25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House (hat a delegation of three members from the Sabah branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, led by the Honorable Lee On Yin, is at present in the gallery of the House. On behalf of honorable . members of the Commonwealth of Australia branch of the Association I extend to the members of the delegation a very warm welcome.
Mr. ARMSTRONG presented a petition from certain citizens of Australia praying that the Australian Government increase by an immense amount its contributions to nonmilitary overseas aid, to be financed, if necessary, by increases in taxation, administered by some international organisation such as the United Nations and offered to countries without reference to political advantage or purposes, but solely on the basis of need.
- Mr. Speaker, I have a very important question to ask. Has the Prime Minister been advised that at a public meeting last Sunday in Sydney Mr. Francis James, the editor of the “ Anglican “, said that three long-standing members of the Liberal Party were members of the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament? Is it not a fact that this organisation was described in the House by both the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Army as being under Communist influence, when those honorable gentlemen attacked the mother of a cadet during a discussion of the Michaelis affair? Is it not a fact that the Association for International
Co-operation and Disarmament has consultative status with the United Nations? Does the fact that three Liberal Party members belong to this organisation now make it any less of a Communist front in the eyes of the Prime Minister, or was the Prime Minister’s original allegation completely unfounded and reckless?
– I will study the text of the honorable gentleman’s question and give him such detailed reply as I can. I can assure him that the Liberal Party will not be taking the kind of disciplinary action against Liberal members that the Labour Party took in relation to a member of that Party.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that certain sections of the nation have been led to believe that the Government is conscripting young men and giving them no alternative but to fight in Vietnam with the Regular Army? ls it not made abundantly clear to every young man who registers on attaining the agc of 20 years that he can elect either to help defend Australia by training in the Citizen Military Forces or to take a chance by entering a ballot for national service? When must a young man make this decision, and is the choice also available to aliens? Because of the great national importance of this issue, will he take extraordinary measures to make clear to the whole nation that men enter the national service ballot by their own free choice, preferring to chance the long odds there against their selection, to training in their spare time with the C.M.F.?
– The honorable member correctly states in broad terms the situation which exists. There is a clear indication in prominent type on the document which accompanies the national service registration form that such a choice is open to the prospective registrant if he registers within a prescribed time. So the option is definitely there. This option is not to be exercised - for reasons which I think will be obvious enough - after the ballot has occurred and the young man in question has found himself included in the call up. So far as aliens are concerned, they have the same choice in this matter, but they are called up not at 20 years of age but at
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that, despite the costly and extensive recruiting campaign carried out by his Department, the Australian Army increased its manpower in August by two and that the Royal Australian Navy’s manpower decreased by three during the same period? In view of this unsatisfactory result does the Minister intend to review the existing costly campaign in order to obtain a more satisfactory response? I further ask: Has he considered the cost to the nation of advertising which resulted in increasing the Army’s strength by not more than two additional personnel in one month?
– The honorable member raises a very interesting question. On the one hand if the Government does not make an effort to recruit troops then, of course, there is bitter complaint that we rely on national service. If we do spend money on recruiting, and make an enormous effort on recruiting-
– And fail.
– The honorable member should let somebody else have a chance. If we do spend money on recruiting there is a great complaint that the results are not commensurate with the expenditure involved. I do not have the figures at my fingertips at the moment. All I can say is that on an overall basis, despite all the efforts made in recruiting in every possible way, the result has been such as to completely justify reliance on national service.
– In addressing a question to the Attorney-General, I refer to the publication “ New China News “ of 24th August of this year in which an Australian, William Morrow by name, was reported to have told a mass rally in Peking that he, Morrow, expressed “ gratitude and thanks “ to the Communist Party of China and Chairman Mao for their “ great foresight and for passing on to the world sound advice and leadership in the cause of the world revolution “. Will the honorable gentleman inquire whether this man Morrow was correctly reported? If he was correctly reported, will the AttorneyGeneral examine the implications of the statements? Meanwhile, will the honorable gentleman accept my assurance that there is widespread resentment against-
– I rise to order. Is this question in order?
– I think the honorable member for Moreton is going outside the Standing Orders. He should ask his question without comment.
– I am asking the AttorneyGeneral whether he will examine the implications in these statements alleged to be made by Mr. Morrow. Will he also examine-
– I rise to order. The honorable member does not vouch for the accuracy of the statements. He says that they are alleged to have been made by Mr. Morrow.
– Then we will put it in order. Does the honorable member for Moreton vouch for the accuracy of the statements?
– I certainly do.
– That answers the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Will he examine the implications of the statements made by this man Morrow?
– There is a man named Morrow who is well known by reputation in Australia and who was formerly a senator. I believe this is the same man who WaS once awarded a Stalin prize. He has been in the forefront of a peace organisation in Australia. It is known that he was outside Australia, and indeed likely to be in China. Whether he made the statements to which the honorable gentleman alludes, I am unable to say. I have not seen the statements but I shall do as the honorable gentleman asks. L shall see whether it is possible for me to ascertain whether the words that have been quoted in the magazine, or whatever it was. were in fact uttered by this same William Morrow.
– 1 address to the Minister for Health a question relating to item 891 of the Schedule of Commonwealth Benefits under the National Health Act which shows a Commonwealth benefit of £10 and which in the Bill now before the House shows a Commonwealth benefit of $20. ls it correct that since late 1964 benefit fund organisations, acting on instructions from the Minister’s Department, have paid only £2 10s. or $5 Commonwealth benefit as the Department claimed that the £10 shown in the Act was a misprint? Will the Minister state whether the $20 benefit printed in the Bill now before Parliament is an actual increase in the benefit to meet rising medical costs, and will he give an assurance that it will not be claimed later to be another of his mistakes or misprints?
– As the honorable gentleman is aware, the only amendment being made to the Schedule to the Act is the conversion of amounts from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency. I am not familiar with each of the hundreds of benefits contained in the Schedule, but I shall be glad to look at the question which the honorable member has raised and to give him a detailed answer.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. The Minister will recall that recently in answer to a question he said that there would be a meeting of the Murray River
Commission in Melbourne, at which he would be chairman and at which the alarming increase in the salt content of Murray River waters would be discussed. I now ask: Was the meeting held? Was the increasing salinity of the Murray River discussed? If so. did the Commission decide on any specific action in an endeavour to overcome the problem?
– The meeting to which the honorable member alludes was duly held. We discussed at considerable length this problem of the increasing salinity in the River Murray. It was decided that the River Murray Commission should obtain a consultant to make a survey, to take evidence on salinity from people in the area and then to report to the Commission what steps it should take to overcome the salinity problem. I have not been able to ascertain whether the particular person whom we had in mind has yet been approached and whether he has accepted the position. I hope that if he is unavailable another consultant of high quality will be obtained for the job. Incidentally, knowing the honorable member’s interest in the River Murray, I may tell him while I am on my feet that the Hume Weir will probably be full in the next fortnight and that as a result the restrictions on the use of water from the weir will be lifted today.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Industry: Is he aware that the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd., in its latest economic survey, states that the unemployment situation in Australia is even worse than is shown by the latest official figures? Is he aware also that the woollen and worsted section of the textile trade in Australia is suffering from a severe recession, and that boot trade manufacturers have recently been forced to dispense with the services of hundreds of employees, while thousands are threatened with almost immediate unemployment? Can the Minister state when the Tariff Board is likely to present its report on the footwear industry? Will he initiate measures to assist the woollen and worsted section of the textile trade? Does he believe the statement by the Australia and New Zealand Bank to be correct?
– I have not read the statement by the Australia and New Zealand Bank Ltd. to which the honorable member refers. As to unemployment figures, I am always guided by the official figures of the Government as released by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, or his Department. Concerning what tariff protection may be needed by the industries mentioned by the honorable member, the Government, my Department and I stand ready to refer to the Tariff Board any request made authoritatively by any industry, whether one of those mentioned by the honorable member or any other.
– There has been a long delay in these matters. They have been before the Tariff Board for a long time.
– We do not order the Tariff Board about.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. As a result of his recent visit overseas, is he in a position to advise the House of any prospective increase in the price of gold?
– During the discussions both at the meeting of the Commonwealth finance Ministers in Montreal and later at the meeting of the finance Ministers o£ the free world in Washington, I argued that there was a strong case for thinking that there was not sufficient international money to support an increase of the size we hoped for in world trade. There was a recognition of the fact that the danger existed. Consequently, it was agreed that provisional planning should take place to enable action to be taken quickly if it was considered that international money or liquidity was insufficient. There was a second important point related to the question: What kind of currency would be created? I argued strongly that any currency created should be tied to gold, because the real danger in international financing is that unless currency is tied to some commodity in short supply there could arise a set of conditions creating too much money and inflation could be caused in those countries which provide the funds and where the demand for resources will be made. Consequently, I argued strenuously that if we wanted to tie currency to a commodity in short supply it could best be tied to gold. The French accepted this view, and I believe it to be the right one. I have discussed this matter with a number of people. I now think that whilst, in the past, some had rejected the idea of incentives for the production of gold, they are now having second thoughts. I cannot say that there is a likelihood of the price of gold changing. What I do say is that there are strong grounds for arguing that incentives should be given for the production of gold. For example, an international subsidy should be given, but it should be made available only to those who add to the official supply and not for the hoarding of gold.
– I ask a supplementary question. Is the Treasurer trying to lead the House to believe that the Commonwealth Finance Ministers can do anything to increase the price of gold? Is it not a fact that unless America agrees to an increase in the price of gold there will be no increase? Is it a fact that if America increases the price of gold it will mean devaluation of the United States’ dollar, creating chaos in world trade? When the Treasurer says that he prefers the French view of tying currencies to gold, does he mean that he rejects the British view? Is he advocating a return to the gold standard?
– On the substance of the question, the honorable gentleman should state in positive language, if he wants to, that he is opposed-
– I have asked the Minister a question. He should not squib it. He should answer it.
– The honorable gentleman should not squib the issue. He should say whether he is opposed to any change being made in the means by which we can encourage an increase of gold production. The honorable gentleman obviously did not understand my earlier answer or did not pay attention to it. I took great care to say that at the moment I did not think there was much hope of any change in the price of gold itself. What I said was that I felt some incentives could be given and that the best way to do this was to provide a subsidy on an international basis, preferably through the International Monetary Fund to increase the supply of gold on an official basis - not a subsidy for those who hoard gold. As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question - in the interests of world liquidity and world sanity which view do I think is the correct one, the French or the British - unhesitatingly, I come down on this single issue on the side of the French view.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement made by the Indonesian Minister for Information, Mr. B. M. Diah, on 27th August in West Java in which he stated that the three year old confrontation policy against Malaysia had benefited only the Indonesian Communist Party? In view of the stand taken by Australia in the confrontation and the harmonious relations that prevail with that country, does Mr. Diah’s statement lend further weight to the correctness of judgment of Australian foreign policy over the years?
– I regret that I did not see the statement referred to. but I concur in the general conclusion which the honorable gentleman has drawn from it and the implications of it.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. When silver coinage of two shillings and one shilling denominations is withdrawn from circulation does the Government intend to hand it over to Australian mints for melting or to sell it to some foreign enterprise for the same purpose? If the Government intends to call tenders for the purchase of this coinage, which may mean that it could be purchased by a major foreign interest, has the Government studied the possibility that within two or three years, due to trends in the United States, there will be a marked increase in the price of silver? Will this factor be taken into consideration when a decision is made as to whether the coinage will be handled by Australian or foreign interests?
– I think either in a letter or in some other way I have already given a partial answer to this question. We have two problems: The first relates to the melting down of the coins - by whom this should be done and where the silver should be finally sold. The other problem is whether it should be retained under Australian control. I will look up the correspondence and the answers to questions upon notice and I will let the honorable gentleman have the appropriate letter or answer. In any event, I will obtain an answer to the question for him.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is he aware of moves in New South Wales to introduce State legislation relating to farm implement safety? Does he consider that separate legislation from State to State on the matter of safety in the construction of farm machinery is desirable? If manufacturers must meet different specifications in the various States, will this mean a higher cost of production? Should not any such move towards safety measures be looked into at the level of the Australian Agricultural Council? Finally, does the Minister think that such action would have the support of agriculturalists in general?
– As far as I understand the position, an advisory committee has been appointed in New South Wales under the Factories, Shops and Industries Act of that State to investigate the possibility of bringing down regulations on farm safety. In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Labour and National Service, is arranging a seminar early in the new year to discuss farm safety. The honorable member raises a most pertinent question about the possible differences that can arise between the States. Unfortunately, that is the position. The States have complete authority. However, I agree with his suggestion that this matter should be looked at on a higher level, perhaps through the Australian Agricultural Council, to see whether we can get some uniformity of approach.
COASTAL SHIPPING. Mr. DALY. - I direct a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is it a fact that after 1968 the Government will remove the limitation of 204,000 tons on the coastal tanker fleet? If this is a fact, what effect will it have on the operations of R. W. Miller & Co. Pty. Ltd., the only Australian company engaged in this trade? If this Australian company is frozen out, will the Government call upon the overseas oil monopoly interests to build tankers in Australia or will it return to the days before an Australian company entered this field when the coastal trade in petroleum products was entirely controlled by foreign oil monopoly interests?
– To get the matter into” proper perspective, I think we should look at the history of it. Some time ago - I think in July 1964 - R. W. Miller & Co. Pty. Ltd., having already said that it would build tankers in Australia if it were allowed to import tankers temporarily, requested the Government to limit the number of approvals to import tankers until 1968. The Government acceded to the request. The limitation was to approve only the number of importations reasonably necessary to cater for the Australian coastal trade. The Government made a judgment to the best of its ability, but the pattern of trading around the Australian coast changed. Although our initial judgment was correct, it was found some time later that the importation of ships was rather more than was necessary to cater for the Australian coastal trade. This does not alter the situation that the Government made a statement of policy some time ago that it intended, first, to have oil carried around the Australian coast in ships manned by Australian crews and operating under the Australian flag and, subsequently, that oil should be carried around the Australian coast in Australian built tankers, built on a phased programme. Three orders have been placed by oil companies for the building of Australian tankers and those ships are under construction at present. The oil companies have assured the Government that they will carry out the Government’s policy and, indeed, insofar as the first phase of the policy applies, it has been carried out. We believe that we have the means to ensure that Government policy will be carried out and that such oil as is carried around the Australian coast will be carried in Australian ships manned by Australian crews and operating under the Australian flag.
– My question, addressed to the Treasurer, relates to the Farm Development Loan Fund. Is the main purpose of this Fund to provide primary producers with long term finance at preferred interest rates, especially those affected by the drought conditions? Has there been a significant amount borrowed from the Fund to date? Does the Treasurer feel that the various trading banks have taken sufficient action to acquaint their branch managers of the true purposes of the Fund and also instructed them to bring it to the notice of their clients?
– The main purpose of the Farm Development Loan Fund is to provide development finance for the primary industries. I made inquiries immediately before I went overseas recently to ascertain whether the banks were acting in accordance with the Government’s wishes. I was informed that at least 50 per cent, of the total amount to be made available will be committed by the end of this financial year. This does not mean that the money has in fact been lent but that commitments to lend have been entered into. These inquiries were made some weeks ago, so I will make further inquiries to determine whether the commitments have increased. I asked the Reserve Bank to make certain through the general managers of the trading banks that their branch managers were aware of the official policy and were doing their best to implement it. I was assured that this had been done. I will make further inquiries to see whether the intentions of the Government and of the Reserve Bank have been carried out.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that in the last 16 years whereas the Commonwealth’s share of the National Debt has been reduced by $587 million that of the States has been increased by $5,127 million, more than threefold? Is this position now causing crisis conditions in such State functions as hospitalisation, education, transport, local government and police administration? If this is so, will the Commonwealth Government now heed the pleas of State Premiers, including Mr. Askin - a recent convert to this assessment of present Commonwealth and State relations - about doing something urgently to relieve the people of the recently imposed vicious increases in hospital fees, fares, freight charges, stamp duties and other regressive taxes and charges that fall heaviest on those least able to bear them?
– 1 think that the latter part of the honorable gentleman’s question really opens up a considerable field of debate on the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and I do not think it is an appropriate subject for an answer to a question without notice. In the earlier part of his question he asked whether it was a fact that there had been a substantial reduction in Commonwealth debt and, at the same time, a considerable increase in the public debt of the State Governments. Of course, over recent years the Commonwealth Government has made available to the States the loan funds which the market would provide, in many instances supplementing the response from the loan market in order to reach the agreed ceiling of the loan programmes. Wi have, therefore, had to turn to revenues and impose taxation for this and other purposes in order to assist the States in that direction. Another consideration which has to be borne in mind is that the Commonwealth has had the obligation of repaying a great deal of war debt which has come to maturity. As this has been repaid it has tended to reduce the total debt obligation of the Commonwealth because our borrowings - mainly external borrowings - have not been as high as the redemptions we found it necessary to pay off.
The final point I make at this St:t22 is that it must not be overlooked that the State Governments borrow for capital purposes, many of which are revenue producing in themselves. This distinguishes that debt from the war debt which was incurred in the national interest by the Commonwealth Government. But, as the honorable gentleman will be aware, I have recently been in touch with State Premiers. I have undertaken to meet them early in the new year to discuss their financial problems. I have also had quite recent talks with the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria. They have financial problems, but this Government, which has just budgeted for a deficit of $277 million, the largest deficit in the history of the Commonwealth in any Budget that has been introduced, quite clearly also has financial problems of very considerable magnitude. From our general discussions I hope we will be able to be helpful one to the other.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry who will know that in the last export season of fresh fruit, particularly of apples and pears, a critical situation eventuated in respect of prices. This is a matter of serious concern to all those who produce these products. Has the Minister given any special instructions to his Trade Commissioners to reactivate the traditional markets or to seek new markets?
– It is true, as the honorable gentleman says, that last year was a quite unhappy experience for the exporters of fresh apples and pears from Australia. There were circumstances which we hope will not be repeated in total. There was a surplus from all sources on the markets. There was a conjunction of arrivals of supplies, an unhappy fall of prices, and in some consignments of Australian apples there was some deterioration in quality. All these things combined to produce an unsatisfactory state of affairs. There has been the closest consultation between the organised industry, the Australian Apple and Pear Board, officers of my Department and officers of the Department of Primary Industry to see what can be contributed, collectively and individually, towards stabilising the prospects for next season and future seasons. Within this area the Trade Commissioner Service will, in conjunction with the apple and pear industry and the Apple and Pear Board, act with a new vigour to see what strength we can impart into existing markets and what new markets can be discovered, because the price at which the Australian apple and pear producers are remunerated does depend historically very largely on no important market being flooded at the critical point of time.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Territories. Was the Government’s attitude accurately expressed by the Treasurer of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea when he told the House of Assembly that any increase in Public Service salaries as a result of the local officers’ arbitration case must be at the expense of other services - for example, schools - because the Commonwealth grant was strictly limited? If the Territory Treasurer did not accurately express the Government’s attitude, will the Minister promptly repudiate such utterances made during arbitration proceedings and calculated to influence such proceedings? If, however, this official did accurately express the Government’s attitude, will the Minister reconsider the matter and now establish beyond question the principle which has always applied in the Commonwealth itself, namely, that arbitration awards will be met unequivocally even beyond Budget expectations and without detriment to other Budget allocations?
– The honorable member must be aware that total expenditure by the Territory must be met from the Territory Budget. The situation in Australia is completely different from the situation in Papua and New Guinea because the Territory’s major financial support comes from without the Territory. Obviously any increase in wages paid to Territory officials has to be met within the Territory Budget.
– Can the Minister for Air inform the House whether the production schedule of the FI IIA aircraft on order for the Royal Australian Air Force is conforming to timetable? Can he give any additional information about price or performance having regard to his recent visit to the General Dynamics Company at Dallas when he had an opportunity to operate this aircraft?
– In reply to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question let me say that I had a categorical assurance from the Managing Director of General Dynamics at Fort Worth last week that the production and delivery of these aircraft would be in accordance with our contract and that we need have no doubt whatever that we shall receive these aircraft on the contract dates. Regarding the other matters raised, I can assure the* House that I found the performance of these aircraft to be extremely satisfactory, and I thinkthe people of Australia will be very pleased when they see them operating here.
– Has the Prime Minister noted the report by the Institute of Strategic Studies that most units of the Vietnam Army are far below strength and that in fact only about 90,000 people are in fighting units with only about 25,000 in mobile strike forces? As this represents only a small proportion of the manpower of military age in South Vietnam, as there is evidence from personal observation that tens of thousands of men of military age in Saigon are not on service, and as there is no evidence of a major effort by the South Vietnam Government to put that country on a war footing, how can he justify the conscription of Australian young men to do the work which rightly belongs to the South Vietnamese themselves?
– I think the honorable gentleman must have lost all sense of perspective. There are some hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese engaged in (he services of their country. South Vietnam has been an embattled country for very many years now. The Australian contribution is of the order of 4,300 to 4,500 troops and to suggest that this contribution justifies criticism of the efforts which the South Vietnamese have put into their own defence over those years is, 1 think, an unwarranted slur upon that country. We feel that we are meeting our obligations by giving assistance in Vietnam to the South Vietnamese people in their resistance to Communist aggression and in their endeavours to preserve their own national integrity.
– With conscripts.
– The honorable gentleman keeps butting in with his remark “ with conscripts “. I have yet to hear the Labour Party’s policy for supporting the
South Vietnamese in their resistance to Communist aggression. If the Labour Party intends any support it is time the Australian public knew about it.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. In view of the continuing reports and complaints about mail to and from South Vietnam, will the Minister tell the House what the latest position is?
– The position has not changed basically from that of about two weeks ago when I think the honorable member for Indi raised this matter. A few days ago I issued a statement giving the results of a report by Major Ditchfield, who had examined each handling point in Australia and to and from Vietnam and in Vietnam and Honolulu, where mail for the troops is transhipped from one aircraft to another. That report confirmed that the system being used is the best and quickest, although some alterations are being made in handling details to avoid the delays that unfortunately have occurred in the past. Additional Army postal officers will be appointed in Vietnam to supervise this. More extensive use of our own aircraft in Vietnam itself will save a day with outgoing mail. I may say that over the last three or four weeks the number of letters received by me about mail delays has dropped to a minimum, and I am led to believe that at the moment the system is working well.
– As Chairman, J present the following report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts -
Eighty-second Report - Expenditure from Advance to the Treasurer (Appropriation Act 1965-66).
Mr. Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In approaching its inquiry into the Consolidated Revenue Fund results for 1965-66, your Committee re-endorsed the principle adopted last year of conducting a single inquiry but presenting two separate reports to the Parliament.
This report covers 44 items included in that inquiry. Later this week, your Committee expects to submit the second report relating to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and covering the remaining 20 items examined in the inquiry.
As a result of a change made in the nature of the information sought from departments, the evidence revealed a number of instances in which departments sought and obtained access to funds from the Advance to the Treasurer late in the financial year but had not, for various reasons, finally required the amounts obtained. In some cases, this situation reflected the absence of a realistic approach in the assessment of financial needs during the closing weeks of the financial year.
Your Committee’s examination of departmental submissions also showed that in a number of cases amounts had been charged to the Advance to the Treasurer without warrant authority. In this regard, your Committee would invite attention to the need for Treasury Regulation 90(1) to be observed at all times by departments.
The evidence also revealed that some departments had incurred expenditure against the Advance to the Treasurer because the processes employed in arranging for the permanent appointment of temporary staff had not been completed by the end of the financial year.
Whilst your Committee recognises that certain unforeseeable circumstances can arise in which departments may find a need to make additional submissions or corrections to their written submissions when appearing before your Committee, such additions and corrections should be made in sufficient time before the inquiry to enable your Committee to take them into consideration in its oral examination of witnesses. In this regard, we would invite attention to memorandum 66/411 issued by the Public Service Board on 18th January 1966 to all departments indicating that it is in the interests of each department and the service generally that the evidence to be tendered to your Committee is of the highest quality.
I commend the report to honorable members.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Mr. CLEAVER (Swan). - I present the following report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts -
Eighty-third Report- National Capital Development Commission.
Mr. Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Our inquiry into the Commission is the first major examination made by your Committee into a statutory authority since your second Committee inquired into the Australian Aluminium Production Commission in 1954 and 1955. During the inquiry and in the course of inspections made at the time, we were greatly impressed with the record of development achieved in the city of Canberra in the relatively short period of the Commission’s existence. It is a matter of considerable satisfaction to your Committee, as 1 am sure it must be to all honorable members and to the nation as a whole, that from very uncertain beginnings Canberra is now assuming a stature and beauty which befits it as the National Capital of this country.
As this report represents an extensive examination of a statutory authority, I would invite the attention of honorable members particularly to the conclusions of your Committee set out in chapter 15 of the report. Briefly, your Committee finds that the Commission should regularly review the allocation of its design work to the Department of Works and private agents; that its cost records relating to particular projects should be improved and that the financial statement appearing in its reports to the Parliament should be reviewed notwithstanding improvements made in its report tabled in the Parliament recently. Your Committee also finds that a system should be devised to provide greater forewarning for the Department of Works as to the programme which the Commission proposes to implement; that the Departments of the Treasury and the Interior should reach early agreement on outstanding matters relating to costing in the Department of the Interior and that the Commission’s landscaping cost records should be examined critically.
Whilst fully aware of the flexibility conferred on statutory authorities as specified in their enabling legislation, your Committee feels that, in cases where such authorities incur the expenditure of public funds but do not have available to them the normal commercial measurements of profitability as guides to management, such authorities should include in their reports to the Parliament an analysis of their staff establishments and the nature of the changes made in them from year to year. In the case of the National Capital Development Commission, ‘ this proposal would be met if the Commission’s reports were to include details of its staff, by divisions, and in a form for each division, along the lines of the information supplied for each Commonwealth department in the schedule to the Appropriation Act.
Finally, your Committee believes that the present form of the civil works programme document submitted annually to the Parliament requires revision to disclose the estimated expenditure on proposed new works and that the Departments of the Treasury and the Interior and the National Capital Development Commission should confer with a view to determining the alternative methods which might be employed to enable this to be achieved. The Committee also believes that consideration should be given to appending to the civil works programme document a schedule containing the final expenditure incurred on projects the details of which have been deleted from the document upon completion in the previous year. I commend the report to honorable members.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Social Services Bill 1966.
Repatriation Bill 1966.
Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill 1966.
Debate resumed from 22nd September (vide page 1173), on motion by Dr. Forbes-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Speaker, the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes), in moving the second reading of this Bill, in his first sentence described it as a Bill improving the national health service. That statement is not true in any real sense. In respect of both pensioners and special account contributors, with whom this Bill exclusively deals, the new provision to be made by the Commonwealth is actually much less than the original provision in terms of real money values and actual costs. Only in the unreal terms of nominal money values is the new provision any more than the original provision. In terms of actual costs it is not only less, but very much less, meaning that the special account contributors are now to be far worse off than they were when the special account provision was originally made, and far greater liability is to be transferred from the Commonwealth to the State Governments for the hospital treatment of age, invalid and other pensioners.
