27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of electors of Chisholm and Higgins respectfully showeth:
That they are gravely concerned at what they consider to be the adverse effect on moral standards in the Australian community of the increasing portrayal and description of obscenity, sexual licence, promiscuity and violence in films, books, magazines, plays and, to a lesser extern, television and radio programmes;
That their concern arises partly from the fact that historians, such as J. D.Unwin and Arnold Toynbee, have shown that nearly all nations which have perished have done so because of internal moral decay; and partly because obscenity and indecency are contrary to the teachings of Christianity which is the acknowledged religion of more than 80 per cent of Australians, besides being ‘part and parcel of the law of the land’ (Quick andGarran in ‘Commentaries on the Australian Constitution,’ Page 951); and
That, in accordance with the findings of the Australian Gallup Poll, published in the Melbourne Herald on 14th November 1969, the majority of Australian citizens want censorship either maintained or increased -
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Honourable Members of the House of Representatives will seek to ensure that Commonwealth legislation bearing on censorship of films, literature and radio and television programmes is so framed and so administered as to preserve sound moral standards in the community.
And your Petitioners, asin duty bound, will ever pray,
– I present the follow ing petition:
To the Honourable the Speakerand Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Institutions, and their parents suffer severe penalty from inadequacies in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1968.
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the fol lowing petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliamentassembled. The Humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
Increase in the amount of deduction allowable for tertiary education expenses.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition :
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That they are gravely concerned at the apparent appalling increase in crime in Australia, particularly in densely populated areas;
That they fear the police forces of the various States and Territories are undermanned and underequipped to handle the increase in crime;
That their concern is aggravated by the apparent number of unsolved crimes, particularly those involving violence to the individual, including murder,
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives will seek to ensure that the Commonwealth Government will seek the co-operation of the States and supply extra finance to the States to enable:
proper town planning and development to halt the increase in densely populated areas which leads to increased crime;
the proper staffing and equipping of police forces to enable adequate crime prevention and detection measures to reduce the frightening increase of both solved and unsolved crime;
the proper detention of and rehabilitation of criminals; and
compensation to victims of crimes of violence; end your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five years by the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. Having noted that the United Kingdom Minister responsible for negotiations with the European Economic Community arrived at Canberra on Tuesday for 2 days of talks with the Government on EEC problems I ask: Can the Minister advise the House whether the Government obtained from that Minister any assurances in respect of the protection of markets for Australian products?
– I had discussions with Mr Rippon, as did other Ministers. I have to say that I received from the principal negotiator for the United Kingdom no assurances that were of significant importance to me. He seems to take the view, and has stated this view publicly, that as our economy is strong we should have a capacity to live through, without serious consequences, the entry of Britain into the European Common Market, even under the terms of the common agricultural policy which at present applies to the Six. I have, of course, strongly pointed out to him, as I did in London, in Europe and in North America, that to have economic strength through great mineral resources does nothing to help a dairy farmer who has lost his market. I have pointed out that there are scores of thousands of dairy farmers in Australia who are dependent upon Britain as a market for many of their products. Sixty-seven per cent of all of our butter goes to Britain, and no other nation in the world is a significant importer of butter. No matter how strong our economy may be, if the market for 67 per cent of our butter exports were to disappear, I do not see how we could satisfy a dairy farmer who had been adversely affected even by sending him a cheque from the wealth of the economy.
The same situation applies in varying degrees in respect of farmers in other industries. Britain has been importing one-third of our sugar exports. Of our canned fruits exports about 60 per cent goes to Britain. The policy of the European Economic Community in respect of canned fruits is not its policy in respect of butter. If a product can be produced by the Community, its policies operate to establish a virtual embargo against the importation of that product from outside the Community. The situation which applies to butter also applies to sugar. In the case of canned fruits, we have duty free entry to -Britain. We have planted our orchards, invested in our irrigation schemes and built our canneries to service Britain in this regard because we have had for 40 years a right to free entry to Britain, a right to a preferred position as against other suppliers. We have paid Britain heavily for that right in the way of preferential tariffs on industrial products, which we have established in this country in favour of British products. We have paid heavily for the right.
In the case of canned fruits, the policy would operate to deny us free entry and to require the payment of a 25 per cent tariff while other countries which are progressively being associated with rights in the European Common Market, such as Spain, Greece, Turkey, Israel and practically the whole of North Africa, would be enabled to have duty free entry. Although we have had a preference for all those years, the preference would be against us upon Britain joining the European Common Market. A man who has no market for his orchard products and whose property has been reduced tremendously in value cannot really be compensated by sending him a cheque, This is a tremendously important question. I think that it is right and proper that I should attempt to give an adequate answer to it. There seems to be a complete indifference in -Europe, and I would say little less than an indifference in Britain, to the tremendous consequences for the Australian farmers in this regard. I have never put it that the loss of foreign exchange would be destructive of the Australian economy; it would be very weakening of the Australian economy. But it is a matter concerning people that I have been talking about, not a matter of money.
MrDRURY- 1 ask the Prime Minister whether he would care to comment on a statement which, 1 am reliably informed, was made by an independent authority in Queensland earlier this week, to the effect that the responsibility of providing further aid to Queensland’s drought stricken gra ziers now rested more heavily on the Federal Government than on the State Government; that it was now up to the Federal Government to take the next step; and that the loudest plea from most graziers was for a relief loan carrying 3 per cent interest -a request that could be most satisfactorily met by the Common wealth Government.
-I have had brought to my attention a statement on this matter alleged to have been made in Queensland by a significant independent authority. As I recall it, it went rather further than did the honourable member in his question.I think the statement was twofold: One part of the statement, as I understand it, said that the State Government had provided funds for farmers in drought stricken Queensland areas to pay half the municipal rates, that this was a magnificent step and that it was up to the Commonwealth Government to take steps to provide additional assistance. In regard to that statement, Mr Speaker, I think it should be well known that in fact it was this Government which provided the funds which enabled the people in those areas to pay half the rates to the municipal councils. The Government does this by providing money to the Queensland Government specifically for that purpose as part of drought relief and the Queensland Government then pays it to the municipalities concerned. So in that particular matterI would hope that everyone in Queensland would be able to get his mind completely straight.
In regard to the second part of the question asked by the honourable member, saying that the great need was for loans at 3 per cent interest or not more than 3 per cent interest, my Government provides loan moneys to Queensland to assist the drought stricken farmers not at 3 per cent interest but completely interest free. This too shouldbeknownto the peoplewho get this benefit in the State of Queensland. For last year I believe the assistance provided for drought relief in this area by this Government was around about $14m and it looks as if it will be of that order during this year. That is what I would say in reply to the statement quoted by the honourable member and would trust that possibly the author of that statement might amend or correct it.
-I ask the Minister .for Education and Science a question. Did the report of the Australian Education Council indicate that there was a shortfall of some $ 1,448m for educational needs of State schools in the next 5 years? Did the report further indicate that there was a need also in the non-government school area? Could he indicate to the House what amounts are required in New South Wales for both Government and non-government schools and the amounts that he proposes to pay to them during the forthcoming financial year?
– It is a fact that the report of the Australian Education Council contained figures showing what was called a ‘shortfall’ in the amounts to be provided by the States for education over a 5-year period from 1971 to 1975. Before dealing with the later part of the honourable member’s question I think I should comment that the way in which these figures were prepared was to take the requirements of the States, estimated by them over the 5- year period, on capital account and also for recurrent expenses and then to estimate what the State education Ministers thought might be provided in State budgets, both for recurrent and capital expenses. Having arrived at a total figure over the 5 years they then subtracted that from the total needs and said that they would look to the Commonwealth Government to take care of the shortfall. I should point out that those calculations were made up to 25th May, which was before the Premiers Conference and the Loan Council meeting at which there was a very significant re-arrangement of the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. Had that survey and its figures been prepared after the Premiers Conference and not before, it is only reasonable to consider that the figures would have produced a different result.
