26th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr ERWIN presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the well-being of the aged, the infirm, the widowed, the deserted wives and dependent children, and the service pensioner be improved te parity with the national general living standard of the Australian people.
Mr DALY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social service and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
Petition received and read.
– I wish to inform the House that the Minister for Externa] Affairs (Mr Hasluck) leaves Australia today on an official visit to North America where he will lead the Australian delegation at the United Nations General Assembly. He expects to return to Australia on about 20th October. During the Minister’s absence the Minister for Education and Science (Senator Gorton) will act as Minister for Externa] Affairs and until the Minister’s return questions in the House relating to external affairs should be directed to me. :
– 1 wish to ask the Prime Minister a question about the matters he answered yesterday respecting his embarrassment of the American Administration. 1 ask: Does he agree that there was an intense debate in the Administration in Washington in June as to whether there should be an escalation of the bombing in North Vietnam or not? By this I mean an intensification of the bombing. Does he deny that Defence Secretary McNamara was opposed to the extended bombing? Does he agree that in public and in private discussions he has supported those who have wanted to extend and increase the bombing and that he has done so after discussions with some service chiefs who have taken the same view? Does he agree that this may have embarrassed Defence Secretary McNamara and, perhaps, the President who appeared to want the decision to go Mr McNamara’s way? Does he agree that his Government comes down on the side of escalation as it has always done in the case of the war in Vietnam?
– The honourable gentleman has constructed quite a hypothesis for himself on the basis of assumptions which have come to his fertile mind. I said yesterday that this Government was in virtually daily contact with the United States Administration at the diplomatic level and in other ways. We are familiar with the views held by the Administration. We are not party to the private discussions held inside the Administration nor would I seek to become aware of them. Certainly if I had become aware of them I would not be giving public declaration to them. The- honourable gentleman is purporting to convey views which he can only have based on newspaper reading. He can have no official background for any such presentation.
– 1 was in Washington at the same time, you know.
– Is the honourable member implying that he is now divulging confidential information which has been given to him?
– This has been given to Senate committees.
– This is a new technique on the part of members opposite. Members opposite secure access to officials of the Administration and then they purport, without naming the officials, to state tha views that those people held. This is a new brand of public conduct, certainly in the eyes of people on this side of the chamber. The honourable gentleman is trying to create the picture of this Government embarrassing the United States Government. This is a fact remote from reality as any contact with the United States Administration and the course of conduct it has pursued in recent months would surely confirm. In doing this the honourable gentleman is trying to conjure up a picture that we are the urgers - that we in this little country are driving the United States into courses which in its own wisdom and its own judgment, it would not be pursuing.
I acknowledge that we are treated with great respect in the United States of America and that our views are weighed and considered. But I can assure the honourable gentleman that the courses which have been followed by the United States, and which we have been glad to support, have had as their prime objective the securing of peace with justice on a long term basis in Vietnam. Whilst there is this great gulf in policy between ourselves and honourable gentlemen opposite, we are no less sincere in our desire to have an honourable and lasting peace than any honourable member sitting on the Opposition side of the House who supports Labor’s policies. We happen to have a very different view as to how this just peace can be secured. We do not believe that it can be secured by running out on our allies in time of conflict.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister knowledge of a report that the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia, in a letter to the British Painters Journal’, has issued a warning to British building workers not to migrate to Australia? As this letter could have a serious effect on immigration to Australia from Great Britain, will the Minister inform the House as to whether there is any truth in the claim stated in the letter that 2,000 carpenters and bricklayers in New South Wales have left the industry in the last 2 years?
– Yes, 1 did see in the Press some reference to this letter. It is unfortunately true that there are in this country a number of people who seem to do their best from time to time to upset and to slow down our immigration programme. I might say that this programme has the support of ali sections of this House and it has undoubtedly been an outstanding success. So far as building labour is concerned, there have been fluctuations in the numbers employed in the building industry. There are now fewer in the industry than there were 2 years ago. But there are at any one time a considerable number of workers coming into and going out of this industry, a large proportion of whom are unskilled. My recollection is that in New South Wales, where this letter came from, there are about 450 adult skilled building workers registered for employment and between 300 and 400 vacancies. Currently the rate of building is rising and there is likely to be an increased demand for labour as a consequence.
In the housing field, building commencements have continued at the rate of about 115,000 per annum- a fairly stable level. The figures for August show a seasonally adjusted rate of approvals of 123,000 per annum. So the employment picture for skilled workers in the building trades coming to Australia is certainly good.
Overall reports reaching me reveal that there is quite a trend in recent weeks for the number of registrants for employment to fall and the number of vacancies to rise. All migrants, particularly those with skills, are advised by officers of my Department, in conjunction with officers of the Department of Immigration, of their employment prospects. Our advice is that almost invariably skilled workers coming to Australia are employed as soon as they arrive.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. On 17th August I asked the right honourable gentleman whether it was Government policy to debar sons and daughters of Communist Party members from service in the Defence forces. The Prime Minister stated that he knew of no such policy but that he would make inquiries. I now ask the Prime Minister: Have his inquiries been finalised? If not, can be state the reasons for such a long investigation?
– I did make inquiries and I thought that a reply had been given to the honourable gentleman. I will look into the matter and see that the reply is speeded up. This matter was attended to some time ago.
– My question is to the Prime Minister and I ask: Can he say whether there is any accuracy in reports that the Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira
Gandhi, proposes to visit Australia next January? Is there any information that he can give to the House on this matter?
– I am glad to be able to confirm the news which came over the radio - I understand in the midday news sessions - to the effect that the Prime Minister of India will be visiting this country. It is likely that this visit will occur in January. For some considerable time an invitation has been held out to the Prime Minister of India to visit Australia, as indeed, shortly after she came to office, she held out an invitation to me to visit India. I regret to say that so far I have not been able to take up that invitation. But there will be a very warm welcome for her, both as the political head of a great Commonwealth country with which we have the most friendly relations and in her own right as a woman of distinction occupying the position of lead of the government of her country.
As a question was raised in another place yesterday about an invitation being extended to Mr Harold Wilson to visit Australia, I take this opportunity to inform the House that there has been a long-standing open invitation to Mr Harold Wilson to visit Australia. On each of my recent visits to the United Kingdom he has told me of his desire to come here but unfortunately he has prior commitments - if he can get away from the United Kingdom - to make visits to India, Pakistan and perhaps some other countries. But he is certainly aware of our invitation. I had hoped to be able to advise the House that we might expect a visit from the Prime Minister of Canada either before the end of this year or early next year. He too had hoped to come here about that time but the latest advice that I have received has thrown some doubt as to his ability to do so. But he will be very welcome whenever he can make the journey.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I ask: Are D security notices used extensively by his Government to give directions to the Australian Press, radio and television? Would he say why there is a D notice currently in force prohibiting the publication of any matter relating to the Petrov affair? Is the reason for this notice that any scrutiny into this affair would only confirm that it was a cheap political fraud?
- Mr Speaker, there is a D notice system operating in this country along very much the same hues as that which operates in Great Britain under the Government of the United Kingdom. I do not have the detail of how this is applied in particular circumstances. As the honourable gentleman has raised a question in relation to the Petrov matter, I shall see what information I can secure for him on that matter quite promptly. I would have thought there was adequate information available in the very voluminous report of the Petrov Royal Commission to satisfy most people.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. In view oi the completely destructive consequences to the economy of this nation should there be an outbreak of foot and mouth disease or any other exotic disease in animals, it is with a sense of urgency that I ask the Minister whether he is able to advise of any finality in arrangements to provide incinerators at Australian ports for the destruction of ships garbage.
– I share the honourable member’s concern in this matter. He mentioned Australian ports in his question. I point cut to him that the Commonwealth Government’s generous offer to provide the full capital cost of incinerators at Australian ports has been accepted by the governments of Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales, and the incinerators are currently being built. It is only in Victoria and Queensland that the offer has not yet been accepted. Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales have accepted the offer as a generous one made in a field in which the Commonwealth has never ventured before.
The collection and disposal of garbage have always been the responsibility of port authorities and therefore more directly the concern of State governments for the very good reason that it is a domestic matter for the port concerned. Presumably the port authorities are in a position to make charges on shipping for the use of their garbage disposal services. In the circumstances I regard the Commonwealth’s offer as very generous.I am glad to be able to inform the honourable member that discussions between officers of my Department and officers of the Queensland Government indicate that at present Queensland and the Commonwealth are not far apart on this matter. I have every confidence that finality will be reached in the near future and that the incinerators will be built in Queensland as quickly as possible. Victoria, I might say, has rejected the offer.
– When was the offer made?
– About a year ago.
– I ask the Minister for
Social Services a question. Was child endowment introduced to assist the parents of larger than average families to meet living and education expenses? Is child endowment at the rate of $1.50 a week paid for full time students under 21 years of age in order to assist parents with education expenses? Is the Minister aware that families of more than three children receive no benefit under the full time student allowance? If so, will he take steps to remedy this anomaly?
– Child endowment was not introduced purely to help with the living and education expenses of a family. It was introduced in an endeavour to contribute towards the income received by persons with a family. It wasin recognition of the contribution that child endowment made that this Government recently increased the amount of endowment payable for the fourth child and subsequent children of a family. Accordingly child endowment has been supplemented in recent years by provisions aimed specifically at providing additional benefits for persons receiving education. I refer particularly to the Government’s secondary scholarships scheme and tertiary scholarships scheme. These measures, plus the very good capital contribution made by the Government towards education, represent a . notable advance in helping to alleviate the burden of expense borne by parents in educating their children.
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports that a teacher in a Melbourne girls school begins classes each day with readings from the Thoughts of Mao Tsetung’, which she says are above argument as plain statements of fact? Are these collected thoughts the condensed essence of Marxist-Leninism and do they advocate violence, warfare and class hatred? Have these little red books encouraged riots and bloodshed, especially involving youth, in many countries where they have been promulgated? Will the Prime Minister endeavour to determine the school involved, whether it is a State or private school, and to what extent it is dependent on public funds? Finally, will he do all in his power to prevent Australian children from being subjected to this sabotage of our moral and ideological ideals?
– I confess that 1 do not have a very detailed knowledge of the ‘Thoughts of Mao Tse-tung’. The one that sticks in my mind is the reference to letting a thousand flowers bloom, but he nipped them in the bud before they reached full flower. The honourable gentleman has queried the suitability of this type of instruction. I myself would question its suitability. As to the course of action proposed to me, I will study the detail of the question and see what further I might usefully do about it.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Health supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Kennedy. Are the antediluvian methods of disposing of ships garbage in tips in places like Melbourne a menace to the health of people living in the vicinity as well as a means of spreading disease among animals?
– I confess to having no knowledge as to whether the tips are a menace to the health of human beings. My concern with this matter relates to the introduction of exotic diseases into Australia through the disposal of garbage from overseas ships. I am informed that the inspection and supervision of current methods and the enforcement of rules and regulations by officers of my Department make Australia as safe as it can be from the introduction of exotic diseases by this means. However, it was accepted by the Government that, with space in some of the present tips becoming exhausted, the provision of incinerators is a safer and better method for the future.
That is why we made the offer to the State governments to provide the capital cost of these incinerators.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Are Repatriation Department pensions paid as compensation for disabilities suffered as a result of war service? Does the war widows pension contain an element of compensation to the widow whose husband’s death was attributable to bis war service? Is the Minister aware that the Australian Labor Party, by a resolution passed at its Adelaide conference, proposes to deprive the war widow of this compensation by advocating that the pension paid to civilian widows should be no less than the amount paid to war widows?
– I have not seen the resolution referred to by the honourable member, but I would certainly disclaim any attempt to change the system adopted for the payment of war compensation, lt is a fact that the basis of war pensions, including pensions payable to war widows, is the payment of compensation for injuries or disabilities sustained through war service. Extending beyond that, of course, there is the service pension, which is not for war caused disabilities but which sometimes is paid in conjunction with the war pension. However, the system of repatriation, which covers war pensions, including war widows pensions, medical treatment and a wide range of other benefits, is designed basically on the principle of compensation for war service.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister as Acting Minister for External Affairs. In view of the Government’s huge trade with mainland China, its support of the Communist President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and its recognition of other revolutionary and Communist regimes, how much longer does he consider the Government can follow a policy of sponsoring trade and accepting millions of dollars from mainland China but refusing to grant diplomatic recognition to that country?
– If 1 may just correct the honourable gentleman on a point of detail, I point out to him that the Minister for Education and Science, who is in the other chamber, is (he Acting Minister for External Affairs. However, I undertake to deal with questions in this House. The honourable gentleman asks us to reconcile the policies we are following in regard to trade and so on with various Communist countries with our refusal to join in the diplomatic recognition of China. The Government has had a policy now for a considerable time, in common with other members of the United Nations, of trying to live peacefully with these nations and of trading with them. While having a very different system of government and a very different philosophy ourselves, at least we have accepted the policy of peaceful co-existence in this world. That has guided us in our relations with Communist China.
We have stated previously at great length in the United Nations, in this House and elsewhere the reasons’ which’ have guided us, and for that matter a very substantial majority of members of the United Nations, in taking a decision not to grant recognition to Communist China at this point in time. One of the factors which 1 think will be well known to the honourable gentleman is that Communist China has refused to accept United Nations recognition unless there is the withholding of recognition of Taiwan. We. for our part, regard Taiwan as a friendly country entitled to its own place in the wo rid as a free and independent country. We would not be willing to pay that sort of price to give diplomatic recognition to Red China.
– My question is directed to the Acting Treasurer. Has the honourable gentleman seen a recent article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ criticising the failure of the Government to allow as deductions from assessable income for taxation purposes gifts to charities being carried on in other countries? Will the honourable gentleman tell the House what is the present position in this respect?
– I did read quite a lengthy and prominent article on this subject. The guiding thoughts in Government policy on this matter are that the Australian taxpayer is now financing, directly, foreign aid from Australia amounting to approximately $142m a year and, moreover, this is a rising figure. This means in effect that if such gifts to overseas charities were allowed as deductions for income tax purposes the Australian taxpayer, in addition to this other load, virtually would be matching grants for all of these gifts up to two-thirds of the total amount.
Australia’s own official aid is directed under the best advice to the quarters where it is thought likely to do most good, whereas these other acts are spontaneous acts of charity on the part of individuals who choose the place to which their contributions shall go. It is not thought reasonable, in view of these other very heavy burdens, that the Australian taxpayer should be called upon to make such subventions.
MISSILE SYSTEM IN Fill AIRCRAFT
– My question is directed to the Minister of Air. Has the honourable gentleman decided on the missile system to be used in the Fill aircraft? Is there conflict in the Department of Air over the merits of the Bullpup and Maverick systems? As the first planes will arrive in a year, is the Minister treating the decision on a missile system as urgent? What are the comparative costs of the Bullpup and Maverick systems? How will the choice of a missile system affect the overall cost of the FI 117
– The missiles to be carried by the Fill aircraft in the first place are norma] conventional weapons which are already in the armory of the Royal Australian Air Force. These will be used with other weapons some of which are in the course of development; as to others, while we know of their performance, we are not entirely certain at the moment that they are useful to us in respect of the requirement that we have, as for instance in the case of the Bullpup missile.
It is not necessary for us to make decisions on some of these weapons because at the moment we have a really wide range of weapons that can be carried in this aircraft. As others come along, we keep a very close watch on their development overseas. If they are to be useful for us, we will recommend to the Government that they be purchased. At present, however, there is not sufficient knowledge available of their development to enable us to make a recommendation one way or the other. I would not be doing my duty if I did not make certain that I knew the answers before I made my recommendations At this stage we have plenty to be going on with without increasing our requirements in this nature.
– I address my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can he say when the commuter air service to Gippsland is to commence? Is he able to give any details about the proposed service to that very important part of Australia?
– Applications to commence commuter services in the Gippsland area were received from two operators. I read in the ‘Australian’ this morning that I was to make a decision this week in favour of one operator. I cannot accept that as an instruction, because my Department has not’ yet completed its full investigations of the two applicants. However, I expect that this task will be completed in about 2 weeks time. As soon as a decision is made, I shall advise the honourable member.
– -I wish to ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question concerning the fruit shipments in vessels trapped in the Suez Canal, about which I have made representations over the last 3 months. The fruit is still there. Is the Minister aware that the latest development is that the northern Tasmanian growers are receiving accounts for freight for this fruit which has not yet been delivered to its destination? Has he recently received a deputation from the Australian Apple and Pear Board seeking from the Commonwealth $3.50 a case to meet this freight charge and at least the cost of production, as a preliminary to helping the growers out of the difficulty in which they are at present?
– The situation is just as the honourable member said: The fruit is still delayed in the Suez Canal, unfortunately. I have not received on behalf of the Government any representations directly from the Board asking us for any compensation for freight charges. Nor was I aware that the growers had already been billed for freight. That, of course, is a matter between the exporters and the importers and not’ necessarily a matter for the Commonwealth Government or the Australian Apple and Pear Board. We do not enter into that sphere as principals. If I can get any information for the honourable member, I shall let him have it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Air, arises from a front page story in the ‘Australian’ this morning, concerning the possibility of negotiating the sale to the New Zealand Government of twenty-five Mirage aircraft. Can the Minister advise whether such negotiations are in progress? If so, when can we expect them to be completed and some announcement to be made in this House?
– The honourable member will know that the sale of any aircraft manufactured in Australia by the Government Aircraft Factories is a responsibility of the Minister for Supply, not of the Minister for Air. As Minister for Air, I have no detailed knowledge that I can usefully give to the honourable member.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question on the same subject as that asked of him yesterday by his protege, the honourable member for Lilley. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that during the Capricornia by-election campaign the honourable member for Lilley, a responsible Government spokesman, in a Press statement, said that a vote for the Labor candidate would mean that the Australian Government must consider scrapping the American alliance and that we must consider becoming neutral? Now that the Labor candidate has been returned to this place-
-Order! The honourable member will direct his question.
– I ask: Does this mean that the Government now intends to scrap the American alliance and that Australia will become neutral? If not, does it mean that the honourable member for Lilley is not a responsible Government spokesman?
– This is a smart alec kind of question because I thought the meaning behind the statement of the honourable member for Lilley would be clear enough. What he put to the Australian public was that if the policy of the Australian Labor Party as it emerged from the recent Adelaide conference - which in turn adopted in substance the policy put before the Australian people at the last general election by the Labor Party - were put into effect by a Labor Government in this place, it would certainly imperil the Australian-American alliance. I do not think anyone need be under any illusion on that score. If the Labor Party were to withdraw Australian forces in a time of conflict from alongside those of the United States, then any validity that the ANZUS Treaty might have for our future must be seriously undermined.
– I rise to order. The Prime Minister has misunderstood my question.
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in the point of order.
– Can the Prime Minister give any further information on a question which I asked during the last Parliament as to whether the Government had considered the suggestion that for the sake of clarity the words ‘Australia’ or ‘Australian’ should be used wherever possible in lieu of the word ‘Commonwealth’, especially in relation to a number of Government subsidiaries and instrumentalities?
– On the face of it this sounds a very sensible suggestion. However, I would need to examine just how practical it is. I shall give the honourable member a reply when I have an opportunity to refresh my mind on this matter.
– The Attorney-General probably has noticed that in evidence before the ‘Voyager* Royal Commission yesterday Lieutenant-Commander Holmes said that on 26th June the Deputy Crown Solicitor had written to him and three other officers, who showed him their letters, asking whether they could corroborate Lieutenant-Commander Cabban’s allegations and stating: ‘I might add that I have not been able to obtain corroboration of these allegations from other, witnesses already in Australia.’ 1 ask the honourable gentleman: Did he know of the terms of these letters before they were sent?
– No. The short answer is that I did not. 1 saw the reference to the letter, and I have made some inquiries. I understand that a teleprinter copy of the letter is coming to the Parliamentary Library and should be available later in the day. I have not had an opportunity of considering the terms of the letter. However, from my inquiries about the letter, I gather that it was drafted by senior counsel for the Navy after he had seen certain witnesses in Australia. This letter was to be sent to certain people - about eight in number - who were in posts outside Australia. I think that the draft, which was a general one, was then adapted by Mr Neilsen, the junior appearing for him, and the officer of my Department allocated to the Navy from the Crown Solicitor’s office, in order to adapt it io the particular situation of the eight people to whom the letter was being sent. However, as 1 say, I have not had time to study the actual terms which were referred to in evidence.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Industry say what progress has been made by those nations which participated this year in drawing up a new international grains agreement towards implementing that agreement?
– The position is that during the Kennedy Round negotiations conducted under the aegis of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade at Geneva, general policy agreement was reached on the new international grains agreement. Within that agreement the price levels below which wheat will not be offered for sale internationally were agreed upon. Likewise, the price above which wheat would not be offered or purchased internationally was agreed upon. At the same time there was an agreement that the affluent countries would provide each year 4i million tons of wheat or grains as a gift to the needy countries. This was a general policy agreement. It had to be transformed into a legal document. Subsequently a meeting of experts from the exporting and importing countries was held in Rome, and after a month or so a document was compiled. The procedure from then on is that countries are invited to sign, thus indicating their subscription to and acceptance of this document. Australia has already signed the policy agreement, as have a number of other countries. In Australia our previous practice has been that when an international wheat agreement has been negotiated and signed by the Government it is then brought before the Parliament for ratification. The ratifying legislation in this case will be introduced into the House in the near future. The intention, as agreed in Rome, is that the agreement shall became operative as from 1st July next.
– 1 present the following documents:
A photostat copy of a letter dated 4th August 1967, signed by Mr P. Malone, State Secretary . of the Australian Builders Labourers Federation, and the accompanying petition.
A photostat copy of a letter dated 24th August 1967, signed by Mr Rex H. Rickard, General Secretary of the Milk and Ice Carters and Dairymen’s Employees Union of New South Wales, and the accompanying petition.
A photostat copy of the text of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement handed to the British Charge d’Affaires to China on 15th May, as published in ‘Keesing’s Contemporary Archives’ of 15th-22nd July 1967.
A photostat copy of the same text as published in the ‘New China News’, a Melbourne publication, dated 24th May 1967.
– by leave - It would have become obvious, I think, to all members of the Parliament that in recent times lines of criticism have developed in certain sections of the Press and also amongst some members of the Parliament directed against the conduct of the VIP flight. This criticism has been directed in such a way as to give quite a distorted picture to the public of the way in which the flight operates and the extent and nature of its use. I felt that the Parliament should have an authoritative statement before it so that any comment that might be made in future would at least be made against the background of an accurate and comprehensive statement of the recent history of this flight. I propose in the course of my statement to give the House some facts showing how the flight has developed over recent years. I use the term ‘developed’ in the context of the aircraft currently employed. There were nine aircraft in the flight in 1958. When the replacements have been received and the planes that they replace have been removed there will be nine aircraft operating again in the flight. Recent history will show that this is not a matter which has suddenly leapt ahead in recent times and indeed it will show that for several years Cabinet has been giving consideration to the problem which was arising with the obsolescence of some elements of the flight - the need to replace some and the need to have a more diverse range of aircraft for the changing and varying conditions to be found around the continent of Australia.
The VIP flight has actually been in operation for somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 years, but it is over more recent times that criticism of its use has intensified. I, therefore, put these facts before the Parliament. I go back to November 1962 when the Cabinet decided to appoint a Cabinet committee to consider the replacement of the flight with modern aircraft. By April 1963 the committee had carried on its own investigation and had decided that there was a need, not only for replacement, but for a more ready availability of aircraft to assist Ministers and to deal with the increasing VIP traffic coming to this country. The committee authorised the Minister for Air to investigate the possibility of immediate replacement of or additions to the existing flight pending the introduction of pure jets. It was decided to recommend to Cabinet that an order be placed for three DH125 aircraft at that time and that civil aviation aircraft supplement the operations of the Royal Australian Air Force flight. In point of fact, while Cabinet endorsed the recommendation in June 1963 for the purchase of the three aircraft to replace three Dakotas and agreed that consideration should next be given to the replacement of the ageing Convair Metropolitans by aircraft of the BACIII type, it did not go ahead with the order of the DH125 aircraft - because in January 1964 it decided in favour of Mysteres as being more suitable for Australian circum stances, lt also at that time agreed that the suitability of adding Viscounts to the VIP flight be immediately investigated.
This consideration went on through 1964 when Cabinet decided to buy two Viscount aircraft to supplement the existing Convairs and Dakotas and to leave in abeyance the purchase of any jet aircraft. The Minister for Air was to keep the requirements of the flight under review-, and in November 1965 Cabinet considered the whole question and authorised the purchase of three Mystere aircraft and two Hawker Siddeley 748 aircraft. These five aircraft were to replace five Dakotas which, at that point of time, were 20 years old. Orders were to be placed for two BACIII aircraft to replace two Convair Metropolitans which, at that time, were 9 years old.
It will be seen from this recital of the facts that no aircraft actually has been ordered in the life of my own Government. I say that not because I do not accept full responsibility for, or approve of, the decisions which were taken earlier but because a picture seems to have been conjured up in the public mind that we have suddenly leapt into some expansion of the service here in Australia whereas, in fact, the decisions on which orders were placed were taken back in November 1965. I do not think that anybody who had any contact with my predecessor, Sir Robert Menzies, would ever argue that he was a spendthrift of the public money. I know of no public leader in my time who had greater regard for the careful use of public funds. I made the point that the fleet we now have was ordered back in November 1965. It replaced very old aircraft. In fact, my colleague the Minister for Air reported to Cabinet that the Chief of the Air Staff had told him that the Dakota aircraft had reached a point at which they were below reasonably safe operating conditions for use as VIP aircraft and that in a short space of time would have had to be declared unfit for such use.
As to the capital cost of these aircraft - again there has been an attempt to conjure up a picture of a great splurge of expenditure in one year - this was spread over a period of three financial years commencing in 1965-66. It is perhaps typical of the kind of criticism we have had to face that one newspaper I saw recently stated that to increase the age pension by 50c would cost about $20m a year whereas we were spending $21. 6m on these aircraft. Not only were the payments spread over 3 years; normally one can expect these aircraft to have an operational life of 10 to 15 years.
– What was the cost?
– They cost $2 1.6m. I will refer to that matter in a moment. This was the cost of the aircraft only, the fly away cost, and included the price of spares and matters of that sort. I do not need to go into too much detail about the Dakota aircraft. They are well known to honourable members. They were great work horses in their time. When the time came for them to be replaced, the Minister pointed out that for our VIP aircraft there were two principal requirements. In the majority of cases the use of VIP aircraft involves the carriage of small numbers of passengers over the main routes of Australia. This is their role for a good deal of the time and for this purpose we need a small, fast reasonably comfortable aircraft. Secondly, there is a small but significant number of operations which involve the use of relatively undeveloped airfields of limited length. For these operations an aircraft equipped with turbo propeller engines was required; an aircraft with better takeoff and landing performances. The Mystere met the first requirement and the Hawker Siddeley 748 met the second requirement.
The Mystere is described customarily in the Press and by some of our parliamentary critics as a luxury jet. I have flown in this aircraft several times. It has the great merit of speed. When I heard a member from another place talking about the chicken and bubbly and so forth which were available in the aircraft I wished he had been with me on Monday. We were flying over the Australian Alps. He would have had great difficulty in controlling either of those commodities at that time. The standards of catering are similar to those which have always existed in the aircraft. I am sure some could paint a pretty picture of the services and standards provided. But as one who has been a very regular user of the VIP flight, I find that salad, in which the ice has not been quite thawed out, and lacking the flavour of a home cooked meal, soon loses its appeal. When we were coming back from Western Australia recently, after attending the opening of the North West Cape naval communication establishment, my wife thought that, in order to secure a change of diet for us, she should order some pies and sausage rolls. That was the luxury meal that we had on that occasion.
For the replacement of the two Convair Metropolitan aircraft, the Minister recommended the BACIII which was somewhat cheaper than the generally comparable DC9. As I have said, the need for special air transport available to the Commonwealth Government has been recognised for some 20 years and the business of Government would be certainly less efficient if the most senior Ministers had their work and travel restricted to the rigid timetables of the commercial airlines. I illustrate this point by a look at the Canberra airline schedules. There were no commercial flights to Sydney today between 9.30 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. There is a 3-hour gap in the morning and a 4-hour gap in the afternoon on most days to Melbourne. There are no daily flights to Sydney after 9.1S p.m. or to Melbourne after 6 p.m. There are no daily flights into Canberra from Sydney after 8.15 p.m. and none from Melbourne after 6.30 p.m. At weekends, when the business of government, certainly in my own case, and in the case of most of my other Ministers, still goes on, the normal schedules are even more limiting. The schedules to other capital cities are even more restricted.
The work of government goes on around the clock and I think I can fairly claim to average an 80-hour working week. Work must continue even while we are flying to a destination. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) could confirm this from his own experience. The aircraft serves as a flying office, with staff available. The use of executive aircraft is common to governments of most other countries. This is particularly the case in the United States of America and Canada, where industrial development and distances provide comparable problems with those experienced in Australia; and the availability is certainly no less in Great Britain and other European countries.
I mentioned earlier that when the decision was made in 1965 to re-equip, the VIP flight then consisted of nine aircraft, as indeed it has since 1958. We purchased two Vickers Viscounts second hand that were built in 1959 and 1960, two Convair Metropolitans and five Dakotas. The Convair Metropolitans and the Vickers Viscounts are no longer in production, so that even had we chosen to replace the ageing aircraft with others of the same type we would not have been able to procure them. The VIP flight remains a flight of nine aircraft, and for some time still it will include the two Vickers Viscounts, which however have only a limited operating life to run.
I can give the House some idea of the extent of use, and, indeed, the character of use, of the aircraft. From January to June of this year the aircraft were used by the Governor-General of Australia on forty-one occasions, by myself on forty-six occasions, by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on thirty occasions and by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) on twenty-two occasions. It will be seen that apart from those relating to the Governor-General - who is required to make frequent journeys for ceremonial purposes - those figures relate to the three most senior members of Cabinet. No other Minister reached double figures in his use of the aircraft, and seven Ministers did not use the flight at all. Other users were visiting VIPs. The service is available to, and has been used by, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and by officials, including the Service chiefs. lt might be of some interest to the House to have an indication of the actual VIP use of this flight in the past 12 months. The users included Prince Charles, the Prime Minister of Thailand, the Queen Mother, the New Zealand Minister of Defence, the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, the Canadian Secretary of State, the British Secretary for the Colonics, the President of the British Board of Trade, The Prime Minister of Malta, the Prime Minister of South Vietnam, the Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, the Malaysian Minister of Defence, the British Secretary for Commonwealth Affairs, Princess Alexandra, . the Duke of Edinburgh, the Foreign Minister of Israel, the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, the SecretaryGeneral of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Indian and Pakistani parliamentary delegations. Some of these visitors had large retinues and official staff. For instance, on one occasion it was necessary for us to provide two Viscounts and one DC3 in order to transport a visiting party around Australia. For ceremonial visits there is always a large number of persons to be carried and a large quantity of luggage, and this often necessitates the provision of more than one aircraft.
Particularly in relation to VIP users of the service, the serviceability of the aircraft at the time is a matter of importance. These people are holding to tight schedules on significant public occasions. I found, in arranging to welcome the Prime Minister of New Zealand, that two of the aircraft we had sought to make available to him were unserviceable, and a third aircraft had to be found. Last Friday, when I had to attend in Sydney with the President of Italy, I found that two of the Mystere jets, one of which I would have normally used, were unserviceable, and a third aircraft had to be made available. In other words, some margin of utility has to be available if these tight schedules are to be met. In the case of visiting VIPs in particular we usually have to have standby aircraft - this applies most certainly in the cases of members of the Royal Family and visiting Prime Ministers - in case they would otherwise be unable to carry out their commitments.
The use of these aircraft is strictly limited and controlled, and only two Ministers have authority in relation to this. Other than in my own case and that of the GovernorGeneral or a member of the Royal Family, the use of the aircraft is part of the responsibility and exercise of ministerial authority of the Minister for Air. In cases where he entertains some doubt as to an application he consults with me, so that, between us, we exercise, on behalf of the Government, the responsibility in relation to this service.
In simple terms, thanks to this service, Ministers can travel long distances quickly, they can work on their way in reasonable comfort and with security for classified documents, and when they travel together they have useful opportunities for continuing discussions and for consultations. The use of executive aircraft is common these days, not only with governments but with large companies in various parts of the world. I know of one European company with a turnover smaller than the defence vote of this country which maintains a flight of the same dimension as ours. There would be at least half a dozen American companies that maintain a flight of the same dimension as our own. Proportionately, I would say without hesitation, the flights maintained by the governments of the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom would all be considerably larger - even taking the difference of population into account - than the Australian flight.
What is often lost sight of, quite apart from the service provided for Ministers, officials, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and others, is the role that the flight plays in the training of Air Force personnel. It provides a valuable training medium in a variety of directions, and many transport pilots have received a course of training in VIP aircraft before passing on to the work of transport pilot in the Air Force proper. The hours flown count towards the qualification of airmen in various aspects of their air service, lt is this training role which makes the problem of costing, to which I will refer in a moment, complex if a clear and not misleading picture is to be available to the public.
As to the use of these aircraft by VIPs coming to Australia, it will be a matter of common knowledge that the number of such persons is increasing considerably as Australia’s significance and economic importance grow throughout the world. I am sure that all honourable members will have been struck by the increase in interest which heads of government, senior political figures and senior industrial figures from other parts of the world are manifesting in Australia these days. Aircraft of the VIP flight, as I have indicated, are available to Royal Australian Air Force pilots from all branches. These aircraft provide training for pilots in modern aircraft and a necessary opportunity to build up their flying time to the level required by the Service.
The test as to whether a reasonable use is made of the flight is, I suggest to the House, a matter of the responsibility of those directly concerned, and they are the Minister for Air and myself. If I felt that the Minister for Air was not behaving responsibly in relation to the service, 1 could take action. If the public thought that I was not behaving responsibly in the role which I play in relation to the service I have no doubt that it would take action against me. This has a bearing on the problem of costs. I have looked into this matter to see whether a dissection of costs is feasible as between uses of the aircraft, including training purposes for which the aircraft are used, and to make a dissection in such a way as to present a realistic picture. I have no doubt that the Air Force could come up with a figure showing the total cost of operating the service, but if you wanted a realistic picture there would necessarily have to be some division between the training role of the aircraft and its other uses. The training costs would vary, in respect of a particular aircraft, almost from flight to flight, depending on which members of the crew are undergoing training and the duration of that training. If there were several Ministers in one aircraft, should the cost be spread over the various departments which they administer? If there were in the one aircraft three or four senior Service officials - perhaps the three Chiefs of Staff - do you spread the cost through each of the Services?
