27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr REID presented from certain residents of Victoria a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low that they may ‘become extinct; there are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist; as a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country; it is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Petition received and read.
Mr DONALD CAMERON presented from certain residents of New South Wales a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low that they may become extinct; there are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist; as a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country; it is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Mr FOX presented from certain residents of New South Wales a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low, that they may become extinct; there are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist; as a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country; it is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
Mr JARMAN presented from certain residents of New South Wales a petition showing that because of uncontrolled shooting for commercial purposes, the population of kangaroos, particularly the big red species is now so low, that they may become extinct; there are insufficient wardens in any State of the Commonwealth to detect or apprehend those who break the inadequate laws which exist; as a tourist attraction, the kangaroo is a permanent source of revenue to this country; it is an indisputable fact that no species can withstand hunting on such a scale, when there is no provision being made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government take the necessary steps to have all wildlife in Australia brought under its control. Only a complete cessation of killing for commercial purposes can save surviving kangaroos.
– Is the Treasurer aware that the Master Builders Federation is concerned at the difficulty of obtaining finance for homes already constructed or under construction and that the number of houses and flats commenced for the quarter ended March 1970 was lower than in the corresponding period in 1969? It it a fact that the recent increase in interest rates and the credit squeeze divert money from lower profit housing to higher profit investment? Will the Treasurer say whether he will work out ways of redressing the balance in the flow of money in favour of housing or otherwise provide assistance to make up for this diversion of funds?
– I answered a question of this character yesterday. At this stage 1 have nothing to add to what I then said.
– I. address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the fact that Fiji will become independent on 10th October next, what action has the Government taken to renegotiate a new pattern of aviation agreements with that country? As Nandi Airport is of international interest and as Fiji already has a regional airline has it requested an extension of its services to Australia? How will the financial interest of Qantas Airways Ltd in Fiji Airways be affected by independence?
– Now that an announcement has been made regarding the date for the forthcoming independence of Fiji 1 am sure that the Government and the people of Australia extend best wishes to the new nation which will emerge after that date and express the hope that there will be a continuation of the very happy relationshi p that has existed in so many fields, particularly in the field of aviation. I do know a little about the background of this because last year I was the chairman of the South Pacific Air Transport Council and I did call a meeting during the year to discuss a number of matters with particular reference to the future of aviation in the Pacific, and certainly a number of the points that the honourable member mentioned arose during that conference. The normal position is that when there is a change of this type the existing aviation arrangements under the current agreement continue for some time until the government of the new nation decides that it wishes to make a further approach. I would assume that the present arrangement as far as the use of Nandi is concerned and also the agreement for operation there would continue after Fiji gains its independence. At present, as honourable members know, the Nandi Airport is controlled to some degree by the South Pacific Air Transport Council and finance, in a capital sense and in a maintenance sense, is contributed by various partners in the Council for the operation of the airport. So we would assume that the same arrangement would continue for some time - until such time as the new government wishes to undertake negotiations with the other countries concerned. Certainly I know that Australia would be very happy to consider a new agreement at some point of time in the future if the Fiji Government makes an approach.
On the question of Fiji Airways operations to Australia, this of course, would not be visualised at the moment. It is solely a matter within the control of the new government when it eventually takes over. I should imagine that it may be a long term thought that the new government may consider, but at this point of time it would not be possible to comment on what its attitude would be. On the final point, as to the protection of the Qantas interest in Fiji Airways, there is and has been a very fruitful association with Qantas as the Australian representative and the board of Fiji Airways with Australia conducting the management of Fiji Airways. We would hope that this situation would continue in future and there is nothing in existing circumstances to make us think it would be otherwise.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. The honourable gentleman will know that restrictions on local government finances have led to a policy by local government of forcing developers to provide many community facilities and that these extra costs are simply passed on to home purchasers, forcing land prices upwards. Is it a fact that the recently announced increases in Commonwealth bond rates will accentuate the pressures on local government authorities thus leading to even further inflation in land prices? Does the Treasurer have any proposal to alleviate the difficulties being experienced by home builders as a result of the increase in bond rates?
– Any change in the bond rate is likely in this respect to have a beneficial effect ultimately in reducing costs of work in which developers are engaged. In itself, the fact that bond rates have changed would not bear directly on the question. The authorities mentioned by the honourable member operate under the regulations and provisions laid down by State authorities. One of the factors contributing to the increase in the cost of land is the requirement to provide facilities before land can be sold. I am well aware of this position; it has been so for a good many years. The change in bond rates is not for any theoretical reason, whether it be political, economic or the results of learned dissertations. Bond rates have been raised for the simple and straightforward reason that the Government has to go into the money market as it is today to raise the funds which it needs. If the honourable member will look at page 14 of the last ‘Treasury Bulletin’ he will see there set out the results of the loan raising in February. On the long dated securities we received subscriptions of $2m out of a total $209m in cash. Anyone who is so stupid as to think that we can continue to run a bond market on the low rates that have been operative is simply flying in the face of facts. This time bond rates have been increased because the foundation of any sound financial system in an advanced country like Australia must be a long term bond market. We have not recently had an effective long term bond market. We have had to subsist on very short term raisings. This cannot be regarded as a healthy state of affairs in the long run and it is necessary to restore this market. It is also desirable to persuade the smaller investors to invest in government securities. That is the reason for the rather attractive terms now operating for the new U bonds. Details of these bonds will be available tomorrow and I would suggest to the honourable member that he invest in them and give good leadership to everyone else. I commend the bonds generally to the House and to the public.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to statements made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament, Mr Holding, when speaking to a learned body in Victoria known as the Fabian Society? In particular did the Attorney-General note that Mr Holding said that a State Labor government would ‘confuse and confound’ the Federal Government by paroling men now in prison for breaches of the National Service Act? Are persons convicted of offences against Commonwealth laws confined in prisons provided by the States? If so, under what arrangements are they so confined? What would be the consequences in the enforcement of Commonwealth laws should there be a Labor government in Victoria which released on parole persons convicted of breaches of the National Service Act or any other Commonwealth law?
– My attention has been drawn to some reported utterances of Mr Clyde Holding, Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament. I must say that when I read them I permitted myself to register some astonishment because if the honourable gentleman from Victoria made these utterances it is very surprising that he as a lawyer should have done so since they are founded on a very fundamental fallacy. Under section 120 of the Constitution the States are under an obligation to detain prisoners convicted of offences against Commonwealth laws. For any person holding political office in a State who claims to have a shred of political responsibility to announce that if he were to gain government he would release prisoners convicted of offences against Commonwealth laws is the height of irresponsibility. Such a statement is founded either on a completely irresponsible attitude or on the deepest fallacy that does not do the honourable gentleman any real credit, he being a lawyer. T make all of those remarks on the assumption that Mr Clyde Holding did make the statements attributed to him. I must enter that qualification. I am encouraged rather sadly, however, to believe that Mr Holding did make the statements because my attention has not been drawn to any published denial by Mr Holding of those statements. I should have thought that anybody holding responsible office who found that such statements had been attributed to him falsely would have been quick to deny them.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Has the Government suggested that increased interest rates on housing loans may be met by extensions of the period of payment of the loans? Would such a practice mean that there would be no alteration to the level of liquidity or to the levels of demand for building materials and services, which the Treasurer has indicated he is concerned about, but in fact would merely mean that persons who have negotiated loans and have on the basis of those loans built and occupied homes would have to pay over an extended period several thousand dollars in order to meet the increased interest rates without there being any short term effect on the economy?
– The Government has no authority or direct influence in this sphere. If the honourable member wishes to have factual information about what has occurred and the way by which interest rates could have been got round, I suggest that he place on the notice paper a question addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and he will be furnished with full information. 1 do not control or influence this particular process.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware of the difficulty that rural subscribers and the Post Office are experiencing in putting into effect the current part privately erected plan for the connection of rural subscribers to automatic exchanges. Is he aware that in some instances rural producers are being asked to subscribe up to $4,000 for connection to automatic exchanges? Are the Minister and the Government examining the plan to overcome some of the difficulties?
– The policies of the Government are under review constantly. The present policy relating to rural exchanges was determined some 18 months ago. The new policy determined at that time allowed the subscriber terms for paying the amount due. It is very difficult, in answer to a question, to go into the details of the basis on which that policy was determined. I shall not try to cross every ‘f and dot every i!, but briefly it may be said that there is an average cost to the Post Office of the installation of telephones. An allowance is made in relation to rural exchanges and that amount, multiplied by the number of persons living along a particular route, determines the actual length of the cable or line installed by the Post Office. Those people who live beyond that point must make their own contribution on a part privately erected basis. 1 appreciate that there are problems for individuals. There are problems also for the Post Office. It must be realised that the Post Office is charged with being a business undertaking. It is responsible for covering its costs by the revenue it obtains and it also pays interest on the money it borrows from the Treasury. This is the equitable basis on which the Government has made a determination to charge. As I said, a review is made from time to time and no doubt I will look at the matter raised by the honourable member the next time this policy is reviewed.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that his comments about inflationary tendencies within the housing sector have been based primarily on statistics for housing approvals and not commencements? Is it not a fact that approvals indicate what the Prime Minister would call potentially inflationary tendencies and not actual inflationary tendencies? Is it not a fact that the recent increase in interest rates is affecting the housing industry out of all proportion to the potential tendencies that exist within that industry? Does this not mean that the Government is using the housing sector to control inflationary tendencies elsewhere in the economy and that this is in complete contradiction to the policies advocated by the honorable gentleman when he was the Minister for Housing?
– The policy applies to the whole economy and the building sector is no exception. It so happens that the building industry is one of the sectors within the economy where inflationary tendencies have appeared strongly. I would refer the honourable member to the quotation I made in the Mouse yesterday. This describes the building industry as one of those sectors of the economy which are most subject to inflationary tendencies.
– That is not so. That is completely false.
– -Order! The honourable member for Reid will cease interjecting.
– lt is a curious interpretation by the honourable member for Reid but 1 suppose we do not normally expect him to go into these matters too deeply. If he did he would realise that this has been one of the sectors most subject to inflationary tendencies and one where the difficulties recently have been of an intense character. Interest rates and other measures which might be applied in the economy at large do affect the building industry which is, of course, a very large sector of our economy. They are not designed for or directed primarily towards the building industry. This is an incidental effect but not an unhealthy one.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is he aware that many of the personnel of the 3 defence forces are in urgent need of the rebate from the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund which they expected to receive by the end of April? Is he aware that their liquid position is not good? Can he advise when the payment will be made?
– The House will be aware that the disbursement of the surplus in the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund is in 2 parts. The distribution to those who have already retired and are eligible pensioners has been completed. The last time I had cause to inquire as to how the distribution to existing contributors to the Fund was faring I was informed that the validation of all necessary records, the calcu lations and the arrangements for distribution by the different paying agencies - that is, the defence forces, sub-Treasury and Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board were near completion and that the bulk of payments should be made in June. If what I have said is in any way at variance with the current position I will let the honourable member know.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it not a fact that, whenever pressures might allegedly exist in the housing industry, they appear more prevalent in some States and an increase in the interest rates will affect all States in the same harsh manner? Why was the policy instrument of interest rate adjustment used when the situation clearly calls for a more flexible approach? Does this not verify the allegation that the Government is using the housing industry to control inflationary tendencies elsewhere in the economy in complete defiance of the views expressed by the Treasurer when he was Minister for Housing? Has the Government considered making special arrangements for those States in which the housing industry is not contributing to the inflationary tendency?
– I thought I had already indicated that any measures for which the Government takes responsibility have been directed so far towards the economy as a whole and not specially towards the housing industry which has been affected, as other industries have, with the application of these measures. 1 know of no ready mechanism by which interest rates - which after all are applied not by the Government but by the banking system and within the recommendations of the Reserve Bank - can be applied unevenly in different parts of the country. T could imagine that many enterprising gentlemen would transfer funds to another State if they could operate at a much higher interest rate in that State. All kinds of complicated effects might set in.
As it happens, I have asked the Governor of the Reserve Bank and our authorities generally to look into the extent to which measures which are generally applied to the Commonwealth as a whole are variable between States. Clearly there is a large area, particularly that of interest rates, in which it is very difficult to differentiate between one State and another. The state of affairs in every State is taken into consideration when general measures are applied. It is not possible for the whole banking system to vary conditions according to whatever prevails in particular areas. This is a difficult area, but one which is receiving attention.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General a question. Is it a fact that there are some woolly minded people who believe that the so-called Vietnam Moratorium is a spontaneous demonstration on the part of some Australians opposed to war? Tn order to make clear to the House the origins of this movement will the Attorney-General inform me whether the organisers and sponsors include, as well as most parliamentary members of the Australian Labor Party, members of peace front organisations and other sympathisers with the causes of the Communist Party? Is it a fact that there are a number of hard core card carrying Communists among the sponsors? If so, who are these people?
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the question is out of order because it asks the Minister about something which is not within his jurisdiction or competence and which has no relevance to the matters for which he is responsible to the Parliament.
-Order! I believe that the matter is within the administration of the Attorney-General who is the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, not of a particular State. This matter is within his ambit.
– Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, I point out that you did state that knowledge of whether these people are members of the Communist Party or are known hard core Communist Party members, etc., was in the province, competence, authority of the AttorneyGeneral. Which order of the ‘Gazette’ which was issued the other day regarding the administrative responsibilities of Ministers places the Attorney-General in this responsible position?
-Order! No point of order arises. I did not say that at all. 1 referred to the ambit of the question asked by the honourable member for Farrer. I did not make the statement attributed to me by the honourable member.
– May ( be permitted to say firstly that I regard the rather frantic protests that have been made by the 2 honourable members who have just spoken as somewhat -
– Who are they?
– The honourable member for Capricornia and the honourable member for Wills. I regard those protests as curiously inconsistent because I understand it to be common ground and accepted ground between the Government and the Opposition that 75 members of the Parliamentary Labor Party - and there are some honourable exceptions whose names I mentioned the other day - are standing in a common cause in this so-called Moratorium Campaign with members of the Communist Party of Australia, and known members of the Communist Party of Australia. 1 therefore find the protests curiously incongruous, because the honourable member for Wills himself said in the debate that followed my ministerial statement a few weeks ago that he - and I am quoting the substance of what he said - was not ashamed to stand alongside members of the Communist Party in a cause like this one.
I come to deal with the specific question put to rae by the honourable member for Farrer. In answer to the first part of his question, unfortunately there are still some woolly minded people who believe that this Moratorium Campaign is some sort of spontaneous campaign. There is not very much about it that is spontaneous. The second part of the honourable member’s question should be answered in the affirmative, and I do so. As to the third part of the question, in which the honourable member asks whether members of the Communist Party are engaged in prominent positions as sponsors of the Campaign, the answer to that part of the question in my belief should be in the affirmative. It is very obvious, of course, that the Opposition does not like the facts, but honourable members opposite will have to take them because they have adopted a certain attitude and the public is entitled to be told about their attitude and about its implications. In the last part of his question the honourable member asked whether I would name the people involved as sponsors of the Campaign who are members of the Communist Party of Australia.
– What about your uncle?
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Sydney should cease interjecting.
– I was only asking-
Mr SPEAKER. -Order!The honourable member will cease interjecting.
– He asked me-
-Order! If the honourable member offends again 1 will name him.
– But who is his uncle?
-Order! The House will come to order.
– Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The Attorney-General has not, at this stage, dealt with the members of the Nazi Party who are handing out pamphlets on behalf of the Government.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member should be careful about the way in which he treats the House in raising frivolous points of order.
– The honourable member for Corio has a rather curious sense of relevance, if I may be permitted to say so. I come to the last part of the question, which obviously is rather hurtful from the Opposition’s viewpoint. As the honourable member for Farrer put the question to me I considered for myself whether, in all the circumstances, it would be proper for me to name in this House, under cover of absolute privilege, the various people - and they are numerous - whom I believe to be sponsors of or closely connected with this Campaign and who are members of the Communist Party of Australia. The point I make, firstly, is that the number is quite substantial. My knowledge comes from reports I have read in various articles in the Press. If I may be permitted to say this without being at all discourteous to the fourth estate, my confidence in the accuracy of all aspects of Press reporting is not so unbounded that I would feel justified in stating in this House categorically under cover of parliamentary privilege the names of all the people who are sponsors and whom I believe to be members of the Communist Party of Australia.
– My question to the Minister for the Interior concerns his Department’s decision to increase, as from yesterday, the interest rate on new loans by the Commissioner for Housing to tenant purchasers of government houses in Canberra and also on new loans by Canberra’s five building societies by three-quarters of 1% from 5i% to 6i% and from 6% to 6i% respectively. Can the honourable gentleman confirm the calculations by the Canberra Times’ economics writer or has he himself calculated that as a consequence a Commonwealth housing loan of $8,000 for 45 years will now cost $1 more per week and $2,300 more over the full period and that a building society loan of $8,500 for 30 years will now also cost $1 more per week and over $1,500 more over the full period? If he has not calculated the effect of this increase of record amount and to record level, how soon will he be able to do so and let honourable members know the result of the calculations? Will similar increases of record amounts and to record levels also be made in the Northern Territory?
– I have not seen the article referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, which was apparently written by the economist of the ‘Canberra Times’, nor have I calculated the effect of the increased interest rate on housing loans in the Australian Capital Territory. If this can be mathematically easily done I shall endeavour to do so and shall supply the Leader of the Opposition with the figures. If, on the other hand, it is mathematically difficult, I shall have my Department turn its mind to obtaining the information. The simple fact is that the interest rates were increased and that the new rates apply only to new applications lodged after 5th May. The increased rate follows the increase in the interest rate for housing loans made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank after 1st April.
– What about the Northern Territory?
– 1 am not sure about the Northern Territory. 1 shall obtain that information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. I refer him to the resolution passed by the Northern Territory Legislative Council concerning an inquiry into the Northern Territory Administration. Is the Minister aware of a telegram that was sent to the Prime Minister concerning this matter? Can he advise whether the telegram was acknowledged? What is the position regarding the requested inquiry?
– The only information that I have about a telegram is what I read in the Press. 1 am not able to say whether a telegram has been acknowledged. I shall endeavour to discover from the Prime Ministers office whether it has been acknowledged. The Government has considered the resolution carried by the Legislative Council, but certain aspects of it are to be studied further. Until these aspects have been further studied and a report is made back to the Government I am unable to convey any decision of the Government to the Legislative Council; but I hope to be in a position to do this within the next few days.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Defence. Does he know which South Vietnamese units are operating in Cambodia? Are members of the Australian Army Training Team attached to any of these units? If so, are these Australian soldiers in Cambodia and has their presence there been approved by the Government? If they are not attached to any South Vietnamese units in Cambodia, will the Minister ensure that members of the Training Team are not assigned to South Vietnamese units which may be committed to Cambodia?
– I am advised that all the members of the Australian Army Training Team are in South Vietnam itself. Typically, the logic of every argument and question that comes from the Opposition on the subject of Vietnam is that honourable members opposite want the North Vietnamese and the Communists to win in their aggression. Never in the past 5 years has there been the slightest word of criticism from them of the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong for violating Cambodian neutrality and for violating Laotian neutrality. Everything that the Leader of the Opposition and the leading spokesmen for the Opposition would have us do-
– The Australian- Government never protested for 5 years.
-Order! I suggest that the House come to order. I would remind all honourable members, as 1 have done once or twice recently, that all interjections, especially those across the table, are out of order. 1 would suggest that any conversation that honourable members want to have with Ministers or any questions they wish to ask be directed through the Chair.
– I was making the point that every view put and every question asked by the Opposition about Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos leads to one logical conclusion. If what the Opposition suggests were pursued by the Government or by the allies, a North Vietnamese and Vietcong victory would be inevitable. It is time that members of the Opposition were prepared to get on their feet and say that they want North Vietnam to win and that they want the Communists to win. That, is the logic of their total policy. That is the logic of everything they have said in this Parliament for several years.
– My question is directed to the Min:ster for External Affairs. Is the Minister aware that Australian Labor Party apologists are now resurrecting propaganda, which was exploded years ago in the teach-ins, to support the Moratorium outlook on the Vietnam war? In particular, will he correct the discredited argument, broadcast again by Mr Frank Chamberlain in the past 24 hours, to the effect that the South was to blame for there being no elections in 1956 in Vietnam as required by the Geneva Agreement of 1954 and that this was because the Nationalists knew that the majority of the people would have voted for the Communists? If the Minister feels that a statement here would bc inadequate lo correct such widely disseminated fallacies, will he take steps to let it be known that I and, 1 am sure, all my colleagues are more than ready to debate such matters on radio or television with Mr Chamberlain or anyone else on fair and adequate debating terms?
– I can but repeat what I said in this House on the 23rd of last month in answer to a question by the honourable member for Diamond Valley, and that is that neither the United States of America nor South Vietnam was a signatory to the Geneva Agreements of 1954. Since they were not signatories to those Agreements under no circumstances could they have committed a breach of them. As I said, both Governments made a declaration in relation to their attitude to the Geneva Agreements of 1954 - that is, that they wanted to maintain the territorial integrity and the freedom of the former states of lndo-China. As to elections, 1 can speak from personal experience. 1 was in South Vietnam for 4 days during last month. I was able to meet the hamlet councils and the village councils in 3 separate areas - in Hue, in a place called Cam Vu and in another place called Gia Dang-. On each occasion I was able to converse with them.
When 1 was in Phuoc Tuy Province I was able to discuss problems with some South Vietnamese. The story that they related to me was that the fellow who had topped the poll in the village elections a few weeks previously was ruthlessly murdered by members of the Vietcong. What you find is that in fact there were free elections in South Vietnam. President Thieu was elected by-
– He is in a minority. You know it is a minority government.
– I do not know that and the honourable member for Reid does not know it either. He does not understand the method of voting if he can make that sort of comment. Arrangements are now being made for elections for the Presidency to be held. There is no doubt whatsoever that it is the policy of the South Vietnamese Government to have free elections and to have them by universal suffrage. It must be remembered that this is being done during a time when there are operations going on and there is a large scale loss of life in those areas. There is one thing I would like to make clear in relation to this point. When I spoke in answer to a question previously I did refer to Laos. The Geneva Accords of 1962 do not relate to South Vietnam exclusively; they relate exclusively to Laos. On that occasion these Accords were signed by South Vietnam and also by the United States of America.
In relation to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, it is well known to most of us that Mr Chamberlain has taken a somewhat dogmatic and, if I can say so, partisan view about the free States of the former Indo-Chinese peninsula. In these circumstances it would be fair if he were willing to participate in a debate on radio or television with my colleague, the honourable member for Evans or. if he wishes, some other person chosen from this side of the House. I will speak to him about this. He is usually only too happy to engage in controversy on radio and television. I shall ask whether I may approach his board of directors or his managing director to see if he too would be willing to permit the honourable gentleman to participate in the debate.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is it a fact that members of the Ustashi, the Nazi Party, the Australian Democratic Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party and the regimes of Portugal, Rhodesia, South Africa and Saigon are united in their spontaneous support of the invasion of lndo-China by some of Australia’s allies? (Honorable members interjecting) -
-Order! Honorable members should realise that question time is an important part of the function of the Parliament and is not an occasion for people who want to make fun of it and who are not interested in some questions or some answers. I suggest that honorable members should come to order and conduct themselves with dignity and decorum.
– The question was obviously intended as a rhetorical one and I shall treat it as such.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Yesterday in this House I asked a question apropos a broadcast by Mr Frank Chamberlain. I understand that last night Mr Frank Chamberlain said that I had misquoted him. I have telephoned radio station 2GB and have asked for a transcript. If I have misquoted him 1 will apologise when I receive a copy of the transcript.
– I move:
The principal components of the proposed work are as follows: An operations, communications, meteorological and base radio workshop; a precision approach radar complex: a precision measuring equipment laboratory; a tanker compound and fuel laboratory; a fire station; a barracks store and compound; a works depot; messes, sleeping quarters and laundries; and a recreation centre, squash court, playing fields and tennis courts. The estimated cost is $5.5m. Having reported favourably on the proposal, the Committee asked that consideration be given to the early diversion of the Great Northern Highway and that the water tower not now in use be retained. The Government will take action accordingly. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– I move as an amendment to the motion of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp):
That all words after ‘That,’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘so many of the recommendation!, of the
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works regarding the development of the RAAF Base at Pearce, Western Australia, which deal with living accommodation be referred back to the Committee for further consideration to ensure that adequate sound proofing is provided for new accommodation’.
In moving the amendment I draw the attention of honourable members to the interim report presented to this Parliament in September of last year by the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. Paragraph 14 of the report states:
Your Committee, in the course of inspections of RAAF bases in various places in Australia, has noted the proximity of existing and planned houses for RAAF personnel and families to sources of aircraft noise generated by RAAF aircraft. Your Committee is concerned at this apparent indifference towards the ordinary comfort of persons committed to living on these Service bases and would commend measures to mitigate the effects of aircraft noise to existing homes and recreational buildings. Your Committee urges reconsideration of plans already approved for residential development on RAAF bases so as to avoid unnecessary exposure of Service personnel to aircraft noise. It also commends these considerations for personnel in future planning of RAAF bases.
This Government was responsible for the appointment and the reappointment on 2 further occasions of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. The Government has gone to great pains to emphasise the point that it was responsible for having this important subject raised at the International Civil Aviation Organisation conference, lt became an important topic for discussion at that conference. The Government’s own Committee, on which it has 4 members and the Opposition has 3 members, unanimously recommended to this Parliament that something should be done about the various Royal Australian Air Force bases or Service bases as a whole to provide adequate sound proofing of living accommodation. At the various bases which we visited, for example. Williamtown in the Newcastle district. Pearce - the very base in question - and Richmond, we found on inspection one thing in common. That was that the accommodation was built alongside and in fact very close to the runways but all that we could get in reply to the questions we asked of officers and other people that we interviewed at those places was that they had no complaints. I ask you, Mr Speaker, as a reasonable man: What would be the position of any Service officer, airman or anyone at all who complained about the noise on a RAAF base? What would be the position of his family if he complained about it? I do not have to answer that question because it is obvious that no-one would complain about it.
No-one can deny the fact that there is a noise problem at airports throughout Australia today and this same problem exists on RAAF bases but to a greater extent. We took sound readings of various aircraft using airports including Boeing 707s, Boeing 727s, DC8s and smaller aircraft such as Electras and Friendships. Honourable members who represent electorates adjacent to airports know that there is an aircraft noise problem. Service fields accommodate Macchi trainers and no-one will suggest for a moment that the Macchi is a nice silent type of aircraft that you cannot hear. I do not want to give the actual sound readings for the Mirage aircraft as they are incorporated in the interim report of the Committee but they show that the Mirage aircraft is the noisiest aircraft operating in Australia today.
This Government has yet not made up its mind whether it is going to buy the Fi ll or the Phantom. These aircraft, I believe, are even noisier than is the Mirage. The Public Works Committee has brought down its report wherein it disregards altogether the recommendations of the Aircraft Noise Committee. Something has to be done and done at a very early date about the noise problem. J report this because I think it is worthy of repetition: The Aircraft Noise Committee also recommended that these considerations should be made for personnel in future planning of RAAF bases. We made that recommendation at a time early enough for the Public Works Committee to give it serious consideration and to act on the Aircraft Noise Committee’s recommendations.
– This is a joint committee.
– 1 know it is a joint committee and it is the responsibility of this Parliament to accept its report as it accepted the Aircraft Noise Committee’s report. 1 understand that thanks to the initiative of some of the members of the Public Works Committee this matter was again dealt with by that Committee. This is shown in the later pages of the Com mittee’s report. This matter was dealt with and the matter of aircraft noise was again resurrected. On page 14 of the Committee’s report reference is made to the fact that there is a noise problem and that the Department of Air is considering that problem. The Department is going to proceed with the construction of sleeping accommodation for 306 service personnel. Surely .the problem involved cannot be treated with the contempt with which the Committee is dealing with it or the Department is dealing with it at this stage. These men are entitled to the consideration of this Parliament so that adequate soundproofing of their accommodation can be provided. The accommodation recommended is for all ranks. 1 would like to quote from the Committee’s report. Paragraph 33 of the report deals with officers’ sleeping block and laundry and extensions to officers’ mess. The report states:
In addition, a 2-storey sleeping block, accommodating S senior and 24 junior officers, will be constructed adjacent to the mess.
Further on, in paragraph 35, which deals with senior NCOs’ sleeping block and laundry, the report states:
The sleeping block will accommodate 48 senior NCOs on 3 Poors with the bedrooms grouped around a central service core.
Paragraph 37 - airmen’s sleeping block - states:
This standard 3-storey building will accommodate 148 airmen.
Surely these men are entitled to adequate protection against noise, which at this stage is not going to be reduced but will continue to be increased, as we realise when we know that 43 Macchi aircraft arc based at Pearce.
All I want is an assurance from the Minister that this matter will be referred back to the Committee. I have not taken into consideration the sleeping accommodation which will also be provided in the new fire station. The new fire station will be able to house 5 fire brigades. Paragraph 31 of the report states:
Fire station - the standard fire station proposed will house 4 fire engines, duty crew sleeping quarters and will include a duplicate display panel tor the fire alarm system.
These men are entitled to some consideration by this Parliament. It is for this reason that I have moved my amendment so that the sections of the report dealing with accommodation can be referred back for further consideration. I am not saying that the Department cannot go on with all the other things that have been decided upon in regard to the technical improvement at Pearce. I am not hindering that in any way whatsoever. The Department can go ahead with these matters. There are reports available today to the Department of Air showing how it can soundproof buildings. Only last Thursday the Aircraft Noise Committee sitting in Sydney received evidence from experts as to what can be done - what should be done to provide protection against aircraft noise. There are any amount of reports in the United Kingdom on this subject. There is the Wilson Committee report which has dealt with this matter extensively. There is information available to the Department of Air so that at least it can act with some regard for the men who are in its service and who are signed up for periods of 6 years - men who are the frontline troops of this country. 1 ask the Government to accept the amendment. If the amendment is forced to a vote I ask honourable members to vote to support it so that the people for whom they express concern so often in this place will be looked after. Here is an example where they are not prepared to provide these people with adequate, decent sound proof accommodation.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– As Chairman of the Public Works Committee there is one particular point I want to make, which is that the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) would surely realise that his Party was well represented on the Committee and that this report is unanimous. We went to a great deal of trouble to recall the Department of Air witnesses to get their opinions and to form our judgment as to whether it was reasonable to hold work up at this stage. All I can say to the honourable member for Newcastle is that the members of his Party on the Public Works Committee unanimously signed this report along with other members. I think this disposes of the question of whether or not the matter was considered with a proper sense of responsibility.
One other thing ought to be said. The reference we are talking about concerns a Service establishment, and people who come into the Royal Australian Air Force would expect in many cases to hear aircraft noise. Indeed, I think they would be disappointed if they did not. Similarly, a sailor would be disappointed if he did not go to sea. This is part of the Service life in a Service establishment. The Committee, 1 repeat, weighed the matters up with great responsibility. There is a lot of examination going on in the technical field to measure accoustic problems. The distance of the establishment from the commonly used runway is between 3,000 and 4,000 feet, I understand. This is the measurement on the recorders. It cannot be assumed that the noise level is serious. It was proper that the noise level should be measured and should be taken into consideration. This Committee took this action, lt weighed it up in its best judgment and all of the members signed the report.
– f want to lend my support to the submissions made by my colleague, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), because we have had the opportunity of looking at the Pearce base relatively recently and wc can say without any fear of contradiction that all the personnel on the base are being shattered by noise. They find it impossible for their children to continue to be educated in the school that the Department has built. They find that their wives have to put up with this noise not only during the day but also during the night when there are night flying exercises. The real tragedy of the situation is, as honourable members can see, that the land that has been acquired by the Department is totally insufficient. The decision made has been more of an accountancy one than one that is in the interests of the personnel on the base. We are not trying to make a political issue of this matter, because if one took a census of opinion of the people stationed on the base every one of them from the commander down would say that this is a shocking development. It is contrary to all the principles of town planning. But accentuating their problem is the factor that the main road, which is obviously under the control of the State Government, goes directly through the centre of the base. If the people at the base are not being assailed by noise from aircraft they are being assailed by noise from semi-trailers day and night. If one talks to the town planner of Perth, which I did, he would say it is one of the worst examples of bad town planning in the whole of this continent. It is an incredible situation from the point of view firstly that the State Government apparently could not reroute the main road around the base and secondly, that the Public Works Committee follows on and says that we must build these homes on this area of land because we have no other land. Surely to goodness in the National Parliament we should set an example. We should at least seem to be interested in the personnel who are good enough to take an interest in the defence of this country. Surely we should look at it from the point of view of their wives and children who are entitled to the same amenities as anyone else. For these reasons the honourable member for Newcastle is fully entitled to move the amendment. It is in accordance wilh the wishes of the people of the area. The only argument against accepting the amendment is that sufficient land may no’ be available. There is more than adequate land around the base at Perth where these homes could be located and they would be at least 5 miles away. This is a training base. The air space in the area is fully utilised day and night - more so than in the case of any other airport in Australia. At this base the ratio of aircraft to population would be the highest in Australia. Here we have an opportunity to consider the people of the area. With those few remarks I support the amendment.
– I am quite amazed at the amendment. While I see certain factors in favour of the arguments advanced by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), there are other factors that should be considered. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith referred to defence factors and said that defence personnel are entitled to be considered. 1 am sure that everybody would concede that.
But there is I essential difference between a civil airport and a Service airport. One of the essential requirements in establishing an Army or Air Force base - any Service base - is that reasonable housing for the personnel of the base be provided as quickly as possible. If you develop your air base and build up the strength of the personnel in the area without at the same time quickly providing housing for those people you force them to live in single quarters. This means that married men are separated from their families. This is one of the circumstances of Service life responsible for the rate of recruiting for the Services not being as high as it should be. One of the greatest complaints about Army life in the past has been that married quarters have not been provided fairly promptly. Thank goodness this deficiency has now been rectified.
There is no similarity between a civil airport and a military or Air Force airport. Let us face facts: We need airports and airstrips for the defence of this country in the event of an emergency. If such an emergency were to arise and the signal to scramble came, requiring flight crew and other personnel to get quickly to the aircraft and gat them off the ground, it would be essential to have those personnel in close proximity to the hangars or the airstrips. If an emergency arose suddenly and your Air Force personnel were some miles away, your aircraft could be caught on the ground and destroyed. This would not do much for the defence of Australia, f am sympathetic with what the Opposition is trying to do but I consider that its aim is not practical under present arrangements. I am sorry that the Opposition does not agree with me.
Mr LES JOHNSON (Hughes) P.I41- Members of the Public Works Committee were well aware of the importance of the decision taken by the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise and by the Parliament as a consequence of that Committee’s report being submitted. The matter was treated by the Public Works Committee as of such importance and as so significant that the inquiry, which to all intents and purposes had been concluded, was subsequently reopened. On that occasion the representatives of the client department and the Depart ment of Works were interrogated about this matter over a very considerable period of time. The interrogation was directed to ascertain whether the client department and the Department of Works felt that any problem existed. I think the general feeling was that there was no problem here that was out of proportion compared with Air Force bases around the countryside.
I rise to inform the House that the assurance we received from the client department and the Department of Works in particular was of such a nature that it provided prospects of any problem arising from aircraft noise being attended to, even if necessary by a subsequent design submission. I would like the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) to know that members of the Public Works Committee treated this matter with the importance it deserves. For my part I have been extremely conscious of aircraft noise because I live in an area so affected. I agree with the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) that town planning is a very important aspect as far as this problem of aircraft noise is concerned. I would like the House to know that as a result of our interrogations in the Public Works Committee some members of the Committee felt that some aspects of town planning surrounding the base in question were unsatisfactory. I refer not just to the facilities for the personnel of the base but also to the residential facilities near the base. As a result of the excellent work done by the Aircraft Noise Committee and the fact that the aspect of noise has been in the forefront of our minds on the Public Works Committee, we have obtained an assurance from the Department of Air that in the establishment of future bases this matter will receive top priority.
