scheme - the kind of scheme that gives security to low income people. He contends that the medical profession does not want a national health scheme, but I reject that contention completely. He does not consider that we have a national health scheme in Australia. He devoted his time to deploring national health schemes and it can hardly be contended that he thinks we have one when when he takes that view. However, many doctors want to be doctors and to practice medicine. They do not want to be debt collectors. They do not want to be filling out all manner of accounts. They want to get on with the job; they want the best possible equipment they can get, the best hospital facilities and the best environment. They have been trained and about 90 per cent, of the cost of their training has been contributed from the public purse. Many feel they have an obligation to the community and they want to repay some of their training costs. I am sure they are attracted to the Opposition’s proposals for an Australian health scheme under which doctors will be afforded a decent salary and the right to work in hospitals on a salary basis - indeed, on a specialised basis in many instances - so that the community can be assured of good treatment.
I am satisfied that many doctors do not want to be impeded in their desire to tend the sick because of the patients’ lack of paying capacity. Of course there are high prin cipled medical practitioners with that attitude. A national health scheme fundamentally means that the skill of the medical profession and nursing profession and all the equipment that can be brought to bear to help sick people in the community are available to everybody without charge. The honorable member for Bowman is a doctor and he tended to disparage the medical profession. Some people are often too inclined to do this, and I reject completely, on behalf of the Opposition, his wide, sweeping generalities. We concede, we realise, that the only manner by which we will succeed in implementing our great health scheme aspirations is by having the co-operation of the medical profession. Would we be silly enough to thumb our nose at the medical profession? Surely that would not be a reasonable contention. I think the honorable member for Bowman can handle the scalpel probably better than he can handle the truth. I want to indicate what I mean by that.
In this debate, and on several occasions in the last few weeks, the honorable member has repeated his allegations that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) in a recent address to the College of General Practitioners in Melbourne accused doctors of being too individualistic in their approach. The honorable member gave the impression that the Leader of the Opposition was trying to gull the doctors into coming on side with Labour’s national health scheme. However, when he made those remarks actually he knew what happened. The honorable member for Bowman had the benefit of authentic information and he has engaged in gross misrepresentation of what the Leader of the Opposition said. The honorable member went to the Library to obtain a transcript of the Leader’s speech, but the material was not available. A staff member from the office of the Leader of the Opposition made the transcript available. The honorable member for Bowman knows precisely what the Leader of the Opposition said. He knows that the Leader of the Opposition was simply quoting the words of Dr. Stuckey, a former President of the New South Wales Branch of the Australian Medical Association who, when writing in the “ Medical Journal “ in 1961, said -
In this country the medical profession has succeeded in adopting and perpetuating an extremely
Individualistic approach to staff organisation within the hospital.
This was a different kind of emphasis. He continued -
There is practically no attempt made to assess the results being obtained by individual members of the staff or to lay down procedures any individual member may or may not follow in patient care.
The only reference the Leader of the Opposition made to this individualistic approach was to quote Dr. Stuckey. I think it is important to indicate to honorable members that what the Leader of the Opposition was saying has been said frequently by many doctors - that there should be medical audits in hospitals, there should be medical superintendency in hospitals and there should be competent people on the staffs of hospitals. It is reasonable to say that doctors are inclined to be individualistic in respect of these matters, but this is entirely different from what the honorable member for Bowman said, as he must have surely known.
Time is racing and I want to make a few points about the problems associated with the pensioner medical service. All pensioners once received the benefits of the pensioner medical service without a means test, but the Government seemed to think that the milk of human kindness was flowing too freely and its attitude turned sour. A means test was introduced whereby pensioners with an income of £2 a week or more were excluded. There are many anomalies associated with this means test. It is important to mention that those people who were excluded were those who had contributed to their own wellbeing on their retirement - the superannuated people, ex railway workers and State and Federal public servants. These are the people who have been hit for the last 10 years as the result of this Government’s exclusion of them. Let me cite some of the ridiculous things that take place. If a person enjoyed the pensioner medical service before 1955 he was able to retain his right regardless of how his income changed. That was pretty silly when one examines the situation.
– A brother and a sister could be on a different basis.
– Yes. I know of one case where a person who had a low income received his pensioner medical card in 1955 but the income for him and his wife increased later to nearly £18 a week. He still has his entitlement. The couple next door, with an income of £4 ls. a week, are excluded. This is a ridiculous situation. I do not want to go into great detail, but let me instance another anomaly associated with the means test on income. As everybody knows, the means test that applies under the Social Services Act generally is a combination of testing income and property. However, the means test on the pensioner medical service measures income only. The compatibility - this one-tenth ratio arrangement that operates in respect of the means test for pension purposes - was completely disregarded. A person could have £9,000 in the bank and get the pensioner medical card, but an income of £2 apart from pension, in the case of a single person, or just over £4, in the case of a married couple excluded people from entitlement. So, this is quite a ridiculous situation.
We have now reached the stage, fortuitously enough, where much of this nonsense has been eliminated and the position now is that an additional 120,000 pensioners and their dependants will receive an entitlement. As I understand it, a couple can have an income of up to £936 a year - £18 a week - and enjoy the service. This is virtuous, and we commend it. We do not begrudge it in any way at all, but we consider that everyone who has less than £18 a week income should enjoy a service like the pensioner medical service. At present the basic wage is about £15 8s. a week. Many people on the basic wage, or receiving slightly above it, have children to maintain. A pensioner couple receiving more than the basic wage can participate in the pensioner medical service. They receive free hospital treatment and free medicine. However, a family man getting less than that pensioner couple, and who has many commitments to meet - a home to maintain and children at school - has no such benefit. It is ridiculous for the honorable member for Bowman to deplore the possibility of a national health scheme when we provide such benefits to pensioners who, we say, should have it. We say that they all should have it. It is time a real national health scheme was introduced.
Let me suggest, for example, that one of the first things we should do is to extend the pensioner medical service to provide for the long term sickness of those in receipt of unemployment benefits. I invite honorable members to have a look at the situation of these people. A single man or single woman who is sick and unemployed receives a benefit of £4 2s. 6d. a week. Does the honorable member for Bowman expect such people to pay into a hospital or medical benefits organisation out of £4 2s. 6d.? A married couple receives £7 2s. 6d. a week. Obviously, the position of a married couple is a lot worse than that of the pensioner couple who receive £11 a week or those couples receiving a part pension and who can have an income of up to £18 and still receive part of the pensioner medical service. People who suffer through long term sickness and who are in receipt of unemployment benefits should obviously be included in the pensioner medical service. I am sure you will agree with me, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I strongly advocate that the pensioner medical service should be generously extended. It should include dental and optical care. It should include specialist services. The honorable member for Bowman seemed to indicate that pensioners did not want the attention of specialists. Of course they do. When pensioners go to a specialist, they have to pay through the nose. The pensioner medical service should include physiotherapy treatment because this treatment is often needed by invalids and aged persons. It should cover ambulance services. I hope to have something to say in detail about that matter in just a moment. At present the pensioner medical service is limited to services by general practitioners.
Obviously, of the extra services that I have advocated, the most important is specialist treatment. Are pensioners expected to finance specialist services from their own resources? Up to the time of the recent increase in medical fees, a person in New South Wales referred by a general practitioner to a specialist was charged £4 4s. for his first visit. A person would not want to make too many visits to a specialist in New South Wales if he was in receipt of £5 10s. a week as a married pensioner and it was costing him £4 4s. a visit to go to that specialist. It is quite ridiculous to cut off benefits under the pensioner medical service at the general practitioner level. There is a high incidence of heart disease, cerebral conditions and complaints of that type among elderly people. They should be able to go to the practitioner who is most capable of giving them the attention that they deserve.
Do we expect pensioners to pay into a hospital or medical benefits fund? I think it is time the Minister for Health made it clear whether pensioners are required to contribute to hospital and medical benefits funds. Pensioners do not know what the position is. It costs 5s. or 6d. a week to contribute to these funds. Paying 5s. a week, it would cost a pensioner approximately £13 per annum. If a pensioner paid at the rate of 6s. a week, he would be contributing £15 12s. per annum to receive an 80 per cent, coverage. Does the Minister expect pensioners to pay into these funds? They are provided with a pensioner medical service which is of a limited nature. Where can pensioners obtain insurance to go to a specialist, for example? They can get accommodation only in public wards in hospitals. I know people who have had some exceptionally bad complaints - it might have been a cancerous complaint or something of that nature- who have had to go to a special clinic for treatment. It should be possible for pensioners to be completely covered in anticipation of any kind of eventuality. If the Government is not prepared to extend the pensioner medical service and to make it more comprehensive, then I believe it should establish a special table for pensioners in the benefits organisations. Pensioners would make a limited call only on these organisations. Their hospitalisation is taken care of in public wards. Medical treatment of an ordinary nature is provided for them also. But, for these extra services which the Government is denying them at present, pensioners should be able to get some coverage through the hospital and medical benefits organisations. A limited scale should be set up under which they could make their contributions. I put that suggestion to the Minister. I think it is worthy of some consideration.
I want to amplify a point I made in relation to the ambulance transport service. I telephoned the New South Wales Ambulance Transport Service Board this afternoon. I asked what the position was with regard to pensioners. I have advocated over the ten years that I have been in this House that ambulance services should be a part of the pensioner medical service. This is what the Secretary of the New South Wales Ambulance Transport Service Board told me this afternoon. He said that for the year ended June 1965 the service transported 121,856 pensioners. In addition to these people, 4,145 persons in indigent circumstances were transported. In other words, 126,001 people were transported 1,476,853 miles. The service was not paid anything in respect of these services. The service carried other pensioners too. Some of them paid. Those who did not pay anything in respect of the New South Wales Ambulance Transport Service Board transportation represent onethird of the total number of people who were carried by the service. The service does not receive any assistance from any authority in respect of these pensioners and indigent persons carried.
– That would average out at a cost of approximately £4 million.