This is a further practice of the confidence trick which this Government persistently plays upon the Australian people in its health and social service legislation.
– That is not parliamentary language.
– “ Confidence trick “? Then I shall say political confidence trick, parliamentary confidence trick - a confidence trick in terms well known to the honorable member for Isaacs. But how else could this be described when, long after inflation has eroded the real value of the welfare benefit, this Government at last somewhat increases the nominal value of the benefit, leaving the real value still much less than it was before, and then claims: “ Look at the further improvement we have now made.”? To my mind that would be any kind of confidence trick, certainly a political confidence trick, and surely a parliamentary confidence trick. I think it is most aptly described as a typical Holt Government confidence trick, because after 17 years of such phony improvements - that is, nominal improvements but no actual improvements - the people dependent on welfare services today find themselves worse off proportionately to the general community than they were before this Government took office.
Anyone doubting this has only to compare the percentage of social service payment rates to the rates of average earnings before this Government took office with the percentage today. They will see that the percentage rate is actually considerably less. Pensioners and others dependent upon the Government’s welfare legislation are now much worse off in relation to the general affluence of the community than they were 17 or 18 years ago. So no-one should think that ever increasing benefits are really being given to pensioners. Actually, as in this case, repeated adjustments are being made to meet to some extent the inflationary increases; but none of the adjustments is eve- efficient <o -il the extent of the real inflationary increase. All the endeavours of pensioner organisations, all their protests and appeals to Parliament, bring only adjustments which are insufficient to counter inflation, leaving them struggling ever more desperately on the breadline. This is demonstrably so in relation to the provisions which are to be adjusted by this Bill.
The Bil] provides for an increase in the rate of hospital benefit payable to public hospitals for the free treatment of public ward pensioners. It also provides for an increase in the special rate of hospital benefit paid to patients who are contributors to the special account. I deal first with those people who are contributors to the special account. The provision for special account patients is being increased from $3.60 to $5 a day. This provision was established originally on 1st January 1959. The public ward rate in New South Wales was then $3.60 a day. In other words, the special account provision was made to equal the amount of the public ward fee. The provision actually met the bill. So it should, because, as honorable members know, the people covered by the special account are those with long term or chronic illnesses, or with pre-existing ailments or who, through age or any other reason, are ineligible for the benefits normally paid by the hospital and medical benefit funds. These are the people in particularly acute need. They are the people for whom, quite properly, special provision is made and for whom the special account was established, deliberately, to fix a rate which would relieve them of the worry and anxiety of financing hospital treatment. The rate was fixed at S3.60 a day so that it would be equal to the public ward rate in a public hospital. Now the rate is to be increased, as from 1st January 1967, to §5 a day. But the public ward rate in New South Wales is now $8.20, so that the elementary kindness of the proposal that people with these disabling conditions should be relieved from the financial worry of their hospital treatment is now abandoned. Instead of the special provision being equal to the cost of hospital treatment, it is to be $3.20 a day less than the cost of public ward hospital treatment. And the Minister has the almighty gall to get up in this House and claim that this is an improvement in the national health services provided for the Australian people. Where the provision formerly met the cost of treatment, the provision now being made will fall far short of the cost of treatment, thus returning these people to the anxieties, worries and despairs which are theirs when suffering from chronic illnesses or when past the age at which they can either work or be accepted at the normal contribution rates of hospital funds. They now find themselves deprived even of the full assistance which was formerly provided from the special account.
The position is similar with pensioners, except that in this case the Commonwealth has simply slipped the responsibility from its own shoulders onto the shoulders of the State governments. This again is typical of the financial legerdemain which the Government has been practising in this election year when it produced a Budget imposing no new charges upon the Australian people but leaving the State governments, which depend for their finances on the Commonwealth, in a position where they are compelled to impose very heavily increased burdens on the Australian people.
When the Commonwealth scheme in relation to pensioners was first introduced on 1st January 1963, the provision was also $3.60 a day. By that time, the public ward rate had increased to $4.40 a day. There was not a very great amount left for the States to carry. All they had to carry wa3 SO cents a day with respect to each pensioner patient. But now, with the public ward rate up to S8.20 a day, the Commonwealth provision will fall short not by 80 cents a day but by S3.20 a day.
This Bill also provides for an alteration to the definition of “ pensioner “ to permit new enrolments in the pensioner medical service. We are given an opportunity, therefore, once again to bring to the attention of the Government and the Parliametn the anomalies and injustices which are occurring under the pensioner medical service in this country. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, peopleentitled to enrol for this service will be entitled to receive free general practitioner medical attention, but they will not be entitled to receive specialist treatment. All of us. in our human liability to ill health from time to time, may need not only general practitioner service but also specialist service, and in these days of rapid advances in medical knowledge and methods, specialisation is becoming an ever increasing factor in medical treatment.
But the pensioners are to be deprived of the right of specialist treatment. The ordinary citizen, with an income which he has earned, can make provision - although sometimes with difficulty - for his insurance for specialist treatment. The pensioner living upon the breadline is to be deprived entirely of the opportunity to obtain the benefit of specialist treatment under the pensioner medical service. This is a quite cruel deprivation and it seems very difficult to understand why the Government should impose this limitation on the operation of the pensioner medical service.
Surely if a pensioner’s doctor, in his wisdom and experience, decides that the condition from which the pensioner is suffering is one which requires specialist attention for that patient’s return to health, the certificate of the doctor should be sufficient to enable the pensioner to receive specialist treatment as part of the pensioner medical service. That is the first anomaly, indeed injustice, in relation to this service to which I wish to direct attention.
The second is the way in which people today are unjustly shut out from the benefits of this service. Take the case of the man who retires from work on superannuation of $20 a week. One would think that he would be better off than a man who retires on a superannuation of $7 a week. But he is no better off. In fact, he is worse off because the man who. retires on a superannuation of S7 a week not only can obtain the age pension of SI 3 a week, which gives him the same total of S20, but also is entitled to. the pensioner medical service. The poor fellow who is fixed with a superannuation of $20 a week, who cannot escape it, who cannot surrender it, who cannot give it away, indeed who cannot do anything with it, is shut out from this service because of his income.
I know of very many people who are shut out from the pensioner medical service because they own property. As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a single person is not eligible for the age pension if the total value of his property is more than $4,040. If he has a few dollars less than that, he is eligible for a pension of a shilling or two a week, but if he has a few dollars more, he is completely shut out from entitlement to a pension, from the pensioner medical service, and from other concessions and benefits which are available to social service recipients. However, this matter can be adjusted. If the amount of property is, say $500 more than the permissible figure, all that a person need do is go out to the racecourse one Saturday afternoon, choose the longest shot - the most hopeless horse in the race–and put his $500 on it. If it wins at 100 to 1 there is no need to bother any more. If it loses, all that is necessary is to present the ticket for the losing bet to the Department of Social Services on the Monday morning and one qualifies for pension, for the pensioner medical service and for the other benefits. In other words, if one is thriftless, reckless or spendthrift, one qualifies. But a person who has been thrifty and careful and saved his money so as to make provision for himself, and is not prepared to throw his money away, is denied these benefits. As I have pointed out, a person with property can overcome the situation. He can take a trip round the world or to New Zealand or somewhere else and spend his money in many ways so as to bring his property down to the level at which he qualifies for a pension of as little as ls. a week, thereby qualifying for the other benefits that I have mentioned. But a person who receives a fixed income by way of superannuation can do nothing whatever about the situation. Even if his superannuation is only ls. more than the sum that would enable him to qualify for a pension of as little as ls. a week, he is shut out from these benefits - not only medical and hospital treatment under the pensioner medical service but also many other concessions that are properly available to persons in receipt of social service benefits.
This, I believe, is a very severe injustice and a bad anomaly. I see no reason whatever why (he Government should not at least provide, benefits equivalent to those available under the pensioner medical service for all people in the pensionable age group. That would be a simple and not very expensive way to adjust a situation that today bears very hardly and harshly indeed on a deserving section of the community, particularly those people with small fixed incomes who find the real value of their means declining year by year because of inflation while the nominal amount that they receive continues to shut them out from these social service benefits. I and Opposition members generally urge the Government to take action while this Bill is before the Parliament to amend its proposals. The first thing that it should do is to make the rate of pensioner benefit and the rate of special account benefit not $5 a day but $8.20 a day, or whatever is now the equivalent of the public ward rate in public hospitals throughout Australia. In other words, this Government should return to the practice adopted by a former Minister for Health who, in 1959, at least had the compassion, kindness and humanity to ensure that the people whom I have been discussing would not be loaded with financial burdens but would be able to obtain medical and hospital treatment without worry about the bills that they or their relatives would subsequently have to face.
Finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I say this: We see the present Government from time to time introducing various niggling amendments of its national health legislation, as it is doing now, and claiming that each of these represents a substantial improvement made by this Government in the health services of Australia. It is salutary to look back, as the honorable member for Wimmera can look back, to the gracious days of the Labour Government up to the end of 1949, when every citizen of Australia–
– The honorable member must mean the honorable member for Mallee.
– Indeed, I do mean my honorable and gallant friend, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who was once the honorable member for Wimmera.
– Up to 1949.
– Yes. As the honorable member well knows, in those days every citizen of Australia, without exception–
– It never worked.
– What never worked?
– The scheme that Labour introduced in 1949.
– We did not introduce it in 1949.
– It was introduced in 1948.
– We brought it in, I think, in 1945 or 1946.
– It still did not work in 1949.
– It worked. I ask the honorable member to cast his mind back. Will he agree or deny that in all those years under the Labour Government every citizen of Australia, without distinction of any kind and without means test of any kind, was entitled to free hospitalisation in the public wards of public hospitals and in the public wards of approved private hospitals?
– There were not enough beds to provide for all who wanted treatment, as the honorable member well knows.
– But the service was available. I know of no-one whose health needs required hospital treatment who was shut out from free hospitalisation in those days. The position is very different now.
– That scheme was sabotaged by the doctors. That was the trouble.
– The Chifley Labour Government’s national health plan was sabotaged by what was in those days the British Medical Association. I do not blame the medical practitioners of Australia as a whole for that. The Federal Council and the State branches of what was in those days the British Medical Association were controlled by highly conservative and rigidly anti-Labour medical practitioners who refused to co-operate in any way with the magnificent proposals for which Senator McKenna in particular fought so hard over the years to obtain agreement. Nevertheless, the hospital scheme established by the Labour Government worked successfully. We have certainly come very far down the scale in the 17 years since Labour went out of office. Now, even a person with a chronic ailment or long term illness, a patient with a pre-existing ailment or an aged person who cannot qualify for pension is compelled to face very heavy hospital bills. That is the true measure of the changes in the medical and hospital services of this country made by the present Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jones) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Howson) - by leave - agreed to -
That the following Tariff Proposals, being part of Order of the Day No. 56, Government Business, be discharged, namely Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 4 to 9 (1966).
– I move -
Customs Tariff Proposals (No.15) (1966).
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 15, which I have just tabled, relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariffs 1966. The amendments will operate from tomorrow morning. Amendments contained in Proposals No. 15 provide for temporary duties arising from a report by the Special Advisory Authority on metal working circular sawing machines. Temporary duties of 321/2 per cent, ad valorem general rate and 271/2 per cent, ad valorem preferential rate are being imposed on these machines, with a reduction in duty of21/2 per cent, for each $5 by which the free on board price of the machines exceeds $550, in the case of friction circular sawing machines, and $300 for other circular sawing machines. The temporary duties do not apply to goods that were in direct transit to Australia on 16th September 1966, and are entered for home consumption within 21 days after importation.
The longer term protective needs of the Australian industry producing metal working circular sawing machines have been referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, and the temporary duties will operate only until such time as the Government takes action following receipt of the final report of the Board. The balance of the amendments in Proposals No. 15 are being made to improve the translation from the Customs Tariff 1933-1965 to the new tariff based on the Brussels Nomenclature which operated from 1st July 1965. Details of the tariff changes are contained in the summary of tariff changes being circulated to honorable members. I commend the proposals to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
– Pursuant to statute I present a report by the Special Advisory Authority on the following subject -
Metal working circular sawing machines.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Debate resumed (vide page 1536)-
.- The Bill before the House provides for an increase in the Commonwealth’s contributions to the States to recompense them for providing free hospitalisation for pensioners. Amongst other things, it provides for an increase in the Commonwealth’s contribution towards hospitalisation of special rate patients. These are the matters with which I would like to deal specifically.
We all know that the possession of a medical card entitles a pensioner only to free general practitioner treatment. It does not entitle him to free specialist treatment, anaesthetics or the setting of fractures. When a pensioner has to have a fracture set or undergoes an operation necessitating the services of an anaesthetist or requires treatment from a specialist, he has to pay the full cost himself. Let me give some idea of what these services cost pensioners. I have brought these matters to the attention of the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) and of a number of medical benefits funds in the Newcastle district. A pensioner was charged seven guineas for a first consultation with a specialist. On another occasion the same pensioner had to see a specialist who charged four guineas for a first consultation and two guineas for each subsequent consultation. In each case the pensioner, not being a member of a medical benefits fund, did not receive the Commonwealth benefit and, of course, did not receive any fund benefit. The present system is most unfair to pensioners. The Government claims that it provides free medical attention for pensioners, but it does not tell them that specialist services, the giving of anaesthetics and the setting of fractures are not free. The Government should have a good look at these matters. I have had a good deal of correspondence with the Minister on this subject. On 8 th September, in reply to representations made by me, the Minister wrote -
Dear Mr. Jones,
I refer again to your personal representations concerning the Commonwealth’s policy in regard to the possible introduction by registered medical benefits organisations of a special table to cover pensioners.
The introduction of a special medical benefits table by the registered organisations for pensioners enrolled in the Pensioner Medical Service to provide benefits for services outside the range of the Pensioner Medical Service has been carefully considered on a number of occasions over the years. Such consideration has taken into account the scope of the present Service, the arrangements under which pensioners may obtain free medical treatment through the public hospital system, and the relatively greater degree of medical care which pensioners as a class generally require.
It is felt that it would not be sound practice for registered organisations to provide a special table for a particular group in the community. To remain financially sound each particular table of benefits must be self supporting. In providing a special concessional table for certain contributors the position could arise where there would be an insupportable drain on the limited resources of the registered organisations.
Finally, having regard to the financial circumstances of pensioners, it is considered doubtful whether a special table would attract a sufficient number of members to warrant its introduction.
So the Minister acknowledges that, due to their financial circumstances, very few pensioners would be able to join a fund, even if membership of a fund were open to them. He has stated clearly that pensioners are not financially able to join a fund and thus obtain Commonwealth and fund benefits when they are required to attend a specialist, to have an anesthetic or to have a fracture set.
Earlier this year I wrote to the Minister asking him to extend the provisions of the pensioner medical scheme. What was his reaction to my request? He indicated that it was the Government’s policy to continue the present system. In other words, he is not prepared to extend the provisions of the pensioner medical scheme.
On 26th April this year the Minister wrote to me, stating -
Dear Mr. Jones,
I refer again to your personal representations seeking extension of the Pensioner Medical Service to cover specialist treatment, general anaesthetics and the setting of fractures.
I would explain that the Pensioner Medical Service was introduced to provide a free medical service of a general practitioner nature such as that normally provided by a doctor in his surgery or in the patient’s home. It is intended to provide relief for pensioners from the cost of this type of treatment, and is not intended to provide a complete medical service covering specialist treatment, general anaesthetics or the setting of fractures.
Careful consideration has been given on a number of occasions to extending the Pensioner Medical Service beyond its present scope, but it has not been found possible to do so up to the present. 1 can assure you, however, that your representations will be borne in mind when next the Pensioner Medical Service is under review.
The pensioner medical scheme is under review but the Minister has done nothing about it. He has done nothing because the Government is not prepared to extend the provisions of the scheme. The Minister has already stated that in his opinion pensioners could not afford to contribute to a medical benefit fund.
One of the really bad features of the National Health Act - it is really a standover tactic - is that if a person is not a member of a medical benefits fund he is not entitled to the Commonwealth benefit. Why should not the Government make the benefit it provides through the funds available to those who choose to carry their own health insurance? I may not want to be a member of a fund, and quite frankly I would not join a fund if it were not for the fact that the Commonwealth benefit is not paid to people who are not members of a fund. But if a person elects not to join a fund, why should he not be entitled to receive the Commonwealth benefit?
Let us look at some of the benefits that are paid today and consider the position of a person who belongs to Table J, which requires a contribution of 50c a week on the family scale or 25c a week on the single scale. For the first visit to a specialist, the fund benefit is $3.30 and the Commonwealth benefit is $2.50. Why is not a person who does not belong to a fund entitled to draw the Commonwealth benefit of $2.50 for a first visit to a specialist? Why is not the pensioner at least granted the Commonwealth benefit of $2.50 as part of the national health scheme? This is a weakness in the scheme. Then let us look at anaesthetics. I will not give all the benefits, because anaesthetics are administered in an astronomical number of operations. The Commonwealth benefit varies from $2 to as much as $11 for an anaesthetic. A pensioner who does not belong to one of the funds should be entitled at least to the Commonwealth benefit. This is $2 for a minor operation, $4 for an intermediate operation and $11 for a major operation. I hope the Minister will give further consideration to these matters. I regret that he has not taken this opportunity to amend the Act to provide these concessions, at least to aged people.
Everyone knows that when people reach the age at which they can receive a pension or part pension that entitles them to a medical card - 60 years for females and 65 years for males - they suffer many more illnesses and need many more serious operations than do younger people in their 20’s and 30’s. But just when an aged person needs the assistance that would be provided by the Commonwealth health benefit, the
Government is not prepared to provide the necessary coverage. This is a serious weakness in the national health scheme. It means that many pensioners must continue their payments to medical funds for one reason only, and that is to enable them to receive at least some benefit when they attend specialists. Only yesterday, I advised a man in my office to terminate his contributions to the hospital fund. However, his wife has blood pressure and other conditions that are usual for a woman of 70 years and she must visit a specialist every month. If he does not contribute to a medical fund, he must pay the whole of the specialist’s fee of £2 2s. for each monthly visit. He must therefore retain his membership of the medical fund and does so only to entitle him to benefits when his wife visits the specialist. The Government should consider these points seriously. If it will not approve of the medical funds introducing a special table for pensioners, it should at least provide the Commonwealth benefit to them.
I can tell the Minister that one fund in Newcastle is willing to consider this problem in a humane way. It is Newcastle and District Co-operative Limited, known as “ The Store “. It has one of the best, if not the best, funds operating in Australia. I believe that it is operated purely for the benefit of the contributors and not to amass huge reserves. Some of the funds seem to take a delight in accumulating reserves. After the Minister had written to me saying that he was not prepared to extend concessions to pensioners to cover specialist treatment, anaesthetics and the setting of fractures, I wrote to various funds. The General Manager of Newcastle and District Co-operative Limited, Mr. Gibbs, wrote to me on 28th September last, in these terms -
Of recent date you wrote to us regarding (he need for provision of a tabic of medical benefits to cover specialist consultation and treatment for pensioners.
We had this matter under consideration at the time of our discussions because we shared your view-
I emphasise those words - that if possible something should be done to introduce a table if proper protection was to be provided.
We wrote a long letter regarding this matter to the Director-General of Health and in the mail today received his reply, a copy of which is attached hereto. Although at this stage the
Director-General says that he cannot support a proposal to provide a special table for the reasons given, he docs say that the matter has been listed for discussion at the next meeting of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Council.
Is there any way in which you could influence the meeting of the Insurance Council to view the matter favourably? It seems to me that this is one of those problems that will only be solved if a lot of people keep pressing the matter with the Government, lt is to be regretted that we cannot be more optimistic at this stage.
I do not propose to read the reply of the Director-General of Health. It covers most of a foolscap sheet. He merely repeats all that the Minister said to me on 8th September of this year, and that is that the Government at this point is not prepared to support a scheme such as the one 1 have suggested.
The Minister should agree that pensioners today do not have the necessary financial resources or income to maintain their contributions of 50c a week to a fund and also meet the difference between the fund and Commonwealth benefits on the one hand and the fee charged by the doctor on the other. The difference can be quite substantial. I took out a few figures on this point. A person may be called upon to pay $14.70 for a visit to a specialist. I have some personal knowledge of such a charge being made; I know that it was the fee charged by a specialist for a first consultation. The benefit paid to the contributor is $5.80 and he must find $8.90 in addition. If the fee is $8.40, the benefit is $5.80, leaving a difference of $2.60. If the fee is $4.20 - it is at least that amount for a second or subsequent visit - the benefit is $2.85 and the contributor must find an additional $1.35. As I said earlier, aged people are more prone to illness and need more operations than do younger people, but they must find the amounts I have mentioned because the Government is not prepared to give them the proper coverage by extending the provisions of the pensioner medical service.
I ask the Minister to heed the remarks of Mr. Gibbs, who said that it seems that the Government will move only if a sufficient number of people speak about this subject and prod the Government to improve the conditions of pensioners. In my opinion, there can be no doubt that the funds have the financial resources they need to aid the elderly people if they were members of a fund. My colleague, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard), asked a question on notice about fund reserves and received a reply on 19th April last. The reply disclosed that medical funds have built up their reserves from $5,156,000 in 1953-54 to $7,476,000 in 1954-55 and increased their reserves to $19,103,000 in 1963-64. That is the latest information available. It is quite clear that the medical funds today have substantial reserves and are quite able to pay reasonable benefits to people who are unfortunate enough to be sick. If a special pensioner table were uneconomic, the funds could well bear the loss. At least they would have the necessary reserves. Would it be too much to ask the community as a whole, or the contributors to these funds, to subsidise the benefit payable to people who are entitled to the pension and who are in receipt of medical entitlement cards?
I should like now to deal with the special fund benefit that the Government has announced will be increased to $5 a day. I believe this is one of the iniquitous parts of the National Health Act. Its existence proves that when a person is really sick and needs assistance, such assistance is not forthcoming. There is no provision in the Act whereby a real benefit is given to persons who are chronically ill and who are in hospital for a period exceeding 84 days or the period for which benefit is payable, and which is determined by the rules of the particular society. The special rate benefit as at 1st January 1964 was $25.20 a week - in those days it was referred to as 12 guineas a week - and the public ward irate was $42 a week. The patient in hospital had to find the difference between the special rate and the public ward charge, namely, $16.80 a week. How magnanimous the Government has been. It proposes to increase the special rate benefit from $25.20 to $35 a week. But what is the real picture? lt is this: Public ward charges have now escalated to $57.40 a week. The special rate contributor will now have to find $22.40 compared with the $16.80 he had previously to find. My understanding of the legislation is that the increase in the special rate benefit will not become operative until 1st January 1967. I ask the Minister whether this is correct. The Minister acknowledges that the increase will not become operative until 1st January 1967, so what is the position of the special rate contributor in New South Wales for example who has treatment between 1st October and 31st December 1966? He will have to find the difference between the present benefit of $25.20 and the public ward charge of $57.40, namely, $32.20 a week, because hospital fees in New South Wales increased from 1st October. In Victoria they increased from 1st September. I deal with New South Wales only, but bear in mind that the poor special rate contributor in Victoria is worse off than the contributor in New South Wales. So, for October, November and December of this year the poor, unfortunate pensioner will have to find $32.20 a week to make up the difference between what he is entitled to from a fund and what the hospital will charge him. It can be seen that the people who really need assistance are not getting sufficient aid.
When the national health scheme was introduced I thought - and I think the general public thought, too - that it would provide a coverage for the person in need of assistance, the person who was sick all the time. But where will such a person get the amount he will have to pay, representing the difference between the benefit and the hospital charge? Previously he had to find $16.80 a week, but because of inflation in this country - for which this Government is responsible - he will now have to find a greater amount, $22.40. Where will he find it? The sickness benefit is $8.25 a week, plus $6 for a wife and $1.50 for each child. Where, from that magnificent benefit, will the patient find $22.40 a week? Perhaps in his reply the Minister will be able to indicate where an individual can get this money from. If a person has been off sick for any time, obviously whatever he had saved would have gone in hospital bills. Presently I will cite a case to illustrate what is involved. The Minister might suggest that not many people are concerned with the special rate benefit, but on 23rd October 1963 the then Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz), when reading a speech prepared by the then Minister for Health, the late Senator Wade, referred to rejected claims for hospital benefits and said that records for the year ended 30th June 1958 disclosed that 8.3 per cent, of claims were rejected because the applicants had pre-existing ailments, 1.3 per cent, because the applicants had chronic illnesses and 2.6 because the applicants exceeded the maximum annual limit of fund benefit. This could mean that about 12.2 per cent, of the people in hospital today are entitled to the special rate benefit: One in every eight persons in hospital will have to find $22.40 every week they are in hospital, and they are the people who will remain in hospital for a considerable time. This is where I believe the Government has fallen down sadly in its responsibility to the sick people of this community.
On the question of whether the hospital benefit funds have the ability to supply the necessary finance I refer once again to the Minister’s reply on 19th April to a question asked by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Collard). The Minister said that the reserves of the registered organisations in Australia had increased from $2,972,000 in 1952-53 to $4,796,000 in 1953-54 and to $47,307,662 in 1963-64. So, in a 10 year period their accumulated assets and reserves have increased tenfold. It is clear to me that those funds are financially capable of making an increased contribution. At the same time I believe that the Government should increase its contribution so that the person suffering from a chronic illness or a recurring complaint would be able to receive the full public ward charge, assuming that the person concerned had joined a hospital fund. J said a moment or two ago that I would cite a specific case. I think it is worth bringing it to the notice of honorable members because it indicates what these poor unfortunate people will be subjected to. I will noi quote names, because I do not believe in naming people in this House. I have a letter dated 2nd June 1966 addressed to me which states -
My daughter Jan, who suffers from a heart complaint developed when she was five, was discharged from Royal North Shore Hospital on 12/2/66 after being in hospital from 5/1/66. Upon making application to the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, which Fund I have been a member of since its inception, I was informed by the Fund that its Medical Officer had declared my daughter’s condition as a chronic condition because of the following admissions to hospital.
From that honorable members will appreciate that the young girl spent a considerable amount of 1964 and 1965 in hospital. The letter continued -
This means that instead of receiving 310 per day we now receive 24s. per day which leaves us with a bill of St 8.90 per week to pay.
According to the rules of the Fund members and their dependants are allowed 84 days per year on the full rate and then for any further period the reduced rate applies. I consider that my daughter should be entitled to the full rate for 84 days each year. Could you please advise me if I am correct in claiming this right or is the Fund correct in its stand. I would be much obliged if you could investigate this matter and let me know the result. I may mention that instead of being fully covered I now find myself in debt to the Royal North Shore Hospital for the amount of $82.
