26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr JESS presented a petition from certain electors of the Division of La Trobe praying that the Government convey as urgently as possible its belief to our American allies that all aspects of the war in Vietnam should be intensified while pursuing a policy of no compromise at the current Paris talks.
Mr McLEAY presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the House take any action necessary to ensure that the Government does not implement the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations in imposing economic sanctions on the Government of Rhodesia.
Mr CORBETT presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the House make a survey of the full requirements of pensioners of all types and adopt a policy for the progressive liberalisation of the means test resulting in its removal within 3 years.
A similar petition .was presented by Mr Drury.
A similar petition was presented by Mr Hansen.
Petition received and read.
Mr KING 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.
Similar petitions were presented by Dr Everingham, Mr Courtnay, Mr Lee, Mr Erwin and Mr Peacock.
Petitions severally received.
Mr JAMES presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that this House take any action necessary to assist a campaign for a lasting peaceful settlement in Vietnam.
Petition received and read.
A similar petition was presented by Mr Donald Cameron.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. The right honourable gentleman will remember that early this year I asked him a question concerning the alleged association between Mr Maxwell Newton and himself at the Commonwealth Finance Ministers Conferences in Canada and Trinidad. I now ask him whether he knew that his own Press secretary was about to join the staff of Mr Maxwell Newton and whether he approves the favourable comparisons which Mr Newton’s publications are now making not only between him and the Minister for Trade and Industry but also between him and the Prime Minister, and in particular the tribute that he is working a lot harder than the Prime Minister at trying to save the Government.
-Order! The honourable member is giving information.
- Mr Peter Kelly was on my staff as a Press officer. He was not bonded to me and he lived as a free man in a free community. I did not ask him to go and I did not want him to go. However, in the exercise of his own wisdom and his own judgment he decided to go. When Mr Kelly worked for me he was a loyal and very efficient officer. I was sorry to lose him.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether the rate of applications for grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act is being maintained? Are the grants made only in respect of flats, which are made available to persons of pensionable age who make a substantial donation? Is the Minister satisfied with the rate of applications for grants for the building of nursing homes? In view of the proposed additional assistance to heavy nursing cases, are more applications for grants to build nursing homes now be expected?
– The rate of applications for grants under the Aged Persons Homes Act varies from month to month, but in general it is being maintained. Recently 1 asked for monthly returns to be compiled on a more comprehensive basis. I have made them available to honourable members on a monthly basis and shall continue to do so, so that they may know exactly what is happening in this regard. The amount contributed as donations for occupancy of units very often is exaggerated. The monthly return for July should be in the hands of honourable members tomorrow. If they study it they will find that of the sum of $500,000 for construction, donations amounted only to about $26,000, or about 5% of the total. In point of fact, most of the organisations concerned are doing excellent work by providing homes free of donation. For example, the July return to be supplied to honourable members tomorrow shows that the Society of St Vincent de Paul, the Silver Chain Nursing Association, the Blue Nursing Association and the Lutheran Church of Queensland have all had applications accepted for the erection of homes free of any donations, so that they will be available on the basis of need. I think this is an excellent scheme which I hope will commend itself to ali honourable members. I have also noticed on reading the monthly returns that very many homes for aged persons are being built in electorates which are represented by members of the Opposition. I think we would all like to see the scheme spread throughout the whole community.
As to the last question asked by the honourable member, I anticipate that as a result of the Government’s announcement of the inclusion in the Budget of an extra subsidy for heavy nursing cases there will be a substantial increase in the number of applications for the building of nursing units attached to aged persons homes in order to make the extra services available. Honourable members will be aware that under the existing practice there is a capacity to provide one nursing bed for every other two beds, whether on a unit or hostel basis. At present there are vacancies in the scheme for the provision of about 10,000 nursing beds in Australia. I hope that the homes which will be taking advantage of the concession in the Budget will be able to proceed with this excellent programme.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about the stamp tax, or transactions tax, imposed by the Bolte Government in Victoria which, among other things, is supposed to apply to members of this Parliament who represent electorates in Victoria. I ask: What is the official attitude of the Federal Government to this tax? Should it be continued and, if so, for how long? What is the Prime Minister’s attitude to the imposition of the tax upon Federal public servants, and in particular, upon members of the Federal Parliament? I ask him whether he has paid the tax and what he thinks other members of the Federal Parliament who live in Victoria should do about it.
– The question asks me for the expression of an attitude towards two things. The first is the tax itself - that is, the tax as it applies to all the people in Victoria and not merely the particular categories later mentioned by the honorable member. The advice that has been received from the Attorney-General is that this is a tax which it is within the competence of the Parliament of Victoria to levy. But we have made it quite clear as a Government - and I direct the honorable member’s attention to the public transcript of the Premiers Conference held here recently - that we are opposed to this type of tax, that is, a tax on salary or wages, no matter which State Government levies it. We have made it clear that should there be any attempt to increase the incidence of this kind of tax - in particular the lc in $10 at present levied in Victoria, but also the other similar imposts levied in other States - we would have to take action because we would regard such an attempt as a breach of the agreement on income tax between the States and the Commonwealth, and we would have to seek to reduce the amount of money available to the States accordingly. We have also made it clear that we expect this tax not to continue beyond the period of the present agreement.
As to the imposition of the tax on Federal public servants and members of Parliament generally, I would not wish to draw any distinction between the two groups. I do not believe it would be right to say that members of the Federal Parliament who come from Victoria are in a different category from Federal public servants who happen to be living in Victoria and that they should be treated in a different way. My view is that what would apply to one would apply to all. The advice I have but lately received from our Crown law authorities - and I speak from memory, not being a legal man but giving the facts to the best of my ability - is that stemming from some Act which I think was passed in 1907 there is an obligation, or there could be sought to be enforced an obligation, upon Federal members of Parliament from Victoria to pay this tax. The first year in which the tax was imposed has already passed. What the Government may do about it in the second year should it be reimposed is a matter of policy which I do not at the moment propose to speak about. As to the year which has already passed, I was asked a couple of other small questions by the honorable member. No, I have not yet paid my tax, but, if I remember rightly, I have until 23 id August to pay it.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. By way of preface I observe that in the first 5 months of this year 49 ships flying the British flag entered North Vietnamese ports, and also that all British ships flying the British flag are susceptible to control by the British Government. Does not the Australian Government recognise that the attitude of the British Government in allowing ships to enter North Vietnamese ports when Australian troops are fighting in the region is ravaging the ties of kinship between Britain and Australia? If these ties are to be more than a fiction will the Australian Government lodge a protest with the British Government against this disgraceful renting of the British flag to Communist tyranny and subversion?
– I have no knowledge of the number of ships alleged to have entered Haiphong or to be flying the British flag during the first 5 months of this year but I have been informed by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, that during the last calendar year, although it was alleged in another place that 67 British ships flying the British flag entered Haiphong, in fact there were 13. Some of them entered the port more than once. This does not mean there were 67 ships; it means apparently that there were 67 voyages by 13 vessels. All these ships, I understand, are registered in Hong Kong. They are owned by citizens of Hong Kong who no doubt are of the Communist persuasion. They are chartered to the Communist Chinese Government and they pick up their cargoes in the territory under the control of that Government and carry them to Haiphong. They are manned by Hong Kong Chinese crews. I am not quite sure what it is that the honourable member for Moreton thinks, in that legal situation, can be done by this Government along the lines he suggests.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer the right honorable gentleman to his Budget statement last evening in which he gave an estimate of $l,217m for defence expenditure for the year ahead. Does the Minister recall the Prime Minister giving a figure of $l,250m at a National Press Club lunch in June? What is the reason for the fall of $33m since the Prime Minister announced this figure for defence expenditure?
– It must be obvious that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has little knowledge of public administration and no detailed knowledge of Cabinet procedures.
– You are not too hot at it.
– I have been there for 18 years; the honourable member has not been there for a second. The Prime Minister did ask my Department and we checked with the Department of Defence to find out the most up-to-date figures for estimated defence expenditure during 1968-69 that were available when the Prime Minister made his statement. He used the figures that my Department gave to him. Naturally enough that was before I had the opportunity to look at the Estimates during the Budget discussions to see whether there could be some pruning. I am glad to be able to say that we did have some rephasing of expenditures and I believe that defence expenditure was brought well within the context of the Budget considering the objectives we wanted to achieve.
– I address a question to the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. Can the Minister say what progress has been made with negotiations between the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee and the Conference Lines on future general cargo freight rates between Australia and the United Kingdom? Can he also indicate the position regarding freight negotiations covering the AustralianEuropean trade, with particular reference to shipments of wool?
– As the honourable member for Canning will recall, last week there was an announcement of a freight reduction achieved as a result of a preliminary discussion between the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee, in its expanded form, and the shipping companies. This is seen as a result of the rationalisation of shipping achieved through the active efforts of Sir Alan Westerman and the officers of the Department of Trade and Industry. Beyond this it is hoped that in the future there will be further freight reductions, as a result of not only the rationalisation of the ports of call of ships on these routes but also the introduction of new methods of container and unit load handling of cargoes. The manner in which future discussions will take place is to be determined by an approved shipper body within the ambit of the shipping section of the restrictive trade practices legislation which was passed by this House. To an extent there is an actual interest by wool buyers, for example, outside any registered shipper body. They include wool buyers in Europe to which the honourable member for Canning referred, of course, who have an interest in discussing with the shipping companies the rate that they will be required to pay for the transport of wool and other cargoes that are purchased in Australia. The principal responsibility for these discussions, it is expected, will remain still with the Australian shippers. It is these people who will be included of course within the concept of the expanded FEOTC organisation to be recognised within the restrictive trade practices legislation within which the Government will continue to be able to exercise ultimate control over the conference and its effective availability of shipping and rates of freight.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation advise me as to whether it is the intention of his Department to use jet aircraft as cargo carriers during late evening hours at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport? If so, does the Minister realise the bad effect that this will have by disturbing the rest of young children, nursing mothers, aged and invalid citizens and industrial workers - most important - in the electorate of Kingsford Smith? Might I suggest to the Minister that this proposal be dropped immediately, thus ensuring well earned, comfortable, unbroken sleep for citizens of my electorate at night?
- Mr Speaker, I have an appreciation of the importance of rest as indicated in the honorable member’s question. This is an important matter for people in the vicinity of the Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport as indeed it is to people near every major airport. I assume that the question as to whether my Department flies these particular aircraft refers to airline operations, because my Department owns one jet aircraft only and 1 do not think that that would cause a problem. Restrictions are imposed by my Department on the operation of jet aircraft at night from Sydney Airport. These restrictions have to be observed. There are occasions when, due to adverse weather conditions or some other type of emergency, aircraft must operate outside the normally permissible hours. Generally, the hours laid down have to be observed strictly. If the honorable member can inform me of any occasion on which jet aircraft have not observed the Department’s requirements 1 could have them investigated to ensure that the regulations are adhered to.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. I preface my question by reminding the Minister of the considerable cost to primary producers of harrowing paddocks to spread and to break up cattle dung, and of the natural breeding cover afforded to fly pests by animal droppings. I ask the Minister: Has any research been undertaken with a view to dispersing the dung by the use of beetles, thus eliminating tractor and man hour costs to the farmer and, at the same time, reducing the fly population?
– A friend of mine some time ago raised this question with me, possibly because he had been spending a considerable number of hours on the back of a tractor, pasture harrowing. But the fact remains that 5,000 years ago the Egyptians declared the Scarab beetle as a sacred animal because it did achieve this particular purpose in the agricultural land of Egypt. The Division of Entomology in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for some time has been examining the possibility of introducing an exotic dung beetle fauna into Australia to achieve the same purpose on Australian pastoral improved areas, that is, to disperse cattle dung and to reduce the number of fly pests. There is a native dung beetle in this country but unfortunately for farmers its only effect is upon marsupial dung and it is not effective upon the dung of animals introduced to this country.
– I refer the Treasurer to the cessation by his Government of drought relief to Victoria as from 30th September and ask him whether he is aware of a widespread feeling in former drought stricken areas that unemployment and other effects of the drought will still be widely felt after this date in September and that the withdrawal of this aid will be premature, especially in wheat and wool areas where growers have not, subsequent to the drought, received any income from their farm products. Will the Treasurer re-examine this decision and will he, to aid this reexamination, arrange for an official of his Department to visit these areas and hear at first hand the problems of the municipalities and the district residents?
– The honourable gentleman will know that during the last few years the Commonwealth has introduced proposals for drought relief that are unequalled in this or any other country. We will continue to adopt the same sort of policies as we have adopted in the last 2 years. I have in recent days been in contact with the Prime Minister and have made various recommendations and suggestions to him. These include carrying on drought relief beyond the end of September not only regarding the payment of loans on commitments already entered into, but also extending various other provisions beyond that date. As I have said, I have already communicated with the Prime Minister and I am not prepared to state the stage reached until a policy decision has been made. However, I can assure the honourable gentleman that we have taken into consideration the improvement in the employment position in recent months particularly in Victoria. When the next figures to be published by my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, are made public I am sure that we will see that there has been a notable drop in registrants for employment.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, relates to Chowilla Dam and its alternative site on the Mitta Mitta. In view of some wild statements appearing in the Press in the eastern States and in order to encourage some objective thinking on the subject of the Chowilla Dam and its alternative site, will the Minister look at the possibility of requesting a meeting of the River Murray Commission in Adelaide or, alternatively, take some other action to effect negotiations between the River Murray Commission and/or himself and the South Australian Government?
– I would not think that the eastern States had a monopoly on wild statements on the matter of the Chowilla Dam and its alternative site. It is not expected that there will be a meeting of the River Murray Commission in the near future. As the honourable member knows quite well, we do not expect that the reports on which a decision will be based will be available to the Government before the end of the year. These are the reports from the Snowy Mountains Authority, which is investigating and designing a possible dam at Dartmouth, and from the salinity consultants. At present I do not expect a meeting of the River Murray Commission in the near future. Nevertheless I am seeking a meeting with the South Australian commissioner, with some of his officers and with interested Ministers in the near future to discuss various aspects of the problem and to clarify certain matters.
– 1 ask the Treasurer: As the Budget makes no mention of proposals formerly announced for the imposition of stamp duties in the Australian Capital Territory, can the Treasurer say whether these proposals have now been abandoned or is it intended still to impose stamp duties as previously announced on a wide range of transactions?
– I am having more trouble about this measure than I. anticipated but I am still looking into the matter. I can give the honourable gentleman no other information than that.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that just prior to the end of the autumn session Mr Duckmanton made a Press statement to the effect that if the Australian Broadcasting Commission waited to get a balanced programme on a controversial matter then many programmes would not be proceeded with? Is the Minister aware that once a person or an institution is defamed it is most difficult to correct the damage done? Will the Minister confer with Sir Robert Madgwick, Chairman of the ABC, to have such programmes vetoed?
– I am not aware of the comments made by Mr Duckmanton as suggested by the honourable member. I remind the honourable member that if, in fact, any individual or institution is defamed then that individual or incorporated institution has recourse at common law in relation to a particular remark.
– That is costly.
– Not >f the person or institution wins.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. It is possible for the Australian delegation at the United Nations to take action to urge the General Assembly of the United Nations to seek a settlement of the Nigerian crisis and to organise relief in the region called Biafra?
– Several international agencies and individual countries have tried to use their good offices in order to bring a settlement of the warfare in Nigeria. We have, of course, kept closely in touch with these, particularly with the efforts that have been made within the Commonwealth of Nations. Up to date none of these efforts has been successful. I do not at this moment - in saying this I do not preclude the possibility of a change in the situation - see any hope for better success by a United Nations intervention. I should make it clear, seeing that the question has been raised and following my answer to a question asked yesterday about the sending of relief through the Children’s Emergency Fund of the United Nations, that our donations of relief are to Nigeria in the most comprehensive senses - to both Nigeria and the province of Nigeria which is in a state of rebellion against the central government. The question asked of me yesterday applied particularly to Biafra and I may have given a wrong impression that when I talked of relief 1 was talking of Biafra only. We do not distinguish between suffering on one side of the line of conflict and that on the other side.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that a Professor Leech, formerly of the Snowy
Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, is making a lecture tour visiting centres along the Murray River and is stressing the advantage that could occur from the use of atomic energy in blasting large caverns for the conservation of water? Does the Minister recall that since 1960 I have continuously advocated, in this House, that investigations into this form of water conservation be made? Does he now have any further information on the subject?
-I am aware that Professor Leech is making some speeches in the Murray Valley area on the possible use of atomic energy for the construction of water conservation projects in particular. This is a matter which is being looked at by the Plowshare programme in the United States of America. Australian officers have been present there looking at some of the problems and at some of the work that is being done.
However, I point out firstly that by international agreement relating to nuclear explosions, explosions which vent into the atmosphere are prohibited. Secondly,little work connected with conserving water has been done in America in thePlowshare programme. For one thing, no crater made by a nuclear explosion has been filled with water. Tritium is produced in these explosions and it is not known whether this would affect the quality of the water or its use. It is difficult to make dams by nuclear explosion. After the explosion you would have a crater. If you got water into the crater and if it were usable, you would still have the problem of pumping the water out. Another way of using nuclear explosions to make dams would be to explode a nuclear device on top of a ravine and topple rock into the bottom of the ravine. This system has not yet been proved. A considerable amount of investigation has yet to be done on lip dams and other kinds of dams before it can be said that they have application in Australia. An explosion of the size and kind necessary to create such dams would be very expensive, assuming that it was allowed under international agreement. It is accepted that the cost of storing water by such means is tens or even hundreds of times more expensive at present than storing water conventionally. In addition the compaction which is present when dams are built by conventional means is absent when nuclear explosions are employed and it is not known whether dams created by nuclear explosion will in these circumstances hold water satisfactorily. So, although we have been and are closely watching these experiments, I do not believe that in the immediate or near future it will be possible to use nuclear explosions for the conservation of water in Australia on a large scale.
– I ask the Minister for Education and Science a question supplementary to the one he answered earlier about rural matters. When seeking for imported scarab or dung beetles a name to suit Australian conditions will he bear in mind the claims of his predecessor, the first Australian Minister for Education and Science, whose name he will find, on perusing the recently published Penguin Dictionary of Surnames’, means dung place?
– I have no doubt that beetles of the kind referred to by the honourable member and imported by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation will already have an appropriate scientific name.
-I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. Has the Government approved the acquisition by the domestic airlines of Boeing 727 quick change aircraft? Is the principal purpose of these aircraft their use as jet freighters by night? If so, do these facts confirm the fears of the honourable member for KingsfordSmith and an increasing number of other honourable members that the Government intends to proceed with a plan to permit jet flights over capital city airports during hours at which such flights are currently banned?
– I appreciate the interest which the honourable member shows for obvious reasons, in this subject. From time to time he has taken this matter up with me. I know that he has made representations on matters of this nature through the appropriate Government members committee. I assure him that the opinions he has expressed and the views expressed by the Government members committee are very carefully considered by my Department. A lot of research is now being done throughout the world in this field. I will keep the House abreast of developments as they arise.
So far no application has been made to my Department for the use of Boeing 727 quick change aircraft. Therefore, the problem does not arise at this point of time. I reiterate that the regulations as they now apply will be enforced as rigidly as possible and that, except for certain emergencies, they will continue to apply.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. 1 have been prompted to ask this question by pressure from organisations in my area. I understand that the Postmaster-General also has received considerable correspondence from these organisations. I ask: When will the proposed television station to serve the Cairns district be considered by Cabinet? If it has already been considered and approved, when will the proposed work be placed before the Public Works Committee for scrutiny, as I believe it will have to be owing to the expenditure involved?
– The matter is currently before Cabinet. I cannot indicate when Cabinet will make a decision and 1 cannot indicate when the Public Works Committee may be available to examine the proposals referred to it by the Parliament. The Committee will have to determine when it will examine these proposals, having regard to the sittings of the House.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Development. I ask: Do the people of Nauru receive a royalty of 98c a ton on phosphate mined on their island? Has Head Chief Hammer DeRoburt been correctly reported as saying that he was considering a better offer from Japanese interests? Will the Minister request his colleague the Minister for External Territories to use his friendship with Head Chief Hammer DeRoburt to obtain his assistance to negotiate the sale of Australian minerals to overseas interests so that Australians too may benefit by more than the usual 5c a ton royalty for our coal, iron ore and other minerals?
– This matter came under the administration of my colleague the Minister for External Territories. I am not in a position to know what the royalties are on phosphate in Nauru. The royalties charged for our minerals are set by the State governments and they vary in almost every case. For example, the royalty on iron ore depends on whether it is processed in Australia or is exported in the raw form. In the latter case there is an increased royalty. Nevertheless, these royalties are set by the State governments and the State governments believe that they are adequate. If the honourable member feels that they are not adequate he should get in touch with his State Government.
– I address my question to the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry. Has the Minister received advice on the deliberations of the Tariff Board concerning the manufacture of light aircraft in Australia? lt will be recalled that government assistance has been sought by the Transavia Corporation Pty Ltd of North Sydney?
– As the honourable member remarked, this matter was referred to the Tariff Board. I understand that the public hearings of the Tariff Board have been concluded but that it has not yet produced its report for examination by the Government. When the report is tendered to the Government I assure the honourable member that it will be considered as expeditiously as possible.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, ls the Minister aware that the Australian National Line intends to transfer the ‘Bass Trader’ to the Hobart run from the northern coast of Tasmania for one trip a week when the new ‘Australian Trader’ comes into service about April next year? Is he aware that this will limit the Bass Trader’ to one trip a week to the northern part of Tasmania instead of three trips a week as at present? In view of the importance of the ‘Bass Trader’ for livestock exports to Victoria, and as there is no other really suitable ship for this regular trade, if the ‘Bass Trader’ cannot remain permanently on the northern coast of Tasmania will the Government examine the urgency of the ANL building a special stock ship for this expanding livestock trade? I may say that the Australian Labor Party’s Rural Committee in Tasmania, my colleague, the honourable member for Braddon, and my colleague, the honourable member for Bass, are interested in this.
-Order! The honourable member is now giving information. He will resume his scat. He has asked his question.
– After all that, I am not too sure what the question was. 1 gather that the honourable gentleman is concerned about the future shipping position in relation to northern Tasmanian ports and the port of Hobart. f. can assure him that the Australian National Line is well aware of the problems of intending shippers in both the north and the south of the island as well as on the mainland. I can assure him also that every consideration will be given to improving the service presently available. In fact, the purpose of the introduction of roll on roll off vessels is ‘to ensure a quicker turnround of vessels and a quicker flow of trade between the respective ports. Any representations made by the honourable gentleman, other members of the Parliament, or people who have an interest in shipping goods, concerning the future schedules of the vessels used by the Australian National Line will, of course, be taken into account in determining the schedules and the ports of call, both now and when the ‘Australian Trader’ comes into service.
– On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, I present the following paper:
Special report of the Committee relating to the site.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Honourable members will recall that earlier in the year the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) raised a question in the House regarding the incorporation in Hansard of explanatory memoranda circulated in the chamber by Ministers coincidentally with the introduction of the related Bills. An instance would be a memorandum accompanying an Income Tax Assessment Bill. This proposal presented some difficulties, not the least of which could be a considerable delay in the publication of the daily Hansard. 1 accordingly looked at alternative means of extending the dissemination to the public of the information contained in these memoranda.
I have now arranged - and 1 am assured by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports that this will meet his primary purpose - for all explanatory memoranda circulated for the information of honourable members to be published by the Government Printing Office and be available for sale from this office and agencies. Publication in this way will include a distribution of the memoranda to all those institutions and persons who receive copies of Bills, including State parliaments and departments, public libraries, universities, newspapers, political organisations, chambers of commerce and manufactures, and taxpayers’ associations, to mention but a few. I might mention that similar arrangements have been made by the Senate in respect of memoranda circulated in that House.
– I present the following paper:
Statement for the year 1967-68 of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1901- 1966 (Advance to the Treasurer)
Ordered that the statement be taken into consideration in Committee of the whole House at the next sitting.
– by leave - I wish to give the House some details of the new measures in education which were announced by the right honourable the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) in his Budget Speech. As with the Government’s existing activities in education these new or expanded programmes are directed towards improving the quality of Australian education. Each measure has been devised following discussions with educational institutions, and together they represent the highest priorities, as the Government sees them, of the various proposals which have been put to it. Each measure is also directly related to some existing activity in which the Commonwealth is engaged. There are four major items - school libraries, preschool teachers’ colleges, curriculum development and expansion of Commonwealth tertiary scholarships - and I shall deal with each of them in turn.
Honourable members from both sides of the House are well aware of the highly successful science facilities programme in both government and independent secondary schools which is now in its fifth year. The Government has decided to introduce a parallel scheme of assistance with secondary school libraries. This new programme will be similar in many ways to the science facilities scheme, although there will be some different points of emphasis.
The Parliament will be asked to approve States grants legislation covering a programme for the provision of $27m over 3 years for approved capital projects for the development of school libraries in government and independent secondary schools throughout Australia. Under the proposed arrangements, Commonwealth grants will be available for the erection, alteration or extension of library buildings, together with the provision of furniture, equipment and the basic stock of reference books and materials for a secondary school library. Schools will be eligible for assistance in whole or in part according to their individual circumstances. Projects on which construction commenced on or after 14th August 1968 will be eligible for consideration, provided they meet the standards to be laid down and, in the case of independent schools, provided they are recommended for a grant. The Government will be seeking the co-operation of the States in the administration of the scheme, including payments to independent schools of grants approved by the Commonwealth Minister.
It is proposed that the distribution of the funds to schools will be along the lines of the formula used when the secondary science facilities programme was introduced. The money available each year, divided between States and school systems, is set out in the following table which, with the concurrence of honourable members, 1 incorporate in Hansard:
Expenditure during 1968-69 is estimated at $3,000,000.
I intend to appoint a committee to advise me on the conditions and standards necessary for the effective development of the Commonwealth programme. In particular the committee will be asked to recommend desirable standards for library buildings, furniture and equipment, books and materials; to recommend ways of determining existing deficiencies in library services in a particular school; and in respect of the independent secondary schools, to visit individual schools and report to the Minister on their library needs and to assist schools in developing plans for building library facilities and in selecting materials and equipment.
In addition to this committee I will be seeking to have advisory committees set up in each State so that they may recommend on priorities and amounts of assistance for the independent schools. As with the science facilities scheme, one committee in each State will service Roman Catholic schools and another will function for schools other than Roman Catholic. As far as government schools are concerned, the State Departments of Education will determine priorities and allocations within a general programme which has been approved by me, for each State, as is the case with the science programme.
The Government will take other steps to improve the standard of school libraries, in addition to the capital programme. Firstly, it will encourage colleges of advanced education to conduct suitable courses of training for school librarians and will also make advanced education scholarships available for competition among persons wishing to take these courses, within the general programme of Commonwealth scholarships. In addition the Government is prepared to co-operate with the States and library authorities in sponsoring some short specialist courses in school librarianship for teachers, and a sum of $50,000 has been included in the estimates of my Department for this particular purpose.
State education departments and parents of children in both government and independent schools have been contributing towards the provision of books for school libraries and the Government hopes that this new Commonwealth programme will encourage them in their own efforts. Some States have, or are developing, a centra] service for cataloguing and associated purposes to assist schools in stocking libraries. In my view it would be of great advantage if schools throughout Australia could have access to such a service. The needs of secondary schools in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory will be met outside the $27m programme for schools in the States. Those schools will be catered for under separate provisions on departmental votes.