It is my understanding that the Public Accounts Committee, having looked at this general problem in other directions, has come to the conclusion that it is not satisfactory to try to spread over a number of departments the cost carried by a particular department for services rendered to those other departments. But I have no wish to deny to the public or to the Parliament information which should reasonably be available to them. It has never been my practice to do so. This flight operates as an essential element in the structure of government. If ways and means could be found of determining costs in a realistic way - not a misleading way which would present a false picture to the public - I would be only too willing to see that course pursued. I do not know which would be the most appropriate body to do this. I imagine that the Treasury contains more expertise on these matters than any other area of government that I could point to and I would be willing to have the matter examined there.
Before I conclude perhaps I could deal with what I might term some of the mythology that has developed around this subject. I have already given one or two illustrations of how far fetched some of the criticism has been. Seeing that I have been involved in one or two of these criticisms perhaps I could give the facts. I know that a picture has been conjured up in the public mind of frequent use of these aircraft by members of my family. There has been only one instance since I became Prime Minister on which members of my family have travelled on an aircraft which was not an aircraft carrying me to my destination. In that instance the aircraft was proceeding to Melbourne to pick up four Ministers for the return journey to Canberra. That was the extent of the incident about which criticism was raised on that occasion.
One or two of my friends opposite have been making gibes about the use of an aircraft for a fishing trip. The facts of the matter are that being in Rockhampton - nobody has challenged my use of the aircraft to go to Rockhampton - I proceeded in the aircraft to Townsville. It was not necessary for me to proceed to Townsville in that aircraft. I was picked up in Townsville in a privately owned aircraft and taken to my destination, which was Dunk Island. The aircraft belonged to a friend, who had come from Sydney earlier, and he could just as easily have picked me up at Rockhampton as at Townsville.
What critics overlook is that a Prime Minister is never able to divorce himself from his job. He is never in a real sense absent from his duty. I had to have staff with me from Rockhampton to Townsville. Wherever I go my staff must be available. They have to keep in touch with the enormous machine that runs the business of this country. They were stationed by me. I repeat that in a very real sense a Prime Minister is never off duty. I only wish that sometimes I could be. That particular weekend was the first in three on which I had not been tied up with official functions. I hope that not too many honourable members opposite will begrudge me an opportunity to have a little recreation and fresh air occasionally at the weekend. That is the extent of the incident for which they would level criticism.
The other matter about which I would like to clear the air is what I regard as a malicious and cruel presentation of an episode in which my colleague, the Treasurer, was involved when his young daughter was seriously burned. His doctor advised that she should bc taken as speedily as possible to a Sydney hospital in case skin grafting had to be carried out. The allegation was made that an aircraft was specially provided for this purpose. An aircraft had been previously ordered for the Treasurer, as was his entitlement. He travels around with a mass of classified documents and normally works while on his journeys. All that he did on this occasion was advance the aircraft’s departure time by half an hour in order to see that his young daughter was given a proper opportunity to have hospital treatment. Some of the newspaper editorials directed towards this episode showed how malicious and unreasonable some elements of the Press can be when a public figure or a politician is involved in a matter. I take this opportunity to put the facts before the House.
I hope that 1 have given honourable members enough detailed material to enable them to see the operation of the service in its true perspective. If there are to be criticisms let them be honest criticisms, not politically motivated or designed to demean the politician in the eyes of those who are always too ready to accept criticisms of those of us who sit in this place. With this background I hope that honourable members will be better equipped to deal with comments about this matter when they come under their notice. I present the following paper:
Royal Australian Air Force VIP Flight - Ministerial Statement, 4 October 1967.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motton by Mr Whitlam) adjourned.
– I move:
Mr Speaker, the Customs Tariff Proposals which 1 have just tabled, relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966-67. The changes, which will operate from tomorrow morning, are consequent on decisions by the Government on two matters - firstly on undressed Douglas fir of New Zealand origin and secondly on stemmed and unstemmed unmanufactured tobacco.
In respect of undressed Douglas fir of New Zealand origin, the Government has removed import duties under the provisions of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement. This action has been taken at the request of the New Zealand Government. The existing duties on the New Zealand timber are $1.44 per 100 superficial feet for timber in sizes less than 7 in x21/2 in, and $1.68 per 100 superficial feet for larger sizes. These duties were to be phased out in three more stages ending 3 1st December 1973.
Originally the rates were bound free under our 1933 Trade Agreement with New Zealand. Following the Tariff Board’s report on timber in 1963 it became necessary to apply duties to New Zealand in order that the general rate could be increased as recommended by the Board, while still maintaining our GATT commitment not to increase preferences. New Zealand was extremely co-operative in agreeing to waive her rights to duty free entry of Douglas fir to enable Australia to take this action. This removal of duties will, in effect, restore the position to that which applied to New Zealand Douglas fir in 1963.
Over the next decade New Zealand expects to increase exports of Douglas fir to Australia from 2 to 6 million superficial feet per annum. Imports of North American Douglas fir are currently 172 million superficial feet per annum. Bearing in mind this ratio and the expected ratio of imports of New Zealand undressed Douglas fir in relation to the total Australian market, the Government does not consider that the removal of the duties on New Zealand now, rather than in 6 years time, would create any real difficulty for the Australian industry.
The duty differential between stemmed and unstemmed unmanufactured tobacco imported into Australia has existed for some sixty years. The duty on stemmed tobacco - that is, tobacco leaf from which the stem has been removed - is at present 5c per pound higher than on unstemmed tobacco. This differential was introduced to encourage the hand stemming of tobacco leaf by manual workers in Australian tobacco factories. Hand stemming is now obsolete and has been replaced by mechanical threshing, both by the tobacco companies overseas and in Australia. Consequently, the differential has outlived its usefulness and serves no useful economic purpose. The Government accepts the view that the retention of such a differential is somewhat of an anachronism and has agreed to its elimination.
I commend the proposals to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Report on Items
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Whisky, gin and vodka.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave to make a statement in respect of this report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In conducting this inquiry, which arose from representations by the Association of Distillers of Australian Whisky, Gin and Vodka, the Tariff Board exercised the discretion allowed under the terms of reference and accepted evidence relating to all potable spirits. The Board found that local whisky had been experiencing a declining share of the local potable spirits market especially in comparison with local brandy and imported whisky. The Board also observed that the profitability of Australian whisky was generally lower than that of other potable spirits.
There is at present an excise differential of $3.10 per proof gallon in favour of brandy when compared with whisky. The Board recommended that this differential be reduced by $1.50 to $1.60 per proof gallon and also that the protective margin for local whisky against imported whisky be increased by $1.50 per proof gallon. The present protective margins are general $1.70 and preferential $1.40 per proof gallon. The Board also proposed that these duty changes should be effected in two stages of 75c per proof gallon each in 1969 and 1971.
There are, however, other matters to be considered. The excise differential in favour of brandy, which was introduced by the government in 1954, is achieving its purpose in ensuring the absorption of Australian wine grape production. However, since the Tariff Board presented its report to the government the Australian grape growing industry has suffered some loss of preferences on dried fruits and brandy exports. This uncertainty of the future competitive position overseas could lead to the industry facing difficulties in disposing of its crop. The brandy industry also is a major outlet for wine grape production and the Government is concerned that any reduction in the existing brandy differential could add to these difficulties.
The Government also considered the proposal for an increase in the protective margin accorded to local whisky. In the light of consumer preference, this proposal seems unlikely to improve significantly the pattern of potable liquor consumption in favour of the Australian whisky producers. In view of these other factors it has been decided that the existing protective margins and relative excise duties applying to potable spirits should remain unaltered.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the
Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966. the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Site preparation for future domestic terminals and additional roadworks in the north west building area at Sydney Airport.
These works are a further stage in the development of the area and include:
The estimated cost of these works is $3,150,000. I table plans of the proposed works.
Mr Speaker, may I propose as an amendment that after the word ‘refer’ we add the words ‘as a matter of urgency’?
– The honourable member’s proposed amendment would be out of order. The Minister has stated the reference in relation to this matter. The reference is covered by the Act.
– May I then support very strongly the motion proposed by the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly) and in speaking to this motion may I mention that it is a matter of urgency that the motion be agreed to and this reference be given to the Public Works Committee. The position in regard to the domestic airline terminals at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport at Mascot is one to which this House should be giving some attention. The reason is that in the present situation which has so regrettably emerged the shifting of the international terminal at Mascot is likely to precede by some years the shifting of the domestic terminal. Therefore, the preparation of the site for the new domestic terminal becomes a matter of urgency.
Until the work on the domestic terminal is completed we will have the position that to drive from the domestic terminal to the international terminal and vice versa at Mascot will entail travelling between 2 miles and 3 miles. This will be in contradistinction to the situation which will occur at Tullamarine by virtue of the immense amounts of money which are being spent on that airport and where the international and domestic terminals will be sited together. It is very much in the interests of the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, which the Government has declared will always be the premier airport in Australia, that this work be speeded up. It is very much in the interests of Australia that the siting of the new domestic terminal be prepared and proceeded with with the least possible delay.
I know that the House will regret that the motion that has been proposed by the Minister for Works was not submitted and implemented years ago during the terms of his predecessors. But this is water under the bridge. I am very pleased to support this motion. I ask the Minister to try to repair the damage that has been done in the past. to get on with this work as soon as possible and to ask the Public Works Committee to make its report as a matter of urgency so that we can get to the position with the least possible delay where the new domestic terminal at Mascot is sited alongside the new international terminal as indeed should have been allowed for much earlier when the plans were being prepared. At least let us give the Minister credit for trying to repair the omissions of the past.
– in reply - Mr Speaker, I wish to thank the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for his support of this proposition. I point out to him that the Public Works Committee intends to hear evidence on this matter on 17th October. So anyone can see that the Committee is fully aware of the necessity for urgency. I can assure the honourable member that the co-operation of the Public Works Committee which has been exemplary during my term of office as Minister for Works will continue. The honourable member can rest assured that the need for urgency is well in the mind of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 3 October (vide page 1623).
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed expenditure, $22,425,000. [Quorum formed]
- Mr Chairman, I thank honourable members for crowding back into the Committee now that we are to discuss this matter. I also thank the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) for drawing the attention of the Committee to this fact. But I wish also to make a passing remark about the right honourable gentleman, the estimates of whose Department we are now to discuss. I know that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) is important. I know that he has nine aeroplanes, and things like that, to look after, but I remind him that it was almost invariably the rule of his predecessor, Sir Robert Menzies, to be in this place when ever the estimates of his Department were under discussion. It was almost invariably the rule that no matter what element of his estimates we discussed the former Prime Minister would take part in the debate. What is happening today is symptomatic of the way in which this Government is behaving.
The Prime Minister ought to be in his seat now just as other Ministers ought to be here when we are discussing matters relevant to their portfolios. What is the point of the operation that we are carrying out now if the Minister concerned with the estimates before the Committee is not here and if honourable members cannot be bothered to stay here for these discussions? Honourable members are not members of Parliament for answering correspondence. They are members who should be discussing in Parliament the affairs of the nation. The Prime Minister is not the Prime Minister for VIP aircraft, the Prime Minister for entertainment or the Prime Minister for spearfishing. He is the Prime Minister in charge of not only the administration of Cabinet but also the administration of his Department. He ought to be here now.
While I had many differences of opinion with his predecessor and while we had some very sharp exchanges, I will say for the former Prime Minister that he was always here when we were discussing the estimates of his Department unless some physical disability prevented him. As far as I am concerned, I regard the absence of the Prime Minister from the Committee as a slight. I regard it as contemptuous. I regard it as a serious breach of parliamentary courtesy. Let me place that on record. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) is Prime Minister, honourable members can expect from him the proper and due courtesy of the parliamentarian. It is nearly time that honourable members opposite overcame some of their obsessions with prestige and so on and remembered that this is a Parliament in which matters should be discussed.
I rose today to speak in a more friendly vein than I have begun. I represent this Parliament on the Council of the National Library of Australia. So, on each occasion on which I have the opportunity, I like to tell the Parliament what the Council is doing, just as the members of the Public Works Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and those honourable members associated with the Australian National University do respecting those committees. I think that it is my duty to report to this Parliament what the position with the Council of the National Library of Australia is, so I will take a few minutes to deal with that subject.
First of all, for the information of honourable members, I point out that the Council of the National Library of Australia is composed of ten persons. Doubtless all honourable members have received the Council’s annual report for the year ended 30th June 1967 and probably most of them would look at it if they had time. The Government, when it chose the present members of the Council, not excluding the present representative from this chamber, did a first class job. Men of great distinction in various fields in Australia sit on the Council. The Chairman is Sir Grenfell Price, a distinguished Australian scholar, an administrator and supporter of libraries and for many years the holder of an important educational position in South Australia. He was a member of this place from 1941 to 1943. The President of the Senate represents the Senate and the Government Parties. I represent the House of Representatives and the Opposition Party. Other members are persons such as Mr Justice Peter Crisp of the Supreme Court of Tasmania; Mr W. -R. Cumming, who represents the Prime Minister’s Department; Mrs Kathleen Fitzpatrick, former Associate Professor of History at the University of Melbourne, who is one of the co-opted or nominated members; Professor Sir Leonard Huxley, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University; Mr Ken Myer, who is, I suppose, one of Australia’s leading commercial figures; and Dr Wyndham, Director-General of the Department of Education in New South Wales. The remaining member is Mr White, our National Librarian.
What I want to do today is simply to place on record some of the procedures that the National Library has adopted to make itself more appropriate to the building that is being constructed on the shore of Lake Burley Griffin not far from Parliament House. Th new Library building, I found, was an inspiration to me in other things. For instance, it stimulated a great deal my personal interest in a new Parliament House, no matter on which site it might eventually be constructed, as I saw the new building going up on its lakeside site and realised just wh’at could be done there. I make this offer to honourable members: If any of them who wish to look at the new building, which is now reaching a stage at which panelling and other finishing materials are going in, let me know, the National Capital Development Commission will be able to arrange at very short notice for somebody to guide us over the building.
This afternoon, I want to remind people of the significane of the National Library as an institution in Australian culture and in library collection generally and to stimulate if I can whatever interest honourable members may have in assisting to develop its collections. The National Library is developing into one of Australia’s great libraries, though I suppose it will be some years before it reaches what one may describe as world ranking. I have no doubt that it will be many yean before it reaches the status of, say, the Library of Congress in Washington, the British Museum, various other American libraries, the Paris Library and the Lenin Library in Moscow. But once one passes beyond those libraries, one acknowledges that the National Library of Australia is reaching a stage at which it is becoming one of the world’s significant library institutions.
It is developing a great many specialist collections. Many of these come to us because of the interest of various people - because some scholar or interested citizen has found that there is a particular collection about, and that collection is acquired by us or bequeathed to us by the people in possession of it. I believe it is important that Australians should beget some sense of their own history in these matters. Wherever they come across material in Australia or anywhere abroad, they ought to do what they can to bring it into the possession of the National Library. There must be a great deal of material in Britain that we could have. There must be considerable collections, particularly in Spain, associated with Australia’s history and the early maritime explorers that we could either acquire or record on microfilm.
We have significant collections on photography, aviation, local government and trade unions. For example, Mr Fred Riley, who was a member of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria before we had differences of opinion in 1955, had the custom, I understand, whenever there was a trade union or Labor conference of any sort, of simply putting all the associated documents in an envelope and sending them to the National Library. Over a period of 30 or 40 years, this material has become of great significance. It is a pity that so much political material that ought to be retained, collated and made available for use is lost to us. I suppose this is because people do as members of Parliament sometimes do when an election is over and file everything in the in the incinerator. Each item of this sort of material is an element of history.
In recent years we have also acquired some very significant overseas collections. Professor Nichol Smith’s collection of 18th century English literature is, I suppose, one of the great historical collections to come out of Britain. There is also the Clifford family’s collection, which went back to about the year HOO, I think. In acquiring these collections of material, of course, we face the fact that people in the countries from which it comes often take a dim view of its leaving. For example, one important volume in the Gifford collection had to be cleared by the appropriate historical export control authority in Britain, and this took us a great deal of time. We are deeply indebted to Mr J. G. Duncan-Hughes of Adelaide for having got on to that collection. In recent years we have concentrated in large measure on what we could get out of Asia. We have one of the world’s significant collections on Indonesia. Wc have acquired the Braga collection on Portuguese East Asia. It is, I suppose, a matter of some regret that sometimes collections such as these are taken from places where the local people would like to keep them. Sometimes all sorts of factors that are involved are beyond the control of local authorities and collections must be disposed of. It is important in this field, I believe, to understand that Australia is one of the best endowed collectors. I do not often praise this Government, for I believe that it does not do many things that reflect on it credit and renown. Therefore, I am sorry that the Prime Minister has not chosen to be present at this time to hear these few words of gratitude.
– I shall convey them to him.
– I thank the Minister for that assurance. The Council of the National Library is deeply grateful for the continual support of both the present Prime Minister and his predecessor whenever collections have come our way and we have needed additional grants of money. Perhaps, for an exceptionally wealthy country such as Australia, expenditure of $12,000, $15,000, $20,000 or even perhaps $100,000 on a collection is not in relative terms a great deal, but when one is looking forward to being able to compete with some of the big collectors, particularly in the United States of America, it is much more than a crumb of comfort to the Council to know that it has the Government’s sympathetic support in these matters. We have acquired Chinese collections through the good offices of Professor Yetts. We have acquired also the Japanese collections of General Kambara. It is important that this acquiring of collections be continued. Australia has for too long isolated itself intellectually, educationally and in other ways from Asia.
The National Library not only is a collecting institution but also is developing important techniques within Australia in methods of copying. I refer particularly to the COpy.flow system, as I believe it is called, by which books are copied in some sequence, mysterious beyond my understanding, by a photographic method on a continuous sheet of paper, which is then folded into a book. Where once one had to scout about and make some kind of odd copy or just keep a record of where a book was, nowadays, by the use of this system, one can make copies of almost any material and store it. Microfilming makes the storing of material even easier. I think that we have stored on microfilm 3,000,000 pages of Australian historical records, mostly acquired overseas from the Public Records Office in London in conjunction with the Public Library of New South Wales. With modern techniques, when, say, a member of the Parliament calls for some record, it can be found among the microfilms and a photostat copy can be produced.
Honourable members can rest assured that the National Library and all its officers are deeply involved in developing these techniques of co-operation. It is not so hard to develop techniques of co-operation in the physical world, but it is terribly difficult to develop them among political and administrative units. The development of the National Library has greatly expanded the Australian system of national co-operation and the major libraries of Australia are now operating together in the development of bibliographical services. In the wider field, in co-operation with the Australian National University, the National Library of New Zealand, the University of Hawaii and the Public Library of New South Wales, the National Library is now developing a system of collecting as widely as possible anything associated with the Pacific. So it has become an important factor in developing Australia wide and international co-operation.
There are still many difficulties, of course. First, there are the financial problems, though, as I said earlier, the Government has usually come to the party in that respect. There are still international difficulties. Consider China, for instance. Let us forget for the moment our relations with that great country, which, though they may be happy in the fiscal sense, are unhappy in the political sense. China, Tibet, Mongolia and the adjacent area are one of the cradles of history. No doubt in that region there are collections that are very important to the history of both the present and the past. It is sad that we should ignore the opportunity or at least be inhibited in developing opportunities because of the intervention of political factors.
I was in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, about 3 years ago and visited the National Library, where there were great collections of inestimable historical value for scholars based upon the beginnings of civilisation in East Asia. These collections are probably unknown in other parts of the world. However, with modern copying devices, such collections would not need to be denied to the rest of the world. I hope that the House will take a continuing interest in the National Library. At some time in the near future - perhaps in the passage of months - the Parliamentary Library will have its own separate Librarian and the National Librarian will be appointed under the National Library Act which will also make the National Library a statutory authority. We hope that in next August the National Library building will be opened officially to the public. The construction of this building is proceeding with the greatest co-operation from architects and other people concerned. I believe that the National Library is worthy of the continued support of this Parliament.
In conclusion let me say again that I regret that the Prime Minister has not seen fit to be in the chamber during the discussion of his estimates. Even if, into 15 minutes, one can fit only li minutes of praise for the right honourable gentleman, such praise is so infrequent that he should have been in the chamber to hear it.
– I would like to thank the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) for what he said about the National Library. Although we do not have many members on this side of the chamber at the moment, I am quite sure that we are all interested in the work which is going on in this field. However, I have another matter which I wish to draw to the attention of the Committee. It concerns the efficiency of the Public Service. One of Australia’s large public companies was recently going through a difficult period. Its profits had slumped. However, over the weekend this company reported as follows:
The intensive drive for internal efficiency during the year contributed substantially to the improved results.
As a result of strong and positive action within this company the net profit before tax had increased by a remarkable 31%. Unfortunately, except for the business departments, most instruments of government do not present balance sheets. Success or failure for the year has to be judged from ministerial statements, annual reports to the Parliament, the Auditor-General’s report and the like. None of these are as impressive as an audited balance sheet. Consequently, the important business of government continues without an adequate yardstick. If private enterprise runs into difficulties or becomes slack, measures have to be taken to rectify the situation, or eventually the business fails and its place is taken by a competitor. This does not happen in government. There are no competitors with the Department of Customs and Excise, the Treasury, or the Department of Trade and Industry, so there is no apparent means by which we may judge a department’s effectiveness and efficiency.
I now wish to refer to the report of the Public Service Board for 1966-67. This is the authority which is responsible for deciding what staffs are necessary for the efficient functioning of all departments. I notice that Caiden in his recent book ‘The Commonwealth Bureaucracy’ has criticised much of the information published in annual reports of the Board in the past. These reports are primarily prepared for the information of the Parliament and to be useful they must be presented in a way in which they can be understood by honourable members who come from many walks of life. I understand that this year a committee of bright young officers was put to work on the Board’s report. I would like to congratulate them on the improvement in its presentation and content. There has been great improvement in the statements and tables and one does not need to be an expert in order to understand them. However, there are a few points I would like to raise.
It was mentioned in the previous report that many departments were in the early stages of the development of automatic data processing. Now the Parliament has been advised that the application of computers to administrative, statistical, scientific and technical processes is widespread. Indeed, a staff of 2,220 is engaged full time in this area and there are now thirty-eight computers including eight costing over $lm each in the Public Service. One would think that this equipment could take over the routine work of many officers in the departments and there should be some reduction in the rising workforce. But I see no mention in the report of savings in staff, savings in manhours or savings in money as a result of the installation of computers. I see that some computers are being shared. This is sound business practice. I am glad that it is recognised in the Public Service, just as clearly as it is in business, that expensive equipment has to be used as near as possible to capacity to warrant its installation. I have no doubt that a cost benefit survey is conducted in each case before a computer is installed.
I now wish to refer to the Commonwealth Gazette’ and the part it plays in the promotion system within the Service. It is rather a dull publication from the point of view of most people. It does not have a glossy cover and does not have any pictures. Yet, it is by far the most widely read publication within the Public Service. Why is this so? I think that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) would have read this publication in his earlier years. The reason why it is read so widely is that it is the publication in which jobs are advertised, where promotions are notified and where officers see whether they will eventually make the grade. Promotions within the Commonwealth Public Service are a complicated procedure compared with private enterprise. The usual practice is for a department to call for applications by inserting a notice in the Commonwealth ‘Gazette’ or, if a suitable person appears to be available, to make a provisional promotion to the vacancy. This is notified in the ‘Gazette’, and is subject to appeal by other officers who feel that they have a prior right to the promotion. If no appeals are received within the recognised period, the promotion is confirmed. If not, a promotions appeal committee has to meet to deal with the appeals. The committee consists of a representative of the Public Service Board who acts as chairman, a representative of the department involved and a representative from the union or staff association. Finally, after some time, a selection is made.
The ‘Gazette’ brings to light two problems: The cost of the system which is slow and, cumbersome and the fact that it encourages a good deal of ‘Gazette’ gazing in government time. I wonder whether the Board has ever wondered what amount of time is spent by officers examining the promotions pages of the ‘Gazette*? I suggest it would be a useful exercise to examine a scheme of mailing the promotions pages to the homes of Second and Third Division officers of the Service. I estimate that the average Second and Third Division public servant would spend a quarter of an hour of working time each week in looking at the promotions pages in the ‘Gazette’ and discussing these matters with fellows in the office. If this is so, approximately 1,700 hours are lost each week in effective working time in Canberra alone. On a rough estimate, it would require forty-five officers to pick up this time in Canberra. I firmly believe that a scheme for posting out the promotions pages would be well accepted by many officers. This is largely done in private industry. At present some people have difficulty in getting fast access to the ‘Gazette’. Honourable members can imagine the interest there is on Thursday when the ‘Gazette’ arrives in the office and the skulduggery which sometimes takes place. I think that this is engaged in mainly by junior officers who want to get hold of the ‘Gazette’ to see what is happening. In fact, I have heard of cases in which officers club together to purchase regular copies from the Government Printing Office because some departments do not receive sufficient copies for everyone to look at on a Thursday. The scheme that I am propounding could, I believe, save the Government up to $150,000 a year in Canberra alone, even after taking postage and printing into account.
I turn my attention now to the matter of full employment. This has been something of a problem to the Public Service so far as professional staff are concerned. Such benefits as superannuation, absolute security and long service leave do not have a great attraction for these professional people. Highly qualified staff often do not regard the Public Service as offering them a lifetime career, so that they frequently move on to the universities or into business or take overseas appointments when attractive opportunities come along. One has only to scan the classified advertising columns of the large daily newspapers to appreciate the opportunities available these days for well qualified people. I believe it is understandable that we should lose a good number of our best young professional people, such as geologists, solicitors and doctors. I think we would lose them no matter what they were paid in the Public Service.
I believe that members of the public generally are unaware of the advantages that the Public Service currently has to offer. There are unique opportunities for bright young people to serve in interesting occupations and interesting places. Qualified people no longer have to face the stodgy existence formerly associated with Government service.
In summing up, let me say briefly that 1 think the Public Service Board should have a look at certain aspects of the promotions system introduced many years ago. I suggest also that we need to ensure that the benefits derived from automatic data processing are passed on to the taxpayer. I know that departments are required to provide more sophisticated and flexible benefits for the community, with consequent pressures for more and more staff. Of course, the people themselves, the members of this Parliament and the Government are responsible for this situation. The Board is subjected to these pressures for more services, which in turn necessitate the employment of more staff. But with the aids now available I hope that we can look for some tapering off in the increasing work force in the Public Service.
I believe that the Board, in conjunction with the Organisation and Methods Sections of the departments, must watch closely every phase of the activities of departments. I have felt that the Organisation and Methods Sections in the various departments could be in some difficulty with the permanent heads at different times, because they are staffed by relatively junior officers in the departments, and if a permanent head felt strongly upon a matter it would probably be quite easy for him to override the views of the O and M people and disregard what they had to say. It might be worth while to look closely at the proposal to have the 0 and M people attached to the Board itself although working within the various departments. The co-operation of staffs must be obtained in order to determine standard times for the performance of work, making proper allowance for personal fatigue. Man-hour requirements must be calculated, as far as this is possible, for each activity. I know this is difficult in the case of some of the more senior jobs in the Public Service, but I think it could be done with the more routine activities.
A greater sense of urgency must be introduced into all Government activity. I know that the O and M people have already done a great deal. The Board must be able to assess the value and necessity of work being carried on so that it may convince the Parliament that increases in the Public Service are not made simply by reason of Parkinson’s philosophy that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
– I want to discuss the state of arts and letters in Australia. At the present time it is a very sorry state. People who are actively involved in this field - 1 am not talking about those in the social whirl of our community who score off arts and letters for their own social promotion but rather about the people who are dedicated and enthused and absorbed by the contribution which they can or believe they can make in this field - are greatly distressed not at a deterioration which has suddenly come about but- rather at a most unsatisfactory situation that has existed for a very long time. This situation will continue unless the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) - because this is his responsibility - takes immediate action to institute an inquiry into the state of arts and letters in Australia today and then to follow that inquiry with some sort of policy to overcome the glaring and rather damaging deficiencies in our culture which have been arising because the Government does not act and because the overall lack of response and interest in the Australian community in this field - and this is immensely important - is causing a drain of Australian talent to other countries every year.
The state of arts and letters, the state of our culture, is one of the most important aspects of our community that we can promote. It is one of the most important aspects of any society. In the years to come, when the peaks of material and technical development that we have now achieved have been long surpassed, it will not be these peaks that future generations will look back to in order to discover what kind of society we had; rather will they be looking back through the pages of history to discover what our cultural standards were. I may say that I am rather disappointed that the Prime Minister is not in the chamber to hear me discussing these matters. This is not a subject new to the Prime Minister. It was not new to his predecessor. Both of them received a number of representations seeking some sort of action to assist arts and letters in the Australian community.
Just how important are these things in a community? On 29th September 1965 the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, when signing the Arts and Humanities Bill, said:
In the long history of man, countless empires and nations have come and gone. Those which created no lasting works of art are reduced today to short footnotes in history’s catalogue. Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.
What have we done in Australia? What do we do? We do something, but the trouble is that it is difficult to ascertain the full extent of Government- activity in this field, because there are so many loose ends lying around at so many places within the community. The appropriation for the Prime Minister’s Department tells us that we will spend about $1.2m this year on various activities. Provision is made for expenditure on historical and other works of art, including commissioning of portraits, the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, various royal historical societies, the Commonwealth Literary Fund and numerous small groups. We can add to that expenditure about $340,000 provided as a subsidy for symphony orchestras. This gives a total provision of $ 1.45m in a wealthy country with an economy last year totalling $25,000m in value - and this is increasing by $2,000m a year. Let us look at what another country is doing, a country comparable with Australia in terms of population, technological development, wealth per head of population and so on. In 1957 Canada founded the Canadian Council. The Canadian Government has provided $Can 100m for capital expenditure and investment by this body for the purpose of promoting arts, sciences and humanities. Each year the Canadian Council spends about $Can 10m. Australia can spend much less than $A2m a year. We have nothing in this country comparable with the Canadian Council.
As I have said, there are loose ends lying all over the place and they need to be tied up in some kind of single council or authority, perhaps under the control of a ministry for cultural affairs such as exists in France. This is the kind of thing that we need in Australia, but it is the kind of thing that we are not getting. Probably the central actionist in the field of arts and letters in Australia - a very controversial actionist - is the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. I do not know much about the Trust except, of course, what I have read. I do not know much about it from any personal involvement. However, I have spoken to people who are involved in the world of drama - professional people - and they consider that there are a number of undesirable features associated with the Trust and the way in which biases apply in the appointment of actors to various plays. They refer to the way in which conservatism rather than exploratory action overwhelms the thinking of the Elizabethan Trust in relation to its decisions on its productions. So here we have in Australia run of the mill, well established and known plays being presented to the public. Under this system it will be a long time before we catch up with the modern trends that exist on the Continent and in the United States of America. In Australia we have productions which are quite unexciting and which represent no innovation.
In Germany, for instance, exciting things are being done with plays. Shakespeare’s plays are being presented with the cast in modern dress but using the original dialogue. This adds new emphasis to the stories behind the plays. In Bremen a recent production was ‘Helen of Troy’. The actors were all dressed in the uniform of present day soldiers and the setting of the play was the Vietnam conflict. This threw up exciting and interesting considerations of an age old play. Another aspect of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust about which I am not happy is the way in which it is used to subsidise the profits of J. C. Williamson Theatres Ltd whenever that organisation produces plays or musicals for the Trust. This is public money which is being so used.
Let us consider what is being done in other parts of the world, because we are not doing much. According to a 1964 report which I have, in Austria, a country with a population of 7 million people, there are forty-one permanent professional theatres. Contrast that situation with the position in Australia where, I suppose, there are not more than half a dozen permanent professional theatres. There are nineteen of these theatres in Vienna alone which has a population of 1.6 million people. Almost all the buildings where the companies perform are owned by local or State authorities and they are made available either free of charge or for a nominal rental to the companies performing there. A subsidy of $8m a year is paid in respect of the dramatic arts, whereas the estimated recenue from the presentation of these arts is $2.4m a year. This is a clear exposition of how importantly Austria regards culture, and how unimportantly we regard it in Australia. Private theatres are handsomely subsidised in Austria.
According to the latest figures that I can discover relating to the theatre in West Germany, in the 1965-66 season the expenditure totalled 515,573,000 Deutschemarks and 70% of the income for the theatre came from the State subsidy. This is very important. Why cannot we experiment in this field? Why cannot we try to foster Australian drama in this way? In the 1965-66 season in Germany 29 million people attended the theatre and every night the theatres played to 75% capacity houses. I have other details regarding the German situation but they are too numerous for me to mention in the short space of time available to me because I want to mention other details concerning the arts and letters in our community. However, this gives some indication of what is being done in Germany where doctorates of philosophy are earned at the universities in the field of cultural studies and where the critics, who write for the papers, are highly qualified people who know the plays they write about. They have the academic background that enables them to write authoritatively on the subject. In Vienna nine daily newspapers employ thirty qualified reviewers all of whom have academic backgrounds and have had special training in the subject. Contrast this with the situation in Australia.
In Great Britain an Arts Council has been established which spends about $8m a year. At least this was the expenditure in 1964-65 and it has probably increased somewhat since then. In 1966 the Arts Council provided £900,000 sterlingwhich is almost $A2m - for the Royal Shakespearean Theatre at StratfordonAvon. In other words, it provided more for one theatre than we provide in Australia for the whole Australian community. The United States of America recently initiated a move to establish a foundation on the arts and humanities. It provided $US 10m to set it going. There are various forms of cultural and promotion subsidies paid under central policies in countries like Holland, Italy and
Scandinavia. We have nothing in Australia to compare with these.
In 1959 in France the Ministry for Cultural Affairs was set up. One boggles when one reads of the activity engaged in by the Ministry. In 1962 it had 4,286 people on its staff of whom approximately 3,800 were in the various directorates of the Ministry. In the same year the Ministry’s budget was 316 million francs of which 175.8 million was for administrative purposes. This situation is vastly different to that in Australia at present. Surely we could experiment by setting up theatres in the capital cities of the Commonwealth, perhaps using Melbourne and Sydney as starting points. Could not the Federal Government subsidise theatres in Sydney and Melbourne on the understanding that the State Governments and the local municipal authorities would do likewise? By this means, we would have three full time professional theatres in each of those cities. If the scheme proved successful we could extend it to other capita] cities. This is only a suggestion. I would like to see an exhaustive investigation carried out into the state of arts and letters in the Australian community before we tied ourselves down to any hard and fast rule. There is far too much disparate activity taking place in the Australian community in the field of cultural promotion. This needs tying together by some sort of central body - some sort of council, possibly.
