26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Mr Speaker, with profound regret I advise the House of the death of Sir Donald Sangster, Prime Minister of Jamaica. I have sent a message of sympathy from the Government and the Australian people and my personal sympathy to the Jamaican Government, but I feel that Sir Donald occupied a place in the affairs of our Commonwealth of Nations that merits a tribute in this House. He was very well known to me personally In various capacities. He was prominent in the affairs of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and became Chairman of that Association, and a very successful and distinguished period of chairmanship followed under his leadership. He was, for a considerable time, Finance Minister of his country and he and I met regularly at conferences of Finance Ministers and at the subsequent meetings of the International Bank and Monetary Fund.
For many years while his Prime Minister, Sir Alexander Bustamente, was ailing, Donald Sangster acted as Prime Minister for him. He was a most loyal and devoted deputy to his leader and was, in effect, the Prime Minister of his country for many years. It was a tragic irony that having successfully contested recent elections and been elected Prime Minister in his own right he should have suffered a brain haemorrhage from which he did not recover and which caused his death. He will be sorely missed in the councils of the Commonwealth of Nations and in the other international forums to which he contributed so helpfully.
Sir Donald possessed a warm humanity and this was associated with a sane realism and a tolerance which enabled him to act effectively as mediator and moderator to assist in solving many difficult problems. He had, particularly on the issue of race, an attitude that helped to build a bridge of understanding and friendship between people of different races. His devotion and dedication to his country, his loyalty to his leader and his co-operation with others for a better world order, all combined in him to provide an example for others to follow. The world has all too few such men in high places and can ill afford their loss.
His record included many activities in his own country. I have mentioned some of them. He was also Minister of Defence and at one time Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. He had become leader of the Jamaican Labour Party in 1950 and played a leading role in his country’s political development, culminating in its independence in 1962. He held the position of Minister for Social Welfare and he was Leader of the House of Representatives.
I put these facts on record to indicate the extensive interest he showed and activity he pursued not only in Jamaican affairs but also in good works which spread far beyond the boundaries of his own small country. As I have already said I believe we have all too few such men and we cannot allow the passing of one of them to occur without some expression in this place of our appreciation of the contribution he has made throughout his life time. I personally mourn his passing. I feel I have lost a close friend with whom I was able to collaborate usefully on many matters of concern to our Commonwealth of Nations. I know that there are others in this chamber who have been either leaders or members of Australian delegations to meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and who will recall him with warmth and affection, and who will join me, as I am sure the House as a whole will join me, in deeply regretting his passing and conveying our sympathy to his relatives. I move:
– I support the motion. It is appropriate that it should be moved in the Parliament of a sister member, with Jamaica, of the Commonwealth of Nations.
It is particularly appropriate that it should be moved in this House because Sir Donald Sangster had been so prominent in the affairs of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of which all members of this House are themselves members. It is appropriate that the motion has been moved by our own Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), who through his activities on behalf of our country in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and as Treasurer and Prime Minister, had, to an exceptional degree, opportunities to know and observe the Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Sir Donald Sangster pursued a very effective and full political career in his historic country, which became a British colony more than 300 years ago. From all we have been able to read and learn, he represented the finest fruits of the legal, political and administrative systems which the Caribbean countries inherited from Britain and have adopted and confirmed. He was very prominent in his country’s political development in the decade and a half for which he was a member of the Jamaican House of Representatives. He was a distinguished figure in that House during the fragile life of the West Indies Federation - which he opposed - between 1958 and 1962, and then as Deputy Prime Minister and finally as Prime Minister of independent Jamaica. Through the periods of self-government, federation and independence Sir Donald Sangster was in the forefront of his country’s political development. Jamaica is a country with which we in Australia have many things in common. It has about the same population as Queensland, and in its primary production and mineral wealth is very similar to that State. It is quite different in size but is quite similar in resources and population.
On behalf of my Party, I wholeheartedly support the Prime Minister’s tribute to the late Prime Minister of Jamaica, who was so suddenly, sadly and prematurely taken from his high post. We are fortunate that our own Prime Minister was able to speak from his personal knowledge in most intimate terms on this occasion.
– I would like to take this opportunity to associate the Australian Country Party with the motion of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Although Sir Donald Sangster was Prime Minister of Jamaica for only a short time, he was well known to all of us as a parliamentarian and as one who was largely responsible for bringing about the independence of that country. It is unfortunate for his own country and the world that he was robbed of the opportunity to put into effect his great knowledge and experience for the betterment of his people and understanding between the nations of the world.
We live in a turbulent world in which there are many factions and in which there is a need for more understanding for the fulfilment of peace. As the Prime Minister said, we can ill afford to lose men of the capacity of Sir Donald Sangster, who had the great ability of being able to bridge the gulf of understanding between people. This is a sad occasion. I would like to tender my sympathy and the sympathy of the Australian Country Party to the family of Sir Donald and the people of Jamaica.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s omission last night to say anything about negotiations in respect of the war in Vietnam and conditions attaching thereto, can the right honourable gentleman now say what the Government of the United States of America and his own Government would accept as an outcome of those negotiations? Would the two Governments accept a situation in which the Vietcong, or the National Liberation Front, would take part in the government of South Vietnam after negotiations, or is the view of the two Governments the far more probable one that the only acceptable outcome of negotiations would be that North Vietnam should agree to sever all connection with South Vietnam, while South Vietnam would be governed alone by antiCommunists?
-Order! I ask the honourable member to make his question substantive, not hypothetical.
– With respect, the question is an important one and we are entitled to be hypothetical when we consider that it affects the lives of thousands of people.
-Order! I ask the honourable member to withdraw any reflection on the Chair.
– If there is a reflection on the Chair, Mr Speaker, I certainly withdraw it.
– Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman has sufficient experience of this place and its Standing Orders to know that a matter of high policy and one with the implications of the question that he has put is not a matter which is dealt with by way of question without notice. Of course the Australian Government has a policy in relation to peace. If anybody had taken the trouble to study the record of what was agreed in terms of principle at the Manila Conference, it would be clear that not only were we determined to pursue such avenues as would lie open to all of us allied in our efforts to produce a just and enduring peace there but also that we set out this objective in specific terms at Manila in the following language
We are prepared to pursue any avenue which could lead to a secure and just peace whether through discussion and negotiation or through reciprocal actions by both sides to reduce the violence.
Because of what was said last night and at other times, I now say that I myself have never done other than commend anybody or any organisation which has with good will and sincerity pursued an avenue of peace, and that remains the attitude of this Government. We want a peace which will be just and enduring. We do not hold ourselves inflexible in any way as to the method of negotiation and participation in those negotiations or the means by which negotiations can be commenced. So I hope that honourable gentlemen opposite - I say this not only to the honourable member for Yarra - will realise that they do neither justice to us nor service to the cause of peace by imputing to this Government any desire to prolong this unhappy conflict one minute longer than proves necessary.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for National Development. In view of the tragic bush fires which devastate southern
Australia periodically, and because of the re-afforestation now taking place in various States, I ask the Minister whether positive experimental work is taking place to evolve methods to combat these fires. I understand that water bombing is used extensively in Canada. Has this been tried and, if so, with what results?
– Both the Forestry and Timber Bureau and the forestry services of the six States are particularly anxious to do their utmost to prevent tragic bush fires and they follow very closely the development of means of combating these fires. During a recent world conference on forests in Spain which I and seventeen other Australians attended, there were long discussions on methods of controlling forest fires. At a later stage five Australians visited America and Canada to have a look at means of combating fires and particularly to look at equipment that might be available for water bombing of fires. Their report was that at present the equipment available there is not considered suitable or adequate for Australia but that a new aeroplane was being constructed in which they were particularly interested. I understand this is being made by the Canadair firm and that it is known as the CL21S. It is an amphibian which carries about a ton of water. We are anxious to see this aircraft when it is completed, and we hope we will be able to have a demonstration here. I stress that this aircraft is designed for combating forest fires and not open grass fires, because the honourable member can readily understand that if a person had a ton of water dropped on him from an aircraft flying at 150 miles an hour he might suffer some damage.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the Loder Committee of Investigation into Transportation Costs in Northern Australia. The right honourable gentleman will remember that on 8th March I quoted from the letter he had sent to the former honourable member for the Northern Territory a year before stating:
As my predecessor said in Parliament on 26th October last-
That would be in 1965- in reply to a question by the honourable member for Stirling, it is the Government’s intention to make the report available for debate as soon as the examination is complete.
I then asked the right honourable gentleman:
Is it still the Government’s intention to make this report available for debate?
He told me that be would give me a written reply.
– Have 1 given the honourable member that reply?
– No, I have not received it yet. I notice that in another place yesterday Senator Henty said:
The report of the Loder Committee is not considered to be a public document and the Government has decided that it will not become a public document.
I now ask the Prime Minister: Did Senator Henty express accurately the Government’s decision on this matter?
– I looked into the matter raised by the honourable gentleman shortly after he asked me his question. I found that there had been consideration by Cabinet of the question of the suitability and appropriateness of tabling this document. At that time the decision of Cabinet was that this would not be appropriate. There were many recommendations which were still in the course of study by a variety of interested departments. If I have not replied to the honourable gentleman’s earlier question I regret this. It is explicable by my own activity, particularly my absence abroad over recent weeks. But I shall look into the matter again and see what information I can supply to him in a written answer.
– I wish to direct a question to the Treasurer. In view of recent approaches to me by the city councils of Port Pirie and Port Augusta in South Australia, will the Treasurer review the Commonwealth Government’s attitude to ensure increased ex gratia payments by Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities in lieu of rates to local government bodies?
- Mr Speaker, honourable members will probably know that the Commonwealth already does make ex gratia payments in respect of premises occupied by the Commonwealth. Under the Constitution there is an exemption from State and local taxes for the Commonwealth and Commonwealth instrumentali ties. Nonetheless the Government has made these ex gratia payments, particularly in respect of what can be classified as commercial premises - those premises which might be the subject of lease or where services are rendered. I think we have also pointed out to the State governments that if they choose to take the same kind of attitude as that taken by the Commonwealth, and if they wish to reopen this problem of ex gratia payments in lieu of rates, we will be only too happy to discuss it with them. So far none of the State Governments has accepted our invitation, but it stands and the subject could well be opened at the next Premiers Conference or Loan Council meeting.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I ask: Did he say in answer to a question on 11th April that limitations were placed on the export of uranium because one of the disadvantages of importing uranium was that our use of it would be restricted? Was he referring to the restrictions placed on the use of uranium to make atomic weapons? If not, what restrictions was he referring to which would prove an embarrassment to this Government?
- Mr Speaker, the answer is yes. I was referring to those restrictions.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. I refer to the Minister’s announcement that the Government proposes to provide flats in place of hostels for new migrants. Will the Minister consider the initial establishment of these units in provincial cities such as Dubbo and in other country towns, and so encourage migrants to take up permanent residence outside the metropolitan area?
– The Government is very anxious that there should be a distribution of migrants over the entire geographical area of Australia. It is anxious to do what it can to see that migrants go into provincial areas. The honourable gentleman has referred to a joint statement that was made by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and myself.
In that statement we indicated that we were looking at this problem. At present we are looking at it very closely and I hope, as I am sure he does, that we will soon be able to make some announcement about what we propose for country areas.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. I refer the Minister to his answer yesterday to the honourable member for Mackellar in which he said that exploration for uranium had been carried out at a cost of $360,000 a year for the last decade. Does the most recent report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission show that the annual expenditure on exploration and development in 1965-66 was $90,171? Do the accounts of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the past nine years, including the boom period of the late 1950s, show that the average annual expenditure on exploration and development was about $191,000? Can the Minister reconcile these figures from the accounts of the Commission with his claim that the Government has spent about $360,000 a year on exploration during the past ten years? Did the attitude of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission influence the Minister in his decision to place curbs on uranium exports?
– I can reconcile these figures very easily. The sum that the honourable gentleman quoted was a payment from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to the Bureau of Mineral Resources. A far greater amount of exploration is carried out for the Commission by Territory Enterprises Pty Ltd. The amount paid to Territory Enterprises Pty Ltd is at least double the payment that has been made to the Bureau of Mineral Resources. In fact in 1960-61 a sum of $383,000 over and above what was paid to the Bureau of Mineral Resources was spent by Territory Enterprises Pty Ltd on exploration for uranium.
Can the Treasurer tell the House whether Australia will be making any contribution by way of staff to the Asian Development Bank?
– I can understand the strong wish of the honourable member to ensure that Australia does participate in the development of Asian countries. She will recall that within this last week the Prime Minister has stated the role that we are playing in South East Asia in terms of both health and port reconstruction. To deal more specifically with the Asian Development Bank, some months ago I had a discussion with Mr Watanabe, the President of the Bank. He expressed the wish that Australians be permitted to play a definite and important role in the Bank’s affairs. Shortly afterwards Mr Garland of the Reserve Bank of Australia was appointed to a senior posting. He now is one of the top officials of the Bank.
Within recent weeks Mr Farrelly of the Development Bank has been appointed as Director of Operations. That is one of the most sensitive and important posts in the Bank’s establishment. He will be assisted in the operations section by Mr Clark, formerly of my Department, who is a son of Mr Colin Clark, an eminent Australian economist. Both of these men speak Japanese fluently. They both are first class economists and first class technical bankers. In addition at least one officer of the Department of External Affairs has been appointed to the Bank. I am sure that the honourable member and other honourable members will be pleased to know that Australians are playing their part in this field. I hope that in the next three or four weeks more Australians will be chosen for this important work.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Has the Federal Government laid down any conditions to the Tasmanian Government relating to the way in which grants and loans for bush fire relief should be spent or in relation to the organisation necessary? Has the Federal Government fixed the rate of interest at which the money should be lent so as to cover administration costs? Will the extent of assistance provided by the Federal Government be up to $ 14.5m, including both loans and grants?
– On several occasions either I or the Minister for Air, representing the Government, has made it clear that the agreement relating to relief in connection with the fires in Tasmania was one between the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government. Both Governments are responsible for the terms of the agreement and the amount that is being provided under it. Only yesterday, because of differences of opinion as to responsibility, I contacted the Premier of Tasmania. He assured me that he sticks to the terms of the agreement explicitly and has no wish to create the impression that there is anything but agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. The honourable member asked about the interest rate being charged. Naturally the grants that we are making are free of interest. The loans also are being made by the Commonwealth free of interest but, as in the case of similar loans made to Queensland and New South Wales, the State will be permitted to charge interest at rates as low as 3% on loans made to its residents.
This is done because there will be some bad debts and there will be administration charges. It is thought that the rates charged are fair in order to cover the bad debts and administration costs. In other words, it is highly improbable that the Tasmanian Government will make any profit from the interest charged. If it does make a profit the agreement provides that such profit will be offset against Commonwealth special grants in a subsequent year. As to that part of the honourable member’s question relating to the total amount of relief, it has been agreed that the Commonwealth will provide a total of $14. 5m. By way of contrast and for no other purpose I might mention that the amount provided by the State Government will be about $750,000. In addition to these amounts sums will be provided by the insurance companies and there will be $4m from the Lord Mayors’ Funds. In all about $35m will be provided for relief and assistance in connection with the dreadful fires that occurred in the honourable gentleman’s home State.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. I refer to the visit to Australia of Mrs H. Bekti, who Is the wife of the leader of the Indonesian trade delegation now visiting Australia and who supports and sponsors a children’s hospital in Djakarta. Mrs Bekti has expressed great interest in the work being done at institutions such as the crippled children’s home at Somerton in South Australia. Unfortunately, nursing graduates in Djakarta have no training in this work. Will the Minister give consideration to a plan by which the Australian Government would bring some of these nursing sisters to Australia for post-graduate training?
– In giving economic assistance to Asian countries it has been Australia’s practice, and still is, to provide nursing and medical training and other forms of training in Australia. A considerable number of Asian nursing trainees have passed through Australian training institutions. A proposal of this kind would appropriately come under the Colombo Plan. In giving Colombo Plan aid we make bilateral arrangements with the receiving government. If the Indonesian Government were to place a request for the training of these nurses high on its programme, the Australian Government would certainly place no obstacle in the way of complying with the request
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister as the head of the Australian Government. Will he present a paper setting out the water conservation projects for which State governments have sought Commonwealth financial assistance and outlining the Australian Government’s attitude to these requests? Will the right honourable gentleman also state whether the Commonwealth Government has any firm proposals for the commencement of water conservation projects in the Australian Territories within the next three years?
– I shall treat the honourable gentleman’s question as though it were on notice and give him a considered reply.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Has his attention been drawn to the tremendous volume of private investment in permanent building societies that has occurred in the United
Kingdom? Is it a fact that attractive taxation concessions in respect of interest from such investments have substantially influenced this trend? To give further encouragement to private investment for housing purposes in Australia, will the Treasurer have examined the possibility of approving a rebate in respect of interest earned by a taxpayer from investments in permanent building societies?
– I was not aware of the United Kingdom figures relating to permanent building societies. However, I have noticed with interest and with much appreciation the increase that has occurred in the funds that are now being deposited with the permanent building societies in Australia. I am glad to say that these societies are playing an increasingly important part in the housing industry. I will have a look, in the Budget context, at the problem raised by the honourable gentleman and consider whether a concession can be granted for income tax purposes on interest accruing on deposits with permanent building societies. However, I have to say to the honourable gentleman that whatever decision is made will have to be announced in the Budget itself.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply a question. The honourable gentleman will be aware that honourable members are now provided with transport from Mascot airport to their homes when returning from Canberra and that two or three members are usually allocated to each car. On the last two occasions-
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question without giving information.
– Yes, certainly. On the last two occasions I have been very embarrassed and most uncomfortable because I travelled through my electorate-
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question.
– I am about to do that.
– Order! The honourable member will direct his question or resume bis seat.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. I refer to the referendum on Aboriginal rights to be held on 27th May. Can the Minister tell me what action is to be taken to ensure that people in the Northern Territory and those most concerned understand the case fully?
– When we debated the Bill to eliminate from the Constitution the sections referring to Aboriginals there was unanimous support in the Parliament. With the referendum it is not mandatory for the Commonwealth Government to submit reasons supporting alterations of the Constitution. However, the Commonwealth Government has accepted that there is a need ;o present a case to the Australian people and has had prepared by the leaders of the various political parties a case in support of the alterations. That will be posted to every elector in Australia. As to what other measures wiM be taken to inform the people of Australia - I am thinking of radio and television - it is for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to decide what time it will allocate to the case. I certainly hope that all members of Parliament will do their utmost to ensure that this section of the referendum as well as the other relating to the nexus will be carried.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Interior a supplementary question. Do the electors of the Northern Territory have a vote in a referendum?
– I regret to say that they do not have a vote.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport provide any information additional to that given by the Prime Minister recently about the ‘Torrey Canyon’ disaster? ls any international action being taken as a result of this happening? What is his Department doing to prevent such a disaster from occurring in Australia?
– A meeting of the Council of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation, which is the United Nations body dealing with maritime matters, has been called. Australia is one of the sixteen member nations of the Council and will be represented by an officer of my Department on 4th May when the meeting takes place. As to an event of this kind occurring in Australia, I think it is true to say that nothing can prevent the possibility of it happening here. We have an enormously long coastline. However, my Department is looking carefully at the warning lights and navigation aids which exist in the more vulnerable places, that is, near the larger centres of population. It would have an enormous effect on Australia if we were to have a disaster of that kind near one of our major ports, near holiday resorts or near areas in which our fishing industries operate.
It must be realised that 120 miles of the English coastline have been affected. We are engaging also in a study to ascertain what can be done to mitigate the damage should an accident of this nature occur. In this connection the officer of ‘my Department who will be in England for this international conference will have discussions about the measures which were taken there, so we will be provided with the best information.
– I remind the Minister for Shipping and Transport that two years ago tenders were accepted for two lighthouse service vessels. Later one of the tenderers withdrew and only one vessel was constructed. Can the Minister say whether plans are available for the second vessel or whether a decision has been made about its construction?
– As far as I am aware there is no immediate intention to place an order for a lighthouse service vessel but I will examine the position.
– I address a question to the Minister for the Army. I refer to investigations made by the Department of the Army into the possible relocation of the Army Apprentices School at Balcombe and to representations made by me on behalf of the Shire of Mornington that the school should be permanently located at
Balcombe. Have these investigations been completed? Can the Minister tell the House what the position is?
-The honorable member has shown a continuing interest in this particular matter for some time. The Army’s investigations are completed. They were undertaken because there is a long term objective to rebuild the Apprentices School and this will involve an expansion of the area that is required. We wanted to be quite sure that the present site was the best possible site for the school. A firm decision has been made to rebuild at Balcombe when the time comes. I should add that the Army is particularly pleased about the close relationships that have been established between the Apprentices School and the community. This is not a short term project; it is a long term one. Rebuilding cannot begin until the School of Signals has been moved out of Balcombe into Watsonia and this will not occur until 1969. However long term planning will proceed.
– Last week I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relative to the consultation by his departmental officers with the various State governments concerning the intake of migrants. At the time the Minister implied that he did not hear the full question, and this was indicated in his reply. I now ask the Minister whether before allocation of immigrants at Fremantle by officers of his Department to the various States the State governments are consulted as to their economic capacity to accept their quotas of immigrants. If the economy of a particular State is not buoyant at the time of allocation what Commonwealth assistance is given to that State to enable it to accept its quota of immigrants?
– After immigrants arrive in Perth - and, of course, a great number arrive by air at other places - they generally go to the centres which they themselves chose originally before coming here. We indicate to the remainder what the employment opportunities are in the various States and where the prospects for their expertise or trade are best. The process that we follow is through our Employment Service to contact the State authorities when, as is now the case in South Australia, employment opportunities are not as great as in other States. In such circumstances we tend to encourage the immigrants to go elsewhere. In South Australia there has been a mild slump in new employment opportunities but I am glad to say that recently the employment situation has improved in that State. We take these factors into account. We are in touch with just about everybody concerned about employment opportunities - with industry, government authorities and so forth. This does not mean that there would necessarily be any firm communication with the Premiers of the States, but if they make representations to us we heed those representations carefully. We do not see any particular need to assist specific States to absorb immigrants because there are other States most anxious to get them, particularly when employment opportunities are good, so we encourage the immigrants to go to those States.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. As the Minister knows, during the recent runway reconstruction at the aerodrome serving Leeton and Narrandera, the night landing facilities were damaged and are now unserviceable. Can he give an assurance that these facilities will be reinstalled as expeditiously as possible, so that flight schedules covering this important part of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area may be fully restored with a minimum of delay? When is the work expected to be completed?
– It is a fact that the runway lighting system was put out of operation by an accident involving a bulldozer which belonged, I think, to the local council and which was being used for some contract work on the aerodrome. We have arranged for these facilities to be put back into service as speedily as possible. Unfortunately the cable was so badly damaged that it must be entirely replaced. We are going ahead with this. I understand the work will commence before the end of this month and we hope to have the facilities in position and back into operation by about the middle of June. I may say that in view of the honourable member’s representations in this matter we have agreed to cover the cost of the replacement of these cables, although this was not a responsibility of my Department.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question. As power is urgently needed for the further development of rural areas of Queensland, and as such rural development is being seriously retarded by the shortage of funds for developmental purposes, will the Govern ment sympathetically consider requests for loans for power development in rural areas, within the accepted fields of national development, if these requests are forwarded to the Commonwealth by the Queensland Government?
– The Commonwealth Government has in various practical ways shown its desire to help in the development of the rural areas of north Queensland and of Queensland generally. This has been demonstrated in the brigalow development scheme and in the beef roads scheme. I oan assure the honourable member that any requests which come to us from the Queensland Government are carefully and sympathetically considered.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say when the ‘Yes* and ‘No’ cases for the forthcoming referendum proposals will be published and distributed?
– Cases for and against referendum proposals must be presented with two weeks of the issue of the writ. The writ will be issued on 28th April, and therefore we will have to post documents setting out the cases for ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to every elector in Australia before 12th May. I would like to point out that this is a job of some magnitude. In a short period we have to print six million copies and have them addressed and sent to all electors, and we have to do the job on time.
– The envelopes could have been addressed twelve months ago.
– The honourable member says we should have done this twelve months ago. I may inform him that we have only recently received the ‘No’ case because those responsible for it had a period of one month after the passing of the Bill in which to prepare it. I am hopeful that the documents will be posted to all electors in the first week in May. With relation to the first referendum proposal concerning the breaking of the nexus between the two Houses we will bs posting out the cases for and against; as to the second question relating to the Aboriginals we will be distributing only the *Yes’ case.
– As the Treasurer has been reported as saying that Treasury action will divert funds away from consumer spending or spending of a less essential character in order to provide finance for Australian development, will the honourable gentleman tell me whether this policy will include the diversion of labour and materials from the building of luxury hotels and giant skyscrapers for insurance companies in the metropolitan areas to the building of homes for the people?
– This matter is getting a little out of perspective. I posed this question: Are we anxious to ensure that Australians participate in the development of the iron ore, oil and other basic resources of this country, and do we mobilise our funds to permit that to take place? I would have thought that that was the ideal of nearly every honourable member of this House. If we want to look at what Australians can do we should look at the Mount Newman project, for which 60% of the total finance has been or will be provided by Australians. Those who are participating in the mobilisation of the finance are the banks and life assurance offices. The banks will be the members of the proposed banking refinance corporation.
As to the specific question asked by the honourable gentleman, what I did point out in my speech was that if we look, not at the life assurance offices but at the banking organisations and the finance corporations, we see that these latter groups have made lending commitments of the order of $3,200m this year. Against that background, the amount which would be made available for development projects could be regarded as being only marginal. This puts the problem in perspective. I” wanted to point out also that we are looking at a growth economy, and consequently the amount which would be diverted would come from the increase in the gross national product and the increase which might otherwise have taken place in consumption expenditure.
– And in the standard of living.
– Not in the standard of living. Again, the honourable member has misunderstood the position, but if he wants to do so he must accept responsibility. Against this background, I went on to say in my speech that I believed that the finance corporations - that is, the section which will be responsible for consumption expenditure - could look forward to development and, I hope, prosperity in the coming years. Only yesterday two representatives of the finance corporations said that they looked forward to the future with a great degree of con*fidence and that they did not expect their activities to slow down to any degree.
– by leave - An article appeared in yesterday’s Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ under the heading Computer Bungle Costs $4.3m.’ The reference is to a contract for additional equipment that is required for the computing installations of the Bureau of Census and Statistics which was awarded on 11th April to Control Data Australia Pty Limited, the Australian subsidiary of Control Data Corporation.
The additional equipment will, as the article states, increase the capacity of the existing installations in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne - not in Brisbane as stated - to enable those installations to process the increasing workloads expected of them by the departments of the Commonwealth that use the installations in the period to 1971- 72. The equipment also includes a Control Data 3300 computer which is being purchased for the joint use of the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania in accordance with arrangements agreed upon between the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the Premier of Tasmania. This installation will have approximately the same configuration as that installed by the Bureau in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
The need for the additional equipment was demonstrated following careful investigation of the requirements which would need to be met which was undertaken by the Commonwealth Statistician and subsequently endorsed by the Inter-departmental Committee on A.D.P. established by the Prime Minister for this purpose. The proposal was given further careful consideration by the Treasury and was approved by me on 26th March. Because it is imperative that the additional equipment should operate closely with the existing installation, and indeed be incorporated in it, the Statistician and the Inter-departmental Committee recommended that the ‘additional equipment should be obtained from Control Data Corporation, the suppliers of the original installations.
It is for this reason, and not because of any savings which might thereby be derived, that the purchase was arranged without calling public tenders. This course of action was approved by the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board on 7th April and the company advised of the contract on 11th April. I might add that I had approved the terms of a release to the press on the evening of 11th April, but because of the illness of my Press Secretary the statement was not released to the press as planned. For this I can only express my regret.
There are various suggestions in the article appearing in the ‘Daily Mirror’ that this purchase represents a bungle, that its purpose is to correct mistakes in the original purchase, and that the whole installation has been nothing but a headache to the Treasury. All of the statements are entirely incorrect. The sole purpose of the additional purchase is to enable the installation to meet the increasing work loads expected in the next five years. Far from being a headache, the installation has enabled a great many processes to be undertaken by computer which, under earlier methods, could only be undertaken, if at all, with much greater demands of time and effort and thus of expense. For example, the mammoth task which was undertaken in the closing months of 1966 to distribute the surplus in the Superannuation Fund to pensioners and contributors to that Fund could not have been accomplished without the availability of this installation.
As our experience with equipment of this sort increases, further applications become apparent and it is partly to take account of this increasing knowledge of the benefits to be derived from the use of computing equipment and partly because of the increasing work load in existing applications that the need for this additional equipment derives. I might add that some of the additional equipment which has now been ordered is of a more advanced type than that contained in the initial installations, and these additional units will enable the total installation to be operated in a more effective manner. For instance, the new computers will operate in a time shared multi-programming mode, in order that several tasks may be processed simultaneously, thus achieving maximum efficiency and user convenience.
I should also remind honourable members that the use that is being made of these installations was carefully examined by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts last year and its conclusions, which are, I believe, entirely favourable, are contained in the eighty-sixth report of that Committee. It is, I think, unfortunate that, with access to reliable information such as that contained in this report, the Press should allude to this purchase in such unfortunate terms. My understanding is that the journalist concerned did not take the opportunity available to him of checking his material with authorised departmental officers. I thank the Opposition for giving me the opportunity to make this statement.
– by leave - Mr Speaker, I am taking this early opportunity of reporting on the visit I paid to Japan from 28th March to 8th April. During the first six days of my visit I was the guest of the Japanese Government and was mainly engaged in official discussions on matters of common interest to our two countries. I wish to acknowledge with deep appreciation the hospitality and the many courtesies received from my hosts.
The main business was done in discussions at the Japanese Foreign Office, on two successive days, with Mr Takeo Miki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan. The talks ranged widely over many international political questions of common concern to both countries, such as China, Vietnam, other Asian questions, and policies in the United Nations. There was a close correspondence in the analyses we made of current events and we found much common ground. .1 believe that we laid a foundation of understanding on which to build even closer friendship and co-operation. 1 should like to quote from the agreed communique issued after these talks:
The two Foreign Ministers were gratified to note that the friendly and co-operative relations between Australia and Japan were being strengthened and developed in all areas of contact.
In the course of thse talks, the two Foreign Ministers recognised the rapid growth of a sense of solidarity and of a forward-looking spirit in the Asia-Pacific region. The Ministers spoke of the importance of dealing with common problems on an Asia-Pacific scale and recognised the close relationship between economic progress and political stability. They acknowledged common obligations resting on economically advanced countries to help developing countries raise the living standard of their people. It was agreed that both governments should make further efforts to promote active co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Both Mr Miki and I recognised the importance of these consultations at ministerial level and, while we did not propose any formal machinery for consultation, we agreed that we should keep closely in touch with each other on matters of mutual interest. I am sure that the personal relationship we have established will mean that each of us will feel free at any time to open further discussions with the other. I expressed the hope that the Japanese Foreign Minister will have an early opportunity to visit Australia; and, in any case, we will be meeting again in the course of attendance at international conferences.
I also called on the Prime Minister, Mr Sato, and had discussions with him on several current international situations. For myself, the discussions gave me additional information and a clearer appreciation of Japanese points of view and policies, and I believe that I was able to present clearly the interests and outlook of the Australian Government.
Following my official visit to the Japanese Government I remained in Tokyo to lead the Australian delegation to the Twenty-third Session of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East and had the honour to be elected one of the Vice-Chairmen of the Commission. Australia has been a member of ECAFE since its foundation in 1947; and in 1963 we were accepted as a regional member. It is a reflection of the great changes that have taken place in this region that when ECAFE was formed its membership was only ten, of whom four were regional members, whereas today its membership is twentynine nations, of whom twenty-four are regional members. Many of the new members emerged as independent nations with the ending of the colonial era in Asia. Over the past two decades there has been a steady increase in economic co-operation and, not only have we been able to develop the structures and the procedures for such co-operation within the framework of ECAFE, but the interest in co-operating has grown and many new areas for cooperation have been discovered, Indeed part of the problem of ECAFE today is one of co-ordination and of establishing priorities between the many projects in its comprehensive programmes.
Perhaps the major achievement of ECAFE to date has been the establishment of the Asian Development Bank but, in addition, it has promoted the establishment of other permanent committees or institutions in nearly all phases of economic cooperation. Australia believes that the annual meeting of the Commission should become the major forum at the ministerial level for directing the course this work should take. As the ECAFE Conference will not come to a conclusion until the end of the present week I will not attempt a summary of all the business dealt with in the current session, but I wish to direct the attention of honourable members to two or three matters which seem to us to be most worthy of attention.
ECAFE, of course, deals only with economic problems and not with political problems. At the Tokyo meeting, political problems were not discussed. Nevertheless we in this House need to recognise that, underlying all of the problems of cooperation between nations and the advancement of the welfare of peoples in Asia, there are still basic problems of security and political stability. It is still necessary to remove fear from many of the independent countries of Asia before they can give their whole attention to the great tasks of political, social and economic advancement. In many countries in the immediate present there is need for political stability so that economic and social changes can be made. Perhaps the real lesson to be learnt by all of us is that political, social and economic changes have to go hand in hand or they will not go at all.
We believe that the choice of political systems and the making of arrangements regarding the form of government are matters for the people of each country themselves. Protection of the freedom of choice of newly independent countries is one of the issues of foreign affairs in many parts of Asia today. In some countries this issue presents itself as the question whether the ending of colonialism shall be succeeded by the new Communist imperialism; whether the tutelage of the colonial powers of the past shall be replaced by the stern and rigid guidance of the Communist neighbour in the present. In dealing with questions of security - and in essence this is the removal of fear and the preservation of the freedom of political choice - the aid of non-Asian powers is required and, happily, is being given.
Turning to the economic problems which are the business of ECAFE, we find the same need for assistance and a similar readiness to give it. There is a continuing need for external economic aid but let us remember that in the region itself there are countries that are giving aid to others, notably countries like Japan and Australia and, more strikingly, the Republic of China on Taiwan, whose own progress has been so remarkable that it is now able to help its neighbours. The principal item on the ECAFE agenda each year is the review of the economy of Asia. This year’s review gives a varied picture, in parts deeply disturbing because hopes have not been realised, and in other parts inspiring because of the way difficulties have been faced and progress made. I shall attempt to comment on only two or three of the more important topics.
Firstly, Mr Speaker, the most critical and most urgent problem for most of Asia is the problem of food. This great productive region of the world has become a net importer of grain. If this region of rapidly growing population should not be able to feed itself there will be starvation and deaths for millions of people. Further there is also the economic fact that the development of the economies of every one of these countries will be limited to the extent that they have to use a higher proportion of their foreign exchange to purchase basic foodstuffs from outside the continent. The real solution does not lie in importation of basic foodstuffs but in the improvement of Asian agriculture. This is now recognised and is receiving increased attention in the forefront of the policies of most Asian countries themselves and many of the countries which are giving them economic assistance.
The second great problem of the independent countries of Asia might be described as that of trade. This is a double fronted problem. On the one hand it is a problem of economic production and on the other it is a problem of access to markets. These countries have prominent in their thoughts the need to be able to produce more and to have a chance to sell it.
I would not like to give the impression that the independent countries of Asia are benighted, impoverished or without resources and capacity. Indeed, over recent years there have been some remarkable demonstrations in countries like South Korea and the Republic of China of the way in which production can be increased and trade extended. In several other countries the management of the national economies shows resolution as well as capacity to grapple with their economic problems. By and large I see independent Asia today as an advancing and progressive region looking towards the future with greater hope. There is a forward movement, in spite of the retarding effects of various elements not wholly under their control. The ultimate claim of the independent countries of Asia is not for assistance but for co-operation with countries who are more advanced at present than they are and for a widening opportunity to pay their own way. Indeed the problems many of them face are identical with the problems with which we are closely familiar in Australia in the development of our own resources and our need for access to overseas markets.
It is this similarity, sir, that has brought something of a fellow feeling between Australia and many of its Asian neighbours and some respect on the part of our Asian neighbours for the capacity we have shown in making material advances. With proper modesty one can say that the advice and counsel of Australia are valued as the advice and counsel of a friendly nation that is essentially practical and co-operative in its approach to common problems because it is able to draw on its own experience of facing the same difficulties of economic development with which many Asian countries are now grappling.
There is a third immediate problem which is a consequence of the economic assistance that has been needed by and given to Asian countries. Although Australia has always given its assistance in the form of non-repayable grants, a great deal of the assistance given by other countries has been in the form of long term credits or soft loans. The repayment of these loans and the meeting of the interest on them is now placing a burden on many of the countries which are still in need of outside assistance, and, as a consequence, out of every additional unit of assistance they receive from overseas, they now have to set aside a portion for meeting their obligations in respect of the assistance previously enjoyed rather than applying the whole of the new aid to development purposes. We recognise this as being in part a problem of the rate of development and the choice of the forms of development.
In due course, Mr Speaker, I hope to be able to table in the House papers relating to the work of the ECAFE Conference but for the present I wish to add only one further comment and to submit a document. It is encouraging to see that Australia has gained recognition within ECAFE as a helpful and practical neighbour. Australia has to its credit two acts of policy which have commended themselves to developing countries in Asia. One is the decision to introduce a system of tariff preferences to less developed countries covering manufactured and semi-manufactured goods within the limits of specialised annual quotas, coupled with the removal of tariffs on a number of handicraft products without restriction as to quantity. At the recent conference in Tokyo several countries referred with appreciation to the pioneering lead we had given in this direction. Secondly, it is recognised with appreciation that such assistance as we give to the developing countries, principally under the Colombo Plan, has been given as a nonrepayable gift and has been applied effectively to projects selected in agreement with the receiving country.
The additional document I wish to place on record is a resolution known as the Tokyo Declaration. This was in the course of preparation while I was still in Tokyo. Since my return to Australia I have been informed by our delegation that the final draft having been agreed to, Australia joined as one of the co-sponsors of this Declaration and had the pleasure of seeing it adopted unanimously by the Conference. The Declaration reads as follows:
The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far EastEndorses the earnest hope expressed by the Prime Minister of Japan in his inaugural statement to the twentieth anniversary session of ECAFE that the commission will continue to serve as a driving force for co-operation and contribute to the promotion of accelerated economic development and friendly relations as well as mutual understanding among the countries in ECAFE and thus to the cause of world peace and prosperity;
Recognises the compelling urgency to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the people of Asia for higher living standards;
Notes the efforts already made by the developing countries in the region and emphasises the need for even more effective mobilisation and utilisation of domestic resources for their economic and social development;
Affirms the need for maximum possible external resources on favourable terms from the developed countries and the need to liberalise trade on the part of the developed countries as a means of achieving the goals of economic development in the region;
Affirms further the great contribution which ECAFE has already made and will continue to make in serving as a forum where Asian countries and other interested nations can meet and as a means for promoting economic and social advancement through regional co-operation;
Requests the countries to encourage the ‘common will’ among themselves, to consider taking suitable practical action in this direction with a view to promoting co-operation within the ECAFE;
Urges the developed and developing countries to adopt measures and policies that will match the aims, endeavours and hopes of the developing countries.