In all parts of Australia, other than Tasmania, pre-school education is provided outside the State education departments, but it must not be assumed that pre-school education is not a significant and integral part of our education system. The voluntary organisations have developed a high standard of service to the community and they are worthy of government support. As most honourable members will know, the Government has been examining the needs of this level of education to see what assistance from the Commonwealth would be of most benefit to pre-school children. We have made our examination in close association with the various authorities responsible for the pre-schools and the pre-school teacher training colleges and with State education departments.
As a result of these investigations and consultations, it has emerged quite clearly that the most important help the Commoncould give to pre-school education would be to provide facilities which would help to ensure an adequate supply of trained kindergarten teachers. The immediate need is to double in all States the number of trained kindergarten teachers being produced by the various kindergarten teachers colleges, including the college of the Sydney
Day Nursery and Nursery Schools’ Association and the Tasmanian Education Department, which is responsible for pre-school education in that State.
The Commonwealth Government has decided to make available unmatched capital grants totalling $2,500,000 over the 3 year period beginning 1st July 1968 and ending 30th June 197J for the purpose of assisting each of the six mainland pre-school teachers colleges and the Tasmanian Education Department to expand their capacity by way of new and extended buildings and equipment to enable those institutions to double their present output of trained preschool teachers. The institutions to be assisted under this programme are the Sydney Kindergarten Teachers College; the Nursery School Teachers College, Sydney; Melbourne Kindergarten Teachers College; Brisbane Kindergarten Teachers College; Adelaide Kindergarten Teachers College; Perth Kindergarten Teachers College; and the Tasmanian Education Department. The total sum of $2,500,000 has been arrived at on the basis of information supplied by the various institutions, but the exact amount to be allocated to each of them will be determined after further consultations. When that has been done the Government will introduce a States Grants Bill and 1 hope this will occur during the present sessional period. It is contemplated that expenditure during 1968-69 will be about $350,000.
As a further means ot increasing (he supply of trained pre-school teachers, arrangements will be made within the Commonwealth advanced education scholarships scheme for more awards to persons intending to undertake approved courses at these colleges. A related measure is the decision announced recently to permit the Canberra College of Advanced Education to offer courses in teacher education, including preschool teaching.
The improvement of the quality of Australian education depends to a considerable extent on devising curricula and associated materials which reflect the changing needs of Australian life. This is the responsibility of the education authorities in the States, but the Commonwealth has a special interest in reducing the unnecessary differences in what is taught in the various States and hence the very real difficulties faced by children who move from one State to another. We have stated on several occasions over the past year or two that we would consider support for proposals in this field put forward by the States, but only if a particular project were sponsored by more than one State. While the Commonwealth believes much can be done to break down unnecessary barriers between States, it is not seeking to impose uniformity or centralised control of education. On the contrary the projects which the Commonwealth would support would be ones which would encourage individual initiative among teachers.
In accordance with this approach, provision has been made in the estimates of my Department for a Commonwealth contribution to the first major curriculum development exercise in co-operation with three States. The project is known as the Junior Secondary Science Project and the Ministers of Education in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania have requested Commonwealth participation in further development work over the next 5 years. The Government has decided to contribute $150,000 a year for 5 years commencing in 1968-69. This will represent a Commonwealth contribution of $750,000 towards an estimated total cost of $1,200,000. Our offer is on the understanding that the three States will meet the balance of the cost either in cash or by provision of resources. The development of this project started a few years ago through the co-operation of the Australian Council for Educational Research and the Standing Committee for Science of the Victorian Universities and the Schools Examination Board. This work is in line with recent activities in curriculum development in the United States and in Britain.
By dividing the curriculum into small units, which are relatively self contained, the course is easily adaptable for use in several States. I emphasise that there is no question of imposing a uniform approach. Any State may select, from the considerable number of units that will be available, those which best fit its needs. The units for the first year of this course are now in use. The units for second year are under development and will be available for use in 1969. Third and fourth year units will be developed and will be available by the beginning of 1970 and 1971 respectively. All teaching materials will be well tried in the classroom and evaluated by the project staff and practising teachers before being made generally available to ensure high quality and effective learning.
The amount included in my Department’s estimates is $175,000, which includes a small sum of $25,000 to assist with the development of curriculum projects in other fields.
The number of open entrance university scholarships awarded annually was last increased in 1966 from 5,000 to 6,000. The Government has reviewed the situation each year and, in view of the increased number of able students who are expected to complete their matriculation requirements in 1968, it has been decided to increase from 6.000 to 7,500 the number of open entrance Commonwealth university scholarships to be made available in 1969 - an increase of 1,500 awards. Selection for these scholarships is based upon the performance of students at the matriculation examination in each State and the number of awards to be made available in each State will be determined on a population basis.
Following upon the recommendations of the Martin Committee in 1964 that encouragement should be given to able young men and women to follow tertiary courses of education other than those provided by universities, the Government introduced a new scheme of Commonwealth advanced education scholarships and. since 1966, 1,000 awards have been made available each year. These awards which are tenable for tertiary courses outside universities carry the same benefits and arc subject to the same conditions as Commonwealth university scholarships. The Government has reviewed the situation and, in the light of increasing demands for these awards, has decided to raise the number to be made available in 1969 from 1,000 to 1,500. Of the 1,000 awards offered annually, 750 have been regarded as open entrance scholarships awarded to students who are commencing upon a tertiary course of study, and these awards have been distributed among the States on a population basis. The remaining 250 awards have been offered to those students who had already completed portion of a tertiary course. At the present time there are a number of new and special developments in advanced education in Australia, notably in Victoria, and I propose therefore to arrange for the additional 500 awards to be made available in 1969 to be distributed according to demand and available facilities.
The wide range of courses in colleges of advanced education and the variety of activities covered in these colleges make a uniform selection procedure for advanced education scholarships not always realistic. There are courses in institutions of this type in several States - for example, para-medical courses, including pharmacy, optometry and physiotherapy - where the results of the matriculation examination can be reasonably used as a basis for selection. However, in Victoria, for example, it is not possible to use matriculation results in selecting young people from technical schools who seek advanced education scholarships to pursue diploma courses. I am anxious to develop selection procedures which are appropriate to particular courses or groups of courses approved for advanced education scholarships. I am also anxious to use these scholarships to encourage young people to enrol in courses which provide training to meet community needs.
In 1959, after the Government had considered the report of the Murray Committee, 100 awards were made available for postgraduate study in Australian universities. With the increase in university enrolments, and the substantial growth in postgraduate studies, the Government has continually reviewed the operation of the scheme and by 1967 the number of new postgraduate awards had risen to 500 a year. Discussions have been held recently with the vicechancellors of the Australian universities and, in response to their clearly expressed view that there is a need for more of these postgraduate awards, it has been decided to increase the number of new awards to be made available in 1969 from 500 to 650. At the present time, discussions are continuing with the vice-chancellors concerning revised administrative arrangements in connection with these awards to operate in 1969. These additional postgraduate, university and advanced education awards will cost $lm in 1968-69, rising to $4,800,000 when in full operation.
I come now to some special provisions for the Australian Capital Territory and the community schools in the Northern Territory where the Commonwealth has additional and direct responsibilities for education. In addition to providing increased funds for the expansion of facilities and services at all levels of education, the Government will introduce new benefits for independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and for both government and independent schools in the Northern Territory. These are the details: Since the beginning of this year the Commonwealth has provided student allowances to independent schools in the two mainland Territories. These are calculated on a scale of rates for primary pupils and for various grades of pupils in secondary schools, and payments are made at the beginning of each term. The Government has decided to increase these rates from the beginning of the third term in 1968 as a further contribution to the running costs of independent schools. The new rates and present rates are compared in a table which, with the concurrence of the House, I will have incorporated in Hansard.
Expenditure on these allowances is estimated at $240,000 in 1968-69 compared with $105,000 in 1967-68 for the Australian Capital Territory, and $22,800 in 1968-69 compared with $10,500 in 1967-68 for the Northern Territory. The Government has also decided to extend to the independent schools in the two Territories the grants presently paid to assist parents of pupils in the government schools to provide books for school reference libraries. The independent schools will receive an establishment grant of $500 for each primary school in the Australian Capital Territory and of $800 in the Northern Territory, together with a subsidy on books purchased for the schools, both primary and secondary, of 40c in the dollar in the Australian Capital Territory and dollar for dollar in the Northern Territory. The difference in the rates arises because the government schools in the Northern Territory receive grants at the rates applicable in South Australian schools. The estimated cost of these library grants in 1968-69 is $15,000 in the Australian Capital Territory and $5,000 in the Northern Territory.
Both government and independent schools in the Territories will be eligible to receive library facilities in secondary schools similar to those to be provided under the new capita] programme for secondary school libraries in the States. Those arrangements will include provision for establishment grants for reference libraries in secondary schools. The South Australian curriculum and syllabus are followed in the community schools in the Northern Territory and it has an integral part of the South Australian primary school system for text books to be provided free for all pupils in primary schools, both government and independent.
The Government has decided to introduce this system in the Northern Territory for pupils in both government and independent primary schools, commencing with the 1969 school year. The South Australian Education Department has offered to include Northern Territory requirements in its own purchases of these books. Head teachers of Northern Territory primary schools will be able to make a choice from a selection list. The books will remain the property of the school but will be available for use by the children throughout the year. This primary school text book scheme is estimated to cost $53,000 during 1968-69.
The Government has also reviewed the range of benefits to students whose parents are permanent residents of the Northern Territory and who must live away from home to attend school. The means test free boarding allowance for primary and secondary school students will be increased from $200 to $250 per annum and the means test element in this allowance will be relaxed to bring it into line with the means test on Commonwealth university and advanced education scholarships. These revised benefits will also be extended to students living away from home to attend full time technical courses. In addition the Government will introduce two new bursary schemes at the upper secondary and tertiary levels to meet the special needs of Northern Territory students. The bursaries will be on a competitive basis and will be available from the beginning of 1969. At the secondary level, awards will be available to some good students who do not win Commonwealth secondary scholarships but who are close to that standard. The secondary bursaries will carry a benefit of $100 per annum free of any means test. At the tertiary level, the cost of tuition and other compulsory fees will be met for some students with good prospects of completing a tertiary course even though they do not obtain either a university or advanced education scholarship. These additional benefits to students from the Northern Territory are estimated to cost $27,000 in 1968-69.
I emphasise that the new measures about which I have spoken represent the highest priority among various proposals in education which the Government has considered recently. I hope honourable members will not assume that the Government considers other avenues as being unimportant. Our record speaks clearly to the contrary. It remains a fact, however, that there is a limit to the funds which can be made available in the Budget for education purposes.
The new measures of which I have spoken are estimated to cost $4,700,000 during 1968-69 and when each of the new programmes is fully developed their combined annual cost will be close to $!5m. Total Commonwealth expenditure on education this financial year is estimated to exceed $2 10m, an increase of $34m over expenditure during 1967-68. Five years ago the Commonwealth spent less than $70m under the heading of education. Within that 5 year period the Government has introduced a wide range of new measures in education which I summarise briefly as follows:
Grants for colleges of advanced education, teachers colleges, technical and agricultural colleges, and for science laboratories in schools;
Advanced education, secondary and technical scholarships;
Special research grants; and
Capital aid for independent schools in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.
Expenditure under these headings is estimated to be $63m this financial year. In addition we have expanded considerably our support for State universities and the Australian National University, our expenditure on university and postgraduate scholarships and on education services in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory to a level estimated to cost $132m during 1968-69.
Taking into account the completely new programmes for school libraries, pre-school teachers colleges and curriculum development, the new measures in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and other minor items, the total estimated Commonwealth expenditure on education in Australia during 1968-69 is $210,600,000. Further details of expenditure from 1963-64 to 1967-68, as well as the estimated expenditure in 1968-69, are set out in a comprehensive table which, with the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard.
I lay on the table the following paper:
Education - New Measures announced in Budget - Ministerial Statement, 14 August 1968- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Barnard) adjourned.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
This is the second occasion in a very short time on which the Opposition has had to use the forms of this House to express a lack of confidence in a Minister of this Government. It is not a matter that the Opposition approaches lightly. We like to believe that all relevant matters are fully considered by the Opposition before it decides to propose a motion of lack of confidence in a Minister. It is quite clear not only to honourable members in this House but to those who are interested in ex-servicemen’s problems outside this House that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) no longer enjoys the confidence not only of honourable members on this side of the House but of the organisations who represent ex-servicemen outside this Parliament.
I want to make it quite clear that the Opposition has no quarrel with previous Ministers for Repatriation who have been appointed by this Government. I have, as a member of the Opposition, on a number of occasions disagreed with the Minister for Repatriation when discussing Government policy in this chamber. It can be said in fairness that these Ministers for Repatriation have had the confidence of Returned Services League organisations. Let me refer to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who I understand is to take part in this debate. Whilst Opposition members may have disagreed from time to time with the Minister when expressing Government policy in this House, I believe he has enjoyed the confidence of the members of this chamber in administering that policy. I want to make it clearly understood that the Opposition offers no criticism of previous Ministers for Repatriation, nor has it ever had to take this course of action in regard to any of them. The Opposition cannot overlook the number of occasions on which representatives of returned servicemen’s organisations in this country have indicated publicly their lack of confidence in the present Minister for Repatriation and that he should be removed from office.
I wish to refer very briefly to the unprecedented action of 300 members of a State branch of the RSL in unanimously adopting a resolution expressing want of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation. The Minister denied the allegation but the fact remains that the Chairman of the No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal made certain claims against the Minister which were submitted to the Victorian Branch of the RSL by a member of the State Executive, Mr Ruxton, who said that the Minister had exerted undue influence on the Chairman of the Tribunal. Subsequently the Chairman of the Tribunal endorsed the statement that had been made by Mr Ruxton. Mr Mooney is still the Chairman of the No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. He has not been removed from office. He made a very serious allegation against the Minister for Repatriation, saying that the Minister had endeavoured to use influence against the Chairman of a war pensions assessment appeal tribunal. I want to make it perfectly clear that the Repatriation Act lays down quite clearly the duties and the responsibilities of the war pensions assessment appeal tribunals. There are two kinds - the war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal and the war pensions assessment appeal tribunal. In each case, the Repatriation Act clearly lays down the functions of these tribunals. They are completely independent of this Parliament and they are completely independent of the Minister for Repatriation.
But here is a clear case. The accusation has not been refuted by the National Executive of the Returned Services League. It may have been denied by the Minister for Repatriation, but the fact remains that the chairman of a responsible tribunal had to state publicly that he supported the statements that had been made by a responsible member of the State Executive of the RSL in Victoria that the Minister for Repatriation had used undue influence to prevent a tribunal acting in the generous way in which I believe the Repatriation Act lays down that tribunals ought to act in considering the cases of ex-servicemen. So, we believe this lack of confidence motion to be clearly justified.
The Opposition hopes that the Government, particularly the Prime Minister, (Mr Gorton), who I understand is to take part in this debate, will take into consideration the criticism that has been levelled against the Minister for Repatriation not only in this Parliament - the Minister may not always be responsible for matters of policy - but also by organisations outside this Parliament which clearly want to see the Minister for Repatriation moved from his office. 1 draw the attention df this House to the complete loss of confidence by exservicemen organisations and by exservicemen in the Minister for Repatriation. There has been an alarming deterioration in morale amongst sub-branches and members of these organisations during the Minister’s term of office. At every level there has been a complete loss of faith in the administration of the Repatriation Act and in the ability of this Government to treat ex-service pensioners with compassion and dignity.
We have had the unparalleled spectacle of two major branches of the RSL expressing motions of no confidence in the Minister for Repatriation. This has never happened before. Never before have a responsible State branch or two of the largest State branches in this country acted unanimously to express motions of no confidence in a Minister for Repatriation. The Victorian Branch of the RSL at its annual conference, attended by 300 delegates, unanimously expressed its lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation. The New South Wales Branch of the RSL also has passed a motion expressing its complete lack of confidence in the Minister. This is evidence of an alarming malaise in the administration of the Repatriation Act in Australia. At the Federal level, the national executive of the
RSL has placed on record its complete lack of confidence in the approach of this Government to war pensions. It has deplored the fact that the Government has failed to recognise the just claims of exservicemen and ex-servicewomen and their dependants.
In emphasising the present state of emergency in many areas of repatriation, the National Executive of the RSL said that this was the responsibility of the whole Government and not solely of the ministerial head of the Repatriation Department. The Australian Labor Party condemns the attitude of this Government towards the treatment of ex-servicemen but we cannot distinguish between the Government and the Minister for Repatriation in this respect as the National Executive of the RSL has done. We emphasise that the grave uncertainty and the serious decline in confidence evident in ex -servicemens organisations are primarily the responsibility of the Minister.
I wish to refer briefly to the recent unseemly wrangle between the Minister for Repatriation and the Victorian Branch of the RSL. I think that this matter ought to be placed on record. Honourable members will recall that a delegate to the State conference of the Victorian branch of the RSL accused the Minister of ‘waving a stick’ at members of the pensions tribunals. This allegation was made by a responsible delegate, Mr Bruce Ruxton, and was supported by Mr Kevin Mooney, Chairman of the No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal. Mr Mooney claimed that the Minister for Repatriation had implied to him that he had used undue influence on the No. 6 Tribunal to give over generous treatment to appellants. Mr Mooneys allegations were denied by the Minister and the disagreement ended in a stalemate without either side backing down. In other words, Mr Mooney, the Chairman of the No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal, refused to retract the statement that he had made. Why does not the Minister remove the Chairman of the No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal? Surely the charge that he made was serious enough to warrant his removal if the Minister for Repatriation was satisfied that the allegations were incorrect. But Mr Mooney is still there. He is only half way through serving his present term.
Mr Mooney’s allegations were denied by the Minister. As I have said, we still have a situation where the Minister has denied these allegations and Mr Mooney has repeated again his statement that the Minister used undue influence. The Minister for Repatriation claimed that Mr Mooney misunderstood him and that he had put before Mr Mooney complaints about Mr Mooney’s conduct at tribunals, lt is impossible to determine accurately the merits of this disagreement. But Mr Mooney refused to withdraw his allegations. It is significant that 300 members of the Victorian Branch of the RSL accepted Mr Mooney’s interpretation rather than the account given by the Minister for Repatriation, Senator McKellar. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that to a man the Branch would not accept the word of the Minister and showed neither confidence nor trust in him. This is overwhelming evidence of the widespread dissatisfaction with the Minister in ex-servicemen’s organisations and among ex-servicemen.
Despite insistent calls by the Minister for an apology, the President of the Victorian Branch of the RSL, Sir William Hall, refused to back down and apologise on behalf of his Branch, which affirmed its support for Mr Mooney, in other words, the Victorian Branch clearly came down on the side of Mr Mooney. If it had not been satisfied that Mr Mooney’s allegations were correct, it would have asked Mr Ruxton to withdraw and apologise. But it supported Mr Mooney and Mr Ruxton. This is an extraordinary action for a State Branch of an organisation which is characterised by respect for authority and, in particular, respect for Governmental authority. It emphasises the serious deterioration in relations between this Government and exservicemen’s organisations since the present Minister assumed office. It reveals a lack of co-operation and understanding between the Minister and responsible officers of an organisation representing many thousands of men in the care of his Department.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I turn to examine now the increasingly harsh administration of the repatriation provisions that has become apparent under Senator McKellar. There has been a marked lack of compassion and flexibility in the interpretation of the Repatriation Act. This is pointed up in a statement by the National Executive of the Returned Services League on 7th August 1968. Commenting on the dispute between the Minister for Repatriation and the Victorian RSL, the National President, Sir Arthur Lee, said that the RSL had no way of determining the merits of each separate viewpoint. However he said that concern had been growing in leading circles at the tendency of medical advisers to be rigid and uncompromising in their attitude to disabilities. He pointed out that the Repatriation Department had produced documentary films to show the extent of hardship undergone in active service. These films were designed to show young doctors who were not servicemen how the rigours and strains of active service could impair health seriously. I believe that Sir Arthur Lee and the National Executive of the RSL considerably understated the growing rigidity of assessment of disabilities.
In addition there are inexplicable anomalies and variations in the interpretation of pension provisions, lt is obvious to everyone who deals with repatriation claims and appeals at all levels that there is an increasingly stringent attitude to the granting of pensions and benefits. No attempt has been made to lay down guide lines for doctors, boards, commissions and tribunals to assess the gravity of individual cases. The only guide line is the Fourth Schedule of the Repatriation Act, which is relied on by doctors and members of boards, commissions and tribunals. The Schedule is an extremely inadequate list of some disabilities and the percentage of the general rate pension to be applied to them. It lists 19 categories of disability and the corresponding percentage of the general rate applicable. The major part of the list is devoted to categorising the 100% disability. The lowest percentage of the general rate applied by the Schedule is 50% for the loss of vision of one eye. This means that the assessment of disability between 10% and 50% is completely at the discretion of the individual doctor or member of an examining body.
Furthermore, the guide lines laid down for disabilities between 50% and 100% are meagre. With such a skimpy guide to disabilities and the percentage of the general rate to be applied, inevitably an immense amount is left to individual discretion. 1 believe that this is one of the reasons why the Act has so clearly laid down that a tribunal shall be free to gather the facts, to sift the evidence and to make a decision either for or against the appellant. This is the responsibility of a tribunal, whether it is an assessment tribunal or an entitlement tribunal. Certainly no tribunal should be influenced by a Minister because he apparently believes that the tribunal has been slightly more than generous towards the appellant who has appeared before it. A revision of this Schedule and its replacement by a table of disabilities giving detailed instructions for the guidance of medical advisers, examiners and members of boards and tribunals is essential for the compassionate administration of the Act.
May I take the opporunity to refer briefly to the Canadian table of disabilities? It lists some 54 individual disabilities and the percentage of benefit recommended for each one. This detailed guide line lists disabilities ranging from 5% to the full 100%. The assessment table gives doctors a way of assessing the degree of disability that is applicable. It also allows the doctor to recommend a rate of pension in accordance with the tabic. This detailed method of assessment is far superior to the Australian procedure where a doctor assesses an applicant’s medical condition but cannot recommend a rate of pension. The rale is determined solely by lay opinion.
The failure of the Department to establish appropriate guide lines for the guidance of doctors and assessors is largely responsible for the anomalies that arise in the administration of the Act. It is tragic that at a time when Boer War and World War I veterans are increasingly in need of assistance the administration of the Act has become much more severe. There is no doubt that a substantial section of ex-service opinion is that the administration of the Act is weighted against the applicant with increasing severity. If it is weighted against the’ applicant in this way, surely it is necessary for this Government and indeed for any government to appoint a Minister for Repatriation who is sympathetic to the needs of ex-servicemen. The Minister for Repatriation has clearly shown that he has little sympathy for the needs of exservicemen and for the requests that have been made lo him by responsible exservicemen’s organisations.
Whether the Minister was or was not guilty of stand-over tactics, there is an overwhelming impression amongst exservicemen that the Act is not being fairly administered There is a need for leniency and discretion in administration as the need of older veterans for assistance increases. However, the attitude of the Department under the present Minister has been one of increasing rigidity and harshness. This is an unconscionable denial of the compensatory principles in the Repatriation Act. The rates of repatriation pensions and the extent of benefits for pensioners have been raised for discussion repeatedly by the Opposition in this House. Because the Government and the Minister have effectively curtailed debate on repatriation legislation, we have had to do this by successive debates in both Houses when we have raised this as a matter of definite public importance.
Need I remind honourable members that it was the present Minister for Repatriation, Senator McKellar, who introduced the system of declaring that repatriation Bills were money Bills and thereby preventing the Opposition and Government supporters from moving amendments to the Bill? The right lo move amendments to these Bills had been accepted by all governments since the Repatriation Act was first introduced into the Parliament back in 1918. A repatriation Bill was not considered to be a money Bill and the opportunity was clearly available to any honourable member to move an amendment to it. But because the Opposition in the Senate, only a short time ago, moved an amendment thai was accepted by the Senate, the Minister for Repatriation immediately introduced another Bill and declared it a money Bill. So this Government, under the Minister for Repatriation. Senator McKellar, has effectively forestalled any effort by the Opposition to give effect to ils criticism of the Government for its lack of sympathy and inaction on repatriation matters generally.
Some increases in repatriation payments were included in the Budget introduced in this House last night. While these increases were welcome, they should be set in proper perspective. The special rate pension is being increased by $3 to $33.50. These pensioners have waited for some years for an increase and the increase is negatived to some extent because many married pensioners who are subject to Ihe means test provisions will not receive it in full. I acknowledge that this is not the time to debate the repatriation measures. Honourable members will have an opportunity to deal more fully with these matters when the repatriation legislation is before the Parliament, but I think I should show now that under the present Minister for Repatriation there have been no general increases in repatriation benefits and only one increase - I think I am right but I may be corrected on this - in the rate for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. Those receiving additional entitlements under Service pensions will be affected and the eligibility of many pensioners and their wives for the pensioner medical service will also be affected.
Even the increase of $3 is significantly below the minimum rate of pension urged by the RSL. In the submission of the RSL to the Ex-servicemen’s Committee of Cabinet this year, the League sought a special rate equal to the minimum wage of $37.50. The new rate in the Budget is only 89% of the minimum wage compared with 103% of the equivalent Commonwealth basic wage in 1920 and 100% in 1950. It is worth noting that there was no increase in the Budget for the 100% general rate pension, which is still only 32% of the minimum wage compared with 54% of the equivalent Commonwealth basic wage in 1920 and 51% in 1950. It is proposed that some general rate pensioners with 75% to 100% assessed incapacity will receive a special compensation allowance. Last night the Treasurer indicated clearly that not all general rate pensioners would receive an increase. How many will receive an increase?
In summary the Budget has done little to lift pensions to the moderate minimum rates proposed by the RSL in the 1968 pension plan. The Government has refused to extend automatic repatriation hospital benefits to returned men of the First World War and to the few remaining survivors of the Boer War. As the RSL has pointed out, each year this request gains urgency and the number that would benefit decreases. The estimated total cost of such an extension is less than $3m a year, and it is incredible that such a modest outlay should not be made. The Government has failed to increase the funeral grant, which has been $50 since 1952. This has put a considerable strain on the resources of branches of ex-servicemen’s organisations which have to provide additional money for funerals from welfare funds. It is not difficult to appreciate the situation in which the National Executive of the RSL finds itself today and the reason for the National Executive, at the time of the Senate election in- 1967, issuing 500,000 pamphlets drawing attention to the Government’s neglect of its responsibilities in respect of repatriation. In short, the Budget measures have gone only a little way towards introducing the minimum requirements of the RSL.
It is worth pointing out that the benefits provided under the Repatriation Act have not kept in step with benefits that are paid in comparable countries. If they do not keep in step with the Government’s promises and with the benefits that are available in other comparable countries then the Minister for Repatriation must accept some responsibility. I appreciate that he must share that responsibility with the Government, but surely if the Minister were sympathetic to ex-servicemen’s organisations he would have been in a position to put a case for increased benefits more strongly than he evidently has done before the Repatriation Sub-Committee of the Cabinet which deals with these matters. Apparently the Minister has not done anything. Therefore RSL branches have adopted the unprecedented course of drawing attention to the inactivity and failings of a responsible Minister of the Government by moving, in two States, motions of no confidence in him.