– These 306 people will get nothing.
– The honourable member for Newcastle suggests by way of interjection that the people who live near these bases will get nothing. I have had the opportunity of glancing quickly at the transcript of evidence in relation to this matter. I understand that this is not readily available to other honourable members. I have not had an opportunity to read the transcript carefully but my recollection of what was said during the inquiry, reinforced by a quick examination of the transcript, leads me to the view that the Department felt that there could be some way to remedy the situation by the installation of architectural aids if it were found, as a result of the investigations of the special committee that is applying itself to this matter, that such a problem did represent a hazard, an inconvenience and a detriment to the health of the personnel concerned.
My attitude to the amendment that has been moved is that as a member of the Public Works Committee I would not be at all averse to the matter being referred again to the Committee for further examination. I do not think anything would be lost if such a course were pursued and it could well be that the expert committees which are looking at acoustical factors in respect of Commonwealth establishments will have a preliminary report upon which some action could be taken at this stage, if necessary, in respect of the Pearce development. My purpose in rising is principally to assure the honourable member for Newcastle and other honourable members that members of the Public Works Committee are justifiably concerned about this matter, since it received the priority attention of the Parliament and was treated so significantly by the Parliament. The Public Works Committee has regarded the matter significantly and in any future inquiry the consideration of all these aspects will receive high priority. It may not yet be too late to do something which could have beneficial and advantageous effects on the design and development of the Pearce establishment.
– I wish to make two points. The first relates to the membership of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) of the Public Works Committee. I think the honourable gentleman finds himself in a rather curious position because he and his Opposition colleagues on the Committee have put their signatures to its report. As the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) has pointed out, it is a unanimous report. Let me try to enhance the honourable gentleman’s argument a little by assuming that he and his colleagues on the Committee, the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) and the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), rejected the proposal in the report. Why did they not say so at the time? What is the point in agreeing-
– You are on very dangerous ground.
– Whether I am on dangerous ground is a matter to be determined in my own mind. The 3 honourable members put their signatures to the report and it was a unanimous report. When the report is presented in this House, one honourable member, with the idea of trying to squeeze some political advantage out of it, said: ‘1 would not mind very much if the matter were referred back to the Public Works Committee and we had a second look at it.’ 1 would have thought that on a matter of this nature one would have been able to make up one’s mind with some measure of finality. No fresh argument has been introduced which would in any way persuade the honourable member that it would be opportune to have another look at the proposal. I think the honourable member for Wakefield put the matter with great simplicity. He said that it was a unanimous report. Now the honourable member for Hughes is saying that he wants to do away with that unanimity.
There is another thing I want to say about the argument put by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). Nobody is suggesting for 1 moment that the serviceman should live in circumstances radically different from those enjoyed by civilians. A serviceman’s existence today must have some relevance to the world outside. The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) adverted - I think quite properly - to the fact that this is a Service establishment. I think we must pay account to that fact. The nearest living quarters, as I understand it, are about 3,000 feet from the runway. That is the minimum distance. The honourable member must concede that at a Service establishment you must expect to hear something of the noises associated with Service activity. Particularly is this the case with a Royal Australian Air Force base. It is absurd to propose that at an RAAF base all living quarters should be moved out of the range of any noise that may come from aircraft. I think the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and other members of the Opposition have failed to take account of the fact that in the construction of these buildings due regard will be had to preventing, within the range of reasonableness and to meet the requirements-
– That is not in the report.
– The honourable member for Newcastle took the view that the housing was within 30 or 40 yards of the runway and that aircraft taking off or landing would literally raise the roof. That is an absurd proposition. No person connected with the Commonwealth Department of Works would slap up buildings with, in short, complete disregard for those who are to live in them.
– Have you seen the base?
– I do not want to injure the honourable member’s feelings but in years gone by due regard was not had for the comfort of the serviceman, and this was particularly noticeable under a Labor Government
Mr JAMES (Hunter) (3.24]- As a member of the Public Works Committee I endorse substantially the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). The Public Works Committee did show very great concern and deep interest in aircraft noise at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Pearce. The honourable member for Hughes in particular, together with other members of the Committee, cross-examined the experts from the Department of Air about this subject. If the House will hear with me, I shall quote questions put by the honourable member for Hughes in relation to aircraft noise. The following passage appears in the transcript of that hearing:
Would the situation be aggravated it the Fill were based at Pearce? - (Mr Dwyer) The situation would be aggravated, because the Fill has a far greater noise level than the Macchi.
How long would it take to get expert opinion about this matter - not about the effect of the Fill but on the desirability or otherwise of sound-proofing? - We could ask the Commonwealth Acoustics Laboratories to make special measurements at this location. The measurements would then have to be discussed with the Department of Works. The Department of Works look to the Director of Aviation Medicine from Civil Aviation to advise them. Our own medical officers would have to be consulted. Theo we would have to consider this question in relation to the Standards Committee. After that we would have to come back to this Committee.
I have read that portion of the transcript to point out to the House the concern-
– That is only part of it.
– That is so. That is an example of the thoroughness with which the Public Works Committee examined aircraft noise at Pearce base. If this matter is referred back to the Public Works Committee I am doubtful whether anything further could be achieved. I must speak sincerely about this matter. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) paid me the courtesy a short time ago, when I was going over to another place about another matter, of telling me that he intended to move an amendment. I said that it was a matter entirely for him. 1 endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Hughes. The Public Works Committee investigated and probed this matter of aircraft noise at Pearce base with great thoroughness and concern and to the fullest possible extent. 1 felt I should say this on this occasion. I feel I must also say, with respect to my colleague the honourable member for Newcastle, that I am doubtful whether anything would be achieved in again referring the matter to the Public Works Committee.
– 1 wish to say a few words about this matter. 1 think members of the Public Works Committee are under a misapprehension if they believe that they are under attack. They have an advantage over other members of this Parliament in having heard the evidence and having seen the Royal Australian Air Force Base at Pearce. The persons who are under attack, in my opinion, are the representatives of the Department of Air who ignored completely the recommendation which appears at page 4 of the interim report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. That report was presented to this Parliament and it laid down, in effect, that safeguards should be made in respect of aircraft noise.
I enter this debate because I am concerned about the possibility of reports from the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise, submitted to this Parliament, being ignored by departments such as the Department of Air. A few minutes ago the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) said that the nearest living quarters on this base were about 1,000 yards, or 3,000 feet, from the runways. I live about 5 miles from Mascot airport and I can hear the revving of the jets there. They often wake me up at night. One thousand yards is no different to 1,000 inches as far as this noise is concerned. That is why it is important to this Parliament to know whether the recommendations of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise are being completely ignored in submissions to the Public Works Committee. In this case one would not be drawing a long bow to say that such information may well have been deliberately left out of this report. Planes fly over my district, which takes in Leichhardt, Stanmore, Marrickville, Newtown and other places, day and night. The roofs of houses shake every few minutes.
I am very concerned to know whether important recommendations coming from the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise are being ignored completely. Possibly members of the Public Works Committee could not be expected to know everything contained in the report of the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise but I would have thought that the Department of Air would include a reference to aircraft noise in its submission. To my mind this is a glaring omission in the evidence submitted to members of the Public Works Committee. I hope there will be no repetition of it. The Committee said, at page 15 of its report, that the aircraft noise problem at the proposed sleeping quarters will have to continue for some time. I express the view in this Parliament on behalf of the people from my electorate that they cannot continue to put up with aircraft noise and neither can the people in the community nor servicemen anywhere. I hope that when the interim report of the Aircraft Noise Committee comes before the Parliament in the very near future we will get an assurance from the ministerial heads of the departments concerned that the findings of the Committee will be taken into consideration and that if inquiries are being made into the siting of aerodromes, runways and things of that nature at least the departmental submission will include, even without comment, the findings of the Aircraft Noise Committee on these matters.
There has been a misapprehension about who is under attack on this matter. The Public Works Committee made a finding, as was its right, but it was to my way of thinking misled by the Department of Air and the oratory of the Minister for the Navy has not changed my belief that he was covering up in this matter. It is significantly said on page 14 that no mention was made of this. F support the amendment that has been moved and I hope the Minister will assure the House that he will refer this proposal back to the Committee. I express my personal concern as one whose electorate is vitally affected by aircraft noise at the contempt, if I might say so, of the Department for the findings of the Aircraft Noise Committee.
– The amendment is not acceptable to the Government but I give an assurance to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) and the House that I will bring the whole of this constructive debate before my colleague, the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman) in the Senate. In saying this I would like to compliment the honourable members for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and Hunter (Mr James) for supporting the Committee In this Parliament. I believe that when honourable members can do that, perhaps against the wishes of one of their front bench members, it says a lot for the parliamentary institution we now have. I am sure the Chairman and all members of the Committee will be grateful to those 2 honourable members for the way in which they have spoken. The amendment is not acceptable because of the delay it would cause, but I give the assurance that the whole of the debate will be brought before my colleague.
Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle)- by leave - I accept the assurance that has just been given by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) who represents the Minister for Works that this matter will be brought to the attention of his colleague in another place. We on this side of the House are greatly concerned, as are a considerable number of honourable members on the Government side, with aircraft noise. As members of the Aircraft Noise Committee, I and my colleague the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), probably because of the large volume of evidence that has been brought to our attention, can appreciate more than others do the need for adequate sound proofing of these 306 flats. This is what prompted me to move the amendment. However, we are prepared to accept the assurance of the Minister that the matter will be brought to the attention of his colleague in another place. I hope he will take the necessary action at this time to sound proof these buildings and so give the required protection to Service personnel. This protection is long overdue and has been recommended by a parliamentary committee, the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 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 Parliament: Construction of stores complex for 2 Base Medical and Dental Equipment Depot at Randwick, New South Wales.
The proposal involves construction of a main store with attached guard house, an administration and amenities building, an inflammable liquids and gases store, PABX and an incinerator. The estimated cost is $2m. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and on the concurrence of this House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
HMAS ‘Tarangau’, Los Negros Island
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, 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 Parliament: Development works at HMAS ‘Tarangau’ at Los Negros Island.
The proposal includes construction of oil fuel storage facilities, diesel generating sets and electrical reticulation, air-conditioning units and 5 houses. The estimated cost is Sl.lm. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal and upon the concurrence of this House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– All 1 want to say, following an informal inquiry from the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), in respect of the 5 houses being built at Los Negros Island is that the members of the Committee seemed to be quite unanimous in their view that there is not likely to be any hazard from aircraft noise at this naval base.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5 May (vide page 1627), on motion by Dr Forbes:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As far back as February 1968 the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) indicated to the House and to the people of Australia his intention of thoroughly reviewing and, when necessary, extensively improving the health insurance scheme. With this clear objective and on the firm foundation of schemes introduced by previous Liberal-Country Party Governments we have already made great advances in providing security against the cost of illness. This was stated by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) when he made his statement in the House on 14th March of this year. As we all know, the GovernorGeneral in his Speech referred to the health scheme to be introduced during this session of the Parliament. We all know that the Nimmo Committee for 12 months or so investigated the question of public health in Australia, particularly the role of the Federal Government. It came forward with a quite voluminous report. Many of its suggestions have been accepted by the Government and many others are still under consideration. I think all the people of Australia and the members in this Parliament realise that something does need to be done in the present circumstances in Australia to improve public health schemes. Difficulties are being experienced by patients, especially those in the lower income groups but not necessarily solely there, in meeting medical and hospital costs.
In such matters as health, social services and repatriation, what is needed and what 1 hope will ultimately be done is a review of the overall schemes starting from the ground roots, looking at the problems that confront us as a nation, looking for a solution and perhaps re-writing the whole programme of health services, repatriation and so on. This responsibility does noi fall to any one government. Great problems in respect of health are brought about by the system of federation under which we live. I agree with federation and 1 support it. Some aspects of health are under the control of States and some are under the control of the Commonwealth, and it is rather difficult to get a unanimous viewpoint on an improvement which will work for the betterment of the people as a whole.
I appreciate what the Government has done. I appreciate particularly the work that the Minister for Health has done in bringing this legislation before the Parliament. I am not saying that 1 necessarily agree in the detail of many of the things that are in the legislation. But I think it is fair to say that the Minister and the Government have endeavoured as far as possible to learn from the spokesmen, or the supposed spokesmen anyway until a fairly recent time, of the medical profession. I refer to the Australian Medical Association. I think that the Minister has endeavoured to consult with the AMA and has endeavoured to accept viewpoints which were put forward by its members with respect to the proposed scheme. lt was not until certain details of the scheme were announced in the prime statement of the Minister on 4th March of this year that sections of the medical profession became concerned as to certain of the detail in the proposed legislation. I think that it must be understood by the medical profession and, indeed, by the people of this country that much of the fault in this respect - in my opinion, anyhow - does lie with the medical profession itself. When one speaks to many of those in the profession one finds that they say now that the viewpoint put forward by the Australian Medical Association is not necessarily their viewpoint. What do we find when we look further into the matter? I do not criticise members of the medical profession, because their position is like that of people concerned with many other organisations. Members may well not be able to attend meetings of the AMA. How many men who are members of certain groups, organisations or trade unions do not attend the meetings of those bodies and say, when a decision is made which they think is wrong, that they were not consulted?
The end result, as far as I can see, is a certain amount of confusion within the medical profession as to what is the best and most workable system for a health scheme such as is proposed by the Government at this time. In my opinion the Minister did go out of his way and did make strenous efforts to consult with and to answer criticism from the medical profession. He endeavoured to explain Government viewpoints and to listen to the viewpoints of the various sections of the medical profession. I feel that both the medical profession and the Government as well as all responsible people realise that a health scheme will be workable only as long as the co-operation of people in the three spheres is obtained; I refer to the patients, the medical profession and the Government. lt is to the advantage of the whole community that, wherever possible, a workable solution and a workable plan should be developed by co-operation and consultation. Now, as we know, the Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance, commonly known as the Nimmo Committee, did have over 12 months in which to consult and to investigate. We know that the Government did have a period when the Nimmo Committee’s report was under discussion by it when it did have consultations with the Australian Medical Association and when it was able to make up its mind on certain questions which are now in the form of the Bill before the House.
I had conferences with medical officers in my electorate. My remarks on these conferences were quoted in the Press. These medical officers had not had the same opportunity that the Government, the Nimmo Committee and others had had to see the fine print or the detail of this Bill. Indeed, it was suggested by honourable members on this side of the House that the National Health Bill should be introduced and should be allowed to lie on the table so that the medical profession itself - those in its various spheres - would have time to consult and to be able to bring forward suggestions as to where it thought amendments should be carried out or where improvements should be made. I find in considering a Bill such as this - I am sure that many other members of the House share the same difficulty - that it may be all right if a member is a doctor or a member of the medical profession. Such a person can understand the ramifications and effects of various proposals or clauses in a Bill. Those proposals or clauses may have an entirely different effect on the medical profession, as the medical practitioner sees them, as compared with the effect that I as a layman and a member of Parliament think that they will have when I consider the Bill in this House.
I think that the Opposition is lucky that it has in its ranks so many members of the medical profession who perhaps can advise it on various factors related to the Bill. We on this side of the House are not so lucky at this time. But I think that it also should be remembered that whilst on the other side of the House the Opposition may have professional men - doctors - in its ranks, those men now are members of a party and as members of Parliament it is not necessarily their professional opinions which will carry the day. When it comes to a question of politics it may well be that a doctor has to go along with the majority opinion expressed by his Party and not necessarily put forward the viewpoint that he holds.
– You just do what Snedden tells you.
– I did not hear the interjection.
– You just have to do what the Leader of the House tells you. You do not have any say at all, I understand.
– My honourable friend from Wills has been here long enough to make an assessment on that matter himself. Quite frankly, that is not the impression given to me.
As this matter concerns me at the moment, I wish to put forward a proposal to which I feel the Government should agree. lt is something that I feel the Minister for Health may well be prepared to do. I would ask the Minister and the Government to permit this ‘Bill to pass the second reading stage in this House and then to allow the Parliament a week or a fortnight before the debate in Committee proceeds so that further discussions can be undertaken with the medical profession, the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in an endeavour to reach some solution which may be suitable to all parties. In the 3-week period when, after its introduction, the Bill Jay on the table of this House, we did receive from the Australian Medical Association a letter dated 1st May - that is only a few days ago - and also a letter from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. In both letters suggestions were put forward as a result of the reading of the Bill by those bodies. Suggestions came also from certain other groups including the General Practitioners Society of Australia and a section of general practitioners in New South Wales which, I understand, is another sector in the Australian Medical Association.
What I am suggesting is that, having received as laymen these reports, suggestions and criticisms concerning the Bill, some of which came as late as Monday of this week, it would be advisable for us to allow a certain period to elapse so that we can go into the matters that have been raised by the medical profession now in an endeavour to reach a solution. To support that view I would stress that the Minister in his second reading speech and indeed throughout the discussions on this matter has said that most of the suggestions concerning clauses of the Bill have been put into effect after consultation with the Australian Medical Association. Indeed, it does appear now that the Australian Medical Association has had some further review of the opinions expressed earlier. It has had further discussions, I think, with those members of the AMA who are also members of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and has suggested certain amendments which are very similar to the amendments proposed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. 1 hope that the Government will be prepared to accept my suggestion and that it will allow at least a short time before the Bill passes through the Committee stages so that lay members of this Parliament may consult both with the Department of Health and with individual doctors and so bring about a health scheme which will be of advantage to Australia and to the patient and that will permit co-operation with the medical profession and solve some of the ills which are operative at present.
I wish to raise a few other matters. For one thing, I am concerned with the question of differential rebates; 1 do go along to a certain extent with the point raised by general practitioners that this proposal ultimately will have the effect of encouraging the young student who is doing medicine at university to take what could be the easy path and decide to become a specialist because such action has many advantages. As a layman I say that that may be so, but with the professional men there seems to be a variance of opinion. It seems to me that it does allow a professional man to work fewer hours. The specialist is not necessarily on call day and night 24 hours a day as is the general practitioner. From my reading of the Bill it seems to me that he is allowed to charge a higher fee and to sit back and just wait for the referrals to come to him. It does allow him to concentrate on only one specialty and become an authority in that particular sphere. Who can blame a young man at the university for choosing to become a specialist, particularly in view of the propaganda that is being put about? I am concerned about the ultimate effect this may have on the general patient - the person in the country, in an outlying area or in an outer suburban area who, in the event of an emergency, whether he be a person involved in a car accident at the corner, a son falling off a table, somebody cutting his foot or who suffers from any of the 100,000 things that can happen in a family, requires medical attention. What will be the position if there are not sufficient general practitioners in a local area to service the problems that arise? It is the general practitioner who knows the circumstances of a family and the background of the children’s health, and who has treated that family for years and knows the ailments from which members of that family suffer. He would know more about a member of that family than would the specialist to whom that member was referred. The general practitioner is the person closest to the patient and this, I think, necessarily should be so. 1 am concerned also about who will be a specialist. I am not clear as to how this will be worked out. I understand that the various States handle this aspect in different ways. I believe that in some States committees have been appointed to determine who shall be regarded as specialists. I do not think such a committee is operating in Victoria. Will a specialist be the man who has taken higher degrees overseas, who has gained his FRCS or whatever the higher degree is? Will these degrees automatically give him the rating of a specialist, or does he have to sit in Collins Street or Macquarie Street and attend to one specific illness? In many group practices 3 or 4 members of the medical profession are gathered together, particularly in country areas. One may be a general practitioner, another a specialist in ear, nose and throat disorders although still acting as a general practitioner, and yet another a surgeon who has not sufficient demand to enable him to practise as a surgeon specialist and who accepts some responsibility and share of the general practitioner work which comes to the group. Will this legislation preclude him from being regarded as a specialist if he is in a general practice in association with others? 1 have been assured by the Minister - I hope he will make this clear in the House - that where such a situation occurs a general practitioner who has secured his senior and advanced degrees, depending on the number of operations or services he performs, will have his case reviewed by the committee which is to be set up and he can be regarded as a specialist. It is all right to say that that will be so, but it should be said clearly in the House. These doctors should be reassured that they will not be prejudiced by this legislation, because Ministers change and the next Minister may not be aware of the situation. So problems could arise.
– This will be up to the doctors on the board, not the Government.
– That is so, but I want the Minister to state that that is the Government’s intent so that the Board knows it. A number of problems are associated with this legislation. They concern me and we should be entitled to make more investigation of them. I have had a verbal assurance from the Minister regarding persons suffering from chronic illnesses. If a person is a diabetic - I do not instance this for any personal reason but because it is the example that comes to my mind - or suffers any other illness for which there is no known cure, will it be necessary for that person to receive a referral from a general practitioner every 6 months before seeing a specialist? A specialist alone is capable of handling such illnesses but if the patient is obliged to go to a general practitioner every 6 months as well as to a specialist he will have to pay S5 to the general practitioner and $5 to the specialist. This would be a complete waste of government money. The Minister has verbally assured me if I understood him correctly, and I hope that he will make it clear, that should the general practitioner regard a person as permanently invalided - I do not like that term - or stuck with a disease, it will be sufficient for the general practitioner to refer such a patient permanently to a specialist.
– For that illness.
– Indeed, without a doubt. If the Minister would give me that assurance it would reassure a lot of people. One aspect of the legislation with which I am disappointed relates to the position of physiotherapists. If this legislation is to encompass all the things that are necessary to assist people in meeting the cost of ill health, surely physiotherapists should have been included. I know of a case close to me where the person concerned is a chronic asthmatic. That person has been through the general practitioners and through a whole galaxy of specialists. Not much can be done for asthmatics; there may be some alleviation of the illness but there does not seem to be a cure. On the last occasion when this person was referred by a general practitioner to a specialist that specialist referred the person to a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist attended the patient approximately 3 days a week for a period of about 3 months. I admit that of the whole range of treatments that had been prescribed by the medical profession the physiotherapist probably gave the patient the greatest relief. I do not say this as a reflection on the medical profession. However, the medical profession accepts that manipulation and teaching people how to breathe under the great strain and stress of asthma are the most helpful things that can be done. The general practitioner is entitled to be recompensed, as is the specialist, but in this case neither has been able to bring about much relief and the specialist has recommended that the patient should go to a physiotherapist as a means of securing some relief. The physiotherapist has taught this person how to act, how to control his breathing and how to obtain relief in a situation of stress, but the physiotherapist is not entitled to any recompense whatsoever, nor is the patient. I ask the Minister to say why this is so. It appears to me to be a most amazing anomaly. 1 will not take my full time in this debate, although I would like to raise many other questions. 1. hope that we will be given an opportunity to discuss the Bill more fully during the Committee stage. I suggest to the House that when the debate on the second reading is finalised we should allow a period in which we can have further consultation with the medical profession before the Bill passes through its remaining stages. During this time we can say to the Australian Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners and other bodies of the medical profession: ‘Here is a further period for consultation. Let us talk again of these suggestions you have put to us and let us try to iron out the problems we both see.’ I am adamant that the success of this scheme will depend on the co-operation of the medical profession.
Taking myself as an example, I believe that the general practitioner is important to the family. I do not want to find a situation in which one cannot get a medical practitioner in an emergency. Without criticising the scheme, I say: God help anyone who tries to ring a specialist at 11 o’clock at night to tell him that his children are sick and have a temperature of 103 degrees and who asks whether the specialist will come and see them. The basic medical attention and treatment of people has been well supplied by the general practitioner and by the specialist when required. But I would do nothing, and I suggest that the Government should try not to do anything, that may affect the general practitioner services, particularly in the outlying areas of my electorate and in country electorates, because I think it will be to the disadvantage of the people.
I congratulate the Minister on the Bill. I think the scheme will ultimately be a good one. The courtesy and consideration of the Minister has been admirable, and I am sure that if he is prepared to allow a further delay of perhaps a week or 2 weeks for further consultation with members of the medical profession so that an agreement with them may be reached the scheme will get off the ground, will be an amazing success and will be appreciated by the people of Australia.
– The discusisons about the national health scheme during the 1969 election campaign involved a fairly pedantic consideration of costs. I understand that at this point of time the essential framework of the scheme still1 remains unresolved. I have gathered from the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) that there is a possibility of the debate on this legislation at the Committee stage being deferred to enable further discussions to take place with the medical profession. It seems to me that this scheme has been undertaken with undue haste. Whilst I believe that the medical profession is entitled to consideration in the formation of a new health scheme, it seems to me that it is one thing to afford consideration but that it is another thing to go overboard and to bc led by the nose to such an extent that the welfare of the community of this country has to take second place.
This current crop of hastily prescribed antidotes to the nation’s ailing health scheme first and foremost, in my view, is a reflection of the recklessness of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the fact that he went into the election campaign without having properly prepared the grounds for the submissions he made on behalf of his Party. He was confronted by a carefully contrived and comprehensive health scheme that had been put forward in a lucid and documented form by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). His reaction was almost to go into a state of blind panic. The Australian Labor Party had served notice that the gross injustices and the unaccountable inadequacies of the existing scheme were not longer to be tolerated, and there was much to show that the people supported the Labor Party in this view. The Opposition’s proposals were designed to provide adequate coverage for a wider and more comprehensive range of health services than had ever before been contemplated in this country. Health services were to be financed on a fair and equitable basis by the utilisation of the taxation system. The effect of this, of course, would be that the people would contribute to the cost of the scheme according to their capacity to pay.
The proposals made by the Leader of the Opposition were based on a unique and intense study by 2 distinguished economists, J. B. Deeble and R. V. Scotton, under the auspices of the Institute of Applied Economic Research of the University of Melbourne. This survey of health care under the voluntary health insurance scheme and the evidence put before the Senate Select Committee on Hospital and Medical Costs highlighted the wasteful and extravagant features of the health scheme that has developed under 20 years of Liberal administration and under some years of the administration of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). The Prime Minister’s reactions to these revelations and the positive proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition was to give impetuous and illconceived undertakings. In other words, there was a hotch-potch of half conceived proposal’s heaped one on top of the other as election expediency dictated. Left to placate the rising resentment of both the public and the medical profession is a harrassed and exasperated Minister for Health who does not seem to know where he is. He is bringing up the rear like a drover’s dog in a dustbowl, making little additions to the scheme as each day goes by.
According to the Prime Minister, his scheme was to cost $l6m, but the cost has now escalated to $32m. It is only a matter of doubling the cost because the Government has changed its mind between the time one statement was made to this House and the next statement was made. It seems that at this point of time the matter is still not going to be resolved. It represents some kind of deceit when at election time the Prime Minister went into a pedantic discussion about how much one party’s scheme would cost against another and when we now find that after the debate on this Bill has started alterations to the proposals have been made that will double the cost of important facets of the scheme.
This Bill incorporates all the major shortcomings represented by the multiplicity of hospital and medical benefit funds, the useless and expensive competition in which they engage, the duplicated facilities financed from contributors’ funds and the hoarding of massive reserves. It perpetuates the gross deficiencies in the existing health scheme. Among the many services still excluded from the health scheme of this country but included in the health schemes of other countries are a full and adequate dental and optical service, home nursing, physiotherapy, chiropractic services, geriatric and rehabilitation services, a variety of domiciliary services, and support for an effective outpatient system in hospitals. There are deficiencies in the existing legislation which have been the subject of debate in this Parliament time after time and which will be perpetuated.
We have been told by Government supporters that it is a very valuable scheme, but from the standpoint of the community the first undesirable feature about it is that there will be a substantial increase in contributions by those required to join hospital and medical funds. One wonders why oral surgery is covered by this new proposal but not the care of teeth generally. One wonders why hearing aids can be provided but not artificial limbs, and why eye surgery by ophthalmologists is now facilitated when no provision is made for the supply of spectacles and the general care of eyes and sight. One wonders why the pensioner medical service is to be left in its present static state. Only the services of general practitioners will be covered and those of the specialist will be excluded so that a pensioner who requires specialist services - and who knows who will require specialist services - will have to join funds at the same rate as other more wealthy citizens.
Then of course we have paraplegics and quadriplegics whose problems and whose need for facilities are to be relegated in the future, as they have been in the past, to the endeavours of worthy charitable organisations rather than being catered for by the public services of this country. We also have a need for research into muscular dystrophy, which I understand at this point of time has come to a standstill for want of adequate research funds. We know that public hospitals in Australia are in debt. We know that almost every community needs psychiatric wards and geriatric facilities at its public hospitals. We know that psychiatric services generally are almost non-existent in regions that cover a great area, and they are not to be provided under any provision of this Bill. There is no provision for psychiatric services of a preventive or curative nature. We know there is a need for therapists of various types and social workers to work alongside doctors in the prescrition of drugs and the regulation of their effect. But none of these fundamental matters are receiving any consideration under this Bill.
The quality of our public hospitals has not received any consideration in the formulation of this scheme. There is a need for a regionalised hospital system throughout Australia. This should be instituted in this country as it is being instituted in other countries, lt would ensure that in every region there is a decent hospital with modern lifesaving equipment and that there is adequate road transport and even helicopter transport, if necessary. Such transport is being provided in Canada and in other countries. The scheme also would ensure that there was effective staffing in hospitals through the employment of specialist medical expertise on either a salary or fees basis. Can anyone justify the retention of the discredited honorary system of servicing public hospitals? The Nimmo Committee inquired into this matter and recommended that something should be done about it, but to the present the recommendations have been disregarded. Is the Government aware that doctors treating patients in our hospitals are often inadequately remunerated and that in many cases they are not remunerated at all? Is The Government still oblivions of the fact that some doctors in our public hospitals perform services which are well and truly beyond their capacity and their competence, and that they use public hospital facilities without supervision and often undertake work for which they have no proper training?
We are reminded of the television series Dr Kildare’, One of the features that distinguishes the hospitals of our country from those in other countries is that we have plenty of Dr Kildares. We seem to be very short of Dr Gillespie. - those competent people who, because of their expert training, their experience and their proficiency in the profession, take on supervisory roles in our public hospitals. We need to look very seriously at this matter. The antithesis of this unsatisfactory situation is to attract doctors to the service of public hospitals by offering them decent salaries, sensible hours of work and good facilities, and providing them with periodical sabbatical leave. By these means patients seeking treatment would have the assurance and the certainty that every form of speciality necessary to treat sickness would be available in every eventuality. But none of these basic needs is to be fulfilled by the provisions of the Bill before the House. Instead we have but a facade of a health service, the principal purpose of which is to ensure the payment of doctors. Even this, from what 1 can gather, is to their disservice and apparently still is not satisfactory to them. So the Government does not seem to be handling things effectively at any level at all.
Why was the Nimmo Committee denied the terms of reference necessary to enable it to undertake a comprehensive inquiry into all facets of Australia’s health services? Why was it prevented from inquiring into alternative methods of financing health services instead of being limited to the consideration of voluntary insurance? In a recriminatory indictment the Committee heaped criticism on the voluntary insurance scheme and went as far as it could, in its 42 proposed reforms, short of recommending that the voluntary insurance scheme be abandoned altogether. I have noted pages and pages of references in the report of the Nimmo Committee to the inadequency of the voluntary insurance scheme. Yet the Government has persisted with this scheme. Wc know all the vital statistics about voluntary insurance. They have been talked about in the Parliament for long enough. We know that there are 106 hospital benefit organisations which cover 9.4 million people or 77% of the population. But the significant fact is that they are not covering 23% of the population, and among that percentage of course are the people who need health services most of all - the sick, the impoverished, those suffering from malnutrition, those who receive sickness benefits and the Aboriginal. We know that there are 78 medical benefit organisations. These cover 74% of the population, which leaves 26% who are not covered by medical services.
We have read about the high cost of management. So far as medical funds are concerned, management costs go as high as 21.29%. These figures have been extracted from the annual report of the Department of Health. For hospital funds the range of management costs is from 11% to 13%. Jf one deliberately set out to contrive a scheme which culminated in a shemozzle and involved great burdens, great management complications, enormous overhead expenses and duplicated buildings, one just could not come up with anything more satisfactory than the scheme we have at the present time. The Nimmo Committee said that an unduly high proportion of the contributions received by some organisations is absorbed in operating expenses. Yet the Government persists with this scheme. It disregards the high reserves which have been accumulated at the expense of the sick people of this country. Over the last 8 years $100m in health insurance contributions has been diverted info activities which are not related to health services in any way at all. The Nimmo Committee made recommendations to control the investment of reserves and to ensure that the public interest is safeguarded. These recommendations have been denied by the Government in the preparation of this legislation.
I ask honourable gentlemen opposite: Why has the Government made voluntary insurance the corner stone of this Bill? Is it pursuing the myth that there is some high principle in allowing people to be unprotected against the high cost of health services? Surely this is the possible sequel or product of a voluntary health insurance scheme. If it is voluntary it is possible that people will not acquiesce. Does the Government regard this as a matter of principle, that they should be given the opportunity to be unprotected? Of course, the very opposite is desirable. Any government which fails to ensure that all people are adequately covered to meet such eventualities is falling down on its responsibilities. I believe that is happening in this country today. Is there any economic justification for the continuation of a voluntary insurance scheme with its multiplicity of funds, its duplicated buildings and management, and its high reserves and so on? The Nimmo Committee, which was set up by the Government, has recommended rationalisation of the fierce competitive situation in which these funds are involved. I point to the following part of the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee.
In our view only one open fund should be permitted to establish facilities for the enrolment of members and collection of contributions in any one region.
What was the reason for the Government disregarding the report of this expert Committee which was appointed by the Government itself? If we accept this scheme it will perpetuate the shemozzle which has been costing the people of this country such a large amount of money over such a long period of time. In my view, if voluntary insurance is necessary, only one fund is needed, and a publicly owned voluntary insurance commission would be the best scheme to adopt. Perhaps a more equitable approach is to finance health services from taxation just as we finance education, social welfare and most other public services in this country. Why does the Government in relation to health matters and most social service matters take the view that everybody should pay the same amount regardless of their income.
The Government, from the standpoint of the contributors, seems to have rendered a very grave disservice. The weekly contributions by families will be increased under the provisions of the Bill by 25% over the highest existing table. This will be applicable to every citizen in Australia. Everybody will be required to pay a lot more for voluntary insurance than ever before. A contributor in New South Wales who pays on the highest scale of 60c a week will now have to pay 75c a week. This is what the Government calls an improved health service. In other States the contribution rates will rise from 50c to an average of66c a week. That is nor all. In addition to the substantial increase in contribution the contributor will still pay 80c for each general practitioner consultation and $1.20 for each home visit.
The A M A has been promised frequent revisions of fees. This is not provided for in the legislation. I do not think the Government has really settled this issue.
The essential basis of the common fee arrangement is that an authority will be set up to undertake a periodical review of fees. I will be surprised if the AMA ever accepts the arrangement offered today. There is no question that costs throughout the country will rise, and doctors could be disadvantaged as time goes by. But who knows? Since there is nothing written into the legislation in this regard there could be frequent increases in fees, in which event increases in contributions will follow, time after time, to the disadvantage of the contributors.
Another novel innovation is that one table of benefits is to operate in each State. Yet the funds will have the prerogative of charging the fees at varying rates. Different contribution rates will be charged for the same benefit. This will happen in a given State. lt seems to me that many small funds unable to draw on reserves could easily go out of business. That might not be terribly serious, but great inconvenience will be caused to the members of those funds. They will suddenly be rendered memberless, and possibly will be left unprotected in regard to medical and hospital services. The common fee concept, in my view, is essential for those who wish to work within the scheme. Doctors should be free to choose between participation and non-participation in the scheme.
For the benefit of those who have ventured some kind of comment on the policy of the Labor Party but who it seems to me have never read Labor’s policy on this matter, I would just like to read one aspect of that policy. I believe it is very significant and in sharp contrast to what is being offered from the other side of the political spectrum in this country. The Labor Party says that it stands for the provision of general practitioner medical services staffed by salaried medical practitioners willing to join, and available without charge and without means test to persons who choose to use such services. We put it on an entirely voluntary basis. I personally oppose the discriminatory fee concept. I do not consider myself to be an expert on these matters. In politics these days there is a cliche about equal pay for work of equal value, ft seems to me that where a service is rendered by a member of the medical profession it should attract the same fee whether that member is registered as a specialist or is regarded as a general practitioner.