Dealing with the latter part of the honourable member’s question, there are no separate figures in that report for New South Wales. Therefore, I am unable to give him those precise figures. Although I have seen them, I do not carry them in my head. Finally, as to what the Commonwealth Government is doing in relation to New South Wales, because of the alteration in the financial relationships since the report was prepared the Prime Minister has written to the State Premiers and has told them that he would be interested to know what view they take regarding their particular activities in this field following on the report and that on receipt of that information he would be prepared to discuss tha matter with them. The report does not contain figures relating to independent schools because they were not complete, and they are still not complete. I think it will be some time before the figures for the independent schools will be completed. I should add that the Prime Minister mentioned that it was desirable that those figures also should be the subject of consideration at tha same time.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the Australian content in radio and television programmes. Can the Minister give any up to date information regarding the progress of the inquiry at present being conducted into this matter by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board? Will he in any event impress upom the Board the urgency of this matter, not only on account of the concern of Australians generally that a national identity should be reflected in such important media but also because many Australian writers and actors are rapidly losing their livelihoods?
– Since the public announcement was made about the review by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of the Australian content in radio and television programmes many representations have been made to the Board, including representations from those whose livelihood depends upon employment in this industry. Representations have also been made to the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and myself. We will be seeing a deputation from members of the industry next week. I understand that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is to receive representations today from the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. I am sure the honourable member will appreciate that, flowing out of these various representations, a good deal of analysis by the Board will be necessary before it is able to come to a conclusion in relation to any variations which it believes are justified in these media.
– I ask the Prime Minis ter a question in his capacity as Acting Treasurer. He will have noticed that last night the Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales based his Budget on the expectation that receipts duty would continue to be paid and no substantial refunds would have to be made. He stated that bis inquiries of the Commonwealth Government had satisfied him that the States will receive the revenue which is involved. Since it is now 3 months to the day since the Senate rejected the receipts duty legislation for the first time, I ask the Prime Minister how soon the receipts duty Bills mentioned in his Treasurer’s Budget Speech will be introduced. I also ask him whether he or his Government has given the State Premiers or governments any undertakings on the revenue involved, other than those or subsequent to those already stated in this Parliament.
– I am not prepared to indicate to the Leader of the Opposition the precise date on which the Bills dealing with receipts duties will be introduced. They will be introduced.
– You do not know.
– Quite frankly at this moment I do not know the programme of the House for the next few days. I cannot tell the honourable member and I am sure he would not expect me to know that, to carry it in my head. Ask the Leader of the House sometime. My answer to the rest of the question is: Yes, I noticed what the Premier of New South Wales had to say in the course of presenting a Budget which is going to do an immense amount for education, hospitals and other services in the State of New South Wales, all of which has been made possible bythe new and enlightened approach of this Government assisting that Government in the interests of New South Wales.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. It is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for
Chifley. Is it not a fact that the attitude of the United Kingdom and Europe to the European Economic Community could be a death blow to international trade agreements such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and could be extremely detrimental to the newly developed and under-developed countries, thus nullifying assistance given to those countries by international agencies and setting back the progress that has been made in recent years in the field of world co-operation in regard to trade? As this would be, in the long term, detrimental to countries such as the United States of America and even Europe itself, will the Minister continue to press, as he has been doing, for an international conference on matters of world trade?
– I think there is a great deal of substance in what the honourable member for Lyne says. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade really was born out of the experience of the 1930s when policies of economic nationalism and bilateral arrangements between countries made international trade completely unpredictable and caused great harm to traditional traders in the loss of their markets overnight by agreements between governments. That contributed to the tensions of the 1930s which led to war. It was out of an acute consciousness of this that GATT was created soon after the war for the purpose of bringing international trade back to a predictable basis so that countries engaged as international traders would know the basis on which they could plan their trading and their investment in trade. A fundamental point in GATT was that while the historical preferences such as British preferences could continue there should be no new preferences created between nations. That was basic to the whole concept. In the creation of the European Economic Community, its enlargement and the device of having associate members the principle of no new preferences is being completelyflouted. I will quote our own example. We, who have had access to Britain through all the years, will by a bilateral arrangement or arrangements between the Community and Britain have a new barrier to trade erected and in respect of many commodities it will be completely insurmountable. I mentioned the device of associate members. There will be the former French colonies in North Africa, Spain, Greece, Turkey and Israel. By this device a broad system of new preferences is being created. In my opinion this is completely invalid in relation to the provisions of GATT,, I do not see how GATT can survive if this practice is continued particularly by the great and wealthy nations ignoring the weaker nations. By comparison with the great and wealthy trading nations of the northern hemisphere Australia obviously falls into the weaker category. This will destroy GATT.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Western Australian Government has made a request for special assistance to meet the desperate situation which exists in drought affected areas in that State. If so, has a decision been made as to what assistance will be granted?
– I seem to remember answering this question in this House before. I think I could refer the honourable member to that answer. Briefly it is: Yes, the Western Australian Government did make a request for drought relief. The Commonwealth Government, having considered the volume and extent of finance required, according to the Western Australian Government’s assessment of the situation, believed that it was within the capacity of the Western Australian Government to bear this cost, as indeed the Commonwealth Government requires other States to bear initial costs which are in their capacity to bear before it comes in and helps.
– I ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether, in view of the world wide importance of the Middle East peace talks and the avowed intention of the Palestinian guerillas to prevent the successful carrying on of peace negotiations, he could inform me of the present political and military situation obtaining in Jordan?
-The Acting Minister for External Affairs.
Opposition members - Oh, no.
-Order! I think we should let the Acting Minister commence.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I assure the House that the Government is viewing the situation in Jordan with great concern. It is a very serious matter affecting not only the Middle East but the whole world. The position at the moment is rather obscure. About 12 days ago a cease fire agreement was reached between the Jordanian army and the groups known as the Commandos, but the cease fire was violated on frequent occasions, so much so that on occasions the period of the cease fire lasted only a few hours. It became apparent that the situation was almost completely out of hand and on 15 th September the King announced that the previous government was resigning and that a military government would be established and martial law declared. At the moment Australia has no direct representation in Amman but is represented by the British Embassy there. To my knowledge no Australian interests or personnel axe involved in the incidents which are occurring. However, the situation is being watched very closely. A new commanderinchief was appointed but he was appointed not only commander-in-chief but also military governor of Jordan. Military governors have been appointed to all the districts throughout Jordan. The position is obscure and it is too early to predict the outcome of the present situation although the King has publicly announced that he wishes to resume negotiations with the Commandos. We can only hope that negotiations can be resumed and some satisfactory settlement arrived at which will assist in the peaceful settlement of the Middle East situation.
– I preface a question to the Prime Minister by saying that for more than 3 months a total of 38 questions have appeared on the notice paper in my name directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service and that so far none of these has been answered. Will the Prime Minister have a talk to the Minister to try to brighten him up a little and, if he is not prepared, with a staff ot about 600, to answer questions that have appeared on the notice paper for 3 months, will the Prime Minister consider having him replaced?
– I have no knowledge of the number of questions which the honourable member has asked, nor of their complexity, but it is quite possible, knowing the way in which the honourable member likes to get down to detail in all his negotiations, that the answers required may be as complex as some of the answers he has already come up with and would require a great deal of study. That is probably why it has taken this length of time for these matters to be examined by the Minister. The answer to the second part of the question is no, not even if a personal application is made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to statements made by the Premier of South Australia that the Commonwealth is ignoring his efforts to renegotiate the Dartmouth Dam Agreement, and his accusations that the Commonwealth Government - not the State Government, of course - is playing politics in this matter? In view of the urgent need for South Australia to secure the added water supplies gained for it by the previous Government, will the Prime Minister try to arrange a meeting between the authorities concerned, if possible during the brief period available between the Premier’s current overseas trips?
– Yes, I have noticed the flights of fancy in which the Premier of South Australia has indulged in regard to this matter. The House might be interested in the history of it. The Premier of South Australia wrote to me asking me to arrange a conference between himself, myself, the Premier of Victoria and the Premier of New South Wales. I replied to the Premier of South Australia on 17th August - although I notice that he has publicly stated that he has never had any reply - saying that I had been in touch with the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of Victoria and would let him know subsequent developments. I had passed on to them his request for a meeting.