Arts and letters cover more than the field of drama. They cover music; literature, including libraries; visual arts; films; television; radio; town planning and architecture. All of these things are important in any advanced society. Yet from the way the Government treats them one would think that they were barely worthy of consideration at all. The Commonwealth Literary Fund, which has been tied to an expenditure of $66m annually for the last few years, is hardly the sort of Fund that is going to stimulate the development of Australian literature. The idea that starving authors in penury ridden garrets are the people who write the best plays and literature is ridiculous and completely outmoded, yet this seems to be the attitude pervading Government thinking. The problem for Australian artists is that to be recognised, to be celebrated and to receive acclaim, they must emigrate. If they return, according to the 1961 report of the Arts and Letters Inquiry Committee in Victoria - a report which was submitted to the Prime Minister - all too often they are relegated to a second rate position. Unfortunately our prosperity is inclined to be almost entirely technological and materialistic. We ignore the cultural field. Perhaps Mr Clem Christesen summed it up well when he said:
Australian literature marches forward under a dun-coloured banner; and the procession disappears almost unnoticed into the vast steak-fed vacuity of Australian civilisation.
The Government should try to stop this tendency. In Victoria the Art Gallery is administered by the Attorney-General’s Department, which has control of twentytwo totally unrelated departments including the Lunacy Board and the Control of Trotting Board. This gives some idea of the sense of importance applied to culture in Australia. The Australian film industry has virtually died because of a lack of interest by the Federal Government. Let me conclude with a quote from St Augustine in The City of God*:
A nation is an association of reasonable beings united in a peaceful sharing of the things they cherish; therefore, to determine the quality of a nation, you must consider what those things are.
Perhaps this is a good thought to leave with the Prime Minister. I ask him to institute immediately an urgent inquiry - perhaps by a Senate committee - into the state of the arts and letters in Australia today; to have the committee report back to the Parliament; and to arrange for the Parliament to act promptly on its findings.
- Mr Chairman, we read in the Press, and we hear from honourable members opposite, sneering references to the association between the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) and the President of the United States of America. I think it is timely to say what the people of Australia feel about this association. Perhaps there would bt no better example of this association than the speech made by the Prime Minister at Exmouth Gulf when he referred to the tremendous friendship between Australia and America. I am prompted to remind honourable members opposite when they talk about our association with America that they often relate with pride what happened when we were threatened in World War II at about the time of General MacArthur’s movement out of the Philippines. At that time the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Curtin, said that notwithstanding our traditional friendship and kinship with Great Britain we had to look to America for help.
It seems to me that the smearing and sneering remarks made now about America go too far. These remarks come from the legion of knockers who are so popular in the Australian Press. The science of knocking is becoming one of the most important studies in Australia. Knockers laugh at a statement like ‘All the way with LBJ’, which was made by our Prime Minister and which, in my opinion, was a most timely declaration of Australia’s support under our treaties and alliances with America. The statement was made at a time when America felt that it had no friends because of the operations of the left wingers in the Press and left wingers in other places. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) became upset recently when I referred to a certain conference held in Hobart. I notice that now he is in a better mood. He is smiling. At Exmouth our Prime Minister spoke about the tremendous force for good that America represented in this part of the world. He spoke of the tremendous strength being used to maintain peace and freedom and the great contribution being made by America in this regard.
I am sorry that apart from some Ministers there were no other honourable members on this side present when the Prime Minister made his address. He spoke in a setting which was stirring. There was a display of American might. Admirals in spotless uniforms and wearing all their decorations were present. They represented on Australian soil a mighty, well conducted navy, with all its strength and power. They were welcomed by the Australian Prime Minister and their presence gave a feeling of security which is not usual. In spite of the knocking that goes on, the people of Australia must be grateful indeed that there is a personal relationship between our Prime Minister and the President of the United States. This personal relationship was demonstrated because, as part of the ceremony, this new very low frequency naval communication station was used to transmit a personal message of congratulation from the American President to our Prime Minister. The people of Australia were treated to the picture of Mr Holt taking the call from the President. The call was made at about 3 a.m. in the United States, from Washington or wherever the President happened to be. Our Prime Minister spoke about the teamwork exhibited at Exmouth. It was marvellous to hear American children who attend the school at Exmouth singing in company with Australian children ‘God Save the Queen’. The American children there attend classes with Australians and probably speak a better brand of English because of this association. The outstanding lesson to be learnt from all this is that our Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, has established this rapport, this co-operation and this extremely warm, friendly feeling between Australia and America.
I think we should remember some of the things that the Prime Minister said about the history of our association with America. He referred to the time when the Singapore base fell to the Japanese in 1942 and we were open to attack by the immense Japanese Navy which was later defeated by the Americans in the Battle of the Coral Sea. I do not think there were many Australians sneering at that time at our association with America. When the Japanese ships were operating in the waters off Australia, Australians were extremely grateful for the relationship that we had with America.
– They certainly were.
– My friend, the honourable member for North Sydney, was one of those who felt very closely this relationship that some of us who were in the Australian defence forces knew at that time. The Prime Minister spoke about the critical battle in the Coral Sea which virtually spared our country from invasion by hostile forces. We in Australia were at the mercy of an enormous Asian force sent by the Japanese Emperor and controlled by the Japanese war machine. That force was wiped out by the American Navy and Air Force. Australian sovereignty over the North West Cape area, upon which this radio communication station is built, is still preserved because the Americans are our tenants. At the ceremony, the American Ambassador paid the rent for this base for this year - one peppercorn. Honourable members opposite are not cheerful about this. They are members of a Party which is far different from the Party which cooperated with President Roosevelt and General MacArthur. The Labor Party, at its Adelaide conference, adopted a policy which states that there should be no foreign bases on Australian soil. In other words, if Labor were in power, this station would not exist and this ceremony would not have taken place.
It was an unusual political atmosphere, Mr Chairman, when the Prime Minister, in his magnificent speech, paid tribute to the feeling that exists between the Americans and Australians. Nobody present could have failed to be impressed by the intense excitement and determination of the Americans who were present to express their gratitude to Australia by making our Prime Minister the centre of the proceedings. A young Lutheran chaplain dedicated the base, in the name of Almighty God, as an instrument for the establishment of peace and freedom in this part of the Pacific and South East Asia. The Prime Minister was the first speaker after the dedication. It was an epochal speech in the history of Australia. lt represented the beginning of a new era. The old era commenced to die when Singapore fell during the Second World War. It has almost finished because of the withdrawal of British troops from that area. This speech 2 weeks ago marked the beginning of our close association with America.
May I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for the way he set out the situation as between America and Australia. With the present Prime Minister in office I think the Australian people can look forward to a long period of peaceful and military alliance with the United States, without reservations and qualifications. Anything that we can do to keep America represented in the western Pacific will help America to keep a foothold on the mainland of Asia. T feel that the Prime Minister, in his speech at Exmouth Gulf, did a great deal towards maintaining that situation.
– I am amazed that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) can build up a military speech out of the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department. He even referred to the Australian Labor Party Hobart conference of 1955. The other day he claimed that that conference was Communistrun and I thoroughly disagreed with him. I was very annoyed with him at the time for saying that, and if he had said the same today I would have been annoyed again, because that was a complete and utter fabrication in regard to the Hobart conference, which I attended.
In speaking to the estimates 1 wish to refer to the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. This year the Government is increasing its allocation to the Trust and its subsidiaries by $155,000. Of course, this is most acceptable to me and to all people interested in building up Australian sentiment in our theatre. But I want to refer to the internal organisation of the Trust. Dr Coombs, who is well known to us all, is the Chairman of the Trust and has a tremendous influence on its operation. When I have finished what I wish to say honourable members may agree with me that he has too much authority in the Trust. Dr Coombs has had a very distinguished career in the financial life of Australia in the Reserve Bank. I do not know how he can find time to devote to the tremendous ramifications of the Trust. But I am concerned not at the energy expended by him, but at his overpowering control of the Trust and its ramifications. This concern centres on the fact that there is an absence of professional and independently minded people on the committees that he has chosen within the structure of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust. The professional voice seems to me to have been completely silenced. Thus the control of the Elizabethan Theatre and its work is out of balance in that the amateur is completely dominant and the professional voice has practically no say in the running and management of this important body, which is subsidised by the Commonwealth.
For some years representations have been made to the Federal Government - mainly to the Prime Minister - for the establishment of a new national committee to deal with the allocation of subsidies received by the Trust from the Commonwealth Government. The idea is that this committee will be the instrument through which Federal subsidies will be channelled to the various bodies throughout Australia under the overall guidance and management of the Elizabethan Trust’s Board. So far no name has been suggested for this new committee, nor has it been officially established, but discussion has gone on with the Prime Minister about it for quite some time, r hope my words will be taken into consideration when this committee is finally established, because it will have a very important task. One name suggested for this committee was ‘Performing Arts Council’, but this name is not recommended because it would cause confusion with a body of a similar name.
The proposal to establish this new national committee is the most important administrative move in the Trust since it was first formed. Not only must the name be appropriate, but the size of the new committee should be limited and its members should be as widely representative of the amateur and professional stage as is possible. I suggest that the committee should not comprise more than seven members and that at least two or three of the seven members of this important committee should be professional and independent people who are dedicated to the theatre and who have a right to voice an opinion as to the allocation of subsidies.
In this field of cultural life committees should not be composed of yes-men or yes-women and this committee should not be too big to be effective. In other words, it should contain select people who can put up a critical point of view from time to time and who can feed ideas and suggestions to the committee from the professional groups within the Australian theatre. I say this quite deliberately, because these professional people have devoted their lifetime to the theatre and at this moment - as far as I know - not one of them has an official voice within the committees under the control of Dr Coombs. Many of them have travelled overseas and have had overseas theatre experience or have made close studies of how governments of other countries deal with sponsorships and subsidisation of trusts similar to our Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, which will be subsidised by $840,000 this year. In my opinion these people have right to voice their opinions. To block out this wide field of experience from this new Commonwealth committee would be a retrograde and even a damaging decision to make.
I understand that Dr Coombs will be the chairman of this new national committee. I sincerely hope that he will make it a representative one - more representative than any others under his control - and that it will be representative of the professional and amateur groups in the theatre. The importance of the new committee is emphasised by the very fact that Dr Coombs will resign the chairmanship of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust to become its chairman. I understand from very reliable sources that this will happen.
– Who told the honourable member that?
– I am not prepared to divulge that, but my source of information is just as reliable as the honourable member’s. I believe that more individual committee autonomy should be allowed within the ramifications of the Trust and its work, which spreads throughout every State of the Commonwealth. Any tendency to dictatorship control is bad. That sort of thing has a tendency to kill individualism and to discourage progressive thinking. It also leads to stagnation. No theatre management can afford to allow this to happen. The subsidy given by the Government is to promote the arts in all their forms and ramifications throughout Australia. Monotony and stagnation are foreign to the very nature of art and cultural advancement in a democratic country. I make these observations not with any idea of criticising Dr Coombs, who is a capable man with a great deal of administrative experience behind him. But the more experience some men have in administrative matters the greater is their tendency to gather everything under their control. This could be happening in the theatre today.
An examination of the ramifications of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, including the State bodies affiliated to it, indicates to me that it is becoming over-organised. Too many committees can lead to intercommittee rivalry and confusion as to motives, methods and aims. I think this might be an appropriate time for a thorough governmental review of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust, which is charged with a great responsibility in this country and which has been in existence for many years. It could now well be examined closely to see whether improvements might be made, perhaps dead wood cut out, and new ideas adopted. Now that this new national committee is to handle the subsidy to be granted by the Government it might be an appropriate time to look into the whole set-up of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust.
I would like now to speak about the provision of financial assistance to Australian composers. Because I raise this matter please do not regard me as an authority on musical composition. But the fact that I am not an authority on music or the theatre, or a promoter of these arts, does not mean that I should not raise this matter in this debate. I have been interested in this subject for years. Two or three years ago I raised it for the first time in the Parliament in the debate on the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, pressing for assistance to be given to Australian composers similar to that given to Australian writers. This year under the Commonwealth’s grant for the Commonwealth Literary Fund, $66,000 will be distributed to assist Australian writers. This is a wonderful thing and the Parliament will agree, I am sure, that the encouragement of Australian writers is an excellent way to spend money. But what about Australian composers? I think they need as much assistance as do Australian writers. They should be granted a similar amount to that granted to Australian writers. Last year for the first time the sum of $10,000 was provided to assist Australian composers, but I am amazed to see that not one cent of that amount was spent. I do not know the reason for this. This year a further amount of $10,000 is provided to assist Australian composers. That is good news.
– The Government has no music in its soul.
– The honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory has summed up the position very neatly. I congratulate the Government on being prepared to grant $10,000 to help Australian composers.
I am disappointed to see that the Tasmanian Historical Research Association is still to receive only $400 a year. The
Association does a wonderful job in recording the history of my State. Surely in these times of rising costs this grant of $400 could be increased. The grant should be at least $1,000. Tasmania is one of the most history packed States of the Commonwealth. It was founded only IS years after New South Wales, being the first State to be independent of New South Wales. Folk who visit Tasmania as tourists are amazed at the historical grandeur and worth of the island. This voluntary association is doing a magnificent job and deserves a grant of $1,000 a year.
– I wish to raise a matter which I am sure the Committee will agree is appropriate to be considered in this debate on the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department. I raise this matter because I consider it to be one of national importance. It affects a number of departments, including the Defence Department, the Service departments and the Department of the Interior, as well as the Prime Minister’s Department. If my suggestion is followed a decision will be required of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I make my suggestion against a background of two factors. Firstly there is the indication by the United Arab Republic that it requires to dispense with the war cemeteries in Alexandria. The second is the completely new practice in Australia of returning to this country for burial, at the discretion of the next of kin, the bodies of servicemen killed in action overseas. My proposal is for the establishment of an Australian national cemetery.
Dealing with the proposal advanced by the United Arab Republic, it is not my intention to go into the merits or demerits, the rights or wrongs of the case. Suffice to say that negotiations have been proceeding between the United Arab Republic and Australia for a considerable time - longer than the public is aware. We believe strongly in the sanctity of our war cemeteries overseas, but we must bear in mind that the war cemeteries in Alexandria come, I am reliably informed, within municipal areas. So I leave the decision in this matter to those who are in full possession of the facts. I hope that in the negotiations reason prevails. The bodies of several hundred Australian servicemen who lost their lives in World War I may have to be moved. An offer has been made to move them to El Alamein. I suggest that if they are to be moved at all - I do not say that this will be the result of the negotiations - the place to move them to is their native land.
The second factor is the comparatively new practice followed by the Government of returning to Australia the bodies of servicemen killed on service overseas. Although there may be differences of opinion between Government supporters and members of the Opposition as to the need at present for Australians to serve overseas, I am sure that we all will join together in the resolution that the task of burying the bodies of servicemen killed in action should be carried out with every respect. It may be a slight exaggeration to say that the returning to Australia of the bodies of servicemen killed in action is a new practice. I think General Bridges was, until recently, the only deceased serviceman brought back to this country for burial. His grave is not far from this building. It is on top of Mount Pleasant, alongside Duntroon, with whose initial establishment he was so prominently associated. It is not inappropriate to mention that of the thousands of remounts which left Australia during the First World War, the General’s Horse Tommy is the only one to have been brought back to this country. I make no apology for mentioning the horse and the man in the same context because anybody who has had anything to do with the Light Horse or who has studied history will know of the traditions and the close ties that exist here. But as I have said, the practice of bringing home for burial the bodies of servicemen killed overseas is, we might say, new. I emphasise that the decision to bring the bodies back to Australia is left to the next of kin.
Two possibilities emerge when we tie these factors together. The first is the possibility that war dead from World War I may have to be moved from the cemeteries in Alexandria. The second is the possibility, unfortunately amounting to a virtual certainty, that further personnel who lose their lives in Vietnam will be brought to this country. I suggest that we should now think in terms of establishing an Australian national cemetery. We should not follow slavishly everything that America and other countries do, but if we see that they have adopted a good idea we should not be reluctant to follow it. I refer to the Arlington National Cemetery, which was established in America in 1864. Here is a cemetery steeped in the history of the United States of America. We know that it was originally the estate of George Washington Parke Custis in Virginia. This is a very famous name. General Robert E. Lee married a Custis from this estate in 1831. Over 136,000 people are already interred in the Arlington National Cemetery. It is surprising to note that 2,111 unknown dead from the battlefields of Virginia in the Civil War are interred there. I have tried to bring out the national image that is found in this national cemetery and I tie it into the Australian scene. The unknown soldier of World War I was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in the presence of President Warren G. Harding. The unknown soldiers of World War II and of the Korean War were buried there in the presence of President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the assassinated President, is also buried there. But what is not generally realised is that the spouse and children of a person buried in the Arlington National Cemetery can also be buried there. The fact that the Kennedy children can be buried alongside the father is not part of presidential prerogative; it is their right. I mention these points to show that Arlington is a national cemetery with a great history behind it.
It would be a matter for this Parliament to work out the details of a national cemetery in Australia. The Parliament must decide whether the area should be restricted to military personnel or whether the qualification for burial in the national cemetery should be outstanding service to the country in any sphere. If outstanding service is the requirement, I can see that many difficulties would arise in delineating where outstanding service started and normal duty ceased. The Parliament must decide, for instance, whether it should be a lawn cemetery or a cemetery of the traditional military pattern and whether there should be a repository for ashes. These are all details with which we must deal at some time in the future. The site is also a detail that must be determined. However, if I were asked, I would say that there is only one place, and that is in the Australian Capital Territory, the capital territory o£ Australia. Obviously some point to the west of the city, with the mountains in the background, would be best. In the future, people standing there in the early morning could look out over this great, growing and progressive city of ours towards the rising sun. 1 make this suggestion having in mind the pressing need to reach decisions about the cemeteries in Alexandria and our new policy on Vietnam. These two factors make early consideration of my suggestion quite imperative. I make just one comment about the design and regulations governing an Australian national cemetery. These are matters for people with qualifications other than those that I have, but I would like to see some points included in the final decision. The first is that the regulations and the design must in no way glorify war in any form. The second is that the interment of deceased servicemen or people who have rendered outstanding service to Australia should in no way be obligatory. Interment in the national cemetery should follow a wish expressed in the deceased’s will or in some other way or should be at the discretion of the next of kin. The national cemetery that I suggest should be a burial place for those who have served Australia in an outstanding capacity and a place where those who so deserve may be laid to rest in honoured glory in the soil of their own native land and their own grateful country.
– In referring to the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department I want to deal principally with relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. The Prime Minister’s Department should be one of the Commonwealth’s most important policy making departments. But is it? I have no argument with some sections of the Department. They are mainly operational sections and most of them have been dealt with by other honourable members. I am concerned principally with the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States and the role of the Prime Minister’s Department in those relationships. It may be argued that in a sense the Prime Minister’s Department really is nothing more than a type of post office, lt receives letters from the Premiers and sends them to the appropriate departments for action. When the department has finished the necessary work, the Prime Minister’s Department transmits the letters back to the Premiers. Perhaps this is so. Certainly in my opinion a lot of activity in the Prime Minister’s Department is superfluous and could be more effectively and efficiently taken over by such departments as the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of the Treasury.
The Prime Minister’s Department should take a more objective role in Commonwealth and State relationships. It is the Prime Minister who deals directly with the Premiers. 1 shall confine my remarks to the situation of Opposition members and some backbench members of the Liberal and Australian Country Parties who have over the past 2 years been trying to get information from the Prime Minister about approaches made by Premiers to the Commonwealth for financial assistance in various fields, such as development projects associated with the use of water and power and health and education matters. The Opposition is completely dissatisfied with the secrecy and intrigue that is frequently displayed by the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) when we ask questions that seek information relating to requests for assistance made by the Premiers to the Commonwealth. This is shown, by an examination of questions that have been asked, to be the situation with backbench members of the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party. When we ask whether the Prime Minister will provide information relating to requests by Premiers for assistance in water, power, health or education projects, we get a standard answer. We are told that the question is premature, that someone is about to write to the Premiers or the Premiers are about to reply. Alternatively, we get the answer, which is becoming more standardised, that it is confidential information and will not be released to this Parliament or to anyone unless the State government concerned agrees to its release. In recent times it has been shown that the State governments have been fully prepared to release this information. The information has been released publicly and has appeared in the Press. The Prime Minister now gives as bis standard answer, that the information will not be released unless the Commonwealth and State governments mutually agree to make the information public. This means that, even though the State government concerned may be prepared to make the information public, unless the Commonwealth is prepared to make it public we do not get the information.
Questions have been repeatedly asked in this place about development projects concerning which various States have approached the Commonwealth for financial assistance. I have asked many questions on these matters. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) have asked questions concerning them also. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) - a member of the Country Party - has asked questions concerning these projects. Always we get the same answer: The information is confidential and will not be released unless the State government concerned agrees to its release. But, as I have said, the States have shown quite frequently that they are prepared to release the information, and the new answer is that unless the Commonwealth agrees to release the information, and unless there is a mutual undertaking with the State concerned regarding it, the information will not be released.
The question that I ask is: What is the reason why the Commonwealth will not release this information? What is wrong with the Commonwealth saying, for example, that the Queensland Government has approached it over the last few years for financial assistance for certain beef roads, the Nogoa River irrigation scheme, and the Kolan River irrigation scheme, or that the Western Australian Government has approached it concerning the Ord River scheme? We know that often this information is supplied to the newspapers by Premiers departments. We would like to get this information - as I am sure would members of the Liberal Party and Country Party - because it would save the Opposition a lot of wasted time in putting up cases to individual Ministers for financial assistance or for other types of assistance when the cases have already been put up by the State Premiers. I can give plenty of specific examples to support my argument.
There is a further point that 1 wish to make in line with this refusal by the Prime Minister to give this Parliament more information on development projects. As I say, this attitude is not confined to answers given to the Opposition. The honourable member for Moore also has fallen foul of it and is given the standard answer that the information is confidential. My further point is: What is behind this attitude? I do not know. I cannot see anything wrong with giving information regarding the broad proposals put up by the Premiers. We know that Western Australia has asked for assistance for the Ord River scheme and also in relation to beef roads. Queensland has asked for assistance for certain development projects regarding water - as 1 have mentioned, these relate to the Nogoa River, the Broken River and the Kolan River - and beef roads. If we were given more details of these projects I am quite certain that the standard of debates in this place respecting these developmental projects would be on a higher plane. 1 am more concerned about what I consider to be the deliberate concealment of reports ‘ and investigations relating to development projects. This I regard as more serious than a refusal to give information on these projects. In the last few years, the Government has made available to the States quite large sums of money for particular projects. Let me mention just a few. These include the railway line to Mount lsa, rail standardisation, the Chowilla Dam project, the Ord River scheme, beef roads, flood mitigation in New South Wales, the Gordon River Road scheme in Tasmania, the development of brigalow areas 1, 2 and 3, coal ports, Weipa harbour, the Nogoa River water scheme and the water reticulation scheme in the south west of Western Australia. Hundreds of millions of dollars are involved in these projects, many of which have received severe criticism. For example, the Chowilla Dam project today is under the searchlight. The Ord River scheme is another. The brigalow scheme was criticised for years. The beef roads scheme is yet another. All those schemes have been thoroughly investigated, so we are told, by the Commonwealth. Cabinet has taken decisions on them and certain decisions have been made respecting finance. But this Parliament cannot obtain the relevant reports on most of them.
Many of the reports would be very valuable not only to members of Parliament but certainly to universities and technical workers in many fields. I understand, for example, that the report in relation to the beef roads scheme - this report cost the taxpayers a lot of money - would certainly help members like the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), myself, and others in appreciating why higher priorities were given by the State Governments or the Federal Government to certain beef roads. I instance that only as an example. There are reasons for these decisions and these are not necessarily economic reasons. This is what I feel militates against some of the criticisms of some of the decisions by Commonwealth and State Governments respecting development.
I can see no reason why these reports should not be published. Some of them have been published. The report relating to the brigalow lands scheme was published. That report dealt with the economic justification of the brigalow scheme. It threw light also on the matter and gave information to prospective settlers in the brigalow areas. Certain data and certain assessments in that report were proved wrong subsequently. But that fact has not detracted from the value of the report. The report relating to the Ord River scheme was written years ago. A benefit-cost analysis was carried out. We can see nothing of this report. It has not been published. Many critics of the Ord River scheme put forward various data and assumptions. Reports concerning investigations which have been carried out by highly skilled people in the Bureau of Agricultural economics, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Division of Northern Development in the Department of National Development would be of immense value to members of Parliament and other people who could base their arguments more constructively on them than otherwise is possible.
As I mentioned before, the techniques used in many reports should be open to public appraisal. There are examples of applied research, benefit-cost analysis, linear programming, operations research, and production economics. All those techniques are being used on a high plane by government investigators dealing with the development projects. These methods would be of immense value not only to members of Parliament but also to students and people concerned with development economics or science. I can see no reason why many of these reports should not be made public.
One thing to which I do object is Ministers quoting from confidential reports and then refusing to table those reports. This happened here last week when the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) argued against the Nogoa River scheme and used a report by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics as his justification. When I asked under the relevant standing order for this report to be tabled, it was only through the help of the Clerk that the Minister was able to say conveniently that it was a confidential report and that it would not be tabled.
– Which scheme was that?
– It was the Nogoa River scheme. I take no objection to a report remaining confidential if in fact it is confidential. But I do object to Ministers getting up in this place and quoting from technical documents and then pleading that they are confidential when asked to table them to substantiate their arguments.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! I point out to the honourable member for Dawson that the procedure that he is criticising is quite in order under standing order 321. This standing order provides:
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as would more probably be obtained by address, shall, if required by any Member, be laid on the Table.
– I am not arguing about that. What 1 am saying is that 1 think it is improper-
– The Minister did not know that it was confidential.
– Yes, the Minister did not know that it was confidential. In fact he was caught well and truly here. He was almost forced to table the report until the Clerk was able to help him.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I am pointing out that the procedure followed was in accordance with standing order 321.
– I am not arguing whether the document was confidential or not. What I am arguing against is the pro.priety of quoting from a confidential document as to a technical conclusion and then refusing to table the relevant paragraph or the report to substantiate the argument. I believe that this is quite wrong. My main purpose in raising this matter is to ask: Why can these reports not be published if they are technical reports? I instance many of the reports that I have mentioned, such as that relating to the Nogoa Dam, flood mitigation in New South Wales and beef roads. These are technical reports and there is no reason why they should not be published. The report on brigalow lands, of course, has been published. Reports such as these would be of value not only to members of the Parliament but also to people outside it, particularly students in the universities and to technical officers in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and others who are doing research.
I conclude by saying that this kind of information should not be deliberately kept from the Parliament, for it relates to matters that are fundamentally important to the development of Australia. Reports such as these should not be concealed. Their concealment only breeds suspicion and distrust. I believe that the Prime Ministershould have another look at this problem. Most of the information that he pleads is confidential has in fact been released in a garbled sort of way by State authorities in Press statements.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I was greatly interested in the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who, I suppose it is fair enough to say, has had rather a history of difficulties with reports. I believe that his remarks this afternoon were based more on generalisation and conjecture than on knowledge, for he did not get round to mentioning the authorities for whom the reports to which he referred had been made. It is obvious, as I think many of us in this place know very well, that some reports are made at departmental level, some are made by outside authorities and some are made by ad hoc committees. There are great differences according to the authority to which a report is addressed and by which it was requested. Frequently, confidential reports are requested by Ministers, and I imagine that it is the right and responsibility of a Minister to decide whether to make such a report public. He has to determine whether it may be made semi-public by being presented in this place or whether, to safeguard its contents or those who have presented the information contained in it, it should be kept confidential to himself. What I am trying to say is that I would have been more impressed with the remarks of the honourable member for Dawson if he had specified the type of report he had in mind and the specific purpose for which it might have been prepared.
– The report on the Chowilla Dam project is an example.
– I am very interested to hear the honourable member bring up the matter of the Chowilla Dam. Anyone who has had sufficient interest to go into that project fully will be aware of the reasons why it is not proceeding. For the honourable member’s information, I mention that only 20 minutes ago I was in the company of a deputation from the area that I represent, which was concerned with this project. This concept of the Chowilla Dam is still adhered to, and people from both Victoria and South Australia who made up the deputation were complaining bitterly that the saline content in the Murray River was still rising and had reached far more dangerous levels than 1 had mentioned on an earlier occasion when this subject was discussed. One of the reasons why I touch on this subject in this debate is that we are asking the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) to take all possible immediate action to have waters released from the not very great reserves at Eildon, in the Snowy Mountains scheme or in the Hume Weir down the Murray River to flush saline slugs, where they exist, downstream and also to dilute the present high saline content of the River. The point I am making is that if one is to determine the wisdom of the action taken in temporarily suspending the Chowilla project, must the full story be known? I do not know whether it can be told without unduly alarming people. However, this afternoon 1 had solid proof of the need to maintain a flow of water past the reaches in the region of Mildura, which- is not in my State or in my electorate. This need- is the main reason justifying the River Murray Commission - not the Commonwealth Government - in suspending work on the Chowilla Dam project. We cannot store water if we have to let a flow of some consequence go downstream for the reasons that have been mentioned.
We have heard the honourable member for Dawson deal with the problems of northern development in Queensland on all sorts of occasions. He has mentioned them this afternoon during the consideration of the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department. I am almost prepared to swear that I once heard him discuss them during a debate on international affairs, though I could be wrong. We can understand his persistence when he thinks that these matters have electoral significance, but we object to hearing an awful lot about his electorate and what he says are its problems in the guise of a contribution based on national thinking.
– The honourable member will hear more, too.
– That is up to the honourable member. If he wishes to bore his audience and continue not to make any particular mark in this Parliament, that is his business. 1 have risen today primarily to make some comments that may not seem to accord with the general order of things as one hears them about the corridors in this place. They will perhaps run contrary to the views of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and indeed, of nearly everyone in this place that I run into, for most of the people here seem prepared, under various headings, to condemn Australia House in London. Perhaps it may seem wrong for a person such as myself to spring to its defence, but I am presenting my own judgment.
– I have never condemned Australia House.
– I used the phrase “under various headings’. The first heading with which I wish to deal concerns the problem of whether some of our missions abroad come under their proper heading. For example, I wonder whether Australia House should properly come under the administration of the Prime Minister’s Department or whether it should come under the Department of External Affairs. Most of our missions abroad are under the administration of the Department of External Affairs and are administered extremely well. It is easy to consider this fact and to generalise or short-circuit our thinking and arrive at the conclusion that all missions abroad should properly be controlled by the Department of External Affairs. This is the sort of thinking that I have picked up in the last 2 years within this building and, to be quite frank, also in various semiauthoritative quarters outside Parliament House. I would be interested to hear any honourable member put an opposite view.
It seems to me that our mission in London - if one chooses to give it that description in the full sense of the word - is a most peculiar one. I use the description peculiar* because it has under the one roof representatives of a great many Australian departments, all, I believe, working in a fairly autonomous way. Nobody would pretend that the office of the Department of Immigration in Australia House does not run its own affairs fairly well or that the office of the Department of External Affairs does not run its own affairs fairly well. This is evident in all instances. I have with me a copy of the ‘Bulletin’ dated 7th October of this year which contains a comment on the number of departments represented at Australia House. I believed that I knew that place fairly well, but 1 was not aware that the great number of departments mentioned in the ‘Bulletin’ article were represented. 1 shall elaborate them for the Committee. Apart from the High Commissioner, there is a Deputy High Commissioner, and there are officials representing many Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities including the Department of Air, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of the Army, the AuditorGeneral’s Office, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Department of Customs and Excise, the Department of Defence, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of External Affairs, the Department of Health, the Department of Immigration, the National Library of Australia, the
Department of the Navy, the Australian News and Information Bureau, which is part of the Department of the Interior, the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Primary Industry, the Public Service Board, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, the Department of Supply, the Taxation Branch of the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry in the publicity field, and the Treasury in spheres other than taxation. I suggest that no other Australian mission abroad has such a conglomeration of instrumentalities represented under one roof. 1 believe that if this situation is to continue - that is a matter that we can debate at some time in the future - it is proper that we have a High Commissioner directly associated with the Prime Minister’s Department rather than with any other department such as the Department of External Affairs, controlling this mission in London. It might well be that honourable members feel that this in itself is a structure that is a relic of the past. In other words they believe that our position in Australia House and indeed our position in London was one that in the past had a great deal more importance in the scheme of things than it has today. If honourable members think this they are entitled to their views. My own thinking would be that we should wait and see whether Britain is going to join the European Common Market. We should have a look ar Australia House then in relation to the position that may or may not emerge. In other words, we are facing a state of flux in a particular mission abroad in relation to London. This is the first point that I wanted to make. I believe - and my opinion is always open to question - that it is proper that the Prime Minister’s Department through a High Commissioner should at present control Australia House in London. In my view it should not be controlled by any other Department.
The structure of Australia House will always be the subject of great debate. My article refers to it as a ‘veritable mausoleum’. My own judgment would be that if the modern generation in Australia believes in glass houses then this is very right and proper. We are a young nation of modern ideas and it is right and proper that we should believe in modern buildings. Aus tralia House, even if it reeks somewhat of mid-Victorianism or even if it is offensive to some people, I suggest is in tune with the position in London on which it stands. We own one of the best sites in London. If in time to come we see fit to demolish this building and build another structure in its place, I think this is a matter to be considered when that time arrives. In the meantime we have a building that has a certain amount of grandeur about it. It has a very fine entrance hall, library and newspaper section. It is a meeting ground for all Australians and I think that this is appreciated. I think it would be unfortunate if the present beautiful dome-like structure were to be knocked flat and a modern low ceiling edifice built in its place.
I believe that this Government should give more serious consideration to supplying capita] for alterations. I remember the occasion when, as a very lowly back bencher, I walked into Australia House. I was told that the person I wanted to see was still at lunch and that I could wait in the reception area. This section is half way between the ground floor and the first floor. Frankly, this arrangement is absolutely appalling. I believe that to provide better facilities funds need to bc supplied. I hope that, in due course, when people more important than myself go to Australia House and are forced to wait for, perhaps, the High Commissioner or an officer from the Department of External Affairs to return from lunch, there will he somewhere more respectable for them to wait, in better surroundings than exist at present. This is my only real criticism nf Australia House. In regard to the job being done-
– Are there Tasmanian newspapers in the reception room?
– 1 have just recently heard of the Tasmanian football grand final which shows that we cannot account for human behaviour, even in Tasmania. The final point I wanted to make concerns our staff in London. I believe that they are making better contacts and are doing a finer job than any staff that we have had in that country before. I found quite a lot of evidence to back up this point of view in the few days that I was able to spend there in the week before last. It is very rare, in my experience, for the AgentsGeneral of the various States to feel that Australia House is co-operating fully with them and that they are working well together. When I found this to be so I thought it worthwhile to get up and express my opinion to the Committee.