I have never upheld the feature that is incorporated in this legislation and known as the deterrent factor. I oppose financial deterrents in hospitalisation and surgery. I do not believe that these are necessary. We have a $5 deterrent in regard to surgery. I think that this is an unnecessary doctrinaire encumbrance to this or any other health scheme. We do not need a deterrent against a surgical operation, for example, a confinement, having a lung removed, a breast removed or a finger lanced. In the United States of America substantial voluntary insurance funds recognise this fact. The United States Blue Cross fund pays 100% of all standard hospital and surgery bills, and I am quite convinced that we should do the same. My great concern about the legislation is that it was hastily contrived and, it seems to me, ill-conceived. It is endeavouring to overcome some apparent problems, but the predominance of the problems which have been the scourge of this country for decades, from the time the free hospitalisation concept was denied and abandoned by this Government, will remain unattended. To the extent to which the Bill could alleviate sickness and suffering and contribute to the availability of quality hospital and medical care, it has my support. However, I hold few hopes for its success.
I believe that the day is fast approaching when a Labor Government will be called on to introduce an Australian health service which will be complete, equitable and humane. I am sure that when that day comes the important principle that will operate for the benefit of the people of this country will bc the availability of high quality health services. Doctors will be certain to co-operate because they will recognise that if given the opportunity to work in good, well equipped hospitals they will be doing the best possible service for humanity. This is the emphasis of the Labor Party’s policy. It is concerned not simply with financing a health scheme but with ensuring that there is quality in medical care and regard for the patient’s welfare. To that extent the proposal of the alternative scheme, the health scheme put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) at the last federal election, will represent a benefit and advantage to the entire Australian community.
– I rise to support the Bill. I do so with a great deal of concern for the welfare of the community. My concern is that the community should get the benefit of what the Government is offering. The Government is proposing, and this Bill will give effect to the proposal, a very positive approach to one problem area of the health services of this country. That problem area is the extremely high cost of operations. When a patient undergoes an operation, very often unexpectedly or as a consequence of prolonged illness or where the person involved has not been able to foresee the eventuality of an operation, the really worrying financial burden of that operation will henceforth be removed. That burden is not only a purely psychological problem but to a very large proportion of Australians is a very real and material problem. One of the early propositions of the Gorton-McEwen Government was that a careful study would be made of the areas of real need in the health and hospital services of this nation. As honourable members will recall, the first positive move was to overcome the disability of people who found themselves hospitalised for long periods. This is an accomplishment which has relieved the community of what in fact could be regarded as the greatest burden in this field.
The second burden is the one to which 1 have just referred and is the subject of the proposals now before the House. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) tended to wave this matter aside and to say: ‘Well, there is no question here. All of this would be easily resolved if in fact the Opposition’s nationalisation approach to health in this country were adopted.’ He went on further to say that it seemed strange that after the 1969 election the measure now before the House should in fact involve suggestions from the Government side for further discussions with medical practitioners, with the several groups of the profession.
I think it was the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) who said: ‘Anyhow, this has been a sell-out to the Australian Medical Association.’ I want to contrast what the Government is doing with what the Opposition would do, according to its own admissions in this debate. The Opposition would with one stroke of the pen. so to speak, implement a scheme based entirely on the premise of striking a special tax and then paying the bills. 1 suggest to the House that the inference that th s proposition has turned out to be more costly and the early estimates found to be not quite accurate is a reflection on the Government. The honourable member for Prospect laughs at this. I put it to him that if the proposition of his Party were under careful scrutiny to the extent of the preparation of a Bill and to the extent that - heaven help us - it was being implemented in this House, there would be many areas of detail that would throw up not just the simple problems that this Bill has revealed but a whole host of detail which has not even been thought of or recognised by the Opposition. 1 base my contention on the simple observations that one can make of the operation of the national health scheme of the United Kingdom where the estimates time and time again were found to be far short of the eventual requirement and where all of the operation, particularly on the medical side, turned out to be vastly different from what was foreseen in the initial proposition.
There is nothing novel about what we have discovered in the process of getting down to business and getting into the details of the implementation of this proposal. But what in fact is occurring - and the Government must be given credit for this - is that care is being taken to see that what is done will be practical; that what is done will be effective and that what is done will be workable. lt is for this reason that Government supporters have proposed further discussions and the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) very clearly enunciated ari approach which will give a full and open opportunity for negotiations with the medical profession far further deliberations on the various categories in terms of the schedules to the Bill and in particular on matters upon which the profession has expressed some concern.
I now turn to my own interest in this measure. I, like other honourable members, have had discussions with doctors in my electorate and those discussions have been most useful. In fact they were fruitful to the extent that I feel as a supporter of the Government that I am able to put to this House some very useful comments and I. propose to do so, but at the outset I want to quote from a letter presented by way of a deputation from the doctors in my electorate. One paragraph states:
We favour the principle of the common fee.
They have submitted quite definitely that they are in accord with the forward thinking of the Government to try to improve the overall approach to health and medical services. But quite properly they have expressed concern about some aspects of the Bill, and those aspects are the subject of debate in this chamber. Here and now they will be the subject of further consideration as we proceed in a very proper way to deal with this measure.
One aspect raised which has concerned me as a country member and others representing country electorates is the question of the final determination of the matter of referral by a general practitioner to a specialist. In introducing the measure the Minister for Health made it clear that the Government was conferring with the profession in this regard. He indicated that the Bill made provision for a prescribed regulation to cover this matter of referral, so I do what I believe to be the obvious thing in speaking to the measure. I express the views of the doctors who have approached me, who believe that a very firm system should be put into operation in this regard. The Minister told the House that one of the propositions that would be examined in consultation with the profession was that an official form bc provided so that a general practitioner can indicate in writing that a referral is being made and name the person to whom the patient is referred, and there will be a quite positive cover of this aspect.
– In triplicate.
– Why not in triplicate? Perhaps there should be a fourth form for some reason or other. This is the way to ensure that the system will work; that it will not be loose and clumsy; that it will achieve the desired end; and that it will protect to some extent the interests of the general practitioner while on the other hand giving the specialist, or the person in whatever field it is to whom the patient is referred, a quite positive referral and not something that is left in doubt. If this is done I believe that the fear that has been expressed by a section of the profession will be satisfactorily covered. Some concern has also been expressed as to the definition of ‘specialist’. It has been put to me that there is a need for some clarification. I have gone carefully through what the Minister has already indicated and I have no doubt that this aspect will be very properly covered in the information that will be given by the Minister on behalf of the Government.
Dr Gim ; What about the committee criteria?
– The honourable member says: ‘What about the committee?’ Of course there will be proper provision for this. It is intended that there will be a committee to deal with this but I am talking about the definition. 1 am talking about the base from which we will begin and I think that this is all important. I have no doubt that members of the Opposition, if they take the time to look into the details, will agree that once the base is established we are on a correct course for the operation of the committee that will ultimately function. The guide lines of course must be there but the issue as to the differentiation between a general practitioner and a specialist has caused, as I said a moment ago, some concern particularly in country areas. I express the view that someone who in fact is in part in general practice but who specialises and who is qualified in a specialised field will be recognised. I have no doubt that this will be done. But it will clear up one point - one point of many which have caused some debate and which have, quite properly, been matters of interest in the consideration which the profession has given this proposal since the Government announced it and since the Bill initially came into this House.
In country areas we are concerned - and I have no doubt that this goes for members on both sides of the House, and certainly it is a matter which concerns the Government - that the general practitioner should in any way be jeopardised or should in any way see anything that will erode his status in the community. I am talking of status not only from the point of view of a professional level but also from the point of view of community service. A general practitioner is always seen as someone who serves the community. He is friend, adviser, philosopher and goodness knows what else to families and in many instances has lived a lifetime in a particular community. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), I know, has a particular interest in this field as do so many others from country electorates- We want to be sure - and 1 am certain from my own detailed discussions on this subject that this will be the case as time goes on - that we will preserve this status- The status is an important one and is the real bulwark, so to speak, of the medical service in the far flung parts of Australia, and for that matter even in suburban areas.
We think of those who answer calls at any hour and who might be obliged to drive 15 or 20 miles to reach a patient and on arrival might have to deal with quite extensive practical difficulties before even getting down to the medical matter that is involved. This requires a particular kind of person - a personality in the first place; a person of patience and perseverence; a person who is dedicated and who is not concerned merely with financial return or with the material things of life but whose main concern really is to do his best, whatever the circumstances might be. The same dedicated people are the first to say. where there is a need, that they must quickly get the patient to a specialist. They are also the ones who are concerned if this course of action involves some terribly expensive outlay, say if an immediate operation is required. They are just as worried as the patient. Nothing will help the cause better than for them to be able to say: ‘Well, you will have to have an immediate op. We will have to arrange for transportation by ambulance for a journey of. say, 20. 40 or 50 miles. When you get there you will have peace of mind and the job will be done.’ The purpose of this measure is to give that facility, to give that opportunity and to give that assurance to those who so often find themselves in need of it.
I know that statistics show that the percentage of operations from total treatments in a year is comparatively low. It is something like 3.5%. Nevertheless it is this area that continues to cause a degree of hardship. The objective is to overcome this hardship. Other honourable members who have spoken have referred to the set fees in the schedule and so on. I do not want to traverse that ground again. I want, however, to refer to one aspect. This is the question of the common fee as it affects a patient who is obliged to undergo surgery plus other incidental things at the same time. Perhaps the other treatment is not so incidental if we take as an example a person who is admitted for a certain operation - say the removal of a kidney - and at the same time it is decided, for obvious reasons, to nail a fractured hip or to do something else. There is need for some explanation as to how the $5 fee will cover a situation where there are a number of operation procedures in the one case and at the one time. I have no doubt that this has been well and truly considered and that there is a clear answer to be given. But I hope that when the Minister speaks in reply at the end of this debate he will clear up this point.
J also hope that there will be clarification as to who is to receive the $5 and as to how the participants in a major surgical operation involving anaesthetists and others are to be treated and accounted for. 1 am sure that there is a simple answer to this. But the question has been posed. When we think in terms of some of the complicated cases that can ultimately involve surgery we can see that there is a need for some clarification. For instance, take a simple appendix case. Someone could find that he is involved with a problem and he is not sure what it is. He consults his doctor and the doctor says: ‘Well, perhaps you have appendix trouble - T am not sure.’ The doctor might say to do this and to do that and to come back and see him again. Sometimes this can run on for a period and involves cost. There may be other instances where it is found that an abscess has developed.
I am not a doctor but I am trying to describe a complicated situation where, for example, surgery cannot be performed for a period of time; the final action of removing the appendix is not taken for some time. All the while a fairly extensive cost factor has been built up. I hope that we will have this point clarified as well. I hope that the Minister will clarify the starting point and the cut off point as to the precise relationship of a complicated case of this kind as against the schedule of the Bill where there is a fixed figure or a fee for what is described as appendix - and there are several descriptions of it. But the schedule does not go to the point where the layman can interpret what is meant. So we can see that there could be instances - I suppose this has to be one of the chances taken, taking the good with the bad so to speak - in which someone could have an extensive period of treatment without operation and who maybe does not get the cover that would apply to someone who goes straight in for an immediate operation and soon comes out again. There is, of course, as a consequence a lower cost factor to the patient in the latter case.
The Opposition has given a great deal of time in this debate to the question of hospital services, to what they describe as complete inadequacies in the hospital services of this nation. They have done so with the implication all the while that this would be resolved if the Opposition’s proposal for a national health scheme based on a special rate of taxation were implemented. I fail to see the relationship. ] fail to see how the Opposition’s nationalisation plan would resolve the hospital problems of this nation. Quite frankly, I think honourable members opposite are making the whole matter so confused that heaven help the general public when it comes to understanding what this is all about. This measure is specifically to deal with the provision of an entirely new approach to the question of operations and to give a benefit to every Australian to the extent that for $5 an operation will be performed and that the person involved will not have to find additional funds towards the cost of that operation unless, of course, the cost exceeds the common fee that is established in the schedule to the Bill. This is quite separate from the matter of deficiencies in hospitals in the various States and Territories. But the Nimmo Committee’s report has made some positive recommendations about hospitals and, as the Minister for Health indicated recently, these have been referred to the States which have a particular interest in them to the extent that they run the hospitals. Quite properly it is the province of the States to make suggestions to the Commonwealth about the running of hospitals. I do not believe that we can consider hospital problems separated from health services generally but one total decision will not solve all the problems. It is for this reason that this measure is so important. It is important to get this scheme operating for the benefit of the community and then one area of serious disability will have been resolved. It will then be possible to turn to other areas and over a period of time to effect substantial improvements.
– Is it too soon to do anything about the hospitals?
– I answer the query quite positively: Within the limit of the financial capacity to carry out improvements I believe that the resources of this nation are being channelled in the correct direction. I would rather see $30m go into this proposition than see such a sum go into hospitals and still leave people facing hardship - still leave the citizen who faces a serious operation with the necessity to foot the bill, having to provide $200, $300 or $400 in some instances which he is not able to find. This becomes a great burden on such people and on their families. Surely this legislation is a priority matter. Surely it is a move in the right direction for all Australians.
I reiterate what I have said about the importance of the general1 practitioner, particularly in country areas. It is obvious that we do not in this measure solve all of the problems that confront us so far as general practitioners are concerned because not only are the standards and qualifications largely established by State instrumentalities but also their relatione with public hospitals are established by State authorities. I think it is proper in this debate to urge that quite apart from this measure some special consideration should be given to the interests of the general practitioner. We should aim to maintain his status. We should endeavour to see whether it is practical to introduce a specialist level in the general practitioner field. I understand that the Royal Brisbane Hospital1 offers 2 fellowships for general practitioners so that they might become specialists but still in the field of general practice. This is a move in the right direction.
I would imagine that there is considerable scope for raising the status of the general practitioner by recognising that he can become a specialist in certain fields. This would be in line with the situation we find in country areas where we have group practices and clinics and where within those groups there are specialists. Where a general practitioner in a group finds that he has a case needing something that he is not able to provide he may refer the patient to the specialist in the group, whose consulting rooms are likely to be just along the corridor. This seems to me to be a proper approach and one which operates in the interests of country people. It is in effect decentralisation of medicine and surgery where we have, virtually on the spot, people who can deal with the most complex cases brought to them. So I urge that we encourage the general practitioner to see in his profession the kind of goal that exists in the specialist fields. If these are worthy objectives then the fears that have been expressed about the general practitioner may not be as grave as some people believe them to be.
Other honourable members who have participated in the debate have referred at length to the matter of the common fee. I, like other Government supporters, urge that this aspect be examined carefully before this measure passes through the Committee stages. I urge further that when the Bill is in the Committee stages there be further negotiations between the Government and representatives of the profession in order to give the greatest opportunity to write into the Schedule of the Bill the best possible arrangement on fees having regard to the interests not only of the specialists and the general practitioners but of the patients and the taxpayers who will’ foot the bill as a consequence of this measure. If this can be done we will get for all sections of the community the best possible result.
The criticism which the Opposition has levelled at the proposals contained in this Bill is without foundation. If we follow the course outlined in the Bill we will be doing the best for everyone. We are taking the interests of all into account and that is the proper way for a measure of this kind to proceed through the Parliament. I support the Bill and thoroughly commend it.
– We are debating a Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act 1953-1969. The National Health Act is described as an Act relating to the provision of pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits and of medical and dental services. I deplore the fact that this Bill does not relate to these things. It does not relate to the provision of these services. The Bill does very little more than provide limited medical and hospital insurance. It does nothing about the general problem of national health. We of the Opposition feel that the title ‘National Health Bill’ is somewhat grandiose and pretentious, lt is applied to something that was conceived in haste as a result of political pressure put on the Government prior to the last elections. Anything pertaining to the health of the Australian people in this legislation is purely accidental. I cannot understand why Government supporters who have participated in the debate have avoided the issue of the quality of medics’ care and have confined themselves strictly to the subject of medical and hospital insurance. I concede that the way in which the medical profession and the hospitals are to receive their finance is important but surely we as a national Parliament should have wider responsibilities.
We of the Labor Party feel that the primary concern must be for the patient. It is our function to see that the people of Australia get the quality of medical care which they deserve, namely the best possible standard. Until a few months ago this Government defended its health scheme as being the best in the world. It said that it was without peer and pointed to the awful Socialist schemes operating in other parts of the world. Tt pointed to what it saw as deficiencies in those schemes, particularly in the British national health scheme. Anybody who has examined in any way the history of the British national health scheme will know that any faults in that scheme are clue to the 13 years of tory rule in Great Britain, during which a systematic attempt was made to bankrupt the scheme established by a Labor government. The Government defended its scheme until last year by saying that it was the best in the world. I use the word ‘scheme’ advisedly because that is all it is. The Government has schemed; it has contrived to put forward this document bearing the pretentious title National Health Bill. In fact it does nothing really for the health of the people of Australia. Probably a more appropriate title for this Bill would be National Hea’th Insurance Bill or National Medical Profession Remuneration Bill.
Before the last election no campaign on health was really necessary. The Australian Labor Party campaigned very strongly on the question of health insurance, but debate on the subject was redundant and superfluous because everybody in Australia knew that the scheme was no good. The Government argued, until its supporters were blue in the face, that it had a good scheme but the patients knew otherwise. They knew that they were paying twice for their health insurance. They were paying once by way of contributions to a health fund, believing they were adequately covered, but when the bill came from the doctor they found that in many cases they also had to pay a good percentage of the bill. In many cases the> had to pay out of their own pockets about one-third of the sum involved. One-third was the average, In some cases it was as much as one-half. In some cases - there is evidence of this in the report of the Nimmo Committee - the sum they had to pay exceeded 50%. So the Australian people knew that the scheme then operating was no good.
Then political pressure built up. It wa> potentiated by the forthright and constructive proposals put forward by the Australian Labor Party - and the Government hastily conceived its response. Previous speakers have alluded already to the evidence which indicated that the scheme was conceived in haste. They have referred to the great margin by which the estimates of the Government as to the cost of its proposals to the community was in error. As I hope to point out later if I have time, this scheme does not implement the Labor Party’s proposals but it does acknowledge all the principal criticisms which the Labor Party levelled at the Government system last year
The National Health Bill takes no account of the whale question of the health of the Australian people. There is a whole range o’ areas which should be considered by the national Government. It is not sufficient for the Government to say that health is the responsibility of State governments The State governments are saying this already. However, this does not apply only in the sphere of health. It applies in education and other fields. It is pointless to argue that health is the responsibility of the States or to talk about State rights. It is pointless, on the other hand, to talk about Commonwealth Government rights. Whether or not we agree with the existence of State governments they are a fact of life.
What is holding Australia back at the moment is the tug of war that is going on between the Commonwealth and the State governments. We must acknowledge the existence of the various States and not talk about State rights. We must think of what i-> in the best interests of the people of Australia, and the various governments must work in close co-operation and consultation There are instances in this Bill which indicate that this has not happened. Thi* honourable member for Cowper endeavoured to say that various matters relating to hospital deficits have been referred to State governments. That is not so. According to my information, from South Australia, the State governments and their health departments have been waiting for the Commonwealth to do something positive about the situation that is facing hospitals in all States.
One matter in particular which has arisen is the payment of honorary staff. It is the policy of the medical profession generally - I hope it is the policy of the Government: certainly it is the policy of the Opposition - that we should abolish the anachronistichonorary system. The State governments, certainly the South Australian Government, have paid lip service to this idea. Now there is to be an election in South Australia and the Liberal Minister for Health, realising that the next South Australian Government will be a Labor government and will have to implement such a scheme, has said that the Liberal Party would implement the payment of consultants at the public hospitals as from January 1971. 1 hope all State governments soon will be in a poition to say that they can implement such a system. lt is not just a question of remuneration for the doctors; it is in the best interests of the patients that there should bc a properly salaried or sessionally paid consultant staff on hand at hospitals. We should not have th s present sytem of honoraries with consultants visiting public hospitals once or twice a week and being unable, however well intentioned they may be, to supervise total patient care. In many cases there are registrars in hospitals who can handle this situation quite competently. But particularly in cases of emergency it is absolutely essential that the whole clinic, from the consultant down to the resident medical officer, should be available the whole time.
I suggest that the only way in which this can be accomplished is by the implementation of a salaried system in hospitals. The Commonwealth Government should be looking into this matter. So far it has taken no interest in it. Two weeks ago the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) asked the Minister for Health whether he was concerned about 250 hospital beds in Victoria be ng out of action due to lack of staff. The answer given by the Minister seemed to be symptomatic of the approach of the Commonwealth Government. He said that he would refer the matter to the authority responsible - the Victorian Government.
– That is the right way to go about it.
– It should be done in consultation. All that is happening at the moment is that the Commonwealth Government is washing its hands of the problem. At the same time the State governments, faced with rising commitments and fixed incomes, are saying that they cannot meet these commitments. They are saying that the Commonwealth should concern itself too.
– Is it the view of your profession that the honorary system should be replaced by the kind of system you have been advocating?
– 1 presume the question is as to whether the Australian Medical Association advocates this system. I cannot speak for non-members of the Association. It is the policy of the Australian Medical Association in most States at this stage to abolish the honorary system. I hope I will have a chance in a later debate to refer to the nursing problems in hospitals. There are numerous instances of this throughout Australia; there is a nursing problem in every capital city. The shortage of nursing staff in public hospitals has reached crisis point. There was a report in the Press earlier this week to the effect that nurses in hospitals in Victoria will refuse to carry out non-nursing duties. This indicates there is a general shortage not only of nursing staff but general hospital staff. The same situation applies at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in South Australia. There is a great crisis in staffing in public hospitals throughout Australia. The situation is extremely serious in South Australia where numerous hospital beds and even an entire wing of the Royal Adelaide Hospital are out of operation because there is not sufficient nursing staff to run them. The situation has been pointed up by a meeting some weeks ago called by the Royal Australian Nursing Federation at which the following resolution was passed:
That RANF take all necessary steps to close hospital beds to all non-urgent cases when properly trained nursing staff are not available for the adequate welfare of the patient.
This is an extremely serious matter. I suggest it is something which the State governments cannot manage by themselves. The Commonwealth Government must take responsibility for this; it must take an initiative. I am not suggesting that the Commonwealth should lord it over the States and say that it will take over completely. Corrective steps must be taken in consultation. However the State governments cannot be left to run health services by themselves.
Another matter which the Commonwealth Government has overlooked is the deployment of medical manpower. In South Australia some years ago something constructive was done about this. I refer to the Nicholson report that was tabled in the Legislative Council in South Australia. It related to the projected need for medical manpower in Australia. This is something that the Commonwealth Government must look at. If it is a national government it must look at national priorities. It must see what we need in the way of medical graduates overall. We need to know how many general practitioners will be required in the cities and country areas and we must also examine the requirements in the various specialties. The increase in medical knowledge will mean a proliferation of the number of specialists we will have and the number we will require. We must be prepared to educate the undergraduates so that they will be able to take a place in the community where they can best serve the public. A national government must look overall at the nature of medical care and the medical needs of the people.
This once again raises the question as to how we can use our resources best. Do we need more diagnostic centres or do we need more geriatric centres? Or perhaps we need more money spent on research into various aspects such as occupational medicine. We need a national health commission and a national hospitals commission. We must have the optimum deployment of hospital facilities throughout Australia so that we do not have small hospitals that are overcapitalised and are unnecessarily using equipment. We do not want the duplication of facilities. The Opposition feels it is unnecessary to have in every country town over-large hospitals which are not being fully utilised. This constitutes a waste of national resources and we cannot afford to waste any of our national resources at this time. We must look at the quality of medical care both in general and specialist practice in the cities and in the country. These are all vital national issues and they should be the concern of the national government. I can say quite confidently that these are matters that a Federal Labor government would make very much its responsibility. We would certainly not subject our National Health Bill to the strictures of mere hospital and medical insurance.
J now come to the question of medical and hospital insurance. The principal criticisms of the health scheme that were put forward by the Opposition last year were, first of all, that the voluntary health scheme as it operates is costly and inefficient to run. There are very high administration costs in each of the funds. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) mentioned this when he spoke. There are also excessive reserves accumulating in many of the larger funds. I give an instance of this. One of the funds in New South Wales in its annual report last year stated that its reserves came to about $15m. This was equivalent to the annual turnover of that fund. We could not but agree that this is an excessive reserve. We also charged that there is an excessive duplcation of funds. This means duplication of administration costs.
The other principal criticism we had of the Government’s scheme was that it was inequitable because of the way in which the scheme was financed. There are various ways in which health insurance schemes can be financed. These vary with the number of different methods of taxation. We have the progressive method of taxation - that is, income tax - under which the rate of taxation in cents per $1 paid rises as the income rises. Another method that was suggested in the Labor Party’s health proposals at the time of the last election was that the scheme should be financed by a flat levy of 14% of the taxable income of a family up to a maximum of $100 per family. 1 suppose this might be called a progressive form of tax but it is not quite as progressive as income tax because the rate does not rise with the income. Another method is the regressive taxation method which might apply, say, to sales tax on cars. This is a flat rate. Of course, this is an excessive imposition on a person with a low income or a person with a large family.
The way the existing voluntary health scheme is financed is worse still because of the system of taxation deductions. The person with a higher income, who pays the same contributions, gets a larger deduction. So the person with the lower income pays more net. The person with the higher income pays less net. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), who has just come into the House, made one constructive suggestion on this aspect yesterday. As far as it goes, I believe it is quite a good proposal. He suggested that a better way for the Government to have gone about its scheme so as to provide subsidies to the low income earners would have been to withdraw income tax concessions and to increase the Commonwealth benefit. The proposals that the Opposition put forward were based on one simple premise, lt was that with the advances in medical knowledge and technology we are bound to spend a greater percentage of our gross national product on health. As the medical profession and the medical scientists can offer more it is obvious there will be a greater usage by the community of those services. If we are not going to penalise the people on lower incomes and create a wider gap for them to pay, if we intend to give everybody the same health care regardless of their means, we must have some sliding scale of contributions.
Accordingly, as is well known now, the Australian Labour Party proposed that it would introduce a national health insurance commission with which everybody would be universally insured. Of course, the advantages of this were, first of all, that there would only be one fund and there would only be one reserve fund. This reserve fund could be kept down if it were underwritten by the Federal Treasury. The administration costs would be decreased because there would not be a number of funds overlapping each other and competing against each other. The Opposition feels also that the administration costs of the scheme itself would be relatively lower than would be the costs of a conglomeration of individual funds because the collection costs would be decreased. It would involve putting only one extra line on the taxation form. The other advantage is that the scheme would be financed by a levy on taxable income, that is, on a sliding scale.
Before the Parliament was dissolved for the election last year the Minister for Health was denying all the criticisms that were made of the scheme by the Opposition. However he has now acknowledged the existence of faults that were criticised. I would like to have a look at these individually and refer to the Minister’s second reading speech. In the first place we claimed the administration costs of the funds were excessive. What does the Minister say in his second reading speech? He said:
In future a report, comprising the financial returns submitted by registered medical and hospital benefits organisations will be tabled in both Houses of Parliament. For this purpose organisations will be required to submit returns each year in respect of the year ending on 30th June.
In other words here is a tacit admission that the funds have not been operating as efficiently as they could in the best interests of the consumer, and that in the future Parliament will be acting as a watchdog over these funds.
Secondly, we criticised the excessive reserves that the funds were accumulating. The Minister again denied that the reserves were excessive. What does he say in his second reading speech? He said:
A policy will be applied under which larger funds’ ‘free’ reserves - that is, reserves in excess of amounts held against unpresented claims and contributions paid in advance - will generally be limited to the equivalent of 3 months’ contribution income.
We also claimed there was unnecessary duplication of funds. The Minister has not really made any positive proposals on this point but in his second reading speech he said:
Approval for an open fund to operate in a particular State will not be continued unless it is shown that economic and efficient operations in that State can be expected. 1 would like to say something now on the question of subsidies that are being provided for low income earners and people receiving sickness benefit. Although this has some merit and has provided considerable relief for people on lower incomes, it is a most inefficient way to go about it. Very serious criticisms can be made of this method of providing relief to low income earners. In the first place, the level of eligibility is very low. When the weekly income is above $42.50 the amount of subsidy is reduced; when it is above $48.50 the subsidy goes altogether. It is a pretty low level. It is not much above the poverty line and is considerably below the level of income at which, when means tests are applied, a patient becomes ineligible for public hospital treatment. The second criticism - this is implied in what I said before - is that the range of incomes over which the subsidy applies is very small. In other words, it has a very steep rise because the subsidy operates only within a limited range. Over and above that, the full amount must be paid.
Another criticism, as 1 mentioned before, is the way that this operates because of our taxation deduction system. A person who is earning $42 per week is not required to make any contribution towards health insurance. A person who is earning $50 per week must pay a contribution of $57 per year for medical and hospital insurance. That is for the standard award rate. The net payment for a person earning $130 per week is down to $42 per year. A further very serious criticism of the subsidy scheme as it will operate under this Bill is that it still leaves people uninsured who through ignorance have failed to register with a fund.
The way in which this section of the Bill will be administered deserves very serious criticism. There will be a large number of recipients. This in itself is a problem because it will mean excessively high administration costs. As the minimum wage as determined by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will be increasing, these costs will have to be reviewed from time to time. That is a very inefficient way of doing it. I wish to refer here to one paragraph from the report of the Canadian Royal Commission on Health Services. That Royal Commission said: . . the number of individuals who would require subsidy to meet total health services costs is so large that no government could impose the means test procedure on so many citizens or would be justified in establishing a system requiring so much unnecessary administration.
So these really are all restraints in a voluntary health system, lt has been said that the new universal health insurance system proposed by the Australian Labor Party implies compulsion. Well, it is no more compulsion than is the payment of taxation or the payment of water rates. If I wished to sink a bore in my backyard to obtain water I would be perfectly at liberty to do so. But I would never suggest that. I should be exempted from the payment of water rates. In fact, the voluntarism as applied to health insurance is a restraint. Once voluntarism is abolished the system is able to be adjusted with proper security and equity. That is why I believe that it is much better that we have a sliding scale of contributions starting from earnings of $45 per week or $50 per week rather than having a scheme whereby various grades of lower incomes are subsidised and then that benefit is cut out altogether.
I wish to refer briefly to a couple of matters, the first of which is the question of differential rebates. I am opposed in principle to the idea of differential rebates because I think a system of 2 rebates does imply that there are 2 standards of service. I suppose that, in the context of this Bill, under which we will have 2 lots of common fees, we will have to accept something along these lines, otherwise we will oblige the person who goes to a specialist to pay more. However, I feel that no real necessity exists to have 2 sets of common fees. We should have 1 system of rebates and I schedule for fees. It should not be difficult to have 1 set of fees. What has happened with regard to common fees at the moment is that a set of common fees has been worked out for specialists and a set of common fees has been calculated for general practitioners. Surely it would be desirable to have just 1 set of common fees.
If a person is able to perform a service he should be able to get what is the common fee or the scheduled fee for that service. If he is not capable of performing the operation or procedure adequately surely he should not be doing it. We believe that the scheme would best be implemented by having a system of proper accreditation where medical practitioners are enabled to perform the operation if they are subject to proper audit. If they do that, it does not necessarily imply that a person must be a specialist in the sense of having post-graduate degrees.
The proposition has been put forward by the medical profession in the last few days that it would be better for a patient to split the $5 moiety among the different doctors rather than pay the $5 to one when multiple services are required in respect of one operation. This assumes what is. I believe, a fallacy. This is that it is necessary for the patient to pay anything at all in respect of any individual service. I believe that the relationship that a patient has with his doctor really has nothing to do with whether or not he pays for each service. Surely the medical profession would not suggest that its relationship with its pensioner patients or its repatriation patients is any worse than its relationship with its private patients. Surely people who are treated in public hospitals are quite satisfied with the treatment that they receive and are quite happy with the doctorpatient relationship in most instances.
I wish to refer briefly to one matter raised by the honourable member for Cowper (Mr Robinson) and also by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). They said that they hoped that the Government would define what a specialist is so that each case could be judged by specialist registration committees. I disagree with this proposal. In fact, 1 hope that the Government will not define what is a specialist. This should be left to the medical profession itself. It should determine who should do what procedures. It should be performed at the level of the medical practitioner and not at the level of the Government or a government department.
– Which group in the medical profession would the honourable member have do it?
– The specialist registration committees that are set up by this Bill will determine the criteria in the same way as the specialist registration committees do in the various States, as those committees operate at the moment. In conclusion, Mr Deputy Speaker, I indicate that I support the amendment.
– I had hoped that I would be able to get some points from the address by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) which would make up part of my speech. I find that 1 can agree with a number of the things that he said. I do not know whether he ought to be on this side of the House or on that side of the House, but there was nothing very contentious-
– I will be on that side of the House after the next election.
– Perhaps. The honourable member made a speech that was calculated to hold his electorate. It is likely that we will have a member of the Liberal Party representing the electorate of Kingston after the next election. The honourable member did refer to one matter that 1 think was rather interesting. He dealt with the question of nurses. This is not in the Bill. But I think that there is a lol of common sense in what he said. Also the honourable member dealt with the question of some analysis of the future requirements of doctors in the various categories that we may require within Australia. We probably need to be paying some attention to these matters. The honourable member also dealt very extensively 1 thought with the implications of taxation upon this scheme. I am not proposing to do that.
The honourable member made the claim that the Australian Labor Party rather stimulated the Government into bringing this scheme into being. In that regard I think he is very foolishly advised or is quite ignorant of the history of the health services of this country. This Government, in effect, was elected in the election held in December 1949. It is a fact that the Government, in comparison with any other government in the history of Australia, is noted for the attention it has paid to our health services. This is not an idle statement. No government has ever contributed so much to the advancement of health services and to the establishment of worthwhile health services in the community than this Government has. This was a feature which was established by the late Sir Earle Page when he was Minister for Health in the Menzies Government, lt is to his eternal credit that the scheme has grown to the proportions that it has grown for the benefit of the people of Australia. The Bill with which we are dealing is only a further instalment of what was started nearly 20 years ago. Certain improvements have been made from time to time and I do not want to touch upon them, but it became necessary recently to have a comprehensive look at the whole of our health services. Because of this the Nimmo Committee was established, and all honourable members are familiar with its report. The Bill covers only one part of the recommendations that were made by that Committee. No doubt other Bills will be introduced as a result of the report, but some of the recommendations have been acted on already.
The Labor Party’s record in the field of health is possibly the most deplorable of all. When the Labor Party was in office in 1948-49 it failed to bring about any improvements in health services. It certainly failed to get the co-operation of the doctors in any scheme it did put forward. I do not want to quote the amount that we are spending on health at present, but it runs into some hundreds of millions of dollars. I doubt whether anybody here knows the exact amount but we are spending an enormous sum today. However, if we look back only 20 years we find that the Labor Party, when it was in government, spent a paltry sum of $12.4m in 1948-49. This, of course, would not keep cocky in corn. So the Labor Party really has contributed nothing to the health services of Australia.
Now the Opposition comes out with a new scheme of compulsion. It proposes a compulsory scheme based upon and financed by taxation. This is only in furtherance of its Socialistic idea that the ills of the community can be cured by a system of compulsion and control. I do not know whether honourable members opposite will ever learn, but it is consistent with their Socialist idea which has been held for a long time. 1 was looking at some papers today and 1 came across a 19S6 report. In New South Wales at that time there was a Labor government and the Labor Minister for Health, Mr Bill Sheahan, conceived the idea of a compulsory scheme for hospital benefits. Medical benefits were not dealt with at that time. Mr Sheahan set up a committee to investigate a compulsory scheme. 1 do not know whether members of the Labor Party know anything about this but they would be advised to look at the papers if they want to find out something about it. The committee consisted of Mr Cameron, the Under Secretary of the Department of Public Health in New South Wales; Mr Love, who was the Deputy Member of the Hospitals Commission; Mr Fairlie, who was in the Budget Branch of the Treasury in New South Wales, and Mr Miller, who was then Director of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of New South Wales. At that time 1 was an executive member of the Hospitals Contribution Fund.