The Premier of Victoria wrote to me agreeing to a meeting in August but in the meantime, by some means of which I am not at all clear, apparently the Premier of South Australia got into direct touch with the Premier of New South Wales - on a matter which he had asked me to handle for him - and correspondence passed between those 2 Premiers. The Premier of New South Wales had the good manners and courtesy to provide me with copies of the letters that he was writing to the Premier of South Australia on this matter but the Premier of South Australia provided me with no information, no copies of any letters, no indication that he was dealing directly with the Premier of New South Wales. In short, the discussion between the Premier of New South Wales and the Premier of South Australia was that the Premier of New South Wales did not believe that there should be a meeting of Premiers with the Prime Minister at this time and that he preferred that there should be a meeting of Ministers first. I do not know what the Premier of South Australia replied to those letters because, as I have said, he at no time let me know that he was engaged in this correspondence.
Subsequently I have written to the Premier of South Australia - having given him time to cross the wires up by getting into the matter which he had asked me to handle for him direct - and indicated to him the views of the Premier of New South Wales and suggested that there should be a ministerial meeting which we would be happy to attend. I believe that anyone reading or hearing that sequence of events would not, for one moment, believe that any politics was being played by the Commonwealth Government which has made no statements about this matter, it being, in our view, one which was confidential between the Premier and ourselves, but that apparently does not apply to the approach of the Premier of South Australia. I would also believe that anyone regarding the history of this matter would see it as another instance of the Premier of South Australia not being specifically and deliberately untruthful, except in the one matter of saying that he had not had a reply, but of making statements which give a completely untruthful impression of what has been going on.
– I preface my question to the Postmaster-General with a complaint from a widow in ill health who is being worried at all hours of the day and night by telephone calls from business houses peddling their wares. Is it an offence under the postal regulations to pester telephone subscribers indiscriminately in this way? If it is not an offence, will the Minister consider amending the regulations to prevent this abuse of the telephone system?
– I am surprised that the honourable member has not taken this up with the State administration so that it might investigate in detail the claims that he has made. It is true that people who have telephones can be called at any time. Generally, courtesy demands that calls be restricted to early morning, day time and early evening but there is no restriction under the regulations to prevent telephones being used 24 hours a day. Indeed, most members of Parliament know that people ring them at somewhat odd hours to make complaints of one sort or another. I do not believe that one would be justified in altering the regulations because it would be very difficult to interpret from time to time what might be regarded as difficult circumstances.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service and I preface it by drawing the Minister’s attention to the announcement that strikes in Australia had reached an all time high. I also refer to the statement made yesterday by the Minister that it would cost about $5 10m to grant 4 weeks annual leave to workers generally. Has he or his Department ever carried out a survey to determine the actual or indirect effect that these strikes are having on our cost of living? The strikes, of course, would include those called in support of the Moratorium Campaign. If such a survey has not been carried out, will he consider instituting an inquiry for this purpose and so direct attention to the substantial effect of these strikes on industry, workers, pensioners and the overall economy of Australia?
– In the first half of 1970 there were more disputes, although fewer days were lost, than in the first 6 months of 1969. In those 6 months a total of something more than 1,300,000 man-days were lost, while the comparable figure for the first 6 months of 1970 was 1,100,000. These figures seem to indicate ‘that disputes are becoming more frequent but that the duration of strikes is being reduced. I must add, though, that in the first 6 months of last year what has become known as the O’Shea affair occurred, in connection with which there was a tremendous number of strikes. That built up the figures for that period, But even without that occurrence the number of disputes has been greater this year. The loss of wages has amounted to about $14m. That in itself is a big loss but worse than that, we must remember, these strikes add to costs and these are reflected in increased prices. It is also a fact that in an industrial relation situation of this kind it is difficult to achieve the productivity advance that we would like to achieve. This year there has also been quite a marked increase in the number of strikes having a political base. I refer to strikes called not to serve any industrial purpose but to serve a political purpose. Strikes have been called, for example, to express opposition to the Budget. Others have been called in support of the Moratorium Campaign. Stoppages have been called even for the purpose of expressing opposition to the Greek Government. What an employer can do in response to a demand by a union in such circumstances I do not know. It is impossible for an employer to cope with a situation of that kind. To resort to strike action for political purposes is a gross misuse of industrial power and is contrary to the institutionalised status of the trade union movement in Australia. I hope that this is something from which we will be free in the future.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question. What fee is payable to the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the use of staff and facilities at its Canberra studio for the programme of training and familiarisation in the use of television which has been arranged before the Senate election campaign for the Prime Minister?
– I think it would be more appropriate if I made arrangements for the same facilities to be made available to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether we now have 2 oppositions so far as government administration and legislation are concerned - the one section of the Labor Party which believes in parliamentary government, and the other section of the Labor Party which uses the streets and pressure groups to further its ends and which now has a private police and marshalling force or its own.
– I would not be able to be sure, in answering the honourable member’s question, which section of the party to which he refers would ultimately win the struggle which is at present going on. There are undoubtedly - and this must be accepted - some members of the Opposition who do not believe that there should be attacks on all authority or that there should be attacks on the civil rights of the majority of the people. We must accept that there are many members of the Opposition who do not believe this.
– An overwhelming majority.
– There are many others who do believe that authority should be upheld - I do not want to say that it is a majority or a minority; I would not know. There will be a vote on it amongst you some time. All I am saying is that there is undoubtedly another section which believes that authority should be overthrown and that these methods should be undertaken to overthrow it. Indeed, this has been advocated by a leading member of the front bench on the Opposition side, Dr Cairns.
– He speaks for himself.
– Where is he now?
-Order! The House will come to order.
– He is at the barricades, I suppose, for a protest which purports to be a protest against the war in Vietnam but is, in my view, in fact, a protest against any resistance to Communis! aggression either in Vietnam or in Cambodia, and at a meeting which purports to he interested in preventing Australia being in that part of the world but which is, in my opinion, by those who are behind the scenes, motivated in favour of the Vietcong.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. Is it not true that question time is designed to elicit from Ministers information concerning departments for which they are responsible? As the question has no relevance to that purpose for which question time is designed, I suggest that the Prime Minister has been speaking out of order.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I would like to apologise to the honourable member if the answer did not seem relevant, but at least the answer has been made.
– Mr Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. An article appeared on the front page of this morning’s Australian’ under the byline of Mungo Maccallum. The article said in part:
The Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Whitlam, yesterday attacked a senior Labor front-bencher, Dr J. F. Cairns, at a closed meeting of the ALP’s parliamentary executive.
It went on to say:
At yesterday’s parliamentary executive meeting Mr T. Uren (New South Wales) strongly defended Dr Cairns against Mr Whitlam’s attack.
Mr Uren again tried to express his disapproval of the actions of the four parliamentary leaders during the recent Federal Executive meeting . . .
During Mr Uren’s speech, the Deputy Opposition Leader, Mr Barnard, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Murphy, walked out, apparently in protest.
This report is false. Mr Whitlam did not attack Dr Cairns at yesterday’s meeting. I did not - I repeat that I did not - disapprove of or criticise in any way any of the 4 leaders at yesterday’s executive meeting. Senator Murphy and Mr Barnard did not walk out in any so-called protest. This article is false.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Order! Does the honourable member for Angas claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yea. I refer to page 1356 of Hansard of yesterday’s date at which the remarks of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House are reported. In the middle tff a reference to me, the honourable member said:
No-one admires a man who lies when that same liar masks himself as a decent man and in a loud voice proclaims-
You, Mr Speaker, interrupted the honourable member at that point. You said:
Order! Is the honourable member referring to the honourable member for Angas?
The honourable member for Sturt said:
No. As I was saying, no-one admires a man who lies when he masks himself as a decent man and in a loud voice proclaims that he is honest and that all who oppose him are fools 01 charlatans.