– A number of suggestions have been made in this debate. I made a note of one in particular which was made by the honourable member for Calare (Mr England). He suggested that consideration should be given to the creation of a national cemetery. He has in mind the thought that the cemetery should be a resting ground for people who have given their lives in the service of the country. I think one of the reasons which led him to make this proposal was the situation that exists in the United Arab Republic. Without wishing in any way to detract from the proposal - I do not propose to do that - I am sure that the honourable gentleman has also seen some of the very beautiful war graves which are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. One of the difficulties is that people buried in graves overseas are at a distance from their homeland. I shall make sure that the proposal is examined to see whether it is feasible, and indeed whether or not it would have general acceptance.
The next point I wish to make relates to general statements that were made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who spoke, I thought, generally in relation to cultural activities which fall within the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Department. If I might say so, I enjoyed the stimulation which they provided in dealing with the matter. But having beard their statements I do not think it would bc correct for me not to draw attention to what is being done and the funds that are being provided in the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department for activities in these cultural areas. Provision is made for a grant to the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, about which a great deal was said. 1 point out to the Committee that last year $685,000 was appropriated on account of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. The appropriation for this year is $840,000. This is a very significant increase.
– 1 mentioned that.
– Yes, I am aware of that. I think we all appreciate what is being done by the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. I do not think I agree at all - if there was any agreement on my part with the honourable member for Oxley, it was very marginal - as to the activities which ought to be undertaken by the Elizabethan Theatre Trust. I think that it is a matter for people who have a strong sense of cultural judgment to make decisions on the actual activities of the Trust. The honourable member for Oxley referred to work being done in other countries. Indeed he mentioned the play ‘Helen of Troy’ which was being performed in a modern setting in Bremen. He rather suggested that the Elizabethan Theatre Trust was out of line, behind the scene or out of date because it did not do something dramatic and spectacular. I think that this matter should be left to the Elizabethan Theatre Trust.
Another grant which is of some magnitude is one for the Australian Ballet Company. Last year a grant of $150,000 was made to the Australian Ballet Company so that it could go to South America and, as I recall it, to Canada to participate in Expo 67. This year $165,000 is to be appropriated to enable the Ballet Company to go on a tour of Asia. If I may express a personal view, I much prefer the ballet to any of the other forms of the cultural arts. I think I have never seen anything quite so exciting as the ballet ‘Elektra’ which I saw in Melbourne shortly before the Australian Ballet Company went on tour. The Australian dancers were magnificent, particularly, in my view, Miss Kathy Gorham.
Provision is made for expenditure of $75,000 on historical and other works of art. This represents a considerable increase on the actual expenditure last year of $48,811. The vote for the Commonwealth Literary Fund is $66,000, the same as for last year. There is a provision of $42,000 for the exhibition of Australian works of art. This year there is a new provision of $10,000 for assistance to Australian musical composers. The honourable gentleman referred to this particularly. The
Festival of Perth last year received S6,000. There is no appropriation this year because no request has been received. I do not say that this is an invitation to make a request; I merely state the fact.
The Australian Council of National Trusts receives $5,000. Various historical societies receive $4,400 in all. A very important appropriation is that for restoration at the National Library of Italy in Florence, which was considerably damaged by recent floods. We are providing $26,400 towards the necessary restoration work. This is to be used for the establishment of a laboratory. I should mention that an expert, Mr Bowstead, Conservator of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, after an inspection of the damage to the library recommended that instead of restoring one room Australia should design and equip a print restoration laboratory. This project was supported by the Director of the National Library of Italy, and the money will be used for that purpose.
There are many other items of expenditure which have some degree of cultural content, but the only other one that I think I should mention in particular is the heavy subsidy which the Australian Broadcasting Commission receives for music and drama. The other matters that were mentionedI will not deal with in any detail. I assure the committee that the points made by individual speakers will be given close consideration and that the suggestions made will be noted.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
– I suggest that the order for consideration of the proposed expenditures agreed to by the Committee on 7th September be varied by postponing the consideration of the proposed expenditures for the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services until after the proposed expenditure for the Department of Territories has been considered.
Is the suggestion of the Minister agreed to? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
Department of Territories
Proposed expenditure, $102,133,000.
– I rise in this debate on the estimates for the
Department of Territories to deal with a matter that was before the Parliament as a matter of public importance on 18th May and which was the subject of a speech by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John) on 30th August this year. The matter is the decision of the Arbitrator in the local salaries case in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I should like to begin by establishing a number of historical facts which I believe will be of interest to the Committee.
Arbitration for the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea was introduced in 1952. The provisions were modelled generally on the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitration Act which at that time did not provide machinery for appeals from determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator. Shortly after the Territory legislation was passed the Commonwealth legislation was amended to provide appeals machinery. I point out that that amendment has been strongly criticised by staff organisations of the Commonwealth Public Service as submitting them - perhaps I should say subjecting them - to the delays of excessive legalism. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea no representations were made by the Public Service Association for a corresponding amendment of the Territory Public Service Arbitration Ordinance. Therefore no representation was considered. I point out, in any case, that the Territory Public Service is much smaller than the Commonwealth Public Service and that it is not uncommon for simpler arrangements to apply to smaller and less developed institutions than to a more sophisticated and much larger environment.
In the Territory Ordinance the only marked differences from the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitration Act were provisions under which the Minister controlled the matters upon which the Arbitrator could arbitrate. Just before the proceedings in the local officers case began the Commonwealth Government initiated some amendments to the Territory Ordinance. Those amendments removed the Minister’s control, brought the provisions regarding representation into line with the revised Commonwealth Act and brought the provisions for the appointment of assessors into line with those in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act insofar as the appointment of assessors or experts is at the discretion of the tribunal.
At the outset of proceedings in the local officers case - indeed, ever since arbitration was introduced for the Public Service of the Territory - all parties to proceedings before the Arbitrator were fully aware that there was no appeal from the Arbitrator’s decision. The question of appeal arose only after the decision on local officers’ salaries had been handed down. It is reasonable to assume that, if the Public Service Association had been satisfied with the decision and if it had been the Commonwealth Government or the Territory Administration that wanted the decision reviewed, there would have been an outcry against the Government or the Administration for not having confidence in the arbitration system or the Arbitrator, and perhaps the recent speeches of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and the honourable member for Warringah in this chamber would have been rather different.
At this stage the situation in the Territory is not altogether the same as that which applied in Australia when appeals machinery was provided under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Public Service Act. For example, there are not numbers of conciliation and arbitration commissioners who, as is the case in Australia, hand down individual decisions affecting the same class of employment in different industries. In other words the question of uniformity in arbitration does not yet arise. In the Territory Public Service there are not employees whose salaries and conditions of service are subject to outside awards, as is the case with many thousands of employees in the Commonwealth and State public services. For the local officers, the Territory Public Service is a career service in the fullest sense. Its conditions of service are framed to meet the special needs of a career service in the peculiar and particular circumstances that exist in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. lt is easy to look at this whole question through Australian eyes. But, in comparison with Papua and New Guinea, Australia is a very highly developed country. It is obvious that a developing country cannot afford everything that a developed and relatively affluent country can afford. There is probably no developing country in which the arbitration machinery is open to public servants in the same way as it was in the proceedings on local officers’ salaries in Papua and New Guinea. The fact that the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitration Act has provisions for appeal and that the Papua and New Guinea Public Service Arbitration Ordinance has not, is not, of itself, a reason for condemning the Papua and New Guinea provisions. I point out that in Western Australia, for example, the Public Service Arbitration Act which was passed only last year provides for final decisions by a single arbitrator.
On assessors or experts, as I have pointed out already, the amendment to the Territory ordinance relating to their appointment was one of several made at the same time. There has been an inference that, by the amendment, the Commonwealth unfairly deprived the Public Service Association and the local officers of the benefit of assessors. This is not the case. The Association could have applied to the Arbitrator for the appointment of assessors but it did not do so and I would point out that if the Association had made application for assessors and if its application had been refused, then there would appear to be some validity in the complaint. However, if the Commonwealth had felt that there were policy reasons for preventing assessors or experts from being present, the Commonwealth would surely have retained ministerial control of the proceedings instead of consciously and deliberately abandoning this control.
It has been asserted again and again in . this Parliament by many distinguished members, including the late right honourable member for Barton, Dr H. V. Evatt, and the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, that confidence in any arbitration system can be achieved only if all the parties to proceedings understand the system and are prepared to accept decisions made under the system, whether those decisions are subject to appeal or not. After all, at the conclusion of an appeal the decision is final and has to be accepted. In this sense, it is true to say that if one system provides for appeal and another does not, this fact is not relevant to the overall confidence in the arbitration system. What is of great concern in the Papua and New
Guinea situation is the undermining of confidence in the arbitration system through a number of bitter and reprehensible personal attacks which have been levelled at the Arbitrator, a man skilled in the processes of arbitration, who has become closely familiar with Territory conditions.
Let me now turn to the Arbitrator’s decision. The present law does not allow for any review of or appeal against the Arbitrator’s decision. There would be a powerful argument for the retrospective right of appeal if the Arbitrator’s decision were obviously wrong, but this is not the case. Compared with the salaries operating at the time the arbitration proceedings commenced, the effect of the Arbitrator’s decision was to award very substantial increases indeed. At the top levels the rates awarded approximated very closely those asked for by the Association. At the bottom levels everybody was awarded increased rates, particularly through the introduction of family needs allowances. I would point out that the minimum Public Service rate for a single man is 50% higher than the corresponding minimum open rate under outside awards and some 100% higher than the corresponding rural rate.
General Public Service rates are higher than those in outside industry and they provide adequate incentives. At the lowest levels they take into account reasonable basic living requirements. I wish to remind the Committee that these rates compare very favourably with those paid to public servants in a number of other developing countries such as Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Ceylon, Fiji and the British Solomon Islands Protectorate, and these countries are considerably less dependent upon external financial assistance than Papua and New Guinea. It is true to say that, at the lowest levels, family needs have been recognised in a more generous way than is the case generally in developing countries.
I would like to turn briefly to a number of economic, social and political factors which are of great importance in this matter. The importance of the economic argument in general wage fixation is well established, and this has been admitted by both the member for Warringah and the member for Fremantle. Whilst this is the case, I would point out that social and political factors have not been ignored by the Arbitrator or by the Government in fixing the local public servants’ salaries. In fact, a great deal of attention has been given to these factors as is evidenced by the family needs concept. The most important factor for this Parliament to understand is that the present salaries paid to local public servants could not be maintained by the capacity of the Territory’s economy and, if one envisages an autonomous Territory in the near future, it must be realised that, in these circumstances, enormous problems would originate for that government when autonomy arrived.
No matter what happens in the future, there must always be some balance for economic and social and political factors in the present and near future circumstances of the Territory. This means that there is a need to channel as much as possible of all available resources into economic and social development rather than into present consumption. This will be understood when it is realised that only one-third of school age children are attending school. Obviously there is also a real need to avoid any steps which increase the Territory’s dependence on external aid without corresponding aid in promoting future productivity. Equally is it essential to keep a balance between Public Service costs and other development.
It is essential to keep a balance between Public Service salaries and those paid in private industry. It would be bad for the Government and bad for the Territory if public servants were elevated to a more privileged position in the community than they now enjoy, as this would lead to all of the political problems that arise from social inequality. I repeat what I said on 18th May last, namely, that local public servants comprise less than 3% of the total work force including subsistence workers, and about 16% of wages employees. What must be understood in this Committee is that there is a need to relate not only salaries and wages but also other conditions of employment to the overall circumstances and standards of the Territory.
In the past 4 years the total public receipts for the Territory, including the Commonwealth grant and loans raised, have increased by about 50% . The wages bill for local staff employed by the Administration has increased by over 50% in the same period. The Territory is paying only 40% of its import bill. For its export income it is almost wholly dependent on primary industries such as copra, cocoa, coffee, rubber and tea, and is subject to highly competitive and fluctuating world markets. I would point out that these primary products are peculiar to the tropical areas which include some of the densely populated countries in the world where labour, wages and standards of living are relatively low. They are, in many cases, lower than the existing wages and standards of living in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The Territory’s primary industries could not survive if there were substantial increases in labour wages without increases in production. I would point out that in the Territory Public Service salary levels will have an impact on wages in outside industry, which must be developed if the Territory is to go forward.
As a reaction to the speech of the honourable member for Warringah on 30th August the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) made reference to some of these factors to which I have referred. The honourable member for Warringah pointed out that he did not wish his speech to be regarded as an attack on the Administrator, the Arbitrator, the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) or anyone else, but he had to make reference to the fact that in this case the final decision had rested on one fallible, mortal man. In relation to this reference of the honourable member’s, I must point out that all men are fallible and all men are mortal. Whilst we all admit that this decision was important, it is fair to claim that the importance of the decision and the Arbitrator’s part in it should not be entirely removed from a reasonable context. It is entirely wrong to suggest that the Arbitrator had to start from the very beginning in his work. He had before him, in addition to the submissions and evidence of the parties, the history and details of the salary levels which had already been determined by the Government after two separate and most extensive reviews. The Arbitrator’s decision has been likened by the honourable member for Warringah to the original basic wage decision in Australia given by our own Arbitration Court. I would point out that this decision was, of course, handed down by one fallible, mortal man, Mr Justice
Higgins, and from that decision- commonly known as the Harvester Award - there was no provision for appeal. Important as this decision was, let it not be thought that decisions of far greater importance have not been made by one man. History abounds with so many illustrations to prove my point.
– The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) continues in the unfailing pursuit of material and economic values in an attempt to solve social and human problems. We on this side of the House do not know the solution for resolving the difficulties surrounding what is developing in Papua and New Guinea. To paraphrase a notable work by Snow, I should say that there are three cultures developing in Papua and New Guinea. I hope that the Parliament in some way will be able to turn all its resources and all its intellectual capacities to this problem and remove it from some of the isolation that has developed as a result of its control, almost exclusively, by the Department of Territories. This expression of hope is no reflection on the Minister for Territories, although I should add that he is usually wrong.
The fact is that Papua and New Guinea is, for Australia, one of the great areas of human endeavour and, so far as this Parliament is concerned, is one of the most isolated areas. Honourable members on the Government side can bring out ali the economic arguments they like about arbitration decisions and so on, but the fact is that there is an increasing body of people in Papua and New Guinea which happens to be of Papuan and New Guinean ancestry. 1 wish somebody could think of some word to describe that country. I rather like ‘Papua’ as a word, just for the euphony and so on. But of course the New Guineans would be inclined to reject that word as a name for their country.
However, those people are developing the same sense and set of values as we have. They are sensitive to the same values and subject to the same aspirations as we are. There are some thousands of Australians living in the Territory and they are existing on the standards that they expect to have as Australians. There are other people who have yet to move into any kind of modern society. In some way we have to resolve the tremendous problem of having Papuan and New Guinean people and Australians working side by side on the same job, many of them having the same capacity, and an increasing number having the same training, yet facing the problem of the differential in salaries and, as a result, different living standards. 1 do not think we will resolve this problem by logic, by talk about arbitration courts or by anything like that. We might have to do something in particular for these people. We might have to say to them: When you are running the show yourselves you will have to resolve the difficulties that will arise from a reduction in your own living standards’. I am prepared to admit the difficulties that would be produced if we established in the Territory some kind of elite so far as a standard of living is concerned. What is a standard of living? lt is all right to talk about generous wage rates, but the salaries paid to Papuans and New Guineans of high estate, one might say, in the Territory’s public service, and in any of their own areas of endeavour, are low by our standards. If they want a house they have to pay the same standard rate as is paid by Australians. If they want a pound of butter, if they want a transistor or if they want to travel to Australia, they have to meet the same costs. An increasing number of them have the same social and domestic aspirations as the rest of us.
What the solution is I do not know. But 1 am quite confident that, while Papua and New Guinea is isolated from the general body of thinking in Australia, as it is at the moment, we will not find a solution. We hear of things happening up in the north as a result of decisions by arbitrators who live there or are sent there and by advocates who live there or are sent there by a public service which is isolated from the general strength of Australian thinking. It is a couple of years now since I was last in Papua and New Guinea. I recall one occasion when I visited the Territory as a member of a delegation to an Anzac Day ceremony. What impressed me was the exceptionally orderly crowd of people in the streets. The people were well dressed, well behaved and good looking folk. I presumed that they had exactly the same aspirations as we had.
I think we have to look at the human problem and find social answers rather than economic answers. It is important that this Parliament realise how isolated this area is from us. We have to realise that this is a very large empire, one might say, which the Minister has under his control. This very large empire, which includes the Northern Territory as well, is his almost exclusively. The average Australian citizen, for better or worse, if he lives in Melbourne for example, has the benefit - for what it is worth - of twenty-five or twenty-six Commonwealth Ministries. He also has some dozen or so State Ministers to look after him. Papuans and New Guineans are in the care and keeping of our friend, the honourable member for Mcpherson, who is currently the Minister for Territories. He is at the head of this pyramidal system which stems from somewhere in the Department and extends to Papua and New Guinea through the Administrator and so on.
Many decisions are made in our name which are not tabled here, cannot be debated here and cannot be reversed here. In fact, so many decisions are made in such a way that it is almost impossible for us to discuss them. From the very beginnings of debate on the general development of independence in Papua and New Guinea, it looked administratively logical to remove decisions on some matter from Australia to the Territory, but power of veto has been left with the Minister. Many of the decisions are not actually answerable to us, although the Minister for Territories was promoted in this place. I think we have to reverse a lot of the trends. I do not refer to reversal of the trend towards independence but to a reversal of the trend towards isolation of ministerial decisions from this Parliament. That is the responsibility of every member of this Parlament
I would like to see accelerated political development in Papua and New Guinea. I suppose that by comparison with what has been done in many other parts of the world we have done better than most countries, or even better than any other country so far as I can tell. We have achieved a peaceful change in Papua and New Guinea towards a responsibility developing political democracy with what seems to have been a minimum of trouble, but with what I consider to have been a very conservative approach. Let us consider the position of the Parliament of Papua and New
Guinea. The history of parliamentary evolution is one of decision mounting upon decision until a new system is arrived al. Our parliamentary system has developed through 700 years. The people of Papua and New Guinea are developing their own system. Every time they pass a new law which is not vetoed by the Minister for Territories - I do not think he has vetoed very many and U> that extent I support him - they are taking another step along the road towards an independent Papua and New Guinea. 1 believe that the people of Papua and New Guinea need a ministerial form oi government. I do not agree with a statement of my friend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) in a speech he made some time ago, or perhaps it was in an article he wrote for a newspaper. He said that he favoured a presidential system for a country such as Papua and New Guinea. While the present system needs a great deal of altering, perhaps by legislation introduced in this Parliament, 1 think the direct political responsibility ot what might be called our parliamentary system and the Ministers can be developed successfully in Papua and New Guinea. But the Ministers will have to develop responsibilities for their actions. They must be entitled to make mistakes just as Ministers do in any other country. 1 woma like to see a greater sense of . nationalism developing amongst Papuans and New Guineans. I have suggested to their parliamentary members when 1 have mct them there and in Canberra that it is time Papua and New Guinea promoted and appointed ils own officers to Collins Street in Melbourne and to Martin Place in Sydney, just as it is the practice of the States to appoint their officers in other places, ft should not be a place staffed by the Department of Territories but by persons promoted and appointed by the Papuans themselves so that every Australian may be involved in the development of that country which is so close to us. I do not know what its future will be in relation to us but there are large areas of possible cooperation without dominion or coercion. We have to develop some of the imagination that has in the past helped to evolve our own system. The members of the Parliament of Papua and New Guinea are underpaid. They have not enough resources at their disposal or adequate travel facilities inside their own country. They do not have at their disposal anything like we have. They should be allowed to travel here more often. Their pay and conditions should allow them to act full time as the gadflies of the system. My personal view, which goes back to the foundation of the Parliament of Papua and New Guinea, is that the representation of an electorate in Papua and New Guinea presents exceptional difficulties. The electorates there should be a good deal smaller than they are at present.
I do not sense that there is any real economic planning by this Government, the Department of Territories or by anybody else, for the future of Papua and New Guinea. A conservative approach through a doctrinaire free enterprise system as developed by this Government has no place in Papua and New Guinea. The country must be planned by government authorities; most of the enterprise will have to flow from the public sector. There would be a great deal of danger to the future freedom and independence of Papua and New Guinea if the very large international cartels became established there in one form or another. For instance, if oil were discovered there and were handed over to one of the international oil cartels 1 think it would be fatal for the future independence of that country.
Papua and New Guinea needs a national development plan and a roads plan. I appreciate that it is a terribly difficult country in which to set up a roads system, but roads are the great integrating factor in such a country. Although Australia is making a reasonable subvention - if that is the correct term - towards the development of Papua and New Guinea, if the Australian people are given the challenge they will be prepared to do a lot to help that country to become a free-wheeling democratic community. I hope that it develops on the lines of the democratic Socialist view of the Australian Labor Party, that there will be a great deal of public enterprise, that there will be complete political democracy, and a spirit of independence, tolerance and understanding. At the moment a difficult challenge is faced by the Australians, the Papuans in the Public Service, and the rest of the community there.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Mr Chairman, before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was dealing as briefly as one can with the subject of Papua and New Guinea and the Department of Territories. In the 3 or 4 minutes left to me I wish to refer to the situation of Aboriginal people and particularly those in the Northern Territory, which is under the auspices of the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) who is now at the table. As a result of a referendum held in May of this year the Commonwealth Government has absolute legislative power - if it wishes to exercise it- over the Aboriginal people of Australia, but it has shown a great reluctance to do anything. A few weeks ago the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt) announced that he was setting up an Office of Aboriginal Affairs. The House was not paid the compliment of being given an opportunity to debate this matter, but I hope that the Parliament will take some immediate and effective steps to do something for the Aboriginal people. I think that a select committee of this House or perhaps a joint select committee of both Houses would be the best way to achieve this. I believe that this matter should be removed from the political arena. As I have said here so often, no political party can take any credit for, or any pride in, the way it has acted towards the Aboriginal people of Australia. None of us has a particular claim to having had more conscience than anybody else.
But there are some areas where there is as much neglect on the part of the Commonwealth as there is on the part of anyone else in Australia. For example, very few Aboriginal families in Australia - whether in the Territories or anywhere else - live in the kind of housing which is the accustomed and accepted right of other Australians. There have been only a handful of Aboriginals who have reached university standard. Of the 100,000 Aboriginals in Australia only 4 or 5 are in universities, or about 1 in 20,000. The average is about 1 in 120 for the rest of the population. A young white person has almost 200 times the chance of entering a university that an Aboriginal person has. We do not know yet how we should tackle the education of Aboriginal people who are still using their tribal language, as is the position in Arnhem Land. We have done no research on this. We have made no progress at all in the field of wages and employment. This evening we are discussing Papua and New Guinea. We can well apply ourselves at home. There will be equal pay for Aboriginals working on pastoral properties in the Northern Territory at the end of next year. Aboriginals in the pearling industry at the moment in the northern parts of Australia and in the Torres Strait are not getting equal pay.
It is all right to talk about our great Australian arbitration system and it is all right to talk about equality, justice, fighting for freedom and so on, but the fact is that there are a large number of Australians who are deprived of equality. We find that accountants roll up to the courts to prove that struggling and battling institutions like the Vestey Company will be ruined if they have to pay these people equal wages.
There is also the problem of land. In New Zealand, in Canada and in the United States of America - and also in Greenland in relation to the Eskimos - there has been a lot of progress made towards the solution of the land problem. The Aboriginals in Australia are probably one of the few native peoples who have been absolutely dispossessed. In areas such as Arnhem Land one would have thought that their rights were inviolate, but as soon as it is found that there are valuable mineral deposits there they have no rights left. I believe that it is only by the application of the goodwill of this Parliament that there is any possibility of finding a useful solution to these problems. It is a problem for all of us; it is a duty for all of us; it is a trusteeship for all of us. I hope that Government members - whichever one can initiate it - will take steps to get the Parliament involved through some sort of standing or select committee in this field. In 1963 a select committee recommended that a standing committee be established to watch over the interests of the people of Yirrkala. Nothing was done about it. I believe that the only way to take this subject out of politics and get it involved at the general level of humanity is to place the responsibility upon all of us. I am confident that there are people on this side of the House - as there are people on the other side - who can make a contribution in this regard.
Bill- by leave - presented by Mr Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill for an act to amend the Air Navigation (Charges) Act 1952-1966 for the purpose of securing an increase in the revenue from the various operators and owners of aircraft who make use of aerodromes and other aviation facilities provided, maintained and operated by the Commonwealth. The Government has on a number of occasions made clear its policy of moving progressively towards full recovery of the costs associated with these facilities which are properly attributable to commercial aviation. As is usual each year, a review has been made of the progress being achieved in reducing the gap between civil aviation costs and revenues, and of the ability of the industry to absorb a further increase in charges. The facts have led the Government to conclude that it would be appropriate to raise air navigation charges by 10% with effect from 1st January 1968.
The Bill increases the charges applicable to all domestic and international airlines and to charter, aerial work and private operators. It also inserts two additional route factors in the table of flights annexed to the Act. Non-stop flights are operated between Brisbane and Perth and Melbourne and Lae on rare occasions only, but it is considered desirable to include them in the table to avoid a loss of revenue in these instances. The proposed factors are the sums of factors for the routes by way of appropriate intermediate ports.
Clause 5 of the Bill makes retrospective to 1st January 1966, aircraft weights determined by the Director-General of Civil Aviation for the purpose of calculating air navigation charges, which were notified in the Commonwealth Gazette of 1st June 1967. In 1965, Parliament amended the Act to enable the Director-General to fix lower weights of aircraft if he considered this appropriate in the light of certain operating restrictions. The airlines were assured that any relevant reductions in charges would apply from 1st January 1966, but difficulties arose in determining weights which would be reasonable in all cases and it was only early this year that this problem was resolved.
The existing legislation does not allow for retrospective application of a determination by the Director-General and the proposed clause 5 corrects this situation in the one particular instance mentioned so that the result contemplated by Parliament and the undertakings given to the airlines can be achieved. The excess collection of air navigation charges arising from the delayed notification of lower weights amounts to slightly over $300,000, and allowance for refunding this sum has been made in estimating revenue for the current year. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase existing pensions payable under the Superannuation Act, in accordance with the decision announced in the Budget. Honourable members will be aware that the Superannuation Fund is a contributory pension scheme for the Commonwealth’s own employees. The Fund which is built up from the contributions of the employees meets a part of each pension payment, and the Commonwealth as the employer provides the balance. In the case of Commonwealth authorities, each authority meets the employer’s share from its own resources.
The last adjustment of pensions payable to retired members of the Fund was made in 1963 when the proportion of pension payable from Consolidated Revenue was increased to the amount that would have been payable if the pensioners had retired at the end of 1959. Those pensioners, and others who have retired since 1959, have not received any increase in their pensions despite the increases which have occurred since then in salary levels.
The pension increases provided by the Bill follow the pattern adopted in 1963; that is to say, the employer’s share of those pensions in existence at 30th June 1967 will be brought up to the amount that would have been payable if retirement had taken place on 30th June 1967. Those who did not avail themselves of all the units of pension to which their salaries entitled them will receive the appropriate proportion of this increase. As the Fund’s share of pension is not being increased the total pension after this adjustment will still be less than that of a comparable officer retiring now. Nevertheless the increases will be of considerable benefit to the former Commonwealth officers and widows and orphans concerned. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Will the Minister make available a schedule to explain the amendments?
– I had thought of doing this in the Committee stage.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is a companion measure to the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill. Since its inception in 1948 the principles of the defence forces retirement benefits scheme have been in parallel with those of the Superannuation Fund but modified by the special needs of the Services, in particular to provide for earlier retiring ages. In common with the Superannuation Fund, the last adjustment of pensions payable to retired members of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund was in 1963 when the Consolidated Revenue component of pensions existing in 1959 was increased by five-sevenths of the difference between the actual pension and the pension that would have been received had the pensioner retired at the end of 1959. Proportionate increases in pension were paid to those who had contributed for less than their full entitlement or commuted part of their pension to a lump sum on retirement.
The same principles have been adopted in this Bill, the critical date for adjustment purposes being 30th June 1967. Existing pensions will be increased by five-sevenths of the difference between the actual pension and the pension that would have been received had retirement occurred on 30th June 1967. Those whose pensions at retirement were less than their full entitlements will receive the appropriate proportion of this increase. As the Fund’s share of pension is not being increased the total pension after this adjustment will still be less than that of a comparable member retiring now. Nevertheless the increases will be of considerable benefit to the pensioners concerned. I commend the Bill to the House.
– Will the Minister make a schedule available to honourable members to explain the increases?
– A schedule will be made available during the Committee stage. In deference to Mr Speaker’s ruling about incorporating matter in Hansard I have made certain that the schedule in respect of this Bill and that dealing with the increases provided in the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill are not available at this moment.
– I do not insist that they be incorporated in Hansard, but they should be made available to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Howson, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to increase existing pensions under the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act adopting principles similar to those incorporated in the two Bills already introduced into the House providing for increases in existing superannuation and defence forces retirement benefits pensions.
Honourable members will be aware that, like the Superannuation and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Funds, the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund is a contributory pension scheme. In common with the pension increases proposed for existing pensioners of those other two Funds the Bill provides for the Consolidated Revenue component of existing pensions payable from the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund to be raised to the level that prevailed for a member retiring on 30th June 1967.
Because the rates of pension provided by the Fund have remained unchanged since 1st November 1964, the effect of the Bill is to increase only those existing pensions payable in respect of members of the Fund who retired prior to that date. However, as the share of pension paid for from members’ contributions is not being increased, the total pension payable after this adjustment will, as in the case of the other pension adjustments proposed, bc less than that which would be received by a member of comparable age retiring now. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is primarily for the purpose of increasing the amounts of compensation payable to seamen under the Seamen’s Compensation Act, in line with increases being made in the amounts of compensation payable under the Bill to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act recently introduced by my colleague the Minister for Air (Mr Howson). The proposed increases take account of the upward movement in salary and wage levels that has occurred since the rates of compensation in those Acts were last increased in 1964. During that period there have been increases in the rates of compensation payable under the legislation of some States, and also substantial rises in rates have been foreshadowed in several States. These factors have also been taken into account.
Under the Bill the basic lump sum benefit for the dependant of a deceased seaman is increased from £4,300- that is $8,600- to $10,000, which is considered to be a reasonable figure by comparison with the amounts provided under State legislation. The amount of the lump sum benefit payable in respect of the most serious injuries, such as loss of both eyes or hands, and the statutory maximum payable in cases where incapacity for work is not total and permanent are also being increased from £4,300 -that is $8,600- to $10,000. Lump sums payable for less serious specified injuries are being kept at the same proportions of the statutory maximum. Until now these lump sums have been specifically stated in the Third Schedule but under the Bill they are expressed as percentages of the maximum amount payable, which will avoid the need for amendment of all the different amounts in future. In addition, weekly payments for incapacity are being increased in line with the increases in weekly payments under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act outlined by my colleague in relation to the earlier Bill.
Apart from using the opportunity to convert the amounts of money stated in the Act to decimal currency, the opportunity is also being taken to extend the application of the Act to masters and deck, engineer and radio officers. The original Seamen’s Compensation Act, passed in 1911, applied to all seamen, including masters and officers, but following the inclusion of compensation benefits in the officers awards the Act was amended in 1938 to exclude masters, mates and engineers from its application. Radio officers were subsequently excluded also. Recently, however, the Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers requested that the Act be amended so that it would again apply to engineer officers, as the validity of the relevant award provisions, which purport to require payment of compensation in terms of the Seamen’s Compensation Act, was considered to be in some doubt. As the other organisations concerned have indicated that they too desire that the Act should again apply to their members, the necessary amendment is being made by clause 3.
I might mention that it is intended to introduce a Bill to make a number of other amendments of the Seamen’s Compensation Act on the same general lines as the other amendments envisaged in respect of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, following the introduction of the further Bill to amend the latter Act. The Bill before us is in the interests of all classes of our merchant seamen and I commend it to the House for favourable consideration.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Bowen, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a short and somewhat technical Bill, the object of which is to cure a defect in jurisdiction which Mr Justice Blackburn purported to exercise in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in November 1966. The Bankruptcy Act 1924-1965 confers jurisdiction in bankruptcy on the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. Section 18 of that Act provides, however, that the bankruptcy jurisdiction of the Court is to be exercised by a Judge of the Court appointed for that purpose by the Governor-General.
Mr Justice Blackburn was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory on 14th October 1966. He was, however, not then appointed to exercise the bankruptcy jurisdiction of the Court. The fact that he had not been so appointed did not come to his attention until some time later. The appointment was made on 23rd February 1967. In the meantime, in November 1966, Mr Justice Blackburn had made two sequestration orders in purported exercise of the bankruptcy jurisdiction of the Court. Administration of the two estates has proceeded on the basis that the orders were properly made. In order to protect those who have dealt with the property of thebankrupts on the faith of the orders made by the Court, it is necessary to cure the defect in jurisdiction by legislation.
This course does not adversely affect any interests. The two bankrupts concerned had lodged debtors’ petitions; it was therefore clearly their wish and their intention that they should be made bankrupt and their property in bankruptcy administered for the benefit of their creditors. The effect of the Bill will be to give the sequestration orders in question and any ancillary orders and any dealings with the property of the bankrupts the same force and effect that they would have had if Mr Justice Blackburn had been validly appointed to exercise bankruptcy jurisdiction when he made the orders. The Bill will also ensure that the transitional provisions of the new Bankruptcy Act- that is, the Bankruptcy Act 1966 - apply to these orders when that Act comes into force. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Webb) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1967-68 In Committee
Consideration resumed (vide page 1683). Second Schedule.
Department of Territories
Proposed expenditure, $102,133,000.
Despite the activities of the knockers, the development of the Northern Territory, in common with the rest of the north of Australia, is going ahead at break-neck speed. There is excitement in the air.
– Break it down.
– We have an interjection from the Australian Labor Party. The irony of the political situation is that there was no development of the north while Labor was in power, but Labor now charges us with having neglected to develop the north. If Australia had the bad luck to have Labor return to office, the development of the north would stop. Let us have a look at the situation in the Northern Territory as it now is. In relation to agriculture and the animal industry we find that two new abattoirs have been established, one it Darwin and the other at Katherine, during the last few years under the Liberal Government. No possibility of development existed under the Australian Labor Party. There was no hope of development. There was just hopelessness. The Labor Party, if it were in office, would pour money into the cities and to such places as the electorate of the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) and the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) who are trying to interject. All the money which would be spent by the Australian Labor Party if it was in office would go into our cities and create a further desperate situation in Australia because of the growth of urbanisation.