This is an example of what takes place. I now read what the Fund said about it -
Firstly, 1 would advise that the relevant claims for your daughter’s hospitalisation together with all details of your claims file have again been referred to our Medical Officer for his examination and further opinion. That officer has again confirmed that the original ruling classifying your daughter’s heart condition as chronic for the purposes of assessing claims lodged on this Fund for hospitalisation was correct.
It is felt that the Fund’s position may not be entirely clear and that a further explanation may be of assistance to you. The Fund’s definition of a “ chronic “ illness is as follows: “ An ailment which has continuous or frequent recurrent manifestations of a condition or symptoms of the same nature.”
I have not time to read the whole of the letter, which continues -
Our files show that from 30/12/63 Jan has required 259 days hospitalisation for her heart condition and an amount of $1,425.20 for Jan’s hospitalisation granted you.
This was the position up to 17th June 1966, so honorable members must realise what a situation this man is in. He is a labourer. He has no particular skill, but he has a sick daughter. Yet this is the amount for which he is committed. The Government is not prepared to do something to rectify the anomalous position in which a person who is in receipt of a special benefit has to find an additional $20 each week if he, his wife or his children are in hospital. I ask the Minister to do something about this situation and, if necessary, to amend the Act so that special rate contributors are entitled to at least the full public ward rate that they must pay.
.- I want to make a few general observations on the Bill before dealing with one specific section relating to the treatment of pensioners by medical practitioners. The Bill is to amend the National Health Act 1953-1965 in relation to pensioners, special account contributors and decimal currency, lt will be seen from that description that the Bill is a very restrictive measure. I suggest that it was deliberately designed by the Government to prevent criticism “ of a most contentious Act which is exceedingly difficult to understand, as instanced “by previous speakers from th’is side of the Parliament. I suggest that its limitations are such and its injustices so many that it is- easy to understand the desire of the Government to curtail discussion by restricting the title of the Bill to certain provisions which are to be brought down today. I cannot help being a little cynical at the approach the Government makes when it says it is providing free medical treatment for pensioners in public wards of “hospitals at the present time.’ One would think that that was a major development in hospitalisation, in the treatment of and justice for the people of Australia. As was mentioned by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), it is merely turning back the clock, if I may use that term, because it was the Chifley Labour Government which introduced free hospitalisation in public wards not only for pensioners but also for every person in the community. There was no means test.
I was a member of the Joint Social Security Committee which was set up by the Labour Government of the day to investigate the possibility of providing free hospitalisation to all people in the community. The Committee was composed of, among others, Sir Waller Cooper, the late Sir Frederick Stewart and, I think, Harry Foll. It was an all party committee. As a result of its deliberations it brought out a unanimous report that free hospitalisation should be available to every person in the community. I might mention that at that time it was decided that a certain payment would be made by the Commonwealth towards the upkeep of people in public hospitals. We investigated the situation throughout the length and breadth of this country and ascertained that at that time the average income of patients in hospitals, from sources such as the hospitals contribution funds and other organisations, was about 5s. per day. That was the average amount received, but in many States it was much lower than that because benefit funds had not advanced to the stage that they have reached today. At that stime the Government decided that throughout the whole of Australia it would provide 6s. per day towards the cost of treatment in public wards. This was many years ago and costs were much lower than they are now. The amount provided was not related to the cost of hospitalisation at that time, although I think it did represent roughly one third of the cost, or a little more. The Commonwealth contribution was related to the amount that hospitals were collecting from patients, whether the patients were paying direct or through organisations. The amount was increased subsequently to 8s. par day.
The scheme worked very successfully and we had removed the anomalous and iniquitous means test from public ward hospitalisation by this all party committee recommendation which was given effect to. The scheme failed only when the Government’s Minister, the late Sir Earle Page, refused to increase the contribution of 8s. a day and allowed the costs of hospitalisation to get out of control because of the bad economic policies followed by his Government. Instead of substantially increasing the benefit on a daily bed basis to meet the increased costs it decided to pass the buck back to the public and insist not only on persons paying taxation to provide what was called free hospitalisation but also, -at the same time, to take further taxation from them by making them belong to hospital funds in order to qualify for the benefit. When honorable members opposite talk about free hospitalisation for pensioners they should remember that they have turned back the clock and have deprived every person in the community of free hospitalisation by their failure to continue a scheme which was introduced on the recommendation of a parliamentary all party committee of which I happened to be a member.
I should like now to pass on from that to deal specifically with a few comments contained in the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes). I do not believe that the Bill is a very progressive move. It merely jacks things up a little to meet costs which have increased. In criticising some of the Minister’s statements I do not want to be misinterpreted as making an attack on doctors or the medical profession. There is a feeling among honorable members opposite that immediately one criticises or attacks any section of the community towards which the Government is favorably inclined one is being anti this or anti that. When I criticise certain attitudes of the medical profession, I am doing what is my right and am not acting in an anti way. I am acting in an objective way, a way in which I believe criticism should be made. I could not help but be impressed by the passage in the Minister’s speech in which he said -
These proposals will mean that a greater number of beneficiaries will be brought within the pensioner medical service arrangements. Because of this, the Australian Medical Association has been informed of the proposal and 1 am confident that doctors participating in the pensioner medical service will willingly provide these new pensioners and their dependants with free general practitioner attention. The Commonwealth, for its part, will reimburse doctors for services to pensioners at the agreed concessional fee. I take this opportunity of expressing the Government’s appreciation of the co-operation of members of the medical profession in this matter. This co-operation has been a most significant factor in the success of the pensioner medical service. 1 think the Minister was very gracious in his comments about the co-operation of the medical profession. If we look at the figures we see that in the last year the medical profession received from the pensioner medical service $13,365,000. an average income per doctor of $2,246 per annum. They received $1.60 for treatment in the surgery and $2 for every home visit. When the Minister says that he is hopeful that they will co-operate, I have no doubt whatever that they will because whatever benefit may be going to the community, it cannot be said that it is one sided. I remind the Minister that in providing general practitioner attention doctors are receiving 18s. and 20s. for every call that is made. I do not quibble at that. The Government has to pay for it. But to say that it is generous for the doctors to co-operate on that basis is going a long long way towards pulling your own leg. The pensioner medical scheme has been very generous towards the drug houses and to the medical profession as such. It has given, too, a measure of protection to pensioners, but at the same time I do not think one need stay awake at night worrying about medical practitioners co-operating on this basis because the scheme at least guarantees them against bad debts and gives them an assured income.
I believe the Government is deliberately setting out to restrict the attention being given to pensioners under the pensioner medical service. In districts like my own, which has a high content of pensioner medical patients, we find the Government withholding funds and, at the instruction of some official sitting in an office in Sydney or some other place, in effect saying to a doctor: “ You shall treat Mrs. So and so only in such and such a way and at such and such a time otherwise we will refuse to pay the fee “. I notice from the report of the Department of Health that a pensioner makes an average of 8.4 calls a year on a doctor. The number of calls has not varied much over many years. I suppose when a person becomes an invalid or reaches the age of 60, 65, 75 or 80 it is not unusual to make seven or eight visits a year to the doctor; but at this stage, as I shall show later, the Government evidently is endeavouring, by this legislation, to restrict the number 0 times a pensioner may visit a doctor.
In his annual report for 1965-66 the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, under the heading “ Committees of Inquiry “ has this to say -
Medical Services Committees of Inquiry, established in each State in accordance with section i 10 of the National Health Act, among other things, inquire into matters in respect of the services or conduct of medical practitioners in connection with the provision of medical services tinder the pensioner medical service.
During 1965-66 these Committees finalised 29 inquiries into the provision by medical practitioners of medical services to pensioners. These inquiries resulted in the reduction of doctors’ claims by a total of $22,503 in 20 cases and, of these medical practitioners, three were reprimanded by the Minister. Tn addition another medical practitioner’s agreement was terminated.
If these are such serious crimes - the penalties do not appear to be very grave in that the doctors concerned have only been asked to remit the amounts involved - there is something to be said for making particulars of them public property because if medical practitioners are as guilty as the Department says they are, the people are entitled to know about it. A man who stands his trial in open court for, say, robbery bears the full brunt of the attack on him. The Minister might tell us why names are not given.
I want to mention a case - I pass no judgment on it because I have no previous experience of this - which was brought to my notice recently. I received a letter dated 28th September 1966 from Drs. R. G. Perkins and G. P. Perkins. I am told that Dr. G. P. Perkins is no longer in practice. They reside at “Alpha”, 10 Cambridge Street, Enmore, in the centre of my electorate in a district where the pensioner content of the population is very high. The letter is in these terms -
T am writing to you, Mr. Daly, to seek an interview at your earliest convenience to discuss the most unjust treatment this practice is receiving from the Commonwealth Department of Health. I am a constituent of your electorate.
No payment has been received by this practice for attention on pensioners under the Pensioner Medical Service since October 1965. Large sums of money are being withheld for treatment given to pensioners for the period March 1962 to September 1965 pending the result of an inquiry by the Medical Services Committee of Inquiry for New South Wales. This inquiry was held on 9th March 1966. So far no decision from this inquiry has been received. No explanation has been given for the failure to pay for vouchers submitted since October 1965, nor for the delay by the Department in reaching a decision following the inquiry.
I would like to discuss this matter with you in detail as soon as possible.
As a diligent member of Parliament anxious to protect the rights of my constituents I interviewed Dr. Perkins on 10th October. He told me that the Department of Health owes him £3,578 or $7,156 for the period from October 1965 to August 1966. He has lodged his claims but has received no acknowledgement or advice from the Department that anything is wrong. In fact, payment of claims generally by the Department has been very poor going back over a period of years. Dr. Perkins told me that 50 per cent, of his practice comprises the treatment of pensioners. His brother no longer practises with him, as I have said. The Australian Medical Association has written to the Department with no result. He told me he cannot carry on indefinitely without some payment being forthcoming.
– He should sue the Department.
– Let us have a little justice in this. No man is guilty until he is proved guilty. The Enmore district in my electorate where he practises has an eldery population, many of whom are pensioners. Only in certain districts in the metropolitan areas would there be the same pensioner content as exists in my electorate, particularly where the doctor practises. It is a special type of practice for a special district. This would not occur in the more affluent districts such as Wahroonga or probably in country areas where the composition of the population could not possibly be the same.
I do not pass any judgment on the inquiry or say whether it is right or wrong, but surely under the provisions of the Act Dr. Perkins is entitled to a fair go. Is the treatment he is giving his pensioner patients necessary? Is he doing wrong? If so, in what way is he doing wrong? These are questions which might well be posed. I think he is entitled to a fair trial and a verdict. If the Department claims that he is wrongly treating patients, why does not the Department tell him so? Are his patients entitled to treatment? Who is the judge whether patients who go to him should receive treatment - some official in a department in Sydney or the doctor? These people suffer all kinds of ailments. We will probably get them ourselves as time goes on and what to a doctor or an official sitting in an office might not appear necessary, might be a most important matter to the person concerned. Why should not the doctor be entitled to a decision on this matter? Either you pay him or you do not? If you do not pay him he can then sue, as the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has said, but I think he will agree that the doctor is entitled to a verdict without being required to wait indefinitely.
This is the position with Dr. Perkins: First of all, he cannot get paid. It does not matter what he does, the Department will not pay him. He cannot get any advice or acknowledgment from the Department in respect of his claims. He has asked the Minister and the Director-General by letter for a personal interview but he cannot get any reply, and unless payment is made he will be unable to continue.
– What did the honorable member say about a personal interview?
– The doctor says he has written to the Minister and to the DirectorGeneral of Health for an interview but he has received no acknowledgment or indication that he will get it. He has no legal redress. If he is wrong, the Department should make a decision in his case and tell him so. In other words, simply because he is treating pensioners as he thinks lit he has been condemned without a trial. I summarise the position in this way: I am aware that this doctor has had to refund certain moneys and that he went to court on one occasion, but the inquiry should come to a decision. The doctor is entitled to know that decision and whether he has done right or wrong. Secondly, he is entitled to the payment of accounts or at least a proportion of the moneys being withheld by the Department. He is entitled to a verdict in this case and an explanation of the Department’s actions. Unless the Department is prepared to give a decision on these matters it cannot escape giving the impression to this doctor’s patients and the population of the district that the Department of Health is deciding how, when and where pensioners shall be treated.
I know that there is a difficult problem involved. I know that it is particularly difficult if the number of calls is mounting up. But I deal with a great number of elderly people in my district and I think other honorable members also have many representations made to them about medical treatment. Probably elderly people approach their parliamentary representatives more than healthy ones do. I know that decisions in these matters probably boil down to the judgment of one man, but in a case such as this, when the doctor does not know where he stands, when the Commonwealth owes him $7,000 and is telling him, in effect, either to turn people away or to get out of the district, there is certainly room for very grave suspicion. Therefore I ask the Minister, when he is replying - I do not ask him to do it now - to consider this case.
All I ask is that the doctor be given a decision so that he may seek any legal redress necessary or test the validity of what the Department decides to do. I hope the Minister will assure the House that there is no desire to restrict the treatment of pensioners because I think they are entitled to go to a doctor when they feel they ought to, and I think the doctor is entitled to tell them to come back when he thinks they should. I do not think any restriction should be placed on a person’s right to consult his medical adviser simply because that person happens to be a pensioner. If we are to reach the stage at which we are to be told by departmental officials when certain pensioners shall consult doctors, 1 think it will be a very sorry state of affairs.
On the other hand, if the Department finds a medical practitioner guilty of crimes, then he should be subjected to the full processes and protection of the law and have the right to challenge decisions that are made. If he is guilty of grievous crimes such as defrauding the Government or the Department the question might even be asked whether he is fit to be a member of an honoured profession. After all, if a person in some other walk of life indulged in a similar practice he would pay the appropriate penalty. As I have already said, I pass no judgment on this case but I ask that it be settled so that the doctor will know where he is going and the patients will know whether they may be treated when they think they ought to be, or when the Government or a government official thinks they ought to be.
The terms of the Bill before us do not allow me to go into all the aspects of the National Health Act, Mr. Speaker, but I do think that means tests applying to persons in hospital funds are of very serious concern at a time when hospital services should be free to the populace. While the Opposition does not oppose the proposals that have been put forward, we place on record our view that they are nowhere near being adequate having regard to increasing costs. The proposals represent a bare minimum at a time when there can be no reasonable guarantee that the costs of hospitalisation will stay within bounds. I repeat that the Opposition does not oppose the measure, but I hope the Minister will give a considered reply on the case of the doctor I have mentioned. I also hope that he will give an assurance that the treatment of pensioners will not be restricted and that they will retain the right that every other citizen has to receive full and proper treatment. I again ask that the case of the doctor I have referred to be cleared up, whether the decision be for or against him, so that he may continue his practice and seek any legal redress that he thinks necessary.
.- I have hardly had an opportunity to examine this complex legislation thoroughly, having just returned from abroad, but I must confess that the first impression I get is that we have before us a fairly ineffective attempt at window dressing and at putting some finishing touches to a most conglomerated health scheme, the ramifications of which can hardly be comprehended by the average Australian citizen. I am sure that the mass of figures relating to the payment for pensioners - which constitutes one aspect of this legislation - and for other sections of the community serves only to confuse the issue to an even greater extent than was previously the case. I suppose every honorable member who takes the trouble to interview age and invalid pensioners in his electorate becomes convinced that the pensioners just do not know where they stand. They do not know whether they should be in a fund or out of a fund. They do not know to what extent they are covered. Here we have an attempt to patch up something which seems to me to be fundamentally bad.
As I have said, I have had only a short time to look through the legislation, but, as you probably are aware, Mr. Speaker, I do not like missing out on debates on public health or related matters. My examination of the legislation so far seems to reveal that there are three major aspects of it. The first has to do with bringing into the scheme certain pensioners who have become pensioners by virtue of some minor budgetary provisions. I do not think a large number of people are affected by that provision. Frankly, I have not had much opportunity even to study the Budget. The second major aspect of the legislation is a provision for a slight increase in the rates paid on behalf of pensioners who are hospitalised in public wards. I think the amount is to be increased from $3. 60 to $5 a day. Whether or not this is adequate depends, of course, on what the cost of looking after pensioners happens to be in the various States. It is relevant to remind the House that the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) recently stated in reply to a question asked, I think, by my colleague, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that there are very considerable differences in these costs in the various States. Here we see a measure of the obtuseness of this legislation. The same amount is to be paid in respect of patients in all hospitals in the Commonwealth, even though the cost of looking after a patient varies from State to State. Some States will be left to bear a greater burden than others. This is a fundamental sequel to the kind of blanket attitude which has been adopted in respect of this matter.
There is a good deal more that could be said about this second aspect, and I hope to spend a few minutes on it a little later. The third aspect of the legislation concerns a small increase in the special rate of hospital benefit paid to long-term patients and those suffering from chronic illnesses or pre-existing ailments. There has been a good deal of trouble about the payments for these persons over a long period of time. Honorable members will recall that there was a disinclination on the part of the various funds to take the good with the bad. At one time if a person was chronically ill or suffering from a long-term illness, or if he went into hospital with a pre-existing ailment, the fund would not be prepared to come to the party. The effect of what happened some little time ago was that the_ Commonwealth virtually indicated its preparedness to underwrite the hospital benefit funds for the amounts involved in remunerating these people.
We take the view that there is still much more to be done than this legislation will in fact do. I have briefly outlined the three major aspects of the legislation and 1 hope to refer to them in more detail later. The legislation revolves to a very substantial degree around the pensioner medical service. This is the means by which Australia cares for some of the aged and invalid people in the community. This is a matter which, by comparison with standards prevailing in some other parts of the world, has been very seriously neglected. Let me say first - and say quite dogmatically - that there are many people who are still battling uphill. Many aged people and invalid people are battling to achieve a proper sense of security in regard to health. There are so many omissions in the present pensioner medical service. One would like to think that when people became pensioners and received the benefits of the pensioner medical service they would feel that no matter what eventuality arose they would be covered in every circumstance.- Unfortunately, this is not the case. There are all kinds of exclusions. I suppose the most substantial one is that dental care is not accepted as a responsibility of the- Commonwealth Government. The provision of spectacles is another case in point. There are many’ other omissions which cause a pensioner to wonder if he or she, with limited financial circumstances, has a necessity to join a hospital or medical contribution fund and pay to the same extent as someone who might receive a very substantial income. In fact, there are large numbers of pensioners in the Australian community today who consider the pensioner medical service as being so insecure that they do belong to these funds. For membership they are paying heavily and well beyond their capacity. lt is good that there has been some overhauling of the pensioner medical scheme. 1 think that at the 1st January this year the Government eliminated the means test within the means test that applied. I suppose all honorable members have had a lot of experience with this particular aspect of our health situation. Up to 1955 all pensioners were entitled to the benefits of the pensioner medical service. Then this Government imposed a means test within a means test, the effect of which was that pensioners who received an income of £2 or more from sources other than the Department of Social Services were excluded from the benefit. What an arbitrary division? This meant that £2 ls. would exclude a person. If a pensioner couple had £4 or over they were excluded.
This iniquitous situation, introduced by this Government, prevailed for ten long years. Then a great song and dance was made about the fact that this bar was lifted last year. Ten years had to pass before that was done. During that time thousands of pensioners were relegated to an even further degree of insecurity. We are now in 1966. It is a good thing to look around the Scandinavian countries, Italy and the United States of America and learn something of the medicare programmes in many of those countries and to recognise that in many respects we are slipping behind. Some of the migrants we encourage to come to this country find on arrival that our health scheme is inferior to the one that existed in their homelands. There is no excuse for that. Australia was once - especially under the Chifley Government - well and truly in the vanguard of all progressive health legislation. Our position has deteriorated.
If we have any sense of balance at all we should put care of the aged and of mentally and physically handicapped children right at the top of our priorities. If we did that we would be doing something similar to what operates now in the United States under the medicare programme. But we still have a means test which determines whether or not people become pensioners, and unless they become pensioners they do not receive the benefit of the pensioner medical service. Many other countries are getting away from that old idea. This is the effect of the United States medicare programme. What;- a wonderful thing that would be for those Australians who are excluded from getting pensions because of the means test? I refer to those thrifty Australians who saved, and stinted themselves and worked very hard for years and who now, because of their resourcefulness, are deprived of a pension. We should give them something in return. We should say: “ If we cannot give you a pension then we will give you the security that goes with entitlement to the pensioner medical service.”
We on this side of the House believe that every aged man and woman and every invalid should have that sense of security that comes from a complete health coverage. Moreover, it is our hope and earnest aspiration that we will have the opportunity of achieving this after the 26th November. That is one point that many of us would be anxious to put in the forefront of any Labour Government legislation.
My colleague the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has dealt with some of the points which I have covered. I just want to mention that so far as concerns the increase in the special rate - the rate paid to patients who suffer from long term or chronic ailments - there is a considerable disparity in the net benefit to be received. Not long ago my colleague the honorable member for Grayndler received from the Minister for Health, in answer to a question, certain information on daily rates for treatment in the public wards of public hospitals. The information covered the individual States as at 1st September. In New South Wales the rate was $6. I think my friend the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) said that this went up in October while I was away overseas. That is what happens as soon as you turn your back - things go beserk. In Victoria the rate is $4 higher - it is $10 a day. There is no charge in Queensland. That is a legacy of the Labour Government which was in power in that State for so many years - a circumstance which has received criticism from honorable members opposite. In South Australia the general charge is $7.50 a day; in Western Australia it is $7 and in Tasmania $8. Yet patients from all States get the same amount paid on their behalf.
There has been a relative deterioration in the position in New South Wales as a direct consequence of this legislation and recent movements in hospital charges. I understand that charges in New South Wales have gone up considerably and therefore there is now a deterioration in the position. I will not mention the figures again because I understand they were already quoted by the honorable member for Newcastle. When we consider what assistance we should give to pensioner patients or long term chronic patients in regard to hospitalisation, any government worth its salt should give earnest consideration to the deficiencies in our hospital system which are so apparent throughout Australia.
The need for beds for acute geriatric cases, for example, is a matter to which attention was drawn by Professor Griffith, head of the school of hospital administration at the University of New South Wales. He recently examined the hospital in my own area, the Sutherland District Hospital, regarding geriatric care. He pointed out that in this fairly prosperous area, the Sutherland Shire - just one case in point - there is a need for urgent geriatric care and beds for geriatric patients. He also drew attention to the need for home treatment of pensioners and for more effective outpatient care. I know there are many pensioners who find it impossible to get into geriatric hospitals or wards. This is certainly the case in Sydney. In the southern part of my electorate the Garrawarra Hospital, run by the New South Wales Government, is always overcrowded. There is a great queue waiting to be admitted. Only the most urgent cases, the ones that cannot be looked after at home, have any possible chance of being admitted to Garrawarra. There is a great need for special geriatric facilities. The treatment of geriatrics is one of the most neglected areas in the Australian health scheme, and in this legislation we are just fooling around on the fringe of the problem. The Minister has admitted in reply to various questions that he has not much appreciation or knowledge of the deficiencies.
While I was away I thought I would encourage the resources of the Department of Health to do some preparatory work on my behalf. The Minister has been good enough to provide me with answers to a number of questions which I had put on notice. One question was -
What Commonwealth assistance is given to those States which provide hearing aids, artificial teeth and spectacles to pensioners?
The Minister’s answer was -
No specific Commonwealth assistance is given to the States for the provision to pensioners of the items mentioned.
There, at the outset, we have an admission that the Commonwealth is not prepared to underwrite the States so that the standard of services provided for the pensioner community can be raised to an adequate level. I also asked the following question about geriatric care in general -
Is it a fact that in most States there is a grave deficiency of beds for acute geriatric cases in public hospitals and day centres or outpatient centres attached to public hospitals to meet the needs of aged persons?
The Minister replied -
I have no detailed information regarding availability in the various States of either beds for acute geriatric cases in public hospitals or day centres or outpatient centres attached to public hospitals to meet the needs of aged persons.
I emphasise that this was the answer given by the Commonwealth Minister for Health. He admitted that he has no knowledge of any of these things. We wonder why the Commonwealth assists the States with anything at all if its sense of priorities is such that it is not prepared to look thoroughly, or at all for that matter, at this problem of the care of aged persons.
A short time ago, the honorable member for Grayndler referred to the pinpricking that goes on about visits to pensioners by general practitioners and others. This pinpricking causes people great anxiety. In addition, there is the plaguing that results from the payment by the Commonwealth of S2 a day to persons who go into nursing homes and rest homes. In recent times we have had a number of complaints that the doctors who send pensioner patients to these establishments are being virtually persecuted. The Minister has not gone to any great trouble to deny that this is happening. In fact, he has admitted that some kind of pursuing of these people is taking place for he has stated -
Of course, my Department makes inquiries and undertakes correspondence for the purpose of ensuring that patients in nursing homes are persons who require and are receiving “ nursing home care “ ….
But I am afraid that excessive inquiries are being made. The investigations are on such a large scale that many pensioners are being worried nearly to death. It can be taken for granted that, generally speaking, when a doctor refers a pensioner patient to such an establishment he is not doing so just for the fun of it. I feel that the Commonwealth Government should show a greater willingness to accept responsibility for pensioner patients going into nursing homes. The tendency to plague people in cases where the doctor has a genuine concern for his pensioner patient, and the tendency almost to worry the pensioner out of the nursing home must be curbed. People are entitled to some peace of mind, surely.
Mr. Speaker, I have taken the opportunity to take what I think you will agree is a fairly wide run round on this legislation. I appreciate the consideration you have extended to me. I do not intend to go much further than to point out that the various hospital and medical funds could do a lot more in extending benefits to pensioners in particular and to many other people, and they should be encouraged to do so by this Government. I was interested to read only the other day a statement by Mr. Harrop, Chairman of the Hospital Contributions Fund of Australia, a man who should know something about this field of endeavour. He was reported as having said that the Federal Government restricted competition between Commonwealth insurance funds and this geared every fund inevitably to the performance of the weakest. I do not know whether the Minister will confirm or deny that but there seems to be a consistent approach to the funds by the Government regardless of their capacity to provide benefits to patients. I think the average proportion of medical cost that has to be borne by the patient at present is about 30 per cent. The Commonwealth meets so much of the cost, the benefits funds meets so much, and the patient is responsible for 30 per cent. That is to say, if SI 00 is spent, the patient has to pay $30 out of his or her pocket, regardless of financial circumstances.
It is high time that we took a very serious look at what is happening with this great conglomeration of health insurance organisations which has grown up around us in Australia. The last time I asked a question about this matter I was told that we had 188 organisations - competing with each other in a sense, but not in the sense to which Mr. Harrop has referred. Why do we have this tremendous overhead battening as it were on the aged and the sick as well as others? Why, the reserves of these organisations are fantastic. What the reserves are for, no-one ever knows. Apparently they are being accumulated to meet the cost of an epidemic that may never come upon us.