For the sake of the record and because I believe that, in spite of the context, the honourable member for Sturt was not referring to me, I seek clarification, if 1 may, in relation to this matter from the honourable member for Sturt.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Angas may do that privately.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Apple and Pear Organisation Act 1938-1966 I present the twenty-fourth annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board for the year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Chicken Meat Research Act 1969 I present the first annual report of the Chicken Meat Research Committee for the” year ended 30th June 1970.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920-1970 I present the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June 1970.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave agreed to:
That Mr Charles Jones be appointed a member of the House Committee in place of Mr J. R. Fraser, deceased.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) - by leave - proposed:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 leave be granted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during the sittings of the House until and including 16th October .1970.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make the point that I believe that this is the third occasion on which a motion of this type has been proposed during these sittings. On the first occasion, I was careful to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) whether the motion was intended to be an isolated incident rather than a precedent. It would seem to me that if it is found necessary to do this some reference of this matter ought to be made again to the Standing Orders Committee with a view perhaps to revising the rule that governs the conduct of committees. Then it would be competent for the House as a whole to decide by debate whether that revised standing order was a desirable practice.
– The motion accords with the requirements of the Public Works Committee Act.
– I know the limits of the Act. All I suggest is that, if the Minister must come along every Friday and move this motion, deficiencies in the Act are pointed to. I carefully asked the Minister on the first occasion when such a motion was proposed whether it was for the day concerned only and I was told yes. I took no notice last week when a similar motion was moved. Now the Minister asks that this practice be followed every week until 16th October. I will not offer any objection. But I would submit that in relation to the proposed new sitting hours revision may be required also in respect of these permanent standing committees.
– in reply - I point out in answering the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) ‘that at the time I moved the previous motion I was acting in accordance with all the information I then had. Subsequently the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who is Chairman of the Public Works Committee, indicated to me that the Committee has a heavy programme of work. I understand that it is to , travel to Western Australia and also to Darwin. He provided me with the dates on which he could see it would be necessary for the Committee to sit. That period runs until 16th October. I thought it better to seek the agreement of the House for the period up to 16th October because Mr Kelly as Chairman could see that programme clearly until then, rather than ask the House for its consent for the Committee to sit for the rest of the session during sitting times of the House. In this way the House can have before it a more direct knowledge of how frequently the Committee is sitting. I think that was proper.
I now indicate to the ‘honourable gentleman that subject to the work load of that Committee and any representations made to me by the honourable member for Wakefield I may very well be asking the House to agree to the procedure to operate until the end of the session. I have said that for the honourable member’s information. The central point he makes is whether it is proper to examine the limitations of all committees and not merely the entitlement of the Public Works Committee to sit while the House is sitting. A great deal depends upon the quorum of the House. While the quorum is one-third we could not have all joint statutory committees - standing or select committees - meeting while ‘the house it sitting. We could not then muster a quorum.
This is an indication of why we need the quorum size reduced and why I had to discuss with the honourable member for Wakefield whether I would move this motion and why I limited it to the period ending 16th October. We still have the requirement of a one-third quorum. While a committee is away, although its members are paired in terms of votes, the Government may have to muster a quorum, which is its responsibility. Therefore there is difficulty in allowing committees to be away from the House, even to conduct very important business. That is a very strong reason why the quorum size should be reduced from one-third to one-fifth.
– Before the Minister sits down, perhaps he will agree that it is anomalous that some committees can meet without the consent of the House but others are bound to get the permission of the House to meet while the House is sitting.
– I do not of my own knowledge know of any committee that may meet while the House is sitting.
– All select committees may.
– I apologise. I must again look at the terms of appointment of select committees because I have been nurturing the idea that select committees could not do so. We now have 3 or 4 select committees. If they all sat at the same time we would have difficulty with a quorum. I must revise the terms of appointment of select committees.
– That is what I am asking the Minister to do.
– I will do that. I thank the honourable member for McMillan for drawing it to my attention.
– I drew attention to it. The honourable member for McMillan is only confirming it.
– The Public Works Committee is a statutory joint committee and it is that with which we are dealing at the moment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to declare the general rates of tax for the current financial year 1970-71. I will later introduce a separate Bill declaring the special rates to apply to certain income of superannuation funds, trust estates and members of partnerships. Of greatest importance, so far as individual taxpayers are concerned, are the tax reductions - substantial in the lower and middle income ranges - proposed by the Bill. As mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) in his Budget Speech, the Government has been concerned at the way in which the present graduated rates scale has operated in a period of rising incomes. One effect has been to shift a growing share of the weight of taxation on to personal income taxpayers. Another cause for concern was that the increase in the burden of personal income tax was not equally heavy at all income levels. The proposed reduction in personal income tax is one of several measures announced by the Treasurer to alleviate the first effect I have referred to. By their nature, the proposed reductions - greater on a percentage basis at the lower end of the scale and tapering off to nil at the higher end of the scale - are aimed at a more equitable distribution of the burden of personal income tax.
The Bill proposes the retention of the present system, under which the tax payable is the sum of the amount calculated at the general rates and a 2£ per cent levy. By comparison with the present rates scale, the proposed general rates scale provides reductions of some 10 per cent in tax payable on taxable incomes up to $10,000. On taxable incomes above $10,000 the percentage reductions in tax taper off, reaching 4.4 per cent at. $20,000 and cutting out altogether at $? 2,000. Since the 2i per cent levy is based on the tax otherwise payable, the amount of this levy will be reduced by the same percentage as the reduction in tax at the general rates. The proposed reductions in tax payable under the general rates will, of course, also be fully reflected in the tax payable by primary producers to whom the averaging provisions apply and by taxpayers whose rate of tax is based on a notional income.
The Bill also proposes to liberalise the age allowance provisions in two ways. Firstly, the level of taxable income which is completely exempt from income tax is to be raised. Single aged persons - that is, residents of Australia aged 65. years or more for men and 60 or over for women - previously paid no tax if their taxable income did not exceed $1,300. For 1970-71 this will be $1,326. A married aged person did not pay tax last year unless the combined taxable income of husband and wife exceeded $2,262. This exemption level will now become $2,314. These increases are in line with the proposed increase in maximum pension rates. The second benefit arises from adjustments to the ‘shading-in’ arrangements, which are designed to ease the change from complete exemption to tax at normal rates. Details of the proposed shading-in rates for single persons are set out in the Sixth Schedule to the Bill and for married persons in the Seventh Schedule. The broad overall effect will be to reduce tax payable by aged persons for 1970-71 with taxable incomes in the shad ing-in range by approximately 10 per cent or more as compared with the previous year.
The proposed reductions in personal income taxation are estimated to have a value to the taxpayers concerned of $289m in a full financial year and $228m in 1970-71. They will be reflected in revised scales of tax instalment deductions to be made by employers from salaries or wages paid to employees, with effect from 1st October this year. The reduced rates will also be reflected in amounts of provisional tax payable in respect of the income year ending on 30th June 1971. In addition, the changes to the age allowance are estimated to have a value to aged taxpayers of $2m in 1970-71 and $3m in a full year.
I turn now to the rates of tax payable by companies. The rates of primary tax payable by all companies for the 1970-71 financial year are to be increased by 2.5c in the $1. In line with the practice that has been followed since the inception of the Commonwealth income tax in 1915, these rates will be imposed in respect of income of the preceding year. As companies are not on a pay-as-you-earn basis, they pay tax in the year following the year in which the income is derived. Public companies will accordingly pay 42.5c in the $1 on the first $10,000 of taxable income and 47.5c in the $1 on the balance. Private companies will pay 32.5c in the $1 on the first $10,000 and 42.5c in the $1 on the balance, the rates of tax payable by life assurance companies, co-operative companies and non-profit companies will also increase by 2.5c in the $1. The rate of additional tax payable by private companies which have not distributed sufficient profits as dividends will remain at 50 per cent.
In line with the increase in the rates of tax payable by mutual life assurance companies and other life assurance companies in respect of mutual income, the rates of tax payable on the investment income of a superannuation fund that does not invest a sufficient proportion of its assets in public securities are being increased by 2.5c in the $1. This change will have effect for the 1970-71 income year of funds affected.
