26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation, Mr Swartz, left Australia today to attend the ceremonial opening of the aeronautical fixed telecommunication network for civil aviation in Indonesia. He expects to return to Australia on 10th November. During Mr Swartz’s absence the Minister for Customs and Excise, Senator Scott, will act as Minister for Civil Aviation and the Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, will handle civil aviation and repatriation matters in this House.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry by briefly reminding him that one of the largest processors of beans and peas in Australia, Petersville Australia Ltd, has recently acquired processing interests in New Zealand and, secondly, that talks on an industry to industry basis are to take place in New Zealand next week in an attempt to regulate imports and so save the Australian industry. I ask the Minister: Is it a fact that Petersville, which has a leg in both camps, so to speak, must be in agreement with any proposals brought forward by the Australian delegation in New Zealand next week?
– I know that the subject raised by the honourable member is in issue. Because of my absence from Australia. I am not on top of the matter. But I have arranged to meet the officers of my Department either this afternoon or tomorrow to bring myself fully up to date on the subject. I am sure the the Department and the Acting Minister, Mr Sinclair, have given this matter their attention during my absence.
– I refer the Postmaster-
General to the moves which he has been making for economies within the Postal Department, and I commend him in this regard. As a Queenslander, he may not be aware, as are those of us from Victoria, of the way in which all business activity ceases on Melbourne Cup day. The shops are closed and the shopping centres are deserted. I ask whether he is aware that all official post offices in Melbourne were required to open from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Melbourne Cup day. With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I would point out to the Minister that in my own electorate three men were employed at the Heidelberg Post Office and that their salaries for this hour at penalty rates amounted to $15.
– Order! The honourable member is asking the Chair for too much indulgence. He will finish his question.
– During this hour there were only five customers, who bought a total of 23c worth of stamps. Will the Minister have investigations made to see whether, from a profitability point of view, it is really necessary to open post offices on such a day?
– I will be pleased to have a look at this matter. In general terms post offices close entirely - I am speaking from memory - on only three public holidays in the year. These are Christmas Day, Anzac Day and Good Friday. On other public holidays the Post Office is open for a short period, such as from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. This has been a long standing practice to meet the convenience of large numbers of the public, particularly in relation to the lodging of telegrams. It may be that because of the use of multi-coin machines and so many private telephones this is no longer a requirement. I shall be pleased to look at the matter. It may be that we are wasting money in respect of this operation, particularly as the public is not making much use of the convenience afforded by the post offices being open.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Although the new International Sugar Agreement should provide higher average prices for sugar producers in the future, my question is concerned with the current season only. In view of the fact that last season only approximately $4m was made available to the sugar industry out of a budgeted sum of$15m what is the Government’s intention with respect to this season’s sugar?
The Minister will recall that last year the objective of the loan was to bring the average price up to $84 a ton. Is it the Government’s intention to provide a loan again, perhaps out of the funds that were budgeted for but not expended, to enable the sugar industry to get a reasonable price for sugar this year, or is it intended not to provide a loan on the assumption that next year higher prices will be received?
– This year’s crop is an alltime record crop and it is my understanding that it will all be sold during this calendar year. This is a magnificent achievement from the point of view of production and for those who are responsible for selling the sugar. The honourable member will recall that negotiations for an international sugar agreement commenced in April last and that they have been almost continuous since then, with a break off from ministerial negotiations to negotiations as between officials in July. At any time during that period there could have been a conclusion and the negotiation of an agreement. The industry accepted that it would be better, if it wanted to go to the Government with a proposal, to do so when the International Sugar Agreement situation had been clarified. Now the situation is clarified, and I believe that if the industry wants to make representations to the Government the Government will be willing to hear it in the same sympathetic manner as it has previously.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether the delivery of social service cheques to pensioners is likely to be affected by the postal strike in New South Wales?
– I am not able to give a definite answer because of the uncertainty about the moves of the strikers. Social service cheques for age and invalid pensions which go out for Thursdays are normally sorted on Tuesdays in the Department of Social Services. This work is usually done by postal employees, but they did not turn up yesterday and some delay and confusion necessarily resulted. I understand that those employees did report for work in the Department this morning. The bags are being made up and are being despatched to post offices in both the city and the country. My Department will make every endeavour to see that these cheques are delivered. I do not know whether the postal employees will handle them when they get to the post offices.
– The strike is off.
– Doesn’t the Minister know?
– I do not know. There is an unofficial report that the whole strike has ended. Whether this is to be confirmed or not I do not know. It has come over the air but it has not yet received official confirmation. If this is so, then the delay will be only 1 day, in general, and in some cases there will be no delay. If the strike continues the Department will make every effort to see that pensioners are not victimised by the capricious action of the striking postal employees.
– I ask a question of the Minister in charge of civil defence. It arises from the television demonstration of men fighting bushfires without equipment. Is consideration being given to creating in Australia an effective fire fighting organisation as part of civil defence and to equipping components and affiliates of such an organisation with first-class equipment and modern chemical fire extinguishers, both for war emergencies and emergencies such as the Tasmanian bush fires last year and the recent bush fire in New South Wales?
– The provisioning of civil defence forces throughout the various States is undertaken on a regular basis. Each year, prior to the presentation of the Budget, consideration is given to estimates put forward by the civil defence State directors. In each of these estimates opportunity is taken by the directors to submit their requirements in the way of plant and equipment which they need for the forthcoming year. That is the position about provisioning. The civil defence force in each State is a State authority. As to whether or not there is at present under way a move to create a civil defence organisation to cover such emergencies over the whole of Australia, that is something I will have to look at in the light of the direct terms of the question which the honourable member has asked. I will give him an answer at a later date.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General, ls it correct that the strike amongst some members of the postal staff in New South Wales is now over? Did it extend to telephone and telegraph operators? If so, to what extent did this occur and to what extent has public safety been endangered and to what extent have communications to normal essential services such as ambulance, fire and medical services been disrupted?
– There is an unconfirmed report that a decision was made at a meeting which commenced at midday today. The report I have received is that work will be resumed at midnight tonight. Whether there are any conditions associated with this decision or not I do not know, and I have not had any official information from my Department or through Mr Monk, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. There was difficulty last night. Certain junior postal officers who are members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union are engaged on staffing manually operated telephone exchanges during the night shift, from 10 or 11 o’clock at night until approximately 6 o’clock in the morning. Because these officers were on strike at the request of the union, last night these exchanges were not staffed. I have been informed that if the strike were to continue this is an area which would now be staffed.
I appreciate what the honourable member has said. When there is a strike within the communications area undoubtedly there is inconvenience not only to those emergency services to which he has referred but also to every other section of the community. It is my endeavour to avoid these situations. But unfortunately, even though we, as a government, endeavour to agree to what we might regard as reasonable and equitable terms of settlement, the unions do not always abide by the undertakings which they give from time to time.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry a question concerning assistance to book manufacture in Australia. He will remember that 2 years ago, when he refused the request by book publishers for a Tariff Board inquiry, he stated in a letter:
There is no indication that publishers have been taking advantage of low overseas quotations.
He will know, however, that by the second half of last year book publishers had taken his tip to place printing contracts abroad, to such an extent that two officers of the Department of Trade and Industry formed a working party with the major book manufacturers to study the exceptional problems of this industry, which must use mainly imported raw materials on which tariff is paid, but must compete with imported books on which no tariff is paid. I believe that the working party’s recommendations have been awaiting the right honourable gentleman’s return. 1 now ask: How soon will he introduce measures of assistance to this industry which is so essential to our educational and cultural requirements?
– The honourable gentleman credits me with more knowledge than I possess. At the moment I have not up to date information about the position, but there is a standing arrangement, which I initiated in the Department of Trade and Industry, under which any Australian industry which believes it is in trouble as a result of importations can have established, as a first step, a study panel consisting of repre- sentatives of the industry and officers of the Department. This need not waste time, and after years of experience of this procedure I can say that there has never been any claim that this has been a time wasting exercise. I take it from what the honourable gentleman has said that such a panel has been studying the industry to which he has referred. I will make it my business forthwith to bring myself up to date with the situation and to provide the honourable gentleman with an answer. I would just add this observation: Earlier governments of which I have been a member have had the question of tariffs on literature and books before them and have been unwilling - and I do not predict the final attitude of the Government of today - to place additional expenditures or limitations on the availability of essential book material in Australia.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Social Services been directed to an article in last night’s Press which implied that there had been some undue delay on the part of the Department of Social Services in paying a widow’s pension to the widow of a man who was murdered at Michelago? Is such an implication justified, and is this lady not entitled to special consideration?
– I do indeed think the lady is entitled to special consideration. When this matter was brought to my attention yesterday I made inquiries and found that the application for a pension was made only a little less than 3 weeks ago. I have given instructions for it to be processed by the Department with the greatest possible speed. In cases such as this my Department cannot be expected to initiate action. It has to wait until an application is made. As the House will know, we have recently established a procedure under which a widow may make an application immediately after the death of her husband. In this case the widow did not do so. However, T do express the greatest sympathy for the lady in question. I think that many of the comments that were made in the Press about the hardship that this lady and her family must undergo were true and justified. If I may, I would say something on a matter that is outside the prerogative of this Government. Surely in a case such as this, when maintenance is needed, the criminal on release should perhaps be called upon, under some amended law, to pay maintenance to the widow and her family who are the victims of his, in this case, quite capricious and appalling crime, in the same way as alimony or maintenance is paid in other circumstances.
– I ask the Treasurer: Does the annual report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission at paragraphs 61 and 62 question the legality of the special purpose grants to the States by the Federal Government under section 96 of the Con stitution? If so, will this challenge by the Commission interfere with the flow of Federal grants to the States under section 96?
– I will answer the question. The statement of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to which the honourable member has referred is nothing new. This is not the first time that such a statement has appeared in a report of the Commission; it has appeared in previous years. I would not attempt to give a legal opinion on the matter at this time, but I would be prepared to say that whoever might be the Government of Australia at any particular time, and certainly we as the Government of Australia, would not wish to renounce the responsibility of allocating grants between the States under section 96 and delegate it to some outside body.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. The honourable gentleman will recall correspondence that I had with him at the instance of Australian servicemen abroad regarding the disruption last January of mail deliveries to troops in Vietnam, even despite the fact that postings were made in the special services box at the General Post Office, Sydney. If the current postal strike continues, is postponed or breaks out again, will he consult with the Minister for Defence with a view to securing the co-operation of the Army, Navy and Air Force in making absolutely certain, without the possibility of doubt, that, however the postal workers may treat the rest of the community, letters from wives, mothers and friends of Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen serving abroad in defence of this country will get through during the customary season of postal goodwill?
– It is to be regretted that in these circumstances delivery of mail of this type is disrupted. Whether it would be possible for the defence Services themselves to collect and dispose of all mail and to distribute all mail that may be posted in every township in Australia is a matter on which I would not express a view at the present time. But I will be happy to discuss with my colleague, the Minister for Defence, the question how mail may best be handled in any future stoppage of postal workers that may occur.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. Has his attention been directed to the recent experiment which was designed to ascertain the amount of tar in cigarettes? Does he intend to take action on this matter and cause a warning to be printed on cigarette packets similar to that which is required in the United States of America? Will he take the necessary steps to ensure that, by way of advertisement, young people especially are made aware of the hazards of cigarette smoking?
– This matter was before the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health in Darwin in June. They had before them a report of a committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council which referred to warning labels on cigarette packets and the possibility of such labels stating the tar content of the cigarettes. At the time of the conference it had only just been received from the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Ministers discussed it and decided that they would put under study the question of a warning label on cigarette packets and the question of tar content with a view to working towards a uniform approach. They all believed that a uniform approach was desirable because the question of legislation for labelling is, of course, a State matter. They are working towards that position. I expect that the matter will be raised again at the next meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health.
– The Minister for Immigration will recall the representations which I and other members have made from time to time on behalf of migrant families which include mentally retarded children who are over the age of 16 years. Has the Minister considered the possibility of such children being naturalised as Australian citizens on the application of their parents?
- Mr Speaker, I have received a number of representations on this matter. It does cause great distress to a migrant family that all members of that family can become Australian citizens save the one mentally retarded person over the age of 16 years. The reason why such people cannot become Australian citizens is that because of their mental retardation they cannot understand the nature of the oath that is taken by persons in order to become Australian citizens. On the other hand, if mentally retarded persons are under 16 they can become Australian citizens upon the naturalisation of their parents. This is a matter considered by the Government. While looking at that question, the Government has looked at a number of other questions in relation to naturalisation and citizenship. The Government has reached some conclusions. Within a matter of a day or two, I will be making a statement to the House to indicate the nature of these decisions. One of them was that there should be statutory provision to enable citizenship to be conferred on such persons who suffer mental retardation.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Navy a question. Is it true that the level of discontent and dissatisfaction in the Navy about the new group pay rates still continues and probably is worse now than it was last week or the week before? Will the Minister say whether or not electrical maintenance men in the Navy who previously were receiving a little over $91 a fortnight will receive under the new group pay awards a little over $88 a fortnight? Will he agree that with the present increasing significance of electronic equipment in naval vessels these men are of far greater importance than before? Is it reasonable to rate them at or below the rates paid to stewards, writers, and radio operators with only 6 months training? Can he say what factors were taken into account when these rates were decided and by whom they were decided? Can he ensure that-
– How many more?
– Why not?
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Yarra that his question is becoming long and involved.
– Is this part of the national secrecy, or is there any other reason why the Minister should not answer the question?
-Order! The honourable member will ask his question. He will not engage in debate.
– Can the Minister say whether these rates will be reassessed to bring them to the technical requirements of the modern Navy?
– Why does the Minister treat it as a joke?
– Order! The honourable member for East Sydney will cease his continual interjections.
– I think it is quite definite that the level of uncertainty has decreased as sailors have found out that none of them is to receive any decrease in money, which I think answers directly a question that the honourable member raised. No sailor has received a decrease in pay. I pointed out yesterday that most of them have received a considerable increase. I also pointed out that the system of group pay provides for flexibility. To illustrate that flexibility, I mention that it has been possible to reassess a group of engine room artificers and yesterday a signal went out stating that these will go up into certain other groups. The electrical maintenance people to whom the honourable member referred are receiving consideration.
I should point out to the honourable member for Yarra that the whole principle of group pay is to keep pay rates in alignment with civilian awards. Some civilian awards have not gone up recently. There is always someone out of step in the civilian field, because the rates for skilled workers do not always go up at the same time. I can assure the honourable member that this particular case is receiving proper consideration. I repeat that group pay means accepting the principle that we stay in alignment with civilian awards, and as the awards for civilian skills go up so will the rates for sailors who have corresponding levels of skill.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware of a recent plea by an eminent scientist that Australia should adopt a new and more positive approach to its marine resources and his statement that two off-shore marine research vessels should be provided for operation in different areas around its 12,000 mile coastline. Will the Government give earnest consideration to these proposals?
– I have read reports of suggestions of this kind coming from, as indicated by the honourable member, an eminent scientist. Indeed these kinds of suggestions are apt to arise with quite a degree of frequency, so that you can have eminent scientists saying that we should go in much more for space research, that we should go in much more for marine research, that we should go in much more for all kinds of research, depending upon the discipline in which the eminent scientist himself is most directly interested. All these proposals have merit but all of them cannot be carried out at once. They all receive consideration in due course.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for (he Navy, is supplementary to the one just asked by the honourable member for Yarra. In view of the dissatisfaction that does exist and the anomalies that have been created as a result of variations in the rates of pay that are now applicable to some naval ratings, is the Minister prepared to make a statement setting out the new rates of pay for the information of honourable members so that they may be fully informed on this question?
– A request has been made in another place for a complete tabulation of the rates of pay. I assume that this could be in a form suitable for incorporation in Hansard. The honourable member will realise that a statement made by me or anybody else delineating the rates of pay would take a long time to deliver in this House, and it would not be nearly as suitable as one that spelt out the rates in printed form. I suggest that if, when this answer is given in another place, there are still any areas of dissatisfaction the honourable member could take them up with me directly.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Having regard to the frequent interruption of postal services by strikes within the postal unions, can the Minister indicate if the fine imposed in relation to the dispute last July was subsequently withdrawn at the request of the Australian Council of Trade Unions? Did the terms of the settlement relating to the stoppage in January last include a ‘no victimisation’ clause which imposed a responsibility on the unions as well as on the Post Office? Has the Department fulfilled this agreement in all respects?
– The stoppage of work on 1st July last year related to the attitude of mind of the unions in regard to a 5-day week within the Post Office. The Government decided at that time to impose a fine on those people who did not attend for work on that particular Saturday morning. Subsequently my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service and I met representatives of the ACTU, the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, the Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union and the Postmasters Association. After the terms of settlement of the matter had been overcome, the Government decided to withdraw this penalty which had been applied.
I answered the second part of the honourable member’s question yesterday. I repeat that, in relation to the stoppage of January last, one of the terms of settlement - clause 4 - clearly stated that there should be no victimisation whatsoever by the Department or by the union. There was no victimisation by the Department. Each person who was on strike at that time returned to work without the loss of any entitlement whatsoever. The union, in its attitude of the last few days, has in fact renounced its undertaking in relation to that agreement.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question. The honourable gentleman will recall that he recently opened a sheltered workshop for retarded citizens in Redfern in my electorate of Watson and he learned during the course of the afternoon that several private employers had found jobs for the trained personnel of this workshop. I ask him whether it is possible to find suitable employment for such people in Commonwealth departmental workshops?
– Yes, I do indeed remember with great pleasure the incident to which the honourable member refers. I think the suggestion he makes is one which is worth following up.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry and refer to the distressing situation in my electorate where from 80 to 100 persons who worked at the Brisbane abattoir are suffering loss of employment and the already bedevilled meat export industry has been struck a possibly serious blow by the suspension of that abattoir’s registration to process meat for the American and British markets.
-Order! The honourable member’s preface is a little too long and I suggest that he ask his question.
– Will the Minister assure the House that the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry will be forever vigilant to ensure that a situation such as this never arises again? Further, could he advise the House how long the present situation has been threatening?
– As the honourable member says, it is true that the metropolitan public abattoir at Cannon Hill has had its licence to export meat to the United States of America cancelled and this has necessitated the cancellation of its eligibility to export also to the United Kingdom market. The reasons for the cancellation are due to structural defects and incorrect procedural methods which have reflected on the hygiene in relation to the killing of meat in the works. I refute any suggestion that the abattoir has had inadequate notification that this state of affairs was likely to arise. I wrote to the Minister for Primary Industries in Queensland in March, July and August this year, notifying him that the present situation would arise unless repairs were made to the works and procedural methods improved. Officers of my Department have been negotiating with the abattoir authority, both in discussions and by correspondence, since April 1967, and these improvements have not been carried out. I cannot accept that the abattoir has not had sufficient warning.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question. The Minister will recall that I spoke to him yesterday about a letter which appeared in yesterday’s Canberra Times’ with reference to the construction of a house occupied by a professor of the Australian National University. The letter carried some imputations about the release of land to the University and the use of University funds for the construction of quite extravagant houses for members of the staff. Is the Minister in a position to give any information on this matter? Can he amplify what was published in the Canberra Times’ this morning?
– It is the practice of the Australian National University to build a large number of houses for the staff of the University. In practice the National Capital Development Commission makes blocks of land available. The lease of the land is given by the Department of the Interior. The University is not charged a premium for the land, because to do so would involve the use of Commonwealth funds and would only increase premiums paid by other home builders. But if at any time a property is transferred from the University to a staff member the staff member must pay the usual charges including a premium based on a valuation made by the Commonwealth valuer. So there is no substance in the allegation that there has been a misuse of Commonwealth funds in this respect.
The particular instance referred to by the honourable member is more a mailer for my colleague the Minister for Education and Science, but because of his absence, because of the letter which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ and also because of an article in yesterday’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ which implied that there was a misuse of Commonwealth funds in this matter I want to say something about the case of Professor Birch. He was overseas and the Australian National University agreed to act as his agent. Professor Birch refunded in full any costs incurred by the University in acting as his agent. There has been no misuse of public funds.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question. As many thousands of pensioners are living in their own homes and are required to pay for costly maintenance and to meet increasing charges for rates and taxes will the Minister consider making some contribution to these people similar to the supplementary allowance currently payable to some pensioners residing in rental dwellings?
– This matter is under consideration. I would not like to prejudice the consideration of it or to give any forecast of the result. There are, however, considerations on both sides of the question. It is true that many people who own their homes are considerably out of pocket in meeting rates and maintenance sharges. Rates vary from locality to locality and from State to State. Within a State there are variations in practice from one local government area to another as to the amount of remission of rates granted to pensioners or people of pensionable age. 1 think it is true that people who own their homes and who are paying rates and maintenance charges are not as straitened in their circumstances generally as are people who are paying rent. It is also true that in the application of the means test the value of the home is omitted from the computation. This, of course, is a very great privilege.
One thing that has been suggested - I am not trying to say that it has been adopted - is that there should be some way in which these payments could be financed by loan and recovered from the estate of the pensioner concerned after his or her death. This is perhaps one way out of it. The Government is trying to use its funds to give the greatest relief to those most in need. One would think that in general, although there may be particular exceptions to this rule, people who own their own homes, even though they pay rates, are not in such great need as the people who do not own a home and who have to pay rent.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether the proposed conference between himself and the appropriate Ministers from South Australia and New South Wales with reference to the construction of the railway line between Broken Hill and Cockburn has been held and whether the Silverton Tramway Co. also has been a party to these discussions. If so, can he inform the House of the nature of the decisions made?
– It is expected that the Railway Agreement (New South Wales and South Australia) Bill, which is on the notice paper, will be dealt with either later today or tomorrow. Discussions have been held between representatives of the Silverton Tramway Co. and myself. I have also had an opportunity to speak to the Minister representing South Australia. At this stage the position remains the same. The Commonwealth has offered the Silverton Tramway Co. an ex gratia payment of $ 1,25m. At the same time, the submission presented to me by the company canvasses issues which have not previously been presented to the Government. I am having this submission examined, and in due course I will get in touch with the company and the representatives of the other Governments and we will pursue the discussions according to whatever changed situation may develop as a result of the examination of the company’s submission.
-I wish to inform the House of the following appointments of honourable members to be members of the Select Committee in the Naming of Electoral Divisions: The honourable members for Henty (Mr Fox), Herbert (Mr Bonnett), Grey (Mr Jessop), and Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) have been appointed by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), and the honourable members for Wills (Mr Bryant), Darebin (Mr Courtnay) and Brisbane (Mr Cross) have been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). The Prime Minister has appointed the honourable member for Henty to be Chairman of the Committee.
– I move:
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: Construction of Government Clothing Factory, Coburg, Victoria.
The proposal is to erect a single-storey steel frame factory building and associated administration block to be used for the manufacture of clothing and other items for Service and civil departments. The new building will replace existing substandard accommodation at South Melbourne. The estimated cost is SI. 3m. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and, upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations.
– Whilst I realise that the construction of a new Commonwealth clothing factory is both necessary and desirable it is my understanding that the union which covers the employees of the factory has made representations to the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) requesting him to meet a deputation from the union prior to the approval of the work by this Parliament. In view of this I respectfully request the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly), who is at the table, to agree to an adjournment of this matter until such time as the Minister for Supply meets the deputation. This. I feel sure, could take place at an early date and would in no way delay the work for a lengthy period.
Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) [3.2 lj- On several occasions I have protested against the proposal to build the Commonwealth clothing factory at Coburg. Why should it be built in the highly populated suburb of Coburg? I have stated frequently that there is plenty of room just outside Melbourne where conditions are much more healthy. We now have a great opportunity to effect some semblance of decentralisation and to get away from the congestion of such places as Coburg. Within the last 2 weeks, when he was debating housing legislation, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that he believed in slum clearance. I supported him up to the hilt on this, but he went further and said: When you clear the slums you should build there high density housing - triple storey flats or even higher flats.’ At that stage I said: ‘Once you get rid of the slums why not take the opportunity of going out of the city, even to Melton or similar places?’
– Why not Maryborough?
– I did not suggest that the people should be moved right out into the country, although it has been suggested that there is plenty of water and there are opportunities in Gippsland and elsewhere.
When a building is out of date, why construct a new building in a congested area? Everybody knows that Coburg is congested. Sometimes we cannot get better conditions because buildings have to be used, but we are now considering the construction of a new clothing factory. So we should take the opportunity to get away from crowded areas. I know that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) is looking seriously at me, as he always does. He represents the area and the more congested it is with workers the more pleased he is. However, I represent an electorate which is in the greater Australia - outside the metropolitan area. For that reason I am protesting - probably for the last time, because possibly this is already an accomplished fact - that this factory should not be built in Coburg. Many points can be suggested against building it in Coburg. After all, what is the use of adding to the congestion of that area? The honourable member for Wills will get up and probably will say: Coburg is an ideal place to build for the simple reason we have so many women and other workers available there*.
When I protested against the conduction of high density housing recently the honourable member for Hindmarsh had just said: If you build high blocks of flats the people can get to work within a few seconds’. I think he said seconds, but he obviously meant minutes. But nowadays we have good public transport and even if people live in the heart of a city they can be transported easily 10, 15 or 30 miles out of Melbourne. It would probably be cheaper to build in areas away from the city. It would probably be difficult to buy a block of land in Coburg because it is so densely populated. If the factory were constructed in Gippsland or western Victoria - the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) suggested Maryborough where there are ideal conditions - it would be a real national move. It would be national development; but to build it in Coburg would be national disaster as far as it is concerned.
Everybody knows that if there were an atomic attack on Melbourne, Coburg and all these congested areas would be blown to pieces in no time. We must have diversity of places at which such factories are established. This factory will be no small undertaking. The Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) has just said that the building is to cost $l-3m. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) made a short speech more or less objecting to what is going on and asking for a postponement for the time being so that a certain committee can interview the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson). Unfortunately he did not say why this committee wanted to do that. He did not say whether or not he wanted the factory built in Adelaide. Therefore, he has left me at a disadvantage in answering him. I can certainly answer the main proposition. I do not think that any member of this House would say other than it is better to build the factory outside the metropolitan area, except perhaps that there are more people living in the South Melbourne area who have been employed in the old factory and who would be employed in the new factory.
If the Government persists in its attitude of building the factory at Coburg it will only add to the density of population in the cities. Are we ever going to make a move to get people into country areas? On quite a number of occasions in this House I have heard honourable members refer to the smog, smoke etc., in the cities which is unhealthy. Labor supporters in the Victorian Parliament are continually advocating that something should be done towards overcoming it. I forget the names of these members but they can be ascertained from the Victorian Hansard. The building of this factory at Coburg will add more smog to the area. People will have to live near the factory or travel to it in order to work in it. I cannot understand how this Government can justify this decision. I know that this matter has not just come to the Acting Minister’s attention recently; it has been discussed for quite a long time. Ever since it was suggested that the new clothing factory should be built at Coburg I have protested against the proposal. Although I know that my protest will not carry any weight at this stage in stopping the factory being built at Coburg, at least I appreciate the privilege of putting forward a point of view which I suggest to both sides of the House would be supported by a majority of Australians.
– The reason why the Commonwealth clothing factory is to be built at Coburg is that it is being moved among people who have the greatest political perception in Australia. It is being moved among people who have established that they have not only great industrial capacity but also great political perception. I only hope that the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) is as devout as he is in attempting to stop people being centralised in Coburg when we raise the question of young men being thrown into gaol because of the unjustices in the national service legislation. In a way I am in agreement with the honourable member for Mallee. First, Coburg and Brunswick are highly centralised areas.
The electorate of Wills is one of the most densely populated areas in Australia. I think that there are only two or three electorates which have greater density of population than Wills. There are only two or three areas in Australia with greater concentration of both population and industry than the electorate of Wills. It is logical enough for anybody who is concerned with the capitalist mystique to put workshops right in the middle of the people. The members of the Country Party or of the Liberal Party are not concerned in attempting to establish any kind of decentralised industry or decent living conditions and so on for the working people.