Let us look at what has happened in the Northern Territory. Two new abattoirs, as I mentioned, have been established there. This means that instead of cattle travelling for 3 months to an abattoir in another State, the cattle can now go straight into the slaughter house and the carcasses be dispatched overseas. There is a programme for subsidised superphosphate field trials, a freight subsidy on superphosphate, the investigation and provision of underground water bores - not the kind of bores we see on the other side of the Committee but real bores from which water is obtained - research into the establishment of improved pastures.
I had the honour to lead a committee with Mr John Murray to Townsville. We started the Townsville tropical pasture research laboratory which in turn commenced the enormous improvement of Townsville lucerne pastures. Townsville lucerne will be the making of the Northern Territory. Approximately 13,000 acres were planted during the 1966-67 season and this figure will be doubled in the ensuing year. The present plantings brought the total area of Townsville lucerne improved pastures to :t least 51,000 acres at the end of the financial year 1966-67. This figure will be doubled shortly. This development will mean tn enormous increase in the cattle industry.
Fortunately, this year has been a very good season. Calfing rates are high and the survival rate is high. The use of superphosphate during the 1966-67 season exceeded 2,000 tons which was approximately a 100% increase compared with last year. This development will go on doubling.
More use was made of tropical breeds of cattle in this area. I support the Australian Droughtmaster breed which is the Australian tropical breed beginning with the Atkinsons of Ingham. This was found to be superior to all other breeds and is truly the Australian Droughtmaster breed. Annual bull sales are now held at Katherine. A tremendous increase in cattle turnover is expected. I think that Jack Kelly said a few days ago that the north will produce $640m worth of cattle.
– Is he right?
– I think that any of the forecasts made now can be doubled for the future. What is happening in the Northern Territory is that discoveries are being made with such incredible speed. We know that Sir William Gunn and his partners are putting in 30,000 acres of sorghum at Tipperary on the slightly rising ground. This country has been cleared by three or four big bulldozers. Sir William Gunn is confident that he will obtain a big yield of grain for Japan. Japan at the moment is feeling the pinch regarding cattle feed and is buying sorghum at’ what appear to be extremely high prices.
But the mining industry is the area in which the bonanza is really taking place. Let me put before the Committee some of the figures which baffle the imagination. Full scale production operations at Groote Eylandt are at a rate equivalent to 300,000 tons of metallurgical grade manganese ore a year. That production can be doubled for the future. The first shipment of iron ore from Frances Creek left Darwin for Japan late in June. This iron ore will be worth about S30m f.o.b. over the next 8 years. The deposits of iron ore from Mount Bundey will bring in approximately $10m f.o.b. in 7 years. The Commonwealth is bringing up to date and developing the railway line from Pine Creek to Darwin. This is costing approximately $6m. Construction of a new wharf, stockpile and loading facilities at Darwin will cost $3. 16m and the construction of a road from Mount Bundey to Humpty Doo will cost $1.7m. About $10m is to be spent on a new low grade copper mine at Warrego, near Tennant Creek, during the next 5 years and currently known reserves should earn export income of approximately $40m to $50m over about 8 years. Let the knockers have a look at these figures and realise what is happening.
At Gove, the Nabalco company is putting in facilities to develop the bauxite deposits there. The completed aluminium plant with other facilities will cost more than Si 00m. Some 900 people will be working on the project which will eventually support a population of 5,000 that is expected to be achieved with the development of those bauxite deposits. I do not know what the company will produce but if it is prepared to spend SI 00m on development the result should represent thousands of millions of dollars to this country. It could be $3,000m or $4,000m. This money would not be spent on development if the Labor Party was in office.
The Australian Labor Party’s policy is to nationalise or socialise all the means of production,, distribution and exchange. In other words, every member on the other side in the Opposition Party has signed a promise that he will adhere to the policies of socialisation or nationalisation of all means of production, distribution and exchange. We do not know why members of the ALP will not disagree with that policy. Apparently they have been told to be quiet, to try to look like respectable fellows and to be right behind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who is the pin-up boy and the boy wonder whom we have been seeing lately. The Opposition has a thin veneer of respectability concerning this matter of socialism and social democracy.
No investment would take place in Australia under a Labor government. Noinvestment took place in Western Australia when the Labor Party was in power there. Within a few months of the Liberal Party taking office in that State development started there. This development has been fantastic. It is all right for honourable gentlemen opposite to smile following their emergence from the Capricornia by-election. But they came out of the Dawson byelection in much the same way and in the general election that followed the LiberalCountry Parry Government achieved a record majority. But let me come back to the real things of importance in Australia.
I find that $200m is to be invested on a substantial low grade lead-zinc deposit on the McArthur River. Would anybody risk that money if the Australian Labor Party was in power? I turn now to forestry. A 4-year programme estimated to cost $3. 5m was commenced in 1966-67 to develop the forests in the Northern Territory. This will help to reduce imports. Australia will cover its petroleum needs following the discoveries in Bass Strait and in other places. But Australia imports great quantities of forest products and this position must be attacked in spite of the troubles of the New Zealand Government.
There seems to be some political irony in what is happening concerning Australia’s development, particularly in northern Australia. Yesterday I gave details of exports of $3,771m from the mineral industry. This was traced by the stockbrokers, Edward Ward and Co. Most of those exports come from northern Australia. Most of the new agricultural and animal industry production will come from northern Australia because this is where the water is available. These developments are actually happening now. But in the midst of this development we find that the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, Senator Keeffe, comes out and says that the Commonwealth Government is neglecting the development of northern Australia.
I do not know how the Australian Labor Party gets away with such statements. Do people believe that the development of northern Australia is being neglected? Is the knocking industry in Australia to win? In other words, the ALP is putting up the idea that this Government is neglecting northern Australia. But the Australian Labor Party had never ever heard of northern Australia until this Government commenced development there in 1959. When we went there and started this development moving, the Australian Labor Party pinched our policy and now says that we are neglecting the north. The ALP had never heard of the Ord River until we commenced developments there on 1st August 1959 with the new Liberal-Country Party Government in Western Australia. What did the Australian Labor Party do about these areas when it was in office?
In northern Australia projects worth countless millions of dollars are not only being investigated but also developed. Production is increasing every day, every week, every month and every year. What is produced each day it being doubled the following day. This is the greatest boom that has ever been seen in any country in history. Technological advances are taking place. Bulldozers with scoops that can pick up 100, 200 or 300 tons of rock at a bite are being used at the Moura coalfield and in other places in the north. This development is going on at breakneck speed. This is booming, exciting, frontier development in Australia. Yet the Australian Labor Party says that the north is being neglected. This is the kind of irony which must pay off.
Let me repeat the facts. There was no development in the north while the Australian Labor Party was in office. The ALP had never heard of the north. It developed Sydney and Melbourne only. The new Liberal-Country Party Government came into office and development went ahead with private industry, local authorities, State governments and the Federal Government in partnership. This development has been sponsored mainly by private industry because it has confidence in what it calls a stable government. But in the midst of this unparalleled development the Australian Labor Party alleges that the Commonwealth Government is neglecting the north. And somebody believes it. There must be fools and idiots born every day if people believe this kind of thing. Australia has no hope if this is to be believed.
– What about the Ord River scheme?
– The honourable member had never heard of the Ord River until we went there.
– I went there in 1949.
– All right. The honourable member was there in 1 940.
– I said that I was there in 1949.
– The honourable member was not in the Australian Labor Party in 1949. He was voting Liberal at that stage. The honourable member was at the Kimberley Research Station in 1949. But did the Labor Party do anything? In the Commonwealth sphere, it went out of office at the end of that year. The Western Australian Labor Government went out of office on 2nd April 1959. The member for Dawson was in the Ord River area in 1949, 10 years before. But still nothing had happened. The new State Government took office on 2nd April 1959 and on 1st August Mr Court was at Ivanhoe Station, opposite the Kimberley Research Station just across the Carlton Reach, where eleven of us met him. In 3 months, he had reached the stage at which he could say: “Thank God you have come. We were at the end of our tether.’ The member for Dawson was there in 1949, and nothing happened.
– I rise to order, Mr Chairman. Is an honourable member, when making a speech, required to refer to another honourable member as ‘the honourable member’?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I think that the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory ought to go home. We have all read about how tired he is. I do not think that he should be wearied-
– Order! 1 suggest that the honourable member for Macarthur stay within the bounds of the estimates for the Department of Territories, the subject now before the Committee. I suggest also that other honourable members cease to assist him in making his speech; otherwise, they, too, may go home early.
- Mr Chairman, I am surprised that some members of the Labor Party are disobeying their orders to go quietly. Some of them are getting worked up. This is bad for the facade that they have to present to the public, trying to exhibit a thin veneer of respectability. Let us return to beef roads, which started the movement of cattle by road trains, doing away with the old method of walking them for many months across the gibber deserts. The beef roads that this Government has provided have cost about S20m. Yet the Labor Party says that we are neglecting the north. Apparently it forgets about the beef roads and all the bores that we are putting down in the Northern Territory. Honourable members opposite ignore the almost countless numbers of cattle that are now turned off in the Territory and the developments in the growing of grain, minerals and fisheries. We have recently received some notice about a prawn fishery being established in the Northern Territory. Members of the Labor Party, evidently, have never even heard of prawns. There are prospects for the development of a large prawn fishery on the south west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. I am sure that this comes within the scope of the estimates for the Department of Territories.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Before I get on to the subject that I propose to discuss in relation to the estimates for the Department of Territories, I would like to deal with some remarks that were made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in his usual style of misrepresentation. He stated that nothing is being done for the Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, that only one is a university graduate and so on. This is the usual sort of approach that is adopted by the honourable member. On a previous occasion, I mentioned Angurugu on Groote Eylandt, where forty Aboriginals are employed by the Groote Eylandt mining company. They receive the full basic wage and they are treated as any normal European worker. The approach of the honourable member for Wilis is similar to that adopted by a ‘Project 67’ group that visited the island and misrepresented the situation there. I believe that I mentioned this in my speech on the Budget. Hundreds of Aboriginals are employed throughout the Territory. The emphasis is and should be on trade teaching, not on the training of university graduates among the Aboriginals. What we want in the Territory are practical men. We need practical men, not just fellows like the honourable member for Wills with airy fairy ideas. He can do a lot of talking down here about affairs in the Territory, but he cannot turn in a practical job for it. What we need, I emphasise, are practical men.
I congratulate the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) on his excellent account of the situation in the Territory. It so happens that his remarks lead into the theme that I propose to present this evening. I commend the Government on its contribution to development in the north, particularly in the provision of port facilities. It has spent $6.52m on port facili ties at Derby, Broome and Wyndham. The east coast port of Gladstone has been greatly improved by the provision of coal loading facilities. In the Gulf of Carpentaria, $3.27m has been spent on developing the port at Weipa for the export of bauxite. At Darwin, an iron ore loading facility has been provided, together with stockpile facilities and a stacker-reclaimer, and a loading jetty has been put in, the total cost being $3.1 6m. The rehabilitation of the North Australia Railway has been undertaken. I know that it has taken some time to get this done, but it has now been accomplished and iron ore is being carried in great volume. The rehabilitation of the Railway cost approximately $6m and another $ 1.69m has been spent on rolling stock and equipment. This is indicative of what the Government is doing in the Northern Territory where, according to honourable members on my right, no development is taking place. I think that the honourable member for Macarthur mentioned the Mount Bundey road. This has been improved for the carriage of iron ore to Darwin, and $1.7m has been spent on it.
All these development projects are great assets. Great strides have been made in these fields of activity. Since these facilities have been improved, cargo tonnages for the port of Darwin have snowballed. The original estimate of iron ore shipments was 350,000 tons per annum, and the original target was a total of 5 million tons. The next estimate that we heard of suggested that the annual shipments would be 750,000 tons, and I think that the estimate is now up to 1 million tons per annum. With the provision of the iron ore loading facility at Darwin, low grade ore deposits will become economic. This has been proved. In 1962, the Public Works Committee of this Parliament advised that the Fort Hill wharf, where the ore loading facility is situated, was too close to the city of Darwin for the loading of iron ore. It certainly is. In the winter, when the south east winds blow, the dust from the ore loading operations blows straight over the Administrator’s Residency, the government offices, the law courts and thence over the town. The port authority, I might mention, has supplied anti-dust sprays at the intakes of the scoops that load the ore in an attempt to minimise the dust problem. But the smell of the hot bitumen plant still blows over the town.
The loading jetty for the iron ore facility is in the wrong place. It should have been at East Arm, 3 nautical miles from the present site, where it would have been well clear of the city and dust would not have been a problem, in the city area. But, as I said earlier, originally only a small volume of iron ore was going through the port. Shipments have now snowballed. So the Government took action. Although I say that the jetty is in the wrong place, I realise that it had to be in that particular place or nowhere because time and money were not available to go to East Arm which involves a major project which I shall mention later. The port facilities in Darwin are in such a state that the general cargo and ore loading facilities are bursting at the seams. The port has been under severe pressure all this year. I have seen two or three ships at anchor all waiting to come alongside more than once.
The 1948-49 Public Works Committee based its estimates on a population of 25,000 people in Darwin. The population has almost reached this estimate and it is increasing at the rate of 9% per annum. With the hinterland loadings from places such as Mount Bundy rising rapidly, urgent consideration by the Public Works Committee is needed of proposals to improve this port to handle these expanding cargoes. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) has already pointed out the situation. I am saying that the Government must consider going forward with a plan. We must have planned finance for this port development. General cargo tonnages handled at the Port of Darwin have increased enormously. In 1948-49 31,100 tons of general cargo and 12,140 tons of tanker cargo was handled. In 1966-67 the port handled 125,842 tons of general cargo and 118,976 tons of tanker cargo. This does not include tonnages for iron ore. Small ships are also using the port to some extent and are currently loading about 5,000 tons a year. Incidentally, there is plenty of activity in the port other than this. The port also has to provide for fishing boats, game fishing boats, trawlers and so on. Even blue fin and sail fish can be caught off the coast. Shipping in the port has increased in size and number. In 1954-55, fifty-four ships came into the port while in 1966-67, 274 ships entered the port. This- shows that there is not much room to spare with the present facilities.
The main wharf is at Stokes Hill which on the outer face has 703 feet with 32 feet of water at low water. This facility has 1.65 acres of decking and 32,000 square feet of shed space. On the inner face of this wharf there is less water and there is limited use of this face because of the confusion that arises when working ships on either side. Half a mile away on the land is the new container space which will handle 40,000 square feet. The other wharf is at Fort Hill and it has an outer face of 350 feet and 25 feet of water at low tide. This wharf is only fit for limited use. It is used for tanker cargoes and cargoes not needing protection. I have seen cement being handled there in dry weather. Buffalo loading facilities used to exist at this wharf. All of this is in one small corner of the port and it has resulted in a set pattern of jetty wharves. I appreciate that genuine efforts have been made in the past but something serious must be done to improve the situation. There has been a 54% increase in general cargo since 1961-62 and 1963-64. A new approach to this situation is vital and urgent. The Northern Territory Port Authority carried out a feasibility study at East Arm which, as I said before, is 3 nautical miles away. I urge the Government to consider developing this facility because we are expecting to handle 60,000 ton ships in the future. With a bulk handling port in the direction of East Arm we could handle big tonnages. New techniques which will be introduced within the next 2 or 3 years will make some difference.
The Australian National Line is going to run container cargoes within that time from the east coast ports. I believe the State Shipping Service of Western Australia is going to introduce LASH ships. So, there will be some developments which will tend temporarily to ease this situation. However, with the expansion rate of the port, it is estimated that 200,000 tons of general cargo a year will be handled in the next 2 or 3 years. Therefore, the developments will barely hold the expansion that will take place. So, in this regard, I ask the Government not to make the mistakes of the past but to start planning now to relieve the congestion on the Darwin waterfront. It should do this because congestion causes inefficiency and endangers safety, lt also causes rising costs. A recent headline in the ‘Northern Territory News’ was: Wharfage and Shipping Problems Help Keep Costs High’. The newspaper reported that this statement had been backed by southern representatives of leading food marketing firms who had also said that storage space was inadequate. A leading importer in Darwin qualified these views. I ask the Government to look very seriously at the Port of Darwin and to do some urgent planning and forward thinking now.
I wish to refer to another project which could snowball if it were put into operation. I refer to the natural gas supply in Central Australia. I do not know whether honourable members realise that 80 miles south west of Alice Springs is the Palm Valley No. 1 bore. This bore produced 130 million cubic feet of gas a day on test. Private enterprise is prepared to pipe the gas into Alice Springs. We are not asking the Government to assist in any way. So, this proposal should appeal to all honourable members and Ministers. If this were done it would provide an economic supply of gas at about one-third the price of present power and heat at Alice Springs. It would also be practicable to supply the gas to Laura Creek if the Defence Department were interested in using it there. I urge the Government to strongly pursue the possibility of laying this gas pipeline.
Before concluding my speech I must mention the road situation in the Northern Territory. An amount of $2m has been allocated for the Stuart Highway and Barkly Highway repairs. I commend the Government for this because it is really going ahead in regard to road development in the Territory. However, I ask the Government to look at the roads situation very seriously. An amount of $3. 4m is allocated for the Daly-Waters-Cape Crawford road and $ 1.25m for the Anthony Lagoon sealing. I think about $1.9m has been allocated for other pastoral and mining roads throughout the Territory. One of the most important roads in the country is the Alice Springs-Port Augusta southern highway. This is not only a tourist road and beef road but is a mining and pastoral road. It is the main high way between north and south. 1 know very well that about three-quarters of it runs through South Australia and South Australia has a Labor Premier who will not be interested in having the road improved. However, I implore the Government at least to do the Northern Territory section of the road.
This year, the Government has put in a permanent crossing across the Hugh River which very often stops the road from being used during the wet season. I ask the Government to look seriously at the Alice Springs-Port Augusta road. In conclusion, I ask the Government to look at the Port of Darwin in the north and the road to which I have referred in the south. The Northern Territory covers a tremendous area. Fantastic development is taking place and southern communications are, to say the least, very flimsy.
– I want to say something about the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. In 1914 and also at the end of World War I the only Territories Australia had were Norfolk’ Island, which we acquired in 1913, and the Territory of Papua, which was acquired in about 1885. Now when there is so much talk about the giving away or the taking over of Papua and New Guinea, and of seventh Statehood and of independence, we should look at the constitutional position of both Papua and New Guinea.
Before proceeding further along those lines I want to congratulate the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) and his officers for the very fine publications which they distribute, and also for a very full report on the estimates for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and for the other Territories which they administer. It is interesting to note that the Territory of Papua was proclaimed on 6th November 1884 as a British Protectorate, and it was handed over to Australia in 1902 in accordance with letters patent to His Majesty King Edward VII dated 18th March 1902, whereby the Territory of British New Guinea was placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia. I do not want to go too deeply into those details, but I direct attention to the fact that when Captain Cook discovered Australia and it was proclaimed as British territory the same terminology was used as was later used in relation to Papua. In 1902 we accepted that Territory when it was handed over to us by Britain.
It is also interesting to note that the points on the large Commonwealth star on the Australian flag, placed below the Union Jack on the hoist of the flag - that is the half of the flag nearer the flagstaff, the other half being the fly - were originally intended to indicate the number of States. From 1901 to 1908 the Commonwealth star had six points, one for each of the mainland States and one for Tasmania. Then a seventh point was added to represent Territories under Australian control, Papua being the first Territory symbolised in that way. The addition of that extra point was gazetted on 15th May 1908. It was added to show that Papua was Australian Territory.
Let me say something about the status of the people of Papua. The Territory of Papua is administered by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia in an administrative union with the Trust Territory of New Guinea under the title of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea in accordance with the terms of the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-64. This Act provides that the identity and status of the Territory of Papua as a possession of the Crown, and the identity and status of the Territory of New Guinea as a Trust Territory, be maintained. The National status of persons born in the Territory of Papua is defined by the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948-60 of the Commonwealth of Australia, which is extended to the Territory of Papua. Persons bom in the Territory are Australian citizens by birth, and by virtue Qf that citizenship they are British subjects. People who are born in New Guinea are not Australian citizens or British subjects; they are Australianprotected citizens.
I think it is well to note the difference. It seems to me that the Territory of Papua is completely Australian territory, and before anything could be constitutionally done to change its status it would be necessary to hold a referendum in this country. This would have to be done if we wanted to give Papua away or confer independence on it. If this is not the case I think some thing should be said in this Parliament to make the position quite clear, but all the legislation I have read indicates to me that the citizenship of the people of Papua is totally different from that of the people of New Guinea. The report that I have before me says in relation to New Guinea: ‘Report to the General Assembly of the United Nations on administration of the Territory of New Guinea submitted in conformity with article 88 of the Charter of the United Nations on the basis of the questionnaire approved by the Trusteeship Council.’ No such action is taken in respect of Papua because it is Australian territory.
We in this Parliament will have to give a lot of thought to this matter because there is a good deal of unrest in the Territory and also among certain people in Australia who want to give the people of the Territory their independence. I think the Minister has been quite fair about this. He has said that when the people ask for independence their request will be considered and may be granted. So far the people generally have not asked for independence. It is true that a few impatient people, in Port Moresby in the main, say: We must have independence’, but why should a few have their wishes satisfied when the majority of the people at this time do not want independence? Members of this Parliament who travel in the area know that the people of the highlands, where 50% of the population of the Territory is to be found, do not want independence. They say quite frankly: ‘We are not ready for it’. I believe it would be wrong to give in to an impatient, few, and I hope that no government will ever do so until it has thought the matter out thoroughly and has taken into consideration the wishes of the people as a whole.
Section 122 of the Constitution says:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
This means that if the Parliament thinks fit it can at any time admit persons from Papua to membership of this House. This is a matter that needs some consideration.
It may be a good thing and it may not; at this stage I do not want to commit myself on that question. But the provision is available for persons from the Territory to be appointed to either House.
It would be interesting to see just what would happen if the people of Australia were asked in a referendum whether Papua should be granted independence. I have spoken to legal people on this subject, and those who have looked at it pretty deeply are of the opinion that when the time comes there may be some way in which the Government can take action without a referendum.
When we trace the history of the fixation of the boundary between Papua and Queensland we see that quite a lot of thought went into it. Generally speaking the boundary runs from longitude 144 east to longitude 141 east. In places the boundary runs practically along the high water mark of Papua, so some islands a short way off the Papuan coast are in Queensland. These things will have to be considered. In discussing boundaries and straits it is interesting to note that Indonesia, in whose territory are Banka Strait and Sunda Strait, may see fit to close those straits to shipping and use them in the same way as other countries use canals, by charging tolls to permit vessels to go through them. What will happen in years to come in Torres Strait which at present is entirely within Australian waters? I was pleased to hear well delivered speeches from the honourable members for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and Robertson (Mr BridgesMaxwell). Both speeches contained a lot of meat. This is a subject that the Government will have seriously to consider because the passage through Torres Strait is comparatively shallow. Possibly it can be dredged, but many miles of dredging could bc necessary, perhaps even 200 to 250 miles. It would be foolish of me to say at this stage that such dredging could or could not be done, because some seabeds just cannot be dredged. If a seabed is unstable or sandy and there is a strong tidal current, as soon as a hole is dug it fills again. However, in harbours where there is a stiff clay bottom it is relatively easy to dig a hole which will not fill. When it comes to dredging Torres Strait something will have to be done. Tankers are already exceeding 100,000 tons in weight and require draughts of up to 46 feet, and they will not be able to get through Torres Strait. When we start shipping overseas in great quantities iron ore, bauxite and other minerals that have been discovered in Australia then we will have to look at this problem.
Before we give Papua away, much consideration should be given to that proposal. Much effort has gone into Papua - in its founding and in naming it as part of Australia. We have altered the six pointed Commonwealth star on our flag to a seven pointed star to include the Territory of Papua. I know that the people in that Territory must be very confused. They are told that they are Australian citizens by birth yet they must get a permit to come into Australia. As I think I have said in this chamber before, if that were ever tested it would be a very touchy question. The people of Papua are Australian citizens. We have admitted this publicly by stating in a report on the Territory of Papua that its citizens are Australian citizens, whereas in a report on the Territory of New Guinea we say that its citizens are Australian protected persons. I feel that the Minister has discharged his duties well. I do not say this patronisingly because no matter what he does in respect of Papua or New Guinea if he pleases one section of the community he displeases another section.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The suggestion regarding Torres Strait was first put forward by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell). I am sure that he, like myself, will be glad of the support which the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) has just given to this suggestion because there is nobody in this chamber who would have a greater practical knowledge in this regard than the honourable member for Batman. I want to speak of the estimates for the Northern Territory but before doing so I draw the attention of the Committee to Division No. 486- Papua and New Guinea - Miscellaneous Services. In one line we have an amount of $77,600,000 to be appropriated. I want the Committee now to address itself to the estimates for the Northern Territory which occupy two whole pages of the Appropriation Bill. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea gets its money in one line; the Northern Territory gets its money, $20,936,100 - less than one third of the amount provided for Papua and New Guinea - in dribs and drabs and in set categories. I put it very clearly to the Committee that what is done for Papua and New Guinea is right and what is done for the Northern Territory is wrong. I have raised this matter before and I have not heard any reason against that contention. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea gets some kind of autonomy within limits in the spending of its money; the Northern Territory does not. This is a great distinction, it would be far better if we would do for the Northern Territory the thing that we have done for Papua and New Guinea.
If a person goes to Darwin or to Alice Springs he will find everywhere, inside the Government service and outside the Government service, criticism of the hand of Canberra in the Administration. I am not one of those people who think that straight away and in one jump we can confer complete financial autonomy on the Northern Territory. It does not raise its own revenue and the Government has to have some control over the spending there. But the Government finds no difficulty in Papua and New Guinea where it is still able to maintain a proper control. I would suggest to my friends in the Northern Territory that their first objective in their struggle for some kind of constitutional autonomy should be to get a one line budget. I do not suggest that the Legislative Council in Darwin should have authority as to the spending of this money. I believe that the authority should remain with the Administrator who is the servant of the Government, but I believe that the Administrator, more and more, instead of taking binding decisions, might act on the growing recommendations of his Council so that the authority of the Council could be enlarged, not in one jump, but gradually, progressively and by a proper system of growth. This is the way in which gradually greater and greater control of their own affairs can be transferred to the people in the Territory.
It must be said that while they do not raise their own revenue they should not expect to have complete control, but they can expect to have more control than they have at this moment. While the Administrator should remain responsible for the decisions, he might more and more rely on advice from the elected members of his Council. This is natural progression and development. This, after all, is the way in which our own constitutional arrangements have been worked out over a long term, both in Great Britain and in Australia. We have to find a way by which authority cao be gradually and properly transferred but not too abruptly or in a drastic or outrageous fashion.
If I were to give advice from here, knowing the set-up here, to the people in the Northern Territory I would say: ‘Your first step now is to agitate for a one line budget, the type of budget that has already been given to Papua and New Guinea.’ It can be given to the Northern Territory in the same way. There is no reason why the privileges given to Papua and New Guinea should not be shared by the Northern Territory. Indeed, there is an additional reason why there should be a one line budget. As honourable members know, the northern part of the Northern Territory is a highly monsoonal area. It gets heavy rains which impede normal employment in December, January, February and perhaps through March and April. The ground in many places is so wet that no work can be done. As it happens, our Budget, a yearly budget, runs out in June so the Administrator has the unenviable task of trying to fit his works programme to weather conditions which just do not suit. In the dry period, through June, July, August, September and even October, when the work should be done, the Budget has not been passed by this Parliament. There is a ludicrous and farcical stop and go effect on the work programme for the Territory. There is nobody working when the weather is good but everybody is busting himself to get the work done before the rains come.
I know that the present Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr Dean, has done remarkable work in trying to cure this situation. Within the constitutional limits assigned, he has made the situation very much better than it was before, but even this improvement is not good enough. He has done everything possible within the limitations of this idiotic situation whereby we give the Territory this detailed budget but the people there do not know where they stand until the Budget is passed. Red tape and formalism from Canberra are tying up the work which should be done in the Territory. I suggest very strongly that the Committee take notice of the present situation. lt can be quite easily cured by bringing the Northern Territory into line with the privileges given to Papua and New Guinea.
Let me turn now to one other subject which concerns the Northern Territory. I refer to the way in which we can help the Aboriginal people. As honourable members know, provisions for equal wages for Aboriginals will come into force in December 1968. No doubt there will be a certain amount of dislocation of employment in the Northern Territory. We should be looking ahead to cope with this. We should be training Aboriginals to engage in public works programmes in their own areas for their own benefit. If we are to break the psychological blocks which impede the progress of our Aboriginal people, it is essential that they be able to see for themselves the benefits of the work which they do. This is an elementary proposition. The Aboriginal reserve in Arnhem Land, and reserves elsewhere, are very rich areas. They contain plenty of natural resources which the Aboriginals can make use of in order to raise their living standards.
Could we not prepare now, in advance, a fencing programme which we could train Aboriginals to carry out on their own reserves for their own benefit and thereby increase the value of their land? There could be a road and track programme. Even today it is almost impossible to drive into Yirrkala, or Gove as it is sometimes called. There are large areas of Arnhem Land which are completely inaccessible to vehicles. We could teach the Aboriginals ways in which they could improve their own estate; train them to do work on their own land for their own benefit. Indeed, there is housing to be erected. There are other improvements to be made. Small domestic water supplies and gardens could be established. There are all kinds of things which could be done. If we have the labour force available why could it not be used for its own benefit? After all, if we can get Aboriginals to do things for themselves, to understand the benefit that will accrue to themselves and to realise that they will be improving their own estate, we can get rid of a great deal of the psychological malaise which lies over so many camps, missions and settlements today. Here we have a situation made ready to our hand and I suggest to the Minister for Territories that although we are spending a great deal of money on the Aboriginals and for the Aboriginals we are not - I will not say getting our moneys worth; that is the wrong attitude - giving to them the value which could accrue to them from the money we spend.
There are two specific things 1 have suggested: firstly, we should put the Northern Territory on a one line budget, as we have done in the case of Papua and New Guinea; secondly, we should be doing more to train the Aboriginals to improve their own estate and help them to realise that this might be particularly important in December 1968 when there will be some dislocation of employment because of the introduction of equal wage provisions.
- Mr Chairman, I realise that there are many complex matters covered by the Department of Territories but I want to refer particularly to Papua and New Guinea. Firstly, however, I propose to say something briefly about the Northern Territory. I endorse almost all of the remarks made by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). One would need to have seen the northern parts of Australia and know what existed there 10 years ago in order to realise the amount of development that has taken place. I have made that statement before in this House about northern Australia. The honourable member for Macarthur mentioned the two meat works in the Northern Territory. One of them ‘did exist before but there is now a new one at Katherine. He also referred to the beef roads which have brought tremendous development to the cattle industry in the Northern Territory.
I believe that the development of Townsville lucerne will have as big an effect on development in the north, as the development of subterranean clover had in the south. With the advent of Townsville lucerne in the Northern Territory and the northern part of Queensland we will see, without doubt, a tremendous expansion in the beef industry.
All of these things have resulted from the fact that the Government has been able to give confidence to people putting capital into these areas for development. It is no good saying that big capital is not required in these areas. One thing that is needed to encourage big capital into these areas is security of tenure. A lot has been said about alienating land. In fact, less than one-thousandth of the Northern Territory is freehold land. But it is reasonable to say that we cannot obtain big expenditure - particularly for intense cultivation - unless some security of tenure is given. This land will not be developed to the extent that it could be developed if we do not encourage the people with capital and know-how to go there. A very good example of what has happened in the last few years is Brunette Downs, which has been fenced and has improved water storage and better facilities for the employees. The herd has also been improved with the introduction of better bulls. This has all been done on leasehold land, and in this particular case that lease will expire in less than SO years.
I want now to deal with the future of Papua and New Guinea, because 1 believe that it is of tremendous importance to this country. It is very easy to go to New Guinea and gain the wrong impression. I am very much afraid that too many people go to Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul only - and a great deal go only to Port Moresby - and come back and say that they know all about the Territory. In fact, it is quite a common thing in New Guinea to be asked: ‘How long are you going to stay here?’ If you say that you are going to stay a fortnight, that is all right, but if you say that you are going to stay a week they say: ‘You will probably write a book*. This may be cynical, but nevertheless there is a lot of truth in it.
I think we should look at the background of the whole area of Papua and New Guinea. There are many areas there that are separated by sea. There is also the fact that slightly less than 10% of the total population speak a common language and among the remainder some 700 dialects are spoken. As the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) said, slightly over onehalf of the population live in the highlands and in a great many cases it is less than a decade since these people came under the influence of Europeans. Those who talk about a quick transformation to a democratic form of government for these people are really asking for transformation from the stone age to the atomic age in one fell swoop. It is interesting to note that although these people are unsophisticated they have a tremendous amount of basic wisdom, and they are the people who say that they do not understand what self government is and they do not want it. In fact, a Papuan who spoke very good English said to the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) and myself that he did not want self government because he did not understand what it was and until he clearly understood what it was he was not prepared to accept it.
The honourable member for Batman said tonight that the agitation for self government in this area was confined to a small group. I would say that it was by a fractional few. Tremendous things have been done in this area. It was very high praise indeed for this Government - and for the Minister for Territories (Mr Barnes) in particular - when the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) said that we could be proud of what had happened in New Guinea. In fact it is true to say that no nation in the world has done more for the development of a people than Australia has done in New Guinea in the time at its disposal.
We have a problem in this area to get these people to learn to integrate among themselves. The most important contribution to this end is perhaps education. The honourable member for the Northern Territory said in reference to Aboriginals that a small amount of tertiary education and an academic fringe is not the way to bring advancement to these people but that providing secondary education for large numbers is the greatest service that we can do. This is being done in New Guinea. Over 200,000 New Guineans are now receiving primary or secondary education. A good deal of this is being done by missions. I want to pay a tribute to missionary education in New Guinea because in every case that I have seen - and I have seen it over a fairly wide area - the missions adopt a very practical approach towards spiritual instruction. One great example of this is possibly a little bit above the secondary education standard but it relates to the Christian Leadership Training College at Banz where they teach technology, agriculture and theology.