It is interesting to refer briefly to pensions and benefits that are payable to veterans in America and Canada. They are considerably superior to the Australian benefits. For example, the 100% rate pension in Canada is approximately four times that of the 100% general pension in Australia and about one-and-a-half times the special rate pension. The Canadian scheme provides for an attendants’ allowance of up to $Can3,000 a year. The maximum attendants’ allowance under the Australian Act is SA624. Again, the Canadian Act provides for automatic age increases for pensioners suffering from amputations or disabilities caused by wounds or injuries resulting from direct action with the enemy. It provides also for gratuity payments where the degree of disability is assessed at less than 5%. These are examples of the sorts of benefits that the Minister should be introducing to bring pension payments and benefits to acceptable international levels and standards. The Minister has obviously failed. He may have meant well but obviously he has not been able to exert the influence on Cabinet that would bring about the kinds of benefits that the National Executive of the RSL has requested so consistently over the years.
In conclusion I stress that the Opposition has no confidence whatsoever in the Minister for Repatriation. We join with the ex-servicemen’s organisation in those two States that have already unanimously expressed no confidence in the Minister for Repatriation. The Minister has lost completely the confidence of ex-servicemen’s organisations and their members throughout Australia. He has been censured and repudiated by two major State branches of the RSL.
– Which two State branches?
– The Victoria branch-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired, ls the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak later.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I doubt very much whether a motion of no confidence in an individual Minister has ever been proposed in this House, and probably in other Houses, on flimsier or less substantiated grounds. It must be fairly clear to anybody who heard the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) speak just now that what in fact he was seeking to do was to attack the Government’s policy; what he was seeking to do was to give criticism of what the Government had done. If that was his object, and I believe it clearly was his object, then it appears to me to be grossly unfair and verging on the improper to select one individual Minister and seek to blame him for what is a governmental and collective responsibility. The only thing that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, apart from attacks on general policy, centred around a motion of censure of the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator
McKellar) passed by the Victorian branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League. As far as J know - and I sought to obtain this information but have not yet obtained it - the Victorian branch of the RSL is the only one that has so far passed such a resolution. I may be wrong and if so no doubt the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will correct me.
– New South Wales.
– I think not New South Wales yet. So far as I know there has been only one branch and that was the Victorian branch of the RSL. Before going on with that, the fact that a branch of the RSL passes a motion of no confidence is not in itself definitive. This House should not be concerned merely with the fact that such a motion was passed but rather with whether there was any justification for such a motion passing, and on this we have heard nothing from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. But it is rather interesting to note that at the height of the controversy between the Minister and the Victorian branch of the RSL at least three State Presidents of the RSL clearly and publicly disassociated themselves from the Victorian branch decision. Brigadier Eastick of South Australia said that be did not support Sir William Hall’s allegation that the Minister had waved a stick. Mr Elliman of the Australian Capital Territory branch said that his relations with the Minister had always been most cordial. Mr Piggott, the Tasmanian President, was even more emphatic and said that he believed that the Minister had always clone his best for the RSL and - I quote - ‘will continue to fight for us in Cabinet’.
When we hear, in the terms of this motion, that the confidence of exservicemen’s organisations has been lost, let us bring it back to a consideration of what, in fact, I believe is the only thing that has happened, and that is that one exservicemen’s association passed a motion of no confidence. I believe that it passed that motion because it was not presented with the facts at the time. I believe that when the facts were presented by the Minister, the meeting of that branch had terminated and the delegates from the sub-branches had dispersed. I cannot believe that subbranch delegates, having the facts before them, would engage in such a drum head court martial as in fact was indicated by the Victorian Branch. Let us see what are the ascertainable facts in this matter. Firstly, an accusation was made by Mr Ruxton, who had been told something by Mr Mooney. Mr Ruxton then told Sir William Hall that Mr Mooney could produce evidence that the Minister had waved sticks at tribunals - I emphasise the plural - had sought to get before him members of tribunals - I again emphasise the plural - and had endeavoured to dress them down because they were being too lenient and too generous.
There are six tribunals. Five chairmen have made no complaints at all about the conduct of the Minister. Only one chairman - Mr Mooney - has made such a complaint. Let us see what are the ascertainable facts about the complaints made by Mr Mooney. On 19th September 1966 Mr Mooney was in fact called before the Minister for Repatriation. The Minister told Mr Mooney that he was in two minds as to whether he should again make Mr Mooney Chairman of a repatriation tribunal.
– Let us see whether the reason develops as the story unfolds. The Minister told Mr Mooney that he was in two minds as to whether Mr Mooney should be reappointed. It was a private meeting. There were no records of the meeting, but the Minister states that the reason for his calling Mr Mooney before him and questioning whether he should be reappointed was that the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission had taken to the Minister complaints by people sitting on Mr Mooney’s No. 6 Tribunal relating to the conduct of Mr Mooney during the tribunal proceedings. In those circumstances would anybody here say that a responsible Minister should not call before him the Chairman of the Tribunal and say: These allegations have been made. Do you think there is any truth in them? What do you have to say about them?’
– Why was a record not kept?
– I cannot say why a record was not kept but it does not really matter because on the day following the interview Mr Mooney wrote a letter to the Minister. I would like to read that letter to the House because it bears out completely what the Minister said took place at the meeting. The letter reads:
Dear Senator McKellar;
Having had time to ponder on our discussion at your Sydney office on Monday, 19th instant-
That is the day before the letter was written -
I have come to the conclusion from what you said that if I were not reappointed to this position I would leave under the stigma of being unsuitable for the appointment because I had, during my term of office:
Displayed a lack of courtesy to the Appellants-
That is, the ex-servicemen who come before his tribunal -
These were the complaints relayed to the Minister through the Chairman of the Repatriation Commission. Quite properly the Minister asked the man against whom the allegations had been made to come before him. In this letter the man against whom the allegations had been made puts his own case. The Minister accepted the case put by Mr Mooney and 2 days later wrote to Mr Mooney saying that he would be reappointed to his position.
What is significant about all this is that nowhere does there appear in the letter written by Mr Mooney on the day following the interview with the Minister any suggestion that the Minister had said that Mr Mooney was being too lenient or too generous - anything of that kind. Would it not appear to any sensible member of this House that if you were writing a letter to a Minister on the day after you had had an interview with him you would say: ‘Not only do I exculpate myself from these charges but also from any other charges which are made’, if they were made, and I am sure they were not? Knowing subbranch delegates as I do, if the Victorian Branch of the RSL had had that information before it, I do not believe that it would have accepted-
– What else is in the letter?
– I will table the letter. I table the following papers:
Letters dated 20 and 23 September 1966 exchanged between Mr V. K. Mooney, Chairman, No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal and Senator G. C. McKellar, Minister for Repatriation-.
The letter contains nothing more of relevance to my argument. What it is is excuses by Mr Mooney, saying: Tt is not so. The charges against me are framed.’ I have just been handed a note which helps me to correct some apparent mis-information given to the House by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The resolutions passed by the Victorian and New South Wales executives, which I think were referred to by the Deputy Leader, were resolutions condemning the Government; they were not resolutions on the Mooney matter or the Minister as such.
Pursuing the story through, at this point of time the Minister made statements about the facts. What was the result? The first result was that the original charge that tribunals had been intimidated - that members of tribunals had been hurt - was immediately dropped. Instead it came down to an allegation that one man had been intimidated. Then the Minister having made available the documents from which I have quoted, that charge was further watered down. No longer did Mr Mooney say that he had been intimidated; that he had been told that he was too lenient and too generous. Rather did he now say that he had left the meeting with the Minister under the impression that the Minister had inferred that he might have been too lenient. This is a pretty close breaking down of what was an unsubstantiated charge.
On such written evidence as we have it appears perfectly clear that no such allegation was made by the Minister. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition must know that it would be the most difficult thing in the world - this bears out the written evidence - for the Minister to have in fact known the operations of each tribunal in respect of each case which came before it. I have taken the trouble to get out the figures of the number of cases heard by these Assessment Appeal Tribunals. In the year June 1967 to June 1968 the six tribunals heard 11,525 cases. It may be said that the Minister did not want to look at any tribunal other than the Victorian ones. The
Victorian tribunals dealt with 2,500 cases between June 1967 and June 1968 and there is no differentiation in the report between Mr Mooney’s tribunal and any tribunal under any other chairmanship. How could the Minister spend his time dissecting what one tribunal did in Victoria compared with what another tribunal did in Victoria? How could he examine every case that came up and decide that he thought the results were too generous or too lenient? I think that any fair minded man here would know that that was a ridiculous proposition. I believe that such written evidence as there is in this matter would bear out such a finding by such a man.
That is all 1 wish to say except this; that the Minister for Repatriation - I know that this is not of great relevance to the arguments that are being advanced, but it is of some significance - had distinguished military service. He was a lieutenant in the 6th Light Horse and went through to captain and then to major. He was not discharged until 1946. This means nothing except that he has had experience similar to that of the men with whom he is dealing. I think that more evidence should be adducible against a man like that than has been adduced in this case to the RSL, and certainly the evidence adducible should not be capable of rejection as it has been rejected on this occasion, before an Opposition in this place attacks an individual rather than the Government of which he is a member and which is proud to support him.
– The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) commenced his speech by saying that the Opposition had launched not a vote of no confidence in the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) but an attack on the Government’s repatriation policy. Whatever the Prime Minister may think of our approach, at least it has been sufficient to draw him out of his little nest to make one of his few speeches in this House. At least on this occasion he was prepared to stand up and support one of his Ministers. On a previous occasion when the Opposition moved a vote of no confidence or lack of confidence in the Minister for the Army (Mr Lynch) the Prime Minister did not even enter into the debate.
While the Prime Minister was speaking the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) handed him a sheet of paper containing certain information. The Prime Minister used that information to point out that the arguments advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) were incorrect. 1 will come back to that point at a later stage and f will show that the information given to the Prime Minister by the Minister for Civil Aviation was not correct.
The dissatisfaction with the Government’s repatriation policy and with the present Minister for Repatriation goes back 2 or 3 years. In March 1968, the Opposition saw fit to initiate an urgency debate to discuss the fact that the Government had permitted repatriation benefits to fall to their lowest value in history. That debate was initiated following upon a meeting in Canberra of representatives of twelve organisations of ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen. Those organisations represented over one million ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen. The concern of the Returned Services League and other organisations of ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen has been mounting for a considerable time over the lack of consideration that the Government and the Minister have shown towards plans submitted by those organisations. This lack of confidence motion is moved because we believe that the Minister has the right to submit to Cabinet and to his other ministerial colleagues the requirements and claims of the ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen of Australia. It is true to say that the RSL is the only organisation which has direct access to a Cabinet sub-committee and it has had this access for a great number of years. Therefore, its submissions on behalf of the ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen should go before Cabinet.
If the Minister in charge of the repatriation portfolio cannot get greater benefits for these people than they have obtained so far then it is time he was removed from that portfolio. It is time that all organisations of ex-servicemen and exservicewomen throughout Australia passed exactly the same motion as was passed by the Returned Services League of Victoria. I remind the Minister for Civil Aviation, who is at the table, that prior to the last
Senate election the national congress of the RSL adopted a resolution stating that the claims of the ex-servicemen and exservice women should be printed and distributed. Today the Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned that 500.000 pamphlets were printed. Those pamphlets quite clearly set out for every person in the community to see the falling away of the value of repatriation benefits. The Government lost ground in the 1967 Senate election.
In the early months of this year the RSL, the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association and the TB Sailors, Soldiers and Airmens Association all made approaches either to the Cabinet subcommittee or to the Minister for Repatriation. One claim that was contained in the plans both of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association and the RSL was that the TPI pension should be taken up to the minimum wage of $37.55 per week. Yet the Government still did not go to that level of pension payment in the Budget that it presented last night. The case presented by the RSL in March of this year was a reasonable and a reasoned case, substantiated by facts and figures yet the Minister for Repatriation was unable to convince his Cabinet colleagues that greater consideration should be given to the RSL and TPI plans than had been given in previous years. Again the appeals of all organisations of ex-servicemen and exservice women have been almost completely ignored in the Budget. In particular, and I will come back to this point, is the case submitted by the TB Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Australia on behalf of those serving in Vietnam and elsewhere overseas.
Earlier I said that I could show that the information given to the Prime Minister by the Minister fo» Civil Aviation while the Prime Minister was addressing the House was incorrect. In May of this year the New South Wales State Council of the RSL passed a resolution - and passed it unanimously - censuring the Minister for Repatriation. During that debate several delegates claimed that the RSL no longer had faith in Senator McKellar and that in their opinion he was unfit to hold the repatriation portfolio. The Victorian Branch of the RSL also unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the Minister. The National President also has made critical statements not only of the Minister for Repatriation but also of the Government. The matter was raised at a meeting of the New South Wales State Council of the RSL. Senator McKellar in a speech made to the 1968 Federal Conference of the Australian Legion of Ex-servicemen and Women, said:
But,I believe, the time has come for all exservicemen to make a realistic reassessment of their own position, and that of any group to which they may belong.
He went on to say:
An objective approach is needed to the reasons for the system of repatriation and the very large expenditure that is required to maintain this system.
Arising out of that statement, Mr John Grant, a member of the State Council, moved a resolution of censure of the Minister for Repatriation. In his remarks on that resolution, Mr Grant said:
These statements show how little he cares for the wants of ex-servicemen and 1 have no longer any faith in him as a Minister.
At a meeting of the National Executive of the Returned Services League in May 1968, he made a statement in which he talked about blatant misrepresentation by the Minister and the Government in quoting erroneous figures to substantiate their case.
The Victorian State Conference, in July this year, passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the Minister for Repatriation. It was adopted after Mr Ruxton had accused the Minister of attempting to influence the members of the independent tribunals. Mr Ruxton’s accusations were supported by Mr Mooney, Chairman of the No. 6 War Pensions Assessment Appeal Tribunal and in the course of the row Mr Mooney had this to say about Senator McKellar:
The Minister and I have never had a fight over a decision by my tribunal.
But I have not been happy with the Minister’s approach to the Tribunal since he took over.
I have served under the past three and all I can say is that Senator McKellar is certainly not the best.
In the course of the dispute between the Victorian Branch of the Returned Services League and the Minister, Sir William Hall intervened and after an hour long conference with the Minister, he came out of the meeting and said, as reported in the Australian’ of 30th July 1968, that the Minister had acted irresponsibly and autocratically in dealing with the Chairman of the Appeal Tribunal, Mr Kevin Mooney, a Melbourne solicitor.
– What has that to do with Mr Ruxton?
– It is all about Mr Ruxton. He has made accusations which were supported by Mr Mooney and Sir William Hall. The report which appeared in the ‘Australian’ of 30th July washeaded McKellar and RSL agree to disagree’. After that meeting, Sir William Hall said that the Minister had been irresponsible and autocratic in his dealings with Mr Mooney. The accusation was that the Minister had attempted to influence the actions of an independent tribunal. Surely, if the Minister is autocratic, he must be attempting to interfere with the behaviour of the members of an independent tribunal. Sir Arthur Lee, the National President of the RSL, in a Press statement issued on 7th August 1 968, said:
While the Executive had no way of determining the merits of each separate viewpoint, concern had been growing in League circles at the tendency of some medical advisers to be rigid and uncompromising in their attitude to disabilities.
The Press statement passed no opinion on the dispute between Senator McKellar and the Victorian branch of the RSL. But, in his statement, Sir Arthur Lee went on to comment as follows:
The Executive placed on record the fact that it had lost all confidence in the Commonwealth Government’s approach to war pensions and deplored the fact that the Government had failed to recognise the just claim of ex-service men and women and their dependants. The Executive expressed the hope that the coming Budget would provide a remedy to the totally inadequate level of war pension payments.
The Victorian Branch, the New South Wales Branch and the National Executive of the Returned Services League all expressed lack of confidence either in the Minister or in the Government. The Opposition is not stretching a long bow when it says that the responsibility for the lack of action in repatriation matters lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of Senator
McKellar. If he cannot convince his colleagues that there are merit and justice in the claims of the ex-service men and women of Australia, then as an exserviceman himself and as a member of the RSL, he has a bounden duty to resign his portfolio so that someone else may take the opportunity to try to convince the Government. So the motion of lack of confidence that we have moved today is a motion of no confidence directed squarely at Senator Mckellar. It is also a motion of lack of confidence in his predecessors - those who have made sanctimonious speeches at Federal RSL congresses, expressing gratitude for the great efforts that the ex-service men and women of Australia have made on behalf of this country. But when it comes to preparing the Budget, when it comes to giving some consideration to the plans put forward by the various returned services organisations, this Government neglects to play its part properly.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made some mention of the number of claims that have been dealt with by entitlement appeal tribunals in the past year. He said it could not be expected that the claims could be dissected. I would like the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who is at the table, to tell the Prime Minister that every war pensions entitlement appeal tribunal each year publishes an annual report. I have the annual reports for tribunals Nos. 1 to 5 but 1 do not have the annual report for the No. 6 Tribunal. Consequently, 1 cannot make any comparison relating to that Tribunal. The annual report of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal for the year 1966-67 indicates that 216 applications arising from incapacity were allowed and 1,480 were disallowed. In other words, 1 in 7 appeals was successful. In respect of death, the Tribunal allowed 44 applications and disallowed 481. In other words, 1 in 10 was allowed. The annual report of No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal for the year ended 30th June 1966 indicates that in respect of incapacity 283 appeals were allowed and 1,683 were disallowed. The report also shows that in the case of death 38 appeals were allowed and 573 were disallowed. The annual report of the No. 2 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal for the year ended 30th June 1966 shows that 253 applications were allowed and 2,470 were disallowed. For the year ended 30th June 1967, 223 applications were allowed and 2,157 were disallowed by the same Tribunal. In other words, 1 in 10 applications was allowed.
I now refer to the annual report of No. 3 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal for the year ended 30th June 1966. All the evidence given before this Tribunal was properly prepared and the benefit of the doubt apparently was given to the applicants. The number of appeals granted was 508 and 1,962 were disallowed. In other words, I appeal in 4 was successful. Did that Tribunal consider all the cases that were just and right and all the cases that came within the provisions of section 47 of the Act in that financial year? If the Tribunal got all such cases in that year, it must have got all such cases also for the year ended 30th June 1967. The annual report for that year indicates that the Tribunal allowed 448 appeals and disallowed 1.782. That is near enough to allowing 1 in 4 appeals again.
The figures for No. 4 Tribunal are similar. In 1966, I appeal in 5 was allowed, and 1. appeal in 5 was again allowed in 1967. The figures for No. 5 Tribunal show that I appeal in 8 was allowed in 1966, and I in 9 in 1967. The figures were available for the Prime Minister to study, f have with me the latest annual report of the Repatriation Commission but I wish to cite figures from the latest report of the No. 2 War Pensions Appeal Tribunal. During 1966 39,503 claims were lodged. Of that number 17,021 were accepted in the first instance and 21,686 were rejected. Appeals totalling 10,866 were lodged with entitlement appeal tribunals against the decisions of the Commission. So that of the 17,021 claims rejected by the Commission, or perhaps by the Board, 10,866 went forward to entitlement appeal tribunals. At this stage :is a reasonably informed guess I would .-ay that no more than 1 in 6 appeals to the tribunals would succeed.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The matter we are debating is very serious in that it reflects on the integrity of a Minister of the Government. I think that the Minister for
Repatriation (Senator McKellar) isentitled to have all the facts put straight on the arguments that have been presented. At the outsetI wish to correct one statement. The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) referred to information which I provided to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) when he was speaking because the DeputyLeader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) had referred to resolutions passed by two Statebranches of the Returned Services League. He related that reference to the part of his speech which concerned the action which flowed on from a statement by the Chairman of No. 6 Assessment Appeal Tribunal. The inference one could draw from the statement was that two State branches had passed resolutions condemning the Minister on the ground that he was exercising influence on assessment appeal tribunals.
– He did not say that at all.
– That inference could fairly be drawn, because the reference was tied in to the statement at that point. Iwant to make it quite clear that there are two resolutions concerned, the first of which, passed in Victoria, related to a general criticism of the Government and referred to the Minister in respect of repatriation benefits generally. A similar resolution was passed by the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Services League. The honourable member for Lang quite rightly referred to a resolution of a joint meeting of other ex-servicemen’s organisations as well as the RSL. We have no criticism whatsoever of ex-servicemen’s organisations being critical of the policy of the Government. We believe that this is part of their policy of exerting pressure on the Government to gain better repatriation benefits. I suppose that at some time or other nearly alt honourable members have been associated with ex-servicemen’s organisations. When we were not in office we may have undertaken exactly the same type of action. It is a legitimate way to fight to gain benefits for ex-servicemen and we agree that that should be so. However, only one State branch of the RSL passed a resolution in respect of the integrity of the Minister for Repatriation and the charge that he was exercising pressure on an assessment appeal tribunal. I think that should be clearly understood at this point.
The honourable member for Lang also referred to reports of assessment appeal tribunals and entitlement appeal tribunals. There is no need to tell me about those reports because I tabled them for the information of honourable members. I he honourable member for Lang extracted information from reports of entitlement appeal tribunals, and the matter we were dealing with just prior to his doing that related to assessment appeal tribunals. The Prime Minister also referred to assessment appeal tribunals. Those tribunals, as the honourable member well knows, have an entirely different function from entitlement appeal tribunals. Entitlement appeal tribunals deal with initial claims, whereas assessment appeal tribunals deal with variation or fixation of rates.
J wish to cite figures showing the results of hearings of assessment appeal tribunals. I have not collated the figures for last year because I did not expect that I would need to use them. I shall cite figures from the last annual report of the Repatriation Department which covers the period to 30th June 1967. The total number of cases allowed was 6,014 and the number disallowed was 5,181. Those figures show an entirely different picture from that painted by the honourable member for Lang in respect of a field that is quite apart from the initial claim and examination. It is interesting to note that the Victorian Branch of the RSL was the only State branch to pass a resolution dealing with the statement by Mr Mooney, Chairman of No. 6 Assessment Appeal Tribunal. The Victorian Branch was the only branch to support the allegation. Indeed the National President of the League made a statement in Canberra a couple of days after the Victorian Branch passed the resolution, stating that the matter was one of personal opinion. The Federal Executive, of course, took no part in the discussions at thattime.
It is also interesting to note that the Hobart ‘Mercury’ in its edition of 27th July last carried a report by a journalist who had displayed initiative in obtaining statements on this matter from other State branches of the RSL. The report included a statement by the President of the Victorian Branch that he was satisfied that Mr Mooney was correct in his assumption. He had said that before and he repeated it. The report then quoted a statement by the President of the South Australian Branch. He said that he did not support Sir William Hall’s allegation that the Minister had waved a stick at assessment appeal tribunals because pensions were too generous. It is clear that the South Australian Branch disowned the statement by the Victorian President. The report went on to refer to a statement by the President of the Australian Capital Territory Branch of the Returned Services League. He said that relationships between the Minister and his branch were always cordial.
The President of the Tasmanian Branch of the League was contacted at the same time. He said that he believed that the Minister had always done his best for the RSL and would continue to fight in Cabinet for its members. He concluded by saying that relations between the Tasmanian Branch and the Minister were always cordial. I have quoted those statements to refute quite definitely the implication that there was nation wide criticism by the RSL. lt is clear that the matter was taken up only by the Victorian Branch and that it related to an individual expression of opinion following a statement by the chairman of a tribunal at that time.
The Prime Minister quoted from a letter written by Mr Mooney to the Minister for Repatriation following a discussion in which the Minister drew attention to a number of complaints made to him about the activities of the Chairman of No. 6 Assessment Appeal Tribunal. It is very interesting to note that a conference of Chairmen of Assessment Appeal Tribunals was held in Melbourne in October 1966, about a month after the letter was written. This conference was addressed by the Minister for Repatriation, following the normal method of opening such conferences. Mr Mooney later raised a question regarding the interview he had had with the Minister. The Minister explained to the conference exactly what had happened. He explained the nature of the complaint and the action he had taken to acquaint the chairman of the tribunal with the facts.
He also indicated that he had received the letter from Mr Mooney, and he stated that in similar circumstances he would again act in exactly the same manner. I am sure that any responsible Minister would act in that manner, because it is his duty so to do. But the interesting point is that at this conference there was no support for Mr Mooney by the other chairmen and not one comment was made by any other chairman of a tribunal who was present at that conference. I think these things should be clearly stated in order to put the record straight in view of the seriousness of the allegation against the Minister.
I was very disappointed, Mr Deputy Speaker, to hear the comments made this afternoon by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I know from experience how wide is his interest in repatriation matters. I know his sincerity in relation to repatriation matters. 1 am sorry that he lent himself, for political reasons, to the making of direct allegations against the Minister on evidence which is definitely not supported. As I have said before, we do not question the right of anyone to criticise the Government at any time. We do not question the right of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition or any other member of the Opposit’on. or the Returned Services League or any other ex-servicemen’s organisation, to criticise the Government, but we do question the right of any of them to distort the facts.
I think we should say something about the Minister’s standing, not only as Minister for Repatriation but also as a member of this Parliament in another place. We know the work that he has done since he took over the Repatriation Department. We know that he has attended various conferences of the Returned Services League and most other ex-servicemen’s organisations, not only in his own State but throughout Australia. We know also that he has paid two visits to Vietnam to get to know at first hand the problems which confront the servicemen in the conflict there. We know also that he has been a regular visitor to all repatriation hospitals in all States, and all the other repatriation institutions. His activities in encouraging and assisting the work of these hospitals and institutions has been noted, I am sure, by many ex-servicemen throughout Australia. He has undertaken also a full review of the developing works programme to cater for the changing needs of repatriation in the future. It is of interest to note that this was the first major review that had been undertaken since the repatriation system was instituted.
I think we should also clear up the position with regard to the administration of repatriation policy. Policy in regard to repatriation is determined by the Government, and all members of the Government must take responsibility for it, as 1 am sure do all the people who support the Government. The policy is not the responsibility of any individual Minister, and criticism should be directed not at one person but at the Government as a whole. Such criticism can bc levelled at the Government through the Minister for Repatriation, but we should realise that it is a criticism of the Government’s policy, the administration of which, of course, is carried out by the Minister.
There is no admissible evidence to sustain any of the three grounds on which the Opposition claims confidence in the Minister has been lost. J know from personal experience that his approach has always been one of sympathy and consideration. We have all made representations to him. and ex-servicemen’s organisations have made representations lo him from time to time. We know that these representations have been received courteously and have been given the best possible consideration that could be given under the prevailing policy of the Government. But 1 think we would do well to took at the available statistics when we criticise. If we examine the reports of the Repatriation Department, including the annual report for the past year, which will be tabled in this House very shortly, we will see that there has been a continuous and substantial increase in expenditure on repatriation during the term of office of the present Minister.
In addition a number of very important changes have been implemented during his term of office. If we are to condemn him on one hand, we must give him credit on the other, as I am sure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would be the first to agree. The first of these changes was the introduction of the intermediate rale war pension, a much needed benefit which was implemented hy the present Minister. This is one of the things for which he deserves credit in his administration of the present Government’s policy. He has also had approved by the Government the special compensation allowance which was announced by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) last night, and which I am sure will be of great assistance to many needy exservicemen on the general rate pension. This will help those in this sector of the community whose need is greatest. During the period of his administration also, the system of treatment has been greatly expanded and broadened. We in Australia are very proud of the medical and hospital treatment provided for our ex-servicemen. This is a most important and very expensive facet of our repatriation system. Of the total amount available, about 21%, I think, has been devoted to this purpose.
