26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. Is he aware that Air Vice-Marshal Ky of South Vietnam has publicly declared that among his high ranking generals there is a vast amount of graft and corruption and that if elected he will act to stamp out this graft and corruption? In the event of Marsha] Ky being beaten in the September presidential elections - 1 would think such an eventuality would be a miracle - and so being unable to carry out his promise, what action does the Government intend to take to stamp out the graft and corruption that exist among high ranking South Vietnamese generals, for whose country Australian and American boys are fighting and dying-
-Order! The honourable gentleman should ask his question.
– . . . in order, so we are told, to uphold the freedom and democratic rights of the South Vietnamese people?
– The honourable gentleman will be aware that Prime Minister Ky is not a presidential candidate; he is standing for the vice-presidency. I make that point of detail. The honourable gentleman also will be, a ware, if he is a student of the Asian scene, that corruption in one form or another is to be found throughout most of the countries of Asia. It has not been unknown in some English speaking countries, of which perhaps the honourable gentleman also will have some knowledge. I think it is significant that although corruption has been a feature of public life in most if not all of the countries of Asia, all of the governments with which Australia is in alliance have been making determined efforts to stamp out corruption where it exists.
In some parts of Asia where inflation is a common phenomenon it is not unusual for members of the government service to expect some additional payment for their service beyond that which they receive in what is lor them a rapidly eroding salary structure.
I merely make that point by way of comment as a circumstance of fact, not to condone the practice.
Yesterday I read to the House an extract from a letter sent by Air Vice-Marshal Ky to the Vice-President of the United States of America in his capacity as President of the Senate. I believe that the sentiments expressed in that letter would command the approval of all sections of the House. I believe them to bc genuinely he’ld sentiments. Let us hope that if the opportunity arises for Prime Minister Ky, in a position of authority, to give effect to those sentiments, he will be successful in doing so.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. I understand from reliable information that the status of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union has deteriorated drastically and that they are being used as scapegoats because of Israel’s extraordinary victory over the Arabs. In view of the Australian Government’s intervention at the United Nations on behalf of Jewish minorities - I think on 1st November 1962 - will the Minister for External Affairs advise the Australian Ambassador at the United Nations that Australian policy towards religious minorities has not changed and ask that he take the necessary steps to remind the Soviet delegate of this position, and appeal to the Soviet to halt any policy of discrimination and harassment of the Soviet Jewish minority, as well as to enable those Jewish people who wish to emigrate to do so and so be reunited with their families in other parts of the world?
– The interest of the honourable member for Isaacs in this subject is well known because of the number of questions he has asked on it and the frequency with which he has spoken on the subject ©f religious toleration. As he implies in his question, in the United Nations the Australian representatives for several years past have concerned themselves with the manifestation of anti-semitism that still exists in the world and they have found opportunity in var.ious bodies within the United Nations framework to express their views, and to express them very firmly. We made a very strong intervention in 1962. la 1965 again the Australian representatives referred to anti-semitism as an ever present form of racial discrimination which was - and I quote from the representative’s speech - ‘specific and repugnant’. In the General Assembly in 1966 during a debate on an item concerned with racial discrimination the Australian representatives once again took the floor. Perhaps to crystallise the policy of the Government I can refer the honourable gentleman and the House to an answer that was given by the Prime Minister as recently as 21st September 1966 when he said:
Australian sympathy, as expressed by our representatives at United Nations in previous Assemblies, is well known, and I am sure that the honourable member appreciates that Australia has played a vital part in urging upon the Soviet Union a policy of religious tolerance and nondiscrimination against the Jewish minority.
I can assure the honourable member that the Government is alert to the dangers and will continue to express its concern about them on each opportunity that arises.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that ten temporary male sorters employed in the mail sorting exchange in Grenfell Street, Adelaide, have received dismissal notices? Some of these men have had twenty years experience on this work in the United Kingdom and in Australia and are regarded by their supervisor as highly efficient. Are some eighty more similarly competent employees to be dismissed at the rate of ten a month to make way for an influx of new personnel who have passed the examination to become permanent employees of the Public Service? The terms of this examination have no relationship to the work involved. If the answer to my questions is yes, in the interests of common decency and fair play will the Minister have a further look at this matter with a view to ensuring that no further dismissals of faithful and competent employees take place?
– I am afraid I have not full details about this matter. It was brought to my notice and I have asked for some details. All I can say to the honourable member at the moment is that in broad terms employment within the Post Office is arranged by the Public Service Board. There is provision that when properly qualified persons are available for permanent appointment they must have precedence over those who have not the necessary qualifications. I understand that this applies in this particular instance, but as to the other items to which the honourable member has referred, when I have had them completely investigated I will inform him.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to a document that I have received recently through the good graces of his Department which sets out comparative tables of contributions and benefits for equivalent ranks under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefit’s Fund scheme. The tables contain valuable information for those concerned and also would be of benefit to honourable members. I ask the Minister whether he will seek leave to have the document printed.
- Mr Speaker, to the best of my recollection the four or five documents that have been given to the honourable member set out the basis on which the new contributions to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund can be estimated. These documents are a useful source of information for honourable members and I think it would be a wise move subsequently if I ask the Opposition for leave to move that the documents be printed and incorporated in Hansard.
-I suggest that at the end of question time the Treasurer move that the documents be printed. There will then be no need to have them incorporated in Hansard.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question about his observers in the Vietnam election. Can he dispel doubts that his advisers have ever reported in a manner different from his Government’s attitude to the war in Vietnam by stating when such reports were made, other than by members of his Department who have since resigned, and when he has ever notified the Parliament of any of these reports or of their contents? If he receives from his observers in the South Vietnam election any report that is unfavourable to the election will he notify the Parliament fully? If he does so, will this be the first time he has ever reported anything unfavourable to the Government’s attitude to the war in Vietnam?
– I would ask the honourable member for Yarra to recognise the distinction between the confidential and classified reporting that is made year by year, day by day, by our diplomatic representatives abroad in the course of their duty - and whichever government is in office, I think that government could rely upon our diplomatic representatives, whether heads of missions or people of less senior rank, to report clearly in accordance with their responsibility to keep the Government informed of conditions in the countries to which they are accredited. That is one form of reporting. We have never before had anything comparable with the special mission of observers that has been sent to Vietnam in response to an invitation by the Government of South Vietnam to observe the elections. That is of an entirely different character. I have given no directions on the matter, but I assume that its report would be made in a form that could be presented to this Parliament. If there are any confidential aspects of the report which the mission itself wishes to keep confidential, I would suggest - and perhaps the Leader of the Opposition would agree with this - that the appropriate way of dealing with any confidential report that this team pf observers wishes to make of its own judgment would be to put it in touch with the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, which has accepted obligations that enable confidential material to be placed before it. There will certainly be no wish to hide from this House any information that the team of observers brings back and report’s on. It is observing on behalf of the Australian Government in the most comprehensive sense of the term ‘government’.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister for External Affairs. He will recall representations that I made to him recently about flour to be included in Australia’s contribution of aid to India. He will recall also the announcement made some time ago by the Treasurer about our aiding Indonesia to the extent of some $5m. I ask: Is the Minister in a position to inform the House how the Government intends to assist the Indonesians? Will the aid be in the form of credit so that the purchase of commodities needed may be directed through private traders or will it be in the form of a straightout gift of materials?
– I certainly do recall the representations that the honourable gentleman made to me on behalf of the flour millers. I understand that he is not raising that matter now but is raising the separate question of the special aid of $A5.2m for Indonesia. This special aid flows from discussions that were held among a number of nations concerned with the economic recovery of Indonesia. The first part of those discussions related to the rescheduling of Indonesia’s debts. The rescheduling stage having been passed successfully, the nations concerned, including Australia, applied themselves to the problems of promoting the economic recovery of Indonesia, mainly by restoring its industries so that the Indonesians could once again enter into export trade, rehabilitate their overseas balances and thus participate again in commercial transactions of the kind normal to a viable economy. As part of that operation Australia is making $A5.2m available to the Indonesians by way of foreign exchange. The details of this operation have been and are still the subject of negotiations with the Indonesian authorities. I hope to be able to make an announcement concerning the results of these discussions within the next few days.
Broadly, the purpose of the provision of this special aid is to help rehabilitate Indonesia’s export industries and, that having been done, to enable the Indonesians to enter into customary trading transactions. A great proportion of the $A5.2m will be spent on Australian plant, goods and materials. I would not speak in absolute terms on this subject, but it is not expected that there will be a large or significant proportion of consumer goods in the articles or commodities purchased, because the purpose of the scheme is to rehabilitate export industries rather than to meet consumer needs.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior with some degree of urgency. By way of preface may I say that some five or six families in Canberra face eviction from their government owned cottages for failure to pay rent. May I say further that in each case the tenant has a bad record of failure to pay the rent that is required, that each family has received very considerate treatment from the Commissioner for Housing, having failed to keep agreements to pay, and that some have even failed to go to the Housing Branch to discuss the question with its officers. In fact, I believe that the Commissioner has been extremely patient. My question relates particularly to three families on whose behalf I have received representations - Mr and Mrs Cai and their four children, Mr and Mrs Jones and their four children, and Mr and Mrs Alex and their five children. I ask the Minister whether, solely on account of the children, he will consider giving these families one final chance on their undertaking to pay rent in future and to pay sufficient ultimately to liquidate the arrears. I emphasise that I ask this question only because of the children concerned.
– The Commissioner for Housing in Canberra examines sympathetically cases such as those mentioned by the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory. Every consideration and leniency is shown. It is only when he has reached a point where this leniency cannot be extended that he takes any drastic measures. I assure the honourable gentleman that if he supplies me with the names of the five people concerned - he has mentioned three of them - I shall give sympathetic consideration to their cases and provide him with a considered reply.
TELEPHONE SERVICES AT TOWNSVILLE
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Is it a fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department has set the following priorities for telephone connections in Townsville: First, the Army base; secondly, the Townsville University College; and thirdly, business and personal requirements of citizens of Townsville? If this is so, has the Postmaster-General’s Department made any effort to increase the number of technicians who are either permanently or temporarily located in Townsville to cope with the increased demand caused by the Army base and the University College projects? Is it a fact that persons requesting telephone connections and transfers on the city exchanges for business or personal reasons are being told that they will have to wait for periods of from three to six months before these can be effected?
– I am sure that the honourable member and the House generally will appreciate that there is some justification for giving priority to the requirements of the new Army base at Townsville. As to the University College, a request was received a considerable time ago for 200 lines associated with a PABX installation at the University. There is some difficulty at the central Townsville exchange where no numbers are available at the present time. However, it is hoped that additional numbers will be available by the end of this year.
But in conjunction with this situation is a shortage of cable equipment in the Townsville area resulting in some delay in installations for businesses and slightly longer delay for private subscribers. Within only the last few days an additional 1,000 lines were provided at the Gulliver exchange and I understand that there is little or no difficulty experienced in being able to add subscribers in that area. There is a shortage of technicians in Queensland and, indeed, in other areas throughout Australia and it is not easy for us to make arrangements to transfer technicians from other places to Townsville in order to assist us to overcome the present difficulties there.
– I address my question to the Minister for Defence. What approaches have been made to the Government by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation to interest the Government in placing orders for the locally designed CA31 supersonic aircraft? If any approaches have been made will the Government interest itself in the proposition, particularly in regard to encouragement of a local aircraft industry but also to satisfy itself that the CAC has the capacity to produce supersonic aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force?
– The Commonwealth stands in no doubt about the capacity of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation to do a first class job in the aircraft industry. In respect of the aircraft to which the honourable member refers, however, this was a private venture entered into by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation on its own initiative and ahead of any Air Staff requirement for that particular type of aircraft. At this moment the Air Force is not able to say what type of aircraft it will need or when it will be needed. There is, therefore, no basis on which to negotiate with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. All this is well known to the company.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question which is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Yarra. Did the Government of South Vietnam ask the Secretary-General of the United Nations to send a team of observers to study the elections in South Vietnam? Was the purpose of this request an endeavour to answer certain propaganda which is regularly purveyed by certain interests that elections there were unfair or rigged? What reason did the Secretary-General give for not sending a team of observers?
– An invitation was sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations as well as to the heads of many other institutions and many governments to send observers to observe the elections in South Vietnam. The Secretary-General said he was unable to send observers. If I remember correctly, the reason he gave was that he would require the authority of an appropriate body in the United Nations and he saw no way in which he could obtain that authority. I think that is at least a correct paraphrase of what the SecretaryGeneral said. I imagine - and this is merely my own interpretation - that what he had in mind was that the only body readily available to him would be the Security Council, and he possibly doubted his capacity to obtain a unanimous vote in that Council or a sufficient majority of it to authorise him to send observers. But the South Vietnam Government did send an invitation to him, and the latter part of my answer is simply my own interpretation.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Does section 5 of the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Act 1955 limit appropriations to the Reserve from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to $97m a year? If so, is it true that while the Government could not afford an increase in pensions this year it will appropriate to the Reserve $288,029,000 or almost three times the maximum amount provided under the Act? Will the Treasurer tell the Parliament where he derives the authority to do this while base rate pensioners live below starvation standards? Finally, is it true that the Reserve has accumulated, since its inception, a surplus of nearly $ 1,200m? Will he consider appropriating some of this surplus for the purpose of increasing pensions?
– I can give an immediate answer to the last part of the honorable member’s question. It is that the law of the land is written into the Act that he has mentioned and the appropriations set out there must be adhered to in accordance with the law. But the whole of the honourable member’s question revolves around a complicated legal problem in respect of which I cannot give an answer here.
– Read the Act.
– I put the Act on the statute book and I think I know a fair bit about it. I can assure the honourable member that he has a complete misunderstanding of the concept of the Act and the purpose for which it was enacted.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr Speaker. It refers to the excellent booklet titled ‘The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia’ which is on sale for 10c at the desk near the front entrance of this building. In view of the very informative nature of the booklet I ask whether consideration could be gives to the distribution of free copies to schools and other educational institutions throughout the country.
-I will give consideration to the honourable member’s request. I know the booklet is in great demand. In reply to an earlier inquiry by the honourable member for Oxley I informed him that there will shortly be available for distribution to the public another booklet dealing with the House of Representatives alone. When this booklet is published I will consider which of the two would be the more suitable for the school children of the Commonwealth.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Did his Department insert a block advertisement in the national Press in 1965 calling for recommendations on a national gallery for Canberra? Is it a fact that many people who replied and who were qualified to make such recommendations have received no answer to or advice concerning their communications? Will he state the purpose of the advertisement which was inserted nearly two years ago and following which there seems to have been no further action by the Government? Does he propose to establish such a gallery? If so when, and at what rate will it progress?
– I would like to get a considered reply, if I can, for the honourable gentleman. From time to time I have had in front of me material relating to the possible establishment of a national gallery. It is certainly in the range of Government’ objectives. As to the timing, phasing and other steps associated with it, I shall need to be brought up to date on those matters.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs, concerns aid to North Vietnam. I preface it by asking the right honourable gentleman to acknowledge the legal position of the Queen as Queen of Australia and as Queen of the United Kingdom. In view Qf the fact that British flag ships are still entering Haiphong, will the Government, with a view to avoiding the Sovereign being put in a position where she is in conflict with herself and with a view to preventing the proposed Defence Forces Protection Act being circumvented by the simple device of using the United Kingdom as the forwarding agent, now ask the British Government to put a complete ban on all British flag ships entering Haiphong while the conflict lasts?
– I suggest to the honourable gentleman that a considered answer to his question would require some establishment of the basic facts. I think there is an implication in his question that I, myself, would not be prepared to accept. So if he would be good enough to put his question on notice I will make some further inquiries as to the current position regarding British flag ships trading to Haiphong and give him a considered reply.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In view of the fact that there has been no increase in pension rates in this Budget, will the Government consider holding a public inquiry, as the Canadian Senate did in 1963-64, to ascertain the needs of the aging in our society?
– What the Government did in this Budget was to isolate those sections of the community which had not received improvements in their benefits in recent years. Consequently, we looked first at people such as those who are in receipt of superannuation benefits and who had not had their position improved since 1958. We looked at a very deserving section of the community - and pensioners, of course, are deserving too - the families with more than four children. We also had a look at the family allowances, which we felt we could justifiably increase.
During the course of our discussions we had a paper prepared for us showing the position of pensioners. I feel that the information that can be provided by our own services- the Department of Social Services, tSe Treasury and other departments - can give us tie information that would be made available by a committee of inquiry appointed to examine the matters raised by the honourable gentleman.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. The Minister is no doubt aware that very recently Ansett-ANA reduced services to inland Queensland and that prior to that, Trans-Australia Airlines had also reduced services to inland Queensland. In view of the value of the right to provide air services between capital cities, which are the most remunerative of airline services, what responsibility rests upon the major airline operators, Ansett-ANA and TAA, to continue established services to the inland? If the airlines have complete freedom of action in this regard, will the Government consider requiring them to show that the extent of the losses incurred justifies the action they have taken when considered in relation to the profits being made on the services over which they have been given complete protection from other competition?
– The domestic airline services between the capital cities with major trunk routes are governed by an agreement between the airline operators and the Government. Of course, it covers the bulk of the Australian domestic traffic. We should appreciate that we have in Australia well over 650 licensed aerodromes and the bulk of these have some form of service, either of a regular nature or by charter. The services provided by civil aviation transport organisations are extensive and are very good, in relation to the distances.
There are, of course, some problems relating to services in isolated areas. These have been recognised by the Government over the years and for some years now a subsidy has been provided for routes that are not economically payable on the basis that they serve a developmental purpose or an essential rural purpose. Subsidies are still being paid on quite a number of routes throughout most of the States.
It is a fact that recently the two major operators ceased operations or intimated that they would cease operations on several routes in Queensland and that they would cut down services on several routes, particularly in the south-western area. In central Queensland, it has been possible fairly quickly to make arrangements for the services to be taken up by the new third level operators, the commuter operators. Arrange ments are in hand at present for this to be done and I hope that there will not be any slackening off of services between the time the major operators cease and the commuter operators commence their services.
The reduction of services to the southwestern area of Queensland is a more difficult problem, and I am having discussions with the airlines at the moment to see whether we can solve it. As the honourable member knows, recently when I was at Windorah problems arose in relation to services to the Channel country and we discussed the matter at the time. As soon as information can be made available on these subjects, I will inform the honourable member.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. On 16th May last he told the House:
From information in my possession, the correctness of his-
That is, Lieutenant-Commander Cabban’s - account of a number of incidents referred to in his statement is denied by the very man who, according to the author, is in a position to corroborate it.
– Is this not sub judice?
– This is not sub judice; the Prime Minister has refused to include it in the terms of reference. The AttorneyGeneral will remember that Cabban named Lieutenant-Commander Griffith as the man to substantiate the facts. He will have noted the evidence of the Secretary of the Navy on Monday of last week that during tha debate on 16th May an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department had handed him - that is, the Secretary-
– I take a point of order. A Royal Commission is in progress on this matter. It has been the long standing practice of the House that, when a judicial inquiry is being conducted into a matter, the House voluntarily does not pursue the matter for fear that it may tend to prejudice the proper course of the inquiry. I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition should not proceed with the question.
– Mr Speaker, speaking to the point of order, I point out that twice last week you permitted me to ask questions bearing on the possible withholding of documents from the debate in the week commencing Tuesday, 16 th May. In the course of one of my questions I quoted the statement by the Chairman of the Commission that the matter of whether documents had been withheld from the Parliament did not fall within the terms of reference of the Commission. You will remember that I asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the statement by the Chairman, consideration had been given to augmenting the terms of reference so that the Commission could make a finding as to whether documents had been withheld from or by Ministers or from or by their advisers. I submit therefore that it is perfectly proper and permissible to raise in this House matters which are not in the terms of reference of the Royal Commission and you, Mr Speaker, have allowed me to do this twice already.
– As the Leader of the House has said, the practice of the House has been a long standing one in relation to questions, and equally in relation to debate, so far as prejudice is concerned. However, I feel that the reference that the Leader of the Opposition is making, even though it may be relevant, is not within the terms of reference of the Royal Commission at this time.
– The Attorney-General will have noted the evidence of the Secretary of the Department of the Navy given on Monday of last week that during the debate on 16th May an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department had handed him a statement by Lieutenant-Commander Griffith concerning Lieutenant-Commander Cabban’s claims. I now ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he saw LieutenantCommander Griffith’s statement on 16th May or on subsequent days of the debate. If not, could he say when he first saw it?
– I welcome the opportunity of replying to this particular matter. I noticed that some reference had been made to it in the Royal Commission. The facts are that before this debate came on the Solicitor-General - I think on the day before I spoke - had taken a statement from Lieutenant-Commander Griffith who was said to be a person who would corroborate the statements made by Lieutenant-Com mander Cabban. This took place about the time I was preparing the statement which I made in the House. I cannot recall precisely whether I saw the document or whether the substance of it was conveyed to me by the Solicitor-General, but I was aware of what was in it. Since this matter was raised I have had the Solicitor-General compare what I have said with an analysis of the two statements, one of which was taken from Lieutenant-Commander Cabban and the other from Lieutenant-Commander Griffith. I have myself also made the analysis and I assure the House that what I said, which has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, is not only literally true but also is true in substance and in spirit.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs and refers to a report that a draft treaty on nuclear weapons has been agreed to by the United States of America and Soviet Russia. I ask the Minister: Has he received a copy of this draft? Is he prepared to lay it on the table of the House? Is there likely to be an opportunity for the House to debate it in the near future?
– I personally have taken note of a very full summary of the contents of the draft. I am not aware whether or not we have the actual text of the document in the Department yet. However, if we have not we certainly will be receiving it very shortly. The question whether I shall table it and whether a debate will ensue is of course a matter for discussion with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House having regard to the management of the business of the House.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. The Minister is no doubt aware of the report that four babies have died in the Canberra Community Hospital, it said from a mystery illness. Is he in a position to deliberate on this report? Will he inform the House of the circumstances and of any action taken by his Department to determine the cause of death?
– I have here a copy of a statement made by the Acting General Superintendent of the Hospital at 2 p.m. today. It is brief, so I will read it, as it provides the information which the honourable gentleman seeks. It reads:
Three deaths have occurred in the premature nursing unit of this hospital. Their ages were S, 6 and 11 days respectively. The cause of the deaths has not yet been identified after extensive investigations. The results of virological studies will not be available for several days. The deaths have been reported to the Coroner and to the Commonwealth Department of Health. The area of the hospital where the deaths have occurred has been isolated and no further admissions to this area will take place. Doctors with patients in the obstetrics section have been notified and where possible they are discharging their patients, although there is no present indication that the general nurseries or post-natal wards are affected.
When I was notified this morning of these events I felt that an urgent specialist investigation was required. I have arranged for a leading Sydney paediatrician and specialist virologist to come to Canberra to investigate the matter. They will be arriving here this afternoon and I hope that they will be able to report to me very soon.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to correspondence appearing in a Sydney newspaper today in which it is claimed that wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam are being callously mistreated because of the system of hospitalisation which prevails through his Department? Is this claim correct? Is the Minister in a position to refute the charges?
– I saw the statement which appeared in one of the Sydney morning newspapers today. I emphasise at the outset that the Army has only one concern for soldiers who are evacuated from Vietnam, namely, that whatever can be done to provide the best possible treatment for the soldier when he reaches Australia will be done. I believe that in the past this objective has been achieved.
It is well known that the camp hospital at Ingleburn is a hospital with very limited means. The Army makes no pretence at being able to treat all cases in that hospital. If the slightest doubt arises or if there is the slightest suspicion that a particular case requires treatment of a more sophisticated kind than can be provided at Ingleburn camp hospital, the soldier will be placed in Concord or some other major hospital in Sydney, if the case is in the Sydney area, where the best possible attention will be made available.
The correspondence in the newspaper suggested that Sydney specialists would be reluctant to go to Ingleburn to provide specialist- advice for any patients who may be in the hospital. The record of the past shows that this suggestion is quite without foundation. Specialists in many different fields have shown a great willingness to co-operate with the Army in this matter. Apart from ad hoc as necessary visits there are weekly visits by Professor Pheils who is Associate Professor of Surgery in the Sydney University.
There is only one other point I would make. The correspondent questioned the need for Army hospitals of any kind. If the state of military medicine is to reach a peak so that the best possible service may be provided for soldiers in the field or in Australia it is essential that the Army shall have its own medical service, and unless it has its own hospitals, proficiency will not be as high as we would expect. For this reason it is intended in the future to build a major hospital for the Army which will be able to provide a full range of practice for doctors within the Army.
– I present the following paper:
Defence Forces Retirement Benefits and Commonwealth Superannuation - Table of selected pension benefits.
Ordered to be printed.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments. Senate’s amendment No. I: Proposed new clause 1a.
After clause 1, insert the following clause: U. This Aci shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation.’.
Clause 3. (4.) Notwithstanding section 19 of die Crimes Act 1914-1966, where:
a federal court or a court of a State or Territory sentences a person to more than one term of imprisonment in respect of:
offences against a law or laws of the Commonwealth; or
one or more offences against a law or laws of the Commonwealth and one or more offences against a law or laws of a State or Territory:
the terms of imprisonment are to be cumulative; and
a minimum term of imprisonment is Axed in respect of one or more of the terms of imprisonment, the law of the State or Territory in which the offender is convicted relating to the order in which sentences are to be served shall apply in relation to that person as if all the terms of imprisonment were in respect of offences against laws of that State or Territory.