– Was Huxley on it then?
– That is not a very sensible remark from a doctor. To be facetious in circumstances like this is not very intelligent, if I may say so. This committee was set up to investigate the desirability of a compulsory scheme of contributions and of setting up a hospital fund. The committee recommended, in rather drastic terms, that this would serve no useful purpose and, indeed, would be detrimental to the conduct of the hospitals in New South Wales. I mention this only to indicate to members of the Labor Party that they would be advised to have another look at the compulsory scheme which they propose to see the extent of its effect upon the community.
The Government’s scheme has been of widespread benefit to the community. One needs to mention, in this context, some of the things that have been done, particularly the enormous benefit which is provided daily under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme which calls for a contribution of 50c from each person for each prescription he has made up by a chemist. This is a necessary deterrent because in other countries where medicine has been supplied free, such as the United Kingdom, this has be come a dreadful and stupid thing for the taxpayers to meet. The contribution of 50c was an excellent idea; the people of Australia have benefited tremendously from the pharmaceutical scheme- 1 do not think there is anything in the world to compare with our pensioner medical scheme. This is a magnificent scheme which has brought medical care to the old people of Australia in a way that no other country can match. Notwithstanding criticisms that have been levelled, I compliment the doctors in this country who have contributed tremendously to this scheme. They have received little credit for so doing. As a matter of fact, they have been charged with trying to charge too much and this sort of thing, but when we realise what they get for the services they give to our pensioners some credit is due to them. One aspect of the scheme that I have not heard mentioned, and perhaps not many know about, is that when a doctor has to pay a home visit to a pensioner in certain circumstances he may charge the pensioner 50c. To my knowledge this charge has never been made by any doctor. It would be impossible to find, throughout the length and breadth of Australia, any doctor who had resorted to his right to make this charge. I think some of the doctors’ critics would be appalled if they knew the services doctors do render to pensioners without charge.
The medical and hospital insurance fund in my opinion is very good because it is a voluntary scheme. The fact that it is voluntary is important. It is for the individual to make up his own mind whether to insure himself and his family. He is not compelled to do so, but it is certainly advisable that he should do so. Under the present scheme he has to pay a calculated percentage of the cost. Under the new scheme this idea will go by the board. The Commonwealth will contribute so much and the funds will contribute so much.
I want to say something in contradiction to what some people have said about the funds. I support the funds. They have carried the burden of the health insurance scheme. They have done an excellent job. Half the time they are criticised when they have in fact done an excellent job. In my opinion it is a good thing that there has been a competitive element in their operation. The fact that there has been a competitive element has made these funds more important to the public and has created a greater degree of efficiency. They are efficient. They have been criticised for the size of their reserves. I do not criticise them for this. I think it is proper that the funds should have a considerable reserve to meet contingencies that may arise in the future. No-one knows just what may arise by way of an epidemic or some similar catastrophe, when enormous demands would be made on these funds. Therefore I think it is proper to be cautious and to keep a very heavy reserve.
It is a good thing that the Government is looking into the operation of these funds and taking act’on that will increase their efficiency. I suppose it is true to say that the scheme has outgrown itself. Rising doctors’ fees - and these inevitably have to rise - have created a position in which the contribution by the patient has become too great a percentage of the total cost. The amount they are paying as premiums has got out of hand. I know that doctors have been criticised because of this. They have put up their fees. But the Government is not blameless. 1 venture to suggest- - and I speak with some knowledge of the subject - that if the Government had increased its contribution pro rata, according to rises in the cost of living or on some other basis, we would never have reached the position in which we are today, notwithstanding the increases in doctors’ fees. Indeed, it may well be said that doctors’ fees need not have been increased to such an extent. That could well be, because unfortunately a mistrust of the scheme has built up. I do not think that the Government gave its contribution in the way that it should have done. I do not think it has been efficient in dealing with the upgrading from time to time of conditions, fees and the contribution that it makes. Although a review of costs is not provided for in the Bill, we have the Minister’s assurance that they will be watched. They will need to be watched carefully to see that the Government is keeping pace with what is going on in the medical world and what it costs to maintain a health service.
During the recent election campaign the Prime Minister promised - this has been referred to this afternoon - that the maximum amount a patient would pay for a medical service or an operation would be $5, provided that the common fee was charged. It is very important to stress that this promise was made in the context that the common fee would have to be charged. The common fee has been arrived at on the basis of advice received from the medical profession and calculations from information that has been passed through a computer. We all know that in the practical field of medicine throughout Australia there are differing charges in each State and in different zones in each State. The public ought not to be misled into believing that the common fee which will be announced to them as a result of this legislation will be the fee they can expect to pay in all circumstances, because this will not be so. There is to be no fixation of fees. The common fee was given to the Government in the nature of a confidence by the medical profession and not so the Government could announce it as a standard fee that the public might be expected to pay. It was a guide so the Government could assess the amount of contribution it would have to make to the cost of medical care in conjunction wilh the contribution of the funds.
We know what increase will take place in the contribution to the funds. The patient will be asked to contribute a small margin, provided the common fee is charged. But in many instances this common fee will not be adhered to. This is not because the doctors are money hungry, as many people say they are. I join issue with people who criticise doctors and say they are money hungry. They have their own economic considerations and their own costs to meet. We know what is happening in the economy today. It may be that some will charge a little too much. Because human nature is what it is, this may well happen. But nobody can tell me that doctors are as interested in the money they get as they are in the care they give to the people. I think it is dreadful for a man in public life to criticise doctors, claiming that they are money grabbers. These critics say that they are interested in patient care, that governments are interested in patient care, and that members of Parliament are interested in patient care, but doctors are not. I suggest that it is the other way around and that the doctors, as a class of people, are more interested in patient care than are other people. I say that because so much that is unfair is being said. It makes me wild to hear such comments. 1 want to stress that the fees will not be controlled. There is to be no fixed fee. I know, from a close association with the medical profession over a long period of time, that in a very large percentage of medical practices in Australia some patients are charged no more than the amount that they receive in refund from the Government and the funds. Over and over again doctors relieve people, particularly if they are in an indigent financial position, of the need to meet their medical costs fully. This is happening everywhere, but no credit is given to the doctor for the contribution that he makes to the people. I think that we can be proud of the medical profession in Australia. I believe it is one of the best medical services in the world.
– We have good undertakers too.
– Yes. The honourable member had better watch out that they do noi catch up with him. Generally speaking ] believe that the general practitioner is the basis of medical care in Australia. Of course we have need for specialists, and that must continue. We have a need for the expert surgeon and all the other experts. But the basis of medical care in Australia is the family doctor, the general practitioner. The practise of medicine is much more than the curing of a particular ill from which one may suffer. The general practitioner has to deal with cases of psychological upset, and to act as a confidant, to talk about what might happen, not strictly on a medical basis. The general practitioner has to spend endless time with people to guide them in their need for medical care. So we must not imagine that medical care is merely a matter of the doctor having a look at you and prescribing something. There is much more to it than that. That is why I say it will be a sad day in Australia when we deprive the community of the basic general practitioner service. It is all too true that in the scheme of medicine throughout the world there has been a diminution in the number of general practitioners because the young graduate in medicine is aiming to become a specialist. It is good to have a great number of specialists. As we advance in our expertise in medicine in its various branches no doubt there will be a tendency towards specialisation. But I sincerely hope that our medical scheme in this country will never bring about the kind of situation which exists in the United Kingdom and the United States of America today.
– Do you want the Russian system?
– No, we do not. That is one thing we do not want. Nor do we want the Opposition’s system. There is always the danger of paying too much attention to playing into the hands of the specialists. I agree with the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) who is a young doctor, in this regard. I do not like these differential fees al all. I know that specialists charge higher fees than general practitioners, and I think it is quite right that they do. I am not denying the justice of that, but 1 think that the contribution by the Commonwealth should be on the basis of the procedure and not according to the kind of doctor involved. In other words, I believe that in this way we could avoid the need for discrimination, as the honourable member for Kingston rightly said, and the bringing about of a lowering of the status of the general practitioner. That could well happen in this country, much to the detriment of its people. So I bel:eve that this question of differential fees should be looked at very closely. Of course, there will be a difference in the procedures because it will be found that there are a great number of procedures which are usually carried out by general practitioners, just as there ure a great number of procedures that are generally carried out by specialists. It should not be beyond the wit of this Parliament to devise a scheme whereby lines of demarcation are not made upon th s basis. I believe that this can be done and that some effort should be made to do it, because I think that the family doctor must be preserved.
We have grown into an era in which group practise by doctors is providing a great medical service to the community. This has been a grand thing in many ways. lt has at least provided a weekend off for a doctor if he is in a group of 4 or so. It has also provided for a kind of specialty within the group practice of general practitioners. One doctor might be particularly interested in practising as a physician, another might be a very capable surgeon, and the other doctors in the group might be interested in other branches of medicine. These doctors in the group practice are able to confer with each other on certain cases that might present some difficulty. This gives greater medical care and service to the people as a whole. In most of those cases one would not describe as a specialist the doctor who had reached a higher degree of expertise in his particular field. Nor would any future committee on health matters so describe him. This is one of the reasons why I believe we should be very careful about this question of how far we go in relation to differential fees.
This comment applies particularly to country districts. Many country towns cannot afford to have specialists. Of course, some of the bigger towns such as Tamworth have specialists but many other places have not and they depend upon the local doctor for all medical services. In these cases people should not have to be sent all the way to the capital city to receive specialist attention. There is always a danger in the way we are proceeding at the present time. However, 1 disagree with the remarks made by the Minister. I think that there is a danger that publicity and the wrong use of the common fee system will drive people into the hands of the specialist, whether he is capable or not. Many people will say. 1 will go to a specialist. It will not cost me any more.’ People will go to him simply because he is a specialist, and this is wrong in my opinion. Therefore t hope that the Minister will have a further look at these matters. Other than that. I think this Bill is a splendid advance in our health scheme.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– lt is something of a surprise to me, Mr Speaker, that I am being asked to speak at this stage. I regret that it is i hours earlier than I had anticipated. This denies me the opportunity to make the preparations that I had intended to make. I speak on this Bill as a Queenslander as well as an Australian. Ali honourable members realise that the proposals put forward by the Australian Labor Party prior to the last election would have meant disaster and a backward step for the State of Queensland. Both in this House and during the election campaign I have challenged any member of the Opposition to stand and deny that the proposals of the Australian Labor Party outlined in their policy speeches prior to the last election would not have meant the end of the free hospital scheme in Queensland. I have pointed out before that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), in assessing the political scene, realised that Queensland had only 18 seats in the Parliament out of a total of 12S and that Queensland was insignificant in the total concept. Yet he was able to appear publicly and on television, look people straight in the eye and say that the Labor Party’s proposal would have absolutely no effect on Queensland’s free hospital scheme. [Quorum formed.]
As 1 was saying a moment ago, the proposals of the Opposition would have meant nothing but disaster for Queensland’s free hospital scheme. A lot of people in Queensland advocate the abolition of that State’s free hospital scheme. Looking back over the last 13 years we see how this scheme has been retained and maintained by a CountryLiberal1 Party Government. The Bill makes provision for the Commonwealth Government to assist families with incomes of up to $42.50 to receive full medical benefits and hospital benefits equal to the cost of public ward treatment. Families receiving between $42.50 and $45.50 will be able to receive the same benefits on payment of contributions at one-third the usual rates, and those receiving between $45.50 and $48.50 a week on payment of contributions at two-thirds the usual rate. This might lead the Queensland Government, if it intends to relieve itself or some of the financial burden of running the free hospital scheme, to consider assisting low income earning families who in the future will have to pay only the 80c for a visit to a doctor if the common fee is charged. I know that about $40m is spent annually in running our free hospital scheme in Queensland. It has been most worthy of the Country-Liberal Party Government to retain the scheme.
There are a lot of people in our community who simply cannot afford to meet the costs of hospitalisation. I speak from personal experience. Nearly 20 years ago
I spent just over 12 months in a hospital in Brisbane. I am fully recovered now, as many members of the Opposition fully realise. At that time my parents would have been broken financially if they had to pay the hospital bill. I make reference to one provision which has been left out of the Bill. People have to make a financial contribution in order to belong to medical benefit schemes. Some people in the society, by virtue of their consciences, do not believe that they should be forced to contribute to a scheme. I am amazed that the Opposition has not during the course of this debate, made mention of this fact. I should like to read a letter from a constituent of mine. It represents the views of a number of my constituents. The letter is from a Mr R. C. McCorkell and is addressed to the honourable member for Griffith, an electorate which contains 25 suburbs on the south side of Brisbane. It reads:
I feel it incumbent upon me to make certain remarks as to the Australian Health Insurance Scheme and the recent Commonwealth Committee of Inquiry instituted by the Hon. Dr A. J. Forbes on 18th April 1968.
In order to make my points as clear as I can I will continue this letter in the form of a report wilh the hope that this will set out the details in a more orderly fashion. il.O General 1.1 It is understood that the Committee made a report and submitted it in March 1969. 1.2 This report will no doubt be considered when new legislation is being framed. 1.3 It is my purpose to draw your attention specifically to certain matters mentioned in this report which 1 hope you will agree should not be overlooked. 1.4 I wilt confine myself to matters affecting my conscience before God. I desire to live with a good conscience whatever hardship this may entail to me. 2.0 The Government’s Responsibility 2.1 I believe it to be the Government’s responsibility and prerogative to secure the best possible health treatment for all members of the community. If some person of limited means is unable to pay the cost of treatment the Government is doing right in ensuring that he is at no disadvantage on this account. Anything the Government does to preserve or prolong life is fully within its function. 2.2 You will agree that the Government also has a responsibility to respect the bona fide consciences of citizens and avoid overruling in the matter of a man’s serving or worship of God. This was established as long ago as Magna Carta.
Late last year I received another letter on those lines which I did not fully understand. The matter was not explained clearly. After meeting 2 or 3 of these people and receiving a more detailed explanation I came to appreciate their point of view. I hope that the Minister, who is present in the chamber, will not dismiss out of hand the suggestions contained in the Nimmo report and will give some consideration to this matter. The letter continues: 2.3 There is, of course, the well known responsibility of Government to protect any citizen from exploitation by any other. 2.4 II is clearly stated in the Holy Scriptures that ‘the powers that be are ordained of God.’ You will find this in the first verse of the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans . . .
Members of the Opposition are ridiculing this but there are some people who feel this way. In order to save time with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate the rest of this letter in Hansard. It reads:
Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity’, and in verse twenty-one -
If a man therefore purge himself from these he shall bc a vessel unto honour . . .’ and in Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians verse fourteen chapter six -
Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? . . . ‘
These injunctions leave no option to the Christian but to keep separate from everything that is not according to the will of God. and to be sure that he has no links inany kind of fellowship with any person who himself is linked with what is iniquitous. 3.4 It is the individual’s responsibility and indeed the earnest desire of every Christian to put his whole faith and trust in God. For this reason I do not insure my life or my property because this would take me out of the path of complete confidence in God. 4.0 Comments in the Existing Medical and Hospital Benefits Schemes 4.In order to obtain the benefits of these schemes tinder their present method of administration, the individual must join a Friendly Society or similar organisation registered under the National Health Act 1953-1968. The member or contributor is then entitled to payment from the Friendly Society’s own insurance scheme and also the Commonwealth Government contributions.
This is where conflict with my conscience arises and this can be defined in two aspects. - 4.1.1 To join a Friendly Society I must link myself with other persons whom I do not nor could not hope to know.It is inevitable that many of these persons would not be walking in integrity before God, but if there were but one such I could not join as I would then immediately become partaker in his sins. 4.1.2 To join such a scheme I actually insure my health thus taking myself out of the pathway of confidence in God. 4.2 For these reasonsI do not belong to any of these schemes. This, of course, means that any medical or hospital expenses for myself or my family must be paid out of my own resources. 5.0 Additional Comments 5.1 The Government in making certain contributions to the need for treatment of members of the community is, I believe, doing what is right. 3.2 That these contributions are barred from certain individuals who for conscience sake refrain from insuring or from joining a Friendly Society was,
I am sure, not the intention of the Government. 5.3 The Committee of Enquiry made certain recommendations in this regard of which paragraphs 4.33 and 4.34 of the report are relevant. 5.4 It is just as important that any employer should not force his conscience on an employee, or that an employer should not be forced to act against his conscience- in arranging for any of his employees to act in a way that he could not do himself. Paragraph 10.6 of the report which applied to employers is therefore also important, and there are no doubt employers who would desire to be free for conscience sake
These submissions and my personal approach to you is with a view to obtaining your good graces to do what is possible to ensure that these matters of conscience are fully recognised when the legislation is being framed so that persons who hold to these things so dearly, and who will not violate their consciences and thus deprive themselves of freedom in their approach to God, may not be put to the disadvantage that would otherwise ensue.
I remain, Yours sincerely, R. C. McCorkell
The Nimmo Committee made reference to this matter. In view of the Minister’s indication that the scheme will be overhauled in the future, I hope that some consideration will be given to this matter, if not now then later on.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Government for having so boldly brought about changes to the health scheme. There are many people throughout Australia who have been unable to afford proper medical treatment. They have been outpriced from time to time and many no doubt have continued suffering because of the economic factor. I know that there are a number of members of the Opposition here tonight who are in fact medical doctors and I know that in all probability they themselves have been prepared to give people services on a free basis rather than to turn them away, and this is highly commendable. In Queensland, we do not appear to have had the opposition to the scheme from some quarters that has appeared in the south. I do hope that the Government will continue to remember that medicine is a profession which is different from any other profession and that the Government will always when considering change bear this in mind and make it the foremost consideration.
As 1 said at the outset, 1 expected to be speaking not at 8 o’clock tonight but rather after 9.30 and I was caught a little unprepared but I am quite sure that other members of the Government team who will follow me in this debate will ably refute the socialistic views propounded by the Opposition, and that the Australian people will realise fully that if the Labor Party had won at the last election not only would the people of Queensland have been deprived of a free hospital scheme but the people of Australia would have gone 10 steps backwards in the medical treatment that would have been handed out to them.
– lt looks as though it will be my inevitable fate in the future to follow the honourable for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) and listen to his-
– You are late.
– Due to factors beyond my control, I assure the honourable member. lt seems also my fate to have to listen to the numerous epistolary references which the honourable member for Griffith frequently makes. Nevertheless, I want to make some reference to aspects of the National Health Bill that is now before the HouseFor years it has been obvious to us in the Australian Labor Party and to many observers in academic circles, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people who have had to bear the costs of the existing health insurance system, that the system is out of date, costly and inefficient. Under pressure from the Labor Party the Government was with the greatest reluctance forced to inquire into the existing system of health insurance. The Nimmo Committee was established. On this Committee I would like to say 2 things. Firstly, the Government tied its hands in such a way that its findings could only be within the framework of the reforms to the existing complexities of the obsolete so called voluntary health insurance scheme. The Committee was not allowed to make recommendations on alternative methods of financing health insurance. Had it been allowed to do so, I am quite sure that it would have recommended that a system along the lines that the Labor Party has proposed should be established.
The second thing that I want to point out is that the report was the most far-reaching and extensive indictment of the system which the Liberals have long claimed to be the best in the world. Yet of all the recommendations that the Committee made the Government has seen fit to introduce only a few. Some of the major recommendations have been accepted; others have been rejected. But has the Government acted out of concern for the taxpayer, the contributor to health insurance and the patient? Hardly. It has been compelled to act purely because of the popularity of Labor’s scheme last year which would have rendered the Government extinct had it not. What the Government has done has been to patch up an occasional crack and chink here and there, lt has done this because it knows that the majority of the Australian people - as proven by the gallup polls - favour Labor’s scheme. The Government has preferred to hold on to an out of date, expensive and inefficient system purely on ideological grounds. It is not preserving it on economic grounds because it knows only too well, as economists have proven, that Labor’s system gives better health insurance at a price lower than that of the present system.
In making these changes the Government has acted either with gross ignorance of the costs involved or in deceit. Massive amounts of money are to be spent to patch up the system. The amounts are far in advance of what the Government told the people at election time last year. The Government claims that, particularly in its stormy dealings with the doctors, its first concern is for the interests of the patient. It is a good story, but the Government’s lack of conviction in its own propaganda is only too well attested by the frequency with which the Minister has found it necessary to reiterate the theme that its first concern is for the patient. This system of health insurance affects the patient not only as a patient but also as a taxpayer and as a contributor to health benefits, to which he is compelled to contribute if he is to gain the benefit of his own taxation. Let us examine the additional costs which the patient both as a taxpayer and as a contributor to health insurance is now compelled to pay to bolster up this obsolete edifice. Last year the only claim that the Government would make at election time was that an additional SI 6m would be necessary. The actual cost is at least an additional S58m. This additional $58m, a figure far in excess of what the Government stated last year to the electors, is made up of an additional $34m in taxation and an additional $24m in contributions. The patient as a taxpayer must pay an additional $34m. This $34m has been worked out on the basis of the common fees which the Australian Medical Association has set out for the Government and on the basis of the Government’s promise that no patient would have to pay more than 80c for a visit to a surgery, no more than $1.20 for a doctor’s visit to his home and no more than $5 for other surgical operations. According to the figures available to me this additional sum of $34m means that the Commonwealth benefits will rise by 66% over the estimated 1969-70 levels.
So far 1 have been speaking about the patient with whose welfare the Government states it is primarily concerned as a taxpayer, but the patient is also a contributor to insurance and as such he must pay an additional $24m. This consists of the additional cost involved in changing the complicated system of contribution schedules for medical insurance, in order to deal with the costs of insurance the Government is adopting the amazing instrument of actually raising costs. The additional $24m consists, firstly, of paying for the privilege of being forced to pay the highest possible amount for insurance. In other words, those on the lower and medium schedules at present must pay an additional $6m while those already on the highest contribution schedules must pay an additional $ 1 8m for the increases in the cost of their contributions. I ask honourable members: In view of the outstanding figure that has now become evident to members, in comparison with the small figure which the Government announced last year, is this the way to prevent costs from rising? ls this the way to maintain costs - to peg costs - of health insurance? I also ask: Why, after the election, are such figures evident? Why is it only after the election? What happened to the $16m figure? Does anyone seriously believe that the Government can be trusted in financial matters when it either does not know the cost of its own proposals or chooses to conceal them from the voting public?
One of the major grounds for opposition to this National Health Bill is the injustice of the system of private health insurance as we have bad it in Australia for so long and essential I think to the injustice of the system is the fact that people do not pay according to their ability to pay but instead they pay flat rates. This is regressive taxation and it can be lumped in the same category, 1 think, as school fees, municipal rates and sales tax. O’n those grounds it is especially objectionable; it contradicts the whole principle of equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth along the lines of progressive taxation.
Under the present system, unreformed as it is, it is possible for a wealthy person on a high income to insure at the highest possible rate to get the best possible private ward accommodation at a lower price than the lower income earner pays for public war. accommodation. There, I think, is one of the main objections we have to the scheme. The amount that one pays in the first place is a flat rate and by the time taxation deductions are taken out of it the person on the lower income is actually paying more for his health insurance than the person on the higher income. Incidentally, costs being as they are he is going to be forced to pay only the highest amounts - this has been the case in the past - and he is going to get less in return. To make these changes the Government is going to occasion especially high costs for the individual contributor. In order to reduce the multiplicity of hospital schedules the Government >s going to have only 3. At present they have not yet been negotiated so we are not in a position to say bow much they are going to cost. But by the way these things have been going so far in the escalating cost of health insurance it is pretty clear that people are going to be forced to again pay higher amounts for their hospital insurance. As far as medical insurance is concerned it is quite clear already that the contributor is going to have to pay very high costs indeed.
The Nimmo Committee looked at the complexity of the system of health insurance and saw a vast number of contribution schedules that had to be paid. The Committee suggested that economies could be made by rationalising the whole system so that there would only be one contribution schedule. That is not a bad idea. But what is the effect of it? All of those people who at present can afford to pay only the very low schedules - and those that could afford to pay only the medium ones - are now in a position where they are going to be forced by government action to pay the highest possible possible contributions. That, in itself, is not the end of the story, because as honourable members will know by now the cost of the maximum contribution will also rise. I understand that the cost will vary in the new maximum schedule for medical benefits and will rise between 10c and 15c. This will mean that in Victoria everyone will be forced to pay the highest possible contribution and on top of that they will have to pay an extra 10c. This could mean an extra cost of 30c to 40c a week.
Exactly what the cost to the individual is going to be at present we cannot say. We arc estimating. But what is quite clear from the figures available to us now is that there is going to be a total cost of $24m born by contributors throughout Australia for their medical insurance. This is the Government’s answer to the problems raised by the Nimmo Committee last year. The Government’s answer to the problem of high costs is to jack them up even higher. Honourable members can imagine for themselves just how inequitable and how unbearable that is going to be for people who are in the middle income group. One can omit people on lower incomes for the time being because they are going to get some sort of relief. The situation of the rising costs for medical benefits I think should be considered in connection with the statement of the Nimmo Committee which was made on the costs of medical insurance. Examining the situation the Nimmo Committee said that already people are paying as much as they can and as much as they are going to be willing to pay. Yet in this situation the Government has come forward with a new medical insurance schedule which will force everyone to pay a higher amount at an increased rate.
The Nimmo Committee, in chapter 15, paragraph 15.2, at page 55 of its report stated:
So the Nimmo Committee has already looked at the situation in Australia and has said that the people simply could not afford to and would not pay it. It made this conclusion on the basis of the fact that so many people were either not insured or were under-insured. To make this point clear the Committee stated it twice. In finding No. 9, on page 9 of the report, the Committee said:
Health insurance contributions are in present circumstances as high as most people are prepared to pay and as many people can afford to pay.
That is the situation. What reason can we have for believing that many people will not be priced out of the insurance system? The whole aim of this system surely is to make sure that all people are covered. Yet with rising costs like this it seems likely to me that costs are going to become so high that people will be forced out.
One aspect of the Government’s legislation of particular concern to me is the measure that the Government introduced to deal with the costs of health insurance presently being borne by the lower income earner. These are the people who are most likely to need assistance. They are the people most likely to be ill. They are the people who will find it most difficult to bear the cost of health insurance and also to bear the cost of hospitalisation and treatment by doctors. There are suggestions in the Nimmo Committee’s report which can be classed as being generous towards the lower income earner. They are certainly comparable to the suggestions on how to relieve the cost to the lower income earner that were put forward by the Australian Labor Party. 1 want to compare the Australian Labor Party’s suggestions on relieving the cost to the lower income earner with the suggestions put forward by the Nimmo Committee and finally to examine the proposals that the Government has introduced. I think honourable members will see that the reforms that are being introduced by the Government are nowhere near comparable to those which are being put forward by the Labor Party or even by the committee which the Government set up to advise it on these matters.
The basis of the Labor Party’s scheme is that everybody will pay an amount for bis insurance which will be based upon his income. The principle will be his ability to pay. The person insured will receive 100% cover, a cover for hospitalisation and at least 85% cover for his doctor’s bills. We looked at the situation of the lower income earners, the people about whom the Labor Party is concerned. We decided that the only way we could give justice to lower income earners in Australia, of whom there are thousands, would be to ensure that those who had a gross income of $45 a week should get an entirely free cover. So free insurance would go to each lower income earner with a wife and family of 2 children and on a wage of $45 gross per week. Our system took into account the fact that the lower income earner has a family, and I will show later that the Government’s proposition does not. For every child above the 2 children in the case of a man with a gross income of $45 an additional $3 could be earned without affecting entitlement. This would mean that a family with 6 children could have a gross income of $57 and still get free insurance. This would cover ali of their public ward accommodation in a hospital and at least 85% of doctors’ bills.
The people who would just miss out in this category I am referring to would then pay taxation for their health insurance according to their means. The people who would just miss out would have the lowest taxation in Australia. This would gradually rise according to the increases in income. So our system would be based upon income of $45 per week for a man, wife and 2 children, allowing him an extra $3 income according to each child above those 2. People who get more than that would have their contributions graduated according to income. The Nimmo report’s recommendations are very much like our own. The report put forward a very generous idea of assistance which took into account the needs of families. The Nimmo Committee made 2 suggestions, and I want to emphasise these. The first related to exemptions and concessions for health insurance. Under the Nimmo Committee’s proposals a low income earner with a wife and 2 children could earn the minimum wage of $42.50 and could then be allowed an extra $4 a week for each child. That would mean that if he received the basic wage - these are the people whom we must consider - he could have an income in total of $58.50. If that man increased his earnings by $2 two-thirds of his insurance would be paid by the Commonwealth. If his income was $4 above the minimum wage the Commonwealth would pay on-third of his insurance. The Nimmo Committee was giving consideration to the size of the family. After all, this is one of the most important aspects of relief to the low income earner.
The second aspect with which the Nimmo Committee was concerned was the medical bill itself. The Nimmo Committee suggested that as these low income earners had such a low income, necessitating the provision of exemptions and deductions for them, they also should be exempted from paying their medical bills. I propose to quote from the Nimmo Committee’s report and 1 would ask honourable members to bear these quotations in mind because it is not simply a matter of being exempted from insurance contributions but also a matter of meeting bills. In paragraph 5.11 of its report the Committee stated:
Since the reason for subsidising persons on low incomes is their inability to pay the premiums we do not think that any person oh whose behalf the subsidy is paid should be required to pay the patient’s contribution of $1 for each medical service.
At thai time the Nimmo Committee was thinking in terms of the contributor’s paying $1 for each medical service. The point is that the Committee suggested that these people should be exempted also from paying their medical bills. This was a very generous and liberal attitude towards the lower income earners.
What has the Government done? I think that the system it has introduced is a parody. The Government’s system does not even come close to the suggestions of the Committee which it set up, nor does it tackle the problems affecting the low income earner. The Government’s system is vastly inferior. For example, it takes no account of the size of the family. As far as I can see - I am prepared to stand corrected - the Government’s legislation does not exempt the low income earner from the high cost of medical bills, on which the Nimmo Committee reported. Also, the extra sums which the low income earner is allowed to earn under the Government’s scheme are quite unrealistic. For instance, if you have an income of $42.50 a week the Government very generously offers to pay the whole cost of your insurance but again it takes no acount of the size of your family. If your income increases to $3 above the minimum wage the Government will pay two-thirds of your insurance. If your income increases to $6 above the minimum wage the Government will pay one-third of your insurance. The thing to bear in mind is that the Government’s scheme ignores the concept of family and is nowhere near as good as Labor’s proposal or the Nimmo Committee’s proposals.
Another matter to which I would refer is the inequitable aspect of tax deductions. Under this legislation a person earning $48.50 a week and paying his own contributions will have to pay the highest Tate of insurance because of the flat rate payment and because of the way in which tax deductions vary according to income. As you know, the lower your income the smaller your tax rebate for insurance premiums. The higher your income the greater your rebate from the Taxation Branch. Another aspect which it is important to note is that the Government is again leaving everything to chance. Suppose that many of these people do not happen to know about the provisions of this scheme, notwithstanding the extravagance and munificence of the Government in spending thousands of dollars to distribute booklets to everybody who will be involved. There will still be many people who will not find out that these services are available. These people could later find, when suddenly faced with the need for insurance, that they should have applied earlier. It will be the same old problem of people not being insured as has appeared in the past.
I think I am correct in saying - I hope to be told if I am wrong - that the Government’s promise that the patient will have to pay no more than $5 for a major operation refers only to surgical operations. A patient may be forced to stay in hospital for a very extended period because of a condition that is not surgical in nature. If he does not undergo surgery he will have to pay every bill presented by the doctor. The charges involved in such a case will be very heavy, and will be particularly oppressive on a low income earner. Such a person will have to rely on a very small sickness benefit. He will still have to meet his family’s day to day bills as well as the cost of his stay in hospital. This is an aspect that should be examined.
The system of health insurance being maintained in Australia is very costly. Although the Government has taken some action under this Bill I do not think that what it has done will seriously tackle the causes of high costs in the health insurance system. It is a fact that for every $4 which a contributor pays to a health insurance association $1 is taken up in the cost of administration and in maintaining the association’s reserves. To some extent this situation is being tackled because some action is being taken to cope with the reserves, but how this action will affect the cost of health insurance is yet to be seen. In this case I think the proof of the pudding will be in the eating and we will sit and wait. 1 do not think the Government is seriously tackling the causes of high health insurance costs. The Nimmo Committee reported that one of the main factors Influencing costs was the administration of the private organisations that provide insurance. In particular the Committee referred to the extent of costly and extravagant competition amongst the health insurance associations and it recommended that this situation should be tackled by a concept of regionalisation which would limit the large open funds to operating only in certain regions. In its report the Nimmo Committee made a fundamental criticism of the cost of health insurance with which the Government has not yet dealt. In paragraph I J .7 the Committee reported:
The larger open funds in New South Wales and Victoria have had appreciably higher expense rates than the Hospital Benefit Fund of Western Australia. The evidence points strongly to the conclusion that one of the main reasons for this is the abuse of competition that has developed in New South Wales and parts of Victoria. Funds have sought to win a larger share of the available membership by offering excessive commissions and inducements to agents to promote transfers of members from one organisation to another; by establishing branch offices and cash payment centres in areas already well serviced by other organisations; and by expensive advertising. It is doubtful whether this type of activity is winning many new members to the scheme. It is certainly a very costly use of the contributions of persons who are already members.
That is a fundamental criticism but one which has not been tackled in any serious way in this Bill. The Nimmo Committee suggested a concept of regionalisation, but its suggestion has been ignored in the Bill.
One final important point to which I refer - this was dealt with by the Nimmo Committee - is the inadequacy of facilities for the aged ill in Australia. 1 have in my electorate many institutions which provide accommodation and hospital services for the aged ill. 1 have two of the biggest in Victoria - the Alexandria and the Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged. Both these institutions are very much dependent upon co-operation between the State Government and the Commonwealth Government. They have long waiting lists. Unless money is forthcoming from the State Government or the Commonwealth Government, or both of them, the waiting list will continue to increase, as has already been shown. People requiring accommodation in these homes for the aged will not be able to get it. They will be forced back onto the private homes and hospitals which are being run at fantastic profits.
This situation simply is not good enough. There is one deplorable factor about it. Last year this Government introduced the States Grants (Nursing Homes) Bill. It did not have much to offer, lt was not very significant at all when one considers how great is the problem of accommodating people in homes and hospitals for the aged. However it was something. I condemn this Government on the ground that it required matching grants from the States. This principle is wrong because it means that the State Government has to match the grants for capital expenditure and, in addition, has to face the problem of providing maintenance costs, which are big costs. I believe the Commonwealth is wrong in requiring matching grants from State governments. But also equally deserving of condemnation was the rejection of the Commonwealth’s assistance by the Victorian Government.
This mutual hostility between the Commonwealth and Victoria has continued since last year. There is no evidence yet, as far as I am aware, that the conflict between the 2 parties to the dispute has been resolved. I have seen no news of it. I think there is a question about this on the notice paper but as far as I know no answer has been supplied. The result of Sir Henry Bolte’s refusal to accept this kind of financial assistance is that additional accommodation for hospitals and homes for the aged throughout Victoria is not forthcoming. Assistance was offered and I think Sir
Henry Bolte should have accepted it and used the money to build additional accommodation. This refusal affects the 2 homes and hospitals in my electorate because both of them had projects well under way. They are awaiting resolution of this conflict. I think it is time the conflict was resolved. Both the Nimmo Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs said that these were matters requiring urgent action by the Commonwealth and State governments. Both parties to the dispute are equally guilty and it is about time both got down to resolving the problem.