– It averages out at 10s. per person. I want to mention that the New South Wales Ambulance Transport Service Board has made strong representations to the Government over a number of years for assistance. I understand that a convention was held in Canberra last year. It had to do with ambulance services. Representatives of all States attended this convention. They applied for assistance and, to date, their representations have met with no response at all. I ask the Minister to consider this matter seriously. This is the kind of thing that perplexes pensioners. They ask: “What is going to happen to me? Can I pay? “ Some pensioners struggle to pay a weekly contribution to the ambulance bodies, even though they cannot afford to do so. The amount concerned is not very large. I am told that a Commonwealth contribution of £60,000 would be considered reasonable by the ambulance organisations. They would be prepared to look after pensioners if they received this contribution from the Commonwealth Government, which does have a special responsibility regarding pensioners.
In addition, I want to say that the range of drugs available under the pensioner medical service is often said to be inadequate. Many complaints have been received from patients and doctors. It is not at all unusual for people who come to me to say: “ I have a pensioner medical card. I have been to my doctor. My doctor is prescribing a medicine that is costing so many pounds at the chemist.” I ask: “ Why did not your doctor give you a medicine which is on the free list?” The reply is: “Nothing on the free list is considered by my doctor to be satisfactory “. There is a committee operating which is known as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. From time to time it is the practice of the members of Parliament to write to the Minister for Health and say: “ A pensioner has come to me and has indicated that the medicine which relieves his or her condition is not available on the free list. The doctor has said that nothing else that is available is suitable. Will you consider placing this particular pharmaceutical item on the free list? “ The Minister refers the matter to this Committee. The Committee, through the Minister, says: “ No. We are not going to do that.” So, the member writes back to the Minister. He may send a prescription. He may send a letter from the doctor in which the doctor says: “ This is the only medicine to which this patient will respond. Will you tell me what you consider to be a satisfactory substitute? “ But all these efforts have been unsuccessful so far.
I think the Minister and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee have an obligation to placate the doctor. I know that everything cannot be on the free list. I know that certain generic substances are called by different brand names and that there is a disparity in prices. We are not here to underwrite the drug industry. At the present time, we are probably doing too much of that. Nobody is advocating making a welter of this benefit. But the doctor says: “ There is nothing else my patient will respond to but this particular medicine. It is beyond the financial resources of my patient. It also concerns a lot of other pensioner patients.” I believe that the doctor making the representation is entitled to some reasonable action.
I would like to refer to many other points, but in the short time remaining to me I want to deal briefly with one important matter. When a pensioner is admitted to a mental institution, his pension is terminated. In the year ended June 1963, in
New South Wales alone, the pensions of no fewer than 1,636 persons were terminated after they had been in a mental institution for three months. I think now the pension is terminated before the pensioner has been there for three months. In the year ended July 1962, 4,661 persons between the ages of 60 years and 90 years were in mental institutions in New South Wales. I think it is very bad for the Government to take away a pension in these circumstances. Such action results in the inmate’s pensioner medical card being taken away from him. This means that his dependants, as I understand it, are also deprived of the benefits of the pensioner medical card. If ever there was a case of hitting a man when he is down, this is it. It is the cruellest action I have ever known. The Minister knows that every State Minister of Health has pleaded with the Government for a long time to do something about this. Before my time is exhausted, I want to say that we are grateful that the eligibility for the pensioner medical service has been extended. However, the service itself should be greatly improved if the Government is to pay fair tribute to the pioneers of this country and to the invalids, the widows and the aged persons who have suffered such a great deal as a consequence of the imposition of the means test in 1955.
.- The Bill now before the House is one of the progressive moves that we make every now and again in the national health scheme. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) has shown his full approval of what we have done. The Government Members’ Health Committee and the Government Members’ Social Services Committee have advocated this action just as ardently as the Opposition has and for a very much longer time. The pensioner medical service was introduced in 1951 to provide a general practitioner service. The honorable member for Hughes has asked that the scheme should be extended to provide a specialist service. He seems to think that pensioners are not able to get a specialist service, but he knows quite well that, over the whole range, the scheme does provide for this. Pensioners have free hospital treatment and are able to get a specialist service in this way. The scheme is intended to provide to eligible persons and their dependants, without charge to them, the same sort of service as is available to the rest of the community. It is the same standard of service as is provided to everyone else. The scheme covers age, invalid and widow pensioners, repatriation pensioners and recipients of the tuberculosis allowance. All this is done at no cost to the pensioners but at a cost to the Commonwealth of 16s. for each surgery consultation and £1 for each home visit.
The holding of a pensioner medical card is a very valuable privilege. As well as the medical service, it provides a free pharmaceutical service. Although complaints have been made about the range of drugs that is available under the scheme, the drugs that are sought to be included are really only a minute part of the drugs that are already available. The committee that examines the drugs - there are myriads of them - would not put an extremely expensive drug on the list unless it believed that such a drug was required. The list of drugs restricted to certain diseases is exceptionally good. The seminar on ethical pharmaceutical products held in Melbourne last week was told that, unfortunately, some doctors are prescribing too many pills, largely because many medical retailers are going around and introducing new lines to doctors. It is not a case of the doctors saying: “This is the only drug that will help my patient”. They want to try out new lines on their patients, and far too much of this is being done. The pensioner medical scheme also provides free treatment in the public wards of hospitals.
The statistics for last year are rather interesting. They show that the cost of the pensioner medical service was £4,660,000, of the pharmaceutical benefits £10,782,000 and of the hospital service £6,792,000. These figures relate to the Commonwealth contribution, and this is approximately half of the amount that is paid for the nonpensioner scheme. The actual cost to the hospitals, which has to be met by the States, is not known, but I would calculate that it would be at least three times the amount that I have given. Last year, 849,000 pensioners were enrolled. So the cost to the Commonwealth works out at the very reasonable sum of about £26 a head. We are giving a very good service over a wide range of people at quite a reasonable cost. In effect, it adds another 10s. a week to the pension. This is sometimes overlooked. However, we have always had a legitimate complaint that the service was restricted to those who conformed to a means test of not more than £2 a week. We know that many pensioners were frightened to take on odd jobs that would return them more than this amount. They did not realise, as should have been well known, that once a pensioner had a pensioner medical card he could keep it. Unfortunately, many of these people have not availed themselves of jobs that could have given them a little more money.
The means test debarred about 120,000 persons from participating in the benefit and obliged them to contribute to hospital and medical benefit funds. Many pensioners subscribed more than the minimum amount to hospital funds, because they felt that, when they went into a hospital, they would like to be admitted to an intermediate ward. We can assume that the cost to the 120,000 persons who were debarred from the scheme was about £40 a year. They had every reason to believe that the imposition of the means test was unjust. I think it was particularly unfair to widows with children who were forced to earn more than the £2 a week to keep alive. They just could not live on an income that would permit them to be in the pensioner medical scheme.
As from 1st January next, the full benefits will be available to all full and part social service pensioners and to service pensioners under the Repatriation Act who qualify under the pensions means test ruling on that date. I do not understand why it is necessary to add this proviso. I notice that the wording is similar to the wording of the provision imposing the means test except that the words “ to receive the maximum rate” have been left out. This may be helpful at a later date. If at some later date the limit of permissible earnings is raised - it certainly should be if we are to encourage the great number of pensioners who are capable of making an effective contribution to the productive output of this country to do so - we shall again have this completely unfair and unwarranted anomaly that debars some people from enjoying the benefits of this scheme. This aspect was not mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech when he announced this extension of the pensioner medical service. He merely said - . .we propose to remove the existing means test governing eligibility for enrolment in the pensioner medical service. This will mean that all persons who are receiving age, invalid, widow or service pensions or tuberculosis allowances will become eligible.
It seems quite illogical to impose another means test in this Bill. One can only assume that the limitation proposed in this measure is being imposed at the wish of the Australian Medical Association which, as we know, imposed the limitation that is now being removed. That limitation was imposed on the ground that some of the members of the Association could not handle the number of pensioners who would otherwise have come under the scheme.
That some doctors have very definitely been able to handle extraordinary numbers is shown by the figures that occasionally find their way out into the light of day. We are told that 225 doctors have been prosecuted by Medical Services Committees of Inquiry and obliged to refund £97,000. One doctor charged for 1,174 visits to a pensioner in a year. The doctor must have been visiting his patient three times a day after meals. Another doctor had to refund £2,094 obtained for over-visiting in a period of 15 months. We are not told how much he was allowed to keep, but he must have received a highly satisfactory remuneration overall. The Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) answered a question on this matter today and pointed out that only a very few doctors have been found guilty of over-visiting. I suggest that the Department of Health has not looked very hard. It is quite improper that a committee in each State of which we know nothing except its name conducts these hearings behind closed doors and imposes virtually no penalty for these very grave abuses of public funds. The 225 doctors mentioned were not, I hope, all fined in one year. I assume that that is the total number fined up to date. The total number of doctors listed in the statistics is 5,896. These figures indicate that only a mere 4 per cent, have been over-charging. But for this 4 per cent, the over-payments average more than £400. Since payments to all doctors under the pensioner medical scheme last year averaged £789, this is a not insignificant sum.
As the price of accepting the extension of the pensioner medical service to a wider range of pensioners as from 1st January next the Australian Medical Association has driven a pretty tough bargain by insisting on an increase in doctors’ fees for servicing pensioners - from 12s. to 16s. for a surgery consultation and to 21s. for a visit to a pensioner’s home. The fee for a visit to the home is marvellous for the doctors since so many pensioners are now housed in the excellent aged persons’ homes that are becoming so much a part of every community. Incidentally, this increase in fees dates from 1st May of this year. Its effect on the statistics is interesting. Last year 5,896 doctors provided 8.6 services for each of 849,000 pensioners. These services were made up of 4,389,000 surgery consultations and 2,859,000 home visits at a total cost of £4,660,000, or £789 per doctor. If we convert this to the current year’s numbers and assume the same number of visits per head, we see that the cost goes up to a total of £7,650,000, or £1,275 a head- an increase of about £500 a year.