The fact is that centralisation is a subsidy to the employer from the worker. I would not be opposed to the proposal if the Government decided to build the new factory at Mildura. I can think of nothing better for Australia than the placing of some industries at Mildura which resulted in about 5,000 workers and Labor voters going to Mildura and putting another 10,000 Labor voters in the seat of Mallee, so changing its political content. I can think of nothing that would be better for Australia or for the Mallee. But if the Government were to do that it would have to spend a lot of money on housing. It would also have to spend a lot of money on transport. If the new clothing factory is built in
Coburg, of course, a person could come right across the metropolitan area, say from Box Hill or Dandenong to Coburg. He could spend $3 or $4 a week on travelling expenses. If the factory is built in the metropolitan area the workers have to supply their own homes. I say that centralisation is a subsidy to industry by the employee, and it is something that we ought to resist.
However, I welcome the establishment of this factory in Coburg. I hope it will be a satisfactory factory, and 1 presume it will be. It is being built in an area through which runs one of the busiest arterial roads in Australia. This may have many advantages from the industrial point of view, but I am not sure that it will confer any great advantages on the community itself.
– There is also a railway station.
– Yes, there is a railway. I think that from the point of view of an industrial operation the decision to build the factory at this location was probably a sound one, but from the point of view of a social operation [ am inclined to agree with the honourable member for Mallee who has said that this is probably not the best we could have done.
There are two points I wanted to raise relating to this report. Firstly, it appears that the factory is to cease making canvas goods in the near future, and that this business will be transferred to private industry. It has probably become a profitable activity for private industry; so the government enterprise will now move out. of this profitable area and leave it to private concerns. Paragraph 38, at page 9 of the report, states:
It is important that the prime function of the Commonwealth’s factory now is the manufacture of low volume items and specialist requirements which are not attractive economically to private enterprise.
When I rose to join in this discussion I had intended to say that I was pleased to see a Socialist enterprise being established amongst people who have voted in favour of Socialist objectives for probably the best part of 60 years. But of course this is not really a Socialist enterprise. It could be considered to provide another subsidy to industry, inasmuch as it is difficult for private industry to produce the items that this factory will turn out, and so the government enterprise is left to do the job. Government enterprise should be the leader in a number of fields. Government enterprises should set standards of conditions of employment, wages, factory production and so on. In the field of clothing manufacture we ought to be able to introduce the kinds of procedures which have made TransAustralia Airlines such a splendid example of what governments can do in the field of airline operation.
I hope that honourable members will remember that what we are dealing with here is a very important industrial concern. lt will employ a number of people who are highly skilled in various fields, as is stated in the report, and 1 hope that we will not let it wither by transferring business to private enterprise. If we are to spend on this project all the money allocated to it and create the kinds of opportunities which, logically enough, will draw to it people living in the area, I hope that we will not at some future time retrench staff and that we will allow the employees the benefit of continuing permanent employment.
As I have said, as a piece of industrial planning this proposal for a clothing factory is probably very good, although as a piece of social planning it may well leave something to be desired. However, I welcome the factory to my electorate.
– The first thing I want to point out is that when this matter was referred to the Public Works Committee by the Parliament the usual procedure was adopted. There was extensive advertising of the fact that there would be a public hearing at which all1 persons, including members of Parliament, would be welcome to present their views on every facet of the proposed work. In fact only one member of this Parliament availed himself of the opportunity. That was the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Beaton), who submitted a short written statement to us because there had been representations from Bendigo about locating the factory there.
The Committee also heard submissions from various local authorities in places like the Latrobe Valley, Ballarat and Bendigo. They all had the same sort of story to tell about the availability of land, water and everything else. As a matter of fact, I was rather surprised to hear to what extent these things were available, because when one listens to the State Premiers one gets the impression that these requirements are by no means freely available in such country centres.
But the Committee was not given the task of deciding this question of the location, lt was not charged with the duty of adjudicating between the claims of various provincial centres, either in Victoria or in other States. If it had been, it might have thought it logical to say that it would be better to build the factory at Newcastle, or at Bunbury, or at Rockhampton. 1 believe that had this been an ab initio project, had it been a case of the Government deciding now that there was to be a Commonwealth clothing factory, we would have given consideration to the question of the location at which the factory should be established. But this was not the case. It was simply a matter of the rehabilitation of an existing factory which had built up an expert staff which could not be replaced if the factory were relocated at some place a long distance away. If the enterprise had been shifted to one of many distant places to which it was suggested it should be shifted, there would have been a complete cut back in the production of many necessary items.
These were the things the Committee had to consider. I might point out that the Committee is composed not only of members of the Liberal Party; as honourable members are aware, the Australian Country Party is represented by the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) and Senator Prowse, and the Australian Labor Party by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) and the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), while the honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman), Senator Branson and I represent the Liberal Party. All the views that are being canvassed now could have been presented to the Committee in the form of evidence.
– But the honourable member has said that it would have been of no use to give that evidence, because the location of the factory was outside the Committee’s terms of reference.
– I appreciate that, but very strong representations were made to the Government - and the Minister for the
Navy (Mr Kelly) would know more about this than I would - long before this proposal was referred to the Committee, about the decentralisation of this project. The Government had a special committee appointed from outside the Parliament, quite free from any parliamentary influence, to prepare a report on the feasibility of decentralisation of the enterprise. Let me tell the House that the Public Works Committee itself is very conscious of the need for decentralisation. It is very conscious of the fact that the Commonwealth could quite often give a lead in respect of decentralisation. But the Committee, representing all the political thoughts of all the parties in this place, came to the conclusion that the recommended location was the ideal one. The essential feature of the factory is the flexibility of its staff and its production capacity. These features would be lost if we talked in terms of pure decentralisation.
– Why would they be lost?
– I do not want to take up all the time of the House. The report was tabled. The honourable member should read paragraphs 35 to 40 of it, and if that does not completely satisfy him, he should get a copy of the transcript of the evidence presented to the Committee and read the various questions asked by the members of the Committee and the answers that were given. I think the honourable member will then be more than satisfied. I certainly will not delay the House by giving him information that he can find out for himself without a great deal of trouble.
To the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Birrell) I say that the unions did make representations to us on this matter. From memory I think they advocated complete rebuilding on the present site. But on the expert advice tendered to us by architects and by people who had studied this as a project in an inner city area we were convinced that there was no great purpose to be served by even considering a rebuilding on the present site.
To the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) I have only one thing to say: This factory is to be built in his electorate, but this is not because he happens to be the member for that electorate. Members of the Public Works Committee did not even see him. I would advise him to go to the present factory, have a look at the kind of work being done there, learn why it is being done, and talk to the manager, whom the Government has been at pains to send overseas to study similar projects in other countries. A talk with him may help to clear up some of the honourable member’s muddled thoughts on political philosophy.
– The motion moved by the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) for the expenditure of $1.3m on a Commonwealth clothing factory at Coburg clearly indicates not only to this House but to all the people of Australia just how firmly this national Government of Australia is committed to centralisation and is opposed to decentralisation. There was an opportunity here for the Government to strike a blow for decentralisation. I am certain that representations have been made to the Government repeatedly from both sides of the chamber on this question of decentralisation. Petitions have been presented. Members have proposed for discussion, as a matter of urgent public importance, the need to build industries in country areas in order to disperse industry and population for the wellbeing of the people and the development of the nation. Now our national Government proposes to spend Si. 3m in shifting a government enterprise from South Melbourne to a new factory to be built at Coburg.
The honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) said that the Public Works Committee investigated this matter in some detail. He said that this was the ideal site. What other sites were inspected by the Committee? He pointed out that this site was served by a railway line. What other centre in Australia is served by a railway line? Of course, the claim can be made by the honourable members for Cunningham (Mr Connor), Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and Bendigo (Mr Beaton) and by almost every honourable member who represents a country area that a railway line would be available to an industry that was established in his electorate. Services have been mentioned. Water, electricity and other services are available in country centres. Land is available much more cheaply in country centres than it would be in the metropolitan area.
– What about the expert staff?
– The employees would be available. Many people have been obliged to leave country districts because employment is not available for them there. I am not arguing with the members of the Public Works Committee. The Committee was given a job to do by the Government. It was asked to investigate one single project. It was asked to look at the technical aspects, at the architectural aspects and at the services within this area. If the Government were committed to a policy of decentralisation it would have been much more realistic for it to have asked the Committee to look at other areas. The Committee could have gone into the electorate of Mitchell and other electorates, such as the electorate of Calare, which is a vigorous country area. The authorities in the electorate of Macquarie frequently offer free land to industries. Water and other services needed by industry are available in the electorate of Macquarie.
When the Government asked the Committee to consider the relocation of the Coburg factory it should have asked the Committee to consider country areas. 1 do not find fault with the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who speaks for his own electorate. He admits that the new site chosen for the factory means centralisation, that there may have been a better place for it. But the Government is responsible for this decision, not the Committee. I very much regret that when the Government had an opportunity to strike a blow for the decentralisation of industry it did not at least consider the propositions that could have been put on behalf of country centres throughout the whole of Australia. If this had been divided into one or two projects, and if they had been located in country centres, it would have been to the everlasting credit of the Government, lt would have shown that the Government meant business and favoured the decentralisation of industry and population. But on this occasion it has abdicated its responsibility. It has shown that it is committed to centralisation. I condemn it most vigorously and I intend to vote against this motion.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member for Perth claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim, as a member of the Public Works Committee, to have been misrepresented. It is a complete misrepresentation to say that this was not a matter for the Committee to decide. It was well within the rights of the Committee to bring back to the House a recommendation that the factory be located in a country area and so foster decentralisation. The Committee studied this matter in detail and for the reasons given in the report did not recommend that the factory be established in a country area.
– I want to say a few words to follow up the contribution of the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) on the subject of decentralisation. People throughout the countryside at every opportunity press the cause of decentralisation. They try to do some good for their own community. But I have never been quite sure of the motivation. T have never been sure whether they want to fill their towns and so obtain more prestige or whether they want to spoil some perfectly good country area by introducing industries. Some country areas are very well equipped to supply all the services needed by industries that could be located in country areas. In this respect the Latrobe Valley does not bow its head to any other area. It could provide all the facilities that are available in the other areas that have been mentioned, such as Bendigo and Ballarat.
– And more.
– As my friend says, and more. The fact of the matter is that the Government in this instance was not trying to establish a new industry when it asked the Public Works Committee to consider the relocation of the Coburg factory. This point has been completely overlooked by the many people who have made representations on this subject. The representations made to me by people in the electorate of McMillan have been very forceful. I have tried to explain to those people that a factory that had been in existence for a long time needed rejuvenation. It was out of date and had to be brought up to modern standards. Obviously the best approach would have been to rebuild the factory on its present site, but this would have meant disrupting the factory’s production. The committee that advises the Government on problems of this nature suggested that instead of causing disruption to production another site be found. The Government was fortunate to be able to find land as close to the old site as the new site is. I am sure that if land had been available in South Melbourne the Government would have taken it.
The honourable member for Macquarie and all the other advocates of decentralisation for decentralisation’s sake are saying that 500, 600 or 700 people now employed at the factory should be sacked and replaced by the same number of people in some country area, although they were completely unskilled and did not know even how to work a sewing machine.
– We have more machinists than we know what to do with.
– The honourable member for Mitchell says that firms in his electorate get more machinists and tailors than they know what to do with. This is all very well. But are those people expert at the type of work that is required in the production of uniforms? Have the people he mentioned been trained for years in the production of uniforms of the type that are made at the Coburg factory? Of course they have not. The factory employs married women whose husbands would remain in Melbourne because their jobs would keep them there. These women are now very happy doing this extra work. Many of them have been doing it for years. I know some women who have been working at the factory for years. They find it a most satisfying and satisfactory job and they could not follow the factory to the country if it were relocated in a country area. This is a very important factor and it is overlooked by people who want the factory relocated in a country area. People from the Latrobe Valley who have made representations to me insist that if a firm advertised in the valley for 200 women it would immediately receive 700 replies. I know that is so.
The population in the Latrobe Valley is largely made up of men who work for the State Electricity Commission. Several other big industries have been established in the valley. The main employers are the Gas and Fuel Corporation and Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd. These industries mostly employ males, but the wives would be very glad to have some work. Another firm, Ericsson’s, recently established a new electrical industry in the valley. This firm is very pleased to be able to have this supply of women because it is expanding rapidly. It will be using quite a number of these workers from the female employees available in the valley.
This is not the real point that I want to make. I wish to say a few words in explanation of why this matter could not be looked at purely and simply from the point of view of decentralisation. Let me explain the point that I wish to make. The honourable member for Perth has mentioned the fact that representations were made to the Public Works Committee from organisations representing the La Trobe Valley, Bendigo and Ballarat. The submission from Bendigo particularly was most comprehensive and fully documented. It was an interesting piece of work. Somebody had gone to a lot of trouble to prepare the submission. It cost the city of Bendigo quite a lot of money to have it done. I do not doubt that the money that was spent on that submission will prove to be very well spent. All that information will be available to the authorities. It will be most useful for them in attracting other industries to their area.
When this project was first brought to the notice of the public, it was advertised as being a project to build a new clothing factory. Very naturally, as it was in Victoria, representations were made in the early stages by hundred of country towns, including Warnambool and Hamilton, which were all prepared to welcome this new industry with open arms. Naturally, if the reference had been a new proposal it would have been an interesting exercise to assess the value of locating it in these various country towns in Victoria. But it should have been made clear to these people right from the start, so that they would not involve themselves in all this expense and so that they would not come before the Committee and make representations to it, that what they were asking was not a goer. These people should have been told right from the start that what was happening was that the Government
Clothing Factory was being replaced and of necessity was to stay in the area where it was.
– The honourable member for Mallee interjects. The honourable member for Perth asked him to read something about the matter. If he had read something about it before he started his speech on the matter, he would have known something about it. I have tried to tell the honourable member about the reference in short terms. I have tried particularly to illustrate that all of these employees would be sacked if the factory was moved to the areas that have been suggested. The employees would lose their jobs. The honourable member is not going to tell me that married women will leave their homes and live somewhere in the Mallee-
– 1 did not suggest that. 1 said Melton. Does nol the honourable member know Melton from Mallee?
– These women could not even go to the La Trobe Valley which has the greatest claim of all.
– People come from Melbourne-
-Order! The honourable member for Mallee has spoken already.
– The factory already will lose the services of about 200 women simply because it will move from South Melbourne to Coburg, lt will lose the services of these women because they live in South Melbourne and it is too darned awkward for them to gel across to Coburg. The honourable member for Macquarie said something about using trains. Surely the honourable member is not suggesting that these women should gel a train from South Melbourne to Lithgow to work in a factory there? We have a train service to the La Trobe Valley But surely it is nol suggested that we will have daily commuters from Melbourne to La Trobe Valley to do specialised work?
The point I want to stress is simply this: A number of country areas- even Geelong, although it is not a country area - have a very strong claim for such a factory. A number of these people who made representations to us were put to a lot of expense. They ardently are in favour of decentralisation as such. But surely decentralisation can come to these country areas only with an industry starting afresh or with an industry that is opening up a new branch. As an example of this, 1 mentioned before the firm of Ericcsons which has come to Morwell. It is starting a new section. Buildings and staff are available. So, this sort of thing becomes a very worthwhile and practical exercise in decentralisation. But the Commonwealth Clothing Factory never has been an exercise in decentralisation. The proposal before the Committee was for the modernising of an amenity which was necessarily set in the city. Nobody would want to see all of these employees who have given years of valuable service lose their superannuation and their rights to everything else by having the machines taken away from under their noses and put in some other place.
Mr . CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) T3.56] - Mr Deputy Speaker, we have heard the usual explanation tendered by members of city electorates. I name the two members concerned. They are the honourable member for Perth (Mr Chaney) and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan)-
– No. not me.
– He is getting a country allowance.
– He may be gatting a country allowance but he has the outlook of a city member. If the Minister for Works (Mr Kelly) wishes to talk about allowances, I point out that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), who represents a Sydney electorate, receives a country allowance while I. as the honourable member for Newcastle, do not. I am considered to be a metropolitan member. So, this question of a country allowance and all the rest of it amounts to nothing.
– This is not a parliamentary salaries Bill.
– That is correct. The subject that we are discussing at the moment is the question of the location of a new government clothing factory-
– No, not a new one.
– We know it is not a new one. It is going to be a new building, though. The whole of the facilities that are to be provided will be new. It will be moved from South Melbourne to Coburg. The old building is not being transferred and being put up on a new site. That is not the exercise that we are discussing at the moment. A new building is to be erected. If honourable members care to read the report of the Public Works Committee - I have taken the trouble of reading it - it is pretty clear that there will be a new building. In the report reference is made to evidence that at certain times of the year the old building was unsuitable because of climatic conditions and production was delayed because of excessive heat. The general layout, the floors and the rest of the building are bad. It is obvious that there will be a new building. The old structure will not be transferred to a new place. A completely new structure will be built. The workers will be transferred from the factory at South Melbourne to the new building in Coburg. This is to be the position.
This is a new building which will be staffed in the main by two-thirds of the present workers in the factory. It is anticipated that an additional 200 new workers will be drawn from the Coburg district. The rest of the workers will transfer from where they are at the present moment. The situation is very clear in my mind. A new clothing factory is to be established by the Commonwealth Government. For years we have heard members of the Country Party in this place talk about the decentralisation of industry. This debate represents an excellent opportunity for those honourable members to rise in their places and have this matter defeated. They should use their votes to- defeat the decision based on the recommendations of the Public Works Committee to establish this new factory. Let us have the debate adjourned and this matter referred to all political parties to make a decision as to what they want, where they want the new building located and where they think this new industry should be established.
Let us have the debate adjourned. Let us have a Country Party member who is sincere in this matter rise in his place and move that the debate be adjourned to a later hour this day so that honourable members in all political parties can discuss this matter at a party level and come back with a decision to defeat the proposal and to say whether the factory should be located at Coburg, Bendigo, Ballarat, Newcastle, Wollongong or some other place.
– Latrobe Valley?
– I do not care where the factory is put as long as it is taken out of the cities. We have talked about decentralisation for a long time. This is an excellent opportunity for the Government to put the exercise into operation. I know that the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) would be delighted to have the factory established at Bathurst or Lithgow, just as my colleagues the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Griffiths) and the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) would be delighted to have it in their areas.
We would be delighted to have the factory established in the Newcastle district. In July of this year 283 women were laid off in the clothing factories in Newcastle because of insufficient orders. I myself made representations to the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), who has control over this part of the allocation of government orders, and I requested that special allocations be made to the Newcastle district so that these women could continue in their places of employment. About 2 months later I received a reply to the effect that tenders had been called for and contracts had been let lo industries in Adelaide and Melbourne. These women lost their employment; so there is an adequate number of women who could work in a clothing factory in my own electorate, and also in the electorates of Hunter and Shortland which are within the Newcastle district. There is also an adequate number of women in the electorate of Lyne, which extends into Newcastle. I note that women were laid off in the Maitland district, which is part of the electorate of Paterson. But I have not heard the Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) make any comment here today about it. As I have indicated, there are quite a number of women trained in the clothing industry who would be able to carry out this type of work. Here is an opportunity for the Government to do something practical.
We have heard statements by planning authorities in New South Wales, and I have quoted them on a number of occasions. In November 1965 Mr Ferrier, the Chief Planner for the New South Wales Planning Authority, made a statement to the effect that it would be necessary to spend £ 1,000m or $2,000m every 7 years to provide community facilities such as roads, transport, sewerage, water, power and gas to keep Sydney ticking over. The Government now has the opportunity of overcoming this problem of decentralisation. It has been stated on numerous occasions that the population of Sydney and Melbourne will double by the turn of the century. It has been estimated that there will be about 5 million people in Sydney by the year 2000. I think it is a heck of a place in which to live, because of congestion. The same thing can be said about Melbourne. It is time that this Government planned decentralisation on a national scale, and not on the basis of putting a boiler shop or a clothing factory in Wagga, one at Tamworth, one at Bendigo and one at Port Augusta. The Government should decide where seven or eight cities - probably about the size of Canberra - should be established.
These are matters which the Government should have in mind so that it can give a lead on decentralisation. It should accept the responsibility of transferring industries which employ about 600 to 700 people from the capital cities into specially selected centres which have the necessary community facilities to establish a city. What is wrong with the Government allocating funds to the State housing authorities to build homes for the workers? I think it was the honourable member for McMillan and also the honourable member for Perth who said that it would not be possible to find enough people to staff this industry if it was placed outside Sydney or Melbourne, They said: ‘Where would you house the people?’ Surely the Government could plan this in advance. We have seen the planned city of Canberra develop. The honourable member for McMillan will remember what Canberra looked like when he first came here, and he has seen the development which has taken place. One only has to stand on some of the high points around this city to see the development that is taking place. That is the type of development which should be planned in other places away from the capital cities.
The Government could provide these people with the necessary finance to transfer them from Melbourne to selected centres, be they Wagga, Lithgow, Bathurst, Newcastle or somewhere else. I am not prepared to name all the places that come to mind. The Government should provide these people with their out of pocket expenses. It should also make a special allocation so that housing could be provided. It should provide finance for the planning and development of these new centres. If this problem is not dealt with by the Government now there will be increasing congestion in the capital cities year after year. The opportunity is here for honourable members of the Australian Country Party to prove what they have in mind in relation to the decentralisation of industry.
– The decentralisation of industry causes me very great concern. The Commonwealth Government is vitally interested in the balanced development of this nation. Yet, thanks to the Commonwealth Constitution, we find ourselves hamstrung in so many ways that the opportunities for bringing about balanced development, which is in the hands of the Commonwealth, are extremely limited. Unfortunately the Constitution was designed by State representatives. Admittedly, it has done a good job as an instrument for decentralising our population and industry on a State basis. We have been able to build up the weaker States such as South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania at the expense of New South Wales and Victoria.
One of the few ways in which we can help to bring about a balanced development of Australia, despite the limitations of the Constitution, is by spending money on projects such as the one now before us to encourage decentralisation of activity. A few years ago we considered the establishment of an ammunition filling factory at St Marys in New South Wales. At the time I protested at this complex being put so close to the city of Sydney. I was assured by the responsible Minister that in his view St Marys was a decentralised satellite town. As everyone now knows, St Marys is part of the city of Sydney. It will be one of the inner suburbs of the city of Sydney within the next 30 years. This is ridiculous. It is seen to be ridiculous now. It was ridiculous when the filling factory was put at St Marys.
It did not require very much foresight at that time to be able to say what would happen to Sydney in the course of time. The St Marys Ammunition Filling Factory, as it is called, could just as well have been placed on the north coast of New South Wales, or on the south coast for that matter, where there is ample opportunity for sea transport of the heavy goods used in filling processes. But it was not put on the coast. It was not used in the way it should have been used as the nucleus for a large industrial centre. So this clothing factory, in my estimation, could serve just as well as the filling factory as the nucleus of a further city outside the existing cities of Australia. It should not be placed as close to the heart of Melbourne as is proposed; it should be placed where transport facilities are available and where it would be desirable in the national interests to establish an additional city. If we were able to establish additional cities away from existing ones by this means, we would soon find that there would be a reduction in transport costs because one of the greatest cost burdens we have to bear now is due to the poor location of our existing cities.
Traffic, unfortunately, is one sided to and from the large cities and we do not have a sort of infrastructure of metropolises throughout the country. When I say throughout the country’ I do not mean, of course, the arid centre of Australia. I refer to the well watered congenial1 parts of the continent that make up possibly 25% of the total land mass. Somewhere within this 25% we could find a dozen or two dozen admirable sites for the establishment of further cities which would improve and lower the cost of our communications system.
Studies made by the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development - the only department that is operated for this purpose by any State government and one that is most efficient - have shown that where industry has been established in rural areas away from the present large cities there has been a substantial benefit to the manufacturer. The manufacturer has benefited by way of less absenteeism and a better rate of productivity from the work force. Apart from those measurable advantages there has been an indefinable - indefinable in economic terms - but definite and recognisable advantage accruing to all who work in the enterprise in the way of better social conditions and a better and happier existence for the families connected with the enterprise. I might say that people involved in the enterprise enjoy a fuller life.
-Order! I would like to point out to the honourable member for Gwydir that decentralisation may be used as an illustration for reasons either in favour or against the recommendation under consideration, but I do not want the debate to develop into a full1 scale discussion on decentralisation.
– I appreciate your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I am most concerned at this aggravation of the great disease Australia suffers at present of over centralisation, and that of all governments it should be this Government which is taking action deliberately to encourage Melbourne to become larger and as a result increase the cost burden that is carried by everyone. This cost burden is brought about by the inefficiency of these over large and over grown cities.
My only objection to Coburg as the site for the Government Clothing Factory is that it happens to be in the city of Melbourne. Melbourne is already too !:> ,e a metropolis for the provision of ad. uate services at a reasonable cost. If we were to examine the figures of eminent men who have studied this proposition, we would discover that the ideal and most economic size for a city is about 300,000 people. It is certainly not 5 million as is predicted for Melbourne in the next few years. It is utterly foolish, on economic grounds alone, for us to establish this factory at Coburg. If we do not wish to do anything else, we should seek to economise and to spend the taxpayers money as wisely and as fruitfully as possible. If we did this we would spend our money in some country district to establish a new complex around this clothing factory. We have had plenty of experience in establishing townships in Australia. We have done this by government action in various parts of the continent. There is no reason at all why we cannot, at a reasonable cost, establish this clothing factory in a place that at present has no population whatever or a very small population but which can offer reasonable transportation and reasonable communications in other respects.
I deplore the lack of vision demonstrated by the Government on this occasion. It is a repetition of the judgment made over the placement of the St Mary’s filling factory at St Mary’s, which is a suburb of Sydney. This project could quite easily and more sensibly have been placed at a distance of 200 or 300 miles from any metropolis. The Government not only could have served the interests of the taxpayer currently by putting up a more economic proposition but would ultimately have served the interest of Australia by giving a lead to the development of new resources in the country and providing better ways of life for the population. Also, it would have enabled cheaper transportation between our far distant centres of population. I not only deplore this action in respect of the siting of the clothing factory at Coburg but I oppose it. When the project at St Mary’s was before the House, I allowed myself to be persuaded that the decision had been made and that the work had proceeded beyond the point of no return for the planning and placement of this factory. But I am sure that this is not the case in the present instance. The placement of this clothing factory can just as easily be made now in the country as it can be made at Coburg. I urge the Government to reconsider its decision to place the clothing factory at Coburg.
I understand that the factory employs about 600 workers. If we take the families of these workers into account we would have right at the outset 3,000 people involved with the works. If we were to establish the clothing factory somewhere else and let it form the nucleus of a new town, we would have not only the people directly concerned with the works but also the people who would provide the services for the people connected with the works. After a short period we would have a population of over 10,000 people in such a town. When this stage was reached, the town would be a sizeable one. We could then look forward to accretions in the size of the town because associated industries would be developed. Those factories would be allied to the Commonwealth clothing factory. They would provide services directly and would be associated in one form or the other with the industry.
We have this experience in Canberra. We have found here that although we have X number of public servants we have developed several rings of people who are associated in some form or other with the Public Service, which is the main industry in Canberra. This development would take place even more rapidly and more widely if we were to establish the clothing factory in some new location a long way from the big city of Melbourne. I do not think that the factory need be located in Victoria. We should search for the ideal site in New South Wales, Queensland or Victoria or wherever there may be a site which offers the greatest potential for the erection of this factory. This is one of the few ways in which the Commonwealth can encourage decentralisation.