I think that declaration will become one of the more significant contributions that this organisation will make.
In conclusion I inform the House that the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East has been invited to hold its annual conference in Australia next year. The Government looks forward to having with us in Canberra for the conference the representatives of twenty-nine member countries and nineteen or twenty other states, as well as observers from a number of international organisations and nongovernment organisations. It will be one of the largest official conferences yet organised in Australia.
I present the following paper:
Visit to Japan by Minister for External Affairs -
Twenty-third Session of ECAFE - Ministerial Statement. and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Fairbairn) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the consideration of Notice No. 1, General Business, being continued until 2.30 p.m.
– Whilst I appreciate the small concession that has been made in the motion proposed by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn), I want to register my protest at the situation whereby general business, which provides an opportunity for private members to put forward certain matters and to propose motions, is to be severely restricted. This sort of thing has happened quite often. Today we will have less than an hour in which to discuss a matter of national importance. To restrict the time available is a complete disregard for the rights of private members, and I register my protest.
I now moye:
That this House notes with grave concern -
The serious social problems confronting country communities as the result of lack of employment opportunities for young men and women leaving school.
That more than one-third of the total population of Australia is centred in Sydney and Melbourne, and recommends to the Govern ment as a matter of extreme urgency in the interests of balanced development and defence that -
a joint parliamentary committee consisting of Government and Opposition Members from both Houses be appointed to enquire into and report on the best means by which the Commonwealth, by co-operation with the States and local government, may secure more balanced development of population, industry, communications and administration;
the committee make recommendations in regard to-
those industries which should be established in provincial, country and northern areas;
concessions in individual, company, sales or other taxtion to encourage such industries;
other concessions and assistance;
government investment either alone or jointly with private investment to develop or establish such industries;
communications, housing, transport, water, power, light and fuel;
the decentralisation of government administration;
education, medical and other facilities in decentralised areas; and
any related matters which in the opinion of the committee will assist in obtaining more balanced developments; and
the committee be empowered to call evidence from any person, organisation or authority as it sees fit.
I approach the subject knowing that in many minds decentralisation, as it is called, is a hardy annual which has been bandied about by politicians for a half century or more but that Australia’s development is now more lopsided than ever and the need for action to correct this imbalance in our growth is greater than ever. Despite our great distances and available resources, we are the most centralised nation on earth. Some might say: ‘What is the matter with that?’ I propose to outline what I believe to be a substantial case for a national programme designed to achieve a more balanced spread of population and industry. Indeed, there is a need for a co-ordinated plan between all arms of government - Federal, State and local - to achieve this end.
My purpose in proposing this motion is threefold. It is to spotlight this critical imbalance in Australia’s development, to emphasise the continued drift to the cities and the urgency of the need for action on a national scale, and to propose machinery by which a course of action by this Commonwealth Parliament to achieve a proper distribution of development might be mapped out. I hardly need to quote statistics showing the distribution of population in Australia. Centralisation is apparent to all. However I shall quote statistics, because the motion asks the House to note with grave concern that more than one third of the total population of Australia is centred in Sydney and Melbourne. Statistics do not lie. The drift to the cities, which got under way years ago, is now a full flowing stream. Not only have country youngsters, and their families, been forced to move to the cities, but the great mass of migrants also is settling in the cities - a circumstance which was never envisaged by the Labor Government which planned the immigration scheme.
The field count figures from the 1966 census provided by the Bureau of Census and Statistics show that of the increase of 1,036,505 in the five years period between 1961 and 1966, 813,082 people went to the major capital cities - in other words 74.4% of the total increase. In every State this trend to centralisation is continuing. According to the census in 1961, 58.8% of the people of New South Wales lived in the capital city. In 1966 the relevant figure was 60%. In 1961 67.7% of the people of Victoria lived in the metropolitan area. According to the 1966 census figures 69.3% of the population of Victoria live in the metropolitan area. So the figures go on from State to State. Of Australia’s total population 61.5% now reside in the six capital cities. In 1951 the relevant figure was 49.8% and in 1956 it was 54.47%. In the fifteen years from 1951 to 1966 the proportion of Australia’s total population that lived in the capital cities rose by 10%. This indicates a clear trend, a full flowing stream of people to centralised capital cities.
The case for balanced development, or decentralisation as it is called, rests in the main on three broad factors - economic, social and defence. I intend to deal with them in turn, but before I do so I want to examine the attitude of the political parties to balanced development. The add/.tude of the Australian Country Parry is peculiar. For countless years that Party has preached the policy of decentralisation, but it has been a case of preaching and not practising. For nearly twenty years the Country Party has been a partner in a national coalition government. During that time it has talked about decentralisation, but the problem of centralisation has worsened and the city sprawl has continued. I want to explode one of the Country Party’s major decentralisation planks. I want to explode its theory and repeated claims that the election of more country members in the Parliament would mean a greater spread of industry and population.
Let us see how this magnificent plan has been put into operation. For twenty-five years a Liberal and Country League Government reigned supreme in South Australia. In the South Australian lower House thirty-nine seats were divided in the ratio of thirteen city seats to twenty-six country seats. The State was so gerrymandered that it took a Labor vote of more than 57 per cent to oust the Liberal and Country Party regime. One would think that with this great preponderance of country members of Parliament the South Australian countryside would have been littered with industry, but the Commonwealth census tells the true story. South Australia has consistently held the record of being Australia’s most centralised State. The 1966 census figures show that 77 per cent of South Australia’s people live in the metropolitan area of Adelaide. No doubt this trend will change with the advent a few years ago of a Labor Government.
What the Country Party seeks to do is perpetrate a political fraud. It wants not more country seats but more Country Party seats. Its theory collapses under examination. No amount of argument can refute the evidence provided by circumstances in South Australia. Two years ago I moved a motion in terms similar to the one now before the House. On that occasion we saw the sorry spectacle of a Country Party Minister, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) voting to gag himself in order to prevent the motion being resolved. The motion was left to languish on the notice paper for nigh on two years. I hope that my predictions prove wrong, but on past performances it is apparent that the Government, particularly the Country Party, will not accept the motion that I have moved today. On the last occasion the Treasurer gave his reasons for not accepting the motion. He outlined the measures which his Government has taken in the matter of decentralisation, but he carefully avoided the obvious conclusion that a national plan of approach to the problem is still lacking, because year after year our growth becomes more lopsided. In the years 1961 to 1966, 74.4 per cent of our population increase went to the six major capital cities following industry. Indeed, 61.5 per cent of Australia’s population now lives in those cities. No matter what the Government says, centralisation becomes worse every year.
What of the Country Party? 1 thought it would welcome the opportunity to have an all-party committee examine the problem. Perhaps after all these years the Country Party thinks it knows all the answers and that a committee of investigation is unnecessary. Is that the position? I hardly think so, because I noticed in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of Wednesday, 15 March, a report that the Country Party has itself set up a committee of eight members of Parliament - a study group - to examine this very problem. The group intends to seek information from all sources.
– Does the honourable member object to that?
– I do not object at all, but simply point out that after almost twenty years in government and forty years or more of talking about this problem of decentralisation, the Country Party sets up its own committee but opposes the establishment of an all-party committee. Of course, the Government points to its own creation - the Commonwealth-State joint committee of officials - which country people three years ago greeted as a ray of hope. The committee was established three years ago but it has become something of a joke because since that time it has met just twice. Questions and probes in this Parliament and elsewhere on the subject have brought forth answers referring to the work of that committee. We have been fobbed off with the reply that the committee is doing the job. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) has admitted that the committee has met only twice. The
Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), who is Leader of the Country Party, has likened the committee to a slow boat to China. Country people could be pardoned for thinking that the boat had sunk. I was interested in a report appearing in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on 13 February about the meeting of the Federal Council of the Australian Country Party at which Mr Fuller, Minister for Decentralisation in the New South Wales Government spoke. The report of his speech reads:
The drift from country areas could be checked by the active pursuit of balanced development. But the Federal Government seemed to have lost sight of the true concept of balanced development.
Here was a State Minister of the same political persuasion as Government supporters criticising the Federal Government for having lost sight of the need for balanced development. I have every reason to believe that the Government will reject my motion and will allow it again to languish on the notice paper for years. Why? we seek an all-party full and public inquiry into this matter. What is wrong with that? This is a matter of national concern. If the Government were genuine in its approach to this matter it would agree to the establishment of an all-party committee. Opponents of decentralisation - I use the word not in its literal sense but in the sense applied by a majority of country people - say that to spend taxpayer’s money upon decentralisation measures is uneconomic and that industry cannot compete or survive in the country.
Let me tackle these two claims which are the basic arguments used against decentralisation and which in my view are not valid. In my view the advantages of concentration of industry are outweighed by corresponding social, economic and strategic disadvantages. It is true that in certain circumstances to the individual industrialist the advantages of a capital city location are real and substantial. In other circumstances where the raw materials are available in the country these advantages could be nullified because in addition the country offers more stable labour conditions, greater loyalty to an enterprise, cheaper land, better man hour production figures and a lower incidence of industrial accidents. But I admit that the individual industrial enterprise can find advantages in capital cities. The capital city provides a major market for its product. The capital city is the focal point of road, rail, sea and air transport. The cities provide the necessary service industries readily available. These may be compelling reasons for the individual but for the community collectively centralisation and the resulting city sprawl become a fantastic financial burden. In the capital cities the concentration of industry and population has meant replanning on a massive scale. In an article appearing in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on Tuesday, 11th April the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) wrote:
The traffic jams on Sydney’s main arteries are today the most important road problem in Australia.
In terms of time loss and associated inefficiency they are a tremendous drain on the whole economy.
The major capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne are suffering from strangulation. With this strangulation comes the hidden costs of centralisation. These are hard to assess but they are massive community costs. These are the things which I want the House to look into and understand. A committee such as I have proposed could look into them. Traffic arteries are jammed. Tens of millions of dollars are required to acquire land at high valuations, to remove buildings, and to build roads, overpasses and the like. The demands of sewerage, water reticulation and other public utilities are a never ending strain on public authorities.
Congestion and lack of parking space cost millions of dollars in lost time and vehicle operating costs. Truck drivers, for instance, take hours to deliver goods which, but for the congestion, could be delivered in perhaps fifteen minutes. Congestion brings its penalty of death and injury on the roads to thousands of city motorists. This is an untold cost to the community, not to mention the pain and anguish suffered by the victims. The time loss incurred every day in the cities by millions of drivers who travel an average of seven miles each way between home and place of work must be colossal. City land values have climbed to unprecedented heights. What was once rural land has become the means for land developers to wax rich at the expense of the new suburban home builders. The payment of $3,000 or $4,000 for a block of land ten miles or more from the centre of a city is common, and the average city dweller must pay half as much for his land as he does for the home he builds on it. Surely this is a ridiculour situation.
Again it is true that the problem of air pollution in Australian capital cities is not yet of the proportions experienced in major capital cities overseas. But it is bad enough and it looms as a threat to the health of residents of our major capital cities. Here again is a hidden cost, virtually unassessable but nevertheless a cost to the community as a result of the concentration of industrial development in the cities. When honourable members think of these legacies that have come to the community from centralisation, they must surely agree that the cost is high. How high it is, no-one knows. My point is that the presence of these high costs has been ignored by the Government. One of the tasks of the committee I propose is to ascertain as nearly as possible the burden that is placed upon the community by these hidden costs.
Despite my recital of city costs and the hidden costs of centralisation, I want to say that I am not anti-metropolis in thinking. I recognise that most Australian people live in the capital cities. However, these problems exist and must be solved. I say even that the Commonwealth should play a greater role in helping to solve them, but surely part of the answer is to take the strain off by encouraging some of our future industrial development to take place out of the capital cities. I believe that it would be sensible to recognise that these burdens rest on the community purse. It would be prudent to plan ahead and when industry can logically be diverted to non-metropolitan locations a few million dollars spent to encourage this trend could save many more millions in city costs. Frankly, I can never understand people who can accept the need for the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars, year in year out, on city congestion and yet can never accept that comparatively minor amounts spent on decentralisation can be economic. I believe that a committee such as I propose, upon hearing expert evidence, would strike the right balance and would produce a plan to help the country and ease the burden upon the cities.
Of course, there are more than economics in our arguments. In the social field, it is not possible to set out the advantages and disadvantages of city and country life as an equation. I do not propose to argue about them. They are difficult to measure and certainly it is a matter for the individual to determine which he or she prefers. However, when economic circumstances arising out of policies carried out or not carried out by governments make a choice no longer possible, then, in our sort of society, corrective action is desirable. That there are social problems confronting country communities is well known to those who live in country and outback areas. Lack of employment opportunities causes youngsters leaving school to join the drift to the cities - a drift that is, as I said earlier, becoming a full flowing stream. Many families, with the need and the desire to preserve their unity and to protect their young in the cities, pack up and go with them. Whole family units engage in what we might term internal migration. For thousands of country youngsters, no employment opportunities exist in the town or district of their birth. They have no choice; sheer economic compulsion forces them to join in the drift to the cities. Some will not mind this so much, but for others it is a sentence of a lifetime of city living that they can never really enjoy. So there is a social problem. There is a need for corrective action to ensure that young people growing up in provincial towns and cities and on rural properties may have a choice.
In wars of bygone days concentrations of population in large cities such as London and Berlin were the target of disastrous bombing attacks with conventional weapons. Times have changed. This is the nuclear age and the massive concentration of our population and key defence industries in a few capital cities lays us wide open to crippling attack with nuclear weapons. Nuclear attacks on Sydney and Melbourne would cripple Australia completely. What we need are more Newcastles Wollongongs, Canberras, Bendigos and the like, and a further development of them to spread our defence industries. Perhaps no other country has exactly the same problems and the same circumstances as we have in Australia. But other countries do have this centralisation problem. Indeed, some countries have recognised, as we have so far failed to do, the disadvantages that accrue from over-centralisation. In France, the National Government designates certain provincial cities as poles of attraction and vigorously encourages industry and population to those areas. In the United States ‘a programme of development is under way in what is termed, in a highly industrialised nation, ‘distressed areas’. In Japan a major insurance company has its headquarters fifty miles out of Tokyo. Poland, New Zealand, Israel and many other countries are meeting their centralisation problems with vigorous programmes and imaginative leadership. But here in this vast country, the most centralised nation on earth, we have yet to acknowledge that it is a problem worth tackling on a national scale.
Contrary to the economic ideas of some city advocates, industry can survive and can prosper in country areas. I will give a handful of examples. We have Email Ltd at Orange, Bruck Mills (Aust.) Ltd at Wangaratta, the foundry of Thompson (Castlemaine) Ltd at Castlemaine - a heavy industry competing with others all around Australia - and Ansett Knitting Mills Pty Ltd at Seymour. There are many others. They are not hopeless economic prospects. They can survive and we need more of them.
Now I will put to the House some of the means that can be used by the Commonwealth to arrest the trend to centralisation. In 1945 the Chifley Labor Government, in consultation with the States, agreed that decentralisation was a joint responsibility. It laid out the principles and the circumstances in which the Commonwealth would give financial aid. It said that where the tasks were too large for the States the Commonwealth would give financial assistance. Indeed, in the immediate postwar period this plan gave country towns their biggest boost. Now twenty years later we ask that as a first step this all party committee be set up to outline a course of action, to establish priorities and to recommend the means by which the Commonwealth can promote a more balanced development of our nation. What can be done? In recent times, the House has discussed the position of migrant hostels. One suggestion is that the Commonwealth put migrant hostels of various sizes in provincial centres. In a smallish country town we could have a hostel to accommodate ten families and in a larger provincial city we could have one holding fifty families. These people could be absorbed into the economy and community life of the districts.
The Commonwealth should set up a decentralisation fund. Indeed, this was one of the planks of Labor’s platform at the last election. By using this fund, the Commonwealth could, in co-operation with the States, infuse new industry into selected areas. Canberra, the very city in which we meet for three or four days a week, is an ideal example of a decentralised community. It was set up here for a specific purpose. lt is an example of Commonwealth action and an example that we could well follow in other areas. Taxation concessions could be given to industries in country centres. We already have taxation zones designed to assist people who live in the outback. These could be reviewed. The Commonwealth gives payroll tax concessions as an incentive to companies to export. I see no reason why the Commonwealth could not within the Constitution give payroll concessions to industries outside a certain radius of the capital cities.
I suggest the formation of a special decentralisation division of the Commonwealth Development Bank with the specific task of financing, at preferential rates of interest, the establishment and expansion of country industries. I think that in discussions with the States we should convince them that they should review their rail freight charges. It is notorious that >n Queensland country districts are subsidising the Brisbane railway services. An examination of the Loder Report on transportation costs in northern Australia would make lt quite evident to anyone that there should be an examination by the Commonwealth of the burden of telephone trunk charges and how they effect country industries iti particular. The Commonwealth could bring about an improvement in transport, education and health facilities in country areas.
Consideration should be given also to air services to provincial cities. The Commonwealth gives no recognition to aerodromes in provincial centres unless a regular service is provided by one of the major airlines. It is obvious that charter and other air services play an important part in the economic and social life of the country districts. In education we find that Commonwealth technical scholarships are barred to some country students because the subjects which are required to lead up to the scholarships or the technical course are not available in some country primary and secondary schools. In respect of health we find that the more specialised services are centred upon the capital cities. When country people need the services of a specialist they have to travel to and from the city, at great cost and inconvenience. The Commonwealth could set up selected specialist services in major provincial centres and should do so. These are some of the things which the Commonwealth could do to achieve a more balanced development of industry and population. The cost of these measures would be a mere fraction of the amount required each year to try to solve the problems of our over-crowded cities.
I have not touched upon the problems associated with the development of resources in the outback. My colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), will do so. More speeches have been made and less action has been taken about this matter than on any other. Those who recognise the need for a more balanced development of our nation now seek action, not words. I appeal to the House, in the interests of the nation, country and city people alike, to accept this motion as a first step towards a real and planned national approach to balanced development. I should add that the Opposition is prepared to put this matter to a vote today and I challenge the Government to do so.
– ls the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak later.
– Firstly, I should like to say that I resented an implication made by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) at the beginning of his speech when he said that he objected to a cutting down of the time for general business discussion. There seemed to be an implication that this was because the Government had cut down the time. My understanding is that the Opposition specifically requested that this debate should not go on this afternoon.
– That is not so.
– If I am wrong I shall certainly withdraw that remark, but it is my understanding that the request was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) who I believe wants to attend a function in Melbourne tonight in connection with the opening of a campaign. In this case the Government was prepared to go on but the Opposition said no, that it wanted the debate cut off. This is an implication against the Government which we are not prepared to accept.
I propose now to get down to the purpose of the motion, which is that a committee should be set up to make recommendations on decentralisation. It could be called a balanced development committee, if that is preferred, because that is the prestige term now used. I suppose the term decentralisation, as the honorable member has said, has become hackneyed. It is an extraordinary thing that if we mention decentralisation to anyone in the Commonwealth - we could go into Martin Place and choose anyone - nine out of ten people would say that they were in favour of decentralisation, but those people probably would be living in the very middle of Sydney. We in the country, and I say this because I live in the country and am probably one of the few members here who cannot see his neighbour when he is at home, believe in decentralisation. But what a tremendous number of words have been spoken by people who do nothing about it.
The honourable member for Bendigo spent a considerable portion of his thirty minutes speaking about the attitude of political parties and, in particular, members of the coalition from the Country Party who have done a tremendous amount to assist decentralisation. But the honourable member did not tell us of the Australian Labour Party’s attitude to decentralisation. We all know that the great bulk of support for the Labour Party - goodness knows, that support has waned to a pretty low ebb - comes from the cities and from industrial centres, even if it is a country centre like the one represented by the honourable member for Bendigo. It is in the large industrial centres that the Labour Party gets its support. But when the Labour party is in office, what does it do about decentralisation? We suffered the ills of a Labour government in New South Wales for twenty-four years. It was said that the only view held by the Labour government in New South Wales was that NSW stood for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong. Certainly from where I was in the State this was pretty obvious. There was one tin factory in Albury which had been established during the war. The Labour Party wrecked that project. It could easily have given some assistance in freight rates and could have maintained what was an excellent industry in Albury. Constantly requests were made, but the Labour Government of the day did nothing about them. Eventually the tin factory had no alternative but to pack up and go to the city, which it did. So do not let us say that the Labour Party has clean hands when it comes to the matter of decentralisation; it has mighty little to show for twenty-four years in office in New South Wales.
While mentioning the tremendous number of words which have been poured out about decentralisation, let me refer to another organisation which visited my electorate last year. It was called the Committee of Balanced Development. It was interesting to note that every member whom I saw seemed to come from Melbourne. They came up to Wagga. There was a tremendous bally-hoo and blare of trumpets. They told the locals what they ought to do about decentralisation and then all went back to Melbourne. Nothing more has been heard of them. What a tremendous waste of time there has been about these things. Basically the methods of attracting industry to the country, or of encouraging decentralisation, lie in the hands of the State governments or local government bodies. That is because such matters as rates come within the local government purview and electricity and power costs, availability and cost of land, transport costs and all these things are matters in which the State government has complete authority. The State governments have power to act if they believe that there is a need for decentralisation. At least that is so in New South Wales and Victoria; I am not certain what applies in some of the smaller States.
One could go on and refer to availability of housing, or perhaps the availability and cost of water. It is the States which decide where to place their educational facilities and their medical and hospital facilities. In fact, in attracting industry to the country, there are not a great many things that the Commonwealth can do. The honourable member for Bendigo mentioned that we could give taxation concessions. Even this is of a somewhat doubtful nature because, as honourable members well know, the Constitution says that we cannot discriminate between States or between parts of States on the matter of taxation. He mentioned the zone allowance, but the less said about the zone allowance the better because there are many people who have the view that if this were tested it would be found to be of doubtful constitutional validity. It is true, of course, that the Commonwealth Government can give concessions to an industry so long as it does not discriminate between States. In this direction the Commonwealth Government has helped considerably. It may give a concession to a mining industry, pastoral industry or something of that nature.
The States have had some success in the decentralisation of industry but a number of factors militate against the ability of industry to establish itself in the country and compete with industry in the cities. It is interesting to note that probably the majority of industries in Australia today operate under a protective tariff. In other words they are being assisted. Anything that increases their expenditure must make it more difficult for them to meet competition from abroad or even to be able to export. One of the greatest difficulties in this regard is the cost of transport. If an industry sets up in the country it usually has to buy its primary material from the city and pay freight on it. It then converts the material into the finished product and sends it back to the city where the great markets are located. Even in those cases where the material is available locally it has been found difficult to process that material and send it to the city. I instance country abattoirs. While many country abattoirs are operating satisfactorily, many have been started and have fallen by the wayside. Most abattoirs are situated in cities where, economically, they are able to show a better return. A similar situation applies in respect of wool selling. Many country centres sell wool, but the cities seem to attract most buyers. I sell wool locally at Albury, yet it is amazing how many local graziers do not support this decentralised authority but bypass it and send their wool down to Melbourne.
Transport costs, availability of raw materials and markets and often availability of suitable labour militate against industries going to country areas, setting up and operating successfully. We recently had to examine the rebuilding of a Melbourne clothing factory. Many of us immediately thought that this was an opportunity for rebuilding the factory in some country centre, thus assisting decentralisation. Unfortunately the great problem was that many of that factory’s top skilled craftsmen who were doing fine and intricate work, particularly for the Services, resided in Melbourne and had their homes there. Had this factory been set up in the country probably most of the top craftsmen would have remained in the city. Even had they been prepared to follow the factory to its new location the Commonwealth Government would have been faced with considerable cost in providing housing and other necessary facilities for the staff.
There are many ways in which an industry going to the country is at a disadvantage when compared to a city industry. On the other hand, it is undoubtedly true, as the honourable member for Bendigo said, that there are advantages in an industry established in the country. A person is able to get from his home to his place of employment quickly. In many instances the amenities available are just as good as those provided in the cities. In some instances, however, this is not so. Very often there is greater availability of land, and the land is usually cheaper than it is in the cities. It may be cheaper, too, to establish new facilities in the country than to try to overload the existing facilities in capital cities. Here again, this is a matter with which the State governments are perfectly competent to deal. Although the honourable member for Bendigo suggested things that the Commonwealth Government could do he did not explain why the Commonwealth should interfere in a matter that is entirely within the province of the States. In fact, the only reason he put forward was that this was a national problem. Immediately thereafter he listed matters that would involve additional Commonwealth expenditure. Of course, if the States, which are competent to handle this, need finance it is up to them to come to the Commonwealth Government through the Loan Council and not for the Commonwealth Government to interfere and poke its nose in. The Commonwealth Government is not unsympathetic. It has done a tremendous lot to assist in decentralising industry.
In half an hour I could not instance everything that has been done by the Commonwealth. We have set up offices of different departments in country centres. I refer particularly to the Department of Labour and National Service and to the Department of Social Services. Telephone offices are decentralised. The Commonwealth has assisted in the equalisation of petrol prices on which some tens of millions of dollars have been expended. This has assisted industry and population in more remote areas. The Commonwealth has subsidised fertilisers. The Commonwealth gives tremendous assistance to all forms of industry, particularly primary industry, in country centres. The Commonwealth has assisted the dairy industry, cotton industry, tobacco industry and the gold mining industry, ft has provided copper bounties, pyrites bounties and other forms of assistance. The Commonwealth is constantly helping industries that are finding it difficult to succeed in country areas. The Commonwealth has set up defence establishments in country areas. This is perhaps one of the best forms of decentralisation. At Townsville, for instance, a new Army camp is being established at great cost. This will be of enormous benefit to the development of the Townsville area. I instance, too, the North West Cape base. It is interesting, of course, to note that every member of the Australian Labor Party voted against the establishment of the North West Cape base, yet in that area today 2,000 people are employed. What sort of better decentralisation is required? A couple of small industries have been established in that area, which is growing rapidly. Munitions factories have been established in country areas, frequently at considerable cost. Both the honourable member for Bendigo and the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) know of such munitions factories. The Commonwealth Government has a policy of assisting decentralisation.
What honourable members opposite have been discussing today is artificial decentralisation. The best form of decentralisation is a basic decentralisation built on resources. This is where my Department and the Commonwealth Government are doing their utmost to help. We will only build up true decentralisation in Australia when we have assessed all forms of resources and determined how they can be fully exploited and extended, where possible, to increase production. Let me mention a few of these. There is no greater form of decentralisation than forestry operations. As a Government we have set up the Australian Forestry Council. As a result of discussions at this Council the Commonwealth Government has agreed that there should be an acceleration of planting of softwoods and an improvement in the return from natural forests, and a Bill will be coming before the House very soon under which loans of $20m over the next five years will be made to the States to assist them to double the rate of softwood plantings. This is decentralisation at its very best. We aim at having three million acres of softwood forests in Australia by the turn of the century. I can see that in my own area it is highly likely that a pulp and paper mill will be established to assist not only to employ the many people there but also to utilise the resources provided by the stimulus given by the Commonwealth Government.
There is no greater decentraliser than the provision of water for irrigation. When this Government came to office major water storages throughout Australia totalled seven million acre-feet. When everything now under way is completed the total will be thirty-six million acre-feet. We see vast irrigation schemes being established such as the one at Colleambally.
– What about the Ord?
– The Ord scheme is another one. I thank the honourable member for reminding me that had it not been for this Commonwealth Government there would not be thirty farmers already established there on pilot farms from which we hope to obtain results that will show whether it is proper to go ahead with the main scheme and, if so, when we should continue with the main scheme.
– What about Queensland?
– The honourable member will have his opportunity to speak later. Even in Queensland a considerable number of irrigation projects are being undertaken. They are being carried out with the very ample resources of the State Government which has chosen to get its assistance from the Commonwealth Government for decentralisation in other ways, such as through the brigalow land clearance scheme and the beef roads scheme and by assistance with ports and harbours. A constant stream of works is being undertaken by the Commonwealth Government. The first task is to assess the resources of the north, and in this work we are using the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the CSIRO. Then there is the beef research scheme. The Division of National Mapping is spending millions of dollars a year on mapping the north. We are subsidising hydrology work in the north for the purpose of improving ports and harbours. This is true decentralisation, not just some scheme for taking an industry that is happily operating in Melbourne and subsidising it at the taxpayer’s expense to work somewhere else when we know jolly well that it is highly unlikely that it will be able to continue in the new location unless it gets some form of assistance.
I say we should plan for true decentralisation in Australia and build our plans on the discovery of these resources. Look at what is occurring in the north now. Where could one find a better example of decentralisation than in Gladstone where, by marrying the bauxite from Weipa to the cheap power from the Callide coalfield and providing a first class harbour we get the biggest alumina industry in the world?
– And no water.
– I agree that there was an unfortunate breaking of the coffer dam. But of course these things happen and it will be only a very short time before everything is under way there. There we have an example of a city which has expanded by 40 per cent in eighteen months. This is true decentralisation, not subsidised by the taxpayer. This is the kind of thing we want. We want to see development such as that which is occurring at Gove. We want more development such as that made possible by the recent great phosphate discovery which was assisted to such a large extent by the Commonwealth Government. We want more developments like the extension of activities at Mt Isa which has owed so much to assistance given by the Commonwealth Government in the reconstruction of the railway line. We want more development of iron ore and other mineral resources uh which the Commonwealth and private industry have together played such an important part. This is the kind of thing that will bring about true decentralisation.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the time for the consideration of Notice No. 1 General Business being further extended until 2.45 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the luncheon adjournment we witnessed one of the most remarkable speeches that 1 have ever heard in this House by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). I am convinced now that his portfolio has the wrong title, he should be known as the Minister for No National Development. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) dealt with the southern area of Australia. I will deal with the northern areas. It is becoming quite clear that the Government has no intention to do anything to promote decentralisation in these areas which will involve the expenditure of government funds. It is quite willing to give our tremendously valuable assets of minerals and land to overseas companies for exploitation. This exploitation could almost be called plunder in some instances when one considers the limited benefit that the areas in which these deposits are located are receiving.
Let us take one example to illustrate the shallowness of the Government’s intentions with regard to decentralisation or development other than in capital cities. The Minister talked about water. If there is one subject about which the Government should not talk, it is water. He talked about vast irrigation schemes. I do not doubt that water schemes provide one of the best ways of bringing about decentralisation, because they promote permanent settlement. But where are these vast irrigation schemes in the north? The Minister mentioned the Ord diversion dam. For five years the Western Australian Government has been desperately trying to get funds to build the major dam on the Ord to promote decentralisation and settlement in the area.
When I asked the Minister about water in Queensland, he conveniently got off the subject. The facts are known, and they will continue to be made known. In the eighteen years in which this Government has been in office, Queensland projects have received the grand total of not one cent of the sum of $800m which has been made available for water conservation for power and irrigation. If anyone wants to challenge me on that they may do so, but it is a fact. Despite the fact that in this period schemes such as the Burdekin, the Fitzroy, the Dawson, the Nogoa and the border river projects have been put forward time and time again, no funds have been provided for them. These schemes would promote decentralisation.
It is well known that in the last 150 years the economy of this country has been riding on the backs of the sheep and the cow. I think we will be able to say that in the next 100 years it will be riding also on the back of minerals and water. Apart from water, minerals constitute one of the most important foundations for decentralisation. There can be no doubt about that. But where are the plans foi promoting decentralisation in the areas in northern Australia where vast amounts of minerals are being found?
– What about the brigalow and your inefficiency in developing it without a subsidy?
– The honourable member would not know what brigalow looked like. It is obvious that in some areas of southern Australia there will be problems with decentralisation. One has to admit that, because one has to admit that we must have cities and that we must have economies of scale and mobility of labour. The latter are part and parcel of the function of cities. It is quite clear that water and minerals are assets which form the foundation for promoting decentralisation.
The north is so fabulously rich in minerals that few people can really appreciate the tremendous wealth which lies beneath our feet. Over half of Australia’s known tin resources are in the north. Weipa has the biggest bauxite deposit in the world or, if there is some doubt about it, the second biggest. The Gove deposit also is of vast magnitude. In the north also there are tremendous reserves of iron ore, copper, manganese, uranium, silver, lead and zinc, and now tremendous reserves of coking coal are being found in central Queensland. There are deposits of nickel. Recently one of the world’s greatest deposits of phosphate has been found in the north. The paradox of it is that these areas in which these deposits are being found are among the poorest developed areas in Australia.
The shire councils and local government authorities in these areas are crying out for money to make even basic improvements. They talk about building such things as a mile of bitumen road. I refer to areas such as those around Weipa, Blackwater and Moura, which, as I have said, are fabulously rich in minerals and from which this Government receives tremendous export income for the major benefit of the southern metropolitan areas. lt can be shown that the surplus export income from Queensland over the last ten years has amounted to $3, 150m but that in New South Wales and Victoria in the same period there has been a deficit well in excess of this figure, brought about from financing imports for use mainly in the capital cities. Here we have the paradox of Weipa with bauxite, Blackwater and Moura with their coal deposits, and Pilbara iron ore, all of which are centred in areas of poverty as far as basic development is concerned. I ask whether that is fair. It is analogous to someone having a prize mandarin or orange tree in one’s back yard and as the fruit ripens every year someone takes it and leaves the tree. In the end the tree dies and there is only a hole in the ground. In the case of our natural resources, the beneficiaries are the foreign companies and the great cities which are not able to find the produce to finance exports but have to get help from mineral export income.
Some companies are doing something to develop certain areas; I will not say they are not. For example, Mount Isa Mines Ltd has done a lot to help the surrounding area. The Western Australian Government has made it clear to companies in the Pilbara area that they must build a railway and a port. These will help development. But what about the other areas? State governments get royalties but what do they do with them? It is all right to say that the Queensland Government has built a railway from Moura to Gladstone. The freights alone more than justify the construction of this railway. The surplus profits, as is well known in central and north Queensland, are being used to subsidise freights and fares in Brisbane. Western Queensland, too, makes large profits for the railways; these are being used to subsidise cheap fares and freights in the metropolitan area. There Ls no justification for this. Nobody will deny that these areas have assets in land, water and minerals. The local government authorities in control of these areas should get at least a share of the return.
I contend that the blatant exploitation, by quarrying, of the fabulously rich mineral resources in the north for the benefit of foreign companies and indirectly for the benefit of the southern metropolitan areas without there being any positive contribution to the continuous basic development of roads, power, water and servicing activities for future and more permanent development in the areas from which these minerals are taken must be halted without delay. Local government authorities which are desperately in need of finance and which are responsible for the administration and development of the areas in which rich mineral deposits are being exploited and, in fact, plundered, should at least receive some compensatory revenues from the assets that are being permanently removed from their areas. This could be achieved by local government authorities receiving a proportion of the gross value of the minerals being taken away forever from those areas.
Higher revenue percentages should be paid to local government if processing works are not established and quarrying operations only are being employed. These revenues would be of tremendous benefit to the development of the surrounding country for agriculture and livestock as well as providing local government authorities with means to provide essential services and to promote industry. For example, part of the huge profits being earned from the removal of bauxite deposits at Weipa could be used to construct urgently needed roads for the surrounding cattle country, and in a similar way revenue from the vast Moura and Blackwater coalfields could be utilised to construct roads and provide power and water facilities in central Queensland. The earmarking of portion of the value of mineral resources being taken out of an area for utilisation by local government authorities could be indirectly achieved by the Federal Government refusing to authorise the export of minerals unless a proportion of their value was made available to local government authorities by State governments.
As I have said, the same argument in decentralisation applies to water. It is futile for the Minister for National Development to get up and say that the Queensland Government has not forwarded these projects to the Commonwealth Government, because he knows full well, and I know, it has done so, time and time again. One only has to read the newspapers and the statements made only recently by Ministers in Queensland with respect to the Nogoa, with respect to the border rivers, with respect to the Dawson, the Burdekin, the Fitzroy and the Bundaberg areas to know that all these proposals have been forwarded to the Commonwealth. It is useless to say they have not been forwarded.
Finally, one must refer again to the fabulously rich mineral resources. One may ask: Can the interests concerned afford, for example, to pay a share of the promotion of development in areas such as the Gulf Country which urgently needs more roads and better facilities for water? In country like the Cape York Peninsula, too, we see located fabulously rich bauxite deposits. Can the interests concerned afford to give the local authorities at least a proportion of the tremendous profits being earned from these areas? Let us take iron ore, for instance. It is estimated that 100 million tons will be taken from Mount Newman in the delivery period 1969 to 1990, with an estimated value of S800m. From the Hamersley Iron - Mount Tom Price complex it is estimated that in the delivery period 1966 to 1981 the contract will realise, f.o.b., S550m. In the Mount Goldsworthy areas the estimated figure for the period 1966 to 1972 is S144m. The production from the Cleveland Cliffs or Robe River areas is estimated at $7S0m over a long term period up to 1988. In the Hamersley Iron and Mount Tom Price areas, the estimate is for $170m in production of pellets over this period. In other words, these areas in the north are fabulously rich, and surely the mining interests can afford to give a proportion of the tremendous profits being earned from the exploitation and in some cases the plunder of the assets to assist in the permanent development of the areas from which the resources are taken.
Let us remember that when we take minerals out of the ground we take them out for ever. Minerals are not like land. They are not inexhaustible assets. Whether they be iron ore, bauxite or manganese, minerals are exhaustible assets. Therefore we have to guard against what we saw in the early years of this century, when 80,000 to 100,000 people were living in the Queensland Gulf country from Croydon to Forsayth and through to Cloncurry and Borroloola. These settlements were based mainly on gold, but how many people live there now? Who were the beneficiaries of this? Certainly not the areas from which the gold was taken. The beneficiaries were shareholders in Melbourne and in other places. Because of the fact that there is a mutual arrangement with the Country Party on this debate, I have to finish now in order to give the Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony), who is Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the same time as i. have had.