Another criticism often levelled at the Administration in New Guinea is in regard to land settlement. There are several examples where the Administration has prevented indigenous people selling their land because it believes that these people may need this land in the future. It is only when the Administration is thoroughly satisfied that it is to the advantage of the people that it will permit the land to be purchased by the Administration and leased to others for development. There are good examples of this that I might quickly relate. One is an area of approximately 790 acres of land near Mount Hagen which was a swamp and which was drained at great expense by a man of surprisingly advanced years to have sufficient enterprise, courage and energy to take up a new life in New Guinea and establish what is now a magnificent tea plantation. He and his family have formed a company which is also building a factory. This will be one of the most modern and largest tea factories in the world. The second great example that I make of land settlement which is of tremendous advantage to the New Guinea people is in the Markham Valley. I have related this story before but I repeat it because the settlement has progressed from the first time that I saw it to the time when the honourable member for Wimmera and myself saw it 3 months ago. This is an area occupying 22,000 acres which so far as anybody knows never had a native garden or a native house on it. This land was bought by the Administration for £1 an acre and it was leased by competitive tendering to the Bulolo Gold Dredging Company. Today it is a magnificently improved cattle property with a first class herd of 5,000 Brahman-crossed cattle. The main purpose of this property is to give the indigenous and European employees at the Bulolo timber mill better food, more meat and a higher protein diet.
Great progress is being made in the health of the people of New Guinea. All types of things have been made available in the last few years. These include infant and maternal welfare services, school medical services, a malarial service, tuberculosis control, leprosy control and dental services. These services are taking great care of the people. When I mentioned education previously I should have particularly stressed the fact that the teachers college at Goroka is comparable in its lay-out to the standards seen anywhere, and the people trained in that college will spread over the whole of the Territory to provide better education generally.
A great many difficulties arise when making decisions as to whole areas. Great criticism has been levelled at the development of the wage structure in New Guinea. It is most difficult to set down a rigid rule and say that what applies to Port Moresby shall apply in the Jimmi Valley. There are two points of balance to be considered. One is to have the wage structure for the Europeans there sufficiently high to give them an incentive to remain. The other is to reward the indigenous people on the basis of enabling their economy to stand up to such payments when we hand over the country to them. Let us not forget that repeatedly this Government has said that when the people of Papua and New Guinea seek self government, Australia will be prepared to give it to them, but we would be making a grave mistake if we stood idly by and allowed the people of the Territory to be talked into something by a small number of agitators.
Most of the criticism about not granting self government to Papua and New Guinea comes, interestingly enough, from the United Nations. A lot of it comes from African states which have become self governing in recent generations - many in the last decade - and which have adopted forms of government which bear no resemblance whatever to democracy. They are critical of what Australia has done in New Guinea. I repeat that what we are doing in New Guinea is a great example to the rest of the world. Great advances have been made in the Territory since the last war because it is only since the war - actually only in the last decade - that continuous and wide administrative advice and control has been brought to the highlands. Today 80% of New Guinea is under local government control, lt is under this system of control that New Guineans are best trained to accept the responsibilities of wider government. What we are endeavouring to do is instil a sense of responsibility in the people of Papua and New Guinea and to create in them an interest in greater productivity. Self government is being brought about, but it must come naturally. No greater disservice can be done to New Guineans than is done by those people who talk about the possibilities of bloodshed if self government is not granted. Nothing could be more detrimental to the future of these people than such talk. Most New Guineans - the Highlanders, the Sepiks, the Tolais and some of the other people - have an inherent though unjustified suspicion of Papuans. This suspicion should not be encouraged by the irresponsible comments that one hears so often and reads so often from people who, in my opinion, probably visit only a few isolated areas and do not get out among the basic people who will be the backbone of New Guinea economically and governmentally.
– I appreciate the contribution that honourable members have made to this debate tonight, particularly that made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Armstrong), who has taken a very great interest in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The honourable member saw distinguished war service there and he has a great understanding of the people. I appreciate also the remarks passed by the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) concerning arbitration in the Territory. I would counsel all honourable members to read bis remarks. Unfortunately not many members of the Opposition have been present in the chamber during the debate on these estimates. Apparently they are not very interested in matters concerning the Department of Territories. The honourable member for North Sydney gave a most accurate, informative and responsible outline of the arbitration situation in Papua and New Guinea. I note that there are only four members of the Opposition in the chamber now. This would indicate that the Opposition has very little interest in the subject of Territories.
We have had a number of very useful contributions in the debate from this side of the Committee. The only Opposition speaker was the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who at every opportunity advances his own particular strange doctrine. I gathered from his remarks that he is more interested in social development than in economic development. This does not surprise us. Australia is seeking to develop the people of Papua and New Guinea socially. We spend a lot of money on education and such things. If we do not provide economic opportunities for them we will be failing in our duty. We must aim at balanced development in the Territory. The honourable member for Wills said that Australia should make decisions for the Territory rather than allow the Territory House of Assembly to make decisions. This would be contrary to Government policy because it is our constant endeavour to put more and more responsibility in the hands of the people of Papua and New Guinea.
The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate) made a spirited contribution to the debate. His remarks about the development of the Northern Territory were most informative. We know that he is Chairman of the Government Members Food and Agriculture Committee. We know of his great interest in the Northern Territory. Every year he takes, a group of honourable members on a journey around northern Australia. He is very well informed about the north and his remarks tonight should be noted. His remarks about the cattle industry and the development of mineral deposits are the result of things he noticed on his trips around northern Australia.
Since joining us in this place the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) has been most active in matters affecting the Territory. He has pressed for development of the Northern Territory. He referred tonight to the development of harbour facilities in the Territory. We are expanding so fast in the Territory that harbour improvements completed only late last year are now a little inadequate. About 2 years ago it was thought that the iron ore deposits discovered just south of Darwin would yield about 5 million tons, but we now find that they will yield considerably more than this amount. As a result we have been faced with the need rapidly) to develop port facilities and we have had limited time in which to do this. The only thing to do in the short term was to develop Darwin Harbour. It is obvious now that we must extend facilities still further, and we are making plans to do this at East River. This will necessitate considerable investment, but I have every confidence that we will make full use of the facilities that will be provided at East River.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory referred to our hopes that natural gas will be made available to Alice Springs. We are thinking along these lines. Let us hope that this can be done in the near future. As for the Alice Springs to Port Augusta road, we must remember that the greater part of this road lies within South Australia and so is not the Commonwealth’s responsibility. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth is spending about $100,000 this year to bring up to a reasonable standard that section of the road that lies within the Northern Territory.
I appreciate the deep interest which the honourable member for Batman (Mr Benson) takes in Papua and New Guinea. He spends a considerable amount of time in the Territory and has a great understanding of its people. I would counsel honourable members to pay careful attention to his remarks tonight. [Quorum formed.] I appreciate the interest of honourable members opposite; they have provided me with an audience.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) made an amazing comment. He said that we should give the Northern Territory a one line budget as we do with Papua and New Guinea so that it could spend its money. The operative words are ‘its money’. I remind honourable members that the local revenue in Papua and New Guinea is quite considerable. Our allocation to Papua and New Guinea is, I suppose, 55% of the total Budget for the Territory. The remainder consists of local revenue obtained in the Territory. The picture in the Northern Territory is completely different. I do not have the figures for the recent Budget on State-type activities, but last year, out of a total Budget of $58m, $50m was provided by the Australian tax payer. The revenue from State-type activities in the Northern Territory amounted to $8m. It is not a matter of spending its money; it is a matter of spending our money. The Commonwealth contribution to expenditure in the Northern Territory amounts to $800 per head. Comparable expenditure in Western Australia, which is one of the States that receives substantial assistance from the Commonwealth, is $200 per head. The Commonwealth has a responsibility to develop the Northern Territory and we are making considerable progress. The Territory is advancing very rapidly, and this is a measure of the success of the Government’s policies.
The honourable member also mentioned our efforts in the interests of the Aboriginals. Additional expenditure by the Commonwealth on Aboriginals in the Northern Territory in this financial year is $2. 5m. We have 20,000 to 21,000 Aboriginals in the Territory, so the additional expenditure on that basis is quite considerable. We are making progress, despite the assertions of the honourable member for Wills. Of course, he is a complete knocker in this field of activity. I think the Aboriginals are getting tired of this sort of operation. That is why they supported the election of the honourable member for the Northern Territory. They can rely on him and they know that he sincerely has their interests at heart. During a recent visit to the Northern Territory I went to Groote Eylandt. The transformation there is astounding. One of our great Australian companies, Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, is developing the wonderful manganese deposits. This is one of the major fields of manganese in the world. The development of the local mission is really extraordinary. It is now the equal of a modern town. The Aboriginals are employed locally and are paid award wages. Generally speaking, we are making very good progress in the Territories. I appreciate the contributions made by honourable members.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure, $273,859,000.
Department of Social Services
Proposed expenditure, $27,099,000.
– For several years as an official of the Australian
Workers Union in Western Australia, and since then as a member of the Parliament, I quite frequently had occasion to discuss various social service problems with officers of the Department of Social Services in Perth. It was with very deep sorrow that I learnt of the recent passing of the Director of the Department in Western Australia, Mr Fred Humphreys. To my mind, he was the right man in the right place. He brought a deep understanding to his work. Quite naturally he was obliged to abide by the provisions of the Social Services Act. He could not pay out more than the Act provided or grant a pension to a person who did not meet the conditions laid down by the Act. But 1 often thought that’ it was a great pity that Fred Humphreys did not have more say or authority in determining the provisions of the Act.
Fred Humphreys, as I knew him when he was dealing with the problems I placed before him, always treated the difficulties and circumstances of pensioners or applicants for pensions with tolerance and sympathy. He was always very helpful and offered advice and assistance in an effort to find a satisfactory solution to any problem, if the provisions of the Act allowed a satisfactory solution to be found. He was always very courteous and always willing to discuss at length any problem that was placed before him. His knowledge and understanding of the situations that arise so frequently in the field of social services will certainly be missed by many people outside the Department and I have no doubt that for some time his guiding hand will be missed inside the Department.
It is only proper that I should take the opportunity offered in this debate to add that I have always been treated very respectfully and have received proper and prompt attention when dealing with any other officers of the Department of Social Services in Perth. The assistance and attention I have received has always been very much appreciated, not only by me but also by the people 1 have represented. These remarks apply also to the officers of the Repatriation Department in Perth. They have always been very helpful. Many people who seek or who receive social service or repatriation pensions are quite justified in complaining at the treatment they receive and at being denied benefits. However, their not receiv ing the full amount that they surely should receive or not receiving a pension at all is very seldom the fault of the officers within the Department. The Government is at fault. It is the Government that determines the provisions of the legislation and decides what the Act will allow or will not allow. Therefore, any shortcomings in the social services and repatriation legislation are solely the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
I now refer to the Government’s failure to make any provision in this year’s Budget for a general increase in pensions. This decision was absolutely monstrous, lt is no wonder that pensioners have dubbed this Budget as the blackest budget ever. Certainly it came as a great shock, not only to those people who were directly concerned but also to the public generally. I am sure that no-one thought for a moment that the needs of the pensioners would be so callously ignored. The only question in the minds of the people was whether the increase would be 50c or $1. It must have come as a tremendous shock and disappointment to every pensioner to learn that the Government was not prepared to grant them one cent towards the increased costs of living.
The Government’s failure in this regard on this occasion highlights the lack of any proper method or system to determine what the pension rate should really be. At odd intervals, we find that the Government seems to decide for political reasons that it is about time that some increases were brought about and, as a result, an amount is taken which may be 25c, 50c or something else. No-one knows. The Government always seems to be unable to explain how it arrives at that figure; nor does it seem to care whether it is a proper amount or a proper adjustment. No inquiry or investigation is carried out to determine whether it is sufficient or insufficient to meet the ordinary needs of the pensioner or other recipients. This haphazard method cannot and must not be allowed to continue. As the Australian Labor Party has said, a body must be set up to inquire into the whole field of social services for it is only by that means that the pensioners can expect to receive justice and a proper appreciation of their requirements.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is that of the supplementary allowance by which single pensioners paying rent and who have no income other than their pension can qualify for the maximum amount of $2 per week. The Government apparently accepts the fact that a single pensioner paying rent does not receive sufficient simply by way of his ordinary pension of $13 per week; but the Government refuses to accept or recognise that a married couple also paying rent is receiving less than they should at $11.75 per week each, or that a single pensioner who owns his home or a married couple owning their own home and paying for its upkeep can be in a similar or worse situation. There can be no argument that a single person on today’s pension must find it difficult to live. Because this is so obvious and because it has been recognised by the Government, there can be no argument either that a married couple paying rent of $3 or $4 per week or even more also must be in difficulties. Therefore the allowance should be paid to them as well. Where the single pensioner owns his home or the married pensioners own their own home, it would be found that the cost of insurance and maintenance, etc., would be equal to what would otherwise be paid in rent. It would seem that the Government would rather see a single pensioner sell his home, and go into a rented property. This is a bad piece of legislation. It should be corrected. Certainly, no discrimination should be made between a married couple and a single person paying rent and certainly also a single pensioner owning his home or the married couple owning their own home cannot be ignored if there is justification for this allowance.
The fact, of course, is that the base rate pension is too low. It is a niggardly amount based apparently on the very lowest it could possibly be to allow a miserable existence. One of the causes of poverty or near poverty, Mr Deputy Chairman, is the fact that the Government does not recognise the need to grant to the wife of an age pensioner an allowance or some type of pension if she is not eligible to receive the ordinary age pension by reason of her age. Such people are in extremely difficult and sometimes pitiable circumstances or situations. Quite often this state of affairs leads to the husband continuing to work for a much longer time than he would do otherwise. As a result he either suffers a breakdown or, at least, shortens the length of what his life would have been otherwise. If the husband can qualify for an invalid pension, his wife would be entitled to a wife’s allowance of $6 per week. This is a behind the door method of obtaining it and not many elderly people are prepared to pursue this way of obtaining some extra money if there is even a breath of dishonesty about it.
Even where the husband genuinely qualifies for an invalid pension, the additional $6 per week that his wife receives is still inadequate to allow them to live in what could be described as a reasonable manner and is still below the married pensioner couple rate by some $4.50 per week. Heaven knows, we all know that that rate is low enough anyway. The Labor Party knows and states that a full pension should be granted to the wife of an age or invalid pensioner when she does not qualify for a pension in her own right. This is as it should be. It is not unusual. It is not unreasonable to expect that a man may be 6 years, 7 years or 10 years older than his wife. Why should we draw a line at anything over 5 years as we do at the present time? Why should a wife be expected to go out to work at the age of 55 or 59, or whatever age she may be, when her husband reaches the age of 65? By the same token, who is going to employ her at that age if she does want to go out and work? I ask Government members whether they would like to have their own mothers or their own wives placed in situations such at those? I feel quite sure that they would not. So, I ask them why they permit a situation like this to happen to other people?
The next matter with which I wish to deal is one that I have placed before the Committee previously and, unfortunately, without success and without any support incidentally from any members of the Country Party who in most cases should be very interested in seeing my suggestions given effect. I refer to the plight of many pensioners who live - or perhaps I should say exist - in the high cost areas of Australia. On one occasion in this House I drew attention to the high cost of living in the north of Western Australia. On another occasion, I referred to the position in the
Northern Territory. Of course, the same situation applies to many parts of the north of Queensland. As the cost of living figures that I gave on those occasions are recorded in Hansard, I do not intend to quote any more of those figures tonight. The cost of living today in those areas is higher than at the time I spoke previously. The comparisons with city prices would still be about the same. On one occasion - 1 think it was the first time I raised the matterthe Minister at that time said in reply that it was not possible to grant a higher pension, as I had suggested, in those particular areas to help offset higher prices. The Minister went on to say that the plight of the pensioners to whom I had referred should be attended to by the State governments concerned. If this is the proper situation, if it is the responsibility Qf the State governments - I do not accept that it is - my reply to the Minister is that the Commonwealth should give the lead to the States by doing something or granting something extra to the pensioners in the Northern Territory where no State government exists.
The fact is - and it cannot be properly denied - that the amount paid to pensioners today is not sufficient to allow them to live in a reasonable and proper manner even in the cities where they have some opportunity of obtaining food and clothing, etc., at costs which in most instances anyway would be the lowest, in their State. Therefore, it must become quite obvious that where it costs half as much again or even say 20% or 25% more to live the pensioners in such places who receive only the same amount of pension as they would if they were in the city must be worse off and must be finding it very difficult indeed to exist, let alone live in a decent manner. This would be particularly so where they have nothing more than their pension, as is so often the case.
It is not good enough in my book Just to say that the Department of Social Services cannot do any more to overcome these deplorable conditions and is unable to give any further assistance and that it is up to the States to iron out the problems. Surely it is a situation which should be within the scope of the Department of Social Services. Surely it should be in a position to make a full inquiry into matters such as those to Which I have referred. It would seem to me to be a field in which social workers could be employed, and gainfully employed, to arrange where necessary for other assistance by other means if it cannot be done by way of an increase in pensions. I suggest that officers of the Department could play a very important part in the first place by visiting those areas that I have mentioned, gathering information in relation to the problem and going into the ways and means by which the pensioners concerned could be given some additional help. I ask the Minister to give this matter some sympathetic consideration in the very near future.
Finally, I refer to the need for more frequent and regular visits by officers of the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department into areas outside Perth to assist people with the many problems which so frequently crop up. I have no doubt that a similar situation to what I have outlined occurs in other States, but I am more familiar with the situation in Western Australia. At the present time, one or perhaps two visits a year are made to particular towns. These visits do a lot of good and help a lot of people. But I feel that the visits are not frequent enough for what is actually required. To the best of my knowledge - I hope that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) who is at the table will correct me if I am wrong - the officers of the Commonwealth Employment offices in country areas are not expected to deal with repatriation matters and in fact are not expected to deal extensively with matters of social services other than in the employment field or with applications for unemployment or sickness benefits. Commonwealth Employment Offices seem to have been advertised recently only as employment offices. No encouragement is given by way of advertising and the tike to people to -go to them with pension and other problems. This is not the fault of the staff of those offices. It is the fault simply of the departments concerned. I hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) will give some thought to the possibility of arranging more visits to Western Australian centres by officers of their departments competent to deal with the problems that 1 have mentioned.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) to the plight of certain civilian widows in my electorate and in the community at large. My remarks will be very brief, because I know that the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) wishes to speak on the same subject and to make certain proposals in which I concur. In speaking about civilian widows, I would point out that although I shall be making certain comparisons with war widows and their entitlements, I nevertheless believe that for a number of fundamental reasons this Government has a duty constantly to keep in mind the position of war widows. It is essential that the widows of those who lost their lives in the service of their country should be properly and perhaps primarily maintained. I would also direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that this Government has always recognised the plight of civilian widows. This is demonstrated, for example, by the fact that the class A widow’s pension rate has increased by 289% since 1949. I know that in 1950 the Government increased the rate by 75c; so that class A widows then received $5.50 a week. They now receive a basic pension of £18.50 a week. However, it appears that the overall increases in the widows pensions awarded periodically are not related in any realistic way to the needs of widows or their children. In comparison with war widows, who receive a fairly liberal amount and can earn extra money without being penalised, the plight of civilian widows is often severe. Class A widows who have the custody of more than one child include deserted wives, divorcees, wives of men in gaol or men in mental institutions, and dependent females. Often these are people who are very vulnerable to financial hardship and poverty. The reasons for their plight arise in the first instance from the nature of the change from a secure status as a member of an accepted and approved social class to the uncertain position of widowhood resulting from a breakdown or lapse in the marriage state. These widows then find themselves completely responsible for the support and education of their children and therefore are particularly susceptible to the strain and difficulties that this entails.
The greatest financial strain occurs when the children are babies or are attending school. The constant care and attention that infants require often necessitates the mother choosing to live under severe financial strain by trying to manage supported only by the pension, so that she can devote all her time to her children. If the mother is qualified and is able to find suitable employment, she may choose to forgo the pension because of the extra financial gains that may be hers, thereby increasing her income. Even then, at times, a number of insurmountable problems will face her as a consequence of her choice. These are caused by the scarcity of child minding facilities and the cost thereby entailed, the insecurity of the family if any member of it experiences ill health as a result of which the mother is required to take time off from work, and even perhaps community disapproval. Surely it should not be necessary for these women to be faced with a choice between these two alternatives. Adequate provision should be made to ensure that if the mother chooses to remain at home to care for her children she does not do so faced with the prospect of poverty and hardship.
It would therefore seem necessary that a system of special allowances be extended to civilian widows under a scheme similar to, though not necessarily the same as, that employed to fix war widows pensions, and that special importance be placed on ensuring that the allowances for dependent children are adequate. The Commonwealth, after all, accepts responsibility for giving the children of war widows education to a standard compatible with their aptitude and ability so as to prepare them for a suitable vocation in life. When children attend secondary school, the need for this help is greatest. There is no reason why the children of civilian widows should be discriminated against in this way. There is no such recommendation about the education of the children of civilian widows by the Government. This, in its very context, tends to condemn Australia’s official attitude to civilian widows. I urge the Government to reappraise the plight of civilian widows.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, social services, health, repatriation and other national welfare matters are of major importance to the country as a whole and especially to some 10% of our people, for whom they are more important than almost anything else. Today we have a great public discussion on national welfare. Pensioner organisations have put forward a case, and organisations formed to press for the abolition of the means test, bodies such as the National Old People’s Welfare Council of Australia and other organisations are doing a first class job in bringing these matters to the notice of the people of Australia and of this Parliament. It is not just a question of members of Parliament or governments evaluating what should be the rates of pension. This is a problem of the whole community. I regret greatly that the current Budget did not provide for an increase in the base rate of pension and I believe that pensioners can almost justifiably feel unhappy about the Parliament’s approach because of this. At no stage, however, should these matters be taken out of the hands of the Parliament. The sympathetic and understanding speech made by the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) demonstrated that there is in this chamber great understanding on matters of national welfare. I value very greatly the discussions that I have had with organisations in my electorate such as the Original Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association of Australia. Only last Friday, I had a very interesting meeting with members of the Hornsby Branch and on other occasions the Central Coast Area Council of that organisation.
The pensioner organisations have put forward a proposal that the base rate of pension should be 50% of the basic wage. The Australian Labor Party, in its recent pronouncement flowing from the Federal Conference in Adelaide, has officially stated that its policy is that the base rate of pension should be 50% of the minimum wage, and that the means test should be abolished and that the benefits of the pensioner medical service should be extended to all those of pensionable age who are not receiving a pension. It has declared also that pension rates should be adjusted in accordance with movements in the cost of living. There are two sides to the public discussion that I have mentioned. The question is not just how much the rate of pen sion should be, but also how much the people of Australia, and particularly the taxpayers, can afford. I have made a swift calculation of the cost of the proposals that the Labor Party will make as part of its policy in the next election campaign on the basis laid down by the Adelaide Conference. The cost will be $1.15 billion within the first two Parliaments if Labor forms a government. The people of Australia must consider questions such as these: How much should the base rate of pension be? What is the need? Under what system should the rate decided on be evolved?
As I have said, the ALP proposes that the base rate of pension should be 50% of the minimum wage, which is at present $37.55 a week. The addition of permissible earnings of $17 a week as permitted under the means test, if it is not abolished, brings the weekly figure to $54.55. To this sum must be added the value of fringe benefits. To the nearest dollar, as shown in the latest annual report of the Department of Health, medical benefits are worth an average of $14 per pensioner per year, hospital benefits an average of $18 and pharmaceutical benefits an average of $30 -a total of $62 for a single pensioner, or $124 for married pensioners. To this must be added other fringe benefits that the Commonwealth provides in the form of concessions on television licence fees and telephone rentals, amounting to $13 a year for each. For married pensioners this gives a total of $150 a year, or approximately $3 a week, in fringe benefits. When this is added to the permissible earnings and 50% of the minimum wage it brings them to within $5 of the average male earnings of an Australian worker. I am concerned about the person who is working without these fringe benefits and trying to bring up a family and who is paying taxation. These are the sorts of questions that have to be analysed by the people of Australia because in addition people who are working and who are not in receipt of a pension do not receive benefits that are given by local governments in terms of rates rebates, in some States, and in terms of transport rebates. This is a major question which has to be answered by the people of Australia.
One of our notable political commentators said recently that gratitude is notoriously shortlived in politics. This is right but I believe that what this Government has done in the last 17 years should be examined. In 1950 approximately 39% of people of a pensionable age received a pension. Today 54.7% receive a pension. Honourable members can see that there has been a fairly large movement in this field. In 1950-51 the pension expressed as a percentage of the basic wage for a single pensioner was approximately 28.4%. Today that pensioner receives 39% of” the basic wage. Similarly, married pensioners previously received 55.8% of the basic wage but today they receive 71.6% plus the fringe benefits which in round terms increases this by an average of 8%. We have had to evolve and we are still evolving our policy. Personally, I would like to see a contributory system of national superannuation. This may take a generation or so to become effective. We are gradually abolishing the means test. If we were to abolish it immediately taxation would become a means test. So this would not work out as simply as has been stated by representatives of the Labor Party. However, whilst we are working towards a more equitable system, I believe we are in a position where we can and should give greater assistance where the need is greatest. In this regard for those who are not on a pension but who have retired I propose, as I did in the debate on the last Budget, assistance to remove the fear of elderly people of getting a crippling illness which will dissipate their savings, or, if they are on superannuation, cause them to mortgage their homes or something else to pay for their illness.
It may be difficult to extend the pensioner medical service across the board for a number of reasons. The cost involved is not the only difficulty here. We also have the very understandable objections that the Australian Medical Association raises on this question. I believe that we could do one of two things to overcome this problem. One is to subsidise the medical benefit insurance payments of a person who is of pensionable age. Alternatively, we could lift the Commonwealth benefit so that a person belonging to a fund would pay his bills in the normal way and receive his benefit but the Commonwealth would recoup the difference between what he gets back and what the doctor or the hospital charged. Similarly, I again make a plea that war pensions be exempted from the means test for social service benefits. I have previously dealt with this at length and, owing to the shortness of time available to me, I do not intend to pursue it further. I believe that we should also be looking at the question of bringing in invalid age pensions for pensioners who are chronically ill in order to give them greater assistance because of the problems that arise in meering nursing home costs.
During the discussion of the Health estimates last week 1 raised the question of domiciliary care and the need, as I saw it, for the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health to confer with corresponding State departments to examine assistance in this field of national welfare. 1 believe that we are moving towards a time, as I said last week, when the Commonwealth should be taking over all the problems of aged people and using the States and local government as its agents. There is a need to rationalise or co-ordinate far more closely the Departments of Social Services, of Health and of Repatriation. I do not say that there is a necessity for one Minister although there is an attraction for a Minister for national welfare with junior ministers underneath him. However, I believe that there is a need to bring these Departments closer together so that there can be greater co-ordination, not only in the field of social services in the area that I have mentioned concerning pension rates, but also in the field of health and repatriation. This would ensure that there is not a multiplicity of funding from different Government departments or from different health welfare projects such as the domiciliary care scheme, district nurses, hospitals and so on. I believe that the Commonwealth can give great assistance by providing capital for the States, paying for capital works for geriatric units and day hospitals, and also by rationalising the activities of both the Commonwealth and States in this field.
I commend the Government for what it has done over the years. I regret that in this particular year, for circumstances that have been explained by both the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) and tha
Treasurer (Mr McMahon), there was not a rise in die base rate of the pension.
– I want to make a small contribution to this debate in connection with the reestablishment benefits for national servicemen serving in Vietnam. We know that these benefits are going to be largely increased when legislation dealing with the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund is introduced into Parliament. However, at the moment the benefits that are given to national servicemen and their widows cover a certain number of categories and these categories, I understand, are not going to be increased in number. The benefits that will be increased will not add to the number of categories. For example, under the existing legislation there is protection for financial commitments together with legal aid, gratuities for service at termination of leave, post-discharge vocational training, reestablishment loans and certain social service benefits. In the housing field national servicemen can qualify for war service homes and also for the homes savings grant.
That broadly covers the field of reestablishment benefits available to national servicemen on their discharge from the forces. As I have said, the scale of these benefits will be increased when the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund legislation is passed. But what I am concerned about is a particular kind of benefit that has not been included in this list and which I believe should be included. This is a benefit in the form of a grant for the purchase of furniture by widows of national servicemen. Former legislation included such a grant in respect of widows of servicemen from the 1914-18 war and also the 1939-45 war, the Korean war and the operation in Malaya, but there is no provision for any such grant for the widow of a serviceman who is killed in action or who dies of wounds as a result of the present conflict in Vietnam.
I consider that this is something to which we should give close attention. It is certainly a small item. Very few of these young men would be married and have families, but there are certainly some. There are some that I am aware of personally. Nothing is too good for these young women who have to set themselves up and provide homes for very young children. I believe that the provision that originally covered widows of servicemen who were killed or died as a result of their wounds in previous wars should still be in operation to cover the troops who are serving in Vietnam. I am sure the Minister will take heed of my remarks and I hope he will persuade the Government to extend in this way the categories of benefits available to national servicemen. The widows of national servicemen who die in the service of their country are deserving of every care and attention that we can give them. They certainly should not be deprived of a right which formerly existed. In fact, they should be given rights that did not previously exist.
I leave that subject to turn for an equally short space of time to the matter of social services. I spoke in a previous debate on social services and I pointed out the need for the accumulation of capital in this capital-hungry country. I suggested that we should deliberately encourage, by taxation and social services legislation, the accumulation of capital by individuals in Australia. We should be endeavouring to make Australia an even more thrifty country than it is at present. I realise that we are a nation which saves very well by comparison with other countries, but we can do very much more because our income per head is very high and is evenly spread throughout the length and breadth of the country. We could do more than we are doing to encourage thrift. In the recent Budget we have amended our taxation legislation to encourage a form of saving through insurance companies. We have extended the taxation concession for people who wish to put something aside for their old age by taking out insurance policies or by joining in superannuation schemes. This is very commendable. I believe it fully meets my requests for taxation concessions made earlier in this session of the Parliament. But now I believe it is time we considered making a comparable concession in our social services legislation.
Everyone knows that under the combined capital income means test a person’s capital is deemed to have an earning rate of 10%. This is the rate that is used for the purpose of calculating the price of an annuity that could be purchased with the available capital. For means test purposes the income of an intending pensioner is taken into account in the calculation of the pension and his capital is also taken into account at a notional earning rate of 10%. This is a nice tidy arrangement but it does nothing at all to encourage people to accumulate a nest egg. It does not encourage persons to increase their capital to meet an emergency or to cover them in their old age - and I mean extreme old age, of course, well past the age of retirement and qualification for a pension.
Of course, 10% represents very much more than a person could normally reckon on receiving as a return on his capital. Although a rate of 1 0% is, 1 suppose, conceivable, 2i% or 3% would be very much closer to the average return on capital investments. So I suggest that if we are intending to slant our legislation towards encouraging more thrift in the community we should reduce this notional 10% to something more in line with a true return on invested capital. I do not believe we should persist with the present arrangement under which capital is converted to its income equivalent, because this is destructive of any propensities an individual may have towards thrift.
It is quite wrong of us to encourage individuals to dissipate their capital as they get older. We should, on the contrary, not so much in the interest of the individual but in the national interest, encourage people to save right to the end of their lives, to keep on accumulating money so that we can have a reserve of capital in private hands in Australia for the nation’s good - capital that can be used to buy equipment and to develop Australia. This is in complete contrast to what we are doing now. What we are doing is encouraging people to take trips around the world in order to dissipate their capital, to buy yachts and cars and more expensive homes, to spend their capital as rapidly as they can on luxury living. We are deliberately implanting the idea in people’s minds as they reach retiring age that they should get rid of their accumulated savings as quickly as possible because they will only be a liability to them when they try to qualify for the pension. This is entirely wrong in principle. It is wrong in morality, I believe, because we should be a thrifty country in the interests of our national character and in the interests of our country which is des perately short of accumulated savings of individuals.
I direct the attention of the Committee to these two matters tonight. They are small matters, perhaps, in actual content. They are easy to get around - easy to see. There is no great complexity in them, but I believe that both, in their own fields, deserve close attention by the Government. The first is that we should extend the categories of re-establishment benefits to the widows of national servicemen who have served in Vietnam by giving them a furnishing grant to enable them to set up home properly. The second is to remove the present notional 10% of capital concept from the means test and replace it with something more realistic - something which would encourage people to go on accumulating capital and putting it away in the bank for the benefit of the nation, themselves and the children who come after them. I commend these ideas to the Government and trust that they will be given every consideration.
– 1 wish to discuss the estimates for the Department of Repatriation which show that there is to be spent almost $274m this year on repatriation services. The departmental report shows that last year the number of war pensions being paid was 14,971 less than in the previous year, the number now being 631,859. Yet the anticipated expenditure this year will be $23,430,051 more than the previous year. Of the 43,800 applications lodged for war pensions during 1966-67, 15,601 were accepted, 20,967 were rejected and 7,232 were still outstanding. I suppose some honourable members opposite will consider it impertinent of me to discuss that while 21,000 applications for war pensions were rejected in the past 12 months, and 15,000 less pensions are being paid, administration charges will rise this year by more than $950,000 with the possibility of further increases later on. These figures make me wonder what are the reactions of lens of thousands of ex-servicemen whose applications for pensions are being constantly rejected by various repatriation tribunals while administration costs of the Department rise year by year and this year alone amount to $J2im. .
I wish to refer to what in my view is the dictatorial attitude adopted by the repatriation tribunals and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in their administration of the repatriation legislation. For this state of affairs the Minister and the Government must accept full responsibility. I often wonder how long it is going to take before the Federal and State authorities of the returned servicemen’s organisations wake up to what is going on regarding the pension entitlements of many of their members and do something about seeking amendments to the legislation to remove the anomalies which it now contains.
Whilst the annual report of the Repatriation Commission contains some very interesting and valuable information, I find it extremely unreliable and misleading. Year after year we are told that subject to control by the Minister, the Commission administers the legislation. Yet it is a well known fact that the Minister is nothing more than a figurehead or rubber stamp who is under the domination of the Commission. Never in the 18 years that I have been in this Parliament have I known any Minister for Repatriation objectively to examine any case which I have made for a serviceman in respect of his claim against the Department for the grant of a war pension. Every reply received has the hallmark of departmental consideration, but to make it look respectable it is signed by the Minister. Just how misleading is the Commission’s annual report will be seen on page 10 of that report under the heading ‘War Pensions’ where, in part, it states:
War pensions are paid in accordance with the assessed degree of disablement suffered by the ex-servicemen; they are not subject to any means test or to income tax. The term ‘disablement’ includes such factors as physical or mental incapacity, pain and discomfort, a lowered standard of health, and inability to participate in normal recreations. It may be said that the exserviceman is compared, from the physical standpoint, with a normal healthy person of the same age . . .
The intermediate rate war pension is payable to those ex-servicemen who, because of the severity of their war-caused disabilities, can only work part-time or intermittently, and in consequence are unable to earn a living wage. The intermediate rate of war pension is midway between the special rate and the maximum general rate.