Apart from the features I have mentioned, the provisions of the Bill follow the pattern of previous legislation, and I do not think that further explanations are needed at this stage, technical features of the Bill axe explained in the explanatory memorandum which is being circulated. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first rime.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill will declare the rates of income tax for the financial year 1970-71 on income of certain superannuation funds, trust estates and members of partnerships. These are special rates for the purposes of certain anti-avoidance legislation enacted in 1964. Apart from minor changes connected with the increase in the exemption levels of the age allowance proposed by the Income Tax Bill 1970, the Bill follows the same pattern, and declares the same rates, as in recent years. A rate of SO per cent is declared in respect of the income of a trust estate, other than a deceased estate, to which no beneficiary is presently entitled and which is not taxed as if it were the income of one individual.
A similar rate of 50 per cent is declared for the taxable income of a superannuation fund that is not exempt from tax. This rate does not apply to the investment income of a superannuation fund that is subject to tax only because of the fund’s failure to comply with the 30/20 rule concerning investments in public securities. In relation to income from a partnership over which a person lacks, or is deemed to lack, real and effective control and disposal, a rate of further tax sufficient to bring the aggregate declared by this Bill. This further tax will not be payable by aged persons whose taxable income does not exceed the new upper limits of the range of income within which the age allowance provides partial relief and which I explained in my speech upon the Income Tax Bill 1970. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Crean) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 September (vide page 933), on motion by Mr Holten:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure in relation to this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed, I would sugggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill as they are related measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 2 Bills to be discussed in the debate.
– Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these 2 Bills? There being no objection I will permit that course to be followed.
– The Opposition does not oppose the passage of this legislation but naturally, in view of some of the provisions of the Repatriation Bill, the Opposition will make a number of criticisms of the second reading speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) and of the repatriation provisions contained in the Budget. I think it would be correct and fair to state that a great deal of dissatisfaction has been expressed at the Government’s attitude towards those pensions to which consideration is normally given each year in the Budget for this country’s ex-servicemen who suffer from a war-caused disability. At this stage I do not offer any criticism of the Minister because I make it quite clear that I personally have found him sympathetic to individual cases. If the amounts provided by the Government in the Budget are insufficientand if theconsideration which it has given to the compensation plans submitted to it by the Returned Services League fall short of what that organisation sought and of what honourable members on this side of the House believe would be ordinary justice, the Minister, together with those who comprise the Ministry deserves to be criticised.
I read with a great deal of interest some of the statements made by the Minister when he attended annual meetings of some of the most important organisations in this country. I refer to 2 annual congresses of the RSL, both in New South Wales. I believe that at the annual congress held recently in Queensland the Minister devoted the greater part of his speech not to repatriation matters or to the war compensation that ought to be paid to ex-servicemen who suffer a war-caused disability but rather to what the Minister described as kicking the Communist can. One can appreciate the attitude of the Minister in this respect. I do not doubt his sincerity in these matters. But the plain fact is that if the Government wants those who have the responsibility of governing the RSL in every State and at the Federal level to become less interested in the matters that affect the welfare of exservicemen obviously it has to distract the attention from the paucity of the Government’s attitude to the payment of compensation to those who have served this country in 2 world wars and in Korea and who are now serving Australia in Vietnam. This was the attitude adopted by the Minister.
In view of the Government’s attitude to repatriation matters, one would expect that the Minister would be looking for an excuse or for some alternative matter to distract the attention of members of the RSL. Certainly he did not want the RSL to deal with the Government’s attitude or, for example, to kick the Government can. That is exactly what should have been done. But the Minister devoted his attention and his remarks to other matters which 1 believe were completely inappropriate, in view of the Government’s decision in relation to the matters to which I have referred already and in view of the Government’s reluctance to provide a reasonable payment to those who have qualified under the Act through disabilities caused as a result of their service in the interests of this country during wartime.
Let me pass to the second point I want to make. It is quite obvious that, despite the fact that we are told that there is a very active ex-servicemen’s committee of Government members, honourable members who sit on the opposite side are showing a complete lack of interest in the legislation. One need look only at the list of speakers to confirm what I say. Four speakers from the Opposition are listed, but not one member of the Government parties is prepared to stand up and be counted on repatriation matters - not one. I hope that as a result of what 1 say some members on the Government side will accept the challenge to stand up and be counted and to support the Government’s attitude on repatriation matters.
– How does the honourable member know that honourable members on this side of the House do not intend to speak in the debate?
– The list of speakers is before me. I issue a challenge to honourable members opposite to stand up and be counted. The plain fact is that 4 members from this side believe that some things ought to be said about the Government’s attitude to repatriation matters. No-one from the Government side can find anything to criticise in the Repatriation Bill. This is a disgrace, lt is a complete farce. For this reason, I believe the Government stands condemned. This is the same Government that so many years ago - almost 21 years years ago, in point of fact - said that repatriation was a great and proud responsibility and that it would ensure that pension values were not allowed to deteriorate. I invite all honourable members on the Government side to examine the value of pensions that are being paid to repatriation pensioners as announced by the Treasurer (Mr Bury) in the Budget and by the Minister in his second reading speech. In every classification or group - the special rate pensioner, the general rate pensioner, the war widow rate, the service pension rate and all other rates - if one relates the pensions to the cost of living in this country or, if I could take the accepted standard, to the minimum wage payable to workers and if one compares the payments that are now being made as a result of the Government’s action as expressed in the Minister’s second reading speech, one sees that in every case there has been a deterioration in the value. I am not asking honourable members, or those who may be listening to the broadcast of the debate, to accept my word for this or the word of other honourable members on this side of the House. I refer Government supporters to a pamphlet issued by the national executive of the Returned Services League. In 1967 and again in 1970, the RSL found it necessary to produce 500,000 pamphlets to inform the people of this country of the way in which pension values have been allowed to deteriorate under this Govern.ment. There can be no shadow of doubt that this Government made a definite promise to the RSL, to those who had served this country in time of war, and, indeed, to this Parliament that pension values would not be allowed to deteriorate.
Let me now pass to one or two matters that are contained in the Bill itself. The Bill amends the Schedule to the Repatriation Act to include the increases provided in the Budget. It goes further than the traditional Repatriation Bill after the Budget to make very significant changes to the machinery of administration under the Repatriation Act. These changes are designed to open the way for additional Repatriation Boards to be appointed. This is the only aspect of the Bill of which one can approve as being a reasonable step towards improving the machinery by which an ex-serviceman may appeal to a Repatriation Board to have a disability accepted for pension purposes. But the most significant change is the increase of $2 a week in the special rate pension. This follows the pattern of recent years with the special rate increasing with reasonable frequency. Unfortunately, these increases do little more than maintain the parity of the special rate with minimum weekly earnings. Nothing has been done to restore the real value of the special rate pension to that prevailing in 1950.
There has been a steady erosion of the real value of the special rate pension in the intervening years. This drift was arrested to some extent in recent budgets but nothing has been done to restore the value of the pension in relative terms. It now seems that once more the real value of the special rate pension is to be allowed to deteriorate. In last year’s Budget the special rate pension was increased to $36 a week. This compared with an average minimum wage in the capital cities of $38.90 a week. In rough percentage terms the special rate pension was 92.3 per cent of the average weekly minimum wage. The increase in this year’s Budget gives a special rate pension of $38 a week, an increase of $2 a week, as the Minister has pointed out. I may not be correct on this point, but I do not believe that all TPI or special rate pensioners will receive the full $2 a week. I believe that the increase of 50c a week which has been applied to service pensioners, which, pf course, has already been announced in the social services legislation, will mean in effect, because the ceiling limit has not been raised, that a special rate pensioner, if he is in receipt of a part service pension in addition to the special rate pension, cannot receive the full $2 a week. I may be wrong, but this has been done before. We are accustomed to this.
– You are right.
– Of course. It is normal with this Government to announce an increase of $2 a week when in actual fact the increase is not $2 a week.
– Labor also did it when it was in office.