Senate’s amendment No. 2:
Leave out sub-clause (4.), insert the following sub-clauses: (4.) Foi the purposes of the preceding provisions of this section, the law of a State or Territory with respect to the fixing of minimum terms of imprisonment shall be deemed to be the provisions of the law of that State or Territory with respect to the fixing of minimum terms of imprisonment that are applicable in respect of a State offender or a Territory offender who is before a court for sentence for only one offence and is not already serving a term of imprisonment for another offence, but this sub-section does not prevent a court, in fixing a minimum term of imprisonment under this section in respect of one offence, from taking into account any matter that the court thinks relevant, including another offence or a sentence in respect of another offence. (5.) Notwithstanding sub-section (1.) of section 19 of the Crimes Act 1914-1966, where a court sentences a federal offender to a term of imprisonment and, at the time of the sentence, the offender is under sentence of imprisonment for an offence that is not an offence against a law of the Commonwealth but is an offence in respect of which a minimum term of imprisonment was fixed, the court may direct that the sentence imposed by it is to commence to be served at the expiration of service of that minimum term of imprisonment. (6.) Where an offender is sentenced to a term of imprisonment for an offence against a law of the Commonwealth in respect of which a minimum term of imprisonment is fixed and, at the tame time or a later time but before he has served that minimum term of imprisonment, the offender is sentenced to a further term of imprisonment for another offence against a law of the Commonwealth in respect of which a minimum term of imprisonment is fixed, then the minimum term fixed in respect of that other offence is cumulative upon, or concurrent with, that fixed in re spect of the first-mentioned offence according st the term of imprisonment imposed is cumulative upon, or concurrent with, the term imposed in respect of the first-mentioned offence.
*(7i) Where a person has been sentenced as a federal offender to several terms of imprisonment in respect of any of which a minimum term of imprisonment has been fixed, the sentences of the following categories shall be served in the following order:
first, any terms in respect of which no rninimum terms of imprisonment were fixed and so much of any minimum term of imprisonment as is to be served concurrently with any of those terms;
second, any minimum terms of imprisonment, other than any minimum term, or part of a minimum term, referred to in the last preceding paragraph; and
third, the unserved balances of any terms in respect of which minimum terms ot imprisonment were fixed. (8.) Where, during the service of a sentence referred to in the last preceding sub-section, a further sentence is imposed in respect of an offence against a law of the Commonwealth, service of the first-mentioned sentence shall, if necessary, be suspended in order that the sentences may thereafter be served in accordance with the order referred to in that sub-section.’.
Clause 4. (7.) Where a person to whom a parole order relates is sentenced to a term of imprisonment in respect of an offence committed before or during the parole period, the parole order shall thereupon be deemed to have been revoked and, if the parole period has already expired to have been revoked as from the time immediately before the expiration of the parole period.
Senate’s amendment No. 3:
In sub-clause (7.), leave out ‘before or*.
Where a parole order is made in relation to a person -
Senate’s amendment No. 4:
At the end of the clause, add the following sub-clause: (2.) Where a parole order in relation to a person is, under sub-section (7.) of section 4 of [his Act, to be deemed to have been revoked as from the time immediately before the expiration of the parole period, the last preceding subsection has effect as if the parole period had not expired without the parole order being revoked or cancelled.’.
The provisions of a law of a State or Territory relating to the reduction or remission of sentences apply to a federal offender who is serving a sentence of imprisonment in a prison of that State or Territory in like manner as those provisions apply in relation to a State offender or a Territory offender serving a sentence of imprisonment in that prison.
Senate’s amendment No. 5:
After ‘sentences’, insert ‘or minimum terms of imprisonment’.
– I move:
The Committee will recall that, during the second reading debate on this Bill, I said that it was intended that amendments to the Bill would be proposed in another place, and I explained why these amendments would be required. The schedule of amendments now before the Committee contains these amendments. The principal amendment is that which is made to clause 3 of the Bill. This clause, as amended will provide, first, that a separate minimum term is to be fixed for each term of imprisonment for which it is appropriate to fix (l minimum term and, secondly, that the federal sentences are to be served in the order specified.
The other amendments, except amendment 3, are drafting matters. The purpose of amendment 3 is to prevent a parole order from being automatically terminated because of a conviction for an offence which occurred before the parole period and which was therefore unrelated to the behaviour of the person while on parole. It is for that reason the words ‘or before’ are, by this amendment, to be taken out of the original draft of the Bill. I commend the amendments to the Committee.
– The Opposition does not oppose the amend ments outlined by the Attorney-General but makes the comment that more than ever our original criticism has been confirmed. We have a hotchpotch - a farrago - of criminal legislation within this Commonwealth and it is high time something was done to get a uniform criminal code. For that reason we chide the Government for its laxity and for its delay. We will not embarrass the Government over its patchwork of slovenly drafting, but will support the amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported: report adopted.
Consideration of Senate’s amendment. Clause 6.
Section 9 of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the words ‘Court of Summary Jurisdiction’, the words having jurisdiction with respect to the offence’.
Leave out of the clause, insert the following clause:
Section 9 of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the words “Court of Summary Jurisdiction”, the words “having jurisdiction with respect to the offence”; and
by omitting from sub-section (1.) ali the words after the word “section” and inserting in their stead the words “may be committed for trial or, with his consent, dealt with summarily”.’.
– I move:
This amendment was added by the other place when the Bill, which had previously passed this chamber, was sent to it. The Government has no objection to the inclusion of the amendment in the Bill as originally introduced.
– The Opposition does not oppose this amendment which originally was moved in this place. I am pleased that the Government has decided to accept the amendment made by the Senate. Its effect is to bring this legislation into line with the Crimes Act, the Narcotic Drugs Act and the Customs Act. Amendments to those Acts also were accepted by this House after they had been passed by the Senate. The amendment in this instance is of a similar nature. We are pleased that the Government has accepted the amendment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
SOCIAL SERVICES BILL (No. 2) 1967 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 15 August (vide page 82), on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is one of several Bills dealing with social services that will be introduced into the House. This Bill relates to child endowment and gives effect to the provisons referred to in the Budget speech. Another Bill that will come before this Parliament, and which also was referred to by the Treasurer during his Budget Speech, deals with the provision of hearing aids on loan at a nominal figure. The third matter referred to by the Treasurer concerning adjustment of social service benefits and amendment of the Act concerns the cost now incurred by the States in meeting payments to deserted wives and wives of prisoners. This will be the subject of negotiation with Ministers in the various States. In this respect some difficulties will be presented in Victoria because that Slate does not make any provision for such payments.
As 1 have said, this Bill concerns child endowment and therefore the debate will not give honourable members on this side of the House the opportunity to deal with the question of social services generally. This is to be regretted. The Government has decided not to grant any general increases to those receiving age and invalid pensions and other social service benefits. This means that the difficulties that these people are enduring will be accentuated. Indeed, under the provisions of this legislation the additional cost to the National Welfare Fund will not exceed $40, and this amount will provide for the normal increases granted to those who apply for age and other pensions. It will also provide for the additional amounts required for the hearing aid loans and the increased cost of additional payments to all States for deserted wives and wives of prisoners. That ls not a large sum in a Budget of $5,887m.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), in his second reading speech, dealt at some length with increases in wages and prices. The Opposition believes, as no doubt do most people in this country, that there have been substantial increases in both costs and prices. Food is certainly dearer and rents are much higher than they used to be. Substantial increases in the cost of all the basic requirements of family men and people on fixed incomes have often occurred. No section of the community feels the situation more desperately than do the pensioners. When the Treasurer delivered his Budget Speech Opposition members were waiting not to hear whether age, invalid, widow and other pensioners would receive higher benefits but by how much the benefits would be increased. However the Government decided not to increase the basic rate of pension. May I say that this is the usual attitude that the Government has adopted. In an election year the Government awards some increases to those in receipt of social service benefits, but in other years no increases are given. This year no increases have been given except for the small adjustments in child endowment. The great bulk of pensioners will receive no increase at all in the benefits on which they depend.
We acknowledge that this legislation will raise the rates of endowment now being paid to people with large families. The Opposition believes, however, that the Government should have taken the opportunity not only to improve the rates of child endowment, this increase being long overdue, but also to augment the benefits payable to those people in the community who five on fixed incomes and who obviously were entitled to increased pensions. If the Government had granted an increase of only 50c a week or $26 a year, to the 750,000 people who now get social service pensions, the additional sum to be credited to the National Welfare Fund would have been very small. Once again the Government has ignored the need that exists and has refused to recognise the claims of pensioners for increased benefits. If the Government had granted a very small increase of only $26 a year to pensioners, the cost to revenue would have been no more than S20m annually. Such an increase would have been very small, but at least lt would nave compensated pensioners for the increases in costs and prices that the Minister for Social Services mentioned in his second reading speech.
The Opposition approves this measure to the extent that it will relieve financial hardship in poorer families. Increases in the rates of child endowment have not been frequent. This Government first adjusted child endowment in 1950. There had been a small increase in 1948 before this Government was elected to office. In 1950 it introduced endowment for the first child at the rate of 50c a week. That is still the rate for the first child. There have been increases in rates for other children. In 1964 the present Government increased the rate for the third and subsequent children from $1 a week to $1.50 a week. These have been the only increases since 1949.
We believe that the graduated increases proposed will go some of the way towards making good the erosion of the purchasing power of child endowment in families with four or more children. The Minister gave the example of a family with seven children, which will now receive endowment totalling $9 a week. We calculate that on the basis of 1966 prices a payment of $10 a week would be required to maintain a purchasing power equivalent to that of endowment at the rate of $5 a week paid in 1948. This claim has been substantiated in part by the Minister in his second reading speech. He mentioned the increases in costs, rising wages and the difficulties being experienced by large families. As the Treasurer pointed out in his Budget speech there has been a substantial rise in prices in the past year. Consequently, the estimate of $10 a week based on 1966 prices is already too low. Nevertheless, Sir, the graduated scale of endowment now proposed will make good some of the discrepancy between the real value of child endowment payments in 1948 and in 1967.
This measure will certainly bring some relief to many needy families and therefore the Opposition welcomes it. I believe, however, that some of the assumptions made by the Minister in his second reading speech can be challenged. He said: it is axiomatic that the parents of medium and large sized families are in need of greater help than the parents of smaller families.
This assumption may have been correct in the earlier Australian context but f believe that a substantial improvement in family planning has made it no longer axiomatic. A recent survey of the circumstances of poor families conducted by the United Kingdom Government revealed that it was not among the largest families that poverty was most concentrated. According to the debate in the House of Commons when the results of this survey were discussed 70% of low income families in the United Kingdom have three children or fewer and scores of thousands of families living in poverty have only one or two children. This pattern may not be so pronounced in Australia but it is reasonable to assume that a similar trend exists. Once it could be fairly automatically assumed that in an overwhelming majority of instances the larger families were the poorer ones, but this assumption is no longer justified. With the development of family planning techniques that has taken place in recent years it will become increasingly likely that the larger families will be the wealthier ones. It must be conceded that with the increasing efficiency of family planning methods there is an increasing likelihood of poor families with only one or two children.
Under the provisions of this measure families of this size will receive no increase in endowment, for the Bill will accord no help to families with fewer than four children. The increases in child endowment are provided for only the fourth child and subsequent children. Under the terms of this legislation endowment for the fourth child is to be increased from $1.50 to $1.75 per week. For the fifth child it will be increased to $2 per week, and a further 25c per week is to be added for each additional child. It is the opinion of the Opposition that the legislation will do nothing to redistribute income towards the poorer families. The Minister has argued that it is only in the larger families that difficulties arise as a result of economic problems. If we were to accept that contention we would have to concede that the Government has adopted a correct principle in providing increased endowment for only those parents who have large families. But I have tried to show that this is not an accurate account and that many parents with fewer than four children, and many with only two children or one child, are experiencing economic difficulties. This legislation will benefit only one-ninth of our endowed children.
The Government has always prided itself on the universality of it’s child endowment payments. It says that there is no means test and that all families can receive payments. We suggest that the Government’s approach ignores the plight of thousands of Australian families with fewer than four children who are living in poverty. Clearly the Government does not know how many comparatively wealthy parents will benefit from the legislation. I suggest that with changing social patterns the number of comparatively well-off families with more than four children is quite high. With a higher element of choice in family planning, the number of well-off parents who can afford to plan families of more than four children will increase. To this extent the legislation my prove to be increasingly regressive. In the wider context this measure fits into the pattern of the Government’s overall neglect of the problem of poverty in Australia. On the last occasion when the Minister presented social service legislation to the Parliament he provided some very enlightening figures. That was probably the first opportunity given to members of the Opposition to compare not only rates paid to those receiving the social service benefit but also their circumstances and their need. That was the only occasion that I can remember when the Minister made statistics of that kind available to honourable members.
As we argued earlier, the Treasurer was rigidly contained in compiling his Budget by heavy defence expenditure. In these terms this legislation is a skilful political measure to the extent that it relieves the burden on the indigent large families who will benefit from it. I have tried to point out the dangers of such graduated payments in future years when it is extremely likely that the number of poor .families with fewer than four children will increase substantially and the proportion of wealthy families with more than four children will increase. This is one further point that the Minister attempted to make in his second reading speech. He said that he doubted very much whether an increase in child endowment would have the desired effect, namely, increasing the number of children in each family or increasing the population of Australia. I believe that there is some justification for his contention.
I have said that the increases will absorb some of the decline in purchasing power of child endowment payments for less than 10% of families, that is, for those who will receive the benefits. Compared with 1950 the purchasing power of the weekly endowment payment has deteriorated quite alarmingly. Surely the Minister would not be prepared to argue that the child endowment of 50c per week which was granted by the Government in 1951 would have the same purchasing power in 1967. Even the Minister would be prepared to concede that this is not the position. The real value to the family with one, two, or three children is now approximately half the real value of child endowment payments in 1950. Such an erosion of the child endowment base must be curbed as on the Treasurer’s evidence prices are rising sharply. The Government must act to check this deterioration in the purchasing power of child endowment payments, particularly for thousands of families with fewer than four children who are living in poverty. These increases in payments must be considered in the light of the taxation concessions announced in the Budget.
We believe that increased dependants’ allowances worsen the position of smaller income earners and reduce substantially any benefit that low income earners with more than four children may receive from the child endowment increases. I refer to figures supplied by the Treasurer recently in answer to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on the estimated reduction in tax on account of the number of concessional deductions. Information supplied by the Treasurer showed that benefits from the concession for dependent children overwhelmingly favoured those in the $4,000 to $10,000 range. The concession had only negligible impact on those in the lower income brackets. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out in his speech on the Budget, this concession is regressive in that it reduces tax for higher income earners to a much greater extent than for lower income earners. In combination with the discriminatory increases in child endowment it substantially worsens the comparative position of poorer families with fewer than four children. This is our main contention: Child endowment is not used to redistribute income in favour of poor families. The problem of family poverty is a complex one and, despite the humane expressions of the Minister, the Bill offers little relief to family units where financial pressures are most acute.
The legislation is the only social service measure of any substance in the Budget. I have referred to this already. In an overall context the additional expenditure as announced by the Treasurer of only $8.3m in a full year is regarded by the Opposition as a pitiful contribution. There is no simple or single solution to national poverty. It must be attacked on many fronts with long term as well as short term plans. Measures such as child assistance to poor families, rate rebate schemes and housing subsidies are ways in which a Labor government would attack national poverty.
With regard to child endowment I should like to refer briefly to part of the Labor Party’s platform and one of our election pledges last year. As honourable members will recall, this was to allow child endowment payments to be capitalised and paid in advance to assist families to own their own homes.
Since such a scheme was introduced in New Zealand by a Labor Government in 1960 more than 60,000 families have been assisted. More than 100,000 benefits have been granted, with a total capitalised value of $90m. In our policy speech before the last election we pledged to capitalise child endowment for any period of the life of a child between 1 year and 16 years, and for any number of children in a family. We stipulated that the maximum advance would be $2,000. We believe that this kind of measure would enable poorer families to use their child endowment entitlements to improve their standard of living. The arrangement, ‘as I am sure the Minister will concede, has been extremely successful in New Zealand.
The Government has profited in the past by taking over proposals made by Labor in election policy speeches, and I urge the Minister to take over this proposal and introduce the suggested scheme. It would link the key area of social service payments with the extremely important housing sector. The Minister has referred to the problem of rising prices and he must realise that one of the most seriously affected areas has been that of housing. I am sure he will acknowledge the great difficulties faced by the kinds of families to which he has referred so frequently in his second reading speech. It is extremely difficult for parents with large family responsibilities to raise the deposit to secure reasonable living accommodation. Our proposal for the capitalisation of child endowment would materially assist them to do this.
The Opposition acknowledges that within the stringent limits of the Budget the Minister and the Treasurer have tried to show some glimmer of humanity. We believe that this legislation will do little to help poorer families in the way the Minister believes it will. It does nothing to ease the substantial erosion of the real value of the child endowment benefit which has seriously affected more than 90% of recipients of that benefit. It highlights the anomalies of inadequate child endowment payments and inequitable income tax concessions in respect of dependent children. As I pointed out earlier, existing taxation legislation provides the greatest tax cuts in respect of dependent children to those paying the highest marginal rates of taxation. On the other hand, the same rates of child endowment apply irrespective of the income of the recipient, so that the effect of government policy on child endowment and tax concessions is to give assistance to those least in need of it.
In 1949, when Labor left office, the annual liability for child endowment amounted to 1.3% of Australia’s gross national product. In 1965 the annual liability had dwindled to 0.9% of the gross national product. Although a much higher proportion of the population was receiving the benefit in J 965, the annual liability was only two-thirds as much of the gross national product as it was in 1949. The question that the Opposition directs to the Government is this: Why can it not make payments of the same real value as Labor did when it was in office? Substantial increases over the whole range of child endowment payments are required to restore the original purchasing power of the benefit.
As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Opposition acknowledges that the Government is providing a measure of assistance to some families, and those families will find the increased child endowment payments of value. But we believe that it is not only among large families that poverty exists. It exists also in families with only three or two children, or even in families with only one child. If the Government is concerned about the effect of poverty on the family unit it should be moving to restore the real value of child endowment at least to its 1949 level. I nave tried to show that this has not been done. The Government has granted some concessions to parents with large families. These will undoubtedly be welcomed, and because they will be a help to those families the Opposition supports the legislation.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in presenting the Opposition’s view of this legislation made several points that were quite valid and quite valuable. Unfortunately what he said contained some gross inaccuracies, deliberately designed to bring a purely political and electoral slant to this legislation. He told us, for instance, quite inaccurately - to use no stronger description - that it was typical of the Government that it made no increases in the base rate of pension in other than election years. A brief look at the history of this Government during its tenure of office discloses not only that this is grossly untrue but also that the position has been exactly the reverse of what the honourable member has claimed. Since 1950 there have been more increases in the base pension rate in years in which there were no elections than in those years in which elections were held. In 1950 the rate was increased by 75c and there was no election in that year. There certainly was an election in 1951 when there was in increase in the rate. But in 1952 there was no election and in 1953 there was a Senate election only, and in both those years the base rate of pension was increased. The years 1957, 1959 and I960 were also years in which increases were made.
– In what?
– In the base rate of the pension.
– I thought we were talking about child endowment.
– Unfortunately the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not restrict himself to the contents of this Bill. He spoke about the base rate of pens on, unless I grossly misunderstood him. He was talking about what he called the failure of the Government to keep age pensions in line with the cost of living. No-one has been more disappointed than I that it was not possible for the Government to provide an increase in the base rate of the age pension in this Budget, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is completely inaccurate when he suggests that what the Government has done in this field since it came to office has been consistently related in some way to election propaganda only. Any fair survey of the way in which increases amounting to 206% and 176% respectively in single and married pension rates have been provided would give the lie to the honourable member’s statement. But having rebutted what I suggest is an argument quite outside the ambit of this debate, let me come to the particular questions raised by this Bill which relates, of course, to child endowment. The present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) when he was Minister for Labour and National Service introduced the original Commonwealth child endowment scheme in 1941. Since that time we have arrived at the position where the nation generally expects - and indeed counts on - the type of support that child endowment gives to every family.
At present child endowment is paid at the rate of 50c for the first child, $1 for the second child and $1.50 for the third and subsequent children. Perhaps it is appropriate that I should be speaking on this matter because that is the point at which my own family leaves off. This Bill continues the escalation of the payments for the subsequent children after three. The fourth child is to be entitled to child endowment at the rate of $1.75, the fifth child at the rate of $2, the sixth at the rate of $2.25 and so on. A family with six children under 16 years of age will receive $9 a week in child endowment. This would apply if some of the children were students under the age of 21 years. About 240.000 families will benefit from this legislation and more than 1,000,000 children will be eligible for the increased endowment. These figures give some indication of the great spread of benefit that will accrue from the Bill.
I wish to speak for a few minutes about the economic philosophy behind this move. In my view one of the key statements in the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), was the following:
So the Government believes that the most effective way in which to remedy this need on the part of the larger families lies in the field of child endowment. This is a most important, fundamental and definitive decision. Honourable members on both sides of the House and people across the nation and the world recognise the fact that in these days of very closely determined wage structures there are problems relating to the larger families. A variety of different methods are employed in other countries in order to try to bring some assistance where it is most needed, that is, to the middle to lower class income groups which have large families to care for. So I count as being significant the fact that in the light of the debate that has taken place throughout the nation the Government has decided that improving child endowment is the best means of bringing a remedy to this situation.
As I have said, everyone agrees thai large families must be assisted. I was rather surprised to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition refer so eulogistically to the New Zealand scheme. He pointed out that that scheme makes a maximum advance of $2,000 on child endowment as a capital sum which may be paid to families to enable them to purchase a home. Of course, what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not tell us was that in New Zealand very severe limitations are placed on this advance, particularly as regards the poorer families, that is, those who receive near to the basic wage. There is a wage limit below which a person is not eligible for the advance. Any fair person would take the view that in Australia we have a homes savings grant scheme which provides $500 to young couples across the nation. To this extent, there is an overlapping. Indeed, in Australia a greater benefit is available than in New Zealand. I want to go on record as underlining the importance of the problems which the Government has sought to alleviate by turning to this particular direction of child endowment.
During the last few months I have had two completely unsolicited testimonies from people who are in a position to observe what is happening in this quarter. I have spoken to these people. One of them is my own dentist in Ashfield. He told me of problems with children’s teeth which he had observed himself. He referred to the tremendous problems with which parents with large families are faced when paying for the dental treatment of their children. Perhaps more importantly, I spoke with my niece, who has a position in the Department of Social Welfare in South Australia. Her job brings her into contact with children who have a great need for supervision in various ways. She testifies to the fact that in her opinion one of the most needy groups in the community consists of large families which receive low incomes. I believe that the Government in increasing child endowment is using the best means to answer one of the most immediate and pressing problems regarding social services.
During the Budget debate in 1965 I spent considerable time pointing out salient facts and the “conflicting opinions among experts on the way in which this problem could be answered. There are differing views in various countries. For instance, in some countries taxation concessions are given as a kind of incentive to raise the family income. This method is very extensively pursued in the United States of America, Canada and Germany for instance. In the United States the size of family about which I have been speaking, that is, the parents and three children, would attract in the way of income tax concessions approximately $600 for the man, $600 for the wife and a similar amount for each dependent child. A family of five in the United States would attract $US3,000, which is the equivalent of $A2,700. The picture is much the same in Canada. A family would attract deductions of $Can 1,000 for the man, $Can 1,000 for his wife and $Can300 for each child, making a total deduction of $Can2,900, which is roughly equivalent to the same figure in Australian currency. The same sort of deductions are allowed in Germany. A family consisting of the parents and three children would attract 3,360 Deutche marks. That is made up of 1,200 Deutche marks for the first child, 1,680 Deutche marks for the second child and 1800 Deutche marks for the third child. In this case the total deductions would be equivalent to approximately $A1,800. The indication here is that in Germany - rather different from the other- two countries to which I referred - there is recognition of the. principle that is being inculcated in Australia by the escalation of the amount of child endowment with the birth of a child.
In the United Kingdom a married couple attract a minimum deduction of £Stg240, plus a further £Stg140 or two-ninths of the earned income of the wife, whichever is the lesser, plus £Stg85 for each child. So in the United Kingdom a family of five would have a deduction of approximately $A1,500 to $A 1,600. Countries that are concerned with maintaining a standard of living similar to our own have paid a good deal of attention to this particular process, through a method of reduction of the taxable income of the family The Budget, which is the basis for the legislation that we are now discussing, provides for increased dependents allowances for families.
So it can be seen that countries have adopted different approaches to this child endowment problem. Perhaps the most interesting approach is that adopted in France where no payment is made in terms of endowment for the first child, but very substantial increases are given to the family income for the second and subsequent children. A family allowance of 22% on the base wage is allowed for the second child, and 33% on the base wage is allowed for the third and subsequent children. The base wage is currently 314 francs in Paris. The average worker receives about 69 francs for a second child. In Australian money, that is about $12.50 a month. The third child and subsequent children receive about 104 francs, which is about $18.70 a month. This is an extremely large sum when compared with our payments for child endowment, but it is, of course, reflected in the high percentage of the gross national product spent on social security in France. In 1960, it was 13.2%.