I appreciate your ruling on this matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I will not canvass the subject of decentralisation at large but I do consider that the Government is acting most unwisely in this instance in deliberately ignoring the principles of decentralisation to which it has paid lip service over so many years. I know that the Government has done many orthodox things to encourage decentralisation. Let it now try some of the less orthodox means. Let it now do what it should have done years ago and establish new enterprises in new areas. Let it now establish a complex of factories in some new area away from the present well established industrial centres. If the Government were to do this it would not only render a service to the taxpayers of today but also would act in the best interests of those who will inherit this country, which we hope and confidently believe will be a country of immense riches. Unless we act now to tap the potential wealth of the continent of Australia by dispersing our population and industry we will not be in a position adequately to tap the potential that we hope exists for the benefit of future Australians.
– I think we should all have our feet planted firmly on the ground lest we drift into the realms of fantasy in discussing this matter. I am prepared to support at any time a national plan for decentralisation. In the past few years decentralisation has become a dirty word. The term now used is balanced development. Let me remind the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan) and particularly the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), who have advocated decentralisation, that a textile factory at Maryborough in Victoria was forced to close because of high costs. I recall that Bruck Mills Ltd in the electorate of Indi was in trouble because of competition from the city.
As you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and other honourable members will know, one of the biggest cost factors in any production undertaking is transportation. If we are to decentralise let us tackle the problem properly. This Government and the State governments which it supports should provide subsidies to encourage companies to establish industries in country areas. We should help such industries to compete with city based industries. Those who talk about decentralisation are nol genuine. What would be the attitude of the people employed in the defence factory in the electorate of Macquarie if it were proposed that the factory be moved from the area?
– lt is not a metropolitan area.
– It is an area where people are earning their living. They have built their homes there. They have sunk roots in the area. The honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti) would find that the people who work in the small arms factory at Lithgow would be most disturbed by any suggestion to move the factory to another area. I was horrified recently to hear that the ordnance factory at Bendigo was to close down. Happily there is no truth in the rumour. But suppose the people who work in the ordnance factory at Bendigo were told that the factory was to be moved to Maribyrnong in my electorate. What would their attitude be?
I would like honourable members to reflect on the feelings of the people who work in the clothing factory in South Melbourne. I understand that the factory has been operating since about 1918. It is a dirty, outmoded, old factory. I know something of the investigations into the proposal to move the factory from South Melbourne to Coburg. Even before the proposal came before the Public Works Committee a panel of industrialists was working in conjunction with government departments to decide the best course of action - whether to rebuild on the South Melbourne site or build on another site. The experts decided to build on the Coburg site. The present factory is in the electorate of Melbourne Ports. I know quite a few of the employees of the factory, some of whom live in my electorate. The machinery used in the factory is outmoded. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) said that it would bc a good idea to establish new factories in country areas. 1 would support such a proposition provided we can induce industries to go to the country. But some industries in country areas have particular problems. The honourable member will know that due to the introduction of natural gas there is a likelihood of the Victorian Gas and Fuel Corporation’s undertakings at Yallourn and Morwell having to close down. The introduction of natural gas will have a terrible effect on those undertakings. The people who work in the undertakings have sunk roots in the areas. They have built their homes there and raised families. What will their attitude be if they are forced to move to the metropolitan area?
We must examine the human aspects of the situation. I am sure that if the people who now work in the clothing factory in South Melbourne were told to seek other employment because it was intended to move the factory to Lithgow or Wollongong they would rise in revolt, and I would support them because many of them have been working in the factory for years. I could name one or two employees of the factory who have worked there for perhaps 35 years. Should they be expected to give up all that their long service entitles them to so that the factory can be moved to a country area? I am sure that they would object to any such proposal, and I would support them. The employees of the factory have a right to the entitlements which they have earned by their service.
I have referred to decentralisation and the cost structure involved. I am concerned about one or two other matters associated with the proposal to move the Commonwealth Clothing Factory from South Melbourne to Coburg. It has been suggested that the factory producing canvas goods at
Brunswick is to be closed down. Suggestions have already been made that the people who have tendered for the manufacture of canvas goods this factory produced will now produce these goods in backyard factories. I hope that this sort of thing does not come about.
The site upon which the new clothing factory will be built will be no further than 6i to 7 miles from the present site. There is every facility, including electric trams and electric trains, for those people who live in South Melbourne, Port Melbourne or Footscray in my electorate to get to and from Coburg. The workers employed in this factory live not only in the areas I have mentioned but all over the metropolis of Melbourne. The Coburg site is central for practically anyone in the metropolis of Melbourne to get to. I will support a national plan on decentralisation at all times, but I believe that when we are considering a matter like this we should look at the human interests involved. Six hundred people are employed at this factory. Most of them live in the metropolitan area. They have their roots in Melbourne and would not want to move elsewhere. These people should be given every consideration.
– I do not wish to speak for very long. I was very impressed by what the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) said. The points he raised appear to have been neglected by his colleagues in the Australian Labor Party and others who have spoken on this issue. Admittedly, we all agree with decentralisation. We agree with the points made by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) and others about decentralisation. But we are talking about a clothing factory which is employing people who wish to retain their employment. When members of the Labor Party said that we should vote against this proposal and put the factory at Indooroopilly north, Mooroopna south or somewhere else, I noticed that no feeling whatsoever was shown for the people who are employed in this industry at this time. It is all very well to talk about a principle, about moving or about creating a new industry or branch, as the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) said in a most distinguished speech. It was cheering to me to find the honourable member for Gellibrand saying: ‘For goodness’ sake, we are talking about people who have families, young children and commitments, and who are employed in this industry at this time’.
The factory is to be moved from South Melbourne to Coburg. As the honourable member for Gellibrand pointed out, it will be in an area where these people will be able to continue their employment. The factory is to be moved to Coburg because, if a new factory were built on the existing site, these people would have to be put out of employment and the industry would have to be terminated while building was going on. Therefore, for goodness’ sake, let this Parliament realise that we are not talking about a new industry; we are talking about the continuation of an existing industry and the continuation of the employment of people whose jobs and families depend on the industry. I was glad to hear that at least one member of the Labor Party takes this into consideratiton
– I support the move to Coburg because I think it is a natural development. I am not quite sure when the clothing factory was established in Melbourne, but I know that it was there in 1927 when it made uniforms for me. It was in existence before then. It is in the same position as any private enterprise factory in Melbourne that wants to shift and expand. What are we to say to somebody in private enterprise when he finds he has to shift in order to expand his operations? Do we tell him that he must not build in Melbourne; that he has to go somewhere else? This clothing factory is in contact with the suppliers, and the business has been in operation and running efficiently for many years. Why should the people who have worked there for so many years be uprooted? We are talking about the expansion of an industry that is already in existence. The factory should be built at Coburg. I cannot understand how people have worked for so many years in this factory at South Melbourne. I know it very well. I have always thought that it was a great fire hazard in that area. I am glad to know that the Commonwealth is to do something to modernise its own works.
The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) talked about smoke. In fact, I do not think there is any smoke at all coming from the factory at South Melbourne because the machines run on electricity. A little steam might be produced by the electric pressing machines, but I do not think that would have any effect. A lot of apprentices and seamstresses are employed at this factory. What would happen to them if it were shifted out of Melbourne? Would their apprenticeships be cut short? Would all the employees be put out of work if the factory were moved somewhere else? I think the Government is quite right in deciding to build the new factory at Coburg. I want to see a factory that will be one of the most modern of its type in the world.
Melbourne is the most central place to have such a factory. Orders from the Services for uniforms come in from all parts of Australia. The factory makes naval uniforms, Air Force uniforms, military uniforms, greatcoats and other items of clothing. The people employed there have the necessary skills and should stay there. I am not opposed to the idea of some country areas having small feeder factories to supply Melbourne. Canberra would be the place to build a smaller feeder factory for Melbourne. One of the greatest worries for a public servant on being shifted to Canberra is about what employment will be available for his children. There are very few opportunities in Canberra. A little feeder factory there would be ideal. Coburg is the right place to put the new clothing factory, because we will be shifting an existing industry to a better place for its expansion.
– I am a member of the Public Works Committee, which prepared, studied and finally approved of the report on this project. I want to say at the outset that I feel sure that some of the speakers who have entered into this debate have not taken the trouble to read the report. Many of the comments that have been made in this debate have had a political basis. No-one in this House is more strongly in favour of decentralisation than I am. No-one has been more active in questioning on that subject in this House than I have been. No-one is more in favour than I am of new policies being adopted by the Federal Government to encourage the establishment of industries out the capital cities of Australia.
As a member of the Public Works Committee, it is my duty to study all the relevant facts in a proposal that comes before the Committee, cast my vote and record my opinion as I think it ought to be recorded after all the facts have been taken into consideration. I can be as emotional as anyone else about decentralisation, as members of that Committee well know. When all aspects of a matter are looked at it is the duty of a member of the Federal Parliament to give his judgment apart from political considerations. The proposal that is before the House, and which was referred to the Public Works Committee by the Parliament, is for the erection at Coburg of a clothing factory to replace the existing factories at South Melbourne and Brunswick. I stress the words ‘existing factories’. This is not a new industry. The Committee’s report indicates that in 1964 - 4 years ago - the Government took the decision to relocate the factories at Coburg, and since then there have been many representations to the Government by organisations and individual members of Parliament on the matter. 1 have been to see certain Ministers on occasions - on not more than two occasions - about the location of the new factory. The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr Nixon), who is now the Minister for the Interior, and I went to see Senator Henty about 3 years ago, when he was the Minister for Supply, about this matter. We were most concerned at the Government’s decision to re-establish the factories in the metropolitan area. We had a good discussion with the Minister.
– We also introduced a deputation to him in Melbourne.
– That is so. I recall one comment that the Minister made. He said: T was interested in locating this factory in my own home city of Launceston. In fact, there is an empty factory in Launceston which is a big city with a good pool of skilled labour. However, even though I live in Launceston and naturally would have an interest in seeing a new industry established there I could not, in all honesty, recommend that the clothing factory be located in Launceston.’ The reasons he gave were that highly skilled staff would not be available and that any substantial alteration of the siting of the factory would dislocate our defence production, because many of the items that the factory is producing, although relatively small in size, are vital to Australia’s defence requirements. The honourable member for Gippsland and I worked together on this matter, although we were not agreed as to where the factory should be located. But after considering the position it was my judgment - and I can speak only for myself - that it was not a practical proposition to establish the factory in a country area. Senator Henty also indicated that our Leader, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen), had raised this matter very strongly with him when it first arose.
The Public Works Committee certainly has power in its report to say that it does not agree with the location of a factory, but it cannot just make a flat statement; it must give reasons for recommending that the factory in question should be established at another place - some miles away, many miles away or in another State. The Committee considered representations which were made by country organisations such as chambers of commerce, decentralisation leagues and municipal authorities. An opportunity was given, by advertisement in the Press, for interested bodies to give evidence to the Committee, and several people gave evidence. Much of the report - I repeat that I believe a lot of honourable members who have spoken have not taken the opportunity to read it but have based their arguments more on emotion and on philosophy than on facts - is devoted to whether the factory ought to be located in a country centre. No matter to what political party members of the Public Works Committee belonged, they deeply and conscientiously considered representations that were made by various people who thought that the factory ought not to be relocated in Melbourne. I repeat that the factory is being re-established; it is not a new industry. The building will replace an old dilapidated factory which is in a dangerous state of repair.
One of the prime factors in persuading the Committee to arrive at the decision that the Coburg site was suitable was the staffing requirements of the Commonwealth clothing factories. The honourable member for Gippsland has reminded me that several years ago the Department of Supply made a survey of the skilled workers at the cloth ing factories to ascertain whether they would be prepared to move to a country area. Not every member of the factories was interviewed. Even though the employees were assured of homes and adequate educational facilities in a country location, only 13 out of every 100 workers who were interviewed were prepared to move to the country. This must have been a factor that the Federal Government had to take into consideration when it made its decision. This illustrates the unwillingness of the staff to go to country areas.
– Even to Melton, as I suggested?
– I am not sure where Melton is, but I think the employees were asked whether they would go to a country centre.
– Wangaratta and the Latrobe Valley were mentioned.
– Yes, Wangaratta, Sale, the Latrobe Valley, Benalla and other areas were mentioned. But only 13% of the workers were prepared to move to the country. That is the point. So much for the willingness of people to move to the country. What about the question of the skill of the people who work in the factory, if it is relocated not from South Melbourne to Coburg, but from South Melbourne to Wangaratta or Warrnambool? It is useless to refer to a definite town or city. When 1 talk about decentralisation I do not think in terms of 24 or 30 miles from Melbourne. I think in terms of 50 to 60 miles from Melbourne, Sydney or any other capital city. In my language, that is where decentralisation starts. On the question of the skill of the staff, let me refer to paragraph 38 of the report of the Public Works Committee. In part it says:
The workforce required to retain the flexibility that this range of production -
And this refers to the manufacture of low volume items and specialist requirements demands comprises a high proportion of skilled staff who, whilst available in the metropolitan area, could not be expected to be available immediately elsewhere.
It is important that the staff be available immediately because of the defence functions performed by the factory. The report continues:
An example of this requirement is the group of thirty-three expert embroiderers who require at least 2 years training and their skilled supervisors, each with lengthy experience in this field. A similar situation arises in respect of cutters and tailors whose operations are basic to the factory’s activities.
I give this example to illustrate that the Public Works Committee considered this type of evidence and supported the view that skilled workers were terribly important, that they took a long while to train and that they were not immediately available elsewhere. As I said at the commencement of my speech, the Public Works Committee has a responsibility to the Government, to the Parliament and to the Australian people to consider certain basic fundamental philosophies - and decentralisation is a basic fundamental philosophy of the Australian Country Party, and is one of the main reasons why we are in the business of politics - but it also has a responsibility to consider all the facts of the various proposals that are referred to it and, bearing them in mind, to arrive at a decision. If honourable members who appear to be very interested in this matter thoroughly read the report of the Committee and if they are prepared to look at the facts of the matter, not emotionally or philosophically, but as facts, I am sure they must come down on the side of the Committee and support its recommendations.
– I have listened with great interest and sympathy to some of the comment that has been made here today. Naturally I have a loyalty and a duty to my own constituency. Whilst I have been sympathetic to the various cases which have been presented there are certain facts in relation to my own area which might make many honourable members change their minds. Whilst we have heard fervent advocacy for the development of appropriate industries in the remoter country centres, I represent an area in which factories of the very type that honourable members want to see established in their areas are closing. They are closing not because of any lack of facilities or any lack of work force but for the simple reason that vicious overseas competition in the textile industry is forcing Sydney firms to close their local branch factories and offer their more skilled operatives a chance of continuity of employment in the metropolitan area of Sydney.
One of these factories was the Berle factory which earlier this year employed over 200 women and girls. It was closed not because of any lack of local efficiency or competence but simply because of the marginal difference between costs of operation in Sydney and Wollongong, which is only 50 miles from Sydney - virtually an outer suburb of Sydney. The same thing is happening in the case of the Firestone factory in the northern section of Greater Wollongong where, again, some 200 women are to be displaced.
Recently I had to make some representations for tariff protection on behalf of the Midford clothing factory. The facts there were alarming. This might make some members of the Country Party realise the problems that they buy into in their advocacy for the establishment of industries in remoter country centres. The figures which have been given to me - and they have not been refuted - indicate that the Australian textile industry is as efficient as that in any other part of the world, in terms of machinery, techniques and utilisation of materials. The labour cost is the real problem. I shall quote figures which have been given to me by the pyjama and shirt manufacturers. The average wages paid in Australia are $1.05 per hour. Australian manufactured goods have to compete with imports from Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea where the wage is of the order of 20c to 30c per hour.
Members of the Country Party are fervent advocates of free trade. Even today, before the Government gives further consideration to the recommendations of the Tariff Board, I am receiving approaches from the textile industry. There are at least 1,200 women and girls still employed in the textile industry in my district. The approaches have been to ask: ‘Can we get a quota by way of protection?’ If the Tariff Board goes through with its policy there will be no protection to enable further expansion where an industry needs 50% protection by tariff. That is typical of almost every section of the textile trade. What will be the position of factories located in country towns? Then if we also consider the further cost disadvantages of freight differentials, telephone charges and all the incidental expenses in establishing textile factories in country towns we will see the nature of the problems that are occurring.
It is true that a case can be made for the establishment in country towns of factories involved in canning, food preparation and the scouring and initial processes in the preparation of wool before it is woven. But at this stage it would be plain, stark economic madness to attempt to establish textile factories in remote country towns. The same comment applies with equal force in respect of the electronics industry and most of the capital and consumer goods industries, the home appliance industry in particular. Today competition is vicious. What is now the city of Greater Wollongong was 25 years ago a chain of small and large country towns. They have coalesced into a city. Wollongong has a major steel industry. But even there we find problems, because whilst there has been a tremendous development of heavy industry there has not been a concomitant development of the light industry which is capable of providing intensive employment for the female work force. Today I find the phenomenon of men with young families coming to Wollongong from the country areas seeking to obtain employment in various categories in the steel industry. They bring their children with them. They are glad to have all the advantages of a major city as regards amenities, education, entertainment and relaxation. But within a few years I find these same people again coming to me and asking what I can do to help their adult or adolescent daughters to obtain employment. They tell me that they will have to move on to larger centres because they will not allow their daughters to go up to Sydney without the usual parental protection and supervision.
When we are considering the redevelopment of major cities let us be quite sensible and factual about the situation. The Cumberland County Council some 10 years ago conducted a survey and issued a publication titled “The Economics of Urban Expansion’. It showed that for the average suburban allotment of land the provision of ordinary public utilities, such as electricity, gas, water and sewerage, transport, roads, kerbs and gutters, cost $3,200. We must remember that if we establish an industry, as was suggested by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), at a place 30 miles from one of our existing major cities, we are merely intensifying the urban sprawl. Even in my own city at the present time I see the occurrence of a phenomenon which has been evident in the major cities for a very long time. The centre of Wollongong is gradually dying out as an exclusively residential area. This is one of the tragedies of the present lack of national city planning and redevelopment. People are walking away from established public utilities. This has become quite noticeable in the heart of the city of Sydney. In the eastern suburbs of Sydney during the last 15 years five State electorates have disappeared. People have literally walked away and have been allowed to move to the outer suburbs and so create fresh problems. They want what they consider are the benefits of decent sized allotments.
Order! Let me point out to the honourable member what I pointed out earlier to the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Ian Allan). While a member may use an illustration to explain why he is either supporting or opposing the recommendation before the House, I do not want this to develop into a debate concentrated on the subject of decentralisation. What were originally considered illustrations only should not become the basis of a speech.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was addressing my remarks to the economics of the development of industry and the location of industries, and I believe that this is highly relevant to the matter under discussion. Today as never before we must consider what we have and how we can make the best use of it. We are not in fact making the best use even of our major cities. We are not making the best use of our major provincial cities, and we are certainly not making the best use of some of our major country towns.
On the question of decentralisation, as I see it - and I do not merely pay lip service to it - if and when the slack in the replanning of the inner parts of our major cities is taken up, and if and when decentralisation is achieved, it will be by the development of completely new cities fully planned.
They will be established after a careful economic survey. Uneconomic and uncontrolled competition for odd industries in odd country towns does not serve the best interests of decentralisation.
– I doubt that I would have joined in this debate, knowing how valuable is the time of the House at this stage, except for the fact that I have had a long association with this project for a new government clothing factory in Melbourne. There is nothing we need more in this country than a new government clothing factory. The history of the present one goes back for a long time. It was virtually condemned many years ago. There has been a long campaign to replace it, and part of the time that has been lost in the course of that campaign has been lost in arguments on precisely the matters which have dominated the debate in the Parliament this afternoon.
Let me begin by saying something that has been said before: If we were planning a new industry we would have an entirely different proposition on our hands. But the fact is that this factory has been operating in Melbourne since, I think, 1913. It has a large corps of highly skilled and highly experienced people to carry out the important and unusual sort of textile work in which it is engaged.
One of the objectives of the Government, referred to in the Committee’s report, was to hive off as much as possible of the Government’s clothing work to private enterprise. It should be said at this point that private enterprise has tended to be fully occupied, and there have been times when it has been tremendously difficult to get private enterprise to tender for government contracts. The one reason for this is that the quality of the work required of the Government Clothing Factory in producing uniforms, flags, caps, canvas ware, sleeping equipment, tentage and so on is of an extremely high order, and when adequate work is available from the private sector of the community, private enterprise does not like to accept business involving the specifications laid down by the military authorities. I mention this merely to establish the fact that a high level of skill1 and experience is required of the staff of the Government Clothing Factory.
I do not mind saying that we could build a clothing factory anywhere in the country provided we were prepared to accept the inconvenience, the inefficiency, the high cost and the other problems associated with the establishment of an enterprise in a country area. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) directed attention to the fact - and quite rightly - that during the early stages of our concern about a new clothing factory it was our colleague in another place, Senator Henty, then Minister for Customs and Excise - and I am sure he would not mind my referring to him in this context - representing what he thought were the best interests of his State, who urged that the factory should be built in Launceston. So powerful were his representations that the Department of Supply, which I was then administering, made a factual survey of the labour position in Launceston. While it had been thought that there would be adequate labour to staff the factory it became perfectly clear that no labour of any consequence was available. If we had wanted to put the factory in Launceston we would have had to recruit workers from the mainland and persuade them to go to Tasmania, and we would probably have had to train them. Again as the honourable member for Indi has said, a survey of employees at the Commonwealth Clothing Factory indicated that only a very small proportion of them would be prepared to transfer to a country area.
The next probability, if we put the factory in a country area, is that we would run into a housing problem. This assumes that we would be able to get enough staff. The Government would be called upon to make great subventions for the housing of employees of the factory. I have merely directed attention to some of the problems involved. I represent a country area and nothing would suit me more than to see some decentralised industries coming into my electorate. I have worked long and hard to have such industries establish themselves in my area, and I am still doing so. But tremendous difficulties are involved. One comes up against the economics of decentralisation of major industries. The Cabinet seriously considered this subject and was unable to support the proposition that we should pursue decentralisation of this factory in a country centre.
We have in the Department of Supply a Clothing Industry Advisory Council made up of some of the leaders and certainly some of the most experienced people in Australia’s clothing industry. Until recent times it was led by a man who was President of the Australian Clothing Manufacturers Association. He is a man who is personally involved in the clothing industry and who himself operates decentralised factories. He is squarely behind the proposal that this factory be built in Coburg. The Public Works Committee has conducted an investigation and 1 think the honourable member for Indi has given a fair and factual summary of its findings. It said that in considering the possibility of decentralisation it always returned to the point that the basic and fundamental aim of the new factory is to rehouse the activities of the South Melbourne factory.
It has been suggested that we might be able to split off some section of the manufacturing operations from this factory and decentralise that section. For many long years the Commonwealth Clothing Factory has been working under the handicap of having two sections in two different locations, one for clothing and one for canvas ware. One of our aims in this situation surely must be to amalgamate these factories, to get rid of this dichotomy of management. As my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), will tell the House, one of the greatest problems in almost every government department today is that of the division of administration over two. three, five and sometimes even more locations. We cannot get efficiency in that way. Therefore we must keep the units of the factory together. We must locate them not only where labour is available and access is easy but where we can retain the hard core of skilled labour that is essential to the work of this factory.
The Committee delivered its report as a Committee. Honourable members representing country electorates are members of the Committee and I know from reading the evidence that close attention was given to the question of decentralisation. The Committee said:
As a Committee, we are sympathetic to the aims of country centres in seeking the decentralisation of industry, but despite the co-operation that might be expected from local or State authorities we are of the firm opinion that it would not be practical to build this particular factory outside the Melbourne metropolitan area.
In view of the opinion of the Department of Supply, which has operated the factory for many years, on the advice of the Clothing Industry Advisory Council, the members of which give of their service freely and therefore give advice that is not coloured by any consideration that affects their own interests, on the findings of the members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, who examined the proposal in detail and who have taken evidence and representations on it, on my own experience of having surveyed on two or three occasions areas where a factory of this kind might be located and always having come up with the answer that there would be labour and other problems, it would in my opinion be the greatest mistake in the world if the House did not accept this fine report of the Public Works Committee and also did not accept that the factory ought to be established at Coburg, as is generally recommended.
– I am extremely disappointed to see that the Public Works Committee has not been able to recommend that this factory be established outside the metropolitan area. When this matter was referred to the Committee I intimated that I understood the problems of the employees of the factory and I say at this stage that I still believe they had to be considered. If this is the prime reason for leaving the factory in the metropolitan area, it is a good and sufficient reason. If this is not the prime reason, more consideration should have been given to the possibility of moving the factory outside the metropolitan area. Whenever a suggestion is made that industry be decentralised, we find that people are willing to give general support but are never willing to support a specific proposal. It is all very well to say that this clothing factory cannot be located outside the Melbourne metropolitan area because of certain factors. I will accept that that is so.
On every occasion that the suggestion is made that industry be decentralised, the same reasons or a variation of them are used to oppose the suggestion. But the same arguments never seem to apply when an industry is being shifted from a country area to a metropolitan area. This happens regularly, but when it happens the reasoning obviously is that the employees can be transferred to the metropolitan area. Some 2,000 people in my electorate travel daily to their employment in Melbourne. We find continually that, of the people receiving unemployment benefit in Victoria, 25% are in the Geelong district, which covers a far wider area than my electorate. Half of these people are women, and they would be very grateful if they were able to get a job of any kind anywhere. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) also has the problem of women who are unable to find employment. In this instance, the Public Works Committee was presented with a fait accompli. I read the reports of the departments that gave evidence. Nowhere in those reports is there any suggestion that the Committee had any flexibility.
– It sounds like Parliament House.
– In this instance wiser views prevailed. The Public Works Committee would have had to take very radical steps if it had wanted to make a recommendation other than this one. I do not think that the decision to leave the factory in the metropolitan area is in the long term interests of this country. It is interesting to know that more people were living outside the Melbourne-Geelong complex in 1933 than in 1966. At the present rate of development, no-one will be living outside the capital cities in the year 2500 unless far more radical and more thoughtful action is taken to encourage people to live in country areas. We cannot think in terms of building new towns, but when the opportunity arises serious consideration should be given to establishing government enterprises and organisations in non-metropolitan areas. If this were done, the acceptance of this report by every honourable member would be only a formality. I do not think that any honourable member would like to see people lose their jobs. But the fact is that on every occasion that the suggestion is made that a factory, whether a new factory or an established factory, be built in a country area, the same reasons are given for rejecting it. If the Government wants to build factories in country areas, it can do so. Unfortunately, no-one really wants to act on the subject of decentralisation; people only want to talk about it.
– I thank the Minister for the Navy (Mr Kelly) for allowing this debate to continue for so long. It has been a very interesting and constructive debate on a vital subject. The debate has dealt largely with decentralisation and what we should do with industries that must be rebuilt or new industries that are being established. Where should we put them? I want to make one or two observations on this subject. I too am sorry that the Public Works Committee did not recommend that this factory should go to a country district 30 or 40 miles or more from Melbourne.
– What is wrong with Launceston?
– I am not being parochial. The case against Launceston was put a little while ago. Launceston could not cater for a factory of this kind. We already have 2,000 people working in one textile factory in Launceston. It is not a matter of skilled labour not being available. We have the best labour that can be found anywhere in Australia, but these people are already working in the enormous mills of Patons and Baldwins (Aust.) Ltd in Launceston. Patons and Baldwins have the largest number of workers in any one industry in Tasmania. It is not a lack of skills; we simply do not have enough skilled workers available for a factory of this kind. Decentralisation has been a theoretical exercise for years. 1 prophesy that it will be a theoretical exercise for the next 50 or 100 years. Unless a Labor government with the same attitude as the Labor governments of the war years had is put into office, we will get only talk and not decentralisation.
– Labor was represented on this Committee.
– That is all right. The Committee decided against decentralisation. I cannot help that, but I do say that if I had been a member of the Committee I would certainly have supported a proposition that this factory be established in a country area. We have heard the criticism that State governments are not encouraging private enterprise to establish new factories in country districts. But private enterprise is a law unto itself. It can go where it wants to go. It can build a factory where it wants to build. No State government can force private enterprise to bring an industry within it boundaries. The industry concerned can say that it will go to another State. Private enterprise is a complete law unto itself. The only type of industry which can be placed anywhere by deliberate choice is government enterprise. This applies both to State government enterprise and to Federal government enterprise. That is the point I want to make.