The third ground on which the Opposition bases its claim that there is a lack of confidence in the Minister is one which brings the argument into the general field. This is not related to the Minister as an individual. It raises the question of whether the levels of repatriation pensions and benefits are generally satisfactory, and whether the Government’s approach to a change of the levels from time to time is a reasonable one. When we consider the adequacy of pension rales we must take into account two important matters so that the issue can be judged in ils proper perspective. The first is the general purpose of the repatriation system and the second is the importance of pensions as part of a broadly based and wide ranging overall system for the care of disabled ex-servicemen, or their dependants in the case of their death. First, we provide a compensatory system, which includes financial compensation by way of pension, and in addition medical treatment facilities and re-establishment measures where these arc appropriate, and a range of additional assistance including help for the education of the children of the more seriously disabled and of deceased ex-servicemen. Within this compensation framework pensions and allowances obviously arc very important.
The Government has demonstrated over the years a practical concern for keeping rates at a reasonable level consistent with the purpose of our repatriation system and the varying needs of incapacitated exservicemen and their dependants. The further substantial improvements announced in the Budget last night are additional evidence of this continuing policy. Although these improvements resulted ultimately from decisions by the Government, the Minister for Repatriation and his Department deserve full credit for originating the proposals and obtaining the Government’s support for them.
During the term of office of the present Minister there has been a consistent pattern of progress in repatriation affairs, part of which has been evident in a steady increase in repatriation pension levels. The Government’s review of repatriation matters takes place not occasionally but every year. In fact there has been some change for the better in repatriation arrangements in every year since the Government came to office, and there have been some pension increases in almost every year, including the current financial year. As a result of this practice of continuing review, we now have rates of benefits which are by no means unreasonable and which should certainly not attract the sort of criticism which is implicit in the motion proposed by the Opposition. The truth of this statement is illustrated both by the present level of the main pension rates and by significant new increases in them. The rate for a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, as announced last night, will be $33.SO a week as compared with $10.60 in 1949. I know this is a trite comparison but it is a valid one. The 100% general rate pension will be $12 per week, plus a new special compensation allowance ranging from $2,25 to $3 for pensioners with assessed incapacity ranging from 75% to 100%. The war widows pension will increase to $14 per week. These are merely some illustrations of the new benefits which will be provided and which reveal a responsible approach by both the Minister and the Government in the field of repatriation benefits.
The real test is whether our wide range system of compensation and treatment, sympathetically administered, reasonably looks after the needs of those who have become incapacitated as a result of war service or, in the case of those who have died as a result of it, makes proper provision for their dependants. The criticism which has been levelled at these pension rates has not been based on valid facts. All evidence shows that the present Minister for Repatriation and the Government have developed a repatriation system with sympathy, understanding and responsibility. The Opposition motion should be soundly rejected.
– I support the motion that has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party (Mr Barnard) because, as a responsible person and a member of this Party for many years, he has taken a keen interest in the repatriation legislation that has come before the Parliament from time to time. The Opposition proposed this motion because it is greatly concerned about the events that have happened over the past year concerning repatriation. During the many years I have been a member of the Parliament this is the first occasion on which I have seen four members of the Government rise in any debate and speak on repatriation. Although the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) says that the resolution is only flimsy, the Government called in three of its Ministers and an ex-Minister for the Navy (Mr Chaney) to speak on its behalf.
– The Prime Minister also spoke.
– The Prime Minister came in to lead the debate on this occasion, which shows that the Government must be concerned about exactly what did happen. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is irresponsible and should not hold the portfolio that he holds today.
The Prime Minister told the Parliament that the Government collectively is responsible for anything that the Minister says. Whilst the Opposition accepts the view that the Cabinet or the Ministers acting as a whole are responsible for certain issues, if a Minister makes an irresponsible statement outside his jurisdiction the Government cannot be held responsible. If the Prime Minister wants to accept the responsibility there may be a great section of the community which believes that the Minister for Repatriation is riding under instructions from the Cabinet and that he is directing the War Pensions Assessment Appeals Tribunals not to be lenient in their assessments of the incapacity of ex-servicemen who are appealing for some justice or for some cause. Any ex-serviceman has the right to appeal under the Repatriation Act, and it is not right that any Minister should make a statement on the lines of that made by the Minister for Repatriation. Despite what the Government thinks, I have not been convinced here today that the Minister did not make the statement attributed to him, because irrespective of what has been stated in the letter I do not think people put down in black and white what they want to say behind closed doors. That is what has happened on this occasion.
The House has also heard that the offence occurred in Victoria. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), who was formerly the Minister for Repatriation, said that the people from Tasmania and the people from South Australia did support the Minisster. Did the people from Tasmania or the President of the South Australian Branch of the Returned Services League know the facts? Of course they did not. They just got up as supporters of the Government and openly supported the Minister for Repatriation without knowing all the facts. The House was also told that Mr Mooney was reappointed by the Government after representations had been made to the Minister from a responsible administrator In the Repatriation Department. When certain allegations were made against Mr Mooney, the Minister for Repatriation brought him in to talk to him. Allegations were made that Mr Mooney was not acting in good faith as a member of the Tribunal, that he was doing outside work, and was not really interested in the Tribunal’s work. After the Minister bad discussed the allegations with Mr Mooney the Minister reappointed him. The Opposition wants to know why Mr Mooney was reappointed, because, if he was not doing his job, he should not have been there. This point is being overlooked here. Mr Mooney is still a member of the Tribunal.
Let us go into the facts of the case. Mr Ruxton, who was an executive of the Victorian branch of the Returned Services League, made the statement in question at the State Conference of the Returned Services League. He openly came out and said that the Minister for Repatriation had been interfering with the tribunals by telling them what they should do as they were being too lenient. Mr Ruxton alleged that the Minister said to the tribunals: ‘We want you to pull the reins up. We have not got enought money.’ We have to be honest about this. If it is a just cause and an ex-serviceman is entitled to his claim, the claim should be granted. Section 47 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1961 provides that in all cases whatsoever the onus of proof shall lie on the person or authority who contends that the claim, application or appeal should not be granted or allowed to the full extent claimed. A claim should not be refused because no money is available. If a claim is just, natural justice to the ex-serviceman should prevail. Mr Ruxton should be congratulated for having the courage of his convictions and for coming out and openly stating these facts. I have been of the firm opinion for a long time that the claims of many ex-servicemen who have just causes have not been granted. Doctors who have looked at the records of these ex-servicemen and who have given their medical evidence cannot understand why the claims have not been granted. I am of the firm opinion that the majority of these tribunals are riding under instructions and that half of the time people have to wait for someone to become deceased before being granted an adequate pension because the Government is not appropriating enough funds for all those who are worthy and needy.
Mr Mooney has stated that he supports what has been said by Mr Ruxton. He has not withdrawn his statement. I have not read the letter that has been mentioned here today. I have only listened to what the Prime Minister has said. Irrespective of what the letter says, at least Mr Mooney has supported Mr Ruxton in the open on the matter and has not gone behind closed doors. The Minister sent a telegram stating that if the allegation could not be substantiated he wanted an apology. What did he do? He flew down to Melbourne and met Sir William Hall and Mr Ruxton and for 80 minutes they went behind closed doors and discussed the whole of the issues involved. No record of what went on inside the room is available, unless we can get it from the Security Service. We do not know exactly what went on in the place but when it was all finished Sir William Hall came out and refused to apologise. So, to me and, I think, to the majority of the Australian people what Mr Ruxton and Mr Mooney claim has been substantiated. Therefore, I think that the Minister for Repatriation is the person on this occasion who has been irresponsible. He has lost the confidence of the whole of the Australian people. He has lost the confidence of the mass of returned servicemen’s organisations which represent millions of ex-servicemen who have been away and fought in defence of Australia. The Minister has lost the confidence of the organisations representing these people. I think that when a Minister loses the confidence of these people there is one thing only that the Government can do. This is to give the Minister the order of the boot. This is what the Prime Minister has to do on this occasion.
I have yet to see any one from the Government side who is able to prove to me that what is alleged to have been said has not been said. I have heard members of the RSL in New South Wales, and even members from the Australian Capital Territory, say that the Minister has met them cordially. I have no doubt that the Minister is cordial. But, at least, Sir Arthur Lee, the National President of the Returned Services League, has said that the League has lost its confidence in the Minister. Honourable members need only to read the statements made by organisations representing ex-service pensioners to see exactly how these organisations feel about the pensions that are being received at the present time. We know that, if a soldier goes away in the service of his country and suffers some war caused disability, it is the responsibility of the Government to see that he is well looked after when he returns. This is not what is happening today. Many ex-servicemen are not receiving today the justice that they ought to receive.
Sir William Yeo, President of the New South Wales Branch of the RSL, has attacked the Government because of inadequate repatriation pensions. We know that there are members of the Government who stand up and say: What a wonderful Government we have running this country’. But they are not game enough to go out and to meet returned servicemen’s organisations in their own electorates and stand up there to defend the policy of their Government on repatriation.
– Give us an instance.
-I will give the honourable member an instance. Recently an RSL meeting was held at Ramsgate. The members of the Australian Labor Party who went along were the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), the honourable member for Banks (Mr Costa) and Senator McClelland. Apologies were tendered on behalf of the Liberal member of Parliament who represents that area. On 29th May of this year members of the Government’s repatriation committee were to meet representatives of the RSL in Canberra. Not one of those members turned up to meet the representatives of the RSL. They treated the RSL with contempt. This is the attitude that we see adopted by those who sit on the other side of this House. They have been criticised by the RSL - especially those who wear the badge of the Returned Services League - for not getting up in this Parliament and speaking on behalf of these organisations that they represent.
I mention these matters because I feel that I should draw attention to the justice that ought to be done to these unfortunate returned servicemen. The Minister for Repatriation has a wonderful way of attacking people outside the Parliament and of being outspoken, as one might say. On 1st June, the Minister was addressing the Annual Congress of the Tasmanian RSL. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Pearsall) who is always trying to interject from the Government side probably read some of these remarks. The Minister stated: There are some misguided individuals of the ilk of this fellow Townsend’. Later when he was asked to explain his statement, the Minister for Repatriation said: ‘I used those words instead of other harsher words that I could have used’. He continued: ‘This young man has refused to defend his family and is leaving the defence to someone else’. The Minister made this statement in Tasmania. Not long afterwards, this same young gentleman was granted exemption from national service by a court of this country on the ground of conscientious objection. There we see an example of this irresponsible Minister passing judgment on a young fellow who was going before the courts to prove his case. He did prove his case. On another occasion in another place, the Minister attacked the Australian Broadcasting Commission because, he said, its presentation concerning the water torture incident in Vietnam was unbalanced. This is the sort of Minister who is representing the Government in the Repatriation portfolio. On occasions when it suits him, he comes out and attacks unfortunate people or organisations which, as far as he is concerned, are not toeing the line.
I say that on this occasion the Minister has shown that he is irresponsible. He is arrogant. He ls not a fit person to be running a department or holding the responsible position of Minister for Repatriation. We have heard a speech from the Minister for Civil Aviation who was a former Minister for Repatriation in this House. I know of no occasion on which the Returned Services League has moved a motion of no confidence in him. The former Minister for Repatriation did command some respect from the RSL Here we have the present Minister who receives no respect from the RSL whatsoever.
We have heard talk about pensions and increases. As far as I am concerned, these are inadequate. No TPI pensioner should be receiving less than the minimum basic wage. We all ought to be seeking to ensure that these people receive no less than a minimum basic wage. Another matter about which we ought to be concerned is whether all those people who have gone before the various tribunals have been given natural justice. I feel that a lot of them have not. There ought to be an influx of appeals from a great many of these people to the tribunals to see whether justice has been given to them. A review ought to be held of all these decisions to see whether these people cannot receive that which they deserve.
I do feel that these tribunals have been working under instructions. 1 remember on one occasion that the widow of a Victoria Cross winner, after an appeal to a tribunal, was granted a war pension. There was no previous medical evidence of any war caused disability. I am not against any widow receiving any just rights if those rights are proved. But there are many widows in this country whose husbands were in receipt of the 100% war caused disability pension and who, when they have appealed to tribunals after the death of their husbands, have had their claims to be classified as war widows rejected. They have not been able to have the death classed as the result of a war caused disability. There are hundreds of these widows in the community today.
– Many hundreds.
– Yes. I recall the occasion when a decision was made in another place to allow medical treatment to be given to First World War and Boer War veterans respecting certain war caused disabilities. The Government refused to accept that decision by members in another place respecting the Repatriation Bill then before that other place. The Government brought in another Bill. It made the Repatriation Bill a money bill. As a result of that, no Opposition party - and I address my remarks to honourable members opposite because they will be over here after the next election - now can move any amendment to such legislation that will benefit the returned servicemen of this country. We cannot move that an extra amount be given to these people because it would place an extra burden on the Australian taxpayers. The former Minister for Repatriation, who is now the Minister for Civil Aviation, read a list of what had been given to ex-servicemen under this Minister for Repatriation. I do not think ex-servicemen have been given enough. The Government has tied the hands of Oppositions in the future and no Opposition can move that any justice be given to these unfortunate exservicemen. I support the motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is a good motion and the House should carry it unanimously.
– I sometimes think that it is a pity we do not have in this House the right to swear in witnesses. I am quite certain that if we did, if speakers realised they were on oath and had to give the whole truth and nothing but the truth, most of the speeches would be reduced by 90%. People who listen to the proceedings either in the chamber or on the radio do not get the impression that this is a debating House because in most so-called debates on the Budget or the second reading stage of a Bill the subject changes from speaker to speaker and the proceedings do not take the traditional form of a debate. However, on an occasion such as this when the Opposition has moved a motion censuring a Minister, we have an opportunity to conduct a debate as such.
One of the few but very great advantages of being in Opposition is that the Government, with its field of responsibility stretching over a wide area, is always open to attack by some critic who is not satisfied with something the Government has done or has not done. Therefore, for one of two reasons the Opposition being an Opposition grasps these opportunities to take up in the House a case that has been espoused outside. Firstly, it may believe in the case or secondly it may think some political capital can be gained from it. I am not so sure of the Opposition’s position on this subject. I do not think Opposition members really believe in this case and they have made another mistake in believing that there is a lot of political capital to be gained from it. After the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) had spoken we should have finished the debate and proceeded with the business of the House, because the Prime Minister proved that there was no case to answer. We should go over the Press reports that caused the Opposition to move this motion, which in rather harsh terms says that the House expresses lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation because,firstly,he has lost the confidence of ex-servicemen’s organisations and of ex-servicemen. Has he? As the Prime Minister pointed out, the evidence that has been presented does not support that conclusion at all. One branch of the Returned Services League, fired by a man called Ruxton, who made a statement
– He is a good Liberal, too.
– That does not alter the fact at all. We are not always right and we are not always wrong. Mr Ruxton made a statement to the conference about the alleged actions of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). Then the newspapers took up the allegations as a front page story. ‘This Day Tonight’ also took it up and everyone else jumped on the band waggon. All the Minister for Repatriation was trying to say in simple terms was: This is not so and I want the proof produced.’ But nobody produced the proof and eventually someone said: ‘I inferred from what he said that that was what he meant.’ That was the end of the matter. But now the Opposition has moved in this House a motion of lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation because of what somebody thought somebody else had inferred from what somebody said 2 years before. This is one way to waste the time of the Commonwealth Parliament and it shows that the Opposition is far weaker than most people thought it was.
I listened to the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine) and to other Opposition members who have spoken in this debate. I was astounded to hear the honourable member for East Sydney criticise the people who said they did not support what Sir William Hall in Victoria had said. The honourable member said that the trouble was they did not know the facts, but the President of the RSL in Victoria did know the facts. Actually the position is completely the reverse. When the resolution was passed in Victoria the facts were not known. When the other Presidents of RSL branches around Australia were asked to comment, the facts were known to them all and they all said they did not agree with the resolution. I have always understood that a State branch of the RSL can pass a resolution but it is not binding on the League until it has been passed at a Federal conference. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition also realises that this is the position.
If it is necessary to bring a motion of lack of confidence before the House, the time to do it is when and if the Federal conference of the RSL has passed a resolution of no confidence in a Minister of this Government. It is quite ridiculous for the Opposition to move this motion on the basis of unsubstantiated evidence placed before RSL delegates and of a resolution passed by a State conference. As the Prime Minister said, by the time the facts were known the delegates had dispersed and gone back to their homes. If any mistake has been made it has not been made by the delegate who thought he was properly informed. It has probably not been made by those who believed him at the conference. The mistake has not been made by the conference that passed the resolution. The big mistake has been made by the Opposition of this Parliament in bringing the matter before the House in the form of a motion of lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation.
Let us look at a statement made by the Minister for Repatriation at a Congress of the RSL. I quote not from a statement made in the Parliament but from the 51st Annual Report of the National Executive of the Returned Services League for 1966. Regardless of which Party is in power, the RSL traditionally asks the Minister for Repatriation to address its Congress. The present Minister for Repatriation spoke in 1966 about such matters as the basis of the repatriation system, community attitudes and acceptance, consequences for the League and repatriation increases in 1966. He is reported as having said:
Let me make my position clear. When Cabinet meets to frame repatriation proposals I, within the limits of overall policy, do what I think best for you and for other ex-servicemen’s organisations.
If wider considerations affect the ultimate outcome I am then committed to loyally supporting the policy decided on. It cannot be otherwise, and neither you nor I would have it differently.
It is in my view entirely wrong to base a general assessment of a Government’s endeavour for ex-servicemen in terms of a single point in time. I do not say this defensively; but I do ask from an organisation which aspires to some influence on public opinion for a level of objectivity in its judgment.
The Minister for Repatriation in his address to that Congress made a point that may not have been obvious to members of the RSL sitting in conference. He referred to a fact that should be obvious to Opposition members here. It is most unfortunate for Opposition members that they have been in Opposition for so long that they have no-one to advise them on the meaning of ministerial1 responsibility. I am not being hard on Opposition members;I am being factual. This situation arose in South Australia where, after 25 years in Opposition, the Australian Labor Party took office and found the greatest difficulty in doing what it had been saying for 25 years it would do.
– The position could also arise in Tasmania.
– That is true. I am merely stating a political fact. It is not a criticism of anyone. Anyone who listens to a Budget debate or reads the Press reports from day to day will know that honourable members on both sides say what the Government should do. The Budget debate givesthem that opportunity. But it is possible to do a simple exercise in arithmetic. We can listen to the whole of a Budget debate or study the whole of the debate in Hansard and add up item by item the cost of the suggestions that are made. To meet the total cost of all the suggestions made in a Budget debate we would need a national Budget that allocated three times the amount that has ever Seen provided by any Budget.
– What has that to do with the question before the House?
– I am saying that members opposite do not know what they are talking about.
– Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
– If the honourable member is an angel, I am a little higher than he is. I have been trying to work out what the Opposition is seeking to achieve in the field of repatriation benefits. I do not know who is the Opposition’s shadow Minister for Repatriation now that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is shadow Minister for Defence, but I should like a spokesman of the Labor Party - someone who has responsibility now and who will have responsibility in the future - to indicate what the Opposition will do if it ever comes to government. Members opposite jump up and say: ‘Give the age pensioners another $6 a week’, Give the repatriation pensioners twice what they now get’,Give more money for home building’ and so on, and when this appears in the Press the person who reads it says: ‘That is an excellent idea’. But it is terribly easy to spend somebody else’s money. It is terribly easy to make suggestions when one does not have the financial responsibility.
The honourable member for East Sydney, in his 20 minutes of mis-statement of fact, said that the Government stands condemned and that even if the Minister was all right, which he was not, the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner should receive at least the basic wage. The honourable member got a little confused with his minimums and maximums, but he meant to say that the TPI pensioner should receive a payment equal to the basic wage. I do not know whether the TPIex-serviceman could ever be adequately compensated.
-Order! I think that the honourable member should connect his remarks to the motion.
– If I have to explain how my remarks are connected to this vote of lack of confidence in the Minister I will do it by reading part of the motion. The third section of the motion suggests that the Minister has failed to bring pensions and benefits to acceptable levels. Therefore, with due deference to you, Sir, my remarks are pertinent. What the Minister who is under attack has achieved is the payment to TPI pensioners of about $6 a week more than the basic wage. So where does the Opposition’s argument lie? If honourable members opposite study figures and examine the repatriation provisions of the Budget they will see that this is so.
– Surely there are other considerations than the minimum wage.
– Of course. One cannot, in terms of money alone, compensate a man who is totally and permanently incapacitated. What we have to do is to exercise a balanced judgment concerning what he needs to enable him to live some sort of life and to look after his family. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted figures from what he described as comparable countries, and he mentioned Canada. I have figures of benefits payable in comparable countries, including Canada. I want to tell honourable members what the Minister, who has been accused of failing to bring pensions and benefits to acceptable levels, has done. My remarks relate not only to what he has done but to what previous Ministers for Repatriation, including the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), Mr Osborne and Sir Walter Cooper, have done. These Ministers have done what the Government originally promised to do. The United Kingdom at present has a government of similar political colour to the Opposition and 1 interpolate that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) is a keen admirer of these people - and it is interesting to see what that government has done.
– The United Kingdom has always been mean with repatriation benefits.
– I am relating these figures to the argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition; I am not using them as a point of my argument. In the United Kingdom the TPI pensioner gets $18.75 a week whereas in Australia the TPI pensioner receives $33.50. In the United Kingdom the wife’s allowance is $1 and in Australia it is $4.05. The child’s allowance in the United Kingdom is 75c and in Australia it is $1.38. In the United Kingdom the Government has completely cut out any sort of education assistance for children of TPI ex-servicemen but in Australia such children are entitled to the full benefits of education. Other benefits, which are written into our Repatriation Act, cannot be reckoned in terms of dollars a week, but they are aimed at giving TPI ex-servicemen a standard of living to which they are entitled.
Let me refer to another comparable country - New Zealand. In New Zealand the TPI pension is $13.15, as against $33.50 in Australia. The New Zealand wife’s allowance is $9.60 as against $4.05 in Australia. The child’s allowance in New Zealand is $1.50 whereas in Australia it is $1.38, but if the benefits are added together the Australian rate is still higher than the New Zealand rate. The benefits attached to being a TPI pensioner in New Zealand do not compare with the Australian benefits. Canada, of course, is not a comparable country because if one takes the Canadian wage structure and economic structure into consideration it can be seen that Canada differs greatly from Australia.
– Oh, go on.
– Members opposite can use an argument for one purpose but do not like it being used for another purpose. If a person pays 20c for a 1 mile bus ride in Canada and 10c for a 1 mile bus ride in Australia these facts must be equated. Honourable members opposite do not want to hear the truth. I said earlier that they introduced a specious resolution to condemn a Minister who has done everything possible and who, as he explained himself, is bound by Cabinet decisions which he fights to uphold. Honourable members have heard the Prime Minister’s explanation of the evidence that was supposed to have been given in Victoria, and members opposite must realise that they have wasted the time of this House in trying to condemn a Minister who has earned the respect of the great majority of ex-servicemen in Australia. if honourable members opposite took the trouble to read some of the material which has been prepared by the Government for honourable members they would change their views on the whole question of repatriation. If they read the annual reports of the Repatriation Commission they will find out what has been done - things that are not shouted from theroof tops. The only things that are shouted from the roof tops are those small things that somebody docs not do and which do not fit into the whole system.
How much more could the generalrate pensioner have been given if wehave provided assistance for the building of war veterans homes? How much more could he have been given had we not instituted free medical treatment for service pensioners. If members read the Treasurer’s Budget speech they will see that he states that the Government’s aim is to see where the need is greatest and to meet that need and this is what has been done. If honourable members want proof of that let them wait until they ask the people who will vote at the next election, because for 12 years honourable members opposite have been beefing their heads off about what we are not doing but they have never been able to get the general public of Australia to believe that they know what they are talking about.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– We are discussing the motion that:
The House expresses lack of confidence in the Minister for Repatriation because he has
Honourable gentlemen opposite seem to have become confused about the terms of the motion. When we on this side of the chamber launch a discussion in the House on the subject of repatriation we are generally accused by honourable members opposite of doing so for political purposes.
An hour or so ago the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz) did this. In March this year when taking part in a debate on repatriation, the Minister said:
After listening to the Deputy Leader ofthe Opposition I am sure that we can only cometo the conclusion that this motion is a form ofpolitical opportunism. . . .
We are asking the House to examinethe responsibility of the nation and in particular the responsibility of this Parliament to former servicemen. We want to examinethe responsibilities of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in the field of repatriation. We want to sec what can be done about the deficiencies in our repatriation system which are apparent to anyone who cares to discuss and consider the subject. This afternoon the speech made by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) was almost an apologia. He was not completely persuasive, but at least from his point of view he engaged in a well informed discussion. We have heard the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) speaking in . the debate today. Apparently he has examined the Standing Orders and discovered that he is permitted to speak in this place. He managed to speak for 15 or 20 minutes in front of his Ministers. AsI have already indicated, we have also heard fromthe Minister for Civil Aviation.
I want to introduce a rather novel note into the debate by referring to one of the things which we do well in repatriation.If you are in receipt of repatriation benefits, on the whole the service you receive from the Repatriation Department is first class. I agree with those who say that repatriation hospitals are first class. On occasion I have received treatment in them. Generally speaking the Repatriation Act is administered in such a way that those who are in receipt of benefits receive first class treatment. But there are large elements of dissatisfaction with the system. This dissatisfaction is being continually voiced not only by the Opposition in this place but also by ex-service organisations and dissatisfied people who have sought some benefit from the Department. What sort of responsibility should we accept in repatriation? It is here that we part company with our friends opposite. I believe that we must accept total responsibility towards our ex-servicemen. The responsibility that we accept in the case of former servicemen must differ from the responsibility accepted in the case of other people in the community. The serviceman accepts an absolute commitment to the community. The final payment may be his life. This may or may not happen, but it has happened to some 100,000 in the two major wars in which Australia has been involved. Those who suffer serious wounds may live a life of complete invalidity. The serviceman’s commitment is a total commitment to the nation. We on this side of the House say that no matter how much it may cost - the cost would be minute in the totality of the present Budget - we should accept an equal commitment to the serviceman.
The honourable member for Perth referred to an ex-serviceman leading a reasonable life on a repatriation pension. Let us examine directly some repatriation benefits. What kind of life could you lead on a pension of $30 a week? 1 do not think such a sum would allow anybody to live a reasonable life in the Australian context. How are we to decide which people shall receive benefits and how much they shall receive? We challenge the basis on which repatriation tribunals make their decisions. One of the reasons for the Opposition moving the motion today was continuing dissatisfaction with repatriation tribunals and their administration. We are dissatisfied with the way they go about their business. Notwithstanding what the Prime Minister said, I am convinced that the Chairman of one of the tribunals was paraded before the Minister. If he was not told precisely to slow down a bit, I wager that he gained that impression. The Parliament has not yet decided who shall be entitled to repatriation benefits, although we already have a large Act dealing with repatriation. It is still extremely difficult for a person to get himself accepted completely into the repatriation system. We have not yet decided by how much people should benefit. Nobody could say that the amounts set aside in the Budget presented last night are adequate to enable a person to live on a pension as his sole income. Then we must decide what are the ministerial responsibilities. I am afraid that in recent years Ministers have accepted no responsibility whatever. I do not mean that in the strict sense they do not administer the Department, but in the 13 years that I have been in this
Parliament I have on no occasion sensed any ministerial initiative towards improving repatriation benefits. This is not to say that at some levels repatriation benefits have not been, improved, but I have not sensed any driving ambition in any of the ministerial incumbents to make things better. In this House they have been full of apologies, explanations and excuses. I have yet to learn the ambitions of the present incumbent of the office of Minister for Repatriation. I do not think that his predecessors had any ambitions.