This is not unallied to the increase in fees paid by private patients. These also have been substantially increased from the beginning of this month. For some years we have had an agreement that fees would be maintained at a steady level, and this has been the basis on which the medical benefit funds have based their benefits to contributors and on which the Government has based its payments to the funds. In April of this year there was a re-assessment which had the effect of greatly improving the rebate to patients for general practitioner and specialist consultations and for all operations. More and more people are now realising that they must join higher tables and cover themselves with as much insurance as possible because the costs of hospital and medical treatment are an absolutely crippling burden if a person is not covered by insurance. For those on the higher tables the gap became reasonable from the date of the introduction of the new rates of benefit. The difference between benefits and costs was then not great enough to deter people from consulting their doctor at every indication of trouble. It is interesting to note that the annual number of visits has increased from 5 for each contributor in 1952 to 8.3 last year. This indicates the great value that the people find in the national health scheme which is based on membership of one of the many funds now in existence. However, the recent increases in doctors’ fees have widened the gap and it is now greater than it was for a considerable time before the benefits were last increased.
No doubt the Australian Medical Association considered that it should take advantage of the trend towards rising wages or, if one likes to use the term, over-award payments. But not having an arbitration tribunal to apply to it decided to conduct a survey of its own. The results of this survey have not been published but enough has been apparent to those who have been close to the problem to indicate that it is safe to assume that the overhead costs of a general practitioner are something over 40 per cent, of his gross takings and probably average about 42 per cent. Being a doctor is a very expensive business. A doctor has to keep up a lot of appearances in the community. He has to have a good car and a good residence. There is a lot more to being a doctor than many people think. Nobody begrudges doctors a good living in view of the amount of study that they have to do to qualify in their profession and maintain their skill. As I have said, the results of the survey have not been published, because they would have revealed the fact that while the incomes of members of the profession as a whole have risen enormously along with the volume of work actual costs have not risen greatly. The cost of servicing many more patients in the clinics that abound everywhere today is little more than the cost of attending to fewer patients previously.
It was found that costs have risen in the various States by between 4.1 per cent, and 4.8 per cent., with an overall average increase of 4.6 per cent. But the Australian Medical Association had taken a decision that doctors would increase charges and the pattern was set when fees paid to doctors by the Government under the pensioner medical scheme were increased by 25 per cent., from 12s. to 16s. for a surgery consultation, as from last May. Doctors’ fees vary from State to State. In Victoria the general practitioner’s fee has risen from 21s. to 25s. for a surgery consultation - an increase of 19 per cent, to cover a cost increase of only a little more than 4 per cent. It is to be hoped that the increase of 4s. in the gap between the total of fund and Commonwealth benefits and the doctor’s charge will not deter people from consulting their doctor when they should, for early diagnosis saves lives. I may say that the trade union movement would like to be in a position to make a survey of costs and then decide for itself how much wages should rise. This would be a very easy way to obtain wage increases.
Many other aspects of the national health scheme could be discussed. Some honorable members have covered a fairly wide range in their remarks. But this Bill is confined really to the pensioner medical service and it does not really present an opportunity for a very wide general debate. Nevertheless, there ure some points on which 1 should like to comment. The Federated Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia and the Government are at present conducting a joint survey of costs of dispensing. This is a survey for which the Guild has asked because there was an understanding between the Government and the Guild - or to put it a little higher, there was an undertaking - that the dispensing fee would be increased with rising wages. This has not been done. So the Guild is very happy to have a joint survey conducted of the costs of dispensing. The results of the survey will be published because it will be Government information. The Pharmaceutical Guild believes that the survey will show that the increase in dispensing fees for which they have asked is justified.
In the ethical field there are many matters that need a great deal of attention. The activities of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, for instance, are causing much concern in the industry. Several other matters need very close examination. I do not want to go into those matters now because 1 should like to spend an hour on that subject alone. The whole question of hospital costs, nursing for the aged, which is so badly needed, and the treatment provided for the mentally ill needs thorough examination. All ramifications of the benefit organisations call for a most searching examination. Some things that are being done in the rivalry that has grown up between some of the medical fund organisations are not doing the system any good. On the matters that I have brought to the attention of the Minister for Health he has told me that he does not have the power to do anything, provided that the organisations comply with certain very loose rules which are laid down and which give them a very wide scope for manoeuvring. They are permitted to go ahead and conduct a war between themselves, incurring rising costs and very heavy advertising expense in a sort of body snatching game. One would expect this in industry where a private enterprise was trying to attract customers from a rival, but I think that this practice is quite out of place in a hospital benefit scheme. I conclude by asking the Minister once again to give consideration to the appointment of a committee to examine all aspects of the working of the national health scheme. The previous Minister for Health advised me by letter dated 19th June 1963 that this matter was receiving very active consideration, adding that he appreciated the lively interests of the Government members health committee in the matter. But since then, regretfully, I have to say that I have heard no more.
.- The measure before the House was introduced by the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) to amend the provisions of the National Health Act with respect to pensioners. We know that the measure will benefit a great many pensioners in Australia who will become entitled to the medical, entitlement card which has been denied to them by the Government since 1955. During the period since 1955 a great burden has been placed upon pensioners whose incomes have exceeded the permissible income of £2 a week. The result has been that these people have been called upon to pay medical fees on every occasion they visited a doctor. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) gave a quite detailed report on how much it costs doctors in Australia to conduct their practices. He said that about 40 per cent, of a doctor’s income was absorbed in meeting expenses. The honorable member maintains that this was pretty expensive. I feel that each and every one of us knows that it is also very expensive for the patient. Irrespective of whether a person belongs to a medical benefit fund, on every occasion he visits a doctor he is required to pay, in addition to what he receives as a fund benefit, about £1 from his own pocket. It cannot be said that the National Health Act is of great benefit at present to the majority of people in Australia.
When the Bill receives the Royal Assent and becomes law many pensioners in Australia will benefit as from 1st January next year. I cannot understand why the Government picked that date when drawing up the Budget. The taxation bills which have already been dealt with do not come into operation from some future date. Recently we had before us legislation to provide for increased salaries for judges of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the High Court of Australia. On that occasion the increase was back dated to 1st July. But whenever the Government introduces in this place any measure from which the pensioners will benefit the legislation always comes into operation from the time that it receives Royal Assent or at some later time. Even the Bill that we are now discussing will not come into operation until 1st January next. The result is that a great many pensioners who are members of medical benefit funds will have to continue to pay contributions until they obtain a medical entitlement card. I wonder whether these people who have been members of the organisations for so many years will receive any reimbursement.
The Minister said when introducing the Bill that about 120,000 pensioners and their dependants will benefit from this measure. I could not say how many of that number would belong to medical benefit organisations, but if I were to take a stab and suggest that the number would be about 100,000 it would mean that from 1st January next 100,000 pensioners who have been paying weekly contributions to a great many medical and hospital benefit fund organisations will find that they have been paying money for which they will get no benefit. The fund organisations will have their money and they will receive no reimbursement. We know that medical benefit funds provide a type of insurance, but I feel that the benefits of the insurance go only one way - to the organisations. When the operations of the various fund organisations are brought under the one authority and we have a national health fund run solely by the Commonwealth the majority of people in Australia will receive the greatest benefit of all. I am sure that when a Labour government is returned to office this will be one of the first measures that it will attempt on behalf of the people of Australia.
I know that a great many pensioners will receive considerable benefit from this proposed amendment to the National Health Act, but I suggest that the Government still calls upon the States to find too great a proportion of the money necessary to look after the welfare of pensioners. The various States have to dive into their pockets to find the funds to look after pensioners, yet the responsibility for looking after them really belongs with the Commonwealth. I do not know where the Minister obtained the information on which he based his second reading speech, but I believe that with the facilities at his disposal he should have known better than to say in reference to the hospitalisation of pensioners - . . secondly, free public ward accommodation in public hospitals is available.
I should like to know where the Commonwealth Government provides free hospitalisation. Admittedly it pays to the States 36s. a day for each pensioner patient in a public ward in a hospital. This contribution costs the Government approximately £6i million each year, and because of this expenditure the Government says that it is doing a wonderful thing. But let us consider the cost of hospitalisation today. The cost of keeping a patient in a hospital varies between States, but we know that it is in the vicinity of £8 a day. In addition to the contribution by the Commonwealth, the State Governments have to find £42 million to look after pensioners. Yet the Commonwealth Government boasts: “We look after the pensioners. We give them free hospitalisation.” Such boasts are only false and misleading. It is the States who have to find the money to provide for the welfare of the aged. For example, the Commonwealth Government provides no optical services whatever for the aged. The State Government is required to finance this service in order that the elderly people may at least be able to see what is going on in the world. And even this service is subject to a means test in some States. I know that in New South Wales if a pensioner has £70 in the bank he is not entitled to free spectacles. This Commonwealth Government is depending on the States to provide a great many services that it should be providing itself.
The States are burdened, too, with the cost of providing dental treatment for aged persons and receive no reimbursement whatever from the Commonwealth Government. They provide it through their dental hospitals, and meet the cost themselves. I submit that the Commonwealth should reimburse them at least to some extent for what they are doing. We all know that certain States receive favoured treatment from the Commonwealth while others receive very little assistance. The Commonwealth is not discharging its full responsibility for the care of the pensioners. It should provide free optical and dental services for them. Above all, the Commonwealth should make it possible for them to obtain specialist treatment. Aged persons suffer from a wide range of complaints and they need the services of specialists. They should be entitled to consult specialists in order that they may receive proper treatment for their ailments. Reference has been made on many occasions to the fact that a number of drugs which doctors and specialists would like to prescribe for their patients are not included on the free list. In order to avoid requiring the patient to bear the cost of such drugs, the medical men are forced to prescribe some alternative which is not as effective.