At the present time, the reserves built up by the medical funds amount to $24 million and those amassed by the hospital benefit funds total approximately $50 million. These funds are also meeting fairly considerable overhead costs. For example, the overhead costs of the medical benefit funds average 15.6 per cent, while those of the hospital benefit funds average 12.4 per cent. Again, the difference between contributions received each year and the benefits paid out is absolutely fantastic. I shall go no further into the figures than to state that last year the medical benefit organisations collected $6.3 million more from their contributors than they paid out. This excess went to reserves, the meeting of management costs and so on. In the same year, the hospital benefit organisations collected $7.5 million over and above what they paid out to patients. These are enormous sums. I do not believe that so much money need be tied up. In my view, one combined hospital and medical benefit fund - if we must have this system at all - should be able to cater for all. If we had a public authority it certainly would not have to stack aside these great reserves to meet the cost of an epidemic which may never be visited upon us.
I am quite alarmed to learn from what the Minister has told me recently that even the Government has lost track of what is happening with these 188 benefit funds which are connected with our health system today. I asked the Minister for details of the accumulated assets of the various registered organisations and he has told me that they are not available. As, apparently, they are not available to the Government, we are unable to arrive at a proper evaluation on the subject. We know that, quite apart from the large fluid reserves that are held, these organisations are building great edifices all round Australia. Multi-storey buildings are going up one after the other as though we had money to burn and had not these aged, invalid and sick people to look after.
– lt would be far better to put that money into hospitals.
– As my colleague, the honorable member for Barton, has just said, it would be far better to put that money into hospitals. He and I could use it all very quickly on hospitals in the Sutherland and St. George districts of New South Wales. I asked the Minister for Health for details of staff employed by registered hospital and medical benefit funds. I asked how many staff members there were. What is the cost of maintaining the staffs of the 188 organisations involved? The Minister does not know. He says that the figures are not available. I asked for some indication of the proportion of actual hospital charges borne by funds. I think I am doing the Minister justice when I say this. My specific question was -
What proportion of actual costs is represented on average by fund benefit?
The Minister gave me a figure for medical services. He added -
Details of the costs of hospitalisation are not available, therefore the proportion represented by fund hospital benefit is not known.
So it is an unfortunate fact that we are somewhat in the dark. The great trappings are out of hand, even for the Government itself.
I believe that this measure, while it will give some benefit, simply represents the technique of sparring with shadows. The real and fundamental health problems that are causing anxiety and concern throughout Australia are not being confronted by the Government and certainly are not being assailed by it. It ignores the new techniques adopted in so many countries that are federated like our own. The Commonwealth must accept responsibility, as the central administration, so as to ensure that standards of hospitalisation and health care generally do not differ according to whether people live in one State or another. In Australia, we have this differentiation throughout the country. We have an enormous task before us. I believe it is high time that we set out objectively, with the aid of our experts in administration, the medical profession, hospital planners and the like, to get the greatest return for every dollar spent and to provide for the Australian people health services which will be second to none anywhere in the world and which will give them a feeling of security in health matters generally.
.- Mr. Speaker, I wish to make some brief observations on the amendments to the National Health Act proposed in this measure. They are simply amendments. First of all, they provide for the widening of the interpretation of the term “ pensioner “. Secondly, they will increase the rate of hospital benefit paid to public hospitals for the free treatment of pensioners in public wards, and also the special rate of hospital benefit paid in respect of certain patients, such as those who are chronically ill or have pre-existing ailments, who are contributors to the special accounts. I rise principally, however, because, whenever a measure of this kind is before the Parliament, Opposition members become very annoyed and irritated and make wild statements about national health services. They attack the medical profession, as the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) attempted to do a little while ago.
– I did no such thing.
– If the honorable member did not do it directly, he made an implied attack in a veiled way. Honorable members opposite claim that drug companies are making alarming profits and that the medical profession is making a lot of money out of the national health scheme. This is the sort of thing that the honorable member for Grayndler did. Honorable members opposite claim also that members of the medical profession are responsible for irregularities in relation to the scheme. AH these claims are brought into the limelight in the hope of discrediting the present Government’s national health services. Why do honorable members opposite always do this? Whenever national health matters are discussed in this place, opposition members, with monotonous regularity, make these attacks. They do so simply out of envy because this Government’s national health scheme is working so successfully and has done so for so many years. When Labour was in office some 17 years ago, it tried valiantly to introduce a national health scheme that was impregnated with features amounting to socialisation and nationalisation of the medical profession and the ancillary professions. That scheme just did not work. Because it did not work, members of the Australian Labour Party ever since have been particularly hostile to the present scheme, which has operated very successfully for many years, as I have said.
Let us look at the history of the National Health Act and at the “ Hansard “ reports of proceedings in 1952 when the late Sir Earle Page, who was then member for Cowper and Minister for Health, introduced this Government’s national health scheme. The Labour Party hotly contested every clause of the Bill that was introduced at that time by Sir Earle Page. So strong was their opposition to the measure that the Government had to bring down the guillotine in order to get it through this House. Ever since, whenever legislation has been introduced to amend the principal Act so as to bring the national health scheme into line with changed conditions, as is being done now by the proposals relating to pensioners announced by the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) in his second reading speech, members of the Labour Party have made the sort of attacks that we have heard in this debate. One has only to examine the last annual report of the Director-General of Health to learn the great number of pensioners who have gained considerable benefit from the pensioner medical service, which is often known shortly as the P.M.S. When it was introduced, about half a million pensioners qualified for entitlement cards. We have heard these entitlement cards mentioned frequently in this debate. Not until some years later did pensioners begin to realise fully the value of an entitlement card, which entitles a pensioner to free medical care by members of the medical profession, a comprehensive range of medicines free of charge and free accommodation in public wards of public hospitals. These benefits are of tremendous value to pensioners and they very much appreciate them.
The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) complained that the national health scheme is not comprehensive enough. He said that it does not provide for dental treatment, physiotherapy and many other things. We have to remember that the national health scheme that we have in this country suits Australian conditions. It is one that can be paid for by the efforts of the Australian people.
– This Government is making the pensioners pay.
– No. Our national health scheme is paid for by the efforts of the Australian people. There is only one way in which we can provide a completely comprehensive national health service, and that is by making it compulsory. If a government adopts that course, it must assume power over all the elements of health services. It must settle the price of everything purchased. It must take control of all doctors and regulate their fees. In plain words, Sir, that means a nationally controlled, socialised health scheme. I hope we are a long way from that. But that is the kind of service which the Opposition would like to introduce into Australia. I sincerely hope this will never happen because if it did come to pass it would do great harm and would provide less benefits than does the present scheme.
Today all full or part pensioners - age, invalid, widow, Service and totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners - are eligible for enrolment in the pensioner medical service. About 1,006,000 pensioners and their dependants are enrolled in the scheme. This benefit was introduced by a Liberal-Country Party Government in 1952. Sir.cc that time the scheme has given pensioners a sense of security against medical expenses. The scheme has been a tremendous boon to this section of the community. Not only has it saved them from transport costs and fatigue which might have been incurred by attending the outpatient; department of a public hospital, it has also given them the advantage of free medical attention either in their own home or in a doctor’s surgery. 1 believe that the pensioner medical service has over the years had a very heartening effect on the outlook of pensioners, quite ap.;rt from the medical attention they might receive through the service. The P.M.S., as the pensioner medical service is often called in medical circles, has been in operation for so long that we now tend to take it for granted, but it is well to remember the person who was responsible for bringing the service into operation. I refer, as I <aid earlier, to the late Sir Earle Page. / now wish to refer to some interesting statistics which appear in the report for 1965-66 of the Director-General of Health. I was looking at these while the honorable member for Grayndler was speaking. The report shows that in the last eight years the number of medical services rendered per enrolled person has progressively declined. In other words, pensioners are not going so frequently to their doctors in spite of the fact that the services are without charge to them. One wonders whether this is because they do not require as much attention today as they did some years ago because of the easy availability of the service through the years. The report shows that Victoria has a smaller percentage of pensioners than has any other State. In Victoria 7.8 per cent, of the population are pensioners, compared with the Commonwealth figure of 8.8 per cent. Also, pensioners in Victoria attend a medical practitioner less often than do pensioners in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. Because of this, doctors in Victoria receive a smaller annual payment from the pensioner medical service than do doctors in other States. It may be well to remind the House how much this essential service costs taxpayers. The figure for medical attention alone today is $13,650,000, compared with an expenditure in 1952 of $2,070,000. The average amount received annually by doctors participating in the pensioner medical service was $620 in 1952. Today it is $2,246.
In spite of its enormous cost, this service is one of the greatest benefits extended to the community by Liberal-Country Party Governments in the last decade. The service has brought health and self-respect to a section of the community whose members have hitherto constantly worried about their medical expenses. The psychological effect prior to 1952 of knowing that they could be ill and financially unable to call a doctor must have hastened their need for medical attention. If the average number of attendances by pensioners to doctors has fallen progressively over the last eight years it could well be due to the psychological effect of knowing that the pensioner medical service was available. I am satisfied that a very large section of the community realises that the pensioner medical service has brought a great deal of comfort to many people in the community because it has removed the worry of medical expenses. 1 commend the Bill to honorable members. I am glad to know that although the Opposition has been cynical in its praise of the pensioner medical service, it will not oppose the Bill.
.- I do not intend to speak at length, because most of the things I would have liked to say have already been said quite effectively by honorable members on this side of the House. However, I want to indicate my agreement with the last few words of the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), who said that knowledge of the existence of the pensioner medical service has given a kind of psychological fillip to elderly people and has probably preserved them from a good deal of worry and concern. One can only wish that the honorable member and his colleagues had appreciated this fact back in 1955 when they debarred many pensioners from participating in the pensioner medical service by introducing a means test which survived under this Government for 10 years. It is only recently that all pensioners have become eligible to participate in the pensioner medical service. The means test has gone by the board. Let us now be grateful and glad that even this Government has recognised the benefits of the pensioner medical service.
If I may transgress for a moment and refer to a debate that has already taken place, I can only wish that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) and the Government had recognised the needs of ex-servicemen of World War I and the Boer War and had given them the kind of benefits that we fought for in this House almost two weeks ago, only to see our efforts ignominiously defeated by a stratagem of the Government in bringing in a second repatriation measure which deliberately deprived those ex-servicemen of hospital and medical treatment.
I can still feel some constricting squeeze being imposed on the national health scheme and on the pensioner medical service as part of the total scheme. Reference has been made to this aspect during the debate on the Bill. I want to speak on only one feature at any length. Honorable members have already said that many doctors are being criticised for making too many visits to their patients, particularly to pensioners. Some of these cases have been referred to me. Eminent doctors, doctors held in the highest repute in the community, suddenly and without any fair trial, are told that part of their claims will be disallowed. They are dealt with only by some departmental inquiry; they have no right of appeal to any outside independent tribunal, and they have to take it. I join with those Opposition members who have already protested about this. If some kind of inquiry must be held, let it be an independent inquiry and not a departmental inquiry of the type that now exists.
I would have thought that a government that says so much about doctors and their professional status as this Government does would have much more regard for the professional standing of doctors and for their professional organisations. I would have thought it would choose the doctors’ organisation to be the policing body in this matter. After all, this is supposed to be one of the criteria of a professional organisation - a self governing body of men, who set up their own ideals of service and their own rules for administering their service. This is the essence of a professional organisation. The essence of their professional code of ethics is that they are a seh disciplining group of people. Are we to understand then that the Government has lost faith in the professional standing and status not only of individual doctors but also of the Australian Medical Association itself? I pose that question to the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) and I will be very interested to hear his answer to it. An honorable member on the Government side - I shall not name him - interjects that my question is hardly worthy of an answer. The electors no doubt will be glad to hear that the honorable member believes my suggestion does not deserve consideration! The doctors who have been treated in the way I have said also will be glad to hear the honorable member’s estimate of the value of my question!
I turn now to deal with the treatment available under the pensioner medical service. It excludes specialist treatment. For people who are prone to illness, this can be a very important exclusion. The pensioner medical service provides only for general practitioner treatment, and specialist treatment can be a very onerous burden on pensioners. I am sure that every honorable member has had asked of him the question that has been asked of me. People who have been granted a pension and have become entitled to the pensioner medical service ask: “ Do I need to belong to a medical benefits or hospitals fund? “ Quite frankly, I do not find this question as easy to answer now as I did before. My general reaction was to say; “ No, the whole point of a pensioner medical service is to relieve you of the necessity to pay contributions to funds “. But what must I say when I realise that, by not belonging to a medical benefits fund, pensioners will be called on to foot the full bill out of their pensions, or whatever other resources they have, for specialist services, which can be quite expensive.
This brings me to another point about specialist services. There is an assumption in the table of benefits, which is approved by the Commonwealth Government, that a second visit to a specialist for the same ailment attracts a substantially lower fee than the first visit does. The Commonwealth benefit payable in relation to a second or subsequent specialist service is very much less than the benefit for the first service. I personally have found this assumption to be quite wrong. I know that many patients have found it to be wrong. Specialists are quite likely to charge almost the same fee for a second visit for the same illness as they charge for the first visit. Therefore, the patient is very much out of pocket.
I come back to the question that I am asked by pensioners. They want to know whether they should belong to medical benefits funds. The Minister said in his second reading speech, as he has said on many other occasions -
Under existing arrangements, pensioners and their dependants are entitled to free public ward treatment in public hospitals.
Just what does that mean? How entitled are pensioners? Can they make a legal demand on a public hospital to provide them with free public ward treatment, if this in fact satisfies their needs? The plain answer, of course, is that they have no legal entitlement. The pensioner medical card does not give them one tittle of entitlement to public ward treatment. In fact, the vast majority of pensioners cannot get into the public ward of a public hospital. This is a fact. No legal entitlement flows from the Commonwealth or the States or from the Commonwealth and the States jointly. The granting of this treatment is purely at the discretion of the hospital, which decides whether the pensioner will be admitted. Honorable members can guess what the position is when a pensioner with an illness requiring a lengthy period of treatment approaches a public hospital and asks for accommodation in the hospital. What must be the reaction of the hospital? 1 am told that the average cost of a bed in the public ward of a hospital is in the vicinity of $16 a day. That is what it costs the hospital for a bed for such a patient. But what is the benefit that goes to the hospital from the Commonwealth? Under this Bill, despite the Government’s claim that it is being generous, hospitals will receive $5 a day. In other words, the hospital authorities, the State Governments and fee paying patients in the hospitals must make up the other SH a day for the pensioner who is accommodated in the public ward of the hospital. Naturally enough, public hospitals are not taking pensioners, particularly if their illness calls for a long term of treatment. But even the $5 a day that will be paid under this Bill instead of the former $3.60 will not be operative until 1st January next. The Government gives the excuse that administrative arrangements must be made to implement the scheme. My colleague, the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) mentioned other deficiencies in the pensioner medical service. He said that the scheme does not provide for dental treatment, optical treatment, hearing aids or physiotherapy services and a whole host of other ancillary services.
– More services are out of it than in it.
– That is quite right. As the honorable member for Grayndler said, more services are excluded from the national health scheme than arc included. 1 am particularly moved to mention in my few remarks the constricting influence that seems to be generated by the Government not only in respect of the treatment by doctors of patients in the pensioner medical scheme and in respect of hospitalisation, but also in respect of yet another element and that is a restriction on the availability of drugs and pharmaceutical benefits. The Minister gave as close endorsement as he could to the remarks of the DirectorGeneral of Health in relation to the number of medical detailers attached to the pharmaceutical companies. The Director-General estimated that, for every six doctors in the community, one detailer is assigned to visit doctors and urge them to use new drugs. 1 have been advised that this is quite wrong and I want to give a few details. The official estimate is that one detailer is assigned to every five or six general practitioners. The Minister replied to the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) on 20th September last, a couple of weeks ago as follows -
Of course, the opinions expressed by tha Director-General in his report to the Parliament are his own. I have no reason to doubt that what the honorable gentleman says about the additional activities of detailers is correct. But at the sams time, the Director-General has formed the conclusion that the activities of large numbers of detailers is one of the factors responsible for the rising cost of the pharmaceutical medical benefits scheme, and I have no reason to doubt that that assessment is correct.
All right: let us look at what the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association has had to say in reply. This Association has been good enough to give me advice as a result of inquiries I made. It states that the number of medical representatives in the pharmaceutical industry in Australia is approximately 1 ,000, spread among approximately 100 pharmaceutical companies. These representatives call on - and I should like the Minister to note this - more than 14,000 doctors, about 6,000 retail chemists and friendly society lodge dispensaries, on hospitals, veterinary surgeons, dentists, miscellaneous medical units such as diagnostic clinics and blood banks, and government departments throughout Australia. The Association has estimated the ratio of these representatives to doctors as about one in 14 and not one in five or one in six as suggested. As a matter of fact, the ratio is about one in 26 of all individuals, pharmacies and institutions to which I have referred.
– What has this to do with the Bill?
– I am not surprised that the Minister does not understand.
– I am interested to find out.
– I can understand the Minister’s embarrassment about this. I am suggesting to the Minister that part of the pensioner medical service is the provision of pharmaceutical benefits. Does he intend to remove that benefit altogether? Let the Minister take some of his own medicine, if I may so describe it, bearing in mind that this legislation relates to health. I understand that the rate of prescribing in Australia is certainly no greater than it is in such advanced countries as the United States of America and Britain. The average number of pharmaceutical benefit prescriptions per head of general population, excluding pensioners, last year in Australia was 3.32. In other words, each person had a prescription every three and two third months. This does not seem to be an exorbitant rate. I am not in favour of people eating drugs at the slightest provocation, but this rate of prescribing does not suggest that they are. The average number of pharmaceutical prescriptions issued for pensioners was 16.38 per annum. It might be debated whether this is too high a rate, but we are reminded that pensioners being at their stage of life have a high incidence of sickness and disability and consequently need additional treatment.
– Who reminds the honorable member of this - the drug companies?
– I think the drug companies are as entitled as anybody else to have their opinions expressed in the Parliament. Does the Minister want to deny them their rights?
– I want to know the source of the information the honorable member quotes.
– I thought I made it perfectly clear, but apparently the Minister was not paying attention.
– Apparently the honorable member did not make it clear.
– - If the honorable member had been listening he would have understood the position.
– They are slow learners opposite.
– Yes, they are slow learners. The honorable member for Isaacs in his survey of the Director-General’s report drew attention to the lower demand on doctors. I suggest that one of the reasons why doctors may be less in demand by pensioners, as by other people, is that better drugs are available in the community nowadays. There is much evidence to support the contention that the efficacy of modern drugs precludes many visits to doctors. Before the Government becomes very alarmed about the over prescription of drugs it ought to take into account the savings made on visits to doctors and on the time spent in hospitals. The honorable member for Isaacs could have sought that kind of information. He would have found that the average stay of patients in hospitals today is considerably less than it used to be, even in the case of natal and pre-natal care. Women, after giving birth to children, stay in hospital about one third - and certainly no more than one half - as long as they used to stay. When one recalls that the average cost of hospitalisation is $16 a day one can work out the savings that are effected in terms of medical and hospital costs as against the increased costs of pharmaceutical benefits.
The average number of prescriptions for the whole population, including pensioners, was 4.36 per person per year, or slightly more than one prescription every three months. Would that be regarded as over prescribing? Figures indicate that in America in 1964 about 782.4 million prescriptions were dispensed, or a rate of slightly more than four prescriptions per person per annum. In America there is no national health scheme similar to that operating in Australia. Inadequate as we may think the Australian scheme is, America has no scheme and every prescription has to be paid for by the person concerned; yet Americans are consuming - if I may use that expression - slightly more than four prescriptions a year, which is about on a par with the existing consumption rate in Australia. The rate of increase in the overall number of prescriptions over the last three years in the United States was 7.9 per cent., 5.6 per cent, and 5.5 per cent, respectively, from four to five times the United States annual rate of population increase. Thus the trend in affluent societies is to take the more beneficial drugs that are available to offset the need to go to hospital and the need to visit doctors. The Government can have it which way it likes. It may prefer to pay a subsidy on doctors’ visits and on medical expenses, or it may prefer to subsidise hospitalisation, but it cannot have it all ways. The American figures are interesting because they show that even where people have to pay for their medicine they are demanding this type of consumption rate.
In the United Kingdom, Ministry of Health statistics for national health scheme prescriptions for 1965 show that national health prescriptions total 244.4 million, at an average cost of 10s. 4d. sterling per prescription. This was an increase of 35 million above the 1964 total of 209.4 million prescriptions. Taking into account that about 48 million people are being serviced by the United Kingdom national health scheme, this works out at about five prescriptions per person per annum. Once again, this is not very different from the overall Australian rate, so before the Minister, his departmental head and the Government generally get too excited and too worried about the mounting bill for pharmaceutical benefits they should have regard to the com parative figures obtainable from countries which enjoy a standard of living somewhat akin to our own. They should take into account the savings that go along with the development of more efficient drugs.
I am not suggesting that drug companies are perfect. I know there has been a battle. I know that the Government has waged some kind of a battle to try to get the cost of drugs reduced. This is desirable, and I give every encouragement to it. But in fairness to the drug companies - and more particularly in fairness to the public which is likely to have its benefits under the national health scheme curtailed - I thought I should draw attention to some facts. I think there is a lot wrong with the national health scheme. Other honorable members have referred to the special rate benefit. Here again the persons most sick in the community and who must spend 91 days or more each year in hospital are the people who will get the least benefit’ under our scheme. The poor unfortunate persons who are chronically ill, and who have to spend so much time in hospital, attract the least benefit. They are brought back to the standard rate of $5 today at a time when they will have to pay something of the order of SIO, $12 or even $14 per day because of the hospital benefits scheme. I think quite frankly, to put the situation strongly, that the Government is being fraudulent when it tells pensioners that they are entitled to free hospitalisation in public wards when it knows, as the Minister knows, that this is simply not true.
Pensioners are not entitled to free hospitalisation unless it is provided for them out of the generosity of, principally, State Governments and the various hospitals themselves. The Commonwealth contributes less than one-third to the cost of accommodating a patient in a public hospital. Therefore, it ill becomes the Minister to say in this place that pensioners are entitled to free hospitalisation. What usually happens, and what has happened in some recent cases which were brought to my attention, is that as soon as pensioners receive their entitlement card under the pensioner medical scheme they cancel their hospital insurance only to find when they become sick that they must go into a private hospital and pay through the neck for treatment without having the advantage even of benefits from a fund to which they have been contributing, in some cases for 25 years and in some cases for longer than that. They cancelled their benefit entitlement and suddenly found that they had no entitlement for public ward hospital treatment. I feel that the national health scheme is not in a very healthy state. It needs a complete review. This Bill does not do very much to contribute to its state of health.
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 Dr. Forbes) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1.) 1966-67. In Committee.
Consideration resumed from 29th September (vide page 1508).
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed expenditure, $38,060,000.
.-I wish to speak tonight on the subject of Australian external aid. One sometimes hears the suggestion that we should spend 1 per cent, of our national income on external aid, but the people who suggest this do not say why they choose that particular percentage or why it should not be . 92 per cent, or 1.3 per cent. Apparently it is an easy arithmetical calculation. Surely the aid we give to other countries must depend on two main factors, first, the need of those countries; and secondly, our capacity to give aid. One cannot lay down any rigid or arbitrary percentage.
It is worth looking at what we are spending on external aid and how our performance compares with that of other countries. From the end of the Second World War until 30th June this year we have spent $947,575,000 on aid to other countries. By the end of the current year we will have spent over $1,000 million on this aid. This represents economic and development aid and does not include defence support aid. For example, we have given defence support aid to Malaysia and India, and contributions in this regard totalled $5 million last year. The annual amount of external aid for each of the last few years represents . 6 per cent, of our national income. For example, last year it was . 64 per cent. This percentage places us about fifth among the countries of the world which are giving external aid. Our aid is only by direct gift. Some of the countries which also give external aid include in their contributions aid by way of loans repayable over a long period. I suggest that our performance is a reasonably good one.
Furthermore, we are one of the few countries of the world whose aid to other countries is increasing, not falling. In the current year the Budget provides for an expenditure in this direction of $103 million which represents an increase of 8 per cent, on our expenditure last year and constitutes 2 per cent, of our total Commonwealth expenditure. Of course, governments would always like to spend more than they do on worthy objects. There are plenty to say that we should be spending more on pensions, education or national development. I suppose one of the most frustrating tasks of government is the allocation of priorities for spending the moneys which are available. When we consider that we are trying to absorb 100.000 migrants a year, to provide full employment and to keep our national development progressing at a good pace: when we consider that we are short of money for these purposes and that we are essentially a capital importing country, I am sure honorable members will agree that our allocation of funds for external aid may even be described as generous.
On what are we spending this money? There arc so many different ways in which it is being spent that it is difficult to give an account without going into too much detail but tonight I shall deal with this aspect under three headings. Using the language of the Deprtment of External Affairs, we can divide our expenditure into bilateral aid, multi-lateral aid and aid to Papua and New Guinea. Bilateral aid is aid arranged directly between Australia and another country. The Colombo Plan is aid of this kind. The Colombo Plan, which was inaugurated in 1950, was to run originally for five years. There have been various extensions and now it is to run until 1971. Under this Plan we have given aid to South East Asian countries in the form of assistance in economic development projects and in the form of technical assistance. The economic development projects cover a very wide range and include such things as irrigation schemes, the provision of electricity supplies, the construction of roads and assistance with the establishment of secondary industries.
The technical assistance operates in two ways. First, we train students from overseas countries in Australian universities and technical colleges. For example, by 30th June 1965 we had trained 1,647 Malaysian students, 966 Indonesian students, 695 Indians, 466 Pakistanis, 446 Thais, 439 Burmese, 419 Filipinos and so on. I shall not weary the Committee with the full list. These students return to their own country - they are not allowed to remain here although some of them would like to do so - and use their skills for the benefit of their own people. In our experience, they also take back an immense goodwill for Australia. This is one of the advantages of the scheme. There are some who think that the countries concerned would be benefited also by the training of their own people in technical skills without the need for them to come to Australia. If we did this we would not gain the goodwill that flows to Australia from our present scheme. It would cost us overseas exchange which we do not have to pay when we educate them in Australia, but it would be of considerable help to the countries concerned, and it is something which I think we should explore.