– I thank the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) for bringing this motion forward today and giving the House an opportunity to discuss a matter which I consider to be of vital importance to the nation. I refer to the question of balanced development and decentralisation and the problem of overcongestion of the major cities of Australia. It is a problem that I believe should be brought to the attention of all Australians. I am afraid that there are far too many who are apathetic to this question. We see today that the tremendous congestion in the capital cities is apt to be soaking up our valuable capital which could be used more efficiently for other purposes.
I consider that there is merit in the actual substance of the honourable member’s motion and that it is certainly worthy of discussion, but it is a tragedy that in bringing it forward he had to make so much political play. He had half an hour to speak on this subject, and a considerable proportion of his speech was devoted to nothing more than politics. A large part of the political play consisted of an attack on the Australian Country Party. I accept that the Labor Party has certain basic tenets, as has the Country Party. I accept that the Labor Party prides itself on being the Party which devotes most of its attention to trade unions. However, I should like to tell the honourable gentlemen opposite that it is my Party that devotes itself almost entirely to the problem of the basic and balanced development of Australia. In fact, the Party was created for that very reason. If people want to argue about that or to disbelieve it, they can do so. 1 thank the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) for his kind remarks about what the Party has tried to achieve in this direction over the course of its existence. The reason the Government is not allowing this committee to be set up is principally because decentralisation, as the Minister stressed here today, is a matter for the State governments. I refer to such matters as transport, power, water supply and local government. But this does not excuse .the Commonwealth from responsibility in certain directions, and we have made very valuable contributions by various means. The Premiers themselves have come to the Commonwealth Government and have asked that there be a special committee of officers of the Commonwealth and the States to get together and pool their knowledge to find out what can be done to achieve more by way of decentralisation.
We have the Department of National Development which devotes much of its time to this one important question. In fact, a new division of the Department of National Development - the Northern Division - was formed for the very purpose of trying to get more development in the northern regions of Australia. The Department of Trade and Industry has a section that deals with decentralisation. We have appointed special committees at various times, such as the Loder Committee. We have had other committees on beef roads, and from these committees have emanated suggestions which the Government has implemented in order to try to help the development of industries in different parts of Australia. I see no reason why there should be a joint parliamentary committee on this subject just to create a forum in which the Labor Party could attempt to make political capital. I heard the honourable member for Bendigo sneering this morning at the Country Party for forming its own committee on decentralisation. Has the Country Party not a right, if it .considers decentralisation is a problem, to look into the matter? Is this sour grapes on the part of the Labor Party because it has not done something?
– We have had a committee on decentralisation for years.
– We have heard nothing about it and it certainly has not brought forward any suggestions. I am glad to hear that honourable members opposite do have a committee and I hope they will give more attention to it. I hope they will look into the question of rural representation and realise how important it is to have rural voices in this Parliament to promote decentralisation and assistance for rural industries in Australia. Country Party members have always maintained that there has been a need for some weighting in our electoral system to foster rural representation. Every successive Government since the days of federation has allowed a variation of 20% above and below the electoral quota to enable more representatives from country areas than would be the case if there were one vote one value. What does the Labor Party propose? Last week, in South Au> tralia, the Leader of the Opposition was quoted as saying that he would like to see the principle of one man one vote regardless of where the man lives. He said the Labor Party would like to see a revision of the electoral boundaries.
In substance what would that mean? It would mean a considerable reduction of the number of rural representatives in this Parliament. I would like to know how that would help decentralisation. These things show the truth of the matter. How much sincerity is there when on the one hand the Opposition says that there should be more decentralisation, and on the other hand it wants to see less rural representation in this Parliament? But what can we believe from the Opposition side? Here is a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition - then the Deputy Leader - on 21st August 1965. Speaking to the Sydney division of the Australian Planning Institute he said that too much attention was being paid to the wishes and needs of rural areas and too little to the needs of cities. Is this the way to bring about decentralisation? The Leader of the Opposition added: ‘By derivation Christian men are those who live in the cities. Pagans are those who live in the country’. I do not mind being called a pagan. The Leader of the Opposition can refer to me or to country people in any way he wishes. But sneering remarks of this sort do not show much sympathy for the important problems that face Australia. I believe that the honourable member for Bendigo brought this matter forward honestly in this Parliament today in the hope that something would be done about it. I think his efforts would be much better directed if he put some of these proposals before his own Party and tried to get its basic thinking changed so that we could get a little more decentralisation.
The second Opposition speaker in this debate was the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) who came forth with his usual diatribe about lack of development and made unkind remarks about the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). The Minister has done more for large national projects during his period of office than was ever done before in this Parliament. More development is taking place in the north than one would ever have visualised a few years ago. There are huge projects in the north. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent in mining and agricultural development.
– Name them.
– I certainly will name them, starting from whatever point honourable members opposite would like. Let us take minerals. Last year I had the pleasure of being able to travel around the north. In nine days I visited mining projects where SI, 000m will be spent in the next five years.
– By the Commonwealth?
– By people- not necessarily the Commonwealth. In some cases it is government money. But it is all money being spent to develop Australia and to make use of our great mineral resources. I know that in some undertakings there might be an over-concentration of foreign capital. We regret this and the Government is taking measures to get greater Australian equity. All these mining projects - bauxite, rock phosphate, coal - are of a size that we never dreamed possible in Australia. In the Hamersley project $118m has been spent in fourteen months - three times faster than money was ever spent on the Snowy Mountains project. A railroad 180 miles long has been built. A township has been built where people can live. Yet the honourable member for Dawson says that these companies are not making any contribution to Australia’s development.
Do honourable members opposite make the same observation about Mount Isa? I am sure that if the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) had the opportunity to speak in this debate today he would say what the Mount Isa company has done for that town in supplying water and other facilities. What did the Labor Party do in regard to Mount Isa? At the height of an industrial dispute, two of its members went to Mount Isa and gave support to the efforts of the Committee for Membership Control to continue the dispute. This would have meant that the company and eventually the town would have collapsed. Is that the attitude of the Labor Party towards the development of mining projects in Australia? It is a crazy attitude. The Labor Party does not know where it is going.
The honourable member for Dawson says that nothing is happening in Queensland and slides over what is done. He mentioned coal. What about Moura and Blackwater? What about the enormous project under which a railway is being built down to Gladstone where one of the biggest alumina plants in the world is being erected by a consortium of companies, with some Australian capital. There is also the brigalow development where $14m of Commonwealth money is being spent. The Commonwealth has provided money for oil exploration; oil has been found at Moonie and Alton and as a result we have a-
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Minister for the Interior to contradict arguments he used in Victoria during the Country Party election campaign?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)There is no substance in the point of order.
– Let me assure honourable members that I never contradict myself. Queensland is developing everywhere. I travelled round Queensland a month or two ago with the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong) to have a look at what is happening in the beef industry. We saw huge tracts of land being cleared. We estimated that within ten years there is likely to be double the present cattle population because of the efforts and contributions made by this Government and the Queensland Government in the expansion of our beef roads programme. The Minister for National Development mentioned here a couple of weeks ago that this Government proposes to spend $80m extra in the next seven years to provide beef roads in north Queensland. There are other developments in that State, such as the Mt Isa railway. The Commonwealth Government is providing a loan for this work so that the company concerned can expand and develop.
– I rise to order. The Minister for National Development never at any stage said that $80m will be spent in north Queensland.
– There is no point of order.
– It is nice to see the honourable member for Dawson squirming a little bit, but he certainly deserves it. Let us consider the sugar industry in Queensland. There has been tremendous development. There has been expansion in the sugar mills and more people have had opportunities to get employment.
– Many sugar growers are going broke.
– The honourable member for Dawson thinks this expansion is bad; that there should not have been any expansion in the industry. It is all very well to be wise after the event. But I never heard him making any remarks at the time. In fact at that time he was claiming that a sugar industry should be established in the Ord River area. Anyone can be wise after the event. Townsville has almost doubled in size in recent years. The Commonwealth moved in and established the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s laboratory to do more research into tropical pastures. This is a huge project in itself. The CountryLiberal Party Queensland Government has also moved into that town and has established Queensland’s second country university. So let us not hear any more of this diatribe about what should happen in Queensland. Do not let us hear it said that there is no development in that State. When the people of northern Australia had a chance to decide whether there was progress or not, what did they do? They elected three additional Government members to this Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the motion has expired. The Minister for the Interior will have leave to continue his remarks when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be an order of the day under general business for the next sitting.
Bill presented by Mr Snedden, and read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the National Library Act 1960-1966 to provide for the appointment of the National Librarian under the National Library Act itself instead of under the Public Service Act, as the present Act provides, and to lay down audit requirements which meet the particular needs of the National Library. Since 1960 the Parliamentary Librarian has been acting as National Librarian also, under a transitional provision of the National Library Act. The National Library Council wishes to have the first appointment of a full-time National Librarian made by the end of 1967 in preparation for the movement of the substantial collections and for the opening of the National Library building in mid- 1968. The Act, as drafted in I960, provides in section 17(1) for the National Librarian to be appointed and employed in accordance with the Public Service Act. This method is now considered inappropriate. The proposed amendment makes the appointment of the National Librarian a matter for the GovernorGeneral under the terms of the National Library Act itself.
The form of the amendment will need to incorporate the usual provisions for fulltime statutory office bearers such as the maximum period of appointment, age limit, remuneration -as fixed by the GovernorGeneral, leave of absence, termination for misbehaviour or physical or mental incapacity, vacation of office due to bankruptcy or outside employment without approval, preservation of rights of a person appointed from the Public Service, and application of Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act and the Superannuation Act. The Bill also provides for an acting National Librarian.
The Bill makes some changes in existing audit requirements in order to meet the special needs of the National Library. Sections 25 and 27 of the Act contain the normal audit requirements for a Commonwealth statutory authority but experience has shown that these do not recognise the special position of a great library. The requirement in section 27 (3) (b) that the financial statement should show ‘the state of the affairs of the Library’ means that a balance sheet, requiring an annual stocktaking and valuation of the Library’s large and varied collections, should be produced. This would be impractical, since the Library holds many historical and other treasures on which a meaningful monetary value cannot be placed. It is therefore proposed that the reference to ‘the state of the affairs of the Library’ be deleted.
Another problem is that the authority of the Auditor-General under section 25 (1) to audit the ‘financial transactions’ of the Library does not extend to assets acquired by exchange or as a gift or transferred to the Library from an existing Commonwealth collection held elsewhere. It is proposed that the Auditor-General’s functions be extended to include inspection and report on records of all dealings with property, whether or not expenditure is involved.
Perhaps I should remind honourable members that these proposals are an integral part of the process of separation of the Parliamentary and National libraries. Honourable members will recall that the National Library grew out of the Library of Parliament. Detailed proposals for the separation of the two libraries were outlined in the second reading speech when Sir Robert Menzies introduced the National Library Bill in 1960. These included the appointment to the National Library Council of two members of the Parliament and the occupancy of the positions of National Librarian and Parliamentary Librarian by the one person. I interrupt to say that the representative of this House on the Library Council is the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and the other parliamentary representative is the President of the Senate, Sir Alister McMullin
The National Library Council, in its annual reports to Parliament, has paid tribute to the value of these arrangements in assisting the development of the National Library and the separation of the two libraries as ultimately independent but closely related institutions. During this process, which is now almost complete, members will also have noted with satisfaction the development of the services of the Parliamentary Library, including its research service. For these we are especially indebted to the Presiding Officers and the Joint Library Committee. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5 April (vide page 928), on motion by Mr Sinclair: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition welcomes the provisions of this Bill. However, we do not believe that the operation of the aged persons homes legislation has been the unqualified success referred to by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). We have many reser vations about the operation of the legislation. I shall elaborate upon these during my speech. This Bill seeks to extend the subsidy provisions of the Act to local government bodies. The Opposition has urged such an amendment for a number of years. Whilst we welcome this additional amendment to the provisions of the Act, the Opposition believes that advantage could have been taken of this opportunity to bring trade unions under the provisions of the Act. The Opposition will again express this point of view during the Committee stage and will move an amendment accordingly. In many instances trade unions have funds which would enable them to attract a subsidy of this nature. They are in a position, as are other organisations, to provide the kind of accommodation for aged people that the Bill specifies and for which responsibility has been accepted by various organisations since 1954.
In 1961 the former Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), undertook to amend the Act to enable grants to be made to local authorities. That was the policy of the Australian Labor Party. The 1961 and 1963 election policies of the Australian Labor Party have proved to be sources of seminal ideas for the Government. We trust that the Government will regard our 1966 election policy similarly as being a source of constructive domestic policy. It is particularly relevant to recall that one of our promises in the 1966 election campaign was to increase the basis of grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act to $3 for each $1 raised by an organisation which claimed assistance under the Act. I urge the Government to consider this proposal and to make the increase in the next Budget.
This legislation was introduced in 1954. It has been amended and improved on several occasions. The most notable improvement was the increase in the subsidy from the rate of $1 for $1 to the present rate of $2 for $1. The last improvement to the Act was made in the Budget session of 1966. We on this side believe that the Act has been one of the more successful pieces of social services legislation introduced by this Government. In our opinion the original conception was a noble one. The Minister has claimed that the legislation has led to the provision of accommodation for more than 25,000 aged persons in Australia since the inception of the Act in 1954. This is a notable achievement. One of the major achievements flowing from the legislation has been the provision of homes for older people in country areas. Before the advent of this legislation elderly people were forced to leave the country environment in which they had spent so much of their lives and move to cities to obtain accommodation in charity homes. An examination of the relevant figures shows that in recent years a marked proportion of the subsidies has gone to provide housing for elderly people in country areas. This we believe is a worthy achievement. The Government is to be commended for its initiative in this respect.
Those are some of the positive features of the Act. There are others. I said earlier that the Opposition appreciated the concept of the Aged Persons Homes Act when it was introduced in 1954. We believe that the Act has been instrumental in providing greatly needed accommodation for people in the category to which I have just referred. Since 1954, as I have already pointed out, the Act has been amended on a number of occasions in order to effect improvements to it and to widen the range of organisations which have been able to attract a subsidy in the past. I now want to turn to some of the inadequacies of the Act. There are some features of the Bill now before us to which the Opposition feels some improvements could be effected. The Government has been concerned with an Act introduced in 1954 to provide a subsidy. It has not concerned itself with the manner in which the subsidy has been applied except as to the number of homes built for aged people, either individual units or nursing home units. This has been the Government’s main concern. The Opposition believes that after thirteen years some aspects of the legislation should receive further consideration by this Government. I propose to deal with some of these matters now.
Our major criticism of the Act is that it does not cover elderly people who most urgently need suitable accommodation and treatment in their later years. It is designed mainly for wealthier elderly people who can make an initial donation of up to $5,000 for their accommodation. I have used the figure of $5,000, but I understand that the amount varies according to the extent of the funds provided initially to the organisation for the provision of nursing home accommodation or individual units. But in many instances the initial deposit required is about $5,000. Further, only reasonably healthy people may be accommodated under the provisions of the Act. The Act has failed to provide housing for frail and indigent aged people who can be helped to some extent in their disability or illness. This criticism does not apply to all organisations. I make it clear that some organisations are providing nursing home accommodation and individual home units of good standard. They are providing the kind of service that aged people require and which we and, obviously, the organisations believe is necessary for people of advanced years. We give full credit to those organisations for the work they are doing in this regard but we say that the first priority under the Act should be for the provision of accommodation for pensioners who do not have homes and who are in urgent need of this kind of accommodation. The benevolent homes do not want to limit their care to donors and patients who pay fees. I am sure that these homes do not want to apply those conditions, but frequently they have no alternative if they wish to remain solvent.
I make no criticism of the extension of the legislation to cover local government or municipal organisations, but we do not believe that this will remedy the basic deficiencies of the Act. Obviously the overwhelming benefits of the legislation have gone to the more affluent sections of our society. We have the widespread practice of elderly people making donations to organisations providing accommodation under the Act in return for their accommodation. Most organisations, as honourable members fully understand, insist on substantial donations before they will consider an application for admission to their homes. Again, this does not apply to all organisations; it applies to some of them. Some societies and organisations have no alternative but to demand an initial deposit before a person may be admitted to their institution. The Government has abetted them in this practice by not stipulating that subsidised accommodation shall be made available to those in the greatest need. The Government has failed to do this.
The Act was passed in 1954. It provides merely for a subsidy to be paid to an organisation which intends to provide nursing accommodation or individual home units, but the Government has made no decision as to how the money should be spent except in the provision of the home unit. The Government has not laid down any conditions about deposits. In fact, I am sure that if the Government were asked to provide information to the House as to the number of organisations which require an initial deposit before providing accommodation, the Government would not be able to make the information available.
To substantiate what I have said let me refer to a question asked in the Parliament in 1964 - three years ago - by Mr L. R. Johnson, who was then the honourable member for Hughes. Mr Johnson asked the Minister for Social Services for information concerning the number of organisations under the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act which required persons being accommodated to contribute all or part of the capital cost of a living unit other than the amount represented by the Government grant. He further asked how many persons and what percentage of persons being accommodated in the homes subsidised under the Act had been required to lodge non-returnable deposits in excess of respectively $1,000, $1,500, $2,000, $3,000 and $4,000. The answer given by the Minister for Social Services at that time, Mr Roberton, was to the effect that no details of this nature are available. That was in 1964. No information was available. I suggest that if the same kind of question were directed to the present Minister for Social Services, we would find that the information is not available in 1967.
– The answer would be Mie same.
– I believe that honourable members should have this information. It ought not to be necessary for organisations of this kind to require a deposit in the first instance, and it is certainly wrong that some organisations not only demand a first deposit but require a second deposit. This is the kind of criticism that I want to make and I hope the Minister will accept this as constructive criticism. I have already made the Opposition’s attitude to this legislation clear. We believe that this kind of legislation is introduced into the Parliament far too infrequently. If properly administered, legislation of this type can confer substantial benefits on the under-privileged sections of the community. We believe that the Government has failed completely to follow through its original conception of the Act and it has certainly failed to extend the legislation to cover all those frail and elderly people who are in need of accommodation.
There are three groups of elderly people and each requires accommodation of a different type. The first group consists of the independent elderly who can move about freely and in large measure look after themselves. These are best accommodated in cottages or flats where they can care for themselves and live their lives in their accustomed patterns. The second group consists of the inter-dependent elderly who need some sort of help because of disability and illness. They are partially competent but frail. Their needs are best met by some form of communal housing - that is, by accommodation midway between selfcontained dwellings and infirmaries. An excellent British plan outlined by the Ministry of Housing in 1958 recommended that these people be housed in bed-sitting room flatettes with shared bathrooms and other communal rooms. Such accommodation could be superintended by a resident warden and staff. This is the sort of programme that the Government should actively stimulate for the inter-dependent aged.
The third group consists of those who need total care which can be provided only in infirmary beds by specially trained geriatric staff. These are the socially incompetent and chronically ill. Where do these old and frail people go today in the terminal phase of their lives? They cannot be accommodated in many instances because of the limitations of the Act. The public hospitals cannot cope with them. If they have the means they go to private hospitals and nursing homes. If they have not the means to do this, they certainly cannot be assisted under the terms of this Act, except in isolated cases, because of its limitations. Some of them may be fortunate enough to obtain accommodation in benevolent infirmaries or in special hospitals that have been set up in some States for this purpose. All these institutions have long waiting lists. Furthermore, they are completely outside the provisions of the Act. As the Minister knows, any State government institution is outside the scope of the Act. The Act is limited to the healthy and comparatively wealthy aged and does not extend to State institutions. The Government has completely neglected this final phase of life when the need for adequate accommodation and care is most critical.
The Budget last year made some provision for eligible organisations under the Act to receive grants towards accommodation for residents requiring continuous nursing care. The Government provided some payment for those who were in nursing homes and who required constant care or at least full medical treatment. Surely the Government in the present situation ought to consider increasing the subsidy that is now being paid to these nursing homes when the number of beds used for these people does not exceed one-third of the total number of beds. The Government should choose a figure that is much more realistic.
– What would the honourable member suggest?
– i would say at least two-thirds. The present one-third is insufficient. The Minister should realise that it is thirteen years since the introduction of the Act and people who were admitted to these institutions in the initial stages - that is, back in the 1950s - are now no longer able to move about; they are now chronically sick. They need full-time care and attention. The institutions are providing a very worthwhile service in the community but are not able to meet their obligations because of the number of chronically sick that are in the nursing homes and who require full-time medical care and attention. The subsidy is paid when the number of beds in such accommodation does not exceed one-third of the total number of beds in aged persons homes conducted by the organisation in the city or town. It is insufficient; it ought to be increased. The Minister asked me to state a figure and I said it should be increased to at least two-thirds. This modification of the Act is commendable but it is much too cautiously conceived to ameliorate the critical shortage of accommodation for those in their final years. We say there is an urgent need for a much wider modification of the Act.
It must be recognised that people in homes subsidised under the Act are growing older and as they grow older they become afflicted with the illnesses peculiar to old age. Inevitably the stage is reached when these people must be confined to infirmary beds. But the Government has given no consideration to this aspect, apart from its amendment in 1966. I do not think it has considered the problem in the way that it ought to be considered, in view of the difficulties being experienced by these institutions now. Some of these old people may remain in the homes and be cared for under the modification made by the last Budget. Obviously, most of these increasingly infirm people cannot be treated in the homes, which have only limited resources from which to provide the necessary nursing care. As the Minister knows, very few of these organisations are able to provide the proper nursing care.
What happens in these circumstances? Where are these people to go? They must be either transferred to long stay institutions or their full care is neglected. In either event: if they have made substantial donations to the homes, the contract of security until death made by the home is broken. The Minister is fully aware of these contracts. This is another blot on the operations of the Act. We say that the basic flaw in the structure of the legislation is that it fails to admit the inevitable problems of chronic illness in the aged. Existing homes are feeling increasing financial, maintenance and staff stresses as inmates become increasingly infirm. This imposes strains on boards of management not envisaged when the Act was introduced. With homes built ten or so years ago provision was not made for the inevitable physical and mental deterioration of inmates who were ambulatory and socially competent when they were admitted. The Government showed a complete lack of forethought of the consequences of its initial legislation. It has failed to keep step with the passage of time by evolving a step by step programme for accommodating the aged as inevitably they deteriorate in health. The Act covers only a very small proportion of those who should be assisted by Government legislation.
These are our major criticisms of the Act. It provides accommodation only for the more fortunate elderly people who are able to move about freely and have a degree of affluence. This is the problem that we find today. If the Minister wants me to substantiate this argument I can do so as the figures are available. I refer the Minister to a report, to which I shall turn in a few moments and which was issued recently, by an organisation in Victoria which carried out a detailed investigation of this problem in that State. The first survey, which was conducted in 1962, related to accommodation for the elderly in Victoria. It found a great need in the metropolitan area for accommodation in aged persons homes. The survey estimated that accommodation was available for 4,873 and there were 3,502 on the waiting list for homes. This was only in the State of Victoria. The survey estimated that 76% of all voluntary institutions had no provision for a deterioration in health of inmates. If this deterioration occurred relatives were asked to take responsibility, or admission to a private hospital or a benevolent institution had to be sought. This points out the failure of the Act to provide accommodation for elderly people during the whole of their later years.
According to the survey the major limitations on meeting the need for accommodation included insufficient infirmary care, lack of finance for building and maintenance, limitations of the Aged Persons Homes Act to the active elderly, insufficient selection of long term cases and ages of admission. The survey found that at least one institution did not admit anyone over seventy years of age. The committee which made the survey recommended that ‘here should be greater provision for all stages of care to cover independent, community and infirmary type living. There is a great deal that one can say about the provisions of the Act. When I began to speak in this debate I attempted to point out some of the advantages of the Act and to pay a tribute to the Government for its contribution in this field. I wanted also to take the opportunity to make what I believe are constructive criticisms and suggest amendments which I believe ought Co be made to the Act in view of the situation which has applied during the period which has elapsed since the legislation was introduced in 1954. One of the great difficulties is the deposit that is how being required by most institutions - not all of them but a great number of them.
We on this side of the chamber maintain that it is wrong that an organisation should require or be put in a position to require a subsidy in the first instance. It is certainly wrong that an organisation should require not only the initial subsidy but also a second, third and subsequent deposit from those who occupy this kind of accommodation. The effect of the present legislation is that those who have the greatest need are not able to qualify for accommodation of this kind. According to the survey to which I have referred, if aged persons have independent means they must seek other kinds of accommodation and are not eligible for the subsidised accommodation which we provide under the terms of this legislation. I think that what we need in Australia is a survey on a Commonwealth basis. The inquiry conducted in Victoria was by an independent authority. Surely it ought to be possible for the Minister to provide the Parliament with the kind of information that we require. He should be able to show honourable members that, as nearly as possible, all people who need assistance or who need to be accommodated in a nursing home or an individual cottage have an opportunity to obtain that kind of assistance. The Act provides merely for an amount of money to be provided for an institution which is prepared to offer this kind of accommodation. There is no restriction on the amount required as a deposit from those who apply for accommodation in the institution. These are matters to which the Government should be giving some attention.
In many ways the Act has been an unqualified success, but we believe that after thirteen years of operation the practices to which I have referred should be given serious consideration by the Government and some improvements of the type I have suggested should be effected. There is need for an improvement. Far too many people who require this kind of accommodation and who deserve it are not able to secure it because of their lack of means. We should cither continue a subsidy of this nature or turn to the State Governments which, in many instances, are providing accommodation for aged people on a reasonable rental basis. The States do not require a deposit as large as that asked by some of the institutions that now attract the subsidy under this Act. State governments are providing a liberal amount of accommodation and there is no limitation of eligibility based on a person’s means. Unless we can obtain the kind of information which is necessary and which we believe ought to be made available to the Parliament to enable a proper and adequate assessment to be made of the situation which exists in Australia we should be giving very serious consideration to ensuring that the flow of money provided for aged people goes to those who can provide accommodation for all who are in need, irrespective of their means.
– I am very happy to support this Bill which is not a contentious one. Its main purpose is to extend the range of organisations eligible for the subsidy provided under the Act. Before dealing with the provisions of the Bill I propose to say something about some matters which were mentioned by the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard). He said that this has been one of the more successful pieces of legislation introduced by the Government, but that it has not been the unqualified success claimed by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). He said that the Opposition’s major criticism was that it had been designed for the wealthier older people who could afford to make a donation of up to $5,000 towards their own accommodation. I hope that I am not doing him an injustice, but I believe that to some extent he may have fallen for the propaganda issued by a lady who signs herself as Mrs H. Dougan, social worker. I have no doubt that nearly all members of Parliament, if not all, received a letter from this lady calling for a Royal Commission on the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act. 1 want to quote from some of the defamatory and untrue statements that she has made because I believe that they are grossly misleading, almost completely untrue and very unfair to many organisations which are doing a particularly fine job in helping to provide accommodation for aged people. This lady began by saying:
Under the guise of charity, the worst real estate racket in the history of Australia is being witnessed. Social Service Minister, and the Government, trapped into supporting policies outside the legislation of the Aged Persons Homes Act.
I want to read the first four paragraphs of her statement. They were as follows:
When the Government introduced the Aged Persons Homes Legislation they were undoubtedly motivated by the highest principles. But over a period of 13 years, the Act has developed into the worst possible way of providing homes for aged persons.
While thousands of aged pensioners are wandering the streets looking for accommodation (and if accommodated spend at least two thirds of pension on rent) organisations are using the life savings of elderly persons as a means of obtaining more money from the Federal Government.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member should not say ‘Hear, hear’ because presently I will quote something that will meet with his approval. I will refer to what his own church says about this statement, which continues:
Many sell their homes. Estate agents long associated with charitable organisations are negotiating the sale of these homes. Using all sorts of devices to fleece the elderly of their money. And I mean fleece.
The War Widows Guild has amassed well over $4m. This was a few years back - what they have now would be interesting to know. The churches too have their own rackets. And it is up to every member of Parliament to investigate, and have tabled in Parliament the full extent of this racket.
These organisations are in effect real estate promoters and as such should be subject to investigation by the Taxation Department.
I referred this statement to four organisations. I received a long reply from Mrs Lois Hurse, President of the War Widows Guild of Australia. She thanked me for sending her a copy of the statement and wrote:
The War Widows’ Guild has not amassed well over $4m. We are not in this work to amass wealth. The aggregate of all the flats built with social services help, i.e. 326 flats on eleven sites in Melbourne has a valuation figure of approximately $2,000,000. These are assets in bricks and mortar and constitute homes for a large number of aged persons other than war widows.
We have never solicited the help of estate agents to negotiate the sale of homes of any of the applicants for our fiats. When an elderly person comes to the stage of realising that she is no longer able to care for, or finance, the upkeep of a home, she makes her own arrangements for the sale therof and contacts us when this is completed.
So much for the allegations against the War Widows’ Guild.
I communicated with two churches. I did not think it necessary for me to refer to all churches. The Secretary of the Churches of Christ Department of Social Service replied to me as follows:
My Department has received several grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act, and in no instance have we requested a capital sum from any who have come into our homes. In fact, the great majority admitted have been pensioners. For instance, in relation to the last project which provides ten units for elderly women who can care for themselves, it was stipulated that all applicants must be pensioners, and as mentioned above, none were asked for any capital sum, or Founder’s Donation (key money) as Mrs. Dougan puts it.
I oan speak with firsthand knowledge of the Churches of Christ because they have a number of homes for the aged and a hospital within my electorate of Henty. I then approached the Methodist Church of Australasia, and I am sure that my action in so doing will meet with the approval of the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). The Reverend Johnson, who is the Director of the Department of Adult Care of the Methodist Church of Australasia stated:
You may like to note that this Department of the Methodist Church has five Homes for Aged People in Melbourne. Only for “Moorfields” has the Department received, or asked, any contribution from ingoing residents to meet capital costs. In this case had it not been for the assistance of the people who were to receive, and now are receiving, the benefit, it would not have been possible to erect the Home a* all. The Church had insufficient resources without this help.
It has been our policy at “Moorfields”, as with all of our Homes, to take elderly people into our care on the basis of their need. This means that if an elderly person in need can meet his/her share of the capital cost it seems reasonable to allow him to do so. Why force people to receive charity if they can pay their way?
If an old person cannot meet the full cost, but can pay some part of it, this proportion is taken and the remainder of the cost is made up from other charitable gifts which people who believe in our work make to the Department.
If an old person cannot pay anything, and quite a large number of the present residents come into this category, no payment is expected and no difference is made either at the time of interview for admission or at any subsequent time.
If a person, having made a donation decides to leave the Home, the full donation is refunded less an amount equal to $8.00 per week for the length of time the person has been in residence. If death occurs in the first 12 months, one half of the donation is refunded to the estate, if in the second year, one. quarter to the estate. No refund is made after this.
Our Church, as with all Churches is a completely non-profit organisation and no money is received either from old people, or from others on behalf of old people, which is not entirely us:d for the security and benefit of old people themselves.
I have quoted what two churches think of Mrs Dougan’s statement and I have no doubt that the sentiments they expressed would be adopted by all Australian churches.
I approached another organisation, which I know fairly well and which is, I think, the largest friendly society in Australia, namely, Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows in Victoria. The Grand Secretary wrote to me as follows:
This Society does not require residents to make any initial donation of any description.
The centre is run at a loss which is borne by this Society. The deficit for financial years ending 30/6/196S and 30/6/1966 being $18,132 and $23,847 respectively.
This Society in no way has any association with any Real Estate Organization in the processing of applications, and all dealings are directly between the member applicant and/or their families and the Committee of Management of the Centre. I can assure you that this Society has not amassed any large surplus as the result of the establishment of the Centre, nor was it ever intended that it should as the above information would indicate. The Centre was established as a Fraternal Benefit to members which it has proved to be.
I hope that the replies I received from these organisations will, for all time, answer the charges made by Mrs Dougan and perhaps unwittingly echoed, to some extent, by some honourable members in this House. Let me now refer to the legislation itself. The Government first introduced this legislation in 1954 and since then both the amount of the subsidy and the rate of the subsidy have been increased. The rate has been increased from the initial $1 for $1 to $2 for $1. The original subsidy was limited to an expenditure of $5,000 per person accommodated. In other words, the Government provided a grant towards the cost of accommodating people up to a total cost of $5,000 per person accommodated. Expenditure beyond this amount was not subsidised. This subsidy has been increased to $5,400. The range of expenditure on various items to attract a subsidy has been widened. When the legislation was first introduced only the cost of the buildings housing the people attracted the subsidy. Later this was extended to cover the cost of the land on which the buildings were erected. Finally, last year, I think it was, a subsidy was provided for nursing accommodation at some of these homes. The honourable member for Bass has already referred to this. The range of eligible organisations has been enlarged in this Bill and moneys made available by local government bodies from their own resources, or land donated by them, will be eligible for the $2 for $1 subsidy.
Since the inception of the scheme in 1954 this Government has provided more than $66m. It has made more than 1,400 grants, and more than 25,000 persons have been accommodated, or beds have been provided for them, in the institutions which have been subsidised. The annual amount provided by way of subsidy has increased from $800,000, which I think was the figure for the first year, to almost $10m in the current financial year, or perhaps even more than $10m. I believe that as the years go by the provision of suitable accommodation will be the biggest problem facing us with regard to aged persons. I believe that pensions will become less and less of a problem as the years go by.
– How does the honourable member make that out?
– I am looking perhaps ten or fifteen years ahead and I will explain how I make this out. Most people working today have the opportunity of subscribing to superannuation funds. Every government employee, whether State or Federal, is in this position. The honourable member himself will never qualify for an age pension because he has provided for his own superannuation.
– What about the man who is not on superannuation?
– I am not saying that everybody is in this position, but I am saying that age pensions will become less of a problem. Many people who are receiving pensions today lived through the depression years and never had an opportunity in their lives to provide for their old age by way of superannuation, but very few people in employment today have not the opportunity of subscribing to a superannuation fund, some to a greater extent than others. As I have said, I am looking ahead ten or fifteen years, but I do believe that as the years go by the actual pension will become less of a problem. I realise that we will always have to provide pensions for those whose needs are greatest. I do not think we will ever get rid of this necessity. But I am talking about the people today who are looking for the abolition of the means test because the superannuation they receive, and for which they have personally provided, renders them ineligible to receive the pension. In five, ten or fifteen years time the pension will be available to people receiving larger superannuation payments than those received today by superannuitants who also receive pensions.
– I hope I live to be a hundred.
– The honourable member is another one who will never have to get a pension, whether he lives to be a hundred or only ninety. I think the time will come when the only people who will require pensions will be the aged poor. Not all aged people are poor. There are many aged persons in much better financial situations than many of the members of this House. But I do believe that accommodation for aged persons will become an increasing problem, and the more we can help the voluntary bodies who are providing accommodation for these people the better it will be for the whole community.
The other day, in a debate on another social service bill, I quoted from a survey which was conducted in 1964 and 1965 by senior social service students of the Melbourne University. It was originally financed by the Lions Club of Richmond and was subsequently taken over by the Victorian Hospitals and Charities Commission. The survey covered what is generally conceded to be one of the poorer areas of Melbourne, the City of Richmond, which lies within the electorate of the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns). It resulted in the publication of a book ‘Living on the Old Age Pension’ by Micheline Dewdney and J. S. Collings. The .authors stated that no pre-selection was made of the people interviewed. A total of 1,298 people who were known to be pensioners were called on. Not all of them were home; not all of them answered their doors. But as a result of that survey this book was published. It is available in the Library. It deals with the answers given by the people themselves to questions about their problems. I will return to it shortly.
I mentioned earlier that the limit of expenditure for accommodating old people would not affect the subsidy if more than $5,400 was spent per person accommodated. We have already established in the pension legislation the fact that the expenses of a single pensioner are greater than those of one pensioner of a married couple. Consider rent alone. A married couple have two pensions with which to pay their rent; a single pensioner has one. But forget the rent for the time being. Nothing will convince me that if we are providing accommodation for aged people we can build accommodation for a single pensioner for half the amount it costs to build a married couple’s accommodation. In other words it does not cost twice as much to provide accommodation for a married couple as it does to provide accommodation for a single pensioner.
Research in Australia has shown that single pensioners outnumber married pensioners by about eight to one. I believe the difference is even greater in New Zealand where the ratio is fourteen to one. If we have established that it costs a single pensioner more to live than it costs one of a married couple, and it does not require a great deal of analysis to show that it costs more proportionately to build accommodation for a single person than for one of a married couple, then there may be room for looking more closely at this limit of $5,400. Take a case in which three persons have to be accommodated, one single person and a married couple. The Government is prepared to provide, under the present legislation, two-thirds of three times $5,400. In other words it has to find two-thirds of $16,200. Let us, for the sake of argument, change the base figure to $4,000 per head for married couples and $6,000 per head for single persons. The subsidy then required would be two-thirds of $14,000.
My purpose is not to try to cut down expenditure or show the Government how it can save money, but merely to get the greatest value for the money spent. As the greatest demand is for single accommodation I think that perhaps we should look again at our basic figures instead of pro viding a subsidy on a fiat rate basis or fixing a limit on a fiat rate basis.
I come back now to the survey to which I referred a few minutes ago. Some of the tables given in this book refer to the cases of 310 people who were questioned. As I said, this survey was conducted in Richmond and I think one might comment here that there appeared to be a rather larger proportion of people living in their own homes, or buying them, than would normally be expected in an industrial suburb like Richmond, which is generally recognised as one of the poorer areas of Melbourne. The survey showed that 40.3% of the people interviewed owned their own homes, 5.2% were still paying them off, 39.4% were paying rent, 4.8% were paying board and 10.3% were living rent free. It is also interesting that of the people interviewed 56, or only 18% of the total, were actually living alone.
Of the 310 people covered by this survey 263, or 84.8%, regarded their present accommodation as quite satisfactory. Of the 263, in fact, 262 preferred to remain in their present accommodation. They did not want to move at all. It may interest the Minister, and may even dash, or at least throw a little cold water on, the previously held beliefs of some members of the House, to learn that 278 out of 310, or 89.7%, would never consider going into an institution - and that would include an aged persons’ home. They gave various reasons for this. 1 think the main reason is that they feel they would be losing, to some extent, their independence. The main reason stated by 70.7% of those who declared they would never consider going into an institution was that life in an institution deprived people of independence and a sense of pride. Of those interviewed 8.6% stated that family support would make it unnecessary for them ever to consider entering an institution. I thought these figures were interesting, but despite the fact that these people have these beliefs today I think the time unfortunately will come when they may have no choice but to enter an institution because, as some of them are widowed and grow older they will find it just impossible to live alone. Accommodation for elderly people will become an increasing problem as the age of members of the community increases and as the population increases. As the demand for accommodation will increase, I think we ought to be looking at one other aspect of the problem. I said that nearly 90% of the people interviewed stated that they would never go into an institution. Inevitably some people will do so, but perhaps we can stave off the necessity to put a large proportion into institutions if we help them to remain in their own homes. We can do this if we provide more domiciliary services and, perhaps, finance for repairs. This conclusion was reached by the authors as a result of the survey:
For those who own their own properties, improvement, valuation maintenance, and disposition are frightening propositions - after years of struggle (with limited capital) to have proprietary rights to their land and house. They are fearful of exploitation by the painter, the plumber, the carpenter and the lawyer.