What do we find with regard to government enterprise. Believe me, there are not very many government enterprises left. Since this Government came to office, government enterprise gradually has been eroded almost out of existence. The Government Clothing Factory is one of the few government enterprises that are left. Only factories controlled by Commonwealth or State governments can be placed in a specific area. Here is an enormous opportunity for the Commonwealth to do something practical and to place a Commonwealth industry in a region outside the metropolitan area. Some honourable members have said that employees cannot be found in country towns for these industries. During the war years, the Curtin and Chifley Governments established dozens of factories in country towns throughout Australia. We had a greater shortage of manpower then than we have today. Nearly all our young men were in the armed forces. Women were the only ones actually available to work. Yet, these factories were established in country towns in spite of the shortage of workers. This limitation is not to be found in the same proportions today. If it could be done then, it can be done now. think we are just begging the question. Even Geelong would be a better proposition than Melbourne for this factory. Honourable members should look at the rate at which our cities are growing. They are growing at a frightening pace. Here is a chance to do something to move workers outside a metropolitan area. But we are proposing to keep them there. The Minister did not tell us today that the workers from South Melbourne will need to travel right across the city of Melbourne to get to Coburg. They will be required to travel many, many miles further to work. They will have to use the present transport system in Melbourne to get from one side of the city to the other. The Minister has not mentioned that problem. He has not mentioned the fact that some employees may even have to change their places of living and move to this new area to be close to their work.
No, it is too bad. The Government cannot build a new factory outside Melbourne and create a new town around it. This is impossible, because the Government tells us people would have to go out to live there. It would be a tragedy it seems to live in these fresh, healthy country areas rather than in cramped metropolitan areas. What about the action of this Government in bringing personnel from Melbourne to live in this city of Canberra. What about the decentralisation, as it might be termed, of the Department of Defence and other departments which have been transferred from Melbourne to Canberra. The Government has brought thousands of workers here. Hundreds of homes have been built in Canberra. If that could be done for a group of public servants it could surely be done for a group of textile workers, provided that the Government has the will to do it. But it just has not the will to do this. That is why there will be no change in the proposed location of the Commonwealth Clothing Factory.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
CurtomsTariffProposals(No. 19) (1968).
Mr Deputy Speaker, the Customs Tariff Proposals which I have just tabled relate to proposed amendments of the Customs Tariff 1966-1968. The amendments, which will operate from tomorrow morning, incorporate changes consequent on the adoption by the Government of five reports by the Tariff Board on:
Penicillins and streptomycin,
Medical or surgical dressings, and
Concerning mushrooms, the Board found that Australian commercial mushroom growing is almost completely dependent upon the canning industry which absorbs an estimated 70% of total output. The most important local product is sliced mushrooms in butter sauce which accounts for over 99% of total canned mushroom output. The Board considered the production of mushrooms a worthwhile industry provided its protection needs were not excessive. It commented that mushrooms, by being continually available, provide a stable element in the canning industry.
On canned mushrooms, the Board has recommended increased duties of 80c per gallon (general) and 60c per gallon (preferential). These duties are equivalent to approximately 35% ad valorem against, imports from the main sources of competition, mainland China and Taiwan. For other varieties of mushrooms, the Board considered that an ad valorem duty of similar incidence should apply with by-law admission for frozen and dried mushrooms pending commencement of commercial local production. The Government has not accepted the Board’s suggested by-law approach but has adopted the substance of the Board’s proposal. This means that substantive provision has been made in the Tariff for frozen and dried mushrooms at rates of duty equivalent to the by-law rates. However, should imports give rise to reconsideration of protective needs, the Government will review the duties without requiring a further Tariff Board inquiry.
The second report included in Proposals No. 19 concerns chrome chemicals. The present duties on most chrome chemicals are 25% ad valorem (general) and 15% (preferential). These were recommended by the Tariff Board in its 1966 report on industrial chemicals and synthetic resins. In addition, temporary duties were imposed in August 1967, following a recommendation by the Special Advisory Authority. In the present report, the Board commented on the serious deterioration in the local industry’s competitive position. It considered this to be caused by a rise in the volume of imports, an increase in production costs and a reduction in throughput resulting from loss of export markets.
The Board found that the local industry’s current disabilities, expressed in terms of ad valorem duties, range from about 75% on sodium dichromate down to about 40% on chromium oxide. It considered that duties at these levels would represent protection of a very high order for an industry based on imported raw materials. In view of the high duties needed to protect the Australian chrome chemicals industry, the effect of such duties on costs of users, the industry’s dependence on imported raw materials and its failure to meet the full requirements of using industries, the Board recommended against continued assistance to the industry. The Government has adopted this recommendation and the duties are being reduced to non-protective rates at 7i% (general) and free (preferential).
The next report I would like to mention relates to penicillins and streptomycin. Under the terms of reference the Board, in this report, was obliged to have due regard to the considerable importance attached by the Government to the continued production of antibiotics. Broadly speaking, the Board has recommended a reduction in the rates of duty on bulk penicillins, a 10% ad valorem increase in the duty on streptomycin and a reduction in the duties on medicaments.
The fourth report covered by the Proposals concerns medical and surgical dressings. This report covers a range of products including cotton wool, elastic and non-elastic adhesive bandages, plasters and dressings, non-adhesive bandages such as crepe and gauze and many types of gauze swabs. Overall the Board considers that the industry is worthy of continued assistance, but it believes that the actual protective needs of the industry are not as high as would be suggested by the apparent levels of disability. The Board has recommended that the existing ad valorem duties on waddings be reduced to 30% (general) and 20% (preferential). With crepe bandages, the Board found that further assistance was warranted and increased duties at the same level as that recommended for waddings are being implemented. Because the sole manufacturer of chiropodial and orthopaedic products is able to supply only a very small part of the local market for these goods the Board considers that there should be no change in the present non-protective duties. In respect of the other goods under reference, the Board found that the local industry is able to compete satisfactorily against imports and has recommended retention of the existing non-protective duties.
The fifth report in Proposals No. 19 relates to static transformers of the high voltage type used by electricity supply authorities. When the Tariff Board last reviewed the local industry producing this type of transformer in 1965, it concluded that local production was economic and efficient and ad valorem duties of 37½% (general) and 25% (preferential) were imposed. In the present report the Board has again stated that local production is efficient and that the industry continues to be worthy of assistance. However, the Board’s latest inquiry showed that the local industry now requires a higher level of protection and the Board has recommended a moderate increase in duties to bring the ad valorem rates to 40% (general and 30% (preferential). The Board received no evidence in respect of X-ray transformers which were also under reference and has therefore recommended no change in the present non-protective duties for this type.
Proposals No. 19 also incorporates other changes of an administrative nature only. A summary of all the changes made by the Proposals is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Reports on Items
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I present the reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Medical and surgical dressings.
Penicillins and streptomycin. Static transformers.
I also present two reports by the Tariff Board which do not call for any legislative action:
Straight tubular fluorescent lamps (Dumping and Subsidies).
Single engined aeroplanes.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for your ruling on a matter of procedure. Will an opportunity be afforded to honourable members to debate the subject matter of these reports, particularly the one that deals with single engined aircraft?
– The reports cannot be debated on the motion that they be printed.
– In what circumstances may they be debated?
– It is not the task of the Chair to decide when a subject matter may be debated before the House and in what circumstances.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for leave to make a statement on the Tariff Board’s report on single engined aeroplanes.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In its report on single engined aeroplanes, the Tariff Board recommended against assistance to local produc tion. It calculated that a bounty of $8,000 to $9,000 per aeroplane would be needed for profitable manufacture. This level of assistance would be equivalent to a duty in excess of 50% ad valorem on comparable imports. At the Board’s inquiry, the local industry had requested assistance only on agricultural aeroplanes of the type used for aerial spreading and spraying. In recommending against assistance, the Board said that when the high protective requirement is considered, in conjunction with the small share of the market the local aircraft can expect to supply, it was forced to conclude that, despite the undoubted quality of the aeroplane ; and the efficiency and ingenuity demonstrated in its manufacture, the cost of assisting local production would be considerably more than could be justified by its potential contribution to the economy.
Honourable members will recall that an earlier Tariff Board report which was tabled in this House in February 1967 also recommended against assisting local production of light aircraft. The earlier report, however, was based largely on various estimates and projections of future costs and sales levels. In order to ensure (hat the local company’s case for assistance was thoroughly examined the matter was referred again to the Tariff Board in May 1967.
The present report, therefore is based on actual performance of production and sales. It contains clear and unequivocal statements by the Board that local production would not have reasonable prospects of success and a firm recommendation that assistance be not accorded. After a most careful examination of the report, the Government concluded that it should accept the Tariff Board”s recommendation. In both the present and earlier reports, the Board commented that certain types of light aircraft were no longer available from Britain and suggested that consideration might be given to removal of the General rate of duty of 7% ad valorem. Australia, however, has an obligation under the United KingdomAustralia Trade Agreement to consult Britain before making a tariff change of this nature. Australia is consulting Britain on this matter. I present the following paper: Tariff Board Report - Single Engined Aircraft - Ministerial Statement, 6 November 1968.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take not of the paper.
– I would like to have a much closer look at this Tariff Board report. On behalf of the Opposition and on my own behalf I want at this stage to express very great disappointment that the Tariff Board has reported in this way. We, together with members of the Government parties, have had an opportunity to look at the manufacture of this type of aeroplane in Australia in recent times, and from the evidence we have been able to obtain we are satisfied that this was a very promising development. We are satisfied that it is a remarkably efficient aeroplane, as the Tariff Board itself recognises in its report, and that it had great prospects provided the number of aircraft manufactured could rise to a reasonable level. I do not think that, the Tariff Board or anyone else, can be satisfied at this stage what that level would be in the foreseeable future. I do not intend to say much more at this stage except again to express great disappointment that the Tariff Board has reported in this way. It seems to me that in a number of fields in the past the Tariff Board has rightly accepted some considerable risk in Australian production, but at this stage the Tariff Board is being very conservative in its recommendations.
– Worse than that.
– Maybe it is worse than that, as the honourable member says. There are a number of very significant industries that are not in a position to plan for their future. I refer particularly to the motor car industry, where the situation is very serious, as a result of the policy of the Government and the action of the Tariff Board.
In a number of cases we seem to be getting an indication from the Tariff Board that it will not go much above a tariff of 40% or 50%, but there are industries, including the one in question, that would require a tariff of 50%, even though they are efficient in the sense that the best skills and the best machinery are here and in the sense that the product is as good as any competitive product in any other part of the world. All that those industries need is a larger market to achieve the economies that go with efficiency. lt seems to me that Australia must have an aircraft industry. We have to start somewhere at some time with some risk. When we consider the risk that the Government is prepared to take in buying for $300m aircraft which have not yet flown satisfactorily, we should be prepared to take a risk with Australian production. I shall not say any more at this stage because I think that this matter will be debated at greater length later on. It may not be necessary for me to return to the subject.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
– What assurance can honourable members have that this matter will come back to the House for debate?
– There are two points involved here. Firstly, the question before the chair at the moment is that the House take note of the paper, which was a statement made by the Minister for the Interior. Secondly, the debate on this statement has now been adjourned. The honourable gentleman, at an earlier point of time, asked the Deputy Speaker for a ruling as to whether he would get an opportunity to speak in relation to the issue. As I understand the situation, I am quite sure it is correct to say that there will need to be two pieces of legislation introduced into this House to give effect to the recommendations of the Tariff Board. The first piece of legislation will be one that authorises the collection of duties. The second piece of legislation will be one that confirms the Tariff Board’s proposals. The first will need to come into the House this session and the second will probably come in next year. Therefore, so far as the legislation is concerned, there will be an opportunity for debate.
In regard to the statement, I suggest to the honourable member that as the debate is now adjourned, there will be an opportunity for him to participate in a debate on the statement at a later point of time. But I am bound to say that as a debate is not programmed in the day’s proceedings, I would not be expecting a discussion on the statement to run for any length of time. I therefore find from the explanation I have just given that there is really no need for any undertaking to be given in relation to the matter coming on for debate because there needs to be legislation.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938- 1966 to vary the expression of the rate of charge payable so that the charge imposed under this Act is expressed in a form which can be satisfactorily related to the diverse kinds of fresh fruit containers currently in export use. Funds raised by the charge are employed to finance the operations of the Australian Apple and Pear Board, including those related to promotion, research and administration.
At present the Act provides for a maximum rate of charge unless a lower operative rate is set by regulation under the Act. The Act imposes the maximum charge, 5c, for each case, 2 half cases or 3 trays of apples and pears exported. A lower rate, 2.5c is operating under the regulations. When the Act was introduced the containers referred to in the Act were virtually the only export containers in use. There have been rapid developments in fresh fruit containers in recent years and there is now a wide range of containers in commercial or experimental use, an increasing number of which cannot be related in a completely satisfactory way for the purpose of assessment of the charge to the expression of the rate appearing in the Act.
The new form of expression of the maximum rate, i.e. not to exceed 5c per reputed bushel or part thereof, would provide for a much greater degree of flexibility in the fixing of the amounts payable under the regulations, and will enable these rates to be expressed, within the maximum provided by the Act, in a form applicable to a wide variety of containers. No change in the level of charge is involved in the amendment and any incidental effect on the income of the Board will be minor only. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bm is to amend the. States Grants Act 1965-1967 to authorise the payment of $15,500,000 to Western Australia in each of the years 1968-69 and 1969-70. These payments, which will be in addition to the financial assistance grants determined under the formula contained in the States Grants Act, will replace the special grants which Western Australia has been receiving on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
At the Premiers Conference held in June last the Premier of Western Australia indicated that the growth and development of Western Australia’s economy had now reached the point where he felt it would be appropriate for Western Australia to withdraw from the system of special grants. The terms on which Western Australia might become a non-claimant State were discussed and agreed upon at that conference. This Bill is therefore designed to implement the decisions reached at that conference.
It was agreed that Western Australia should cease to be a claimant State as from the end of June 1968 and that, in each of the next 2 years- 1968-69 and 1969-70- Western Australia should receive, by way of an addition to its financial assistance grants, an amount equivalent to the special grant which it received in 1967-68, namely $15,500,000. As the financial assistance grants formula is not due for review until 1970, it was agreed that these additional payments will not be incorporated in the formula and will not be subject to escalation over the next 2 years. It was decided, however, that for purposes of the review of the financial assistance grants arrangements, the sum of $15,500,000 paid in 1969-70 would be regarded as forming part ofthe State’s financial assistance grant for that year. I might add that the Premiers ofall the other States concurred in these proposed arrangements. it was also agreed with Western Australia that it would be appropriate if that State were to receive the final adjustment which the Grants Commission would be recommending in due course in respect of Western Australia’s special grant for 1966-67. Payment of this final adjustment is provided for under the States Grants (Special Assistance) Bill 1968 and is referred to in my speech on that Bill.
As honourable members are aware, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has endeavoured over the years to helpthe claimant Slates to overcome their special difficulties and has recommended special grants which are designed to enable the claimant Slates to provide services comparable with those in the standard States provided they make similar efforts in raising their own revenues and in controlling their expenditures. Under the special grants system first South Australia and now Western Australia have progressed to the stage where they have felt able to move to the position of being non-claimant States. The Government commends the Grants Commission for the valuable work it has done over the years in developing the principles and methods which have contributed so much to the progress of the less wealthy States and of the Federation as a whole. I feel sure too that honourable members would wish to join me in congratulating Western Australia on achieving its new position as a non-claimant State and in wishing the State every success in the future. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr Freeth, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment in 1968-69 of a special grant of$16,810,000 to Tasmania and of a final adjusting payment of$582,000 to Western Australia in respect of its special grant for 1966-67. The payment ofthese amounts has been recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its thirty-fifth report, which has already been tabled.
In my speech introducingthe States Grants Bill 1968 I have outlined the arrangements for the withdrawal of Western Australia from claimancy which include the payment of$15,500,000 to the State in 1968-69 and 1969-70 in lieu of special grants. The arrangements also provide for the State to receive in 1968-69 the final adjusting payment to its special grant for 1966-67 and this Bill authorises that payment. It was also part of the understanding reached with Western Australia that there would be no adjustment to the advance payment of $15,500,000 paid in1967-68. In the normal course of events such an adjustment would have been made in J 969-70 and if the Commission adhered to normal procedures the adjustment would have been a negative amount of $244,000.
I turn now to discuss the special grant that has been recommended for payment to Tasmania in 1968-69. The amount of $16,810,000 is made up of a negative adjustment of $1,190,000 to the grant for 1966-67 and an advance payment of $18m for 1968-69. With the concurrence of the House I incorporate in Hansard the following table which compares these amounts with those paid in 1966-67 and 1967-68:
The negative adjustment in respect of 1966-67 means that the advance payment of $19,500,000 made in that year has proved, after detailed examination and calculation by the Commission, to be an over-estimate of the State’s needs for that year. Mainly because of this the Commission has recommended as an advance payment for 1968-69 an amount which is considerably less than the corresponding advance grants paid in 1966-67 and in 1967-68. The advance grant for 1968-69, which is based on a tentative estimate of the State’s needs for the year, will of course be subject to adjustment in 1970-71. In accordance with usual practice the Bill also authorises the payment of advances to Tasmania in the early months of 1969-70 pending the receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and the enactment of new legislation.
The recommendations of the Grants Commission are based on a comparison between the budgetary positions of the claimant States and of the States taken by the Commission as ‘standard’. From 1959- 60 the Commission has taken New South Wales and Victoria as the standard States for this purpose. However, in its 1967 report the Commission announced its intention of adopting a standard derived from the experience of the then four nonclaimant States. In its latest report the Commission has re-affirmed its intention to use a standard which takes into account the experience of all the non-claimant States. However, the Commission has also announced that contrary to its earlier decision to adopt the new standard as from 1968-69 it does not propose to introduce this change until 1970-71.
The Commission has given two main reasons for this postponement. First, as the effect of the change on the size of the grants would be not insignificant, this postponement would give Tasmania more time to adjust its budget policies and to spread the burden of such an adjustment over a period of years. Secondly, as the financial assistance grants arrangements are due to be reviewed in 1970, the Commission points out in paragraph 95 of its report that ‘such a review could lead to changes in the arrangements which would have a bearing on the standard to be used by the Commission’. The Government believes that these views are fair and reasonable.
No other major changes in principle or method are announced in the Commission’s report for this year. The recommendations of the Grants Commission have been adopted by Parliament in each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should again be accepted on this occasion. Accordingly I commend the Bill to honourable members-
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 5 November (vide page 2457), on motion by Dr Forbes:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
- Mr Speaker, at long last we return to the debate on this Bill. I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House, but there are two points on national health that I wish to mention. Firstly, may I commend the Government for making an effort to relieve the financial burden on people who are suffering from long term illnesses and on patients in nursing homes, and to help handicapped children who reside in handicapped persons homes. This is an important advance. It is also pleasing to see that the pensioners, for whom I have a lot of time, as honourable members realise, are not forgotten. The initial waiting period of 2 months after joining a benefit organisation before becoming eligible for benefits has been waived for those who lose their entitlement to participate in the pensioner medical services and for special account contributors who transfer to higher tables. This is a step in the right direction as far as the older people are concerned.
After looking at the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), reading the Bill and analysing the whole situation, I think this Bill is an excellent example of the Government’s intention to extend the policy of providing welfare services within the community aimed at helping those people who are sick, needy and frail, especially the older people in these categories. I wonder whether the Minister and his advisers realise the benefit and the relief that the proposals in this Bill will give to those people who are doing a mighty job in caring for subnormal children. I hope that they do. I do not know whether honourable members realise the number of subnormal children that we have throughout Australia. If they do not, I can assure them that such children number many, many thousands. Subnormality is not a disease that can be cured by injections as other diseases can be. As far as I know, and as far as the medical profession can tell me, it is not hereditary; it could happen in any family. Naturally enough, as I have seen myself, a tremendous burden is imposed on parents whose other children are normal and healthy.
I touch on this matter because I am very closely associated with it. With a little patience and understanding, we can give these subnormal children an interest in life. They can be trained for productive employment. I have watched this happen. I have seen children taken into a home for subnormals at about 6 years of age. At the age of 8 years they are laught certain skills. I have watched diem progress from there until, at the age of 12 years, they can be trained for productive employment. My greatest respect and admiration goes to the people who are engaged in this work. I become disturbed over the fact that too often we see homes for handicapped children depending on charity to maintain their good work. Charitable organisations have to resort to Sunday morning drives or apply to the State Attorneys-General for permission to run raffles and all sorts of things to maintain themselves. Voluntary assistance is given by people in the community who recognise this problem and who have compassion and are willing to spend their time and energy in helping these people who staff and control these homes. One of the tragedies of our community at the moment is that not enough people are interested in the fact that this unfortunate occurrence could happen to anyone’s family. These homes have to depend on charities to keep going.
I have had a particularly close association, as the Minister probably realises, with the Townsville branch of the Queensland Subnormal Children’s Welfare Association. I have watched this organisation over the years doing a marvellous job in spite of many grave financial problems. The residential section of its centre is completely full and has been for years. Its reputation is so excellent that many children are waiting for admission to this home in north Queensland to receive the benefits that the staff can give them.
As a member of a service club, I have been active in this field. The service organisations in Townsville got together and built for this home a workshop which can train thirty people. It is full to capacity at the moment and sixty-three subnormal! children are waiting for admission to it to be trained in productive skills and to be taught to take their place in the community. This is important. We now have to ask the service clubs again to start a charitable drive to enable us to extend the workshop so that we can train the sixty-three children already waiting to be admitted. Whilst State aid is not generous and is not sufficient, at lease it is something. Even with this aid, the dedicated people who run these homes that cater for subnormal children throughout the whole of north Queensland are really battling to keep going. I say to the Minister and his advisers that this additional Commonwealth aid will be a godsend to these people. When this legislation is passed and becomes valid, the people concerned, especially those unfortunate children, will be better off.
While I was still in the Army I had a hand in an experiment that was run by a subnormal children’s centre. Under the care of this centre was a youth who was 14 years of age when I first got to know him. Through the affection, the teaching and guidance offered to him by the staff, he was able to develop an interest in life, which he had been unable to do before. They persuaded him to take an interest in things. They taught him various skills. They taught him how to use a band saw. I saw the toys that this boy used to make. As he grew older he became virtually our experiment with handicapped children. When he reached the age of 18 years I was still in the Army and I enlisted him in the Citizen Military Forces as a private storeman. It was a gamble, but it was backed by the staff that had control of these kiddies. I have great pleasure in saying that the boy is still in the CMF but he is now a sergeant storeman and is doing a very good job. He is receiving the invalid pension. He was a youth who had no interest in life. He was subnormal. With training and attention much can be accomplished. This is not an isolated case; there are many thousands of people in the same category.
I hope that during the next review of the National Health Act some consideration will be given to providing even more assistance to organisations like the one I have mentioned. I believe that more consideration should be given to organisations that follow the rule of self help. T do not know the situation in the rest of the Commonwealth; I can quote only the situation that I know. In my area in north Queensland organisations are following the rule of self help. This rule needs fostering. If an organisation is prepared to help itself surely it can be looked at closer and given more help. These organisations provide a very necessary service to the community by caring for subnormal children.
As 1 have said, parents of healthy children sometimes have a subnormal child through no fault of their own; it just happens. A subnormal child can become not only a burden but a complete worry to its parents if they are unable to discipline the child. Organisations are needed, and in the next review of the Act the Government should consider giving more aid to such organisations. When a subnormal child reaches the age of 16 years it receives the invalid pension. Such a child can be engaged in productive work. Even though teenage subnormal children get the invalid pension, in many instances they have to be sent to southern institutions for the disciplinary care and the medical attention that they need. This is recognised by the centre in north Queensland that I have referred to. It has reared children, taught and trained them, and worried about them until they have reached the age of 16 years and have become entitled to the invalid pension and then has had to farm them off to southern institutions because there is not sufficient accommodation available in north Queensland.
The people who control this organisation realised the situation and said: ‘Why should these children whom we have reared for years bc lost when they turn 16 years of age?’ They have started what they call a farm colony. This is a tremendous move involving tremendous responsibilities. They have been helped by the Service clubs. They have acquired good grazing land and my
Lions Club is helping to fence the properly. Graziers have come to the party and have given store cattle to the organisation for fattening and sale, the proceeds to go to the institution. The graziers have said that periodically they will make more store cattle available. The State Forestry Department has also come to the party and has said: This is a good idea. We will plant softwoods and declare part of your land to be a forestry reserve. You maintain it and foster these young softwoods.’ The farm is being paid for this work by the Forestry Department. It is not paid much, but it is something. The farm is growing vegetables for which there is a wide market. The farm colony is catering for these teenage children instead of losing them to southern institutions. A number of people are in institutions the staffs of which are unable to give them the specialised care and attention that they could receive in outer centres because the numbers are too great. The establishment of this farm colony is, in my opinion, self help in a big way.
I have estimated the cost of maintaining a subnormal child 16 years of age in northern Queensland, At present such a child has to be taken to a southern institution for disciplinary attention and medical care. I have estimated that it would cost between SI, 500 and $2,000 a year to provide staff, doctors, nursing care and accommodation for each child. It is hoped that eighty of these children will1 bc accommodated at the farm colony I have mentioned. This will be a good thing because the children can continue to be educated and can maintain an interest in life. They will be kept in productive employment, lt is wonderful to go to the workshops and see these people working happily. As long as they are productive, they are happy. It is hoped that within 5 years the farm colony will become self supporting, lt is catering for people whom other people do not want. The boards of management which control these institutions and which are prepared to help themselves are deserving of help. I pay a tribute to them and to the Service clubs and others who help them. I sometimes wonder where we would be without the assistance of these people and of the Service clubs. Once the farm colony gets under way it will save the Government quite an amount of money. 1 believe that this project should be assisted to the utmost from Commonwealth resources. I have nothing but the greatest of respect and admiration for these people, who are patient and tolerant in dealing with such a number of these subnormal! children in the community. Some children come from families who could probably afford to pay a nurse to look after them, but that is not the answer. Other children come from Aboriginal families or from workers’ families, but that does not matter. I repeat, I have the greatest admiration and respect for the people who look after these children.
While I am commending the Government on these proposals in the National Health Bill 1968 which are designed to help the ill and the handicapped I should like to take this opportunity to talk a little about the protection of the healthy. Over the last 3 or 4 years a lot has been said about the disposal of waste and garbage brought into this country by overseas ships and aeroplanes. This waste and garbage constitutes a national health problem. To the Commonwealth Government’s great credit, its scheme to instal incinerators at seaports and airports throughout the country to overcome this problem is a good one, but I believe that its implementation has been too slow. As the Minister knows, I am very much aware of the attitude of the States regarding the maintenance of these incinerators.
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. W. J. Aston)Order! I would remind the honourable gentleman that he is getting quite wide of the Bill. The main purpose of the Bill is to widen the national health scheme to provide extra financial assistance in three specific areas. 1 would suggest that the honourable member either relate this matter of incinerators to the contents of the Bill or proceed on some other track.
– I am greatly concerned about the health of the healthy and the health of the aged people.
-I have just warned the honourable member and told him that his remarks must be kept within the confines of the Bill. I hope that he will not continue in an irrelevant way.
– Very well. I will go along with that. But, Mr Speaker, I crave your indulgence and the indulgence of the
Minister on one point. I will skip what I had in mind. I had some definite information to impart on this question, but, never mind, c’est la vie. This question of incinerators at seaports and airports concerns me greatly. It also concerns the children about whom I was speaking, the aged people, the ill, the infirm and the healthy - in fact, it concerns all of us. It worries me, because I know the present position. So far as I am concerned, with the present haggling that is occurring over this question we could be 5 minutes away from an epidemic or what have you.