I agree with the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) that there should be an inquiry into all aspects of the national health scheme. Despite the fact that reports which do not accord with the Government’s policy are shelved and forgotten, I do submit that there should be a general inquiry into all aspects of the national health scheme. If such an inquiry were held, we could then adduce evidence clearly illustrating the many anomalies that arise under it.
The Commonwealth pays only 20s. a day in respect of a pensioner who is in a convalescent home. All honorable members have representations made to them by numbers of people about their mothers and fathers who are in convalescent homes. As the House will know, it is almost impossible to get these elderly people into medical institutions. Even if they are admitted to such an institution, the cost is anything from £16 to £20 a week. The small handout which the Commonwealth Government provides is not enough to meet the expense of a convalescent home.
Again, if a patient is moved from a convalescent home to a public hospital for surgery the allowance is reduced immediately to only 8s. a day. That is the type of anomaly we see in our national health scheme. The whole scheme certainly needs thorough investigation and I can assure the Minister that if he agrees to an inquiry many undesirable aspects will be brought to light.
As honorable members know, the honorable member for Bowman, in addition to being a member of the National Parliament, is a member of the medical profession. At every available opportunity he rises in his place here, and emphasises how much the medical profession is opposed to the nationalisation of medicine. The medical fraternity of Australia gets a wonderful deal from the Commonwealth. It would get a wonderful deal out of nationalisation. I remind the House that the budgetary provision this year for the payment of fees to the medical fraternity is over £6 million.
We all appreciate that it is only because the Australian Medical Association has agreed to the provision of medical entitlement cards that more pensioners are now to enjoy the benefit of the pensioner medical service. The Australian Medical Association has been responsible for denying thousands of pensioners entitlement cards since 1955. These people from outside the Parliament dictate what the Government’s policy shall be. Honorable members on the Government side often have much to say about who dictates Labour’s policy. If this measure is not the result of dictatorship from outside the Parliament, then I do not know what is. I repeat that the pensioners are to receive this benefit only because the Australian Medical Association is in agreement.
I do not want to traverse ground already covered during the discussion tonight but I do want to make some reference to the honorable member for Bowman who stands in his place here condemning the nationalisation of medicine whenever the opportunity is available to him. On those occasions he boasts about what the doctors are doing for the community. We admit that they are doing a wonderful job, but we point out at the same time that they are being wonderfully well paid for doing it. The doctors say that it costs them a great deal to qualify for their profession. That may be so, but I emphasise that it costs the taxpayers a great deal to provide universities, teachers and all equipment necessary to enable these men to become doctors. All that medical students are required to pay are the fees and the cost of board. Ninety per cent, of the real cost of making them doctors is borne by the taxpayers.
Let me give the House a little information about the honorable member for Bowman. His correspondence with constituents and others is signed, “ W. T. Gibbs, M.B., B.S., F.R.C.S., F.R.C.S.E., M.P., Federal Member for Bowman “.
Apparently he is not a J.P. This is the type of man who condemns the Labour Party. Does this method of signing letters accord with the ethics of his profession? I would say that it is a form of advertising and I am sure his own association will jump on him for it. I remind him that he should always keep in mind the fact that his political mistakes are not as easily buried as his professional mistakes. He should keep that in mind whenever he is tempted to condemn the Australian Labour Party for advocating a better deal for the people of Australia, and for advocating that all pensioners be issued with medical entitlement cards.
Let me refer again to the miserly 8s. a day paid by the Commonwealth for those patients in hospitals who are not members of a medical benefit fund. This niggardly sum is an insult. Every person who pays taxes in this country and who becomes hospitalised should be paid the same benefit. We should not select one section of the community for special treatment. The person who is not a member of a medical benefit fund should not be limited to 8s. a day when in hospital. This same person also suffers a disadvantage when he consults a medical practitioner. He receives no Commonwealth benefit whatever if he finds it necessary to seek medical advice. Here again it cannot be said that this Government has given a fair go to every section of the community. The way things are in the community at present many families can ill afford to be members of these associations and have to fall back upon facilities provided by the State Governments. When members of these families become ill they cannot afford to call a doctor and have to go to hospital. Because the Commonwealth Government does not accept full responsibility a lot of what should be the Commonwealth’s responsibility must fall on to the States.
Other honorable members have made reference to ambulance funds. It is necessary for pensioners to pay into these funds so that if they become ill and require to go to hospital they will be able to be transported by the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. In all kinds of ways the Government is taking money from the pensioners. Because of the high cost of living, the high cost of rents for pensioners who rent homes and the high rates and taxes that have to be paid by pensioner home owners, the pensioner is put behind the 8-ball. A little more thought should be given to the national health scheme and a great deal more thought given to seeing that every section of the community benefits under the National Health Act.
.- in reply- There are just one or two points I should like to touch on briefly. The whole theme of the Opposition’s criticism of this measure has been directed to the association between the Government and the Australian Medical Association in providing this service for pensioners. Perhaps honorable members opposite do not understand that the whole concept of our national health scheme is one of partnership and of free choice. This system, where a pensioner has a right to select his own doctor and where the doctor has an opportunity to be in the scheme or out of it, depends upon the partnership between the Government and the doctors for its full and complete functioning. It is quite obvious that if the Government intends to make changes in the system it must negotiate with the Australian Medical Association just as it previously negotiated with the British Medical Association.
The Opposition has adopted what I think is purely a political method in trying to detract attention from the basis of the scheme and to discredit the arrangements that have been made. I say, as I have said on several occasions in the past in relation to this matter, that the Australian Medical Association has been most co-operative as far as the pensioner medical service is concerned. It has co-operated in every possible way. The very fact that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine), the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), and the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) were able to discuss different angles of the findings of committees of inquiry indicated that only a small proportion of doctors have committed breaches of the provisions governing the system. Those breaches do not warrant a condemnation of the system as a whole or of the medical profession as a whole. Always there is a small percentage of people who will cause difficulties by not adhering to the law. I suppose that is why laws are enacted in the first instance. By far the greater proportion of doctors have worked under the system quite well and only a very small percentage have not played the game and have come under the scrutiny of the committees of inquiry in the various States, lt was interesting to note that the angle of approach to this matter differed depending on which side of the House the speaker was. From one side there was condemnation of a system that inhibited doctors from providing any type of service or any extent of service without limitation. On the other hand, there was criticism that insufficient restrictions were imposed to bring about a reduction in the incomes of doctors. The point I make is that the system is working well. I think it has been shown that the doctors themselves are playing a very important part in accordance with the ethics of their profession.
The honorable member for Grayndler offered some criticism of the fact that the benefits under this measure will come into operation on 1st January next. He suggested that the Government knew early this year - I presume he meant this calendar year - that this scheme would be put into effect. I am afraid that this is purely a political statement, because he knows that this was a budgetary matter. It was announced in the Budget and the legislation has been introduced during the Budget sessional period. The reason, as I have clearly stated, that the scheme will be introduced as from 1st January next is purely an administration reason. Three departments are involved and approximately 120,000 pensioners have to be contacted and advised before that date. The cards have to be put through these three departments and it would be physically impossible to commence the system any sooner than 1st January. The only exception is that the extension of the scheme to students up to the age of 21 will commence from the date that this Bill becomes an Act.
Criticism was offered also by the honorable member for East Sydney in relation to hospitalisation for pensioners. The honorable member implied that in my second reading speech I claimed that the Commonwealth was providing free hospitalisation. Of course that is not correct. If honorable members read my second reading speech they will see that I referred to hospitalisation in a general sense and to that part of the system that was introduced prior to the introduction of this Bill, under which the amount paid to hospitals was increased to 36s. a day from the original 12s. a day, and under which also the money became payable direct to the hospitals instead of to State Treasuries. The idea was to encourage the States to provide this free hospitalisation. Hospitalisation is the responsibility of the States. In many cases pensioners had difficulty in obtaining free hospital services prior to the introduction of this particular aspect of the scheme. I am pleased to say that as a result of the change in the system we are now encouraging the States to provide free public hospitalisation on almost a complete scale. We are very pleased that the system has been effective in that direction.
The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) referred to a very important matter. The matter of closed funds certainly does not come within the ambit of this Bill but it does come within the national health scheme. This is a matter which the Government is examining very closely and intends to watch carefully in the future. We realise the significance of the problems involved, but at the same time we appreciate that facilities must be provided within the scheme for these types of funds. The points that were raised will be examined, and I appreciate the very thoughtful contribution that was made by the honorable member in relation to this matter. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) referred to the practice of stopping the payment of social service pensions to pensioners who enter a mental hospital and are certified. This is not a matter that comes within the ambit of this Bill or within the ambit of the National Health Act; it is purely a matter for the Department of Social Services. It is a fact that for obvious reasons payment is stopped when a person enters a mental hospital and is certified. This is a matter that comes within the control of the States who are responsible for that particular system. They regard a certified person as not being responsible and able to look after his own affairs and for that reason his pension ceases at the time he enters a mental hospital and is certified. The States, of course, carry on with their particular responsibility, which is to provide hospitalisation. But where the wife has children she may apply to the Department of Social Services for a widow’s pension. This she normally does automatically. As a recipient of the widow’s pension she qualifies under the pensioner medical service, as do her dependants. Those are the only points I wish to refer to at this stage. I thank honorable members for their comments and for their support of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
– I move -
That the clause be postponed.
I do this in order to facilitate the extension of the pensioner medical service to include dependants of totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. The Opposition has persistently advanced this proposition over a number of years, both in respect of health legislation and repatriation legislation. Indeed, this evening the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) dealt extensively with the matter.