I have referred to some aspects of this National Health Bill. I do not think it deals seriously with the problem of the cost of insurance against ill health because it still relies upon the antiquated concept of the so-called voluntary principle.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This Bill, which amends the National Health Act 1953-69, is a very important measure. I believe that Sir Earle Page introduced the original measure in 1953. In that comparatively short period of time, 17 years, there have been tremendous changes and advances in the profession. This is apparent not only in the case of doctors but also in the facilities at their disposal and at the disposal of nurses and hospitals generally. If we cast our minds back over that period I think all honourable members will agree that Australia has held its own in the world in relation to medical care. There is no doubt that hospitals have improved and new hospitals have been erected in many parts of Australia. This Bill sets out to help the Australian people obtain the benefits that are available today from the new techniques developed by the profession not only in Australia but all over the world.
Perhaps we have not come as far as we would like in some spheres when we remember that people still suffer from diseases and complaints for which science has not found cures. There are a number of such areas but, still, we have come a long way. I hope that during the next few years money will be made available for research in many of these areas in order to overcome some of the problems that still have to be faced by the community.
This Bill, as I see it, makes available to the people of Australia the most detailed specialist treatment for a cost of not more than $5 on each occasion. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) has left the chamber but I want to refer to his speech, because he mentioned low income earners. This Bill caters for these people. In view of what the honourable member for Bendigo had to say I think I should read a portion of the second reading speech made by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) when he introduced this Bill. It is quite clear to me what the Minister means. He said:
In future, families with incomes of up to $42.50 per week will be entitled to full medical benefits and also to hospital benefits equal to the cost of public ward treatment without any payment of contributions.
That is fairly clear to me. It means that people on low incomes will be catered for. This is an important aspect of the Bill because there are many people in this category who simply cannot afford to take advantage of the medical care about which I have spoken. One important point involved in medical care is the need to take away the concern and worry that people endure about getting sick. Mothers worry that they will not be able to obtain the medical care required because of the cost factor. Now the low income earner will be able to obtain this care without worry.
To be successful any health scheme must have the full co-operation of the medical profession. In fact it must have the cooperation of all the people concerned - the people generally, the medical profession and the government of the day which introduces particular measures. These 3 groups must work hand in hand. I do not believe we can have a satisfactory medical scheme unless it is accepted by the members of the profession, because they are the people who have to carry out the important function of looking after patients. I understand that this Bill has been prepared by the Government in conjunction with the medical profession. The Government has been working with the Australian Medical Association in preparing this measure However since that time some disquiet has arisen in a certain area of the medical profession, mainly the general practitioners, and it will be necessary for those concerned about this aspect to co-operate, get together and sort out any problem that is found, either now or in the future.
Another important factor in the field of medicine is the preservation of the freedom of the individual. 1 refer not only to the freedom of those in the medical profession but to the freedom of the people of Australia. There must be complete understanding. There must be complete freedom for people to go to the doctor of their choice and freedom for the doctor to perform his function as he sees fit and not as any government or anybody else may see fit. This is important from a general practitioner’s point of view. That is why I say that if there is any doubt about this at all amongst the general practitioners in Australia we must try to resolve the differences- Back in 19S3 the Bill would have dealt mainly with general practitioners but, because of the advance in medicine, we have found there has been a great increase in the number of specialists practising in this country. As I see it, this is only natural. This trend will probably go on and more specialists will in fact be practising in this country because of the nature of things as we find them today because of developments in science and because of the specialised nature of many procedures. But the general practitioner is a part of the Australian way of life. The mother and the family look to the general practitioner and expect him to look after the welfare of the family. I believe that we should not do anything that would jeopardise in any way the operations now carried out in Australia by general practitioners. Specialists have their field of activity and we know what it is; but there is a very broad and important field in Australia for general practitioners.
There is an area to which I would make special reference tonight, lt relates to the services of doctors throughout country areas. We know the situation in Australia is difficult compared to the situation in some other countries, and perhaps we could take our nearest neighbour, New Zealand, on one side and Britain on the other. New Zealand has some 21 million people but in terms of area it is, like Britain, a very small country. But in Australia which has an area of about 3 million square miles, there are many places where giving medical services to the people is a problem. We have unique services such as the Flying Doctor Service which does a tremendous job in shortening some of these distances. People of the outback rely very heavily on the Flying Doctor Service and it is a magnificent service. But outside the cities, the more densely populated centres and the areas covered by the Flying Doctor Service there are vast areas where some difficulties have been experienced over the years in obtaining the services of doctors. Many of these areas are sparsely populated, the distances that have to be travelled by doctors are not easy and there are many other problems. I think it is a tragedy that people suffer these disabilities in certain areas. This is another reason why general practitioners are concerned about certain aspects of this Bill and what may happen if people seek more and more specialist treatment. If there is any indication whatsoever of this happening the Government should take measures to rectify the position immediately because the shortage of doctors in country areas is very real and very worrying. 1 believe the medical profession has a responsibility to endeavour to rectify some of these situations. The doctors in the country should not do as many other people do and migrate to the more densely populated areas, the cities of Australia. There is a responsibility not only on the Government but also on the doctors and the profession to look after people in country areas. I believe doctors recognise their responsibility here but there are still problems and I would emphasise to the Minister that he should watch very closely the results flowing from the new measures we are now taking. If there is any evidence whatsoever that the fears of the doctors are real, any evidence whatsoever that there could be a migration of doctors away from country areas or a further migration of general practitioners to the specialist section, we should take measures to rectify the situation. The people in the vast country areas of which I have been speaking face special problems and they need special consideration and special conditions to meet their circumstances. Surely we do this in many other situations. A doctor who has to service a district in which he may be the only doctor is called out at any hour of the day or night and he answers the call quite willingly. He travels over long distances and his position in many cases is quite different from that of a doctor working in the metropolitan area where frequently doctors work in groups and help each other. They have their time off. Specialists are in a different category altogether.
But in the country areas and in small towns which have a doctor he is very often there at great expense to the local authority which supplies a house, a surgery and so on. He has a particular job to do and is in a quite different position. I believe the medical profession should be looking at this problem and seeing what might be done to encourage doctors to move into these areas and give the services required. I have pleasure in supporting the general principles of this Bill. I am concerned to some extent about the country situation, and 1 make no secret of it. I was concerned about it long before this Bill was brought into the House and I do believe that we should take notice of the points I have raised. The fullest co-operation should exist between the medical profession and the government and efforts should be made to iron out the problems which may appear from time to time. Obviously a measure of this magnitude, which is quite different from the previous National Health Act, will have some problems. Nobody would expect it not to have problems. This is only to be expected, but as those problems arise, if in fact they do arise, we should reconsider the matter.
After all, the health of the nation is really of prime importance. If one does not have good health, life is not much good because one cannot do anything. Not only does the health of a nation reflect within the family unit and the individual; it reflects also right throughout the economy of the nation. It reflects in every form of industry. The healthy nation gets things done; the healthy nation has a good record of attendance at industry. Therefore Bills on health are extremely important to any nation. As I have said, science has moved ahead in great strides over the last 20 years and no doubt we will again see great strides taken in the next 20 years. It is during this period that the Government must make adjustments, as we move along, to suit the conditions and advances in the medical world.
– I have three main objection to this Bill. Firstly, it should bc heartily challenged because of its gross unfairness and injustice in charging the less well off sections of the community somewhat more than the wealthier sections for their health benefits. Secondly, the Bill should be opposed because it retains so much of the completely discredited and decrepit so-called Liberal-Country Party national health scheme that has been operating for the last 18 years. This has been a scheme characterised by gross greed in many cases, inefficiency, clumsiness and scandalous waste at the expense of the community’s health. Thirdly, the Bill should be strongly criticised because of the hastiness and atmosphere of bitter disagreement surrounding its preparation, lt is riddled with uncertainty and lack of clear definite principles and machinery of operation. Scattered right through the second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) and in his previous statement are vague promises that something is ‘being reviewed’, ‘actively con.sidered’ or will be the subject of future regulations when the Government can complete its negotiations and make up its mind.
I say that it is an insult to this House that the Minister for Health should present to it such a half-baked, ill-considered and thoroughly doubtful measure. Inevitably, one returns to the conviction, as did the majority of electors at the last election, that Labor’s scheme of universal insurance based on capacity to pay and operated by an efficient national health insurance commission is far preferable to the scheme put forward by the Government.
First, let us look at the regressive features of the Government’s scheme. The first matter to which I look is the item on contribution rates. In respect of medical benefits there is to be one flat rate for medical insurance contributions in each State. This means that, apart from those who will be exempted by subsidised contributions, everybody - rich and poor alike - will have to pay a higher contribution for medical insurance. Some of my colleagues have made the point quite clearly that in fact the situation is worse than this.
The net cost of medical insurance will be greater to the poorer section than it will be to the wealthy section of our community for the simple reason that in regard to net cost after taxation less will be paid by the wealthier people. They will get more in tax rebates than will the poorer contributors paying lower rates of tax. Not only will that be the case but also the fees that will be paid actually by a patient to a doctor or to a hospital for that matter will attract a greater rebate in the case of the wealthier section of the community than will come to the less wealthy.
I turn now to the contributions in respect of medical fees. I wish to point out the position in New South Wales. Coming from New South Wales, I suppose that I am entitled to some priority of interest in that respect. In New South Wales, medical contribution fees are to rise by 15c a week, from 60c to 75c a week in respect of families. This is a 25% increase in medical insurance fees. The fees in other States, I note, are to rise from about 50c to 66c a week. In each case this will represent an increase of no more than 10c a week. I am not begrudging other States their lower rates of contribution. I just wonder why people in New South Wales are to be fleeced under this scheme by so much more than their fellows in the other States.
I asked about this. I tried to find out whether doctors employed by the Commonwealth received a higher rate of remuneration because they are in New South Wales than if they were in other States. I am afraid that I was not able to get a completely adequate reply in the research that 1 made in that regard, but I suspect that the answer is that it is not so. Doctors, whether they be medical officers employed by the Repatriation Department, the Department of Social Services or any other Government department, probably receive the same pay in New South Wales as they do in other States. So I wonder why this scheme is to confirm an arrangement whereby New South Wales people pay more to their doctors than do people in comparable States such as Victoria or any of the other States. Hospital contributions are to be added to the steep increase of 25% in the medical insurance contributions, of which I have made mention already. The increase in hospital contributions is something that is still to come our way. The Minister has not been able to disclose what is likely to happen in that regard.
Turning now to the provision concerning the low income earners subsidy that the Commonwealth is to pay, I am prepared to commend as much as the Government is doing but. as I heard the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) mention a little while ago, even this scheme has its very inequitable features. No provision is made in the Government scheme for the number of dependants that a family or a breadwinner may have. We have the provision, for instance, that a husband and wife on $42.50 a week will get complete exemption from any fees and from any payments. But, on the other hand, a family man with a wife and, say, 5 children - maybe even more - receiving $50 a week will be required to pay the whole amount of medical insurance. This, surely, is inequitable. Tt is not in the spirit of the recommendations of the Government’s own Committee. I refer to the Committee of Inquiry into Health Insurance, the Nimmo Committee. It recommended that adjustments ought to be made on the basis of the number of dependants in a family. Here again we have a very inequitable provision.
Of course, the thing that occurs to me as one who has to help people to fill in a lot of social service forms is this: I can conjure up the nightmare which will be involved in the administration of this means test and in the business of determining which people will be elgible for the concessional insurance rates from the Department. As we know, the Government will subsidise families which have an income of $42.50 a week. Those families will be wholly subsidised. In the case of families whose income is between $42.50 a week and $45.50 a week the Government will provide a subsidy of twothirds of the insurance contribution. Those families receiving between $45.50 a week and $48.50 a week will be subsidised onethird by the Government in respect of their insurance contributions. The phrase used in the Bill to describe the way in which this provison will operate refers to a ‘definite period’ in respect of these earnings. I have not seen an indication of what constitutes a definite period. But I can imagine the problems which will come the way of administrators in trying to keep track of people whose incomes vary considerably over a year or a longer period. So a quite costly and cumbersome means test will be applied in respect of this provision.
I come to the matter of the total cost, at the moment, of the Government’s measure. Of course, we all remember the announcement that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made with some gusto that the whole scheme would cost no more than $16m. This was presented in a way to help to ridicule Labor’s proposition as being extremely expensive. Not only will the Government scheme not cost $16m but in fact the minimum Commonwealth contribution in respect of insurance is §29. 5m, almost double what the Government estimated. In addition, contributors for medical benefits alone will pay an estimated extra $24m per year. Then, further, there will be a Government subsidy of Slim to help in respect of low income earners. In all, this is a matter of some $64.5m. Onto that amount must be added the future costs of increased hospital insurance contributions. These could range to quite an amount if past experience is any guide.
There are people in the community who would even suggest that the extra $64.5m to be added to the medical bill is a great under-estimate. Some informed critics are estimating that the bill will actually escalate to about $100m per year. This means of course a further tax burden on the community, and while the tax schedules operate in the very unjust way that they do, with heavy penalties on low and middle income earners, this will be a further regressive feature of the whole scheme. I could not help but be almost wryly amused by the Minister’s comment about the difficulty of the election estimate by the Government of $16m as the cost of the improvements in our medical insurance scheme. The Minister said:
The Government in no way apologises for its decision that this additional expenditure be undertaken. Indeed, it is proud to sponsor further improvements - and so on and so on. In other words, the Minister was trying to cover up for the gross error that the Government had made. Yet this will not deter the Government, I am sure, on any future occasion from coming out and again costing Labor’s proposals as far as health, education or any other matter might be concerned.
Let me turn to some of the deficiencies of this Bill. Many of them are inherited and many of them are inherent in the Government’s scheme. I refer, first of all, to the wastefulness. This scheme still retains a multiplicity of health insurance organisations. We strongly suspect that the 114 or more organisations that exist have contributed to the great cost of the Government’s scheme over the years. The Government refuses to adopt the Nimmo Committee’s recommendation to regionalise the open funds and to get rid of what was called the aggressive competitiveness that existed, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, in respect of the operations of the 2 major open funds - the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia and the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia, lt refuses to do this despite all the evidence of this kind of wasteful expenditure. We do not need to be reminded of it in detail but just to note that the Nimmo Committee outlined it, as also did the Senate Committee in its report.
There were the excessive managerial expenses, reaching as high as 21% of the contributors’ money. People who need help In sickness see about $1 of every $4 they contribute going in managerial expenses or in accumulation of unneedful reserves. Reserves have reached the astronomical total of 5120m. This money could have been used 10 give better benefits or cheaper insurance rates to contributors. All this money that is being socked away in cold storage against the day of some mythical catastrophe or some plague that might befall the community could have been used for all the people who are dissatisfied with the inadequate benefits they receive. Now the Government has said: ‘Well, these fund organisations are going to have to disgorge a good deal of these accumulated reserves’. The unhappy part about it is that many of the good people who contributed over the years to building up these reserves are no longer alive to benefit from the disgorgement that will come in due course.
As further evidence of this wastefulness, both the Nimmo Committee and the Senate Select Committee referred to the multiplicity of branch offices. The organisations have set up branches in various community centres all over New South Wales. Yet in Western Australia the 1 open fund operating there has 2 branch offices servicing quite effectively, efficiently and economically the whole State. But that is not so in New South Wales particularly, a situation of which I am aware, where ornate and elaborate branch offices are servicing the community or, rather, making a good deal for the organisations. Then there was the heavy advertising engaged in by the open funds in their aggressive tactics of trying to steal contributors from one another and contributing nothing to the community. Then there was the matter of agency costs and inducements given to agents to try to secure not only new contributors but to poach upon the preserves of other fund organisations.
One of the obvious deficiencies in the scheme still is the benefit gap. 1 remind the Government that the Nimmo Committee recommended that the patient should have to pay directly not more than $1 per service whether it be for a general practitioner or a specialist service. The Government has made a great to-do about the fact that it is limiting the patient’s charges to $5.
– And 80c.
– The charge is limited if the practitioner, whether a specialist or a general practitioner, keeps to the common fee. The Minister mentioned the 80c. it is quite true that the patient does have to pay 80c but according to my mathematics 80c paid in New South Wales on a common fee of $3.50 represents a cover of 77%. Gone, apparently, are the days when the Government aspired to a cover of up to 90% . Even under this so-called improved scheme the Government is prepared to cover only 77% where the patient is charged no more than $3.50 - the common fee mentioned in the schedule. But not even the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) was prepared to give an assurance that doctors would stick to the common fee. He knew that he could not do that. After all, the common fee is not a stable fee. It is not a particular fee charged by all doctors. It just represents, I suppose, something akin to an average. It does not necessarily mean an average. We all know that in New South Wales, and particularly in Sydney - the area that I am most conversant with - in the eastern suburbs and in the Manly district doctors charge more than $3.50. The fee gets up to as high as $4 and even more. The patients of those doctors will not just pay 80c; they will pay the difference between the $3.50 and the actual charge plus the 80c. So, in fact, they may well find themselves getting a coverage down to about 60% or even less in respect of a general practitioner service. Is not this the most common service that we all are likely to want? I cannot imagine that those who are charging a higher fee - general practitioners or specialists - will reduce their fee to the common fee, but I can expect that those who are charging below the common fee will lift their charges up to the common fee.
When we come to surgical operations, if the specialist does decide to charge above the common fee then the patient is liable for quite an amount because he will have to pay a much higher contribution; so he will lose out all round. There is no attempt to enforce the common fees. I do not imagine that there could be, but I will go along with the Minister and the Government in hoping that the medical fraternity will do their best to see that the common fees are adhered to. No scheme - the Government’s scheme or the Labor Party’s scheme - can work without the co-operation of the medical fraternity in this regard. 1 turn to hospitals. The Government said that this is a matter to be dealt with in the future. The $2 a day maximum Commonwealth benefit that has operated for the last 12 years, that is since 1958, is still to be the maximum Commonwealth benefit paid in respect of hospitalisation. No wonder the States and the State hospitals are running into such heavy debt. I ask honourable members to relate the $2 to the charge in public wards, let alone intermediate or private wards. How far would $2 a day go towards meeting current costs in hospitals?
The nursing home subsidy of $2 is quite inadequate, but it persists. Representations have been made to me and I have passed them on to the Minister. There are people - single pensioners, for instance - in nursing homes who have no income but their pensions. They are confronted with having to pay $40 a week and, more often, more than that for nursing home care. What do they have with which to pay for it? If they give the whole of their pension of $15 a week and they get the $2 a day subsidy from the Commonwealth they have $29 a week to pay a bill of $40 or more. Some of them will be a little better off because they will receive the $2 supplementary assistance if they do not own a home of their own and if they qualify under the means test.
General hospitals have been largely neglected by the Bill. The $5 a day that the Government pays in respect of pensioners in public hospitals remains the same despite the fact that hospital costs have vastly escalated well beyond that kind of charge. It is no wonder the public hospitals are in debt and no wonder the States are screaming out at the Commonwealth for its neglect of its own acknowledged responsibility - pensioners. As a result, of course, many hospitals refuse to accept pensioner patients. They are diverted to the nursing homes to which I have referred already.
This also applies to home nursing services. I had representations made to me 3 or 4 weeks ago by the Rockdale Municipal Council, which is in my electorate. It stated to me that it costs the Council, which is responsible for a pretty ordinary sized municipality, $20,000 a year for its subsidy towards the cost of the matron and nurses employed by the home nursing service. That is not the real defect of the whole business; it is just the inadequate approach that the Government takes to home nursing services. This was bitterly criticised fairly recently by a Dr Billingham of Sydney’s Prince Henry Hospital. He very severely criticised the Government for its lack of interest in home nursing services. He is reported in the ‘Australian’ of 12th February 1970 as having said:
The Federal Treasurer has continued to decide that the Commonwealth will not subsidise domiciliary nursing on a pay basis although quite willing to subsidise nursing in public and private institutions.
He went on to say:
I think we can anticipate agreement that the determination of whether a patient with chronic disability is treated at home or in an institution should be made for medical and not social reasons. Alas, this is not so in practice.
He further added:
Except for pensioner patients and those coming under the hospital umbrella, patients with disabilities needing even the minimum of nursing must go to institutions for clumsy administrative reasons. Some of the victims of this decision were invalided married couples, who with home nursing could stay together, but had to be deprived of one another’s company during periods in hospital.
I hope that the Minister for Health and the Government will take notice of that gentleman’s informed criticism.
Of course, we still have no comprehensive coverage under the Government’s so called national health scheme. There is no provision for most of the ancillary services such as dentistry, optometry, physiotherapy and speech therapy. They are not included in the Bill. There are some limited provisions in the Bill in respect of optometrists and opticians making referrals to an ophthalmologist or an eye doctor. But the important point about even that provision, as reported to me by an opthalmologist over the weekend, is that where an ophthalmologist, a medical man, carries out a very searching examination of a patient to see whether he is suffering from an eye disease and is of the opinion that the patient is not suffering from an eye disease but needs spectacles or different spectacles for his refraction problem, the patient attracts no benefits for the specialist’s service simply because spectacles were prescribed. The Government has to get over its obsession about the non-inclusion of services where spectacles are prescribed. It leads to some serious anomalies.
The Nimmo Committee made a special plea that physiotherapists be included in the national health scheme. For some reason the Government rejected the Committee’s plea. One can quite appreciate the position. I had representations made to me very recently concerning a case where a Macquarie Street specialist prescribed physiotherapy and directed the patient to go to a physiotherapist in Macquarie Street to have that treatment. Because the specialist did not carry out the physiotherapy - he probably thought that the physiotherapist could do it much better - the patient did not receive any benefits. The Government has to look into these anomalies.
Time will not allow me to go on to talk about some other matters, such as the dearth of hospitals in the various States. Mr Jago, the Minister for Health in New
South Wales, says that there are 250 locations in New South Wales alone where there is a dire need for a new hospital or where some old, obsolete building needs to be pulled down and something better put in its place. I am reminded of this need every time I go out to the western suburbs of Sydney and see somewhere about Ashfield a big notice which reads: ‘New Western Suburbs Hospital’. It has underneath those words: ‘When? Ask your local member.” I suppose that kind of sign can be put up in many places over the whole of Australia. We have all been told in recent weeks of the tremendous dearth of nurses and of all kinds of trained people who are so badly needed in our hospitals. Some reference has been made to the greater dearth of general practitioners in the community. I want to say, as one who has had an acquaintance with and practice in educational circles, I have always found that by far the hardest 2 faculties to get your son into are the medical faculty and the law faculty. This sort of thing has to stop. I had the Parliamentary Library take out some statistics for me dating back to 1965. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate these statistics in Hansard.
These figures show that there has been COm.partively little increase in the enrolments in the medical faculty at our universities between 1965 and 1969. The specific figures for the whole of Australia show that in 1965 there were 5,769 enrolments and that in 1969 there were 6,505 enrolments. Something has to be done about this situation. Far greater provision must be made for all those youngsters who are going through 6 years of high school and who are aspiring to go into the noble profession of medicine. The community needs them. They want to go into the profession. Something has to be done about it, and the community ought to demand that something be done.
The figures for each of the States show much the same trend as I have indicated. It is absurd that in New South Wales in 1965 there were 2,228 enrolments in medicine and that in 1969 the number was only a little more, being 2,391. We are not getting ahead; we are not even keeping up with the population increase. It has been put to me by medical practitioners and by some of the colleges that there needs to be better teaching facilities and, quite frankly, better tuition in our medical schools. There is too strong a reliance on the old lecture technique, inadequate provision for selection procedures and inadequate provision for testing students. The number of students who miss out after the first year in medicine is notorious. Something can be done to remedy that defect.
I have not mentioned many other things that the Government has left unresolved. 1 have not mentioned the whole referral mechanism, the disciplinary boards, or the establishment, which has been strongly recommended, of a hospitals commission. All of these things have been left up in the air. So much needs to be done. I understand that the Government is to adjourn the debate after the second reading stage to give honourable members and the community a chance to have a further look at the Bill. This can do nothing but good.
– In replying in this debate to the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), I must say that I find myself impressed by his dedication to the Socialist concepts which characterise his general political philosophy and which emerge from time to time throughout his speeches. They were particularly evident here tonight. The honourable member for Barton refuses to understand the most elementary facts about the taxation processes in this community. For example, he says that it is grossly unfair that people who are on incomes which require them to pay a low rate of taxation should be unable to receive rebates equivalent to those received by people whose incomes require them to pay higher rates of taxation. I put to him very simply that the falsity of the issues he put forward earlier is that people would be penalised if they ran out of the capacity to get some measure of tax rebate. Surely he must understand that an income which is taxable is, for the purposes and in the context to which we refer to it, something which has to be earned. People who work hard, devote themselves to their duty and have the good fortune as a result of their endeavours to have high incomes are also the people who provide the substantial: amounts of taxation in this community. Perhaps I may use a phrase which has been used here before. If in the welfare state this is a process of robbing Peter to pay Paul, then it is the Peters to whom I am referring, and it is the Pauls on behalf of whom my friend, the honourable member for Barton, is complaining. I urge honourable members opposite to beware of the day when the community runs out of Peters and finds itself with a large population of Pauls. In those circumstances and in that environment we will find democratic Socialism taking on the iron fist of authoritarianism.
My friends in the Labor Party object to my reminding this House that they have been the architects of nationalised medicine over a long period of time. In the United Kingdom today can be seen the results of nationalised medicine. This was carried out in the Government of Clement Attlee in the postwar period by the great demagogue from Wales whose name was Aneurin Bevan. The practices which were introduced in that country have today reduced the United Kingdom to a position where it is utterly dependent upon medical practitioners from countries far away from the United Kingdom who never practised in that country before the war or even during the depression years. Today something like 60% or more of the confinements in that country are carried out in private homes and are subject only to the influence and control of the midwives.
Having said that I will take the trend of this debate back to the origin of the Bill. The Bill originates from the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) during his policy speech in October last year. The Prime Minister made reference at that time to a number of facts of history which relate to the national health scheme that the Government has developed over the period since the former Minister for Health, Sir Earle Page, introduced the scheme in the early 1950s- The improvements that have taken place over that period have allowed us to establish and identify some of the facts which we repeated to the people of Australia in our policy speech of 1969. Today we describe our objectives and we can point to our achievements. We have a full hospital benefits scheme for hospital patients who are chronically ill. There are supplementary nursing home benefits for patients needing and receiving intensive nursing care, and there are special benefits for handicapped children under 16 years of age. We have medical and hospital benefits without payment of contribution for persons receiving unemployment or sickness benefit or for families whose income is below $39 a week. There are also medical and hospital benefits for migrants during their first 2 months in Australia. These are achievements which are worth recording here in the Parliament. They seem to have been ignored by our friends on the other side of the House in assessing the background of the introduction of this legislation.
We have achieved a situation in which there is special financial assistance to the States for the development of co-ordinated programmes of home care to strengthen home nursing and home care services, particularly for the frail and aged folk in our community. This cannot be denied, although it has been derided by the honourable member for Barton in the sense that he felt that the assistance provided is not enough. But the complaint of the Labor Party always will be: No matter what you do, we can do better, and at the taxpayers’ expense we will provide more and more for the community in the hope that the people will ultimately vote us into government. The truth of the matter is that the policy of the Labor Party, if followed to its obvious conclusion, would lead Australia into developing a national characteristic of hypochondria. This has been clearly revealed in the United Kingdom over the last 15 or 16 years and it has been reflected in the hundreds and hundreds of millions of pounds sterling which have been wasted on that appalling national health scheme that was inflicted upon that unhappy country. In his policy speech in 1969 the Prime Minister said:
All this has been done. It has gone far to eliminate financial hardship for people with special needs. Only one problem of any significant size remains in relation to people with lengthy illnesses. Some people after paying health insurance contributions for many years find that they are obliged to spend long period? under intensive care in nursing homes as distinct from hospitals.
Here is an admission that there is a problem. The Prime Minister continued:
We shall negotiate with the health insurance funds to arrange for the payment of increased benefits, properly related to reasonable nursing home fees, for persons who have been regular contributors to health insurance funds and who need intensive nursing home care.
He then spoke about the improvements in the national health scheme, and he concluded by using the executive series of phrases in his policy speech. He said:
Commonwealth medical benefits and fund benefits will be increased so that the difference between the benefit entitlements and the common fee charged by doctors will not at any time exceed $5 even for the most complicated and costly surgical procedures. For simpler procedures which are less expensive, the difference between the benefits and doctors* common fees will be very much less.
I should imagine that any rational adult in this country in 1970 who had lived past the age of 25 or 30 years would feel that the millennium had arrived when a statement of this nature could be made in a policy speech by the Prime Minister of Australia. There is no doubt that in this wealthy, prosperous country which is entering the 1970s with advantages that are without parallel in the world, the population may consider itself to be cared for in the extreme and provided with a standard of health services which 25 years ago would have been regarded as impossible. I am sure that the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) can well remember the time when the former member for Parkes was in this Parliament and spoke about 5% of unemployment being an acceptable level of unemployment in an economy. At that time the honourable member for Wilmot would have regarded it as beyond comprehension that things of the nature mentioned in the policy speech could be said. In 1970, as a consequence of 20 years of sound, prudent, discreet and responsible government, this situation has been reached. 1 want to turn now to a particular aspect of this National Health Bill which has been introduced by the Minister for Health, lt has attracted a good deal of attention in the medical profession and amongst those in the general public who are interested in these matters. I point out that throughout the world there has been a trend towards specialist training in the medical profession. This has been true in the United Kingdom, notwithstanding the fearful impact of the ghastly Socialist policies in that unfortunate country, lt has also been the trend in the United States of America where the free and unfettered choice of the medical profession can be reflected in the developments that have taken place in a variety of medical universities throughout that country. People have realised with the advancement of science and technology that there is a great attraction to research and to developing a particular special quality, or specialty. They have realised that they would be able to lead the good life, to have a good income, to be able to withstand the high impact of the fearful level of taxation which exists in these modern democracies and at the same time make a reasonable contribution. With a bit of luck they will be able to avoid getting up at half past 1 in the morning, or 2 o’clock, 2.30 or 4.30, and rushing out to look after some unfortunate person who has been involved in an accident or who has had some sort of seizure or attack. This tendency to go for the good life is reasonable. It can be seen in almost every form of life in our community. It is reflected, some say, in almost all forms of life other than in the political arena. If you have been here in this House, Mr Deputy Speaker, at 3 o’clock in the morning on some occasions, you will understand exactly what I mean. If the planners who would have us here on Fridays and Mondays could arrange it, the hours would be easier for us. I accept the fact that a medical practitioner who sees an opportunity to avoid the type of life which is characteristic of general practitioners in the 1920s and 1930s will tend to avoid that life if he can, and this is what has happened.
The number of general practitioners has diminished. The family doctor has disappeared. He has almost completely disappeared in the United States of America, he has almost vanished in the United Kingdom - unhappy country - and in Canada he has tended to move to the United States of America to occupy the vacancies which have been created in that country or he has tended to go into specialist service in the great cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In the light of these circumstances, once the proposals of the Government were understood and studied by the general practitioners throughout the country, they began to realise that those proposals would lead to a situation in which the average citizen, by a small extra payment, would be able to have specialist services which, in 99 cases out of 100, he believes are more valuable because the specialist is more highly trained and better qualified. That is a simple and human enough position for the average citizen to be in. The Government felt that, with the differentia] rebates, the average person could come along and say: ‘If my wife is having a confinement it will not cost me a great deal to have a specialist look after her. I want this done. I want the referral.’ Under the existing situation in most of the States the general practitioner has to say: As this is what you wish I will refer you.’ It would be only in the rarest of circumstances that a general practitioner would say to a patient: ‘Allow me to make it clear to you that this is a referral which I shall not recommend because it would be wrong for me to do so.’ The system does not work that way, and humanity is not built that way.
I have said that the impact on general practice should be looked at by the Parliament. The Government holds the view that these proposals will not have an adverse impact upon the general practitioner in Australia. The Government admits that in the countries to which I have referred - the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada - there has been a diminution of the number of general practitioners. The Government said quite recently that this fact is associated with other matters. In Australia where in recent years there have been some 6,500 general practitioners the position has been static. The Government’s view, as I understand it, is that if these proposals do lead to a marked diminution of the number of general practitioners within Australia, the Government aware of the fact that the success of its national health scheme must depend upon the co-operation and the existence of sufficient general practitioners, will then take steps to rectify the position. The Prime Minister stated at a Press conference in Canberra some time ago that he holds the view that this diminution will not occur.
The general practice section of the New South Wales branch of the AMA had a comment to make which I would like to put on record. It said:
It has been apparent for some years that a decline is occurring in general practice. I believe that in the near future the profession, the universities and the Government will have to consider this matter conjointly at great depth and to evolve perhaps even a replacement system However, this is for the future since this would be a very long term process.
The proposed scheme will have a much shorter term detrimental effect on general practice. It is already apparent that general practitioner services in particularly the country area and the rapidly expanding outer areas of the major cities are already strained. It follows that any significant reduction in the number of general practitioners would lead to a decline in services.
I have heard nobody deny that this is the fact. The article continues:
This could even involve difficulty in continuing services in the home.
The cause of the problem is that the differential rebate system which is quite justifiable in itself, is bound up wilh the five dollar moiety. It has been said that general practitioners fear that this will lead to a stampede to specialists. There will not be a stampede but there will be a significant swing to having a specialist do the job’. This tendency will develop as society becomes more status symbol minded.
This tendency will cause overutilisation of expensive specialist services where they are not justified on medical grounds. It will also lead to progressive general practitioner dissatisfaction with conditions of practice and consequently a lowering of morale. Hence the number of general practitioners will fall by four consequential means.
Further encourage young graduates to specialise.
Discourage graduates with specialist degrees from considering entering general practice.
Encourage general practitioners with specialist degrees to convert to full time specialists.
Discourage the inflow of general practitioners from the United Kingdom . . .
The reference to the United Kingdom is an unhappy one because Australia is receiving a growing number of general practitioners from the United Kingdom. I would be interested to hear from the 6 general practitioners in the seats of the Labor Party an explanation of this flow. Surely they cannot all be tories in the extreme who are coming as migrants from the United Kingdom to Australia. It has been suggested here by the general practice section of the Australian Medical Association that the United States of America may appear more attractive. The Minister has told me that their fears will not be justified. One of the significant reasons why they will not be justified is that within the present structure of general practice a number of highly qualified people are participating as general practitioners. In many medical groups there are Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons, London and Edinburgh, and Fellows of other colleges who are capable of being specialists and capable of rendering specialist treatment but who, by virtue of the circumstances in which they have found themselves - which has often been described as ‘unable to get into the hospitals in an appropriate way’ - have found it necessary to go into general practice. I am assured by the Minister that he will make it clear to the House in due course that these people who are Fellows of the royal colleges will be regarded as specialists whether or not they are at the present time partially engaged in general practice. This is a very significant, vital decision and to me it does eliminate point 2 that I have just put before the House, that is, that the present scheme would discourage graduates with specialist degrees from considering entering general practice.
It also answers the theory that the present scheme would encourage general practitioners with specialist degrees to convert to full time specialists. That conversion will take place and it has taken place in the past. As a medical officer gets to the stage where he is about to have a second coronary occlusion or cerebral haemorrhage he is likely to find it necessary to get some reduction in the 60 or 70 hours of work a week. This is a disadvantage of the general practitioner not shared by those Socialist members of the profession who work from 9 to 5 and are never called upon when in regular government employment to go out and do anything after hours. I hope that that point will attract some notice in the appropriate quarters.
I do not feel that there is any need for me to go to greater length in dealing with those details that have been put to and fro across this chamber in relation to the schedules. In conclusion, I compliment the Minister on the work that he has done in most difficult circumstances and I believe that his own resolution, his patience and his forbearance have stood him in very good stead, for he moves in this field surrounded by political snipers, and surrounded by the medical profession not fully comprehensive of what is in fact being put before the Parliament and not having the time to make a close study of these issues. He has done a first class job for the Government and he deserves congratulations from all who are interested in seeing Australia have a valuable national health scheme that will not create a country full of hypochondriacs. [Quorum formed.]