The second form of technical assistance is in the sending of our own experts to these underdeveloped countries. To 30th June 1965 we had sent overseas, under the Colombo Plan, 690 Australians who carried out 914 assignments. Some of these are remarkably interesting and it is a pity there is not time to discuss them but I might mention one of which I heard only this evening, namely, the establishment of radio broadcasting throughout the whole of Laos. This broadcasting system is being used for educational purposes as well as for entertainment. The Australians who have gone abroad appear to get on well with the people of the countries to which they have gone. This form of aid is extremely valuable and helps to build up goodwill for Australia. I think there is a great future in providing aid from Australia in the field of agricultural production. This is a field in which we are expert. We are lucky that our people have a wide knowledge of the varied skills of agriculture, particularly as this is a sphere in which underdeveloped countries need assistance. We send people, not to do the work for the local inhabitants but to teach them so that they in turn will become teachers in their own country-
Aid provided in accordance with the terms of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation pact is another form of bilateral aid. To 30th June 1965 we had provided aid worth §2,513,000 to Pakistan, $3,773,000 to Thailand, $1,641,000 to the Philippines and $3,550,000 to Vietnam. However, to 30th June 1966 our aid to Vietnam had increased to $5 million, and the estimates before us provide for a further $2 million of civil aid in the current year. The other bilateral programmes are quite numerous. We have made provision for a contribution towards the development of the Indus basin which will be of benefit to both Pakistan and India. We made a gift of $7,600,000 worth of wheat to India last year and we gave $8 million in food aid to India in February 1966.
Multilateral aid is arranged through the United Nations organisations. O’ur aid in this case is not associated with Australia; the aid is simply administered by the United Nations, whether through the Food and Agriculture Organisation or the Scientific and Cultural Organisation or the general United Nations programme. This aid is well administered by experts. It is a good form of aid which we should continue, although it does not have any particular value in attracting goodwill for Australia. In this category, too, perhaps one might add in our contributions towards the capital of the Asian Development Bank.
Coming to the aid given to Papua and New Guinea, this, as honorable members will know, has been very substantial. Sometimes it is questioned whether we should include it under the heading of external aid. We consider Papua as part of Australia, but New Guinea is held under United Nations trusteeship. However, we administer them together and if as the years go on they decide to call for independence they will undoubtedly be treated together, and therefore it is correct to treat them not as a part of Australia but as a country to which we are giving external aid.
I have dealt with the principal heads of government aid. There is, of course, a good deal of voluntary aid flowing from Australia, not only through such avenues as the Freedom from Hunger Campaign but also through another channel that I would particularly like to mention this evening. It is the Overseas Service Bureau, a voluntary organisation which runs the Australian Volunteers Abroad scheme. Most members have heard of the Peace Corps established by President Kennedy in 1961, under which voluntary workers go and live among the people in the various countries, dress like them, speak their language and live on a relatively modest scale. But 10 years before that started there were volunteers from Australia abroad doing the same kind of work. This scheme has not had much publicity and it is on a smaller scale than the United States Peace Corps, but I do suggest it is something that is deserving of support from the Government, and I was pleased to see that in the current year the Commonwealth Government is to provide towards this Australian Volunteers Abroad scheme $38,000 for volunteers going to Asia, Africa and Pacific countries, and $23,000 for those going to Papua and New Guinea.
I suggest we should continue to support this volunteer scheme which enables the idealism of young Australians prepared to serve in this way to have an outlet. We should also continue to support the United Nations organisations with the multilateral aid, but at this stage I suggest there is a need to place some emphasis on bilateral aid from Australia. Under this heading there are two types of aid which are most needed at the present time. The first involves a wider spread of technical skill to enable the people to the north of us to cope wilh their own problems. We should continue to supply skilled advisers, train students here and if possible extend the training to their own countries. But we should also continue to assist in the provision of roads, railways and port facilities - what the economists would call the provision of an infra-structure to the economy of those countries. Three countries which I suggest particularly need this type of aid from us at present are South Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore. Indonesia presents us with special problems. If that country would accept from us advisers on civil administration, or the setting up of staff colleges teaching administration, I believe we could give very real help in this field. We are too small a country to hope to supply goods or commodities in substantial quantities to these countries. We are not big enough, compared with the United States and the United Kingdom, to be significant in this field, but we can supply skills in agriculture, in road building, in radio broadcasting and in the establishment of industries. This broadly is what we have been doing.
I discern two principles in what the Commonwealth Government has been doing and I suggest these are the proper principles to be applied. First, our aid has been based on what we think would best help these people to help themselves. Secondly, our aid has been based on the principle that what we have done does return value to Australia in terms of goodwill. But of course the first of these two principles is the over-riding one.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen) is quite right in stressing the great importance of economic aid in South East Asia, but the difficulty under prevailing policy is that far more is being used for military expenditure in that area than for economic aid. For instance, Australia is now proposing to use about $1,000 million for military expenditure largely directed at South East Asia. When we consider the expenditure on economic aid it is a very different story. A critical country in the area is Laos. We have one man trying to help the Laotian people to grow better grass on one small farm property. Another vital area is Cambodia where v/e have made a very important but relatively small contribution to the municipal workshop there. We have supplied the Cambodian people with 130 irrigation pumps. These things are all important in their way but so terribly small when compared with the enormous military expenditure that is being undertaken.
Some very drastic changes must be made. I have before me a report of a statement by Edward Lansdale, one of the United States of America experts. He is a top U.S.A. adviser on the South Vietnamese Government’s pacification programme. This report appeared in the most recent issue of “ Newsweek “ magazine, and it reads -
Edward Lansdale, top U.S. adviser on the Saigon Government’s pacification programme to win peasant support, is fed up with the way it is being handled. The 58 year old former Air Force General has urged drastic changes, threatening to resign if they are not made.
This is in 1966, after this programme has been going on for years and has been changed dozens of times. It is not much good being academic or simply naive on this question of economic aid. It is of vast importance but it has a very secondary role, with hardly any significance at all, in the present situation. I think it is now becoming generally realised that what can be called the Vietnam policy has failed. It is certainly difficult to go back in Vietnam, to disengage or to solve the problem that has arisen, but failure is written large and I think the U.S.A. will do everything possible to avoid in other parts of South East Asia a repetition of what has happened in Vietnam. I am not going to say that the South Vietnamese problem can be easily solved or that we can disengage or go back, but the admission that the policy is wrong and has failed is being generally and widely made.
What, then, does the history of Vietnam tell us in this regard? It tells us that no one can draw a military line against a movement which is substantially of the people without destroying the people and the country in which they live. There is a way to draw a line against the spread of an insurgency movement, but this is not the way. The way to draw the line is to have a genuine national government, not controlled by some foreign power, and for that government to check corruption and bring about a real measure of progress. There is one country in South East Asia where this has been happening almost to perfection. That is Cambodia, a country that hardly anyone in this House seems to talk about in debates or even to know very much about. On the other hand there is a country in South East Asia where failure has been most striking, a failure lasting for 21 years. That is South Vietnam. Yet everybody is concerned about South Vietnam, to generalise from it, while nobody is concerned to ask why Cambodia has been so successful.
Why is Cambodia the most secure country in South East Asia? Why is it that only the other day more than 80 per cent, of those who voted in a free election voted for the Government? Why is it that there is no anti-government movement? Why is it that if in Cambodia there were to be any upset of the country it would have to be by way of invasion? There just is not any group in the country which expresses sufficient dissatisfaction. When national independence, honesty in government and economic reform are denied, it is morally corrupt to use military force to destroy those seeking change. What is more, it is unlikely to succeed, and it can be done only at great cost in human life. To put all this down to Communism is rubbish. On 23rd August 1966 no other person than the United States Defence Secretary, Robert McNamara, stated -
The growing incidence of internal conflict in the world arises not primarily out of communist aggression and subversion . . . but out of the bitter frustrations of poverty.
That lesson does not seem to mean a thing to the great majority of people on the other side of the House who will give poverty none of the discredit for having produced these insurgency movements but simply generalise them all as part of some kind of Communist conspiracy. But internal disorders in South East Asia are not in such a bad way. Almost every country in South East Asia, in my opinion, except South Vietnam, and, perhaps, except Laos, has achieved self government and national independence and is pretty secure. Most of them are making economic progress.
Australia should certainly help them in more substantial ways than indicated by the honorable member for Parramatta in his review of the Government’s programme of economic aid - but help nevertheless. But there is no need to downgrade the governments of South East Asia as Liberal Party propaganda does. According to Liberal Party propaganda no government in South East Asia is good enough to last long if South Vietnam falls. This is typical of the lack of respect that Australian Liberals have generally shown for countries where the people are coloured. We remember Menzies and Verwoerd, Menzies and Nehru and, recently, Holt and the Afro-Asians at the last Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference. This theory that governments in South East Asia will fall once that in South Vietnam falls is typical of the lack of respect that the Australian Liberals generally have for governments in countries where there are coloured people.
The countries of South East Asia are remarkably stable. It is not the easy possibility of sudden change in them that is striking; it is their power of tradition and the sheer intertia of much of their societies. In each and every one of them antigovernment forces are weak and government armies are strong. Within a few hours last year the Indonesian army was able to defeat an attempted coup without any difficulty or possibility of defeat and then to supervise in a few days the destruction of the Communist Party there. The Indonesian army, unlike that in South Vietnam, was a national army with confidence in itself. It was ruthlessly successful. It did not have a high desertion rate like the army of South Vietnam and so the Indonesian Communists could not get weapons from the army, as did the Communist led forces in South Vietnam. So, having no weapons, they were no match for the army and within a few days were quickly destroyed.
But there is no country in South East Asia, with the possible exception of Laos, in which internal discord cannot be successfully met if the value of nationalism even without economic progress is realised. The thing that stands in the way is the current American and Australian Government policy of backing up by military intervention governments which are not genuinely nationalist, are corrupt and deny political and economic progress for their people. Let us do all we can to change this policy before it is too late.
What would then become our policy? Our policy would be to end Australian participation in the war in Vietnam. We should determine to give all the economic aid to South East Asian countries including South Vietnam that we can persuade the Australian Government to provide. Australian aid programmes should be placed on a dramatic new basis likely to attract the support of the people. This will certainly involve a change in policy. It will involve disagreement with some of the prevailing policies of the American Government. I have in my hand an article written by Roger Hilsman which is an illustration of how this great debate is going on in the United States. He was for a number of years Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs under the late President John Kennedy. In his article Roger Hilsman said -
From this analysis a different policy inevitably flows, a policy of firmness, flexibility, and dispassion. By firmness we mean firmness in our determination to maintain our strength in Asia.
That is. American strength - to stand by our commitments to our allies, including our friends on Taiwan; and to deter and meet Chinese Communist aggression. By flexibility, we mean a willingness to negotiate, to talk, to maintain, in the words of the speech, an “ open door “ to a lessening of hostility. And by dispassion we mean a capacity to look at China policy coolly, with the interests of our nation and of humanity in mind and without the blinding emotion that has clouded our analysis of the problem of dealing with China in the past.
The kind of blinding emotion that the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) exhibits in this House, and so many of those who think likewise. Hilsman goes on to say -
The goa-1, then, is South East Asia for the South East Asians.
– I would not hand it over to the Corns, as the honorable member would.
– The honorable member for Chisholm is proving by his interjection, my own statement.
The goal, then, is South East Asia for the South East Asians. This will mean a neutralised buffer zone between Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam, and it will require not only a willingness to negotiate but an overall strategy that puts military measures into a political context.
So this great debate is essential. Senator Fulbright has said that America does not want uncritical allies. This debate is going on in the United States. It must go on in Australia, and the presence of President Johnson must not silence and dull that debate. It is most important that we debate every aspect of this subject because our own future depends on it. America in the long run will be better served by allies who help to make her policies successful rather than by allies who back up her mistakes.
America’s Congressional leaders are working to change America’s policy in the way I am advocating here. It is Australia’s job to back up the efforts being made in America to give America a progressive foreign policy which will win support from the emerging nations of the world. John F. Kennedy once said -
What we must offer them is a revolution - a political economic and social revolution far superior to anything the Communists can offer.
In these contests there must be this kind of new ideal and new inspiration - and America must lead that new ideal and that new inspiration if she is going to win in this struggle and not back up the old reactionary Mandarin regimes like those of Chiang Kai-shek, Syngman Rhee, Bao Dai and Ngo Dinh Diem and Cao Ky. The outcome of these contests, as the London “ Observer “ has recently concluded, will depend on which side wins the support of the people, and this should never be forgotten. The side we are on at the moment is not winning the support of the people. To win this struggle we must return, in my opinion, to the spirit of John Kennedy and the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt. Not to realise this is to fail the American alliance.
The whole crux of the matter I believe is that the prevailing American view fails to understand the nature of the Communist advance. Communists have succeeded in Asia where there is landlordism, corruption and, in addition, where they have been able to ally themselves with nationalism. Communism alone is not a conspiracy, something that advances by terror in the night. There can be no Communist advance unless there is a sea in which the advance can swim. The “ Australian “ recently pointed up this fact, I believe, when it said -
The real problem of Asia is not Communist aggression (how much simpler if it were!) but the appalling social and physical conditions in Asia on which Communism thrives.
Communists in Asia are not merely the agents of Peking any more than Mao was merely the agent of Moscow. They are indigenous nationals, products of the social environments in the countries in which they live. Australia and America cannot, I suggest, afford to back up the old corrupt regimes in Asia and elsewhere. We can conn to be. friends with the new nationalism, the most potent force in history today. The new nationalism will not easily accept Communism, even if it is given a chance to make some other choice, because Communism seeks to force everything into an ideologically predetermined pattern. The new nationalism wants to be itself. It wants to be true to its own past, individual and diverse. It is found in strength in Indonesia, in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and even in Laos, and perhaps a little in Thailand. The new nationalism is not Communist, although it is opposed to imperialism and it will not have much foreign capital or foreign bases. But the new nationalists have aspirations, too. They are the moving forces in the old societies of South East Asia. They want to be a nation, to be independent in every way and to have the world acknowledge it. They want also to have the power to understand and apply science. It is not a high standard of material goods they want as much as to produce concrete and steel and at the same time to keep their own culture and way of life. It is not a question of whether these nations will achieve all this; it is only a question of how. Will they do it on the Communist pattern, which will come if the Communists are left to win the allegiance of the new nationalists, or will it be done in a kind of democratic socialist pattern in alliance with the democratic capitalist world? The old struggle cannot be won in the way that it is being fought in Vietnam. This is the great lesson to be learned from the war in that country - the insurrection that has lasted in that country for 21 years.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I must admit that I was a little disappointed at realising that the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) evidently did not pick up as much as some of his colleagues appear to have done during their recent trip to South Vietnam. I do not know whether this is because of his greater intellectual honesty or his sheer obstinacy in refusing to let us see that he has changed his mind. I am not quite sure on that point. But, at any rate, I will give him credit for one thing. Early in his speech he went straight to the point which, of course, is basic when we think of the newly emerging countries of South East Asia. I refer to the problems of the peasant farmers and the problems of development occurring under those basic conditions.
However, I felt that the honorable member was a little off the truth, because he suggested amongst other things that we, as Australians, being an agricultural race, are fitted to give agricultural extension advice to people such as the South Vietnamese. If I may return the remark that the honorable member used about the Government’s policy, I say that this is a naive suggestion because, from an agricultural point of view, we are a race of people who grow grass and then raise livestock on that grass. Frankly, we are not geared to advise the countries of South East Asia on their form of agriculture.
If the honorable member were to go down to Long Xuyen, in the Delta country of South Vietnam, he would see the point I am trying to make. In this area Nationalist China’s technical mission gives agricultural extension advice and the reason why the scheme is working so effectively is quite plain. Of all the countries of South East Asia, Taiwan has the best agricultural record, that is, on the South East Asian type of farming, not on ours of growing pastures and running livestock on those pastures. Taiwan has been the most successful proving ground for agricultural enterprises peculiar to South East Asia. I suggest that is why the Nationalist Chinese agricultural mission, working under the technical mission in South Vietnam today, has succeeded in almost doubling the basic returns of the peasant farmer in almost 18 months. If, in time to come, the military side of the war reaches a stalemate, the struggle for the hearts of men in South Vietnam will be won through the stomach - if I may put it that way. That is what the Nationalist Chinese are doing in the Delta area today. As I have said, they have almost doubled the living wage of the average peasant farmer in 18 months, and this is the best type of agricultural advice that can be given in those areas.
The honorable member for Yarra also claimed that our civil aid programme is low because our defence expenditure is high. But he completely failed to point out that, with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom forces, we are faced today with the problem of a vacuum in the Indian Ocean area. We are also faced with possible brush fire warfare. We are no longer tied to the apron strings of the United Kingdom. We have to look after our own interests and anyone who seriously suggests in this chamber that our defence expenditure is too high is, to my way of thinking, guilty of irresponsibility. The honorable member also mentioned political trends in the countries of South East Asia, and I think he was right in doing so. But let us study the position. The honorable member said that in his opinion we are moving against the stream of political thinking in those countries. That is just not so. In my judgment nothing could be further from the truth, and, after all, I suppose my judgment is just as likely to be accepted as that of the honorable member for Yarra. I certainly would not bow to his opinion.
What are the facts? Let us take South Vietnam for a start. In 1958 the South Vietnamese exported 300,000 tons of rice. Rice was developing very well as an export crop - a crop that returned hard currency to the Vietnamese government and gave the people hope that they would be able to expand their gross national product and so get somewhere in the future. Where did this go wrong? It went wrong for the simple reason that the Communist inspired Vietcong forces decided to put their foot down with the result that today South Vietnam is a net importing country. It is this point which exercises the minds of many honorable members on this side of the House. I imagine that it is the Government’s policy to make quite sure that the South Vietnamese people have the freedom to express their own opinions through the ballot box. We do not stand for giving carte blanche to the political regime in North Vietnam which is determined to deny the South Vietnamese their freedom. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to be frightfully academic on this question and to produce lovely ethereal arguments, weaving patterns in the air. But what do they mean? They mean nothing. The only policy that is sensible at this stage is that adopted by this Government, which is founded on practical common sense.
But let us get back to the matter of the will of the people, and see whether we are going against the tide of opinion in South East Asia. First let me ask whether the honorable member for Yarra remembers the address Lee Kuan Yew gave when trying to impress his thinking, as I believe he did, on members of the Opposition. 1 cannot vouch for that, but it is the common story and I have no doubt it is true. Does anyone doubt the intellectual capacity of Lee Kuan Yew? Does anyone doubt the sincerity of his approach to the problems of South East Asia? Does anyone doubt that what he says today is just as true as it was in the past? Recently when I was in Singapore on my way home from overseas, he spoke to university students. Questioned about the morality of involvement in South Vietnam, he told the students that they were trained to think critically, that it was their right to analyse his remarks and to shoot questions at him. But then he said to the students: “ I am telling you that we have 10 years to develop a viable economy in Singapore - 10 years that we might not have had if America had not put her foot down in South Vietnam “.
These surely are basic facts, not theoretical dogma; not a glorious pyramid founded on glib academic reasoning. This is my thinking on the problem and I trust that I am not too far off the Government’s line of thinking. I remember quite clearly being at a seminar in Kuala Lumpur last February. It was a seminar on economic development. At that seminar a professor who shall be nameless, but who was trained in Australia and who is now in Singapore, read a paper, the gist of which was that democracy was not working in South East Asia; that it could not work in South East Asia and that in fact it was inhibiting economic growth. Two days later, the representatives of 13 nations, of which Australia was one, came to the line of thought that it was not for other nations to judge or prejudge or to prove what was a democracy and what was part of a process towards achieving democracy in South East Asia. They requested that the idea of a democracy be judged against local standards, not against the standards of countries in other parts of the world. This, of course, is entirely reasonable. In other words, what they were saying was: “ Democracy is not impressed from the top as a totalitarian regime is. Democracy must grow from the grass roots,” to use a hackneyed phrase. “ It must grow from the village level. It must grow from the local government election level. If by any stray chance, the leader of the nation turns out to be a military dictator or a civilian one, or if a triumvirate happens to rule the country, this is of no consequence if we are moving towards the democratic process.” Frankly, this is why I objected to recent actions oi Senator Cavanagh, who, I believe, is behind a university demonstration in South Australia against the holding of elections in South Vietnam. In my view, it is wrong for one country to intrude, either directly or indirectly, in the affairs of another or for a member of Parliament to suggest how another country’s processes should be carried out, Mr. Chairman. To contend that this should be done is to make a vile contention. It must not occur.
The point that I am trying to make out of all this is that the local people are the best judges as to whether or not they are moving towards democratic processes. In my mind, there is no question that the people of South Vietnam are attempting to move towards democratic processes. Who are we in Australia, being so far away from them and never having been to South Vietnam, to stand off and say that Ky is undemocratic?
– That is what one would expect from the honorable member. He was trained in South Australia.
– Who are we to stand off and say, as I have heard the honorable member for Wills do so frequently, that everything that is done there is undemocratic and that the elections are a farce? The elections that have been held represent the South Vietnamese people’s way of moving towards democracy. If they decide that they want to win a war before they upset the scheme of things politically, that is their business. We are there to retain what I regard as, shall we say, the vested interests of Australia in South Vietnam and South East Asia. What are our vested interests there? They are represented by the objective of making sure that growth and development takes place in these areas, that the people there are accorded the right to express then- opinions through the ballot box and that the future welfare of South East Asia, in which we in Australia live today, remains the paramount consideration. This is the Government’s policy and this, Mr. Chairman, is exactly the policy that I have pleasure in supporting tonight.
.- Mr. Chairman, I returned from Vietnam on the day on which the Budget was presented. I returned convinced that Australia had an opportunity and an obligation to make a prompt survey of the fields in which it could provide civilian aid in that country and to provide such aid as quickly and generously as possible. I was shocked, therefore, to note in the Budget that all such civilian aid had been reduced. The allocation for international development and relief has been reduced from $22.7 million last financial year to $17.3 million this financial year. The allocation for economic and defence support assistance to member States of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation and the protocol States - that is, Vietnam - has fallen from $2.3 million last financial year to $2 million this financial year. Expenditure on refugee relief, which totalled $103,581 last financial year, has been dropped in the current financial year. All the sums provided last year were absurdly low. To reduce or eliminate these expenditures this financial year was dangerous and wicked. This was brought home to me very clearly in the last week when a letter came to my office from the Bishop of Kontum. I shall read the relevant passages -
The war in Vietnam has been very much in the world news, but behind the headlines lies an almost greater tragedy, of which very few sss aware.
To escape the terrors of war 400,000 people have fled from their homes. Many have sought shelter in Catholic missions in my Diocese of Kontum. The condition of these refugees is pitiful and desperate in the extreme. They need food, clothing, shelter and - most of all - medical attention. Three out of four babies are dying, and more than six out of ten children are starving, or sick with malaria and dysentery.
The only wish of these innocent people is to live their lives in peace like normal families the world over. The politics of the great powers are beyond their understanding. They are simple souls, and in their tragedy they have turned to us, as Christ’s missionaries. Can we make their sick babies well? Can we cure their diseases? Have we any food?
It is true but tragic to say that money is found by nations to wage war, but many of the financial wants of peace depend on charity. How we answer them rests upon the generosity of friends overseas. Please God, with your help, we will not fail them. For in their distress they may turn to others, who do not share our Christian faith.
Last year’s Budget appropriated $106,000 for refugee relief in South Vietnam and, as I have said, $103,581 was spent. There is no allocation for this purpose in this year’s Budget. On the 21st of last month, the Acting Minister for External Affairs (Senator Gorton) announced that the Australian Committee for the International Refugee Campaign 1966 had been given S50.000. It appears from other sources that about one fifth of the International Refugee Campaign funds this year will go to Vietnam. Therefore, it seems that since the Budget was presented the Government has relented at least to the extent of providing almost one tenth as much as was provided last financial year for refugee relief in Vietnam.
I have been flattered to note that there has been some reaction to my advocacy of increased civilian aid in Vietnam. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles), who preceded me in this debate, two days after the presentation of the Budget and my return from Vietnam - I had expressed my views on this matter before returning and at the time of my return - asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) a question on this subject. I must say that I considered that the Minister was extraordinarily prepared wilh his reply. It occuped more than H columns in “ Hansard “. His theme, in effect, embraced two things: First, there was no point in civilian aid in Vietnam until the whole country had been cleared. Secondly, in anyould be foolish to provide civilian aid there on a scale that the Vietnamese could not maintain themselves when we got out. The Service Ministers have maintained the attitude that they want no deflection from the solely military nature of Australia’s commitment in Vietnam.
During the last week in which the Parliament met, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Fairhall) also expatiated on this subject, his remarks occupying about 1£ columns in “ Hansard “. He was spurred on by a question about a report of what I had said. He ridiculed the idea that Australian civilian aid could be effective in Vietnam. The fact is that there are 70 soldiers from the United States of America there for every Australian soldier. Clearly, an addition of 1± per cent, to the military force would make no difference to the military result. I am certain, however, that a civilian contribution by Australia would be much more effective than any contribution in equal numbers by the other countries who are among our great and powerful friends on each side of the North Atlantic. It is probably not too much to say that 450 Austraiian civilians working there would have a greater and more enduring effect than ten times that number of soldiers would have. Take the only significant area in which there has been an Australian commitment in Vietnam - the surgical teams that have gone from three Melbourne hospitals and which are now about to go from Sydney hospitals. Australia has hospitals no larger than the hospitals in Vietnam. Australian surgeons at present in practice have operated in hospitals no better equipped than are hospitals in Vietnam. In the United States, however, there are no hospitals as small as those in Vietnam.
Australians are used to working on a scale more appropriate to Vietnam than are American civil aid workers. Furthermore, Australians are more acceptable than civilian workers from France or Great Britain, which have had imperial records in this area. Australians are no threat to anyone. Australians have demonstrated a greater sensitivity to local custom and behaviour than have most other civilians from overseas. They have been prepared to hop in and demonstrate while other Europeans stand back and advise. Australians are not afraid of the oily rag. They have shown this in Phnom Penh, in Djakarta, in Malaysia and in Singapore. I believe the same could be demonstrated in South Vietnam.
It is true that the question of civilian aid in South Vietnam would not and could not have arisen if military action had not been taken. It is true also that the question of military action would not have arisen if civilian aid had been extended fully and promptly after the Geneva Accords of 1954. It is because Australia and her great and powerful friends on each side of the north Atlantic took no further interest in Vietnam’s welfare for the rest of the 1950s that the country proved so vulnerable when insurgency revived and expanded during the present decade. So many hundreds of thousands of American troops will have been committed to putting the South Vietnamese Government on its feet that it behoves every nation in this region to help that Government with civilian aid in order to make it viable; still better, to give the people an opportunity to choose a more broadly based and responsive government than they have ever had or than North Vietnam shows any signs of having or than the united country ever had in the few brief years it was united.