I sincerely request that the Federal and State Governments and local organisations get together quickly, if they can, and finalise this question, because if an epidemic strikes this country is there any government, State or Federal, or any local organisation which could face the people and say at this stage of the game: ‘We have done everything that we possibly could to avoid any epidemic or any worry that would affect our people’. I shall leave it at that. Mr Speaker, I am sorry that you picked that one up. I apologise for digressing from the contents of the Bill. But I again congratulate the Minister and his Department for making a definite start in providing increased benefits for the ill and the needy. I hope that the Minister will take notice of my reference to the provision of incinerators in various parts of the Commonwealth.
– Previous speakers have already canvassed the main provisions of this Bill, so there is no need for me to go over them in detail. The Bill represents the beginnings of something which is most important in our national health scheme. It corrects some weaknesses which have appeared in this scheme.
It is only natural that weaknesses should occur when one considers that this scheme has been evolving for many years. Economic and demographic conditions change, so it is natural that some weaknesses should appear. Some quite serious weaknesses are just becoming evident in some areas. The Bill serves to correct some of them, particularly the problems and worries associated with chronic ill health and the difficulties experienced by nursing homes and patients in nursing homes. There are two other very important items in the Bill. One is that measles vaccine is being made available free of charge. This represents a forward step by the Federal Government in the field of preventive medicine. It is a very important step, one which 1 hope will be followed by many others.
I regret that as yet the Federal Government has made no determined step into the field of environmental medicine. This matter is becoming vitally important to the health of the community. One can readily understand that at the present time the States might very well be expected to look after this aspect, as most of the factors which tend adversely to affect the human environment are under State control. Nevertheless, I believe that the Federal Government should take the initial step in at least establishing certain standards which the States should follow.
The other item, which is referred to in the speech of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), deals with domiciliary care. A fundamentally important step forward has been taken here, lt could very well revolutionise the care of the sick aged, which is most important. This step is desirable in every way. It wilt have very wide repercussions on health care. Time will not permit me to embark on a dissertation on the problems of domiciliary care, but it is plain that old persons, when they are ill, prefer to be looked after in their own homes, and this is preferable in every way provided that the right facilities are available to them.
It is quite plain that the Federal Government is fully aware of the many problems regarding nutrition, loneliness and isolation which confront old people today, and it is making a very important beginning in correcting some of these problems. I have no doubt that further measures will be implemented when the Welfare Committee further considers this matter. In some ways it seems a pity that the States are required to participate in this scheme of providing domiciliary care because I think one would be right in assuming that if the States were not to participate in the scheme, the beginnings of it could be operating already in this country. In saying this I am disregarding the pilot scheme in Newcastle which has already been mentioned and which, of course, is a very important scheme.
The Opposition has had only two speakers scheduled to speak on this important Bill, and the two who did speak disappointed me with the superficiality of their approach to this subject, and also because they were poorly informed on some of the major matters they discussed. In fact they meandered all over the landscape of health care. Time will not permit me to correct all of their errors, and I will confine my remarks principally to those matters mentioned by Opposition speakers which directly concern this Bill or which could be said to be almost concerned with the Bill.
– Who were these speakers?
– One of them is, as a matter of fact, the future leader of the Labor Party in this House, and for this reason 1 was even more disappointed to find that he was so ill informed. He is an intelligent and well qualified man, and if he is, as he claims, the spokesman for the Opposition on health matters, I believe he might have devoted a little less time to the infighting that one sees so frequently on the opposite side of the House and a little more time to his real parliamentary duties. The honourable member spent some time on health insurance funds. He says that they must be actuarially sound. Obviously this is correct. But he neglects to mention that the Commonwealth Government subsidises the national health scheme to such an extent that the overwhelming majority of the people in the community are able to insure themselves under the scheme and obtain adequate reimbursement of their medical expenses. There are a few exceptions to this which I shall mention later if time permits.
Then the honourable member canvassed the subject of reserves. He may be right or he may not be right. The reserves of some of these funds appear to me to be rather large, But we must not forget that the Government has appointed a committee to look into these funds and to consider the whole matter in depth. I believe that at this stage no-one can say with certainty that these reserves are or are not too large. They may very well be too large, but at the moment I think we would be only guessing if we said that they were. I personally look forward with great interest to the release of the report of the Nimmo committee on health insurance funds and other matters connected with health.
The honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) spoke of the people with little or no income who would find things very difficult under this scheme. At the moment, of course, there is a grave problem concerning these people. But the fact is that they are receiving their health care and though they no doubt have worries because they are unable to pay the bills that they receive for that care, no-one is dunning them. If the people are unable to pay they are not made to pay. But this is not a desirable state of affairs and I ask that an adequate survey of this section of the community be made so that those who are in this position can be identified and their problems ascertained. 1 believe the best thing would be for these people then to be insured by the Commonwealth Government, not with a government fund but with one of the existing funds. If it could be arranged economically, 1 should prefer the individual who is to be insured by the Government to nominate the fund of his choice. I believe this would help substantially to solve the problem.
The honourable member for Yarra referred to these health insurance funds as profit making concerns. I thought this rather curious because in fact they are not profit making concerns. They must have reserves, of course. They must pay their employees. There is a certain amount of advertising - perhaps too much, in my opinion. But these funds are not fundamentally profit making organisations. I suppose the honourable member found it difficult to fit such funds into his Marxist philosophy. T. suppose that, considering them as instruments of capitalism, he could not see how anything which was not profit making could operate under the capitalist system. However, that is by the way.
Another of the honourable member’s points was that there are too few hospital beds. He stressed this and cited New South Wales figures. He did so with ominous overtones as though this Government were in some way responsible for reducing the number of private hospital beds, especially in New South Wales. Then he went on to introduce a little confusion into ideas about the diffeernce between nursing homes and hospitals. I would like to clear up one or two of these matters. The first point is that in New South Wales the great reduction in private hospital beds occurred as a direct result of the activities of the last Labor Government in that State. But, be that as it may, when the honourable member speaks of too few hospital beds, the fact is that even in Victoria, which has fewer beds per thousand of the population than any other State, and which has serious trouble brewing which I will not attempt to gloss over-
– New South Wales has a Liberal government, has it not?
– That may well he so, but the point is that even in Victoria, which has the fewest beds per thousand of the population of all the States, the bed situation is on a par with or is rather better than the situation in Britain, which has a scheme that is Socialism all the way. lt is probably the most highly socialised medical scheme in the world.
– And the British have really serious problems.
– Yes, they have serious problems, all right. But the fact remains that in all parts of Australia the bed situation is better than it is in Britain. When 1 say it is better I do not want to mislead the House, because Britain has made a survey and it considers that from the way in which it conceives a health scheme it should aim at having no more hospital beds than it has at the moment. In fact it is reducing the number of beds because it believes that in the way it is operating its health scheme it will need fewer beds. Whether this is the correct outlook remains to be seen, because there are very long waiting lists for hospital beds in Britain, especially for acute cases. The position is becoming quite serious.
I think it is highly desirable to make the distinction between hospitals and nursing homes. This Government has clearly indentified the difference between the two, and it bases this difference not on any doctrinaire or Public Service red tape approach, as was hinted at by the honourable member for Yarra, but purely on the basis of the facilities that are available. In other words a nursing home which has not the first class facilities which this Government requires before it will provide a subsidy, just will not pass the test and remains in the category of a nursing home. But a nursing home which has better facilities, such as an operating theatre, and which is of a certain type of construction and has other facilities of a certain standard, is designated a hospital and subsidised by the Commonwealth Government. Let there be no confusion about this. The difference between a hospital and a nursing home is purely a matter of the difference between the facilities available in the two institutions. If a nursing home manages to improve its facilities it can qualify as a hospital in due course. The transition of an institution from hospital to nursing home arises from the introduction of advanced techniques and the need for modern equipment. These are expensive and this means that it is difficult for a private concern to operate a private hospital as distinct from a nursing home. Such hospitals are very expensive and they need strong financial backing.
– Will you tell us what a nursing home is?
– I have indicated broadly what it is. A nursing home is an institution which carries out the nursing care of patients but has fewer facilities than a hospital. lt does not have an operating theatre and certain other facilities. A differentiation is also made now in relation to nursing staff. A hospital has a larger trained staff relative to the number of patients than a nursing home has. However, I do not have time to canvass this point further.
I want to repudiate absolutely one other little point that was put by the honourable member for Yarra. I thought this was not entirely up to his standard. He said categorically, but without offering any proof, that the interests of the funds and of the doctors are put before the interests of the patients in this health scheme. I. refute that allegation absolutely and utterly. Remarks such as this are unworthy of the honourable member for Yarra. There is no doubt that the funds and the doctors working with them always put the welfare of the patient first. The result is that the patients receive medical care that is. on an average, second to none in the world today. The honourable member is not right. Indeed, he is very wide of the mark.
Both the honourable member for Yarra and the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) spoke about drugs and the problems associated with their manufacture and supply. These problems are not directly related to the Bill, but they are very important and I think I should say something about them. As the honourable member for Yarra so rightly said, the pharmaceutical manufacturing firms operate in a condition of oligopoly. They do not compete on the basis of price but on the basis of product. The competition is in the differentiation of product. That is broadly correct in relation to pharmaceuticals. The honourable member seems to think that this is bad. He and the honourable member for Capricornia seem to think that the situation could be cured by waving a magic wand over the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission and by giving it more money. They think that this will introduce full competition, that the prices of drugs will fall and everything in the garden will be lovely.
– That is wishful thinking.
– It is not only wishful thinking. It also reveals a complete ignorance of the whole field of pharmaceutical manufacture. This is an extraordinarily sensitive field, as the British Socialists discovered when they came to deal with the problem of drug prices. They very quickly recognised that it is essential to provide a substantial profit margin on new drugs for a considerable time if the manufacturing companies are to be encouraged to produce new and better products. If a company is denied a profit from its research it will not bother to undertake any research. This is amply proved by the development of pharmaceuticals in the postwar years.
We have seen a tremendous advance in therapeutics. But we look virtually in vain for any advance in therapeutics in the Socialist countries. The advances have all occurred in America, Switzerland, Germany and Great Britain. The advances in Great Britain have resulted mainly from the work of private, unsocialised firms. One firm is a trust, but it operates on the same conditions as the other pharmaceutical houses do. It has been shown time and again that drug manufacture is a most sensitive field. The companies must be given their profits if they are to produce new drugs. This, of course, is one field that offers brighter prospects for health care in the future. 1 will not say much more on this aspect, except to mention that these firms carry out a tremendous amount of research and develop thousands of new products. Only very few of them are finally accepted as suitable for use in medical treatment. So we must not run away with the idea that the companies are making an enormous profit out of their research. It is misleading to say that they are, because many products on which a lot of money has been spent are relegated to the waste paper basket. These firms must be huge and must have a tremendous capital backing if they are to engage in worthwhile research. Personally, I am gratified to see that some of them are now engaged in research in Australia. One company in particular has a magnificent research laboratory. The work it is doing in this country on the pharmacology of the central nervous system is not being done anywhere else in the world. Other firms overseas are following its example. This is a magnificent beginning and it has reversed the brain drain in one field. Pharmacologists who left Australia because they could not obtain suitable work here are now coming back.
It would be wrong and foolish to extend the activities of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission and to allow it to engage willy nilly in research on therapeutics not directly related to the basis on which it was originally established. Certainly it should continue to undertake research into immunology problems, but it should not enter the broader field of research into therapeutics. It is not necessary for it to do so and I do not believe that money spent by this Government on such research would be spent in a worthwhile way. Money would be allocated for this purpose only for some doctrinaire reason and not for any other reason. I personally would deprecate the extension of the activities of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission. In fact I deprecate its present inroads into the field of therapeutics. I have no doubt that the members of the Commission are sincere people.
-Order! 1 think the honourable gentleman is getting a little wide of the purpose of the Bill.
– Mr Speaker, these problems were canvassed by members of the Opposition and I am simply answering their arguments. As a matter of fact, I have reached the end of my reply. However, I point out that they were allowed to scuttle over the entire field of health.
-I can judge the debate only as I hear it while 1 am in the chair. The honourable gentleman is wide of the Bill.
– Opposition members also referred several times to what they called an ad hoc approach to hospital administration and hospital care. They related this mainly to the provisions of the Bill that increase the subsidies to nursing homes, especially for those persons who require intensive care. At the moment, no other approach by this Government is possible. Opposition members have conveniently overlooked the fact that this Government does not have sovereign control over the hospitals and nursing homes in the States. Obviously, without this control there can only be an ad hoc approach. The Commonwealth Government might formulate one policy and the States might decide on another policy. In such circumstances a stalemate is reached. The honourable member for Yarra made a plea for increased local autonomy for hospitals. I certainly support him, but only up to a point. [ feel very strongly that the broad tactical planning must be from a central position. This is a country with a huge area and a very small population. Unless the broad tactical planning is done by a central authority there will be a hopeless lack of economy.
All health schemes fall’ down when they become inefficient. In this country, with our limited resources, it is vitally important that our health schemes be kept as efficient as possible. I believe that this can be done only by using a central planning authority with recourse to adequate statistical and planning services. This is something that 1 urge upon the Government. If we do not have this authority we will build up, gradually and somewhat belatedly, a statistical and planning service in each of the States and one for the Federal authority. That is to say, we will have seven relatively inefficient planning authorities whereas if the overall tactical planning is done by a central authority there will be one properly equipped - 1 trust that it would be properly equipped - authority with all the facilities available to it to plan correctly.
I will use an example here. Let us take as an example open heart surgery. Already this field is proliferating as between hospitals, even in one capital city. This is wrong in my opinion because such work as this is best done when a large volume of work is being performed by one unit. Health care now is evolving so that there is a number of increasingly specialised fields which require teams who are specially trained in a relatively narrow field and who need to do a certain amount of work to remain efficient and to retain their training. A team of doctors involved in a certain field of treatment - no longer are these treatments individualistic matters for doctors - must have a certain volume of work to retain their skill. Consequently, when operations like open heart surgery are performed at several hospitals, because of empire builders in each of the hospitals or for other reasons, the work will tend to be not of the highest standard. In addition, it will become increasingly uneconomic.
So, I make the plea that if health care is to be carried out with maximum efficiency there must be central planning. Then, the population which is optimal for one particular type of health team can be identified. It may be, for instance, that it will be decided that only two or three centres in Australia are needed for open heart surgery. It may be decided that only one centre is needed in Australia to carry out heart transplant operations. Naturally, this central planning authority would see that all specialist teams did not congregate in one city. If one capital city gained a number of teams in a highly technical field it would be ensured that the other capital cities gained teams in other fields. So, I stress that it is essential eventually - and the sooner the better - for the establishment of a central tactical planning authority which will be able to take action in these matters to ensure that hospitals do not develop willy nilly and that the highly specialised technologies which are developing so rapidly in medicine do not develop in a highly uneconomic way. Most of these specialised fields are very expensive. We should have only the desirable and optimum number of them. They should not develop here, there and everywhere so that the work will tend to be less perfect than it would be with a few units of optimum size.
Probably I have spoken a little longer than I had intended. I commend the Bill to the House. I commend the Government for the work that it is doing in the sphere of social services. When this legislation comes into force, when the Nimmo Committee has met and when a few other problems that have arisen have been considered, as they are being considered, and when action is taken, the Australian health scheme will continue to be not only a good scheme but also, I think, a model to others all over the world.
- Mr Speaker, the problems that are associated with a national health plan are problems that are associated with people. It is easy to say that this scheme, that scheme or any other scheme is an adequate scheme. But if people do not have full and ready access without financial limitation to the operation of such a scheme, it is not a national health scheme. It is something else. There are in our community too many people who, for varying reasons, cannot afford the treatment which they need or which they may feel that they need. Under the existing insurance schemes, a person can cover himself only for the amount of treatment that he can afford in weekly contributions to a health insurance scheme. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) said last night that for $1.82 per week a person can obtain an adequate cover. I have no doubt that for $1.82 a week he can do that. But if his income is such that he cannot afford to pay $1.82 per week he cannot have that cover. There can be no quibbling about that fact.
Many people in our community cannot afford that sort of cover. It costs a number of people many times as much to insure against one item of health insurance as it does to pay Commonwealth income tax. Most people complain about the high rates of income lax and the burden that these are on income. The amount that many families pay to the Commonwealth in income tax would be only one quarter of what they are required to pay in order to cover themselves adequately in health insurance schemes. Pensioners are one section of the community with a limited cover. Pensioners obviously are not in a position to meet any part of the cost of a health insurance scheme.
If they wish to cover themselves for treatment they must join a health insurance scheme because many of the conditions of treatment which they quite often require are not available to them under our present health scheme. Pensioners are entitled to the minimum basic availability of medical treatment and hospitalisation. This includes a public ward bed in a public hospital, a general practitioner for medical treatment and such specialist treatment as they can obtain through a public hospital. In the public hospital in my electorate, pensioners have to pay 20c a day for treatment. By the time they have paid this fee and also paid their bus fares to and from the hospital - some of them must go to the hospital two or three times a week - it is a fairly costly operation.
Old people require in the main more medical care than do younger people. There are some pathetic cases in this field. Under the existing terms of the Act. it is not possible for the Minister or the Government to deal with these cases. Recently, the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) had referred to him the case of a pensioner couple who were placed in a private hospital on the advice of their doctor. They were given specialist treatment but received no recompense of any description from the Government because they were not entitled to this type of treatment under the present scheme. The husband subsequently died. The wife is still in hospital. She has bills to meet which are around the $1,000 mark. Is it right that a patient who is so sick that he is practically unable to make decisions for himself and, in some cases, is not able to make decisions for himself, should be asked to accept the responsibility of saying to his doctor: ‘No, I do not want treatment in that hospital even though you say that it is imperative. I will not have that specialist to look after me even though you say that this is vital to my future welfare? Such people must decide whether they can pay for the treatment. Most people worry about their debts. If they worry about their debts then they try not to incur them.
The present situation encourages people to be dishonest. It encourages people to accept treatment knowing full well that they can never pay for it. I do not know what sort of situation other honourable members think this is, but to my mind it is a very poor one. There are many areas in which help could be given without a great deal of additional cost. Many old people regularly attend doctors for treatment which could be given just as well by physiotherapists in geriatric centres. The Grace McKellar House at Geelong is attended by pensioners who are given physiotherapy and other forms of treatment. In many cases, following a course of treatment, immobile patients are restored to mobility and are better able to care for themselves than they were before. Unfortunately no recognition has been given to this type of service by either the State governments or the Federal Government.
I hope the Minister will look at this service to see whether it is possible to bring it under the medical scheme. At the moment pensioners are paying 35c or 70c a week for treatment because the home is not able to provide it free of charge and there is no insurance cover for it. At such places people get cheaper and more specialised treatment than they could get by visiting a general practitioner who is not skilled in these particular areas. Very few general practitioners would claim to be skilled physiotherapists. They are doctors who treat the general ills of the community, and as such they have a very wide area of skills but a very narrow area of specialised skill. Every time a pensioner goes to a doctor it costs the Commonwealth far more than it would cost for a week’s treatment under the method I have suggested, Moreover, the pensioners are able to live in their own homes and to look after themselves.
As honourable members opposite know, it is very difficult to tell people that, even though there is no earthly hope of their ever meeting the cost of such medical treatment, there is nowhere else they can go to get it. Recently in a television programme in Melbourne an instance was given of a family in which a daughter had an arthritic hip. The first course of treatment for this condition had run up bills amounting to about $400. There were five other children in this family, which had an income of $43 a week. It was beyond the realm of possibility for this family ever to meet the cost of this treatment. With rent to be paid and children to be sent to school, including some at high school, it was also beyond the realm of possibility for them to meet the hospital benefit charges of about $1.80 a week which would have been required but which would not have adequately covered their expenses. According to the information given on that occasion these people had hospital bills totalling S4.000. There are too many cases of this nature today.
Some time ago 1 drew the Minister’s attention to the case of an invalid pensioner who was admitted by his own doctor to a private hospital for psychiatric treatment which the doctor felt was necessary for a period of about 10 days. The pensioner had to meet the full cost of this treatment, which the doctor had advised. Under the present scheme the patient is obliged to tell the doctor that he cannot have the treatment because in his opinion it is economically unsound even though it is medically necessary.
I ask the Government to take a far more serious view of the problems of health. When a person is in good health there is no problem at ali, but immediately a person ceases to be fully active for any reason he is confronted with a very important problem. Once a person has become sick his doctor will not be much help to him, especially if he becomes ill because of prior neglect of ailments which should have been treated. In many cases a bread winner will not go to a doctor and seek advice or treatment because he is frightened that he will be put off work. In existing circumstances in a lot of areas it is not possible, especially in the unskilled manual groups, for persons with certain ailments to obtain employment again once they have lost it. From the time these people obtain treatment they are left for virtually the rest of their lives to live on an invalid pension They may reach the stage where they are declared fit for some sort of light employment but no light employment is available.
Any manual worker who has a heart attack of any description virtually becomes unemployable because the insurance companies which cover workers compenation just will not accept the risk again. Such people have a serious problem. In any national health scheme it is important that this problem be considered as it is that the necessary funds be available to meet hospital charges or doctors’ fees. It is important that consideration be given to theconomic losses of persons who must suffer by becoming ill.
There is one other matter that 1 would like the Minister to have carefully examined and in relation to which 1 have not seen any figures. Under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme drugs are placed on and taken ofl.’ the list largely on the basis of the amount of money which is available to the scheme in any given year in order to keep the scheme within budget requirements. In some cases the 50c fee more than covers the cost of the drug. I would like to see a cost benefit analysis of health services taken to see how valuable preventive treatment would be to the community as opposed to curative treatment. It. would be far better if, as with tuberculosis, we could detect and cure illnesses in their very early stages and so keep people at work. People neglect themselves because they are frightened of the economic consequences. Persons who have committed themselves to the purchase of a home on long term finance, who have young families and children at school, and who are in jobs in, say, (he metal trades where the maximum cover for sick leave is 3 weeks, will not have treatment when they feel slightly ill. They will wait until they are really sick. By that time they may well have become so ill that their useful working future is either limited or completely destroyed.
What is the loss to the community if, for example, a fitter becomes incapacitated for further employment? I know of men in their early 30s who had a working life of about 30 years in front of them at the time they became incapacitated. What is the value to the national economy of a skilled person in this grade? I would hazard an estimate that such a person would be worth not less than $10,000 a year in the job that he was doing. It could well be that the loss to the economy would be upwards of $30,000 to $40,000 because that person ceases employment. It may be that it would have cost about SI, 000 in the early stages to keep that person in employment. I believe that it is good business to keep such people in employment. But no consideration at all is given to this aspect of health services. The only aspect which, so far as I can see, is considered is how much it will cost the taxpayer or how much it will cost the Government.
The honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) referred to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories taking part in research. He was somewhat opposed to this. He also said that no real benefit had come out of research in Socialist countries. I am not an expert on the subject of medical research but one thing that comes to my mind readily is the Sabin oral vaccine which I think came from Russia. I may be wrong about this, but this vaccine is just one item that appears to be successful as it is now being adopted quite widely in Australia. Many hospitals have become so antiquated that they need ploughing down and replacing. Hospital managements on limited budgets have done an excellent job in keeping in operation what are in effect very inadequate buildings. It would not be in the national interest or the interests of the community to start restoring every little hospital in the country. Many of these hospitals are performing a nursing home function rather than that of a hospital. But the major hospitals that serve regional areas should in all cases be brought up to a minimum standard which should be set down. Those hospitals should be required to maintain a minimum standard of equipment and a minimum standard of service. I believe that in exchange for this the Commonwealth should offer them some form of financial incentive. 1 will not detain the House much longer, but I would like to draw attention to something on which I believe there should be a definite policy. I believe that highly skilled doctors should be available in casualty sections of general hospitals. It is the normal thing for doctors of a very low level of experience to work in casualty sections of hospitals. A person who comes into the casualty section of a hospital is normally one who has just been involved in a major accident. An important decision has to be made as to what is wrong with him and this decision can affect that person’s future. It is not unusual for a wrong diagnosis to be made at that time and in consequence many persons suffer for the rest of their lives. It would be advantageous - in fact it would be to the benefit of everyone - if a proposal could be formulated whereby hospitals were accredited on the basis of the level of services provided. Hospitals should be offered incentives to provide the types of services that obviously are necessary.
It seems to me very wrong that a situation should exist whereby a person referred by his doctor to an eye specialist can obtain hospital benefit reimbursements if he receives medical treatment but is denied the same reimbursements if spectacles are prescribed. It is not the fault of the person who is referred to a specialist that his eyes can be treated by the provision of glasses. The provision of glasses is remedial treatment that will either correct a weakness or some form of disease of the eye. If medicines are prescribed the patient is entitled to reimbursement. But if mechanical means, in the form of glasses, are prescribed he must meet the cost. It seems to me that this is a completely ludicrous situation. I ask the Government to look very seriously at the matter and change this situation. I also ask the Government to change the present situation in respect of pensioners who are not in a very strong position financially to buy new glasses.
This Bill provides some relief for nursing homes which are performing a very useful service in the community. The Government as yet has not taken any apparent interest in the provision of nursing home services by public bodies. Geriatric nursing home services are extremely important and their availability in the community should be given very adequate consideration and dealt with as a matter of urgency. Under the Aged Persons Homes Act, for instance, it is possible - and this is encouraged by the Government - for aged persons homes to be constructed; but where a community develops geriatric centres it is a natural follow up that some nursing home services should be provided also.
Under the Aged Persons Homes Act an organisation can obtain subsidies for a nursing home service in proportion to the number of aged persons homes which are constructed. In most communities there are numerous bodies that provide aged persons homes but there are very few that are equipped or willing to provide nursing home facilities. I know that this is the case in most provincial centres. I believe that the number of aged persons homes in the community should be taken into consideration when grants are made to nursing homes. In my area, for example, we have a Returned Services League village which consists of about 60 units. Adjoining the village is Grace McKellar House which is a general geriatric centre. There is no possibility that the RSL village will ever build a nursing home, but there is every possibility that given the opportunity, Grace McKellar House, which adjoins the village, would accept a grant and welcome any opportunity to provide additional nursing home beds for patients who are urgently waiting to be admitted.
There are 750 patients in the Geelong district seeking admission to this home and 183 of them are listed as urgent. They have to try to get into a home which at present has 176 beds. The State Government is providing funds to this establishment at the rate of $100,000 a year. This will enable an additional 30 beds a year to be provided. So it is a fairly hopeless situation; it is one that will never be resolved under the present methods of financing. 1 think a good deal could be done to relieve this situation if we altered the terms under which these funds are granted to a regional basis rather than allocating them to specific organisations.
– 1 commend the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) for introducing this Bill, which provides three of the most necessary improvements that have been made in recent years to our- national health service. A debate on our national health scheme is of great interest to many honourable members who are concerned with this aspect of our social services. The health scheme covers a wide field and many facets of it are not handled in the way that some of us would like to see them handled. In a debate on a Bill of this nature I think it is fair to roam fairly widely. This has been done by several honourable members who have participated in the debate.
The national health scheme has grown a little haphazardly. A bit has been tacked on here, somebody has done something there and somebody has added something elsewhere until now we have a scheme which in many respects is a conglomeration of bits and pieces. When you examine some of the problems that arise under the scheme it is difficult to relate what is done by one benefits fund to what is done by another. It is difficult to understand why some things are covered by funds and others are not. A full examination of the scheme at this stage is not a very profitable exercise because no improvements are likely to bc made in the scheme until we have the report of the Nimmo Committee or, less importantly, the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs. Doubtless many of the matters that have been put to the Senate Select Committee will have been put also to the Nimmo Committee. There seems to be some overlapping in the work of those two committees. The more suggestions that are made in reports for improvements in the national health scheme the easier it will be for us to decide what can best be done. I am pleased that in this Bill the Government is going ahead with improvements to the scheme and is not waiting for reports from the committees to which I have referred.