– After listening to the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) I could not but think that if he represents the advanced thinking of members of the Government side on health and welfare schemes it is no wonder that the national health scheme is in a hell of a mess. We have never heard a stranger discouse on a great problem than that which the honourable member has delivered. Of course, anyone who would praise the present Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) at the conclusion of his speech is either looking for friends or has never read the record of the Minister. I speak tonight in support of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and at the commencement let me say that a prominent writer recently stated:
Australia’s national health scheme seems to be in a shambles - a makeshift jerry built structure erected in the quicksands of conflicting principles and held erect by the opposing pressures of many vested interests.
That is a pretty fair summary of the situation today. I remember when the scheme was introduced in this Parliament and that former great disciple of Australian Country Party policy, the late Sir Earle Page, said that not more than 10% of the cost of medicine in this country would be borne by the taxpayer or the community. Now after all these years we have tonight before us a Bill of 178 pages. About 40 or 50 pages cover schedules which are related to the common fee, and the success or failure of this scheme depends entirety on the goodwill of the medical profession. That being the case let us see what the Government is doing to get the goodwill of the medical profession. I have in mind here - it has been repeated by members on the other side of this House during the debate - how the Australian Labor Party was criticised for its schemes and ils approach to the medical profession in the 1940s when it laid the foundation for what was a good medical service at that time. We in this Parliament saw the spectacle of members of the medical profession refusing to co-operate to have a great medical scheme introduced. Yet immediately the Labor Government was defeated they adopted in entirety the filling in of forms and regulations that they had refused to accept for a Labor administration.
– They went on strike.
– They went on strike at that tune. Honourable members who sat on that side of the Parliament criticised us for not knowing how to handle the medical profession. Tonight 1 stir the embers of those days and read from the policy speech of the last good leader of the Liberal Party, the right honourable R. G. Menzies. Speaking of the Labor Government, he said: . . lt has also got itself into the position of fighting the medical practitioners. A Commonwealth Government approaching this matter with common sense will work for the co-operation of the States, of the municipalities, of hospital managements, of friendly societies, and of the medical, dental, pharmaceutical and allied professions.
Having read that statement, let us have a look at the approach of the Minister for Health to the medical profession on which he depends today for the success or failure of this scheme. I suppose that even an unbiased person would say that the Minister’s approach to the doctors is about as diplomatic as that of a boy who started to make love to a girl by kicking her in the shins. The fact of the matter is that the Minister who is sitting at the table is at war with the medical profession. He has met abuse from one end of this country to the other on this medical scheme. He has threatened the medical profession and no Minister of our time has generated more ill will towards the medical profession. By intimidation he has in the end endeavoured to force his will upon the medical profession. There is no trust or understanding. He has capitulated on the measure and he has put it off and off and off because he could not get co-operation. His whole approach to the doctors has been marked by incompetence and muddling and a refusal to co-operate.
This is the Government that told the Labor Party that it would co-operate with the medical profession. We find today headlines in the Press such as ‘Forbes and Doctors Talk on Row’ - great method of co-operation. You can pick up these all over the country. Another one is ‘Govt, gives in on health bill’; ‘You’ll pay more for health, says PM The doctors will make sure of that under this Government. This is the Government that said that the Labor Party did not know how to handle the matter. Let us have a look at the situation. The Minister is a whimsical fellow. One would never tell it by looking at him but he has a sense of humour. It is very well hidden but he reveals it now and again. In his second reading speech it came to the top with a great burst:
Since my statement to the House on 4th March, this aspect of the new medical benefits arrangements has been the subject of some controversy within the medical profession and, for that reason, I desire to bring the relevant facts to the attention of honourable members.
Some controversy. Why, members of the Australian Medical Association are in convulsions. They have condemned their officers. The Minister was abused when he attended their meeting. Doctors are resigning, coming in and going out, and abusing the Minister. And yet he said there has been some controversy’. I congratulate him on that whimsical touch to a rather dull speech.
Let us look at the situation. One would think that the Government had sponsored this itself. I will tell honourable members why this scheme is on the stocks tonight, ft is because the Government won by 7 seats at the last federal election. In the middle of the election campaign, without having given it any consideration whatever, the Prime Minister was forced to answer Labor’s great policy on health by promising for $5 any treatment that one wanted. The cost was to be $16m, but the Prime Minister did not even know or care what it would cost or anything about it so long as he kept off the Labor forces at that time. We find today the Government does not muck around with a million or two. Never spoil a good oration or a good policy speech for the sake of being factual. We find now that this is going to cost just on $30m - roughly 100% more in round figures. But this is one of the factors which caused the introduction of this Bill to this Parliament.
I would like to quote from the Prime Minister’s policy speech. He said:
We are well advanced in negotiations with the medical profession and the health insurance funds so that all patients will be assured of medical benefits more closely related to doctors’ charges.
I would hate to see them if they were dragging the chain a bit if they are well advanced on this today. Then the Prime Minister said:
Commonwealth medical benefits and fund benefits will be increased so that the difference between the benefit entitlements and the common fee charged by doctors will not at any time exceed $5 even for the most complicated and costly surgical procedures. For simpler procedures which arc less expensive, the difference between the benefits and the doctors’ common fees will be very much less.
Then, of course, he went on to say that the cost will be SI 6m. He had to make that promise at that time because, as Labor knew, the people of this country were sick and tired of the Government’s discredited scheme - the most costly in the world and the most useless. This scheme does not have provision for dental treatment and gives only a 77% cover at the maximum price for the minimum return. Hospital contribution funds are exploiting Australia while this Government sits idly by. The Prime Minister knew something had to be done. The Nimmo report which honourable members opposite boast of tonight has been cited as the basis of their scheme. Why, the Government put it on the shelf for months and months on end. Only its narrow majority in this Parliament forced the Government to do anything about it.
Some honourable members sitting here temporarily till the next election want to remember that it was probably the Government’s promise about the S5 maximum fee that got them into this Parliament. Let us look at the scheme that is proposed and what we face at present. The present scheme cost, in the last financial year over S270m. The scheme that the Government is introducing to the Parliament now will not only cost Australian contributors to hospital benefit funds about $24m more but it will add in the vicinity of $65m extra to the cost of the scheme that we are at present financing. We find - this was said the other night - that from $58 per head a couple of years ago it has now gone up to $90.
All along the line the Government at this stage is finding that the costs are increasing and that its judgment on this issue is such that it knows not where it is going end is entirely dependent now on the good will of the doctors. As 1 said - and the Minister has stated - the whole basis of this scheme depends on the common fee decided upon by the medical profession. The Minister has stated if this common fee is not adhered to he will take action. I have here a cutting from the ‘Australian’ dated 9th March. It is all very well to lay down a common fee, but what if the doctors will not cooperate? I have found doctors to be most unco-operative people so far as these things are concerned. That is, with the exceptions of my distinguished colleague the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and other notable medical men in the ranks of the Labor Party. But generally speaking the doctors are not very co-operative when there are a few bob involved or when their fees have to go down. But the Minister has threatened them. He has intimidated them. However, the ‘Australian’ of 9th March stated:
It still isn’t clear exactly how the Government is going to go about forcing doctors to co-operate, even though Dr Forbes has now unveiled most of the other features of the medical insurance scheme.
He talked vaguely last week;-
He does that regularly, of course - of using public pressure to bring the doctors into line. Publicity it seems would rapidly make it clear to people which doctors were falling in with the health scheme and which were not.
The idea of ‘shopping around’ for a doctor (in the strictly commercial sense) would be encouraged.
But Dr Forbes seemed to indicate that the Government had not really made a final decision on how far it would go to try to force doctors to co-operate. Would it, for example, go to the extreme of banning the payment of any benefits whatsoever to a doctor who did not charge the most common fee for a particular service? Or would it accept that the whole scheme was completely under the control of the doctors, that they could charge what they liked without the Government being able to do anything but complain to the public that the reason there wasn’t an adequate health scheme was that the doctors were sabotaging it?
When members on the other side of the Parliament say that the Labor Party is here to nationalise medicine and to socialise it, let the Minister be honest and tell the people of this country what he proposes to do to the doctors he has threatened if they will not subscribe to this scheme. Every worker has penalties imposed on him if -he does not fulfil the obligations of his employment or his trade union. There are obligations for every other section of industry and the people in connection with the responsibilities they have. The Minister now puts out a common fee proposition but gives no indication of what will be done should it not be fulfilled or accepted by the medical profession. It is all very well threatening. What if a Labor man had threatened the doctors like that? They would have cried to high Heaven on the other side of the Parliament about how we were threatening the medical profession. It is interesting that the Government is silent on what it will do to deliver the goods in respect of these matters.
I notice that the fees of doctors and others under this scheme will be such that 80c will be the maximum that a person will have to pay for a surgery consultation. As the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) said a few moments ago, that would cover only 77% of the fee. What about the poor person who has to go regularly to a doctor? Honourable members opposite talk as though everyone has wealth, power and influence. Under this miserable Bill the Government is allowing only $3m for the poorer section of the community in subsidy of medical and health benefits. What about the men on low wages? What about men on wages of $30 or $40 a week who constantly have to have medical consultations? If such a man has a doctor visit him at home he pays $1.20. Have honourable members opposite ever tried to live on $30 or $40 a week or, say, $60 a week and pay a couple of dollars for doctors? What the public of this country wants to know is why people cannot have these services full and free to them under a scheme such as Labor proposes, without costs that are from time to time increasing? Everyone knows that the Government does not know from one day to the next whether or not doctors intend to increase their fees. Earle Page himself stated that the basis of this scheme was stability in the fees of the medical profession. After 20 years in office not only has the Government not got stability of medical fees, but every day of the week they rise and the Government has no control over them whatever. This scheme is dependent entirely on the doctors.
Maybe the co-operation of the doctors is reserved for a Labor government. But we will not seek co-operation at the point of a gun, as the Minister opposite is trying to get it. I would like to see him use the charm that the Prime Minister of days gone by said would be the practice. I would like to see something concrete brought to this Parliament whereby the people will know for sure that the benefits will apply to them. We have heard too that under this scheme a certain section of the community will get free hospital treatment in public wards.
To listen to the Minister’s second reading speech one would think that he is making a major approach to a great problem in giving free hosptalisation to the poorer section of the community. I was a member of the social welfare committee of this Parliament which gave to every citizen of this country from one end of the nation to the other free hospitalisation without any means test. That was signed at the time by the late Sir Frederick Stewart and members of the Liberal Party who were on that joint committee. Any person in the community in those days could have free hospitalisation. Contrary to what is said, it was not based entirely on cost. It was based on the average amount that was received then from hospital contribution funds. But at least all people throughout Australia had full and free hospitalisation until a Tory government, pledged to abolish the means test, got into office and wiped out free hospitalisation in nearly every State of the Commonwealth. The reason why full and free hospitalisation is in force in Queensland today is that a Labor Government refused to let the Liberal Party abolish it in that State. Even today the Queensland Government gets only 80c per day per occupied bed from the Commonwealth - the rate which applied in 1949. When we talk about the Queensland scheme we must not forget that it was the scheme that was initiated by a Labor government throughout Australia. Honourable members opposite should not feel proud about giving this meagre benefit to people who are on low incomes - people who represent the most deserving section of the community. Honourable members opposite should hang their heads in shame for having denied to the Australian people free hospitalisation, which is their right.
Let me examine another facet of the Bill. We have heard a good deal about the proposed increase of 25% in subscriptions to medical and hospitals funds. The rates charged by the Hospital Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia will be increased. Let us examine what the Australian public will get for those increases. If we examine the Second Schedule to the Bill, appearing on page 83 of the Bill, we find that the fund benefit in respect of item 9 in the First Schedule will be, under this legislation, $4.25 but the benefit now being paid is more than $4.25. The fund benefit in respect of item No. 13 is now $2.20, but after a 25% increase in subscription rates it will be reduced to $2. For item 24 the fund benefit is now $1.80, but it will be reduced under this legislation to $1.10. Surely it is time something was done about these funds. Their combined reserves amount to about $75m. I am reminded particularly of the HCF, which the honourable member for Prospect referred to in his speech. These funds are answerable to nobody. You would have thought that the Minister was making a progressive move when he said that they will have to present balance sheets to the Parliament. The major concern of these funds, particularly the HCF, is to protect doctors from bad debts, no matter what effect there is on the public.
Let us examine these funds. I have with me a list of officers of the HCF- It has 15 or 20 executive officers. There is 1 doctor on the executive committee. Nobody knows how these people are elected, the term of their office, the nature of their allowances or expenses and the nature of the people whom they represent. In a prominent position on the executive of the HCF there is a person named P. G. Huxley. He is a remarkable man. He spent money lavishly. He did not worry about the cost of anything. He bet in sums as large as S250.000, At present he is languishing in Long Bay Gaol, without hospital benefits, doing a 20-year term. I understand that he was to have been the next President of the organisation. He was, so 1 am told, appointed to the organisation by Mr Turner in return for Mr Turner’s nomination to the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales. What a scandalous state of affairs to have this horse trading in a fund which proposes to increase by 25% its subscription charges and at the same time to reduce some of its benefits. There are 24 honorary members of the HCF council, 1 1 of whom are members of the medical profession. There are 18 members of the New South Wales honorary executive committee, 12 of whom are doctors- There are 14 members of the Queensland honorary executive, 8 of whom are doctors. There are 1 1 members of the Tasmanian executive committee, 6 of whom are doctors. If this is not a special society for the benefit of doctors, created to protect the interests of doctors, f do not know what is.
– How many contributors are there?
– I do not know. Only the names of the members are listed. Nobody knows who they represent. Perhaps Mr Turner was ambitious. These people might have been members of good clubs and Mr Turner might have been nominated for membership of those clubs in return for arranging membership of the fund committees. These people are hand picked. Mr Turner always travels in his own chartered aircraft. We do not know what sort of expenses these people receive.
In view of the fact that the running costs of these funds exceed 15% of subscriptions it is time the Government did more than ask them to table their balance sheets. There are about 116 funds in Australia. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said, it is time they were amalgamated into 1 national fund, thus removing the high overhead costs incurred. In the event of political controversy these organisations are prepared to spend contributors’ funds to fight anybody who opposes them. The publication which I now hold was distributed a few years ago bv the MBF, which attacked, among others, Mr W. Sheahan, MLA, who was Minister for Health in the New South Wales Labor Government. That publication would have cost a few hundred dollars, lt was paid for by the subscriptions of con tributors who should have been getting higher benefits. These funds are prepared to attack anybody, even members of Parliament. On 25th October 1963 the MBF had published in the ‘Sun’ a full page advertisement headed ‘Statement Without Parliamentary Privilege. This week Minister for Health Mr W. F. Sheahan made a number of statements in Parliament and to the Press.’ The organisation may do the same thing to this Government’s Minister for Health. There should be some control exercised over the use of contributors’ funds. The answer is not to have 1 1 6 different organisations but a Commonwealth organisation which will pay to contributors adequate benefits. These matters are overlooked by honourable members opposite and it is time they were brought to the light of day.
Other matters deserve attention. Take the matter of the treatment of pensioners. The Government claims that it gives wonderful treatment to pensioners. However, many doctors have been debarred from participating in the pensioner medical scheme because, in the view of the Government, they have treated pensioners too often. In my electorate some time ago a doctor was debarred from participating in the scheme because he gave his patients too much attention. They were pensioners. The Government takes it out on the very needy and those in want while the big funds, such as the one controlled by Mr Turner, can do what they like. The funds have a flat rate of contribution. Everybody pays the same amount. This is most unjust in every way.
I submit that the scheme that should be adopted is the one to which the Australian Labor Party gave so much prominence during the last elections. It is idle for honourable members opposite to say that our scheme cannot be financed. It has been approved by prominent citizens. When honourable members opposite and members of the Australian Medical Association attacked the scheme, men prominent in economics and finance came forward to say that the scheme could be successful. A Labor government will establish a system of universal health insurance. There will be a Commonwealth fund instead of the present multiplicity of organisations. As the Leader of the Opposition said during the last campaign, Labor’s scheme will suit Australians who want a health scheme that will provide proper services at a cost which the community can afford. All this is vital and necessary, but it has been forgotten by the Minister. I will not go through Labor’s proposal again except to say that it would give to the people of Australia the type of medical service to which they are entitled. Instead of criticising Labor’s proposals honourable members opposite should recognise the wasteful expenditure in which they will involve the country under the Government’s proposal - a proposal on which there is no guarantee of co-operation from the medical profession. Honourable members opposite should consider Labor’s proposals without screaming about socialised medicine. Sick people are entitled to attention irrespective of their income. It does not matter whether you have a socialised scheme or a private enterprise schemePeople are entitled to medical attention, but they are not getting it under this Government’s scheme.
There are 116 separate funds. Australians pay more for health insurance than people in any other country. There is no competition amongst the funds. About 37% of Australians are suffering all the time by having to pay the additional costs associated with medical attention. Something like 25% have no coverage at all under the present scheme. This Government, which says that it is determined to protect the health of Australians, refuses to pay a Commonwealth benefit to a patient unless he belongs to a medical benefits fund. In other words people are to be conscripted. They have to pay into the fund; otherwise they will get no benefit from this Administration. This is a shocking travesty to present to people who pay their taxes, and who are entitled to get and should get medical attention whether or not they are in a fund. I mention these matters tonight in this Australian Parliament in order that the people will know that the proposal we are debating is just another patched up scheme provided by this Government.
I did not wish to say more tonight other than to condemn, as other honourable members on this side of the Parliament have condemned, the approach of the Minister for Health to settling this problem with the medical profession and in not getting the co-operation he wanted. I think both he and the Prime Minister deserve to be condemned for not having worked this scheme out financially and with the medical profession before bringing it before the Parliament. This was a desperate move by the Government parties in order to return to the Government benches, and to stop the Labor Party from winning the election because of the scheme it promised.
I see no hope whatever of the schedule in the Bill being fulfilled under this Government and while the present Minister for Health maintains his present attitude towards the medical profession. At the same time I believe that the medical profession has an obligation to honour and that it should assist in providing a medical service to the Australian public at the lowest price so long as doctors receive a fair return. Although doctors are a very important section of the community they in turn owe something to the country. Subject to the return and the conditions being fair, doctors should co-operate with the Government, be it Labor or Liberal, and endeavour to provide proper benefits for the people.
I believe that Australia wants a health scheme which will provide a proper service at a cost which the community can afford to pay - a scheme which meets the Deeds of the entire community regardless of age or income. This scheme does not measure up to those standards. On behalf of the Opposition I support the amendment. I hope the Government will accept it, because it is designed to ensure that all people get necessary medical attention irrespective of their income.
– Do you accept the nationalised scheme?
Mir DALY - The honourable member for North Sydney has asked me whether I accept the nationalised scheme. Whichever scheme suits the Australian people and provides the coverage they need in time of sickness is acceptable to me. A cry of that kind will not get the honourable member anywhere. The people want a good medical scheme. They voted for one at the last election. This was proved by the loss of seats on the Government side of the chamber. I hope that this amendment will be a further step towards putting a Labor government in office in order to give effect to the great health programme outlined by the Leader of the Opposition.
. One wonders what type of morality it is which permits people to stand self-righteously and criticise others while doing exactly the same thing.
This scheme will cost the majority of Australian taxpayers a great deal more than they are now paying. In many instances it will cost them much more than the increase in fees referred to in the Bill. Many people who are unable to afford medical cover will be forced to contribute for the maximum cover or lose all benefits under this legislation. Although the cost of the scheme will increase, the services provided under the Bill will be not much greater. At least half of the increased costs will be paid in increased fees to doctors. Apart from persons with incomes of less than $48 a week, still no consideration is to be given to the ability of people to meet these commitments. Conversely, we still have the situation where the amount paid by a contributor will increase as his income decreases. In the case of a person whose income exceeds $32,000 a year the Com monwealth will pay, by means of tax deductions, two-thirds of the cost. The Commonwealth will pay nearly 10% of the contributions of a taxpayer whose taxable income is only slightly in excess of the minimum amount for subsidy as set out in the Bill. In effect this means that we are being asked to accept uncritically a scheme which will do little for most contributors, a scheme which will continue to cost those on the lowest incomes more than it costs those on the maximum incomes.
I wish to deal specifically with one part of the Bill. It arises out of a statement made by the former Treasurer, the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) when presenting the last Budget. He was referring to assistance to persons whose incomes were under $39 a week. He said that all family units comprising at least 2 persons, except for those of pensionable age, would qualify for assistance. Subsequently, most likely because of the electoral shock suffered last October, the Government has decided to increase that figure of $39 to $42.50. It also has decided to give supplementary assistance to persons whose incomes are less than $45.50 and a lesser degree of supplementary assistance to persons whose incomes are less than $48.50.
However, the terms used in the Budget Speech are incorporated in this Bill. A person, being a male, who is in excess of 65 years of age, or, being a woman who has attained the age of 60 years, is not eligible for any of this supplementary assistance. Married couples whose total incomes exceed $43 a week are excluded from the pensioner medical scheme and therefore must pay the full cost of insurance in a health scheme. Unlike those people who are under pensionable age, they will receive no assistance whatever from the Government. In other words, males over 65 years and females over 60 years who wish to cover themselves adequately by contributing to a medical fund must pay the full fees even though their private income may not exceed $43 a week, whereas a person under that age whose income is less than $48.50 a week will receive assistance under this Bill. I think that this is an anomaly. I hope it is an oversight on the part of the Government and I hope when the Minister answers he will indicate that it is an oversight and that the Government will amend this clause to provide that persons of pensionable age will be covered if their incomes are in fact lower than those provided in the Bill.
One other matter that I should deal with, and that the Government should have dealt with, is the necessity under the existing pensioner medical scheme for pensioners to insure themselves if they want any form of assistance from specialists, if it is necessary for them to receive treatment other than in public wards of public hospitals or if they want operations performed by general practitioners. It is not possible in some areas of most States for pensioners to have treatment in public wards of public hospitals without travelling considerable distances. Therefore only those pensioners who have direct access to public hospitals are covered by the pensioner medical scheme. There are no provisions whatsoever in this Bill to give pensioners any assistance; they are totally excluded. This point has been raised in this House before, but I would like to know now how the Minister expects a pensioner living in Dimboola in Victoria, which has a bush nursing hospital, to obtain medical treatment when he is not allowed to make use of the hospital in that area. In some cases they must travel excessive mileages in order to arrive at a public hospital to obtain services. This seems to me to be an extreme discrimination against those persons who do not live in capital cities and it appears to me that the scheme has only been drawn up to assist only those who live in capital1 cities or other urban areas. It surprises me that members of the Australian Country Party have not been on their feet demanding that the scheme be extended to cover those areas which they profess to represent.
The hour is late and there has been much debate on this Bill but I want to say - and I say it quite sincerely - that I hope that before the Government goes ahead with patching up what is in fact an outdated philosophy on health it will have another look at this Bill and the ramifications of its health policies. Health is too important for political dogma to be allowed to continue a system which does not give the level of service and does not provide the level of coverage that the Australian public is entitled to expect for the money that is being expended. I believe it is time that we had a responsible approach, and a responsible inquiry into all sections of our health services should be undertaken. AH alternatives should be examined and the inquiry should not be restricted merely to those alternatives which the Government wishes for political reasons to maintain. Such an inquiry should be conducted so that we could ascertain what is required. Although proof is not really necessary the validity of the proposals of the Labor Party at the last election would be clearly established.
This Bil] is an attempt to bring into operation a health proposal which was put forward in panic during an election campaign, lt was not well thought out and it is quite clear that this Bill contains enough anomalous material to fill a number of volumes of Hansard. I do not believe any length of debate or any number of amendments will solve the problems. Some benefit will flow from this Bill and 1 am disappointed that because of this we have no alternative but to support the Bill, poor though it is.
– The National Health Act which this Bill proposes to amend has never been satisfactory and never will be satisfactory in its existing form for several very good reasons. One reason is that it does not permit an adequate medical and hospital coverage at a reasonable rate of contribution. This Bill will do little, if anything, to overcome that situation. The shortcomings of the Act became quite apparent to interested parties very shortly after it came into operation. Yet despite that fact it has taken this Government almost 20 years to make any serious attempt to rectify those failings. It only does so now because of what happened at the last election and because of the pressure brought upon it by the Australian Labor Party and by the people in other places. Certainly the effects of the shortcomings of the Act are felt mostly by those people who are on lower incomes. It could very well be that this is the reason why this Government shows such little concern about it. However, the report of the Nimmo Committee left the Government with no alternative but to make some attempt at correction. The report has definitely proved that the criticisms and arguments levelled against the existing Act by honourable members on this side of the House over the years have been sound and have been completely justified.
The report has also proved that the Government, by consistently rejecting Labor’s proposals, has acted against the best interests of the general community over several years. The Nimmo report, upon which this Bill is based to some extent, shows quite clearly that if the Government had been properly sympathetic, properly aware and considerate of the needs of the people, particularly the family man, and had it accepted and implemented our proposals - or, better still, had the Labor Party had the opportunity of putting its proposals into practice - a very substantial proportion of our population would have been saved a lot of worry and a lot of expense. In addition a lot of major sickness could have been avoided or prevented as a result of early but necessary hospital or medical treatment which under the existing Act cannot be availed of simply because of the cost factor. Thousands of people cannot afford to pay the required contributions to a fund or, if they are in a fund, they cannot be certain that the refunds for which they are eligible will be sufficient to meet the eventual costs of any sickness they may suffer. Therefore they elect to take the gamble that any sickness will not be serious anyway. The Bill does provide a very limited cover to people in certain financial circumstances but only in regard to contributions. It still leaves them liable to quite a considerable expense and I will refer to that a little later.
The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) has always endeavoured to create the impression that the Nimmo Committee was set up simply because the Government was not satisfied with the existing National Health Act. But the facts are that the Government had no option but to arrange such an inquiry. It knew full well that the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, which was appointed as a result of a motion by the Austraiian Labor Party, had authority with no restrictive terms of reference and would make a very close examination of the whole system and would report to this Parliament. It is interesting to note that the notice of motion for the appointment of a Senate select committee was first given by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in the Senate in March 1967 and was finally agreed to on 3rd April 1968. It was not until 18th April 1968 that the Minister for Health announced the appointment of a special committee, which we found subsequently was the Nimmo Committee, to review the voluntary health insurance system in Australia. So it can readily be seen that the Government took no action until after the Australian Labor Party had moved in the Senate for this inquiry.
To obtain a proper picture it must be recalled that the appointment of the Select Committee was opposed by the Government. The fact that the Nimmo Committee was not appointed until 18th April 1968 leaves no doubt that had the Senate rejected Labor’s proposal for the Select Committee the Government would not have appointed the special committee and we would never have seen the Nimmo report; nor would we have been discussing this Bill at this time. Even so, the Government still applied a very severe restriction on the terms of reference of that special committee and, as a result, also restricted to a very large degree the recommendations which the Nimmo Committee could bring down.
The Nimmo Committee had to remain within the framework of the existing Act in its investigations. Nevertheless, despite the restrictions which the Committee had to face its report has proved to be of great embarrassment to the Government. The Committee could find very little in the existing Act to recommend it and certainly never gave any indication that it was one which should be applauded in the way in which Government members and supporters have done for so long as being the best in the world. As a matter of fact, the Nimmo Committee by its recommendations has suggested that the Government’s health scheme should be scrapped altogether
I well remember the introduction of the national health scheme back in the early 1950s - the Earle Page scheme as it was first called - which very quickly came to be labelled as the ‘doctors’ benefits scheme* because, in the main, doctors were the people who received the protection. This was not protection against ill-health but was protection against bad debts. I wish to make it quite clear that I have no objection to such protection and, in fact. would like to see a provision in the National Health Act which would assure doctors of payment for the whole of the services rendered and not leave any portion of a charge to be met by a patient at all. I would like to see a system of complete coverage or protection for both sides. I will refer to that a little later as well. But, by the same token, such a scheme should ensure also that the charges made for visits are no more than reasonable and also it is very important that such charges should remain at the same level over a definite length of time.
If we are to suffer a system whereby people are obliged to be contributors to a fund, it must be appreciated that that fund cannot operate as it should and give its members proper insurance against ill health unless the fund management is in a position to know for some time ahead what its liabilities will be in relation to doctors’ charges. This applies also in relation to charges for hospitalisation. On the medical side, the Bill does attempt to sustain a definite long term charge rate but, unfortunately, there is nothing positive about it. It is all subject to the approval and the co-operation of the medical profession. The whole scheme would collapse if the doctors did not give it their complete support. The Minister for Health admitted that this was so in the statement that he made on 4th March last when he said:
The co-operation of the medical profession in adhering to the list of most common fees submitted by the Australian Medical Association is, of course, a vital factor to the success of the new health benefits plan.
Unfortunately, at this stage there are very strong reasons to believe that certain sections of the medical profession anyway will not give their full support to the scheme unless certain changes are made. It is hard to understand why the Government should elect to go ahead with this Bill while a doubt exists as to whether it actually will be able to operate, or whether it can be put properly into practice.
If this Bill is passed funds will be obliged to make some necessary alterations in relation to their rules and constitutions, particularly in regard to contributions, only to find, perhaps, the whole thing collapse around their ears simply because the doctors will not co-operate. I was one of the original members of a committee which was formed on the eastern goldfields of Western Australia following the introduction of the health scheme in the 1950s. The object of that committee was to establish a fund within the terms of the Act which could operate in such a way as to give contributors and their dependants the maximum benefit which the Act permitted.
The committee consisted of representatives of unions, friendly societies, the Chamber of Mines and others. That committee was a voluntary one. No pay or perks were attached to it. Every member of that committee worked hard and put in a lot of time at meetings and in research work to find out ways and means by which contributors could be given better protection than that which was offered simply by the Act. That committee, with many changes of course, still operates as the management committee of the fund that carries on business in Kalgoorlie today, and still operates on a voluntary and honorary capacity working in the interest of contributors to that fund. I wish to pay tribute to those people for the work they have done.
I also wish to add that we received almost complete co-operation and assistance from the doctors, particularly in the early stages when the doctors who had been on the goldfields for many years had a proper appreciation of the value of community spirit and also of the value of a good health scheme. Those doctors were happy to work in with the fund. Eventually we arrived at a system that did work very well up until recently on a contract system basis. Unfortunately, the fund, believing that it might be a means of attracting additional doctors to the area, decided to change from a contract system to a fee for service scheme. I thought that was a mistake. I am pleased to see that in the Bill before us no amendment is proposed that will prevent funds from setting up a contract system if they wish to do so. I feel that where a contract system can be established it is the best form of service, particularly in relation to surgery and home consultations where a contributor or a dependant of a contributor may visit the surgery or have the doctor call at his home without any charge being made at all upon the patient. Of course, the basis of this scheme is similar to the basis of the scheme that the Australian Labor Party proposed before the last election.
Now, J know that argument is raised against a contract service of this nature on the ground that, unless some charge over and above the fund and Commonwealth benefit is made, people will abuse the contract by visiting doctors or asking doctors to visit unnecessarily. I would agree that this could be so to some small extent but certainly it would not be widespread. Even if it were, I would suggest that the shortcomings in that regard are well and truly offset by the fact that, under this system, people will go to a doctor in the very early stage of sickness instead of waiting until the sickness reaches serious proportions. The chances of that sickness becoming serious naturally are considerably reduced by the patient attending a doctor in the early stages of the sickness. This to my mind is a very important requirement in any health scheme, particularly where children are involved.
As I said before, the ideal scheme, as I see it anyway, is one where the patient or the person responsible for the patient is insured completely, covered completely, against any additional costs above his contributions either on a voluntary contribution rate or by way of taxation. This complete insurance is very important and most valuable in family groups, particularly in large family groups. The very least that I feel we should do is to ensure that no additional charges are involved in the field of consultation in respect of visits to a doctor in his surgery. That is, we should ensure that the scheme does cover the situation and that the benefit is sufficient to meet the entire cost. There should be no financial obstacle to a person, particularly a parent, seeking medical opinion or advice. There should be nothing to cause those people to have any doubts from the financial angle about taking little Tommy or Mary or whoever it happens to be along to the doctor at the first sign of sickness. This, I think, is not only important for the future health of the people concerned but also would act in a way that would protect the Commonwealth and these fund benefit organisations against excessive payouts for the treatment of serious illness.
Under the amendments proposed by this Bill patients or contributors unfortunately will be obliged to pay 80c at the very least for each visit to a doctor’s surgery and Si. 20 for each home visit by a doctor. The 80c charge in itself will be sufficient to cause a parent, particularly if he is in poor circumstances, to have second thoughts or to ponder whether it is really necessary to take his child to a doctor. He may decide to wait until the next day to see how the child is, but the next day may be just too late or, at the very best, the sickness may have developed into something that is serious. Even for these very simple reasons I think it should be one of the first necessities in a health scheme that visits to a doctor for diagnosis and advice should be completely free of any charge over the insured benefit. Of course, with the charges for consultation, like the additional cost for any other service, the higher the income of the person concerned, under the Government’s health scheme and the amendments proposed, the greater is the ability of that person to pay. This will mean a lower eventual cost to that person. By that I mean that a person on a low income will actually pay the 80c I have referred to for a visit to a surgery but the person on the high income may pay eventually 50c, 40c or less as a result of his entitlement to taxation deductions for medical costs. The same ultimate result applies with regard to contributions to the fund. We have the ridiculous situation where a person with the greatest ability to pay can obtain the very best medical and hospital entitlement for the amount that a person who has not the ability to pay has actually to pay to receive the very lowest cover.
However there is another side to this. We can have a perfect scheme in respect of contributions and benefits. It may be a scheme of contributions by way of taxation or it may be on a voluntary basis. It may be one of complete coverage or one of partial coverage. But no matter how perfect it is in that regard it can lose the major part of its perfection if the required services are not available - that is, if doctors are in short supply or if hospital accommodation is not sufficient or if the particular type of hospital accommodation that is required is not adequate. This sort of situation is certainly a problem today at least in most if not all of the areas outside the cities. I cannot speak with any authority about the situation in the cities but in country towns we are certainly faced with a shortage in both respects. We have a situation where doctors have always to be on- tap and have to work long and unreasonable hours. This, in turn, means that patients are put to considerable inconvenience in having to wait for hours in some cases to be seen by the doctor or to receive treatment. This state of affairs - long hours and long waits - has been going on for years and, indeed, seems to be becoming worse. In my book doctors should not be required to work such unreasonable hours as they do while, on the other hand, patients should not be required to sit around for hours in waiting rooms to receive attention. If people are obliged to pay an insurance premium for services those services should be readily available to them, and in a way which is convenient to them and not inconvenient as at present. The position will not be improved in any way by the amendments we have before us. As 1 see it, the position could be aggravated. 1 am fearful that the provisions in the First Schedule to the Bill under which a specialist will attract a higher payment than a genera) practitioner for exactly the same operation or service will cause a number of doctors with specialist qualifications but who are practising as general practitioners in country towns to move to the cities where their work will attract a higher payment. If this does happen it can easily mean that within a short time not only will we be critically short of doctors outside the cities but we will have more largely inexperienced doctors. This, in turn, will mean that even more people will be obliged to go to the cities on referrals to specialists. This will involve them in additional expense. I am informed on very good authority that quite a number of general practitioners do have specialist qualifications in several fields and are qualified, at least by experience and knowledge, to perform examination or surgery equally as competently as registered specialists. Indeed, I have personal knowledge of several doctors who were practising as general practitioners in country towns and who within a couple of weeks set up as specialists in Perth.