I do not want to go into too many further details in relating the practices in other countries. However, I point out that, in terms of ensuring that the money goes to the place where it is most needed, the practice adopted by the Government in this legislation is the fairest- or the fairer if we hold that we have only the two possibilities of tax rebates or child, endowment. It can easily be shown that tax rebates are like successive coats of paint on top of a defined surface. Each coat removes some of the definition of the primary substance and eventually the whole of it becomes a flat kind of mediocrity. As the taxable income of the father increases so the significance of the deductions also increases. This tends to take away from the lower income group the real benefit of the efforts to assist the family that is most in need. It is undoubtedly true .that the method of making money available in the way that the Government has chosen makes a significant contribution to the lower income family.
One of the reasons that, the Government has given,, and rightly has stressed, in introducing this legislation relates, to the need to stimulate or to increase -the desire for larger families in Australia. This is not true of some other countries, but in Australia we have always been aware of the need for a larger population.. We place a good deal of emphasis on migration, but we do not always insist that .the best immigrants are those that are brought by the stork. When we consider means of assisting larger families, and therefore encouraging the increase of our population, no measure, financial and fiscal, is more acceptable than that which provides assistance to the larger family groups. I admit that this comes at a time in our national history when there is particular need for attention of this kind. The birth rate is declining and unhappily the immigration intake is not as large as we would like it to be.
The question as to why the birth rate in Australia continues to decline may be answered in a number of different ways. Perhaps it is not for nothing that we are the highest consumers of pills, either of the particular kind or the general kind. We are subject to other stresses that are shown by the large intake of drugs, both of the narcotic and similar types and the general spectrum of drugs available to the public. AH this brings us to the point that the social pressures in our society today are very great. I think it can be argued that these very pressures militate against the decision of couples to increase their families.
These days there are reasons why parents have misgivings about bringing children into the world. As one reads in the newspapers of the problems that must be faced by young people today, both inside Australia and outside, there is no question that there is room for pause. Inside Australia, the very standard of the luxuries that are demanded by our modern society tends to make life a continuing rat race. Frequently one income - one bread earner in a family - proves to be insufficient and the wife decides that, in order to give her family the standards that the Jones and their friends generally enjoy, she must go out to work. This result is most to be deplored. In bringing down this legislation, which provides for progressively increasing sums to be made available as the family increases in size, the Government is pursuing a wise sociological path.
I come to the way in which the legislation will assist families. Once again it is necessary for us to give a good deal of thought to the entire spectrum of social services. It is undoubtedly true that the Government has a very large field to consider, once it begins to move economically or financially into one area. The major decision that must be made in providing any social service benefit is how the money that is available will be directed. In the whole field of social services today, pressingdemands are made by many sectors. We have already heard from the Opposition and from the Government side of the need to care for age pensioners. I spoke of this in a speech I made earlier in this session. At the same time clamorous claims are made - many of them justified - for an alleviation of the means test. I could go on to mention the other matters that were raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, including the provision of hearing aids and the payment of an allowance to deserted wives.
We could add claim after claim to the need for greater justice to be given to various sectors of the community. These claims must be considered in the light of other demands on the Government at the time it is considering a national Budget, and they must be considered all the time in the context of the hierarchy of priorities that have been established for the defence of the nation, the education of the children and the medical and hospital care of the community. The Government must consider a vast variety of requirements that are essential to us as a people. In the light of all these demands and of an economy that most Australians can view with satisfaction, in terms of the balance achieved by (he Treasurer (Mr McMahon), it is gratifying to know that the Government has been able to increase both the amount of endowment for the fourth child and subsequent children and the deductions available to a taxpayer.
I should like to make one further comment before I conclude. We pay endowment for student children up to the age of 21 years. This is a bad figure, particularly for university student children. After matriculation, a student takes 6 years to obtain a medical degree and in most universities 5 years to obtain an engineering, architecture, dentistry or other degree. This means that a student is between 22 and 24 years of age, assuming that he has not been unsuccessful in any year, before he graduates and ceases to be an economic liability to the family unit. I make the one plea that the Government consider changing this concept of endowment for student children between the ages of 16 and 21 years to endowment for student children over the age of 16 years and, for students at universities or similar institutions, until their graduation in their first degree. I do not suggest that endowment should be continued as long as they study for research or subsequent degrees. However, it is only common sense that a young person working at a university to become a doctor is in his final years no less a burden on his parents than he is in the early years of his course. If anything, he is a bigger burden.
One of the other aspects that I consider is very much to the fore in terms of justice in this whole spectrum of providing socially for the family unit is the question of wages earned by single persons, particularly young juvenile wage earners. I recently had occasion in the Ashfield area, which is in my electorate, to interview candidates in a Youth of the Year’ contest conducted by the Lions Clubs of the district. I was on the panel interviewing young men and I was most impressed by the number who, in answering questions relating to incomes and spending, indicated that they felt that youth today had too much spending power for their own good and for the good of society. They believed that some form of compulsory saving by young wage earners would be of value both to them and to the community as a whole.
A valuable study of taxation in Australia has been made by Professors Downing and Arndt and they have looked at this particular economic problem that we are concerned with in this Bill. One of the things they discussed was the possibility of compulsory saving among single wage earners of perhaps one-eighth of their earnings, up to the age of 25 years when the money would be returned to them with interest. In the case of earlier marriage the money would be available to the contributors for the provision of a home. I believe that in this way a very substantial contribution would be made to the overall health of the family unit and to the economics of our social services system. However, having accepted this principle of endowment, I believe that we should not let it stop here because it is inadequate as it stands. I think we must fit it into a comprehensive new approach to all social service developments and build our own pattern within Australia of contributions and benefits as befits a young, virile country and what is more an independent enterprising country with a healthy distrust of the welfare state mentality. I believe that we have already gone far too far in that direction in some areas. The time has come, in my view, to reshape the entire structure. I do not disapprove of the decision of the Government to concentrate on endowment - in fact, I applaud it because it is of great assistance to helping larger families. However, on its own, I do not think it is a measure that is able to answer the other major problems that I have indicated.
In conclusion I come back to what is for me a very definite point of view. Only when we are able to introduce a comprehensive system of contributions from people everywhere, according to their own income, into a superannuation scheme or a national insurance scheme of some kind, will there be the healthiness of provision that is going to mean that families everywhere will receive security. This will be not only through the earning period of the breadwinner and his wife, but also in cases of disaster or unhappy circumstances of desertion or other ways in which a family is thrown back on its own resources. I believe that this measure is a great step forward in social service legislation by the Government. It is something which is to be applauded. At the same time, I believe it points the way to still further and greater developments, which like the progressive scale of endowment of children, is a clear indication that the thinking of this Government is towards a progressive generosity and increase in the provisions that are made in the whole field of social service benefits.
– The honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) mentioned the heavy dental expenses incurred by parents of large families’. The Opposition agrees with his point of view and as a consequence it has included in its policy the provision that all children under the age of 16 years should have free dental treatment. In addition, the honourable member referred to the possibility of having compulsory saving in Australia for single people under a certain age. However, I do not think he realises that we live in a democracy. I believe that if we were to tell young people what to do with the money they earn our advice would not go over too well with the populace. We must remember that if everyone had been saving his money throughout his life and if everyone were to save his money now, we would have a recession in no time. The fact that people have spent their money week by week has kept us in the prosperous condition that we have enjoyed over the past decade.
This Bill seeks to amend the Social Services Act by making provision for additional increases of child endowment benefits of 25c, from $1.50 to $1.75 a week for the fourth child under 16’ years of age. It also makes provision for an increase of 50c from $1.50 to $2 for the fifth child, with a further 25c being added for each successive addition to the number of children.
Before commenting on this legislation, I should first like to trace the history of child endowment, which I submit is very interesting. In 1926 a Labor government in New South Wales introduced child endowment for the first time in Australia. The payment at that time was 50c for each child. I remind honourable members that in 1926 50c purchased the equivalent of what $2 purchases today. In 1927 with the defeat of the New South Wales Labor Government, the Nationalist Party, which was a forerunner of the Liberal Party, took over. Its first deed was to abolish the payment of 50c for the first child. Later, in 1941, the Menzies Government introduced child endowment throughout Australia. The payment at that time was 50c for each child under the age of 16, except the first child. It is interesting to note that, although the Menzies Government introduced child endowment, it did not believe in the principle of this social benefit. The Government was forced into this action by a judgment brought down in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by Judge Drake-Brockman. In 1941 the Federal basic wage was based on an amount deemed to be sufficient for a man, his wife and three children. Judge Drake-Brockman in his wisdom said that he considered the basic wage was sufficient only for a man, his wife and one child. As a consequence, the Menzies Government, of which Sir Arthur Fadden was Treasurer, panicked because it knew there would be a sizeable increase in the basic wage unless child endowment was introduced. Hence this benefit was initiated by the Menzies Government.
In 1941 the basic wage stood at $7.90 a week. In 1945 the Curtin Labor Government increased endowment by 25c from 50c to 75c. At that time the basic wage stood at $8.60. Again, in 1948, the Chifley Labor Government increased the payment by a further 25c from 75c to $1. The basic wage was then $11.90 a week. So, it can be readily seen that over a period of 7 years, from 1941 to 1948, during the war years and the early post-war era, two Labor Governments were responsible for doubling child endowment payments despite the fact that the basic wage had increased by only $4 over this period- from $7.90 to $11.90. In 1950 the Menzies Government introduced a payment of 50c for the first child.
In January 1964 the Menzies Government increased the payment for the third child and each successive addition to the number of children by 50c from $1 to $1.50. In this Bill there is a further increase commencing from the fourth child, the details of which I have mentioned in my opening remarks. It will be vividly recalled that during the 1949 election campaign Sir Robert Menzies gave a solemn undertaking that the LiberalCountry Party Government would maintain full value in all social service benefits. This promise, inter alia, was not fulfilled, particularly as it applied to child endowment. This I shall now proceed to demonstrate.
In June 1950 the basic wage stood at $12.90 a week and endowment for one child was 50c. That endowment represented 3.87% of the basic wage. The basic wage today is $33.80; and 3.87% of today’s wage is equal to about $1.30, so the endowment for one child has declined in value by about 80c a week. In 1950 the endowment for two children was $1.50 a week, which was equal to about 11.61% of the basic wage. That percentage of today’s basic wage would be equal to $3.90 a week, so it will be seen that the endowment for two children has declined in value by $2.40 a week. In 1950 the endowment for three children was $2.50 a week, being equal to about 19.37% of the then basic wage. Tha same percentage of today’s basic wage is approximately $6.50, so, compared with 1950, the endowment for three children has declined by $3.50 a week. In 1950 endowment for four children amounted to $3.50 a week or about 27% of the basic wage. That percentage of today’s basic wage would be equal to about $9.10.
When the Bill now before the House becomes law the endowment paid for four children will be $4.75 a week, which is $4.35 less than the amount which should be paid if endowment had kept pace with the basic wage. In 1950 endowment for five children amounted to $4.50 a week or about 34.9% of the basic wage. To bear the same relationship to the basic wage as it did in 1950, endowment for five children today should be about $11.80 but even when this Bill becomes law it will be only $6.75, representing a loss in value of $5.05.
In announcing these minor increases in his Budget speech the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) referred to the extra benefit of $5.25 a week that would be obtained by a family with nine children. In 1950 endowment for nine children amounted to $8.50 a week or 65.8% of the basic wage. Having regard to today’s basic wage, endowment in this case should now be $22.25 a week but under this legislation it will amount to only $17.25 or $5 less than it should be. These figures amply demonstrate the failure of this Government to honour the promise made in 1949 to maintain the full value of social service benefits.
The Treasurer said that the cost of the increased benefits provided in this Bill would be $8.5m a year. This is a niggardly amount when we remember that it is only 5% of the extra $168m that we are to spend on defence. Honourable members on both sides of the House and leading public figures have expressed alarm on several occasions at our falling birth rate and the effects that this could have on future progress and economic stability. Various reasons have been advanced for the decline in the birth rate, including the use of the Pill and the fact that parents are intent on enjoying themselves and cannot be bothered to have children or to restrict their pleasure seeking. These factors may account for some of the decline. However, I firmly believe that the main reason for the decline is the economic circumstances of people in the lower income groups. Because of various commitments, such as having to pay off a home or meet high rentals or other debts associated with a home, many wives arc forced to go to work in order to make ends meet. Naturally this situation makes it well nigh impossible for them even to consider adding a child or children to the family. The medical and .hospital costs associated with a mother’s bringing a child into this world are high, as everybody knows. The maternity benefit, which has not been increased since this Government took office in 1949, meets only a small portion of those expenses. Many mothers take their babies to baby health centres in order to obtain expert advice on feeding. This often necessitates the purchase of special foods and vitamins. These are very costly. I have made some inquiries into this aspect and find that with the special foods that are prescribed it costs at least $4 a week to feed a baby. Yet the endowment is a paltry 50c for the first child and $1 for the second - rates which have not been adjusted for nearly eighteen years. I maintain that a large majority of parents in the lower income group are most willing to increase their families but most of them are restricted in doing so simply because they cannot afford the cost.
I should like to give some figures from the 1965-66 report of the Director-General of Social Services relating to the number of families in receipt of child endowment. They arc:
That father of fifteen children must be a shift worker. There are 1,610,490 families drawing child endowment, but of that number 85% or 1,374,849 will receive no increase at all under this Bill. This is a fact that should be made public. The honourable member for Evans said that we must encourage people to have larger families. But parents today do not have larger families because they cannot afford to increase their families due to the high cost of living and the paltry amount of endowment paid by this Government. It has been said by many of our experts that our declining birth rate demands attention. If we are to increase the birth rate we must give people more money to spend on raising families.
Both sides of the House are in complete agreement on our immigration programme, because we know that we must populate this country. This great programme was initiated by Mr Arthur Calwell and has been carried on successfully by this Government. We must populate this country but in doing so we must not close our eyes to the fact that we need to increase the birth rate. The people in the lower income group are the ones most willing to have families, but this Government does nothing to encourage them. Why has the Government refused to increase endowment for parents with one child, or two or three children? If those parents were to receive more endowment now they might be encouraged to increase the number of their children to four or five, but they cannot afford to do so at present. About 85% of families now receiving child endowment will not get one cent from the increases provided in this legislation. If the Government wants to arrest the decline in our birth rate it must give to the people in the lower income group more money with which to increase the size of their families.
– This Bill is very important, particularly at this stage in Australia’s development. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) on bringing it down. In his second reading speech the Minister referred to the original intention of child endowment. Child endowment flowed from a finding of the Commonwealth arbitration court of the day, which was attempting to establish a reasonable wage for a family unit. The court found it impossible to provide for family units as we know them in Australia - for families with from one to ten or twelve children. It was virtually impracticable to provide a wage for an average family unit, so the system of child endowment was introduced to supplement the income of families with more than one child. The proposal now before us goes a long way towards doing what the court at that time had in mind. In other words, it assists the larger families.
Australia is a tremendous country with a small population, and we must recognise that there can be no better Australian than the one who is born in Australia, who is an Australian citizen from birth. I congratulate the Minister on introducing this Bill which seeks to assist the larger families where, in many cases, there is a financial problem. Not all large families are so situated. As honourable members will realise, no one situation applies to all families in a community. The proposal before us is to increase to $1.75 a week the rate of endowment for a fourth child under sixteen years and to increase the rate to $2 a week for the fifth child with cumulative increases of 25c a week for each subsequent child, so that for the ninth child $3 a week will be payable. This, indeed, is an excellent proposal. It is, perhaps, a little overdue in the light of the circumstances in which we find ourselves and in view of the advice given by the court originally, and perhaps more emphasis should have been placed on this particular social service earlier.
Different circumstances apply in Australia nowadays than applied some years ago. Children remain at school longer. Perhaps they kick the toes out of their shoes a little more often than children did previously. Most Australian families enjoy very high standards of living. The problem facing the mother of a large family today is not only feeding and housing her children, but clothing them. Food and clothing are expensive items. The increased benefits that will be payable will assist greatly in maintaining larger families. The family unit is a feature of the Australian way of life, and we must do our utmost to preserve family life. This situation does not exist in every country. We do not expect, nor do we force, a mother to go out to work to supplement the family income. We believe she should be able to stay at home with her children, maintaining the home life. If we seek to maintain the Australian way of life we must assist the larger families. I am not anxious to see vast blocks of flats with limited areas for children to play in as they want. Most Australian homes are situated on quarteracre blocks which give children plenty of space in which to move. This is essential in our Australian climate, and it helps maintain our health standards. Recently we have had a fitness campaign launched in Australia. This will do no harm. We must maintain the open air life, as we know it in Australia, and maintain the family unit, not in small flats but in healthy surroundings. If children are brought up in a healthy atmosphere they will be better citizens. If we want proof of this we need not go far. Statistics show that the bigger a city becomes and the greater the concentration of population in one area, the more problems there are with children and delinquents. We have plenty of room in Australia in which to accommodate our citizens in healthy areas, to enable them to live in their own homes on quarter-acre blocks.
In his second reading speech the Minister estimated that about 240,000 families with a total of over 1 million children would benefit from the increased rates payable under this Bill. He said that the rates of endowment would be increased for some 400,000 children at a cost of $8.3m in a full year. The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) was concerned that only a small percentage of children would benefit. This could be right, but I point out that assistance is being provided where it is most needed. This is important in any social services policy. The. Minister must look at the broad field and apply what extra money is available where it is most needed. It is important that we continue to do this. One cannot, as I said earlier, provide for every possible contingency. This is not feasible or practicable. Payments of child endowment are being made on the best basis possible. The problems of maintaining a large family are increasing. Costs to large families are growing in every respect. If we are to help overcome those problems not only must child endowment be increased, but other measures must be examined.
It has been suggested that we should do what has been done in New Zealand, namely, capitalise child endowment .payments for the purposes of home building. I am not keen on accepting this proposal at its face value. At present we have the home savings grants scheme that assists young people to obtain their own homes. Young people are subsidised to a maximum of $500 on their savings up to $1,500. Perhaps this provision should be extended if we are to preserve our Australian way of life around the family unit, but I would think very seriously before interfering with the payment of child endowment as we now know it. At present a mother receives a cash payment for her children until they are sixteen years of age or, in the case of students, until they are twenty-one. If child endowment is capitalised in the form of a home subsidy the mother would be left without any supplementary income, and what could happen in those circumstances would be anybody’s guess.
In the first place the concept of child endowment was to supplement the weekly earnings of a family. That is what is being done now and I feel it should be continued. If the Government wants to do something to assist the family unit when it is obtaining a home there are other ways to do that. It might be possible to go further than the Government has in fact gone in many fields. Quite a lot of money is made available on a long term basis for home building through the Australian Loan Council and all sorts of measures have been passed by this House in recent years to assist people to obtain their own homes. I go along with this proposal and I would endeavour to improve it, but at this point of time at least I am not in favour of taking away the weekly amounts that are made available to the family unit to assist it over the difficult period when the children are growing up. I feel that this would be defeating the whole object of the scheme.
I do not think that the original concept of child endowment has altered very much. The whole economic position has no doubt improved since child endowment was first introduced, but we still have the problem of costs with us. The idea of assisting the family still obtains. Let us not take away what the family unit has at the moment. If the Government wants to do something to assist families even more to obtain their own homes, or if the House considers it is necessary, let us look at other avenues in which we may be able to assist. I feel that every assistance should be given especially when young families are starting off in life and when the costs of getting off the ground, so to speak, and obtaining a home are certainly very great. I feel that the system we have at the moment could be extended to provide for this.
The Bill before the House is an excellent measure, although its provisions could perhaps be even further improved at some future time. It will be favourably accepted by the people of Australia. It is in line with the original intention. Such legislation is still required, even in the present circumstances and allowing for wage decisions, whatever they may be. I hope that the Government will not take away this benefit or make it possible for it to be taken away by means of legislation, in the form that has been suggested, to provide for capitalisation for home building purposes. I say that the Government should leave this benefit as it is and, if necessary, do something else in relation to home building.
– I would like to add a few words in support of my colleagues, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), who led for the Opposition on this Bill, and the honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) who followed him. As the honourable member for Watson pointed out, the benefits of this Bill cover about 240,000 families out of nearly 1,700,000 families who receive child endowment payments. I suppose that is an indirect indication that only one family in seven has more than three children. I always feel that one is treading on pretty delicate ground in suggesting the size of somebody else’s family. This is a matter of individual choice. In a world with a population as large as it is, one wonders whether it is necessarily a bad thing that birth rates should be lower in some parts of the world than in others. However, as I have said, I do not want to intrude on that ground except to say that I find it hard to believe that the Government is encouraging an increase in the size of families by this method. I doubt whether the inducement is really very good - a matter of 50c or 75c according to the number of children. I differ from the assumption that a marginal sum of that kind makes a difference as to whether the average size of the family increases or not.
I would like to follow a point that was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and by the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) regarding the objectives of child endowment. They referred to flat payments made according to the number of children and irrespective of the income of the family, as against the contrary approach whereby the amount is worked out in the way in which income tax operates. 1 know that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) is responsible directly only for the portfolio of Social Services. He is not the Treasurer. Nevertheless, there must surely be discussions at times among the Cabinet as a whole, on the subject of how far to go in a particular year. The Minister may have wanted the Government to go even further with child endowment. I hope that he did. He may have wanted to increase the basic amount of the pension, too. But he is one Minister in a Cabinet of twenty dr more and he has to go along with the collective approach. I am not so sure that the Cabinet as a whole, working in that way, or the community as a whole, sometimes realises that the need to do justice in one direction is perhaps limited by the way in which a social problem in another direction is approached.
I was interested to note that the most recent issue of the Bank of New South Wales ‘Review’, No. 60 for June 1967, contains an article of Commonwealth social welfare payments. It shows that the various expenditures in the Department of Social Services, via the National Welfare Fund, are now $ 1,000m per annum. On page 11 of that publication, in general discussion of child endowment and maternity allowances, there is this observation:
Large increases in both benefits would be required to restore their original purchasing power-
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition pointed out, as did the honourable member for Watson, that money in 1967 has only half the purchasing power that it had in 1949 and that some of the payments for child endowment are the same in 1967 as they were in 1949. The article in the Bank of New South Wales ‘Review’ continued: but a review of present day needs rather than those of 25 and 55 years ago seems more appropriate. Child endowment payments, in particular, may be seen in relation to deductions for dependants and education costs from taxable ‘income. Under current provisions, deductions for children give the greatest tax cuts to those persons with dependent children paying the highest, marginal rates of tax. Since child endowment is distributed regardless of income, the combined effect of government policy in the two areas is to give assistance in inverse proportion to the need.
It then makes this reflection:
Although it would probably bc wildly unpopular politically, it would appear more logical in terms of maximising social welfare to cancel tax deductions for children altogether and give a major lift to endowment rates.
Shortly I shall point out what child endowment is costing, paid the way it is, and I shall give an estimate of what the Commonwealth loses in revenue by allowing concessional deductions for children. I think the Minister will agree that in round terms his child endowment bill is of the order of $200m a year. We do not need to be precise about the figure. Child endowment is paid to about 1,700,000 families in respect of something like 3.75 million children.
From the statistics of concessional deductions contained in the forty-fifth annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation I have prepared a table that I would like to have incorporated in Hansard after the Minister has perused a copy of it that I have just handed to him. All the figures given are for the financial year 1963-64. The table sets out grades of actual income, not taxable income. It shows the number of taxpayers in each grade and the number of spouses. The spouses are mainly wives, because in our community there are not many wives who, in economic terms, support husbands. Rather, the situation tends to be that husbands support wives in our community. The spouses for the most part are wives who have no separate income. In the fourth column I have shown for each income group the approximate value of the concessional deduction for spouses. This is the face value obtained by multiplying $286 - the amount of the concessional deduction - by the number of spouses in each group. In the fifth column I have shown the number of first children for each income group and in the sixth column the approximate value of the concessional deduction for first children. The seventh and eighth columns deal with student children - that is, children over the age of sixteen who are still receiving full time education of one kind or another.
Let me take the figures for student children as an illustration. They accord somewhat with the student endowment figures shown in the document entitled Commonwealth Finance 1966-67’. The interesting thing about the figures for student children is that in 1963-64 there were 123,000 of them. Of these, 67,000, or more than half, belonged to the group with an income of $3,201 or more. This group contained only about one-fifth of the total number of taxpayers but more than half the total number of student children. I believe that this shows that despite the fact that we describe ours as a democratic community opportunities for higher education still depend on the income of the parents rather than on the ability of the child. This is a -serious situation that calls for the sort of remedy proposed by the honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett). I believe that it should be remedied by the payment of child endowment, which is payable at a flat rate regardless of income, rather than by the application of concessional tax deductions, the real value of which is graded according to the scale of income.