The Bill enables greater benefits to be paid to persons suffering from chronic or long term illnesses. We all are familiar with instances of people suffering from chronic or long term illnesses who have been dealt with unjustly in the past. When people seem to need health insurance most the support is pulled from under them. People may belong to an organisation for years but if they suffer from a long illness they find that after 12 or 13 weeks the fund to which they belong is no longer able to pay benefits. It is hard to understand why one organisation should be able to pay a benefit for only 12 weeks while another organisation can pay a benefit for 13 weeks, notwithstanding that subscriptions in each case are similar. Of course, the Commonwealth continues to pay its benefit.
The special account system was introduced a few years ago to try to overcome this problem, but it was not wholly successful. The most that a patient could get was a benefit of $3 a day in addition to the Commonwealth benefit of $2 a day. A payment of $5 a day does not go very far towards paying even for a bed in a public hospital. The special account system has cost many families a lot of money. It has been a great weakness in our health scheme. Now the Government has decided that persons suffering from chronic or long term illnesses shall be entitled to full fund benefits as well as the Commonwealth benefit. Speaking during the by-election campaign for Higgins the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that the Government’s objective was to try to do more to assist those in the community who were in greatest need and who have suffered an injustice compared with other sections of the community.
One of the great weaknesses of our present voluntary health insurance system is that too many people are under-insured. But to date, failure to have adequate insurance was not the problem confronting people with chronic or long term illnesses. Today too many people take a chance on health insurance. They tell themselves that if they are unfortunate enough to be sick and to incur hospital expenses they will make up the difference between the hospital charge and the fund benefit for which they have insured, but when the time comes to pay the hospital bill they find that the outstanding amount which they must pay out of their own pocket is too large. One result of this situation has been that hospitals have not been paid all that has been owing to them.
Under-insurance is one of the greatest causes of the financial difficulties in which hospitals find themselves today. 1 admit that the hospitals have brought some of the troubles down on their own heads by indulging in extravagant processes, but the people really affected by the shortcomings in hospital management are those who suffer from a chronic or long term illness. This Bill takes care of these people by providing that after 1st January next contributors to funds will be covered against chronic or long term illness. In such a case the contributor will receive at least the amount of the hospital bill. This provision will be of tremendous advantage to people who have the misfortune to be forced to spend a long period in hospital.
One of the conditions attaching to this amendment to the Act is that the amount paid will be the amount for which the person has insured or the amount of the hospital bill, whichever is the lower. In other words, nobody will get from a fund more than the amount of the hospital bill. This matter of hospital patients receiving fund benefits greater than the cost of their hospital accommodation should have been tackled long ago. If contributors were to receive from a fund no more than 100% of their hospital bill we would not find organisations engaging in cutthroat tactics in an effort to win customers or in extravagant advertising, as I have noticed has been occurring in New South Wales this week. Hospital charges in that State have been increased so the funds there have introduced new tables. But they have not introduced a table to correspond with the hospital charges. If the voluntary health insurance scheme is designed to cover the cost of hospitalisation, surely the insurance payment should not exceed the amount of the hospital bill. I hope that this will be one of the matters on which the Nimmo Committee will make a favourable decision.
The second great improvement that will be brought about by this Bill will be in the payment of supplementary benefit for patients who are in nursing homes and who need intensive care. J do not think the Government realises - though I hope it does - the hardship faced by a lot of families that have had to put some elderly relative into a nursing home simply because the family could not manage to care for that relative at home. The previous limiting of the nursing home allowance to $2 a day has been a sore point with a lot of us for a long time. Nursing homes were being paid $14 a week for each bed occupied. Some of the patients in these homes would be pensioners and some would perhaps be on superannuation of varying amounts. A single pensioner receiving $13 a week plus the $2 supplementary allowance paid to a single pensioner would have a total of $15 available to meet the cost of his nursing care. The Commonwealth pays a benefit of $14 a week for a patient in an approved nursing home. Therefore, the patient would be able to afford $29 a week. Somebody has had to make up the difference between that figure and the nursing home charge.
This has been a very great burden on many families. This Bill provides for a supplementary benefit of $3 a day in respect of a patient who is in need of intensive nursing care. This supplementary allowance of $3 a day will make up the difference that has been a burden on the families I spoke of. No nursing home can provide any sort of service for less than about $45 a week. Under the existing scheme, the best part of $20 would have to be found somewhere.
This Bill will provide for a $21 a week increase in the home nursing benefit if the patient is in need of intensive care. To qualify for this supplementary benefit, a patient will virtually have to be bedridden. I like the Minister’s word ‘bedfast’ better. A patient will have to be more or less confined to bed to qualify. Hospitals find that after a certain time they cannot do much more for a patient who has had a stroke, who is a bad heart case or who suffers from some other acute illness. He requires only nursing; so he is removed to a nursing home. As the weeks go by he becomes more able to do a bit for himself. The doctor will be the one who will have to certify whether such a patient is in need of intensive care. What a terrific strain it will be on a doctor to make a fine decision about two patients in the one nursing home in beds alongside each other. One patient might get up 2 days a week and perhaps potter around. The other one may be able to move out of bed every day. But they both may need a lot of nursing, though they may not need a lot of coddling. They may not need help every day when bathing, though on some days they may. Deciding whether a patient is in need of intensive nursing care will create a lot of problems in the administration of this new benefit. 1 trust that it works out all right.
The Minister has said that he believes that this new allowance will result in the development of two types of nursing homes - that some nursing homes will specialise in looking after intensive care patients, and others will specialise in ambulatory cases. This may be so, but in the meantime in the transition stage there will be many problems. I trust that the Minister’s Department, when administering this benefit, will be very lenient in the interpretation of how badly a person must need intensive care to qualify for the benefit. I do not think any of these patients would be in these nursing homes unless they were in need of some nursing care. There is a good deal of difference between being completely bedridden, and having everything done for one, and requiring some supervisory nursing care practically all the time.
I will not. touch upon the provisions in the Bill relating to handicapped children, because the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) made a very thought provoking speech on the subject. The provisions in the Bill are a tremendous step forward and one for which the Minister must be highly commended. On 14th August he made a statement that the Federal1 Government would be offering the States financial assistance to promote the development throughout Australia of strong co-ordinating programmes of home care. Not enough attention has been paid to this aspect of our national health scheme. We complain about our hospitals not having sufficient beds or being in financial difficulties. We complain about the strain on hospital resources under our present system. Yet, with improved home nursing care, it has been demonstrated very clearly in places such as Newcastle - although this is not the only example - that patients can be treated in their own homes and need not clutter up the hospitals. Day nursing hospitals have been mentioned. This is another aspect of our national health scheme which has not had nearly enough expansion since this whole scheme was initiated.
Home nursing organisations that were receiving a subsidy of $2,200 a year per nurse will receive an increase of $400 a year per nurse. Other organisations receive only $1,100 a year per nurse. I will not go into the difference between these levels of assistance. We had a good deal of discussion about it when the system was first introduced. Some will receive an increase of $200. I. mention this increase because it did not require legislative action to be put into effect, and so it is not mentioned in this Bill. Nevertheless, it is one of the very good forward steps that have been taken in the last few months. In the statement of 14th August it was announced that the Commonwealth was prepared to assist the States with the capital cost involved in providing a reasonable number of nursing home beds for the infirm aged with little means. This is tied up closely with nursing home benefits, and I assume that it has been possible to make arrangements with the States to put the scheme into effect and that it will not require legislative action. Perhaps when the Minister replies he will intimate whether anything has been done or is being done respecting this matter.
At present we are awaiting eagerly the report from the Nimmo Committee. The Prime Minister has made a feature of the Government’s intention to improve what is already an extremely good national health scheme. It is an extremely good health scheme even in its present form, because it covers so many things that are not covered by schemes in other parts of the world. It has the great advantage of permitting some measure of choice. 1 have criticised it in many minor respects, but I will not weary the House by recounting them because it would take me at least an hour to do so. However, I have found reason to differ with the Minister for Health and his predecessors on some aspects of the scheme. 1 stress that it is the Government’s purpose to try to improve our health and welfare services in accordance with our economic development. We are a reasonably wealthy people and in many ways Australia is a happy country. We can afford to do a lot more than we are doing. We can afford to extend the operations of the scheme into the paramedical field rather than limit it to services thai are rendered by medical practitioners.
Unless we can produce an even better scheme we have no right to claim that Australia has the best scheme in the world. The best scheme is the scheme that provides for the real needs of the people. The first step to determine those needs was the appointment by the Prime Minister of a committee headed by the Minister for Health to co-ordinate many of the services that have been disjointed or have overlapped. Of course, we have the problem of State and Commonwealth responsibilities. Many people would like the Commonwealth to lake over the whole responsibility for hospital services, but ibis is a State’s sovereign right. Perhaps the States have not carried out their responsibilities as we would have liked them to do but no State will concede that it does not have a sovereign right in this field, despite anything that the Opposition may say. The States’ rights are laid down in the Constitution and honourable members know how touchy the States are about making any alterations in respect of their precious responsibilities. It is a great pity that the States should be so tender on this subject and that it should take so long to negotiate with the Stales and to get six
States in agreement on a central idea. Obviously almost invariably information is gathered by the Commonwealth and it is collated on a Commonwealth-wide basis. Each State has its own way of doing things and it likes to hang on to its rights.
In Victoria, for example, the amount being spent on hospitals is not up to the level that is being spent in many of the other States. Recently I had representations from the Latrobe Valley Hospital complaining that the State Government’s contribution to the hospital had fallen off considerably in recent years. It was put to me that the Commonwealth should make up the difference. The hospital’s finances are in a bad way. It has big deficits and it is not able to pay its trade accounts. This is a shocking condition which should not have been permitted to develop. The hospital has supplied me with a set of tables demonstrating how the State Government’s contribution is less now than it used to be. The fact is that the Commonwealth Government’s contribution has maintained the same level all the time, but the State’s contribution has fallen.
– The honourable member for Reid seems to doubt this, but it is a fact. He is a New South Wales member, so perhaps he does not understand this.
– The Government will not give the States any money for hospitals. Why does the Commonwealth Government not give them sufficient money?
– Because the States will not come along and talk about Commonwealth and State rights. That is the answer to the question. Patients are required to pay more but all States seem to be in the same position and are not maintaining their contributions. I am hoping that the situation will be improved when we have before us all the information from the two committees that have been doing a tremendous amount of work over recent months in ascertaining facts. Economists and professors have written screeds on what should be done and about what is the best type of hospital scheme. When we get the Nimmo Committee’s report and the report from the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital costs we ought to be able, with the help and co-operation of the Minister and his Department, to work out a scheme that will be even more the envy of the rest of the world.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Bill before the House is the National Health Bill 1968. The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in his second reading speech said:
The main purpose of the Bill is to widen the national health scheme to provide extra financial assistance in three areas of special need. Firstly, the Bill removes the financial burden which up to now has fallen on those who, although adequately insured, have had their hospital benefits reduced, under the rules of the hospital benefit organisations relating to pre-existing or chronic ailments or long term illneses. Secondly, the Bill provides for a supplementary benefit of $3 a day to be paid in respect of patients in nursing homes who require and receive intensive nursing home care. The supplementary benefit will be in addition to the existing nursing home benefit of $2 a day. Thirdly, the Bill provides for a benefit of $1.50 a day to be paid in respect of handicapped children residing in handicapped persons homes conducted by religious or charitable bodies.
The national health scheme is one of the blackest spots in this and other LiberalCountry Party Governments’ administration during the last 18 years. It is the last relic of feudalism in the Australian economy. Never at any time has the Government accepted that the health of a person is a national responsibility, not a family or personal responsibility. It is for this reason that one has to look at the Government’s expenditure on health services as a percentage of the gross national product. In 1950-51 the Government spent 1.05% of the gross national product on health services. In 1967-68 the expenditure had increased to 1.60% of the gross national product. If we compare this expenditure with expenditure on education, we find that in 1950-51 expenditure on education represented 1.31% of the gross national product and in 1967-68 had increased to 3.46% of the gross national product. There was an increase of expenditure by 2% of the gross national product on education during this period compared with an increase of about .60% on health services.
If we compare the expenditure on health services with war and defence expenditure we find that in 1950-51 the Government expended 2.78% of the gross national product on war and defence and in 1967-68 it spent 4.12% of the gross national product on war and defence.
– Hear, hear!
– The honourable member says: ‘Hear, hear’. We can increase our expenditure on war and defence by 1±% or nearly 2% of the gross national product, but there has been little increase in the expenditure on health services because this Government is not greatly concerned about health services. What has it done in this field? As I have said, the national health scheme is a relic of feudalism. The Government imposes an indirect tax on the individual in order to pay for the national health scheme. A growing burden is being placed on the great bulk of the people of Australia. Seventy per cent of the taxpayers of this country earn less than $59 per week. This is the sector of the community which has to pay by a flat rate of taxation for the national health scheme, not those who own the wealth of the nation.
The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) earlier stressed that the Stales will not increase their contribution towards the cost of maintaining the national health scheme. We all know that the Commonwealth has starved the States of finance. It is charging the States interest on moneys lent to them by the Commonwealth from its own revenues. The States’ internal debt has increased three-fold while the Commonwealth’s internal debt has been reduced. This Government is throwing the burden on to the States. Yet the honourable member for McMillan says that the States will not increase their contributions to the national health scheme.
At long last the Commonwealth Government has been forced into taking some steps forward and is providing some justice to the sick, the suffering and the chronically ill in our community. This legislation is a step in the right direction, but it is long overdue. Surely Government supporters must realise it is long overdue, when they consider the percentage of the gross national product that is spent on health services. Surely they must agree that it is in the interests of the nation to keep the people healthy and fit. When a person becomes ill it is in the interests of the nation that we should get him back to work as soon as possible. He should not be a burden on his family or himself, ft should be the responsibility of the nation to ensure that people who become ill are helped to get fit and well again so that they can return to work and contribute to our society.
I want to refer in particular to the provision of a supplementary benefit of $3 a day to be paid in respect of patients in nursing homes who require and receive intensive nursing care. The existing benefit is S2 a day. In certain circumstances it will be increased to $5 a day. The honourable member for Yarra (Dr I. F. Cairns), when he was leading for the Opposition in this debate last night, said that at least there was some breakthrough in the bureaucracy in the existing health administration. From reading the Minister’s second reading speech one would have thought that an aged or chronically ill person in a nursing home would have received the supplementary benefit of $3 a day in addition to the existing benefit of $2 a day on the production of a certificate from the medical practitioner attending him or her. But as reported at page 2446 of Hansard of 5th November 1968 the Minister, by interjection, said:
Medical officers in my Department will decide.
So we find that this question still has to be decided by a member of the bureaucracy in the Department of Health. The Department will not trust the medical practitioner who understands the circumstances of the aged or chronically ill person in the nursing home. It does not trust the ordinary members of the medical fraternity to make a decision such as that; the decision has to be made by a medical officer in the Department of Health. Surely honourable members realise the kind of bureaucracy they have to surmount when the Department of Health has to make decisions such as this.
I am concerned, as are many other honourable members, about the growing problems connected with aged people in nursing homes. I would like to quote from an article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ on 7th March 1968, and which reported a statement made by a person who has dedicated herself to serve humanity. The article read:
Mrs Marie Coleman, a Melbourne medical social worker, said today that the Commonwealth was ‘propping up a free enterprise system that exploits the chronically ill’.
Mrs Coleman is a medical social worker with the Asthma Foundation of Victoria. . . .
The only cash grants the Federal Government allocates at present are for people already in homes for the aged,’ she said.
She said the Federal Government was now paying $22m a year in nursing home subsidies. Two thirds of this went to private nursing homes which were run as business ventures. The amount would probably increase because more private beds were being established than beds in charitable institutions.
Last year six new public nursing homes were opened compared with 61 new private nursing homes’, Mrs Coleman said. ‘This made available 242 new public nursing beds and more than 1,300 new private nursing beds. Nothing could show more clearly that we are propping up a free enterprise system that exploits the chronically ill.’
Those are the words of a trained social worker. The honourable member for St George (Mr Bosman), who is trying to interject, wants to prop up the private sector. He does not want to develop the public sector. What is our problem? As I move around various parts of my electorate, particularly the Rosehill and Parramatta areas as well as areas such as in Burwood and Strathfield, I find many large old homes to which additions have been made so that they may now be used as private nursing homes. In those old buildings the room which was originally the lounge room is usually the only recreation area that the inmates have. And what do they do there? They sit around the sides of the lounge room and look into space or just look at one another. This is the tragic experience of these people. They live as though they were simply waiting for transfer to the morgue. They are just existing. There is no social understanding of their problems.
This is a wealthy nation and many of us talk about our so called affluent society. We can spend money on war and on arms, on luxury hotels and commercial buildings but we cannot find enough money to build adequate nursing homes for our aged people who require geriatric treatment. We cannot provide enough nursing homes and hospitals in the public sector. The extra benefit that is being offered under this legislation will serve to subsidise private enterprise even further. Why do we not build homes especially for those needing geriatric treatment, and try to lengthen their lives and cure some of their ills so that they may go back to their own homes and live with their own families? If we had enough well trained people to tackle the job we could do something about it. We should build homes and hospitals in surroundings where there are serenity and softness and gentleness, where there are beautiful gardens and where these people can live in peace and dignity. This is the kind of job we should be doing, and we should not be doing it on the cheap. Even though the legislation now before us is a step in the right direction, it still amounts to trying to solve the problem on the cheap. We are not providing the capital funds that are necessary. We can find money to build battleships, to provide armaments and to kill, but we cannot make a sufficient contribution towards building healthy bodies and keeping people alive.
The honourable member for McMillan said that the cheapest rate one could expect in a nursing home was $45 a week. I have seen places in my area which offer accommodation for old people at $32 a week. But even at that figure how do these people manage to pay? Under the old scheme the government subsidy was $2 a day or $14 a week. If a single pensioner contributed the full amount of his pension this built the total up to $28 a week. This meant that the pensioner’s son or daughter, or whoever else he could find, had to provide the other $4 a week. Remember that I am working on the bare minimum of $32 a week, and I consider it indecent to ask these people to live in the kind of accommodation that is available at these rates.
I notice that the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) is in the House. Surely, as a former religious leader, he would understand the suffering of these old people and the inhuman and depressing conditions under which they live. He knows the kind of old home in which they are accommodated in the area that he represents. Surely these people should be entitled to live in special geriatric hospitals or in special nursing homes built by the Government, in places where there is some aesthetic approach to life. This is the kind of treatment that they should be given, instead of being forced to live in such depressing conditions that they might just as well be waiting for transfer to the morgue.
We on this side of the House strongly criticise the regressive policy of the Government which starves State instrumentalities of the money necessary to make a proper contribution in this field. We regret that the present health scheme is so lacking in purpose.
– I support the Bill. It seeks to make three major amendments and two minor amendments to the National Health Act, which is part of the national welfare scheme that has over the years, in our federal system, had a magnificent record. The Bill makes some important changes. It may be worth remembering, in view of the remarks of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) that the Government in its national welfare programme has created a climate that has enabled the building of geriatric units and homes for the aged in magnificent surroundings. At present the Government spends some $300m or $400m a year more on national welfare than it does on defence. The national welfare scheme that we are discussing tonight has worked well for Australia. The amendments contained in the Bill are the result of the work of the new Welfare Committee of Cabinet, which the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) chairs. I congratulate him and his Committee on these changes. They are of great significance, not only for themselves but also for the philosophy that is behind them.
The Bill, firstly, seeks to remove the financial burden that up to now has fallen on those who, although adequately insured, have had their hospital benefits reduced under the rules of the hospital benefit organisations relating to pre-existing or chronic ailments or long term illnesses. Secondly, the Bill provides for a supplementary benefit of $3 a day to be paid in respect of patients in nursing homes who require and receive intensive nursing home care. The supplementary benefit will be in addition to the existing nursing home benefit of $2 a day. Thirdly, the Bill provides for a benefit of $1.50 a day to be paid in respect of handicapped children residing in handicapped persons homes conducted by religious or charitable bodies.
The first of these major amendments, which seek to remove the financial burden from those suffering from chronic illnesses, is of considerable significance and importance. Over the years a number of honourable members have sought to have the situation of these people improved. This will now be done. Through the special account system, the Commonwealth will underwrite the full insured benefit entitlements of a person for the whole period of hospitalisation. The payments will not exceed the hospital charges. This is of immense importance, because one of the major fears of elderly people has been that they would not be able to meet the hospital charges if their condition became chronic and they had to remain in hospital for a very long period. This provision will have a beneficial effect upon those elderly people who do not qualify for the pensioner medical service but who still receive only a fixed income.
The second amendment provides for an additional benefit of $3 a day for people who receive intensive nursing home care. The Bill defines intensive nursing home care as: . . nursing home care for a person who, by reason of infiirmity or any illness, disease, incapacity or disability, is bedridden or virtually bedridden and is wholly or substantially dependent upon nursing care or, by reason of the treatment of any illness, disease, incapacity or disability, is wholly or substantially dependent upon nursing home care.
The definition is fairly explicit. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The term ‘intensive’ is related to the degree of nursing care or paramedical treatment that the patients in the nursing homes need and receive. Patients who will receive the supplementary benefit will include those whose disabilities make them virtually bed-fast, who are wholly or substantially dependent upon nursing care and who are undergoing comprehensive nursing aimed at improving their health or their independence and are thereby dependent on nursing care. I must make it clear that patients who receive such treatment away from their beds will not be debarred from receiving the supplementary benefit. In other words I am concerned that this new benefit should not have the effect of confining a patient requiring comprehensive nursing care to bed when it is in the best interests of the patient to receive medical or paramedical treatment away from the bed.
This aspect has concerned a number of people in my electorate. Matron and Mr Parker, who run the Avoca Nursing Home, wrote to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, to the Minister and to me on this point. The
Minister has, by this definition and by his statement, removed some of the worries of these people, who run a very fine nursing home. However, they are still concerned because the Bill will allow people who run a nursing home to keep patients in bed longer than need be. Of course, the people who run nursing homes do, as nurses, have a responsibility to give the best treatment to their patients. The doctors whose patients are in nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure that their patients become independent as soon as possible. This benefit will undoubtedly relieve the burden of the nursing home and indirectly the financial burden of the patient. Again it is a matter of significance and importance and reflects the philosophy to national welfare of the Government and the work of the Welfare Committee of Cabinet. This measure will enable better treatment to be given to patients and will remove some of the fears of elderly people.
The third amendment relates to handicapped children. This is a completely new venture of the Government. It will provide a benefit to religious or charitable organisations of $1.50 a day for handicapped children who are resident in handicapped persons homes. The money will be paid to the people who run the school or institution for the handicapped children. It will to some extent offset the charges that are made on the parents and other people responsible for handicapped children, lt will be paid until the child reaches the age of 16 years. As I say, this is a new benefit of great importance. But I raise a question as to the position of handicapped children who are not resident in these institutions. 1 have in mind children such as those who attend the Fairhaven School for Subnormal Children, an institution which is just outside Gosford and which does a remarkable job. Some 30 or 40 children go there each day. It is just one of many such schools and institutions throughout Australia that help a section of the community that is in great need. These children through no fault of their own have suffered from some handicap since birth or shortly after birth and they need special education and special assistance.
I believe that the Government should look at the question of giving a form of invalid pension or sickness benefit to the parents of handicapped children as soon as the incapacity of those children is assessed medically. 1 think that the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) has mentioned this matter on previous occasions. My reasons for making this suggestion are that children who, through no fault of their own, have these handicaps are a great financial burden to their parents. The parents of the children usually are young. They face this burden early in their married lives. This is the time when they can least afford to have additional financial burdens.
Also if some greater financial assistance were available, the child in turn would have available to it - and the conditions attached to the benefit could be worded in this way - better medical treatment and would be able to go to a school or institution where it had medical supervision. With the advances being made in medical science these days, the giving of professional medical assistance to such a handicapped child far earlier in his life could well give a better chance of curing or assisting him as he grows, or would enable him to lead a more productive life within the community. If the handicap was such that it did not allow the child to work after reaching 16 years of age, he would receive an invalid pension. If a child can be assisted very early in life, with the advances being made by medical science every chance exists that cures will be found.
To appreciate this possibility, one has only to read the latest issue of ‘Time’ magazine in which details are set out of the new operations that have been developed in the United States of America and Canada for removing half the brain of a child. This is done in the first few years of the life of a child who is suffering from a special disease which would either kill him or maim him for life. Now such children can lead a full and productive life as a result of the operation described. Similarly, with many of the handicaps that children have, proper medical assistance early in their lives will radically alter their lives. I should like the Government to take a look at this proposal that assistance be given to the parents of children who have an incapacity that is assessed medically very early in their lives. This assistance would be in addition to the provision proposed by this Bill which will be of great assistance to children and those who look after them.
My proposal, I think, would be complementary to the Bill and would fill a gap in that regard.
The Minister for Health in his second reading speech said: the Government is currently exploring, wilh State governments, ways of strengthening and extending domiciliary welfare services within the community. These are the services which are aimed at helping the sick, the frail and needy, especially older people, in their own domestic environment which, in many cases, is to be preferred to the institutional environment of hospitals and nursing homes. The Government will assist the States financially to achieve a balanced and extended domiciliary care programme.
I look forward to the day when this programme is announced and introduced. This is a matter about which I have spoken on several occasions over the last 2 or 3 years. lt is something that has been pioneered in Australia by men like Dr Gibson of the Royal Newcastle Hospital, whose work the Government knows well. With the States co-operating with the Commonwealth Government I believe that this is a field that will add to the comprehensive nature of our national health and welfare programme as it operates now and as it is proposed to be amended by the legislation before the House tonight. The amendments that we see in this Bill are part of what I believe is a major and comprehensive plan for looking after those who are in most need in the community, the people who are suffering through no fault of their own. This work will continue with the establishment of the Welfare Committee of Cabinet. This Committee is looking into the full programme as it affects the major sections of our society.
I believe that the Commonwealth and the States could well get together more closely on this subject than they do at the moment. We have seen the bringing together, through the Welfare Committee, of the Commonwealth departments concerned. I believe that we need within Australia a welfare council which would consist of the Commonwealth and State Ministers concerned with health and social services - the matters dealt with by the Ministers who comprise the Welfare Committee - to define the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States not only in financial matters but also in the establishment of priorities in this field, and to establish which level of government is to be responsible for particular areas of welfare services. I know that this will be a matter of great difficulty in negotiation. But I do believe that this is one way in which some of the problems that have been raised in the debate today can be solved. This is something that I suggested 12 months or so ago. If these responsibilities are defined and if priorities are established, I believe we will come closer to solving some of the financial problems existing between the Commonwealth and the States. 1 believe that we need to go further, as I have mentioned, in assisting handicapped children. I look forward to seeing the domiciliary care scheme that the Government is to announce and which has been forecast by the Minister in his second reading speech. I believe that we should look at the question of assisting the States and consider some of the problems that our elderly people face. We can help with these problems by the provision of geriatric assistance to hospitals possibly along the lines of assistance such as the Commonwealth gave to education in respect of science laboratories. We should try to ensure that there is within our universities at least one department of geriatrics. I hope that the Australian Universities Commission will consider whether or not it is possible in the next triennium to establish such a department. I hope that it will not be too long before the Government establishes in the Department of Health a position of director of geriatrics or some other post of direct responsibility in this field. I hope that the Government will do something in this matter in the near future.
As I have said, the need exists lo define responsibilities and priorities. This Bill introduces some fairly major changes affecting the already excellent record of the Government in national health and social welfare. The advances that we are discussing tonight will go a long way towards introducing a full and comprehensive plan for assistance. I commend the Minister on the work that he has done in this area. I commend the Government on the establishment of the Welfare Committee. I commend the Government also for what it has done in this field. I hope for even greater assistance to elderly people and to those in our community who suffer from illness or handicaps.