Up to the end of the last financial year, Australia’s total commitment to Vietnam under the Colombo Plan and the South East Asia Treaty Organisation was barely SIO million. Up to the end of the 1950s the most Australia had ever given was $865,000 in 1958-59. Last year the total amount Australia gave under the Colombo Plan and S.E.A.T.O. was just over $1 million. It has been stated that this year there will be Australian civilian aid amounting to $2 million. This expenditure does not appear in the Budget. One would have to assume that the whole of the increase under the Colombo Plan was going to South Vietnam and that some of the Colombo Plan money and some of the S.E.A.T.O. funds were being diverted from present recipients if one is to reach the figure of $2 million. I have not time in this year’s debate to go into the general character of Australia’s international economic aid. If, however, we disregard the aid which we are providing for New Guinea, which is as much for the benefit of the Australians there as the New Guineans, the fact is that our international aid amounts to .2 per cent, or l/500th of our national income. Every country in North America and western Europe spends several times that amount on international aid.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) seems to have become aware of this problem since the Budget. In his name but in his absence on 2nd September there appeared a long statement, full of special pleading, announcing that the Government was already in touch in this regard with the Australian Council for Overseas Aid. In fact, departmental officers had got in touch with that organisation only that day. The organisation came into operation over a year ago. Its chairman is a former member of this House, Mr. Syd Einfeld, now a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. Last year’s Budget did not recognise the organisation. This year’s Budget does not recognise it. But after a fortnight or so departmental officers discovered it. The department suggested an extraordinarily unimaginative and restricted programme, well meaning but merely marginal.
We have an opportunity and an obligation in Phuoc Tuy province to make it a show place. The principal town and port where we land - Vung Tau - is the size of Townsville. It would be completely within Australian competence to provide municipal and State services in a city of the climate and size of Townsville. As the Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions pronounced at the end of August in a statement which I commend to honorable gentlemen -
The Executive is aware of the urgent need for social reform in South Vietnam. We believe that military action will not resolve the internal discord and conflict within Vietnam unless the social and economic problems are attacked with real vigour and determination.
We state that the Federal government should be prepared to allocate no less finance to assist in social reform in South Vietnam than it has been prepared to spend for military purposes.
This Executive believes that there should be increased economic, medical, technical and educational assistance to our South-East Asian neighbours in a concerted effort to increase living standards and relieve international tensions.
We therefore call on the government to offer immediate financial and administrative assistance to peoples’ organisations in South Vietnam, including the trade union movement, which are building democratic institutions and developing social reforms. We believe the Australian government should attempt to assist in such matters as general education, technical training, agricultural methods, public administration and the establishment of co-operative societies.
It is impossible for any nation to live in a region which is half rich and half poor; still less it is possible for a country like Australia to live in an area which is fractionally rich and overwhelmingly poor.
.- I want to say at the outset how pleased I am that the President of the United States of America and his wife will shortly visit our country. At the same time, I want to emphasise how discourteous, distasteful, untactful and repugnant was the statement by the President of the Australian Labour Party, who is a senator in another place. This gentleman is a noted left-winger. His statement was calculated to incite all Australians to demonstrate their opposition to the Vietnam .war during the President’s visit to our country. The senator asked people to mount opposition to this Government’s policies and those of our allies. This action is in line with Communist thinking and has virtually given the green light to all sorts of groups to be discourteous to our guests. The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) has supported his President’s statement. While it is not unexpected it is to be deeply regretted that such a statement should receive apro bation and support from any honorable member of this House.
There can be no objection to the known divergence of opinions nor should there be any suggestion of suppression of views held on this vexed question of the war in Vietnam. But to incite people, sometimes innocent people, by suggesting massive demonstrations against a guest to our country, is not in keeping with the best Australian characteristics. When expressed views run parallel with those of the Communist Party and its opportunism, they will be deplored by people of all political persuasions who will not be hoodwinked by blatant antiAmerican attitudes aimed at undermining our alliance with the United States of America. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) rightly endeavoured to negate this outrageous display of bad manners against a proven friend and a most distinguished leader of the free world, and no doubt the Leader of the Opposition will inform the President most forcefully of the views held by people other than the Government and its supporters.
What happens in South Vietnam is of vital importance to Australia’s security. It is also important to our neighbouring countries in South East Asia. It is fortunate for us that the United States is prepared to commit its large forces, its power and its resources to this region. Had this not been done, one could but speculate as to how far Communist domination would have spread. It would not be hard to visualise additional hostilities taking place in the small countries of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand.
– The honorable member has never been there.
– Yes, I have been to every one of them. The willingness of the United States to oppose undoubted aggression has strengthened not only the determination of the people of South Vietnam to resist Communist aggression from the north but has also strengthened the position of the free world generally. There should be no doubt that the hostilities in South Vietnam are part of the pattern of militant domination by subversion and guerrilla warfare, and it would be unrealistic to divorce our own security from that of our northern neighbours. In fact, Australia has a direct strategic interest in what goes on in this part of the world, and Australians are therefore in South Vietnam to resist a threat to their own future as well as to the future of other people in South East Asia. Unlike China, we have no territorial ambitions, we seek no wider war and we have at all times been willing to commence peace negotiations. We want a peace that is a Just peace, not a peace that ignores the rights of small nations to live under the administration of their own choosing, to build and to reconstruct their economic and social life without pressure from an administration that is not acceptable to them. 1 suggest that those who say that China is a peaceful nation with no territorial claims, and this is said by honorable members opposite, cast their minds back to what happened in Korea and in Tibet and to the continuing threat to India. China has fomented revolutions against the established government of each of these countries, and this she is doing in Vietnam. A dark future for South East Asia is certain, unless the declared policies of Chinese Communist expansion and territorial aims are contained and brought to a halt. Does anyone doubt that the anti-Communist leaders of Indonesia were greatly strengthened in their decision to overthrow the powerful Communist elements in their country by the knowledge that America and her allies were resolutely resisting the downward thrust of Communism in Vietnam? If the recent Communist coup had succeeded in Indonesia, our next door neighbour, a nation of 100 million, would have been ruled by a Peking dominated Communist Government on our very front door step.
Australia is strategically placed in an area that is dangerously unstable politically. Whilst Chinese Communists are allowed to continue their open aggression, the need for strong allies to assure our future security is certain. But we find that, while Opposition members no doubt would expect America to help us in a time of national emergency - that is, if we were the victims of aggression - they are not prepared to assist in a struggle in which America and our other allies are involved, and the outcome of the struggle is clearly important to our own country’s future. In other words, they want it to be a one way traffic. The Australian Labour Party has continually cast aside our treaty obligations under S.E.A.T.O. and the fact that alliances are two way arrangements. If we accept the valid guarantees that the United States has provided for us under S.E.A.T.O. and A.N.Z.U.S., naturally we must also meet our commitments under the same pacts. This is fundamental. Labour’s lukewarm attitude to S.E.A.T.O. and A.N.Z.U.S. has always been apparent and continues to colour its thinking. I remind honorable members that any nation which, in fulfilment of its treaty obligations, enters into a solemn commitment cannot repudiate the commitment without doing great damage to the alliance entered upon or its own standing as a nation. The Opposition has totally disregarded this aspect.
At page 239 of “Hansard” of 15th March 1966, the Leader of the Opposition said -
On the 15th March 1966, we are still as firmly and completely opposed to Australian participation in the war in Vietnam as we were a year ago. . . .
We should remember this. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has stated -
Immediately upon its election, a Labour Government would give the national servicemen a free opportunity of withdrawing.
There is a difference. His Leader has stated that a Labour Government would bring home all national servicemen serving overseas, whilst the honorable member for Yarra has said that Labour would bring home all troops from South Vietnam. Here are three different versions of Labour’s policy, and there are further differences on the timing and implementing of the civil aid programme. If our troops are to be withdrawn from South Vietnam, who would we expect to look after the personnel going there to give civil aid? Do we expect the Americans to look after them? Are we not prepared to assist in the protection of our own people who give civil aid or assistance to the Vietnamese?
The Leader of the Opposition also stated on 23rd August last -
The next Federal Labour Government will bring all of them - meaning troops - back to Australia at the earliest practicable moment.
Does he believe, or is he so naive as to believe, that the Government itself would not bring home all troops from Vietnam at the earliest practicable moment? When asked by the television interviewer on “Four Corners” on 30th April 1966 whether he would bring home the conscripted men immediately, give them a choice or v/hat, the Leader of the Opposition replied -
These things are very hard to decide as of now. We cannot dot all the i’s and cross all the fs before we become a government.
Has the Leader of the Opposition had second thoughts on the matter? Is he putting votes before principles or has he not yet realised the impracticability and undesirability of unscrambling the egg of the successful integration of our armed forces in Vietnam? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was quoted in an editorial, headed “ Whitlam’s Red Herring “, in the “ Sunday Telegraph” of 11th July 1965. To the best of my knowledge, this has not been denied, and I therefore accept it as being true, for claims by the honorable member for Werriwa of misreporting and misquoting are frequent. The editorial reports the Deputy Leader as saying in Singapore -
If the people want a Communist Government, let them have it. . . . It is irresponsible for Australia to send troops to South Vietnam.
– Who said that?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that in Singapore. It is reported in an editorial in the “Sunday Telegraph” of 11th July 1965. He said he could not guarantee that the A.L.P. would withdraw them if it were voted into power. This is in complete contrast-
– This is a misrepresentation of what he said.
– Here it is in the newspaper; the honorable member can read it for himself. Much play has been made of this plank of Labour’s platform and one can be pardoned for thinking that it is only to excite the minds of many people, because the proposal lacks realism. I must confess that I am rather at a loss to understand what is the real policy of the Labour Party in relation to Vietnam, for in the foregoing statement there is a clear division of opinion between the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Labour Party.
Can anyone imagine that Australia would not be harmed in the eyes of the world if she were to withdraw her troops from Vietnam and leave the other participants to go it alone? The national character of the Australian will not allow him to desert a friend when that friend is of his own choosing and in need of his assistance. If the troops were withdrawn does it mean that the Opposition would expect the youth and resources of America, which has practically 330,000 men in the area at an annual cost of about SUS 18,000 million, and the youth and resources of our other allies to carry this fight against Communist expansion and aggression without our assistance, or does it suggest that the United States should adopt Labour’s policy and withdraw completely, leaving the Vietnamese people to an unpalatable future? Regrettably this is what is inherent in the Opposition’s policy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has in this statement said, in effect: “ Let us hand South Vietnam over to the Communists on a platter because that is what the people want “. Does he mean that he would condone Communist domination of South Vietnam in accordance with Chinese aims and ambitions to overrun all Asia? Is his thinking so naive that he believes further Communist expansion would not take place if this situation were to go unchallenged? Has he no concern for the anti-Communist Vietnamese? Does he not know that one of the main causes of this conflict is to ensure the freedom of these people against aggression from the Communists and to give them an alternative to such government? Or is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition as irresponsible as his statement when he declared that it was irresponsible to send Australian troops to Vietnam?
Perhaps now is the time to reflect on the disagreement on major points of policy among members of the Opposition. Ft gives one food for thought and grave concern. The Opposition has a most unrealistic attitude to the situation in South East Asia. This is an unfortunate war: It is a difficult war. But if we believe in the ideals we have so often expounded, what alternative have we but to participate with our allies pending a just peace settlement? The people of Australia ought to know what real prospects they have for their future security. On one hand they are being asked to support a party which speaks with several voices all expounding a policy of isolationism. What would be our position without strong and powerful allies? Simply put, our future would be in real jeopardy. The people of Australia have a clear choice. Does Australia assist to draw the line against Communist aggression now or do we simply turn our backs and ignore what is going on around us and finally become isolated, alone and friendless? The war in Vietnam is a challenge to our thinking and to our resolve. On 26th November the electors will give their answer loud and clear.
.- In October and November of 1962 I was in Africa and. with other members of an Australian delegation, I was received by three people. One was Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister of Nigeria, who has been murdered; the second was Ahmadu Bello, Premier of the Northern Region of Nigeria, who has been murdered; and the third was Hendrick Verwoerd, the Prime Minister of South Africa, who has been murdered. It was only by good luck that the President of Uganda, the Kabako of Buganda, was not murdered by the usurping President, Dr. Milton Obote. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt), at the recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference complained that the African nations concentrated on Africa and were not interested in Vietnam. He complained that they concentrated their attention on Rhodesian affairs. I believe that the Prime Minister of Australia failed the Commonwealth of Nations by failing to give a sound evaluation of world affairs and by failing to take up with some of the African Prime Ministers who were complaining about the unconstitutional conduct of the Smith regime of Rhodesia their own unconstitutional conduct. The Australian Government goes around the world with a capricious morality. It complains about Rhodesia - and I am not criticising it for this policy. It works an economic boycott of Rhodesia while it boasts of its expanding trade with China. I do not believe there is anything in Government policy other than electoral advantage and I believe this is why we have the double terminology in referring to Communist China when we are dealing with diplomatic affairs and referring to a nice entity called Mainland China when we are dealing with trade. What is the logic by which the Government justifies an economic boycott of Rhodesia for what is a comparatively mild racial discrimination while it desires an expansion of trade with China, which is engaged in genocide in Tibet - which is not a mild form of racial discrimination? Why is it that, in this campaign of capricious morality, while Mr. Smith is put on trial for unconstitutional action we have the Prime Minister consenting to join with Dr. Milton Obote as one of the judges in the trial. Dr. Obote has taken over the presidency of Uganda with artillery. Uganda was a federation of four States. The President of Uganda was the Kabaka of Buganda, one of the States. Dr. Obote was charged by the Opposition with having taken £125.000 in gold from the Chinese sponsored guerrillas in the Congo. Five of his Ministers believed this charge and they were arrested. The Prime Minister of Uganda, as he then was, declared himself President and when the President of Uganda, the Kabaka. complained about this action the Prime Minister bombarded the Kabaka’s palace. He says he killed 40; the Red Cross says he killed 1,000. The Kabaka happened to escape. It is apparent, however, that the Kabaka’s wife, who did not escape, has been tortured.
Why is it that the Prime Minister of Australia at a Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference cannot open his mouth on this subject and that the Government of Rhodesia is put on trial for comparatively mild unconstitutionalism by comparison with this? I say this because I believe it is important. I do not believe it is a compliment to Africa never to raise the fact that the government of Nigeria changes by a succession of murders. I do not believe it is a compliment to Africa not to raise the question of how Dr. Obote got his power. If we are going to accept that in Africa there are changes of government in this manner and that we must not talk about them, then we actually accept the fact that black Africans are expected to behave like savages and we do not raise the question. There will be no value in the future of the Commonwealth unless the Prime Minister of this country can open his mouth and judge Dr. Obote by the same standards as he applies to Mr. Smith. No decent African would want to be judged by a different standard. If this Government is going to make a contribution to world affairs it had better revise its capricious morality.
The statement made by the speaker who preceded me is all fine and defensible, but if this is all true about China why does the Government want to expand trade with her? What has the honorable member to say about the fact that for years on end the Government was sending tallow to North Vietnam? We all know that tallow is used in high explosives. When I last spoke about the export of rutile to China, 5,000 cwt. of it, the Government said it was one shipment only. With 5,000 cwt. of rutile they can provide the trace elements which are vital in making steel heat resistant, vital in Chinese development in rockets and jet engines and vital in Chinese development in carriers of nuclear weapons. In this Commonwealth of Nations I believe that what is needed is some plain speaking. I do not think the colour of anybody’s skin has anything to do with anything. Conduct is conduct. It is no more reprehensible for South African white police to shoot black people who rush a police station at Sharpeville than it was for the former Government of Ceylon to incite Ceylonese to attack Tamils so that 90 times as many were killed in massacres in Ceylon in a campaign of putting pressure on Indians in Ceylon to get them out.
No one says anything about any action unless it crosses a colour line. Action is action and murder is murder, whether it is done by black to black, white to white, black to white or white to black. Until we have a government which, in the Commonwealth of Nations, is prepared to refuse to get onto these racial grounds and discuss conduct, to say that the conduct of Smith is no more reprehensible than the conduct of Obote, the Commonwealth of Nations is going to develop into a menace that this country would be better to be out of, unless it has a sane morality in its proceedings. I think this is what we need very badly at Prime Ministers Conferences, and we need very badly the voice of the Prime Minister of Australia to talk along these lines. 1 do not know what the Commonwealth of Nations is, but the Commonwealth of Australia has a defined relationship to the United Kingdom and the constitutional facts and the procedural fictions do not correspond.
If there is such a person as the Queen of Australia, why is there a GovernorGeneral? When Her Majesty the Queen is absent from her United Kingdom territories, she is not represented by a GovernorGeneral in London; she is represented by a council of regency. The office of GovernorGeneral presupposes the sovereignty of one country over another. If there is such a person as the Queen of Australia, which I doubt because of our Commonwealth Constitution, she would not be represented in her absence from Australia by a GovernorGeneral but by a regent or a council of regency. The Queen of Australia is unknown to the Constitution which defines Australia as an indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom. The Constitution provides also in section 2 -
The provisions of this Act referring to the Queen shall extend to Her Majesty’s heirs and successors in the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.
It was for this reason that Prime Minister Menzies in 1939 held Australia to be incapable of declaring war. This reason is unchanged because the Constitution is unchanged. The expression “ Australian citizen “ is constitutionally impermissible, and I note that the proclamations relating to the call-up use the expression “ British subject”, which is certainly safer constitutionally in any field where there is likely to be a challenge. I believe these things need clarification. If we are going to persist, because of the Royal Style and Titles Acts, in talking of the Queen of Australia the? we must work out the logic of the new constitutional position. I am all for it P this is a sovereign State - according to the Constitution it is not - but we should have this sort of matter clarified.
As for the Commonwealth of Nations, the fact is that the only working association in the sense of a military alliance in what is called the Commonwealth of Nations is between Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We live today in Australia alongside two revolutions. One is a revolution of authority on which I do not intend to elaborate. I merely remark that in 1939 Britain ruled the Indian Empire, which is now four States; the French ruled in IndoChina, which is now three or four States; the Dutch ruled in what were called the Netherlands Indies; and the Portuguese ruled in Timor. Of all of this European sovereignty, only the Portuguese remains. In addition, the United States ruled in the Philippines. This revolution of authority has been something that many Australians have found hard to accept. They do not adjust themselves to the new Asia alongside which they live. But a more vital revolution is the revolution of expectations. This is where 1 feel that we in Australia are breaking down in any effort really to win a sound relationship with our Asian neighbours. We had this in Indo-China when we had a blind policy of hoping that the French would be able to continue to exist there, but in our neighbours today we have a situation where doctors, lawyers, engineers and scientists are fully the equal of their equivalents in European countries and in Australia. They are living among a people who educationally and economically are profoundly underprivileged. The decisive people in these countries, those with the Western education and the leadership of the country, technologically at least, are profoundly dissatisfied with the lot of their fellows.
I believe that in the long run those countries which are prepared to invest intelligently for a transformation of the living standards and the life of their neighbours of Asian countries will be those who will win. We can discuss the Indonesian changes from many points of view, but the fundamental one is that, after 15 years of oratory, for the first time decisive sections of the Indonesian people, including Indonesian youth, are making rational tests about the Government. They demand results. Sukarno’s oratory has been fine, but they now want some kind of economic advance and some kind of future. This was unexpected, but I believe that it is general in Asia. It means several things. I have not time to expand on them. However, I still believe that the decisive country from Australia’s point of view is India. I believe that our greatest opportunities are in an advance in Indian agriculture, an advance in Indian industry, and an advance in Indian living standards to assist India to be a model for Asia. I believe that that is the most vital step we can take for the security of Australia.
.- I wish to refer to two or three points made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam). He said, first, that the vote for international aid and development was $22 million last year and is $17 million this year. In fact the budgeted figure this year was $2 million more than it was the year before. The high expenditure was due entirely to $8 million in wheat relief to India. This was an emergency situation in which emergency action was needed. We all hope that it was an emergency situation and that it will not occur again to demand emergency treatment. However, I would say that if the same emergency arises it will be met in the same manner. Several speakers, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, made particular mention of more aid for South Vietnam. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said specifically that no war would have taken place if there had been more aid. I recommend that he study the statement of the Labour Minister for Foreign Affairs in Britain who said that until the Communists came over the border the international aid project was doing very well indeed. That statement was made by Mr. Michael Stewart.
I would also remind the honorable gentleman that it is fundamentally difficult to do good going round with your throat cut. Far too many people have engaged in the exercise that honorable members opposite are urging people to take part in now and have had that happen to them. I would also recommend htm to study the case of the Ben Cat dairy farm. Australia was proud to set up that dairy farm, under the Colombo Plan, to supply milk to the women and children of Saigon. Not only were the people in charge of the farm killed but the cows were hamstrung as well. I remind the honorable gentleman that these are the facts of life. It is all very well to make speeches about what one should do. The difficulty is to do it in the situation which applied then and which, of course, still applies. 1 have intervened in this debate because 1 have recently returned from overseas after representing Australia, with my colleagues, at the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference. 1 want to refer to two countries in particular. First, 1 shall refer briefly to Indonesia. It is refreshing and a tribute to the quality not only of the leadership of the Department here but also of the officers in Djarkata who represent us so ably, to note the high regard in which Australia is held in that country. One factor in this goodwill has certainly been the way in which our activities under the Colombo Plan have assisted Indonesia in her time of difficulty. I was inclined to be critical of our activities but it is now pleasing to be able to pay a tribute to the wisdom of those who made the rather difficult decision to assist Indonesia. I agree with the many who have said that there is a need to do something urgently in the form of aid to Indonesia. I am a conservative person by nature and I have often been critical of rushing into international aid projects without first giving them careful consideration. In this case, with the present situation so finely balanced I believe it would be folly to be too wise. We should embark on the exercise. I admit that the difficulty is to find something worthwhile that we can do quickly and I recommend to the Department that it take a careful look at the question whether we can help with some form of administration for which I think we have a peculiar ability. I think our assistance in this direction would be accepted more willingly by Indonesia than it would be by other countries.
I wish to direct my main comments to India. I was there for just over three weeks and it is worth mentioning that in that time - this concentrates the Indian problem in a way no other words can - the population of India increased by almost one million people. That is the population of my own State. I am well aware of the problems that increasing numbers make for a country of our size, but to have to service a monthly population increase of that magnitude exemplifies the Indian problem. I was in India in 1944 when that country was faced with a food crisis, and I was told then that it was no use sending any more wheat to India at that stage because it could not be handled through the ports. I went to India on this latest occasion particularly because we are sending that country considerable amounts of wheat. I am pleased to say that India is now handling that wheat in a remarkably efficient manner. In fact, she is handling in excess of the volume that the United States Committee of inquiry, which inquired into India’s potential for handling wheat, said she could handle. The wheat is also being handled in such a way that there is no waste. This is a great tribute to those responsible.
My next comments also refer to the Indian scene. I went to Malpura which is in Rajasthan, and to Poona which is in Maharashtra, and saw some experimental work being done with merino sheep breeding. The environment in both these districts is such that merino breeds are necessary. Corriedales are not suitable because the rainfall is far too low. I saw some very good experiments with rambouillet and Russian merino sheep. Next year India will require approximately 2,000 merinos and in the following year it is expected that she will require 6,000 merinos. But we will not sell merinos to India. We have an embargo on the export of merinos. This is a fundamentally foolish attitude to adopt. I have always been critical of it. In general terms, I think it does considerable harm to our wool industry and certainly to our country. I have held that opinion for the past 10 years. It is also held by Sir William Gunn, a man whom one would expect to know something about the subject.
We are an affluent society so perhaps we can afford the luxury of disadvantaging ourselves in this way. Having regard to the fact that the need to increase the amount of fine wool is generally recognised and having regard to the obvious need in India and other similar areas, I believe it is a calamity that we not only deny and hamstring ourselves in this way but that we hurt other people as well. These are the fundamental facts. We have not a monopoly of fine wool blood sheep. I saw on this occasion, and I saw in 1961 in Nepal, excellent fine wool being grown on both the United States rambouillet and the Russian merino sheep. It is completely ridiculous for us to think we have an option on the ability to breed better sheep. I am certain that we do breed better sheep than do other countries but in time the people who have this genetic material will improve, gradually at first and then rapidly. Already the Russians have done this. For us to persist in this selfish and shortsighted policy does us great damage in the eyes of the world and particularly in the eyes of those we would help. I urge the Government to have another look at a policy which was introduced early in the 1930’s when the position was quite different from what it is now. I will not say whether the policy was justified then but, speaking with some knowledge of the subject, I say that to persist in this is fundamentally foolish, selfish and wrong.
The other thing I want to say - it may be said briefly - is that I had the opportunity to see again some of the excellent work done by that very fine organisation, Community Aid Abroad. I do not pretend that it will solve the problems of the developing countries. I think perhaps its main attribute is that it gives us an opportunity to ease our consciences in the knowledge that we are helping a little. But I would like to pay a tribute to the excellent manner in which it helps, in a small way perhaps but with a minimum amount of administrative expense, and certainly at the grass roots level, which is the kind of thing we want to see more of. However, my main reason for speaking was to press the Government most strongly to have another look at the merino sheep embargo, which I think is something that has not been looked at carefully for a long while and should be looked at now, both for our own sake and for the sake of others.
.- We can always be sure that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) will be one of the few people from the opposite side of the House who will bring to such debates as this an attitude which places humanity before doctrine, and I do believe I can agree wholeheartedly with the general sentiments he has expressed, although I must admit that I have not put a great deal of work into the question of the export of Australian merino sheep or anything else that goes with it. I do believe that in large areas of foreign affairs Australia is inclined to be selfish. As one of the wealthier nations of the world, one of the most secure, one of the most prosperous, we have a duty which we often ignore.
On this occasion I want to deal with some of the remarks that we have heard from the other side and to place on record some views that 1 think are relevant to our position in South East Asia and particularly in South Vietnam. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) made great play on democracy. The honorable member comes, of course, from South Australia, which provides a notable example of undemocratic procedures foisted upon us by parliamentary systems. He is one of the few old boys, I believe, of the South Australian Legislative Council, and such a person could sympathise with any kind of undemocratic practice. Innately, however, he is probably quite a decent fellow and with some encouragement would make progress.
Another person I wanted to deal with tonight is the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt). The Prime Minister, a notable adviser around the world - he has told Mr. Johnson what he ought to do and how he will go along with him, he has told Mr. Wilson how to brighten up a bit and he has been busy issuing his instructions to the rest of the world - this morning told Australia something about the Labour Party and its policy. I was interested in his comments when he said that Australia was now part of Asia and it is time the Labour Party realised it This is rather odd coming from a person with his record in international affairs. What does the Prime Minister do? He ignores India in the general; he insults Indonesia in the long term and in the short term; he does not even see China. So that the great problem of Asia is a closed book to him. The major Asian nation with which he has a pact under the South East Asia Treaty Organisation arrangements, Pakistan, refuses to acknowledge the organisation and in fact has reached the stage at which it believes it to be a phoney organisation. The right honorable gentleman is probably suffering from misinformation and lack of proper attitudes about foreign affairs, with a European directed attitude and a China neurosis.
– What section of the Estimates are we on now?
– The estimates of the Department of External Affairs. The Australian people are not receiving adequate information about the situation in South East Asia or, possibly, anywhere else. I am minded to raise this question by an article which appeared this evening in the Melbourne “ Herald “. Referring to our Royal Australian Air Force unit in Thailand it said -
Increased terrorist activity on the Northern Thailand border has forced the R.A.A.F. elements based at Ubon to take extra precautions against possible surprise attack. 1 do not think that Ubon is in northern Thailand. However, the article goes on - and this is the point I wanted to make -
Only 50 miles from the Communist border, Ubon is the closest allied base to Communistcontrolled areas.