Country GPs, if they carry out an examination or surgery of a specialist nature, will be entitled to a much lesser benefit than will the specialist who performs exactly the same service. For instance, item 223 of the First Schedule, which relates to antenatal care, confinement and postnatal care for 9 days, provides for a Commonwealth benefit of $24 to a general practitioner whereas item 224, which relates to exactly the same services, provides a Commonwealth benefit of $39 to a specialist. In other words the specialist will receive $15 more than the general practitioner. Under items 230 and 231 a general practitioner will receive $43.50 as a Commonwealth benefit and the specialist $60. or an additional $22.50 for carrying out exactly the same service. There are more than 100 cases where the same sort of differentiation appears. I know that the additional benefits to specialists are paid only where the patient has been referred to the specialist by a general practitioner or someone else. This, of course, suggests that there would be certain complications in cases requiring specialist attention or that the general practitioner was rather raw and could not carry out even normal requirements. I would have no argument in respect of those cases but I see no reason at all why a general practitioner who is qualified in all respects other than being registered as a specialist should not be paid the same rate as a specialist when he performs the services-
Surely no-one would expect any general practitioner worth his salt to send his patients 300, 400 or even 1,000 miles to the nearest specialist if he is competent to do what is required; and if he is competent and does what is required surely he should receive the payment. What about an urgent case where it is not possible to send a patient over a long distance to a specialist and where, as a result, the general practitioner has no alternative but to do the job? Surely he should not be denied the same benefit that the specialist would attract. As I see it, this provision may be all right in the city where the general practitioner would normally send complicated cases to a specialist but it just does not work in the bush and it is quite unfair to the general practitioners in those areas. As I said earlier, if this difference in the Commonwealth benefit between the general practitioner and the specialist is retained as strictly as 1 see it in this Bill, we can expect to see a number of doctors from country areas entering the specialist field in the capital cities, and no-one could blame them for doing so. They would attract the higher remuneration for their services. It would be a further attraction for many if not all of them not to have to work the long hours which they are now obliged to work, not for the purposes of gaining income but to meet the demands on their services. Country towns cannot afford to lose the services of competent and qualified doctors. We must do all possible to retain them. The very fact that specialists are so far away and so difficult to reach, coupled with the shortage of doctors in the country, makes it necessary that those who do see fit to practise in the country are the very best and with high qualifications in the many fields of medicine.
I hope that the Minister will ensure that such qualifications and competency are properly recognised. Surely there is no fear that unqualified doctors would try to usurp the position of specialists just for the extra money; so there would be no danger to the patients. The Bill does assist to some extent those families on very low incomes, but this aspect has been covered fairly well by other members from this side. All I want to say is that the coverage to those people on low incomes is not as valuable as it may appear to be from what the Minister says.
Education - Communism - Wool Vietnam Moratorium Campaign - IndianPacific Railway - Political Parties - Law and Order
– It being 11 p.m., and in accordance with the order of the House of 16th April. I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– During the course of the last week or so th.- following question on notice regarding a matter of education was submitted:
The Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen), to whom the question was directed, answered:
There are 2 areas where help is required now. It is a truism to say that there is not an education authority in the Commonwealth that is not crying out for more money for immediate and urgent needs, lt is equally true to say that the State education authorities and their Governments, whatever their Party complexions, are finding State financial resources quite inadequate to meet new and multiplying demands. Indeed, in the fields of teacher training, buildings, media facilities and equipment State departments are still trying to cope with a backlog of requirements caused by the post-war population increases as well as with the pressures of contemporary growth.
Since the end of World War II there have been many inquiries, much research both here and abroad, visits and return visit’s of education administrators and practising teachers at home and all around the world, and ceaseless representations to governments on education matters by teacher organisations. The one common denominator that emerges from all these activities is a seemingly unanimous opinion and conclusion that the urgent problems of education can be solved only by the injection of massive Federal financial aid to State education systems. As it now seems abundantly clear that this desirable end can only be achieved by the advent of a Labor administration in the Commonwealth, it is nevertheless possible that this Government, lacking an overall national education policy and with its well-known penchant for piecemeal and patchwork remedies, might consider the granting of special aid in 2 areas of very special need in the field of education. These 2 areas of need are considered by members of the teaching profession to be of the utmost urgency and well within the capacity of the Commonwealth.
I refer, firstly, to the teachers’ case for the extension of the library grants scheme to primary schools. The South Australian Institute of Teachers has circularised South Australian members of Parliament emphasising the desirability and urgency of this. It points out that the increasing emphasis on individual teaching in primary schools means that resource facilities such as books, films, recordings, charts and autoinstructional programmes should be readily available in sufficient quantity to provide for the needs of each child. These are expensive enough to be outside the capacity, in spite of subsidy systems, of State Departments of Education and there are still many parts of the Commonwealth where there are few central libraries, even poorly equipped ones, in primary schools at all. The South Australian Institute goes on to say:
It is vital to the development of the individual child that the necessary facilities be available, not only in secondary schools, but also during the formative years of primary schooling.
In 1966 the Children’s Libraries Section of the Library Association of Australia recommended the expenditure of $31,000 over a period of 10 years on the supplying of books in each school with more than 1,000 pupils on the basis of 10 books per pupil. Thereafter would come maintenance and renewal costs. They also recommended a 10 year plan to establish libraries in smaller schools of 300 pupils with an inaugural grant of 10 books per pupil at an average cost of $2 per book. In neither case has provision been made for buildings or rooms to house the library facilities.
In the light of these costs, the following comments in a report published last year by the American Library Association and the National Education Association of the United Slates of America might well apply to Australia:
It is important that every media facility, piece of equipment, book or material bc selected, produced and used so that the students in our schools are challenged to a dynamic participation in a free, exciting and enriched life. Education of high quality is expensive, but far more cosily is the waste of human resources in poorly educated students whose talents are lost to this nation.
I referred earlier to the lack of an overall national education policy on the part of this Government. In 1969 the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), in a statement publishing Labor’s education aims in the journal of the South Australian Institute of Teachers, said it was his opinion that the Government Parties sought continuously to dampen public interest in education matters by their denial of a critical situation in education and by resisting demands for a national inquiry into education. Now, in 1 970, the Government Parties are still more interested in palliatives than policies that go to the roots of the matter. But if palliatives are the best - and they seem to be - that the people of Australia can expect from the Government, I would draw their attention in addition to the matter I have spoken of with regard to the extension of the library grants scheme to primary schools, to another area of the education scene in South Australia where urgent action is needed. This is the provision of more, and more easily accessible, special classes and centres with the trained teachers and equipment necessary for the retarded and lower capacity child. lt is a fact that the presence of these children in normal primary school classes makes their own progress almost impossible and makes the work of the teacher and the progress of the other children in the class extremely difficult. This is a besetting problem in many primary schools in my own State and causes considerable concern among teachers and parents of retarded children. The problems of retardation in South Australian schools are handled by a Psychology Branch within the Education Department. It is staffed by highly skilled and dedicated people. But there are far too few of them and they are under-financed and under-equipped. The result is that many children in desperate need of urgent remedial treatment in one or another area of their learning life suffer grave injustices. Only last year a 9-year-old boy at a small private primary school in Adelaide, for whom urgent remedial treatment to offset his retardation was considered necessary, was refused admission to a special class, presumably because the Psychology Branch could not physically accommodate him, or because he attended a private school. Surely a Government which can find funds to build science blocks for private schools already richly endowed, can find money to alleviate the desperately urgent problems of retardation in all our schools, public and private. I would suggest that a special annual grant, earmarked for this purpose and based on a cost assessment by the State department concerned, would be of untold value in this particular field.
I urge on the Government a prompt and serious consideration of the 2 matters I have mentioned. In doing so J would point out that this country’s expenditure per head on education in relation to its gross national product is still well below that of other comparable countries, ft compares with that of Afghanistan. This is certainly something of which we cannot be proud, something about which we cannot be complacent. The quality of the education we give our children will, in the long run, decide the future of our country. If it is the best we give them, we need have no fear that, if the country is attacked, no-one will have to be conscripted to defend it.
While referring to the State of South Australia during the course of this very short speech, 1 want to emphasise that these problems concern not only that State. The problems besetting South Australia are somewhat worse than those in many other Stales because of the very mean and miserable deal it has had from the Commonwealth generally on a number of extremely vital issues over the last number of years. That is the reason why I have used South Australia quite consistently during my speech. This Government has failed to recognise the needs of education, lt has made a political whipping horse of education and has been completely hypocritical and discriminatory in its attitude towards education generally. Taking into consideration the fact that the Government has been in office for so long, one would expect it to look at education from an adult point of view. We on this side of the House can only continue to make an urgent appeal on behalf of the children of the Commonwealth. I have only touched on this subject. I have not dealt with it fully.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-! apologise to the House for speaking at this late hour but I do not apologise for the subject matter that I wish to discuss. The reason I want to raise this matter at this stage is that I have been concerned a great deal recently by some of the comments that have been broadcast by the mass media and by comments that have been made by some of our international affairs commentators. Basically the suggestion that has been put forward by a number of these people is that the only reason for the appointment by the Government of a group of people to consider the matter of Communism and the danger of Communism has been to assist the Government to win an election. If we follow that argument to its logical conclusion we find what it really means. What these people are saying is that there is no danger, that Communism is not a threat, and that we in Australia are not faced with some testing days in the future history of our country. Unfortunately, many of the things that have been put forward become in certain circumstances a comfort to the enemies of this country.
I want to put forward a few thoughts in this regard. I refer particularly to some of the protests that have been carried on and the attitude of some of the people. As has been said on many occasions, no-one would deny the right of the individual to put forward his point of view. One of the things that has amazed me in all of the protests, in all of the objections and in ali of the criticism, is that while there has been this criticism of the United States of America and Australia there has been no criticism and no comment in relation to our enemies. A glaring example of that is the latest moves in Cambodia. I remind honourable members and other people in Australia that on the many occasions President Johnson made concessions to North Vietnam, the North Vietnamese demanded more. They refused to accept any of the responsibility that was theirs. I also remind honourable members that not so long ago a gentleman returned to his country after having made concessions to an enemy. He waved a piece of paper and said: ‘Peace in our time.’ We could have had peace provided that we were prepared constantly to give way.
I suggest that some of the protesters and some of the people who deliberately or unwittingly give help to our enemy might consider that they are costing the lives of soldiers in this Vietnam struggle. They talk sometimes about a corrupt Vietnam regime. There are protests in South Vietnam. There has been criticism of the Government in South Vietnam by the South Vietnamese. Has there been any criticism in Hanoi of the Government of North Vietnam? No, Sir. If there was criticism from that quarter, the critics would not be alive for very long. One can see that if this proposition were followed to its logical conclusion it would become quite ridiculous. I noticed a Press report of a statement by an Anglican bishop in England that he felt people should pray for rain so that it would stop the tour of the South African cricket team. Fortunately that opinion would be held by only a very small minority. But what a ghastly conception that bishop must have of God as the divine creator whom he is supposed to serve. One might say with equal logic that the good Lord was opposed to the holding of the Moratorium assembly in Canberra today because rain fell on the people assembled in front of Parliament House.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said at one time that Sihanouk remained neutral. What kind of neutrality was Sihanouk’s at that time and what was the position of Cambodia under his rule and authority? It was a neutrality that assisted the enemies of this country. It was a neutrality that cost the lives of United States servicemen and perhaps even of Australian servicemen. It was a neutrality that would last only as long as it suited the Communists. I think we should give that some consideration.
People talk about peace and how they want it. Everybody on this side of the chamber and everybody who supports our troops in South Vietnam and the move by United States troops into Cambodia desires peace, but there must be agreement between both s:des before peace can be attained. Any action that we take that gives the impression that we are weakening in our stand serves as encouragement to those people who desire peace on the terms of complete surrender of the West. Deaths on the battlefields are tragic. The sympathy of all of us is with the people in the United States, Australia and other countries who have lost members of their families in the battle in Vietnam. But it is necessary for us to remember that tragic as those deaths are, by one death today we may be saving 10 or 100 deaths in 5 years time. As I have said, there is no monopoly of a desire for peace amongst those people who are protesting. 1 do not wish to labour the point. I appreciate that some honourable members opposite were in the Services during World War II, as were some Government supporters. I have in mind the Prime Min ster (Mr Gorton), the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), my colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), who is the Country Party Whip, and others. Can anybody honestly say that these men do not want peace? Does anyone believe that these men would want to sacrifice lives unnecessarily? We want peace but we believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that the peace we gain is lasting and worhtwile and is not obtained through the scrifice of everything we hold dear and in which we believe.
We need to hold in Australia a firm conviction so that we can let the people of South East Asia know where we stand. The United States and United Kingdom governments are pulling out of the Pacific region. The United States is withdrawing in some of its spheres of influence. In that situation we in Australia will be called upon to accept greater responsibility in the region. We must show the people of Asia that we are prepared to stand with them and not to settle for peace at any price particularly through the sacrifice of their lives. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Banard) said last night that there was peace in Cambodia and now that country is torn by war. I pointed out the fallacy of this view when I was commenting on the neutrality of Sihanouk. I remind honourable members that Winston Churchill was labelled by many as a warmonger and received vicious criticism every time he stood up to warn the United Kingdom and the people of the world of the danger of those times. That man was called a warmonger every time he warned people of the dangers. I point out that when the world was at its darkest hour he was the man who led them through with his courage, his faith and the beliefs that he had held and presented all the time. At this time we face dangers and difficulties. I suggest that the editors of our leading newspapers, the international commentators and people who have responsibility as well as privilege should give serious consideration to the things that are facing this country. They should not just think that they have all the answers and that they are completely and absolutely right.
– I would like to bring the House back to the home front. The 105,000 wool growers still surviving in Australia have been a leaderless legion for a generation but they are now coming together in the face of a threat of extinction for many, and perhaps the majority. 1 want to tell the House tonight of the problem as it was presented to a gathering of more than 1,300 wool growers at Narrandera in the Riverina only a few days ago. I want the Parliament to know the urgency of the situation, which was stressed then and which I stress now on their behalf, -and to support the call that we should cease this wiping out of wool growers by the forces of economic exploitation. It was calculated that in the past 6 years about 15,000 of them have left the industry in all parts of Australia. The back ground to the Narrandera meeting was a call for a single marketing authority to administer the efficient marketing and distribution of the entire Australian wool clip. This proposal had been adopted almost unanimously by meetings and major bodies in the industry. In Moree in New South Wales 2,600 growers voted for it. They pledged their support on behalf of 7,000 wool growers in Queensland.
Subsequently, on 14th April, the annual conference of the Graziers Council asked for the same thing. On 21st April the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers’ Council supported the move. On the very next day, 22nd April, the Australian Wool Industry Conference, on which the Government places a considerable amount of emphasis, made the same request for a statutory authority to handle the Australian wool clip. So after 20 years there has been a unanimity that there should be a single marketing authority to market the clip. I wanted to tell the House the facts as they emerged at Narrandera in the Riverina. It was pointed out that in the past 6 years, as 1 have just mentioned, 15,000 wool growers have disappeared. There has been resistance to the idea of reform in the wool industry, even to adopting objective scientific testing which wool users want and which is used in any case for 35% of the clip after it is out of the growers’ hands.
Here we have an industry with a combined capital investment of $8,000m with a chronic crisis. Undoubtedly contributing to the crisis is the fact that the auction system, so long a sacred procedure for many, is the middle man’s market and the grower and the user never meet. Mr Bryce Killen has pointed out that the prices of woollen garments across the counter have risen steadily over the years, that the prices from spinners to weavers have jumped up to 50% for some lines in the past 10 years, while prices to growers have dropped up to 50% in the same period. It was pointed out that the wool passes through at least 7 hands from the grower to the user. Today we find that the value of raw wool represents about 10% of the value of the finished garment. So we have a product in short supply, in strong demand, across the world. I thought that I should draw attention to that fact. The report of the New South Wales Labor Government’s royal commission, headed by Mr Justice Cook, established that there was highly organised manipulation of the wool market in 1959. But not until now has there been a recognition of this. Since 1949 the Opposition has preached the policy of the statutory authority and statutory acquisition and appraisement. The year 1949 was a long time ago, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports will recall so vividly.
– The right honourable member for Melbourne.
– I apologise to the right honourable member. Of vital importance is the attitude of the Government at this time of crisis. 1 want particularly to support the call by Mr R. Black, a member of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and senior Vice President of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association of New South Wales, who made these points at the Narrandera meeting. He warned growers that once they agreed on a statutory authority to market the whole clip, it would be fatal to leave the implementation of the scheme to what he called the ‘upper echelons’. He said that this was the worst thing that could be done.
The big question posed was when and how the principle of a single statutory authority and orderly marketing was to be implemented by the Government. He wanted to know the extent of Government support. He asked whether the Government would market the clip and whether bridging finance would be available. This is where the major question lies because it is a matter of time. It is a race against time for many of the growers concerned. They want to know at what price the wool will be acquired by the statutory authority. They want to know whether there will be a reserve price based on the cost of production and what steps will be taken to end the present crisis. We have listened to the Government’s voices on this question. I do not think I do the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) any real injustice when I say that all he has said is that when the wool industry comes up with united recommendations they will press the Government for their acceptance.
The major voice of government, the Liberal Party, has not yet said anything definite. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that the wool industry was in a horrible position but that, of course, the Government had not made any decisions on acquisition. He did not think that subsidies were a solution. His latest promise in answer to a question that I asked in the Parliament just recently was that the House would shortly hear a statement of Government policy and that the wool situation was high on the order of priority of the matters under consideration. So we have the Government speaking with 2 voices, but we have as yet no firm commitment on this question. Yet the situation is urgent; there is a crisis. It has been said that the Government might take 2 or 3 years to make a major decision on the wool industry. If it does we could lose another 10,000 wool growers. We of the Opposition are already committed to strong Government action in the industry and we believe that in the meantime there is no reason why strong Government action should not be taken to ensure the viability of an industry which is efficient in terms of its per man and per unit cost output. It contributes mightily to the export earnings of this nation. The point to which I draw attention particularly tonight is that the matter is urgent. The Narrandera meeting of 1,300 people voted for action at least by Budget time this year.
I think the Parliament can take note of what was said by a spokesman at that meeting. He said:
Pessimism in the countryside is the worst since depression days.
He wanted action and so do I. I hope that this view will be shared on all sides of the Parliament and that there is not a postponement of decisions until the 10,000 wool growers have disappeared in the same way as their brothers went during the last decade. The matter is urgent and therefore I bring it forward in that spirit tonight in this debate.
– I have just listened to a talk on wool which did nothing whatever to contribute anything to a solution of the problems facing the wool industry. The problems facing the industry are being handled by wool industry organisations. Their representations are being given consideration by the Government. The Government has said repeatedly that provided that the wool growing organisations and the wool growers themselves could present a policy or proposition to the Government, it would be only too anxious to implement it. It is the division among wool growers that has prevented the Government from taking action so far. It is the over supply of competitive fibres on the world market that is the cause of the problem facing the wool industry. The greatest difficulty that the industry could face would be if it were under a government the great majority of whose members lived in the metropolitan areas and had no sympathy for or interest in the welfare of wool growers. It is all very well for a few people to get up and say something about wool when they will not be backed up when they get into office by the great majority of the members of their Party. They will be impotent. The people on the other side of the House who talk about the wool industry will have no opportunity to implement the suggestions that they put up. It is very easy for the Opposition to put up this sort of proposition when it knows that it does not have to implement it. I say to the Opposition that if it ever comes to government it will not be able to implement it because it will be prevented by a priority being given to the cities and the metropolitan areas, and the majority of numbers on that side of the House know that what I say is true.
Tonight I want to talk mainly about the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. The Campaign is undoubtedly a matter of grave concern to every Australian who values his or her freedom and the security of our nation. This is especially so because of the methods being used in the conduct of this Campaign. There are ample opportunities for criticism, for protest and for objection to the attitude of any government in Australia, still keeping within the law. It is a completely unjustified abuse of the freedom that we enjoy in this country today to incite people to break the law. To say, as some members of the Australian Labor Party have said, that individuals have the right to break any law which they consider is a bad law is extremely dangerous. This would undermine the fundamental principles of democratic society. This line of thinking is completely untenable and must be rejected absolutely if we are to maintain law and order. Surely this type of action must encourage a disrespect of the law and if it is maintained and expanded it will make the maintenance of law and order impossible.
The question naturally follows: Who wants to encourage a disrespect of the law? Who wants to undermine the fundamental principles of democracy? The people who would be most anxious to do that would be the Communists and their fellow travellers. They have done it many times and it has been promoted at the beginning of most revolutions that the Communists have inspired and no doubt it will precede many that they still intend to stage in the future. It is, of course, quite obvious that people who do not subscribe to the Communist ideology have been persuaded to take part in this Campaign. They overlook the fact that to withdraw our forces from Vietnam precipitately would negate the sacrifices already made. We all want to see an end to the war but it will not bring a lasting peace to take our troops from Vietnam today. This is what is overlooked. We all want to see an end to the war and that end will come if North Vietnam is prepared to stop aggression or - perhaps and - when South Vietnam is able to defend herself effectively without the aid of foreign troops. Progress is being made in this direction but the progress is being slowed down to this end by the very fact that some people are not prepared to back up the troops and those who are endeavouring to create a democratic society in South Vietnam in order to allow its people the expression of freedom.
I know that the answer that has been used sometimes to speeches of this kind by people on the other side of the House is: You are kicking the Communist can.’ It is a pretty sad indictment that no better answer than that has come from the Opposition. That is the only one I have heard so far. Let mc get away from my own views on this matter. Up to this stage I have expressed my own views. Now I want to turn to an expression of opinion which cannot be claimed to have any political bias.
– I am about to express the opinion of someone else and the honourable member should not laugh. This will take the smile off his face and put it on the other side. I. want to quote from an article in the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ of 22nd April 1970, headed ‘Warning by AWU on moratorium’. Is the Australian Workers Union politically biased? The article states:
In a direct tilt at the May 8 Vietnam Moratorium, the Australian Workers Union has warned workers to be wary of being used in matters of a purely political nature. lt says there arc elements bent on sweeping away all the traditional traits of character for which Australians are world renowned.
The warning is carried in an editorial in the latest issue of the ‘Worker’, official journal of the AWU.
The Moratorium is not referred to directly. The editorial, headed ‘Australians should be wary of these “peace advocates” ‘, says there are elements alien to the accepted Australian concepts, which would have Australians throw away their traditions under the banner of peace advocates, knowing that most hate war, and love peace.
It says: ‘The “Worker” declares unequivocally that many of these elements are suspect, as arc their motives, and their individual organisations’. lt is true that among these elements will be found people who arc acting out of genuine love of peace, people who in normal circumstances would ‘not be seen alive or dead with certain organisations and who would be as loyal to the Australian tradition as their fellow Australians’.
Unfortunately, by lending their support and their names to these “Trojan” organisations within our ranks, they are bei’ng used as respectable fronts for sinister objectives, the ultimate overthrow of our democratic form of government, and ils replacement by a form of governments known for its absolute tyranny and totalitarianism’.
No condemnation of the Vietnam Moratorium has been made in stronger terms than the article from which I have just quoted in the ‘Worker’, which is the official journal of the AWU. In a separate report the ‘Worker’ states that the resolution of 12th April of the Mount Isa branch of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association condemning the issue is regarded in trade union circles in Queensland as a sharp slap at the Trades and Labour Council leftist hierarchy which supports the Moratorium. The report states that union opinion, particularly among the rank and file, is hardening that the proposed stoppage in Victoria, and stoppages elsewhere, will not achieve their aim - and they will not, either - as the Vietnam question is a matter for the Australian Government and other allied governments. The unionists realise that this issue is not in the best interest of the people whom the Opposition is supposed to represent. Since I have time at my disposal I shall take the matter a little further. I am basing my argument not on a political bias but on what the unions are saying. I wish to quote an article which appeared in the ‘Courier Mail’ on Saturday, 2nd May. The article states:
The powerful combined industrial unions committee group yesterday moved unanimously against supporting next Friday’s Vietnam Moratorium.
The committee represents 130,948 trade unionists in north, and central and southern Queensland divisions.
The committee represents these unions: Australian Workers Union, Federated Clerks, Queensland State Service, Teachers, Clothing and Allied Trades, Shop Assistants, Commercial Travellers, Royal Australian Nursing Federation, Queensland Railway Salaried Officers, Railway Traffic Station Masters, and Railway Signalmen.
The charge of political bias should not be levelled at me. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) laughed at me when I said that I was going to quote something which was not politically biased. The article I have quoted comes from the unions and the unions are the organisations which put honourable members opposite into Parliament. The article I have quoted indicates that the unions do not want honourable members opposite to support the Vietnam Moratorium.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Indian-Pacific railway line which spans Australia was officially inaugurated in Sydney on 23rd February last. The Commonwealth and State parliamentarians who attended that function had practically no association with the preparation or execution of the project; they were there because of fortuitous circumstances and nothing else. It was certainly a great occasion of which the nation might well be proud. The great undertaking will mean a lot to Australia now and in the future. What saddens me is the fact that the people who were principally responsible for the scheme received no recognition and no commendation at all. They were completely ignored. It was as if they had never existed.
In the war and post-war periods, when the Curtin and Chifley governments led this nation to victory and brought Australia through the dangerous transition period from war to peace, the late Sir Harold Clapp, the then Director-General of Transport, prepared a plan for the standardisation of the whole Australian railway system. It was a great scheme and it was accepted and endorsed enthusiastically by the then Minister for Transport, the late Hon. E. J. Ward, and all members of the Chifley Government. The 6 States agreed to a plan whereby the Commonwealth accepted full financial responsibility for the undertaking, with the exception of New South Wales, which had no need to change its gauge but the Government of which agreed to contribute S20m to the cost of the undertaking. The McGirr Government, which succeeded the McKell Government in New South Wales repudiated the promise of its predecessor and the scheme fell through. Had the scheme been brought to fruition in the immediate post-war years, the whole Australian railway system would have been standardised by now and the big deficits suffered by the States since then would have been avoided.
The Port Augusta-Whyalla scheme and the Port Pirie-Adelaide scheme now being undertaken might have been completed at half the cost that is now involved. No-one mentioned Clapp or Ward or Chifley in any of the festivities on 23rd February last and this was an unpardonable oversight. I wish to put on record the barest truth about the Indian-Pacific Railway and the part played by those whose names I have mentioned and those associated with them. Edward John Ward was a remarkable man who possessed great capacity, energy and determination. He had the faults and failings that all men have, in varying degrees and of different kinds, but he was a great Labor man and his memory deserves more recognition from this Parliament and the nation than it has yet received.
I think the greatest tragedy for the Labor Party was that Eddie Ward, as he was generally known, was defeated for the deputy leadership of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party in 1960. Ward never recovered from that undeserved defeat and died 3 years later. Had Ward won the deputy leadership of the Opposition in 1 960 the Labor Party would most certainly have won the 1961 election. As events happened the Labor Party lost very narrowly in what was the most closely contested election in the history of our federation. The likes of Edward John Ward, Joseph Benedict Chifley and Harold Clapp have not yet been born. I regret that on 23rd February 1970 Mrs Edith Ward, the only living widow of the founders and proponents of the great Indian-Pacific railway was not invited to the festivities when the first train left Sydney on the great standardised gauge from Sydney to Perth. The Federal Parliamentary Labor Party will never be a great party again until it produces another Eddie Ward.
Mr Speaker, I want to refer to a few remarks that were made by honourable members on the other side of the House and particularly by honourable members of the Australian Country Party who seem to be very perturbed about the Moratorium Campaign.
– Hear, hear, so we are.
– Yes, and they are entitled to be concerned. They are also expected to be consistent. If they do not want a moratorium campaign to stop the war in Indo-China, in South Vietnam and an extension of the war to Cambodia, why do they not get up and tell the Government - and they do twist the tails of the Liberals occasionally - to stop selling wool and wheat to China and wool and wheat to Russia? They cannot have it both ways. There are grounds for legitimate differences of opinion as to what ought to be done about the Vietnam war. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) said that everybody loves peace and that everybody wants peace. There is no doubt that that is a true sentiment. The Australian people want peace. It is a question of how to get peace. In 1965 I said that this filthy war was an unwinnable war. I was right then, and a lot of people are coming around to my opinion now - even people on my own side. 1 think that there are a lot of people in Australia who agree with me now but who would not agree with me in 1965. But I tell the honourable member for Maranoa and all other honourable gentlemen that there are bishops of the Anglican Church, bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, priests of both churches, and ordained ministers in all churches, who are supporting this Moratorium. Are they all wrong? They have the right to express their dissent. If they want to demonstrate they are entitled to demonstrate. For my part, I think that if we are going to get out of this unwinnable war we have to create a healthy public opinion which will compel the Gorton Government to say: ‘We are going to bring our troops back. We are going to keep them in Australia. We are going to bring our troops back from Malaysia and Singapore. We are going to get out of every filthy Asian war and stay in Australia.’ If that means Fortress Australia, then I am for Fortress Australia.
-Order! I do not know whether I heard correctly what the honourable member for Kennedy said - I may be wrong - but I suggest to him that he should refrain from interjecting.
– I do not know what he said. If it was contemptible, then 1 ho’’ him in contempt. People have the right to disagree. The honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) spoke of Churchill. Churchill would never have been Prime Minister of Great Britain if it had not been for the Labour Party. It refused to serve under Chamberlain. When Chamberlain put up Haldane, the Labour Party refused to serve under him. By a process of attrition it came to Churchill. When Churchill formed his ministry, who was his Deputy Prime Minister? It was Clement Attleee. Who were the architects of victory under Churchill? They were Ernest Bevin, Aneurin Bevan and Stafford Cripps. These were the men who, in association with Churchill, brought Britain to victory, lt was not a one-man band, lt was a combined effort on the part of very brave and intelligent people. But the people of Britain repudiated Churchill when the war was over. I thought it was a disgraceful disservice which the people of Britain rendered to Winston Churchill because, had he wanted it, he could have been a duke on the day the war ended. Then he was repudiated later.
We have to keep this question of Vietnam in proper perspective. People have the right to dissent. 1 am not in favour of violence anywhere. I am not in favour of sit-downs or sit-ins or anything that will disrupt traffic or anything else. But people have the right to express themselves, and because of a fear that something might happen, nobody, in my view, has the right to say that people should restrict their right to demonstrate. Violence can happen, but that is incidental to the whole thing.
-Order! The right honourable member’s time has expired.
– lt is rather appropriate that the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) saw fit to conclude his contribution tonight by referring to the Moratorium. We have heard already two very good contributions from members of the Australian Country Party. But I should like to make some reference to a matter which has greatly upset me. This is the first occasion that I have seen fit to rise to speak during the adjournment debate this year. But being an Australian, I think it was a disgusting spectacle to see the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) standing in the rain here today under the fluttering flags of the Vietcong. I believe that th:s is something which should be put in print and shot home to every Australian in order to show that these leaders of the Opposition are prepared to associate themselves with people who parade this type of philosophy and flaunt it before the Australian public. 1 managed to hear some of the remarks today of the Leader of the Opposition. He claimed that all members of the Liberal Party were violent and that the Party was a party of violence. This was an unfair accusation. I think it reflected the desperation and the level to which the Leader of the Opposition has sunk in trying to retain his position as leader of his Party.
Just by chance tonight the former leader of the Opposition, the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell), told us that if, in 1960, the Labor Party had elected Mr Ward as its deputy leader the Party would have been elected to power in 1961. I think it is pertinent to took at the reason behind such a statement. 1 suggest the reason is that the present Leader of the Opposition has the people of Australia in a confused condition as to exactly how he stands. Some weeks ago my friend the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) asked the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) whether personal support was assured to the Moratorium Campaign by the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition at a meet:ng of unions affiliated with the Queensland Trades and Labour Council held in late February at the Brisbane Trades Hall. The honourable member for Lilley alleged that at the end of that discussion the Leader qf the Opposition said: I am with you. I go along with you and I support you.’ The Minister for External Affairs offered the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to deny this statement. Later on, after a few days had passed-
– Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. My point of order is that the Leader of the Opposition already has denied this, has said that it is a false accusation and that this incident never happened, lt is now being repeated in this House. This accusation is completely false and the Leader of the Opposition has denied it. -
-Order! I am not in a position to judge unless the Leader of the Opposition has made such a statement in this House.
– Mr Speaker, further to my point of order, the Leader of the Opposition clearly stated in a debate in this House that this was a false accusation. He denied completely that there was such a meeting. 1 ask that you rule that this statement is out of order. If there is a repetition then it is just a smearing allegation against the Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! The honourable member shall not debate the question. I am not aware of the facts but I think I must take the word of the honourable member for Reid that this statement has been denied in this House. If this matter has an* relevance to the debate I suggest that the honourable member for Griffith come to the point. Otherwise, in view of the statement by the honourable member for Reid, I suggest to the honourable member for Griffith that he may like to look into the matter.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. If honourable members listen they will learn exactly what happened. The Leader of the Opposition, in denying this about a week later, and with a perfectly straight face said:
And had not done so. I am afraid that the honourable member for Reid at times is a little too quick on his feet.
The honourable member for Lilley, in putting his question, had been careful to say that it was not a meeting of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council but a meeting of a number of affiliated unions held in the Brisbane Trades Hall. The honourable member for Lilley referred to the official minutes of the Queensland Vietnam Moratorium Campaign Co-ordinating Committee. Incidentally, this meeting was held in the Waterside Workers Federation building on 12th March and was attended by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). The honourable member for Lilley quoted a report appearing on page 2 of the minutes. If the honourable member for Reid will listen I will quote this for him. It states that a meeting of delegates of 23 unions under the auspices of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council1 had been held and that ‘Mr E. G. Whitlam had attended the meeting’. The honourable member for Lilley was able to add that those minutes had been confirmed at a subsequent meeting of the Co-ordinating Committee held on 25th March. To this date the nominal Leader of the Opposition has not replied to these allegations. I do not believe that there are Communists in the true sense in every second bench on the Opposition side, but I believe that honourable members opposite are continually associating with Communists, The Chairman of the Committee to which I referred is Mr Phil O’Brien, a member of the Waterside Workers Federation. He is a Communist. Honourable members opposite leave themselves open to this type of criticism.
In the early stages of the Campaign the Leader of the Opposition played ducks and drakes as to whether he wanted to be in the Moratorium Campaign or not. Half the members of the Opposition wore badges one day but not the next. We have not seen them so united as all to wear their blue buttons or badges on the same day. I hope they think tomorrow is the day to show where they really stand. I know that some decent members of the Opposition refuse to have anything to do with the Moratorium Campaign- Only last Monday, just 3 days ago, in Brisbane the Leader of the Opposition led the Labor Day procession. I refer to an article in the ‘Courier-Mail’ of Tuesday, 5th May. On page 5, under a big heading ‘Radicals defiant: In parade’ the following article appears:
Redical left-wing students and the Brisbane branch of the Waterside Workers Federation yesterday openly defied Queensland Trades and Labour Council president (Mr J. Egerton) to take their place in the annual Labor Day march through the city.
I will give honourable members a quick history of this as time is running out. The Labor Day procession committee refused permission for 50 or 60 radical students to march. To quote Mr Egerton, they could not be trusted. Earlier he described them as ratbags. The Labor Party wanted to refuse permission for these people to march in the procession. I think this is very significant and an indication that the Labor Party thinks that such people are not fit and proper persons to take part in a Labor Day procession - that they are ratbags and cannot be trusted. An hour or so later the Leader of the Opposition addressed a gathering of these same people who had been banned from marching but who had defied the order and marched. According to the ‘Courier-Mail’ he said that he was happy that the Queensland people had achieved recognition of the Labour Day holiday. The article continues:
This week there would be another march and demonstration on Moratorium Day.
I invite honourable members to take note of the following words:
I hope that all you people who joined in today’s celebration will march.
I ask what right has the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Lalor or any other member of the Australian Labor Party to prevent a group of people from marching in a procession because they think these people are unfit persons to march but to regard them as being fit persons to be sooled on to the Australian public on an occasion such as Moratorium Day? Members of the Opposition say that they take no responsibility for what will happen; they do not want violence, yet they will soo! these people on to the public. If anything does happen they have no alternative but to accept full responsibility. The Australian Labor Party, which was once a great Labor Party and a great Party, is no longer anything in the eyes of a majority of Australians.