– I do not propose to speak at any length on this Bill. 1 propose to be extremely brief. The subject has been very well covered and I do not propose to cover the arguments that have been introduced into this debate. Reference has been made to many aspects of the national health service which really have nothing to do with the Bill. I think that the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) replied to them very effectively tonight.
I want to say something in support of the Government’s proposed new health benefits and to compliment the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) on the progress he will make when the proposed new benefits come into operation. This Bill will help considerably in overcoming some of the shortcomings in Australia’s voluntary health insurance scheme. When I refer to shortcomings, I do not think the Government has ever said that our national health scheme was a perfect scheme. There is no such thing as a perfect health scheme. The Government has said that it is a good scheme for Australia, and that is quite true. It has also said that it is a health scheme that we could afford. It has a very high rating in all the countries of the Western world. It is accepted by the medical profession and its ancillaries as a most workable scheme. We can be proud of that and of the fact that it is rated extremely highly in Western countries.
The proposals in this Bill will considerably help to close some of the gaps in our health service that we admit have existed. The Government has always believed in the principle that medical care should be available to all Australians regardless of cost. If one studies the history of our health services one will see that each year some of the deficiencies that we acknowledge in the present system are removed. The new benefits in this Bill are designed to aid people with chronic and long term illnesses and to assist in ensuring the welfare of handicapped children. They will cost about $28m a year. This assistance will ease the financial hardships of the chronically ill and the long term patients to an extent which we all approve, and the Minister’s promise in regard to a national approach to health service from the hospital to the home will become a reality. The goal that the Government has been working towards is that people in need of health and welfare services should be adequately cared for in accommodation most suited to their needs, whether it be a nursing home, a hospital or their own home. This also applies to handicapped children.
No service outlined by the Minister can be fully successful without the help of the States. I think the Minister has stressed this. I am happy to say that the Commonwealth is prepared to assist the States with the capital cost involved in providing nursing home beds for people who require this type of attention. In addition, as the Minister has said, the Government is currently exploring with State governments ways of strengthening domiciliary welfare services. The Minister said also that these services are aimed at helping the sick, the frail, the needy, and especially the older people in their own domestic environment which in many cases is to be preferred to the institutional environment of a hospital or nursing home.
The Minister said that the Government will assist the States financially to achieve a balanced and expanded domiciliary care programme. Apart from the invaluable help it affords to people in their homes, the home nursing service help considerably in relieving the pressure on public hospitals. I think it goes even further and that it helps to relieve the pressure on the outpatient clinic. This proposal will be met with the general approbation of all young people who know anything of the work of the home nursing service. That service will have its subsidy increased, in some cases, by $400 to $2,600 per nurse and in other cases from $1,100 to $1,300. This will help the home nursing service to keep pace with the salaries paid by the principal hospitals to their nursing staff and will also assist them to recruit nursing staff in which they find very great difficulty at the present time.
The Royal District Nursing Service in my own State of Victoria performs an excellent service in looking after the frail, aged and others in their homes. It will welcome this assistance. To my knowledge it has six depots, or sub-headquarters if I may be permitted to use that term, spread strategically over the Melbourne metropolitan area. The work which it does deserves the greatest approbation of the community. I think the community does recognise the work of this Service and commends the Service for it.
The people who are suffering from long term illnesses will probably gain most from (his Bill. The proposals will help to remove some of the financial worries from those who have to stay in hospitals or nursing homes for long periods, as well as those insured patients who have been prevented from obtaining full hospital fund benefits by reason of pre-existing ailments. It is not always pre-existing ailments or chronic illness that keep patients in hospitals for longer than the 3 months provided for in the Act. Accidents that elderly people encounter, such as a fractured femur, provide a perfect example.
Hospital managements throughout the country will welcome this Bill, quite apart from the subscribers to benefit organisations, the inmates of nursing homes or the handicapped children who will receive great benefit. The hospital managements will be able to administer their organisations much more successfully when they know exactly what they will receive in the future. I commend the Government and the Minister for introducing this Bill so soon after the Budget. I hope that it will be received by the House and that it will have a very speedy passage through the Committee stage.
– in reply - I thank honourable members for their contribution to this debate and the support which I believe exists on both sides of the House for these proposals, even though some aspects may have been criticised. I say to the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) that I feel quite certain that the Nimmo Committee will bring down recommendations designed to make the health scheme simpler and that this in itself will assist to overcome the problem which he raised about the uncertainty of entitlements under the scheme. I point out to the honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) that the rationalisation of major facilities such as heart and renal transplants has been the subject of consideration by a committee from the National Health and Medical Research Council, and I am sure that the governments concerned will take account of the views expressed by that body.
The honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) expressed his views with a great force and clarity. He evoked a good deal of sympathy in the House when he spoke of the problems of organisations of the parents of sub-normal children. His comments have been very carefully noted by me and will certainly be taken into account when we review our approach to mental health at the expiration of the current term of the States Grants (Mental Health Institutions) Act. I suggest that this would be a more appropriate means of meeting the problem that he described than any extension of the present handicapped children’s benefit.
The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) raised the problem of organisations banding together under the Aged Persons Homes Act jointly in providing nursing home facilities. The honourable member is not in the chamber at the moment and perhaps he might read my remarks in Hansard. 1 suggest that he has a talk to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services about the specific problem he has in Geelong and he might well find that he can do what he desires to do under the existing arrangements.
The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) mentioned the difficulties that might occur with respect to classifying intensive nursing home patients. I am well aware of these difficulties. The only thing 1 would say to the honourable member is that the policy of my Department, when any doubt exists, will be to give the benefit of the doubt to the patient. While 1 am on this point, I should mention that two members of the Opposition, the honourable member for Yarra (Dr J. F. Cairns) and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), seemed very worried about the fact that my Department would ultimately make a decision with respect to the classification of nursing home cases. I made an interjection during the honourable member for Yarra’s speech yesterday to the effect that the final decision would rest on the basis of a medical decision given in my Department.
A little consideration and reading of the Act will make it perfectly clear why this must be so. The payment of this supplementary benefit depends on the DirectorGeneral of Health being satisfied that the patient requires intensive nursing home care and that the home is adequately fitted, furnished and staffed to provide that care. The Director-General, to so satisfy himself, will rely on a medical certificate issued by the patient’s own medical practitioner.
The Director-General will seek the opinion of his medical officers and where necessary the nursing homes will be inspected by his medical officers. But the point I want to make is this: Even if it were possible to rely entirely on the opinion of the patient’s own medical practitioner with respect to whether the patient was in need of intensive home nursing care, obviously it would not be possible to rely on the patient’s own medical practitioner as to whether the home was so staffed and fitted out to provide intensive nursing home care. So ultimately the decision must rest with the Department.
The honourable member for McMillan asked what progress was being made in relation to the announcement in the Budget speech that the Government would be making available capital sums of Sim a year for 5 years for the building by State governments of nursing homes for the infirm and aged. The answer to that question is that we are currently discussing this matter with the States. The Government regards this as an inseparable part of its proposals to assist the States to provide comprehensive and wide ranging domiciliary care services. These two aspects are being discussed together with the States. Some progress has been made, but the matter has not been brought to finality yet. When it has been, I will, of course, inform the Parliament.
The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Bridges-Maxwell) raised the problem of payment of a benefit to children who are noi in institutions. This matter concerns the handicapped persons benefit. All I can say to the honourable member is that I will look al this problem. However, 1 am bound to point out that this benefit is designed to remove the anomaly that exists because of the technical provisions of the Act in respect of the payment of nursing home benefits. This relates specifically to the question of institutional care. The question of the payment of benefits to children or anyone else who are not in an institution but in their own homes raises problems of considerable magnitude. Maybe we will be able to overcome them. But 1 make the point that a child in this category would receive a benefit under the normal provisions of the medical benefits scheme. If, after we receive the report from the Nimmo Committee we can strengthen and make the medical benefits scheme more satisfactory than it is at present this may be a way of meeting this problem.
The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth) mentioned the good work being done by the home nursing service and I entirely agree with him. The honourable member mentioned the Melbourne District Nursing Service. 1 had the opportunity of visiting this institution and I saw the good work that is being done. I have not said much about the contribution made by the Opposition. I think the reason why it is not necessary for me to say much about the Opposition, quite apart from the searching analysis of the honourable member for Yarra’s speech made by the honourable member for Bowman, with which I entirely agree and which left me with very little to say without being accused by the Chair of tedious repetition, is that the honourable member for Yarra’s speech mirrored perhaps all the contributions made by the Opposition in this debate. The honourable member for Yarra, in his speech yesterday, said:
Finally, I want to make a number of points which occur to me as a result of my own quite amateur research in this field. I have a responsibility on the part of the Opposition to look after health matters. I frankly admit that it is a fulltime job and I cannot do it as fully or as adequately as 1 think it ought to be done.
That was perfectly obvious from the contribution the honourable member made to the debate. Not only had he not done much work on it but I would have thought that he had not done any at all. If this represents the level of the Opposition’s approach to this vital matter of health, where is its vaunted interest in the welfare and health of the Australian people. The leading exponent of the Opposition on health matters says that it is a part time job. As I said, this was clear throughout his speech.
In conclusion I would like to make one point to illustrate this. The honourable member did not condemn the proposals that were contained in this Bill. He described them as necessary and damned them with faint praise by calling them ad hoc measures, and something that had not been comprehensively thought out. The honourable member did not tell us what he would do or what the Opposition would do, if given the opportunity. In fact, the opposition has never done this. The Opposition, with respect to the reorganisation of hospital and medical care has taken over without question, without changing a dot on an ‘i’ or a cross on a ‘t’, proposals for a radical compulsory health insurance scheme put forward by two young Melbourne economists without any consultation wilh the people concerned or the professions that will be affected by it. The Leader of the Opposition has put forward Labor’s health policy but in respect of the matters about which we have been talking tonight and particularly the Opposition’s attitude towards nursing homes, which are not mentioned in the Deeble-Scott-Whitlam scheme, the Opposition has been completely silent. Yet the honourable member for Yarra had the hide to accuse the Government of approaching this problem in an ad hoc manner.
An enormous amount of work has gone into devising the proposals which are contained in the Bill. These proposals were not devised in an ad hoc manner. They have not been plucked out of the air. They have not been put forward without adequate regard to the state of knowledge about the provision of appropriate institutional processes in the community. They have been deliberately framed to ensure that those people in Australia who need acute hospital treatment will go into appropriate hospitals and be paid the appropriate rate of benefit.
The proposals have been designed to ensure that those people who need not acute hospital treatment but intensive nursing home treatment - treatment which costs one-third as much or less - shall be able to enter a nursing home adequately equipped for this purpose and shall be paid an appropriate rate of benefit. The proposals have been designed to ensure that those who need only light nursing home care of a personal kind will find their way into an institution appropriately equipped to provide that care. The proposals have been designed, as the Government has announced, to ensure that people who can get by without going into an institution will have available to them a comprehensive personal domiciliary care service in their home. Notwithstanding this, the honourable member for Yarra has accused the Government of adopting an ad hoc approach to the problem. It seems to me that the Government’s approach has been rational and perfectly sensible. It is an approach that is of benefit to the patient and is economical. I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Dr Forbes) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 22 August (vide page 464), on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– The Opposition is in complete agreement with the Bill. The Labor Party has always supported the granting of assistance to primary industry by way of bounties on the production of phosphatic or nitrogenous fertilisers. 1 think the Government has fallen down on the job by not according the production of nitrogenous fertilisers the same treatment as has been accorded the production of phosphatic fertilisers under this Bill because both nitrogen and phosphorus are of extreme importance to primary production in Australia and will be of significantly greater importance as time goes on.
The Bill provides for an increase to $8 a ton of standard superphosphate, which is superphosphate having a phosphorus pentoxide, or P2O5, content of 22%; an increase to $40 a ton of phosphorus pentoxide content in superphosphate other than standard superphosphate; and a similar increase related to the phosphorus pentoxide content of other phosphatic fertilisers. The Bill also provides that the weight of approved compounds or other substances containing trace elements when added to superphosphate shall be deemed to be superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty.
By and large these amendments to the legislation are welcomed by the Opposition because it may be said that costs of production will be reduced because the cost of fertilisers will have been reduced. The Bill will provide an incentive to increase production, particularly in wool and to a minor degree in beef in southern Australia. Certainly the Bill will help to stabilise or even increase the production of certain grains, particularly wheat and sorghums. As wool, beef and wheat are very important to the export economy of the country the obvious benefits to Australia from increased production in these industries are clear. I will deal in more detail later with the potential for the northern parts of Australia.
Certain aspects of research are indirectly related to this Bill. The prime objective of the bounty on phosphatic fertilisers is to provide an incentive to primary producers to use more phosphate. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) cited figures to show that in the last few years there has been a very significant increase in the use of phosphatic fertilisers. A tremendous amount of research is going on in this field. All honourable members who are interested in fertiliser research will have been following the achievements of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the State departments of agriculture as well as the achievements of some universities and of farmers through induction or observation. I want to deal in more detail later wilh some of the fundamental research work which is the backbone of this legislation.
I would like to touch briefly on the phosphorus that is in the soil. What is its significance? A lot of research work still has to be done on various soil types under various conditions in Australia. Even though, for all practical purposes, two soil types may look the same in terms of vegetable cover or test results, experimental work and farmers’ practical experience have shown that the application of like fertilisers can give different responses. This is due to a number of factors.
The phosphorus in the soil can be in many forms. A significant proportion of the phosphorus in the soils on which pastures are grown is in a form in which it is unavailable to the plant and cannot be efficiently utilised until progressive decomposition breaks down the residual in organic matter. The residual phosphate remaining in the soil in inorganic form is usually associated with some of the elements, particularly aluminium and iron in the fixation process. When it is not in contact with the soil phosphorus is present as a soluble monocalcium phosphate. Phosphorus that is not in contact with the soil is quite different from phosphorus that is in contact with the soil. The time for which it is in contact with the soil is important also. When it is in contact with the soil there is an immediate breakdown or reaction of chemical processes, which usually transforms the readly available phosphorus into less readily availablephosphorus by what is called the fixation process.
Soil tests are becoming more and more important in Australia. Provision is made in the Bill also for aluminium phosphate and various forms of phosphate which can be utilised by the farmer in one form or another. As more and more phosphorus is used, more and more soil testing will be undertaken by farmers. The importance of phosphate fertilisers is usually thought to be directly related to an increase in the body of pasture in terms of dry matter, which in turn will give a higher slocking rate of sheep or cattle. The same argument applies to grain crops.
Let us take pastures first. There is a definite cycle whereby the application of phosphorus to a legume leads to a building up of nitrogen as a result of the symbiosis of the legume and nitrogen fixing Rhizobium bacteria. This simply means that as superphosphate is applied to a pasture by using effective Rhizobium bacteria wc create or manufacture nitrogen in the soil. This is the process which is most important in the whole of the pasture wool cycle or the pasture beef cycle. There is plenty of experimental evidence today to show that the application of, say, 1 cwt of superphosphate - a single phosphate - with a suitable legume of subterranean clover - one of the white clovers - would increase the amount of nitrogen in the soil to the equivalent of 3 cwt of sulphate of ammonia. This is quite a common occurrence now being shown in experiments. This in itself is not entirely correct unless we bring in the other variable of the stocking rate, because it is a combination of growing a pasture with the stocking rate on that pasture which determines, firstly, how much superphosphate or phosphatic fertiliser one applies and, secondly, the resultant build up of nitrogen in the soil.
There is no point in going over the great influence which phosphatic fertilisers have had on the build up of pastures and the increase in wool and cereal production in southern Australia. This story is well known and (here is tremendous research work still to bc carried out on it. It has been shown by analysis, for example, that on an average every additional acre of improved pasture in the temperate zone has resulted in an increase of the equivalent of about 1.6 sheep per acre in carrying capacity. Professor Colin Donald and others have carried out independent analyses and have arrived at similar figures. Also, officers of the Department of Primary Industry engaged in the research work of fertiliser analysis have arrived at similar conclusions. So it is quite obvious that improved pasture is of very great importance in relation to increasing carrying capacity and increasing beef or wool production, but this, of course, is dependent greatly on the availability and economics of the application of phosphate.
When we consider tropical pastures we find that only in recent years has there been an understanding of the role of tropical legumes and phosphate in the build up of the nitrogen in the soils. In fact, for many years the efficiency of symbiotic nitrogen fixation was questioned, lt was thought, for example, that whereas subterranean clovers - white clovers - respond to superphosphate and built up the nitrogen in the soil through effective nodulation fixation, this was not the case in northern Australia, or in sub-tropical and tropical areas. In quite recent years the Division of Tropical Pastures in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has established that the tropical legumes in the north will play a part which is just as important as the part that subterranean clover has played in southern Australia. This is extremely important, because the work of the Cunningham Laboratory and of the Division of Tropical Pastures in Townsville is showing conclusive evidence of the great potential that there is now in the higher rainfall areas of Queensland, the top end of the Northern Territory, and limited areas in the Kimberleys - areas where there is a definite response to phosphatic fertilisers - in the application of these fertilisers to tropical legumes and then a build up of nitrogen in the soil. Not only is it showing with respect to pastures as such but the work in Townsville in particular has indicated a substantial increase in the physical characteristics of calf survival and in the rate of brandings and calf drop, so it would seem that whereas the body of grass, or the dry matter equivalent, has greatly increased, there is also a substantial increase in protein productivity of the animal itself due to the application of phosphatic fertilisers.
At present work on the desmodium and phaseolus pastures in particular has shown great promise, but the one that is apparently outstanding, according to experimental results, in its ability to self-seed is the stylosanthes species, or the Townsville lucerne. Research work at Katherine as well as in Townsville has shown that Townsville lucerne possibly does not fix as much nitrogen as the temperate legumes but that applications of phosphatic fertilisers to Townsville lucerne will build up in the soil the equivalent of up to 100 lb of nitrogen per acre. If these correlations are correct, and scientific evidence certainly suggests that they are, there is undoubtedly a very big future for phosphatic fertilisers in the high rainfall areas and for the direct application of nitrogen from the bag itself in the higher rainfall areas. Work in New Zealand in the favourable area of Palmerston North, where there are lush pastures and ideal conditions - and although I have not been there I have read about it and 1 believe that probably some areas of Victoria, including parts of the area represented by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), would closely resemble it - has indicated that by the application of phosphatic fertilisers to the clover the nitrogen content can be built up to about 500 lb per acre. These are rather staggering results and they indicate the tremendous future that there is in the application of fertilisers in Australia if such application is based on research work on soil types and conditions.
It seems to me that environmental conditions must be considered because too often fertilisers are applied and the response about which the scientist has written is not achieved because conditions have not been similar to the conditions in the experimental tests, lt is of great importance that the most effective strains of Rhizobium bacteria are used. I do not intend to speak of the economics of the application of fertiliser because it is not particularly relevant to the Bill except, of course, that rt is obvious that one of the most important criteria for the farmer is that unless it pays him to put on phosphate or nitrogen he does not put it on. Every rational farmer would agree that tremendous gains are to be made from the judicious application of phosphate and nitrogen.
I want to speak briefly on the more concentrated forms of phosphatic fertilisers because we have the rather strange phenomenon in Australia that approximately 99% of the phosphatic fertiliser used here is in the form of single or standard superphosphate, which is 22% P20.- and there is only a limited manufacture of double superphosphate. I think that is about 45% and that the triple is about 50%. It seems to me that more and more use will be made of the double, triple and more concentrated forms of phosphatic fertilisers because of increased freight costs. It has been shown that the cost of the aerial application of triple phosphatic fertiliser on pastures is only half that of the cost of the application of single superphosphate. It seems that there is a case for more concentrated applications of superphosphate, using the double and the triple in some cases, because of increased freight costs, particularly in the more remote areas.
Further research work is showing that new processes have to be studied. One such process relates to poly-phosphates. The study of these processes is in its infancy in the United States at the present time. Research work is being carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in some areas of Australia, lt is obvious that Australia has to keep abreast in this field and has to back fertiliser research to the hilt. There are problems associated with the use of alternatives to superphosphate. These uses are common in the United Slates. Whereas Australia uses 99% phosphatic fertiliser, in the form of superphosphate. America on the other hand is using only 4%. This is a very strange phenomenon. Many scientists in Australia are exploring alternative uses for superphosphate because of the basic difference between 99% and 4%.
One of the principal alternatives to superphosphate is basic super. This is used in the more acid soils and experimental research has produced some sound evidence. Basic super is partly neutralised with calcium carbonate but, again, this work is only in its infancy and more research has to be carried out. A lot of use is made overseas of basic slag but in Australia our steel works do not produce a slag suitable for the manufacture of fertiliser. In Western Australia the Serpentine superphosphate has been used experimentally on wheat. Other experiments have been carried out elsewhere on rock phosphate. I am not sure whether they are still being carried out in the Northern Territory. When I was more directly associated with the Northern Territory, experiments were under way with a rock phosphate on pastures. At this stage I do not think anyone could say that we have a better fertiliser to substitute for superphosphate. That is probably the reason why 99% of our phosphatic fertilisers are in the form of superphosphate, such as the standard superphosphate P2O5 A lot of people are puzzled why this percentage is so high. One of the reasons why the use of superphosphate is so high is that we get high grade rock phosphate rock. When we have high grade rock phosphate rock available it pays us to manufacture superphosphate.
Scientific evidence is now showing that there is a considerable deficiency in sulphur. More research has to be done into alternatives to superphosphate, such as amnion niated superphosphate and slag. This is being carried out in some areas. However, as I said, we cannot use slag here unless the steel works manufacture it specially, but this may not be desirable, because there are many areas in Australia in which the soils are deficient in sulphur. Experiments are showing that other fertilisers, such as rock phosphate or basic superphosphate, might bc alternatives to single superphosphate; but, on the other hand, if there are clearly deficiencies in sulphur in the soils it is obvious that similar results would not be achieved.
Research work being carried out at the Waite Agricultural Research Institute indicates that alternatives to superphosphate show great promise. But then again, unless one replicates an experiment one never knows whether the result is due only to those two variables. When one is measuring only the response of sulphur or of a special type of phosphorous or phosphatic fertiliser and the response of pasture, live weight or carrying capacity, one is not certain whether the two variables measured are the only ones involved. As I said previously, there may be a combination of a deficiency in aluminium, copper, iron or some of the trace elements in association with the deficiency in phosphorus or nitrogen. Those honourable members in the chamber tonight who are practical producers know full well the complexity of the problem of determining just how much superphosphate should be applied to pastures. Usually a farmer takes a yardstick of 1 cwt per acre, but nobody seems to know whether it should be 0.5 cwt, 1.5 cwt or 2 cwt. This factor is difficult to judge because of the number of variables involved. Because of the residual effects of fertiliser in the soil, it may be that over a period we should apply smaller quantities of phosphatic fertiliser than we are using.
As I said previously, one of the very interesting aspects of reasearch work which is coming to light is the correlation between the stocking rate and the rate of application of fertiliser. This is of extreme importance. On the one hand, if the rate of application of fertiliser is increased to a certain level, there is usually an increase in the proportion of dry matter in the pastures. But research work has shown that if the stocking rate is increased, a smaller quantity of fertiliser is required. This may seem strange to some people, but it is a fact which has been revealed by research and by practical experience.
The greater the stocking rate per acre, the less fertiliser the pasture requires over a period. Why is this? The first thing that happens is that heavier stocking reduces the volume of herbage. And herbage, of course, utilises a great deal of phosphorous. By keeping down weeds and limiting the rankness of pastures, one is able to apply judicious quantities of superphosphate. I think this is one of the most important facts that has come out of research today. Certainly, work in the Crookwell district, which has been carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has shown that soil, fertiliser, plant and animal - four variables - really form the one system. If you change one of those things you change your whole system and may need more or less fertiliser, more or less animals, or whatever it might be, to the acre.
J want to say one thing now about the soils that have great potential for cropping in areas thai have not been using very much phosphatic or nitrogenous fertiliser. I refer to the brigalow soils in Queensland.
– It is a nitrogenous plant.
– That is an interesting point to which the honourable member for Hindmarsh has drawn attention. Although the brigalow - Acacia Harpophylla - is a tree which grows up to 25 or 30 feet in height, it is an acacia, or a legume which builds up nitrogen in the soil. That is one of of the reasons why the inherent nutrients in the brigalow soils are relatively rich compared with those of other soils in Australia.
– ls that because of the nodules on the roots of the brigalow?
– Yes, nodulation. Summer cropping in the brigalow soils is the crop enterprise which offers the greatest promise. This is due entirely to the fact that in these areas you have the incidence of summer moisture. There is great scope in the areas around Biloela, Belyando and Emerald for summer cropping. But let me issue a note of warning here. It is obvious that, after a time, despite the inherent richness of the soil, judicious applications of superphosphate will be needed. There is tremendous scope for the growing of grain sorghum in these areas as well as certain other areas in the north.
As I said before, although this is not covered by the Bill, I regret that the Government has not accorded the same treatment to nitrogenous fertilisers because in my view this represents clear discrimination against the sugar growing areas of Australia where 90% of the nitrogenous fertilisers are used. One would think that, because of the economic circumstances of the sugar areas, if this preferential treatment can be justified for wheat and wool, it can be more than justified for sugar.
Let me say in conclusion that in the north there is undoubted technical potential for large areas by the application of phosphatic fertiliser, whether it be in single, double or triple fertiliser form, or in the form of alternatives, but the cost of the fertiliser is a most important consideration. Up to 50% of the total cost of phosphatic fertiliser is represented by freight. Freight is a killer in these areas. I have no doubt that if the cost of phosphatic fertilisers were reduced we would see a revolution in the northern areas of Australia.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) has a great interest in the Northern Territory. 1 am sure that he will agree that if only we could get cheaper phosphatic fertilisers into the higher rainfall areas at the top end of the Northern Territory, in areas such as the Adelaide and Darwin districts, as well as in the higher rainfall areas of north Queensland we could see a revolution in terms of pasture development which in turn would mean increased beef production. Wherever new fields of phosphorous are discovered in the north, serious consideration should be given to encouraging the establishment of processing plants in those areas in order to provide cheaper fertiliser for the north. We need these plants to fill the gap. At present we cannot achieve a great increase in the use of fertiliser in those areas because it is too expensive. Until we can arrive at a situation in which a lot of fertiliser is sold in those areas it will not become cheap enough. The situation is reminiscent of the dog chasing its tail. If the fertiliser is available at a lower price the demand will increase, and this may lead to the establishment of a fertiliser plant, particularly for phosphate fertiliser, in the north, f am sure the country will benefit, from the use of phosphate fertiliser in these areas, and later also probably from the use of nitrogenous fertilisers.
The Opposition supports the Bill. It will always support Bills of this nature which provide sensible incentives to increase production. This legislation is sound. It provides for a resultant increase of production of exportable goods which can be sold profitably and it will lead to development or decentralisation - whatever term one prefers. This kind of legislation is welcomed by the Opposition.
– I. am pleased to find that the Opposition supports this Bill. I am in almost complete agreement with Opposition speakers on the subject of research, as will become apparent, I hope, in the course of my contribution to this debate. I welcome the Bill which increases the bounty on superphosphate from $6 to $8 a ton. But in case anybody believes that this is an example of the primary producer getting something extra, it is important to remember that since the introduction of the original bounty of $6 a ton this amount has been totally absorbed in superphosphate price rises alone. Therefore the rise of $2 a ton now being considered does not even restore the value of the bounty to what it was when it was introduced some years ago. However, this is a most valuable incentive to increased production and a genuine attempt by the Government to control the ever-increasing costs which have to be faced by primary producers in these difficult times.