The paragraph I have just referred to is extremely misleading because it would lead the general public to believe that war pensions are granted to servicemen who may claim that the injury, disease or condition from which they are suffering was the result of war service whereas the truth of the matter is that pensions are only granted subject to a serviceman’s war service and medical history being complete. Many of us know how incomplete are the files of some soldiers. It is only on the records that are available that the Repatriation Board in the first instance grants or refuses an application for pension. At that point the applicant is not given an opportunity to appear before the Board to state a case, nor is he allowed to peruse his file. In fact, the repatriation legislation even discourages a serviceman from making a statement in support of his claim, for he is told that there is no need to do so. Little does he know that to be granted a pension he has to satisfy the Board, on the evidence before it - no matter how incomplete it may be - that his condition is war caused, irrespective of how many years it is since his war service was completed. Additionally, the serviceman must satisfy a team of highly paid Repatriation Department medical officers that the disease or injury from which he suffers was, in fact, war caused or, in some other way, aggravated by war service.
I point out that the damage that is done to a serviceman’s claim for a war pension in the initial stages of the application is inestimable. It is time that the Parliament saw to it that the returned man got a far better go for the service he renders to his country. I vividly remember the case of an ex-serviceman whose eye condition had been rejected for 10 years before the Repatriation Department accepted mustard gas keratitis of the eye as a condition justifying the payment of a pension. By this time the soldier had gone blind and he never received a pension in the 10 years during which he was going blind. I have found, in many of the cases that I have examined, that if the Department does not want a pension to be granted to a returned serviceman it will literally comb the country in its search to find a medico who will go along with the Department’s findings.
– That is wrong.
– I know that it is not wrong. I know of many instances where scathing attacks have been made by doctors on the opinion of other doctors in repatriation cases. In my view this was the reason why in 1943 section 48 was expressly included in the Repatriation Act for the purpose of safeguarding servicemen when doctors differed in their opinions about the cause or onset of a disease. Let me illustrate what I mean. In a case in which I was interested some time ago a doctor, giving evidence, said:
I remain firmly convinced that this man’s incapacity from osteoarthritis of both knees was aggravated by his war service. However I found extraordinary the cavalier way in which Doctor X dismisses the fact that the serviceman suffered a torn medial meniscus through an actual fall on his knee in the ward and brings no evidence, but apparently is unwilling to admit that it is possible that the serviceman may have had an accident which aggravated the condition.
Only today the Minister for Repatriation told me that medical opinions on cases form only one part of the overall evidence. But for the record, Mr Deputy Chairman, I will quote in part what the Minister said to me:
I have noted your reference to contradictions in the medical evidence and to the onus of proof. You will realise that medical opinions simply form a part of the overall evidence in a case. The question of the weight to be given to any piece of evidence is very much a matter of opinion about which any two persons, or determining authorities, might well hold different views. That, of course, is the very reason why Appeal Tribunals have been set up. These authorities are required by law to give the benefit of the doubt to the claimant or appellant. The doubt, however, must be in the minds of the determining authorities and not in the mind of the claimant, appellant or some other person.
I presume that the Minister meant the medical opinions which are in some cases so strongly in favour of the ex-serviceman. It has been shown time and time again that the opinions of opposing medical witnesses do not, apparently, influence the Tribunals in the discharge of the onus of proof provision. The Tribunals discharge their duties in a Hitler-like fashion and without regard to the case put by the applicant. They do not give their reasons for rejecting an application for a pension.
I point out that despite what the annual report of the Repatriation Commission may say war pensions are subject to income tax in some instances. I know of a case involving an ex-serviceman receiving an 80% war.pension, plus a superannuation payment, and his income exceeded the limit of the age allowance for income tax purposes. This ex-serviceman is obliged to pay tax on his total income. I have with me copies of five taxation returns for a returned serviceman aged 77 who suffers from a duodenal ulcer, Parkinson’s disease and other complaints. He has a wife aged 63. This man was a driver during World War I. I have here a photograph of one of the horses that he had to ride while he was in the forces. The men had to tie this horse up in order to shoe it. He said that a horse fell down a crater on top of him and he was knocked unconscious. Recently, after all these years, the Government gave him an Anzac medal but at the same time took from him his Glucodin which his doctor had been prescribing to treat his war caused injury. This man and his wife have an income, including his war pension, of $44 a week and he is taxed on that sum. For purposes of comparison, consider a married age pensioner couple receiving $41 a week, plus fringe benefits such as transport concessions, free hospital and medical benefits, rebates on municipal rates and telephone and television concessions. We find that the ex-serviceman is roughly $200 a year worse off than the pensioner. If, as the report of the Repatriation Commission states, war pensions are not subject to taxation then this ex-serviceman would not be liable to pay the amount of tax that he will, have to pay this year.
In 1965 the Government introduced the intermediate rate pension. It claims that this pension is being paid but the figures reveal that of 24,193 100% war pensioners as at 30th June last only 664 ex-servicemen were receiving this pension. This means that the remaining 23,529 are either working or are being done out of their pension. I believe the Government is violating its own legislation. I know of ex-servicemen who are receiving a 100% war pension and who are not working but paragraph 6 of the First Schedule to the Repatriation Act states:
Where the incapacity of a member of the Forces is such that he is unable to earn a living wage by reason that he is unable to engage in a remunerative occupation except on a part-time basis or intermittently, the amount specified in relation to him in Column 4 of the scale in this
Schedule shall be deemed to be Twenty pounds five shillings.
I ask the Minister whether this means that an ex-serviceman, having been granted the 100% pension rate - which is granted only because of the severity of his war caused state of health- is to be further quizzed by the Repatriation authorities as to further physical disabilities which he may have developed over a period of say, 10, 20 or 30 years in order to deprive him of the higher rate of pension?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Hallett) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not completely disagree with some of the things that the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) has said but I think that in making some of his criticism he has allowed himself to be carried away. On reflection perhaps he would be prepared to withdraw some of the comments he made, particularly about repatriation tribunals and people who work in the Repatriation Department. I suggest to him that members do come into this place, raise one or two cases that they know of and imply that they have never at any time been successful in having a case reviewed or a decision altered. If the honourable member for Shortland is not prepared to admit this then I most certainly am. I have had nothing but the greatest co-operation from the Repatriation Department and from the Department of Social Services. They have given the most detailed attention and have leant over backwards to give advice and help and to produce files for examination. I am most grateful for this help.
– The honourable member has influence.
– I am sure that the honourable member for Scullin has had the same experience. When a member of the Opposition speaks about a Nazi-type administration I think that on reflection he may decide that his remarks were not fair. The point is that the Repatriation Department is staffed by ex-servicemen. Although we as members of Parliament, have the right to go to the Repatriation Department, to examine files and find evidence, if possible, it is not for us to make the decision as to whether a claim is right or wrong. It is for the ex-service tribunals to deliberate and decide on their kind. If these matters were to be used as political tools or toys I hate to think of the state that this country would be in. 1 believe that today we should look at the whole range of social service and repatriation benefits. At this stage we should look at the whole range covered by these Departments and consider also the economy of Australia and what we intend for the future. We should do this in order to find some solutions for our problems. Recently I was in the United Kingdom. I returned to Australia concerned as to the direction we were going with respect to social services and repatriation after having seen the state of the United Kingdom. Without intending to offend the members of the Opposition I would like to say that when I was in the United Kingdom I heard that the Government was trying to get out of a bad situation caused by the introduction of foolish legislation which had brought the country close to economic ruin. This was discussed and was reported in the Press. The things that the British Government is trying to find a way out of are things that the Opposition here is suggesting we should get into. The British Labour Party is holding a conference in England at the moment and whilst no decision has been arrived at members of that Party are suggesting that rather than that married pensioners should receive a supplementary allowance such as we have, the single pensioners should lose it. The suggestion has not been that the prescription fee for medicine should be removed, but that it should be introduced. It was suggested that the female eligibility rate for a pension should go up from 60 years of age to 65 years of age. I think it is of interest to read an article that appeared in the London ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 21st August, reporting Mr Ray Gunter, Minister of Labour in Britain, as follows:
He attacked the emotional response in the Party to the words ‘means test’ and the general Labour attitude towards profit.
The article continues:
The questions were:
Should benefits such as family allowances and housing subsidies be paid to those whose financial position made them unnecessary? Alternatively, should not the available resources be concentrated on those in greatest need?
We are dedicated to the abolition of poverty, to equality of opportunity, and decent maintenance of our elderly. Is there not a case for concentrating what we have available on those in the greatest need?
So the Minister of Labour in the Labour Government of the United Kingdom is endeavouring to find a way out of the economic chaos that that country is now in. He then went on to the subject of profits - and the Labor Party Opposition here is always attacking profits. The report said:
On profits, Mr Gunter said with striking bluntness: I do wish so many of the comrades would stop equating profits with incest or lechery*. Unprofitable industry meant no expansion and fewer jobs.
It was often forgotten that the simple condition by which we could have more hospitals, more houses, better pensions, and higher wages, was that industry prospered and expanded.
Britain’s resources were limited and would remain so for a long time. We must give priority to the re-equipment of industry.
This does not sound like an executive member of the Australian Labor Party, but this is the Minister of Labour in the United Kingdom Labour Government who has had the experience of seeing so many of the policies of his Government fail and who now has the responsibility to try to get the country out of economic chaos, because there is no doubt that if the economy of a country is ruined, if industry is not allowed to prosper, with all the verbose, loud mouthed policy-making of the Labor Party at the present moment the pension would not be worth a crumpet if honourable members opposite were running the country. Let me read a further extract from an article in the ‘Daily Mail’ of 30th August 1967, dealing with the Labour Party and its policies. It is headed ‘We have never had it so bad’ and it states:
This is no time for pulling punches. The Government changes are a confession of Mr Wilson’s abysmal failure to make good the solemn pledges with which he conned the country in 1964 and 196S.
We could fill this page with quotations from speeches in which he lambasted his predecessors for errors and follies which pale beside those of which he and his Government have since been guilty.
He can look back on three years of disaster. The British people have to thank this master of modernisation, this prophet of purpose, for crippling taxation, plus a wage freeze, plus rising prices, plus a derisory rise in production, plus a chronic balance of payments crisis.
It was he, above all, who lost no chance of attacking the ‘immorality’ of Mr MacMillan’s claim that ‘we never had it so good’. Now Mr Wilson can boast: ‘We never had H so bad’.
I think that the Australian people should be aware of this when they look at such promises as those that are being put out by the Labor Party now because if one totals these promises the same question arises: Who is going to pay for it? Can the economy stand it in the end? 1 suggest to the people of Australia that they should have reservations, and that whatever good may be in Labor’s suggestions, we cannot have all the cake and eat it at the »ame time. I feel that we in Australia at this moment have to face up to the situation and look closely at the situation in the United Kingdom.
I strongly feel at this time that the basic pensioners - both repatriation and social service - should have been given assistance in this Budget. I feel that even though it is done with the best intent, and it is done to give assistance to people in various shades of need, all we are doing at this time is putting a bit here and a bit there, but we are placing the basic pensioner - the person who has no money - in a worse predicament. I agree that those people in the age group of 55 to 65 or older who arc on a pension at the moment can argue that they went through a period of difficulty in two wars, a depression and a period when no homes savings grants or hospital benefits were available. Perhaps these people were not able to save money because circumstances or bad luck reacted against them. Therefore I feel that we have to make provision for them and we have to allow their pensions to rise as the cost of living rises, and this applies to most repatriation and social service pensioners.
The younger age group of today receive reasonable salaries and can take out life assurance, they receive hospital benefits and home savings grants and they can save more than their parents and grandparents did. So there is perhaps not the need, or there should not be the need, to plan for these people in the same way as we do for the older age group. I also feel-
– Raise the matter in the party room.
– Perhaps my loud mouthed friend will give me an . opportunity to say what I want to say. I also feel that we should be looking at a national insurance plan because there is no doubt in my mind that if we introduce a contributory scheme at this moment for all people to subscribe to there would not be the need, and there would not be the people that we have at the moment who have no other income, and who have to be supported by the taxpayers of Australia. I take the opportunity in these last few minutes to say that as far as I am concerned I think the Commonwealth Government should also examine whether it could or should take over superannuation schemes from the life assurance companies and in this way form the basis for a national insurance or national superannuation plan. These are the things that I think we should be planning for today. I have no doubt that if we examined this aspect we could introduce a very workable scheme that could get us out of the position that we are in now with pensioners who find that because the cost of living is increasing their pensions are not able to buy the things they need to buy.
I have one other matter that I would also like to raise very briefly in the time left to me - that is the question of civilian widows with families. In my electorate is a young woman whose husband was killed through unfortunate circumstances. She receives a pension from the Department of Social Services for herself and her five children. This woman lost a leg and received assistance from the Department of Health and she also received supplementary assistance from the State. But this did not allow her to look after her family in the way she would have liked and in the way she would have been able to look after it had her husband been here. After she became accustomed to her leg she tried to find out whether she could work and improve her circumstances. She was told that she would be allowed to earn only $1 a week. In my opinion this is a ridiculous state of affairs. This person wanted to do something for her family. She wanted to give her children what they might have had if their father had been here.
I would like to see the Government give greater encouragement to these people, to help themselves and to re-establish themselves in the community. It may not be easy to deal with each case individually but I would like more thought to be given to the problem generally. If honourable mem bers on both sides of the chamber did this - we all know of cases such as the one I have cited - we might come up with an answer. A person who has lost a leg faces tremendous difficulties. I know that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith is sympathetic. He has suffered only the loss of a brain, yet he is still able to exist. I am sure that honourable members on both sides could co-operate and work for the benefit of the people to whom I have referred tonight. I hope that in the future the Government will consider increasing the basic pension.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. W. C. Haworth) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Over the years, but particularly in more recent times, many suggestions have been advanced regarding the abolition of the means test. Before the Government goes any further towards removing the means test it should consider carefully the consequences of such action. Today the greatest concern in the electorate of Wimmera is the matter of costs and the fact that we are gradually being priced out of markets. Generally speaking costs of production are based on the availability of goods compared with the amount of money available to be spent. If the Government is to circulate more money we must have the goods to buy. If not we will have a price rise.
Expenditure on social services has been increasing year by year. In not one year since 1942 has expenditure been less than in the previous year. Expenditure on social services has increased from $61m in 1942 to S767m this year. About 12 months ago the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) said that it would cost a further $340m to remove completely the means test; in other words an expenditure of an additional 50% over and above current expenditure on social services. It is true that thousands of people who have contributed greatly in the form of taxes will never receive a pension under the present formula. If we are to give pensions to these people by removing the means test completely one of three things must happen. We must either increase taxes, give up completely any idea of ever increasing present pension rates, or create a spiralling effect in costs. Each alternative would be tragic in my submission.
In my opinion many pensioners today need to have their pensions increased. I believe that the most important thing to do is to increase the base rate pension so that a higher standard of living may be enjoyed by many pensioners. We should never say that a person is only a pensioner. This creates class distinction. I can see many ways in which expenditure by the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department could be increased with great effect. What I envisage would be of greater value than the removal of the means test. I would not object to the removal of the means test if our economy could stand its removal, but at present it cannot. The funeral benefit paid under the Social Services Act ranges from $20 to $40 according to the classification of the pensioner in respect of whom the benefit is paid. This benefit will cost the Department of Social Services this year about $1,334,000, which is $300,000 more than expenditure on this benefit last year. I do not think it is necessary to ask honourable members how far $40 would go in paying for a- funeral. The benefit is paid on account of a pensioner and generally speaking the person who has the responsibility of paying for the funeral has very little funds in reserve. The amount of the benefit could be doubled without having any appreciable effect on the Treasury.
In the repatriation field a funeral benefit of $50 and a grant of $30 for transport costs are paid in certain circumstances for the funeral of an eligible ex-serviceman. This benefit this year will cost the Repatriation Department about $350,000, which is a mere pittance out of a total expenditure of $265m. These are two benefits which I think could be increased. I urge the Government to give consideration to their increase. The small amendments contained in the Budget to child endowment, widows’ allowances and the like are very much appreciated, but I, like the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess), was very disappointed that the base rate social services and repatriation pensions were not increased. However, I am sure that the Government will do something along these lines before very long. The base rate pen- sion should be increased before too much is done to ease the means test.
I turn now to the administration of the two departments to which I have referred. Despite the odd complaint that the Repatriation Department does not give somebody a good hearing or should have increased somebody else’s pension. I believe that it and the Department of Social Services are doing a very worthwhile job. I cannot agree with some of the remarks of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths). 1 cannot speak too highly of the officers of these departments, particularly those stationed in Victoria, which is the State I know best. The policy of having officers of the departments visit country areas regularly is an excellent one. Country people appreciate the knowledge they gain from these visits. I have met many such people who had a grudge before interviewing the departmental officers but who have gone away happy after talking with the officers. We know that in many instances the officers go out of their way to help people who have problems. This is good and it must be continued.
The Department of Social Services works in a manner slightly different from that followed by the Repatriation Department. Officers of the Department of Social Services make calls to certain areas but not always in accordance with an advertised schedule as is the case with the Repatriation Department. However, over recent years the Department of Social Services has established many regional and sub-regional offices throughout the country. In Victoria it has seven regional offices situated at Ballarat, Bendigo, Dandenong, Geelong, Hamilton, Sale, and Wangaratta and two subregional offices situated at Mildura and Shepparton. These work very well as far as they go. Geographically they are well situated, with the exception that Wimmera or the western part of the State is not well served. There is no office between Hamilton in the south and Mildura in the north, a distance of about 300 miles. Many people reside in this vast area, as the Minister knows only too well. As a result of representations, a visiting day has been established in Horsham. It is every Wednesday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is very good and it is certainly very much appreciated, but it is still not the complete answer. I have checked the figures and I find that in the last 3 weeks the average has been twenty-two callers each day. Many of these people have eventually applied for and obtained some form of pension. Just a few months ago the figure was as low as twelve visitors. When the office first opened some 12 or 18 months earlier, the average was only five or six. So it can be seen that the work is there if only these people had a permanent office. Mildura has proved this by establishing a full time office and my inquiries show that the number of visitors has increased considerably.
I hasten to point out that it is not only the new applicants for whom we want to cater; in many instances these people want information. At present officers must travel some 80 miles, which is the minimum distance to reach the western part of Victoria. Interviews are naturally fairly hasty. The officers do not have time to go into all the ramifications, particularly when a large number of people call on the officers on the one day. The day set down by the Department may not be convenient for all the people who want to attend, particularly those who live in outlying areas. I mention places like Kaniva, which is some 70 miles further on, Nhill, which is another 50 miles, Warracknabeal, which is 35 miles, and Hopetoun which is 70 or 80 miles. It must be remembered that many of these people have no transport and depend on the good graces of their friends for a lift to get to these offices. It is not always convenient for them to travel there on the day the officer is present.
These points may seem trivial to some honourable members, but to the people concerned the issue is a major one. I appreciate the interest shown by the Minister in establishing offices in country areas and I appreciate his desire to establish an office in every centre in which large numbers of people congregate. I am aware of the cost that would be involved. However, these offices are proving to be very important. I believe that the time is not far distant when the Department will be spending in the vicinity of SI, 000m on various forms of pensions. Although we have a total of thirtyeight officers scattered throughout Australia in strategic centres the situation would be improved if we could establish more subregional offices in some of the areas that need them today. I make these few com ments in the hope that the Minister and his Department will consider my suggestions sympathetically. I believe that a Department which spends an amount approaching $ 1,000m should consider extending its services to the people in the outlying areas scattered throughout the Commonwealth so that they will have the same privileges, comforts and amenities as do our metropolitan friends.
– If this debate has done nothing else, it has shown clearly that honourable members are dissatisfied with the treatment that pensioners have received in the recent Budget. 1 want to deal with a group of pensioners who, in my opinion, are being treated most harshly. I refer to the pensioner with a dependent wife who has not yet reached the age of 60 years. The allowance for the wife remains at $6 a week. It is paid to the wives of invalid pensioners or age pensioners who are permanently incapacitated or the wives of age pensioners with a dependent child: An invalid pensioner and his dependent wife who is not yet of pensionable age must live on a pension of $19 a week. This provides only a substandard existence. Surely a couple in such circumstances should be paid the full pension for both of them, and that is $23.50 a week. It is suggested when this matter is raised that the wife is quite entitled to go out to work, because she is under 60 years of age. She may have been out of industry for 20 years. What chance does she have of getting a job in those circumstances? The husband, if he is an invalid, may be too sick to leave home. His wife may have to care for him. Labor’s policy provides for the wife of an age or invalid pensioner to be paid the full pension if she does not qualify for the pension in her own right. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) said that the means test had been eased tremendously. That is not bo.
– Yes, it is.
– If we analyse the position we see that it is not so. The Government made quite a song earlier this year when it increased the amount of’ allowable income to $10 for a single pensioner and to $17 for a married couple. It was a good move, but it was the first amendment to the allowable income since 1954. In fact, it does not have the same purchasing power as did the $7 in 1954. The relationship has worsened since that increase because of the increased cost of living. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) during the course of his Budget speech said that in the quarter preceding the Budget’s presentation the cost of living had risen by 5%. It is useless to say that the means test has been eased tremendously. It is not even at the 1954 level.
In view of the tremendous pressure for the abolition of the means test one would have thought that the Government would have made some more substantial move in the Budget towards this objective. The Australian Labor Party has a definite policy that provides for the abolition of the means test. We believe that it is a practical proposition during the life of two Parliaments and we intend to have our economic planning committee cost the proposition and prepare a working programme to achieve this end. We believe in justice for the retired. These people are suffering, when the standard of living of the community is supposed to be progressing. There is a lot of talk about shortages in the work force. But here is a source of labour, much of it skilled. The benefit to the Australian economy of this labour force would offset the cost to the Government. With the easing and the abolition of the means test these people could earn. They would pay taxes and the administrative costs of the Department of Social Services would be reduced. The abolition of the means test would assist the many thousands of loyal public servants who have compulsorily paid heavy amounts into superannuation funds. They are actually paying twice. They have had to contribute to the National Welfare Fund in the taxes they pay, but because of the means test they cannot draw from the Fund. In addition they have been compelled to take out units in the Superannuation Fund in accordance with their salaries. That is compulsory; they must do it. The means test is a most frustrating and annoying requirement for retired people. It makes a mockery of thrift and denies the age pension to those who save during their working lives. Noone should think that the abolition of the means test is an impossible objective. Why should it be an impossible objective when we see that in New Zealand, for instance, the means test has been abolished since 1958 to all those who are over the age of 65 years irrespective of their income or assets. In Canada there is no means test for those over the age of 70 years. In the United Kingdom there is no means test for men over the age of 70 years and for women over the age of 65 years. 1 could go on to refer to some of the Scandinavian countries in which the same principle applies.
Every member of this Parliament, including the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who is seated at the table, has been guilty of advising aged people how to reduce their assets in order to qualify for the age pension. I have been guilty of it myself. I do not think that anybody would apologise for doing so. On the advice of members of Parliament many people go for a world tour before applying for their pension. Consequently, money that could be spent in Australia is spent in other countries. The spending of money needlessly in order to qualify for a pension has been forced on these people by reason of the means test that applies. These people say to themselves: ‘What is the use of saving when by so doing I cannot qualify for the pension?’ This is psychologically bad, because it does not encourage thrift.
The age pension should not be considered as a hand out. It is right that those who have contributed through their working lives should receive something in return. The pension is no more a hand out than is the grant that could be given to a professor for scientific research. It is no more a hand out than the sum received by a farmer who receives a subsidy for his wheat production, a dairy farmer who receives portion of the $26m subsidy for the dairy industry, or to a cotton grower who receives part of the $4m cotton bounty. I could instance a number of other things which are comparable to the pension. To quite a number of people it is humiliating to have to go before officers of the Department of Social Services, as good as these officers are. I admit that they are very good officers, particularly in Western Australia where I meet many of them. People have to go before these officers and submit themselves to all sorts of questions about their financial and private affairs. It is assumed that the poor will try to cheat. Consequently they are subjected to all sorts of embarrassing questions. The abolition of the means test would remove this embarrassment and would relieve the Government of the tremendous cost of administering and conducting these investigations to which I have referred.
The Government is deserving of censure for its attitude to age pensioners and other pensioners in the recent Budget. It was a disgrace not to have given an increase at a time of admitted rising prices. I spoke about this matter in the Budget debate so I do not want to repeat the arguments that I used then. It is argued in support of the Government’s attitude that more is being spent on social services now than in 1949. Of course more is being spent on social services now than in 1949. But expressed as a proportion of the gross national product that is not so. The proportion of the gross national product provided for social services in 1949 was 3.4%. In 1965 it was 3.6%, and in 1966 it was about the same. This year the provision for social services was $786m, which is 3.4% of the gross national product. So the proportion of the gross national product spent on social services this year is almost the same as it was in 1949.
But there is an important factor that cannot be ignored. In 1949 the population was 7.8 million. Now it is 11.8 million. This means that the percentages in the age groups have been disturbed. For example, in 1948 the number of age pensioners expressed as a percentage of population was 3.93%. In 1949 the proportion was 4.06%. But in June 1967 it had risen to 5.5%. It means that the amount spent on age pensioners as a whole in 1967 compared with the amount spent in 1949 was spent over 41% more pensioners. In other words, in 1949 we were supporting eight pensioners: the present Government today is supporting eleven pensioners. I am merely indicating that, while the amount may be greater and more may be spent on pensions as a whole now, this does not mean that individual pensioners are in a better financial position today. Indeed, they are in a much worse position. The pension today will not buy as much as it did in 1949; nor will it buy as much as it did a year ago when the pension rate was last increased.
As the Treasurer himself admitted, during the quarter preceding the presentation of the Budget the cost of living rose by 5% . I emphasise that the total bill for social services may have gone up but the benefits payable to the recipients have not increased, indeed, they have decreased. Nobody can say that mothers are getting as much purchasing power from child endowment payments today compared with the purchasing power that they enjoyed in 1949 or even a few years ago. The value of all these benefits has been clipped since this Government has been in office. When people were contributing to the National Welfare Fund before 1949 they believed that the money that they were paying into that fund would retain its value and that they would get value back by way of social service benefits. But they have not received that value because, due to inflation, money has been losing its value over the years.
Let us look at how some of the other benefits have shrunk in value. The funeral benefit, as mentioned by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), now stands at $40 where a pensioner is responsible for the funeral costs of a spouse, a child or another pensioner. In other cases, the funeral allowance is still only $20, the figure that was fixed by the Curtin Government in 1943. That benefit has not altered for 24 years. The basic wage in 1943 was $9.60. The minimum economic wage, if we can call it that, at the present time is $33.80 per week. So, to maintain the same relative value the funeral benefit should be something over $60. If we relate that to the total minimum wage following the recent decision delivered by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, we appreciate that the figure should be substantially higher than that.
I turn now to the maternity allowance. The existing rates were set by the Curtin Government in 1943. They range from $30 to $35. To give the same purchasing power today as was available in 1943 the rates would need to be trebled. Yet the Government has the hide to say that people receiving social service benefits are as well off today as they were formerly. From the inception of the maternity allowance payments in 1912 until this Government came into office in 1949, the allowance would always pay the expenses associated with the birth of a child. That is not so today. Consequently, married couples are put off having children. Both husband and wife need to go to work in order to get a home together, buy furniture and try to have somewhere for their children when they do arrive.
Australia was once considered to be one of the most advanced countries concerning social services. This is not so today. Instead of being at the top of the ladder as we were once, we have slipped back considerably. I draw attention to the report of the International Labour Organisation Conference which clearly indicates that regarding social services, expressed as a percentage of national income, Australia has dropped down to about 17th on the list. We find such countries as Austria, Chile, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, and Sweden ahead of Australia, which once Jed the world in social services. Australia finishes a bad last to those countries. I suggest to the Government that it should have another look at this matter and endeavour to see what can be done in the very near future to improve social service benefits and to give aged persons in particular a decent standard of living.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I want to deal mainly with the estimates for the Department of Social Services. First, I wish to discuss briefly two points that were raised by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb). He began by suggesting that the wife’s allowance paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner ought to be increased. I agree with him about that. He told the Committee that Labor’s policy provides for a full pension for the wife of an invalid pensioner who is unable to go to work. Honourable members ought to realise that that was not Labor’s policy when it was in office, At that time, the full pension was $4.25 a week, and the Labor Government paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner $2.40 a week. What is more, it paid that sum only to the wives of invalid pensioners and permanently incapacitated age pensioners, whereas this Govern ment has extended eligibility to include the wife of any age pensioner with a child.
I now turn to the second matter mentioned by the honourable member for Stirling with which I wish to deal. He stated that pensioners are worse off today and that the pension will not buy as much as it did in 1949. I propose to deal only with age pensioners. Since 1949 the basic wage has increased by 162%. The pension of a married age pensioner has increased by 177% and that of a single pensioner by more than 200% . From memory, 1 think that the consumer price index has risen by only about 116%. So it is rubbish to say that the pension will not buy as much today as it did in 1949.
In the little time that I have available, I want to discuss two points concerning persons of pensionable age who do not receive pensions. 1 refer first to those who are well and who are able and willing to work. I believe that these people can make a valuable contribution to our work force and to the national income. I want to give the Committee three brief quotations from a speech delivered on 15th August of this year to the annual general meeting of the Old People’s Welfare Council of Victoria in Melbourne by Dr Sidney Sax. He referred to the fact that most persons are compelled to retire on reaching the age of 65 and then said:
The high value placed on independence causes some resentment against arbitrarily fixed ages of retirement. There is little antagonism to retirement ‘ as such, but having to retire while still being capable and willing to work is regarded both as an attack on personal independence and as a sign of rejection by the community.
He went on to say:
The person who has an adequate income and who preserves his vitality and interests throughout his old age does not experience the hurt of social rejection to any significant extent.
Dr Sax then stated:
Wc have to ask ourselves whether a pension, judged to be adequate to maintain an individual above subsistence level, is enough to assure him the opportunity to participate in activity without such patronage as may affront the value he places on his independence. If the pension is not enough in this sense, then there needs at least to bc a further revision of the restrictions on earnings that are imposed on pensioners.
At the present time, subject to a property means test, a person of pensionable age may earn, if he is single, $10 a week or, if he is married, $17 a week. If his earnings exceed the stipulated sum, the pension that he receives is reduced dollar for dollar by the excess. I believe that this is wrong and that it is based on a completely unrealistic approach. It kills incentive and enterprise and is wasteful of resources. Earlier this year, the Government established the principle that persons employed in sheltered workshops, subject to an upper limit, should lose only 50c in the dollar. This is a very sensible and just principle. Could it not be employed to assist aged persons who are able and willing to work? The present position is that if they do nothing at all, subject to the means test, we pay them $13 if single or $23.50 per week if married. If they provide for themselves we take dollar for dollar from them. If the earnings of a single person are in excess of $23 per week or $40.50 in the case of a married person they will receive no pension at all. A single person can earn up to $10 a week and a married person can earn up to $17 per week without being subject to the means test. I believe that it is time that we had another look at this proposition.
Professor Downing suggested that as an incentive to employers to provide employment opportunities for people in aged groups, the Government should consider waiving the payroll tax or perhaps providing a small subsidy on wages. I think that both of these propositions are worthy of consideration because I consider that aged people who are prepared to work are contributing to the national income. Under present circumstances not only do people who earn over a certain amount lose dollar for dollar but in many cases they receive no benefits such as those provided by the pensioner medical service, they do not receive any concessions in respect of radio and television licences and there is no reduction in their telephone rental. Also, they do not receive any benefits from the States in respect of fares or from local councils in respect of deferment of rates. Again, I believe that this is a penalty on enterprise and self-help.
The second group to which I wish to refer are people of a pensionable age who are not able to work but who suffer from some chronic illness which requires hospitalisation. If they are pensioners they receive the benefits offered by the pensioner medical service which includes free hospitalisation. However, people of the same age who have provided for themselves either by way of superannuation or by employment receive no free hospitalisation. They are free to join a benefit society if they wish. However, if they do they are limited to 13 weeks hospitalisation and they have to pay for hospitalisation in excess of that period. Again I believe this to be a penalty on thrift. It is time we gave consideration to some scheme to provide hospitalisation for the aged chronically ill non-pensioners. At the present time these people have the alternative of either going without hospitalisation or seeing their savings gradually disappear.
Finally, I want to refer to a question which I addressed today to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) who is at the table, concerning the Australian Labor Party’s policy in relation to the civilian widow’s pension. Plank 31 of the Australian Labor Party’s platform states:
Conference endorses the principle that the pension rate for all classes of civilian widows, including domestic and child allowances, should be not less than the amount paid to a war widow.
I believe that the rates of pension paid to civilian A class widows ought to be substantially increased so that the widow with a young child should not have to go out to work. When the Labor Government went out of office in 1949 it was paying a civilian A class widow $4.75 a week. Today this Government pays her $18.50 per week which is more than 289% of the 1949 rate although the basic wage has gone up by only 162% and the consumer price index has increased by only 116%. However, in spite of this substantial increase and in spite of the fact that I still support a higher increase in the rate of pension to civilian A class widows, I do believe that the war widows pension contains a substantia] element of compensation not only for the loss of a husband’s company-
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I would like to draw your attention to the state of the Committee. I will keep asking for quorums all night if I have to.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Hon. W. CHaworth) - Order! The honourable member for Wills will stop interjecting
– Yes, put me out.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Wills will withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw the remark. (The bells having been rung) -
– I can see that there is strict discipline in this place. We made a bit of an agreement.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I have told the honourable member for Wills to cease interjecting. If he does not do so 1 will name him. [Quorum formed.]
– I was pointing out that in spite of the fact that plank 31 of Labor’s new platform states that the pension paid to a civilian widow should be not less than that paid to a war widow, not only did Labor not pay that amount when it was in office; it paid the civilian widow only $4.75 a week whereas we pay her $18.50 a week, some 289% more.
I believe there is a substantial element of compensation in the rate of pension we pay a war widow to compensate her not only for the loss of her husband’s company during the period of his war service but also for his death as a result of war service for his country. Apparently this is something about which Labor thinks differently from the way we think. We on this side of the chamber could never support a pension for a civilian widow as high as that paid to a war widow.
– I rise to direct the attention of the Minister and of the Committee to the needs of those children who have suffered the tragedy of the untimely death of their father. Whilst I recognise that the Government has a responsibility to support mothers, divorcees, deserted wives, the wives of men in mental hospitals and the wives of men in prisons, I believe that their problems must be looked at in the light of the relevant circumstances. According to the census figures, in 1966 there were some 408,000 widows. Of that number just under 100,400 - about onequarter - were under the age of 60. Of that group 37,600 were under the age of 50. The census figures themselves do not reveal the number of widows who were supporting children.