– The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) was in a confused and rambling state tonight; so his performance was easily recognisable with past ones. However, it is always distressing that a young man who apparently has some talents, although he is quite successful in hiding his light behind a bushel, can contribute so much energy to inconsequential matters. I do not know what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said or did nol say at any of these places, nor does the honourable member for Griffith. The honourable member quoted from a number of sources - all of which are questionable - comments which, if 1 quoted them in reference to him, would offend him gravely. I would expect the Leader of the Opposition to ignore the diatribe that has just been delivered by the honourable member for Griffith. He contributed a great deal of sound and fury but threw little light on an inconsequential matter. I wish that the honourable member for Griffith would try to distinguish his performance in the House and the energy he expends here by making contributions on worthwhile subjects. I have never heard him discuss poverty in the Australian community and yet in the electorate in which he lives there is quite a deal of poverty. I know because I lived in that area for 20 years and in a very poor part of that area. He has never spoken about the extent of this particular problem in the Australian community.
He has not spoken about it because it takes some effort to prepare a sensible and coherent discussion on this particularly important proposition, not only to be critical about the existence of this problem but to offer constructive alternatives as to what should be done by a government. Again we hear no criticisms from him about the way in which the economy is being handled at the present time - the ludicrous policy of applying monetary controls to handle the economy in which the problems are really deep-seated structural ones and therefore call for much more far-reaching and profound measures than are being proposed by the Government.
If he does not understand the implications of profound economic policy at least be could speak out on behalf of the battling young home seeker in the Australian community who is being asked to bear the brunt of the economic policy of the Government at the present time because it is quite clear that the home building industry is the industry used as the economic regulator in the Australian economy. The people least able to afford to bear the burden of economic stringency are the people who have the greatest degree of burden imposed on them - the average wage earners in the Australian community whether they work in shops or factories or offices, young people who are trying to get a home together.
I do not want to go on any further with this po:nt. I just put these propositions to the House to indicate that it is a remarkable contrast to the sound and fury of the honourable member tonight on a case which I could not follow and which I doubt anybody else in the House could follow. It was a rambling discursion of loosely connected documents apparently from newspapers. It is a wonder he got to the centre part of the newspaper. He starts from the back wilh the comic strips and I believe he is so exhausted from this effort he can scarcely make the next page.
I suggest quite genuinely to the Government that it has contributed more towards guaranteeing the success of the Moratorium than has the effort of any other organisation or person in the Australian community because of the ridiculous way in which it has performed in haranguing the public and indict:ng the character of everyone who has in some way been associated with the support of this Moratorium. It has ensured that a great number of people who are fairly passive in their interest in this matter have suddenly been aroused. I will be quite candid: My interest was reasonably passive on the Moratorium mainly because the Moratorium had not been particularly vigorously promoted in the State from which I come. But I become outraged at the vindictive and baseless way in which so many members of the Government and supporters of the Democratic Labor Party have impugned the character of decent people in the Australian community because they are genuinely opposed to this disgraceful war in Indo-China.
Honourable members opposite ; several of them tonight, not only the honourable member for Griffith ; have said: ‘We are the Government of this country’. They have implied this if they have not stated it explicitly: ‘We speak for the majority and the rest of the community must accept our decisions. If they do not accept the decisions we make they are a threat to democracy.’ This is not democracy. This is a tyranny of the majority - a complete denial of the rights of the minority within a democratic society. That is on the basis of the statements they are making. But the implications of what they say go further than this because they are denying the feelings of the great silent majority of Australians.
The national opinion polls show that more than a majority of the Australian public want withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam. Several members of the Government find it more convenient - and certainly it is a much easier exercise - to come into this House and try to kick the Communist tin once again. People who are supporting the Moratorium - people who are opposed to the involvement of Australian troops in Vietnam - overwhelmingly have no truck at all with the Communist Party of Australia. Let me put a proposition to honourable members on the Government side. Not ail members would subscribe to the base views and crude indictment and impugning of other people’s character which has been the performance of so many tonight and on other days in this House - the impugning of the character of people who support the Moratorium.
Do honourable members opposite believe that we are Communists because a few Communists happen to be present at these demonstrations, or because a Communist happens to endorse some of the views or even all of the views of this Party? Communists have a perfect right to do these things in a democracy, indeed even to operate within a democracy - especially ours - as a political party. There are no laws against the existence of the Communist Party. If honourable members opposite believe this they ought to be Nazis. I do not believe they are. I believe they find the concept of Nazism as abhorrent as I do, but if they always impugn supporters of the Moratorium and people on this side of the House in the way in which they do because a few Communists happen to express similar views on some lines, to be consistent they must accept the responsibility of being identified as Nazis because members of the Australian Nazi Party today were standing outside this House expressing views completely consistent with the views of the Liberal Party.
This is not the first occasion on which members of the Australian Nazi Party have in fact associated themselves with the views of the Liberal Party. I frankly do not accept this. There are some people within the ranks of the Liberal Party - an odd one or two - who have some fairly far out views politically, people who are extremely reactionary and, I have no doubt, would quite comfortably fill the role of a Vyshinsky equivalent in Australia today given the opportunity. But this is not true, not only of most honourable members opposite but of almost all of them, because frankly I think they are, within the circumscribed limits of their political philosophy, fair men and I am asking them to be tolerant men. After all, what I am talking to honourable members about tonight are the rights of individuals in the Australian society. Let us remember this. It is not just a matter of having law on one’s side to argue that therefore one is right. After all, everything Hitler did was right because he had the backing of the law of his country and everything that the valiant freedom fighters in Hungary and Czechoslovakia did was wrong and they were condemned because what they did conflicted with the tenets of the oppressive establishment which was in control of the affairs of those countries.
This is what I am talking to honourable members about and when we oppose the war in Vietnam and when we talk about the withdrawal of foreign troops from Vietnam what we are doing is recognising the complex historical, political and international legal issues involved in that war. Let me conclude on the subject of Cambodia about which honourable members opposite have spoken. It has taken them 5 years to discover that there is a Communist influence from North Vietnam and the Vietcong within Cambodia and now they are talking as though they had always been opposed to this. But the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, in 1965 or 1966 when Australian troops were committed to Vietnam said that we were morally bound to oppose this conflict there because it was a downward thrust of Communism between the Indian and Pacific oceans. If honourable members opposite believed that then and if they are honest, which they are not, then they would be committing troops to Cambodia and Laos. But they do not do it because they are not big enough bloody fools to do that sort of thing. They know they made a mistake then and they do not want to repeat it. They want to go on with this humbug and misrepresentation of the situation.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– It is always of interest to listen to speakers such as the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) but quite frankly I do not know on what subject he was speaking. I presume that he was endeavouring to answer the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). If he is sincere and if honourable members opposite are sincere in what they say as to their good intent and how they are genuine in their support of the Vietnam Moratorium Committee, and in their accusations against this side of the House because we talk about their association with Communists and such like when in fact this is not so, I would feel more im pressed, the Australian Workers Union would be more impressed and other people-
– Come on.
– I know it is the honourable member’s friend and I know that the Liberal Party had to help, him fight it, but indeed if honourable members opposite were genuine only occasionally - just occasionally - they would say there was perhaps some fault on the other side, lt would be different if only they would say that the fault was not always with the Americans, the Australians or the Allies or with those who are rightly or wrongly fighting against the Communists. But I never hear anybody on the other side say anything nasty about those who. rightly or wrongly, are the enemies of Australia and its forces at this time. If the honourable member for-
– The honourable member for Robertson?
– No, I mean the chap with the AWU. If the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), who is trying to interject, had only done something for his country at some time I would feel that he was much more fitted to speak on this matter.
– I am upset.
– You cannot upset me. 1 understand you fully.
– No, I am upset.
– However, if only honourable members opposite at some stage would come out and say that there were faults on both sides we would perhaps believe that they were genuine in their outlook in respect of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign.
This is not what I rose to discuss tonight. 1 am sorry’ that the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) has gone home. He started his address on a matter with which 1 have great sympathy. 1 do not think that enough credit was given to the people whom he mentioned - Sir Harold Clapp and Mr Eddie Ward - with respect to the east west railway. I sympathise with the right honourable member because if the right man had been elected Deputy Leader of the Opposition at the time that he mentioned, he would not now be stuck in the position of having to follow a man for whom he has no respect and, I would suggest, nothing more than contempt.
I am sorry that the right honourable member for Melbourne is not present because the matter on which I wish to speak is not concerned so much with criticism of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign as with bringing to the notice of the House some of the risks which are run in the conducting of moratorium campaigns. It is quite interesting to note that in America moratorium campaigns are being wound up. They are being wound up because those concerned with them feel that they have gone as far as they can go. Those concerned are $120,000 in debt. Moratorium campaigns are finished. The point that I wish to make is that when such issues are generated by people with good intent or with bad intent certain risks are involved. At a time such as this we should do everything possible to see that nobody is able to use such campaigns for the purpose of violence. Although the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) did suggest in the early stages that the law should be broken and that certain things were quite acceptable in demonstrations, he is now very concerned that the wrong type of people may have glued themselves onto this campaign and may glue themselves onto the demonstrations on Friday next.
I said 1 was sorry the right honourable members for Melbourne was not here because he has been the victim of violence at a political meeting or political demonstration. Indeed, the right honourable member has been on the receiving end of what happens when a nut or somebody who is built up over an issue is carried away and uses a gun. As we all know, the right honourable member for Melbourne was injured. He was very lucky not to have been injured more seriously at that time. The honourable member for Lalor himself has been a victim of violence - perhaps at the hands of a nut, although I understand that it may have been at the hands of a member of his own Party. I understand that a man has been caught. I only hope that the Victorian Liberal Government brings that man to justice because justice should be done in this case. Let me refer to the point I worry about. I personally am not concerned. I could not care less. But I received in the mail today a very nice little epistle with a photograph of me. It refers to me and says: Found dead - rat Jess’.
– Hear, hear!
– I thought the honourable member would regard that as a good thing. It also says: ‘All warmongers and traitors will be executed to death’, ‘Long live Ho Chi Minh’ and various other things. I think it is quite humorous. I agree with my friend from Hindmarsh, but I think he would agree that this was not necessarily sent by somebody on my side. It is more likely to have been sent by somebody whose vole he would solicit and who would be more agreeable to his viewpoint.
What I am trying to say is that we laugh at these things at a time like this. I am not worried. I think a nut is responsible. But it is not until a nut suddenly puts his finger on a trigger that suddenly somebody thinks: ‘This may have been generated by political persuasion or whatever it may be’. It was not until a nut obtained a rifle that President Kennedy was killed. It was not until a nut obtained a rifle that Robert Kennedy was killed. I do not put myself in that category. Nobody is offering $20,000 to have me killed. But what I am suggesting is that, at times like this and in respect of issues like this, unless there is some control there is a risk of things getting out of hand. I am sure that the right honourable member for Melbourne would agree with me and I know that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) would agree with me that it is at times like this-
– Wait until Frank Chamberlain gets that.
– I have had a talk to him and I think that we are in perfect agreement, which is more than can be said for the honourable member and his friend Chamberlain.
-Order! Before the honourable member for Hindmarsh came into the chamber I warned honourable members about constant interjections. The same rule will apply to him.
– Let me say in conclusion - I am sorry that the honourable member for Hindmarsh thinks this is humorous - that the point I am trying to make is that at times like this threats against members of
Parliament, from whatever source, should not necessarily be taken lightly. I believe that they are indicative of the times in which we are now living. I would not like to see such a threat being made against the honourable member for Lalor, the honourable member for Reid or the right honourable member for Melbourne. I am not sure about the honourable member for Hindmarsh. However, I suggest that they should be taken seriously. I am not suggesting that any action should be taken. These are the dangers that I believe we face in public life in Australia. They are becoming greater. We should not underestimate the effect of such persuasive influence as the honourable member for Hindmarsh on an uninitiated and uneducated public.
a.m.] - I rise in response to some outworn and repeated material that has been brought up on the subject of the Moratorium. I wish to start with the remarks of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) who said at. the beginning of his speech that attached to the Moratorium movement and particularly in the Australian Labor Party here are people who claim the right to break any law that they dislike and to incite other people to do likewise. That is not the fact. To my knowledge, nobody in this Party or in the Moratorium movement has ever made any public statement to the effect that anybody has the right to break any law he dislikes.
The point that 1 made in my last speech in an adjournment debate, which was not very long ago, was that just men have the duty to break an unjust law when that is the only way to get that unjust law changed and particularly when breaking that law does less harm than the law itself is doing. There are several laws to which that applies in connection with the Moratorium. I went into them in detail in that speech, which the honourable member can look up very easily. The laws that 1 stressed were, firstly, the National Service Act which requires a man, whether it is against his conscience or not, to take up arms and, in fact, to swear loyalty to something which he believes is totally evil, against all the laws of humanity and against all international law. The war in Vietnam has been fought from the side of Australia and her allies in repudiation and in violation of the United Nations Charter, the Nuremberg principles and the Geneva
Accords. What is more, the International Control Commission, which is the only impartial body that has studied and made public statements on the matter, has found, as the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison) also has detailed in a speech to this House, that the graver breaches of the Geneva Accords were made first by the South Vietnamese and American forces and not by the forces of North Vietnam and the Vietcong.
– That is a total distortion of the facts.
– We have heard, of course, the interjection that this is a terrible distortion of the facts, but the honourable member for St George was simply quoting reports of the International Control Commission. In the course of pointing out these facts from the International Control Commission the honourable member for St George also made it clear that Ministers of the Australian Federal Government had been guilty of distortion of the facts in their quoting of the International Control Commission reports by selecting from those reports the parts that suited their case and ignoring the parts which the honourable member for St George then put alongside them. If that is distortion of the facts, let us have more of it, because with all the facts one cannot distort.
There are plenty of precedents right through history for the breaking of unjust laws in the cause of a higher law. I am going to refer to another one besides the international law I have mentioned. I refer to the documents of Vatican II and if any of the honourable gentlemen opposite wish to say that I am distorting the facts I will be happy to show them the full volume of the documents of Vatican II. Under the heading ‘The Church Today’ these documents say that governments must improve and not only observe the laws on the treatment of prisoners of war. I have repeatedly put questions to the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon), the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and every Minister who has any say on this matter, but they have repeatedly refused to make any statement or express any opinion as to whether our allies in Vietnam have broken the laws concerning the treatment of prisoners of war. They say that it is not their pigeon and they cannot vouch for the reports that I have quoted to them. They could not care less because they go on supporting these allies.
The documents of Vatican II say that governments have a responsibility to give the right of alternative service to any person who cannot in conscience take part in a war. Not one member opposite supported the Opposition’s move to have such an amendment made to the National Service Act. They all voted against that amendment where we specifically asked for the very thing that Vatican II asked for - a civil alternative to military service on conscientious grounds. These are the laws we object to. These are the unjust laws. Honourable members on the Government side bring up some quibble about somebody who sits down in a street for a couple of hours and might block a bit of traffic. Yet they are breaking the most sacred rules of human nature, the laws of any religion which one might like to espouse, and of the religion to which I imagine some of them pay lip service because I can hear the whispers on that side of the House when the prayers are read every day in this House. The founder of that religion - I am referring to the Christian religion - was himself indicted for breaking laws and he paid the penalty. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) has said in this House he is prepared to pay the penalty for breaking the unjust laws of this country. A lot of us have said this. We fixed our names to a statement in defiance of the National Service Act. We have not yet been shoved into gaol or fined for doing this. We have asked young men to do the same; that is, young men who are asked against their conscience to take part in an unjust war.
The honourable member for Maranoa said the Australian Workers’ Union did not mention the Moratorium Campaign. Yet he quotes the AWU at great length as proof that it opposes the Campaign. He quoted the AWU as saying: ‘Communism is the most totalitarian system that exists in the world’. He did not mention all sorts of right wing governments which are equally totalitarian, equally oppressive and equally intolerant of their oppositions and, in fact, of religious opposition. These governments put people who disagree with them publicly in goal, or worse. The honourable member for Latrobe (Mr Jess) said that if we are sincere, if we are genuine, we will occasionally say that perhaps some of the fault is on the other side and mat perhaps some of the right is on the side of those fighting the Communists. I have said that in this House. Many of us have said that. Tonight I repeated what I said a week or two ago in the adjournment debate that there are faults on the other side. I said that the faults were earlier and bigger on the side of our allies, that the people who started the war in Vietnam, the war that is going on now, comprised the Saigon puppet regime which America set up and later murdered off. They are the people who started the fighting. The rebels were rebelling against an intolerable totalitarian regime equally as oppressive as that in North Vietnam. This is in all the history books if one likes to read about that stage of history. Will the honourable member for Latrobe, just once, say in this House that perhaps there is some times a bit of right on the other side and that sometimes there is a bit of wrong on his side? Because if we have to say that to be genuine and sincere, so has he.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Tonight represents a very sad event in the politics of this country. Over a number of years honourable members on this side of the House have witnessed attempts by the Opposition to pursue a policy in Asia cloaked in an attitude of peace. We acknowledge that Opposition members sought an attitude of peace in a mistaken way. But nevertheless their policy, be it in regard to Vietnam, lndo-China or Malaysia was always cloaked as part of an attitude of searching for peace. Nobody will deny that. We said their attitude was wrong. The Opposition argued that it was not wrong. But now in searching for that attitude it has turned full circle. It is now in the position of not searching for an attitude of peace but of supporting, by its actions and by the adoption of the Brezhnev doctrine a Vietcong and North Vietnamese victory in Cambodia. That represents the real tragedy in Australian politics and members of the Opposition dare not deny it. They have even underpinned their present attitude by stating - a leading member of the Opposition has stated this - that this policy is now defensible because North Vietnam has a right to see that she has friendly countries on her borders.
The Opposition and its principal spokesmen on foreign affairs have imported into their attitudes an adaptation of the Brezhnev doctrine on Asia, and any country such as Australia and any government such as this Government that would look at such an alteration as that and not be concerned about it would be recreant to its duty if it did not make these things known to the Australian public. But then we look a little further to see how this has come about. It has come about in a number of ways. The first example of this convolution of policy occurred a fortnight ago when the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) proposed that the sitting times of this House should be altered to serve acts of civil disobedience on the part of members of the Opposition. If honourable members opposite have had any experience in the Labor movement or know its history they will know that the Australian Labor Party in the past - the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) knows this - under leaders such as Theodore, Curtin, Chifley and Ryan never made its activities in this place or in any Parliament subservient to self confessed acts of civil disobedience. That represents real change in the attitude of the ALP in this place.
But then we look further to see why this has happened. It has happened for a number of reasons. Some of the reasons are obvious when we look at the nature of the organisation associated with the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. Evidence has been adduced in this place to show that there is unity in purpose, and unity in action between lead:ng members of the Opposition, in fact the leading member of the Opposition, and bodies containing a significant number of Communists organising at the top. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) produced evidence tonight concerning the activities of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in Queensland. That accusation has never been refuted because it cannot be refuted.
– I take a point of order. I took a point of order earlier when the honourable member for Griffith was speaking. He stated that an allegation against the Leader of the Opposition had not been refuted. The Leader of the Opposition had refuted the allegation in the debate on the statement made by the Attorney-General about the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. He clearly stated that the allegations now being repeated by (he honourable member for Lilley were false and that what was alleged had never transpired at any time. The allegation was repeated tonight by the honourable member for Griffith. Mr Speaker asked the honourable member for Griffith to refrain from making further allegations on these lines because what he was alleging had in fact been refuted by the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)The honourable member for Lilley should not refer to the subject matter that was mentioned by the honourable member for Griffith when Mr Speaker gave his ruling. 1 understand also that the honourable member for Griffith made further comment later on in his speech. But I suggest that the honourable member for Lilley should not refer to the subject matter that was being mentioned earlier when Mr Speaker gave a ruling on a point of order.
– I think that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has misunderstood the accusation made by the honourable member for Griffith and that he has in turn misunderstood the application of his own leader’s explanation. The honourable member for Griffith had produced clear evidence to indicate that the Leader of the Opposition had attended a meeting organised by a number of unions affiliated with the Queensland Trades and Labor Council. The co-ordinator of that committee was a Communist from Queensland, Mr Hugh Hamilton. At that meeting the Leader of the Opposition indicated that he offered support to the activity of this meeting. That evidence has never been controverted and in fact the evidence has been made perfectly clear from perusing the minutes of the Vietnam Moratorium Co-ordinating Committee meetings of 25th March 1970 and 12th March 1970. The Co-ordinating Committee, which attests to the accuracy of my statement, comprises as members of the steering committee the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) and the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, Senator Keeffe.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was never at such a meeting. The honourable member for Lilley should vouch for the document which he alleges will prove something about which meeting the Leader of the Opposition attended.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Chair is not in a position to decide on the subject matter being mentioned by the honourable member for Lilley.
– I attest to the accuracy of these minutes. The honourable member for Capricornia also knows that they are accurate. Their accuracy would be attested to very readily by prominent members of his own Party in Queensland including the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party. Senator Keeffe, and Senator Georges, none of whom has seen fit to deny this fact because they know that what I say is perfectly correct. The documents are clear and do not allow of equivocation.
We go a little further. The nature of the Opposition Party and its policies has altered because the nature of its associations has altered. Traditionally there has been a stricture from 1928 until the present day upon members of the Opposition Party associating in unity of action with Communists in the formulation and development of policy and the pursuance of policy in public places. Those strictures have been broken by members of the Opposition. They have been broken by members on the front bench of the Opposition and. for the first time in the history of a leader of the Australian Labor Party, the Leader of the Opposition has been involved in this up to his neck. He has never seen fit to deny it. So for those reasons we are concerned with the nature of the policies which have been developed by the Opposition.
We are concerned with the Opposition’s application of its own Brezhnev doctrine to Asia but, above all, we are particularly sad to see that the Opposition, from having been a peace party in the past, has made a full turn to become a pacifist party and has now adopted a clear policy of favouring aggression in Cambodia under a doctrine which was itself responsible for the subversion of Czechoslovakia. For those things to happen to the alternative government in any country, but particularly in a small country situated in Asia, forbodes the greatest danger if the Party concerned ever come to power.It indicates quite clearly the way in which that Party’s own policy decisions would be made at the highest level were a tragedy to occur and it did in fact become the government of this country.
- Mr Deputy Speaker–
Motion (by Mr Wentworth) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.44 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Weather Forecasting (Question No. 263)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Tropical Cyclone Warning System is reviewed twice yearly, at the beginning and end of each cyclone season. In addition a case history is prepared of each tropical cyclone which occurs in the Australian region. The case history which describes the characteristics of the cyclone and the measures taken to prepare and disseminate warnings, are examined to determine how the techniques for the detection, tracking and forecasting of tropical cyclones may be improved and how the organisation of the preparation and dissemination of warnings may be made more effective.
Following the occurrence of Cyclone ‘Ada’ the Bureau of Meteorology is making a thorough examination of all aspects of its Tropical Cyclone Warning System in Queensland. The Bureau believes that one of the major requirements is to educate the general public in the nature of tropical cyclones and the dangers associated with them and inform them of the organisation used to prepare and disseminate cyclone warnings so that they may be better equipped to use these warnings for the protection of life and property.
To this end the Director of Meteorology and the Regional Director of the Bureau’s Queensland region are visiting all major centres on the Queensland coast for the purpose of discussing the Tropical Cyclone Warning System with local residents including representatives of press, radio, television, police and municipal authorities.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) The cash portion of the prescribed minimum wage payable to plantation workers in Papua and New Guinea is $52 per annum in the first year of employment, $58.50 per annum in the second year and $65 per annum in the third and subsequent years of continuous employment with the same employer.
Statistics of actual wages (including value of rations and issues but excluding accommodation) paid to plantation workers in Papua and New Guinea as at 30th June 1968 are contained in Table 10D of Labour Information Bulletin No. 6 published by the Papua and New Guinea Department of Labour. These statistics include part-time and piece rate workers and do not show the ‘cash’ and ‘in-kind’ components separately. The table below summarises the information for plantation workers shown in Table 10D of Labour Information Bulletin No. 6.
asked the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What requests or suggestions were made at the March meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers in charge of Aboriginal Affairs for legislative or executive action by (a) the Commonwealth, (b) the Territories and (c) the States.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The State Ministers presented their requests for Commonwealth grants in 1970-71 in the fields of housing, health, education and employment.
In the legislativefield, it was agreed that examinations of legislation and consultations between the Commonwealth and the Slates concerned about the repeal of apparently adverse discriminatory legislation proceed.
In the field of health, Ministers decided that further’workshops’, similar to one held in Sydney in December 1969, would be useful in collating expert opinion, identifying problems and indicating possible solutions to those problems.
In the field of housing, Ministers agreedthat present efforts required substantial expansion. A survey in depth of Aboriginal housing needs by the Commonwealth Department of Housing in co-operation with the States was recommended.
In the field of education, it was accepted that lack of opportunity in the pre-school ages imposed a permanent handicap and that the Commonwealth, in consultation with the States, should examine how the need at this level could be met.
In the field of employment. Ministers noted that lack of suitable accommodation hindered young Aborigines from entering the work force, and agreed that the construction of urban hostels and other accommodation could alleviate this position.
The Ministers expressed support for the Prime Minister’s commitment to foster regional schemes, in consultation with State authorities.
The Ministers agreed that action to protect sacred sites, particularly in areas of major development, was necessary and that such action should be taken in consultation with the Aborigines directly concerned.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
What are the estimates of enrolments for each of the 125 House of Representatives electoral divisions as at October 1972, based upon current rates of growth.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Because of the various factors which might influence movements in enrolment statistics no accurate projection of the electoral population of each Division as at October 1972 can be made. However, the following table, which sets out the enrolment as at March 1969 and March 1970 in respect of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and as at July 1969 and March 1970 in respect of Queensland, is indicative of the variations which have occurred during those periods and will provide some indication of possible future variations.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are 5,976 adult students enrolled in courses conducted by Department of Education. The courses being provided are -
Basic literacy: The aim of the course is to teach English as a second language and to promote literacy. The course also contains an element of general education, including simple arithmetic.
Secondary classes (evening and correspondence): The classes are designed to cater for working adults who wish to further their formal education. A range of secondary school subjects is provided including English, Mathematics, History, Social Studies.
Technical: The courses provided are primarily intended for trade apprentices but persons working in a trade who can satisfy a headmaster that the course would be of value to them may also enrol. Electrical, mechanical, building and light engineering trades are catered for.
Creative activities: Subjects available include languages, art, woodwork, cooking, shorthand, typing, car maintenance.
A wide range of courses is conducted by other departments and organisations which are attended almost exclusively by Papuans and New Guineans. They relate to such activities as farming, small businesses and co-operatives. Courses are also conducted for women and young people to teach skills needed in the home and in employment.
The courses are concerned largely with the introduction of new food crops and cash crops, improvements in diet and health education; the promotion of women’s interests and activities: the detection and control of diseases of humans, animals and crops; and improving production methods to provide money income. The aims are to make village life more attractive and raise living standards generally.
There is no recorded breakdown into racial groups of adult students attending other courses conducted by the Department of Education but it is estimated that of the remainder 80 are Papuans and New Guineans and 396 are expatriate students.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A precise estimate as to (f) above is not possible. However, on the best available information as to numbers who would be eligible and current costs, the cost of this proposal for a full year is estimated to be of the order of $4.0m. As indicated in previous answers to this question, there could also be a requirement for additional capital expenditure in repatriation institutions.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
How many veterans of (a) the Boer War, (b) World War I, and (c) World War II are still living and what is then- average age.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The exact number of survivors in each category is not known and the exact average age in each category therefore cannot be stated. However, on the best information available, it is estimated that the information requested is as follows:
Boer War survivors - 286 - average age 88.8 years
World War I survivors- 79,300- average age 75.4 years;
World War II survivors - ‘714,000 average age 52.8 years.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice: (1.) On how many occasions has the Department of Labour in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea referred” to the Territory Crown
Solicitor the injury or death of a New Guinen worker which may have been due to an employer’s negligence.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Repatriation: Assistance to Ex-servicemen (Question No. 784)
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department in the electoral division of Robertson and see no present justification for one. The centrally-located Newcastle regional office is considered adequate for the needs of the region that includes the Robertson electorate, and regular visits are made to several towns in the area by officers of the Repatriation Department However, the honourable member may be sure that the adequacy of current arrangements will be reviewed periodically with a view to ensuring provision of the best possible service to the ex-service community in the area.
Papua and New Guinea: Conditions on Vessels (Question No. 889)
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
that all improvements sought by the Seamen’s Union had been carried out.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– “The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
T.A.A. has stated that to provide a detailed analysis covering 12 months operations of flights 406 and 410 between Melbourne and Canberra would be a difficult and lengthy project because the necessary information is not readily available. However it selected 3 months - the 12 weeks to 31st October 1969 - arid produced detailed information in relation to this period: (0 Flight 406- Of the total 45 nights planned and operated during the 12 weeks, 24 Sights departed ‘on time’ (53.3%), 13 departed within 15 minutes (progressive percentage 82.2%) and 8 departed over 15 minutes late.
Flight 410- Of the total 70 flights planned during the 12 weeks,! 67 flights operated - two were cancelled because of weather conditions and one because of extended mechanical trouble.
Of the 67 flights operated, 44 departed <on time’ (65.7%), 14 departed within IS minutes (progressive percentage 86.6%) and 9 departed over 15 minutes late.
The reason for and extent of each delay; and
The number occurring on Tuesdays, were as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What payments have been made to each State under the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Acts, and when werethey made.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Act 1968, a total of $3. 65m was paid to the States in 1968-69 as shown in Part A of the following schedule. Under the States Grants (Aboriginal
Advancement) Act 1969, a total of $5.41m has been provided for payment to the States in 1969-70 are shown in Part B.
Tasmania’s total allocation for 1969-70 has already been paid and payments to the other States for the last quarter of this financial year will be made shortly.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Sydney Postal Workshop supplies local call units. Of 1,520 presently on order, 677 have been delivered. The remainder are expected to come forward at about 200 a month.
Postal Workshops in Melbourne and Brisbane supply the cabinets. On the present order for 2,480 delivery has commenced.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Boeing 727 departed Sydney on the return trip to Melbourne at 1.07 a.m. the next morning (9th March 1970). This flight was approximately an hour behind schedule due to technical requirements and cargo handling difficulties. Permission was granted for this flight.
Shipping: Loss of ‘Bolivar Maru’ (Question No. 791)
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice: ls he able to say whether the Yokohama Marine Court on 18th March 1970 commenced an inquiry into the loss of the ‘Bolivar Maru’ which sank on 5th January 1970; if so, does he know the finding of the Court.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as. follows:
No. However, the information required by the honourable member has been requested by cable and the contents of the reply will be conveyed to him by letter as soon as it comes to hand.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable Member’s question:
Food and liquor facilities; five shops - duty free, newsagency and three gift shops:
Melbourne (Essendon) -
Three shops- duty free, gift shop and a newsagency.
Melbourne (Tullamarine) -
Nine shops representing 6 concessions - duty free, newsagency (3 sites), camera shop (2 sites), toy and electrical shop, an Australian shop and a general gift shop.
Two shops - newsagency and a gift shop.
A gift shop.
Food and liquor facilities and one bookstall/ gift shop.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Is he able to say what is the latest estimated annual cost to Australian governments of port, road and rail facilities and housing for petroleum, coal and metal mining and processing industries and those engaged in providing facilities for these industries.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information sought is very detailed and the necessary statistics are not available in relation to the cost to the Commonwealth Government. The statistics of State Government expenditure are not known to the Commonwealth Government in the form sought. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to provide answers to the several parts of the question asked by the honourable member.
Papua and New Guinea: Case of Councillor ToRangis (Question No. 734)
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2), (3), (4), (6), (7), (9) Between August and September 1969 a survey was conducted of the boundary of a native reserve near New Massawa plantation in the Bainings Local Government Council area of the East New Britain District.
The survey party was molested on a number of occasions, notably on 29th September and 7th October, by some local residents. On 7th October 1969 an incident occurred in which a Patrol Officer is said to have thrust aside ToRangis Magiar, a member of the Bainings Local Government Council, in attempting to control a potentially dangerous situation.
The patrol officer’s name was Lapthorne. He was appointed an Assistant Patrol Officer on 9th November 1964; by virtue of his office he is a commissioned officer of the Field Constabulary.
On 30th October 1969, in the Local Court at Lassul Bay, also in the Bainings Local Government Council area of the East New Britain District, the following were convicted and sentenced on the following charges:
Wesley E reman
All were fined$20 with two months imprisonment in default.
ToRangis Magiar, sentenced to imprisonment for 6 months;
Towavaka Tokumba, sentenced to imprisonment for 6 months;
Beniamen Tiolam, sentenced to imprisonment for 4 months;
Ramit Thomas, sentenced to imprisonment for 4 months;
Tovainai Salake, sentenced to imprisonment for 4 months;
Tangial Tosaia, sentenced to imprisonment for 4 months.
These cases were heard by Lapthorne in his capacity as a Local Court Magistrate (to which he had been appointed on 24th July 1967) and the sentences were all served at the Kerevat Corrective Institution.
On 5th November 1969, the six persons sentenced to imprisonment informed the Visiting Justice that they wished to appeal. He informed the Deputy Public Solicitor, Rabaul, who interviewed each of the six men in turn. The Deputy Public Solicitor sent a formal report to the Public Solicitor in Port Moresby on 27th November. Following this, the matter was investigated by Police and officers of the Division of District Administration. The Police reports were made available to the Public Solicitor who on 19th March 1970 lodged appeals in the Supreme Court on behalf of ToRangis Magiar and Towavaka Tokuamba and subsequently on behalf of Beniamen Tiolam.
The Crown did not oppose the appeals of ToRangis and Towavaka. In allowing the appeal on 7th April 1970 the Acting Chief Justice, who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court for 8 years, is reported to have said that the appeal was properly conceded; he appreciated the difficulties of the Administration and was aware that the Administration was pursuing a policy of trying to separate Magistrates functions from other functions; in all his experience in the Territory it was the first time to his knowledge that an error of this magnitude had occurred; the Administration had properly and graciously conceded the appeal. In addressing the appellant the Judge is reported to have said that the officer who had dealt with the case had not understood his instructions; the law of the land said he should not have dealt with the case as he was involved; the Administration had realised the error and therefore did not contest the appeal; and as the appellant had been in gaol for some time the Administration did not seek to have the matter heard before another Magistrate.
The appeal of Beniamen Tiolam has not yet been heard.
On 2nd April 1970 the Public Solicitor initiated civil proceedings in the District Court against Lapthorne.
Instructions issued to field officers of the Division of District Administration are being revised to guard against any recurrence of an incident of this sort.
On 2nd April 1970 the Public Solicitor, on behalf of ToRangis, initiated civil proceedings in the District Court.
Papua and New Guinea: Licences Relating to Occupation and Businesses (Question No. 171)
asked the Minister for
External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
New Guinea in each year since 1939.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Affairs upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice: recruited in each District of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the Districts in which such workers were employed have not been kept. 12,145 new agreements were made in the single year 1969.
However statistics are kept of the total numbers of indigenous workers employed in each District in the Territory tabulated against the Districts of their birth. These are attached for 30th June 1968. Those for 30th June 1969 are not yet available. Similar information is not available for earlier years.
What are the minimum, maximum and average areas of tea plantations held by (a) indigenes and (b) non-indigenes in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are 307 tea leases held by indigenes totalling 3,399 acres. The minimum area is 8 acres, the maximum is 17 acres and the average is II acres. In addition indigenous produced tea is also planted on land held by customary tenure but figures on areas involved are not available. There ire also 10 non-indigenous tea plantation leases comprising 10,893 acres. The smallest of these is 370 acres, the largest 2,200 acres and the average amounts to 1,089.
The development of the tea industry in Papua and New Guinea is based on the establishment of nucleus estate plantations which extend to independent indigenous smallholder producers the use of highly capitalised tea processing facilities. To obtain good quality tea the leaf must be processed on being harvested and central processing using modern equipment is essential. Nucleus estate plantations are designed to produce sufficient leaf to supply the minimum economic throughput for a modern tea factory.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700506_reps_27_hor67/>.