Although the value of superphosphate has been known for more than 30 years, there has been a lamentable lack of specific knowledge of the effect on various soil types of different application rates of superphosphate. This has been mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). It is quite remarkable to me that this detailed work was not done years ago. It is not too much to say that the whole economy of Australia would be crippled within a few years if superphosphate were no longer available. For over 30 years we have been applying superphosphate without knowing precisely whether the results would be economic or not. This is incredible. If ever there was a country which needed information along these lines it is Australia. Yet we have never bothered to get it.
I am delighted to learn that the situation is now being remedied by research being undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I am personally very interested in this subject, having been associated with trial plots run by the Victorian Department of Agriculture for many years. The results in those plots were remarkable, chiefly for the lack of consistency and the lack of any definite pattern. Just when something useful seemed to be emerging we would find the next year’s results quite contradictory. But many interesting pieces of information were gained. For instance, we found very large differences in dry matter production rates with relatively small differences in application rates of superphosphate. I well remember that in one year an application rate of 1 cwt of superphosphate gave a 50% increase in output over an application rate of 90 lb of superphosphate. This is the real crux of the problem, because over broad acres such results are of enormous economic significance.
I was interested to see that most of the initial work was done with wheat crops alone, eliminating one variable, grazing animals, which would be probably the most difficult of all to evaluate. For this reason expirements in pasture work take much longer than trials with crops. The best pasture in the world is not earning any money until something eats it, and that is when the trouble starts. Figures that look promising on pasture trials alone are often confounded when animals are introduced into the system. There is definitely a need for more information, although I am aware of the high stocking rate trials and so on that are now being done.
The difficulties must be overcome, because superphosphate now represents a significant cost to the primary producer and its economic use is vital. For years thousands, and perhaps millions, of tons of superphosphate have been wasted and certainly millions of dollars worth of production have been lost because not enough superphosphate has been applied. The benefit of current research programmes, therefore, could be enormous, especially when we consider that the cost of these programmes for this year will be only about $200,000, of which nearly onethird is being contributed by the fertiliser companies. However, I believe honourable members of this House and primary producers generally are entitled to ask: ‘Why was all this not done 30 years ago? Why wait until the present critical cost-price squeeze to do something about it?’ Although we could not say that knowing the solutions to the problems would have solved the difficult situation of the primary producers today, we can say definitely that they would be in a much better position than they are now if we had had more detailed information. I trust that the research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation will be pushed ahead so that practical recommendations can be made on this question as soon as possible.
Like the honourable member for Dawson, I was very interested to note the extension to $40 a ton of the bounty on the double and triple strength superphosphate. That is S40 a ton on the phosphate pentoxide content. We all know the very high freight component in the cost of superphosphate. I think it is true to say that increasing attention will be paid to the advanced forms of superphosphate in the future. The honourable member for Dawson referred to the trouble that is likely to be caused by a lack of sulphur following the use of double and triple strength superphosphate for year after year. I can confirm that this has happened with my own soils after very few years, lt seems that we will have to get some means of sulphur enrichment when we use these forms of superphosphate, if they are to become an economic proposition.
Another point to which we should be giving attention is the growing use of the so-called complete fertilisers, usually known as NPK or nitrogen, phosphate and potash in various proportions. As our knowledge of soil and plant requirements increases, more and more use will be made of these advanced fertilisers. While we have a bounty on the nitrogen and phosphate content of these products, no such bounty is paid on the most costly ingredient of all, and that is potash. A great deal of Australia’s most productive areas are either deficient in potash or have marginal potash contents. Most crops, including grass, have a fairly high potash requirement and, with an increased tendency now towards cash crops and fodder conservation, there will be a greatly increased need for potash applications where these sorts of management practices are in use. Where the need for potash is not met - I can speak from personal experience here - the land can go back very quickly. My fear is that the expense of potash will mean that, although the need is there, it may ROt be met. Therefore, I do ask the Government to give the matter of a bounty on potash very serious consideration.
I support the Bill. Although I certainly would have liked to see an increase in the bounty that would have compensated the primary producers for the cost increases which have wiped out the original bounty of S6 a ton, nevertheless this proposal is most valuable and is obviously a recognition by the Government of the cost problems faced by primary producers today. It follows the very sound economic principle of subsidising inputs rather than outputs. I welcome the proposal.
- Mr Speaker, the Bill before the House will increase the bounty on phosphatic fertiliser from $6 per ton to $8 per ton. This is for fertiliser manufactured and sold in Australia. The Government is to be commended for bringing before the House this legislation to increase the bounty. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) also is to be commended for making this submission to the Cabinet and to us. If I were to make any change at all in this Bill I would change the name. Instead of calling it the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill 1968, I would refer to it as the Phosphate Fertilisers Investment Bill 1968. This is a business investment, a fact that probably has escaped the notice of some people. I refer to those who would not know what the score was anyway.
I commend the Minister on his second reading speech because in it he sets out so clearly a number of factors including the intention to increase the bounty, the results of the original bounty scheme and the reasons for obtaining those results. I do not intend to spend nearly 45 minutes in giving the House a lot of information that is to be found in my library as in the libraries of quite a number of men on the land. Rather I shall address my remarks to the people who are critical of some of the bounties that are directed towards the man on the land.
In his second reading speech the Minister states very clearly the total payments that have been made in regard to this bounty. I think that this amount should be mentioned. The total payments made in respect of this bounty from 14th August 1963, when it was first introduced, to 30th June 1968 stand at $1 16.5m. That is big money. The Minister sets out explicitly the purpose of the bounty. I think that we should look at this point a little more closely. The bounty is designed to increase production, particularly production for export, and so to increase export income. It is designed also to reduce costs. This is the particular angle on which I wish to say a few words.
No needs exists for me to speak at any length on the first reason for introducing the bounty, that is, to increase production. This increase has been achieved. In his speech the Minister cites figures from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics dealing with the Index of Rural Production which show that production rose from an index figure of 166 in 1962-63 to 198 in 1966-67, a period of 4 years. It is claimed - and I support the claim - that this increase is attributable mainly to the use of superphosphate. The need for the use of superphosphate is not something that has just come into the minds of the people who use it. The problem was that they did not have enough capital to afford to use it. They have had knowledge of the benefits of the use of superphosphate for years. They have attended their field days. They have made their studies. They have watched the progress that has been made. This bounty is the sort of thing that is allowing them to get into the business.
Mention has been made of pasture improvement and the tremendous changes in this field. The area of improved pastures rose from 41 million acres in 1962-63 to 51 million acres in 1966-67. It is stated that this variation accounted for approximately 66% of total superphosphate usage. This is indeed a very dramatic change. But I personally do not discriminate so much in this regard. I do not particularise. To me pasture improvement is just one of the cogs in the wheel. It is just another phase in regular rotation under good farm management. We come to the clearing phase, the contouring, and the sowing down of pastures. Here is a point that is often lost sight of. In many areas of the Commonwealth, in the sowing down of pastures we use a cereal crop as a cover crop. Many people think that the tremendous increase in the production of wheat is brought about purely by a number of factors connected with the sale of wheat on terms, and this type of thing. The growing of cereals and the production of crops is directly tied to the question of the establishment of pastures and the build-up of soil nutrition. When we have the ground continually top dressed we get to the stage of clover dominance in a lot of areas and we try to take the sting out of the ground by getting the cereals back into it again. I do not enumerate the cereals, which are known to so many people who are wrapped up in this business.
All of this has a bearing on the production of wheat. At this stage let me deal with the benefits. I think it is worthwhile to look at the Minister’s second reading speech in which he sets out the position pretty clearly at page 473 of Hansard in these terms:
The benefits expected to result from the continuation of bounty at the increased rate can be put in this way: Farmers and graziers will benefit through lower costs of production; the nation will benefit through a continuation of the upward trend in volume or rural output; on the export markets there will be an improvement in the competitive position of our primary products; and in Australia there will also be an enhanced incentive to further development of new lands.
If I were to add anything to that I would interpolate something to do with quality of the product as well as quantity, because the higher the nitrogen content the easier it is to produce a quality product, particularly when we are dealing with grain and we start to consider protein and gluten and that type of thing. In this Bill we see a provision that the weight of the compounds containing the trace elements which are added to superphosphate - this is the approved method of introducing trace elements to the ground - shall be counted as superphosphate for the purposes of the bounty. 1 come now to the question of costs. We live in an economy which relies very heavily on primary produce for export income, in which prices have increased over the past several years at the rate of 3% per annum. There was a period when for years we were used to an increase of 2% per annum. The rate is now up to 3%, and we have accepted it. We live in a country in which the Government has thought it correct to introduce growth policies. I refer particularly to immigration and tariff policies, and I support them in principle although I do not always support them in degree. But despite all of the many avenues of assistance - the superphosphate bounty about which we are talking now is one of them - we are still behind in introducing adequate compensating measures to put primary producers on equal terms with other people. I am not alone in this view and I should like to quote from an address given by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to a combined dinner meeting of Service Clubs at Frankston on 28th October. He said:
One of the problems giving most concern at present is the seemingly inexorable tendency of costs and prices to keep on rising. The problems which this is creating for some segments of industry, notably for primary producers, but others also, are acute. We cannot rely on any great improvement in the generally depressed prices which our primary products are receiving in export markets. Consequently, we must aim to keep cost increases at least somewhere near the rate at which productivity is rising. Most certainly, we cannot afford to allow excessive demand to add to the pressures which have built up on costs and prices.
What do we do about it? All that has happened in this particular case is that the Reserve Bank has taken some steps to moderate the growth in liquidity. Statutory reserve deposits have been called up to an increased degree and interest rates have risen. The primary producer - the farmer and the grazier with whom we are dealing here - has been hurt further in order to help him in the end. What the balance is, I just do not know. This Government must continue to work out such policies and to introduce such measures as this which relates to superphosphate investment. Why? All that we ask for is the opportunity for people engaged in primary industry to enjoy the benefits that our own conscious national policies enable most other Australians to enjoy. We ask no more than that. We do not intend to be content with less than that. I commend the Bill; 1 support it.
– I am not happy about having this Bill brought on tonight, but we on this side of the House are not the bosses; we are only the Opposition. However, because there are so many wanting to speak on the Bill, because it has been brought on so late, and because we do not want to be here half the night, I will be content to speak for 10 minutes. Naturally all primary producers will welcome the Bill, whatever their political persuasion may be, if they have one - and I hope that today most farmers have one and are thinking farmers, politically as well as agriculturally. One or two essential facts about the legislation and the story of this bounty should be reiterated. First, the proposal for a bounty was a complete steal from the 1963 policy of the Australian Labor Party. We were the first party in Australia to put into writing, as part of a policy, a proposal for a bounty on fertilisers, and to beat us to the punch the Government parties in 1963 took it over and included it in their policy. This is a matter of history that should be stressed tonight. We are often ahead of the Government in plans and proposals to better the welfare of the Australian people whether they are on the land or elsewhere. It is only fair that this should be acknowledged by those who are interested in the farmers.
The Labor Party has its rural committees the same as do the Government Parties. Members of our rural committees are giving up hundreds of hours in trying to help the farmers and in bringing down new and better policies in respect of rural industry. The farmer committee in Tasmania of which I am secretary may not have a rival in Australia. We have twenty active farmers on this committee which is now known as the Tasmanian ALP Rural Committee. It began as the Wilmot ALP Rural Committee 2 years ago. In the 2 years for which the committee operated as the Wilmot Committee, its members travelled 10,000 miles without cost to the party and attended eleven meetings. Its members have given up many hours to helping to solve the problems of rural industry. The Liberal Party and the Country Party have their own farmer committees. This Bill is really a culmination of a lot of thinking by a lot of people. We are grateful to the Government for adding another $2 a ton to standard super bounty as well as for the other assistance. The Bill will continue to 31st October 1971 to enable the farmers to plan properly and adequately their programmes during the next 3 years as far as superphosphate is concerned. The amount involved will be $37m, $13m more than was spent last year. The increase has been stated as being due to the increased cost to superphosphate manufacturers of the two major raw materials, rock phosphate and sulphur between 1963 and 1968. The average landed cost of rock phosphate was
Si 2.80 per ton in 1963-64 and it has nowrisen to $18 a ton. The price of sulphur has gone from $26.50 a ton in 1963 up to $45 a ton in 1968. In addition wage levels have risen since 1963-64.
I believe that there have to be mighty good reasons to justify the huge increase in the cost of superphosphate to the farmers. An Opposition committee was dealing with this problem when the Government announced this increase. We anticipated when this subsidy came in that the manufacturers would increase their price and so eat up some of the advantage of this bounty to the farmer himself. This is exactly what has happened. I imagine that there will be a limit as to how far this Government can go in lifting the superphosphate subsidy to try to keep up with the price cost of this commodity. 1 hope that the figures the Minister quoted are official and correct. I hope that the manufacturers of superphosphate have not tried to put it over this Government in their cost estimates. There are very big increases indeed, and when you look at these figures one wonders whether they are genuine.
This extra subsidy will of course, as the Minister said, enable the farmer to put superphosphate on more country at less cost, lt will also enable him to lower his cost of production to a certain extent. It will increase the production of foodstuffs in Australia. In conclusion I ask this question: What about the increase in production? We are now faced in the dairying, the wheat and the sugar industries in particular with what we used to call over-production of foodstuffs. 1 do not think we can ever talk about over-production of foodstuffs while millions of people are starving throughout the world. In the economic sphere Australia has an increased production which it cannot sell because other countries cannot purchase the goods. That is the biggest problem facing Australia today and not increased production which can be achieved by our efficient farmers - the most efficient in the world. The problem we are facing is increased production of goods that are now oversupplied on the world market. I personally feel that the Government and all of us have to tackle this end of the road more vigorously than we have done in the past. What is the good of putting more superphosphate on our land to produce more foodstuffs if we are only building up the stockpile of unsold foodstuffs around the world? I feel that this is a warning that we should look at tonight. I believe that it is useless to spend all this money - and we have spent $1 16.5m on this scheme since 1963 - if we are to have drought after drought, inadequate conservation of water and inadequate irrigation schemes.
I close on this note. The Government will have to match this kind of expenditure and more money will have to be spent on water conservation and irrigation because without water nothing grows. We can pour thousands of tons of superphosphate on our land but without rain the fertiliser is absolutely wasted. So the great schemes for water conservation and irrigation must go on at an increased pace to keep in line with the extra expenditure on superphosphate. If the Labor Party became the Government I am sure that it would agree to spend between $40m and $50m a year on water conservation schemes and irrigation projects. In my opinion this is the only way we could justify year after year the huge cost of the superphosphate subsidy. But we welcome it and the farmers will welcome it. It is a progressive move in the constant campaign for getting the best out of the soil at the least cost.
Thursday, 7 November 1968
– 1 just want to make one or two salient points and have them on the record. First of all I want to say that I support the Bill. Secondly, as is revealed in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) the main point is that the bounty increased from $6 to S8 from 14th August 1968. Also, the Bill provides that the bounty will continue to 31st October 1971. Sales of superphosphate increased from 2.8 million tons in 1962-63 to 4.3 million tons in 1966-67. I believe that the two outstanding discoveries which, have increased primary production so magnificently, quite apart from research that has been carried out at universities and by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, were the introduction of superphosphate and the effective use of myxomatosis.
As honourable members know, Jeparit is the birthplace of the former Prime Minister,
Sir Robert Menzies, and I had the privilege of unveiling the spire that was erected there to commemorate his great work at home and abroad. He made a speech after the ceremony and in doing so revealed an event that took place when he was about 6 or 8 years old. He said that he went out to what was then Schultz’s paddock - he pointed it out to us - and that there was a man standing on a log or a treestump. The man spoke about something that would revolutionise primary production. A number of farmers gathered around to listen and the man told them about superphosphate which had never been heard of before in that great wheat growing area. The farmers shook their heads when they heard him say that this would increase their production dramatically. But at least three of them decided to test the fertiliser. They decided to use only half the quantity recommended by the traveller. Nevertheless they got from 2 to 3 bushels an acre more than anybody else in the district. Sir Robert Menzies said that from that time people have used superphosphate to the great benefit not only of themselves but the nation as a whole. I thought that it was splendid of Sir Robert to say that to the nation.
It has been said recently that in wheat growing areas at least 33i% more superphosphate could be used than is being used now. I support the Bill. I believe that it is in the best interests of Australia.
– Like other honourable members, I offer my support to the Bill. Some honourable members will recall that when I first entered the Parliament the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) and I spent a great deal of our time endeavouring to persuade the Government of the day to reintroduce the superphosphate bounty. Eventually this was done in 1963 when the Government provided a bounty of $6 a ton on phosphatic fertilisers. Naturally this action led to increased usage of superphosphate. I was interested to hear the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) say that the amount of superphosphate used increased from 2.8 million tons in 1962-63 to 4.3 million tons in 1966-67. I also noted with interest that the use of superphosphate was expected to decline in 1967-68. This could be due firstly to the drought and secondly to the fact that the value of the bounty has virtually disappeared since it was fixed at S6 a ton. The reintroduction of the bounty led to a great increase in primary production. One might almost say that wheat production increased to a dangerously high level. Nevertheless, this is a good fault. The area under pasture has increased by about 25% since the introduction of the bounty. This increased production of pastures helps other primary production.
The bounty of $6 a ton in 1963 was very valuable but with the increase in the cost of phosphate rock from $12.80 a ton in 1963-64 to $18 a ton in 1967-68 and of sulphur from $26.50 a ton to $45 a ton over the same period the value of the bounty has virtually disappeared. If it was thought worthwhile to provide a bounty of $6 a ton in 1963 it is equally worthwhile to incerase the bounty today. The only matter on which I would disagree in relation to this Bill is the increase of $2 a ton in the bounty. Perhaps the increase could have been greater. However, we must be thankful for small mercies. The bounty will apply until October 1971 and will certainly give the farming industry a boost.
In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The increased rate of bounty applies to all bountiable fertilisers sold by manufacturers on or after 14th August 1968.
I wish to take issue on that point, because I believe there is a very small anomaly in the Bill. The Minister said that the bounty will apply to the manufacturers but will not include those people who are handling the superphosphate between the manufacturer and the person who actually uses it. Two cases come to my mind. Both the companies that have spoken to me were being of service to the manufacturers by taking delivery of the superphosphate out of the normal season and then delivering it to the users later on. I believe that they were doing a very worthwhile job. But, unfortunately, when the bounty was increased by $2, these people had certain stocks on hand. Although I have spoken to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) he has not agreed to have them included in the categories eligible for the increase.
It is very difficult for these people to carry this extra load. They will virtually be losing $2 a ton on the superphosphate that they had on their books at the time of the increase in the bounty. I appeal to the Minister to give every consideration to them because, as I said a moment ago, they are playing a very worthwhile role. It is up to us to make sure that anyone who is doing this sort of thing is encouraged and certainly not discouraged. If in the future there is the suggestion of an increase, these people will not take delivery of the superphosphate or the other commodities mentioned in this Bill, such as zinc, copper, molybdenum and manganese. In view of the time, I do not wish to speak at any length. I support this Bill, with those two provisos. Firstly, the increase from S6 to $8 could have been a little more. Secondly, people who are handling superphosphate between the manufacturer and the user should be able to declare the quantities of superphosphate they have on hand and have these included in order to attract the increased bounty.
– 1 wish to support this Bill very strongly. But at the same time I point out that this rise does not in itself keep up with the deterioration that has taken place in the value of the subsidy since it was introduced at the $6 rate. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) made a masterly understatement when he said that the recent reduction by the manufacturers of 20c per ton, while helpful and in the right direction, was far too small to compensate for the other factors weakening the demand for superphosphate. I know that the Minister and his Department have given the matter extremely close and urgent study. The costprice squeeze which is now attacking the whole of primary industry throughout Australia requires urgent and realistic attention right across the whole range of fertilisers, water conservation, transport and marketing. There is no aspect that cannot bear very close examination.
There is very little indication that the tendency for primary industry to be constantly affected adversely by rising costs will be reversed. It is hitting particularly hard those whose industry depends basically on fertilisers like superphosphate and who would be out of business if they were not able to apply this fertiliser to their properties. This is happening not only in the Southern Tablelands or in the southern part of Australia. It is now beginning to happen in the north of Australia where Townsville lucerne could produce the same sort of revolution as did Mount Barker subclover in the southern areas.
I support the Bill and merely wish to point out that in fact it does not restore the value of the subsidy. I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to consider, in his current examination of the cost price squeeze in primary industry, the question of the restoration of that subsidy to the value level at which it was first introduced. I also ask him to closely and urgently examine the entire range of other factors currently providing such a problem and producing throughout Australia almost a situation of crisis in primary industry.
– in reply - Mr Speaker, it is indeed pleasing to have unanimous support from all sides of the House for this Bill to increase the bounty on superphosphate from $6 a ton to $8 a ton. It was pleasing also to hear the comments about how the superphosphate bounty has greatly aided farmers in matching the cost price squeeze and in helping this nation to be a more efficient producer of primary products and so add to our export earnings.
I know some honourable members would like more money to be provided for this bounty, but increasing it from $6 to S8 has put a considerable extra burden on the Treasury. The Treasury will have to find for this purpose this year a total of $37m, about Si 3m more than last year. This in itself is not an insignificant factor. Naturally we would like more money for this purpose. However, this is a very useful step in helping farmers to meet any increased costs that have occurred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Anthony) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Anthony) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– The honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) and the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) made several points during the debate on the National Health Bill which must not go unchallenged.
– Order! If the honourable member proposes to canvass a matter which has been debated today he will be out of order.
- Mr Speaker, I regret that it is now almost 12.20 a.m., but when Government business continues until such an hour I believe that a member who has something which he desires to raise still has the right to do so even so late. Every honourable member has the right to raise matters concerning his electorate and his constituents. J intend, whatever the hour at which the Government happens to finish its business, to raise matters which I believe I should bring forward. I raise one now. This matter concerns the Post Office, lt was raised a long time before the recent postal strike in Sydney. Although it has no relationship to that strike 1 will say something later about the services of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. A telegram which 1 received concerning this matter states:
Protest strongest terms discontinuance Saturday delivery . . . Department even failed give notice impending service reduction. Request Minister serve local community with local paper Saturdays.
On a number of occasions in this House when the matter of increased postal charges has been raised. I, together with many of my colleagues from the Australian Country Party, have supported these increased charges. On each occasion we have said that we would support the increased charges provided that they resulted in improved services. I think that the service of the Postmaster-General’s Department has been constantly deteriorating. It has been said also that the morale of the employees of the Department is, in general, at its lowest ebb, and I think that this is true.
I would be prepared to say that the majority of employees in the Department, in whatever sphere they are engaged, are opposed to strikes and the reduction in the service that is being rendered by the Department. I shall quote from a letter from one of my constituents in which certain suggestions are advanced. He wrote:
The Government by virtue of its operation of a monopoly is if not constitutionally obliged at least morally obliged to provide a reasonable service to the public. Whilst it would be desirable in the public interest to operate profitably, it has been demonstrated in many instances that service has been considered to be of greater importance than profitability.
I make it perfectly clear that I am not in any way criticising the majority of the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department. But I believe that the reduction in service has occurred because of lack of leadership, perhaps by the Government in part and also by the union leaders within the Department. As I have said, I believe that the majority of the employees in the Department are opposed to the action that has been taken not only in this recent strike but also in the strike earlier this year.
This afternoon we were talking about decentralisation and the need to establish industries in country areas. How can we ever hope to make decentralisation work if telecommunication services, which are one of the most important types of service in respect of decentralisation, are to be reduced? For this reason, 1 believe that the situation in the Postmaster-General’s Department should be looked at very seriously. I believe that there should be discussions between the heads of the Department and the union leaders. I think that this would enable us to remove from the union the disruptive element that so frequently places the telecommunication services of this country in danger.
So not only do i support the views expressed in the telegram that was sent to me by one of my constituents, but I hope that the Government and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Hulme) will give serious consideration to taking steps to overcome some of the problems that are confronting the Department. One of those problems relates to Saturday work. There are other factors as well. 1 believe that these problems can be overcome in a way that will not in any respect reduce the service to the community. I object strongly to the reduction of the hours of opening of some post offices, and the closing of others entirely, on Saturday mornings, and the reduction of services generally without any intimation until the changes were in operation. Because telecommunication services are important in country areas and for decentralisation, I believe that it is the right and privilege of people in country areas to expect these services. I hope that the Government will take steps very quickly to remedy the situation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.24 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice: 1. (a) How many industries in Australia are taxed on turnover?
Was the decision to impose taxation on friendly society dispensaries preceded by discussions between representatives of the Government and representatives of the Pharmaceutical Guild of Australia?
– From the general context of the whole question, it is inferred that the honourable member is referring throughout to the Commonwealth income tax and the answers have been prepared on that basis. 1. (a) and (b) No industry in Australia is subject to Commonwealth income tax on its turnover. In a few instances, however, tax is imposed on a percentage of certain receipts, rather than on a taxable income ascertained in the conventional manner. This basis of assessment applies to:
the gross proceeds of sales of medicines and goods to members of the society and the general public;
I am not aware of the discussions that took place before the original legislation was introduced in 1947. When the legislation was modified in 1955, on the introduction of the National Health Scheme, the course adopted was decided upon after taking into account all the representations that the Government had received from interested parties.
Taxation (Questions Nos 520 and 521)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice: 520. How much (a) direct and (b) indirect taxation was collected in each year since 1949-50? 521. What was the amount of (a) direct (b) indirect and (c) total taxation collected per head of population in each year since 1949-50?
– The Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the following information:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
In addition one settler at Mawbanna and four on King Island have transferred their leases by way of sale.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
I understand the honourable member’s question refers only to the King Island, Togari, Meunna and Mawbanna settlement areas. The number of farms at present occupied in each of these areas is: 2. (a) The cost of each of these projects to 31st July 1968, rounded off to the nearest one thousand dollars, is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable members questions are as follows:
I might mention here that included in the costs shown for South Australia is approximately $5,178,000 expended on irrigation headworks and drainage works external to the farms which have been provided in respect of the 253 settlers placed on horticultural and viticultural farms at Loxton. This cost is not to be charged against the farms and the State will not be required to contribute to that cost.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
As I mentioned in answer to Question No. 191 by the honourable member, $5,178,000 of the total expenditure in South Australia relates to irrigation and drainage headworks and this cost is being met solely by the Commonwealth.
The current position of farmers in occupation is not known since many leases have been sold by settlers and also some settlers have exercised their options to purchase the freehold title to their farms.
I might add that the Commonwealth’s liability is expunged pro rata to the payments actually made by the States. The figures shown for South Australia exclude the expenditure on Loxton headworks.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Aspley Slate High School. Home Hill State High School. St Peter’s College. Cleveland State High School. State High School, Nashville. Beenleigh State High School. De La Salle College - Scarborough. Mackay North State High School. Murgon State High School. Mirani Slate High School.
Russian Activity in Indian Ocean
– On 9th October the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) asked me a question without notice on Soviet activity in the Indian Ocean in the last 6 months. I am now able to provide the honourable member wilh the following additional information.
During the period May to August last three ships of the Soviet Pacific Fleet normally based on Vladivostock, comprising a cruiser, a destroyer and a supply ship, visited India, Pakistan, eastern Africa, the Red Sea and Persian Gulf area and Ceylon. More recently Soviet space research ships have been involved in the recovering of a Soviet space capsule.
We can probably expect some increase in Soviet interests in the Indian Ocean but it does not necessarily follow that we are moving towards a situation where Australia’s own interests, and important international sea lanes and communications in the area, are likely lo come under threat.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What steps were taken to standardise or co-ordinate draw-gear, brakes and operating controls on rolling-slock ordered for the railways constructed or reconstructed wholly or partly with Commonwealth moneys in the last 20 years?
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
Dr:iw-gear, brakes and other operating controls for rolling-stock, financed wholly or partly with Commonwealth moneys, are designed and constructed to standards recommended by the Australian and New Zealand Railways Conference. The Conference includes each of the State and Commonwealth Railway systems and the New Zealand Railways.
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 November 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19681106_reps_26_hor61/>.