Until October 1955 the pensioner medical service was available to all dependants of T.P.I, pensioners. As everybody knows, no means test was applied at that stage in respect of the pensioner medical service. Anybody who received any part of an age, invalid or widow’s pension or service pension - even as small as ls. a week - was eligible to participate in the pensioner medical service. In 1955 a means test was imposed. The effect of it was that single pensioners with additional income of more than £2 a week and married pensioner couples with additional income of more than £4 a week were excluded from participation in the pensioner medical scheme. Prior to 1955 wives of T.P.I, pensioners were eligible to participate in the pensioner medical service. A great effort was made by, I think, the repatriation authorities to encourage the wives of T.P.I, pensioners to apply to be included in the pensioner medical service. Circulars were sent to them. They had to apply before 31st October 1955. Those who did so became eligible under the pensioner medical service. Since 1955 many people who had received a medical entitlement card have increased their income. Notwithstanding this they have continued to hold the medical entitlement card. But the wives of men who became T.P.I, pensioners after October 1955 did not, in many cases, receive the same benefit.
The present T.P.I, pension is £14 5s. a week. The wife’s allowance is £2 0s. 6d. a week, making a total of £16 5s. 6d. If you receive £16 5s. 6d. a week from the repatriation authorities you may, in certain circumstances, establish eligibility for other Commonwealth pensions. If a T.P.I, pensioner is without a considerable amount of assets and if he qualifies in terms of the merged means test he may receive a service pension of £1 15s. a week. If his wife is over 60 years of age the service pension of £1 15s. can be split between the wife and the husband. The wife may receive 17s. 6d. and may be eligible for a part invalid pension or a part age pension, while her husband receives part service pension of 17s. 6d. I know that all this is very complicated because it involves a merged means test, which is not understood by everybody. The T.P.I, pensioner receives £16 5s. a week. This leaves him and his wife with a total merged means of £88. If they earn more than £88 they are excluded from eligibility for a service pension, an age pension or an invalid pension. Many people narrowly miss out from qualifying for the pensioner medical service. On the other hand there are wives of T.P.I, pensioners who receive the benefits of the pensioner medical service because their entitlement was established before 1955.
There are not many wives of T.P.I, pensioners in the community. We all know that these women have devoted themselves for years to the care of their husbands. We are told that two-thirds of them are more than 70 years of age and that soon, if they survive their husbands, they are bound almost automatically to become war widows and will be transferred to the domain of the Repatriation Department which will take care of their hospital and medical needs. Meanwhile, there is great consternation among them. They have a feeling of anxiety and insecurity. They cannot understand the complicated entanglement of the merged means test. Surveys have shown, as has the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in answer to questions, that the cost of providing the pensioner medical service to dependants of T.P.I, pensioners would be about £750,000. I do not think this is an excessive amount. When all is said and done the T.P.I, pension is often less than the basic wage. We have not exceeded our obligations to the people who served this country and who in so doing were deprived of their working capacity. We have not been over benevolent to them.
Some wives of T.P.I, pensioners are eligible under the pensioner medical service because of peculiarities of the legislation. Others unfortunately just miss out because of mere technicalities. The Government should eliminate this division in the ranks of this unfortunate category of people. They have devoted their lives to the care of their incapacitated ex-servicemen husbands. They have been nurses, physiotherapists and constant companions of men engaged for years in a great struggle. I believe they have probably saved the Commonwealth a great deal of money. I am personally acquainted with several couples in which the husband is a T.P.I, pensioner, and I know that in many cases the devotion of the wife obviates the need for the T.P.I, husband to place himself in the permanent care of the Commonwealth in a repatriation hospital. This must save the Commonwealth an enormous amount of money. Of course, it is most desirable to keep the husband and wife together wherever possible.
What we are suggesting is in the form of a little reward for services rendered. I cannot put the proposition to the Minister on the mathematical basis, not having the capacity to do so because of the shocking conglomeration of jargon with which this merged means test, as it applies to these people, is hedged about. I put it merely on the basis of compassion and I suggest the extension of this benefit as a reward in recognition of the services rendered by these women. On that basis I ask the Minister to make an early effort to amend the legislation so that the benefits of the pensioner medical service, which are nowmade generously available to some, may be also available to the wives of T.P.I, exservicemen who have done so much.
.- I rise to support my colleague, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson), who has pleaded for full medical and hospital treatment for the wives of special rate pensioners. This is a matter that has been raised in this House on a number of occasions. The honorable member for Hughes has pointed out tonight that not very many people would be involved if the Government decided to agree to our contention that medical entitlement cards should be made available to the wives of totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. I said during the second reading debate that this is a matter that has been put to the Government over a number of years, and not only by honorable members on this side of the House. I said that it has been put to successive Ministers for Health, Ministers for Social Services and Ministers for Repatriation by those who represent the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen in our community. They have pointed out that the wives of these ex-servicemen are called upon to provide a far greater measure of physical assistance than would be necessary if the ex-servicemen had not suffered the disabilities for which they have been granted T.P.I, pensions.
This is a matter that the Government should consider favorably. The honorable member for Hughes has pointed out that as a result of the Government’s intention to extend the benefits of the pensioner medical service to classes of pensioners who did not previously enjoy them, a number of anomalies will arise. The honorable member for Hughes has referred to one of those anomalies. Consider the case of a T.P.I, exserviceman whose income is less than £18 a week. If he is married and is able to qualify for a part service pension, or if his wife is able to qualify for a pension because she is over the age of 60 years or is herself totally incapacitated and can therefore get a part age or part invalid pension, then a medical entitlement card will be issued because the income of the couple will not have exceeded the ceiling income limit laid down by this Government of £18 0s. 6d. a week.
Why is there this injustice? Why is this provision applied to one section of T.P.I, ex-servicemen and not to others? It has already been pointed out that not a great many wives would be involved if the Government decided to extend this measure of assistance to them. If the T.P.I, exserviceman dies his widow is immediately provided with full medical and hospital treatment. The Government then recognises that it has this responsibility, but it will not accept the responsibility while the T.P.I, ex-serviceman is still alive. This is an anomaly, even if one overlooks the anomaly that exists in relation to the ceiling limit and the way that the Government operates its means test. Do not forget that a means test is still applied in respect of the entitlement card. Until the Government accepts the proposition that the wives of T.P.I, ex-servicemen should be given medical entitlement cards, irrespective of income, then there is still a means test applied to a very important section of pensioners to whom this Government certainly has a great responsibility.
It has already been pointed out that if a special rate pensioner has no income apart from his T.P.I, pension, if he is able to qualify for a part service pension or his wife for a part age pension or some other benefit under the social service legislation according to her physical and financial circumstances, then an entitlement card is freely available. Indeed, many of these people received the card prior to 1955 when this Government applied its means test. But consider the case of a special rate pensioner who has an income of £1 15s. a week. This is the maximum amount that a special rate pensioner could obtain over and above his T.P.I, pension which is at the rate of £14 5s. a week for himself and £2 Os. 6d. for his wife. The maximum amount of extra income he can receive before reaching the ceiling limit is £1 15s. a week. If he receives an extra income of, say, £1 16s., this is sufficient to disqualify him for a part service pension, and so he would not receive an entitlement card. But if his extra income is received as a result of previous contributions to a superannuation fund, whether Commonwealth or State, he would not be disqualified. If the Government is prepared to give full medical and hospital treatment to the wives of special rate pensioners whose extra income comes from a superannuation fund, why does it not extend a similar benefit and privilege to the wives of special rate pensioners whose additional income may have come from some other source?
I know that the Minister will, if he is prepared to answer the proposition put forward by the Opposition, tell us that there are only a limited number of these people and that in some circumstances their additional income over and above the special rate pension is considerable. So far as the Opposition is concerned this does not matter. We believe that the fact that a special rate pension has been granted on the basis of total incapacity should be sufficient for this Government to agree that the wives of such persons have a claim to full medical and hospital treatment in the same way as this Government provides such assistance to other classes of pensioners. I might refer, for example, to the position of the exserviceman receiving the 100 per cent, pension for partial incapacity. His pension is £6 a week. His wife can apply for an age pension if she is over the age of 60 years. He could also receive an age pension of £5 10s. a week, giving them a total from the age pension of £1 1 a week. With his £6 a week war pension they would have a total income of £17 a week and entitlement cards would be issued to both of them.
The Government has completely ignored the representations that have been made to it on a number of occasions by those who have some interest in and some understanding of the needs and requirements, medical and financial, of the wives of special rate pensioners. We believe that we are justified in moving that the clause be postponed in order that the Government might consider the case referred to it on behalf of those special rate pensioners who have requested that the Government give sympathetic consideration to providing for their wives the same medical treatment that is now available to all other classes of pensioners. I know that the Minister has received sympathetically the representatives of the organisation to which I have referred, but sympathy is not sufficient. A good case has been made out why the Government should provide the assistance requested. Even at this late stage the Minister should reconsider the matter with a view to providing that assistance.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- To set the record straight I should indicate that the Opposition’s move to have this clause postponed is designed merely to introduce a proposal relating to a matter within the Bill itself. It is not seeking a postponement to introduce some other matter. I accept its move in this spirit. Apparently it has not been understood by the two honorable members who have just spoken that the pensioner medical service is associated with pensioners who come within the scope of the Social Services Act.
– Or the Repatriation Act.
– It does not apply to pensioners who come within the scope of any other act, except the Tuberculosis Act. The Repatriation Act is outside the scope of this particular service, but service pensioners, who are in a way similar to social service pensioners, have this entitlement. Any proposal that the pensioner medical card be provided to the dependants of a war pensioner has no actual relationship to this measure. The honorable member has suggested that war pensioners and their dependants should be granted a special benefit, but this does not come within the scope of the Bill. It would have to be dealt with in a separate bill. The bulk ot the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners - and I have not the figures with me - are in receipt of some other form of pension. In many cases their dependants are in receipt of some allowance or pension that will qualify them, as from 1st January next, for the pensioner medical service. There will still be a limited number of persons in receipt of the T.P.I, war pension and their dependants who, because of the means test, will not qualify.