This was the opinion expressed by the people interviewed. Many councils are prepared to defer payment of rates and to recover those rates from the estate when the pensioner dies.
The Government could well consider advancing to pensioners money for repairs - I understand this is done to some extent in New Zealand - so that their properties could be maintained in a good state of repair. I suggest that this money should not be recovered on the death of the pensioner if the home is left to another pensioner. If someone who is not a pensioner inherits a home, surely it is fair enough that he should pay any accrued rates and should repay any money advanced by the Government to keep the home in repair. Not only is it good commonsense that these homes should be kept in a good state of repair; if by doing so we can provide people with the accommodation they want in their own homes, we will be doing a lot to make them happy.
These are the main points I wish to cover, but perhaps I should read the last two paragraphs of the conclusions of the authors of the book I mentioned. They make a lot of sense. They are as follows:
When trying to formulate a social programme to help the aged and impecunious, we face a dilemma. We must either change their attitude to one of acceptance of what we feel we should offer them, or accept their own assessment of needs and direct our efforts accordingly.
The best answer is probably somewhere midway. To accept their own assessment is to lower our reformist sights. To forcefully change their attitudes is to perpetrate an assault on the stable and contented elders of our community.
I commend the Government for what it has done in providing accommodation for aged persons and congratulate the Minister on the extensions which are envisaged in this Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lynch) adjourned.
– I move:
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 8, which I have just tabled, relate to proposed amendments to the Customs Tariffs 1966. The amendments provide for temporary duties in accordance with recommendations made by the Special Advisory Authority in a report on staple fibre, tow, yarns, tyre cord and tyre cord fabric of certain man made fibres. The amendments will operate from tomorrow morning.
Honourable members may recall that on 9th March last the Government rejected the report by the Tariff Board on man made fibres and yarns and referred the matter back to the Board for further inquiry and report. In accordance with section 18E of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1966, the temporary duties then operating on raw nylon yarns and processed yarns of nylon or polyester could not apply after 22nd March 1967. Consequently, the question of temporary protection on these goods was again referred to the Special Advisory Authority. The reference also covered nylon staple fibre and tow, and man made fibre tyre cord and tyre cord fabric, being goods covered by the Tariff Board’s report of 15th December 1966 upon which industry had requested emergency tariff action.
The Special Advisory Authority found that urgent action is necessary to protect the local industry against imports. He found that prices of imported products have been progressively reduced to the detriment of local industry. To provide protection against imports, the Authority has recommended varying temporary duties for the goods under reference. In the case of nylon staple fibre, tow and raw nylon yarns, the Special Advisory Authority found that recently overseas prices had been reduced substantially and there was more than a possibility that further reductions could be made in the near future. Consequently, he recommended an additional temporary duty on a sliding scale to take account of this possibility.
A summary of the tariff alterations covered by the proposals is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– Pursuant to Statute I present a Special Advisory Authority report on staple fibre, tow, yarns, tyre cord and tyre cord fabric, of certain man made fibres.
Ordered to be printed.
– The Bill before the House expands the scope of the Aged Persons Homes Act by including local government bodies in the list of organisations eligible under the Act and accepting contributions by them towards aged persons homes as qualifying for Commonwealth subsidy on the $2 for $1 basis. It fulfils the election promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) at the November 1966 general election and is a further manifestation of this Government’s outstanding record of care and concern for needy people in our community who are deserving of Commonwealth assistance.
The purpose of the Aged Persons Homes Act 1954, as described in section 3 of the original Bill is: to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
It therefore enables grants to be made to eligible organisations towards the capital cost of erecting or purchasing approved homes for aged people. These organisations include church organisations, charitable or benevolent bodies and ex-servicemen’s organisations.
Maximum flexibility is allowed in designing and planning the homes, and the organisations are responsible for their own internal administration. The opportunity for individual approach which this allows has resulted in a great diversity in the types of accommodation that have become available. The homes vary in size, location, style of architecture, furnishing and atmosphere. They range from self contained single and duplex cottage units to homes providing bedrooms or bed-sitting-rooms with communal dining and recreational facilities. Some homes are intended only for independent living in flats or cottages. Others are designed only for communal living, the residents paying for their board.
A number of homes now provide nursing home accommodation with the assistance of Commonwealth subsidy. This facility is of particular significance as, with advancing age, people become more infirm and more afflicted with chronic illness peculiar to old age.
Most of these homes provide a happy, homelike atmosphere conducive to dispelling the feeling of being unwanted and the problems of loneliness, boredom and insecurity which are often generated by the process of growing old. The bodies who conduct them are aware of the dangers of an excessively regimented and impersonal approach, and the contribution they make towards the well-being, happiness and sense of personal satisfaction of our older people is immeasurable. Some people mistakenly believe that beds subsidised under the Act are necessarily allotted to age pensioners. This is certainly not the case, as the limitation imposed by the Act applies to the age of residents without regard lo their means.
Suggestions have been made from time to time that the Government should lay down conditions to ensure that the subsidised accommodation is made available to applicants with the greatest financial need. This was also referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). The Government has rejected this approach so as to avoid any intrusion into the internal administration of the homes, believing, and rightly so, that the selection of people for admission and the details of the financial arrangements involved in this process are best left to the organisations themselves. Greater government control would inhibit and stifle the type of voluntary activity which the existing provisions of the Act have engendered. It must also be emphasised that many of the organisations which conduct homes for the aged charge no initial donation of those seeking accommodation, many of whom are in fact age pensioners, and this certainly gives the lie to the charge made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the homes are made available for the most part to the affluent and to the financially comfortable.
The origin of the Bill lay in the Government’s recognition of the fact that one of the greatest anxieties old people have to face is the lack of housing and proper care in their advancing years. The Government did not seek to solve this problem by direct participation in a field where so much depends on a degree of personal rapport which no Government, however beneficent, can hope to achieve. Rather, it accepted the view that churches and voluntary organisations, with their long experience and devotion to the task, were better equipped to meet the individual housing requirements of our older people. There is no doubt that a major challenge facing the Australian community is the need to make adequate provision for aged people, particularly those who are unable to care and fend for themselves, and that basic to this consideration is the question of housing.
In most countries in the world the problem of the elderly has assumed fundamental importance because of the greatly increased percentage of the population in the over sixty-five years age group. As a result of increased life expectancy, the changing social conditions in relation to housing, employment, hospitalisation and sustenance have a direct bearing on their welfare. All of us would like older people to be able to remain contentedly in their own homes and to enjoy the independence and freedom which this provides. The family remains the salient unit in our society, and the strength of our nation is commensurate with the collective strength of the various family groups of which it is constituted. Because of this, the basis of the Govern ment’s social service legislation has been to strengthen the ties of the family and to enhance its status and independence. However, we cannot overlook the fundamental fact that there are today many older people who have no families with whom to live and who, as a consequence, are forced to seek accommodation on their own behalf. It is also true that there is a modern tendency for young couples to build homes or family units in which there is no room for elderly parents.
The Government’s orientation of this problem has therefore been of a twofold kind and takes account of social and economic considerations. On the social side, we believe that older people whatever the degree of independence they desire, wish to live in pleasant and happy surroundings as close as possible to those of normal domestic life, with all the associations which the basic concept of a home connotes, particularly having regard to the companionship of husband and wife in the case of married people. On the economic side, we believe that increases in pension rates are not the total answer to the problems which many aged pensioners face, especially in the field of housing. Something more is required, and the Aged Persons Homes Act has provided part of the answer. That the legislation has been successful is a matter of public record. In giving considerable encouragement to voluntary organisations to provide accommodation for aged persons, the Act has proved to be a popular and widely accepted measure, and I know from my experience in the Flinders electorate that a large number of middle-aged persons are increasingly looking forward to the time when they will qualify for the type of accommodation which it has made possible. This is so because the excellent and varying types of accommodation which have become available as a result of the Act appeal to many people who previously considered homes for the aged as too impersonal for their individual tastes.
It is no exaggeration to say that the Act has been regarded by thousands of people as one of the most constructive and effective pieces of social legislation in the history of this Parliament. As the Minister has pointed out in his second reading speech, since 1954 subsidies totalling more than $66m have been approved, enabling the provision of accommodation for over 25,000 persons. From the time the Act commenced, the annual subsidy paid has risen from $800,000 to almost $10m. This is in every way an impressive story of continuing achievement, all the more impressive in that it has been brought about as a result of co-operation between government and voluntary agencies. One of the great strengths of Australian democracy is the well developed spirit of voluntarism which exists in this country. I refer to the many community service projects and activities carried out by voluntary bodies whose members give freely and ably of their best energies in their genuine desire to serve, improve and develop the communities in which they live.
A number of these bodies, operative in the field of providing housing facilities for the aged, have been greatly assisted by the Aged Persons Homes Act which has sought, by way of partnership, to supplement the work of voluntary agencies by government financial support. By way of example, I recall a recent report in the Melbourne ‘Age’ that the Voluntary Helpers Shop in Hawthorn, Melbourne, has donated $10,000 to Methodist Church homes for the aged, bringing the total donations by the Voluntary Helpers Shop to homes for elderly people throughout the State to $556,000. Surely this is one of the many instances of the spirit of community service which the Act has engendered since its inception in 1954. It is fitting that local government bodies should now be brought within the scheme because of the growing interest which they have shown in homes for the aged in recent years and which they have manifested in a practical sense by granting land for this purpose. They are ideally situated to give the lead in this important field in their various communities, and it is to be hoped that as a result of the Bill there will be more awareness of the opportunities for the provision of aged persons accommodation within local government areas.
The amending legislation will provide a useful incentive for the involvement of these bodies and will, no doubt, increase the efficacy of the Act, enabling the provision of an increased number of homes consequential on the expanded ambit of the existing Commonwealth subsidy.
In the projection of future policy in this important field of housing for the aged there are three issues that I commend to the Minister’s attention. Firstly, it seems to me that there is a definite need throughout Australia for domestic help in the homes of old people, who would thereby be enabled to continue an independent life when otherwise they might be forced to seek refuge in a home or institution. Although many municipal bodies already conduct a domestic help scheme which has proved advantageous, its facilities may be called upon only in emergencies. What is also required is a similar programme which would provide regular home help for old people in need of it. Financially, such a proposition would be less expensive than providing accommodation in homes for the aged and would have the additional advantage of preserving for a considerable number of people their valued independence of living. It would be appropriate for a scheme of this type to be implemented at municipal level on the basis of Commonwealth subsidy.
Secondly, as in other Western countries, many old people in Australia are overhoused in the sense that the size of their home exceeds their particular needs. Many of these people would be willing to move to a smaller and more convenient house if such was available. A significant contribution to the present housing problem would be made by the provision of smaller homes - at cheaper cost in labour and materials - for old people who would then be able to leave their larger homes for younger people with families for whom they are more suitable. Greater encouragement should be given to the building industry and the States to meet this need.
Thirdly, I refer to the accommodation which the States have provided for this country’s elderly citizens. As an example, let me mention in brief the work of the Victorian Housing Commission which has pursued a vigorous policy over the past ten years in endeavouring to cope with the ever increasing demands by two groups of elderly people - the lone person, and the pensioner couple. As one facet of its responsibility the Commission constructs flats for aged persons from loans provided under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement, repayable with interest over a long term, and subsidises the rental for these flats from its general revenue account. There is no assistance from either the Commonwealth or the State in regard to this subsidy and this has led to the anomalous position that at present the low income group of the community is subsidising the housing of the State’s aged people.
Equally clear is the fact that the State is finding great difficulty in meeting the demand for this type of accommodation. The figures on the application list on 1st April 1967 were: lone persons 2,431 and pensioner couples 311. This involves a typical waiting period for a single unit of four years and for a double unit of six months, although the waiting period is shortened in particular areas. The situation in other States is analogous and there is no doubt that the problem is one of increasing proportion as a result of the shortage of State funds available for this purpose.
I believe that the only short term solution must lie in the provision of greater Commonwealth assistance by way of subsidy or direct grant, particularly in view of the fact that the housing of the aged falls within the realm of social services, which is basically a Commonwealth responsibility. Mr Speaker, I support the Bill without reservation and I commend it to the House.
– I listened with great interest to the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch). I noted with particular interest his statement that no sector of public administration today is better able to administer legislation of this nature than local government I hope he was not referring to the Warringah Shire Council. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) said that people who went through the last depression could not provide for their old age. Behold, out of the mouths even of Government supporters can come items of truth! That is very correct, indeed, and I think it would be appropriate to read to the House a passage from ‘The Hidden People’ by John Stubbs. At page thirteen he writes:
The present generation of age pensioners has also been battered by history: a man aged 70 today was born in the -aftermath of the 1893 depression and he was eighteen when the First World War started. Many, who after the war made their delayed start towards achieving economic independence, were then ruined financially by the Great Depression which hit Australia when they were in their early thirties.
Then there was a further five years of world war when they were in their early forties. More than 70 per cent of age pensioners are women, many of them widows who have raised families and who can bear little responsibility for their financial position.
In all the polemics surrounding this problem, we can divide these people, the aged folk who need assistance, into two groups - those prepared to accept assistance of the nature contemplated by this legislation, and those who desire to preserve, according to their sentiments, a measure of independence and who, in their own good judgment, reject institutional treatment.
The Aged Persons Homes Act provides, as its title implies, for assistance by the Commonwealth towards the provision of homes for aged persons. Its purpose, as defined in Section 3, is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes in which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life; and in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife. These are very laudable sentiments indeed. But the Government did find it necessary to correct its approach. I refer the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) to his own comment on an amending Bill in 1966, for which I give him full marks also. He said:
As announced by the right honourable the Treasurer during his Budget speech additional Commonwealth aid is to be given for nursing accommodation in aged persons homes. In the past subsidies were paid for the patient’s normal bed accommodation and for accommodation used for patients with temporary illness. In the case of temporary illness the patent’s bed had to be kept vacant during that treatment.
These restrictions have now been limited. Beds in the nursing accommodation area may now be permanently occupied by particular residents, and their former beds allocated to other aged persons.
Eligible organisations will be able to provide subsidised nursing accommodation up to one-third of the total number of beds in aged homes conducted by the organisation in a particular city or town.
The Government has seen fit to increase the original subsidy of one for one to two for one. I think that subsidy should be further increased. This could be done in one of two ways; either by doubling the subsidy for such institutions as have one third of their homes in this category, or conversely by allowing certain of the institutions to have up to two-thirds of their accommodation in beds. The Government took credit, and must be given credit, for subsidies to the tune of S66m having been paid. The Government says that it has provided accommodation for more than 25,000 people. However there is a need to consider the whole question of aged persons’ housing in a much broader perspective than is to be found in this legislation. The fundamental issue which faces this Government is the need to consider the housing requirements of aged persons in broad perspective. The question to be posed is a simple one: How many are in need of housing and how many are in need of nursing care? The Government has not seen fit to provide information on either point, nor to my knowledge - the Minister may correct me if I am wrong - has it made an investigation of either of these points.
As far as I can assess the position, it would seem that today in Australia we have 958,000 persons who are over the age of sixty-five years. It is generally accepted that 80% of people own their own homes. Accordingly, probably somewhat fewer than 200,000 of these people over sixty-five years of age do not own their homes. But the people who need institutional treatment or housing commission accommodation - commonly known as pensioners’ flats - will add considerably to that number. We can add, for instance, the people in the subnormal income group. We can add also 68,000 widows and 106,000 invalid pensioners. We can subtract the small number whom the various housing commissions or housing trusts in the States have been able to provide with accommodation.
There has been a housing shortage in Australia ever since the first fleet arrived in Sydney Harbour, but I want to refer particularly to the situation which has been created by the Government’s decision in 1956 when the original Chifley housing agreement came up for renewal. In that year, in conference with the respective State governments, the Commonwealth Government decided to refuse to provide moneys for concessional housing in future. The situation which exists today is to some extent a backlash from the false economy or the niggardly approach of the Government of that day to a major social problem. The termination of .lid for concessional housing threw on to the State governments full responsibility for providing homes for pensioners. The New South Wales Government did its best. For the comfort of the moralists I might say that out of evil cometh good, because Sim is provided annually by the New South Wales Government from its own revenues, together with SI. 5m from such general scrapings as can be provided from minor Housing Commission profits and the Housing Commission’s subsidy for the construction of homes for aged persons. The rentals for these homes, which are $2 a week for a single person and $3 for a married person, are heavily subsidised. Three thousand three hundred homes have been built on this basis since 1956. That is a paltry figure when compared with the 70,000 homes that have been built by the Housing Commission in New South Wales in the twenty-one years that it has been in operation.
The Government, which is very frugally minded, did some very neat and very well synchronised timing when the aged persons homes legislation was introduced in 1954. The Government, no doubt taking the long term view, envisaged the termination of the housing agreement in 1956 and, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has most eloquently stated, had to try another tack. The rental concession was fully covered in the initial housing agreement between 1946 and 1956 by a loading of the rentals payable by all tenants, and there was no earthly reason - except the congenital attitude of a Liberal Government not to give a full subsidy to anything - why it was necessary to impose a limit upon the existing scheme. But now we find the situation - I speak in terms of many years of parliamentary experience - where many people in the city of Wollongong for whom in earlier years I obtained Housing Commission accommodation when they had families and needed two, three and fourbedroom accommodation, have now reared their families, who are married, and want to return to the amenities of the inner city area. Because of its approach, or its refusal to accept any responsibility for Housing Commission construction of pensioner flats, this Government will find itself in an increasingly difficult position. A very large number of houses which have to be retained by aged couples who would prefer to be relieved of the responsibility of looking after a garden or of housekeeping in a house that is too large for the physical energies of the spouse could be released for the needs of large families.
Considerable economies could be effected in urban development and in the construction of the public utilities which exist in all major cities and which are literally being disused because of the general decay of the heart of our major cities. In other words, the tenor of my argument is briefly this: The Government should have a very hard look at this matter and get back to the principle of giving direct assistance to the various States to enable them to provide housing commission flats to people who want that form of accommodation.
There are many general problems of old age. I have no doubt that the spectre of the year 2000 is a nightmare to governments in general and in particular to a government of the financial bent of the present Administration. It is trite to say that there is now an increased life expectancy. In 1890 the expectancy of life at birth was 47 years for a man and 51 years for a woman. The latest statistics reveal that in 1962 the life expectancy figures were 68 and 74 years respectively. The life expectancy at 60 years of age in 1962 was 15 years for a man and 19£ years for a woman. At 70 years of age the expectancy of life for a man is 9.7 years and for a woman 12.2 years. That being so we come to the general problems of a new era. Because of the advance of geriatrics, the use of antibiotics and the increasing displacement of people by automation we are coming to a new era when it will be quite possible for the retired population to outnumber persons who are engaged in productive employment. Sociologists speak of this era as one of gerontocracy. It is one in which the senior citizens of the community, with their political power, could literally dictate the terms of policy in government administration. As I said earlier, in terms of nursing care the Government has faced up to some of its responsibilities, but a lot more can be done. It is a nightmare to any parliamentarian from any State to get a call from the relatives of an aged person. Their story is usually a pitiable one. They say: ‘My father is suffering from a stroke. I have had him in a public hospital. The hospital wants to discharge him. He has been there for a couple of months. He cannot benefit further by treatment in the hospital. He needs further care. What can you do to help?’
We as parliamentarians are at our wits end to know what we can do. If we turn to the ordinary institutions - make no mistake, they are well and sympathetically run - we find that there is a waiting list. The only alternative is one of the commercial nursing homes that exist today, and the less said about those the better. In many cases they are well run, but in other cases they represent nothing short of a racket.
When people reach the age of retirement they fall into one of two classifications. Firstly there is the fortunate minority - those who can live in dignified retirement. At the other extreme we have those who are forced to live in . degrading dependence. The Government has an increased responsibility to do something for these people in particular because of the effects of inflation on the savings of those who frugally and with commendable foresight attempted to provide for their old age. One of the major tragedies of old folk is incompatibility of temperament. When people reach seventy years of age or are older than that, friction between them and their daughter-in-law or son-in-law is the cause of much hardship, misery and suffering. Speaking as one of an older generation, it may be said generally that today there is a good deal of selfishness and indifference on the part of a younger and feckless generation towards the problems of old age.
Let me turn now to the subject of local government and the conferring upon it of certain powers. This is the major purpose of the Bill. It is truly said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Government has adopted Labor’s policy suggestions as advanced during the last election campaign. But to curb the exuberance of the Government, the financial position in local government today is worth noting. Addressing a conference in Queensland Professor Gates is reported in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 5th April to have pointed out that there are 900 local government authorities in Australia and that they are very much the Cinderellas of the governmental system. He pointed out that local taxes, almost all derived from real property rates, provided 55% of the funds for local government outlays. Profits and depreciation allowances of business undertakings provided about 12%; State government grants about 14%; and net borrowings about 19%. To add further point to the present position we find that the various problems of local government finance in New South Wales are the subject of a delayed report from a royal commission which was set up by the present New South Wales Government some eighteen months ago. To tie local government down rigidly there is a limitation in the Bill providing that moneys received by a local government body from the government of the Commonwealth or of a State or from a government authority cannot qualify for a supplementary grant. Conceivably there are a few - perhaps very few - local government bodies in Australia which may be able to sell some council assets or which, being older and in well established areas, may be capable of diverting certain of their rate revenues, or which may, by launching public appeals, be able to get some public contributions, but in the main it is my opinion that these will be minima] sums at this stage.
I fully support the amendment foreshadowed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition which would confer on trade unions operating under Commonwealth or State legislation the right to qualify as accepted organisations within the terms of this legislation. As regards my constituency, I invite the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) to visit it and see things at first hand. We had the pleasure of his company there a month or so ago at the opening of a very worthy undertaking at Dapto called St Luke’s Village. There are many institutions in my area which need to be visited and have their problems discussed. One is the Chesalon Parish Nursing Home which is most admirably conducted by the Church of England at Woonona. That is an approved nursing home. It has several financial problems which could be better discussed on a ministerial visit than in an address in this House. There is a particularly fine St Francis Home for the Aged run by Catholic sisters at Cliff Road, Wollongong. It has the benefit of a government subsidy. There is the Nerrena Home organised by a public minded alderman, now deceased. It is a small home but it makes a notable contribution towards the welfare of elderly persons.
I wish particularly to mention the Frank March Memorial Home at Mount Kiera. The home is situated on a most magnificent site. It does great credit to the exservicemen’s movement of the district. The home has been in operation since the end of World War II and diggers and their dependants are admitted without discrimination to the limit of the home’s capacity. I was shocked when I became Federal representative of the area to discover that at no time had the people running the home received Federal assistance. Many of the buildings are Army disposal buildings from World War II. I cast no reflection on the administration of the home, but many of the buildings are now in a state of considerable decrepitude and there is need for expansion of the home and replacement of some of the existing buildings. In terms of management I think all of these institutions have been very well run.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to certain abuses which may have occurred. He referred to the fact that a limited number of organisations have demanded deposits from persons seeking accommodation. In this connection I suggest that the Minister might consider having appropriate inquiries made by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services under section 8 of the Act, which gives that gentleman the right to impose conditions in respect of any grant made. I would like to know precisely what the position is. I cannot find within my constituency any evidence of this practice of demanding deposits, but conceivably there is good evidence of the practice in other areas. With a little discreet inquiry it should be possible to evolve a policy whereby institutions could, where they consider it necessary, get an appropriate contribution from persons seeking to enter and at the same time make available a proportion of units for deserving cases without extracting a contribution.
– A subsidy is available where the organisation launches into a new project but is not to recompense it for some grant that it has not received because it did not apply previously.
– Is the honourable member suggesting that the organisation should be given this for maintenance?
– For the future. I do not suggest the Government interfere with the existing administration but that it act in the future. It can learn its lessons from what has happened. I do not know what the statistics are, but they ought to be investigated. There is a case, of course, for an appropriate rebate to be given where the pensioner couple makes a contribution. I think the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) suggested that some refund be made if they die after having been in occupancy for only a couple of years. I do not want to go into the terms of the rebate which should be made, but I think there is a strong case for it.
I want to refer the Minister to the problems of hospitalisation. I am speaking of general hospitals and not of geriatric hospitals. It is well known that in New South Wales the cost of establishing one hospital bed is between $16,000 and $18,000. Doctors in many country areas of New South Wales, because of the lack of suitable homes for the aged or of suitable nursing homes, are forced to put pensioners suffering from the diseases of old age into public hospitals. I would be the last to deny them that right, but the type of treatment they need can be more appropriately provided by nursing homes. It would be good business, good sense and good administration to ensure that there is a general relaxation of the Government’s attitude and in particular that the subsidy should be increased to twothirds on parity with the subsidy for home construction in the case of approved nursing homes.
– I think that honourable members on both sides of the House have made constructive speeches in the debate on this Bill. If one regrets perhaps a little that Opposition members who have spoken so far have taken a political line, this does not obscure the fact that other honourable members have made speeches that are worth hearing. The reason for this is that the legislation, though brought in for perhaps some small political purpose, has been admirable. It is starting to work better than it was, it will go on working better than it has been and we are looking at constructive ways of improving what is already good. I want to do three things. Firstly, I want to set out some facts and figures, and in this regard I will ask for the indulgence of the House to permit me to incorporate certain tables in Hansard. Secondly, I want to inquire why it is that certain areas have taken more advantage of this Act than other areas have. Thirdly, I want to make some suggestions which I think go a little further than those made a moment ago by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) but which relate to the same subject.
The first point is the measure of need for these homes. I think we might look at the increase that has taken place in the number of people in the age group who may require these homes. I am not suggesting - it would be stupid to do so - that everybody in the top age groups want homes of this character. Most of these people do not. However, if we look at the changes in the numbers in the age groups we will know something about the extra demand that occurs from year to year. I have prepared a table showing the number of persons in Australia aged seventy years and over. In 1954 there were 442,000 of these people. In 1964, just ten years later, there were 603,000. The number of people in this age group has increased by 161,000 in those ten years. That is an average increase of 16,000 a year. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a small table showing the number of people aged seventy years and over.
I turn now to statistics showing the number of beds provided under the age persons homes scheme. Here, if I may, I would like to mention with appreciation the help I have received from the statistical service of the Parliamentary Library. I will give the number of beds provided for each of the last six years. They are:
The average is about 2,500 beds a year. These are good figures but they are not sufficient. I think because of the excellence of the scheme and the way in which it helps people throughout the whole community, the Government is wise to bring in the present amendment which is calculated to increase the number of beds provided under the scheme.
I come to the second point that I mentioned and that is the difference between areas. What is remarkable is that some States have done much better under this scheme than others have. For this the Commonwealth cannot be blamed. So far as I know, no worthwhile application has been rejected by the Government since the inception of the scheme. Therefore, if some States are doing better than others, the cause does not lie with the Commonwealth Government; it must lie with those States and with the organisations in those States. I will now refer to figures that I hope to incorporate in Hansard if the House will give me permission to do so. They show the number of beds per 100,000 people provided in each State since the inception of the scheme. These are comparable figures. They are:
The average throughout Australia is 226. With the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the number of beds provided under the scheme.
Why is it that South Australia is so far ahead of the other States? I am going to give a reason which relates, I think, to one man, a man who was until recently in this House. I refer to Sir Keith Wilson. I believe it is due to his drive and his organising ability that South Australia has been enabled to take advantage of this Act in a way which has not been too great but which has been much greater than any other State. If Western Australia has 286 beds per 100,000 inhabitants, I think that reflects the efforts of the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) who has been associated with our friend who held the South Australian seat with such distinction. This shows what is available and what can be done.
New South Wales has only 162 beds per 100,000 inhabitants. Compare the two figures - 455 in South Australia and 162 in New South Wales. This is not a criticism of the Commonwealth Government which, to my knowledge, has been scrupulously fair in this matter. This simply reflects the fact that applications have not been coming forward from New South Wales. Yet the need in New South Wales per head comparatively is at least as great as it is in South Australia. We have just not been taking advantage of the opportunities offered to us under this legislation. This is, I am afraid, a reproach to the people of New South Wales and perhaps a reproach to us who represent the people of New South Wales in this House. I suggest to honourable members that if they want to improve the lot of people in their own States they might do what has been done in South Australia. If it can be done in South Australia, it can be done elsewhere, I do not suggest, and I do not feel that any honourable member would suggest, that what has been done in South Australia is too much. Indeed, if I may look for one moment at the current figures, in South Australia in the last financial year 1965-66 719 beds were provided compared with 774 in New South Wales, which I believe has just on four times the population of South Australia. That is a measure of their effort.
If the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) who has been interjecting were interested he would see that in Victoria, whose population is about three times that of South Australia, there were last year only 553 beds provided as against the 719 in
South Australia. This is a reproach to us. This can be done because it has been done. I am not suggesting for one moment that the entire responsibility lies with people in this House. As it happens, in this place we had two people who shouldered their responsibility in a pre-eminent way, but it may be that outside this House the church organisations, charitable organisations and now local government organisations perhaps might be taking a more active part in furthering this excellent scheme. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) will agree with me, I am sure, that no worthwhile application will be refused. I think he will agree with me that no worthwhile application has been refused. I simply put the facts before the House. They are facts which should incite honourable members in this place and charitable organisations outside to do what is needed and what we know can be done because it has been done.
I apologise for having put these rather detailed facts before the House. Again I thank the House for giving me permission to incorporate the necessary figures in Hansard. I hope that they will have their effect. I hope that they will issue in a greater effort in other States because this is a splendid scheme and it does a tremendous amount for people who really need help. It is perfectly true that this scheme is open to those people who have some money to put in - well and good - but it is not open only to such people; it is open to other people also. It must be remembered that the organisations which start by getting people to put money in find themselves at a later stage, when those people have passed on, with accommodation and bed which they can make available without extra charge. In this way they are able to build up a revolving stock, as it were, of accommodation which is adapted to meet this particular social need. But in addition, even from the start, there are organisations which make accommodation available under the provisions of this Act without charge. May there be more such organisations.
I believe that the Government is wise in making this a scheme which is not entirely a government scheme. It is still necessary for the operation of the scheme that there should be participation by some bodies outside the Government. This is good. It leads to decentralisation. It leads to economy of administration. But better than that, it avoids some of the inhumanities which must, in the nature of things, be associated with a centralised tremendous government scheme. There may be honourable members who have visited some of the big old men’s homes, who have seen the unavoidable mental misery which is caused to these people by their being herded together in these big groups, almost anonymously and by their being separated from the communities in which they have grown up and which they have helped to build. One of the points about this scheme must surely be that it is not divorced from the ordinary ways of living, that people are not separated entirely from their families but instead can be accommodated in units which are relatively small and not too far from the familiar places that they have known in their lifetime, the familiar friends and their descendants, who are perhaps their greatest source of satisfaction. For that reason we would not like to see this scheme divorced entirely from the support of organisations outside the Government. There are many such organisations. The churches, of course, have played and are playing their part, and I hope they will continue to do so to an even greater extent.
Surely clubs, for instance, might think of setting up subsidiary organisations, nominally independent perhaps but subsidised by them, so that their members might have the opportunity, when they need it, of going and living in groups among people they have known during their lifetimes. We do not want to direct people; we want to give them freedom of choice. Some people in their old age may like to live away - let them have a freedom of choice - but the majority of people will prefer to live in or near their familiar surroundings. If clubs, charitable organisations and now local government bodies will help in organising this - will help, for example, in bringing New South Wales and Victoria up to the level that has been achieved in South Australia - then we will be getting somewhere. So much for statistics and background.
May I make one further suggestion to the Minister. This is something which is a little tentative in my mind. There are loose edges to it, but it follows on from some- thing that was said a moment ago by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) and by preceding speakers. One of the defects of our administration is the gap which lies between the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services. Hospitals, yes; some people require full hospitalisation. Homes for aged people, yes; for some people unable in their final years to maintain themselves and to look after themselves under normal conditions of living. But what about those in between? The Government has in its legislation permitted infirmary beds to be attached io aged persons homes but there is another dimension of this concept, and it is very largely an architectural dimension. It seems to me that we want to have as our intermediate accommodation not the terminal home and not the homes for the aged but somewhere where people can go and look after themselves in a normal way and then, as they become less competent to look after themselves, they can gradually change their routine without changing their location. This is altogether a more humane conception.
– I have the answer.
– My friend, the honourable member for Mitchell, claims to have the answer. I would not be surprised if he did, because he has come up with a number of constructive and practical ideas. Might we not build a hospital, home - call it what we like - where there is not the full routine of hospitalisation, where we provide separate bed-sitting rooms with kitchens and bathrooms attached and where people can look after themselves and yet where we have available the resources of a central kitchen and a central nursing service so that without changing their location, and without giving the traumatic experience of being taken into a home for the dying, they can gradually relinquish their hold upon the general functions of life and as they become progressively less able to look after themselves they can progressively, without changing their location, get more service.
– This can be done under the Act at the moment, can it not?
– Yes, but I come back to my point that this is primarily an architectural problem. Buildings of this character have not been developed yet.
At present we take these people and put them in another kind of accommodation and because in that kind of accommodation there is no provision for them to do for themselves the offices of life - and they may te able to do 75%, 50% or 25% of those offices for themselves - they become almost totally dependent on others. The reason we Stave not this intermediate stage properly catered’ for is, frankly, very largely an architectural or organisational reason. I put it ta the Minister that we should, as a Government, be thinking in these terms and thinking of trying to build these intermediate ^stitutions which are intermediate in the sense that they are not hospitals and are not normal homes but which are not intermediate in the sense that they require those who go into them to change their location and at some point go from a situation of almost complete independence to a situation of almost complete dependence.
I do not want to enlarge further upon this. I hope that what I have said is constructive. It may not be valuable but at least 1 meant to be constructive. I think that this is not only the humane but also, as it happens, the most economic way to look at this problem. We have many wonderful organisations. I think, for example, of the Chesalon Parish Nursing Home which is an organisation - a home for the dying - run by one church, my church. It is very largely for the very aged. I think, too, of homes for peace run by other churches. These have inadequate facilities. They are all doing their best with the inadequate resources available to them. Cannot we help them to get into this other kind of work by giving to them the apparatus - the buildings - in which to carry out the kind of functions that my friend, the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur) is referring to by way of interjection at this moment? All praise to those who are trying to work with inadequate resources. It is good economics, as well as humane, for the Government to help them with resources to carry out their functions even a little better.
– I propose to deal briefly with this comparatively small Bill and not to wander over the whole ambit of social services, as some speakers have been prone to do. After all this is a comparatively simple Bill aimed at widen ing the scope of the present Act which has already been an unqualified success. I think honourable members from both sides of the House will agree that the Aged Persons Homes Act has been an unqualified and unprecedented success. The main purpose of the Bill is to extend the $2 for $1 subsidy for homes for the aged and to make it possible for semi-government bodies to act in this regard and to become responsible bodies to draw that subsidy. We have seen church bodies and organisations like the Returned Services League, Apex, Rotary and many others obtaining subsidies in accordance with the terms of the legislation in order to build homes for the aged, but local government bodies have so far been excluded. The provisions of the legislation have now been extended to allow local government authorities to attract these subsidy benefits in respect not only of the money that they may use directly in establishing homes for the aged but also of money given by them to private bodies to assist them in building such homes.
In country centres, and particularly in the smaller towns, the municipal and shire councils are among the few bodies in a position to raise or borrow sufficient funds to build homes of this kind. They would not find it necessary, as one speaker on the other side of this House suggested, to use ratepayers’ funds for the purpose, but because of their borrowing potential and their standing in the community they would be able to borrow the money required.
The whole purpose of the Aged Persons Homes Act is to make it possible for elderly married couples to live together in conditions approximating as closely as possible those in which they have been used to living all their lives. But the legislation goes much further; it makes it possible for such married couples to live in small modern homes with all the modern conveniences and to look after themselves in a proper manner in their advancing years. One has only to visit these homes to see how successful the scheme has been. There is, of course, an advantage in setting up homes for a number of people in the same area in that a community of interest develops.
The legislation provides an opportunity for setting up homes in country areas which will cater not only for the people in those areas but also - and I think this is one aspect of the situation that has not yet been exploited to the full - for a proportion of people from the larger cities. In country towns many services and facilities are much more easily accessible than in the cities. The people concerned can walk to shops and places of amusement. They can become significant members of the smaller community rather than mere ciphers in a vast community. I have seen something of the work that has been done by senior citizens organisations in country towns. For some years I was chairman of an advisory committee of the senior citizens’ club in my own town. I have seen what that club has done for elderly people. I have seen the voluntary work that the elderly people have been able to do and have been encouraged to do collectively. I know, too, what it means to people in advanced years to have their friends in close proximity and how they are able to arrange their own amusement and entertainment and their own way of life.
The provision of these homes in country centres can contribute quite substantially to the solution of the problem of decentralisation. It is a fact that every time a person settles in a country town another person is needed to look after him by providing service facilities. When a whole family is added the process commences to snowball. This is one way in which we can assist many country areas while assisting the elderly people. This legislation, by making it possible for shire and municipal councils to sponsor the establishment of these homes, will do a great deal in this direction. It is a fact, of course, that many country towns can offer amenities that are not available throughout many of the city areas. I do not need to remind the House that there are many areas of Sydney and Melbourne in which sewerage is nonexistent and there are no kerbs and gutters, where it is virtually impossible to move in and out of some streets. There are very few country towns that do not provide all the modern amenities.
Under the Aged Persons Homes Act the Government has already contributed more than $66m towards the building of these homes and has made it possible to have 25,000 persons accommodated in them. This is just another indication of the sincerity of the Government and of the
Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) in their attempts to improve the lot of those who are unable to help themselves adequately. I have found, and I think most members on all sides of the House have found, that whenever problems have arisen in the social service field, quite apart from those concerned with aged persons’ hemes, both the Minister and his departmental officials have extended the utmost courtesy and help. I strongly support the extension to local government bodies of the right to raise funds in order to sponsor the establishment of these homes for the aged and to attract the Commonwealth subsidy, because these aged persons’ homes have proved a great boon and will be of increasing value in the future to elderly people throughout the community.