If the Minister for Social Services will consult with the Treasurer he will find that the face value of concessional deductions for wives, children and other dependants - these may be described as family concessions - in the financial year 1963-64 totalled nearly enough $877m. I believe that the Minister, if he consults with his Treasury colleague, will find that the allowing of concessional deductions of this face value caused the tax yield to drop by at least $200m. Furthermore, the major advantage goes to those with the highest incomes. I have incorporated in the table the marginal rates of tax for the financial year in question. As everybody knows the taxable income is derived from the actual income by subtracting all the deductions to which the taxpayer is entitled. In the income range from $416 to $1,600 the marginal rate of tax varied from 4.5c to 15.9c. For the group with incomes of $3,201 and above - as I have pointed out, only one-fifth of the total number of taxpayers - the marginal rate of tax rose to 29.6c at $3,201, 41.2c at $5,601, 48.7c at $8,001, 57.9c at $12,001 and 63.3c at $20,001. At an income of $32,000 or more the marginal rate rose to a maximum of 66.7c. The effect, of course, is that the higher the income the greater is the benefit that is received from concessional deductions. This may be described as a distribution in reverse. In the light of this situation I suggest that the point made in the Bank of New South Wales journal ‘Review’ ought to be noted.
– Order! I understood the honourable member to say that he would like the table incorporated in Hansard.
– That is so.
– There being no objection, it will be incorporated.
– I thank the Minister and the House for their courtesy.
There is no doubt as a matter of strict equity that if it costs us, as it obviously does, more than $200m a year to allow concessional deductions for wives and children and $200m or thereabouts for the Department of Social Services to pay child endowment, the majority of families in Australia would derive greater advantage if child endowment rates were doubled and these concessional tax deductions were abolished. This is the sort of argument that the House must face. I have pointed out that a lot of our discussions about the Budget are about whether we can afford marginal expenditure of sums like $100m or $200m. The sum of $200m is roughly 1 % of our gross national product. All I am suggesting is that sometimes we should have a look at our tax structure, particularly at its effects in those fields where it is supposed to be achieving equity. We should at least line it up with what we are trying to do directly by means of our system of social services. Child endowment is payable without means test. Everybody, regardless of income, receives the same rate. However, the tax concessions allowed by means of concessional deductions contain a kind of concealed means test in reverse. In effect, they confer an inequitable subsidy because the greatest concession is given to those who have the highest incomes and therefore the greatest capacity to pay. Is this an equitable approach? I have no doubt that the Minister’s approach to the* problem is that he would like to double child endowment, and I hope that after studying some of the Treasury figures he will realise that one of the factors limiting his ability to do this is the concessional tax deductions that are allowed.
The table which I have incorporated in Hansard shows also that on face value nearly half the educational allowances go to about one-fifth of the taxpayers, and the same applies with respect to medical expenses and other concessions. If we had adequate medical provision via national health we would not need to allow income tax deductions for that purpose. Ali the deductions are greater now in aggregrate than the family concessions. I have calculated that all concessions are worth $2,200m at face value and probably cost the revenue between $500m and $600m. Of these concessions $877m are of the family kind for wives and children and $l,323m are of other than the family kind. As can be seen the concessions go inversely in favour of the higher income groups. Perhaps we do not often have the opportunity to contemplate this kind of problem as quietly as we can in the prevailing atmosphere of the chamber, but I believe that these are problems on which there should be a little cogitation occasionally.
If the Minister will examine the remarks which have been made in the course of this interesting debate this afternoon I think he will find that some conflicts of social objective have been expressed. I do not suggest that the differences are political. Sometimes there would be differences between the member of the Country Party and the member of the Liberal Party who spoke this afternoon. But that is healthy and right when we are dealing with matters which are of quite significant proportions. As I said earlier, I doubt whether the effect of this legislation will be to encourage people to have more children. I regard that as a rather curious suggestion to sustain and I doubt whether that is the ultimate purpose which the Minister has in mind. I think he merely acknowledges, as anyone ought to acknowledge, that it is harder economically for parents on the same income to support four children than to support no children. As I see it, child endowment is a recognition of that. Perhaps it can be said that it is a recognition also of the fact that the wage system is not adequate to provide for all family needs.
My understanding is that the logical reason for the payment of child endowment is to supplement the family income, and to base payments on the size of a family seems to me to be a reasonable enough approach to the problem. That is why our criticism of child endowment over the years has been that the Government has tended to put it in the department of historical monuments rather than in the department of living realities because payments have not kept pace with rises in the cost of living. The figures quoted by my colleague show that in 1949 there were 1,105,000 endowed children and the population was in the region of 8 million people.
At that time more than one-eighth and certainly less than one-fifth of the population were endowed children. By 1965 the number of endowed children had risen to 3,572,000, which was close to one-third of the population. In other words, relative to the total population of Australia, there were proportionately more children receiving endowment in 1965 than in 1949. Yet in 1965 child endowment amounted to only 9% of the gross national product whereas in 1949 it had been 1.3%. Such a substantial deterioration underlines the fact that child endowment has been treated as being in some department of historical monuments rather than in the section of living creations.
I welcome the opportunity to be able to make these observations. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will consult with his colleague the Treasurer and at least get a working party onto some of these problems. In my view what the Government has been trying to do via social services has been negatived to a great extent by what has been done via income tax concessions. The two factors have been moving in opposite directions. To my mind that is a situation which should be clarified and rectified.
– This Bill is limited in its scope, and not a great deal of heat has been engendered in the debate. Probably the fact that the proceedings of the House are not being broadcast has something to do with the relatively temperate conditions. This measure relates to child, endowment. During your absence, Mr Deputy Speaker, some honourable members made passing reference to other aspects of social services. Because I shall not have the opportunity to speak during the debate on the Budget I should like to take a couple of minutes only to reply to honourable members opposite. In view of the criticism of the Government’s failure to increase pension rates generally I feel that I would not be honest with myself if I did not make my own position perfectly clear by stating that I was extremely disappointed that no general increase in the rates of age and invalid pensions has been made. However, I believe that the Government has very good reasons for doing what it has done. The scope of this debate does not permit me to discuss those benefits.
I should like to put the record straight in relation to one or two wild statements which have been made by honourable members opposite who would have people believe that they are the only ones who have the interests of the underprivileged at heart. I make a passing reference to this because the figures which I propose to cite include a child endowment component of nearly 20%. For my purpose I have gone back to the last full year of Labor’s reign in office, 1948-49, and have converted the Budget expenditure to dollars. In that financial year the total Budget was a little more than $l,108m, of which the expenditure from the National Welfare Fund, which included endowment, was $161,554,000. That is, 14.57% of the total Budget was spent on the National Welfare Fund. Honourable members will be aware that this year the Government has budgeted for an expenditure of $6,483m of which $ 1,071m is to be spent from the National Welfare Fund. This is 16.52% of the total Budget. We are now being criticised for what we are spending from the National Welfare Fund, but Labor spent far less.
Of the National Welfare Fund payments nearly 20% are for child endowment. I point out that this figure could be increased by approximately another $20m because we do not include in expenditure from the National Welfare Fund other benefits which were introduced by this Government. I refer to the expenditure of $llm on aged persons homes, capital grants of $5m which are made to the States in connection wilh mental institutions, telephone concessions and the provision of sheltered employment. That is all I want to say about matters other than those affecting child endowment. I believe that the figures I have mentioned should be taken into consideration by honourable members opposite when they criticise the Government.
The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) gave some of the history of child endowment and mentioned that a Labor government in New South Wales was the first to introduce this benefit in the early 1920s. This is true, but what he did not tell us was that the child endowment scheme which was introduced by that Government provided only for children up to the age of 14 years. Today under our scheme student children are covered up to the age of 21 years. I want to quote the remarks of an Opposition speaker during the Budget debate of 1950 when for the first time the Government sought to extend child endowment payments to the first child. The Opposition did not oppose the Bill but did offer some objection to it. Senator McKenna said that in extending payment to the first child the Government sought to relieve employers’ organisations of added wage payments at the expense of the general taxpayer through social service taxation. The House may be interested to know that the estimates for this year show that the Government will be paying $186m in child endowment, of which payroll tax will provide $184m. This payroll tax was imposed on industry to finance child endowment. 1, no doubt in common with every other member of this House, received representations from the Union of- Australian Women on a number of social service matters including child endowment. This organisation asked for a flat rate increase in child endowment of $2.50. Honourable members may not know that the cost of providing this increase would be $3 15m. I have already told the House that expenditure for this year will be a little more than $186m, and if this suggestion were adopted we would have to find another $3 15m.
The note that I received from the Union of Australian Women cites child endowment payments in a number of countries, one of which is France. The organisation points out that France pays $6 per month as against Australia’s $2.20. But probably these people are not aware, as 1 am sure many honourable.. members are not aware, that in France child endowment is an integral part of the wage structure, and a payroll tax of 13.5% is imposed on all employers. The rate in Australia is only 2.5% of the payroll, and any employer with a payroll of Jess than $20,800 a year pays no payroll tax at all. In addition to this, France levies a tax of 4% on self-employed persons to help to provide child endowment. The Government contributes nothing at all. In this country there is no specific tax on self-employed persons to finance child endowment. Such persons pay the ordinary rates of income tax. I think these facts should be borne in mind when we begin comparing our lot with other countries.
This women’s organisation also points out that it costs about $3 a week to feed a baby. I do not believe anyone ever claimed that child endowment was meant to provide the cost of feeding a baby, any more than age pensions, when they were first introduced, were ever represented as being enough to maintain a person. They were introduced as a supplement. I have gone to the trouble of looking up the report of the original debate on 27th March 1941 when the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) introduced the first Bill to provide child endowment payments. He said in his second reading speech:
These payments will constitute a substantial contribution towards maintaining the welfare of children against the industrial hazards of their breadwinners.
He did not say that the amount provided was going to pay for the keep of the children but that it would constitute a substantial contribution towards maintaining them. The Leader of the Opposition at that time, the late John Curtin, also recognised this and he said in his second reading speech:
I say that endowment is not a full provision for the maintenance of a child, but I am not silly enough to believe that the first child will receive no benefit from this plan.
Honourable members will remember that when the first Bill was introduced there was no provision for the first child. Payments applied only to the second and subsequent children. The Leader of the Opposition went on:
I am not silly enough to believe that the first child will receive no benefit from this plan even though the payment begins with the second child.
He said later:
I know that it would be merely fooling with the necessities of that family to provide 5s for a child.
So it was never at any stage claimed that the payment made by way of child endowment was sufficient to maintain the child.
I have seen and heard figures cited - I believe some honourable members opposite used them - relating to social service expenditure which have been taken from an International Labor Office publication titled ‘The Cost of Social Security 1958-60.’ It gives the expenditure by Australia on social services as a proportion of the gross national product. Without going into the reasons why it is not always safe to make comparisons between various countries - and one reason, of course, is that in this country some of the social service burdens are shared with the State Governments and these would have to be taken into account - this publication gives the figures for 1950-51, which was the first year of the survey, and in a list of a number of countries Australia was placed eighth, on the basis of the proportion of gross national product represented by expenditure on social services. The last year covered by the report, 1959-60, showed that Australia had moved up to seventh place. But what was not indicated was the fact that in terms of percentage increases that occurred between those two years, Australia was third in the list.
The Minister pointed out in his second reading speech that the basic wage was originally fixed on the needs of a man, wife and one or two children. The present Prime Minister in 1941 introduced a Bill to supplement the income of families with more than one child. Today wages are fixed on the ability of industry to pay, and I want to give the House figures to show that wages are moving ahead of prices and that there is not quite the same urgency in relation to child endowment as there was when it was first introduced in 1941.
– These figures will be interesting.
– I suggest the honourable member listens carefully and then judges for himself. I have gone to the Commonwealth Statistician for these figures. I have taken for a start the last full year of office of the Labor Government, the year ended 30th June 1949. The basic wage at that time was $12.90. Today it is $33.80, although it is not now called a basic wage. There has been an increase over the period of 162%. The consumer price index for the June quarter of 1949, which was the last one prior to Labor’s last Budget, was at a figure of 62.9. In the June quarter of this year, in which we are being criticised, it is 140.6. There has been an increase of 125% over the period. Wages have gone up by 162%, the consumer price index by 125%. The House may be interested to know that the base rate pension for a married couple in 1949 was $8.50. Today it is $23.50, which shows an increase of 170.6%. This is why there is not the same urgency with regard to child endowment today as there was in 1941 when it was first introduced.
The Union of Australian Women asked for a flat rate of $2.50 per child. The Government believes that the greatest burden falls on the largest families. Therefore it has introduced a sliding scale to give the greatest benefits to the largest families, and this Bill provides not $2.50 for every child but $2.50 for the seventh, $2.75 for the eighth and $3 for the ninth. As the Minister has pointed out, 240,000 families with more than a million children will benefit by the provisions of this Bill.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) suggests there may be merit in removing concessional tax deductions for children and paying out in child endowment the moneys thus saved. There might possibly be merit in that proposal, but I point out that at present there are some people who neither benefit from concessional tax deductions for their children nor receive child endowment. I am referring to parents of children over 21 years of age attending universities. They receive no endowment and no tax deductions. I believe that most members of Parliament agree that we need technicians, scientists, doctors and teachers. If we believe in education and in having a high percentage of qualified men we ought to be doing something about this matter.
I return to the proposition advanced by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, that a tax deduction for a child is worth more to a person on a high salary than it is to a person on a low salary. This is very true. But we have to take into account that the person on the higher salary not only pays more tax but pays a much higher rate of tax, and in most cases spends more money on the education of his children than does the person on the lower salary. The person on the higher salary certainly has the ability to pay, but at the same time we must take into account these other factors that I have mentioned. I am not knocking the proposition advanced by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. I think it warrants investigation, but I do not .believe that we can make a quick judgment on an issue like this without examining all aspects of it. In conclusion, although the Bill may not go as far as everyone would wish it to go, it is a step in the right direction. I have great pleasure in supporting it.
– The matter for debate is a Bill for an Act relating to child endowment. By introducing the Bill in this form the Government has made sure that the debate will be restricted to the subject of child endowment and that Opposition speakers will be prevented from roaming over the wild field of social service items on which this Government deserves to be criticised. The Bill proposes to increase child endowment by an amount of 25c for each child above three children in any one family. Families which have no more than three children will get no increase in child endowment. There is to be no increase in endowment for the first, second or third children, even in those families where there are more than three children.
When introducing the Bill the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) told the Mouse that child endowment had in this country become an accepted feature of the family income. He went on to say that the present proposals represented an important extension of social services. One of the very important things that I can see in these proposals is that the Minister has given notice that not only is the Government unconcerned with other items of social services, but even as regards child endowment it does not intend to concern itself with familites with fewer than four children. It will not be very much concerned either, as we see hy this Bill, with families that have more than three children. I say this because the Minister at a later stage in his speech said:
For some time the Government has been concerned with the fact that large families are adversely affected by wage and price increases when compared with the smaller family.
Here we have an admission by the Minister - and we have not heard an admission of this nature from honourable members opposite; they usually refute this suggestion - that increased costs of living have affected the living standards of the family man. We also have the admission that any increase in wages has not been sufficient to offset increased costs. The fact that the Government intends to increase endowment by only 25c for each child after the third child proves that it has not examined very closely just what effect rising costs have on the family man. The Minister also said - and this is important when related to the fact that no increase in child endowment is to be made where the number of children in a family is less than four:
One original purpose of child endowment, that of being a complement to the basic wage, has lost much of its force because of the fact that wages today are now related to the capacity of industry to pay rather than to the actual needs of a man, wife and one or two children.
This must mean that the Minister and the Government arc of the opinion that a man on the basic wage who has a family of one, two or three children is better off, or at least as well off, today as such a man was in 1950, because it was in 1950 - seventeen years ago - that the amount of 50c, which still applies for the first child, was set. What the Minister has said must also mean that while this Government remains in office, and while wages are fixed on the ability of industry to pay, no family with fewer than four children can expect any increase in child endowment.
The Government cannot escape the fact that the Minister in his second reading speech has told this Parliament and the people of Australia that the amount now paid for the first, second and third children will not be altered while the present Government remains in charge of the treasury bench. In the Minister’s speech are to be found several parts in which he has made it very clear that the Government does nol intend to give any further consideration to small families. The whole of the Government’s attitude is put in a much worse light when one realises that while refusing to grant any increase to small families the Government haj in the same action given only a token increase to large families. A family wilh four children is to receive a whole 25c more than it did previously. The Government’s concern for larger families goes to the full extent of a whole 25c for the fourth child and 50c when there is a fifth child. It would be interesting to hear how the Government arrived at this figure of 25c a child. It is quite obvious that no proper investigation has been made to ascertain how families are situated.
The Government has neglected child endowment for so long that it now finds itself in the position where, in order to escape full scale criticism, it must make a move of some description. IX has looked around, not to ascertain the needs of families, but to find out where increases can be made at the smallest cost, lt is for this reason and no other that the Government decided that very small increases would be given to families with four or more children. The Minister has pointed out that as a result of the proposed increases, the cos; of child endowment for a full year wil) rise by some $8.3rn. Even on the present rates of endowment the total cost for last year was $182,288,028. So the fact that the total payment is to be increased by just over S8m shows very clearly that the Government has been very careful to arrive at a decision and a scale of payments which will not place very much burden upon the Treasurer’s purse. The Minister and the Government apparently consider that an additional amount of $8. 3m for child endowment is a fairly considerable sum towards assisting those people for whom the Government expresses concern.
At this stage it may be interesting io point out that this amount of $8. 3m is about half the amount that the Government has decided to hand out to the wealthy section of the Community by way of tax relief each year. I refer to the Government’s decision to increase the maximum deduction for superannuation and insurance premiums from $800 to $1,200 a year. So we have the situation now where parents with a family of, say, nine children - an example the Minister referred in his speech - will receive, as a result of this Bill, an additional $78 a year. But a taxpayer who has a taxable income of $10,000 a year is to receive relief of some $206 a year. So I suggest that the concern expressed by the Government for large families, or for families of any size, is nowhere near the concern that it feels for its wealthy friends.
The Minister has informed us that 240,000 families will receive some benefit from this Bill and that the rates of endowment will be increased for some 400,000 children. But he has carefully avoided the question of how many families will receive no benefit and how many children will receive no increase in endowment. Surely if the Minister considered it necessary to refer to the numbers which will benefit from this legislation, for the purpose of comparison he should then have informed the House as to how many families and children, according to the Government, require no further assistance, even though he admits that there has been a substantial increase in the cost of living. The Minister should tell the House how many families and children can expect to receive no further increases in child endowment while this Government remains in office, because this is a rather important question not only to those with small families but also to those with large families.
I want to place on record a reference to the number of families and the number of children who will not receive any benefit. My authority for these figures is the report of the Director-General of Social Services for 1965-66. At page 12, under the heading Child Endowment’, the report states:
Children under sixteen years of age in families. The number of endowed families continues to increase and on 30 June 1966 totalled 1,610,4-90 or 27,689 more than a year earlier. The number of endowed children in families rose by 47,893 in 1965-66 to 3,593,933 at the end of the year.
Although the increase in the number of endowed families was about the same as in 1964-65, the increase in the number of endowed children was some 23 per cent less. Just over one-third of the endowed families have only one child under 16 years of age. These comprise families with an only child as well as those in which the older children have reached 16 years.
Those figures come from a source that noone is likely to challenge and it is simply a matter of arithmetic to determine approximately how many families with children will not receive any benefit. 1 say approximately because the figures given by the Minister no doubt were only approximate and there would be some variation in the figures in the report since it was released. By deducting the figure given by the Minister of 240,000 families from the number of endowed families given in the report of the Director-General of Social Services, we find that 1,370,490 families at present receiving endowment will not receive any increase as a result of the passage of this Bill. About 240,000 will receive some benefit, ranging from 25c a week, but the huge number ot more than 1,370,000 will receive nothing at all. We can only conclude from the Minister’s remarks that these 1,370,000 families, or at least most of them - no doubt some will increase the size of their families - cannot expect any increase of child endowment while this Government remains in office.
Let us now examine the number of children who will not be paid some additional endowment. The Minister said that some 400,000 will receive some benefit. The report shows that there were 3,593,933 endowed children at 30th June 1966. This means that almost 3,194,000 children at present in receipt of some endowment will not receive any increase. The parents of these 3,194,000 children will not receive any additional help to care for and raise their children, notwithstanding the fact that the Government has admitted that the value of the endowment they are receiving has diminished quite substantially as a result of the increased cost of living. Had the Government decided to apply the increase to the third child in a family instead of the fourth, the additional cost would have been about $4m for the families in that group alone. This is about half the total cost of the increases included in the Bill, according to the Minister. It was for this reason and for no other that the Government decided that on this occasion and in the future families of fewer than four children would receive very little consideration.
Let us examine the position of a family with fewer than four children or, for that matter, let us examine the position of all families in relation to the first, second and third child. Endowment for the first child was 5s or 50c in 1950. Today, seventeen years later, it is still 50c and will remain at that figure. The Bill does not make any alteration to it. Endowment for the second child was set at $1 in 1949 and is still the same amount. The Bill intends no alteration. The amount for the third child was last increased in 1964 and this amount also remains unchanged. The Minister has admitted that the cost of living has increased. He must also admit that the 50c in 1950 and $1 in 1949 would have bought much mors in those days than they w3l today. In other words, the value of child endowment for the first and second child is much less today than it was when these amounts were set some years ago. But the Government has refused to do anything to adjust the value of child endowment for these children. The suggestion by the Minis ter that endowment is accepted as a feature of family income has no sound foundation at this time. It may have been accepted several years ago when endowment was first introduced, but this is certainly not the position today, unless the Minister is willing to admit that family income from wages has also lost considerable value.
The true position is that the endowment received today - I mean today; I do not refer to the position after the Bill is passed - ‘has very little value when related to the cost of Hying. It does help a little, but it does not give as much assistance as it did a few years ago. The increases now proposed for families with 4 to 7 children, or even more, will not bring the value of the endowment up to the value it had when it was first introduced. The Government, by failing to increase endowment at fairly regular intervals, has allowed it to reach a point where a considerable sum will be required to lift it to its proper place. What is being done on this occasion is no more than an attempt by the Government to avoid its proper responsibility.
The Government’s attitude to the plea by parents for assistance to rear their children becomes clear in the light of the provisions of the Bill and the statement made by the Minister during his second reading speech. He said:
The parents and particularly the mothers make tremendous personal sacrifices for their children’s sake.
The extended endowment assistance provided by this Bill will help to ease. the financial stress facing many of these parents. Beyond this the benefit will give greater opportunities to the children who tomorrow will be the responsible citizens of Australia.
Here we have a further admission by the Government thai many parents are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet. We have an admission that they are not only finding it difficult to feed and clothe their children but they are also finding it difficult to give them a reasonable start in life by providing them with a good education or giving them the opportunity to learn a trade, or something of that nature. But the Minister claims that this miserable increase in child endowment will solve the problems of parents.
Apparently the Minister claims that by increasing child endowment by 25c for a family of six - that is, two parents and four children - he is materially helping them to overcome the difficulties they face. The 25c amounts to 4c a week each, with lc over to be splashed about more recklessly at the weekend. The parents of five children will be much better off. They will receive an additional 50c a week between them or 7c each. This sort of money, according to the Minister, will considerably improve the standard of living of these families. If they were practically starving before, the increases will enable them in one instance to buy an extra quarter of a pound of meat and in another instance an extra half a pound. This will not do very much for a family. The Bill, in fact, does not give very much help to a family and it becomes obvious that the position will not be relieved later.
No means test is attached to child endowment. Therefore, it is not possible for us to know whether parents with only one child or with two children are any better off than are the parents with a much larger family. The father of a family with only one child may simply be on the basic wage whereas the father of a family with ten children may have an income of something like $10,000 a year. How do we determine which of these particular families should be assisted? Personally, I would be on the side of the breadwinner who is earning only the basic wage. To deny people who have one, two or three children any increase in child endowment is completely wrong. Something will have to be done to ensure that wealthy people are not absorbing moneys by way of child endowment which should go to deserving cases. This situation must be looked at. We must consider the limit to which we can go in relation to finance for this particular cause because there is no doubt that at present the Government has neglected the families with one, two or three children. Hundreds of people are in very poor circumstances and are more deserving. People with large families are to receive this miserable 25c a week increase. How many families would be in the higher group? We have to look at this sort of thing and come to a fairer determination.
In 1950 the basic wage was $12.90. Today the total wage is $33.80. On a rough estimate I admit that 50c today has the purchasing value of 18c 17 . years ago. So, we have the position today where families with one child are receiving endowment at the rate of only 18c per week. When related to 1950 values a family with two children today receives not $1 but 36c a week and a family with three children receives not $1.50 but 42c. The increase of 25c which has now been granted by the Government is actually worth only about 9c when measured against what that amount of money would have bought in 1950, when endowment for the first child was 5s. In this light it is clear that what the Government is doing on this occasion in relation to child endowment is not very generous.
We heard it stated today that child endowment should be capitalised and made available to parents at an early stage so that they might receive a lump sum which could be used as a deposit on a house or to pay off a house. The honourable member for Canning (Mr Hallett) said that he would be opposed to such a course. He was of the opinion that child endowment should continue as it is today - as a weekly amount. That would be alright if the weekly amount being paid in so many cases had any real value. However, if we look at the position of a parent with one child who receives less than $26 per year in child endowment, we can see that this sum does not amount to very much on a weekly basis, particularly when today’s costs are taken into account. I do not think a person needs to be a Rhodes Scholar to see this. If the parents of one, two, three or more children could get the full amount of their entitlement over sixteen or seventeen years - whatever the period may be - they could put this money to a much better use than they can at present. Even if the money were made available from the residue as the children attained school age it could become very valuable to the parents. I would not argue so much with what the honourable member for Canning had to say if the present child endowment payments meant anything so far as actual purchasing power was concerned.