Over recent years society has attacked the problems that arise as a result of the premature death of the principal breadwinner of a family. Mortality rates have been reduced by the advancement of medical knowledge, the extensive application of that knowledge and the higher standards of living which the community enjoys. Governments both Commonwealth and State have been responsible for instituting safety programmes in efforts to reduce the losses arising from accidents at work, at home and on the roads. Governments have also adopted measures to alleviate the financial loss suffered by families as a result of the premature death of the principal breadwinner. But despite these efforts the loss sustained by a family of which the principal breadwinner suffers a premature death is almost certain to reduce drastically the standard of living of that family. The survivors may be able to support themselves with their earnings or with their accumulated assets. A young mother may be able to work but her home life is likely to suffer as a result of her absence from the home. In many cases it is impossible for the mother to work, and in many of these cases it is undesirable that she should. The Government has taken steps, and I urge it to take further steps, to prevent the inheritance of poverty, to put an end to the legacy of poverty which is left to many children whose fathers die in tragic circumstances before they have had their normal expectation of life.
I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to the pension income available to a widow with dependent children. Such a widow receives a base rate pension of $13 a week, a mother’s allowance of $4 and $1.50 for each dependent child. If she has two dependent children she will receive $20 a week. But no allowance is made to the widow who, because of the age of her children or the size of her family, is prevented from joining the work force and consequently from supplementing the family income. Whilst I, along with the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox), recognise the unique and special position of the war widow, we must make every effort to ensure that these widows with dependent children receive an adequate income so that they can bring up their families on an acceptable and proper standard of living.
One of the largest items of expenditure for any family is the cost of accommodation, and this cost is just as significant for a widow with dependent children as it is for any other family. Despite the efforts of the Government in encouraging home ownership, and despite the fact that an increasing number of young families are, with the aid given by this Government under the homes savings grant scheme, buying their own homes, the family in which the breadwinner suffers a premature death has a serious problem in meeting the cost of accommodation. It is significant to read in the report of the Director-General of Social Services that 31% of class A widows receive supplementary assistance; in other words, they pay rent. I urge the Government to consider a number of proposals which I believe would assist in the provision of accommodation for widows and their dependent children. I would like the Government to consider introducing a widows’ homes bill to allow widows to borrow money at low rates of interest and over long terms, to replace expensive money previously borrowed on their homes. I believe that these families should be able also to make original borrowings to purchase homes on long term repayments with low rates of interest. Such a scheme should include also a relief scheme empowering the Minister to reduce the instalments payable and to authorise the payment of costs of repairs, rates, taxes and other outgoings.
A second limb to this widows homes scheme could be to adopt a scheme somewhat similar to that applying through the provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act to enable charitable, religious and benevolent organisations to build accommodation for widows and their families on the basis of a subsidy of $2 for each $1 contributed. It is my view that there are many such families who live in these tragic circumstances and who have available some resources which they would be prepared to give, in the same way as persons of pensionable age make gifts to these organisations, to ensure that certainly during the dependency of their children they would have secure and reasonably cheap accommodation.
I would like to see the Government give consideration also to extending the amount of supplementary assistance available to widows. It is interesting to note that the amount available to a single age pensioner is identical with the amount available to a widow with dependent children. Yet 1 do not think it can be disputed that the cost of housing a widow and her dependent children would be higher than that of providing accommodation for a single, rent paying age pensioner. Looking to the other side of the provisions now being made for widows, a further suggestion that I would put to the Government is to allow a widow who is able to earn a tax deduction for any housekeeping assistance or expenses incurred in child minding centres, the expenditure of which enables her to go out and earn. I believe also that the Government should look into the possibility of ensuring that adequate employment opportunities are available for widows. They should not be treated as occasional work force participants, but when they are able to work opportunities should be made available to them for training and entry into the work force so that their families can benefit by the greater income available.
This leads me to the means test as it affects widows. The entitlement of a widow with children to a pension is contingent on her qualifying under the means test. In most cases where a husband’s premature death occurs while his family is still young, it occurs before he has had an opportunity to build up the value of the assets of the family to the extent that their value will disqualify the widow from entitlement to a pension. Where the value of her property, apart from her home, furniture and personal effects, does not exceed $4,500 she is entitled to supplement her income by earnings or superannuation payments, if she is fortunate enough to receive them, up to a maximum exempt and permissible income varying with the number of children. A widow with one child may have other income amounting to $13 a week. Yet a widow with five children may have an income of $25 a week. This means test confers upon widows with larger families a right to earn more than those with smaller families before pension entitlement is affected. But those with the larger families are less likely to be able to work, because of the size of their families for whom they must perform the role of both mother and father.
The means test encourages work force participation by those who should be discouraged from leaving the family home. We should examine the question of the ceiling limits now imposed on the earning capacity of widows. We should encourage those with large families and young families to remain at home. They can be so encouraged only if adequate pensions are paid to them. Those whose families are small and whose children are all at school may be encouraged to enter the work force but we should not impose upon them a ceiling limit on what they may earn. Why should a widow and her dependent children be limited to a maximum income somewhat less than the total minimum wage which is payable to a male worker in the work force? For every $1 that she earns above this amount she is penalised by a pension loss of Si. I, along with other members on this side of the chamber who have spoken in this debate, urge the Government to consider abolishing the means test in relation to the widows’ pension or, alternatively, as a first step introducing a system similar to that applicable to disabled persons working in sheltered workshops.
Why is it that for the widow who is fortunate enough to have some capital from her husband’s savings the ratio is SI for every $10 in calculating the loss of pension entitlement? The basis of the merged means test for age pensioners has been said to rest upon the fact that at the age of 65 years a man may purchase an income for life of $1 a year for a capital payment of $10. Can a widow of 35 years with three dependent children purchase an annuity of $1 a year for every $10 of capital that her husband has been prudent enough to save during his lifetime? This is actuarially not a practical question, lt is unfair and unjust that the structure of our social security programme should penalise young citizens of tomorrow who have suffered the misfortune of the untimely death of their fathers. The means test deprives these children of opportunities their mothers might otherwise have been able to provide.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Thursday, 5 October. 1967
– It is enlightening to hear so many members on the Government side criticising the Government’s policy, especially in the field of social services. They get up in this chamber and let off a little bit of steam but, of course, when it comes to an actual vote they never cross the floor. They always vote as directed by the Government. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson), who preceded me, made a speech typical of the speeches we used to hear from the previous member for Sturt who always raised these matters in the Parliament but when it came to a vote voted with the Government. It is quite easy for members opposite to criticise, but they are not prepared to stand up for their convictions.
It is also interesting to note that so many members opposite have taken the opportunity to examine the platform of the Australian Labor Party. We are proud of the booklet containing our platform, and some members who support the Government obviously have taken time to read it, to their enlightenment. The booklet refers to many reforms that are required in Australia. It is great to listen to Government supporters quoting the platform of the Labor Party. It is pleasing to know that they are reading it. However, I cannot, nor can any member on this side of the chamber, hold a copy of the Liberal Party’s platform and quote from it what the Government intends to do in the field of social services or repatriation or in other fields. We all know that the Government makes up its mind from day to day and does not look ahead. Many Government supporters both inside and outside the Parliament condemn the Government for its treatment of social service benefit recipients. I should like to refer to one Government supporter, who interjects a great deal and on every possible occasion when a member of the Australian Labor Party is speaking, and to quote from a letter that he wrote to a pensioners’ association. This will enable honourable members to understand what an imposter he is while pretending to be a member of Parliament. In his letter to Mrs Harpur of the Riverstone Branch of the pensioners’ association he wrote:
Thank you for your letter of August 21, which I have referred to the Treasurer, Mr McMahon.
Of course all honourable members know that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) feels very sorry for the pensioners, but that is about as far as he goes. The letter continues:
I am most disappointed that the pensioners did not receive a good increase in their pension and stated so in my Budget speech.
I have pleaded with the Treasurer to bring in a supplementary Bill for this purpose alone. 1 am sure it would meet with universal approval.
Regards and good wishes to all,
H. Irwin, M.P. Member for Mitchell.
The honourable member said that he had raised the matter during the Budget debate. Everyone knows how he and- other honourable members like him vote when the time comes. I am sure that the Government ignores them and takes no notice of what they say. I feel that the estimates which we are debating tonight have aroused in many sections of the community a hostile reaction to the treatment handed out by the Government to social service and repatriation benefit recipients. I suppose that one cannot blame individual Ministers for ali the actions taken by their respective departments, but we are all aware that the Prime Minister (Mr Harold Holt), the Treasurer and other members of the Cabinet must accept full responsibility for the neglect of those in our community who are so much in need. Once again the Federal Government has fallen down in its duty to look after the welfare of those citizens who helped to build Australia and those who were called upon in our hour of need and played their part in keeping Australia a free nation.
The Treasurer and his advisers must be condemned for their action in regard to these people. I often wonder whether those highly paid members of the bureaucracy who advise the Government on financial matters really understand the problems which confront persons who are dependent on the pension for their livelihood. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), in his remarks in this year’s Budget debate, hit the nail on the head when he said that increased costs of defence are being paid for by those who can least afford to do so. He said that our social service and repatriation pensioners have had to make the financial sacrifice whereas the cost could have been handed on to those who could afford to pay by way of increased taxation, particularly on money which is being shipped overseas to people who have investments in Australia.
There is no doubt that the Government must have a good look at the structure of social service payments. I sincerely hope that the time is not far distant when we will see introduced a national superannuation fund which will provide all people with a decent weekly amount which will be adequate to meet their needs. A matter which I should like to raise now and which I have raised previously in this place relates to pensioners who have some disability and have been ordered by their doctors to have special diets. I believe that this is a most important matter for many pensioners in our community today. Many of these people have to buy special foods because of their sickness. This causes a severe drain on their pensions. In many cases, because of this drain, they lack the funds to enable them to adhere to their diets. I feel that the Government should make available some supplementary assistance for these unfortunate people. I know many such people in the inner city of Sydney who, because they are required to have special diets, have to depend on the Meals on Wheels organisation and on welfare centres that operate within the city of Sydney. Now, ‘because of the action being taken by the Liberal Government in New South Wales in breaking up the city council boundaries, many of these welfare centres will be forced to close down because the new municipal councils which will be taking over new sections of the city will be unable to meet the cost of such activities as Meals on Wheels and will be unable to supply meals to pensioners on special diets at welfare centres.
Honourable members on the Government side seek to interject. They come from country areas. They are not concerned about the city areas. They are concerned only with one section of the community - the narrow section in which they live. They talk about cleaning up. They ought to have a look at some of the councils that are controlled by members of their own party. I suggest, for example, that they call for a report on the activities of the Warringah Shire Council and that that report be tabled here so that we may see what is going on in an electorate represented by the Premier of New South Wales.
Let them do that before they start attacking the Labor Party. I make that suggestion because of interjections made by people who do not know what they are talking about.
As I have said, because of the breaking up of the present area of the city of Sydney, a number of these welfare centres will be forced to close down and many of the pensioners to whom I have been referring will suffer. Again I suggest that the Department of Social Services should have another look at the position and should try to assist in some way these unfortunate pensioners who have been ordered special diets. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Social Services will give the matter some consideration.
As questions relating to repatriation were ably dealt with by members of the Australian Labor Party during the debate on the matter of urgent public importance yesterday, I shall not cover the field traversed by them. [ shall refer to only one matter. It relates to some of the anomalies that occur under the Repatriation Act. I am concerned in particular about the parent of a soldier whose death has been the result of either war or a war caused disability. When that parent reaches pensionable age and receives a pension of $17 a week from the Repatriation Department, he is not entitled to any medical treatment. If he becomes sick, he has to meet all medical costs out of his own pocket. This is an injustice. These people ought to be given the same consideration as the recipient of the age pension receives from the Department of Social Services. Age pensioners are furnished with a medical entitlement card which enables them to obtain free hospital and medical treatment.
Recently, one case of hardship came under my notice. The person in question was in such a bad state of health that she was required to see a doctor almost every week. This was causing a heavy drain on her pension. Upon making inquiries of the Repatriation Department, I was informed that the woman concerned was not entitled to free medical treatment. I arranged for this person to be transferred to the social services age pension category and as a result she received a medical entitlement card. This relieved the burden as far as this pensioner was concerned. Naturally I thought she might be entitled to some repatriation benefits and that the Department would give her the maximum permissible income of $10 a week. But after making representations I found that all the Government would give her was $3 a week, which increased the amount of the pension to $17 a week. Even though she did not benefit as far as the actual transfer was concerned she did benefit to the extent that she received a medical entitlement card. However, she was not allowed to receive the full income entitlement.
I think that if a person has been accepted by the Repatriation Department and is in receipt of a pension, the Government should still treat that as income and the person concerned should be entitled to $10 a week from the Department. Here again I would like to stress the point that there are probably many pensioners in Australia receiving a repatriation pension and in the age group to qualify for an age pension but not receiving a medical entitlement card. I feel that the Government should at least issue a medical entitlement card to these people so that they are not burdened with doctors fees. I raise that matter so that the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Social Services may place it before the Government. I feel that this should be done. I leave, the matter there, Mr Chairman, because I know that the hour is late and I intend to speak in the debate on the adjournment motion.
My few remarks can be regarded by honourable members as a prelude to a case that I propose to put to the House at a later date. One of the great concerns of myself and of anyone associated with pensioners in inland areas is that these people have to meet the additional costs that are associated with almost every phase of their existence in these areas without having any additional income. There are hidden disabilities for pensioners in these areas in relation to the ordinary everyday commodities. For instance, many male pensioners in these areas have worked on station properties, as railwaymen or fettlers, or at various other jobs and have not spent very much time in towns. It is rather pathetic to see them come to a town, centre when they reach retiring age. They are bewildered and do not know what to do with themselves. Not having been prepared for a niche in society at an elderly age, they are financially up against it to a much greater degree than other pensioners. For instance, they may have to arrange temporary accommodation at a boarding house or a hotel. Then there is the matter of health services. Although it may be said that there are very substantial concessions available to State and Federal pensioners, there are additional costs involved in travelling to coastal areas and in travelling great distances to seek specialist attention. Even though fares may be provided, additional expenses are involved. I think that there is a very substantial case for the payment of additional pensions to people in northern and remote areas. I again say that it will be my pleasure and my duty to present a substantial case to the House in this regard in the very near future.
– I congratulate the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) on a most constructive speech of only a few minutes duration. I am sure it is obvious to all honourable members that the honourable member for Kennedy is fast developing a reputation as one of the more colourful and constructive characters that we have had the pleasure’ of seeing in this place.
Surely in no other place on earth could men be found at this time of the morning - it is now 12.25 a.m. - determining the affairs of the nation. I use the expression with a certain twinkle in the eye that cannot be noticed at this hour. We are engaged in an exercise which has all the semblance of love’s labour lost. But because of the insanity of the hour I do not think it inappropriate to spend a few moments in reflection on social services benefits for patients in mental hospitals. Prior to the introduction of this year’s Budget the pension of an age or invalid pensioner admitted to a mental hospital was suspended in accordance with the provisions of the Social Services Act. Upon discharge from hospital payment was reinstated and the ‘ pensioner became entitled to payment for not more than four weeks of the period of suspension. This had been the position since Commonwealth pensions were first introduced by the Deakin Government in 1909 and successive Commonwealth governments have declined to alter the law on the ground that the maintenance and care in State mental hospitals of persons mentally afflicted was the responsibility of the State governments. Frankly, I could not comprehend in full this attitude and the Minister for Social Services will recall my writing to him on 28th July this year indicating that I saw no basic reason why mental hospital patients should be treated differently from other persons who are not deprived of their pension entitlement on admission to hospital. 1 firmly believe that mental health in this country has for too long been confined to the limbo of forgotten causes. While this issue is basically one of State governmental responsibility, it is important that the Commonwealth should give a lead in whatever areas are available to it. The payment of pensions is such an area. I am delighted that the Commonwealth has now revised its policy in this field.
Many mental patients are partially recovered but remain in hospital because of their lack of financial support and the absence of suitable alternative accommodation and care. The former arrangement that these patients may have been paid for four weeks of the period for which their pensions were suspended was, I believe, a concession of mere marginal advantage. Their task of personal rehabilitation without an established bank balance was challenge enough, but the problem of re-establishing rapport with the general community was compounded by the fact that they had been deprived of the opportunity of handling small sums of money, in many cases over a period of some years.
The whole matter of Commonwealth assistance in the field of mental health and hygiene was carefully considered in 1955 after the receipt of Dr Stoller’s report on State mental institutions. That report, which surveyed mental institutions in Australia, was the first complete Australian appreciation of the treatment of mental disease. Following consideration of that report it was decided that rather than assist the States in maintenance costs by the payment of pensions or by special grants for the purpose, the Commonwealth should provide assistance by way of grants towards capital expenditure to deal with the very urgent problems of overcrowding and treatment facilities. Further assistance in this direction is now being given by the Commonwealth to the States under the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Act 1964. Under this Act capital assistance grants have been provided to the States in respect of mental health institutions on the basis of SI from the Commonwealth for each $2 expended by the States for the 3-year period from 1st July 1964 to 30th June 1967. Legislation will shortly be introduced to seek a further extension of the period for which the Act is operative.
Many notable developments have been made in the mental health field in recent years. Special provision is now being made for the intellectually handicapped and mentally retarded. Separate institutions are provided for this group where they are cared for and given social and vocational training designed to equip them for an active life and possible employment in the general community. In recognition of these developments the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) announced in his Budget Speech that it is now proposed to extend eligibility for social service benefits to intellectually handicapped persons who are capable of absorbing such training during the period they are cared for in State institutions, or parts thereof that have been specifically set aside for this purpose. Other patients will continue to be eligible for the payment of pension on discharge, together with arrears of pension for up to 12 weeks of the period spent in the institution. Payment of up to 12 weeks sickness benefit may also be made available to other persons on their discharge from mental hospitals.
Where intellectually handicapped or mentally retarded persons capable of absorbing training are grouped together in a fairly definable section of a mental hospital, the Director-General of Social Services has the power to declare that that section of the hospital is not a mental hospital for the purposes of the Act. This is, I believe, an achievement - part of a continuing achievement - by the Government in its efforts to care for those needy sections of the community. I congratulate the Minister particularly and through him the Department for taking the initiative in a matter that manifests a further progression of achievement in the care of the mentally afflicted. T also take the opportunity briefly to pay a tribute to the work of Mrs Raines, President of the Australian Association of
Relatives and Friends of the Mentally III. I know from discussions with her that she and her Association have been most active in making representations to the Minister on the subject of pensions for patients of mental hospitals and that on a number of occasions dating back at least to 1960 she has in fact raised this subject with the Government. No doubt her representations have in some small measure been part of the motivating force that has now brought the legislation to the stage where it will be introduced. I had hoped to bring before the Committee some other vital aspects of the social service programme of the Commonwealth, but in view of the hour I think that at this stage I should conclude.
– I want to refer very briefly to several matters relating to repatriation that were raised by honourable members. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) referred to visits to country areas by officers of the Repatriation Department. I think he recognised the value of the scheme. His suggestion that the system be extended in Western Australia will be noted and we will see what can be done to implement it. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) referred to a furniture grant for ex-servicemen, including national servicemen associated with the theatre of war in Vietnam. It is a fact that this is not included in the estimates at present. However, in view of his comments and his recommendations, I will see that the matter is raised with my colleague in another place.
Some critical remarks were directed at the Government by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths). I was rather surprised at some of them. I am sure that on reflection he would probably be happy to withdraw them. He criticised the administrative costs for repatriation over the past year. Careful analysis of this matter has been made in the annual report of the Repatriation Commission. It will be seen that these costs are partly due to salary increases but substantially due to increased staff in the hospitals. In fact, there has been an increase of over 200 in hospital staffs during the year. This has been made necessary by the increase in the number of repatriation patients who have received treatment through the year.
The honourable member for Shortland was also critical of the administrative staff generally. I think this included the whole of the administrative staff - the staff in the hospitals as well as the normal administrative staff in the central office and the branch offices of the Department. My only reply to that criticism is that the honourable member for Shortland should read the comments of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie who spoke before him and who paid tribute to the work of the officers of the Department. The honourable member for Kalgoorlie ruined the effect a little later by being critical of the Government, but I am sure that he paid a sincere tribute to the officers of the Department. I am also sure that the feeling is reflected pretty generally through the Committee at the present time.
The final point raised by the honourable member for Shortland, on which I want to touch, was the question of evidence when cases are being considered for repatriation benefits. He queried the basis on which evidence was received and said that it was too narrow. In fact, there is very little restriction because medical records are available. Other evidence of any type can be introduced. Section 47 of the Repatriation Act applies in relation to the consideration of all the evidence that is produced. The honourable member for Shortland made one positive statement - that a serviceman was not allowed to make a written statement of his case for consideration by a repatriation board in the first instance. This is not true because the examining doctor always asks the applicant to state the cause of his disability as. he himself sees it, and the statement can be signed by the applicant in the doctor’s presence.
I should also make it clear that after the final line of appeal has been availed of by an applicant - after he has gone through a board and the Commission to a tribunal - the case can still be reopened if additional evidence that has. not previously been submitted is produced. I am sure that the honourable member for Shortland did not have a full appreciation of those facts when he made his speech. The honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) raised points regarding medical treatment for parents of deceased ex-servicemen who are in receipt of certain benefits. Those points will be noted. Of course they cannot be adjusted in the present estimates before the Committee. I know that there is a problem in relation to this matter and I will see that attention is given to it.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker, I realise that the hour is late. But I do have a matter which I consider of some importance and which I would like to bring up. As the adjournment debate provides the only opportunity for a member to do this, I take the opportunity now to mention this matter. I do not feel that this right should be eroded away. The activities of university students, Mr Speaker, and in particular students of the Monash University, have of late received widespread publicity. These activities have led, as all honourable members know, to the enactment of the Defence Force Protection Bill. As a former president of the Melbourne University Students Representative Council and as a former member of the staff of Monash University, I have been most concerned at the reputation that Monash and its students have acquired. Recently, I spent some time at Monash University discussing this matter with the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Matheson, with the President and Vice-President of the Students Representative Council and with other staff members. All are disturbed at the effect that this publicity is having on the good name of Monash.
I was told of a woman who rang the University stating that she had arranged to leave a bequest to Monash, but as a result of students collecting funds for the Vietcong and National Liberation Front had changed her mind. I was told of a young hitch-hiker who mentioned to a truck driver that he was a Monash student. He was immediately told to get out. These may seem extreme instances, but they point to the image that Monash has in much of the public mind. At the moment Monash seems to be bearing the brunt of criticism normally levelled at students in general. This can be traced to activities of certain Monash students, their attitude to the awarding of Sir Henry Bolte’s honorary degree, the left wing pamphlet alleging police brutality during President Johnson’s visit; the Children of Vietnam’ booklet distributed by Monash University Labor Club and culminating in that Club’s fund-raising for the Vietcong.
There are 7,500 students at Monash but the proportion involved in controversial issues of this kind is very small indeed. Only thirty-odd students in the Labor Club voted to raise funds for the NLF. This is a very small percentage in 7,500 students. Only three were prepared to defy the ViceChancellor’s ban by collecting for this fund on the campus. Only seven students and one girl who worked in the bookshop have been prepared to contravene the Defence Forces Protection Act.
The unfortunate thing, is, that because this handful of students in Monash Labor Club wants to promote propaganda for the left wing cause, the name of Monash University is brought into disrepute. There are two things we should bear in mind. One is that students as a body will always defend the rights of individuals to follow their own conscience. This is part of what they regard as academic freedom, and does not necessarily mean they approve of the action of the offending students. The other is that some of the activities which are attributed to students are often only in part due to students. For example, I read in the Melbourne ‘Herald’, following the recent student demonstration in Brisbane, that those arrested included a school teacher, two tutors, five lecturers, a printer, an apprenticed plumber, a chemist, two housewives, a labourer, a track cleaner, a truck driver and a cab driver - hardly students, yet university students were billed with the blame. Shakespeare said that the evil that men do lives after them; the good is often interred with their bones.
As far as students are concerned, it is the evil which receives the publicity, the good virtually pass unnoticed. It is for that reason that I would like tonight to place on record in this Parliament some of the more constructive fund raising efforts in which students from all Australian universities are engaged. There are many more students by far at Monash and throughout Australian universities, engaged in student community work than in left wing political activities. May I mention briefly just few of these for the enlightenment of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin) who has been endeavouring to interject.
This year has been National Abschol year. Abschol is the University Students Aboriginal Scholarship Scheme, and considerable funds have been collected through this organisation to enable Aboriginals to continue higher secondary and tertiary education. Abschol will give scholarships .o every Aboriginal in Australia who matriculates this year and plans to go on to university. Monash University in addition is offering another two Aboriginal scholarships each worth $1,200 per year for a full course. Fifty-five per cent of the money raised by Abschol now goes to help Aboriginal students through secondary school. This year, the money devoted to this purpose will amount to approximately $20,000. The fund is even prepared to subsidise Aboriginal parents for the loss of the wages that their student children would otherwise earn. Members of the community have heard of student fund raising for the Vietcong, but have they heard of the work of Abschol?
Another student organisation is World University Service. Its aim is to promote self help among university people everywhere, and to enable the pursuit of higher education to take place in the best possible circumstances. World University Service in Australia co-ordinated the raising of more than $14,000 last year. This was distributed through International World University Service in the form of multilateral aid to students, staff and administrators in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Australian students made the fifth largest contribution. This year, an additional $2,526 was collected in Australia to provide a bus to transport students at the University of Papua and New Guinea. This organisation also provided funds to connect running water to a student hostel near Saigon. University students have assisted such organisations as Australian Volunteers Abroad and Community Aid Abroad, in setting up work camps in New Guinea, India and other Asian countries, where they give freely of their time, building schools and play centres and providing wells and other much needed facilities.
A number of students at Monash University have embarked on a social involvement programme. They visit mental homes, talk to patients, visit pensioners and shop for them and cut their wood. They assist delinquent children and help with the assimilation of migrants by holding English conversation classes and outings. Does the average Australian realise that this goes on? The Blood Bank, which visits Monash University, has had to extend its stay on each occasion from 2 to 3 days to cope with student volunteer donors. The Monash Light Opera Company recently invited 500 elderly citizens and spastic children to the opening of its musical comedy, and members of the Monash Judo Club carried and otherwise assisted the aged and invalid to their seats. Surely this had news value, but who heard of it?
Mr Speaker, there are many other miscellaneous community service activities in which students are engaged, but it is not possible tonight to do more than touch on a few. One wonders whether the attitude of the woman with the bequest, and of the truck driver would have been different had they known of these activities. I, like many others, am concerned that the activities of a certain left wing minority at Monash University have been allowed to damage the reputation of a fine institution. University students in general are not interested in the propagation of left wing propaganda. They are young Australians of a good type who, despite their preoccupation with their studies, still find time to do much’ good in the community, as I hope I have shown this evening. We must not allow the publicity given to the few to cloud our vision.
Mr Speaker, I want to assure the House of two things. Firstly, I present what I have to say with a great deal of displeasure. Secondly, it will take no more than about 7 minutes. A few weeks ago in this House, I was obliged to expose to honourable members certain serious incidents which had occurred at Collinsville and which, if permitted to recur, could bring into our pattern of union activities a violent content of intimidation that no Australian could stomach. Let me make it clear at this stage, and once and for all, that my attacks are not on the unions but on the Communists who choose to abort them and change them into tools to further their objective of introducing a foreign ideology into this country. Subsequently to my raising the matter here, I was amazed to learn that during my absence the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) had made a vicious personal attack on me. I shall be quite honest about this: I was distressed by it, not because of what he said, but because a member of this House should see fit at any time to make a personal attack on another member. I now propose as briefly as possible to deal with some of the honourable member’s comments.
Though 1 opened my remarks on the earlier occasion by pointing out’ quite clearly that 1 was engaging in no Communist witch hunt, the honourable member, using my own terms, accused me of this very action. I think Hansard will show that I. have never cried ‘Communist’ since I have been in this House except to refer to the threat in South East Asia. 1 feel that however strong one’s loyalty to this country is; however stirred one feels at the attempts of certain individuals to foist foreign totalitarian Communism on this wonderful freedom loving country of ours, little is achieved by nebulous generalisations unless you have, as I have in my electorate, a specific case against these people, lt is strange that the only attacks made on me after that - I could show you, Sir, reams of congratulatory messages - were by Mr Hughie Fay, the Communist President of the Trades and Labour Council at Townsville, by the official Communist Party itself in letters written on its own letterheads to the Press, and by the honourable member for Oxley, lt seems that an attempt was made to scare me off, by this witch hunt device, but let me say loud and clear, once and for all, as long as the interests of the rank and file members of any union and members of any community in my electorate are being subjected to the sort of violence and conduct which was demonstrated at Collinsville, and under conditions such as these, I will to the limit of my power act and will at all times call on this Parliament and the people of this nation to eliminate this cancer from our society.
I would point out to the honourable member for Oxley that I need no comment from him as to my responsibilities to the workersin my electorate. 1 am responsible to my own people, not to him, and they will give their judgment if they consider I am ever likely to let them down, or if I have ever done so in the 20-odd years 1 have been in public life. It might interest the honourable member to know I am currently almost in daily contact with the working people involved in these matters at Collinsville, and they have enough faith in me to hope that I can assist in bringing back industrial peace and full employment to their town and district. It is strange that not one word of condemnation came from Collinsville itself, and yet an honourable member of this House found it fit to make this venomous personal attack on me. to defend these unashamed and avowed Communists.
As for his claims, Mr Speaker, that certain of these individuals were not physically at Collinsville let me make it perfectly clear that I hope I serve my term of office in this House without ever uttering on any isolated occasion a deliberate untruth or, worse still, a half truth. There are some classic perpetrators of half truths in this House. Perhaps my informants on this occasion under the stress and anxiety that existed at Collinsville did not cross their Ts or dot their Is. However, does the honourable member for Oxley seriously expect his sense of outrage in defending these people to impress anyone in the north? Does he honestly expect anyone to believe that these people mentioned were not involved in the dispute - Mr Fay, for instance, the Communist President of the Townsville Trades and Labour Council, the parent body in the whole of this Collinsville operation.
Let me dispose of two other matters. The honourable member claimed that I was not at Collinsville during the dispute. I was there at the height of the dispute in July, for the best part of 2 days. The only discussions I had were primarily with officials of the craft unions. Now who is on the wrong track. As the people concerned at Collinsville well know I will be back there as soon as possible. The other matter, and forgive me mentioning it at this hour of the night, is the matter of my small cottage at the South Coast. Briefly I have visited this house five times in the 12 years I have owned it, the last time being in January 1965. Just how petty can one get? Why is the honourable member so bitter against me in this matter? He was not involved. I did not attack him. Is he so sensitive because I attacked these declared and avowed Communists in Queensland? With all sincerity I appealed to the members of the House when I spoke on 20th September to close our ranks to defend and preserve decent Australian union principles and to declare against the type of thing that happened at Collinsville.I drew attention to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) had remained completely silent in this matter. I again point out that up to this moment he has not given any indication that he is even aware of what has been perpetrated at Collinsville. I would reiterate that the working people of that area have looked in vain to him to use his good graces to help them. They have looked to me and everyone else interested and involved in this most serious situation to restore peace to this town and give it a chance of achieving the prosperity that was beginning to emerge in the area. No, it took the Communist Party to come out in his defence - or was it a defence or a warning to him to keep out?
Let me read from theletter written by Mr E. A. Bacon, Secretary of the Queensland State Committee of the Australian Communist Party. He wrote:
asked why Federal Opposition Leader Whitlam had not gone to Collinsville. It is more pertinent to ask why Mr (Katter did not bother to visit his Collinsville electors and find the truth before speaking.
As I have said. I did visit Collinsville so there again he is wrong.
I again appeal to the Leader of the Opposition and to all members of this House to declare that we will stand four square behind the State Government in its efforts to ensure that our legal industrial processes are respected by all unionists and that we will assist them in every way we are able to do so to eradicate from the decent Australian patt ern of unionism this Communist disruption while at the same time ensuring that social justice is secured for all, particularly the underprivileged worker who is able to do little for himself unless he and his family are protected when they choose to observe the law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.56 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Airport for general aviation, should ensure that this safety record continues as general aviation traffic in the Melbourne area increases in the future.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Will he consider granting supplementary assistance to pensioners owning their own homes to meet such items as maintenance?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
When social services are next under review the question of the conditions under which supplementary assistance may be paid will receive consideration. The review will include an examination of the position of home owners.
asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
In the case of railway wagons: - 159 were purchased in Australia and a further 92 are being purchased locally; 301 were purchased overseas.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What was the percentage net increase per year in (a) primary school teachers, (b) primary school pupils, (c) secondary school teachers and (d) secondary school pupils in each of the States, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory during each of the past 10 years?
– The figures asked for by the honourable member are provided in the following tables. They are based upon statistical information in the publications of the State Education Departments and the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. Separate figures for primary and secondary non-government teachers are not available. Methods of presentation vary from time to time in these source documents, so that it has not been possible to ensure that the basic data are always comparable from year to year.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the gross national product per head of the population for each of the years from 1960-61 to date adjusted te the purchasing power of the currency as at the year 1960-61?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Commonwealth Statistician’s estimates of gross national product at constant prices in respect of recent years are in terms of 1959-60 prices
There is no available series which measures gross national product in terms of constant ‘purchasing power’ of the currency. The above estimates are based on a constant price revaluation of goods and services produced; they do not therefore measure the purchasing power of income recipients over the types of goods and services on which income tends to be spent.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The information requested by the honourable member is given in the following table. All figures are rounded to the nearest whole number.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The Commonwealth Statistician’s estimates of gross national product at constant prices in respect of recent years indicate the following year-to-year increases:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What conclusions has he reached as a result of the further inquiries which he promised on 18 April 1967 (Hansard, page 1322) to make into a national disaster fund?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Although similar investigations in the past have not proved fruitful, the Government, in response to a number of representations, is investigating the possible effectiveness of a national disaster fund in Australian conditions. As part of this investigation, we are seeking details of national disaster schemes in the United States, Canada and New Zealand to see if any of these have features which could be applicable here.
We are still gathering information on these schemes and it will be some time yet before our investigations are completed.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What was the total amount of the public debt of Australia as at 30 June in each year from 1947 to 1967, inclusive, showing separately the liability of the States and the Commonwealth?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Debt of the Commonwealth and State Governments at 30 June in each year from 1947 to 1967 inclusive, as evidenced by securities on issue, is shown in Table No. 10 on page 25 of the White Paper ‘Government Securities on Issue’. The following details have been extracted from that table:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What is the estimated cost to revenue in a full year of the increase in the maximum deduction for insurance and superannuation payments announced in the Budget?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The estimated full-year cost of the proposed increase in the maximum deduction for insurance and superannuation payments is $5,500,000.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– On the assumption that the honourable member is referring to theatrical or performing artists, the answers to his questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 October 1967, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1967/19671004_reps_26_hor57/>.