– The honourable member who interjects was very vocal on repatriation matters a long time ago but he ceased to speak on them in recent years. One cannot blame him for that. The honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) will have the opportunity to stand up and support the Government if he believes that its attitude is correct. Having made this point in relation to what will happen to special rate pensioners and those who are in receipt of a part service pension, I will say that the plain fact is that the people of Australia believe there will be an increase of $2 a week. In actual fact the great majority of them will lose 50c a week of that increase. The Minister may dispute this if he wishes. Even in relation to the small proportion of Australian wage earners who get the minimum weekly wage the special rate pensioner is lagging behind. When the rate is compared with the average weekly earnings of the male wage earner the loss of purchasing power Ls even more striking. In 1950 when average weekly earnings were $21 a week the special rate pension was $14 a week. Now with average weekly earnings at about $73 a week the special rate pension is $38 a week. In effect the special rate pension has increased by 157 per cent in the last 20 years while average weekly earnings have climbed by 247 per cent. Again, let the honourable member for Mallee dispute that.
The RSL and the TPI ex-servicemen’s associations have made the reasonable request that the special rate pension should be lifted to the level of the minimum weekly wage and varied as this wage rate rises in the years ahead. On an estimate supplied by the Minister to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in May this year, this would involve extra annual spending of about $8.5m. This estimate may have increased in the subsequent months but it does not represent an excessive charge on the Budget. It would mean an increase of less than 20 per cent in the total appropriation for special rate pensioners. Again the Budget has failed to restore the real value of the special rate pension. More alarmingly, it has resumed the downward drift in the real value of the special rate pension compared with minimum weekly earnings.
The Bill also increases the intermediate rate payable to those who perform only part time work or intermittent work because of war caused injuries. According to the latest report of the Repatriation Commission there are only 1,307 recipients of the intermediate rate pension. This shows the great generosity of this Government which increases the intermediate rate of pension. This is less than 1 per cent of all repatriation pensioners. The intermediate status may be an admirable concept in theory, but it is an extremely difficult one to prove and sustain before the tribunals. To support this contention may I again refer to the small number - out of all those who have a war caused disability there are little more than 1,000 - who are in receipt of the intermediate rate of pension. Is it any wonder that this Government seizes on this particular category to grant a small increase. Undoubtedly there are many general rate pensioners who should be entitled to an intermediate range pension but for some reason or other cannot clinch their case.
Increases in the intermediate pension can be made with only a negligible impact on total repatriation spending. For this reason the increase of $1.50 a week in the intermediate rate must be kept in perspective. Of course, the increase is welcome to those pensioners who get it, but until the onus of proof is made less stringent the intermediate pension is only of marginal significance in the structure of repatriation pensions.
The most important defect of the new repatriation measures of the Budget lies with the general rate pensions. Most repatriation pensioners are general rate pensioners assessed at one level of disability or another. The general rate pension is $12 a week. It has been $12 a week since 1964. It has not been changed by this Government. In 1968 the Government introduced a new concept by grafting a special compensation allowance on to the general rate pension. This allowance was designed to assist seriously disabled ex-servicemen having an assessed incapacity ranging from 100 per cent to 75 per cent. Initially this was $3 a week. In last year’s Budget it was raised to $5 a week, and in the recent Budget it was raised to $6 a week. This means that pensioners assessed at about 75 per cent incapacity get extra increments ranging from $4.50 to $6 a week.
According to the latest report, 25,073 pensioners are assessed at 100 per cent incapacity and get the maximum pension of $18 a week, including $6 compensation allowance. This tapers away to 834 pensioners assessed at 75 per cent incapacity and getting $13.50 a week. The value of the general rate pension falls sharply at this cut off point. For example, a pensioner assessed at 70 per cent disability would get $8.40 a week. If he were assessed at 75 per cent disability he would get $13.50 a week. I think that this matter ought be looked at in proper perspective, and because of its importance let me repeat what I said about :t. If a pensioner who is in the category of those receiving part of the 100 per cent war pension were assessed at 75 per cent disability he would get $13.50 a week. That is, for an assessed disability differential of 5 per cent the difference in pension is $5.10 week. On the one hand there is an assessed disability differential of 5 per cent, and on the other hand there is a pension differential of 38 per cent. This shows the injustice of the compensation allowance structure. No-one begrudges the extra money to the disabled ex-servicemen who give it. However, the whole tendency of the compensation allowance grafted arbitrarily on to the general rate pension structure is to distort it, quite unjustly, against those assessed below 75 per cent disability.
What 1 said a few moments ago about the intermediate rate pensioner applies, I believe, with even greater force to the 100 per cent general rate pensioner. The Minister and the Department know that, although one must not accuse the Department because it merely carries out the policy that is laid down by the Government.
But the fact remains that not only the Minister and the Department but also Government supporters know that the number of war service pensioners in receipt of a pension below 75 per cent of the general rate pension, that is those who have been accepted as having war caused disabilities, far exceeds the number of war service pensioners who receive a pension above 75 per cent of the general rate pension. The great majority of war service pensioners receive a pension below 75 per cent of the general rate pension, and they have received no increase in their pension since, I think, about 1956. They have been completely ignored by this Government. So once again this shows the attitude of this Government, which is: ‘Let us pick out the smallest number. We can give them a small increase. We will ignore the rest.’ That is what the Government has done consistently since it introduced the special compensation allowance.
I know that when the special compensation allowance was introduced the then Minister for Repatriation said it was designed to help those whose level of incapacity was assessed at between 75 per cent and 100 per cent. He said that they were in greater need of financial assistance than those whose incapacity was assessed at below 75 per cent. Would the Minister tell me, this House and the Australian people why a person on a 70 per cent disability pension should be so disregarded? How can a distinction be drawn between a 75 per cent disability pension and a 70 per cent disability pension? Is there this great difference between a person whose disability is assessed at 75 per cent and another person whose disability is assessed at 70 per cent? How do the Ministers and the Government justify this kind of discrimination?
The Minister knows that those pensioners who are in the 100 per cent disability cate- gorymaynotalwaysreceivethespecial compensation allowance because the Government has directed that an ex-serviceman on a 100 per cent incapacity pension, whose disability is said to be defective eyesight or defective hearing, is not entitled to the special compensation allowance on the basis that his defective hearing or defective eyesight can be corrected. Again I say to the Department and to the Minister that it cannot always be proved that defective eyesight can be remedied merely by supplying glasses or that defective hearing can be corrected merely by supplying a hearing aid or administering surgery. The Minister knows this. But in every case this matter is weighted against the ex-serviceman.
The conclusion which the RSL must have reached, and the conclusion which I certainly have reached, in these matters is that ex-servicemen will receive no sympathy from this Government, despite the fact that each year the National Executive of the RSL meets, in the precincts of Parliament House, the sub-committee of Cabinet which deals with repatriation matters and presents the League’s compensation plan to it. Each year the National Executive of the RSL asks that a certain measure of justice be given to ex-servicemen, but just as easily the Government pushes the request aside and gives no consideration at all to the compensation plan presented by the RSL. I invite honourable members to examine the compensation plans which have been presented by the National Executive of the RSL over the last 4 or 5 years. It has asked that a measure of justice should be given to the ex-servicemen of this country, but the requests have been refused.
One way out of this inequity would be to extend the scale of compensation allowances - and I am referring now to the special compensation allowances paid to pensioners whose disability is assessed at between 100 per cent and 75 per cent - down over the whole range of general rate pensions. This would mean a range of special compensation allowances from $6 at 100 per cent disability to 60c at 10 per cent disability. This is the only way of putting the generate rate pension on a logical and equitable basis. Certainly it would reduce the special compensation allowance to an absurdity as a concept, but it is impossible to justify the payment of the allowance to a 25 per cent range of assessed disability. The special compensation allowance should be scrapped and general rate pensionsshould be calcu lated on a rate of $18 a week. Alternatively, the whole structure of repatriation pension payments should be revised.
On the face of it we have a 3-part pension structure at the moment with the special rate, the intermediate rate and the general rate. In actual fact, the structure is a 4-part one with the general rate, the intermediate rate and 2 sorts of special rate. In the first class of special rate pension are those disabled ex-servicemen assessed at above 75 per cent disability. They get a base pension ranging from $9 to $12 a week plus a special compensation rate ranging from $4.50 to $6. In the second class are those assessed at from 10 per cent to 70 per cent disability. They get a basic pension ranging from $1.20 to $8.40 a week. The overwhelming number of repatriation pensioners falls into this last class. I shall give the figures to illustrate my point. There are 184,212 pensioners in this group out of a grand total of 219,841 repatriation pensioners. These general rate pensioners have not had an increase in pension for more than 5 years.