We think that Ministers are responsible for initiating things. In my opinion the pity of the Repatriation Act is that the Minister seems to have very little authority to initiate matters. It is not that I think he should be able to tell tribunals to slow down, but the Minister for Repatriation does not seem to have the discretion that is vested in the Minister for Social Services, for example.
Although this House has for 40 years searched for some solution to the problems associated with repatriation, we have not yet found it. In a continuing search for a better repatriation system the Repatriation Act has been amended about forty-five times in the last 40 years but we still have a long way to go in many areas of repatriation. One of the continuing features of recent years has been the way Ministers of this Government have attempted to shackle the Parliament in its discussion of repatriation. On other occasions when the Opposition has attempted to improve the repatriation system we have had quite Homeric battles about the Standing Orders and the right of the Parliament to pass amendments which would involve the Crown in extra expense. A perusal of the records of the last 5 years - these are available to anybody who cares to look at them - will show that we on this side of the House have moved innumerable amendments to the Act and have initiated other debates on repatriation. These have dealt specifically with such things as cancer, heart disease, the repatriation system in general, administration of the Act and the right of appeal. These amendments and motions have not been something dreamed up on this side of the House simply because we wished to attack the Government. They were an expression of the continuing dissatisfaction and frustration of people who, while admitting that the repatriation system is excellent in some ways, find that it has nothing to offer them. This is why today we express our continuing dissatisfaction with the system.
What are some of the problems which have not been successfully tackled so far? Take, for instance, the position of exservicemen of the First World War. The First World War was a dreadful war. The casualty lists were frightful. We sent overseas some 330,000 men. About 315,000 of them became casualties of one kind or other. About 200,000 or 66% were battle casualties and about 95% were casualties of some kind. Nobody can tell me that the ex-serviceman of the First World War has received a fair go. Nobody who has examined the statistics would make that claim. In recent times he still has not received a fair go. The great tragedy is that today his widow is not receiving a fair go. In the case of people who are now getting into their late seventies it is extremely difficult to say categorically that any condition from which they suffer is war caused Let me quote some statistics. According to the Bureau of Census and Statistics, 83,000 men who served in the First World War are still alive. Some 36,000 of them are in receipt of pensions. You could say that is a fairly high ratio - three out of every seven receiving a pension. The figures relating to the Second World War show that 508,000 ex-servicemen served in that war and 182,830 of them are in receipt of pensions. So while three out of every seven ex-servicemen from the First World War are in receipt of pensions, about one out of every three ex-servicemen of the Second World War is in receipt of a pension. The figures relating to the Second World War include service in the Northern Territory. Nobody can tell me that service in the Second World War was as arduous or as dangerous, except on odd occasions, as service in the First World War. 1 do not think there is any comparison between the First and Second World Wars in regard to the hardship of battle. We have not done our duty properly to those who served in the First World War. We still have not found a satisfactory solution to the plight of a widow. How does a widow prove that her husband died from a war caused disability? The Government has never worried about that matter.
In a few minutes time I will discuss the procedure of various tribunals and the application of section 47 of the Repatriation Act. But what about the chronic cases? What about cancer, for instance? On a number of occasions the Opposition has moved that cancer be automatically accepted as a war caused disability. 1 have a medical dictionary before me that I obtained from the Parliamentary Library and it states that the cause of cancer is not known. 1 will also discuss that in a moment. This would equally apply to heart diseases. I recall a constituent of mine who died some years ago as a result of a heart ailment. He was badly wounded in 1917 and for almost 50 years after that he moved about with a badly damaged hip which laid him up in hospital once or twice a month and yet, when he died of a heart ailment, it was said that it could not have been caused by his war wounds. I refuse to believe that. But even if it cannot be proved literally, I believe that the Act is not being administered in the spirit in which this Parliament has so often expressed itself. What do honourable members opposite regard as a reasonable standard of living? We have only to look at the amounts paid in repatriation benefits to see that they do not really know what a reasonable standard of living is. I think that the minimum wage in this country is a miserable sum when considered as a standard of living.
– It is more than the TPI pensioners get.
– That is right, it is more than the TPI pensioners receive. These are matters that we should consider. This is the reason why one or two years ago the Australian Labor Party moved for the appointment of a select commi’tee to inquire into repatriation benefits. In 1943 a dramatic change occurred in the repatriation system as a result of the Parliament sitting down in a collective way and discussing the matter. But, of course, this Government has no faith in the Parliament and it has no faith in its colleagues. Many of these things are not political matters. Political issues are not involved in whether a person should have $50 or $30 a week. lt only becomes a political issue when we have to debate it in the way that we are doing now. Surely whether or not cancer is accepted as a war caused disability whether or not section 47 of the Act is being administered correctly and whether or not the amounts being paid are adequate are non-political questions. The Parliament ought to apply itself to them in a much more emphatic way than it is doing at present.
I wish to raise some other issues in the few minutes left to me. The honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard) said that repatriation benefits in Canada were four times the Australian rate. This statement was challenged by the honourable member for Perth, who pointed out that the cost of living is. higher in Canada. So it is. I think that newspapers cost 10c in Canada and only 5c in Australia. From my own observations I would say that costs in Canada in general may be twice those in Australia but the average person in Canada probably receives three times the salary of a person in Australia. I know that this applies in the leaching profession. That is why the Canadian Government is so successful in recruiting teachers in Australia. But (his is not the issue. I do not think it matters a great deal what happens in the United Kingdom. New Zealand or Canada; it is what we ourselves decide to do that counts. The time has come for us to adopt some standards of our own. I am not convinced that the new TPI pension of$33.50 a week, the intermediate rate pension of $24.25. a week or the widow’s pension of$ 1 4 a week are adequate when compared with the minimum wage of$37.55 a week. Young men 20 years of age are now being conscripted and sent to Vietnam. Some of them will he totally incapacitated and will never work as long as they live. They will never have adequate means of sustenance. They will live a lifetime of poverty. There is no excuse for this as we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. That is why we are moving this motion today. That is why we say that repatriation benefits are inadequate.
I turn now to section 47 of the Act. This section states that the onus of proof lies squarely on the Commission. The spirit of this legislation was that when a person came before the tribunal the onus of proof lay with the tribunal and that person should get the benefit of any doubt. What should this mean? I believe - this may be the idealist’s conception of repatriation benefits - that when an ex-serviceman says to a tribunal: I have heart trouble as a result of serving in the Army’, he should not have to prove his case. It should be up to the officers of the Department, the Ministers minions to prove that the ailment could not possibly have resulted from Army service. This seems to me to be a simple elemental interpretation of section 47 of the Act. Subsection (2.) states: (2.) It shall not be necessary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal, but the Commission, Board or Appeal Tribunal . . .
One of my constituents may come into my office requesting help and be asked: ‘Where did you serve?’ He may reply: ‘I was in France in 1916, 1917 and 1918’. I may ask: ‘Did anything happen to you?’ He may reply: ‘Yes. I was gassed once but we were a bit hard pressed at the time andI did not become a proper casualty’, or ‘I served onthe Kokoda Trail and they did not send you out unless you had a temperature of 101 degrees’, or something like that. I then have to go back through his records and find out when he was ill and what doctors he went to. Some evidence may be finally produced but in a large number of cases you get nowhere. There is plenty of experience of that.
The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) said that some tribunals approved 1 case in 4, some1 in 15. some 1 in 9 and some1 in 10. The fact is. of course, that the average person has no possibility of proving his case before a tribunal. To the average citizen the tribunal is an aweinspiring affair. This is so though the members of the tribunal do their best to relax the atmosphere. There is nothing more forbidding to the average person - say, the kind of man that I represent, the average working man who is used to fitting into a machine somewhere - than to have to argue in front of a court or tribunal, no matter how friendly the atmosphere may be. I have been into a few of these tribunals on occasions and I will admit that the people there try to make the atmosphere relaxed. But they have still a long way to go. Some completely different machinery has to be produced.I believe - andI think my colleagues on this side of the House will agree - that we should accept total responsibility for the people who have served this country. I think it would be a great advantage to dissociate pensions and medical benefits. I would like to see people given medical benefits if they have served their country. One can usually define the kind of service that should confer entitlement to medical benefits. I think that a person who has served in the jungles of Papua and New Guinea, in France or in any other arduous field of operations should be entitled to special consideration. I know that honourable members opposite on occasions produce facts and figures to show that there are no more ex-servicemen dying from heart complaints or anything else than anybody else in the community. But fewer of them should be dying because they were a select group in the community. This applies particularly to those who enlisted between 1939 and 1941 and those who enlisted in the First World War. On average they were above the general physical standards of the community. On average they should live longer. On average they should suffer less in their old age from illness. So even if they suffer only to the same degree as the rest of the community, I think it is logical to deduce that the hardships of their service are taking a toll. Therefore, we on this side of the House believe that the Minister for Repatriation has failed in his bounden duty to the Repatriation Department and to the former servicemen, and that the House should pass this motion of censure against him.
– In one sense we are very much indebted to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I think he has put the Opposition’s slant on this debate in its true and proper perspective. As I understand it, the honourable member basically challenges the basis on which appeal tribunals make their decisions in repatriation matters. He suggests that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) in this instance, and Ministers in general, I gather - for the debate seems to have drifted away from the Minister against whom this lack of confidence motion has been directed and to have embraced the Government as a whole - accept no responsibility and act with little authority. As I understand it, the proposition he puts forward is that the Opposition feels that the Minister should actively intervene in the processes of entitlement appeal tribunals and assessment appeal tribunals and directly tell the members of those tribunals, who are outside the field of politics and altogether independent of it, what findings they should pronounce. This is not the the way in which this Government conducts its business. We believe in constituting independent tribunals. The tribunals are so constituted that they are able to assess the relative merits of cases that come before them. It is because my colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, feels so strongly the necessity for these tribunals to be independent that he has taken the course of action that he has taken according to the facts as presented earlier today by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton).
In fact, the allegation made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been completely refuted. It started off on a very broad base and gradually narrowed until the criticism became completely identified with one particular instance and one particular person. When the circumstances of the complaint were explained there appeared clearly to be no grounds for complaint. This debate has developed into an examination of the present merit or demerits of the provision made for one ofthe most deserving sections of the Australian community. Every man, woman and child in Australia recognises the tremendous contribution that has been made to the advancement of Australia by servicemen who gave their lives or, in many instances, their good health for the sake of this country in the First and Second World Wars and since then in Korea and Malaysia, and now in Vietnam. It is because this Government recognises the contribution that has been made by our servicemen that the range and rates of benefits have been progressively increased over the years.
This raises another ludicrous aspect of the complaint that has been made in this chamber today. Only last night the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) brought down the Budget for this financial year. There have been substantial increases once again - this is not unusual, because it has been the case in every successive year - in the money allocated for the assistance of those who are entitled in one way or another to repatriation benefits. I want to run through some of these benefits later. Before I do this, I should like to refer to the lack of confidence motion before the House. This debate is predominantly concerned with what in my view is one of the most serious motions that can be considered - a motion of lack of confidence in a Minister.
I am intrigued by the expressing of the motion in such a general form. Obviously the Opposition did not feel that it had a sufficiently sound basis for the lodging of a particular complaint, and so it has tried to encompass everything. It has tried to demonstrate a loss of confidence by exservicemen’s organisations and exservicemen. Let us have a look at this as the first part of the proposal that we are debating tonight. The particular instance raised is one that occurred nearly 18 months ago. It is not something that has happened just one week, two weeks or even a couple of months ago. The incident from which the whole matter arose occurred, as I understand it, on 19th September 1966. That is a long time ago. lt has taken nearly 18 months for the incident to come before this House and for a Returned Services League congress in any one of the States to consider it. Lel us also recognise that there is even now only one State in which there has been any resolution relating to the Minister. There have been resolutions relating to the scale of benefits. This is a field to which the League, not unnaturally, has given attention. The RSL speaks for its members. It is concerned with the continuing wellbeing of the men it represents. Therefore, it has a continuing responsibility to ensure that there is. in the eyes of both its executive and its rank and file members, a continuous improvement in the standard of the benefits received. The League also has a continuing responsibility to ensure that anomalies, if they exist, are brought to the light of day. It is on this field that most of the congresses have concentrated. The particular matter that has been subject to consideration by one State congress alone concerns a complaint that the chairman of one of the six war pension assessment appeal tribunals has made concerning the Minister. As far as I know the motion agreed to by that one State congress is the only indication of support for the first point in the Opposition’s lack of confidence motion.
Let us have a look at the situation in a little more detail. Just what happened in this instance? There has been some examination of this matter this afternoon, and I believe it bears repeating that what in fact happened was that, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition explained, a member of the RSL executive stated that a member of one of the appeal tribunals had complained to him about active interference by the Minister. Initially he did not make the complaint about one particular instance; he made it in a general form. . He said that the chairmen of a number of appeal tribunals had been summoned to Canberra, where the Minister had in effect waved a stick at them in relation to the decisions they were giving. As a result of this statement, the Minister for Repatriation has been put in a most invidious position. He has been prejudiced in carrying out what is a tremendously responsible task which calls for the continual exercising of a degree of responsibility which is as great as, if not perhaps greater than, that required in almost every other sphere of government. It was said only a few moments ago that in the field of repatriation there is an obligation on the community. This does not relate only to section 47 in regard to the onus of proof. It is a matter of the community itself being indebted to returned servicemen. So it is in this general climate that I suggest that the Minister for Repatriation has a responsibility that is probably greater than that of almost any other Minister. He must ensure that justice is done and that every consideration is given to every member or former member of the Services who in one way or another goes before his Department and undergoes an examination to determine whether or not he is entitled to a repatriation benefit.
In the system of independent tribunals - both entitlement appeal tribunals and assessment appeal tribunals - it is essential that there shall be not only apparent but also real independence to make a determination according to the merits of the particular case. I believe that any person who goes before a tribunal can be examined and the merits or demerits of his case determined quite independently and without outside influence. The allegation by the member of the executive of the RSL has put a substantial cloud over the head of the Minister. When we look at the claim made by this person wc find not only that it does not relate to a number of persons but also that it refers only to the chairman of one particular tribunal. As the end of that chairman’s term of office was approaching and there had been a number of complaints on behalf of someone who had written in and complained about the particular way in which he had acted in the proceedings of his tribunal, not unnaturally the Minister had to consider whether he would reappoint him. It was absolutely essential that he determine whether this man was suited to continuing in the position of chairman of one of the six assessment appeal tribunals.
The Minister summoned this person and discussed the serious complaints with him. These complaints were read to the House this afternoon. They were of such a nature that it was absolutely imperative, in the eyes of the Minister, that he exercise his impartial judgment and determine whether or not this man was sufficiently capable to continue as chairman of the appeal tribunal. The Minister discussed with him the allegations that had been made. He did this in complete confidence, with no-one else present. He accepted that in the circumstances, as Mr Mooney was able to explain them to him, there was not sufficient substance in the claim that Mr Mooney should be denied the opportunity lo continue in his post.
So it was that Mr Mooney wrote to the Minister. A copy of his letter has been tabled in this chamber so that all honourable members and any other interested persons may examine it. That letter contains no reference at all to intimidation. Out of that there was a complete identification by Mr Mooney 2 days later - 2 days after the hearing before the tribunal - and there was no reference whatever to intimidation. Only now. 18 months later, we hear that there has been a suggestion of intimidation. So it has been greatly narrowed down. This seems to be the only instance on which the Opposition bases its case that there is within ex-servicemen’s organisations a loss of confidence in the capacity of the Minister. In fact, the Minister obviously has been exercising his necessary concern that justice should continue to be done within these independent tribunals. It is clear that there is no substance in the first part of the Opposition’s motion.
Obviously the Opposition found it very difficult to continue the debate on the particular matter. Hence, it has broadened its case. The Opposition has claimed that the Minister has failed to administer the Repatriation Act with compassion and flexibility. In the time that I was Minister for Social Services I was concerned that there are so many people in Australia today who in various ways are dependent on social service assistance. It is extremely difficult to provide the amount of assistance that the Minister and his Department would wish to provide.
Fortunately, while the numbers of people seeking assistance from the Repatriation Department are very substantial, they are not quite so substantial as in the field of social services. Accordingly, it is much more possible, as the honourable member for Wills indicated a few minutes ago, for the Repatriation Department and the Minister to exercise compassion and flexibility in the administration of their responsibility to determine that each applicant should receive his due entitlement. To my mind one of the great achievements in Australia in post-war years has been the tremendous range of benefits provided by successive governments for people who have served their country and have earned, and have been given, a measure of compensation for the time taken out of their lives and for the personal injury they have suffered.
In this instance once again members of the Opposition have exaggerated a case. They have claimed that the Minister has failed to administer the Repatriation Act with compassion and flexibility, but it is very obvious that that is just the way in which the Act is being administered. The present Minister for Repatriation was appointed to his portfolio 3 or 4 years ago. Since that time the administration of the Repatriation Act has been continued in the same effective way. Every applicant for entitlement has been given equal opportunity to appear before appeal tribunals and assessment tribunals, and before officers of the Repatriation Department. Where a case has been accepted by a tribunal, entitlement has been awarded. Therefore I submit that the second part of the motion has no substance whatsoever.
The third point of the motion is that the Minister has failed to bring pensions and benefits to acceptable levels. Obviously that is not the role or the responsibility of the Minister as an individual. He exercises collective responsibility with all members of the Government. In the third point of the motion it is clear that the Opposition is really referring to the Government and not to the Minister. In any event, there has been a progression in the scale of benefits, an enlargement of the amounts paid and a broadening of the range of entitlements. The Minister deserves praise for his achievements in two directions over the years since his appointment to the portfolio; firstly, for the introduction of the intermediate rate of pension in the first or second year of his occupancy of the office. The intermediate rate was introduced for ex-servicemen incapacitated to such an extent through war service that work could be engaged in only part time or intermittently. Consequently, such people are enabled to earn a living wage. The intermediate rate falls midway between the 100% rate and the rate payable to totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen. This new category of benefit was introduced in the early 3’ears of the present Minister’s term of office.
The second reason for praise of the Minister arose only last night, when the Treasurer announced the introduction of a special compensation allowance. This recognises the peculiar disabilities of exservicemen with a particular kind of injury who have an assessed incapacity of over 75%. There is a scaling down from $3 a week for those on the special TPI rate to $2.25 a week.
– lt is to be paid only to some of them - not all.
– It is to be paid to most. There are very few who, because of the nature of the diagnosis, are excluded. It is to be payable to most pensioners who are within the category of 75% to 100% assessed incapacity. This is a substantial percentage, and not just a small majority. A substantial percentage will receive the benefit. There will be only a few cases where the diagnosis will cause exclusion. I wish to turn now to examine particular new benefits which the Minister for Repatriation has sponsored, through the Government, and for which he has been responsible when it has finally come to the introduction of legislation. Last night we were told by the Treasurer that expenditure on repatriation services is expected to increase in 1968-69 to 8285,517,000. This is a very substantial sum of money. It is true that some of the proposals being introduced this year will not cost so much this year as they will in a full year; but it is also true that $10,679,000 of the increased expenditure is the result of proposals announced in last night’s Budget Speech. These proposals cover a wide range of benefits.
I invite honourable members to study the areas that are covered. To this end the graph that appears in the papers tabled by the Treasurer last night is very helpful. It sets out the range of persons who will receive benefits in war pensions, service pensions and allowances. The table of allowances shows that each of the twenty or more allowances will be increased. Over the years there has been successively an increased allocation of funds for repatriation benefits and a broadening of the range of entitlements. This gives the lie to the third of the arguments put forward in the motion moved tonight by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), stating that the Minister has failed to bring pensions and benefits to acceptable levels. I think every honourable member believes that the returned servicemen of this country who have been injured in any way or have become subject to illness as a result of war service deserve to be given every opportunity to live out their lives while being given continued opportunity to settle in the community. They should have opportunities to play leading roles throughout the community.
The Returned Services League has taken unto itself a very responsible and active role in the community. It is a highly respected body. It is given by the Government each year an opportunity to make recommendations to the ex-servicemen’s committee of Cabinet. Those recommendations are given consideration. In this way the cause of ex-servicemen continues to progress. I believe that there is no substance whatever in the allegations made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Minister for Repatriation in another place has my complete confidence. This, indeed, I am sure is true of every honourable member on this side of the chamber.
That the motion (Mr Barnard’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. W. J. Aston)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1966, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: Rebuilding of Melville Rehabilitation Centre - Stage 1, Western Australia.
The proposal referred to the Committee involved the erection, at an estimated cost of S700.000. of the first stage of the rebuilding programme comprising living-in accommodation for patients and staff, new kitchen and dining facilities, a recreation hall and an administrative and medical block. In reporting favourably on the proposal the Committee recommended the fencing of the boundaries of the Centre and the provision of air conditioning to the medical block at a total additional cost of S25.000. lt is proposed to accept these recommendations.
The Committee also recommended that the second and third stages of the rebuilding programme, which are expected to cost in the order of S300.000, should be accelerated so that the whole programme can bc completed concurrently. This recommendation has been noted. However, as there are works at other rehabilitation centres which warrant higher priority than the second and third stages of the Melville Centre and in view of the overall demand on the Budget for public works expenditure it is not proposed to adopt this recommendation.
Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning of Stage 1 of the rebuilding programme can proceed.
Mr CHANEY (Perth) [8.5 1 J- What the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) said has caused me a great deal of regret. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works investigated the rebuilding of the Melville Rehabilitation Centre and made recommendations to the Parliament. The time that has elapsed between the tabling of the Committee’s report and the proposing of this expediency motion has been much longer than usual, lt has been implied in this House that delay occurs in the construction of buildings or in the planning of projects because works costing more than $500,000 must be referred to the Public Works Committee. The Committee expeditiously investigated this matter and reported back on the first possible occasion in the autumn session, lt has taken from then until now to bring forward the recommendations to this House.
When the Committee looked at this proposal it saw that the work was to be done in three stages, that the total cost would be in the region of Sim, and that the first stage would cost §700,000. The reason put forward by the Minister in submitting the Government’s proposal was that there was a tremendous pressure on the Budget for public works and that there were other priorities to be met. I fail to see this reasoning because the evidence presented to the Committee established that from this day onwards it would take some 6 months to prepare plans, to get specifications out and then to call tenders. Following that there would be a period of some 2 years for building. Taking that evidence, the work would extend over a period of 24 years, which would not cover one budgetary period but three budgetary periods. I do not see how the excuse that there is pressure on public works comes into the argument at all, because what will happen will be that this will be taken over three budgetary periods. So the sum of $Im for the total project as against §700,000 for the first stage could be well covered at the finish. 1 hope that the Government will be prepared to have another look at the proposal to rebuild the Melville Rehabilitation Centre and that it will follow the recommendations of the Committee.
I refer now to the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee which were prepared on 14th February 1968 and tabled in this House. Paragraph 10 reads:
The design and construction of the second and third stages of the rebuilding programme should be accelerated so that the whole programme can be completed concurrently.
This was the considered opinion of the men appointed by this House and by the Senate to look into this aspect of public works on behalf of Australia. The Committee in the report, which honourable members will have received, stated:
The Committee took evidence on and gave careful consideration to the consequences of completing the whole rebuilding programme as one project. The conclusion reached was that there are definite advantages in following this course.
The first point is that the facilities to he provided in the final stages of the rebuilding programme are to replace buildings which were temporary when erected over 25 years ago and which now have a life of no more than 5 years. In our view the cost of keeping these buildings in a habitable condition is excessive. This, is demonstrated by the fact that it is estimated that S56.0O0 will be required to maintain them over the next 5 years.
I ask honourable members to keep that figure in mind. The report continues:
The second economic factor is that if the rebuilding programme is completed in one stage, an overall saving in building costs of the order of $24,000 can be expected. This saving would be possible because the successful contractor would have the expense of establishing himself on the site on only one occasion.
The Committee were most perturbed to learn that while construction is in progress there will be interference with training and treatment at the Centre and the efficiency of the rehabilitation service will thus be lowered. Furthermore, during this period because of the contractor’s activities, it is possible that there may need to be a reduction in the number of patients living in and those being treated. In our view, these problems will be prolonged unnecessarily if reconstruction is extended over three stages.
We noted the advice of the Department of Works that documentation and construction of the second and third stages can, if necessary, be advanced for them to be undertaken concurrently with the works in this reference without any consequent loss of time.
The Committee concluded that there are very good social and economic reasons for completion of the later stages being advanced. We therefore recommend that the design and construction of the second and third stages of the rebuilding programme be accelerated so that the whole programme can be completed concurrently.
I would like to come back to the Budget Speech delivered by . the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) last night. If I got the message correctly, the Government’s whole idea is that where there is need there will be action. The Public Works Committee of this Parliament saw a great need in respect of the Melville Rehabilitation Centre. I believe that the Government has not accepted the recommendations of this Committee because of a short-sighted view by somebody somewhere in authority.
As I have pointed out, if you take the figures of $56,000 and $24,000, a saving of $80,000 is effected. A further unknown saving would be effected if the whole programme could be planned and completed concurrently, because the contractor could be kept on the site. There must be a saving because there is an inbuilt rise in the cost of building and the cost of construction, as we all realise. I feel very strongly about the Government’s decision not to complete the whole programme. If members of the Public Works Committee were to press this matter to a vote it would not achieve very much. I have no desire to hold up the first stage of construction of this centre, because I visited the place after the Committee went there and I know the magnificent work that is being done in the rehabilitation of the disabled. The quicker we get on with the job the better. All I am asking the Government to do is to have another long and serious look at the proposed rebuilding of the Centre, because I do not believe that the reasons that have been put forward by the Minister are justified or that they will bear investigation.
– I wish to join in the opposition to the statement made by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) concerning the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the proposal to rebuild the Melville Rehabilitation Centre. It is well to understand that 100 patients are involved in this matter. When the Committee was considering the evidence before it, it also took into account the question of priorities. However, the only reason that the Minister gave to the House for not proceeding with the rebuilding of the Centre in the manner recommended by the Committee is that the question of priorities is involved. It is very hard to think that the Minister is serious in this suggestion. What is involved in this matter shows quite clearly that if the report of the Committee is adopted the Government itself eventually will be saving money in the course of 3 years or 4 years.
When the proposal was submitted to us, the estimated cost of carrying out the second stage was $300,000. It does not necessarily follow that the Government will get around to carrying out this phase of the project in 3 years time. It could be considerably longer. As the trend is for costs in this country to go up yearly, whenever the Government does get around to carrying out the second stage of the project, the cost will be considerably in excess of S300.000. The Committee has suggested that by proceeding with its recommendations now the Government will save an additional $80,000. As a result of this fact, because of the condition of the building over there and because of the type of work that this rehabilitation centre is doing for people in all walks of life, whether they are over middle age or under middle age or whether they are in receipt of a pension or whether because of the work of this centre when they reach the age of 16 they will go on to a pension, I think that a proper view must be taken of the humanitarian aspects of this undertaking. Because of the compassionate aspect of this undertaking, it is extremely difficult to understand why the Government baulks at finding $220,000 to do something in this field of social endeavour of which it tried to make so much during the presentation of the Budget last night. Knowing the paltry sum of money - I say that advisedly - that is involved in carrying out what this centre is proposed to do, I say that the attitude of the Government is indefensible and that it needs to come up with some better advice from its experts in the Treasury than that it is a question of priorities. I do submit to the Government that because of the nature of the work and the meagre amount that is involved it would be serving the interests of humanity well if it had another look at its recommendations in this matter.