As I have said, this Bill was brought down in such a manner as to disallow any debate on social service matters other than child endowment. As a result, honourable members have been prevented from making proper criticism of the Government, as it should be criticised, in relation to social services generally. I conclude my remarks by saying that the Government has again failed to do the proper thing by families and needy parents and has failed to put into child endowment the value that it had in earlier years. It has also failed to recognise the needs of many smaller families who are in a much worse position than some of the larger families whose breadwinners have very substantial incomes.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
–This Bill is rather a narrow one. It relates only to the matter of child endowment. It is not directly related to the other social sevices which are administered by the Commonwealth Government. But although the Bill has been related only to child endowment there are certain things worth saying in relation to it and certain matters which need to be made clear for the benefit of those who are interested in family allowances and child endowment.
In 1941 the present Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) introduced into this Parliament the first Bill relating to child endowment in the Commonwealth of Australia. Referring to the spirit which motivated the introduction of the measure he said:
Child endowment can he rightly considered as a profitable national investment. A free enterprise economy such as ours provides inadequate incentive for investment in persons as compared with things. This is because it is rarely possible for people who make investment in persons to profit from it. For this reason governments subsidise education. For this reason also the investment of the Commonwealth Government in child endowment can be expected to make a high return in human happiness.
On that occasion the present Prime Minister saw child endowment clearly as part of a social obligation and as a social phenomenon in our community.
Referring to the philosophy which motivated the Government’s expansion of the family allowance programme, as evidenced in this Bill, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) in his second reading speech delivered on 15th August last said:
We believe that the most effective way of bridging the gap between the economic needs of a family and the income of that family is the payment of an .allowance that will increase with the size of the family. The financial burden becomes increasingly heavy with the number of children in a family and the introduction of a graduated scale of endowment rates acknowledges this fact.
So here we have two aspects of the implications of family allowances. The Minister said further:
One original purpose of child endowment, that of being a complement to the basic wage, has lost much of ils force because. of the fact that wages today are now related to the capacity of industry to pay rather than to the actual needs of a man, wife and one or two children.
Here we have two complementary attitudes towards this matter of family allowance. In one it is looked at as an investment in human capital and in the other an attempt is made to measure the economic needs of different family groups within the community.
Bearing this philosophy in mind I consider that it is worth while to look at some of the criticisms that have been made by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) - the shadow treasurer - and, less significantly, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). Let us look first at the criticism levelled at this Bill by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because it contains the most glaring errors of misapplication of the principle of social justice which has moved us to introduce this Bill. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition argued that large families occurred in the past only among the poor. He said: ‘The number of comparatively well off families in the future with more than four children will increase*. So he argued against the introduction of a scheme of graduated child endowment. He argued that since the number of larger families might not be among the poorest families in the community, we did not need to have a social conscience with respect to these people. The honourable gentleman, I submit, has misunderstood some of the principles of social justice. Social justice requires not only that those who are the poorest in the community should receive adequate subsistence and help on account of their being part of the community but also that those who exist in the various groups within the community who follow a certain occupation or belong to certain strata in the community should not be disadvantaged because they have more than the average number of children. Let me illustrate the point.
There are these two aspects of social justice. A man on a relatively low income - little more than the basic wage - and with a small family, perhaps one child, has a right to a certain standard of living. Another man working at the same occupation, on a very low wage, but with six children also has the right to a standard of living appropriate to his status in life. This principle we apply also to the professional person. The professional man with a small family has a right to an appropriate standard of living. The professional man with far greater family obligations has the right not to be degraded too far below the standard of his fellows. It is the second aspect of social justice which concerns artisans, tradesmen and professional men and which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition does not even begin to understand. It is obviously beyond his ken. I regret that this is so.
There is another respect in which events have moved beyond the honourable gentleman and it is worth while reflecting on this also. It is true that in the past there was an application of a simple law known as Hargraves’ law in which the size of a family was inversely related to income. Large families tended always to exist among the poor - among the bottom 10% or 20% in income earning capacity in the community. These days the large families exist not only among that section of the community but also up to the upper middle income groups. It is not just that we should ignore this latter class always.
The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) gave us the interesting history of child endowment. I will deal later with some of the historical aspects of child endowment. There is an honesty about the economic arguments of the shadow Treasurer - the honourable member for Melbourne Ports - which some other honourable members, certainly the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition could emulate. As I understood the speech of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, he analysed the amount of direct benefits given in terms of child endowment and came up with a figure of about $200m a year.
– No, that was the value of tax concessions. The value of child endowment was something less than that figure.
– Yes, but that does not alter the argument. The honourable member said that something less than $200m a year was given in direct benefits. Then he said that tax concessions for children were worth something more than $200m a year and he drafted an interesting table in this respect. His argument was that since something less than $200m a year is given in direct child endowment and something more than $200m a year by way of tax concessions to those people with children and who claim concessions in respect of them, he would substitute the latter for the former. His whole philosophy was directed towards taking away the tax concessions and weighting them towards the direct child endowment proposals. This is easily done in an accounting sense but certain economic implications flow from it. These are worth looking at. If we take away the taxation concessions we take away some of those inducements to investment which flow from such concessions, and the inducements to investment which flow from taxation concessions in respect of children apply very much to health and most significantly to education. If taxation concessions for education are taken away then public expenditure on education will have to be increased greatly. An inducement to private investment is abolished. We cannot change anything in an economic system without causing appropriate changes all the way through. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports might look at his proposal again in terms of the underinvestment in education and health that would flow from what he put forward.
The honourable member for Watson had something to say concerning the history of child endowment. He went through the usual arguments about the change in the value of the pound, or dollar or cent. The burden of his argument was this: ‘Well, look, my own party, the Australian Labor Party, has really pushed for this always and we are the ones who, if we did not bring it into operation, forced others to bring it into operation in Australia’. I should like to look at this claim. A moment ago I mentioned that the present Prime
Minister was the person who first brought child endowment into the Commonwealth of Australia. He does not claim much political agreement with the honourable member for Watson. But we can go back further to a former Premier of New South Wales. I notice that the honourable member for Watson did not name the New South Wales Premier who brought in a child endowment measure in 1926-27. A Premier of New South Wales, Mr Lang, did bring child endowment, with certain restrictions, into operation in that State. His Party was so proud of him that ultimately it expelled him. That is the kind of reward the Labor Party gives for social thinking.
– A reward for virtue.
– Yes, paid in its own way by the Party opposite. Let us consider another measure concerning family allowances that was proposed in the Senate last year. I understand leave was sought to introduce a Bill relating to child endowment and that the Opposition had much to do with not giving the mover of the proposed legislation leave to introduce it. So the record of the Party opposite in respect of family allowances and child endowment is not one of which it can be very proud. In matters relating to social services honourable members opposite adopt what can be called the ear-stroking process. Wherever they campaign, they campaign to catch the ear of the people who are concerned about certain matters. One might go to Tasmania and find that members opposite are concerned with southern development. One might go to Perth and find that they have a programme for western development. Ohe might go to the north and find them pursuing the same kind of process and claiming that they have a programme for northern development. I do not know what they would suggest for their programme if they campaigned outside Taronga Park Zoo. Ear stroking creates problems for anyone who desires to keep his head.
This Bill is one of which many of us on this side of the House are extremely proud. We are proud it has to be brought into operation and we support it strongly. It is an advanced piece of social legislation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition criticised us at length for applying the benefits without a means test or without reframing taxation concessions. I have been intrigued to read once again that the British Labour Party has had something to do with bringing into operation a family allowance scheme for families of four or more children. At certain stages of its life the British Labour Party said it would introduce a means test for its .family allowance scheme, but acknowledging the justice of the principle and having a different sense of social justice from the Party opposite in this respect, it introduced a scheme free’ of means test and applicable to a similar range of families as is involved in the scheme presently before the House.
It is not my intention to speak at length tonight. This is quite a narrow Bill which is concerned with family allowances, but one or two things had to be said about some of the kindlier misunderstandings of the Party opposite in respect of it. One thing needs to be said about child endowment in relation to those people who provide much for this country in terms of human capital. This factor must be considered in relation to an expensive, and increasingly expensive, immigration programme. From the point of view of simple comparative justice it was appropriate that if the costs of assisted migration were increasing by several per cent per annum, those people who provide a natural increase of population in Australia ought not to be forgotten. The Government has not forgotten them. It has been suggested that very little has been done. This kind of argument can always be expressed, especially by an Opposition. I would suggest that those honourable members opposite who put this kind of argument do not know many people who fall within the categories of families involved in this measure. I have spoken to many people in all walks of life - well to do people as well as those who are not well to do - and I know that they are extremely grateful and extremely happy for what the Commonwealth Government has done. They are grateful for the kind of thinking that has involved the Commonwealth Government in this type of measure. We look upon child endowment as not only an investment in happiness but an investment in simple human capital in Australia. It is an investment in children who come into this world, especially in the larger families of working men as well as in all families. I support the Bill most warmly, congratulating the Minister for its introduction. I know that the community in general is extremely grateful for what has been done.
– The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) in introducing this Bill acknowledged the requirements of people with large families. He claimed it is best to help those families that have more than three children. Most large families were grateful to hear the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in the Budget Speech say that as a result of the proposal now before us families with nine children would benefit by $5 a week. The Treasurer went further and claimed to have certain ambitions. I am grateful that the honourable member, for West. Sydney (Mr Minogue) has rather different ambitions. He is more concerned with making provision for the aged - he is a little older than the Treasurer - and he graciously permitted me to take his place on the list of speakers for this evening.
– What is your ambition?
– My ambition is to get a better deal for Australian families than they have been given by this Government. It is all very well to hear the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) refer to the Senate members - whom he would support - who sought to introduce family allowance legislation. He blamed the Opposition for not supporting them, but did he blame his own colleagues for not supporting the Australian Democratic Labor Party when it tried to introduce the measure, which was merely a speculative measure, in the Senate? The Senate had no power to deal with such a measure. I do not know whether he expressed any criticism of his colleagues in his Party room, but he certainly did not criticise them in the House. I remind him that the Government is well represented in the Senate, as is the Australian Labor Party.
Whilst much praise has been given to the Prime Minister for having introduced child endowment in 1941, it is a fact that a Labor Government, irrespective of who led it, introduced child endowment for the first time in Australia in the State of New
South Wales in 1926 in the depths of a depression when there was a money shortage right throughout the world.
– And in the face of opposition.
– I am reminded by the honourable member for Macquarie that that was done in the face of very strong opposition. Whilst I agree that this increase will do something to assist the families of Australia, particularly the larger families, I do not feel in the mood to wax eloquent about the granting of an extra 25c a week to these people. As a matter of fact, I am inclined to agree with my colleague, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell), who said last night that the $5 a week that would be paid to the mother of nine children would probably be spent in tranquillisers and pep pills to help her retain her equilibrium. This is one of the few social service measures introduced by the Government that will assist the families of Australia and people in need of social service assistance.
I do not believe that this measure goes to the extent that was suggested by the Bank of New South Wales in its quarterly review of June 1967. The Bank suggested that there should be an increase in social services because it realised - just as do honourable members on this side of the House - that if we give money to pensioners, the recipients of child endowment payments and the larger families of Australia, that money will be spent and will be circulated. The bank’s officers know as well as we do that the more money there is in circulation the greater the amount that goes into the Commonwealth Treasury. It is a fact that although wage earners may receive an additional few dollars a week, a portion of this money, before it is ever spent, goes to the Commonwealth Treasury. I believe that greater assistance could have been given in the field of child endowment if the Government had chosen to leave tax deductions at the existing rates, but it has increased tax deductions for a wife and dependant children, and the amount that can be claimed for superannuation and insurance. There would not be too many parents with a young family who would be able to pay $23 a week for superannuation or insurance.
I wonder what effect the increased child endowment rate will have on the Australian birth rate. I recall the words of Sir Samuel Griffiths, who was one of the founders of our Constitution and one of the greatest Queenslanders. He said that the real wealth of a country is not in its minerals or in the turnover of goods but in the people themselves and the wealth that they produce. I repeat the oft-used phrase that the best migrant is the Australian born child. We think of the cost to the Commonwealth of bringing migrants to Australia - some of whom stay, a few of whom go back to their homeland and then return to Australia very shortly afterwards because they realise that Australia is not a bad place - and of how little is given to assist the Australian born people, of the fact that bonuses for child bearing have not been increased for many years; and of the fact that assistance to young married mothers has not been increased. The number of marriages in Australia has increased from 76,686 for the year 1961 to 96,046 for the year 1966, which is an increase from 7.30 per thousand in 1961 to 8.32 per thousand in 1966. However, the number of births registered has fallen in this 5 year period from 239,986 in 1961, or 22.85 per thousand, to 222,626 in 1966, or 19.28 per thousand. It is interesting to recall that the only State in which there was an increase in the ratio per head of population was Western Australia. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), who was the previous speaker on this side of the House, can take some pride in those figures. The only other State in which there was an increase in this period was Victoria, but that State had a corresponding increase in population which reduced the percentage.
The Australian Labor Party has also stressed and put forward in its policy from time to time that child endowment should be paid on a graduated scale. In fact’, in the 1961 election campaign and again in 1963 the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Calwell, put forward a proposal for child endowment on a graduated scale. The families which are now expected to be very pleased to receive 25c a week for each child were very unlucky on those occasions because if they had accepted the Labor proposals they would now be receiving considerably more in terms of child endowment payments than they will receive under this measure. Nevertheless, I suppose we cannot look a gift horse in the mouth.
The Minister stated that this increase will assist some 240,000 additional families. He said that endowment is paid on behalf of 3,700,000 children and is paid to 1,650,000 families and 500 institutions. I do not know at what rate the endowment is paid to the institutions. I suppose they would be very happy for it to be paid at the increased rate after four children but I suppose it will be paid according to the size of the family from which these children come. As most of the children are born of unmarried mothers they would be classified as first children and the lowest amount of endowment possible would be paid.
– Not in institutions. Institutions are paid $1.50 for each child.
– I thank the Minister for that explanation. It has been pointed out that as part of its platform the Labor Party has proposed a scheme for the capitalisation of endowment payments, with a maximum advance of $2,000. This has drawn some criticism from honourable members on the Government side. Some of the criticism of Labor’s proposals was to the effect that the homes savings grant scheme would provide the money for housing. One of the catches about that scheme, of course, is that one has to have savings of $1,500 to qualify for the full grant, which is paid on the basis of $1 for every $3 saved. So those who have most money are in a position to claim the maximum grant and those who do not have enough savings are not able to claim the maximum. Under the Family Benefits (Home Ownership) Act in New Zealand a scheme to enable parents to capitalise child endowment has operated since 1st April 1959. In the first 6 years of its operation the payment of £30.4m sterling was authorised. It is interesting to note that in those 6 years the number of births registered in New Zealand reached its peak annual total of 65,476. The latest figures are those for 1965, when the number of births registered totalled 60,178. It is of interest to note also that in 1965 the birth rate per thousand of the population reached 22.23 in New Zealand compared with 19.28 in Australia. The New Zealand figure for 1961 was 26.97. The New Zealand scheme has operated very successfully. The capitalisation of family benefits allows a family to draw in advance the total of endowment that would be paid in respect of each child until it reaches the age of 16. Participation in the scheme is purely voluntary. Nobody is forced to capitalise endowment. In fact, capitalisation is permitted only if the mother herself is a signatory to an agreement that this be done or is part owner of the home on which the money is to be spent. She must give her consent to the endowment being cashed.
I am aware that the original purpose of child endowment was to improve the income of the family man and that it came to be taken into account in relation to the basic wage structure because it was considered to have a relationship to the cost of living. One of the first problems that besets any family is the provision of a home. One that is reasonably free of debt is a happy one. It is important that children be reared in this kind of atmosphere, for environment has an important bearing on their development in their early years. The capitalisation of endowment or family benefits relieves parents of the burden of high interest costs. As you know, Mr Speaker, even though homes may be available on reasonable terms, the interest charges paid overall may amount to about half the capital cost, even of a war service home. In some instances, interest charges even exceed the capital cost. So the capitalisation of family benefits enables a family to be relieved of a heavy interest burden. Admittedly, the parents may have to struggle to provide for the family some of the other things that could be bought if child endowment were being paid regularly. Nevertheless, capitalisation of benefits at least enables a family to get a home without being committed to paying rent for a long period or a high rate of interest on a second mortgage.
The New Zealand scheme applies- not only to the purchase of a home but also to additions to an existing dwelling. The parents of young families often find as the children grow up that the home is quite inadequate and additions are needed. They may seek a further loan from a bank or obtain a second mortgage elsewhere, and pay a high rate of interest. In New Zealand they have the alternative of capitalising the endowment payment that would be made to them. I believe that such a scheme is of great help to families in New Zealand and would be of immense help to families in Australia. I do not agree that ‘he homes savings grant scheme offers ?n acceptable alternative, for the simple reason that mary people are not able to take advantage of the maximum grunt. Indeed, there arc many who cannot qualify for even a portion of the grant. 1 mention these matters, Mr Speaker, because I believe that the comments made by Government supporters about Labor’s policy on the capitalisation of endowment are unjustifiable.
I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) in saying that we on this side of the chamber do not oppose the Bill. We are grateful for small mercies, as are most of the people who will receive the benefit of the new rates of endowment. I point out, however, that they would receive much higher rates of endowment and greater help with the problems of educating their children, which were mentioned by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), if they had a Labor government.
– Mr Speaker, I support the Bill. In this measure we are asked to carry into effect the intentions of the Government with respect to child endowment as announced by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget Speech. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), in his second reading speech, explained the Bill’s aims in these words:
At present child endowment is paid at the rate of SOc for the first child under 16 years in a family, $1 for the second child and 81.50 for each of the subsequent children. The proposal in the Bill before the House is to increase to $1.75 a week the rate of endowment, for the fourth child under 16 years in a family; to increase the rate to $2 a week for the fifth child with cumulative increases of 25c a week for each subsequent child so that in the case of the ninth child $3 a week will bc payable.
This measure will provide assistance for those family groups whose need is greatest. We have heard from honourable members sitting opposite many speeches promising that they would give more to the whole range of families receiving child endowment. However, their proposals would give a little to many and insufficient to those in the greatest need. Nowhere have Opposition members explained how they would pay for the heavy additional burden of expense if an overall increase in child endowment were given.
This Bill will affect those families with four or more children under the age of 16. There are approximately 240,000 such families, 142,000 of which have four children under the age of 16, with a progressive decline of the numbers in each group as the size of the family increases, there being 55,000 families with five children under the age of 16. This category of 240,000 families to be assisted is out of a total of 1,600,000 families which are receiving’ endowment for one or more children. The assistance will be paid in respect of approximately 400,000 children out of a total child population of approximately 3,600,000. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) when speaking in this debate drew the attention of the House to the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) when in 1941, as Minister for Labour and National Service, he introduced the first piece of Commonwealth legislation in respect of child endowment. The quotation which the honourable member for Lilley gave bears repeating. The Prime Minister then said:
Child endowment can be rightly considered as a profitable national investment. A free enterprise economy such as ours provides inadequate incentive for investment in persons as compared with things. This is because it is rarely possible for people - who make investment in persons to profit from it.
It is as important today as it was in 1941 that we give encouragement to the nation’s investment in people. We have an imaginative and successful migration policy, but we find that there are economic factors at work in the community which are causing changes in the structure of our economy. I believe that these changes are influencing the rate at which our population is growing as a consequence of the birth rate or natural increase. In his second reading address the Minister for Social Services said:
For some time the Government has been concerned with the fact that large families are adversely affected by wage and price increases when compared with the smaller family. The need to spread any wage increase over a greater number of dependants results in a smaller relative improvement of the position of all family members.
There are a number of other reasons why large families are placed at a disadvantage to smaller families. We see in Australia a developing industrial economy with a growing tertiary industry. We see modern technological advances which makes it possible for women to play a greater part in the work force. With the advances in science, among other things the provision of labour saving devices for the home and the natural desire of Australian families to have the benefit of these labour saving devices, we find that in order to purchase these aids families determine that both the father and the mother will participate in the work force. Where the mother has been precluded from returning to the work force because of the size of the family, she and her family have been at a considerable economic disadvantage in relation to the family where the number of children is small and the mother is able to go to work.
There is no doubt that economic factors have played an important part in and have had influence upon the size of families. One merely has to look at the effect of the depression in the 1930s on the rate of population growth to find evidence of this. If a man who is supporting a wife and family is placed at an increasing economic disadvantage, he and his wife will tend to restrict the size of the family with the result that the period of family formation and the wife’s necessary withdrawal from the work force will be limited. It is interesting to read in a publication recently produced by the Department of Labour and National Service the following quotation:
The pattern or ‘profile’ of a work cycle for women already established in the more industrially advanced nations overseas seems to be emerging more clearly in Australia. Girls leave school and enter their initial occupation from about 15, and they remain at work until they are about 24. From 25 to 34 is the main period of family formation for those who have married and withdrawn from the work force. From 35 to retiring age, a considerable number of these women re-enter the work force after the youngest child has settled at school.
Because of the availability of employment for the women of the community; because of the narrowing of the differential between the male wage and the female wage which is taking place within the community; and despite what the Treasurer said in the Estimates debate in this chamber in 1962, namely, that ‘while the basic wage is now primarily assessed on “capacity”, it cannot be said that there is no longer any element of “needs” or social responsibility in its make-up’, we find that the element of social responsibility in the determination of wage rates is steadily declining. The result is that those families which can attract two incomes are placed in a position of considerable economic advantage over those families where there is only one breadwinner.
The Government is to be congratulated on the forward step that it has taken in this legislation in recognising the need of those families where the number of children precludes the mother from participating in the work force. From a national point of view and from the point of view of the future citizens of this country it is important that the mothers of those children should be able to be at home to care for the children and not be forced, by economic needs, to go into the work force at a time when their services are most needed at home. Recognising the changes in the wage rate structure, recognising that employment is available for a large section of the female population and appreciating that the opportunity to seek employment is not available to the mothers of large families, this legislation is most welcome. Whilst I do not think it will do much to increase the birth rate, at least it will help to arrest a decline that has been taking place and a tendency that has developed for parents to restrict the number of their children. Such restriction enables mothers to return to the work force and thereby share in the rewards from two wages coming into the household, thus enabling the children of the small families to have better opportunities than would otherwise be the case. It is important from the nation’s point of view that the 400,000 children of the larger families should have the opportunities that the children of smaller families now have by virtue of the fact that their mothers in many instances are able to bring a supplementary income into the household.
The Government is to be congratulated on this proposal as it is a step in a direction which recognises the changed economic pat tern that is developing within the community. I have very much pleasure in supporting this legislation for it represents a recognition of a real need, and it demonstrates once again how the Liberal-Country Party Government is alive to the needs of the community and realises that in measuring priorities it must make an assessment of its ability to expend its revenues in the best interests of the community. In this instance I believe the Government is doing this because it has recognised the importance of investment in persons as compared with investment in things.
– in reply - In closing the second reading debate 1 would like to say a few things about the debate itself. Two aspects of it have interested me. First, everyone seems basically to have supported the idea that we should, continue with differentia] rates of child endowment. Secondly, no one has suggested that there should be a means test for child endowment.
The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) mentioned that one former British Minister - I am not sure whether he is still a British Minister - suggested at one stage that there should be within the British system some considerable variation in child endowment and that there should be a means test for child endowment. Of course in New Zealand at present there is a uniform rate of child endowment, and it was of interest to me to note that nobody in this debate today or tonight has suggested that there should be anything other than differential rates of child endowment according to numbers of children in families or that there should be a means test.
I believe that this expression of opinion which has emerged from the debate is a good thing because to my mind one section of the community that it has been demonstrated is possibly in need of more assistance than any other is that consisting of families with large numbers of children. With this in mind the Government has decided that it is advisable to introduce now a further ‘differential in the rates of child endowment and that extra rates should be payable in respect of the fourth and subsequent children in families.
Turning to- the contributions of individual members to this debate,.I would like to comment on a few proposals, particularly some put forward by the Opposition, but also, in passing, those propounded by honourable members on this side. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) referred to the possibility of capitalising child endowment. I think the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) adequately coped with some of the disabilities inherent in capitalising child endowment. In the Government we have looked at this proposition analytically in the past. It has a number of disabilities. The first one involves the situation of the person receiving the minimum wage, whether it be the basic wage or a wage somewhere near that level. A person receiving a low wage sometimes desperately needs to supplement his income, according to the number of children he has, by means of child endowment.
– It would not be compulsory to capitalise the child endowment.
– In New Zealand it has been decided that in certain circumstances the low wage earner should not be entitled to capitalise his child endowment. As I understood the honourable member’s proposal, it was centred on the proposition that the low wage earner was looking for the additional advantages that might be gained from capitalisation. If we exclude the low wage earner, therefore, we will not achieve the advantages that the honourable member suggested might come from capitalisation.
I do not want to go into all the details, but perhaps I should mention the case of a deserted wife whose child endowment was capitalised before her husband deserted her. She would be in considerable difficulty because she would no longer have the assistance of child endowment to support her and her children. Then there is the case of the family in which the parents do not look after their income as they might. They tend to mismanage the moneys that do come in, and eventually the children must suffer. Such a family might have its child endowment capitalised in a house which for various reasons has passed out of its possession. These are some of the problems that have been found to exist under the New Zealand system and although there is much to be said for capitalisation of child endowment there are also severe disabilities which must be considered by a responsible Government before any such scheme is implemented.