What Communist controlled areas is the newspaper referring to? Those in Laos? The area of Laos nearest to the area referred to is not under Communist control and does not look as though it will come under Communist control. This is a demonstration of the propaganda policy of confusing people about the situation and building the Communist movements in the area to larger than life size. I am not one to ignore that they are there. Some of the Communist movements in this part of Asia are amongst the oldest Communist movements in the world. But 1 do not think it is to anybody’s advantage to build these things up to larger than life size.
We are continually misinformed about Cambodia. The honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) tonight told us a good deal about Cambodia’s internal position and pointed out that this country is ignored. We are continually given from all sides - and this is why the people are so confused about Vietnam - different points of view. For instance we can read on page 26 of “ Aggression from the North “ the reasons why South Vietnam was doing better than North Vietnam. The book says -
But a survey of international affairs produced in Britain at about the same time as this book was published had this to say about the north -
The greatest threat to the future of the Saigon government probably lay in North Vietnam’s economic progress, and in particular in the degree of success achieved by the Government in Hanoi in demonstrating its ability to solve North Vietnam’s perennial economic problems.
So we are in the middle of a propaganda contest. We are in the middle of a contest between ideologies attempting to get their views across, and it is difficult for Australians to bring an objective mind to bear on the matter. I believe that this Parliament is disadvantaged because it has not a continual flow of objective information before it, and I believe that honorable members opposite close their eyes to a great deal of the facts of life to the north.
I want to refer briefly to the speech of the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston), which I think was a dangerous one in many respects. He concentrated on what I suggest are the McCarthyist attitudes of the other side which are often demonstrated in the greatest degree by the honorable member. He gave notice to the people of Australia that if this Government is returned to power Australians can expect their military commitment in South Vietnam to be continually increased, that Australians are committed to this policy in such a way that there will be no avoiding an increase in the number of Australians sent to the area. So that every young man turning 20 in the near future can look forward to a great deal of his future spent in South Vietnam. There is no way the Government can avoid this if it continues with the philosophies and opinions that it has placed before the House this afternoon. If the Government means exactly what it says, then when the Americans commit more troops Australia must also commit more troops. If the war goes on Australia must also commit more troops.
The people of Australia should take notice that this Government has decided that of ail the people in the world Australian young men are most expendable. We hear from the other side about our duties to our American allies. A few years ago we committed our troops to Malaysia. Confrontation was on, the British were involved and so Australia had troops that had to be sent. What did the Americans think about that? Where were our great United States allies? There were some reasons why they could not participate. Now at a place a thousand miles or so removed from Malaysia the Americans are involved and so the Australians become involved. But where are the British on this occasion? Again this Government has adopted the policy that Australians are expendable. We have accepted commitments to other nations that they do not accept to us.
It is time we re-evaluated the whole system. I take a dim view as an ordinary Australian of the sycophancy which the people on the other side of this House continually bring to bear on international affairs, particularly when the United States is involved. I do not think the people of the United States care much for people who are plainly sycophantic. I think they expect people to be independently minded in something like the way the Americans have always been. The America of the time of the Monroe Doctrine of 120 or 130 years ago was not much larger in population than Australia is today, but it started to assert itself in world affairs. It started to assert a point of view. It may have retained an isolationist attitude in the world at large, but in fact about that time Americans started to stand up and speak as Americans. It is time Australians did the same. The Australian people expect us to be partners in the world with other peoples, not satellites, not sycophants, not flatterers, but simply people who speak to others man to man. This, I believe, is the way the world will go and the way Australians ought to go.
On this side of the House we are attempting, I hope, to produce some kind of international morality. The world, of course, has a long way to go. There are some things, however, that I believe we should establish as international standards of behaviour. First, I want to see international guarantees of borders. I do not care what borders they are, but I believe it is time the United Nations itself adopted the principle that borders are sacrosanct, that no border shall be crossed with impunity, that any people crossing the border of another country are guilty of aggression and shall be resisted by the full weight of world power. This should apply equally to all borders. We have to remove from our consideration any question whether we care about the Governments concerned or not. If, for instance, the Spanish try to liberate Gibraltar, that is an act of aggression. If the Argentinians try to take over the Falkland Islands that is an act of aggression. Currently the operations of -the North Vietnamese in Laos is an act of aggression. It is not much good just standing here making speeches. It is time we asserted our diplomatic energies in the world and tried to get these troubles cleared up. It is time that people on both sides of the House accepted that so far there have been double standards. This particularly applies to honorable members on the other side of the House.
We hear a great deal about the massacres and mayhem and so On in South Vietnam and the mischief making of the National Liberation Front. But has not this, unfortunately, been the attitude of governments on all sides of the fence in the past 20 or 30 years? China and Tibet have been quoted. What about the British in Kenya? What about the French in Madagascar? What about the Dutch in Indonesia; the Russians in Hungary, and Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan? The list is almost endless. We should stop being so complacent. We should stop taking sides. We should step into the international arena with an attitude, a policy and a principle of trying to stop the wars and the killing, and accept the rule that the world itself must intervene. I am interested in the attitude of honorable members opposite. As the honorable member for Phillip said, if Australia withdraws from Vietnam what will the world think of us? There are 120 nations or thereabouts in the United Nations. There are three or four nations who are not in that organisation and there are three or four others coming into it. There are four or five nations involved in this conflict. What is wrong with the morality therefore of the other 115 nations in the United Nations, which include countries such as Canada, Britain, Israel, Italy and France? Where are they?
Why is it that we are to be the burden bearers of the whole wide world? Of course, that philosophy is nonsense.
On the Government side of the House we have this continual China neurosis. The Chinese Government is no better or no worse than so many others. Of the 120-odd nations in the world perhaps 30 to 35 could be classified as being democratic in the sense in which we use the term. I do not put the Chinese amongst those. It is my impression at the moment, from evidence I have attempted to gather, that the Chinese have no aggressive intentions against their immediate neighbours; that none of their immediate neighbours, while uneasy on one or two points, are concerned at the moment about Chinese aggression. 1 visited Laos and I know what the Prime Minister of that country said about the Chinese. He does not like the way that the Chinese attack his country on the radio; it is unneighbourly, it is discourteous, but it is certainly not aggressive even in the sense that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) seems to think it is.
I understand that the domino theory, which is the background of the Government’s theories, is absolute nonsense. Cambodia and Laos are. the keys to this. Cambodia must be given guarantees. She must be protected against the errors of American and South Vietnamese military operations. She must be protected against the Thais who are in breach of a judgment by the World Court on the question of some of the areas there. These are attitudes we have to bring to bear. It is time we brought a common and consistent attitude to these problems. The Thai Government is mischief making so far as the Cambodians are concerned, and so are the South Vietnamese and the Americans. I believe that Cambodia is entitled to a guarantee of proper protection from the world at large.
I do not believe that the defence of Australia is involved in the conflict in Vietnam. Some points of history might be of interest to honorable members opposite. It is a common theme that the Vietnamese problem is part of a downward and outward flow of Communism. Historically that is all nonsense. What is the oldest Communist Government in Asia? It is not that of China. It is that of Mongolia, which goes back to 1921. What was the second Communist Government? It resulted from the declaration of independence of Vietnam on 2nd September 1945. Unfortunately it was crushed by the French and the British, and we were even using the Japanese as allies. What was the third Communist Government? It was that of Korea, and the date was somewhere in 1948. China was the last of the lot. There has been no outward flow from China at all. If we could only get our history straight we might start to think a little more objectively about these matters. So there are some things that puzzle me about our attitude on these questions, particularly North Vietnam.
In the moment or two I have left in this debate I would like to place these matters before honorable members. Honorable members opposite talk about aggression from the North. There is no doubt that the North Vietnamese are involved in this struggle. They comprise a third of the regular forces and about one eighth of the general forces of the National Liberation Front. Therefore the North Vietnamese are involved in Vietnam, so far as I could see, in a civil war. They are involved in aggression against the people of Laos. Militarily it would seem to me that if all the forces involved decided that they wanted to remove North Vietnam from this struggle they would have two tasks ahead of them; seal the border with North Vietnam - a simple task militarily, surely to goodness, as it is only about 40 to 50 miles long - and seal the border with Laos. It would take, I suppose, about 150,000 to 200,000 men to do this properly. Once that is done the North Vietnamese are no longer in the conflict and it becomes an internal problem with South Vietnam.
Hanoi does not have to be invited to the parleys. The problems lie internally in South Vietnam. North Vietnam can be removed from the planet but the war will still go on. I believe that the strategic direction of the war is in error. I believe that the political concept that is motivating this present Government in its policy is tragically wrong. I believe that Australia’s strength should be diplomatic and not military. Just as Australia was creative in getting Israel off the ground and in the launching of the independence of Indonesia against the pressures of the great nations of the world, the moment has come for Australia to exercise its diplomatic influence. It can only do that if it withdraws its troops from South Vietnam and places itself in a position where it can bring the objectivity of a non-combatant to bear. Until we do that we are flying in the face of our duty to humanity and abdicating our particular responsibility which, I believe, flows from our strength, our prosperity, our tradition, our links with Europe and our present links with Asia.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Mackinnon). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is pleasing to join with my colleague the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) in saying that there do not seem to be any honorable members on the Government side prepared to stand up and support Government policy. I speak immediately after another Opposition speaker in this debate on the estimates for the Department of External Affairs. It is unfortunate that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hasluck) is not in the chamber tonight. We know that he is at the United Nations. We also know that we agreed that we would defer the discussion on the estimates for the Department of External Affairs to allow the Minister to return from New York to be present in the chamber. Although the matter has been deferred for some time the Government still wants to discuss these important estimates without the Minister being here.
Last year I was overseas and attended the Interparliamentary Union Conference in Ottawa. I had the opportunity of visiting most of the important places in Asia and Europe. I want to mention the civility, assistance and kindness that I received from officers of the Department of External Affairs. I found that wherever I went I could discuss international affairs objectively and quite rationally with the officers of the Department. Even though they were loyal to Government policy they were prepared in many cases to be frank and liberal in their approaches. I think it is heartening that Australia is fortunate enough to have such fine officers serving it overseas. I think that this Parliament should look at the salaries, allowances and accommodation of many of the officers of the Department in foreign postings. There are some places, for instance in North America, where the office or the embassy - in particular the Australian embassy in Washington - is a credit to this nation. I believe the residence of the Consul-General in New York is very fine too. But the overwhelming number of officers, particularly on the lower range, that I met in North America were living on a shoestring. I do not think it is right for Australia to send its quality men to North America and to some places in Europe and have them live on a shoestring. They have to live up to their positions as representatives of Australia. They have jobs to do as diplomats. I challenge the Government, for example, to examine closely the residence of the Australian Consul-General in San Francisco and the homes of some of his officers, lt is not fitting that representatives of the Australian nation should be living under such conditions as they are now and I strongly recommend that the salaries, allowances and accommodation of the overseas officers of the Department of External Affairs be made the subject of a complete review.
This is the second opportunity I have had of speaking to the estimates for this Department. On this occasion I want to answer some of the criticisms levelled by the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Aston). He made a personal attack on Senator Keeffe, who is President of the Australian Labour Party. He said that Senator Keeffe had incited the Australian people to demonstrate against President Johnson’s visit to Australia. We of the Labour movement know that Senator Keeffe is a distinguished Australian. He has a distinguished war record, and he has served the Labour movement all his adult life. All members of the Labour movement are proud of the contribution that Jim Keeffe has made, not only to the Labour movement but to Australia as a whole.
If Senator Keeffe did appeal to the people of Australia to demonstrate against Australia’s involvement in Vietnam during President Johnson’s visit here, surely that is a thoroughly democratic procedure. He has asked the people to be peaceful and to keep within the law. Surely this is a healthy sign within a democracy. Does anybody on the Government side dare to say that President Johnson’s visit will not be used for political purposes? Does any member on the Government side dare to stand up now and say that President Johnson’s visit to this country will not be used by the Government for political purposes? Of course it will be used by the Government for those purposes. Even President Johnson himself is vitally concerned because the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government are the only two parties to the S.E.A.T.O. and N.A.T.O. alliances that have made military forces available in Vietnam. I remind honorable members that L.B.J.’s man in Canberra Ambassador Clark, said-
– Give him his proper title.
– I say “L.B.J.” without any disrespect to President Johnson who, I am told, likes to be referred to as L.B.J. We all know of the infamous statement by our Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Holt: “ I am all the way with L.B.J.”. That was not looked upon as being disrespectful. L.B.J.’s man in Canberra, United States Ambassador Clark, said this in Canberra -
These were people whom America had saved 20 years ago. Their gratitude does not extend as far as that of the Australians with whose brave troops Americans stood shoulder to shoulder.
He was referring to the European nations which called for help from America 20 years ago and which now are not helping America in Vietnam. Does the honorable member for Phillip or any honorable member opposite say that Britain, Western Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Norway and Canada are pro-Communist countries? Why do they not have troops in Vietnam? They have all been asked to give military aid in Vietnam, but have refused to do so.
Let me refer to another outburst by this Ambassador to Australia from the United States. When giving an address at a dinner at which the hosts were United Air Lines, Ambassador Clark related a parable to illustrate America’s latest strategy in Vietnam. He said -
A man had a donkey that was the strongest, most intelligent and most obedient in the world. Showing it to a friend, he approached the donkey and, with a log, gave it a blow over the head. “ Why beat the donkey when it is so obedient? “ asked the friend. The reply was: “You don’t understand donkeys. First you have to capture their attention.”
He went on to say - “ We are b.’&sting their oil dumps and there is more to come. Next we will knock out their power grids and dams “.
If a person was reluctant to come to terms, the thing to do was to put his fingers in a vice and give it a few turns. “ He will very soon find he can do business “.
– Who said this?
– I am referring to the mentality of this Ambassador for the United States. I am quoting a report published in the “Australian” on 9th July 1966 of a statement by this lifelong friend of President Johnson. This is his attitude. He says, in effect, that the Americans are putting the fingers of the people of Vietnam in a vice. I know there is a struggle in American politics just as there is a struggle in Australian politics over Vietnam. In the United States there is a struggle in the Democratic party between the “ doves “ and the “ hawks “. During the presidential election campaign President Johnson said: “We seek no wider war “. But soon after President Johnson was elected General Maxwell Taylor, who was then in Vietnam, said: “ There is no limit to the escalation “. At the time when President Johnson was saying: “ We seek no wider war “, Senator Barry Goldwater was calling for the bombing of North Vietnam, Hanoi, Haiphong and the Red River dykes and for the denuclearisation of China. We know, too, that, under pressure from the “ hawks “, President Johnson agreed first to the bombing of North Vietnam, then to the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. Despite Ambassador Clark’s assertion that if people’s fingers are put in a vice they will soon come to terms, the people of North Vietnam have not come to terms. This flexible, complex individual, this President of the United States, has changed his tactics again. I am not here to bash and abuse the President of the United States.
– Then why do so?
– If the honorable member cares to look up the Inter-Parliamentary Union report of what I said last year in Ottawa he will find that I said I thought President Johnson wanted to get out of Vietnam. I believe it is important that we express our point of view to President Johnson. It is important that the Australian people express their point of view because we need a man of such great stature and power in world politics as President Johnson to bring the parties together to discuss terms of settlement. We have to make sure that compromises are made by both sides. Compromises are being made. On the one hand, the Americans have said that they will cease bombing North Vietnam and accept Vietcong representatives at the negotiating table. The Vietcong have said for the first time that they do not insist on the Americans withdrawing before peace negotiations are undertaken. For years I have said that more and more pressure must be brought to bear on both sides for compromises to be made so that the people concerned can go to the conference table. I hope, that peaceful demonstrations can be made to show that we are against Australia’s involvement in the war in Vietnam. I trust that the Australian people, on 26th November, will express their views in the right way and return a Labour government so that we shall be able to withdraw our forces from Vietnam and let it become an independent nation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Mackinnon). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Chairman, I shall detain the Committee for only a very short time. I want to direct attention to a rather significant fact. We have heard the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) align himself with the utterly irresponsible attitude of Senator Keeffe, the chief policy maker of the Australian Labour Party. I direct the attention of the Committee to a rather interesting conjunction of events. Only a short time before the honorable member for Reid spoke in favour of demonstrations during President Johnson’s visit, Senator Keeffe was in the precincts of the chamber, no doubt giving the honorable member his riding instructions. At the same time as the honorable member spoke, his boon companion, the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns), was in the wings at the side of the chamber. The point is this: The honorable member for Reid is the puppet of the left wing dominated policy making body of the Australian Labour Party. He has just made a speech which consisted of rantings and ravings and which will demonstrate to the people of Australia that if they vote for the Labour Party at the forthcoming general election they will be voting not for the decent people in that Party but for the policy makers, who are dominated by a pro-Communist, utterly irresponsible and un-Australian left wing.
– Mr. Deputy Chairman, 1 want to say something in reply-
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member is too late.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order!
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable member has his rights according to the forms of this place and may make a personal explanation at the conclusion of the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– I understand-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. He has his rights in accordance with the Standing Orders and may make a personal explanation at the conclusion of the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– Mr. Deputy Chairman, under Standing Order-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order! The honorable member will have the right to make a personal explanation at the conclusion of the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Therefore, he will now resume his seat.
– I seek a ruling, Sir. Previously, I have been refused the right to make a personal explanation as I had not made it immediately after the member making the statement giving rise to the need for a personal explanation had sat down.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honorable member is aware of the forms of this place. He knows that I have called the honorable member for Hindmarsh and that at the conclusion of the remarks of that honorable member he will have the opportunity to make a personal explanation. I shall give him every opportunity to make a personal explanation when the honorable member for Hindmarsh has finished his speech.
– I would not have risen, Mr. Deputy Chairman, if it were not for the reference made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Giles) to Senator Cavanagh. I hope that the honorable member reciprocates my feelings towards him. I regard him as a man of decency and a person who would not willingly slander or smear another person.
– The honorable member is easy on him.
– No. I have known the honorable member for Angas for a long time: I must say that he is not one who is given to wild and reckless smearing of his opponents. Therefore, I say sincerely that I cannot understand why he, with the reputation that he enjoyed in South Australia long before he came to this Parliament, should have made the kind of attack that he made on Senator Cavanagh. This attack arose out of a demonstration by university students in Adelaide against the rigged elections in South Vietnam. It was based on the fact that one of these students who demonstrated had told him that the demonstration had been held because of something that Senator Cavanagh had said.
– Two students said it.
– Two or three of them said this, the honorable member claims. I have no doubt that Senator Cavanagh did make statements of this kind, for the elections were rigged. The plain fact of the matter is that anybody who speaks the truth - Senator Cavanagh is one who always speaks the truth, no matter whom it hurts or offends - must admit that what Senator Cavanagh told the students is perfectly correct. The elections in South Vietnam were rigged and the placards carried by the students correctly stated that those elections were rigged. I saw the placards carried in Adelaide. They stated correctly that candidates at the recent elections in South Vietnam had to be vetted before they were allowed to stand. So the placards carried by the students were stating the truth when they declared that the elections in South Vietnam were a farce. Of course they were a farce. Of course they were rigged. The candidates were vetted before they were allowed to stand. Everyone knows this - nobody better than does the honorable member for Angas, who has been to Vietnam on more than one occasion. He is not an unintelligent or unobservant person. He knows that in the elections just completed in South Vietnam it was not possible for a known supporter of the National Liberation Front to stand as a candidate. Neither was it permitted for a supporter of the National Liberation Front to vote. In areas known to favour the National Liberation Front, nobody was given the right to vote. So how can anyone say that the result of the elections represented the free will of the whole of the people of South Vietnam? The recent elections did nothing of the kind. They were rigged. They were a farce. They were open only to known supporters of the Fascist Ky Government which is the military junta that now rules and which passes for a government.
– The honorable member had better mind his blood pressure.
– I cannot help my blood pressure rising when I think that people can be so hypocritical as to declare that the recent elections in South Vietnam were fair dinkum. Of course, they were not. Elections in that country never will be while the Fascist junta that now controls the country holds the reins of government.
It is shocking that we - a democratic and Christian people - should have the cheek and the hypocrisy to send young Australian conscripts to fight in defence of the rotten, putrid government of Air ViceMarshal Ky in South Vietnam. Honorable members opposite rely on a fallacy when they declare that the war in Vietnam can be justified on the ground that it is necessary to prevent the southern march of Communism. That is a fallacy and most people who make such a declaration know that it is not true. They know perfectly well that the forces aiding the Government in South Vietnam are there for the sole purpose of preventing the people from exercising the right to choose their own government. Former President Eisenhower said that the forces now governing in South Vietnam would be defeated if there were a free choice by the people of Vietnam.
The people of Australia will have a free choice on 26th November. No matter which party wins the general election on that date, the result will represent the freely expressed will of the Australian people. That has been the case in the last seven elections that we on this side of the Parliament have lost. The decision in the next seven elections also, I hope, will represent the freely expressed will of the Australian people. But the result of the recent elections in South Vietnam cannot be said to represent the freely expressed will of the people of that country. You will never defeat Communism in Asia by shooting every Communist you see or snooting everybody who looks like a Communist.
Before you talk about justification for the war in Vietnam you should pause and think carefully. What is this thing called war in Vietnam about which you are talking? This thing called war, about which you glibly speak and which honorable members opposite support, is a thing which results in the destruction of people’s homes, the burning of their villages, the spreading of napalm over the defenceless bodies of women and children, the torturing of people to obtain information, atrocities of the most unmentionable kind and the spraying with chemicals of rice and other food crops to destroy them or prevent them from bearing, for the sole purpose of starving innocent people into submission if necessary. This is the cruelest, most indefensible and most wicked war that has ever disgraced the history of the human race. One day when the history of this war is written the people who will follow us will be red with shame as they read of the part we played. “ Christians “, we call ourselves. Do you think Christ would have supported the kind of thing that is happening in Vietnam? Of course not. It absolutely bewilders me to see people who were one time preachers of the Christian gospel come into this Parliament and urge the sending of more conscripts to Vietnam to fight and destroy defenceless women and children. How on earth can you justify the spreading of napalm on innocent people as you are doing in Vietnam? How can you do this in the name of God and say that what you are doing is right? You know it is not right. You are not going lo defeat Communism in Asia by conscripting young Australian national servicemen to fight their wars. Some of the young people opposite who are laughing now would do better to save their laughter for the Vietcong and volunteer for service in South Vietnam. That would be a more appropriate thing to laugh at. I am glad that one honorable member opposite is leaving the chamber. I admire him for the shame he possesses in connection with this matter.
As I have said, you will never defeat Communism until you remove the thing that causes Communism. I have said this so often that I am sick and tired of saying it but I will continue to say it because it may eventually filter through the granitelike heads of some people who are listening. You will never defeat Communism until you remove economic injustices and social inequality. You will never defeat Communism until you give to people who want to work the right to work; until you give to the sick an opportunity to be cared for medically and the right to go to hospital; until you give to the people who want to send their children to school the opportunity to send them to school; until you give to those who produce the country’s wealth fair share of its wealth. That you are not doing. That you do not intend to do. That is something that the Ky Government does not intend to do. Yet this is the rotten, corrupt and filthy Government which you are sending conscripted national service trainees to defend.
This Commonwealth Government does not even believe its own statements that we have to do these things in order to prevent the southern march of Communist China. Any man who sells wool to the country that is marching towards this country’s shores is a traitor and should be denied freedom of movement in this country. Every person who believes that China is marching upon our shores is a traitor to Australia if he sells China one bag of wheat. If you think it is proper to sell your wheat and your wool to China you have no right to stand and say that same country is a potential enemy and is in the process of destroying our liberty. I would prefer to believe that none of you is a traitor; that those who sell your wool and those who sell your wheat to China are not traitors. 1 would prefer to believe that you are realists. I do not think any of you believes it when you say that China is a potential threat to this country. I give you the benefit of the doubt in saying that I believe this is your true position, but those who believe that China is not a threat to this country are nothing but blatant hypocrites if they will then declare that the war in Vietnam can be justified on the ground that China is a potential threat to Australia. Of course China is not a threat to Australia. Everybody knows this. Neither is South Vietnam a threat to Australia. Neither is any other country in South East Asia a threat to Australia.
We are in Vietnam because it suited the Americans for various reasons to have us there. Not the least of those reasons is the fact that the American armaments industry would collapse overnight if there was peace in the world. Some of the people who make American foreign policy are the puppets of the American armaments industry. The industry has to keep wars going somewhere in order to prevent the industry from collapsing. In many instances there is no other reason for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries than the maintenance of the American armaments industry.
I say that everybody in Australia who is supporting the war mongering activities of those people who want to carry on this war against defenceless people will one day have to stand trial. They will have to face their Maker one day and answer for their actions. They may smile and grin but there will come a time when they will wish they had remembered some of the Bible quotations which they learned in Sunday school - quotations such as “ Do unto others as you would have others do unto you “. How would you like other people to do to us what we are now doing to people in South Vietnam? Of course you would not like it. There is no justification for this rotten filthy war in Vietnam. Measured by any standards this war is filthy and corrupt and anyone who supports what is happening there is, in my opinion, equally filthy and corrupt.
– Mr. Deputy Chairman, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Hughes said that in the course of my remarks I said that I would encourage the people to demonstrate against President Johnson’s visit. I never made such a statement. I said: “ Does any honorable member on the Government side deny that President Johnson’s visit will be used for political purposes?” There was no reply to that question. There was complete silence. I then said: “ The people of Australia will demonstrate peacefully against Australia’s involvement in Vietnam and Australian conscripts in Vietnam.” The honorable member for Hughes also said that I was a puppet. I make it clear that I am nobody’s puppet. I was democratically elected. I have the courage of my convictions. I stand for what I think is right. The honorable member for Hughes should be the last to refer to any other honorable member as a puppet because we all know that he is the puppet of a certain individual.
– Mr. Deputy Chairman, I, too, claim to have been misrepresented. I did not suggest tonight that irregularities did not occur in elections such as those held in South Vietnam. What I did say was that no member of the Parliament should, directly or indirectly, influence or try to use influence to disturb what that country regarded as a democratic process. That is the point I made.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! Does the honorable member claim that he has been personally misrepresented?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Has the honorable member spoken in this debate?
– I take a point of order. The honorable member has not spoken in the debate.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Then the honorable member for Hughes will resume his seat.
– In point of fairness, Mr. Deputy Chairman, the honorable member for Hughes was referred to by mistake and I think it should be corrected.