- Mr Speaker, lest it be said that there is some parochial interest associated with this matter as far as the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) is concerned, I would like iO associate myself with the remarks made by the honourable member for Perth and also by the honourable member for Dalley (Mr O’Connor). The Government is unimpressive, to say the least, in its submission which the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) has just put forward regarding the withholding of what has been described as a miserable $300,000. I ask the very simple question probably in the local vernacular: Just how long is it since we have been so poverty stricken that we have to withhold $300,000? At the same time, are our economics so out of focus that we can afford to waste $80,000 by delaying an expenditure of $300,000 which is lined up for a few years hence? The thing just does not add up. As the honourable member for Dalley has said, the Government has to come up with something more practical, something more acceptable and something that we will be able to masticate, even if it is with difficulty, as to why it is not going to proceed with a simple building costing $220,000 with another $80,000 for the third stage. Of course, the expenditure of $80,000 would save more than that amount in 12 months. The matter has been prolonged unnecessarily. With those few short words, I wish to associate myself with the remarks that have been made. I ask that the Government have another look at this project and come out with a reason much more substantial than it has presented here tonight.
– Mr Speaker, the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman) has asked for reasons. I think that, in all fairness, reasons should be given to the House. I always find it very difficult to differ from the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) whose judgment, personally, I always have respected and whose judgment as Chairman of the Public Works Committee one must respect even more. 1 do think that, perhaps, he has been misled by his desire to help his own State.
– That is not fair.
– Perhaps I should explain this further. Need must be always relative. When I looked at the minutes of the evidence put before the Committee, I saw that no discussion whatsoever took place on priorities. This discussion may have occurred outside the minutes of evidence But in the printed minutes of evidence there is no discussion of priorities at all. Need must be measured by the number of places in each State as compared with the population.
Perhaps I should read the figures to the House. These are the numbers of places in rehabilitation centres per 100,000 of the population in the various States. The figures are: New South Wales, 4.3; Victoria, 5.8;
Queensland, 8.0; South Australia, 10.2; and Western Australia, 8.4. In point of fact, Western Australia at the present moment is nearly twice as well served as New South Wales. It is quite obvious that the greater need is where the lesser number of places is available. Now, I do not think that one would want to measure this entirely by these figures. But surely the disparity between these figures is so great that it must be considered. I am sorry that the figures were not put before the Committee. They are not in the minutes of evidence. The Committee did not look at them. Because the Committee did not look at these vital facts, perhaps it was a little misled.
– Why should there be such a disparity after 19 years of this Government?
– I think that the honourable member may be making a point in favour of redress on a matter which 1 would endeavour to even up to some extent. I am not suggesting for one moment, of course, that everything should be done in the one State. But I do say that where there is this kind of disparity - and we know that rehabilitation is the same thing whether it be in Sydney, Melbourne or Perth - we should try to have some- method of allocating -money to the places of the greatest need in accordance with the provisions of the Budget. I do not wish to stress this too much because I think that the Committee has acted in all honesty but without having had a look at these relevant figures which it should have looked at in trying to decide any question of priorities.
Might I just advert briefly to the question of cost? It is said that $80,000 will be saved by treating this as one project. But it is forgotten that interest for 5 years would have to be found on $300,000, and this, even without discounting its present worth for the future, is very much in excess of $80,000. What is suggested by the Committee is an extra expenditure as well as a distortion of proper priorities. The honourable member for Dalley has said that prices may rise. Of course this is true. But we must remember we are not deciding this as one simple project; we are weighing this project against others and if this is done something else will not be done. The question of price rise is irrelevant; the one cancels out the other. In terms of pure economics, the so-called saving of $80,000 does not exist in fact.
The Government is very conscious of the wonderful work that is being done by the rehabilitation service in all States. The Government can be proud of what it has achieved in the establishment and development of the rehabilitation service. We have a policy that will result in the expansion of the service and we will endeavour to place the expansion where it will provide the maximum service to those people who are in need of rehabilitation. As I have said, other projects have higher priorities than the second and third stages in Perth. But this does not mean that the second and third stages in Perth will not be proceeded with. 1 hold the view that the rehabilitation service is good not only in human terms but also in financial terms because of the savings in pensions that it makes possible in future Budgets. There is a ratio in this. In America I have heard a ratio as high as 20 to 1 quoted. I do not think that such a ratio would be applicable to Australian circumstances, but I do think that in Australian circumstances a ratio of saving to expenditure much greater than unity could be established. At this moment my Department is investigating this very matter with the objective of establishing a case for a quicker overall expansion of our rehabilitation services throughout Australia. As I have said, whereas from the Treasury point of view one would hope to establish this as a financial matter, even more important than finance is the fact that this service provides something of real human value.
I have had the privilege in recent months of going to many of the centres that are run by my Department. I am amazed at the courage, the fortitude and the success of the rehabilitees who go through them. I should like to pay a tribute to the staff working in these centres. I hope and believe that we will have a programme that can be justified in both financial and human terms for the quick expansion of these centres. If this is so, even though there may be works of higher priority in other States, nevertheless the second and third stages in Perth may well be given their own proper priority inside the period of 2 or 3 years that was mentioned by the honourable member for Perth.
The Government does not need to be told to have another look at this matter. It is under review and will be kept under review. I cannot promise that the second and third stages in Perth will be completed out of priority. Indeed I would say we would not do that. But I do say that it is probable that the expansion of the whole rehabilitation service will enable priorities to be advanced all along the line and the honourable member for Perth and the other honourable members who have spoken tonight may not be altogether disappointed. They may find that, without disturbing the priorities of which I have spoken, the work in Perth may be undertaken as part of the overall expansion of the scheme as quickly as it would have been undertaken if the original proposal of the Public Works Committee had been adopted. I thank the House.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Does the honourable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes, badly, Sir. As a humble backbench member, I forgive the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for badly misrepresenting me. In no way was the construction of the second and third stages of the Melville Rehabilitation Centre connected with my position as the member for Perth. As a matter of fact, the Melville Rehabilitation Centre is in the electorate of Fremantle. I would like the Minister to know that if this Committee, which has a very good reputation for being non-political and non-electoral and for observing its responsibility to the Parliament, ever is required to look at a project in the electorate of Mackellar, it will come forward with a recommendation
-Order! The honourable member may explain matters of a personal nature only. He is going beyond that limit.
– May I take the opportunity to say that I accept what the honourable member for Perth has said. I was adverting only to the-
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– I was sorry to hear the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) say that the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), who is Chairman of the Public Works Committee, is parochial. He has never been anything of the sort during the meetings of the Committee. I am not a Western Australian; 1 am a Queenslander and very proud of it. The Minister said that the Committee did not take priorities into consideration. We have no power to do so. That is a matter for the Government, not for the Committee. Our thought was to try to save money, because the second and third stages of the Melville Rehabilitation Centre will be built at some time. Until they are built, the present buildings must be maintained. The Committee stated at paragraph 59 of its report:
The first point is that the facilities to be provided in the final stages of the rebuilding programme are to replace buildings which were temporary when erected over 25 years ago and which now have a life of no more than 5 years. In our view the cost of keeping these buildings in a habitable condition is excessive. This is demonstrated by the fact that it is estimated that $56,000 will be required to maintain them over the next 5 years.
If the second and third stages are built now, it will not be necessary to continue keeping the temporary buildings in repair. If the second and third stages are not built now, the amount available for other projects will be only $25,000 a year. What other centre in Australia will benefit by that amount? It would not build much.
The Committee has tried to point out that if the Government proceeds with the programme that we have recommended it will save the taxpayers’ money. This was our main concern. We have no say in the allocation of priorities. I have not had a chance to check whether the figures are included in the transcript of evidence, but we were told of the people who are served in each State by these rehabilitation centres. If this evidence does not appear in the Hansard transcript, it must have been given to the Committee in camera. The Minister said that rehabilitation is limited. He should not forget that discharged national servicemen are also accommodated in this Rehabilitation Centre and we will have many more servicemen in need of rehabilitation if the war continues. I cannot understand a suggestion that the need for rehabilitation will be less; it will be more. The Committee’s recommendation was submitted only in the interests of the Government and in an effort to save money. The second and third stages will be completed at some time and if their construction is delayed they will cost more.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The proposal submitted to the Committee involved the erection, at an estimated cost of $7m, of a 17-storey building on Commonwealth owned land in Anzac Square to provide office accommodation for various Commonwealth departments. In reporting favourably on the proposal the Committee recommended maximum economic development of the site by the addition of a further three floors in the first stage of the extensions at an estimated cost of Si. 7m. lt is proposed to accept the Committee’s recommendation. The estimated cost of the proposal is now $8. 07m for the 20-storey building. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed pi Anning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– 1 support the proposal, which seems to me to be very reasonable. If I might say so, the proposed work is not before time. Indeed, Brisbane has waited for a long time for this project. In 1962, after I became a member of the House, the Taxation building was opened in Brisbane. This provided in a Commonwealth building facilities that were previously provided in a State building under the uniform tax agreement, which was executed in 1942. I do not suggest that Brisbane has not done well in other fields. The mail exchange in Roma Street and the Edison building compare well with buildings in other States, but the ratio of accommodation rented in Brisbane in the Prudential building by the Department of Social Services and in the Hammerstein building, known as Australia House, in Eagle Street for other Commonwealth departments does not compare well with the situation in southern States. So I welcome this proposal.
In 1919 the State and Commonwealth governments and the Brisbane City Council came to an agreement whereby Anzac Square was to be developed and a war memorial was to be provided. The State Government and the Commonwealth Government agreed to provide buildings on opposite sides of the Square to complete the Square so that it would be architecturally attractive and a fit location for a war memorial. The State completed its pan of the arrangement some years ago, although its work was long delayed and was the subject of some public criticism. However, the Commonwealth has dragged ils heels even more. 1 am pleased that the present proposal should come before us and I hope thai the Commonwealth departments concerned will proceed with the project as soon as possible. I examined the Budget proposals wilh interest last night but found no provision for this work in the present financial year. 1 hope that the work proceeds quickly because the building is needed urgently. I hope, too, that architecturally the construction will1 retain ihe integrity of Anzac Square.
Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) 19.24]- I support the remarks of the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), who has covered the situation very well. The Commonwealth must show that it has the willingness and the capacity to keep pace with the good work that has been done by the State Government in relation to its part of the Anzac Square arrangement that was mentioned by the honourable member for Brisbane. Earlier the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) mentioned, as a comparison, the amount of money that was being spent in Queensland. 1 am pleased to see that an additional sum of $ 1 .7m is to be expended on this particular project to increase its height from 17 storeys to 20 storeys. The building will add to the beauty of the city and at the same time will provide a much needed service. If the work proceeds reasonably expeditiously money will be saved. I hope that there will be no undue loss of time in proceeding with the project because costs have been rising and there is no reason to believe that they will not continue to rise. Earnest consideration should be given to the succeeding stages of this building, which is so sorely needed and which will be a credit to this Government when finally completed in the queen city of the queen State of Australia.
– I am certain that members of the Public Works Committee are gratified at the interest of honourable members who have expressed views on construction projects. When the Committee moves around Australia investigating various projects that are referred to it I should like to see the same interest shown by honourable members at the public hearings. The Committee is composed of parliamentarians from various States but local members have local knowledge which could be of great value to the Committee in its deliberations. I hope that the show of interest by honourable members will be reflected at the public hearings that the Committee conducts in the various cities and towns throughout Australia.
– 1 support the project that has been referred to by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly). A number of honourable members have more than a passing interest in this matter and I know that they will welcome the decision to support the additions to the present offices in Anzac Square, Brisbane. One trusts that the building will be of suitable architectural and engineering construction. I do not know what arrangements the Minister or the Government has in mind concerning the timing of the construction but when public works are undertaken in Brisbane, and in Queensland generally, it is important to relate them to the time when maximum benefit can accrue to the workmen who will be employed. In Brisbane there are long cyclical down-turns in employment during certain months of the year, and even during years, and it would be appropriate for the Government to consider this matter in relation to the timing of the construction of this building and other building works in Brisbane. I ask the Government to look at this matter so that the building will be adequately constructed and so that maximum benefit will accrue to the construction workers engaged on it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions ot 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: Construction of aircraft maintenance bases for domestic airlines at Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport.
The proposal involves the construction of hangars, stores, workshop buildings, and associated aprons and taxiways for both. Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-ANA, and represents the first stage of the transfer of maintenance facilities from the Essendon Airport. The estimated cost of the proposal is $llm. I table plans of the proposed works.
– One of the very valuable benefits of tonight’s exercise is the interest of the House in a variety of matters associated with the Public Works Committee. I support the Chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney), in drawing the attention of the House to the value of this Committee and to its responsibilities as the senior Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee. I may be plucking figures out of the air, but I think that about five times as much work has been done by the Committee in the last 12 months as it was doing annually 3 or 4 years ago. This will give an indication of the amount of work done by the Committee and of its significance to the Parliament.
I remind honourable members that the Committee is their representative on inquiries into projects costing literally hundreds of millions of dollars. It is important that we take an opportunity such as that afforded tonight to draw the attention of the House to the significance of what is going on around us. The proposal that we have before us tonight involves an expenditure of about $llm in the development of maintenance facilities at
Tullamarine Airport and represents a change of policy on the part of the Government. The proposal is associated directly with the contest, if I may so describe it, that has been going on between Sydney and Melbourne interests, or between Tullamarine interests and Kingsford-Smith interests, for a number of years. We know that contests are part of the Australian way of life. They may be over a code of football, the selection of a Prime Minister or anything else. The contest between Sydney and Melbourne is part of our background, and we accept it as such. But I do not think any factor has epitomised this rivalry between the two cities as has the contest over airport facilities. In 1965 - only 3 years ago - representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation gave sworn evidence before the Public Works Committee that domestic terminals could not be provided at Sydney Airport because of shortage of money. At that time a policy such as that embodied in the proposal now before us was not envisaged. Today if you ask representatives of the Department of Civil Aviation what the situation is with regard to finance for the provision of domestic terminals at Sydney Airport all you will get is a blank look. And well it might be a blank look, because the proposal to spend Slim on Tullamarine Airport is tantamount to throwing cold water on the Kingsford-Smith Airport project and clearly indicates how civil aviation is developing in this country.
Unfortunately the development of civil aviation in Australia, particularly airport development, is now bogged down because of the contest between Sydney and Tullamarine. 1 do not blame the Department of Civil Aviation entirely for this situation - that remark may be interpreted as you like. I regret the Government’s decision to change its policy, as indicated by the proposal that we have before us tonight. Sworn evidence given before the Public Works Committee in 1965 indicated that the domestic airlines did not want to go to Tullamarine. Such a move would unquestionably cost them $25m. The proposal now to spend Slim on facilities at Tullamarine indicates a change in the Government’s policy. This is a contribution towards the $25m which it would cost the domestic airlines to move to Tullamarine and is designed to prod them into moving to Tullamarine and becoming operative there. This change of policy on the part of the Government is most unfortunate. It will take 10 years to rid ourselves of the neurosis with which we are afflicted in civil aviation. While we are spending all this money to complete Tullamarine Airport and Sydney Airport, outback areas are still using tin sheds as airport facilities. At Dubbo if more than six people line up to check their baggage some must stand out in the rain. Places such as Mount Isa have recently obtained improved facilities, but facilities at Port Hedland and at Brisbane, for example, are inadequate. Has anybody visited Port Moresby in recent times and seen the airport terminal there? I submit that honourable members should address themselves to the development of civil aviation in this country. Something must be done to get civil aviation out of the bog in which it is now engulfed. If civil aviation is to develop satisfactorily in this country there must be more drive on the part of the Government and the expenditure of vast amounts of money by the Treasury. Big thinking is required. If we get bogged down with a proposal such as that placed before us tonight it will take us 10 years to get out of the mire. Before this sessional period of the Parliament concludes we will witness another episode in the contest between Sydney and Melbourne. It is odds on that the runway at Tullamarine will be extended to 13,000 feet before the year is over, costing us a further $10m in this mad race. I deplore the reference of this proposal to the Public Works Committee because of the change of government policy involved.
-I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman). It is appropriate on this occasion that I ventilate the needs of my constituency. I have the honour to represent a constituency which has as its heart a city of 180,000 people.
– Order! I remind the honourable member that we are discussing a proposal relating to Tullamarine Airport.
– Very great latitude was given to the honourable member for St George-
– That is true, but my ruling is that the proposal relates to Tullamarine Airport. In the course of his remarks the honourable member for St George referred to Tullamarine Airport and its relationship to Sydney Airport.
– I would like to see some of the money earmarked for Tullamarine diverted to my constituency. There must be a starting point for all things. This is a matter involving elementary justice, which is being denied to a city of 1 80,000 residents and to a further 70,000 people living adjacent in the Berrima and Shoalhaven districts. Within a generation those districts will form part of an urban conurbation linking Newcastle, Sydney and Greater Wollongong with a population of more than 5 million people. As the major centre of heavy industry in the southern hemisphere, we are entitled-
– Order! The honourable member is now getting away from the motion before the Chair.
– I want to develop my argument a little further.
– If the honourable member continues on his present course without relating his argument to the motion before the Chair, I will have to intervene.
– I would like the opportunity to finish a sentence.
– If the honourable member persists in challenging the Chair I will have to take some action.
– I have no intention of challenging your ruling, Mr Speaker. At all times I have treated the Chair with the greatest respect. But I do say that when sums amounting to millions of dollars are being bandied around and when there is obvious competition between the two major capital cities, some consideration might also be given to the people who make a most notable contribution to Commonwealth revenues, which in turn are being expended on the major capital cities to whichI have referred. I state my claim and I state my case for my constituency.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 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: Construction of Commonwealth Government Clothing Factory at Coburg, Victoria.
The proposal involves the erection of a single storey steel framed main factory building accommodating work areas and amenities with a separate administration building at the front of the site. The factory is required to replace existing sub-standard buildings at South Melbourne used for the manufacture of clothing and other items for Service and civil departments. The estimated cost is $1,300,000. I table plans of the proposed work.
- Mr Speaker, it appears to me that this would have been a good opportunity for the Government to put into practice a policy of balanced development or decentralisation, as it has long been called. It is with a great deal of regret that I note that the Government Clothing Factory is to be established at Coburg.
– Not yet.
– It is under examination.
– That is the sort of evidence that you should give to the Public Works Committee.
– I want to say here and now that this is a mistake and that if ever a programme of balanced development is to be successful the very first thing required is for the Government to be sympathetic towards a programme of decentralisation and to take the necessary action to bring it about. It may be said that in certain country areas insufficient employees are available or that there is insufficient housing and so on. Surely, if examination of this project by the Public Works Committee results in a recommendation to the Government that the building be-
– Order! I remind the honourable member that the motion before the Chair is the reference of this work to the Public Works Committee and it does not allow for debate on the whole ambit of whether the factory should be established in some other place.
- Mr Speaker, I merely want to express my regret that the reference contained a recommendation for the placement of the factory at Coburg. I do not advocate any particular place, and it is obviously not within my bounds at this moment to do so. But I know that there are a great number of towns in our community - in Victoria and other States - where this project could be established. The community would be better served if it were established elsewhere than Coburg. I am not advocating that it should be established at Wollongong for instance or any other place, but 1 know that there are a great number of-
– We are not debating that. We are debating whether the Committee should-
– I am making this speech, thank you very much.
-Order! There are far too many interjections.
– I hope that I will be able to present to the Public Works Committee some sort of argument along these lines. I do not want to go into the whole of my argument at this stage. Again, I regret that the proposed site is Coburg. I think that the community would be far better served if the project were established in a country area as this would accord with a policy of balanced development, which this nation so urgently desires.
– I do not intend to delay the House for too long as this is not normally a subject on which I would have anything to say. Nor do I wish to embark on a line of argument which is outside the ambit of what we should be discussing. But I want to make one or two remarks relative to what has been said by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton). The Minister for Works (Mr Kelly) said that this project was to replace the existing sub-standard factory in another area. If the Public Works Committee is to take into consideration anything said by the honourable member for Bendigo it should also bear in mind the position of the employees already employed in the existing factory and it should bear in mind that to move the factory to Coburg is a matter of a few miles but that to move it to Bendigo is a matter of 100 miles.If we have the interests of the employees at heart we should take into account the suggestion made by the Minister for Works that the factory should be situated at Coburg, which is not in the electorate of Henty.
– It is only natural that the Country Party would like to see such an establishment in a country area. Perhaps the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) was not thinking of the establishment of this factory at Bendigo, as the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) said, but the honourable member for Bendigo said that he felt it should be decentralised. I do not think that the Australian Labor Party would agree with the remarks of the honourable member for Bendigo. He may get three or four supporters, but 1 do not think that the policy of the Australian Labor Party would permit this. What really happens is exactly as the honourable member for Henty stated. If it were proposed to move a factory from a certain area the local shipowners and others would start complaining and they would get in touch with their local member and he would advocate that it stay where it was.
I do not take the remarks that we have heard so far very seriously. The Country Party has not spoken on this subject. Of course it advocates practical decentralisation. Unfortunately the word ‘decentralisation’ is a catch-cry for politicians. What we have to do is to make conditions in the country such that they will attract people from the city. Crying out for decentralisation all the time will not achieve anything at all. Nor will a whole lot of motions regarding decentralisation placed on the notice paper early in the session. The honourable member for Henty was speaking in favour of the city. The honourable member for Henty was thinking of the employees in the metropolitan area. Perhaps he was right in his actions because, generally speaking, unless members of Parliament try to assist those who elect them they do not stay in Parliament very long.
– I was speaking for the workers.
– I said employees. I suppose they are workers. The honourable member for Bendigo referred to decentralisation, but he does not have the support of his party.
– How do you know?
-I know.I have been in this Parliament long enough to know that. When the honourable member has been here as long as I have he will know it, too. I view this debate so far as being of little importance.
– I support the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton). We are under a very considerable threat of foreign economic invasion. The textile industry is subject to the most acute competition, particularly from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, India and Japan. The Government Clothing Factory is a high prize indeed in terms of the female employment market. For that reason,I would like to see the Public Works Committee not merely inquire into the merits of the establishment of the project at Coburg but also take a much broader view as to the relative needs of other parts of Australia and where this factory can be placed to best advantage in terms of existing female unemployment. In regard to major capital cities it is a case of greasing the fat pig. Already there are adequate textile factories in the capital cities, an adequate female force and adequate employment opportunities.
I suggest in all seriousness that the availability of unemployed female labour, trained in the textile industry, which in the provincial cities-
– I rise on a point of order.
– I thought the honourable member would come in. He can give it but he cannot take it.
– Mr Acting Speaker, the House is discussing a motion that a matter be referred to the Public Works Committee. The honourable member has every opportunity to appear before the Committee and put his views.I maintain that this is not the time to canvass these fields. I make this protest and rise on a point of order because such action by the honourable member leaves this type of debate wide open to wholesale abuse.
– I point out to the House that the comments made by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) are correct. The motion before the House concerns the reference of a certain works for consideration by the Public Works Committee. It has been the practice of the House in the past to allow a degree of comment by honourable members on the consideration of such a motion. This has been done to enable honourable members to guide, as it were, the House and perhaps the Committee in regard to works that the Committee has to consider. Honourable members ought to appreciate the fact that this is not a debate on decentralisation, the textile industry or attributes of the economy. 1 suggest that remarks bc directed to the subject matter before the House.
– That is precisely what I was doing until I was interrupted by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney). As a member of Parliament I consider it my proper function to raise within this House, and not before some subordinate committee, matters that should be raised for the guidance of the House as a whole.The part cannot be greater than the whole. But the gravamen of the argument advanced by the honourable member for Perth is precisely that the part can bc greater than the whole. There is a case for considering not merely whether this factory should bc located at Coburg but just where it can be best located. Does this Committee merely have the function of deciding the merits of a building in isolation without looking beyond the physical structure? Of course it does not. lt is absurd to suggest that discussion on this matter should be gagged in Parliament. We have our rights and we intend to assert them. We say that there is available a pool of unemployed workers who could be used in the textile industry in various major provincial cities. We believe that these cities are entitled to consideration.
– I want to raise one or two points. I support the proposition put by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton). Whilst 1 am not sure of my grounds, I have the feeling that the Government Clothing Factory specialises in the employment of disabled ex-service personnel. I may be wrong but
I believe this is one of the major reasons why the factory has remained at its present site, which is in a metropolitan area. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) raised the question of existing employees. I suggest that his argument is correct and that such people do have some priority in their claim to employment. 1 also would like to refute the suggestion that has been made by the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chancy) that this Parliament is the servant of the Public Works Committee. The Public Works Committee is a committee of this Parliament which is set up to discuss matters that cannot properly be discussed in the Parliament because of the shortage of time. This is why a proposed work such as this is referred to the Committee. This is the only reason why the Committee exists. If the Parliament had the time to debate matters relevant to the subject matter before it at the moment, the Parliament should indulge in such a debute, which is relevant-
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) that my ruling on the point of order raised By the honourable member for Penh (Mr Chancy) is that at this time the only matter before (he House is the reference of a proposed work to the Public Works Committee for investigation by the Committee. When it reports lo Ihe Parliament on its deliberations, there will be a debate on the report. At the moment we are considering only whether the proposed work should he referred to the Committee for its investigation and comment. In view of this. I uphold the point of order raised by the honourable member for Perth. Honourable members who at the moment wish to make any suggestions or recommendations could appear before the Public Works Committee, f do not want the debate on this motion to develop into a broad general debate.
– In conclusion I ask the Chairman of the Committee to convey to his Committee the information that honourable members on this side of the House believe that, if it is at all possible and practical in the conditions that exist, the new factory should be established outside the metropolitan area.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The proposal is to construct in three stages a permanent building to provide accommodation for 600 primary and 150 secondary pupils. The estimated cost of the work is $1,285,000. I lay on the table plans for the proposed work.
– I lodge a protest at the procedure that is being followed by the Government in these matters. When legislation is presented by Ministers it is customary to give to the honourable member leading for the Opposition a copy of the Minister’s speech or other relevant material being presented. At no stage in the proceedings tonight has a copy of any material been made available to me or any other member representing the Opposition at the table. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton) raised this same point last night. I hope that the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), who is at the table, will take full note of my comments and that there will be no repetition of tonight’s procedure. The Parliament is not to be treated as a rubber stamp and members of the Opposition are not to be treated as schoolboys. We are entitled to know precisely what the Government proposes. We are not to be taken for granted by the Minister at the table or by any of bis colleagues.
– I intend to be very brief. I am very pleased to support the proposal to refer this primary school project to the Public Works Committee. I would like to thank the Chairman of the Committee for his invitation to honourable members to appear before the Committee to give advice based on their local knowledge. This school will be an excellent example of decentralisation. It will be situated hundreds of miles east north east of Darwin, in an area occupied by the Yirrkala tribe of Aboriginals where an alumina project is to be undertaken by Nabalco Pty Ltd and Alu Suisse. I heartily endorse this school project which will aid decentralisation. I believe the township in which the school will be situated will grow to about 3,000 or 4,000 people. We hope that the Aboriginals and the whites in this community will live together side by side in somewhat better circumstances than is usual in mixed communities elsewhere and without the kind of agitation that has occurred recently in other places.
– I wish to put on record the procedures followed in debates on public works, for the benefit of honourable members who do not understand them. The kind of motion moved by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) in this instance has usually been accepted as a formality. The reference of a project to the Public Works Committee is followed by an investigation and the presentation of a report to the Parliament. A debate may ensue when the motion in respect of the project to He carried out is brought before the House by the appropriate Minister. There is no limitation on that debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 May (vide page 1544), on motion by Mr Bo wen:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– This legislation, as usual, comes before the House late and after further revision. The Government first tabled this measure for the consideration of the Parliament in 1967. It was not dealt with then. The Government had its own special reasons for not dealing with it then. Now it is again presented to us. The Opposition does not object to the terms of the Bill. We appreciate the dilemma that exists in the Patents Office today and the problems that must be overcome. In the main, we approve of the remedies proposed. Nevertheless-, we wish to offer criticism, not only of the Government’s delay but also in connection with major economic considerations of which the present backlag of work in the Patents Office is a symptom.