The discriminatory approach in the application of the general rate pension has made the whole assessment system into a lucky dip. lt is not a difficult task to classify the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, lt should not be a difficult task to classify the intermediate pensioner under the broad general designation laid down by the Repatriation Act. Regrettably, it is difficult to meet the onus of proof in establishing intermediate status. This is one area where the onus of proof could be relaxed and greater flexibility permitted to boards and tribunals to bring more disabled ex-servicemen within the ambit of the more generous intermediate pension provisions. But the real crunch comes with the genera) rate pensioners. Here the impossible task is imposed of assessing degrees of disability in 5 per cent shades of difference. Each 5 per cent shade of difference is worth 60c to the weekly pension. The impossible task of assessing in this way would be made more equitable if the compensation allowance was applied over the whole spectrum. Unfortunately, it is not and a pensioner on a 75 or 80 per cent assessment is immeasurably better off than one on a 70 or 65 per cent assessment.
The special compensation allowance has been used as a rather crude device to gloss over the basic injustice to the bulk of general rate pensioners. It has served to make an agonisingly complex table of assessments even more intolerable. The request repeatedly made in successive RSL pension plans has been for the raising of the general rate pension to 50 per cent of the minimum wage. This would bring the 100 per cent pension to about $21 a week. lt would be a much fairer result to those on the lower rungs on the basts of a $12 a week 100 per cent pension. Admittedly, it would involve the absorption of the special compensation allowance into the 100 per cent general rate pension, but it would ensure a much more equitable spread of benefits over the whole range of disabled ex-servicemen.
It is grossly unfair to add a loading to the base pension on the basis of a rather stringent assessment of requirements. This is a completely unwarranted procedure in terms of welfare criteria. Certainly upgrading the general rate pension in this way would mean a sharp increase in outlay. According to the Minister for Repatriation’s costing of the RSL’s pension plan it would have cost $39. lm in the present financial year to do so. This may well have been too much for the Budget to bear over one year. However, it could have been spread over 2 years with the introduction of a base general rate pension of $18 a week. In the next Budget it could have been raised further to the $21 or so needed to bring it up to 50 per cent of the minimum wage.
The pension rate for war widows should have been increased to the same level. AH these women get is an increment of 50c to $15.50 a week, which falls some $6 a week below the 50 per cent of the minimum wage sought by the RSL. lt means nothing to the Government that the pension rate for war widows is $6 a week below the amount sought by the RSL. There have been similar meagre increases for war orphans and in Service pensions, the domestic allowances for widows and the recreation transport allowance.
However, one benefit which could have been increased without any significant charge on the revenue is the funeral benefit, which has remained at 850 for the past 18 years.
– It has a means test, has it not?
– Yes, a means test is applied. The initial aim of this benefit was to remove the possible stigma of a pauper’s burial from ex-servicemen. A grant of $50 was sufficient in 1952 to cover minimal funeral costs. However, although the cost structure of burials has risen by more than 200 per cent in the intervening years, the benefit is still the same. The average cost of a funeral of acceptable standard is $196, which means that $146 has to be found above the funeral grant. If relatives cannot find this extra money the RSL or some other ex-servicemens’ organisation has to give quite substantial assistance. This imposes unwarranted demands on the welfare services and resources of these devoted organisations. On the question of the funeral allowance, the Government has, as in so many other areas in the field of repatriation, displayed a lack of generosity as well as a lack of courtesy and consideration to those people who have served this country in time of war. The funeral allowance has not been altered for 18 years despite the promises of the Government to which I referred earlier in my speech. How does the Minister justify this kind of attitude? How could his predecessors justify it? The Minister and the Government know that this kind of attitude cannot be justified. Obviously all honourable members on the Government side of the chamber know that it cannot be justified, but they have refused to participate in this debate.
I revert to the war compensation plan which was submitted to the Government by the national executive of the RSL in April of this year. It is a reasonable plan. I have already dealt with most of it. Obviously the national executive thought that the special rate pension should not be less than the minimum wage, that the general rate pension should be at least SO per cent of the minimum wage, that the war widow’s rate should be SO per cent of the minimum wage and that the funeral grant should be increased to at least $150, but its representations have been ignored by the Government. In its war compensation plan of -1970 the national executive of the RSL also requested the Government to set up a committee of inquiry to examine the Repatriation Act, which has not been altered in a major way since 1917, except for the amendments which have been made from time to time by various governments to the schedules and other incidental matters. Except for the committee of inquiry which was set up by a Labor government in 1946, which is 24 years ago, there has been no significant examination of the provisions of the Repatriation Act.
The Opposition is in agreement with the request of the national executive of the RSL on behalf of its members that a committee should be set up to examine the Repatriation Act and bring it up to date, remove the anomalies which exist at present and suggest improved ways in which to assess pension rates. Such a committee should also examine the question of the onus of proof, the controversial provision which the Government has refused to examine carefully since the last alteration was made in 1946. I refer to the onus of proof in respect to the rights of exservicemen who served this country in the First World War. For many years I have submitted in this Parliament that exservicemen of the First World War should be given free medical, pharmaceutical and hospital treatment. The cost of this treatment is outlined in a reply which was given earlier this year by the Minister for Repatriation. He said that it would cost this country about $4m. which is certainly far less than the cost of one Fill aircraft. This proposal for free treatment for First World War ex-servicemen has been refused consistently by this Government. Every member of the Government has voted against amendments that we have moved for this purpose during second reading debates on repatriation Bills. It is a simple request. It ought to be examined. It is one of the matters that ought to come within the ambit and the terms of reference of a competent committee set up to examine and re-adjust the Repatriation Act. The onus of proof in relation to cancer and the automatic acceptance of cancer as a war-caused disability are matters against which honourable members on the other side have consistently voted. They have voted against the inclusion in the Repatriation Act of provisions in this respect.
The Opposition supports the submission of the national executive of the Returned Services League that there should be a committee of inquiry to examine the Act. The Opposition view differs in only one respect. The RSL believes that such a committee of inquiry ought to be a nonparliamentary committee. Speaking personally I would accept this proposition. If it were accepted by the Government I believe that the Australia Labor Party as a whole would be happy to agree to an inquiry on that basis. I foreshadow that I shall move an amendment seeking the setting up of a joint select committee of this Parliament to examine the Repatriation Act. The Opposition is of the opinion that as it is S3 years since the Act was first introduced there is now a need to examine the numerous matters which I have raised during my speech in this debate, including not only the basis upon which the pensions are paid but also the basis upon which the Repatriation Department makes so many of its decisions. ] take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the Repatriation Department. 1 have no criticism to make of the Department or its officers. As I said earlier, they merely carry out the policy of this Government. In my long experience of repatriation matters 1 have found repatriation officers to be most generous and courteous in their attitude and approach to repatriation matters as a whole. 1 pay a tribute to the Minister for the way in which he deals with individual cases. 1 believe that be is sympathetic but he has to administer the policy which is forced upon the Parliament and upon the people of this country by the Bill which was introduced only a fortnight ago. The amendment I propose envisages the setting up of a joint select committee of the Parliament to inquire into the Repatriation Act and the anomalies which we believe ought to be removed. I move:
Should this amendment be agreed to it would not involve any amendment to the Budget. It would not require any increase in expenditure. The amendment merely supports the contention of those who have responsibility to attend to matters affecting the welfare of servicemen of this country. I submit that all honourable members on the other side should recognise the need for such an inquiry because of the long period since the last full-scale examination was made of the Act. Surely in these circumstances no member on the Government side ought to vote against the amendment which 1 have moved on behalf of the Opposition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak later.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said early in his remarks that there was not one member on the Government side who was prepared to stand in bis place and be counted. At the outset 1 say quite frankly that I was unaware that the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1970 was being brought forward today, despite the fact that it has been on the notice paper. Because of that my name did not appear on the list of members to speak on the Bill. I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that when a repatriation measure is before this House it is very rare that I and the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) do not speak in the debate. We have always treated repatriation matters as of importance. 1 think that the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on this matter were uncalled for. I am aware, as are most other honourable members in this chamber, that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is very vocal in regard to repatriation matters. I agree with a number of the points which he has brought forward from time to time in this House but I certainly do not agree with all of them.