This measure is designed to overcome the major problem that has been explained time and again during this debate. It relates to 120,000 pensioners who are at present outside the scheme but who will be brought within the ambit of the scheme as from 1st January next. I am sure this service will be appreciated by those people. The people involved are age pensioners, invalid pensioners, widow pensioners classes A, B and C under the Social Services Act, and service pensioners under the Repatriation Act. These people will qualify under the means test that applies on 1st January 1966. In addition, all persons in receipt of a tuberculosis allowance under the Tuberculosis Act will qualify. The dependants of the classes I have mentioned, including student children - the age limit in resect of whom will now be extended to 21 years - will qualify too. People who are in receipt of any other form of income - whether it be superannuation, war pension, mine workers pension, railway pension - provided they are in receipt also of a part social service pension will be entitled to the benefits of the pensioner medical service, as will be their dependants. For the reasons I have mentioned we cannot agree to the proposals that have been made by the Opposition.
Question put -
That clause 1 be postponed (Mr. L. R. Johnson’s amendment).
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- Mr. Chairman, I do not wish to delay the Committee at this hour of the night. I just want to make a few comments in regard to clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill. Clause 2 refers to the date on which the provisions in the Bill will come into force. That is to say, the medical benefits provisions for all pensioners will commence on 1st January 1966. Earlier the Minister for Health (Mr. Swartz) - and I make only passing reference to this - stated that the Government had no idea probably until 1st July of this year that this change would be made. Consequently, the Government could not provide for the implementation of this legislation until that date I have mentioned. As was mentioned earlier by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine), it is significant that the Government can always back-date any measure dealing with any matter except those which affect pensioners. The Australian Country Party insisted, of course, that the superphosphate bounty payment should commence from the day the bill concerning that matter was introduced into the House. I congratulate the Country Party on that. That is what ought to be done with regard to pensioners.
Similarly, we find that when there are measures associated with increases in the salary of judges and others, there is no difficulty at all in back-dating the payments. Evidently there is no difficulty in any matter except that pertaining to pensions and benefits to pensioners. Apparently the Government cannot see fit to back-date these payments. I would like to know from the Minister why the Government always discriminates against the most deserving section of the community, the pensioners, and makes that section wait the very maximum time before the benefit is granted. For 10 years now, pensioners have waited for this benefit to be restored. They will have waited almost ten and a half years by the time the Government concession is granted. I can see no reason why this measure should not have been brought down immediately after the Budget was introduced or during the course of the Budget debate. It should have taken effect not later than the date of the commencement of the social service benefits that apply this year. Therefore, the Minister’s explanation, to my mind, will not hold water. I place on record the regret of my party that the Government has not seen fit to commence the benefits earlier than 1st January 1966.
The other section of the Bill to which I wish to refer is clause 3 which applies to children receiving full time education at a school, college or university. I would like to know whether this provision covers teachers college trainees. I know that it does not cover other trainees or apprentices. It does not cover cadets in certain categories. There is no reason why these groups should not be included. A similar act introduced recently does not apply to teacher trainees. I would like to know whether this Bill does apply to them. If it does not, I believe it should. This is something that is important. In New South Wales, teacher trainees are receiving an allowance of only £5 a week. In other States they would be to all intents and purposes full time students at a college, school or university. Those are the two matters I bring to the attention of the Minister. On the question of the payment of these benefits from 1st January 1966, I hope the Minister can give, at least, an assurance that the Government will reform and, in future, treat pensioners and the benefits they receive on the same basis as much more influential sections of the community are treated. I would like to know whether teacher college trainees and others in a similar category are included in the provisions of clause 3. If not, I ask whether the Government will give consideration to including them within the scope of that clause.
– Mr. Chairman, the conditions for student children up to the age of 21 are exactly the same as those provided under the Social Services Act. The groups that are included are defined fairly clearly there. Unfortunately, I have not a copy of that Act with me. To the best of my knowledge, the other groups mentioned by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) are not covered. However, I will check on the matter and provide the honorable member with the information he requires. With regard to the commencement date of 1st January 1966, for the commencement of the scheme, I have explained several times the reason for this. It is a physical reason. It is not related to the time when the Bill is passed by the Parliament. If the Bill had been passed on the first day on which Parliament sat, it would not have made the slightest difference. From the date the decision was made by Cabinet to grant the benefits, we have been physically working between three departments preparing the papers. First, we had to ascertain who was entitled to the benefits. Secondly, we had to co-ordinate arrangements between three departments. Thirdly, we had the physical operation of preparing the advice, which is ready to go out now to most of the pensioners in the form of a letter telling them of the system and of their entitlement. The final operation is to prepare and distribute all the pensioner medical cards. Physically, it was not possible to have all this done earlier than about the end of December. The actual date of 1st January is, for administrative reasons, the earliest possible date on which this could be brought into operation.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr. Swartz) - by leave - read a third time.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate -
Without amendment -
Customs Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1965.
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1965.
Bank Finance - University of SydneyTelevision Documentary Film.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring to the attention of the House weaknesses in the policy of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, especially the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The cases I shall mention relate to an ex-serviceman who wanted to borrow money to carry him over while he was waiting for a Joan from the War Services Homes Division and to the attitude of the Bank towards people who have had accounts with it for many years and who want to borrow money to buy a home. I wrote to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold
Holt) about these cases some time ago and received an unsatisfactory reply. I believe it is time that the Government had a look at the policy of the Bank.
The ex-serviceman to whom I have referred applied to the War Services Homes Division and was granted a loan of £2,300 with which to purchase an existing property. As the House knows, the waiting period before such a loan is available is some 17 months. The ex-serviceman sought temporary accommodation from his bank, the Mayfield branch of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, where he had had an account all his life. The Bank wrote to him in these terms -
Application for Loan - Existing House.
We refer to your recent application and regret to advise you that the Bank is unable to assist you in this instance.
This man had an account with the Commonwealth Savings Bank all his life, but the moment he wanted to borrow from the Bank he was refused, although his security was completely safe. The irony of it is that he then went to a private bank in the same suburb, a matter of 100 yards from the Commonwealth Bank, and asked for a loan. He had never deposited one penny with this bank during his lifetime, but he went there in desperation. He had bought a home and he wanted the money to pay for it. He said: “ Can you lend me £2,300 for 17 months on this security? “ The answer was: “ That is all right. Come back tomorrow and the money will be available.” The ex-serviceman is in his 40’s. His application for a loan from the War Service Homes Division was successful and he had been a customer of the Commonwealth Savings Bank for the whole of his life. But the Commonwealth Bank refused to give him a loan.
I realise that the Treasurer is busy and is unable to come into the House at the moment, but I know that he is listening to my remarks. I think it is time that the Treasurer issued a directive to the Commonwealth Bank that people who have been customers of the Bank for many years must be given the same type of consideration as the private bank was willing to extend to the ex-serviceman, who had plenty of security. I have the Treasurer’s reply to my correspondence. He supported the attitude of the Bank and its policy. I believe it is time that some action was taken in these matters. The
Bank should give some service and consideration to ex-servicemen who have been its customers for many years and who have been told by the War Service Homes Division that their applications for loans have been approved.
I want to bring to the attention of the Treasurer once again a similar case which shows the attitude of the Commonwealth Savings Bank towards its customers. In this instance, the husband said that he had had an account with the Commonwealth Savings Bank at Tighes Hill since 1934. The wife said that she had had an account with the Newcomen Street branch of the Commonwealth Savings Bank since 1942. When they were married they amalgamated the accounts and placed the money in the one joint account. Recently they decided to sell their home. When they were married, they purchased a home that had already been built. Now that their children have grown up, they thought they would like to have a new home. They had never enjoyed the pleasure of a new home and they decided to buy one. They sold the old home for £3,200. The buyer paid £1,600 in cash and these people financed the other £1,600 for three years. They immediately deposited the £1,600 with the Commonwealth Bank. They used £200 to buy some things for the new home that they had purchased. The builder of the home was of the opinion that money was readily available from the Commonwealth Bank. They sold their home and vacated it, expecting to move into the new home when they obtained finance. However, when they went to the Bank, they were told that, to be eligible for a loan, they had to have an average balance of £500 a month for 12 months. These people had been constant customers of the Bank from 1934 and 1942 and between them had balances of between £200 and £400. This is the amount that the average worker has in a bank while paying for his home. These people, therefore, were ineligible for a loan, and they were told that when they did qualify they would have to wait probably for another four or five months before the money became available.
This is another example of the way that the Commonwealth Bank is disregarding the needs of people who have been its customers for many years. I spoke to Mr. James, the Manager of the Newcastle branch of the Commonwealth Bank. I went from him to Mr. Bourke in the Sydney office of the Bank who is in charge of housing loans. They both gave me the same story. If customers do not have an average balance of £500 a month for 12 months, they are not eligible for a loan. The people to whom I have referred had deposited £1,400 with the Bank in addition to their existing balance. They had a total balance of about £1,500, but they still had to wait for this period before they were eligible for a loan. I believe that the Bank should consider the needs of people who have banked with it all their lives. It should not adopt this dogmatic attitude about what they must have.