The honourable member for Watson (Mr Cope) based his complaint on the fact that nothing had been granted in respect of the first, second or third children in a family. The honourable member seems to think that nothing the Government does is good unless it costs a lot of money. He seems to think that increased child endowment for the fourth and subsequent children is not as good as it might be because it will cost only $8.5m; To my mind the criterion of justice for the needy in the community is not the amount that it costs; the important point is that we should provide for those who are in need. The honourable member for Watson suggested that it would have been better to grant increases for the first, second and third children because this would have cost more than our provisions for the fourth and subsequent children will cost.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) presented a very interesting argument. I think my colleague, the honourable member for Lilley, dealt adequately with much of his economic argument. I wish to add only one point to supplement the case presented by the honourable member for Lilley. It is of interest to note that in the United Kingdom greater taxation concessions are allowed in respect of various members of a family than are available in Australia. As all honourable members know, there is a Labour Government in the United Kingdom. In that country a concessional tax deduction of £Stg115 is allowed for each child under 11 years of age; for each child aged between 11 and 16 years the tax deduction is £Stg140, and for each child over 16 years of age and pursuing full time education there is a tax deduction of £Stg165. When we look at the family allowance or child endowment system in the United Kingdom we find that there is no family allowance for the first or only child, there is an allowance of 8s a week for the second child, and for the third and all subsequent children there is an allowance of only 10s a week. If the argument of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports is valid in Australian conditions, how much more valid should it be under the conditions prevailing in the United Kingdom. Yet in that country there is a Labour Government pursuing a policy which is diametrically opposed to that advocated by the honourable member.
But if we are going to look at the relevance of taxation concessions to child endowment we must also consider the consequences in such other fields of expenditure as those of education and health, which are also very important. For this reason I think that while there is some validity in the argument of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports we must also consider the complications which would ensue from an acceptance of it. The problem of providing adequate educational facilities would surely be greatly increased if considerable numbers of children were sent from private schools to State schools, and it is because a taxation concession is available that many children who otherwise would go to State schools are now being sent to private schools. If the State schools were required to cater for all these children the extra financial burden would have to be borne by general taxation revenues, and this would necessarily offset some of the advantages envisaged by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. This is a problem which without doubt is of concern in our Australian community. One factual instance that I want to amplify for the honourable member is that it will be a continuing fact that for institutions there will be endowment at the rate of 15s, as has been the case in the past, and there will be no increment in the amount that will be payable to them.
Throughout this debate it has been interesting to see the general realisation by the honourable members in this chamber of the situation in which large families are placed, particularly those on fixed incomes. It is because of the Government’s appreciation that it is necessary to try to assist these particular persons that this legislation has been introduced. The Government hopes that in this way some of the added burden of costs that are a reality of life today may be, to some extent, alleviated. Accordingly I commend this Bill for adoption by the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to ba moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1967-68 Second Reading (Budget Debate)
Debate resumed from 29 August (vide page 567), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘this House condemns the Budget because -
it places defence costs on those least able to pay them;
it fails to curb administrative waste and extravagance;
it defers and retrenches development pro jects; and
it allows social service and war pensioners to fall still further behind their fellow citizens’.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) which condemns the Budget because:
These are only a few of the charges that could be levelled against the Government. But any ‘ form of condemnation of the Budget is a rather serious charge tor any government to face and to answer. Therefore one would have expected to hear Government supporters, and Ministers in particular, making some attempt either to refute the charges or to make some explanation for their failures or actions as the case may be. But, strange though it may seem, the opposite has happened, because Government supporters, including the Ministers who have spoken, have very carefully avoided the fields to which our amendment refers. As a result, we can only reach the conclusion that the Government has no. answer to the charges levelled against it by the Leader of the Opposition.
Government supporters, in an unsuccessful attempt to divert attention away from the real question before the House, have devoted practically the whole of. their time to discussing Vietnam and foreign affairs. This has highlighted the Government’s reluctance to deal with matters upon which charges have been levelled. Quite lengthy debate has been devoted in the last few days to Vietnam and foreign affairs. But notwithstanding the fact that Government supporters have spent so much time in this debate and in the debate on foreign affairs on the afternoon and night of Thursday, 17th August, in dealing with Vietnam and other matters which they claim to be serious threats to Australia’s security, they have failed to answer a couple of rather simple but still very important questions which are frequently raised by the man in the street or on the job. The first question is: Why has the Government during its long term of office permitted the defences of Australia gradually to deteriorate to a position where at this time they are almost negligible? The second question is: Why have we not got something to show for all the money that has been collected by way of taxation over past years to meet what the Government has been pleased to term defence expenditure? Thirdly, why is not the Government making provision for aerodromes and other defence projects on our western coast? Fourthly, why has the Government left, and why does it continue to leave, our west and north west coasts completely undefended when, if its claims concerning threats to Australia are correct, it would be from that direction that we could expect attacks to come, particularly at this time when we have the United States communication base in that area?
I do not think anybody would deny that that base would be one of the first targets for anyone who decided to attack Australia. If the threat to Australia lies in that direction surely we should have aerodromes within easy striking distance along that coast capable of handling modern aircraft. We should also have aerodromes from which modern bombers and fighters could operate. However, under this Government we are not likely to have our own aircraft. If we had the aerodromes at least we could expect some assistance from elsewhere. But we have not got these aerodromes, and there is no suggestion that we will get them. People would like to know the answers to these questions. Government supporters are strangely silent on this particular aspect when they speak of defence.
Our defence Ministers have spoken of the mobility of our fighting forces now as against those of several years ago. They claim that as a result of this mobility aircraft and shipping could quickly move from the east coast to the west coast if they were required to do so. But they overlook the fact - and apparently they expect other people to overlook the fact - that other countries are similarly placed in relation to the quick movement of aircraft and shipping. Our enemy could carry out an attack on our shores and be back at his own bases before our aircraft or shipping could be moved from the east coast to the west coast. If an attack does come it is most unlikely that we will receive any warning of it. We will not have time to build air strips and so forth. The game will be on immediately. The people of Western Australia, in particular, are conscious of this. They are concerned about the fact that the Government apparently looks upon Western Australia as being dispensable. I do not think that anyone would seriously object to moneys being raised and spent on defence provided they were properly and wisely spent and that in the process a reasonable measure of defence for Australia and the Australian people were provided. I refer particularly to those people who are unable to defend themselves; those people who will not be able to participate in defence. I speak of the aged, the sick and the children.
As we all know, huge sums have been collected under the heading of defence in past years and considerable amounts will be collected again this year, next year and in subsequent years. But unfortunately most of this money has gone, and is going, the way of the American high pressure salesman. It is being used to purchase aircraft which by the time we receive them and put them into operation - if we ever do - will be obsolete or will be able to operate effectively only in a small area of Australia. We will have a very weak point in our defence if we have modern fighter and bomber aircraft but cannot disperse them or place them in areas other than those well away from the probable site of attack. This may be a very good policy if we are interested only in preserving our aircraft. Of course, I know that we. have not many aircraft, and it is unlikely that we will ever have many aircraft. But this policy does not go over very well with the people in the particular area which is likely to be attacked. I should like to hear Government supporters on this particular point, because it is a matter of concern to the people of Western Australia, particularly those in the north where at present we would be battling to launch anything much larger than a Fokker Friendship.
This year’s Budget has provided further proof - if further proof were necessary - that the Government is completely lacking in sympathy, and, worse still, ls lacking in fair play and a sense of justice towards pensioners and other deserving sections of the community. The Government has once again made it perfectly clear in this Budget that while it remains in office it will continue as it has in the past with its policy of nought for the needy but rorts for the greedy. The Budget for this year could be described as a class distinction or rich man’s Budget, because it is composed in such a way that all assistance or band outs, as they should be termed, will go to the people with large incomes. Assistance will be given to people who are already in better than comfortable circumstances and to people who should be able to contribute to the welfare of the less fortunate instead of being placed’ by the Government in a better position and enabled to gather more and more unto themselves. Instead of making a bigger contribution to the less fortunate, they will make a smaller contribution.
On this occasion, the Government has again given a deliberate hand out to its wealthy friends and to its own members. The Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the other Ministers will be amongst those who will benefit most from the Budget. Indeed, all honourable members . on the Government side will gain because of their financial standing. The Budget is so framed that they will have the opportunity to improve their financial positions still further because of the benefit of the additional taxation relief that follows the Government’s decision to increase the maximum deduction allowed for superannuation and insurance. The Government’s action on this aspect is shocking, particularly when it is measured against its treatment of pensioners and others in poor circumstances, such people as in the lower and middle income groups. Any sense of fair play -has been completely forgotten.
The present maximum taxation deduction for superannuation and insurance is $800. The Government intends to increase this amount to $1,200. At present a taxpayer who pays $1,200 per annum in superannuation contributions or insurance premiums or a combination of both for himself or his dependants can claim $800 as a deduction when arriving at his taxable income. But as a result of the Government’s decision he will now be able to claim the full $1,200. I would have- thought - I am sure that most fair minded people will agree with me - that an allowance of $800 would have been sufficiently high. It is about $15.40 a week. That is an amount that no-one but a person in the top income bracket could afford to pay. It is quite obvious that any increase above $800 will benefit these people only. The amount of $1,200 to which it will now be raised is just over $23 a week. Anyone who could afford to pay $23 a week out of his income would not be on the basic wage. Only a person with a very large, certain and permanent income could afford to take the risk of contributing anything like $23 a week for superannuation or insurance. The Government’s decision to increase the amount from $800 to $1,200 was obviously a hand out to the wealthy and the secure.
Let us sec the extent to which (he very wealthy people will benefit. I want to deal first with the person who has a taxable income at present of $10,000. I point out that, in the minds of most honourable members opposite and of the people with whom they mix, a. taxable income of $10,000 is a bit on the light side. It would be much less than most of them would have. If a taxpayer has a taxable income of $10,000, the increase of the deduction from $800 to $1,200 for superannuation and insurance will mean a saving in income tax of about $206 a year. The sum of $206 may not sound much, but it is almost $4 a week. Therefore, let us examine this amount against the amount that the Government is prepared to pay in social services. The amount of $4 a week is more than one-third of the amount that the Government allows for a married pensioner, lt is very close to half the amount that the Government allows for a sick or unemployed unmarried adult to live on. It is 50c more than the Government is willing to pay to an unemployed or sick person aged 16 or 17 years and is $2.50 more than the Government will pay towards the upkeep of the child of an unemployed or sick parent. It is exactly the same as the amount the Government pays to a widow as a parent’s allowance and it is much more than the Government pays or intends to pay in child endowment for children up to and including the third child. The present total endowment for a family of three children is $3, but the wealthy friends of the Government and honourable members opposite have arranged to make a gift of $4 a week to themselves. As I said earlier, there is nought for the needy and rorts for the greedy. If we examine the position of taxpayers with a taxable income of $20,000, we sec that the increase of the deduction for superannuation and insurance from $800 to $1,200 will mean a tax saving of about $240. If we go still further and examine the tax saving on the full $1,200 for the groups I have mentioned, we see that it amounts to about $620 and $720 respectively. The latter amount is more than the pension paid to a single age or invalid pensioner.
The number of taxpayers with taxable incomes of $10,000 and upward is only a very small percentage of the total number of taxpayers, but this makes the position worse. This very small section of the community will receive a hand out of several million dollars. As I said earlier, this is shocking. However, while this hand out has been given to Government supporters and their wealthy friends, another group in the community - the pensioners, the sick and others unable to help themselves - is in real need of assistance and should have received the first and most consideration. But these people received no assistance at all. They have not even been granted a small increase to help meet the increased cost of living. It is quite obvious that in the opinion of the Government the pensioners and people with small incomes are not worthy of its consideration.
When introducing the Budget to the Parliament, the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said that last year was a very good year. He told us that production had increased, that consumer spending had been very satisfactory and that export performances had been splendid. He went so far as to say that they were the best we have ever had. According to the Treasurer, the economy of the nation has made a complete recovery and is now in a very sound and satisfactory condition. He then made a remark that is very important when we relate it to what the Budget contains or does not contain. He said:
As I now see the prospect, we can expect another good year.
So the Treasurer, who is the man actually behind the Budget and who presents the Budget to the Parliament, told the Parliament and the people that everything in the garden is lovely and we can look with confidence to the future. If this is correct and if the Treasurer is dinkum, why has the Government not acted with confidence in its approach to the coming year? The fact is that, if this year’s Budget is any guide, the Government is taking a very pessimistic view of the future. It would seem that it is very unsure and is making a timorous approach to the nation’s problems. We can arrive at no other conclusion than this. If our position is as good as the Treasurer would have us believe and if we can expect, as the Treasurer claimed, another good year, which must surely improve our level of production and in turn our export income, surely we aTe entitled to expect to see in the Budget for this year provision for further development and progress. Instead we see a policy of stagnation. Surely we should see provision for improvements in the standard of living of the underprivileged and not a denial to those in need of assistance to help them meet the ever increasing costs, about which the Government does nothing.
Notwithstanding the assurances given by the Treasurer and the rosy picture he has painted about the economy and the future, there is no indication of any progressive action to be taken by the Government. The Budget is simply a continuation of the stopgo policy. It is a Budget that shows clearly a fear of the future or else proves that the Government has no idea of how the future should be handled. As a result of the Government’s attitude, stagnation will prevail. If we accept the Treasurer’s statement in relation to the growth of the gross national product during the past year, and if the affairs of the country are handled, as they should be bandied, in a proper manner, surely we are entitled to expect a similar position in this coming year. There seems to be no reason why we should expect a different state of affairs. Surely, if what the Treasurer has told us is correct there should not be any downgrading anyway. If this is so, it is completely wrong and unfair for the Government to deny a very deserving group of the community a proper share in the prosperity of the country. But the Government has denied such people a share. This coupled with the lack of anything of a progressive nature proves that the growth in the gross national product last year occurred not because of the Government but despite it. The Commonwealth Government is relying on other things than Government responsibility or persuasion for the expansion of industry and the little progress we are making in that regard. It is relying almost completely on private enterprise, a large part of which is foreign controlled, for the development of the wealth which this country holds. As a result, some country other than Australia will reap the real benefit and recover the lion’s share of the wealth produced. This is the reason, of course, why the Government when it talks of progress and exports is unable to show how this share of the wealth has been properly and fairly distributed.
The Budget again on this occasion, as in the past, shows the Government’s lack of interest in northern development. Apart from two beef roads there is no provision and, indeed, no suggestion that the Government intends to set any new projects in motion. This is another good indication of stagnation. Mention is made of money which will be provided this year but practically all of it results from previous commitments - expenditure which was approved and put in train 2, 3 or more years ago. There is nothing other than the roads I mentioned earlier to suggest that new projects have been commenced. There is no indication that any action will be taken either this year or in the first half of next year to pursue further development of water conservation or irrigation in our northern areas. No mention is made of any definite or even possible activity by members of the Northern Division of the Department of National Development. It would seem that this Division has gone into hibernation for the next 12 months or even perhaps until just before the next election. This is not so strange because the Northern Division was set up only as a vote catcher for political purposes. Having achieved that purpose the Government is not really concerned or interested in the long term planning of the Division. Neither is it very interested in what the Division might do at the moment.
In regard to northern development and water conservation, it is rather disturbing and frustrating to find, while the Government is quite happy to assist further and to protect the wealthy section of the community, it is at the same time quite prepared to allow, and in fact expects, the less fortunate sections to take all the risks attached to developing new agricultural areas and proving what those areas can produce. For instance, the Ord River provides quite a good illustration of the Government’s attitude. The Government has refused - and if the answer I received a few days ago is any guide, it will continue to refuse - any further assistance towards the construction of the main dam which is very necessary if the Ord River project is to continue to its proper conclusion. The Government is not prepared to provide just $4m a year for the completion of the project. Yet, in this year’s Budget, by way of its decision on taxation deductions for superannuation and insurance, it proposes to hand out to a small but wealthy section of the community several million dollars which would have been sufficient to meet the cost of this dam. Even in 1 year the amount that the Government is handing out would have been sufficient to meet the costs of constructing this dam over some 3 or 4 years. A section of the community also has been quite unnecessarily relieved of an amount of tax which would, over approximately 4 or 5 years, have been sufficient to meet the full cost of the dam. So, it is no wonder that the people in the north of Australia are becoming very critical and tired of the way that this Government is handling northern affairs.
The Budget proves quite definitely that the Government is not really concerned with the welfare of the Aboriginal people. In fact, its attitude indicates that it could not care less. The Commonwealth’s intentions in this regard is set out in less than four full lines on page 14 of Hansard of 15th August 1967, where the following statement appears:
The Commonwealth’s object will be to cooperate with the States to ensure that together we act in the best interests of our Aboriginal people.
This is all that was said in the Budget about the Aboriginal position. This must be very discouraging to the Aboriginals and to those people who are really interested in their welfare. The Government, as a result of the last referendum, was given the green light and an open cheque for assistance to the Aboriginals. It had the green light to go ahead and improve the standards and conditions of the Aboriginal people. Yet, all that the Government proposes to do is to confer with the States. Certainly the Aboriginal people of Western Australia are not going to be very grateful that the Commonwealth will rely on the attitude of the States towards their problem because they well remember that the Minister for Native Affairs in Western Australia said that if it meant taking authority away from the States he would vote against the referendum. In other words he put the authority of the States before the welfare of the Aboriginals. Yet, the Commonwealth Government proposes to go to people like that to determine what its attitude will be in relation to the welfare of these people.
The committee set up in April 1964 to Investigate the high freight costs in the north of Australia presented its report in September 1965, almost 2 years ago. The Government has refused until just recently to make that report available to members of Parliament. However, the Government itself has had plenty of time to digest what was in the report and to come to a decision. The committee made several very important and worthwhile recommendations for reducing living and production costs in the north, and also for encouraging people to go to northern areas. However, if the Budget, which after all reflects Government policy, is an indication of the Government’s attitude towards the Loder report, it can only mean that the Government has no intention of putting any of the committee’s recommendations into operation. So, it becomes obvious that while this Government remains in office freight charges, costs of living and costs of production in the north will get higher. This Government is very weak on northern development. It can forgo millions of dollars of tax by way of handouts to some people but can offer no tax relief at all to these people who are prepared to go to the north of Australia to carry out its development.
I now turn to the position in relation to health services. This is another field in which the Government has failed and in respect of which condemnation from this side must be supported. The Government has failed to make proper provision for the plight and the needs of the people in the lower income group <and also for those in the middle’ bracket. No-one can honestly claim that Australia’s health scheme is even nearly adequate to meet the requirements of the ordinary family man. The cost of sickness today must be a continual source of worry to parents with young families particularly where the family consists of three, four or more children. The cost of hospital treatment has risen out of all proportion to the Commonwealth subsidy. Charges in most States have increased by well over 100% over the past 9 years. In fact, in New South Wales I believe they have almost trebled. Doctors and specialists charges have also been increased very considerably. As a result of the increases in both medical and hospital costs, the benefits funds, as they are called, have increased their charges. Their rates of contribution have been raised to a point at which many people cannot really afford to be members of the funds, but because of hospital and medical charges they cannot afford to be outside the funds. People in the high income groups are not greatly concerned about the heavy contributions they have to make towards sickness insurance because they can largely recoup those payments as allowable tax deductions, but the man on the low income is not in this happy position. All that he would receive as a tax refund in respect of his- sickness insurance payments would be a few cents. Nevertheless, it could cost that man $120 or $130 a year to insure himself against medical and hospital expenses. The Government is apparently not prepared to examine these matters and to correct anomalies.
A couple of days ago I picked up a pamphlet dated March 1967 which invites British people to come to Australia. In outlining what Australia has to offer the pamphlet read:
A well subsidised health service, modern hospitals, and a generous system of social security all contribute to a high standard of national health. Australia has a system of financial help for the sick which brings the best medical and hospital care within everyone’s reach.
This is not correct. It is wrong to say that protection is available to everybody irrespective of his income, because many people just cannot afford to pay $100 a year for sickness insurance only to find, if they are unlucky enough to become ill, that they have to pay a similar amount or even more in order to meet the difference between the fund payment and the actual medical or hospital charge. The truth is that we do not have a health scheme worthy of the name. A scheme described as a national health scheme should be one under which any person, irrespective of means or social position, is able to obtain medical and hospital care for himself, his wife and children without fearing the cost. We do not have such a scheme.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Budget debate has covered a wide range of subjects. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) has dealt with matters requiring deep consideration and appropriate reply. I do not propose at this juncture to give that reply because I have chosen to speak on a subject which has not been widely covered during the debate. I refer to the state of affairs in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and particularly to the decision of the Arbitrator in the local salaries case. It is perhaps notable that in the Grievance Day debate last Thursday, out of some 13 speeches no fewer than 8 were devoted to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the subject of Australian Aboriginals. Those addresses were delivered by members of all three parties represented in this chamber. They reflect a growing concern for the welfare both of the Aboriginal people and the natives of Papua and New Guinea.
The speeches on the subject of the Territory in particular dealt with the decision in the local salaries case. The case was also discussed, on the initiative of the Opposition, as a matter of public importance on 18th May last. On that occasion I did not agree with the proposal advanced by the Labor Party, and I probably still would be of the same opinion. But having taken the opportunity during the recent recess to visit the Territory I now feel that at the very least the local salaries decision should be the subject of some appropriate appeal or review. It is this for which the Public Service Association of the Territory now presses, and I support the Association in that endeavour. The decision in the case was a decision of truly historic importance and I am concerned lest we commit a tragic mistake in allowing it to stand without further investigation.
I had served in the Territory during the war. I was there again a couple of years ago to attend a conference arranged by the International Commission of Jurists and I had been intending to visit the Territory again. When I received representations through the Territory Public Service Association I decided to make an investigation of the local salaries decision the particular occasion of my visit. I decided at the same time to widen my knowledge of the Territory and the background against which the decision must be judged.
I was in Port Moresby for only 6 days but spent all of that time talking to a great range of people, both local and expatriate, from the Administrator down. I discussed the matter with Administration officials, local officers, office bearers of the Pangu. Pati, students at the Administration Staff College, medical students and law students. I visited the schools. I discussed the matter with university people. I feel that I was able to canvass a representative range of opinion on this matter. I am much indebted to the courtesy of all concerned for enabling me in that short period to obtain a fairly broad purview of the problems involved. I have not undertaken to read the 3,500 pages of transcript involved, but nevertheless I feel that I have gone far enough to know that here is a matter of the gravest importance which at least merits further review. 1 had made known to the Administrator of the Territory before I left and I have discussed with the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) since I returned to Australia the views I formed and although they disagreed, they were good enough to say that if I had formed those views it was my duty to express them. This I now do.
I support and adopt what has been said by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and others on this matter. I believe that we on this side have no monopoly of wisdom and that this is a matter affecting the Territory which transcends the divisions of party. But firstly I should like to attempt to place the matter in a broader perspective and to speak in a general way of the Territory and of what is happening there. I should like to convey to honourable members, if that were possible, the excitement and adventure of a new nation coming into being, because that is what one feels in the air of the Territory at the present time. I brought back with me for souvenir value a page from the ‘South Pacific Post’. On the front page of that publication is a photograph of highland natives in all their traditional finery such as we have seen in films of the Mount Hagen Show. On the reverse side is a photograph of four former university students who are now learning to fly and who will become commercial pilots. These are young native men and I suggest to honourable members who care to examine the photograph that in their bearing, dress and demeanour they compare very favourably with the youth of Australia. The same could be said of the young native school teachers whom I saw - the young students and many others. You would be proud to know them. Indeed, I think you would be proud to call them son or daughter. 1 visited the home of Oala Oala-Rarua who was recently expelled from the Pangu
Pati for being a little in advance of the other office bearers of the Pangu Pati. I hope that he will not think I am breaching the laws of hospitality when I say that although he is regarded, if we may judge by Press reports, as being something of an extremist, a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen was smiling down on his household - scarcely what one would expect in the home of someone pictured as something of an extremist. Perhaps Oala Oala-Rarua is ahead of other members of the Pangu Pati, but the action taken in expelling him shows clearly that the Pangu Pati is not the extremist body which in some quarters it is depicted to be. It is largely controlled and led by officers in the Territory Public Service or former officers of the Public Service. Honourable members on both sides of the House have had the pleasure and interest during the last week of meeting some of the leaders of the Pangu Pati and other Papuans and New Guineans who have been visiting Canberra and who have been present in the House during some of the debates. We know from our personal contact with them what eminently rational and courteous beings they are. I see every prospect of a happy association between Australia and the New Guinea of the future but only if we go carefully at this most crucial juncture in relations between us. Undoubtedly the solution to the problems of the Territory will lie in education, education and again education. I have before me a copy of the Minister’s speech delivered at the opening of the Goroka Teachers College. He pointed out that 20 years ago, in 1947, when the Administration established a Department of Education there were only some 1,200 pupils in Administration schools. Today there are over 76,000. During the same period pupils in the mission schools have almost doubled and now number about 140,000. Tremendous strides have been taken in the field of education, in the field of health and in the development of the economy. There has been a 50% increase in export income in the last S years.