– I take pleasure in contributing to the debate on this very important subject dealing with one of our great social problems. It is important because Australian citizens as a whole, I think, respect old age and respect poverty - although this respect is not necessarily shown by governments. As many members on both sides have told us, the purpose of this Bill is to honour a promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech on 8th November last. It makes provision for the subsidy which is now available to certain charitable or church organisations for the building of homes for the aged to be available also to local government bodies. We of the Opposition have been urging the Government in this House for a considerable number of years to introduce this legislation. But we believe that the legislation should go much further than it does. It should include organisations such as workers clubs and trade unions. If the Government had fully appreciated the plight of aged people and the shortage of homes for them it would have acceded to the Opposition’s request and extended the provisions of the legislation to grant the subsidy of $2 for $1 to certain trade unions, workers clubs and branches of the Returned Services League. A very interesting ‘Four Corners’ television programme some months ago demonstrated the increase in the number of lying-in homes for the aged, particularly in the metropolitan areas of Sydney. Certain people are investing in private lying-in homes, which are mainly for the tragic chronic cases. I saw the programme and I thought it was tragic that people should invest to make a profit out of the plight of aged people. That programme showed that the Government was not meeting its obligations in providing homes for the aged but that ruthless investors - if I may use that term - looking foi profits were doing so. If my memory is correct, this applied particularly to the North Shore section of Sydney.
When these people realised that they could make a profit out of those whose health was such that they were a burden on others, they invested money in these homes. The programme showed up the Government and probably caused it to introduce this legislation much sooner than it would otherwise have done, because this is the type of legislation which governments usually introduce on the eve of an election. It is a wonder that some honourable members did not ask the Government to delay the legislation until the eve of the next election. This applies particularly to the honourable member for Barton (Mr Arthur), who will urgently need legislation of this type to be introduced before he goes before the electors again.
The honourable member for Flinders (Mr Lynch) made a good contribution to the debate. He suggested that there was an urgent need for domestic help in the homes of old people. I do not believe this help should be a burden on those on whom it usually falls - the sons and daughters or sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. In the electorate of Hunter, and no doubt in all electorates, grown children, although they have great affection for their elderly relatives, find that helping them takes a great toll of their own health. Having to look after those near and dear to them and at the same time look after a husband and four or five children is a real burden.
In this debate it has been pointed out that it would be cheaper for the Government to introduce a well organised scheme whereby these people could be cared for in their own homes than to pay a subsidy of $14 a week to certain lying-in homes. We know that often the older people get the more stubborn they become, and they prefer not to leave the homes in which they have lived all their lives and about which they have so many pleasant memories. I have asked people in my electorate whether they have considered living with a son or daughter, perhaps on the shores of Lake Macquarie, but many have said: ‘No. When I go out of my home it will be in a coffin.’ This is the attitude of many old people, and it may become the attitude of many honourable members when they reach the grand old age of seventy.
It would be a good thing if the Government subsidised help in the home. Many women would be only too happy to do this work to earn additional income. I refer to deserted wives or women who are burdened with the heavy cost of running a home and giving their children a good education. They would appreciate the opportunity to work two or three half-days a week cooking, washing or cleaning for some of these old people. The cost of this help may be less than the $14 a week which the Government now has to pay as a subsidy to maintain people in lying-in homes.
Experts in this field have informed me that the subsidy of $1 a day is inadequate. Since this debate began I have been in touch with a person who is connected with the Booragul Church of England Home, which has a waiting list of hundreds of aged people. As I said in my opening remarks, there is an urgent community desire to have more homes for the aged, particularly more lying-in homes for chronic cases. The Booragul Home houses seventy-six people now, and it is anticipated that as a result of extensions now being constructed the number will be increased to 115 by June of this year. Of these people 90% have no means other than the pension. I know from talks I have had with the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) and the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that they have similar problems in their electorates which are causing them great mental concern.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) gave certain figures, and the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) gave some interesting figures showing the increasing number of people over sixty-five years of age that Australia will have in the years that lie ahead. I obtained some figures from the Parliamentary Library on expectancy of life. I shall refer to figures given in the Vernon report which was released only last year.
That report predicted that in 1976 the total population of Australia would be 14,803,072, of whom 1,199,311 would be over sixty-five years of age. I think the Opposition is justified in accusing the Government of not introducing a long range plan to meet the need for homes for the aged and particularly lying-in homes for the chronically ill. Of the people over the age of sixty-five years, 42.5% will be males and 57.5% females. This means that there will be about one quarter of a million more people over the age of sixty-five in ten years time. This should concern every member of this House. The Vernon report suggests that the proportion of people over sixty-five years of age related to the remainder of the population is likely to drop slightly from 8.7% at present to 8.1%. These estimates are based on certain debatable assumptions about the birth rate, migration and the death rate. With the passage of time Australia’s population is likely to become more stabilised, with the proportion of the population over sixty-five years of age being comparable with that of England or Scandinavia. We can expect to have 12% to 16% in the upper age group.
To my mind, this Government has failed utterly in planning a programme to meet the needs of the elderly people. Even ten years is far too short a period for which to plan. It is more realistic, with a plan for aged people, to think in terms of thirty or forty years ahead. If this seems a long time ahead, we need only ask ourselves how old we in this Parliament will be in another thirty years. This whole subject is of practical importance to every member of the House.
If the actual numbers and the proportion of those over sixty-five rise as much as I have forecast and the numbers suffering from disabling disease and physical and mental breakdown rise in proportion, who is going to look after these people? Where is the work force to come from, especially if we persist in the present pattern of institutionalisation? These are things that we should be considering now, not when the situation becomes more acute. These considerations underline the great need for research into ways of meeting future needs, for the initiation of pilot schemes aimed at maintaining independence in the commun ity, and for reducing any final institutional programme to a minimum. Long periods of unnecessary institutionalisation must be curtailed. A doctor in Newcastle has specialised in getting old people back on their feet and giving them a greater desire to live longer. I do not think it is improper for me to mention that doctor’s name. He is Dr Gibson.
– Dr Richard Gibson, Medical Director of the Royal Newcastle Hospital.
– I thank the honourable member. I have met Dr Gibson. He is one medical officer who has shown a great interest in getting these old people back on their feet. However, there are not enough Dr Gibsons and there are not enough institutions to do this wonderful work because there is not enough money; if I may use the vernacular, there is not enough of the filthy lucre that causes so much evil in our community. Nor are there enough voluntary workers, despite the fact that some people do this wonderful work without thought of any monetary gain. Unfortunately, not enough Christianity is being practised.
I urge the Government to give consideration at the earliest point of time to expanding the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act particularly to include some of our very worthwhile trade unions and clubs. I know that some people hold the view - and I think there is some merit in it - that charitable institutions should not be imposed on to provide these facilities and that this should be the obligation of governments. There is some merit in die view that private enterprise should not be subsidised with the taxpayers money to improve real estate. Consideration should be given to providing such instrumentalities as the Housing Trust in South Australia and the Housing Commission in New South Wales with funds from the Commonwealth to meet substantially the housing problems and the problems of inadequacy in lying-in homes.
I have listened with great interest to honourable members on both sides of the House who have contributed to this debate. I hope that at an early date the Government will see its way clear to implementing a long range programme to meet this accruing problem of homes for the aged. The figures quoted to the House by me, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) and other speakers show that the Government should give this problem more sympathetic consideration and that it should do more in caring for our aged people, particularly in subsidising meals on wheels schemes and medical attention in the home and providing more lying-in homes for chronically ill aged persons. With those remarks, I leave it to the Parliament to consider the need to do something more in the immediate future for our aged people.
Debate (on motion by Sir John Cramer) adjourned.
– by leave - Honourable members will be interested to know that HMAS Boonaroo’, which was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 1st March, following the refusal of the Seamen’s Union to sail her to Point Wilson to load her cargo of military supplies for South Vietnam, has now successfully completed her mission and has returned to Australia. She berthed at Darwin today.
The ‘Boonaroo’ will not be required for further sailings to Vietnam at the present time. When she reaches Melbourne, she will be de-commissioned from the Royal Australian Navy and handed back to the Australian National Line. I am sure all honourable members would wish to join with me in paying a tribute to the officers and men of the Royal Australian Navy who sailed the ‘Boonaroo’, on the completion of an essential job well done.
– Mr Speaker, we have been listening to many interesting speeches this afternoon on this important subject, and it has been a relief to know that actually there have not been many accusations from the Opposition regarding it. However, I think some points should be mentioned. For instance, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who led for the Opposition, stated that the objective of the legislation or of the administration of the legislation was to provide for homes for only wealthy and healthy persons. I think that is a wrong statement to make. After all, this legislation is doing a magnificent job for worthy old people who are neither wealthy nor healthy.
In my own electorate the Jewish people are doing wonderful work in this regard. I think that you, Mr Speaker, know of this work. I pay a great tribute to these people, because I believe that throughout Australia and throughout the world their idea is that they have an obligation to old people. In my electorate we have the Montefiore Home. The people responsible for it have received $400,000 or $500,000 from the Government, and with this money a magnificent home for the aged has been built. I know most of these people and they are neither wealthy nor healthy. This home provides many things, as stated this afternoon by other speakers. The people have their own hospital, and nursing care is provided when needed.
The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), in one of his snide remarks this afternoon, referred to the Warringah Shire Council and indicated that that local government body might not be a suitable one to handle a home for the aged. I regret that he said that. I propose to say a little more about it. I remind the honourable member for Cunningham that there are bad people in every organisation, including the Federal and State Parliaments. He should not have spoken as he did. I want to particularly take him to task for his reference to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1956 which did not continue the original concession. He said that this was a tragedy for the old people. What he said showed a misconception of the purposes of this Bill. It is quite wrong to relate the two matters. The original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which expired in 1956, was introduced by the Labor Government in 1946 and it made no provision for the purchase of homes. This situation was amended by this Government. We provided the incentive for home ownership. However, the Bill we are now dealing with comes within an entirely different category. 1 remind honourable members again - this has been said before but I think it needs to be repeated because of statements such as that made by the- honourable member for Cunningham - that the purpose of this Bill is to encourage and assist organisations conducting homes for aged persons. The Government does not wish to run the show at all. The housing agreement, which has been referred to, is a different thing. This Bill is aimed at providing encouragement and assistance to approved organisations to do something for the old people. This is a very worthy objective. The Act states:
The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) made certain remarks about profits. I think his remarks were regrettable. My friend the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) dealt with this earlier this afternoon. The Act provides that to be eligible for assistance an organisation must be carrying on its work for purposes other than profit and gain. I understand that this is policed pretty rigidly by the Department of Social Services, so there is no need to refer to it. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that this Bill, amending the Act to allow local government to sponsor homes for the aged, has been long awaited throughout Australia. I know it has been eagerly awaited in my own electorate by the Lane Cove Municipal Council. Plans are already prepared, awaiting the passing of this Bill, to get going on a big scheme to provide homes for the aged. I believe this Bill will be a boon to the people of Australia, and to local government bodies in particular.
Anybody who considers elderly people and their housing conditions must realise that a comfortable home is essential to the happiness of men, women and children. To elderly people a home is the number one priority; it is a place where they can get comfort and companionship. For married people, it is a place where their children and friends can visit them. A home is somewhere to rest, to feel secure and to express their own individuality in their own way. With a woman’s touch it can be made a nice place. In fact it is the woman’s touch that makes a home. Incidentally, it is pleasing that a lady has been elected to this House.
I disagree with people who quote statistics in relation to matters such as are dealt with in this Bill. It is true that most elderly people in Australia have a home of their own and continue to live in it. Some move into smaller homes, just as my wife and I have done. This is happening all over Australia. As difficulties arise or circumstances change, new arrangements are made. But the important thing is for elderly people to have a home in which they can live in comfort and avoid one of the terrors of old age - loneliness. In Australia we do have a high percentage of home ownership, even amongst elderly people. Sometimes elderly people live with their families, and this may be all right. But there are times when conflict takes place between personalities and happiness cannot be achieved when elderly people live with sons or daughters who are married and have children of their own. Such people need assistance such as that provided by the Aged Persons Homes Act.
Certain institutions provide accommodation for people who are not capable of looking after homes of their own. These, too, are provided for in the Act, which has a wide coverage. Some of the residents may be able to look after their own rooms, but they have community dining rooms and a hospital in which they can be cared for. But these are not institutions; they are more like family homes. There are also aged people who rent units, flats, apartments, and in some cases, rooms.
– Some of the rents are very low.
– Yes, some of them are low but some are prohibitive. There are rackets in rentals and the people hardest hit by rackets are our elderly people. Those who have limited means are driven into a desperate position. I remind honourable members that the only real housing problem that we have in Australia today is the non-availability of rental homes. We have this problem because of action taken by the Australian Labor Party years ago in both the Federal and State spheres. The problem still persists in New South Wales under rent controls, which were carried on beyond the war years. I do not propose this afternoon to deal extensively with this matter, but it is still a problem and no-one can deny that the cost to Australia must run into millions of dollars. There is no doubt that the incentive for the investment of capital in rental homes has been destroyed by legislation sponsored by the Australian Labor Party. I spoke earlier about rackets in the charging of rents for rooms occupied by old people. This is one of the things that flow from legislation sponsored by the Labor Party. Honourable members opposite have a lot to blame themselves for in this regard.
Notwithstanding all these things great progress has been made under the legislation which was introduced by this Government in December 1954. 1 do not think that even the Labor Party would fail to congratulate the Government for bringing in that legislation. Indeed, I am certain that nobody in Australia would fail to do so. It was introduced initially by this Government and was not sponsored or suggested by the Labor Party, as honourable members opposite sometimes suggest. The Minister stated in his second reading speech on this Bill that up to date the Government has spent $66m on subsidies. There was a period when the Government was paying only £1 for £1 whereas now it is paying, in the present currency, $2 for $1. This means that probably more than $100m has been spent on the provision of these homes for the aged. I do not know whether the Minister has any figures.
– He said that $66m had been provided.
– That is so, but there is other spending that goes with it which must bring the total amount to at least $10Om. More than 25,000 people have been given homes. That figure is not to be laughed at or sneezed at; it is a rather substantial number of elderly people. It is only now that the scheme is really getting under way. In the early stages preparations had to be made, but the scheme is growing now.
It is very interesting to note the organisations which have availed themselves of this legislation. Religious bodies have provided 57.2% of the homes, charitable and benevolent organisations 37.6%, and ex- servicemen’s organisations only 2%. Perhaps the latter have not realised just what can be done in this sphere. Other organisations have provided 3.2% of the homes. The value of this legislation lies in the spirit of self-help that it engenders in the community. This is not just a scheme that is being run by the Government. A spirit of service and of self-help has been created and people are able to express themselves in the interests of their fellow men.
I believe that local government is the ideal vehicle by which to carry out this sort of work. I have some knowledge of local government. I am somewhat surprised that the suitability of local government to carry out this work has not been spoken of more by previous speakers, because the real purpose of this amending Bill is to enable local government to enter this field. I do not quite understand why the Government has delayed for so long in authorising local government to enter this field. I spent twenty-five years of my life in voluntary service in local government and, with a few years overlap, I have spent seventeen years in this place. I must say that as a result of that service I think that local government is the one form of the three-tier government in Australia that really gets down to the hearts of the people. Local government gets much nearer to the people than does either the Federal Government or the State governments. Thousands of splendid men throughout Australia are giving voluntary service today. Most of them have great ability and should not be looked down upon.
There is a tendency in this place, and perhaps in some other places, to think that local government can be regarded as a Cinderella - that it is an inferior sort of government. That is not so. I stand here with some knowledge of this subject and I say that no organisation gives better service to the people of Australia than does local government. Indeed, I go so far as to say that those engaged in local government have their ear to the ground, because they are dealing with domestic matters that mean much more to the people than do the matters that are dealt with in this place. I have been here long enough to know that many honourable members who have been elected to the Federal Parliament still live in the clouds. Many members take themselves too seriously and do not realise the need to get down alongside people and help them in their domestic affairs. Therefore I am prepared to take to task anybody who criticises the ability of local government to handle a matter such as we are considering today. The people who are engaged in local government certainly have the closest contact with the people.
Members of local governments know the individuals who need help. This is important. They can create community centres and similar facilities which can locate the people who should live in the aged persons homes. I have in my electorate an organisation called the Community Aid Centre. Perhaps the Minister has heard of it. lt was established by Alderman Gladys Leach in Lane Cove. Although the Centre was established locally, the idea has been taken up by councils throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and also in New Zealand and other countries. The Community Aid Centre makes it possible to give nursing and all sorts of help to old people in their own homes, lt does this so that they will not have to go out of their homes. The scheme is eminently successful and shows just what can be done in the field of local government. The Centre is sponsored by the Lane Cove Council in my electorate and, as I said, is doing a magnificent job. It shows what can be done in self help by the people. The whole purpose of this Bill is to encourage self help. The important thing about it - I do not think this can be overstressed - is that it creates the opportunity for people to give service to their fellow men. As all honourable members know, in a municipality you have senior citizens movements, Apex groups, Rotary clubs and Lions clubs. There are all the service clubs. If they know that assistance will be forthcoming from the Commonwealth they can get together to plan the provision of homes for elderly people. There can be no better service than caring for our old people. This is an obligation that rests on all of us. I pay a tribute to our young Minister for Social Services for the splendid job he has done in enabling local government bodies to participate in the provision of homes for the aged.
One aspect of the Bill worries me a little. I know that money given or lent to a local government body from a Commonwealth or State source does not attract a subsidy if it is used to provide accommodation for old people. But the application of this principle could give rise to some tricky cases. For instance, one could imagine that out of a loan allocation a council acquired land for a certain purpose. Suppose that having used the land for its purpose the council finds that it has a certain area surplus to its needs. Suppose it decides to give that land to an organisation for the purpose of building homes for the aged. It would be difficult to decide whether the land had been acquired with loan money. Could the council hand the surplus land to trustees appointed to see that it is used for the purposes described in the Act? In other words, does the Minister have a discretion in dealing with cases? He nods his head. That is good enough for me.
– There is a discretion but we would have to be careful to see whether the money paying for the original land had come from the Commonwealth or a State. Of course, this does not include ex gratia payments paid instead of rates.
– That is good. As long as there is a discretion I am happy. I will be happy, too, as long as the present Minister retains his portfolio because I am sure that he would consider sympathetically any problem that might arise.
I congratulate the Government on bringing down this legislation. I am sure that it will be welcomed throughout Australia. I think greater publicity should be given to the provisions of the Act because I think there are bodies of people in Australia who are not fully aware of what can be done under it. I suggest that the Opposition refrain from casting aspersions on the administration of this splendid legislation. I urge honourable members opposite to disregard the defamatory letters that have been circulated. I am confident that everybody of my acquaintance who is associated with the provision of homes for the aged and their conduct acts with the highest of motives, namely to assist his fellow man and the aged in our community to have homes to which they are justly entitled.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– I am very pleased to be able to take part in this debate because it touches a subject that is nearer to my heart than any other. I am pleased that so many honourable members from both sides of the House have spoken in the debate and that many more, according to the list of speakers, will take part in it. Perhaps my first duty is to thank the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair). It is not often that a member of the Australian Labor Party thanks a member of the Liberal Party, but on this occasion I would be ungrateful if I did not thank the Minister. I tried to convince the previous Minister for Social Services that he should amend the Aged Persons Homes Act. I told him of all the good that a rearrangement of the scheme would bring and how an increase of the subsidy to £3 for £1 would help the organisations. I told him also that a snag in the scheme was that land given by councils did not attract the subsidy of £2 for £1. This omission is now being rectified. The former Minister, as the House is aware, has left.
– He has gone to Ireland.
– That is right. At the time, we were not too pleased with his appointment. However, when I was in Ireland last year on my way to Canada, I found that the former Minister had been very well received. He was at the Dublin horse show and he showed that he could tell the fine points of every horse there. The people began to think he was a marvel.
I have tried in vain to get the Government to do something for age pensioners. The electorate of West Sydney contains more pensioners than does any other electorate in the Commonwealth. Several other electorates adjoining mine also contain large numbers of pensioners. Many organisations that own land need help to build homes for the aged. The Church of England had land in Glebe on which to build a home for aged people and it was able to get about £180,000 from the Government. Some years ago we induced the Sydney City Council to buy a home and now seventy elderly men are happily accommodated in it. It was bought by the Council, but the Council could not get the subsidy of £2 for £1 at that time. It had to foot the bill for the whole cost. We have generally found that it is impossible for organisations to get the money on which the £2 for £1 will be paid. I have racked my brains trying to think of some way to overcome the difficulty.
Unscrupulous business people in Sydney, as in every other large city, are not concerned about the housing of pensioners. I will give an example of this. A man bought twenty-two houses in Glebe Road. Some twenty-eight pensioners had rooms in these houses. He said to the tenants: ‘You will have to get out within the next four weeks’. They said: ‘No, we do not have to get out’. He said: ‘Yes. We have a Liberal Government now. It will not protect you like the Labor Government did.’ This went on for four or five weeks and the people in the houses gradually moved out. Then this tycoon came along and said to one tenant: It is worth £500 or £1,000 to get out’. This woman said: ‘What about all the other pensioners who are here? Some of them have been here as long as I have.’ He said: That is nothing; we will put the bulldozer through them’. That is practically what was done. These people came to my office every Monday, not one or two at a time but possibly twenty at a time. All I could do was to send them to the chamber magistrate. The gas, electricity and water supply to the houses was cut off. The chamber magistrate said: ‘I can do nothing for you, except to instruct you that as long as you pay your rent the owner must supply gas, electricity, water and everything else that goes with the tenancy’. Eventually the businessman succeeded and he moved all these people out.
It was pitiful to see the scramble of these elderly people trying to get another place at the same rental. Where could they get accommodation? It was too far to send them to Bathurst where the first home for aged pensioners was built. This home is a credit to the Australian Labor Party and to the late Gus Kelly, who was Minister at the time. The first home was built at Bathurst and many other centres have since built homes for both men and women. I have visited the home at Bathurst on two occasions. I would like to see a replica of it in my electorate.
We are dealing now with a Bill to amend the Aged Persons Homes Act. It can be proved beyond doubt that Labor started this scheme. The grant at that time was £1 for £1. As I have said at other times, possibly the person we should thank for increasing the grant is Sir Robert Menzies’ good lady, Dame Pattie. She evidently had some say in increasing it to £2 for £1. Being desperate I wrote to Sir Robert Menzies about a month before he left office. I said to him: The promises you have made to members like myself are useless because we cannot get the £1 that is necessary before we can get the £2.’ Later, after he had ceased to be Prime Minister, I received a letter saying that the Government could not give any more than £2 for £1. I think the Minister for Social Services will agree that I have visited his office on about twenty occasions trying to get something done about this matter. It matters not who is given the credit for any improvements that are made, so long as the pensioners and other people who cannot afford to pay £4 or £5 for a room are given a chance to obtain reasonable shelter.
I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) say this afternoon that this was practically his plan. He said that he intended to do this and that he called everyone together. I have listened to the honourable member for a long time. I knew him when I was an alderman in the City of Sydney and I knew him also as a county councillor. The honourable member caused a strike at Bunnerong when an election was approaching. He wanted to go to Wyee coal mine and I was the only one whom he trusted enough to take with him. We arrived at the coal mine and, naturally, we had to go down into its depths to see what was happening. Each carrying a lamp, down we went into the mine. We were not down there very long when we both got the jitters and lost the lamps. Honourable members can imagine the plight we were in. When we had been brought out of the mine in the cage I said to him: ‘God forgive you for bringing me here and taking me down the mine.’ People half a mile away would have been able to hear us praying. The honourable member said to me: “That is the longest day I shall live. I shall never condemn a coalminer again.’ Yet this afternoon the honourable member implied that it was the State Labor Government in New South Wales which had been the cause of all this trouble.
– That is right.
– I should explain to the Minister that this gentleman who blamed the Labor Government was questioned and it was found that the Government had resumed land belonging to him for the purpose of building homes for returned soldiers. My statement in this regard can be proved from the records. From the time that that land was resumed by the State Government until the time of settlement the honourable member would not accept the government’s price; he waited four or five years for the Liberal Party to come to office before accepting a price.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member come back to the Bill before the Chair.
– My point is that the honourable member claimed here this afternoon that he was engaged in building homes for the aged and had been very helpful in that regard. The New South Wales Labor Government built some flats near the bridge, which is known as Jack Lang’s Bridge, and named them Greenway Flats, so that Government did something about providing accommodation for the aged. In stating his solution to the housing problem the honourable member said that he could see no need for one working girl to occupy a flat. His suggestion was that there should be two in each flat. His second proposal was that anybody with a large home should take in people who were homeless and allow them to occupy a room. I said to him one day: ‘Your family is now grown up and married. How many pensioners do you have in your big home?’ He replied: That is a different question altogether’. Having in mind what has happened in the past, I shall wait and see how many homes the honourable member or his committee builds for aged persons.
– How is the honourable member’s programme going?
– Not too bad. We have engaged the Sydney Town Hall for a big rally. I will not mention the time or the price yet, but perhaps later-
-Order! I am having a little difficulty in ascertaining the relevance of the honourable member’s remarks to the subject matter of the Bill. I suggest that he come back to the Bill.
– I agree with you, Mr Speaker, that possibly I might be a little away from the subject. Nevertheless, we are discussing one thing only, the building of homes for aged people.
– And the honourable member is trying to do just that.
– Yes, I am trying to do just that. I feel that in the next twelve months shire councils, city councils and other organisations will have the opportunity of their lives to provide housing as they will receive $2 for each $1 that they contribute for this purpose. They will receive also many other benefits such as guidance, architects and help to look after premises. “Why then should they not make a start and build homes for those good people who have worked all their lives in suburbs like West Sydney or any other industrial area? They are the mothers and fathers of men and boys who served in two world wars. Yet in their old age they are not provided with housing. Naturally the pension for these people should be greater than it is. But that is not a subject for discussion in this debate which is confined to homes for aged persons. The Government cannot claim praise for the work done by the Labor Party in this field. Every block of flats built by the State Labor Government in New South Wales has provided homes for at least twenty pensioners. These premises can be rented at £1 per week. In addition the Labor Government built blocks of flats for pensioners only.
– There is nothing like that in Canberra.
– In Canberra there is private enterprise, and I understand that there are more people without homes here than in any other city in this country.
– There is a greater lag here than anywhere.
– That is because of private enterprise, and the blame can be laid at the door of the Liberal Party and nowhere else. The Government is talking about building homes for migrants and allowing them to occupy the premises for six months. That is a good thing, but of course it will not be so easy after six months to get them out. The Government will find that it will have more trouble than if it had never built the homes.
– Will the honourable member tell us about his programme?
– Under my programme it is proposed that in the very near future we will begin to build flats in West Sydney. A few days ago I telephoned a very good friend of mine, Sir Edward Hallstrom, and said: ‘When I became the member for West Sydney and things were very bad in the community you came to the rescue and gave me a refrigerator each year to be used as a prize in a guessing competition in order to provide assistance to pensioners’. He said: I am sloping out of the business now and I have nothing to do with the zoo’. T haven’t, either’, I said. ‘But’ I said, ‘this is a pensioner matter we are speaking of. He said: T will give you a fridge’. He is a private businessman who can make such a donation. However a member has to chase the Government for about twelve months before it will agree to the slightest donation of money.
– In other words, there are some advantages in free enterprise.
– Free enterprise sometimes has a conscience, but not always.
– Order! The honourable member is entitled to be heard without interruption.
– I hope that when the Budget is determined the $2 for $1 subsidy will be increased, as has been suggested by the Labor Party, to $3 for Si, and that extra money will be provided for pensioners. The Government is getting very liberal in its grants for education. It is assisting private schools, although it could do more, so perhaps it will be more liberal with pensioners. I ask it not to be niggardly. If it thinks that not enough homes for the aged are being built then it should increase the subsidy. I hope and trust that the good graces of the Minister will prevail at all times as they have done during the last three or four months and that homes for the aged will not have to depend on the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) but that the Government will take the responsibility for helping people to build these homes.
– The purpose of this Bill is to enable local government bodies to make land available or to provide financial assistance for the building of homes for the aged and to attract the Government subsidy of $2 for $1. This is an important advance in this legislation which has been regarded by all members of the Parliament and by the community at large as a valuable contribution to Australia’s national welfare. So far I believe that $66m has been allocated by the Government to this scheme and that 25,000 aged people have been provided with housing. This, in itself, is indicative of the success of the scheme. It is important to the lives of our elderly people. This is not to say, as has been shown by the number of thoughtful contributions by honourable members from both sides of the House, that we need not go further in this field. I believe we should consider the provision of total care for the aged. The original Act, passed I believe in 1954, allowed for a £1 for £1 subsidy for the building of homes for the aged. The legislation was amended a few years later to increase the subsidy to £2 for £1 to charitable organisations and churches which raised money for this specific purpose. As has been mentioned, the former honourable member for Sturt (Sir Keith Wilson) and the present honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) have been active in their States in promoting this scheme.
Last year the legislation was extended to provide a subsidy for the building of nursing homes within aged home units. This created some anomalies which I should like the Government to examine. For instance, where a married couple is in a home for the aged and one becomes ill and goes into the infirmary in the unit, or possibly into a hospital, for a while, they both go on to the single rate of pension and one goes on to supplementary assistance. This raises some questions that need to be examined.
In his second reading speech, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), in referring to the original Act, said:
The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
I should like later to discuss more fully the latter part of this statement because it does involve the question of total care of aged people. The Act has been valuable in assisting to provide adequate housing for the aged people in circumstances where housing accommodation has been in short supply or where housing has been of poor quality. The Act has, of necessity because of the subsidy and the shortage of funds, enabled a lot of people who are better off than others to secure such accommodation but it has also, as was shown by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) in his fine speech this afternoon, enabled a lot of people for whom the pension is their sole income to obtain good and adequate housing. The people entering these homes are getting older, and quite naturally will get older, and this raises questions about what they do when they get ill and need attention. The Government recognised the need for providing hospitals or infirmaries in the very large villages of aged persons homes and it allowed a subsidy for the building of nursing home beds within these units.
Undoubtedly the major welfare problem we are facing is the question of total care for the aged, particularly when they may have an illness from which they will not fully recover. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) made a valuable point when he suggested that when homes for the aged were built they be built not too far from the former residences and homes of the people who were to occupy them. Research workers have shown that once an elderly couple or an elderly person is shifted more than thirty minutes away by public transport from their relatives then the number of visits by their family decreases in a short period to just Christmas, Easter and birthdays. There is almost a total loss of contact even though the person concerned has moved only such a short distance that his new location can be reached in thirty minutes by public transport. This constitutes a very real problem.
I do believe that most people prefer to stay in their own homes. This afternoon the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) quoted the results of a research project in the Richmond district of Melbourne which formed the basis of a book by Dewdney and Collings in which it was shown that more than 80% of the people who answered the questions put to them by the field workers wished to stay in their own homes. The honourable member made two very valuable suggestions. One of them was in relation to domiciliary care, which I intend to develop a little later, and another was that the Government investigate whether or not some scheme could be implemented to provide assistance or loans for repairs (o or maintenance of the homes of these persons. I lend my support to the recommendation that he made to the Government in this connection.
The figures show that the majority of people want to stay in their own homes, near their families and relatives and in surroundings with which they are familiar. They want to be near neighbours whom they know well. I was in the Newcastle district recently examining a scheme about which I will speak fairly fully in a few moments, and Dr Gibson, who is Medical Director of the Royal Newcastle Hospital-
– An outstanding man.
– Yes, he is an outstanding man. He said that it is considerably important that an elderly couple’s neighbours should include some young people, and that they should play a normal part in a living and active community. It is of considerable importance that people have the opportunity to live in normal surroundings. I too suggest that when these home units for aged persons are being built - and there is a great need for them where housing for elderly people is inadequate or where they can no longer afford to live in their old homes - those units be not built all together in great villages but in smaller groups that can become part of the general community. I believe that this is where the legislation now before us for including local government authorities in the subsidy arrangements will play a very large part. These authorities sometimes have property in the form of houses, or they have land that can be made available, and these properties and land can be used in such a way that the home units provided for the aged persons can be integrated into the community as a whole. I admire Sir Keith Wilson’s scheme in Adelaide in which this principle has been adopted. Small groups of homes for the aged form parts of the suburbs in which they are situated and there is not a great aggregation of units in one spot. To achieve this a tremendous amount of work has been done by a large number of people.
I also wish to pay tribute to a colleague of mine in the New South Wales Parliament, the member for Gosford, Ted Humphries, who has done a remarkable amount of study and work in this field of the care of aged people. I also pay a tribute to the Director and the executive of the Hornsby Hospital who at the moment are trying to implement a pilot domiciliary scheme. They have done a tremendous amount of work in putting this scheme forward and bringing it to the notice of the State Government and the Hospitals Commission of New South Wales.
I would also like to express my appreciation of the work done and ability shown by Dr Sax and in particular the committee that produced a report for the New South Wales Parliament titled ‘The Care of the Aged’. This report was presented to the Minister for Health in the New South Wales Government, Mr Jago, in August 1965. It is a very valuable document indeed which I believe should be read by all honourable members who are interested in the promotion of the welfare of the aged and the provision of assistance for them.
I would like to concentrate mainly on the work of Dr Gibson who is, as I said, the Medical Director of the Royal Newcastle Hospital, and on the geriatric service that he has established for the Newcastle district in that hospital. He started it in 1954 with the assistance and co-operation of the Hospitals Commission, and he has built up a very able and valuable staff in this field. I would particularly mention Miss Grace Parbury. who is the social worker for Dr Gibson and who investigates with Dr Gibson each of the cases that come before the notice of the hospital.
Perhaps I should outline the principles upon which this geriatric service is based. The service forms part of the base hospital of the Newcastle district. The hospital has, of course, all the facilities that are normally found in base hospitals. This is essential for a domiciliary care scheme for aged persons. It is important that it be based on a general hospital where there are clinical facilities, a geriatric service, a consultant medical staff, the normal clinics that go with the hospital for the carrying out of any kind of examination and social workers who can and must play a very important part in the scheme. There should be, as there is at the Newcastle hospital, a retraining unit and day hospital in which there are occupational therapists, psysiotherapists and speech therapists, where a patient who has suffered a crippling stroke or has arthritis or some other illness that comes with age can be retrained in order to return to his own home.
In addition there should be a nursing service in the district so that when the person concerned goes back to his home or into one of these homes for the aged, nurses can continue to provide professional assistance. There should be a housekeeper service. Under the Newcastle scheme this is administered and financed by the State departments of child welfare and social welfare. There should be equipment available tor lending, as there is in the Newcastle scheme, so that the geriatric consultant - in that case Dr Gibson with his social worker - may go to the home of a patient, examine the facilities and equipment that he has and provide,
On permanent loan if necessary, a hospital bed if that is required, ramps, a wheel chair, commodes and all other equipment necessary to allow the person concerned to lead a normal life in his own home. In addition the scheme should provide for alterations to a person’s house to ensure his comfort and his ability to use necessary equipment freely.
Then there is the family doctor who plays an extremely important part in the whole of the scheme, right from the very beginning. This happens now in the Newcastle district. The general practitioner family doctor who feels that one of his patients needs consultant services gets in touch with the hospital, and the Director or the social worker comes out and discusses the matter and a decision is made whether the person concerned goes into a general ward at the hospital or whether he can be catered for initially with domiciliary care. In addition there is the day hospital, as I mentioned earlier, where retraining and other assistance are provided.
This scheme has a great deal of merit. The majority of patients who come into the general hospital are put into the general wards. If a person is aged he is examined and an initial assessment is made. As in other wards of the hospital, after a patient has been there for more than thirty days a further assessment is made, and it is the whole team, not just the Director and not just the social worker, that reviews once a week the record ‘and progress of each person. If the person is in his own home the housekeeper service sends in a report, as does the district nursing service. Once a week supervision is exercised, quietly and unknown in many cases, over all the patients and elderly people who come under this scheme. I believe that this scheme plays a definite part. It should be the direction in which the Government and the people are looking in relation to the care and welfare of aged people.
Denmark was the first country to establish homes for the aged. It commenced to do so seventy-five or eighty years ago. Large villages of these homes were formed. I believe many of these villages are being dismantled and that domiciliary care schemes under which patients can be kept in their own homes in their own community, with their own family if possible, are being established. It is important that the family should come into the picture at all stages. When a patient is in the retraining unit, the family is brought in to assist.
The costs of this scheme have been published. The domiciliary care unit at the Royal Newcastle Hospital has between 600 and 700 patients regularly on its books. The average cost of keeping people in their homes last year after they had been through the hospital and the retraining unit - indeed through the total scheme - was $2.30.9 a week. In 1965 it was $2.89 a week. In my own district of Gosford, the majority of elderly patients who enter hospital go to a convalescent home on discharge because there is no domiciliary care scheme. A few are able to benefit under the Newcastle scheme, but generally they cannot do so. If they go to a nursing home, the Government is willing to pay a subsidy of $14 a week to help them. Once they are institutionalised they are usually there for the rest of their lives, whereas under the domiciliary and total care scheme they go back to their home and their family.
Statistics showing the number of people who have gone through the hospital and how they have progressed have been published. An article on this matter was published in the ‘Lancet’ of 7th August 1965. Reviews of this scheme were made last year in the Australian Health Education Advisory Digest, Volume 3, No. 3. In addition, the Australian Association of Gerontology has published details of the scheme, and the annual conference issue of the Hospitals Association Journal has published information about the work which has been done by Dr Gibson in the Newcastle district. Under the domiciliary care scheme approximately 66% of the people discharged from the rehabilitation unit go back into their own homes. I imagine almost the reverse would be the position where facilities are not available.
The New South Wales Government has taken a tremendous interest in this matter, and I hope it will adopt the principle of the report of the consultative committee under the chairmanship of Dr Sax. If it does, a large amount of capital and assistance will be required. I believe the governments of the States and the Commonwealth could deal with this matter jointly. For a number of years this Parliament has agreed to assist aged people. It has had great pleasure in providing homes for the aged. However, I believe it can make a further advance.
I do not pretend to have a simple solution to the problem, but I suggest the establishment of an inter-departmental committee of representatives from the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services to consider the matter. The Department of Social Services provides pensions for aged persons, and the Department of Health subsidises their hospitalisation. In a total care scheme the closest co-operation between the two departments would be necessary. A conference of the Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health is now being held in Perth. I hope this matter is being discussed officially by the Ministers. I believe that it is proposed to hold a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Social Services later this year. I hope that this proposal is adopted and that the scheme I have mentioned will be discussed at that conference. Ultimately, if such a scheme gets off the ground and the areas of responsibility as between the States and the Commonwealth can be defined and it can be established who is responsible financially for assistance in the various fields, I believe there should be a joint meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health and the Ministers for Social Services. A decision could be made on a national basis to give total care to the aged instead of the isolated care we are attempting to give today.