– The debate on the estimates for the Department of External Affairs was really a continuation of a debate on a statement on international affairs. I rise to mention matters that were referred to by honorable members and which are dealt with under certain headings in the estimates. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) based his speech mainly on the assertion that the Government had reduced its civil aid programme, particularly to South Vietnam. I think he also said that our overall aid programme was far less than it had been. I think the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) completely covered that aspect when he pointed out that a sum of $8 million is being spent on special aid to India and that this was not included in the original estimates. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the provision of $103,000 for refugee relief. This was an ad hoc payment that had no relation to the war in Vietnam. It is special flood relief. If honorable members look at the estimates they will see similar items listed. They include disaster relief for Western Samoa, refugee relief for Vietnam and cyclone relief for Pakistan. Therefore, the argument advanced by the Deputy Leader was completely wrong.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) mentioned the state of the ConsulGeneral’s residence in San Francisco. I visited the residence quite recently. If I remember rightly, it is high on the hill overlooking San Francisco Bay. I thought the inside of the residence was not the best I had seen, but it certainly was not the worst. There is a constant programme of improvement of the habitation of our overseas representatives. There has been such a constant expansion of the overseas service throughout the world that our resources have been fully used. In many places, suitable residences are extremely difficult to find, even in places like San Francisco. The honorable member can rest assured that, if any improvement can be made, it certainly will be made not only to this residence but to other residences. I appreciate the tribute he paid to the officers of the Department who are serving overseas. I believe that all honorable members, regardless of the side of the Parliament on which they serve, will agree that our officers overseas give first class service and assistance to honorable members travelling in various parts of the world.
The honorable member for Reid referred to a matter that is not an item of the estimates. He said that the visit of President Johnson would be used for political purposes. It seems to me that the only political use made of this visit has been by Senator Keeffe and the honorable member for Reid. So far, 1 do not know of any honorable member on this side of the chamber who has attempted to use the visit for a political purpose. However, Opposition members, immediately the visit was announced, sought to use it for their own political purposes in the belief that it would do them some good.
– What did the President of the Liberal Party say?
– I am not responsible for what he says. His remarks have been reported. The net result of the political use of the visit made by the honorable member for Reid and by Senator Keeffe will be manifest in the ballot box on 26th November.
I have referred to the only points that I need mention, because they are the only ones that were mentioned in the estimates. However, 1 cannot let the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) use” the strong language he did without answering him. He said that the election in Vietnam was rigged. I think we should keep in mind that at the time of the election the Vietcong waged a wholesale campaign to terrorise the people in an effort to prevent them from exercising their right to vote. Despite the threats and acts of terrorism, a very high percentage of eligible people voted at the poll. From memory, I think some 80 per cent, voted.
– They would have been shot if they had not.
– A statement like that is completely false. The honorable member should realise that at the time a tremendous number of foreign pressmen from every country in the world watched the election and not one reported that it was anything like a rigged election.
– They may have been shot if they had.
– Correspondentsfrom all the leading newspapers of the world reached the conclusion that the election was not rigged, and I am more inclined to accept their judgment than the judgment of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I think his intemperate language is unwarranted, but it is the sort of language we hear quite often. I can say that I and my colleagues on this side of the chamber have nothing to be ashamed of in the operations we have conducted in Vietnam or anywhere else. We have never sought war and we have never sought involvement in military operations. But we have a deep responsibility to the nation and to the people of the nation. If freedom is threatened in any part of the world, it is our duty, we believe, to go there and assist the people whose freedom has been threatened. I believe that a true judgment of our actions will be delivered on 26th November. The people of Australia have had plenty of time in which to form a judgment. They have heard many opinions expressed. More speeches have been made on Vietnam than on any other subject that has come before the Parliament. I believe that the electorate this year is more politically conscious than it ever has been in the history of the nation. I have no fear of the judgment that the people of Australia will pass in the Federal election on 26th November.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your consideration in permitting me to speak. I wish to make a personal explanation. In his personal explanation, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) referred to remarks - disparaging remarks - made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Hughes). The surname of the honorable member for Parkes is the same as the name of my electorate. Quite inadvertently the honorable member for Reid attributed to me remarks that were in fact made by the honorable member for Parkes. Sir, I have sufficient burdens of my own without having to accept responsibility for the irresponsible remarks of the honorable member for Parkes.
Motion (by Mr. Aston) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed expenditure, $60,752,000.
– In the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department is provision for the sum of $2,565,000 to be appropriated for the purposes of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I want to tell the Committee a story concerning constituents of mine and their experiences with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. My constituents are named James White and Margaret White, his wife, of 10 Barnes Street, Berkeley, near Port Kembla. These two folk have a daughter named Mary White who applied for enlistment within the women’s service of the Australian Navy. Two months ago I received a telephone call from these folk and subsequently I interviewed them and was told how upset they were at questions that had been asked of the Deputy Mayor of the City of Greater Wollongong by Detective Sergeant Watson, in plain clothes, who said he was a member of the Security Service. He was asked in particular whether these two folk were loyal citizens and what their politics were. This is the pedigree of my two constituents: Mr. White and his wife are both natives of Lancashire. They came to Australia 15 years ago. Mr. White enlisted and served during World War II in the British Army. Mr. and Mrs. White are both personal friends of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Harold Wilson, and proudly display correspondence they have received from him. Mr. White endeavoured while in Britain in World War If to enlist in the Royal Navy, but because of his training as a transport officer he was told he could not follow a family tradition of generations by enlisting in the Royal Navy. To take it a stage further, two brothers of Mr. White served in the Royal Navy in World War II. Six cousins of Mr. White served in the Royal Navy in World War II.
– Order! I suggest that there is too much opposition to the honorable member for Cunningham.
– I know that the facts I am reciting will be of considerable embarrassment to members on the Government side who are making so much noise, but I want to illustrate the absurdity of the Security Service in certain of its operations. If what I have stated is not sufficient for security - and these facts were recorded in writing and sent by me to the officer in charge of naval recruiting at York Street, Sydney - I might mention that a great uncle of Mr. White’s was killed in the naval raid at Zeebrugge in World War I. Two great uncles served at the battle of Jutland, and one was killed. A grandfather, Robert White, served in the Royal Navy for 26 years. A great grandfather, Robert White, while serving in the Royal Navy was lost overboard in the Indian Ocean. A great great grandfather, also Robert White, served at the Battle of Trafalgar as a crew member of the “ Royal Sovereign “ and a brother of his also served at the Battle of Trafalgar as a member of the crew of the “ Temeraire “. Where do we go in lengths of absurdity when paid Commonwealth officers come down on piddling, trifling inquiries of this nature? What is the purpose of security? Is it for political espionage? Is this Government out to outMcCarthy McCarthy? By letter of 8th June I wrote in these terms to the officer in charge of the naval recruiting office, having previously by “telephone on several occasions obtained the necessary information from Mrs. White, and subsequently arranged for an interview. The following is the letter of recommendation I wrote -
For the attention of Mr. Turnock
Miss Mary Elizabeth White, who is the daughter of my constituent, Mr. J. White of 10 Barnes Street, Berkeley, has applied for enlistment in the W.R.A.N.S., and I am informed that she was medically examined by Dr. Bowmaker of Wollongong on the 1st instant, and will be interviewed at your office on the 16th instant.
Miss White is a member of a family with the following outstanding record of naval service -
I have already recited this record. The letter continues -
Miss White’s father sought to enlist in the Royal Navy in World War II, but because of his training as a transport driver was enlisted in the Army.
In view of this outstanding record tradition of naval service I confidently recommend this young woman to your most favourable consideration.
Having passed her medical examination she passed her educational examination and was told that so far as the recruiting office at Sydney was concerned she was as good as in the Navy, but the final test would come with the selection committee in Melbourne from where the security investigation started. Mr. White, as it happens, is already a quasi employee of the Commonwealth Government. He is an employee of Commonwealth Hostels Ltd. at Port
Kembla. His wife is a member of the Port Kembla District Hospital Board, appointed by the Government of New South Wales.
Where do we go from there? It is ludicrous, it is absurd and it is Gilbertian to think that this could occur in such a situation, with such a family record and after my own commendation - I am a loyal Australian of the fifth generation and I do not lightly lend my name to anyone - with a letter of commendation from the Deputy Mayor of the City of Greater Wollongong and with a further letter of commendation from the mathematics master, Mr. David Walsh, at the Berkeley Public School as to her character. What is the point of all this? Are we out to out-McCarthy McCarthy? What is the purpose of it? Has this Government literally gone mad? This information is available in the normal way, but why the query as to whether people of this type and with this record in writing from an elected public representative should be further investigated by security? What is the purpose of it all? The Government is obviously mad. lt is psychopathic in its approach to these matters. The average citizen today who wants to join the Australian armed forces apparently has the onus placed on him to show that he or she is loyal to Australia. He must prove that he is loyal, prove that he is not disloyal and prove that he is not a Communist. In the case to which I have referred Mr. White also happens to be a very good and very militant member of his union. The epilogue to the whole story is that yesterday I was informed by the officer in charge of the naval recruiting depot in Sydney that Miss White, despite her family’s record, had not at that stage been accepted for enlistment in the Royal Australian Navy.
.- J would like to carry on from what my colleague the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) said about the security service. This famous organisation plunged into the headlines recently over the Michaelis case which I consider was an outrageous abuse of security in Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) in this place tried to tear away the character of the mother of a boy who refused to go to cadet training in a school.
The Press has dealt with this matter in a way which I commend. Generally speaking the Press has condemned the incident as a shocking abuse of privilege in this House where a woman could not defend herself and an abuse of the purpose of security in Australia. I could say much more on this subject which has aroused the contempt of thousands of Australians.
That this incident should happen here a fortnight ago in the manner in which it did happen showed no credit to the Minister who had been praised as a future leader of Australia and no credit to the Prime Minister who supported the Minister for one purpose only - to put a slur upon and defame the character of a family whose only offence was that they belonged to the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament, New South Wales Branch, to which several members of the Liberal Party belong. It was a deliberate attempt to smear her with the Communist red brush. We will have much of this in the next few weeks. The coming general election will have the dirtiest campaign that this country has known for a long time. The dirt is coming from Government supporters and it will come from the security organisation. I have seen already in pamphlets the type of thing we can expect. This is merely the pattern of what we will see in this campaign. However, we will be able to stand up to the campaign and answer it as it comes.
The next matter to which 1 refer is the Tasmanian Historical Research Association which has been granted, if I read the documents correctly, $400 Government assistance. This has been the pattern over the last two or three years. As a member of this very active association - I am not veryactive in it, but I am a member of it - I feel that a grant of $400 is an insult to a very worthy historical association which is uncovering the history of Tasmania and writing the history in very acceptable books and pamphlets. To be granted this amount is really and truly an insult. I have not time to enlarge on these matters, but I would like to say that this association has undertaken the writing of the history of Campbell Town in the midlands area of my electorate. It is a very famous Merino sheep area and produces the finest wool in the Commonwealth year after year. The Association is producing a book of about 300 pages on the history of Campbell Town to celebrate the centenary of the municipality. The book will be published by the Halstead Press in Sydney and will be available to the public within three or four weeks. A tremendous amount of research has gone into this publication which has been produced on behalf of the municipality. 1 commend the council for its interest in the history of the district and for sponsoring such a publication by the Tasmanian Historical Research Association. 1 commend the Government on almost doubling its grant to the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. The grant has been increased from $320,000 to $600,000. The Trust does wonderful work and thoroughly deserves the additional grant from the Commonwealth. However, I would like to make a plea also for an Australian music fund to be established by the Commonwealth. I suggest that a grant should be given annually for this work to assist the promotion of Australian music. I suggest that it should be similar to the Australian Literary Fund which is sponsored by the Government, and was sponsored by the Labour Government before it, for the encouragement of writers in Australia. All these things are helping to sponsor and publicise Australianism.
We have in Australia today too much Americanism. We are completely flooded with American slang, American talk and American films which fill the television screens throughout the Commonwealth night after night and year after year. We are becoming Americanised in more ways than one. Here is a way in which the Government can assist to keep a little of the good old Australianism in our land by our own Australian music and our own Australian books, pamphlets, periodicals anc! the like. So we cannot but commend the proposed allocation to the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, a truly Australian organisation, the Commonwealth Literary Fund and the Tasmanian Historical Research Association. I point out that the Government has also made an allocation to these associations in the other States. I make a plea for the establishment of an Australian music fund to assist producers of Australian music.
Finally, I should like to comment on an aspect of education. This subject, of course, will be debated tomorrow by honorable members more experienced in matters of education than I am. Tonight we are really holding the fort. The policy of aid to independent schools seems to have died a very strange death in recent months but 1 doubt whether it will always be a dead issue. Far from it. It will be a live issue in this country for many decades to come. As both parties have now established their policy on this matter a very important decision has to be made. The independent schools need not think that they have now come to the end of their journey or the end of their fight for funds to carry on their schools. The Australian Universities Commission has given me the idea of how this important matter can now be handled. The questions which arise are many. How is this assistance to be given to the schools? How much is to be allocated from the Budget each year for this purpose? What will be the basis of need? I strongly suggest the setting up of an indepedent schools commission to handle this matter, the importance of which will not decline for many years. 1 suggest that an independent schools commission be established and operate on a permanent basis similar to that on which the Australian Universities Commission operates and that it be composed of top educationists, economists and researchers. In other words, the commission should be a permanent nongovernment body.
The commission would be charged with the duty of investigating without bias the needs of independent schools throughout Australia and to present recommendations to the Government of the day at budget time each year relating to the amount which should be allocated in the following year to independent schools in each State. Here we could run into a problem. I would suggest that either the respective State Governments should have the responsibility of allocating to the independent schools within each State the financial aid given it or that this vexed question should be carried right through by the independent schools commission. In other words, the commission should recommend what schools should receive the grant in each year. It is all very well to say that we have agreed on State aid to independent schools but the vital thing is how to implement the decisions arrived at by the Government of the day.
I cannot see any fairer or more just way of doing this than by having an independent schools commission to handle it. In any case, the final recommendation to the Commonwealth Government would be made only after one year’s investigation by the commission which would call evidence in each State.
– Two years.
– It could be on a two year basis. That might ba better than my suggestion because the commission would have a better chance to plan its programme of development in the schools. The honorable member for Hunter has made a very worthwhile suggestion. The commission, like the famous Australian Universities Commission, would be free from party politics - that would be vital - and from political pressures.
– But it would need to comprise atheists.
– I would not be in favour of that. I advance this suggestion as something to think about. Both parties will have to find an answer to this question because when we speak of granting, say, $50 million to independent schools for a two year programme, that is not nearly sufficient. That is not the answer to the question; it is only the start of the answer. The complete answer lies in what schools will receive assistance and the amount of that assistance. Only an independent schools commission, conducting thorough investiga tions free from political pressures and all the other things which would be taken into consideration if the Government itself were handling the matter, could submit a proper recommendation to the Government of the day annually or every two years at budget time. Then it would be up to the Government to decide how much of the recommendations was acceptable. The Government might not be able to grant the full $50 million recommended - I am using that amount only as a basis for discussion - having regard to its budgetary commitments. The commission’s recommendations need not be based on the law of the Medes and Persians, unchanging and unchangeable, but at least they would be a guide for the Government in solving the difficult problem of doing justice in the allocation of Commonwealth funds for the development of independent schools in Australia.
The Labour Party will set up, first of all, an inquiry into primary education similar to the inquiry which was conducted into secondary and tertiary education. Following that, the establishment of an independent schools commission would probably be decided upon within our policy making machinery. I am suggesting tonight the establishment of such a commission as a possible solution of a very difficult question which we all want to see answered justly and fairly to all concerned.
House adjourned at 1 1.10 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
In addition, approximately $3.4 million has been expended on buildings and works at the port of Darwin. 2 and 3. The Commonwealth-State Consultative Committee on Shipping met on a number of occasions in 1951. The membership of the Committee was -
Commonwealth - G. P. N. Watt (Chairman).
New South Wales - N. McCusker.
Victoria - A. D. Mackenzie.
Queensland - R. L. Murray.
South Australia - G. A. J. Manuel.
Western Australia - F. W. E. Tydeman.
Tasmania - H. B. Bennet.
An earlier reply to a question by the honorable member gave the impression that the CommonwealthState Consultative Committee on Shipping met formally following the publication of the Basten Report in 1952. The Committee did not formally meet after 1951, although consultations between the Commonwealth and States continued on an ad hoc basis. Advice from the various State authorities in 1956 showed that most of the developmental projects included in the 1951 report of the Commonwealth-State Consultative Committee on Shipping had been completed.
In the years following submissions of the Basten Report in 1952 there were exchanges between the Commonwealth and the States about port improvements and developments, and the faster turn-around of ships. The Commonwealth has in various ways maintained a close and continuing interest in. furthering development of efficient port and wharf facilities.
As has already been indicated, Mr. A. Woodward, Q.C., is currently examining the wide range of matters affecting the efficiency of the stevedoring industry. In addition, Mr. Woodward is chairing the National Stevedoring Industry Conference which aims at the long-term improvement of conditions in the industry.
The Commonwealth has been active in discussions on containerisation held in Canberra during May this year, whic h brought together parties concerned with the introduction of container operations into Australia’s shipping services.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
All States and the Commonwealth have accepted, in principle, the recommendations of the National Health and Medical Research Council regarding uniform control of poisons. With some minor differences the Council’s recommendations have been put into effect in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
The New South Wales Parliament has now enacted legislation designed to implement the eight schedules concerned with the uniform control of poisons as recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The new Act has, however, not yet come into operation except for those sections providing for the appointment of the Poisons Advisory Committee, whose functions include the making of detailed recommendations to the Minister on the composition of the “ Poisons List “ incorporating the eight schedules and also on the provisions to be included in Regulations. The Committee has now been established, and when it has completed its work on the “ Poisons List “ and on the Regulations, the full Act will come into operation concurrently with the proclaiming of the “ Poisons List “ (i.e., the eight schedules) and the Regulations under the Act. This should occur within the next few months.
The Tasmanian Government is still in the process of drafting legislation to implement the Council’s recommendations.
So far as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned, the preparation of the new Poisons and Narcotic Drugs Ordinance to give effect to the Council’s recommendations has reached an advanced stage. It is expected that it will come into operation within the next few months.
The drafting of a new Ordinance for the Northern Territory will proceed as soon as the proposed provisions of the Australian Capital Territory Ordinance have been settled. The draft legislation for submission to the Northern Territory Legislative Council will be modelled on the proposed new Australian Capital Territory legislation.
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
On what dates, by what means and with what results have communications passed between the Commonwealth and New South Wales and Queensland concerning those Stales’ border rivers?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Information of the type requested by the honorable member is regarded by the Commonwealth Government as confidential between itself and the State Government concerned unless it is mutually agreed to make the information public.
No such agreement has been made in this case and the information therefore cannot be made available.
b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government sponsor legislation to prevent children’s clothing being made from inflammable material?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Except within its own Territories, and except in relation to articles intended for export, the Commonwealth has no power to make laws regulating the manufacture of articles of clothing. Any legislation of the kind mentioned by the honorable member would necessarily therefore be a matter for the States.
b asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Vietnam. (Question No. 1962.)
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What is the overall cost to date of our military commitments in Vietnam?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows; -
The overall cost to 31st August 1966 of our military commitments in Vietnam is $7,332 million. This amount represents the excess over normal costs in Australia for the three Services.
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Royal Australian Naval Air Station, Nowra, Recruit and General Training Establishment, Flinders,
Royal Australian Naval College, Jen-is Bay, Junior Recruit and Sailor Training Establishment, Perth.
Australian Military Forces -
Royal Military College, Duntroon, Officer Cadet School, Portsea, Officer Training Unit, Scheyville.
Royal Australian Air Force -
Royal Australian Air Force Academy,
Advanced Flying Training School, Pearce, School of Air Navigation, East Sale, Officer Training School, Point Cook.
Army-Officer Cadet School, Portsea, 5 graduates, 2 in training
Air - nil
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In respect of the numbers of Australian servicemen
wounded during action in Vietnam referred to in answer to question No. 1952 on 24th August, 1966 (“ Hansard “, page 406), can he say in which Federal electoral divisions these servicemen resided prior to their enlistment or conscription?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Names and addresses of Australia’s 61 fatal and 246 non-fatal casualties in Vietnam were published in the daily press when the casualties were incurred. These would indicate a wide distribution over Federal electoral divisions.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Reserve Bank has provided the following information -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he consider an amendment to the income tax legislation to provide a greater tax deduction allowance for education expenses covering country children who have to live away from home to obtain secondary and tertiary education?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
Requests for such an extension of the taxation concession referred to were among the many requests for new and increased concessions considered by the Government during the preparation of the 1966-67 Budget. However, it was not practicable to propose in the Budget that this particular concession be extended because, as the Treasurer explained in his Budget Speech, the scope for granting taxation concessions was very limited on this occasion. Circumstances have not changed materially since the Budget was introduced.
Capital Investment in Australia. (Question No. 2108.)
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
a asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Total debt of local, semi-governmental and other public authorities (including debt owing to Governments), is published by the Commonwealth Statistician in a Bulletin entitled “ State, Territory and Local Government’ Authorities’ Finance and Government Securities “. Total debt at 30th June 1964, the latest date for which full information is available, was $4,973,512,000.
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Rules relating to the Carriage of Passengers by Sea, 1961, and (d) the amendments’ to the International Convention for the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil, 1962?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
Since the answers referred to were given in 1965 there have been a number of communications between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to the various international instruments concerned and it would not bc practicable to list all the information requested.
I am advised, however, that in general the provisions of the instruments are receiving the attention of the Commonwealth and the Slates with a view to their implementation where this is both possible and desirable. In the case of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1960, the necessary Commonwealth and State legislation has been implemented. As the Convention for the Unification of certain Rules relating to the Carriage of Passengers by Sea, 1961. has attracted little international interest there has been no consultation as yet with the States about it.
n asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
What port authorities operate in Australia and, in each case, what ports do they’ “control?
– The answer to’ the honorable member’s question is as follows -
The details required were included in my answer to a similar question appearing on page 2798 of “Hansard” for 16th November 1965.
The information is still current with the exception that the port of Yampi is controlled now by the Dampier Mining Co. Ltd. In addition two new ports have been established, namely, Westernport in Victoria and Dampier in Western Australia controlled by the Department of Public Works - Ports and Harbors Branch and Hammersley Iron Pty. Ltd., respectively.
n asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Universities: Enrolments and Finances. (Question No. 1835.)
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
These ratios have been calculated on thebasis that a part-time student is equivalent to half of a full-time student and that an external student is equivalent to one-quarter of a full-time student. Also 450 hours teaching by part-time staff is regarded as equivalent to one full-time staff member.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Housing, upon notice -
What changes have been made in their maximum housing loans by the bodies listed in the answer given to me by the Minister’s predecessor on 19th October 1965 (“Hansard”, page 1973), and when were they made?
– The Minister for Housing has provided the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
The following amendments to maximum housing loans from Commonwealth funds have been made -
Since November 1965 the Housing Commission, Victoria, has had no prescribed limit on loans.
The Queensland Housing Commission has generally limited unpaid purchase money to $8,000 since June 1966.
The Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia on 25th July 1966 increased its maximum loan from Commonwealth funds to S7.300.
The Agricultural Bank of Tasmania increased the maximum loan to $8,000 on 23rd August 1966.
In the previous answer given on 19th October 1965 a reference was made under the heading “ Building Societies using Commonwealth funds “ to a maximum loan limit of £4,250 then being considered by the New South Wales Parliament. The new loan limit was finally fixed at $8,520.
The maximum loan from the Home Builders’ Account was increased in Western Australia on 1st July 1966 to $7,300.
The State Housing Commission of Western Australia reports that although the maximum loan on mortgage conditions has not changed, on contract of sale conditions the Commission allows up to $5,800 on the house in the metropolitan area and $6,600 in country areas, plus the value of land. Where the house is erected north of the 26th parallel, no specific limit is made because of high building costs.
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Of those youths called up for selection (including medical examination) for national service training, what percentage of the total number called up from (a) the capital cities and (b) other centres, was passed for training?
– This information is not available.
Transport Costs in Northern Australia. (Question No. 1593.)
b asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Consideration of the report by the Government is continuing and, in the meantime, it is not proposed to table the report.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the date of the Queensland Premier’s request for an evaluation by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of the proposed Nogoa Irrigation Project?
t. - The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows- lt is nol customary to make information of this type public without the prior agreement of the State Government concerned. No such agreement has been made in this case.
French Air Traffic between Australia and Tahiti. (Question No. I860.)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Al what airports and on what occasions have French aircraft called on their way to and from Tahiti and ils dependencies in the last four year?’.’
z. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
In the four years 1st August 1962-3 1st July 19(i6 French aircraft have called at airports in Australia on their way to and from Tahiti as follows -
Scheduled airline services -
Aircraft of the French airline Union tie Transports Aeriens (UTA), and its predecessor Compagnie de Transports Aeriens Intercontinental^ (TA1), have operated regular services through Darwin and Sydney between Paris and Los Angeles with calls at Tahiti in accordance with the bilateral arrangements between the French and Australian government;.
Details of the calls made at various Australian airports in the course of these operations are set out in the following table -
From information which accompanied the requests to the Australian authorities for clearance of the flights, it is know that seven French military aircraft which have transitted Australian territory in the last four years have proceeded to Tahiti. One of these aircraft called at Darwin on July 14 1965, four called at Port Moresby on April 15 1966, and two called at Port Moresby on April 17 1966.
It is not known whether other French military aircraft which have called at airports in Australian territory in the last four years with the approval of the Australian authorities have also called at Tahiti as the information required on the routing of foreign military aircraft transiting Australian territory is the same as that required in the case of civil aircraft (see (b) above).
It has, however, been laid down by the Government that before permission is given for any French military aircraft to use airports in Australian territory, an explicit assurance must be obtained from the French Government that the aircraft concerned would not be carrying nuclear material and would have no direct role in the nuclear tests.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
These grants will be amalgamated into a single comprehensive Commonwealth Extension Services Grant and the Commonwealth has announced its intention to provide still greater sums in support of extension, regional research, training and related activities in future years.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply -
b asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Appointments: Professional 6; Technical11. Resignations: Nil.
Appointments: Professional 8: Technical 21. Resignations: Professional 1; Technical 4.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is he able to give an estimate from Treasury sources of the anticipated income which a capital gains tax would attract to revenue?
– In the absence of details of the tax the honorable member has in mind it is not possible to furnish an estimate.
r asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows -
Australia House, London.
t.- On 20th September, in reply to a question without notice from the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), I said that I would give him further information on the situation regarding Australian Government office accommodation in London.
The office space available in Australia House is inadequate to accommodate all Australian Government staff in London and it has been necessary to lease Canberra House to accommodate the overflow. Australia House is now almost half a century old and major remodelling would be needed to bring its office space up to modern standards.
In these circumstances the Government has judged it provident to set up a committee of senior officials to review the position and report back to the Government on the approach it considers the Commonwealth might follow to make satisfactory provision for its future accommodation needs in London.
The Committee’s investigations are purely exploratory and any action considered advisable will be a matter for decision by the Government in power when the Committee makes its report.
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1966/19661011_reps_25_hor53/>.