The Australian Administration has brought to these people the benefits of law and order and of communications, and the great and abiding benefit of a common language - the English language - which will open the whole field of knowledge to them. We have in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea much of which the Australian people and the Australian Government may be proud. One does discover up there something which, I think, is all too often lacking here - a sense of true devotion and dedication on the part of many of our Australian public servants who are giving up a large part of their lives in leading these people to the self-government and eventual independence for which they will probably ask and which we have promised to give them when they have reached the stage of really desiring it and are ready for it. There is a realisation on the part of Australian officers up there that they are playing a vital role in this historical process. The process of localisation so called - the process of the training of local officers and their substitution for the expatriate officers - is going on apace, certainly at an uneven pace, but in some departments to a very notable degree. For example, I spent an hour with the Electoral Commissioner who told me that in the process of some 5 years he expects the whole of the Electoral Office to be administered by native public servants. He had sitting beside him the young native officer who will take over from him in 5 or 6 years time. Similarly, in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs heroic efforts have been made to train native technicians, and against all kinds of odds they have been trained to a degree comparable to European standards. They are taking the place now of the European technicians. A great deal of faith and a great deal of patience is required to enable these things to be accomplished, but they are being accomplished. Side by side with that kind of development there is the political development - the establishment of local government councils, the setting up of the House of Assembly and the orderly constitutional development towards an increasing responsibility by the natives in the running of their own affairs. The story is not unsullied, but I wish to give credit where credit is due, and a great body of Australian officers down through the decades, and particularly in the last 20 years, have given great service. to this Territory and its people and, indirectly, therefore to Australia.
It is against that background that we must evaluate what happened in the Public
Service salaries case. Why is this case so important? We have in New Guinea a population of over two million people, but the optimum population of New Guinea could well be in excess of twenty million. I have this on good authority. By comparison, the optimum population of Australia might be over fifty million people. Who can say? Certainly a vast scope lies ahead of us in both the Territory and Australia. These are merely informed guesses, but it is certain that the Territory will one day be a great country. It will be our next door neighbour, and what happens there is therefore tremendously important. The preservation of friendship between the people and Government of Australia and the people and Government of the Territory is of paramount importance in our external policy. With whom must we maintain friendship? We must maintain friendship with the people, and we must maintain it, above all, with the prospective leaders. And who are these prospective leaders? They are the new elite which is being trained, and they are largely to be found in the Public Service. It is not insignificant that, as I have already said, the leaders of the Pangu Pati are, for the most part, public servants or former public servants. They are the most articulate and the most politically aware of the newly emerging elite in the Territory, so it is worth while to pay some attention to what has happened in the local salaries case - to the causes of discontent and the cogent reasons which, I believe, exist for a review in that case.
Mr Fred Kaad, a District Commissioner, at a seminar in Armidale in February of this year said:
The ultimate success of Australia’s relationship with the Territory will depend, in great degree, upon the decision now under consideration by the Arbitrator.
That decision has since been given and, indeed, it has caused great dissatisfaction. Of course, I suppose this is the normal concomitant of every court decision and every arbitral decision; but this is a unique decision, one with unique implications and unique in its possible consequences. It is for that reason that I rise at this stage to associate myself with the request for a review. In so doing I wish to dissociate myself completely from any kind of personal attack upon the Arbitrator or any suggestion that there was any sort of collusion between the Arbitrator and the Administration. This is, to me, unthinkable. I make no attack upon the Administration or the Minister. I believe, as the Arbitrator himself said, that there were errors of judgment in the way these new wage rates were introduced. He referred to the lack of consultation. The decision of the Administration half way through the case to make substantial increases in the salaries which had been laid down in 1964 is evidence of a lack of due consideration when the new wage rates were introduced in 1964. But here, then, is this uniquely important decision, and I say that we should pause and consider whether it should not be the subject of review.
It is the first arbitral decision on public service salaries in New Guinea and it already affects some 10,000 people. Fairly soon, of course, a great many more people will be concerned. Indirectly it will affect the whole wage structure- of the Territory. It will have incalculable effects on race relations in the Territory. It will have incalculable effects on future relations between Australia and New Guinea and, of course, this is directly related to the defence and security of Australia. All these things and more are wrapped up in this tremendously complex issue in which so many factors are intertwined and inter-related. Yet it is allowed to rest on the final decision, as things stand at the moment, of one man - one f allible, mortal man; Atlas, as it were, bearing the great globe upon his shoulders. It is just as important to the future of the Territory as was the original basic wage decision given by our own arbitration court - and perhaps more important. I am not in a position to say that the decision was wrong. I would not undertake to say so without a study of the 3,500 pages of transcript, and even then I do not think I would be well qualified to do so. Others better qualified than I should undertake that task.
It is notable that in Australia a right of appeal would undoubtedly exist in such a case. Section 35 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and section 13 of the Public Service Arbitration Act both provide for a right of appeal by leave of the Commission;
No such appeal is at present provided for by the law of the Territory. But it is notable that at the inception of this dispute, and at the time when arbitration was in the offing, the relevant ordinance of the Territory provided for the appointment of assessors to sit with the Arbitrator at the request of either party. The Public Service Association intimated that it would like such assessors to be appointed. The Administration then rapidly arranged for an amendment of the ordinance to provide that assessors should be appointed only on the decision of the Arbitrator himself and not at the request of either party. So the Public Service Association and the local officers were deprived of the benefit - the great benefit - which might very well have been derived from assessors, expert men, sitting with the Arbitrator on this great issue.
The honourable member for Fremantle, in an article in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 8th July last, analysed the steps in the process, and it is perhaps unnecessary for me to repeat them here, more particularly having regard to the passage of time.
It will be recalled that originally we laid down a policy of equal pay for equal work. That is a policy which I am sure would make a great appeal to everyone in this chamber, and it was only with reluctance that it was ever thought necessary to depart from it. But we have departed from it. No doubt the reasons for that are cogent. Neither the Public Service Association nor the local officers themselves now ask for equal pay” for equal work. They accept the fact and the necessity for some kind of differentiation, but what they say is that there should be a much greater relativity, as they call it, between the salaries paid to expatriate officers and the salaries paid to local officers. Under the original decision announced in 1964 the relation between the salaries of local officers and expatriate officers respectively was complex but on an average the local officer was paid something like 40% of what the expatriate was paid, although it occurs over a wide range of something between 30% and 50%. Even allowing for the increases granted in 1966 by the Administration, and again by the Arbitrator in 1967, that disproportion, or something. of that order, still obtains. It is said that the rise in the minimum wage between 1964 and 1967 is less than what would have been necessitated if we had made a proportionate increase having regard to the increase in the cost of living, so that a very serious disproportion still remains. The question arises whether this disproportion is justified or whether we should not have gone a great deal closer to the European salary scale.
The arbitration was long, difficult and expensive and one might well ask how the Public Service Association was able to afford such a protracted case. One might think that the local officers provided the funds for the fighting of the case and one might wonder where the money came from. It may come as a surprise to some to know that the bulk of the funds for the case were provided not by the local officers but by the expatriate officers. The Public Service Association is still largely controlled by the expatriate officers - although they are by no means the majority in numbers they are the people of training, experience, education and qualification. The very fact that they have seen fit to take up the cause of the local officers in this way and to continue this fight over a period of several years must surely in itself give us pause and provide strong evidence that something may be radically wrong with this decision. For this great body of expatriate officers who have served for so long, and many of them so ably, in the Territory, including some very senior and some very highly qualified people, have been practically unanimous in their support for the council of their Association in contesting the Administration’s decision announced in 1964. Nor do they stand alone in this. A great range of expert opinion has come to their aid and support. Their request for a review of this decision is supported not only by the Press but by other persons and bodies of high standing in this community. I have in my hand, for example, a Press release of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, dated 19th May 1967, in which a strong case is put for a review of this decision. I also have a copy of a statement by Professor David Derham, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Monash University and Vice-Chancellor Designate of the University of Melbourne. Professor Derham goes on. record to say that there are prima facie grounds for suggesting that there are arguments that ought to be heard for an appeal. In other words, he says that there should be a right to apply for leave to appeal and, indeed, that is all the Public Service Association asks at the moment. It asks that the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should be given the chance to look at this transcript and decide whether or not an appeal should be heard. It is not asking for the right to appeal but the right simply to apply for leave to appeal, a right enjoyed by public servants in Australia and by wage earners in Australia generally. True it is that such an, appeal or review is granted only where the Commission regards it as a matter of sufficient public importance. Perhaps it suffices to say that quite recently the Commission thought that sufficient public importance existed to justify it in granting a right of appeal even to musicians employed by symphony orchestras. I do not wish to say anything to belittle musicians but if their’s was a case of public importance then surely this also is a matter of transcendent public importance.
Evidence was given by Professor Peter Lawrence, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Queensland, by Dr Crocombe, Executive Director of the New Guinea Research Unit at the Australian National University, by Professor Parker, Professor of Political Science, Institute of Advanced Studies, Australian National University. All in all one can say that both inside the arbitration proceedings and outside it the great body of expert opinion, the officers who have had decades of experience in the Territory, the academics who have taken the trouble to interest themselves in the people of the Territory and their reactions, appear to be practically unanimous in saying either that the decision is wrong or at the least that there should be an authoritative review of it. I make no apology for getting up in this House and saying - contrary I know to what has been up to this moment the policy of the Minister and the Government - that some such appeal or review should be granted. In the face of testimony from such people who would dare gainsay it? it is an open secret also that the District Commissioners’ meeting in Port Moresby in August 1964 joined unanimously in questioning the wisdom of this new salary scale. True, it has been somewhat ameliorated since but
I daresay if their opinions could be canvassed now they would be of the same opinion still and no comparable testimony has been given in the arbitration proceedings on the other side of the argument.
What is the other side of the argument? I would not seek to minimise it. It is an argument based on economic necessity. I do not for one moment suggest that we must not have regard to the arguments of common sense; we must have regard to the means available to us; but I rely upon what was said by Mr Wootten himself, counsel for the Administration. He said that to approach the matter having regard merely to economic factors simply completely ignores the realities of the development of New Guinea; in particular it ignores the realities of the political situation and the political development of New Guinea and is one that therefore should be rejected. This is not simply a conflict between logic and common sense on the one hand, and emotion or sentimentality on the other. The best logic surely and the best common sense must have regard to these emotional factors which are so tremendously potent and important in a community such as New Guinea where we have the white man and the black man, the poor man and the rich man, in effect, living and working side by side, doing the same work and yet being paid such vastly differing rates of pay. This surely is a case of greater importance than any case that has come before any arbitration tribunal in Australia’s history, and, as I say, we have left it to the final decision of one man. It is not fair surely to the local officers, to the people of the Territory, to the people of Australia or even to the Arbitrator himself that it should be left there, that so much responsibility should be cast on one pair of shoulders. This is a matter fit for prolonged debate in this Parliament; fit almost to be decided by a Roman senate; fit to be submitted at the least to further appeal or review by three or four people of the highest qualifications lest we should have taken a false turn in the road from which it might soon be too late to turn back.
In the very short time left to me may I say that it might be suggested that what I am doing is stirring up trouble. In answer to that let me say that the trouble exists and will not disappear or die down just because we pretend it does not exist. This decision will be and is already a source of increasing bitterness, and I saw evidence of this myself in my interviews with the native people on my recent visit. People are confused. They have on the one hand a body of people - the Administrator and a few top officials - telling them that this must be, and that this is the proper decision, and yet they have a great body of expatriate officers and a great body of expert opinion - indeed almost everyone with expert qualifications in this field - telling them that either this decision is wrong or at the least it should be reviewed. They know that public servants ir. a similar situation in Australia have a right to a review, and that is what they seek for themselves. It is said on the other hand that if we pay more to the public servants there will be less to spend on education. I have no time to expatiate on that, but I cannot and will not accept that if it were to be decided by a proper tribunal that we should pay more to these people we should in fact allocate less to their schools and their hospitals. I do not think so little of this Government as to imagine that that would be a necessary or inevitable consequence of paying more if, indeed, this would be the proper and wise thing to do.
Then it is said that the local officers should abide by the umpire’s decision. But this is not a game in which some players have agreed to accept the verdict of an umpire. It is a matter of great national importance. The local public servants have no choice. They had only one tribunal to which they could resort - the Arbitrator. True, they had a right to have assessors sitting with him, but that right was taken from them. They are now asking - and I believe that they are entitled to ask - that they be given some right of appeal or right of review. Under our Judiciary Act there is a right of appeal to the High Court of Australia on a matter at issue involving a sum not exceeding $3,000. If the Public Service Association’s claims for these people were admitted in full a further payment of something over $2.5<m would be involved. If this, having regard to its racial, political and defence implications, is not a case of high importance that justifies an appeal nothing is.
There is not time for me to say more, Mr Deputy Speaker. I repeat: This is in no sense an attack on the Administrator, the Arbitrator, the Minister for Territories or anyone else. It is simply a plea which I believe is reasoned and which is based on what I have seen for myself in the Territory and on the best expert advice available to us. In the words of Mr David Fenbury, Secretary of the Department of the Administrator, in the arbitration proceedings, the red lights are winking. When he was asked how he felt about the matter he said he was despondent and he added: ‘The red lights are winking’. Let us heed the warning of this experienced public servant that we are indeed at a crossroads. In fairness to ourselves and the people of the Territory we should have another look at this matter. That is all I ask: Let other people have another look at it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr ClaryOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I congratulate the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) on a very thoughtful address which he delivered with the backing of great legal knowledge. I was very interested in hearing what he had to say. If the decision given by the Arbitrator in Papua and New Guinea was inconsistent with the evidence that has been placed before him, something should be done, and it should be done quickly. As I see affairs in Papua and New Guinea, the whole situation is very complex, and it will remain so until the people involved in this issue attain their goal. I do not know when that day will be, but much ground will have to be travelled before it arrives. The honourable member mentioned Mr Oala Oala-Rarua, who, I think, said that the Territory must have home rule within two years. It is all very well for him to say that. The majority of the people - 52% of them, I believe - live in the Highlands, however, and they say that they do not want home rule. What is to happen? Are Mr Oala Oala-Rarua and his followers, who represent only a minority, to take over and say: ‘This is what is to happen’? That is not the way we see things in Australia and it is not the way in which we have attempted to lead these people by passing on our knowledge to them. I have the greatest respect for the people of
Papua and New Guinea. 1 believe that they are very fine people.
Let me return to the arbitration proceedings for a moment. If the Arbitrator’s decision was wrong an appeal must be made. The matter must be rectified and justice must be done. 1 believe that the Arbitrator made his decision on the facts as he saw them. He laid down a wage scale that set what seems to us to be a very low standard. Many people believe that it should have been higher. But we must remember that if a special scale is laid down for a select group of people and the rest of the workers of Papua and New Guinea, mainly working on plantations, are left on a lower standard there will be more trouble. I think it would be better to lay down a wage for everyone. Then the next question is: Who is to pay it? Are the Australian people prepared to pay it? Are they willing to weigh in with more money for Papua and New Guinea or would they rather say to the people of the Territory: ‘You stand on your own feet’?
When I consider the future of Papua and New Guinea the thing that worries me is the fact that the export commodities produced there are sold in competition with commodities grown in other tropical countries. It is Europe in the main that seeks the products of tropical countries, and to reach that market the export commodities of Papua and New Guinea have to be transported by sea over much greater distances than the products of other tropical countries. The main products in Papua and New Guinea at present are copra, cocoa and coffee. If it is necessary to continue selling them on world markets in competition with similar products produced at lower cost in, say, Malaysia the people of Papua and New Guinea will be in very sore straits. I do not want to. see that happen. But we in Australia have to make up our minds what we are to do about the situation We have to decide whether we shall subsidise the people of Papua and New Guinea so that they can make a living. Unless we do, their export commodities are likely quickly to be priced out of the world’s markets.
The late Dr Evatt was a great champion of the New Guinea area. He saw fit to couple Papua and New Guinea in United Nations affairs.
– He was a great Australian.
– He was and I have great respect for his memory. This action on his part, however, may have repercussions, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether such a thing could legally be done, though maybe it is silly of me to doubt whether what Dr Evatt did was legal, for he had a great legal brain. According to my reading of the situation, Papua’s position is totally different from that of New Guinea, because Papua is part of Australia. It is Australian territory.
I wonder whether any one man had the right to do what Dr Evatt did. However, that is now history and I am not condemning him for it. Papua and New Guinea are coupled in discussions at the United Nations. If one looks at a map showing the boundary between Queensland and Papua one will see that in some places it runs practically along the high water mark on the Papuan coast. Some of the off shore islands, though only
II or 2 miles from the Papuan coast, are legally in Queensland.
This situation will be resolved only by great international arguments. Some people in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea will say: ‘We want to be part of Australia’. We, for our part, must consider whether it would be a good thing for them to be part of Australia, and Australian citizens. It is not for me to say. However, this is the place where the matter will have to be argued. The people of Papua and New Guinea will have the right to say that. Indeed, some have already said that they want to form a seventh Australian State. Such a proposal would encounter a lot of difficulties and I do not intend to argue it at this time. There are many problems to be considered in relation to Papua and New Guinea. I believe that the people of Australia and all who have served in this Parliament, no matter on what side of the House they have served, have done their best for that area. So far as I am concerned so has every Minister for Territories, especially since World War II. I refer to the late Mr Eddie Ward, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) and the present Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes).
I have been to Papua and New Guinea quite often. I know that the Minister for Territories has been criticised, but I believe he has been criticised most unfairly, because the situation in that area is very complex. I hope that the troubles that the people in that area are now having will soon be over. I hope, too, that we will always be on very friendly terms with them and that they will understand us, know what we think about them and realise that if they need help we will be there to give it to them. Recalling what happened just a few years ago when Dutch West New Guinea was handed over, we must think of what the future holds in store for the people of Papua and New Guinea. I do not know what will happen in South East Asia in the next few years. I do not know whether the present placid thinking of the Indonesians will remain. I hope it does. But there may come a time when we will hear the old cry: ‘Let us have Irian as one; there should be no West Irian. It should all be Irian.’ What will happen then? I hope blood will never be spilt on that island as it was in World War II. Great sacrifices were made by the native people then because their country was laid waste. Australians and Americans laid down their lives for the people of Papua and New Guinea and many Papuans and New Guineans realise this. I suppose we could have walked out and said to the invaders: This place is no good; you can have it’. I am glad to say that did not happen.
I want to speak a little on social services and on defence, but before doing so I should like to offer my congratulations to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) for the very forthright maiden speech which he made yesterday. I consider that it was one of the best speeches that I have heard from a new member. If he continues in this way - I do not know the gentleman, but I think he will - there will be quite a future for him in this House and he will be of great service to his country.
I consider that the Government’s handling of social services - the pensioners get nothing from the Budget - needs comment. I should have thought that the Government would do something for the pensioners, especially as there has been quite a rise in the cost of living. I do not know how people who receive only $13 a week, or in some cases $13 plus $2 if they have to pay rent, are able to manage on the pension. Every honourable member- ha$ been in close contact with pensioners and knows the problems which beset them. Members visit them and go to their meetings. In many cases their wives are active with organisations such as Meals on Wheels and know what the true situation is. In those circumstances, it is wrong for any one to come into this House and to do nothing about the position.
In my own area where pensioners have their midday meal taken to them they are forced to put half of it to one side to have for their evening meal. Otherwise they could not get by. That is not a good state of affairs in a so-called prosperous country. I hope that the Government will take heed of these things and see whether something can be done to remedy the present situation. Some of these people are in dire need. I realise that the need is not so great in other cases, but those who are in dire need must be considered. If I may use a wartime expression, it is the speed of the slowest ship which orders the speed of the convoy. Similarly, it is the person on the lowest income and the person with the greatest need who should be looked after first. I hope that the Government will see to it that these people get a fair deal because we all know they are justly entitled to it.
In Melbourne every year we have what is known as the Herald Blanket Appeal. The most heart rending stories of the needs of some people are written up by the ‘Herald’ newspaper. I have travelled with some of the reporters to look at the conditions in which some of these people are living. They are really heart rending. I do not want it to be thought that I am the only one to see the plight of these people because I know that most honourable members have done so. But knowing this I feel that something should be done for them very quickly. The statistics that I have been able to get from the Library show that one-third of the male work force at the present time are over the age of 65 years but cannot retire. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes they cannot retire because they feel that they should work. I believe it is right that they should work if they are able to do so. In most cases their health would probably be better for it. Often they have to work because they cannot live on the social ser vice pension. If they were to do so their previous standard of living would have to be reduced severely. According to the statistics these people will live, on an average, for 13 years after the retirement age of 65, that is, until they are 78 years of age. I feel that in the 13 years that lie before them something should be done to make their position comfortable. In a country so prosperous as ours we should see to it that these people do not live in their remaining years in a state of destitution.
I have always felt that in some way the pension should be coupled with the basic wage. I have even thought that it should be half the basic wage. I know that in some cases it would be too much if it were half the basic wage, but it is much better to have a pension that is too much than to have one that is too little, as it is at the present time. No allowance for inflation is ever made in the computation of the pension. A man who retires at 65 years, who is not in receipt of the pension but who receives from his former employer 70% of his pre-retirement income will find that in terms of purchasing power his income will be reduced to 50% within 10 years if inflation is causing the value of his pay to be reduced each year by 3%. If inflation is running at 3%, within 10 years his pension will be reduced by 50% . That is about the rate at which inflation is running in Australia at the present time.
I have here a table supplied by the National City Bank of New York which has taken out statistics showing rates of inflation in forty-five countries. Fortunately Australia is seventh on the list of stability. The list ranges from Guatemala, which was able to remain stable, down to Brazil which at the present time has inflation at the rate of 31.8%. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate this table in Hansard.
I have had my attention directed to an article in a newspaper which circulates in a district adjacent to my own neighbourhood. It is called the ‘Mirror’. The article says:
Prize of the week for niggardliness must surely go to the Federal Government for their couldn’tcareless and indifferent attitude to age pensioners.
Although the ‘Mirror’ circulates in an affluent area, it is an area that has a number of pensioners, and a number of families in that area are irate at the Government’s action. The article continued:
We trust that our Federal members who serve this district will heed this warning.
As I have said, that newspaper circulates in an area which is among the most conservative and affluent areas of Victoria.
The Treasurer said in his Budget speech that the Budget was so tight thai it was impossible to raise an extra $50m for the pensioners. If this is so, how will Australia face the position that now arises because of the increase in the price of petrol? This is something that was not mentioned in the Budget and I want to direct the attention of the House to what has happened in the past few weeks in connection with this rise in the price of petrol and also the rise in the price of oil fuel. The increase of lc a gallon in the price of petrol will have a significant effect on the economy of this country, but I want to inform honourable members that since 22nd June 1967, which is only about 10 weeks ago, the price of bunker oil for merchant ships has been increased on three occasions. On 22nd June it was increased by $1.26 a ton. Then on 4th July it was increased by 63c a ton and on 19th July it was again increased by 94c a ton. In the last 10 weeks the price has been increased to $2.83 a ton. 1 think everybody in the House will realise what will result from this increase. Freight rates will go up and there will be increases in the prices of many commodities throughout Australia.
The recent increase of lc a gallon in the price of petrol will send the cost of living soaring because the increase will be reflected in the cost of all kinds of goods and services. Oil companies now have captive customers in the form of people who have no option but to use their products. I am one of them because I have had my wood burning stove and fireplace converted to the oil heating system. When one does this one signs a contract that for 5 years or so he will use the product of a certain oil company. Similar arrangements are made in respect of industries which decide to use oil fuel instead of coal. They sign contracts to use the fuel supplied by a certain oil company. They cannot go back because they have reached the point of no return. Their machinery and boilers have been converted to the use of oil and the oil companies are in a position to put up the price of their product without reference to anyone.
-They finance the installation
– That is so. I make this point because we have been told that we cannot find $50m for the pensioners because the financial position has been so tight. But what will happen in the months which lie ahead when the impact of these increases in the price of petrol and oil begins to be felt? I hope the Government will be able to meet the situation.
I now want to say a little about defence. I want to give the House some figures showing the amount of money that is being spent by the various nations on defence. The total amount being spent on defence by the nations of the world is at present more than $US125,000m a year. This is roughly equivalent to the combined income of the poorer half of the world’s population, and in many cases it represents a severe drain on the economies of the countries involved. But we have learned in the past that military weakness sometimes tempts nations to indulge in acts of aggression, and on this account nations must maintain their defences until the countries of the world can be trusted to live together in peace - and I hope and pray, as does everyone in this House, that the nations of the world will soon learn to live in peace, because it is a costly business for everyone if they are not prepared to do so. After much research in the Library I have taken out some figures from the ‘Reference Handbook of the Armed Forces of the World 1966’ showing the proportion of gross national product spent by various countries on defence. These figures show, for instance, that Jordan, which has just been engaged in war, has been spending 21,03% of its gross national product on defence. That was the highest proportion of all. Going down the list we find that Australia is in about seventeenth place, with 5%. To mention a few of the others, the proportion for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was 15%, Saudi Arabia 14%, United States of America 10%, Libya 10%, Syria 8.9%. It is interesting to note that the countries which have just been engaged in the Middle East war were spending quite a big proportion of their gross national product on defence. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate this table in Hansard.