The purpose of this legislation is to deal with patents of invention. The matter that concerns us most is the percentage increase in overseas control of the Australian economy through the registration of patents originally registered overseas. What is a patent? It may be of interest to honourable members if I outline very briefly the history of patents. It is notable that a patent invention is defined in section 6 of the principal Act as follows: “invention’ means any manner of new manufacture the subject of letters patent and grant of privilege within section six of the Statute of Monopolies, and includes an alleged invention.
The Statute, of Monopolies was passed in 1624. It marked a revolt against the practice of the Crown in granting as perquisites to its favourites or toadies of the day monopolies in various branches of manufacture. The Statute declared such grants to be invalid, but excepted grants for a limited term of 14 years. The definition of the scope of the grants was to be ‘of the sole working and making of any manner of new manufactures within the realm of England, to the true and first inventors thereof. At first the monopolies granted merely defined a title and there was no provision obliging the patentee to make his invention known to others, save that some grants required him to take in employees and train them in the use of a particular process. We pass to the reign of Queen Anne, when it became customary to make it a condition of the grant that the patentee should, within a fixed period, file a written description of his new manufacture. In time, the description came to embody a statement as to the monopoly claimed and so became the progenitor of modern specifications. Step by step the law of patents as we understand it today has been evolved.
The objective of this legislation is relatively simple. It is to deal with arrears of unexamined applications. As the principal Act of 1952-56 stands at present, an application for a patent must be examined if a complete specification is lodged in respect of it. The backlag of applications is serious. As Ihe Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) said in his second reading speech, at present there are about 44,800 unexamined applications. In 1939 the backlag was 3,330. In 1960 it had increased progressively to 12,456. In November 1967 it had increased to 41,500, and in 1968 to 44,S00. I will not burden honourable members with complete details. The number of applications increased from 3,360 in 1939 to 13,255 in 1967. In the United States of America about 90,000 applications are registered yearly. There is an accumulated lag of unexamined patent applications of over 200,000. It is interesting to note in passing that last year 3,595 patents registered in the United Slates were registered in Australia. At present the annual rate of applications for patents in Australia is about J 6,000. Of that number, about 12,000 are accompanied by the full specification and about 4,000 are applications of a provisional nature. The increase in work is of the order of about 1 0% compound per annum.
To sum up, the present backlag would take the existing staff of the Patents Office 4i years to clear if it did not receive a single additional application in that period. The Opposition sees that as a symptom of a disease. There is an old saying in medicine that it is not the skin which itches but the man beneath. The present backlag is a symptom of the technological takeover which is occurring in Australia today, and in many other countries similarly circumstanced. There is an alarming gap in technology. The Attorney-General in his second reading speech claimed vicarious credit for the Government because the increase in the number of applications for patents proved, he said, the extent of increasing trade and the increasing transfer of technology to Australia. He further claimed it to be a measure of the growing industrial development of this country. We consider it to be proof of the alarming gap in technological achievements in Australia and in the formidable major overseas countries which are so advanced in technology.
I wish to quote from a work by a leading economist, J. K. Galbraith. He wrote:
A striking development of our time has been the rise of the great business corporation. A small number of these giants, five or six hundred in all, now account for about two-thirds of all industrial activity in the United States. Similarly in Europe. They use highly sophisticated technology and highly specialised manpower. They supply themselves wilh the capital they use in massive amount; in their direction they are responsible not to their owners but internally to themselves. In their comprehensively organised world the role of the individual businessman has been reduced and that of the State much expanded.
The process of examination is, of course, quite complex and each individual application, as the Attorney-General has correctly said, needs careful examination, and, above all, search, because novelty is of the essence of d patent application, lt must be proved that no patent has been previously granted which is reasonably similar to the one which is the subject of examination.. This is a quite complex matter. It is necessary for the examiners, who are the key men in the Patent Office, to be highly trained - to be scientists, to be engineers, to be chemists. 1 sometimes wonder whether the Office is fully staffed. I wonder also whether the salaries offered are adequate or whether there is not a brain drain from the Patent Office similar lo that from the Bureau of Mineral Resources.
The proposed new procedure of lodging an application and not having it examined unless a request is made, and giving a period of 5 years for the applicant to decide whether he wishes to proceed, is to be welcomed. It gives time, as the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen) has pointed out, for the applicant to consider the merits of his application and the prospects of its commercial acceptance and economic viability. This, 1 repeat, is to be commended. The system of deferred examinations, the Minister said, now operates in Holland, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America. He said that at the time of his second reading speech a law on the subject was being drafted to cover the European Economic Community. What these various people are doing I think wc could examine wilh reasonable safety.
The system of modified examination is perhaps not so readily welcomed because in that case we rely implicitly on an examination of equivalent specifications by the patents officers of the United States and the United Kingdom, the requirements of which countries, the Minister said, are so like our own. Searching, of course, is still required, with the usual high degree of skill, to make sure that no prior patent has been granted in this country. But in terms of mathematical probabilities the likelihood of prior applications having been approved is rather remote. The figures given by the Minister were alarming, and on them wc wish to dilate at some length. He said that 88% of the patent applications lodged in Australia in 1967 were from overseas, and of those approximately 60% came from the United Kingdom and the United States, where the patents concerned were already registered.
The Minister referred also to the retention of the option by the applicant to have a modified or an ordinary full examination, whichever he wishes. That, again, is only fair to an applicant for a patent. 1 understand that microfilming has been introduced into the Patent Office and this will no doubt expedite the handling of material. It will certainly reduce the storage requirements in what was correctly described as a storehouse of vast amounts of technical information in respect of industrial development. It would seem that the Government, as usual, has been tardy, even dilatory. Here its behaviour is on a par with that in respect of the International Convention on Copyright. The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which is to be the basis of an international code in respect of patents, is still being drafted. This is something that I think should be expedited to the maximum. The Minister says that this is very much a matter for the future, but the Opposition considers that it is a matter for the immediate present. We want to see the Government bestir itself in this regard so that fair and reasonable international standards can be established and a patent co-operation treaty duly signed.
Part of the function of complete specifications is to define the scope of the monopoly sought by the applicant. In that regard the dictum of Mr Justice Maugham is interesting. He commented: lt is not sufficient for the inventor to discover his goldmine. He must also peg out his claim, and outside the pegs if the gold is there it is free to all.
We welcome the recognition of inventors’ certificates in respect of the countries of Eastern Europe, in what is commonly known as the Socialist group of countries. This is a measure of international cooperation which is to be welcomed, particularly as it comes from this Government. It is also evidence of the growing sophistication of technology in those countries.
As I said formerly, the Patent Office is a storehouse of vast amounts of technical information, and unless that information is classified it cannot be made available to industry. There is a very strong case, in my opinion, for electronic storage and retrieval of that information. It may be asked immediately: ‘How can a computer handle a diagram or a plan?’ Nevertheless, I think that in certain respects of classification, storage and retrieval of information this is a matter that might well be considered.
What are the uses of the patents system? What benefits can Australia receive from it? In that regard I would like to direct the attention of the House to a symposium which was held in Sydney in February 1 967. One of the questions often overlooked in the continuing debate on Australian industrial research and development is that of making effective use of the potential of the patents system as an export earner, a source of ideas and a stimulus to research. A most interesting paper was presented by Messrs Zeidler and Whitton at that symposium. Their comment ran thus:
Australians and Australian industry do not seem to be particularly inventive, measured by patent applications, or perhaps for some obscure reason there is a reluctance to take out letters patent. As a country Australia has a number of spectacular research achievements, but there is little evidence of industrial exploitation of Australian discoveries overseas.
Lack of knowledge of world-wide patenting procedures and a shortage of skilled patents personnel could hare a lot to do wilh this situation. . . . Given these difficulties, the recent development of much of Australia’s manufacturing industry and the fact that only a minority of firms have specialist patents sections, it is not surprising that Australia’s record of exploiting inventions abroad has been less than outstanding. Whether we can afford to continue in this way is another matter, since the trade in patented knowledge is now a significant feature of world trade and financial relationships. . . . Nations were now realising the importance of trading in patented knowledge.
A comment was made at the symposium that apparently the academic training of scientists in Australian universities placed special emphasis on the publication of research discoveries, and patent protection is not regarded as important. It was said that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which we all greatly respect, still judges competence at least on the quality and number of scientific papers published rather than on patents and exploitation of patents. As a consequence, professional scientists joining industrial research organisations have regarded industrial interest in patent protection with suspicion.
To put it in more simple words, we are not on our toes. We are foolish and soft headed enough not to protect the products of Australian inventive and scientfic research and genius. It is time that we did. Apart from its role in stimulating invention, the patent system also produces a literature which represents a vital source of information and ideas, lt must be realised that in other countries it is quite a regular procedure to approach the patent office and to pick up here and there certain parts of procedures which can be aggregated together and, in their turn, made the subject of a further patent application. Many large Australian companies are aware of this procedure and have established specialist patent sections concerned not only with new patents but also with the assessment and retrieving of information and ideas incorporated in the patents of others. Australia will never match the performance of the United States of America, which earns S500m a year net from licensing agreements for technical rights and knowhow. The evidence available to us suggests that we could make much more profitable use of the patent system than we are at the present time, lt would be interesting in passing to know also how much the United Kingdom is profiting from this source.
Let us see what the position is in Australia today from the Government’s point of view in regard to scientific research and development, from which patents in due course originate. In May of last year this House passed the Industrial1 Research and Development Grants Bill which offered frugal, not to say parsimonious, assistance to Australian industry. A possible total of $6m was to be provided. It appears that in terms of the gross national product our expenditure on research and development is one-tenth of that of some other major countries. The comment of the then Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair), who was in charge of the Bill on that occasion, was of equal interest. He said that the purpose of the Bill was to encourage industry to break with established practice and to do something which it was previously disinclined to do. He further said that a wide sector of Australian industry was accustomed to looking abroad for new products and processes.
As to what is happening in other countries, I would like to draw the attention of the House to a work which has created a sensation in Europe. It is not available in the English language yet in Australia. I propose to quote as free a translation as I can give. A volume was kindly produced to me by the parliamentary Library. The work, by Jean Jacques Servan-Schreiber, is entitled The American Challenge’. At page 26 of his work the author had this to say:
Electronics is not today a sector of industry. In itself it depends directly upon existing industrial development. After the first industrial revolution in the 19th century we had a replacement of physical forces by those of machines. At the present time we are now in the second industrial revolution, which permits the replacement each year of a growing number of tasks of the human brain by the work of new machines.
He termed them ordinators. He continued:
A country which purchases from the foreigner the essentials of its electronic equipment will be in a situation of inferiority analagous to that of nations which a century ago were incapable of mastering the mechanisation of work. These nations have placed themselves for a long time outside a brilliant civilisation which has passed them by. If the weakness of Europe in the electronic sector becomes established Europe itself will risk from this simple fact and within a generation the possibility of ceasing to be a zone of advanced industrial civilisation. The least known aspect of the phenomenon of American investment in Europe is that concerning its financing. The problem of finance for their investments each year presents a lesser and lesser problem. Thanks to their sophistication, to their capacity, to their managerial ability they have found in Europe itself all the money which they need to establish themselves.
In 1965 Americans invested $4 billion in Europe. Approximately 55% was financed by borrowings obtained upon the European capital market and from credits obtained directly from European countries, and approximately 35% took the form of budgetry assistance from authorities in various European countries. Transfers of dollars from the United States were in the neighbourhood of 10%. Overseas funds account for 10% of our total annual investment in Australian national development. Today we have in Australia from overseas 88% of our patents and 10% of the total capital investment. Despite the portfolio influx last year, which is of a different category, 10% is exactly the order of overseas investment here.
To illustrate further the abuses of the system I could quote the case of Italy, where action is being taken in contradistinction to what is happening in Australia. I quote from yesterday’s issue of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ an article by Neil McInnes, in Milan, about combating foreign investment Italian style. The article reads:
Italy must do much more, herself, in research and development in technologically advanced sectors if the nation is not to fall under foreign economic domination in those fields.
There is a clear responsibility on the State and other public purchasers of goods with a high technological content to encourage a robust national industry.
This is something this Government might well have borne in mind in relation to the purchase of defence equipment. The article continues:
The foreign companies at present in Italy attained their stature precisely because they benefited from such government support in their home countries.
Where that is not possible on a purely Italian basis, Italian enterprise, both private and public again, must unite with other European concerns.
That is the action being taken in Italy. What is the position in Australia? Could I do better than remind honourable members of an official volume entitled ‘Directory of Overseas Investment in Australian Manufacturing Industry’ which was issued to members in 1966? Some alarming figures appear in schedule 1 of that publication. Of the total assets valued at$6,08 6m in Australian industry no less than $4,729m in value were under the control of overseas firms. I will not burden the House with the details. They are in Hansard of 17th May 1967. The extent of foreign ownership and control is alarming. In Australia the patent is the best medium of economic penetration. We live in a new age when it is not necessary to employ physical aggression to conquer another country. Everything that an aggressive nation, an advancing nation in the field of technology, seeks to achieve can be obtained by economic penetration. This is precisely what is happening in Australia today.
Over the last 4 years I have on numerous occasions asked the Minister for Trade and Industry what the proposals of the Government were for the control of restrictive franchises. It is by restrictive franchise that so much damage has been done in Australia. It is true that industries have been established here but, in most cases, those industries have been established so that they could hurdle the tariff barrier, lt is the neatest and the simplest way to do it. In respect of the average patentee of the smaller type - I am nol speaking of the major oligopolies such as General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd but of what I might call the medium size groups - the custom is to grant a licence in Australia to an Australian company to use a patent whether it be a machine or a process. In return royalty is paid. But one of the conditions - and one of the damnable conditions - of the average agreement is this: A limitation is imposed on the ability of the Australian licensee to export overseas. The last information that I received from the Minister for Trade and Industry was that there were some 1,100 of these agreements, as far as he could ascertain, and that in respect of over 800 of them there were serious limitations on the countries to which Australian manufacturers could export their goods. We hear many platitudes from the Government as to what will be done with respect to the development of the exports of secondary industry. The cold hard fact is that unless and until we can overcome the system of restrictive franchises we cannot even get off first base.
What is the position in Japan, the country which is the technological giant of the Pacific today? There, no franchise agreements respecting the use of an overseas patent can be entered into without the approval of the Japanese Government. That should be the situation in Australia. In addition to that, the exact terms of the agreement must be registered. Unless and until we do that, we cannot even start to talk in terms of the real export of manufactures.
With regard to royally payments, the Government as usual has been asleep. It was only in May of this year that it took corrective action respecting the deliberate and calculated evasion of taxation by overseas owners of patents. It took steps for the first time to break down as far as it could agreements which stipulated that the royalty should be paid overseas and that the contract itself was deemed to have been entered into in another country. How much has run through the net in the meantime? How much would it have meant to the Government in yesterday’s Budget to have given a fairer deal to the pensioners? It is worth reminding honourable members of the report of the Stanford Research Institute which was circulated to all members of this House in 1 964? That report was a complete and excellent survey of the Australian economy. At page 261 of that report, this was said: lt is difficult, however, to resist the conclusion that, in addition to this uncertainty, long familiarity with operations in a sheltered market makes it difficult for many leaders of “ Australian enterprise to move boldly and imaginatively in pursuit of the vaguer and more hazardous opportunities that are offered by plunging into competitive world markets. The success of overseas enterprise with relatively small capital venture and technology, which often does not add very greatly in what is known in Australia, causes some chagrin; but it is really due to managerial risk taking based soundly upon competent technical and economic research which enables the risks to be accurately estimated. The sooner Australian industry equips itself with such research facilities, the sooner it will be able to hire both the extra capital and the knowhow which it lacks and, therefore, be able to take calculated risks with reasonable expectation of success.
One of the more intriguing techniques of overseas investment in Australia, even where an Australian branch factory has been established, is milking out profits. This can be best done by excessive royalties. In many cases it has been known that in order further to hobble Australian subsidiaries licence agreements have been entered into respecting superseded models, particularly in the motor trade, so that at the very best no matter what the perfection of Australian workmanship may be the article that is offered for sale if it gets into competition on the export market must compete with the latest model from the United States of America or the United Kingdom. We face the certainty of being overwhelmed by superior Japanese technology unless we really come to grips with this problem. Today Australia, in an age of technology, is just as open to aggression and is just as defenceless as were the Aboriginals with their stone age weapons against the muskets of the first settlers. The challenge of Japanese technology is a formidable and frightening one. This Government has turned a blind eye to it. If we fail to breach the gap in technology, this will lead to the ultimate subjugation of Australia.
As for closing the gap, these are the obvious remedies: Firstly, there must be Government scrutiny of all restricted franchise agreements. Secondly, there is their registration. Thirdly, there must be an increase in research and development subsidies. Fourthly, we must have taxation concessions to stimulate the development of suitable inventions and techniques. Fifthly, we must have protection of Government research measures. It has amazed many of the representatives of overseas oil companies how readily they could get information from Australian departments particularly from the Bureau of Mineral Resources. The door would have been shut in their faces in other parts of the world, even in their own countries. They take us for the suckers that we are to give this information to them as freely as we have and without charge. Scholarships also are required. The need exists for a distinct improvement in managerial competence. Above all, joint ventures between the Government and selected Australian industries also could help to provide a solution.
I repeat that we view with alarm the present situation. We think that it is a serious one. We believe that the Government has no answer to it. Unless and until there is a change of Government, Australia will go further down the hill and the technological gap will widen further.
-! shall confine my remarks in the most part to the proposals for the amendment of the Act relating to the so-called deferred examination system. The patents system, it has been said, provides three special advantages. The first is that it provides an incentive to the making of inventions. Secondly, it provides an incentive to the commercial working of inventions. Thirdly, it provides an incentive to the disclosure of inventions. The patent system is of vital importance to industrial development, for it is calculated to encourage the investment of money in research, new ideas, development and marketing, without which industry will not keep pace with its foreign competitors. Industrialists are little disposed to see the results of valuable research immediately used freely by any of their competitors, so some form of protection is required.
Until some 5 years ago, the purposes of the patent system were being reasonably well served in Australia by our Patent Office. But during recent years, as was recognised in the second reading speech delivered by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen), a serious problem has been developing with regard to arrears of unexamined patent applications in the Patents Office. A reasonable time for the delay between the application for and the granting of a patent is something in the order of 2i years and, in fact, in the United Kingdom, the home of the patent system, there is a maximum time limit of 3 years or, at most, 3 years and 3 months, allowed for the examination; and alt applications, unless an appeal is pending, must be in order at the end of 21 years from filing the complete specification. I have been informed that although no statistics are available the average time between filing the complete specification and the publication of a patent, upon grant, in the United Kingdom is of the order of 2 years and 1 month. But the present arrears in Australia represent more than 4i years’ work by the present staff of the Australian Patent Office, with the result that the issue of a patent cannot be expected under a period of say 5 years from the time of lodgment of the application, although the period varies from one section to another. Furthermore, as a result of the failure of the Patent Office to cope with the increasing flow of applications, the delay will increase year by year unless heroic measures are taken to overcome the problem. According to an address recently given by Mr G. Hens nilwood, Assistant Commissioner for Patents, to the Inventors’ Association of Australia the buildup of unexamined applications has now risen to 10% per annum, and if that were to be allowed to continue the arrears would tend to double every 7 years.
The Attorney-General in his second reading speech appears to attribute these difficulties to the increase in the number of complete specifications received and pointed out that the Australian Patent Office is not alone in its difficulties. He tells us that the very great increase in patent applications in Australia is, in fact, a measure of the growing industrial development of the country. lt is apparent from these words of the Attorney-General that the rapidly increasing number of applications being made in Australia is a matter for pride and rejoicing, for it spells and reflects Australia’s growing industrial development. But at the same time it presents us with a challenge to cope with the increasing numbers of applications lest the benefits of the system should be lost or minimised by the harmful effects of the accumulating arrears, effects of which 1 shall speak later. In fact, the challenge thus presented demands that we examine every application at the earliest possible date so that Australia may derive maximum benefit from the new inventions, but we are not at present doing so, and regrettably the adoption of the deferred examination system will soon or later probably make the position worse, not better.
The reason given by the Attorney-General for the failure to cope - that is to say, increasing numbers of applications - is only part of the story, for it is apparent from the answers kindly supplied to me by the Attorney-General that the problem has been greatly aggravated by the failure, not so much to recruit as to retain examiners in the Australian Patent Office. The figures reveal a most extraordinary wastage of examiners, many of them recruited abroad al considerable expense, trained over a period of 6 months at a cost per examiner of $1,950, and then drifting off to other branches of the Commonwealth Public Service or to private industry at an alarming rate. As a result the increase in the numbers of examiners entirely failed to keep pace with the increases in the annual numbers of complete specifications filed. The latter increased by 82% in the 10-year period from 1957 to 1967 but the number of examiners in the same period increased by only 19%. Meantime, of the 195 examiners who commenced during the years 1958 to 1967, 136 were engaged on examination as professional examiners and of these 136 no fewer than 81 were lost to the Patent Office. This represented a loss of 60% of whom 26 were lost within 1 year of appointment, 50 within 2 years and 72 within 5 years. Of these a few no doubt were lost on death or normal retirement.
The problem thus posed by the increasing number of applications, compounded by the failure to keep pace by recruiting and retaining a proportionately increased number of examiners, could, 1 believe, have been solved by a combination of methods excluding what I believe to be the method of last resort, the deferred examination system sought to be introduced by this Bill. The appropriate and desirable lines of solution for the problems of the Patent Office are partly legal, but mainly administrative. In the field of legal solution we have the system of modified examination also sought to be introduced by the Bill, which will permit a great saving of examiners’ lime in certain cases by enabling them to rely on the examination of equivalent specifications by the Patent Officers of certain prescribed overseas countries. From what I know of the subject this is a most desirable amendment to the law. in principle, although it will need to be implemented with prudence. However, instead of it being employed as an alternative to the deferred examination system, as recommended by the Institute of Patent Attorneys of Australia lnc. in a report to which 1 shall refer later, it is now proposed to be followed in addition to the deferred examination system as a further means of resolving the problems which have arisen in the Patent office.
The Australian Institute had recommended that the modified examination system be introduced side by side with administrative changes which, if actively pursued, might very well have solved the problem without falling back on what has been called the defeatist solution of a deferred examination system. Indeed, the adoption of a deferred examination system, side by side with a modified examination system, will nullify some of the advantages to be derived from the modified system; for the applicant for a patent under the modified system, based, say, on a United Kingdom patent, may now be faced with say four or five prior unexamined applications, or many more, which will then need to be examined before any patent can be granted under the modified system.
Substantially what was recommended by the Australian Institute was a combination of measures designed to retain the services of examiners in the Patent Office, by the payment of higher salaries and otherwise. A large part of the problem appears to have arisen from an award made some years ago by the Public Service Arbitrator which reduced the status and salary of Patent
Examiners, as compared with other professional officers, particularly engineers. To this we add the fact that the Patent Office is part of a vast Commonwealth Public Service organised on certain lines to encourage upward mobility throughout the whole Service. This has resulted in the flight of the examiners who had in many cases been brought to Australia at considerable expense for the very purpose of filling the vacant positions and had in all cases undergone a long and expensive period of training, the benefit of which was entirely lost as one by one, or in whole battalions, they left the Patent Office. There is something wrong with the organisation of our Public Service if it cannot solve this kind of problem. Firstly, having regard to the urgent need to recruit and retain examiners, their salaries should have been adjusted to a level where they would have every incentive to remain, rather than to depart to higher salaries or better conditions elsewhere. Secondly, it should have been possible to devise some effective means whereby men brought from abroad for the purpose and men who had undergone an expensive and lengthy period of training would bc prevented from resigning or transferring to another department within a certain period of years.
A recent press statement, issued after I procured the figures from the AttorneyGeneral to which I have referred, sought to make much of a new recruiting drive for examiners. I had some observations to make on that and they were published in the ‘Australian’ on 12th July 1968. In itself, the recruiting drive is, of course, to he welcomed and may be taken as a recognition, however belated, of the real nature of the problem and its appropriate solution. However, a report appearing in the Press in the last day or two has indicated, perhaps not surprisingly, that the results of the recruiting drive have been disappointing.
I should add that, as pointed out by the Australian Institute, many more examiners could probably have been retained if steps had been taken also to expand, rather than to reduce, the examining staff in Sydney and Melbourne, many of whom are unwilling to go to Canberra. And I might make the further point that increased salaries to examiners, in order to retain their services, may be far more economic than the very considerable extra expense which will undoubtedly be entailed by a deferred examination system. These are problems which must surely concern the Government and the Parliament regardless of whatever relief may be gained from the immediate pressure of the problem in the Patent Office by the adoption of modified examination, the ill-starred deferred examination system, or otherwise.
But to return to a consideration of the deferred examination system, may I say that in my view its adoption at this stage is almost a policy of despair. It is undoubtedly a retrograde step. Honourable members will be aware that under this so-called system an applicant will be given a period of 5 years within which to elect whether he desires to have his application examined. It is hoped apparently that many will not so elect, thus solving, so it is thought, the problem of the backlog. If we had managed to cope with the problem by maintaining a sufficient number of examiners, the undesirable effects of a deferred examination system would have been much more apparent than they are now, when a statutory deferred examination system involving a 5-year delay does not appear on its face to be much worse than the present situation involving a delay of some 4i years by reason of accumulated arrears. However, if we add an examination delay of, say only 2 years under the new system, the result may well be a total delay of, say, 7 years as against the present 4i years. But what it will really mean is that if the system achieves what is claimed for it we shall now build into our patent system on a permanent basis a long period of delay in the examination of most applications, with unfortunate effects for certain categories of inventors, but worse still, possibly disastrous effects upon third parties and upon Australian industry.
Insofar as deferred examination is said to be a boon to inventors, who will have time to decide whether it is worth while to proceed, we already have this in Australia in the year which is permitted before the complete specification must be filed. One year is normally quite sufficient for this purpose; to extend it further, even if it may suit some applicants and the Patent Office, is detrimental to subsequent applicants, and to industry, for reasons which I shall elaborate later. In this regard it is notable that almost every overseas application is finally proceeded with, despite the present 5 year delay, and Australian applicants also normally proceed once they have decided to file a complete specification.
I have already referred to reports furnished in 1967 to the Attorney-General - that is to say, the predecessor of the present Attorney-General - by the Institute of Patent Attorneys of Australia Inc. on this very subject of the proposed deferred examination of patent applications. In one of those reports it was said:
Since the making of the report the proposed period has been reduced, it is true, from 16 years to 5 years but the observations are, within narrower limits, still quite apposite. The report went on to say that if the proposal for deferred examination were adopted ‘it would have the effect of virtually destroying the present patent system and eventually reducing it to such a state of chaos that it would be impossible to restore the system if it were subsequently determined to make the attempt’. The patent attorneys said that the proposal was highly undesirable and that it would indirectly cost industry and the nation far more than it would save’.