This couple had an asset in the form of their home. One cannot invest one’s money in a home and at the same time deposit it in a bank. As soon as they sold their home they paid the proceeds into the bank. This indicates their support for and loyalty towards the bank, but it did noi reciprocate by making money available to them. If the builder of the home had told them that they could occupy it and pay rental until their loan became available, the catch would have been that the dwelling would then have become a secondhand home and its purchase would have been financed not by the Commonwealth Savings Bank but by the Commonwealth Trading Bank and interest would have been paid at the rate of about 64 per cent. Furthermore, instead of receiving an advance of up to perhaps 75 per cent, of the purchase price the couple would probably have received only something like 60 per cent. When this couple came to me and I realised how little hope there was of help from the Commonwealth Savings Bank I took them to the Newcastle Cooperative Building Society, which, within about a week, gave them a loan, not at the rate of interest paid by borrowers from the Commonwealth Bank but at Si per cent.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that it is time this matter of the Commonwealth Savings Bank’s altitude to housing loans was looked at. I recently placed on notice a question to the Treasurer seeking information about the funds made available for housing loans by this bank. I was astounded to learn from the reply, which appears at page 2499 of “ Hansard “ of 9th November, that this Bank is not the largest lender of funds for home building as a proportion of its total deposits. The answer to my question reveals that in 1965 the Commonwealth Savings Bank advanced 22 per cent, of its depositors’ balances in housing loans, the State savings banks 29.7 per cent., the Australia and New Zealand Savings Bank Ltd. 23.2 per cent., the Bank of Adelaide Savings Bank Ltd. 23.9 per cent., the Bank of New South Wales Savings Bank Ltd. 24.4 per cent, and the C.B.C. Savings Bank Ltd. 21.2 per cent. Clearly it is time the Treasurer stepped in and reviewed the whole question of housing loans by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and made sure that its customers of many years’ standing are given a better deal and afforded an opportunity to borrow the money that they need when they wish to finance a home through the War Service Homes Division. Most important of all, I believe that a greater percentage of the deposits of the Bank should be made available to its customers for housing purposes and that action must be taken to ensure that this is done.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, the question of the refusal to appoint Dr. F. Knopfelmacher to the position of senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sydney is one of the most important questions relating to the legitimate use of academic freedom that has arisen within the Australian universities in the last 20 or 30 years. This matter was first raised in the Parliament earlier this year and it has not been finally resolved. Certain principles still need to be resolved finally and correctly. The matter began in late 1964 when the University advertised the position of senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy. Dr. Knopfelmacher, together with others, applied for the post. During early 1965 a selection committee considered the applications and unanimously, apart from one abstention, recommended that he be appointed. Subsequently a unique series of events took place. I understand that such a series of events has never occurred previously in the University.
The Professorial Board, which in the past has in a rather formal way adopted the recommendations made by selection committees, rejected the recommendation of the selection committee for this appointment. There was a further meeting of the Board and the recommendation was again rejected.
Several questions arise from this. They were aired in this chamber a few months ago. Since that time the University has again called applications for the position. On this occasion there were two. One applicant was quickly ruled out because he did not have the requisite academic qualifications. This left only Dr. Knopfelmacher and the selection committee again considered his application. This body which in the first instance, apart from one abstention, had unanimously recommended his appointment, now recommended, by a vote of five to three that the post be not filled, again with an abstention by one member - Professor Stout. The chairman of the selection committee has submitted the committee’s recommendation to the Professorial Board and the matter is to be considered by the Senate of the University on 6th December. The changed attitude of the committee needs to be examined very closely. Why did it change its attitude? On what grounds did it reject Dr. Knopfelmacher’s application?
– Tell us.
– I am coming to that. Professor Armstrong, who is Challis Professor of Philosophy in the University and under whom Dr. Knopfelmacher would serve, at a meeting of the Professorial Board held this week to consider the rejection of this man’s application, stated very clearly, referring to the fact that Dr. Knopfelmacher had the requisite academic qualifications for the job: “ I believe that all members of the committee accepted this”. Dr. Knopfelmacher has sufficient expertise to do the work, he is objective in his teaching and he has the requisite capacity. In every way he fills the requirements. On what grounds, then, did the five members of the selection committee reject his application?
– What is the honorable member praying for?
– Perhaps for the honorable member’s soul if one could only find it. What happened to cause the change of attitude by these members of the selection committee? Were they in fact intimidated into voting against Dr. Knopfelmacher?
– This is important. After all, the honorable member has been intimidated in politics quite often. If he wants me to drag out the circumstances I shall do so, but I would not press it if I were he. Were these members of the selection committee intimidated? Was pressure to reject Dr. Knopfelmacher’s application put on them? Why did Professor Still, Chairman of the Professorial Board, state this week that he would not put in writing his report on the matter? He stated this explicitly. Why? We know that Professors Armstrong, Duncan and Spann did not oppose the appointment of Dr. Knopfelmacher. They associated themselves with a statement that his application had not been rejected on academic grounds or any of the other grounds into which a university has the right to inquire.
The matter has now moved to the field of the Senate of the University of Sydney, which is to meet on 6th December to consider the recommendation that no appointment be made. We ask that the relevant papers stating the basis for the rejection of Dr. Knopfelmacher’s application be tabled at that meeting. After all, this man’s character has been impugned. What other reasons have been dredged up to bar him from an appointment in the University of Sydney? We can only assume that between the meeting of the selection committee over the first application and the meeting of the selection committee over the second application Dr. Knopfelmacher did something which was not received well by the committee. What did he do which was not received well by the committee? If the Senate of the University of Sydney will tell us we can run these measuring rods over quite a number of the other staff of the University of Sydney and of a number of other universities within Australia.
We are entitled to ask why this great radical organisation, the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations, has cringed away in abject silence. Does the
Association make a case only for left wingers? Is this a fair test of academic freedom and of objectivity of thought? We ask that these questions be answered by the University of Sydney so that it can clear its name. It must be remembered that the University of Sydney is the oldest academic tertiary institution in Australia. It is, in a sense, the mother university in this country. If these systems of appointment are allowed to obtain in that institution, can we blame or accuse other lesser provincial universities - perhaps even the University of Queensland - if they adopt similar principles in making their own appointments? We ask that Professor Roberts, the Chancellor of the University of Sydney, show some leadership in this matter and that the Senate of that body preserve the name of objectivity and academic freedom within the oldest university within Australia. They have this task which will be thrust on them on 6th December. We ask that these things be done.
There are a number of questions to be asked: Why did the professorial board take the unique action of rejecting the selection committee’s report in the first place? Why did the selection committee change its attitude? On what grounds did it change its attitude? Now we ask that the Senate of the University observe its responsibilities in these respects. If it does not do so we can only assume that the man has been rejected for political reasons, for personal reasons, or with a vicious outburst of anti-semitism on the part of the relevant persons at the University of Sydney.
.- I answer the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) by saying that I am sure his request will receive the same treatment as requests made by members of the Opposition when we have asked that certain documents be tabled in the Parliament or even in the Parliamentary Library for perusal by honorable members. Tonight I should like to speak about a programme which has been receiving a fair amount of publicity in the Press. I refer to a documentary entitled “ Living on the Fringe “ which was shown on the Australian Broadcasting Commission television station in Sydney on two occasions. It was shown on the second occasion because of the amount of opposition it had evoked from some sections of the community.
– Was this in the honorable member’s electorate?
– The film did not depict any part of my electorate, but certain people who appeared in the programme were from my electorate. If the honorable member will listen for a moment I will inform him of the events that led up to the scenes in some parts of the film. Yesterday the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) whether this programme had appeared in any State other than New South Wales. The Minister replied that he was not aware that it had been shown elsewhere. I should like to inform the Minister that the film was shown on Channel ABS2, the A.B.C. station in Adelaide, in the programme “ Impact “ at 8.35 p.m. on Tuesday, 9th November.
The film was made by an Italian director who was brought out from Italy especially to make this film as an entry for an overseas film festival. I do not think anyone would be opposed to the showing of a film overseas to depict the Australian way of life, but “ Living on the Fringe “ does not do so. On the contrary, it casts a slur on the Australian way of life. Certain sections of this film are a complete fraud, and it would only mislead people overseas to whom it was shown. I believe also that it could have an adverse effect on our immigration programme. I see that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) is in the chamber. Perhaps at some time he will look at the film and see whether he considers that it could mislead many prospective migrants. We know that at present the Minister is trying to encourage people to come to Australia. There are two special scenes in the film which I should like to mention. One shows school children, without shoes, sitting in a gutter. 1 should add that these children attend a school which is right on the border of my electorate. I refer to a school known as St. Francis. The film producer went into the school and asked the children to go into the street to pose for scenes for the film. He asked them to take off their shoes and they did so. At his request they sat in the gutter, and then they were filmed. Many of the children who appear in that scene are from very respectable families. They had been sent to school neatly dressed, wearing shoes and socks. When the parents saw how their children appeared in the scene they were greatly shocked. This section of the film is misleading and’ misrepresents the Australian way of life. Although these children were asked especially by the director to pose in that way for the film, when it is shown overseas it will be represented as depicting the natural Australian way of life. Honorable members can understand how misleading that scene would be.
Another part of the film showed a group of men, each holding a glass of beer, standing outside a hotel watching a blonde in tight pants whose posterior swayed with the rhythm of her walk. The girl in this scene was a professional model who has appeared on a great many occasions in television advertisements. As she walked up and down the street the men standing outside the hotel were shown with big eyes looking at her. I might say that the men who participated in that scene received 10s. each as a reward for their services.
– How much did the girl get? What about equal pay?
– Probably the men did not receive award wages. Perhaps the A.B.C. could not afford to pay more. All that those men received for standing outside the hotel while the scene was shot was 10s. Perhaps if members of Actors and Announcers Equity Association of Australia are listening or read about this they may ensure that the men who appeared in the scene receive the amount to which they are entitled for their services. But as they received only 10s. each, it can he seen that this part of the film does not represent the Australian way of life. This scene also is misleading and would only serve to show people overseas that Australians have not very high morals. It is this aspect of the film that we should consider. I hope that the Minister will look at it because, as I have mentioned, two scenes do not present a true picture. People in my electorate whose children attend St. Francis school are very upset. They sent their children to school neatly dressed and then saw them shown on the television screen in this manner. The parents were not even asked whether their children could appear in this programme. I suggest that the film is a fraud. I ask the Minister to look at it and, if he considers that it is inaccurate and detrimental to Australia because it could mislead people overseas, it should not be allowed to leave the country.
– It is dishonest.