It was evident after World War [I that the political problems caused by large fixed bases in developing countries would increase as fast as their military utility in the nuclear age would decrease. The need to build up carrier strength in Australia has not been , faced up to. The money that has been saved by neglecting the means to protect this country will be worthless should a war ever go against us. One hears a good deal these days about Australia having no need to worry about a Chinese invasion. Whether we need to worry about it or not is a matter of opinion. I think we have a good deal to worry about because it appears to me that China would not at present employ orthodox warfare. China is a fast growing nuclear power. We are confronted with the question whether we should remain orthodox or whether we should think of becoming a nuclear power. I do not want to say at this stage whether we should or should not do so, but this is something which we must consider. When people tell us that the Chinese have no naval vessels with which to come down here and invade us the question immediately arises whether they need such vessels when China is fast becoming a major nuclear power. How wrong was our thinking about Japan before World War II. There were all sorts of misconceptions about Japan’s efficiency. When I was in the Navy we used to say that they could never fight at night; that their airmen had bad eyesight and we had nothing to worry about. But how wrong we were when the heat was on. It was our failure to deduce correctly what were the Japanese intentions, coupled with a serious underestimating of the efficiency of their armed forces, that paved the way for the tragedy which followed - and it was a tragedy. It was caused because we did not understand the position, because we did not rightly sum up the position of the Japanese before World War II. We have to forget about that now, because the Japanese are our friends, but for goodness sake do not let us fall into the same error by not summing up the position rightly so far as China is concerned.
It is no good our saying that we have nothing to worry about, that China’s intentions are friendly. I do not think that they are friendly. If China becomes a big nuclear power - and it appears to me that she will - what do we do? Do we stay down here with our 303’s and Brens and say: Don’t you do that to us’. When China has built up her intercontinental missiles, what are we to do about it? I remember reading some time ago the memoirs of the late Admiral Lord Fisher. He said that war is the essence of violence and that moderation in war is imbecility. That is very true, hard as it may sound. When you go to war you are in war. I do not want to be accused of being a warmonger and one who is pleased that bombs are raining on North Vietnam, but war is war and if you can stop the enemy by dropping bombs in the right place, as a commander you would be failing in your duty if you did not do it. When a country is being invaded and you have the chance to hit back in the right spot, you must do it. If you do not, you are not doing the best for the side which you represent.
I wanted to say a little about the humane side of affairs, but time is running out. I would like to see Australia supply a hospital ship with trained staff so that we could give some assistance to the people in Vietnam. I hope that the Government will give some thought to this matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 4n rising to support the Budget, first I should like to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and the Government on being able to produce a Budget which provides for quite substantial increases in defence, education, and social services, virtually without any increase in taxation. That is a pretty fair commentary on the state of the economy. Considerable improvements have been made in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. Increased taxation allowances have been granted for dependants, and the maximum allowance for payments by a taxpayer for insurance and superannuation has been raised. I, in common with many honourable members on both sides of the House, am disappointed that some improvement has not been made in the rate of the basic pension. I am more and more inclined to the view that there is a case for a very serious investigation to be made into the possible establishment of a contributory superannuation scheme. It would have to be a scheme that would cover age and invalid pensions and hospital and medical benefits, lt would be imperative that it give special consideration to larger families. In other words, we would make the thriftless pay for themselves instead of the thrifty having to pay for them.
The most important questions that face a national government at any time, particularly in the situation in which we find ourselves in this country, are defence and development. Without defence, social services, development, education and everything else is futile. Without a country to develop or a country for our children to inherit we have nothing. First of all we must have efficient defence. It is a fact that despite the knockers - and there are a great many of them on the other side of the House- our defences today are in a better state than they have ever been in during peace time. Recently we read, in what we thought was a responsible newspaper, comments by a so called defence expert who also attempted to knock our defences. I think that his ability to comment is pretty well displayed by the position he now holds.
I shall tell honourable members what a real expert has to say. I refer to Dr T. B. Millar. So that honourable members will realise who Dr Millar is, I should like to read out something about him. He is a senior fellow in international relations at the Australian National University. He is recognised as Australia’s outstanding authority on defence. He is the author of several books, including ‘Australia’s Defence*. I think that this is perhaps the most important fact about Dr Millar: He is a graduate of Duntroon. He was an infantry officer in the Australian Imperial Force. This man is an expert. He was a fighting soldier. He knows what he is talking about. He is not some backroom boy employed by a newspaper, and considered to be a responsible defence expert and who writes what I think could be described as a lot of piffle. Dr Millar stated:
The Army of 41,000, with a combat force of at least eight battalions plus supporting arms, is unprecedented in our history.
Since 1964, the Army has undergone nothing less than a revolution, so that the Government, whatever its persuasion, has on call ground forces capable of rapid expansion, able to be sent overseas in conditions of war, and not dependent in times of full employment on perhaps inadequate voluntary enlistments.
Further on he says:
The Navy has prolonged the life of its air arm, has invested in submarines, has purchased the most modern destroyers in service, has built other escort and patrol craft, and gone some distance to providing its own replenishment facilities.
The Air Force has some scores of Mirage interceptor fighters, which were proved by the recent Middle East war to be superior to the latest Soviet aircraft. There is a large air lift capacity.
This is a man who is an expert by qualification and experience. He goes on to say:
And there seems little doubt that the Fills, when we have them, will be the most sophisticated and effective strike aircraft in the world.
This is what an expert says. Yet we get all sorts of pseudo experts on the Opposition side doing all they can to knock Australia’s defence. I think that when we appreciate that the Opposition’s defence policy today might be called the Cairns, Bryant and Uren defence policy, we realise why we have so many knockers on the other side of the House.
There has been criticism of the cost of the Fill. Surely we must have the best aircraft. It is better to have one very efficient aircraft than to have ten aircraft that are out of date or are inefficient. It is of supreme importance that we have the best. It is also of extreme importance, in the situation in which we find ourselves, that we have strong allies. We are with America in this unfortunate war in Vietnam. We must be with her. We cannot walk out on our allies. Australia has never walked out on her allies. Those who criticise America and want us to withdraw from Vietnam would be the people who would scream the loudest to America for aid, as they did at the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea. I well remember that a former Labor Prime Minister screamed to America for aid at that period in our history. What alternative policy is put forward by the Opposition? It is a policy of virtual abject surrender. The Opposition would desert those who fight alongside us in South Vietnam against the Communists. We would not keep face in Asia with all those with whom we have made friends. This would apply not only to those who are our friends but also to those who are our foes. Keeping face is vitally important in Asia. If we were to withdraw from Vietnam it would mean letting the Communists come through and destroy all the work that has been done in the social field in the form ot rehabilitation.
The second matter that is of vital importance is the question of development. Of course, without development in the industrial and primary fields no defence force could be really effective. We have no right to hold this land of untold resources unless we use all our efforts to develop it. We must be strong industrially if we want to have an effective defence force. It is important that we give due weight to education in all its forms. The Government has recognised the importance of education and has again increased the allocation for this purpose. However, we must watch one aspect of education. Sometimes too much importance is placed on purely academic training and not enough on training in technical skills. We see science blocks going up everywhere, but not sufficient technical colleges, especially in country areas. We should have shearing schools and similar technical schools.
Many people in this world with no academic ability at all are very much better at some work than academics could be, and the man with manual skills is just as important in the whole scheme of things as the academic is. The mechanics and engineers who assemble the intricate machines that are built today and those who service them are just as important in the overall picture as the scientist is. The scientist could not be as effective without them. We need better provision for education in country areas. Australia leads the world in many of the scientific aspects of agriculture, but a great deal remains to be done in extension work. We need to get the latest developments through to the man who must apply them to make them effective.
We hear much criticism of northern development. The theorists, who have never been out and done a hard day’s work, tell us many stories. But when we go to northern Australia and see what has happened there, and happened because the Government has encouraged private enterprise, we realise that a development explosion is occurring in the north. This is happening because private enterprise has been encouraged to use its capital to develop our natural resources. People in a small way cannot do this. Australia has fewer than twelve million people and fewer than five million pay the taxes. It is not as easy to raise large amounts of capital as the people who talk about northern development would have us believe. We must have the assistance of overseas capital. The big problem, of course, is to control the overseas capital without frightening it away from our shores. I believe that much can be done to encourage the private enterprise that is already here in this country.
We could make good use of an authority to develop our northern areas. If the authority is not the Snowy Mountains Authority, it should be one like it. But it is imperative that if we use an authority we use it in the way that the Snowy Mountains Authority has been used. It should be a planning, investigation and research authority and it should supervise the construction work. The reason why the Snowy Mountains scheme has been a tremendous success and will not cost as much as was estimated 20 years ago is because private enterprise and private contractors have been used to do the work. I know of no other scheme that has such a good record. Tf we intend to use the Snowy Mountains Authority in conjunction with the States, it is imperative that we ensure that contractors will continue to be used extensively. In this world a man will work for two reasons. One is fear - fear of starvation, of unemployment or of the boss - and the other is incentive. The secret of the success of the Snowy Mountains scheme was that private contractors gave their employees the incentive to work a 6-day week or to work around the clock. They were paid good wages. If we used this scheme we could probably build ten dams for every dam that could be built by day labour methods.
Many means can be used to help to develop Australia. I refer not only to the north but also to our vast inland areas. One inducement that can be offered is a tax concession. I know that there is a constitutional difficulty, that varying rates of tax cannot be levied, but I do not know of any constitution that cannot be overcome if we want to do so. Provisions in the Constitution have been met before, and a taxation concession would provide a continuing inducement to people to go into the inland areas and undertake worthwhile developmental work.
The surface of land settlement has not yet been scratched. We have the potential. Thousands of young men are crying out for the opportunity to go out and build a property for themselves. The main problem is that, unless a young man has a very wealthy father, he has little chance of getting a start. A property costs a lot of money today, but there is a way of providing the capital. I know something of the practical possibilities of this method, lt is a form of lease with the option to buy a property at the upset price. The lease extends over a period of years, but many properties would give a return in the meantime. It may be possible to pay a wage, as we did with our soldier settlers for the first 12 months. No-one will lose anything in a scheme such as this. The Government cannot lose. If it selects the settlers carefully, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. But the settler must have long term finance. Land does not depreciate in value in Australia. As long as we all can remember, the value of land has risen, perhaps levelled and then gone up again. Land does not disappear into thin air as shares in companies like H. G. Palmer (Consolidated) Pty Ltd do; it is always there. The Government would reap dividends from the taxation paid by the successful man and from the export earning he would win for this country.
As I said, long term finance is necessary. Despite all we are told, the banks are still very reluctant to provide long term finance. We are told that it is not bank policy to provide finance over long terms, that short term loans are preferred. All country members have heard of young men asking a bank manager for financial help. He is first asked about the state of his overdraft and is told it is too high. A term loan of 5 years is then suggested. But this is totally inadequate. If the young man goes to his bank for the special farm development loan, he has the greatest difficulty. This experience is repeated over and over again. There is still reluctance to use the very fund that we have set up for this purpose and to make full use of the long term finance that is so essential for the development of this country.
Communications are vital to Australia’s development. Again the Government has helped by building what are called beef roads, but which are also used for other developmental purposes. The results of the Government’s efforts must be seen to be believed. Many roads in my area desperately need building or rebuilding. I have mentioned one important road before and that is the road from Tumut to Canberra. Tumut is 70 miles from Canberra and is one of the most prosperous areas in the whole of New South Wales. Almost anything can be grown there. It has a large cannery, a large sawmill and a pine board factory. The largest area under asparagus in the Southern Hemisphere is found at Gundagai. Although Tumut is only 70 miles away, the journey by road covers 120 miles. This is ridiculous. I know there is a State problem here hut in my opinion both Governments have fallen down. They should be pushing forward with the construction of roads of this kind. Another road that should be built is from Canberra to Bathurst. Anyone who wants to go from Canberra to Bathurst must go through Harden and Young or through Sydney. There is no good direct road to Bathurst and this is quite ridiculous. There is a road, but it is very hard on the motor vehicle. The late Ben Chifley travelled over it many times and 1 could never understand why he did nothing about it. It is a bad road. These are the sort of things that are important. Country people need developmental roads to allow them to move their equipment, produce and superphosphate in and out of these areas.
Another problem that faces a number of our local government bodies and particularly country shires concerns roads which are extremely difficult to improve. 1 have in mind, as I am sure other members of country electorates have, short sections of road where the terrain makes the ‘development of the road most expensive. I believe there is a case for special funds to be made available to help shires develop these very difficult sections of road. Assistance should be given in cases where the cost of doing this is far beyond the resources of local government authorities.
I now wish to deal with the telephone system which is one of the most important parts of our communications system. The position in regard to telephones in country areas is, to put it briefly, shocking. We have gone along with the increase in rates up to a point because we believe that what the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has told us he means. He has said that he will get busy and upgrade our country telephones, and that he is going to give us more automatic exchanges. These exchanges are an absolute necessity in country areas. They are essential for businesses and for womenfolk. Very often a farm has only one vehicle which is away all day. The farmer’s wife is at home with a small family and a telephone is her only means of communication with the outside world. Sometimes it is the only means by which a man can get medical treatment for his family, or to communicate with the hospital, the church, the shops and so on.
Another section which I feel has been neglected in regard to taxation concessions for transport is that of farm employees. A farm employee usually lives in a remote area and must have a car to move about because there is no public transport. But, he receives no tax concession whatsoever for his vehicle although his employer gets a concession on his motor car and also receives a considerable concession on his trucks and other vehicles. I believe that if we are going to encourage staff to work in country areas this is something we must look at very seriously. I think this is a very deserving field for tax concessions.
I wish now to return again to the telephone system in country areas. I can assure the Postmaster-General that we will be on his back constantly to see that extra money is devoted to the extension and upgrading of telephone services and the installation of automatic telephone exchanges. It is quite unrealistic, in a country which is developing as is Australia, to say that the telephone system must be run as a business undertaking. The provision of adequate communications, and particularly of telephones, is part of our national development programme. As we move towards automation and subscriber trunk dialling whereby we will eventually be able to dial any number in Australia, I see no reason why we cannot have one rate for all trunk telephone calls. We have one rate for postage. If we send a letter across the street it costs 4c. It costs the same amount to send a letter to Darwin, Hobart or Perth, although the letter is handled many more times in the process. But, once the automatic system is set up, does it matter whether a telephone call travels 5 miles or 1,000 miles? I imagine that it does not. All of the intervening exchanges are cut out and a lot of dialling and many personnel are eliminated. In this way it should be possible to get perhaps ten conversations through in the period it would otherwise take to get one call through. I believe that this is something that we must fight for. We want a reasonable uniform fee for all intrastate telephone calls and also perhaps a uniform fee for interstate calls. I can see no reason why we cannot do what is done in New Zealand and move towards the introduction of free local calls. In that country local calls are covered by the telephone fee. If this were done in Australia a lot of bookkeeping, recording and that sort of thing would be eliminated. As I have said, the Australian Country Party has accepted the charges announced by the Government. We have accepted them for one reason only - because we believe that this is the only way that we are going to get an early and efficient upgrading of telephone services.
Primary producers have received some assistance from the Budget proposals. As honourable members know, primary producers are in a different position from the rest of the community. They cannot pass on their costs and cannot fix a price for their products. Where primary producers have a stabilisation system they are able to offset these disadvantages to some degree. The 20% depreciation allowance on farms has become a permanent concession and I consider that this is most important. The fact that we now will be able to deduct in one year the cost of subdivisional fencing is going to be a tremendous factor in the development of farms and properties in the safer and high rainfall areas. The raising of the amount of taxation for life insurance will help primary producers considerably because they are in a very much worse state in regard to life insurance than other sections of the community. One of the tremendous burdens placed on every rural family is that it has to invest very heavily in costly life insurance. It has to do this if it wants the children to have the opportunity to pay off the property when it becomes theirs. The Treasurer has studied probate provisions in England. There, when a rural property goes to the sons or daughters the probate fs between 40% and 50% of what it is in other cases. I believe that this is a very worth while consideration. These are things that help the primary producer to become more efficient and to earn more export income which is the only way we can build up industry in this country and create more employment.
Another request was made to the Treasurer which I hope he will look at very seriously. It related to drought bonds. These would be of some assistance to wool growers. Farmers who live in pastoral areas are in a difficult position at the moment because they are not able to increase their production by pastoral sub-division and that sort of thing! There is little they can do to increase their production. I believe we must try to assist them by substantial tax concessions and by allowing them in the good years to take out drought bonds which would be free of taxation until such time as they were withdrawn to buy fodder. I believe that such concessions would encourage the primary producer and the wool grower in outback areas to make provision for a drought which he cannot do by conserving fodder. Honourable members should realise that in the last drought we lost 14 million sheep. This does not take into account the progeny they would have had. Sheep are the greatest export earners that we have, and this income affects not only the primary producers, but also the wage earners of Australia. 1 believe that the Government has done a tremendous amount in this field. There is a call for much more research to be done so far as loss of lambs is concerned. It is a rather shocking fact that 11 million lambs which are born in this country each year do not survive to maturity. I believe this is something that demands tremendous research to see if we cannot overcome the problem. This is not a matter that concerns the wool grower atone. Members of the Opposition as well as honourable members on this side of the chamber must realise that wool still accounts for more than 30% of our export earnings. If earnings from the export of mutton and lamb are included, the industry accounts for almost 40% of our export earnings. The industry is of vital importance to our economy and those engaged in it are having a tough spin.
On the whole I think this is a good Budget. Perhaps it is a little timid and afraid of expansion. I think we need to show a little more courage and imagination. We should take further steps to encourage private enterprise.
– What is the alternative if we do not encourage private enterprise? It is Socialism, and Australia cannot afford the luxury of Socialism. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said that a Labor government would not socialise the means of production, distribution and exchange. But we are accustomed to the honourable gentleman saying things that he does not mean. He has often done that. He said that a Labor government would set up government businesses. What did he mean? He meant that Labor would bankrupt private enterprise. That is virtually what he meant. A Labor government would bankrupt private enterprise, the primary producer and such companies as the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the Hamersley group and particularly AnsettANA. Labor would socialise the banks, insurance companies and other businesses. This is the alternative to our encouraging private enterprise to go out and develop this country in the way it should be developed.
In supporting the Budget I emphasise that my strongest plea is that the Government will realise that it is a private enterprise government and will more strongly promote private enterprise; that it will give greater opportunity to dynamic young Australians who want only an opportunity. This is the best way to make this country safe for democracy.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Separate details were tabulated for student children between sixteen and twenty-one years of age for the 1963-64 income year. In that year, the estimated reductions in tax on account of concessional deductions for student children were as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
United Nations: Implementation of Human Rights (Question No. 478) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Why were Federal funds for drought-stricken sugar cane farmers restricted to those farmers with an estimated 1967 production of 800 tons of cane or less, when many owners of farms with a production estimate in excess of 800 tons, which was also seriously affected by drought, were in a more serious financial position?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
During 1965-66 the Commonwealth undertook to provide financial assistance to New South Wales and Queensland to reimburse those States for certain measures to be undertaken by them to provide relief to those affected by the drought These measures included the provision of ‘carry-on’ loans to primary producers, including sugar cane growers, who were unable t obtain credit through normal commercial channels. Under this at rangemen t, responsibility for detailed administration of the measures, including the establishment of detailed criteria for determining eligibility for carry-on’ loans, has remained with the States.
As the honourable member has also written to me on this matter I am providing a more detailed answer in my reply to his letter.
Facilities at Mackay Airport (Question No. 492)
asked the Minister for Civil
Aviation, upon notice:
Is it a fact that international and Australian tourists and travellers landing at Mackay airport, which is rated the twelfth busiest in Australia, are unable to obtain any type of refreshments except water and that the nearest refreshment rooms are approximately two miles from the airport? If so, what steps are being taken to remedy this position?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Refreshment facilities for passengers are not yet available at the Mackay airport. It is, however, planned to make some modifications and improvements to the facilities at Mackay during the present financial year, and to include provision for a refreshment kiosk.
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
Ansett-ANA have a building for their terminal facilities at Mackay immediately adjacent to a Commonwealth-owned building used jointly by Trans-Australia Airlines and Lindeman Island Aerial Services. The toilets and’ washroom facilities in this second building are available for both.
There are additional public toilet facilities close to the Ansett-ANA building. It is planned to relocate these in connection with an extension of the car parking area and they will be placed adjacent and connected to the Ansett-ANA waiting room. It is anticipated that this will be done during the current financial year.
There is a public telephone available at Mackay about 30 feet from the two waiting rooms. We have had a request with the Postmaster-General for some time now to install public telephone facilities in each terminal and the PostmasterGeneral will provide these as soon as the appropriate multi-coin units are available.
asked the Minister for Labour. and National Service, upon notice: Have Victoria, Queensland and South Australia yet taken up the Commonwealth proposal of August 1955 that the Commonwealth should authorise State inspectors to police Commonwealth industrial awards and that the States should authorise Commonwealth inspectors to police State industrial awards?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: No.
Sales Tax on Cosmetics (Question No. 411)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the hon ourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
The information requested in relation to overseas voyages made by vessels of the Australian National Line and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited during the 12 months ended 30th June 1967, is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
In view of the falling value of concessional deductions, will he review the amounts of these deductions allowed by sections 82b to 85j of the Income Tax Assessment Act?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
These allowances were reviewed during the preparation of the Budget for the current financial year. As I announced in my Budget speech, the Government proposes to increase by $26 a year the income tax allowances for maintenance of dependants, and to raise to $1,200 the maximum allowance for payments by a taxpayer for insurance or superannuation cover for himself and his family.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
As the maximum allowable taxation deduction for funeral expenses of a dependant of a taxpayer is $100, will he consider increasing this allowance in accordance with increased costs?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The matter was considered during the preparation of the recent Budget. It was, however, decided that the taxation concessions to be included in the Budget should be confined to those I announced in my Budget speech.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will he consider the introduction of a taxation concession for interest earned with permanent building societies?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In accordance with the undertaking which I gave to the honourable member for Swan on 13 April 1967, I arranged for the question of a taxation concession for interest earned with permanent building societies to be examined carefully, along with other requests for taxation concessions, during the preparation of the 1967-68 Budget. In the event, it was decided that the taxation concessions to be included in the Budget should be confined to those I announced in my Budget speech.
Australian Army: Fitness Standards (Question No. 422) Mr Webb asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The same standards of fitness are required for service in the Australian Regular Army and the Regular Army Supplement in which national servicemen are” enlisted. As acceptance is based on fitness at the time of call up for volunteering, it is possible for a man rejected for service in the Regular Army to have been passed fit at a later date and called up for national service.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The Minister for Supply has provided me with the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Taxation; Contributions to Community Aid Abroad (Question No. 539) Mr Hansen asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1 and 2. In common with a number of other private overseas aid organisations in Australia at the present time, Community Aid Abroad conducts its various activities on a voluntary, selffinancing basis without any financial assistance from the Commonwealth Government.
– On 11th May the honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor) asked me a question without notice concerning finance made available to universities. In reply I said that I would obtain information from the Minister for Education and Science and pass it on to the honourable member.
I would draw the honourable member’s attention to a statement made by the Minister for Education and Science on 21st September 1966 (see Hansard, pages 575 to 590). As the honourable member will be aware, the Government’s decision announced at that time was to support a programme approximately $120m higher than in the previous triennium but S56m less than the programme recommended by the Universities Commission. These reductions arose from a request from the Premiers for consultations in some detail with them about the recommendations, at which each State indicated the upper limit of the programme which it felt it could support.
The amounts then announced represented firm decisions for the triennium and the Government made it plain that apart from supplementary grants for increases in academic salaries and, in exceptional cases, for increased costs relating to wages and salaries of employees other than academic staff, no increases in these amounts were contemplated.
I do not agree with the honourable member’s contention that these increased grants will ‘have a very serious effect on the future development of our universities’. Indeed, to take two illustrations; the letter of the Vice-Chancellor puts the actual enrolments of postgraduate students in 1967 at 2,048 by comparison with the actual enrolments in 1966 of 1,818, an increase of 230 - over 12£%. Secondly, the other enrolments in 1967 total 274 more than the prediction by the university in May 1966 on which the Australian Universities Commission’s recommendation for recurrent grants was based.
Moreover I think that the honourable member should not base his judgment only on the statement relating to the University of Sydney. In addition to the continuing expenditure at the University of New South Wales the Commonwealth and State Governments are contributing very substantially to the development of the third metropolitan university, Macquarie, which commenced teaching this year.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
In what countries is no charge made for local telephone calls?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
So far as is known, telephone administrations In all countries charge for local fee calls. However, in some instances, such calls are not charged separately as the annual rental is adjusted to a sufficiently high level to cover their cost.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
How many broadcast listeners licences were issued in (a) Zone 1 and (b) Zone 2 in Western Australia during the years 1963-64, 1964-65, 1965-66 and 1966-67 and what was the revenue received therefrom in each of those Zones in each of those years?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number and value of broadcast listeners licences in Western Australia were:
Combined receiving licences covering both broadcast and television receivers were introduced on the 1st April 1965. The number of such licences issued in Western Australia and the revenue therefrom were as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
What amount of revenue was received from each State, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory for (a) ‘local telephone calls, (b) trunk calls and (c) cash collections from public telephones during each of the years 1963-64, 1964- 65, 1965-66 and 1966-67?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Details of revenue received in each State from local telephone calls, trunk calls and cash collections from public telephones for 1963-64, 1964-65, 1965- 66 and 1966-67 are shown below.
Subscriber trunk dialled calls are metered in distinguished from local calls in subscribers' telethe same way as local calls and so cannot be phone accounts.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 August 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19670830_reps_26_hor56/>.