The British Chartered Institute of Palen! Agents presented within the last few months a memorandum of evidence to the so-called Banks Committee set up by the British Government to examine the patent system and patent law. I have a copy of it here. lt obviously represents the deeply considered view of a body of men probably without equal in this field. After referring to the proved advantages of the patent system the memorandum devotes a great deal of attention to the deferred examination system and comes out unequivocally against it. The following passage is, I believe, of great significance:
We regard the spread of deferred examination as a serious threat to the whole patent system. Its effect will be cumulative as regards both lime and the number of important countries adopting it. Industry will be faced with a vast and ever increasing mass of unexamined patent applications, and with an ever dwindling number of examined foreign patent applications which could serve as some yardstick of true novelty.
We ignore these warnings at our peril. Later the British chapter, after making detailed observations of the effect of the proposed system, went on to say:
In short we are entirely opposed to deferred examination.
The problems involved in a deferred examination system have no doubt always been apparent to the Attorney-General - himself expert in patent law - and his staff. Indeed, it is notable that according to what purports to be a summary of the report of a committee appointed by the Attorney-General’s predecessor in office, of which committee the present AttorneyGeneral was the chairman, that committee concluded that earlier departmental proposals for a deferred examination system were unadvisable and unworkable and the committee expressed the view that ‘ideally, the present practice of examining each application for a patent lodged at the Patent Office should be maintained’. However, on the basis that this was not practicable it recommended that a form of deferred examination would provide a satisfactory method of reducing the burden at the Patent Office. A method of reducing the burden at the Patent Office it would certainly provide, at least on a short term basis, but whether that method is a satisfactory one when we come to consider the public interest is another very different question, which I believe we shall have to answer in the negative. Conscious as he was of the drawbacks and dangers associated with the deferred examination system, the AttorneyGeneral has attempted to alleviate some of the problems by fresh provisions to be inserted in the Act as a concomitant of the deferred examination system. But one doubts whether they will be effective.
In his second reading speech relating to the earlier form of the Bill delivered in this House on 2nd November 1967, the
Attorney-General conceded that it was in the interest of third parties that the patent position in a particular field should be clarified as quickly as possible and went on to say that a number of provisions had been included to protect the interest of third parties. He expressed the hope that most of the difficulties resulting from the deferred examination system would be solved by the provisions contained in the new section 47b and in clauses 16 and 18 of the Bill. Proposed new section 47b provides that a person other than the applicant may require the Commissioner to direct the applicant to request the making of the examination even before the expiry of the 5-ycar period, lt seems to be thought that this procedure will obviate the disadvantage to third parties arising from the existence of unexamined applications which may constitute a bar to third parties undertaking manufacture or industrial development in the field to which the claimed invention relates. But the mere provision of this right will not necessarily alleviate the hardship to third parties or the detrimental effect on the public. For it is easy to see that if such an application has already stood unexamined for some years a long period may still elapse before it is fully examined, and the total period of uncertainty might thus continue for a much longer period than would have been the case if the deferred examination system had not been adopted and proper administrative steps had been taken to overcome the problem of arrears. Furthermore, 1 have been informed by those expert in the field that under a deferred examination system the number of unexamined applications causing uncertainty to a third party who wishes to commence a new manufacture might well, as time passes, become very numerous, even running into 100 or so unexamined applications, or indeed, possibly a far greater number.
One of my British correspondents has told me, by way of example, of a case in which over 2,500 patent specifications had to be examined in order to advise as to the patentability of a single invention. He said in his letter:
In the case in question, the claims had all been examined and it was not an imposible task to dismiss all but a few which required examination by experts or counsel
But how would it be if instead of searching 2,500 specifications of patents granted, the unfortunate searcher had to examine 2,500 unexamined specifications, or even a much lesser number - specifications which, in many cases, would contain claims far broader than was justified? The chances of dealing with these unexamined applications expeditiously after a request has been made pursuant to section 47b are probably quite illusory.
This view is supported by some observations of the British Institute that are to be found in its memorandum. Unfortunately 1 have not the time to quote those observations.
There is now a further complication in Australia, by reason of the proposed substitution of a new section 49 (4) for the old section 49 (5). Under the new sub-section an amendment may be made after publication even though it goes beyond the scope of the formal claims of the complete specification, provided it was disclosed in substance in the specification. True, it will be a defence, under the new section 54c (3), if the defendant establishes that a patent could not validly have been granted in respect of the claim of the complete specification, as framed at the time when the act was done. But no such defence is available after acceptance of the application. In the result, a manufacturer now faces the hazard that he may incur very substantial expenditure only to find that he must later cease production because of a patent granted in respect of an invention not even formally claimed in the published specification. The task of the searcher and the responsibility of the adviser has thus been made very much more difficult, for they will now have to examine the whole specification as well as the formal claims. In some cases the difficulties thus presented will be well nigh insuperable. I was recently told of one specification which ran to some 900 pages. Bad as this would bc in any event, a system of deferred examination, if it succeeds in doing what is intended, will multiply the problem further, for it will present the unfortunate manufacturer and his advisers with fresh mountains of papers, all of which will need to be searched to the last word of the specification before they can form a view whether they can obtain a patent for a new invention, or safely proceed with a new manufacture, without the danger of a successful action for infringement against them.
There is a further objection to the new section 47b, as I see it. The ‘person other than the applicant’ is not required to show any interest or locus standi as a condition of his right to require examination. This in itself is open to abuse. And what is to prevent some mischievous person requesting that all complete specifications then pending in the Patent Office be examined. As far as I can see - the Attorney-General will correct me if I am wrong - this is conceivable as the section stands and it would bring the whole scheme and its supposed benefits crashing to the ground.
I have not yet explained fully the possible detrimental effects so far as the inventors themselves are concerned, despite claims that it is really a boon to them. Here the nigger in the woodpile is the size of the fees to be prescribed by the regulations both in respect of continuation fees required to be paid annually to maintain an application in force and the proposed examination fee to be paid if and when an applicant requests examination. We do not yet know how large they will bc. The size of these fees will probably not be large enough to deter, nor even cause real hardship to, the majority of applicants, many of whom are wealthy companies. And if that is so, deferred examination will achieve but little.
But there is a smallish percentage of local inventors to whom these fees will present a real stumbling block. I have been told by a local1 patent attorney that one of his wealthy overseas clients which applies for many patents actually welcomes the deferred examination system, which it believes will prove to be beneficial to it even if, or perhaps even because, it will be detrimental to the small inventors and to the interest of third parties who will remain uncertain as to whether they can safely enter the field.
One of my correspondents, who is a respected patent attorney in Adelaide, writes:
The small man is the one who is really going to suffer- not the big organisation which has adequate funds to have its patents granted - and this to me at least would strike at the very fundamentals of Patent Law which was designed so that all who produced meritorious inventions were able to profit from their labours.
Yet in order to be successful in reducing the number of applications for examination the fee may need to be large. Here <s the very crux of the matter. If the fees are so high as to discourage applications for full examination, they will, in so doing, operate to the detriment of Australian inventors and Australian industry and defeat a main purpose of the patent system, namely, to secure a reward to meritorious inventions. If the fees are so low as not to discourage applicants, the supposed benefits from a deferred examination system will not eventuate, unless applicants actually prefer to go slow, and take their 5 years before requesting examination. If they do that, then third parties, subsequent applicants, and industry will suffer for it, however much it may advantage the dilatory applicants or provide a welcome respite for the Patent Office. Mr Speaker, these 1 believe are the inescapable dilemmas which face the proponents of a scheme of deferred examination.
How will the system affect actions for infringement? A patent attorney suggests to me that, on his reading of the Bill, if a person wishing to take action for infringement were to be faced with earlier unexamined applications, as he well might be under this system, and these had to be called up for examination, ‘he could wait for upward of two years before he could take infringement action and in the case of a blatant infringement this period could be sufficient to completely wreck his enterprise’. 1 am not an expert in patent law. With the very limited time available to me as a private member, and no staff to assist me, I have not been able to check in detail the accuracy of ‘his or some other of my quotes, but I put it forward, believing it to be correct, so that other people may consider it.
The Attorney-General in his second reading speech tells us that ‘the system of deferred examination has been adopted or is under consideration in Holland, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America’. This seems to give the system a certain respectability. But, as pointed out by the British Institute in its memorandum, both Germany and the Netherlands and, I believe, the United States also, are countries which have practised what is called full examination for novelty and inventive merit as distinct from the British and Australian systems with examination for bare novelty. The British Institute states that most countries which have practised full examination have experienced serious backlogs of work, to such an extent that Germany and the Netherlands have had to fall back on deferred or selective examination and the U.S.A. and other countries are thinking of introducing provisions enabling them to do so.’ In the United Kingdom, by contrast, despite a high degree of industrialisation, the British Patent Office has continued to cope with the work much more effectively than we have done in Australia under a similar system but with a much lesser flow of patent applications.
Furthermore, a letter from the President of the German Patent Institute, of which I hold a copy, and which I am authorised to quote, said of the then impending legislation seeking to introduce the deferred examination system in West Germany:
Large sections of German industry are opposing this Act, as well as the Examiners of the Patent Office and the Judges of the Patent Court.
An overwhelming majority of Patent Attorneys are emphatically against the introduction of the delayed examination in Germany. The Council of the German Patent Institute has prepared a counter action and is attempting to put this into effect. The Council are arguing against the delayed examination and have suggested other methods to maintain an ordered working of the German Patent system.
Again, in the U.S.A., the proposals of the United States Presidential Commission have been hotly debated and still have not been implemented by Congress where they have met strong opposition, and in any event all that is proposed is a 12 months trial period in respect of certain categories of applications only, the working of the system during that period to be reviewed by an independent committee.
It is thus rather misleading to make comparisons with any of these countries, all three of which have a full examination system which imposes a much greater strain on examining staff, one of them a country in which opinion is greatly divided on the matter, and one of them a country in which the matter is under hot debate and all that is proposed is a limited trial of the new system.
The comments kindly forwarded to me on behalf of the British Institute contain a sentence which I believe to be very pertinent. It reads as follows: ‘I fear that too many governments have been taking a course which is convenient to their own Patent Offices and which is acceptable enough to patent applicants, but which we believe here will be a real disadvantage to industry generally’. Are we perhaps falling into the same error?
It is notable that from information supplied to me by the patent attornies, many applicants are now by-passing Holland, where deferred examination has been introduced, and are not filing there. Suppose the same thing happened here. This may appear at first sight to be a piece of good fortune for Australia, in that Australian industry could then use the inventions with impunity. But in practice, according to the advice I have received, what it would really mean is a serious disadvantage to Australian industry, for the probable consequence would be that lacking capital and the often all-important know how associated with the invention and the exclusive right which a patent would have given, the invention would most often not be exploited here at all or only after a very considerable delay, by which time it may very well have become obsolete or obsolescent.
Two further suggestions I might mention, as they have been put to me by responsible patent attornies, although 1 do not claim to have mastered all the technicalities involved in them. One is the introduction of the so-called Petty patent system, as in Germany and Japan, which would, I am told, relieve the Patent Office of the burden of examining minor inventions without causing any real injury to industry. The other is the adoption of the United Slates system of ‘compact examination’. I am advised that the adoption of these procedures, coupled with modified examination and effective steps to recruit and retain examiners might well serve to overcome the backlog problem without adopting the desperate expedient of deferred examination. In the homely phrase this last would seem to involve throwing out the baby with the bathwater; in attempting to solve the problem of backlog by deferred examination you are prejudicing the whole patent system and the further progress and wellbeing of Australian industry.
The more one considers it the more obvious it becomes that this deferred examination system, for which so much is claimed, is little more than a means to give statutory respectability to the backlog with which industry is now afflicted and is calculated to persuade some applicants not to proceed, by the magnitude of the fees, and others to defer examination of their applications in what they consider to be their best interests, thereby relieving the problems of the Patent Office, it is true, but rendering it quite certain that subsequent applicants, third parties, industry and the public interest will suffer for it dearly in the years to come.
It is no doubt certain that this Bill will be passed by this House, but I do beg the Attorney-General, very’ respectfully, to look very carefully once again at the amendments relating to deferred examination before the Bill is introduced in the Senate, and I appeal to members of that body also, and in particular those with legal qualifications, to look very carefully at those amendments, if the Attorney-General decides to persevere with them, before they pass them into law. This is not, nor should it be, a party matter; it is one of vital importance to the future of Australian industry, and I believe I have done no less than my duty in bringing these observations to the attention of this House, and through it, to the attention of the Senate, the public, and industry, i hope they will give them the attention which, with all humility. I believe they deserve. I believe the proposals for deferred examination should be abandoned.
– The most regrettable feature of this Bill is the Government’s delay in facilitating examination of claims submitted to the Patent Office. No action was taken to examine claims until the number of claims submitted reached 40,000. Then the Government decided to introduce legislation to modify the method of examination. I do not pretend to know the exact method of examination but I have read very carefully the speech made by the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and I cannot see anything in it which suggests that the modified examination will do much to remove the backlog of claims. The Attorney-General has said nothing to indicate that the new method of of examination will reduce appreciably the backlog of 44,000 claims that have accumulated in the past 4) years.
He made no suggestion at all that if we adopt the modified system of examination the backlog of 44,000 applications will be eliminated within 2, 3 or 4 years, and that from then on we will be in a position to cope with every application as it comes along.
I was unable to catch the remarks made by the honourable member for Warringah (Mr St John), but I understood that he opposed the proposition altogether because he thought that considerable dangers existed in the modified method of examination and that the present method should be continued. Apparently he is of the opinion that more examiners should be appointed to the Patent Office to dispense with the backlog that now exists. The Opposition is of the opinion that the Government is culpable in allowing this backlog to exist at ail. Undoubtedly, more positions should have been created to do the job that is required and should have been created years ago. I think that the honourable member for Warringah suggested that the fees payable may need to be increased in order to get sufficient numbers of competent people to carry out the job. That is a method of attracting staff that apparently the Government has not considered. I agree that more staff are required to do this job.
This Bill and the information before the House reveals that this country suffers another grave disability in that 88% of the 44,000 outstanding applications arc from overseas. We should endeavour to promote within Australia the type of capacity that will enable our own people to apply for patents and so gain control over our industries. As the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) pointed out, the increased control that overseas investors are getting over Australian industries is to a large extent due to the know-how and inventiveness that they are able to bring to those industries. I believe that if the Government went out of its way to promote technical know-how we would not be so dependent on overseas organisations. The Government should realise that the cost to this community of the control that knowhow and patents have given to overseas firms is immense. Inquiries have been made on a number of occasions about the royalties paid to overseas firms for the use of patents. Although I have not been told exactly how much is involved, I know that over the period of a few years it has been hundreds of millions of dollars. After all, hundreds of millions of dollars invested in this country in the acquisition of know-how by the people of Australia would be useful in promoting new industrial undertakings and retaining control over existing industries.
The honourable member for Cunningham pointed out that overseas firms get control of industries in this country merely because they have patents that Australia does not possess. They are then able to say to these industries: ‘You will be able to export so much and you will be able to produce so much’. These firms restrict production within Australia and deny the right of the Australian industries and enterprises to enter into competition with other organisations here or abroad. They restrict export and they restrict home production too. As the honourable member for Cunningham pointed out, some industries are created within this country merely to hurdle the tariff wall. That is to say, it is more profitable for overseas interests to establish an industry in Australia than try to export their goods to Australia when a tariff barrier is against them. Having established an industry in Australia, these firms introduce their patent rights to develop it and, having developed it to a certain extent and having destroyed internal competition within Australia, they refuse that particular industry the right to export its goods elsewhere. They even curtail sales on the Australian market. If Australia is to advance it must prevent this happening in the future.
The Government must accept responsibility for the delay in dealing with the backlog of applications for patents. It must also accept a big share of the responsibility for not taking action years ago to promote the industrial and technological skills that would make this country to a large extent independent of overseas industries. In 1950 there was a backlog of 12,000 applications. This backlog has increased to 44,000 applications at present and it is increasing at the rate of 3,000 or 4,000 a year. That position should never have been tolerated. The keeping of our industrial know-how and capacity so far below the know-how and capacity of other countries also should not have been tolerated.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sneddon) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a social services matter tonight which concerns a constituent of mine. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is completely familiar with the case. Indeed, I mentioned to him that I would be raising it tonight. There is therefore no need to mention the name of the person concerned. Briefly, the case is this: A woman in my electorate applied for an invalid pension some years ago and she established her eligibility on every ground except one - there was a query about a de facto relationship that she was alleged to have with a man with whom she had been living for some time. The Department of Social Services rejected her claim on that ground. Some time later she approached me and I made the appropriate representations to the Department to have the matter reviewed. My representations were rejected. Early this year I took the matter up with the Department again and asked for a review.
As a result of this request the application for a widow’s pension to be paid to this woman was granted. The granting of this pension is rather belated, and the pension was dated only from February of this year. But in fact the woman had initially applied for the pension, as I said, several years ago. From inquiries which I have made it appears that the reasons given by the Department of Social Services in the first place for rejecting this claim were stated in the following terms:
That while there has been some change in the relationship-
That, of course, refers to the relationship between the woman whose case I raise tonight and the man she was living with- it must be accepted that she and- should not be placed in any better position than if they were legally married.
I pointed out to the Department that my information, which came from letters that passed between the lady concerned and me, and from recommendations made to me by her neighbours, was that she had lived with a man for some years, that the de facto relationship had ceased several years ago, and that there was no dispute on this point. It was pointed out that the only reason why the woman did not leave the domicile in which she was living with the man was that she had a mentally retarded daughter who was also deaf and dumb. Her daughter was an adult and refused to leave the premises because she had lived there for most of her life. After representations had been made on a number of occasions, the Department decided that an invalid pension would be paid to this woman from February of this year and that she would be given the benefit of the doubt.
My reason for raising this matter is to submit it to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) personally in the Parliament. Raising a matter in the Parliament is the last ditch stand a member can make. I do this with reservations but I have no other avenue left to me now. I suggest that this woman is entitled to retrospective payment from the date her initial application was lodged. I put two important reasons that I put to the Minister. I agree that there is a great difference between the relationship that this woman has with the man concerned and the relationship of a married couple. The Minister himself will recollect that on 15th July this year he again observed, as the Department did some time ago, that the woman should not be put on a better footing than a married woman. He suggested that the situation in which this woman finds herself is similar in many ways to that of many married couples today. It is not similar. If a husband and wife find that they are incompatible, the wife always has the right to leave her husband and claim constructive desertion. She can then lodge a claim for maintenance. A person living in a de facto relationship does not have any hope of obtaining maintenance. So, in fact, this is not a situation comparable to that of a married couple.
The situation is - and this is not denied by the Department, as the Minister, 1 am sure, will readily acknowledge - that this woman has continued to live on the premises. She has received no income. She is virtually a live-in domestic and she is imprisoned in the premises, one could well say, because of the attitude of her mentally retarded adult daughter. Therefore, I submit that there is no parallel between this situation and that of a married couple. This woman does not have the independence or backing that a married woman would have if she wanted to have the domicile and claim maintenance. She is a fairly simple soul and would be terrified at the prospect of having to leave premises and try to find somewhere else to live.
The other point I want to raise with the Minister is the subject of the benefit of the doubt. I was very happy when the Department decided to pay an invalid pension to this woman from February this year. The point then put up was that the Department would give her the benefit of the doubt. But the doubt existed from the time she made her initial application for a widow’s pension. If she received the benefit of the doubt from February this year she should have received it from the time she made the initial application. The doubt has been continuous. The relationship has been a consistent one from the initial date of application. 1 submit to the Minister that it would be presumptive in the extreme for the Department of Social Services to sit as judge and jury and to deliberate and hand down a judgment on this woman. There has been no change in the circumstances of this woman since the date of the initial claim, and the doubt bad been continuous, the Department is prepared to acknowledge this doubt as existing only from February of this year. I believe that if this attitude is to persist, people will regard it as an example of the bureaucratic autocracy and remoteness that so many people suspect is endemic in government departments. Generally speaking, this is not the sort of thing I have found in regard to the Department of Social’ Services. But I do think it is so on this occasion. I believe that the ordinary little people in the community have to have some avenues of appeal against adverse decisions. This, of course, is another matter. But the Minister for Social Services, during his term of office should give some consideration to the establishment of appeal tribunals so that ordinary citizens can put their case to some impartial panel. I often reflect that for every case that comes before me in regard to social services treatment, there may be twenty or more people who do not approach me because of personal reservations, shyness or a whole host of other reasons.It is most undesirable that the absence of this sort of tribunal should continue.
I stress two points to the Minister. The benefit of doubt given to this woman rises from a doubt that continually existed. The circumstances that created this doubt continually existed from the date of the original application. The second point is that the situation of this woman is completely different from that of a wife. She has no rights before a court in seeking maintenance. Therefore,I sincerely ask the Minister to give further consideration to this case and to see whether the pension can be paid retrospectively from thedate on which the application was first made.
– There are really two points raised by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). One relates to a specific case and the other relates - I think he would consider this the more important aspect - to the kind of machinery for dealing with doubtful cases in the Department of Social Services. This is something which obviously concerns me and gives me some reason for concern as the Minister responsible. I am fully in agreement with what the honourable member says about this House being a final resort for raising a matter such as this. The honourable member is not only within his rights in raising a matter such as this; if he feels as he does, it is his duty to do so. I certainly do not cavil - nor do I think that any member of the House would cavil - at the fact that there is this final appeal, as it were, in a matter of this character. I believe that a responsible member would not bring the case of an individual constituent to this House unless he had exhausted other methods of approach.
In this case I must say that the honourable member for Oxley very properly followed the other avenues open to him before bringing this case into what he describes as the final court of appeal.
Under the Act officers of the Department of Social Services have to decide matters of fact from time to time. There is no way out of that situation. Of course, there is an avenue of appeal open from those officers to the Director-General. In any case which has an element of doubt and in any case which is brought forward by an honourable member it is the practice of the DirectorGeneral to submit his proposed decision to the Minister. I think this is the correct procedure. However, honourable members will appreciate that no Minister is able himself to explore the full and particular facts.I do not think there is any reason to institute more cumbersome machinery than we have at present. There is an avenue of appeal to the Director-General. It is not by any means a matter of form because the Director-General quite frequently reverses a decision which has been reached lower down the tine. Beyond that, there is always the fact that an honourable member can bring the case of a constituent into this House.
In this case the honourable member for Oxley has very properly refrained from mentioning the names of the people involved. Of course, I do not intend to do so because that would cause embarrassment. In this instance I think the honourable member has a bad case. I have examined it and I will relate the circumstances as they appear to me. The lady concerned lived in a de facto relationship with a man for 16 or 17 years. It is clear that it was not just a passing relationship but something of quite long established continuity. If I remember correctly, she said in 1965 that the relationship had ceased, but she has continued to live in the same house. I do not know whether she pays rent. I am not informed on that matter. Perhaps the honourable member knows that. However, she has continued to live in the same house and I understand that there is still a domestic relationship with the man with whom she had a de facto relationship for 16 or 17 years.
I think it is quite proper that in these cases officers of the Department of Social Services should decide that the claim that a de facto relationship has ceased should have sufficient evidence to back it. In this case officers of my Department decided that there was not sufficient evidence. They cannot act simply on the word of the man or the woman concerned. The man in this case has an income which, if he were the husband of the woman concerned, would be sufficient to debar her from an age pension. I understand that the woman is now aged 62 years.
It is easy for people to claim that a de facto relationship has ceased. How can one get evidence of this? If they are continuing to live in the same house, surely there is a prima facie presumption that the relationship still exists. In this caseI think the officers of the Department of Social Services came quite properly to the decision that while the woman was resident in the house they should follow the general precedent in matters of this character and presume, despite what they were told to the contrary, that the de facto relationship was still in existence. After all, this position might apply to a married couple. They might no longer co-habit, as it were, while living in the same house. Yet while living in the same house the woman concerned might perform certain domestic tasks. This is not an uncommon kind of situation. Therefore there is some reason why a woman in a de facto relationship should not be placed in a better position than a woman who is legally married.
When the honourable member for Oxley brought this case to my attention some months ago, I asked that a special study be made of it. Although there was at first an inclination to refuse a pension, because of the reason which I think the honourable member first advanced to me but which I came to know, in any case - that there was a daughter in an unhappy position - it was decided that this was a case for a special act of grace, as it were. The DirectorGeneral has minuted the papers: ‘If anything, we have been too benevolent in this case’.I looked at this matter in my capacity as Minister in the light of representations which the honourable member made to me as a member of this House.I decided that perhaps we should stretch a point. In view of the situation of the daughter I felt that we should do something which was a little out of line. Perhaps it was a matter of looking at this case from the human point of view in respect of the situation of the daughter. I said: ‘Let us set aside this presumption’. However, I think that presumption was properly arrived at and maintained by my officers. I decided that in the circumstances we would consider that the de facto relationship still existed and give a special grant or a pension. This was done, as the Director-General has minuted to me as a special act of benevolence.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjournedat 11.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The Minister for Supply has furnished the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
Available information which may be printed is as follows:
Statistics of the total value of overseas orders placed on the Department of Supply back to 1958-59 are:
asked the Minister for Health upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Medical and Denial Officers inthe Services (Question No. 294)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
For engagement with the Australian Military Forces and Royal Australian Air Force medical and dental officers must be registered to practice under the laws of the Commonwealth or of a State. In the case of the Royal Australian Navy a medical or dental officer must be registered, or hold qualifications which would entitle him to registration under Commonwealth or State laws and be recommended by the Registrar or other responsible person of his medical or dental school.
Discipline in the Services (Question No. 308)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s questions is as follows:
No. But it is known that monkeys may contract and harbour diseases dangerous to both humans and animals and for this reason it has been quarantine policy to ensure, amongst other things, that monkeys do not become widely dispersed in Australia.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The reason for this policy is that it is well known that monkeys are subject to many of the diseases which affect both man and domestic animals. If, for example, rabies were to penetrate the quarantine barrier and invade rural areas, the difficulty of eradicating it in the dingo population would be serious, but if it became established in wild monkeys another problem of eradication would have to be faced. Monkeys could also act as a reservoir for diseases such as yellow fever rift valley fever and other diseases of humans and animals, if such diseases entered Australia. These disease considerations are the responsibility of my Department as distinct from any other considerations such as the destructive habits of monkeys in regard to agricultural crops.
Children of Service Personnel
– On 30th May 1968 the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) asked me a question without notice concerning the impact of Service postings on the education of servicemen’s children and payment of child education allowance to servicemen.
I undertook to look into the question of the Service Board’s rulings on eligibility for this allowance and also the adequacy of the allowance. The enquiries I have made do not reveal grounds for complaint in either of these respects.
Briefly, this allowance can be paid in respect of any school child over nine years of age who remains in Australia to continue his or her education when both parents go abroad on an overseas posting, or for a child usually of secondary school level who continues to attend school at the old location when the parents move within Australia on a normal posting.
In each academic year expenditure up to $1,055 may be reimbursed in respect of a child attending boarding school, or $505 in respect of a day student. I am sure you will agree that if regard is had to the parents’ obligation to provide for the education of the child, these rates, assessed on the basis of a range of standard fees, are not unreasonable. They are kept under constant review to ensure that they properly reflect movements in the level of costs.
It is in relation to the payment of the allowance to servicemen posted elsewhere in Australia that the Service Boards are required to approve payment. The essential feature in determining these applications is to establish serious interruption to the child’s education, caused by the move. Sound guidelines which cover the majority of cases have been set down. Interruption during the final two years of secondary school or during the Intermediate or School Certificate years are the main cases, but individual cases involving special or exceptional circumstances will be considered. Students doing special courses or those suffering particular disabilities come to mind in this category.
From my enquiries I am satisfied that the scheme is being administered satisfactorily.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680814_reps_26_hor60/>.