We should consider providing capital for geriatric units. This scheme has two essential components. The first is that it must be attached to a general hospital which has such facilities and a professional consultant service. Secondly, the family unit must be maintained. This would not eliminate the necessity for providing homes for the aged. They would still play a part, as would nursing homes and rest homes. The important thing is to endeavour to keep people in their own homes for as long as possible if they wish.
I have investigated this matter and have” been advised that no university in Australia offers a diploma course or plays a full part in training people in geriatrics or gerontology. Such training is essential. I suggest that the Government ask the Australian Universities Commission to consider this point, because we need people trained in these special fields of medicine in addition to social workers, nurses and technicians. At the William Lyne geriatric unit, which is the rehabilitation training unit of the Newcastle Hospital, all nurses spend part of their time training in geriatrics and the care of aged people and in learning about their particular illnesses.
I support this Bill, which I believe is an important advance. I would like to see consideration given to an advance in this general area of domiciliary or total care.
Debate (on motion by Mr Collard) adjourned.
– by leave - I make this statement in order to indicate to the House the responsibilities of the Minister, the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Actuary, and the responsibilities of the trustees of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. I do this because I think there may have been misapprehension in the minds of some honourable members as to the independence of the trustees of the Fund and the Commonwealth Actuary and the capacity of the Minister to direct either the trustees of the Fund or the Actuary as to what should be done. On 6th April I advised the House that I would make inquiries concerning the progress of the quinquennial investigation of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. The requirements of section 22 of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948-1966 are as follows:
I emphasise the words “The Board shall inform the Treasurer’. 1 have ascertained that the Commonwealth Actuary has now completed his report on the investigation of the Fund as at 30th June 1964 and has transmitted it to the Defences Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. The Board however has not yet informed me of the result of the investigation as it is required to do.
I am informed that the Actuary’s report is a lengthy and complex document. This is the first full-scale review of the Fund since the introduction of the 1959 legislation which made a number of important changes and placed the Fund on an actuarial basis, and I understand that a number of issues have emerged which require very careful consideration. I have been advised that the
Board is reviewing the report and is holding special meetings to expedite the formulation of its views on the Actuary’s conclusions preparatory to informing me of the result of the investigation.
The Government is aware of the wide interest in this subject and will give urgent consideration to any necessary legislation arising from the matters reported on by the Actuary, with a view to introducing the legislation during the Budget session. Sir, I point out that both the Actuary and the Board are completely independent, and in no circumstances would I attempt to bring any influence to bear upon them concerning the way in which they should report or the actual reporting that is carried out to me. I present the following paper:
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits FundQuinquennial Investigation - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
States Grants (Science Laboratories) Bill 1967. States Grants (Advanced Education) Bill (No. 2) 1967.
Debate resumed (vide page 1276).
– I would not expect to hear anyone oppose legislation which was the means of improving or advancing the opportunities for aged people to obtain good accommodation at a reasonable charge, that is, of course, provided that the legislation was framed and administered in such a manner as to prevent exploitation of the aged people and also to prevent unscrupulous individuals or organisations from using it for their own gain rather than for the welfare of aged persons. It seems to me that possibly the Aged Persons Homes Act may not at present have that safeguard, unless sub-section (1) of section 8 of the Act gives the Director-General of Social Services the right to accept or reject conditions or terms under which the homes will be conducted and the terms under which aged people will be admitted.
If that section does not provide the necessary safeguards, then I can see no other part of the Act that could be used to that end. If that is the case then the Act should be further amended to ensure that unscrupulous people cannot take advantage of it to suit their own purposes. However, even if these safeguards are not present at the moment, the Act is of considerable benefit to a number of aged people and will continue to be of benefit in the future. Therefore, both the Government’s proposal “to extend the number of eligible organisations and the Opposition’s proposal to extend them still further should receive the support of this House. This does not mean that we condone or support any lack of safeguards in the Act. We would not condone the possible exploitation of the very people that the Act sets out to assist, because the way would still be wide open for the Government to bring down the necessary amendments.
Fortunately, even if the Act is wide open the great majority of the eligible organisations do not and would not for their own gains take an unfair advantage of the Act or of aged people. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) during the debate this afternoon read a letter which he had received from someone making certain accusations, and he then read letters from certain organisations refuting those accusations. I do not suggest for a moment that these organisations in their reply were at all dishonest or that they were trying to paint the wrong picture. As I have said, I am quite certain that the great majority of the organisations do the right thing. However, it does appear to me that there could well be one or two organisations that are exploiting the situation, and if that is so then it is one or two too many and they should be dealt with.
If section 8 of the Act does permit the Director-General or some other person to determine the conditions under which the homes will be conducted, it would seem that in one or two cases either the conditions are not what they should be or are not being adhered to. If that is so an inquiry would surely be warranted in the interests of everyone concerned. No doubt over the years most honourable members at some time or another have received complaints or inquiries regarding the methods used by certain organisations to establish and maintain their housing schemes. I have certainly had that experience myself, both by personal approach and by way of correspondence.
Mr Deputy Speaker, if the information I have received is correct it would seem that in some instances aged pensioners have been treated in a very shameful manner and certainly not in the way in which it was intended they should be treated under the terms of the Aged Persons Homes Act. Some of the things I have been told are almost unbelievable, and it is difficult to accept that anyone would treat old people in such a manner; but it is insisted that the information is quite accurate and that these things are actually happening and nothing is being done to prevent them.
My information is that it is possible for an organisation to demand a fairly substantial deposit, as much as $2,000, before it will accept an aged person into its home. Not only does it demand the deposit but the deposit must be paid quite some time before the person concerned is permitted to move in. Worse still, I am also informed that even after paying the deposit the person holds no equity in the property. If he should die immediately after taking possession, or if he Hinds the accommodation unsuitable and decides to move out, the deposit is forfeited and the accommodation is offered to someone else on the same terms; that is, another deposit of $2,000 is required. So the deposit simply is a form of key money. Apparently it is normal to make this advance payment of rent but of course many of the pensioners would not live long enough to occupy the accommodation for the length of time for which they were covered. I have also been informed that if a married couple pay their deposit and obtain accommodation for a married couple and then one dies, the other person is transferred to single quarters without adjustment to the deposit paid and without a refund. Then the rooms occupied by the married couple are again rented out after another $2,000 key money is paid. I am told that this type of thing does happen.
Another complaint I have received is that organisations are making accommodation available to elderly people who can well afford more expensive accommodation, rather than making it available to aged persons who are in desperate need of a place to live but are unable to meet the high deposits. By using these methods an organisation apparently could gather more and more money quickly and so be able to attract much more of the Commonwealth subsidy. It can then extend its buildings, gather more deposit, attract more subsidy, and so the vicious circle goes on and the people whom the Act sets out to assist receive the last consideration. If this sort of thing does go on, it must surely mean, firstly, that the Act does not permit the Director-General or some other responsible person the right to determine the manner in which a home will be conducted; secondly, that the methods permitted are too loose; ‘thirdly, that the terms are not being observed; or fourthly, that inquiries are not being made to ascertain whether the conditions laid down are being met. If complaints and accusations are being made, then definite and supported contradictions should be obtained, or an inquiry should be held.
In my own home town, Kalgoorlie, we have a very good .illustration of the work that can be accomplished by a genuine organisation. We have What is called a Pensioners Lodge which is run by a committee of local people with the assistance of trades people and the community in general. The home is a building of which all can be justifiably proud. It is run in a manner which does them great credit. I think that at the moment it accommodates about thirty-two pensioners, male and female. There is no initial charge levied on the pensioners - there is no entry charge. They pay a certain percentage of their pension. For this they receive excellent attention. Their meals are prepared and served, their rooms and washing are attended to, and they have a radio or other forms of relaxation and entertainment. There we have a really good organisation doing a really good job. There would be many others in this category. But these homes do need further assistance. I feel that organisations such as that should be given further financial help towards the upkeep of the home. Costs are continually rising and it becomes more difficult to raise by way of public contribution sufficient funds to meet those rising costs. I think an inquiry would prove that that particular organisation and many others are not only deserving of further help but are entitled to it.
Mr Deputy Speaker, there is no doubt that it is becoming more and more difficult for elderly people to buy or rent a house at a price within the means of the ordinary person. The ever increasing cost of land and building materials is putting houses further out of the reach of people who do not have a fairly substantial bank balance. While there are a number of elderly people in the fortunate position of being in reasonably good financial circumstances there are thousands who find it very difficult to even survive, let alone pay high rentals or purchase a house of their own. The very fact that so many elderly people do not own their own homes or are unable to meet present-day rents has placed a fairly heavy burden on hospital accommodation. More and more elderly people are becoming almost permanent patients in hospitals simply because they have nowhere else to go. It is common knowledge that many hospitals are obliged to reserve beds to ensure that old people can be accommodated if the need arises. This situation has been further aggravated by the steep increase in hospital charges, which has meant that hospital benefit contributions also have increased. This in turn has caused a number of people to reduce their hospital insurance merely to meet public ward charges rather than the charge levied for treatment in four-bed wards or two-bed wards. As a result public ward accommodation is at a premium.
It was in November 1954 that legislation was first introduced to enable the Commonwealth Government to make grants to certain organisations to assist in the establishment of homes for aged people. The assistance was given on a £1 for £1 basis and £1.5m was appropriated to meet the expected expenditure in the early months of the scheme. Under that legislation the grants could be made to churches, recognised charitable bodies and institutions, and other organisations approved by the Governor-General. In 1957 the amount of the subsidy or grant was raised from a basis of £1 for £1 to £2 for £1. The Bill now before us will extend the field of eligible organisations which may participate in this scheme by including local government authorities.
I welcome the extension of the list of eligible organisations but I am rather disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to increase the Commonwealth contribution to the costs. I do not say this in criticism of the Government, but because I feel certain that if the scheme is to continue to provide, as we all hope it will, the everincreasing number of homes which are required we will have to increase the Commonwealth proportion. It may not be long before we have to increase the Commonwealth subsidy to a basis of even $4 for $1, or $5 for $1. I think it would be much better to do this in a gradual way and on this occasion the Commonwealth should have increased the grant to at least $3 for SI. After all, the Government is actually shedding its responsibilities in regard to housing for the aged. This is a national responsibility, not the responsibility of the individual communities.
I am also disappointed that the Government did not see fit to extend organisation eligibility to trade unions, many of which would welcome the opportunity to assist their members when they reach an age when they can no longer accept employment. A large number of elderly people could be accommodated through the activities of their union. This is an avenue which should have been explored by the Government. A Labor government would have done this in addition to including local government authorities in the list of eligible organisations.
I hope that the Government will accept our amendment to include trade unions. It may be said that unions could contribute now to other organisations operating in this field if they wished to do so. But that is not the point. They may be more inclined - and could be bound by their constitution and rules - to assist only their own members. After all, this would not be undesirable providing they were helping those most in need. They could certainly play a big part in helping to overcome the acute accommodation situation. If the trade unions are prepared to participate then I think they should have been given the opportunity on this occasion. Of one thing we could be sure: local government authorities and trade unions both would operate in an honest manner and ensure that aged people reaped the benefit and not scavengers or parasites operating an organisation for their own good.
This scheme is not costing the Commonwealth a lot of money. When measured against what is being achieved it is costing very little. Since its inception in 1954 the total amount paid out by way of grants to June last year was only $58,418,529. That might sound a fair bit of money in dollars but when broken down to pounds it does not sound so much. As a result of that expenditure, plus, of course, the money collected or raised by the several organisations, 23,578 persons were provided with accommodation. However, whereas in 1955-56 the average subsidy cost of providing one person with accommodation was $1,320, by 1965-66 that average cost had risen to $3,292.
This rise would be due largely to the increased cost of land, buildings and equipment, although I understand from the report presented that rather than renovate inferior buildings - as was done to some extent in the early stages - the practice today is to build new accommodation. I think that this practice should be encouraged. The fact that the cost per person accommodated is rising so steeply proves beyond doubt that the Commonwealth will have to provide more finance each year even if we want the accommodation rate to remain only constant. If we want the rate to improve - surely that should be our objective - we will have to provide even more. For this reason it will be necessary to increase the Commonwealth subsidy above the present rate of $2 for $1 and so give a greater incentive to those who contribute to the funds of the several organisations.
Accommodation which can be built or provided under this Act may be of several types providing the accommodation satisfies the Director-General of Social Services, and, after the Bill now before the House is passed, the Director-General or his authorised officer. The buildings may be large homes. I do not mean houses which can accommodate quite a large number of aged persons. They may be houses of the same style built to accommodate a lesser number, or they may be units to accommodate one person. So the scope for building is fairly wide and should meet requirements whether the building is in a capital city or in a small town in a country area. If a number of pensioners are to be accommodated, the building can be one large structure or several small ones. If only a few aged people are to be accommodated it may be better to build double units or even single units, but the way is open for an organisation to build whatever it desires.
I am quite certain that the inclusion of local shires or local governing bodies in the legislation will lead to the construction of a number of buildings or units which would otherwise never be built. I am sure that a large majority of local authorities will welcome the amendment to the Act and the opportunity to do more for the old people in their district. Many local authorities have already provided units for age pensioners, and to be able to participate in this scheme will give them a greater interest and I believe will increase their activity. I imagine that in the majority of smaller towns or districts, and even in some of the larger towns, local authorities are the logical bodies to organise and administer such a scheme as this. They have the necessary equipment readily available and they have people at their disposal in most instances to deal with matters that require urgent attention. They also have people who are qualified and are accustomed to dealing with matters on both the organisational and financial sides and have a wide field of contact.
As the Minister has said, local authorities are in a position to encourage the establishment of community bodies to resolve particular problems and also - this is very important - to organise fund raising machinery. This type of organisation is not [available in many smaller communities to either religious or charitable organisations or organisations of former members of the defence forces such as the Returned Services League. Organisations in the latter category usually suffer from a large turnover of interested people; they frequently find that their secretary, president or treasurer has been transferred from the district. “Should a local shire secretary, officer or councillor be transferred or removed, his position is immediately or very quickly filled and consequently no problem arises. The only restriction that I can see is that local authorities will not be permitted to use or to contribute as a grant any moneys which they have received from either a State government or the Federal government, but that restriction is not just peculiar to local authorities; it applies to every other organisation in exactly the same way.
There is no compulsion on a local shire to participate in the scheme if it does not wish to do so. If a shire cannot see its way clear to be implicated in such a scheme naturally it does not have to be; but if a shire does wish to start an aged persons homes building scheme, or wishes to participate in a scheme, it will be at complete liberty to do so. A shire could not do this previously.
Right from the beginning of the scheme the religious, charitable and benevolent bodies have played by far the major role. The 1965-66 report of the Director-General of Social Services shows that of a total of 1,333 grants made by the Commonwealth since the inception of the scheme religious groups have received 683 and charitable or benevolent groups have received 584. Of the total number of 23,218 persons who were accommodated up to last July, religious bodies were responsible for accommodating 13,191 and charitable benevolent bodies were responsible for accommodating 8,793. That is a fairly good effort in anybody’s language. The demand for accommodation for aged people is constantly increasing and will continue to increase as a result of the rise in the number of pensioners year by year. An examination of the report of the Director-General of Social Services shows that in 1954, when the Aged Persons Homes Act was passed, there were 477,979 age and invalid pensioners. By 1957, when the subsidy was raised from £1 for £1 to £2 for £1, the number of age and invalid pensioners had increased to 554,107 - an increase of 76,128 in three years. By June 1966 the number had increased to 743,629, which was an increase of 265,650 since the Act came into force, or more than half as many again. Of that increase of 265.650. altogether 239.000 were age pensioners. This gives some indication of how the demand for homes will increase as time goes by. This large increase in the number of pensioners will continue, and there is a further indication that the Commonwealth Government will have to increase its proportion of the cost to meet this greater demand for homes.
There can be no doubt that despite the efforts and good work of most of the several organisations that are eligible for assistance under this legislation hundreds of aged people are still without accommodation. Although this fact cannot be measured accurately, honourable members can get some idea of it from an examination of the report of the Director-General of Social Services, which sets out the number of age pensioners in each State and also the number of aged people who have been accommodated as a result of this legislation. Of a total of 636,984 age pensioners in Australia only 23,218 have been provided with accommodation under the Aged Persons Homes Act, despite the interest and activity of the several eligible organisations. On a percentage basis the number receiving accommodation, measured against the total number of age pensioners, is as follows: South Australia leads with 7.2%; the Australian Capital Territory is next with 6.5%; then comes Tasmania with 5%; the Northern Territory is next with almost 5%; Western Australia follows with 4.8%; Victoria with slightly more than 4%; and New South Wales with 2.5%. The first thing that strikes anyone is the difference between New South Wales and South Australia. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) suggested this afternoon that this was due to the efforts of a certain Liberal member of this Parliament. The real reason, of course, is that in 1956 the New South Wales Labor Government introduced a scheme whereby pensioners were able to obtain accommodation at a very low rental. The honourable member for West Sydney (Mr Minogue) gave us a full illustration of this tonight. On the other hand South Australia, which had had a Liberal Government for a long time, had done practically nothing in the field of housing for aged persons, with the result that when this scheme came into operation there was a very wide field in which it could operate. The same thing applies in the Australian Capital Territory.
We notice from the report that this is the first occasion on which any State other than New South Wales and Victoria has achieved the highest annual total. It is quite obvious that this result has flowed from the existence of a Labor Government in that State. However, while in other States the percentages catered for are almost the same, very clearly much more must be done. The Government’s implementation on this occasion of just part of Labor’s policy in relation to local authorities will assist considerably. The inclusion of local authorities as eligible organisations under the Act will widen the field of activity very considerably. I do not know just how many local authorities there are in Australia, but in Western Australia alone there are between 140 and 150, including those in the metropolitan area. If they all become active, as I feel sure they will, there will be a considerable reduction in the number of aged persons in country areas who will be without decent accommodation. This increased activity will in turn increase the amount of subsidy which the Commonwealth will have to provide, but even so it still will be getting accommodation on the cheap and will be meeting to only a small extent the responsibility which is entirely the Commonwealth’s.
Judging by the figures contained in the report to which I have referred it appears that eligible organisations in country areas will have to find $1,500 or $1,600 for each person whom they wish to accommodate and in smaller communities where half a dozen or so pensioners may be in desperate need of reasonably good accommodation it may not be easy to raise the $9,000 or $10,000 required to attract the Commonwealth subsidy. Of course, the people in these small communities usually rise to the occasion and I have no doubt that they will do so now if required. Because so many people are so generous with their contributions and because it is public money that is being used to finance the building of these homes, the Government should make certain that it is being used properly and that the best value is being obtained for the people whom the Act sets out to benefit. There is a strong possibility, if not a complete certainty, that one or two organisations may not be playing the game and because of this possibility of malpractice it is very necessary to place safeguards in the Act. If the Government does not now have the authority to examine the activities of the organisations operating under the Act and take action against them if necessary, it is time the Government took steps to ensure that it has that authority. If the Government has the necessary authority it should act now, not just to put a stop to any skulduggery that may be going on but to safeguard the interests and the good name of those who are doing the right thing as well as to ensure the proper use of any moneys contributed by the public.
I hope that the House will support the Opposition’s amendment seeking to bring trade unions within the definition of eligible organisations. I am sure that if this were done it could lead only to many more old people being provided with good accommodation.
– I have listened with great interest to earlier speakers in the debate, including the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard). He suggested that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) and the Government would be justified in instituting an inquiry into possible irregularities in the administration of the Aged Persons Homes Act. I have complete confidence in the Minister and his Department to deal effectively with any irregularities that may be brought to their notice.
I think it may be fairly claimed that the Aged Persons Homes Act introduced in 1954, which this Bill seeks to amend, has been not only successful but has proved to be one of the most humanitarian and most acceptable pieces of legislation introduced in the last seventeen years. I will not canvass the details of the Act; they have been amply covered today by other honourable members, and time is getting on. I merely say that I believe that the purpose of the Act, as originally set down, has been adequately fulfilled. The Government can be very satisfied with the performance of this legislation.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie quoted extensively from tables and other figures appearing in the 1965-66 report of the Director-General of Social Services. Any discrepancy between those figures and figures given earlier by the Minister may be accounted for by the fact that the DirectorGeneral’s report contained figures for the period ended 30th June 1966 whereas the Minister’s figures were in relation to the period ended 31st March 1967.
On 2nd March this year the Minister made a detailed statement outlining the progress achieved under the Act since it came into force more than twelve years ago. In his second reading speech introducing this Bill the Minister informed the House that since 1954 subsidies totalling more than $66m have been approved, enabling the provision of accommodation for more than 25,000 aged persons. Approximately 1,500 individual grants have been made up to the present time. The report of the DirectorGeneral for last year indicates, I think, that 1,300 grants had been made up to 30th June 1966. Including the contributions from organisations, more than $100m has been spent on homes for aged persons since the Act commenced and the annual subsidy has risen from $800,000 to nearly $10m. These figures speak for themselves. They need no amplification or underlining by me. There is no doubt that the Act has made a splendid contribution to the welfare and happiness of many aged persons.
From time to time the Minister has expressed his pleasure at the increasing number of applications being lodged each year by religious, charitable and other organisations and he .has pointed out that the Act would have been quite worthless from both the financial and human points of view without the magnificent response from voluntary community bodies interested in the welfare of aged people. Since last August eligible organisations have been able to provide subsidised nursing accommodation up to onethird of the total number of beds in aged persons homes conducted by organisations in a particular city or town. This Bill goes a step further and seeks to include local government bodies in the organisations eligible under the Act for Commonwealth subsidy. This represents another major step forward in helping to meet and to overcome some of the problems associated with advancing age. These problems catch up with most people in the community sooner or later. In all probability, as the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) and one or two other honourable members have pointed out, increasing numbers of old people in the community will need assistance.
It will be recalled from earlier statements in the debate that the original subsidy of $1 for $1 was doubled ten years ago. At the same time an amendment to the Act provided, in the case of the erection of a home, for the cost of land required for the purposes of a home to be included as part of the capital cost. I am delighted that the Government has now decided to extend the Act to enable local government bodies to participate directly in the Federal subsidy in the same way as religious, charitable and certain other bodies have been doing for a number of years. Details of the bodies engaged in this work were given at length by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, quoting from page 18 of the DirectorGeneral’s report.
The Bill expresses the Government’s intention of ensuring that the subsidy is attracted to moneys raised in local government areas. This is important. Another pleasing feature of the Bill is that the amendments to the Act are to be effective, assuming the Bill becomes law, from 28th November 1966. Clause 5 of the Bill is significant. It streamlines the departmental procedures and clearly will minimise any delay which may occur in dealing with the increasing number of individual applications.
In a statement dated 13th May 1965 the Minister justifiably claimed that the Aged Persons Homes Act brought a new concept into the field of social services legislation and presented a positive approach to a most urgent1 social need. I have no doubt that the Act will be widened from time to time according to the discretion of the Minister and the Government and according to well informed judgment, based on information available through the Department of Social Services and other sources. 1 congratulate the Minister and the Government, as well as all others concerned with the Act, on the continued expansion of the provisions of the Act, which undoubtedly fills a very real and growing need in the community.
– Many shades of opinion have been expressed in this debate. Although different viewpoints have been given, they all come back to the basic fact that there is a vital need for the emancipation of the aged people. I would say that, most probably, of all matters relating to the welfare of our aged citizens none deserves more praise than the aged persons’ homes scheme. By a strange contrast, however, no scheme for the care of our aged citizens invites more criticism. The main criticism of schemes for the housing of our elderly citizens relates to discrimination. It is not startling to say that thousands of elderly citizens have no chance to obtain housing in places which, for the purpose of identification, we will call homes for the aged. The reasons for the inability of these people to obtain shelter and comfort in homes for the aged are simple and tragic. The chief cause of their failure to escape from the penalties that life has imposed on them is their economic position. Oddly enough those for whom the economics are not so stringent are also handicapped in their efforts to throw off the responsibilities of maintaining their homes, with the consequent financial burden, and to obtain accommodation in an aged person’s home in order to defeat the loneliness and apathy that age and isolation bring to so many.
The obstacle that confronts the people with no economic handicap is that of obtaining admission to these institutions. I can confirm the statement of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), who referred to practices used in the administration of aged persons’ homes. I have come in contact with these practices myself. I have had experience in the handling of these cases. I tried to obtain admission for an elderly lady whose economic position was no handicap to her and I approached more than a dozen institutions in the metropolis of Melbourne without success. Some were sympathetic to my request; others were not so sympathetic. However, all of them gave me the same reply. They said: ‘Sorry, but we have no vacancies’.
– That is true.
– The honourable member for Swan has had his say and I will have mine.
– I am only helping.
– I do not need your help. I asked the institutions: ‘Have you any idea when a vacancy may occur?’ Almost every one of them replied: ‘No’, and then added: A vacancy occurs when one of our inmate’s dies, but we have such a long waiting list that it would be impossible to estimate the waiting period for admission’. They also said: You may make an application for admission and we will communicate with you when a vacancy occurs’. A constituent on my advice made an application. It was acknowledged but despite a number of inquiries on behalf of this elderly lady, whose economic position is quite sound, there has been no response to her application to obtain a fiat in this institution. Indeed, it is so long since the application was made that the lady has given up all hope and desire of obtaining accommodation in the institution to which she applied or, for that matter, in any other institution. I am not given to listening to complaints unless they can be substantiated. However, one does hear that by getting the ear of somebody connected with the management of these places, favourable treatment can be obtained. Another suggestion is that, provided the applicants are prepared to pay key money, they can get the accommodation for which they have applied. In all fairness, I want to say that I have not come in contact with this practice personally, However, it is disquieting to hear hints that it exists, especially when we realise that there is so much to do and so little has been done for the welfare of the aged.
I come to the grants that are made under this legislation. Collectively they come to quite a large amount of money. It is surprising, therefore, that the Government has not taken action to ensure that it is represented on the management of these places. I am of the opinion that, in view of the longevity of our citizens or ‘death control’ as some people like to call it, representation of this nature is most important. It is safe to assume that the problem of caring for the aged will continue to increase. Much more money than that granted at present will be needed in the immediate future. Much more accommodation than that now provided will be needed. Much more planning and much more effort will be needed to meet the challenge of caring for our elderly citizens. Therefore much more interest must be taken in ensuring that we obtain value for the money that the Government grants for the care of the aged. It is reasonable to suggest that a Government nominee should be on every board or governing authority of aged persons’ homes, and I refer only to homes that have received a Government grant. Indeed I go so far as to say that this stipulation should be written into a document before any money is granted for the purposes of this legislation.
In the debate on the Social Services Bill that was concluded only this week, much was said about poverty in Australia. Unfortunately, these statements about poverty are completely factual. Most probably, looking coldly at the statistics, a survey of poverty would reveal that most of the people in this condition were aged persons. Anyone who cares to look around him in this affluent society will soon realise just how unaffluent is our affluent society for many elderly people. It is also apparent to anyone who cares to make a survey that housing for the aged is their most immediate and pressing need. We are all pleased to see that the Bill brings local councils into the scheme. Governments and local councils must take a far greater share of the responsibility for aged people. Housing for them must be properly planned, with some thought for their mobility, and the rents must be as low as possible.
It is true to say that a lack of hospital accommodation is the biggest deficiency in efforts to meet the requirements of the aged. This is another problem that must be solved. A lot of attention should also be given to home care services. Many people want to live in their own homes and would continue to do so if a service of this type were more readily available. I think it must also be acknowledged that in this age people should be encouraged to continue working even though they have reached the retiring age. I know many people who would prefer to work, if given a choice, instead of spending their declining years in idleness. The full impact of longevity will be felt in this country in the next ten years. This aspect demands immediate planning. It is no use waiting for the issue to arise before deciding to do something about it. It is considered that people aged sixty-five years and over represent about 10% of the population and that the figure will rise to 12% in the next ten years. If one takes this into consideration on the question of housing those who are sixty-five and over, one cannot help but say again: ‘So little has been done and so much remains to be done.’ I referred to some of the complaints I have heard about obtaining entry into homes for the aged. The article which I want to quote gives us some indication of the situation. It was written two years ago and contains a statement made by the Secretary of the Victorian Health Inspectors Association at its annual conference in August 196S. The article states:
Many privately conducted old people’s homes are ‘gloomy, dismal holes conducted by racketeers profiting from the misfortunes of others’, . . .
They were disgraces to the community, the association Secretary, Mr P. Madden, said.
Some old people in places I know have not seen a baked potato for years - they are fed on any old thing.’
The association decided to ask for a full inquiry into the homes.
Mr Madden said he had no criticism of institutions conducted by charitable, religious or semigovernment bodies.
The type of place I am concerned with is conducted by people who have no connection with any type of organisation, but who conduct them purely for profit-making purposes,’ he said.
They described themselves mostly as rest homes. You will find that many are listed in the pink pages of the telephone directory’, Mr Madden said.
These homes filled a ‘gaping hole’ between private hospitals and boarding houses, he said.
Some of the people who went to the ‘rest homes’ were convalescents - others went there to end their days.
Mr Madden said the institutions took the overflow from repatriation hospitals and mental institutions. These were people no longer sick or helpless enough to drain the short supply of hospital beds.
The most tragic cases, he said, were aged parents, ‘shunted out’ to be left and forgotten.
That gives some indication of what is going on in private nursing homes and it gives us an idea of the problem that we are talking about tonight. I am indebted to the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) who has supplied me with some information which is further confirmation of the article I have just read. I do not propose to mention the name of the person named in the document; I shall refer to him as Mr X. The letter states: Dear Sir,
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 23 rd March 1967 and wish to advise that Mr X may, if he so desires, pay here the cost of his wife’s hospitalisation at the current rate of $124 per calendar month, say quarterly, and in this regard I wish to point out that an amount of $68.83 is outstanding to 31st March 1967.
I wish to point out however that in terms of the Mental Health Act 1958 as amended Mr X is not personally obliged to pay for the cost of his wife’s maintenance and treatment at Morisset Hospital. The Act provides that the cost of maintenance is a charge against the patient’s estate solely and shall be recoverable accordingly from the patient or her estate.
For record purposes I would appreciate it if Mr X would kindly advise all particulars of the joint bank accounts including the names of the banks, branches, the account numbers and the present credits.
The charge at that institution is $124 per calendar month.
– And they get no pension.
– They get no pension. That is the sort of thing that is going on in private institutions. That letter and the report made by Mr Madden relate to matters which cannot be considered to be isolated instances. This is the sort of callousness that is operating in many places throughout Australia. But they do serve to illustrate the task that we have before us to help the aged. They illustrate the economics of the problem and make it more imperative that in matters pertaining to loans to provide accommodation for the aged the Government should have representation so that it can be sure that every penny spent for this purpose gives the fullest benefit to the citizens concerned. I turn now to the report of the Victorian Housing Commission which states:
The care of Elderly Persons in communities has become a world-wide problem, because of two major factors:
In Victoria at the beginning of 1966, an elderly applicant for accommodation might well have to wait several years before becoming installed in a flat or unit.
In this State we have gone a long way in the last ten years in establishing homes for the aged. We have built 1,342 Lone Person and 1,130 Double Units for couples. But this is not far enough.
The waiting list today includes 3,620 Lone Persons and 403 couples.
These are the people who cannot afford to go into the homes for the aged, whether they are run by a charitable or religious institution. The report continues:
In addition to its responsibilities of improving housing conditions in Victoria, by the provision of adequate homes for letting or selling to families with children, either displaced from reclamation areas or living under unsatisfactory conditions, the Housing Commission, Victoria, has in recent years been called on to provide accommodation for the State’s elderly citizens who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in necessitous circumstances.
In the last ten years the Commission has been most vigorous in its activities in trying to cope with the ever-increasing demands for such accommodation by two groups of elderly citizens:
Requests for lone female accommodation are particularly numerous in Victoria and outnumber the second group, couples, by nine to one.
However, in spite of the Commission’s activities in this direction over the last few years, the task of adequately supplying housing for both these groups has developed into a serious problem. Not only is new thinking required on the subject, but prompt action.
The report then goes on to state:
The Housing Commission believes that the only solution available is for the Commonwealth Government to provide assistance by means of financial aid.
At the moment there are two, and only two, avenues available for dealing with the increasing number of elderly persons requiring help in this direction.
By charitable organisations, churches or municipal councils, who build homes for the elderly and receive a $2 for $1 capital subsidy from the Commonwealth Government.
I hope that before we are finished with this Bill the trade unions will be included in the institutions eligible for the subsidy. The report continues:
By the Housing Commission, Victoria, which
It is apparent that al present the low-income group of the community is subsidising the provision of housing the State’s elderly persons.
Despite the glowing reports that we have had tonight about what is being done under this Act, this statement emphasises clearly that there are literally thousands of people who cannot take advantage of the homes for the aged. Nevertheless many people find that their income is such that the rents they have to pay to get some sort of shelter make it most difficult for them to be able to buy the necessities of life. They have to bear the burden also of paying the rent or subsidising the rent for elderly citizens who are looked after by the Victorian Housing Commission. The report continues:
In spite of record expenditure in 1965 by the Housing Commission, in terms of both construction of elderly person units and money, there is no sign that the waiting list has been significantly dented.
During 1965, 483 flats have been built. Three hundred and twenty-two units were for Lone Persons and 161 double units for couples. This construction scheme cost £1 million. In almost every case land was supplied as a gift from a council.
Of the applications outstanding no less than 2,502 had been received in the last three years. The waiting period at that date for a single unit was six years, and for a double unit it was two years.
A sober assessment of this position is that between £9 and £10m is now required to deal with the situation promptly.
The report ends on this note:
The Housing Commission, Victoria, believes that the presentation of these figures, which include the backlog of 4,165 applications, the cost of meeting it, between £9 and £10m, the rising tide of applications which is certain in the next few years, all add up to one conclusion - action must be taken immediately.
The Commission, believing that the housing of the State’s elderly citizens is a social service of great importance, claims that the Commonwealth Government be prevailed on to give substantial assistance in the following - Firstly, in the provision of finance to meet the huge capital cost involved. A £2 for £1 capital subsidy should be introduced for the construction by the Commission of such units. And secondly, by providing finance to meet the high cost of subsidising the differential between economic and the actual rent being charged.
It is transparently clear that only by such intervention, and help, by the Commonwealth Government, can the present situation, and the future, be remedied.
In spite of all the glowing reports, the above comment’s indicate the true position. The position can be remedied by inserting in this Bill an amendment, that will be moved later, whereby trade unions registered under the laws of the Commonwealth or of the States will be included as eligible organisations.
The elderly people of our community have contributed largely to the privileges we enjoy today. It is our duty to make them feel that they mean something in the community. A survey recently made in a Melbourne area revealed that half of the pensioners in the area lived in their own homes, 17% in rooms and the remainder in rented houses. These pensioners were asked what the worst of their sufferings was and the majority answered ‘confinement’. They wanted to get out of their houses and take some mental and physical responsibility in the community. To me these facts illustrate the need for more than accommodating elderly people in homes. The greatest need is to make them feel that they are not cast offs. We must make them feel that they are wanted - that they can still play a responsible part in the country and in their own welfare. Taking all things into consideration in this whole sorry exercise regarding the plight of our elderly citizens, the most salient point that arises is that the housing situation in Australia generally is an indictment of the Government in respect of its provision of housing for the elderly, and housing for people generally.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) in his policy speech referred to homes for the aged and said that the Government would widen the scope of assistance by including local government bodies in the organisations eligible under the Act and would accept contributions by them towards aged persons homes as qualifying for the Commonwealth Government’s matching subsidy. This proposal is worth while in that it brings a greater number of instrumentalities into the scheme. This is desirable because it localises the erection of homes for aged people. Aged people should not be transferred from a locality in which they have resided for many years and it is an excellent idea to encourage local government bodies to help in the establishment of homes for the aged in their areas. For some time New South Wales has lagged behind the other States in providing homes for the aged. For every 100,000 people New South Wales has provided 162 homes; Victoria, 234; Queensland, 206; South Australia, 455; Western Australia, 286; Tasmania, 228; the Northern Territory, 209; and the Australian Capital Ter ritory, 108. By including councils In the scheme a greater number of people, including aldermen and shire councillors, will be aware of the possibility of doing something for people within their own districts. This is an excellent way of getting people interested in such a worthy scheme.
I have heard many criticisms of the charitable organisations that are providing homes for the aged. The original scheme was introduced in 1954 by a Liberal PartyCountry Party Government and since then over 23,000 beds have been provided. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that had this legislation not been implemented many thousands of aged people would be in difficulties. So many homes for the aged have been built that I wonder whether any of the charges against the charitable institutions are correct. Within my electorate are what might be described as the ultimate in homes for the aged. I refer to Mowll Village and Nuffield Garden Village, controlled by the Church of England. I have heard criticism of these homes and of the organisation that constructed them. I have heard that deposits were demanded of occupants of the homes. However, that charge is not correct. No deposit is demanded, but if a person wants to make a contribution or a donation the organisation naturally is pleased to accept it. The Secretary-Manager assures me that when a person wishes to make a donation or a contribution to Mowll Village or Nuffield Village he warns that person to consider what he is doing, and subsequently asks whether he wishes to go ahead and make the donation or subscription. Furthermore, he asks that the persons’ relatives come and discuss the matter with him. So I am wondering whether there is any foundation for the allegations that have been made in this House against many worthy organisations that are doing a great humanitarian service in this field.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) spoke about the intermediate type of person, what I might call the transitory inmate, and suggested it was undesirable that these people be removed from one place to the other. I interjected at the time that I had the answer. Mowll Village and Nuffield Village are unique in Australia and I believe the only similar place in any other part of the world is in
California. A person can pass through all the various stages of old age without being removed from the precincts of the village, lt is a really wonderful complex of buildings and services that has been established at Castle Hill by the Church of England. We owe it in the main to the representative in Australia of the late Lord Nuffield, Mr George Lloyd. Through grants made available from the Nuffield Trust the foundation was laid for the Church of England to embark on this great scheme, which includes cottages, units, hostels, hostels for custodial care, nursing homes, an annexe for terminal cases and a hospital. All this is set in delightful surroundings, and there are also recreation rooms of a very high standard. There is a chapel, and the aged people have every amenity they require in the evening of their lives. In this wonderful setting 700 people are being housed and cared for.