– I agree with the honorable member. Perhaps the Italian director who was brought to Australia especially to make this film is accustomed to seeing scenes such as these in his own country, but situations such as the ones I have mentioned do not occur very frequently in Australia. It might be of benefit if we had a special screening of the film so that every honorable member might see it and be in a position to form a judgment on it. But I do ask the Minister at least to look at the film so that he will know what it actually depicts. In my opinion, it casts a slur on the Australian way of life. I do not think it would be right to allow it to be shown overseas for it might cause people on the other side of the world to form an unfavorable opinion of the Australian way of life.
– I should like to say a few words in support of my friend the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Kevin Cairns) with regard to this deplorable Knopfelmacher affair at the University of Sydney. I think honorable members will know of the reluctance with which I speak on this matter.
When the appointment was first mooted, it went before a selection committee. That selection committee, with one abstention, recommended Dr. Knopfelmacher for the post. While it was deliberating, a great deal of pressure was brought to bear upon its members by left wingers, particularly people who had been connected with the recent Peace Conference, who were also in the University and who had been affronted by the fact that Dr. Knopfelmacher had taken a view against them at the Peace Conference. Nevertheless, the committee did, as I have said, recommend his appointment.
When the recommendation came before the Professorial Board, certain left wingers, particularly Professor Christiansen and Professor Alexander, endeavoured to have the matter deferred for further consideration. They put forward the claim - and unfortunately they persuaded their colleagues - that they were doing this on academic grounds. If honorable members will look at the letters which were written in the Press by Professor May and Professor Alexander, they will see the truth of what I have been saying.
It is alleged that Dr. Knopfelmacher was rejected by the Professorial Board, at that meeting in April, on academic grounds. It was said that he was not a scholar and that his record of publications was insufficient. These things were untrue, and they were admitted, subsequently to be untrue. When the matter came back to the selection committee, only a few days ago, the Committee itself recorded in its minutes that Dr. Knopfelmacher was a competent scholar, an objective lecturer and had an adequate record of publications. Therefore, it is now admitted that the grounds on which he was rejected were not academic grounds. This is, fortunately, now on the record. But what is most sad is that the members of the Professorial Board last April were persuaded forcefully by a propaganda campaign that they were voting on academic grounds. They now admit that this was wrong.
The selection committee had referees. It took references both from Australia and overseas with regard to Dr. Knopfelmacher’s work. It was now admitted on all sides that the man was academically qualified as a scholar, as a lecturer, and as a writer. But still he was turned down and it is now on the record that this was not done on academic grounds. Previously we had this specious pretence of this propaganda group, this pro-Communist propaganda group, that the man was not academically qualified. This was a false front which was put up. It is now admitted that it was a false front; yet, unfortunately, the University, which is probably trying to slide out of it now with the least trouble, has refused again to appoint Dr. Knopfelmacher to a post for which he is academically qualified in every way.
What is his crime? His crime is that he is an anti-Communist. Unfortunately, there is in the University of Sydney a proCommunist element. It is small and it is not representative, but it is sufficiently vociferous to raise the spectre that if there is an antiCommunist at the University there will be rows; he will be an uncomfortable colleague. Honorable members will see what this means. The issue is much more important now than the mere Knopfelmacher case. It has come to a position where Dr. Knopfelmacher’s case is now going to be held up as a dreadful example to anybody in any university who opposes Communism. This small well organised clique, this proCommunist gang, will be able to say: “ If you are anti-Communist, you will not get on. Look what we did to Dr. Knopfelmacher. He was a scholar; he was academically qualified all right but we said we would not work with him, and when we said that we were able to get him blackballed “.
This is a most serious matter. It is a complete denial of academic freedom. There is this double standard all the time. Tremendous freedom is demanded for the Communist even though the Communist himself may be organised to suppress freedom. I believe in freedom of expression, for all of us, but I do not believe in the freedom to organise to prevent other people from expressing their opinions. This is really the reason why the Communist Party has no place in the university - not because of its opinions but because it is a totalitarian Party which organises against academic and every other type of freedom.
I have seen resolutions from the student bodies some months ago to the effect that if it were shown that Dr. Knopfelmacher’s rejection was on non-academic grounds then there would be protests. I call on those bodies now to carry out their resolutions. It now stands clear, firm and on the record that Dr. Knopfelmacher’s rejection was not on academic grounds.
There are some darker sides to this which, perhaps, at a later stage, will have to be revealed. I do not intend to go into them tonight. There has been a campaign of spite against this man, run with obscene libel, published by a man called May, who is Professor of Italian at the University. It is a most disgraceful, personal attack of an obscene nature. There has been all kinds of petty gossip around the table. There has been an organised campaign run by a group of pro-Communists, a small group which unfortunately has succeeded in bemusing and intimidating the non-Communists in their voting on this case. It is a dreadful warning, and the House perhaps had better take note of it. But it is not really the business of this House so much as it is the business of the University of Sydney itself.
It is with great reluctance that I speak on this matter and say that the University of Sydney in this case has behaved very badly indeed.
.-I do not know very much about the details of the Knopfelmacher case, but it has certainly taken a strange turn now that we have the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) openly stating that it was a pro-Communist body that was responsible for the rejection of this particular person. I suggest that at the first opportunity he confer with his colleague the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) who defended the action of the University of Sydney in rejecting this person. The honorable member for Evans said that the matter had nothing whatever to do with politics but that in his opinion this person was rejected because of instability. The honorable member apparently had had long experience of this gentleman in respect of many public affairs and on television programmes, and that was his opinion. So it would now seem that instead of the honorable member for Mackellar accusing members on this side of the House of being pro-Communist he is accusing his own colleague, the honorable member for Evans, of being pro-Communist, because the honorable member for Evans supported the decision of the University in rejecting this person. It is no use the honorable member addressing the Opposition. I do not remember any Opposition member taking part in this debate referring to the rejection of this person. It was one of the colleagues of the honorable member for Mackellar who did so. 1 suggest that at the earliest opportunity, when the honorable member for Evans is in the House during a debate on the adjournment, the honorable member for Mackellar again raise this matter and fight it out with his colleague.
I should also like to support my colleague the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Devine) in demanding action in relation to this fraudulent picture that was exhibited in Sydney. I know that in some respects it might have been amusing, but one does not expect a Government-run organisation to stoop to requiring people to act in a dishonest manner or to leading children into the belief that they were doing something good by taking their shoes and socks off and sitting in the gutter so as to give the scene a more slummy appearance. Suppose that this had happened at Collaroy, Palm Beach or Manly; suppose it had happened in the electorate of Warringah or the electorate of Wentworth? What would the members for those areas say? Would they let it pass without some protest? But when it is in East Sydney or an industrial or so-called slum area that this happens everybody seems to make a big joke of it. Some action is demanded, and the persons responsible for this fraudulent picture should be brought to book and dismissed from the Public Service.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
What progress has the Attorney-General made in designing the new Federal Superior Court for which Cabinet gave authority in December 1962?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The question of the new Federal Superior Court was referred to in the recent debate on the Estimates for my Department, and as I said then, I have not been able to give as much attention to it as I would have liked. A lot of work has been done, but more remains to be done. It is a large project, and the difficulty has been to maintain its progress contemporaneously with other large projects currently receiving attention.
Consolidation of Commonwealth Statutes. (Question No 1314.)
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
As the consolidated Acts of the Parliament were last published with the Government’s authority as altered to 31st December 1950, and before that were published by the Government as altered to 1st January 1936, has the Government taken steps to authorise a further quindecennial consolidation of the Acts as altered to the end of this year?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
I hope to make a formal statement to the House in regard to the next consolidation of Commonwealth Statutes before the end of the present session.
Postal Department. (Question No. 1363.)
son asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
What is the estimated staff deficiency in respect of each section of his Department?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Arising from the full employment situation, the Commonwealth labour market is extremely competitive, particularly in the more populous States. In this situation, the Department, in common with other public and private employers, is experiencing difficulty in recruiting staff in numbers and quality to meet all requirements at all times.
In an undertaking employing more than 90,000 persons throughout Australia, there are inevitably vacancies at any point of time. The number, nature and location of these vacancies, however, vary from day to day. Vacancies for skilled tradesmen and juniors are persistent but overall the staff is adequate to operate, maintain and develop Departmental services.
If the honorable member wishes to obtain information about deficiency in a particular occupational group in a specific area, I shall be happy to supply him with the information.
y asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
r asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Why has there been no appointment of » Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory under section 1 (1.) of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Cases before the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court are being heard promptly by Judges who hold appointments under section 7 (2.) of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act. The question whether the Governor-General should be advised to appoint a Judge under section 7 (1.) of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act will be considered as occasion may require.
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil
Aviation has supplied the following information -
The services subsidised are passenger services with some freight capacity. In 1959-60 a special additional subsidy of £1,029 was paid for the operation of a limited number of freighter flights which were needed to uplift an accumulation of fresh meat on King Island. Otherwise subsidy has not been paid for freighter services.
s. - On 13th October the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) asked whether it was practicable to ensure that news of the numbers of casualties amongst Australian troops serving in Vietnam not be known publicly until such time as the next-of-kin of those actually killed or wounded have been informed? I confirm my reply at the time that numbers are no longer released at the time of the action which occasioned the casualties. There is no release of the number, nature or names of casualties until next-of-kin have been informed when an official release is made.
There is, of course, no complete control over press reporting of casualties in the absence of full military censorship control such as that imposed during World War II. Nor, in view of what I have said above, does it seem necessary to ask Australian news media to agree voluntarily to withhold any mention of casualties in a news item. 1 might add that even if they did so agree, the news that Australian soldiers were committed to an action would of itself give rise to anxiety. Furthermore, if Australian media were to withhold mention of casualties, this information would still reach the Australian public through foreign news sources and this, it is considered, could be a source of rumour and misleading reports which would cause even more concern to the relatives, and the public generally.
The Australian Army’s system of notifying casualties is as rapid as it possibly can be and every endeavour is made to convey advice to next-of-kin personally with sympathy, tact and accuracy.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 November 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1965/19651118_reps_25_hor49/>.