As I said previously, the residents are looked after in five ways. There are single units and units for married couples; there is a hostel and then a hostel for custodial care, a nursing home and a separate annexe for terminal eases. At present a portion of the establishment is a hospital with thirtythree beds, which is to be extended in the near future. There are three trained sisters to care for those who suffer temporary illness, and this arrangement is again in line with the suggestion of the honourable member for Mackellar that the people be not removed from one place to another.
Many of the people in this place have made donations but they have done so on an absolutely voluntary basis, and I am convinced from my conversations with them that they have been delighted to do so because of the excellent management and control of the place and the general set up of this wonderful undertaking. Although it is a splendid thing to bring local government authorities within the provisions of the legislation I would like to say to them that before they embark on these schemes they should make sure that their foundations are truly set. It is one thing to establish complexes of this kind but it is a very different thing to control and manage them. I think it would be better for most local bodies to build smaller places than to embark on something as large and comprehensive as that which I have outlined and which over a period of years might develop very difficult problems. The mere building of homes for the people to live in is a relatively simple matter, but the provision of facilities such as those at Mowll Village and Nuffield Village is entirely different, although I believe it is the correct and only way to do the job completely. Once we embark on the project of settling people into these aged persons homes I believe the desirable and ultimate aim is to provide for all necessary services during the rest of their lives Architectural design is important and for economic reasons and to assist the convenience of the aged it is most desirable that a great deal of research be carried out before an undertaking of this type is commenced.
The 1954 Act was original in its conception. lt has provided approximately 23,000 beds for people who otherwise would not have been provided for. This is a good Bill, and I commend the Government for introducing it at this stage.
– This debate has produced some very thoughtful speeches. It ought to do so, because we are discussing one of the most serious problems which the ordinary aged person has to face on retirement - the problem of finding a home. This problem extends even to the aged person who has a home of his own and who loses his partner in life only to find immediately that the home in which he has always lived is far too big for him and that the proper and sensible thing to do is sell up and go into a smaller and more manageable home than he needed when his wife was alive and more especially when he had a family around him. But it is with respect to the person who has no home at all that I wish to make a few comments before I pass to the main body of the Bill. Such a person, whether married or in the worse position of being a widow, widower, spinster or bachelor, has to meet the cost of rent or board from the pension. A supplementary allowance is added to the ordinary pension to meet this cost, but in almost every case this allowance finds its way into the pockets of landlords. So the pensioner is still no better off.
There is no doubt that, after an ordinary pensioner meets the cost of rent, what is left for food, clothing and the ordinary necessities of life is not enough on the present pension scale to enable the pensioner to have the standard of living which we would like our parents to enjoy if they were pensioners or the standard which honourable members who are ineligible for a parliamentary pension would like to have on retirement. So it is always important to see that some steps are taken to meet the requirements of aged people.
It always staggers me that this Government, which has made some progress in this field, refuses point blank to extend its subsidy scheme to the housing commissions of the six States. 1 know the old argument that is advanced; it is the kind of argument which one would expect to be used by a government which was looking for technical loopholes to refuse to assist in the problem. The Government seems to have a split personality. If it is as sincere as the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) and its supporters constantly pretend that it is in meeting the urgent need for more houses for the aged, why does it seize upon what is nothing more than a technical point and say that it cannot subsidise the deposits paid by housing commissions because those commissions get their deposits also from the Commonwealth by way of a grant or loan?
– Does the honourable member think we ought to stop aid under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement?
– No. This aid should be provided, but in addition the Government should tell the housing commissions of the six States that, if they are prepared to set aside a certain sum from the housing grants made available by the Commonwealth or from the loans they are able to receive for housing purposes, it will pay a $2 for $1 subsidy for the balance in spite of the fact that the Commission’s $1 comes from the Commonwealth. I will give the reason why I think special emphasis should be placed on subsidising houses built by housing commissions. Firstly, the overhead of the commissions is much less than it is on smaller schemes. Many organisations establish twenty, thirty, fifty or even sixty homes, but many more establish fewer. The overhead for supervising a group of twenty or twenty-five homes is infinitely greater per home thar would be the case if the supervision were carried out by a well established organisation like a housing commission.
– What kind of supervision?
– There would be a need to have someone to collect the rent and the instalment paid by the second occupant of the house after the first occupant dies and someone to supervise repairs and, in some cases, gardening. Someone is needed to supervise general administration of the scheme. A scheme to provide homes for the aged is operating in South Australia. Although I give the people who started it the benefit of believing that they were sincere, no matter how sincere people may be their sincerity is often misplaced. 1 refer to the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia, an organisation which has built some worthwhile cottages. They are first class, well designed, well situated and, as far as I am able to ascertain, well administered. If my figures are correct - I think they are, but the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) may correct me if I am wrong - an applicant has to pay about $2,600. When this amount is paid the organisation immediately receives $5,200 from the Commonwealth. So it can be seen that this organisation does not pay anything out of its own resources for the cost of its bouses. Its resources come either from the amount paid by the applicant or from the $2 for $1 subsidy which the Commonwealth pays in respect of the amount paid by the applicant.
Generally people are not allowed to go into these homes until they reach the age of sixty-five years in the case of males and sixty years in the case of females. A man who is sixty-five years of age has a life expectancy of five, six or seven years. It is conceivable that a person could die within twelve months of paying $2,600 to enter the home. The home would then become the property of the organisation, which would have the right to ask someone else to pay $2,600.
– Or to allow someone else in at a minimal rent.
– Yes. As for the minimal rent, in my opinion it ought not to be a figure that represents any capitalisation by the organisation upon the money received from the Commonwealth or from the people who originally went there. These organisations - and I can understand this - generally try to get somebody else with $2,600 rather than let the unit to somebody who cannot pay anything or who can pay only a portion of that amount and pays a rental instead. They try to get somebody who can pay another $2,600. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) may shake his head, but he lives in Western Australia; he may know what goes on there, but I come from South Australia and it is about South Australia that I happen to be talking. I know that the inclination is to try to get a second applicant who has $2,600.
I want to know where that money is going. I know it is said that it is going towards paying the deposit on an additional home. If that is what is happening, and if there was any way of guaranteeing or enforcing such a provision, I would feel happier about it; but I am not happy when I get a letter such as I received today from an organisation regarding a group of flats at 466 Henley Beach Road, Lockleys. That letter advised that the board of management of the organisation concerned had decided that the rate of rental would be increased from the original amount of $1.50 to $2.50 a week. Nothing was said at the time the applicants entered these homes that they would be subject to an increase in rent at a minute’s notice, so to speak, and they are protesting against it. I think they have every right to protest against it. In my opinion, the Commonwealth is not exercising a strong enough supervision over these organisations. There ought to be stricter control over them than there is, and the Commonwealth Government ought not in my opinion continue to give large sums by way of subsidies to organisations whose overheads are so high as to make it necessary to charge these exorbitant rentals.
The Housing Trust in South Australia charges nothing at all for a person to go into a Housing Trust aged persons cottage, and it charges only about $2.75 or S3 a week rental. There is a vast difference between charging $3 a week to a person who can enter a cottage without any deposit at all and charging $2.50 a week to a person who has to pay $2,600 to go into a cottage. These private organisations, as I am more inclined to call them, spring up like mushrooms overnight, use somebody else’s money for the deposit and Commonwealth money for the balance, and then appoint somebody at a fairly good salary, with a nice expense allowance and a motor car, and probably appoint administrative staff as well. They then go to the people who have already paid $2,600 to go into the place and say: ‘Your weekly rate has been increased from $1.50 to $2.50 a week.’ It is not because of any unforeseen circumstances that the rent has to be increased, because the places I am talking about have not been built very long. In fact, some of them have not yet been completed by this same organisation.
These organisations ought to be thoroughly investigated by the Government before it continues to give subsidies to them or people like them. I am not suggesting that they are crook, and I am not suggesting that somebody is dipping his fingers into the public purse over it; but I am saying that it is due to the fact that they are putting away unnecessarily large reserves, or to the fact that there is bad management or that excessively high managerial salaries are being paid, that they are now finding it necessary to call upon these people to increase their weekly rate from $1.50 to $2.50. I want to hark back for a moment to the Housing Trust in South Australia. The secretary has told me that the Housing Trust can build this type of cottage for about $3,600 a unit. That is for the cost of the houses alone, leaving aside land. The land in this case was purchased many years ago in the form of broad acres and subdivided by the Housing Trust. Consequently it is ever so much cheaper.
– How many squares are there in the houses?
– The same number as there are in those being run by this private organisation.
– How many?
– I said it was the same number, so it does not matter whether it is nine, ten, eleven or twelve. We are talking about houses of about the same size, so the honourable member’s interjection means nothing. It seems to me that it is stupid in the extreme for the Commonwealth Government to be subsidising these other organisations to the extent of $5,200 for each unit when it can get a unit built by the Housing Trust for a subsidy of $2,400. It is just squandering the public’s money for the Government to go on like this and to seize on the technical point that it cannot subsidise these enterprises because the Housing Trust or the Housing Commissions are using Commonwealth money in the first instance for the deposit. What a piddling little point for a government that pretends to be really interested in building houses for the aged to take.
The Minister has even gone to the pains of perpetuating the present policy by pointing out in his speech that where the local government moneys are being received from the Commonwealth or State governments they will continue to be ineligible for the subsidy. This is preventing any local government body that might be able to get money from the Commonwealth or the State from being eligible to participate in this scheme. There is a need for a thorough investigation and, in my opinion, greater control over these ordinary organisations. I think we ought to have a clearer statement from the Government as to what happens when a person dies. Who gets the money that that person pays to gain tenancy or occupancy of the particular house?
I want to know what the Government is doing to control the rentals. I understand it is doing nothing to exercise any supervisory control of rentals, and that the question of rentals is left entirely to the management committees of the various organisations that choose to set up a trust for this purpose. This is not good enough for the people I represent in the division of Hindmarsh.
– The Act controls that.
– Can the honourable member point to the part of the Act that controls it?
– It is in the first part.
– I ask the honourable member to show me the part of the Act, instead of yelling his head off. I can see nothing in the Act that gives the Commonwealth the right to control it. The other day I talked to an authority -
– The eligible organisations are defined in clause 3.
– That does not do it at all. This is an old trick that might have worked in the Bennelong Council, but to interject and quote something that has absolutely no relationship to the question of control does not work here. The Bill does not mention anything about control. The Commonwealth sits idly by and allows these people to fix whatever rents they like; they do fix whatever rents they like, and there is no appeal and no supervision. Indeed, there does not appear to be any care on the part being paid. of the Government about what rents are
I want to know, and I should like the Government to state clearly, what happens if an organisation is wound up. What happens if this body I mentioned a moment ago suddenly decides to go into liquidation or is wound up? We know it has to pay back to the Commonwealth the amount of subsidy it received from the Commonwealth, but what happens to the balance of the equity belonging to the organisation after it has paid its subsidy back? We know, of course, that it may go to another organisation of a similar kind. But I would like a clearer statement from the Government that money belonging to the public and what is more, money belonging to the applicants who first obtained occupancy of these places, will not be squandered or find its way into some private person’s pocket That is the assurance I want.
– These organisations are under State government control.
– I would like to hear a more explicit statement than an interjection like that. I want to know what kind of control is exercised. I would like to hear it spelt out so that I at least can go away completely satisfied that this Parliament is not giving some organisation public money, and allowing it to take private money as well, without proper supervision and control. I want to know what control the Government exercises over the salaries paid to the managements of these organisations; what control it exercises over the expenses that the management of these organisations can charge; what control it has over the purchase of motor cars in which supervisors and managers run around, and what control it has over the cost of running of these vehicles. All these matters are of interest and ought to be explained more fully by the Government.
The Opposition has foreshadowed an amendment to this Bill to make clear beyond all doubt that a trade union is entitled to participate in the aged persons’ homes scheme. For a long time many honourable members on this side of the House have held the view that trade unions are already covered by the legislation. We will move this amendment merely to remove any possible doubt on this point. I know that many honourable members on this side believe that Section 5 (2.) of the Act is wide enough to cover trade unions. The section provides that an organisation eligible for assistance under this legislation can be as:
A trustee or trustees under a trust established for charitable or benevolent purposes shall, if the Governor-General so approves, be deemed to be an organisation referred to in the last preceding sub-section.
So far as I am able to ascertain, not one trade union has yet availed itself of the opportunity to operate under this scheme.
– Why not?
– 1 am not here to say why the trade unions have not done so. They are under the impression, as so many people are, that a trade union is not eligible. I think they are eligible. 1 will be interested to hear in a moment from the Minister for Social Services whether or not they are eligible. If they are eligible I would like to have from him a categorical assurance that if a trade union established a trust - it is my view that a trade union could establish a special trust for this purpose - and then applied to the Commonwealth for a subsidy, it could be given a subsidy providing the trust met the normal requirements set down for other organisations. I hope that trade unions will avail themselves of the subsidies granted under this scheme. Unions may have to alter their registered objectives to do so but that is a simple formality. It would take only a couple of weeks to get from the Commonwealth Industrial Registrar approval of an alteration.
Trade unions ought to establish these trusts. They could then approach members upon their retirement and ask them whether they wished to go into smaller homes. Like this organisation I have mentioned, the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia, they could say to their members: ‘Sell your home. Give us the amount which, together with the Commonwealth subsidy, will be necessary to build a cottage for you and we will let you go into one of our homes.’ The trade union movement could, by example, show to the rest of these organisations what can be done in the field of homes for the aged. To meet the case of a person who passed away they could make some stipulation whereby the amount of money originally paid to the fund could be used to provide cheaper rents, so that people who did not have sufficient money to pay into the fund could be accommodated. Or the trade union could use the money to build infirmaries. While on the subject of infirmaries, I think the Government should make it clear, either by making a statement or by introducing another amendment, that it is prepared to subsidise State government instrumentalities for all money spent in building homes for the aged or infirmaries. The Government ought not to stop at homes for the aged. As I have said so many times before, why cannot we build homes for invalids?
– Invalids can get into these homes.
– No, they cannot.
– Yes, they can.
– I wish to inform the honourable member that I rang Mr Rundle, the secretary of the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia. Mr Rundle is well known to the honourable member for Sturt. I am not going to make reckless statements which, upon being checked, can be proved to be untrue.
– Nor am I. Two per cent of the total accommodation is available.
– Will the honourable member listen to what I have to say? Let me tell him - and the honourable member for Sturt can check it at the weekend - that I phoned Mr Rundle of the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia and asked whether homes would be made available to invalids. He said: ‘No, definitely not’. As far as I am aware, nobody else is lawfully entitled to these homes.
– Two per cent.
– Where is that In the Act?
– It is subject to the authority of the Minister.
– Will the honourable member for Swan tell me what part of the Act gives the Minister the right to authorise that 2% of the homes available, and which are subsidised by the Commonwealth, are to be allocated to invalids?
– I ask the honourable member to check with the Minister.
– I have the Act here. It states clearly that it is for the purpose of providing homes for the aged. The Act even stipulates the age of the persons concerned who are eligible. A woman cannot be under the age of sixty and a man cannot be under the age of sixty-five. If the honourable member is talking about invalids as being a man who is over sixty-five and a woman who is over sixty his interjection is pointless. I am speaking of invalids in the true sense of the word. I am referring to those invalids who cannot qualify because of age. An invalid of, say, twenty-two years or twenty-three years of age cannot get into one of these homes. Why is there this restriction?
– I beg to differ.
– Well, the honourable member can differ. I am answering his interjection so that it will be recorded in Hansard and so that the honourable member can be made to look or will appear to be the ill informed person that he is in fact on this subject.
– The contrary could apply.
– Oh, the Minister has turned up.
– That is in Hansard too.
– Yes, it is in Hansard. It indicates to those who read Hansard that the Minister has just walked in and suddenly emerged as an authority on homes for the aged.
– I have been here for an hour. I have put a challenge to the honourable member on record.
– I hope that the Minister will get up and explain to the House the answers to some of the questions that I have asked.
– The honourable member challenged the honourable member for Swan. Now I have challenged him.
– I conclude on that note. I resume my seat in the hopeful expectation that the Minister who has interjected will rise to his feet now and inform me of what precautions are being taken by the Government to stop racketeering by organisations that are or could be open to this sort of thing. What is the Government doing to protect the public purse? What is the Government doing to protect that part of the private purse that goes towards providing the original subsidy?
– There are two points with which I wish to deal. One of these is in reply to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) who has just resumed his seat. I mention this particular incident especially as it occurred in my electorate of Boothby. The honourable member referred to Mr Rundle who is the manager of the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia. One of my constituents, a woman, is currently waiting to be allocated a unit. This constituent has a mentally retarded grandchild of twenty-two years of age. I believe that the position really is that, subject to the Minister agreeing in these circumstances, the lady is permitted to go into one of these units and take the child with her under certain conditions. I think that this is the classic case that refutes the suggestion-
– Under which section can she do that?
– It is subject to the approval of the Minister.
– Which section says that?
– I have not really gone into too many parts of the section. All I know is that it is subject to the approval of the Minister because this case has already been put up to him and he has approved it.
The other point to which I should like to refer briefly relates to a matter brought up, 1 think, by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) who attacked - I think that is a fair word to use - the Liberal Government in South Australia which was under the leadership of Sir Thomas
Playford. The honourable member suggested that during Sir Thomas Playford’s term of office the housing situation in South Australia generally, and as far as elderly people were concerned in particular, was very bad. 1 should like to attempt to refute that statement by quoting from the 30th Annual Report of the South Australian Housing Trust for the financial year ending 30th June 1966, which is the most recent report available. I might say that I do not agree entirely with the argument that was developed by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer).
At page 10 reference is made to $100 deposit homes. The report reads:
The Trust, however, cannot always fulfil the demands made upon it for country rental accommodation. The Trust rents are already quite high for the ordinary wage-earning family and even these rents are made possible only with the aid of the low interest money provided under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. On the other hand, the demand for rental purchase of $100 deposit houses is also strong and likely to increase and this programme also comes from the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement funds.
In the same report reference is made to the number of cottages and flats erected during the year ending 30th June 1966 specifically for elderly persons. In the metropolitan area of Adelaide the number of cottages and flats completed was 1,166. In the city of Elizabeth, which is just north of Adelaide, the number erected was 910. So during that year South Australia erected, through its Housing Trust, 2,076 flats for elderly people under the scheme that was originated by the previous Liberal Government. The rentals charged for these flats range from as low as $3.75 a week in country areas. It is very significant that the rental in country areas for this sort of accommodation is only $3.55. In fairness to the previous South Australian Government, let me say that during the term of office of Sir Thomas Playford a great deal of emphasis was placed on developing the State, particularly in country areas.
The same report contains some interesting figures in relation to the number of flats commenced during each financial year. It will be noted that in 1963-64 the number was as high as 13,700. It dropped in 1965- 66 to slightly more than 10,000 dwellings. The latest figures will not be published for another three months, but I suggest that with the chaotic conditions existing in the building industry in South Australia today the figure will be very much lower at 30th June 1967.
– What kind of government has South Australia?
– Unfortunately at present a Labor Government is administering South Australia, but in March 1968 that state of affairs may be changed. It was not my intention to speak on this particular aspect of aged persons homes but because this matter was brought forward by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie and in fairness to the previous administration of South Australia I thought I should deal with it. I am anxious to say something about the Bill for two reasons. In the first place, I have had some experience of local government. 1 have been a member of the Unley Council for eighteen years with a term of two or three years as Mayor, and I am still a member. About four years ago I took up this matter in my capacity as Mayor of the city of Unley, which comprises roughly half my electorate. I took up the possibility of the Commonwealth Government providing funds for local government on the same terms as those in the Bill before us. The honourable member for Boothby at that time, who has also had a considerable amount of experience in local government extending over about twenty years in Unley and fifteen years in the city of Adelaide, wrote to me officially.
– Who was that?
– The former Speaker of this House. In his reply the former member for Boothby wrote to me officially and quoted a passage from the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services of that time, Mr Roberton. I shall read the relevant passage from the speech which was made in October 1957:
Local government authorities are appointed, after all, by the State governments and, in many cases, receive grants from them. The State governments, in turn, receive grants from the Commonwealth. Were the Commonwealth to match or subsidise by ti for £1 of local government funds, the Commonwealth could find itself subsidising its own money.
The Minister continued in that vein. I did not keep a copy of the letter but the House can be assured that the reply was in those terms. When this proposal was first brought forward in 1954, and the same Minister held the portfolio, the idea was introduced as an experiment. I have read the debates of 1954 and 1 am sure this Government sponsored the scheme. Nobody should try to take the credit away from it. According to the speeches made by members on both sides of the House then, the wife of the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was given credit for conceiving the idea. Earlier in this debate the honourable member for Cunningham claimed credit for the idea for the Australian Labor Party, but the reports of the debates in 1954 tend to confirm that the opposite was the case.
The legislation in 1957 simply altered the amount of the subsidy from £1 for £1 to £2 for £1. It is worth placing on record that the results were highly satisfactory. In the three years from 1954 to 1957 about $4.5m or the equivalent in pounds was granted. In a period of almost ten years since then more than 560m have been spent on the scheme and 25,000 persons have been housed. As a new member I appreciate that the present Minister for Social Services has been here through all these debates, and that is more than I have been. He knows how the earlier difficulties of 1957 have been overcome. In his second reading speech on this Bill he stated:
Where the local government moneys are received from Commonwealth or State governments they will continue to be ineligible. This is in keeping with the policy applied to other organisations. . . .
The Minister goes on to mention the desirability of attracting money for housing to particular local government areas. I would suggest to the House and the Minister that the only difficulty I see in the whole Bill is that we will find in South Australia that it will be very hard to persuade many local government authorities to take an interest in this legislation. Two years ago the Geriatric Committee of the Unley City Council submitted to the Council a report which was almost revolutionary. The Council adopted the report. It has taken several years of serious debate to make this particular local government authority sufficiently interested in elderly people to adopt that report, which read:
The Committee believes that a local government authority should recognise its responsibilities to the aged and respect them in the same important way as it treats the construction of roads and footpaths. . . .
That report was submitted on 3rd May 1965. As a result of an investigation by the Council it was decided to proceed with the erection of a senior citizens centre, which is something between a senior citizens club and a geriatric centre. The cost was to be $80,000 but unfortunately because of lack of finance the city of Unley has been unable to continue with this work as originally envisaged and has had to reduce its expenditure on the project by 50%. The matter of finance is an associated problem so far as local government bodies are concerned.
Attention should be drawn here to the particular problems confronting councils in South Australia. The South Australian Labour Government has in the last two years intruded very seriously into the field of local government and has taken away a great many of the powers of local government - powers in connection with traffic, financial powers and powers in relation to town planning and many other things. But it has left with local government the obligation for payment. At the same time the State Government is currently competing with local government for funds. The State Government is in fact taxing the same people as are taxed by local government. Under the guise of land tax the ratepayers of all cities in South Australia are paying what amounts to a double tax. This sort of thing will to a degree inhibit any plans to finance the erection of homes for the aged. In South Australia this year the rate of land tax will be increased by an average of 60%. Other difficulties, such as the imposition of service pay, are making the problems of local government much heavier. The introduction of service pay by the State Government had to be followed by local government and so far as the city of Unley is concerned, the cost in the last financial year has been $9,000. All this tends to inhibit movement into other areas.
I would like to refer to a statement made early in March by the Minister for Social Services when he foreshadowed this amending legislation. He said that the Act would have been quite worthless from both the financial and human points of view without the response from voluntary community bodies interested in the welfare of aged people. So far as local government is concerned, the voluntary part is freely accepted because in South Australia members of councils are not paid. I understand that in some States they are paid. But the problem of interest is a very different matter. Councillors are traditionally interested only in trees, footpaths, garbage and things of that nature. It will take a lot of publicity and selling to interest them in the problems of the elderly. We all know - Unley is a classic case - of the very large percentage of elderly people who live in the metropolitan areas. In fact, almost 20% of the population of the city of Unley is over the age of sixty-five years. The problem is that these elderly people are not really the sort of people who are able to become pressure groups. Consequently, persons who are not in this age group are the ones elected to local governments, and I am afraid that very frequently these young people do not realise the problems of the elderly. So the thing to do is to educate council staffs. I feel that staffs generally understand this problem better than the elected representatives do. Perhaps, if we could increase the percentage polls in local government and improve the competition for election to local governments we may go a long way towards getting on to local governments people who understand and are interested in this problem.
An honourable member opposite referred to the possibility of corruption in local governments. I think that the honourable member for Bennelong dealt with that matter very satisfactorily. I believe that there is absolutely no corruption at all in South Australia and provided we can persuade the members of local government to take part in this scheme, the councils will be ideally situated to administer this Act. There will be many advantages to the councils, which we will have to sell to them. In the older parts of Parkside and Wayville, which are districts in the electorate of Boothby, many of the homes are upwards of 100 years old. I think that if the local government authorities can be encouraged to use these funds to regenerate these older areas, this could be one way of putting the scheme to them. As I have said, councils themselves are ideally situated to administer this sort of scheme.
I imagine that all councils are the same. Certainly in South Australia the local government is also the local board of health. In the city of Unley, with which I have had some experience, there is a very efficient staff of building inspectors and health inspectors, also of nurses, welfare workers, gardeners, electricians and members of other outdoor trades. There is everything which makes it easy for local governments to administer this sort of scheme. I think it would be fair to say that the management in local government in almost all of the cities in South Australia is not only highly efficient but is interested in the problem. There is not sufficient lime in which to deal with the various organisations which are working in all of our electorates, and in my electorate in particular.
I would like to mention two matters in this legislation about which I am concerned and of which the Minister possibly is not aware. The first is the unfortunate position in which persons paying rent or guests, as they are called in some instances, find themselves when the board of management decides to increase the rental. I would like to refer to a notice which has been issued to guests in one of the homes within the electorate of Boothby. It points out that rising costs have made it necessary for the board to increase charges, and then it goes on to deal with pensioners who receive the standard pension and have no additional assets or income. They are to pay $12.50 a week. The standard pension is only $13 a week. This leaves the pensioner with 50c. In most cases this class of pensioner would be subject to supplementary assistance, but even then 25s a week seems to me to be a very small amount with which to clothe oneself and perhaps take an occasional holiday. I .think it is unfair that a board of management should have this arbitrary power to increase rents without having any obligation to make a refund should the pensioner decide to leave the home.
The honourable member for Hindmarsh mentioned the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia. I take the opposite view to his. I think this is a highly desirable organisation and since it was established less than three years ago 678 aged persons have been housed by it. I note that the organisation says in its objectives that the persons who will be admitted to the homes are those who are suitable in the opinion of the board of management. We should realise that it is not the opinion of the Government but the opinion of the board of management. The honourable member did not mention that the organisation aims to erect rest homes and infirmaries in four suburbs in South Australia. I think this is another desirable part of the legislation. In fact, I suggest that the Government consider encouraging some sort of intermediate infirmary, perhaps of the geriatric type. The organisation still has a very long waiting list, as I believe do almost all other organisations of this type.’
There is one other point relating to local government authorities. The local authority must be made to realise that if it does not wish to engage directly in this activity, any help that it is able to give to service organisations, such as Rotary, Apex or Lions, which are three very active service clubs in the electorate of Boothby, will qualify for subsidy. Helping the service organisations would be an easy way for local government to commence activities in this field. The honourable member for Hindmarsh criticised the Government because the subsidy would not apply to all pieces of land within the municipalities or the various areas. The type of land that I think is referred to in the Bill is land such as that recently purchased in the city of Unley, it is vacant land that will be used in the future as a sort of green belt. The land covers several acres and its purchase was subsidised by the State Government. I imagine that this is the sort of land that will not attract the subsidy, and that is fair enough.
I realise that the hour is late. I have not seen a copy of the Opposition’s amendment. I understand that the spirit of it is to give trade unions an opportunity to finance this type of dwelling. I am afraid I could not agree with such an amendment. The fundamental idea of the scheme is that the organisation receiving the subsidy should be charitable and’ voluntary and that it should almost go on forever. When I see the behaviour of unions such as the Seamen’s Union, I do not really believe that they will always meet these conditions. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– There is within the Bill amending the Aged Persons Homes Act and also in the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) a reference to a machinery measure. One would think at first sight that this was not of very much importance. But I doubt whether any other honourable member has mentioned this in any detail and I would like to draw attention to the change in procedure which is perhaps well overdue and is most desirable and helpful to the organisations that appreciate the Commonwealth’s assistance under this legislation. We pay tribute to the officers at central office who have been co-operative indeed with the organisations over the years in clearing progress payments due to those organisations. As usual, centralisation here at central office in Canberra can develop serious problems. I put it to honourable members that when an organisation has to pay out scores of thousands of dollars as a progress payment to a builder on a very large contract, serious implications can result in regard to the liquidity of that organisation’s bank balance. It should be clearly known that the organisation must handle its own finance and must be responsible for every progress payment before reimbursement under this legislation is possible.
I speak from personal experience in these matters. The organisations have learned to deliver, possibly by hand, a cheque to a builder, obtain his receipt, immediately visit the architect and obtain his required certificate, and then quickly go to the office of the Department of Social Services in that capital city, present the documents and appeal that they be submitted to Canberra by airmail so that reimbursement might come back to the organisation a little more quickly than normally would be the case.
Over the years the officers at central office in Canberra have recognised this procedure and a genuine attempt has been made to reduce the waiting time from perhaps twenty-one days to a shorter time. I want those officers to know that the organisations - not only the one for which I speak but also many others - have recognised this spirit of co-operation. We pay tribute to them. This Government constantly endeavours to improve legislation and has done so in this Bill, which has been called just a machinery measure. Its effect is this: by delegation from the Minister there is authority to certain appropriate officers - I take it in the capital cities - to make instalment payments because the overall authority for the grant for a project has been approved by the Director-General of Social Services. We applaud this machinery provision, so-called, referred to so late in the Minister’s very interesting second reading speech. I emphasise that it will greatly assist the bank liquidity of the organisations and the churches that are doing such an outstanding job.
The main amendment which honourable members are now familiar with because of the number of speeches that have been made in this debate relates to assistance through local government authorities. Before dealing with it I wish to turn to some of the unjustified criticisms by honourable members opposite. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) gave absolutely no recognition to organisations which accept from some applicants no capital donation whatever and rent units or charge a maintenance fee for the accommodation as low as $3 a week. Such organisations do exist. They were brought into being to provide modern low cost and low rental units for people in a deserving situation. But the Deputy Leader of the Opposition takes no cognisance of such organisations. They can be found right around the Commonwealth. With a very wide brush the Deputy Leader of the Opposition besmirched the integrity and the good intentions of churches and charitable bodies which are doing this work voluntarily, as I will enunciate shortly, in a spirit of co-operation with governments of all kinds.
I would have hoped that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other honourable members opposite who have spoken in this debate would prefer to encourage more churches and charitable bodies, and more trade unions as one speaker said, if any unions have entered this work, to follow suit. Surely they should have said: ‘This is a field where others have proved that good work can be done. Let more come in and attempt it.’ There is a very great danger when speaker after speaker from the Opposition, wanting to criticise the measure and the basic Act, takes a very broad brush and comments upon so many organisations which should be encouraged. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) referred to trade unions. I have referred to the Act, section 5 of which states:
Subject to ibis section, a society, association or other organisation is eligible for assistance under this Act if - (a) it is carried on otherwise than for the purposes of profit or gain to its individual members . . .
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie has emphasised this point. We all do. Not one of us wants to see profiit or gain. As I said by way of interjection, I think to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), the organisations which are classified as charitable or benevolent have to be registered under State legislation, submit their financial returns annually and tender their constitution before ever they can be registered. Here is government control over them. Why should there be the emphasis that secondary government control by the Commonwealth through this Act should be exercised as well? Perhaps it is because not enough members have given a little of their time to sponsor some of these organisations.
Talking of trade unions, I can see no restriction for a trade union with funds. I take note of the fact that many trade unions have established their own building societies to provide loans to their members. I commend this. If they can do this, why can they not also draw up a constiutition, seek to have it registered and, as a separate incorporated body, set out to give some priorities to their own members in homes for the aged? They have exactly the same rights as the churches and charitable bodies, but they have never exercised those rights. They are not interested. Honourable members opposite have criticised this Bill because it is a Government measure. They have used every possible opportunity to try to besmirch the people taking advantage of the Act rather than encourage them. I say now, firmly, that every trade union which wants to come in and do this work could have done so years ago.
– Will the honourable member support the Opposition on the amendment?
– There is no need for the amendment.
– Will the honourable member support it?
– There is no need for it and, consequently, it should be defeated. When we look at the accomplishments which have been achieved under the Act since 1954, no-one in his right mind could deny that this is a splendid example of cooperation and planned incentive. Voluntary bodies, without any pressure, have seen to it that by taking the steps of registration, and preferably by having a separate incorporated body, they can work with the Commonwealth which sponsors these schemes at the rate of $2 for $1. Organisations can seek in some States a $1 for $1 contribution from State governments. Here I pay tribute to the Government of Western Australia which has paid out many thousands of dollars to organisations of this kind, this subsidy covering furnishings, reticulation and gardening equipment which are not covered by the Commonwealth subsidy. Certain local government organisations also have taken an interest in this scheme. I shall speak later on this subject when dealing with the main features of the amending Bill.
Others have drawn attention to the annual report of the Department of Social Services which was presented in this House a little time go and which brought the figures up to 30th June 1966. It is therefore not necessary for me to draw out at this late hour the various statistics. However, there are five points that are worthy of a further reading. One point which has not been emphasised to my satisfaction is that 57.2% of the organisations which have absorbed the very large sum of $66.3 m to the end of March this year are drawn from religious bodies. Another 37.6% are in the category of charitable or benevolent organisations, and ex-service and other organisations approved by the GovernorGeneral absorb the balance. We can see that the churches and the benevolent and charitable bodies have responded in the main to the invitation of the Commonwealth Government to engage in this work. Let it be carefully noted, therefore, that when members of the Opposition try to besmirch the reputation of those engaged in this work they are largely talking of the churches in Australia and of the benevolent and charitable bodies. Herein lies a very great danger for individual Opposition members.
The latest figures supplied by the Minister for Social Services today to those honourable members who sought them for the purposes of this debate show that grants made since the original Act came into operation have reached a total of 1,440 and now amount to more than $66m. The number of elderly people accommodated in modern units or institutions that have attracted assistance has reached 25,513. Because these represent only a fraction of those who need this kind of accommodation, there is every justification for my throwing out a challenge to the critics to participate in the work of accommodating elderly people. As the Minister knows, this work requires a busy member of Parliament to set an example to those who talk a lot but do not necessarily give a little of their time. My friend, the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman), is endeavouring, by bringing around him a group of businessmen and community leaders, to explain the value of the principal Act. He has shown what can be accomplished. An organisation can be established within a few weeks. It can be registered and incorporated and funds can be found. The incentive provided by the Commonwealth subsidy of $2 for $1, which represents one of the finest incentives ever embodied in a Commonwealth enactment, causes this sort of work to gather momentum. My experience of the scheme with which I have been concerned was that before the first stage of the Slim project was completed the second stage was under way. The third stage quickly followed, and now eight stages of construction have been completed. In an area of 18 acres we have a village community that will stand comparison with any in this country and probably any abroad. It accommodates 400 aged people in the happy fellowship of a retirement village. This sort of result can be achieved by any honourable member opposite who wants to work instead of merely criticise. Let me assure any honourable member who is so inclined that as he puts some of his time into this sort of endeavour, as in most others, he will find satisfactory answers to most of the questions that he could raise as a critic who complains that his questions cannot be answered.
– What is the weekly charge in that village?
– I mentioned earlier that it is $3 a week. Could the honourable member match, in a scheme anywhere, a charge of S3 a week for a single unit and $4 a week for a unit occupied by a married couple? At these charges, those who are fortunate enough to have this sort of accommodation find that today’s pension is quite adequate to enable them to live a normal and pleasant existence. Failure to help to provide this sort of modern accommodation by means of schemes of this kind represents a failure to help those unfortunate people who are forced to pay exorbitant rents for sub-standard accommodation in every capital city and provincial town throughout Australia.
– Do the occupants have to pay an in-going charge?
– Not all of them. Some people object to that. Every genuine organisation takes the long view. An organisation, having constructed a housing project at a cost of Sim or $1 1/4m to house elderly people, and having done this with the initial assistance of funds provided by elderly people who were glad to give their savings as a gift to the responsible organisation so that they could be housed in a unit in the scheme, finds that after six to ten years a number of the initial occupants are no longer there to occupy units. What happens then? When that stage is reached the Commonwealth Government will have sponsored organisations all round Australia that will have available thousands upon thousands of units for rent at minimum rentals. Therefore, if we are wise we take the long view in this work. Honourable members opposite should restrain their criticism, realising that in determining the assistance that we can give to those who are in need we ought to look more to the future than to the present. Those elderly people who put some savings into these schemes will be helping future applicants for accommodation who of necessity have to apply for accommodation in this kind of rental unit because they themselves have no savings.
I move on quickly to emphasise that the aged persons homes scheme is subject to no means test. I agree, of course, as some speakers in this debate have genuinely pointed out, that reasonable restraint should be exercised and that large donations and high rents and maintenance charges such as are requested by some organisations should not be sought from those who are to occupy the accommodation provided. Not all organisations are religious organisations and not all are of the high-standard charitable status that we may desire, but no Commonwealth Department, when it accepts the registration of a benevolent or charitable body, can exercise a policeman’s duty over everything they do. In a scheme that is based on voluntary co-operation by voluntary bodies one must expect a few imperfections. Some organisations reflect on the Commonwealth Government if they introduce their own means test. I take a poor view of an organisation that accepts an application from an elderly person, accommodates him in one of these modern units and then later says: ‘We have had another look at your application and we have applied a means test in our organisation. You must withdraw’. I encountered a case like this and I have been vitriolic in my comments. It is grossly unfair to elderly people and is the sort of thing we deplore. I emphasise that the Commonwealth has said that there is no means test under this Act - there is purely a prerequisite of age.
My friend the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) interjected and said that I did not know what I was talking about in respect of invalid pensioners and I crave leave to disagree with him. I point out that wisely over the years - and not all organisations understand this; they have not asked and therefore they have not found out - the Minister for Social Services has exercised a humane judgment whereby when individual genuine cases are presented to him he will permit not more than 2% of invalid pensioners under the age limit to occupy accommodation in these organisations. In other words, if an organisation has accommodation for 100 the Minister will allow two invalid pensioners, under the age limit, to enjoy the facilities. I am glad to mention this and I hope that I do not embarrass the Minister or his Department. I know that this procedure has been approved and therefore I am right and the honourable member for Hindmarsh is, I am afraid, wrong.
I am a believer in independent living. When the principal Act was introduced in 1954 it was stated that its objective would be to provide suitable homes for aged persons and, in particular, homes at which aged persons might reside in conditions approaching as near as possible normal domestic life. Therefore, recognising the need in my own area, I saw to it that the type of accommodation provided was independent living accommodation. I am not saying that I do not believe in institutions, for there comes a stage in the life of elderly people when they need a matron’s care) - when they need communal feeding - but there are, fortunately for many people, those delightful years when health is maintained and when they want independent living, and independent living only. Many of us are bending our efforts to provide this sort of independent living in a village where no-one comes along and says: Turn out your light’ or ‘Listen to the bell and come for your meal’. They are provided with modern facilities to care for themselves in a self contained unit.
The Government, recognising that age will bring illness, amended the Act last year. The amendment was debated fully in the House. The Government provided the same subsidy of $2 for $1 for the building of hospitals for villages or establishments of this kind. This took us into a most interesting field - a field where some of us found that having built a village we had to build a hospital. Before I conclude I want to raise the point that a sympathetic community needs to be called upon, because while the Government is prepared to give $2 for $1, somebody has to find the $1. 1 estimate that to build a hospital of fifty beds an organisation must have its own finance of, say, $40,000. These days, when one must depend upon street appeals and the norma] giving by business houses, this takes some time to accumulate. Therefore I appeal, through the avenue of this debate, to the community in every provincial town and in every capital city to come in behind the organisations that appeal for funds for the building of hospitals for the people they have in aged homes.
I have yet to see the constant knockers, as I like to call them, do something. We have listened to a number of them in this debate today. They brought out point after point that was irrelevant. They revealed in their speeches that they do not know of the working practices that I have pointed out. I refer to them as ‘knockers’ and throw out my challenge that they go back to their electorates and enthuse a few more people to establish these organisations, and that they take office in some of them themselves and help us as a Government to handle a piece of legislation which in my opinion is above party politics. They should be in this, giving us the assistance of their efforts. I challenge them to take a part. I have not yet seen one member of the Opposition take a lead in this matter, as did so many men like Sir Keith Wilson while still a member of this House, in giving an inspiring lead throughout the Commonwealth.
The amendment deals with local government. Even now, before this amendment becomes law, local councils and shires can do much to help churches and charitable organisations in respect of a number of things. What about road maintenance in these villages? Who is to repair the roads? Some of us may have exercised an influence upon State Government authorities to put in roads, but it would be a great assistance if only the nearest shire authority would say to an organisation: ‘We will assist you with your road maintenance, or we will come along if you want to establish trees and shrubs and gardens and help you with our shire gardening staff.’ All too often there has been no offer by the shires and local government authorities in a field in which they are qualified to assist. When some honourable members opposite say that every shire and every council will now come into this scheme I cannot help but think of the deficiencies of their interest in the past. I wonder how many funds are to be employed to do the work that churches, mainly, have been doing.
– This is a serious criticism of local government.
– They now have an opportunity, my friend, to find funds. Let it be noted that not all of the funds that they handle will attract a subsidy, and with this I agree. We cannot go on subsidising moneys that the Commonwealth has provided. If out of revenue from rates they can find thousands of dollars, that will be fine. I shall be the first to applaud. I am justified in saying that not very many shires and local councils have come in to help these bodies up to date. I am pleased that this Bill has been introduced. I hope it will encourage local authorities who have helped to help some more. I hope that this will propel those who have not yet participated in the field of helping senior citizens to come in and do a little, instead of leaving it to the churches and charitable bodies in their local government areas.
What of terminal hospitals? I have mentioned the amendment that was made last year, which is one of the finest things we have done in relation to this Act since it was introduced in 1954. I mention again the great burden of finding one third of the cost of a hospital that an organisation now requires to build. It cannot turn to those who are living in the housing units and say: In addition to your original donation, will you now contribute $500 towards the cost of building a hospital where you might require a bed?’ This is not justified. So we must turn to what I hope is an appreciative community and ask it to respond to our appeal. As I am responsible, say within the next twelve months, for raising some $40,000 for one of these hospitals, I hope that my own community will be pleased to come and assist.
So I come to a conclusion, knowing that the Minister is keen that the debate should conclude. The amendment moved by the spokesman for the Opposition is not justified, because the Act itself gives ample opportunity for a trade union to do exactly the same as the churches and charitable bodies have done. I therefore will vote against the amendment, and I applaud the provisions that are contained in this Bill.
– in reply - I want to run briefly over a few of the proposals that have been presented, only because some of them require, I think, some explanation. The first is the amendment foreshadowed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) for the inclusion of a trade union as an eligible organisation under section 5 of the Act. As has already been explained by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and members on this side of the House, there is already a provision for a trade union to be an eligible organisation. First of all, if its constitution permits it, within the terms of sub-section (1.) (a) of section 5, to be ‘carried on otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain to its individual members’ it can be accepted as an organisation approved by the Governor-General. Secondly, if its constitution does not so permit it, it is possible for it to establish a separate trust and for that trust to operate on the same basis as any other charitable organisation and again be approved by the Governor-General for the purpose of a subsidy under the legislation.
The reason why the Government does not accept this amendment is that if we were to include a trade union it would seem paradoxical to omit so many of the other organisations that are omitted at present. For example, the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) has mentioned that some friendly societies are already operating aged persons’ homes, and there are bodies like the Country Women’s Association which come within the category of approved organisations. There are innumerable such organisations and it would seem quite unnecessary to spell them out verbatim in the legislation. They are enabled to receive the subsidy; they can operate these homes. So there is no necessity for the amendment. The next matter I wanted specifically to mention was a question raised by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) who was concerned at the definition of these moneys which would be excluded from subsidy when contributed by a local governing body. I would direct the attention of members to clause 6 of the Bill which, having defined the moneys that are excluded, adds the qualification that they should be moneys that the Director-General is satisfied come within these categories. In other words there is a discretion, and within this discretion it is possible for the Director-General to exclude, as I remarked by way of interjection when the honourable member for Bennelong was speaking, such payments as gratuitous payments in lieu of rates. Perhaps in other circumstances there would be other amounts which from time to time would not be necessarily within the exclusion intended in this Bill.
During the debate speakers on both sides of the House have expressed concern about the provision of domiciliary care for aged persons. I would briefly direct the attention of honourable members to two spheres within which moneys are contributed by the Federal Government. There is the housekeeper grant to which reference can be found in the reports of the Director-General of Social Services from year to year, and there is also the home nursing subsidy scheme to which reference is made in the annual reports of the Commonwealth Director-General of Health. These are two of the domiciliary services which are presently available. In addition the Department of Social Services does not deny the right of the Meals on Wheels service to operate from a kitchen located in an aged persons’ home. However, the Department is not prepared to subsidise kitchen facilities over and above what is necessary for a particular home. This means that the kitchen may be no more than adequate for the persons who are housed within the aged persons’ home. If there is excess availability of time, meals can be cooked within that kitchen. It is certainly only an ancillary service, but it is available.
Having said that, I would assure the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) and others who have expressed their concern that this is a matter which we will examine, and examine perhaps more sympathetically, with only the reservation that there must be some sphere within which I feel and the Government feels the States must continue to accept responsibility. I consider that the States primarily have direct responsibility for any of the more domiciliary type forms of assistance. While the Government can provide long term assistance and capital subsidy assistance, it is not for the Commonwealth necessarily to enter into the many fringe fields where obviously benefits can be provided either at the State government level or at the local government level.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the criticism offered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) concerning the nature of the persons who are residing in aged persons homes. It will be recalled that he suggested that the bigger percentage of persons who are now residing in these homes were either not age pensioners or were those who bad some capital and had contributed towards the capital construction cost of the home. I can assure honourable members of this House that over 70% of the persons living in aged persons homes today are in fact in receipt of age pensions. I can also assure them that the bigger percentage of aged persons homes throughout Australia do operate without any capital contribution. However, the Government believes that it is not for it to control the individual operations of organisations conducting aged persons’ homes. It believes that in order to fulfil the purpose of this legislation the best advantage can be achieved both for the individuals who are residing in these homes and those who will go into them in the future by providing complete independence for the organisations in the operation of those homes. The idea is to try to encourage organisations which are prepared to contribute by love and care and kindness to the welfare of these persons. It is for this reason that the Commonwealth refrains from entering into the direct control of the orgnisations concerned. For those reasons, I commend the Bill without amendment to the House and I assure honourable members that I will look at all the many proposals which have been put before the Parliament this day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Section 2 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the definition of “eligible organization” and inserting in its stead the following definitions: - “ ‘ eligible organization ‘ means -
a religious organization;
– Before moving an amendment on behalf of the Opposition, I take the opportunity to congratulate the Government again on a belated conversion to Labor’s policy. I refer to clause 3 which now includes local governing bodies as eligible organisations. 1 extend my congratulations to the Government, which is rather unusual for me, because on page 1730 of Hansard of 10th October 1963 1 find this passage:
- Mr Chairman, i move - in sub-clause (3.), omit ‘or of a State; or (b) a local governing body established under the law of a State,’.
This occurred during the debate on the Disabled Persons Accommodation Bill. On that occasion, the then Minister for Social Services, Mr Roberton, said:
Mr Chairman, the amendment is unacceptable to the Government
Yet tonight, as a further step forward *n the welfare state, the Government includes local government bodies in the complementary legislation now under discussion. All the many and varied reasons as to why this could not be done before have been forgotten tonight. Why, the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver), who has honoured us with bis great knowledge on this subject tonight, was amongst those who are recorded on page 1731 of Hansard of 10th October 1963 as having voted against the very amendment that he commends tonight. But he was not alone on that occasion; he had fifty-seven companions - just enough to defeat the proposal. I am delighted tonight to see that at long last the Labor Party’s policy of assisting the aged, those most deserving people, has been vindicated by the inclusion of this provision in the Bill. My congratulations terminate at this point. I now formally move:
After paragraph (b) in the definition of ‘eligible organisation’ insert ‘and (ba) a trade union registered under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State,’.
This means, in effect, that trade unions would come within the definition of an eligible organisation. I am not unmindful of the explanation given by the Minister, and I thank him for the trouble he has gone to. He has assured the Opposition that trade unions come within the legislation, subject to the provisions of the Act. We have that assurance, but we would like to see it written into the legislation. We think that in justice to more than 2 million trade unionists and almost 350 trade unions it should be written in, as these people and bodies are an important part of society.
The Minister’s explanation is not unreasonable. However in accordance with the wishes of my Party I have formally moved the amendment. As 1 have indicated I am certain the assurance the Minister has given is of substance. To that extent his assurance may nullify the amendment; but having moved it 1 say that unfortunately for the Government some of its members do not even think that trade unions should be included. 1 do not wish to cast reflections on the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), who is the son of the former Speaker, but a few moments ago he said he could not support the inclusion of trade unions in this legislation. I am pleased that my mental faculties are working satisfactorily tonight and that I am able to remember the remarks of the honourable member for Swan (Mr Cleaver) and the honourable member for Boothby on this very important subject. I repeat that I have moved the amendment having in mind the Minister’s statement that unions and unionists are covered. This is what we sought to get. It appears that we have had two victories tonight with this important legislation, both of which will add to the comfort of the people who come within this well deserved Act.
Amendment negatived. Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-1966, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Aston) be discharged as a trustee serving on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Trust, and that the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) be appointed a trustee to serve in his place.
Medical Evacuation from Vietnam - Postal Services - Visitors Visas
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Members of this House are well aware of the rather obvious sensitivity of the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) to criticism, but none the less I feel I must raise a certain matter. On 4th April the Minister arranged to make a statement in this House - he did in fact make it - concerning the air evacuation of wounded troops from Vietnam. Superficially the statement seemed to be quite satisfactory but when one took the opportunity to read that statement against the criticism of Dr Alister Brass in the Medical Journal of Australia on 25th March this year it became abundantly clear that the real crux of Dr Brass’s criticism had not been answered by the Minister. In fact it was obvious that the Minister for Defence had resorted to the old legal play of abusing the opposition attorney when your case is a poor one in the hope of diverting attention from the true issues at stake.
Dr Brass has been effectively silenced since the furore following his criticism of the way in which wounded troops were being evacuated from Vietnam. He has been gagged to the extent that, according to the Brisbane ‘Sunday Truth’ of 9th April, the
Australian Medical Association has prevented him from explaining in a television documentary the background to the evacuation of wounded civilians from Vietnam. This is a fairly extreme kind of action to take against Dr Brass. One wonders why it has been taken following the very sensitive reaction of the Minister for Defence to Dr Brass’s criticism.
The core of Dr Brass’s criticism centres on the extreme discomfort, the discomforting noises and the general unsuitability of the huge lumbering Hercules aircraft for the air evacuation of wounded soldiers. I shall quote three extracts from his statement. The first is in these terms:
The Australians evacuate their men in Hercules C130 transport planes, unlike the Americans who use large jet aircraft to take their wounded to Clark Field in the Philippines, to Tokyo or to the United States.
The Minister’s reply failed to deal with the statement that the Americans use jet aircraft to transport their wounded from Vietnam. In fact, one gets the clear impression from the Minister that the Hercules is the most suitable aircraft and the only real choice for this kind of evacuation. The second extract is as follows:
While troops, who sit in four parallel rows on nylon webbing, may be expected to put up with the dim light of a few naked lightbulbs, a dustbin for a latrine and the constant harsh medley of groans, hisses and loud bangs as some part of the machinery fulfils its natural function, it must be a nightmare of a journey for a sick man.
The final extract from Dr Brass’s statement, which the Minister has failed to answer, is:
Once the tongue-like ramp at the back of the plane has clacked shut, the passenger’s only information about the stage of the journey reached comes from his senses of hearing, inertia and equilibrium. An irregular but gentle shaking superimposed on the steady vibration from the engines means taxi-ing. A rock-shattering bowl a few millimetres of aluminium away, followed by a jerk at the seat belt, a sense of rapid acceleration and a feeling of tumbling towards the back of the plane means take-off. Landing-signalled by the sound of throttling back of the engines, forward tilting of the hurtling aircraft to give the impression of riding a big dipper blindfold and a loud crash as the wheels lock into position directly under one’s feet - is the worst. Even among veteran soldiers all conversation dries up with one’s mouth for the last few minutes before touch-down. Faces taughten and hands reach up to grasp the webbing. The gyrations of a high, searching finger of sunshine from a porthole weaving figures of eight in the funky atmosphere are the only guides of the ‘plane’s angle of banking as it turns in to the runway. The sudden bump and shriek of tyres - when it finally comes - is followed by the outbreak of a rash of smiles and sighs as the engines thunder in reverse pitch. Noone loves a Hercules.
The only treatment that the Minister gave this very important criticism was to say that it is hoped that some sort of development is going to take place so that a prefabricated unit can be inserted in the aircraft. There is no suggestion of the extent to which the noise will be reduced or the extent to which the decibel rating will be modified. Additionally, a recent newspaper article stated that this unit had not been finally developed but was in the process of being developed. At the earliest it will not be ready for six months, so it will be at least six months before we get this unit for our aircraft transporting wounded soldiers.
The point is that we may not be the first on the order list. Having regard to the past record of the Government and the FI IIA contract it is more likely to be sixteen months or even sixty months before it arrives. What did the Minister say in trying to rebut these very serious and very challenging statements made by a reputable journal and by a reputable medical authority who himself, as far as I can discover, has never retracted what he has written? The only retraction so far has been made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall), a very determined Minister, as honourable members know, in effecting retribution for criticism. What did he say? He criticised the doctor for not flying in an Australian C130. The doctor admitted he had flown in an American plane. Is there any difference? What sort of validity is there in this argument?
The Minister said that there is an improved C130E aircraft and that the doctor should not have criticised the CI 30. What is the improvement? Surely we are entitled to know about the tremendous improvement which in the Minister’s view, by implication at least, was sufficient for him to feel that Dr Brass had no right to criticise the sort of facilities available in such aircraft. The Minister said that to use a Boeing 707, which had been suggested, was out of the question because it would need special setting up for the particular purpose of transporting wounded soldiers, and that the aircraft would be infrequently used.
My goodness, what a shocking state of affairs, and what p. great concern for the public’s money. But how much more impressed would we be if the Government had not, as it has already done, set about spending between $1Om and $15m to buy a fleet of luxuriously appointed aircraft for the VIP flight? Most of the time they will be sitting in Canberra, except when the Ministers want to flit about on some sort of business or other, as they are entitled to do, or when their near relatives - as has happened - have a social function here or there to fulfil. We know, of course, that the luxury aircraft of the VIP flight must be made available for them. However, there are no luxury aircraft or even moderately luxurious aircraft available for the wounded soldiers- coming back from Vietnam.
The Minister says, in an effort to put up a convincing and clinching argument in rebutting Dr Brass’s statement, that he views his own aero-medical teams’ opinions as preferable to those of anyone else. Let us be clear about that. The aero-medical teams have very decided guide lines within which to operate and from which they can seek their conclusions and give their advice to the Minister. One of those guide lines concerns the types of aircraft which the Royal Australian Air Force has available. Obviously, if it has only Hercules aircraft available the aero-medical teams are going to report that those are the best aircraft that are available to do the job. That indicates the sophistry of his argument. He speaks of the Korean War and the experience there. Of course the Korean War was well over ten years ago and anyway, experience in that war does not make the C130E a better aircraft. In actual fact the whole tenor of his argument in no way rebuts the statements of Dr Brass concerning the extreme noise, the unsuitability and the discomfort of these aircraft.
I want finally to quote from a vexed letter to the editor of the ‘Queensland Times’, the Ipswich daily newspaper, written recently by a much respected reverend gentleman of that town. He said:
Could I recount one experience?
He was referring to this transfer of wounded troops.
The sen-in-law of former members of my church was shockingly wounded; a piece of shrapnel tore through his stomach, passed over the heart and in its exit smashed utterly the bones of his upper left arm. It inflames my conscience that this lad was flown back under these barbarous means.
– It inflames my conscience and it ought to inflame the conscience of the Government, particularly those Ministers who use VIP luxury aircraft but leave these uncomfortable lumbering giants to the troops.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It was not my intention, or the intention of any honourable member on this side of the House, to speak this evening on the motion for the adjournment. However I feel that some honourable member should reply to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). I do not know what experience he has ever had in flying any of these aircraft. I am sure there would be few honourable members on this side of the House who would not have stood and refuted this attack after the information given recently by the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall).
The Minister for Defence, in a considered reply to the matters raised by Dr Brass, said that he treated the matters raised by him as important. He said that he had made inquiries. Then he gave the results of his inquiries. He even went further and said that he agreed with the doctor as to the importance of the comments that he had made about the noise factor involved in travelling in Hercules aircraft. He gave reasons why Hercules aircraft were considered to be more effective than others. These reasons were the type of airstrip that they look off from; their capabilities; that if other types of aircraft were used they would have to be smaller aircraft and personnel would have to be trans-shipped at Saigon. He proved that what the doctor had said was inaccurate. He proved that there were nursing sisters on these aircraft and that the facilities for the wounded were not as set out by the doctor. Indeed, the Minister for Defence said:
Dr Brass also agreed that certain of his criticisms might have been omitted or softened had be been better informed of the background.
The honourable member’s action in standing ing and saying that the Government, or honourable members on this side of the House, are less concerned with the comfort of wounded troops reveals the type of person he is. There are not many members on this side of the House who are not concerned with this matter, and who would not want the best for wounded or sick servicemen who are being flown out of Vietnam. I can only say that I have lost the little respect that I may have had for the honourable member for Oxley. I do not think he was really interested in this matter. I think he wanted to get in a plug about VIP aircraft. I ask him direct: Who is using the VIP aircraft today?
– The Prime Minister’s daughters probably.
– No. It is the Leader of the Opposition. I think it is well for him to know that it is his leader who is using them. As a private member I can remember a Labor conference in Western Australia to attend which the former Leader of the Opposition used a VIP aircraft. I am not complaining about the use of VIP aircraft. I think they are essential. But if the honourable member wanted to make an attack on the Government’s use of VIP aircraft why did he not refer to Ministers’ use of them and their use by the Leader of the Opposition without bringing wounded soldiers and their treatment into it? This is not the immediate responsibility of the Government. The Government primarily does not make the decision as to what aircraft will be used to transport servicemen. The decision is made by the medical authorities of the RAAF and the Army. They determine the most suitable arrangements. 1 do not wish to delay anybody any longer-
– Hear, hear!
– Yes. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith may well say: ‘Hear, hear!’ but he might well have shown his displeasure when the honourable member for Oxley rose. When the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith opens his mouth twelve stretcher cases could be put in it, for all the interest that he shows in the matter.
- Mr Speaker, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) completely avoided the argument that was put forward by the
Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall). This is what the Minister for Defence said on the point raised tonight by the honourable member for Oxley:
However, I do agree with Dr Brass when he says that the C130 is a noisy aircraft. The matter has been one of constant concern to my colleague, the Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who has been actively seeking a solution.
I do not know what the standards of the honourable member for La Trobe are. I assume that in most matters of humanity and ordinary decency his standards are much the same as ours. But there is no doubt in my mind from the observations that I have made of the situation that when the Government approaches matters such as the evacuation of wounded soldiers from Vietnam and postal service to our soldiers in Vietnam, the tendency is for the Australian forces in Vietnam to be taken on the cheap. Last year, we had a long series of debates, discussions and public controversies about the mail service to our troops in Vietnam. You, Mr Speaker, and I would have said that if it is good enough to send thousands of young Australians to Vietnam, it is good to see that the best is given to them, regardless of the cost. The policy on this side of the House is that no young Australian should fight in any war; but if young Australians do fight they should be given the best that the wit and the will of the world can supply. The speech by the Minister for Defence on this matter will be found at page 867 of Hansard of Tuesday, 4th April 1967. If there was concern at the noise of the aircraft, alternatives were available. Other aircraft have been mentioned. I do not think that the honourable member for Oxley attacked anybody concerning the use of VIP aircraft. But what are the standards of the community? If it is good enough to buy BACIII aircraft for Sim, $2m or S3m to fly people around this country, is it not good enough to out the same value and effort into this task-
– How many cases are involved?
-Order! The honourable member for La Trobe will cease interjecting. He has already spoken.
– It does not matter if only one case is involved. Australia is demanding the ultimate in sacrifice from these people.
Honourable members opposite know the attitude on this side of the House to this state of affairs. The Government is miserable, mean and parsimonious when expense is involved. In this regard, I make three criticisms. The first is the use of noisy aircraft to evacuate wounded diggers. The second is the inadequacy of the postal service. This has been inadequate for months on end. Thirdly, a parsimonious attitude is taken by the Government in relation to the entertainment of the troops. When I was in Vietnam in August, our troops were getting second hand films. Why were they not receiving up to date films from this country? I put it to honourable members opposite that it has been one of the features of the treatment of servicemen by the Government that while there are great efforts behind our servicemen - great administrative efforts in many cases - when it comes to what I might call the ancillary or auxiliary services, the Government has had the tendency always to be mean in the extreme. In my view, from my reading of the Minister’s speech and the other information that I have read on the matter, this is still the case.
– The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) should be commended for raising this matter. Firstly, I think that the House should look at the priorities. We were prepared to support the expenditure of SI, 000m in the last Budget for armaments and for defence. Surely, if we are prepared to spend $ 1,000m in one year for armaments and defence, we should be able to allocate the correct priorities to make sure that these men who are wounded in Vietnam are provided with proper transport. If necessary the Government should charter Qantas aircraft to fly them back in comfort. I am not an expert on flying, but I think that if it is necessary to have an ambulance service from Vietnam to Australia the Australian Government should purchase the most suitable aircraft. These aircraft should be pressurised so that our soldiers can travel in them in some degree of comfort.
I have had some experience of flying. 1 was flown out of Japan after the Second World War in a Flying Fortress. The bomb bays were battened up and the former prisoners of war were taken out of Japan in the B17 bombers. We flew from the island of Kyushu to Okinawa. When we reached, say, 15,000 feet, it was pretty cold. In fact, it was freezing. I do know that the Hercules aircraft are not pressurised. When they were purchased, they were brought to Canberra. All honourable members had an opportunity to travel in them. I inspected one of the aircraft and flew in it. I should say that, after flying in a Hercules aircraft for some time, it would be necessary to have an ear operation; the aircraft is very noisy. I do not know the altitudes at which the Hercules fly from Vietnam to Australia. If they fly at the height at which 1 flew - that is, 15,000 feet - between Japan and Okinawa, 1 would say that the men being transported in them would be particularly cold and they would be travelling under very difficult conditions.
AU 1 ask is that men injured in Vietnam be given a high priority. If it is good enough for us to spend huge sums of money on armaments used in war, we should do everything we can to give the soldiers injured in Vietnam a proper degree of comfort when they are being returned to their homeland. Nothing is too good for our men. If they are injured we should do our utmost to bring them back to their normal condition of health. We on this side of the House support the principles enunciated by the honourable member for Oxley. Surely ali honourable members on the other side will join with us and ask the Government to examine this position. If it is in the interests of servicemen injured in Vietnam to be brought home as soon as possible, they should be flown in aircraft that are pressurised. They should not be asked to fly in conditions in which they could be so cold. They should not be subjected to any discomfort. I support the honourable member for Oxley. I hope that the honourable member for Parkes (Mr Hughes), who is interjecting, will rise and express his support for our request. He is a supporter of the Government and he should do all he can to ensure that servicemen who are injured in Vietnam get a fair go and are returned to Australia under reasonable conditions.
– The most conspicuous feature of the debate now taking place is the failure of honourable members on the Government side to reply to the statements of the honourable members for Oxley (Mr Hayden), Wills (Mr Bryant) and Reid (Mr Uren). The Minister for Air (Mr Howson), who is vitally concerned with this important matter, has been very quiet. He has listened to all the speeches and has said nothing. However, 1 did not rise to speak on this subject.
I have been concerned for some considerable time about the inadequate mail services between Newcastle and Sydney and Newcastle and Canberra. 1 have written numerous letters on this subject to the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) and on each occasion I have received a reply from him. I want to bring to his attention that at 5 minutes past 5 o’clock last Thursday I placed four letters in the box just outside the door of this chamber. Two were addressed to Newcastle. They arrived last Monday. Two were addressed to Sydney. One arrived in Sydney today at 12.30 p.m. in the afternoon delivery. I do not know at this time whether the other letter has yet arrived. 1 brought this matter to the attention of the District Postal Inspector here last Tuesday when one of the persons to whom 1 had sent a letter informed me that he had not received it. The Postal Inspector made inquiries and assured me that the packages would be delivered that day. On that assumption I did nothing more about the matter and did not post any more letters to one of the two people. I had already posted a similar letter from Newcastle to that person. That went in Monday afternoon’s mail and he received it on Tuesday. When one sends important papers from this place to people in Sydney or in some other part of the Commonwealth they should be delivered within a reasonable time. For the life of me 1 cannot understand - and I am quite certain that the Minister cannot understand - why a package posted outside the door of this chamber at 5.5 p.m. last Thursday should take until 12.30 p.m. today to arrive in Sydney. This is just not good enough. It is of no use blaming the staff in the
Postmaster-General’s Department for this delay. There is something basically wrong with the whole postal system when on a number of occasions I have had to write to the Postmaster-General complaining about inadequate mail deliveries and delay in deliveries.
On one occasion when letters were posted in Canberra on the same day, one was delivered to me at my office in Newcastle on the Thursday and another was delivered to the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) on the Friday. That is not good enough when they were both posted here at the one time. This has happened twice in the one week. In addition there is the example that I mentioned to honourable members tonight when the Postmaster-General’s Department failed to deliver a letter in less than seven days. It has taken almost seven days to deliver these letters which, as I said, were posted last Thursday. I said that I would not delay honourable members for very long. 1 shall be pleased to hear some explanation from the Postmaster-General.
– 1 endorse the remarks made in this place tonight by my colleagues, the honourable members for Reid (Mr Uren) and Oxley (Mr Hayden) about the return of Australian wounded servicemen from Vietnam. I endorse also the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) about delays in delivering mail, particularly from here to Newcastle. But I want also to condemn the Government for practising something which 1 believe is akin to black magic and witchcraft. The New South Wales Vagrancy Act lays down that it is an offence to practise fortune telling, or to read palms. But, although the Commonwealth Government has been criticised in the Press, and justifiably so, for preventing would-be decent citizens from obtaining a visa to come into Australia, it did not hesitate to grant a visa to the charlatan Dutch clairvoyant who was allowed into Australia not long ago. As a result of his coming to Australia there was a stirring of the emotions of people in South Australia who dug into their pockets to pay the expenses for him to come here. Further, as a result of his visit, the foundations of a factory which had been laid some months after the death of the Beaumont children in South Australia were dug up. This Government should take very special precautions to prevent a repetition of this occurrence. It should not permit the practice of witchcraft, palmistry or black magic of the type practised by the Dutch clairvoyant on Australian people.
– lt was a thimble and pea trick.
– Yes, it was the thimble and pea trick which has been practised for years. How this man got away with what he did and who is receiving a cut from it I do not know. I understand that he perpetrated a similar trick on the people of Boston not very many years ago when the Boston strangler was operating in that part of the United States and ten or twelve unfortunate women were strangled. I understand that he was then engaged to come from Holland to give the people of Boston some clue as to who perpetrated those murders.
I sincerely urge the Government to prevent people of this type from coming into this community, which- is the cleanest in the world, though, naturally, that is not due to the efforts of the Liberal Party of Australia through the years. People of this type should not be admitted to Australia to practise black magic and witchcraft on the Australian people and cause emotional upsets. I hesitate to think of the mental anguish that the parents of the Beaumont children in South Australia must have gone through as a result of this confidence man being allowed into the country. I believe that this matter comes under the control of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) who is now present in the chamber. I re-emphasise that there should be no repetition of this sort of occurrence. Confidence men and practitioners of black magic and witchcraft should never again be permitted to come here.
– Mr Speaker, I regret that at present I can give no reasonable answer to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) who sought information about the delivery of some letters that he had posted. He said that he posted four letters, two of which were delivered on Monday.
– At Newcastle.
– Yes. The delivery of these two letters suggests to me that the letter box in which the four letters were posted was cleared correctly. On examining the box, one finds it hard to believe that anyone who cleared it would not be able to see whether any letters had been left behind. I have been in touch with the District Postal Manager at the Mail Exchange in Canberra and he has informed me that on no night recently has there been a carry-over of even one letter at the Canberra Mail Exchange. So I am quite at a loss to explain what happened to the letters that the honourable member posted. Whether something has gone wrong at the Sydney Mail Exchange I do not know. I hope that the honourable member will obtain the envelopes and let me have them so that I may have an opportunity to check the postmarks and perhaps obtain some information about where the missing letters may have gone astray. I mention to honourable members that some time ago a letter from here took three weeks to reach me. It so happened that the Parliament was in recess at the time. Somebody placed a number of letters in the Hansard’ box outside the door of the chamber. That box is cleared only when the House is in session. I wondered whether the honourable member for Newcastle might have posted his letters similarly, perhaps at a late hour of the night. I cannot yet offer any explanation that would be completely satisfying. However, because I believe that there might have been some fault in the clearance of mails in Canberra I had the Assistant Director (Postal Services) in Sydney come to Canberra for three days to go right through the system and ensure that we were in fact getting a proper clearance of mail out of Canberra. I shall investigate the matter further after the honourable member for Newcastle has given me the envelopes from the two letters that were delivered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.19 a.m. (Friday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. The first Commonwealth hospital benefit was introduced in 1946, when the Government of the day entered into agreements with the States for the payment of an ordinary hospital benefit of 6s per day for each patient on the condition that the States provided free public ward treatment without a means test and that 6s per day was deducted from the accounts of intermediate and private ward patients in public hospitals.
The 6s per day was also paid to private hospitals in respect of patients in such hospitals. These patients received the benefit by way of a deduction in their hospital accounts.
The ordinary hospital benefit rate of 6s per day was increased to 8s per day in 1948.
As from 1st January 1952, the Government introduced a hospital benefits scheme designed to encourage voluntary hospital insurance through registered hospital benefit organisations by providing higher Commonwealth hospital benefits for insured patients.
The arrangements for the provision of hospital benefits and the rates of hospital benefits have been reviewed on several occasions since. At present the benefits provided by the Commonwealth in respect of patients in approved hospitals are, generally: $2.00 a day for insured patients; 80: a day for uninsured patients.
The current daily fees charged for treatment in public wards of public hospitals are as follows:
As from 1st January 1958, hospital patients insured for a fund benefit of at least $1.60 a day have been entitled to a Commonwealth benefit of $2.00 a day. Between 1st January 1958 and 31st December 1962, this comprised 80c a day ordinary benefit (which was paid direct to the hospital and deducted by it from the patient’s fees) and $1.20 a day, which was paid to the contributor through the registered hospital benefits organisation. As from 1st January 1963 these two payments were combined in a single payment of $2.00 a day made through the organisation.
The public ward bed charges per day in each State as at 1st January 1958 were as follows:
The current benefit of 80c a day for uninsured patients has remained unchanged since 1948, at which time no charges were made to patients in public wards.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Pensions (Question No. 56)
asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice:
What would be the estimated additional cost of increasing the permissible income from (a) $7 to (10 in the case of a single pensioner and (b) $14 to $20 in the case of married pensioner couples and married pensioners whose spouse is not in receipt of a pension?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is estimated that the cost of increasing the permissible means as assessed to the amounts mentioned would be of the order of:
$9 million per annum.
$10 million per annum.
In view of the absence of data on the income and property of persons now outside the pension field who might qualify for pensions if the increases were adopted, it is impossible to arrive at an accurate estimate of the cost that would be involved for such new pensioners. The figures given include the estimated cost of increasing pensions now payable at reduced rates and also an amount in respect of the new pensions which would become payable.
Since the introduction of the merged means test in 1961, the amount of income a pensioner may receive without affecting the rate of pension payable has depended on the value of his property apart from his home and personal effects.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What would be the estimated additional cost of increasing (a) age, (b) invalid and (c) Class A widow pensions to half the present Federal basic wage?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
For existing pensioners the estimated additional annual cost of increasing pension to one-half the Federal basic wage is:
Age pensioners, $128 million;
Invalid pensioners, $21 million; and
Class A widow pensioners $6 million. (These estimated costs are based on the assumption that additional payments by way of mothers’ and guardians’ allowances, supplementary assistance, etc., would continue.)
The costs quoted do not take account of the additional numbers who might be able to qualify for pension because of the increase in pension rates payable; the additional cost of such pensions would be substantial.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answerable member’s question o the honour- follows
These side effects have received wide publicity and have been drawn to the attention of medical practitioners on numerous occasions over a considerable period.
Apart from warning articles published as early as 1963 in authoritative overseas publications such as The Lancet’ and the ‘British Medical Journal’, direct action has been taken to bring these side effects to the notice of Australian practitioners. In May 1964, the National Health and Medical Research Council issued a statement on this subject; in June 1964, the findings of the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee on the toxicity of tetracyclines were published in the Medical Journal of Australia’ and were notified in the Australian Medical Association monthly bulletin to medical practitioners; and further information concerning the adverse effects of tetracycline therapy and dosage recommendations, based on a more recent report by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee, was published in the Medical Journal of Australia’ as recently as February 1967. This matter has also received wide publicity in other professional journals and in the press. Moreover, an article on the side effects of tetracycline is contained in the current issue of the ‘Prescriber^ Journal’, published by my Department. 5 and 6. It is a well known fact that the taking of many drugs involves risks. However, the risks must be balanced against the therapeutic advantages and this is a matter for the prescribing doctor’s judgment. The Commonwealth Government has endeavoured to ensure that all doctors are informed of the possible adverse effects of drugs and has established the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee for this purpose.
I therefore do not propose to sponsor an inquiry into the drug industry on action to compel the drug industry to set up an indemnity fund.
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The British Prime Minister, Mr Wilson, has completed a series of visits to capital cities of the member states of the European Common Market. He announced his intention to do this in a statement made in the House of Commons on 10th November 1966. He also said on this occasion that Britain was approaching the discussions with the clear intention and determination to enter the Common Market if essential British and Commonwealth interests could be safeguarded.
The discussions which took place during the visits have been described as exploratory. Nothing definite emerged from them nor was it necessarily intended to emerge. Their purpose was to help the British Government to form a judgment as to whether or not arrangements should be activated for negotiation of British entry, provided, according to the British Government, that essential
British and Commonwealth interests could be safeguarded.
The British Government has not specified the terms and conditions that it would regard as adequate for safeguarding Commonwealth interests. The final judgment on the adequacy of the arrangements proposed for this purpose is, like the decision on whether to join or not to join the Common Market, one for Britain alone to make. As the British Government has not yet decided to negotiate there is nothing to which the Australian Government can react at the moment. Australian Government reaction must wait until British terms and conditions ‘ in respect of Commonwealth interests are made known.
At this stage I am able to say that the British Government has kept us informed of EEC reactions to Mr Wilson’s exploratory discussions with the governments of member states. But I must stress again that nothing has been communicated to the Australian Government, either by the British Prime Minister or Mr Bowden during his recent discussions with me, as to what the ultimate British decision will be on seeking EEC membership or the conditions which Britain might state in her application.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Of the thirty Viscount and Fokker Friendship engines being operated with unmodified rear compressor bearings, as indicated in answer to my question No. 69 (Hansard, page 830), how many are in service with (a) Ansett-ANA and
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is a follows:
As a result of continuing progress in this matter, the number of unmodified rear compressor bearings remaining in service in Viscount 810 series and Fokker F27 Mark 2 aircraft operated by Australian airlines has now been reduced to twelve. Of these seven (7) are installed in engines operated by Ansett/ ANA and associated companies and five (5) are in engines operated by TAA. In providing these figures, it is stressed that safe operation of unmodified engines is assured by frequent, careful inspection of the rear compressor bearing scavenge oil filters, as mentioned in my reply to Question No. 69. These inspections are required to be performed at intervals not exceeding fifteen (IS) hours time in service. In practice, the average inspection period is significantly lower than that figure.
asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Council on non-procedural matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members. It has been affirmed in rulings by Presidents of the Security Council that the abstention of a permanent member does not ^preclude fulfilment of the requirement of ‘Article 27(3). This has also been affirmed by each of the permanent members. In the case in question no objection was raised when the President stated that the draft resolution on Rhodesia had been adopted by eleven votes to none with four abstentions.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 April 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670413_reps_26_hor54/>.