This Bill deals with the increased rates and allowances by way of pensions and compensation payments that were announced in the Budget Speech. Before I deal with the actual rates I want to state that I believe that the Australian repatriation system is one of the best in the world. Our system provides for compensation for people who have suffered war disabilities in various forms. It provides for war pensions and allowances, service pensions and allowances, comprehensive medical services and rehabilitation of the war-disabled. Our system also provides for financial compensation by way of a war pension for disabled veterans and their dependants, and for the families of deceased ex-servicemen. The medical treatment which is provided includes rehabilitation services where they are required as a part of the treatment for war-caused disabilities, and also for the families of deceased ex-servicemen. The system also provides for the re-establishment measures that we see from time to time.
I refer now to the various rates of pension. The Bill provides for an increase to S3 8 per week in the TPI rate - I do not think anybody disputes this - an allowance of $28 per week for those on the intermediate rate pension and $12 for those receiving the general rate. The special compensation allowance is to be further increased by up to a total of $6 per week. We find that the widow’s pension is to be $15.50 per week, the domestic allowance for a widow $8 per week, the allowance for the first child $6 per week and for each subsequent child $5 per week, and the allowance in the case of a double orphan $12 per week. The service pension for a single pensioner is to be increased to $15.50 per week. One could go on.
The additional assistance that is available to people in receipt of repatriation pensions includes a number of items. One matter which is a disappointment to me and no doubt to many other honourable members, particularly the ex-servicemen and ex-servicemen’s organisations, is the refusal of the Government to increase the funeral allowance which now stands at $50. In my view this amount is completely out of context in relation to the general increase in costs. I know that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) is very sympathetic towards an increase in the funeral allowance, but no doubt he has his problems, as do each of us as members of this place. People are sometimes inclined to overlook other benefits provided under our repatriation scheme. There is a gift car allowance, attendants allowances, a recreation transport allowance, a sustenance allowance and a clothing allowance. These benefits are very seldom mentioned by honourable members opposite who seek to criticise what I described earlier as one of the best repatriation systems in the world.
One of the highlights of our repatriation system are the rights of the individual exserviceman. At any time an ex-serviceman can submit a claim to the Repatriation Department to have a disability accepted as being due to war service. His claim might be refused, but he then has certain other privileges. If he is not satisfied with the decision of the Repatriation Commission he can appeal to the Repatriation Board, and if his claim is still rejected he can take the matter to the various independent tribunals. What fairer system could we have?
A short time ago the Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the lack of effect of the various rates of pension and suggested that in the Budget we should have done this and should have done that. I remind the honourable member that this year’s Budget follows the pattern of previous Budgets by which numerous increases have been granted. I take last year’s Budget as an example. There was an increase of S2.50 in the special rate pension for the TPI ex-serviceman. This year the increase is to be $2, so there is an increase of $4.50 in this rate over a 2-year period. Last year the intermediate rate was increased by S2.25 and the rate for the war widow was increased by $1 . In addition the attendants allowance was increased by $2 and the 100 per cent special compensation allowance was increased by $2. These are things which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and some other honourable members opposite overlook. Last year the gift car allowance was increased by the equivalent of $60 per annum.
I should like now to compare today’s rates with those of 21 years ago when the present Government took office after a Labor Government had occupied the treasury bench. I think I am correct in saying while making this comparison that the then Minister for Repatriation was the father of the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition who is so critical of our various repatriation benefits today. But let us consider the rates of 21 years ago because I believe the comparison is important.
– You should not have said that. You are being personal.
– J am not being personal; I am stating a matter of fact, lt was the then Minister for Repatriation who accepted the rates that I am about to mention to the House and he was the father of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who is so critical of the increases proposed in the Budget. In 1949 the TPI rate was the equivalent of $10.60. In the 21 years since then we have seen an increase of $27.40 in the weekly rate, bringing the full TPI rate to $38. The intermediate rate had not been thought of in 1949; it was introduced in 1965. As this rate is now $28 it could be said that this benefit has increased by $28 over that period.
– That is not a proper comparison.
Mir KING - We must make the comparison with the 100 per cent rate. The special compensation allowance is another measure which has been introduced in recent times. This was introduced in 1968, so it is fair to say that the 100 per cent rate of special compensation allowance today represents an increase since 1949 of $4.50. The war widow’s pension has been increased from $6 to $15.50, an increase of $9.50. The increase in the domestic allowance for a war widow has been substantial. Under a Labor Government it was the equivalent of 75c, but it is now to be $8, an increase of $7.25. I have not bothered to work out the percentage increase in that allowance; someone can do that later. The allowance for a first child was an equivalent of $1.75 in 1949 whereas today it is $6, an increase of $4.25. The rate for a double orphan was $1.75 per week and now it is $12, an increase of $10.25. Yet honourable members opposite say that we are not fulfilling the desires of ex-servicemen. Even the service pension has trebled, from $4.25 to $15.50, an increase of $11.25. One could go on. The guardian’s allowance was introduced in 1965 and the supplementary rent allowance was introduced in 1958. I cannot see that there can be much criticism of these allowances. The allowance payable to a guardian who has care of an invalid child has increased by $6 and the attendants allowance has been increased by $6.10. 1 do not wish to take up a great deal of the time of the House on this matter, but having said this I should mention that I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when he refers to the need for an increase in the 100 per cent general rate pension and that the minimum general rate should be as much as the present 100 per cent rate. The special compensation allowance for the pensioner receiving a 100 per cent general rate is $6 per week and it is less for those in receipt of various rates of general rate pension. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made quite a mention of this point. If it was good enough in 1964 to have the 100 per cent general rate of pension equivalent to $12 per week, I. believe that the rate should be increased today. Some pensioners who receive the 100 per cent rate or down to the 75 per cent rate are entitled also to a special compensation allowance, but unfortunately they do not all qualify for this allowance. Actually 77 per cent only qualify for the special compensation allowance.
But anyone who is in receipt of something less than 75 per cent of the base rate pension receives no increase at all. In other words, it is fair to say that any person receiving 50 per cent of the base rate pension has had no increase at all since 1964. Only at the tail end of his remarks did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition make a positive proposal and that was in relation to a full scale inquiry. No doubt this originated from the Returned Services League and not from himself. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition led for the Opposition in this debate. Therefore I take it that it would be up to him to make some worth while contribution to assist the cause of the repatriation system. I was somewhat disappointed to learn, after listening to him this morning for threequarters of an hour, that he had not really made any contribution at all. lt is not my aim to put forward a whole lot of suggestions to the Minister in this regard, because over a period of time I have made suggestions to the present Minister and to his predecessors on a number of occasions. If honourable members look back over the record they will find that the introduction of the intermediate rate pension came from this side of the House and, in particular, from this corner of this side of the House. I will not mention the name of the instigator of that proposal.
– Is the honourable member too modest?
– I will accept that to be the case. Despite the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has taken a great interest in repatriation affairs, it is rather disappointing to think that he has spoken here for three-quarters of an hour and made no really strong recommendations. All we got from him was an amendment, the terras of which I do not have before me. From memory I think he said that the rates just were not good enough. Of course, we can all say this. I happen to represent a rather mixed electorate. I have all sorts of people in my electorate, and not too many of them do not want a bit more. Primary producers, wage earners, salary earners, and even politicians in some instances - everybody seems to want more. It is very easy to say: ‘We want more,’ but the all important thing is to get some sort of equity in relation to these things. I would like to see an increase in pensions, particularly the widows’ pension, the TPI pension, the intermediate pension and all these higher rate pensions. All of these people are in need; they always have been and no doubt they always will be. I am sure that anything that the Government gives to these people will be appreciated. Nevertheless, we cannot always give them what we would like. 1 would like to conclude by complimenting the Minister, his departmental officers and the Government as a whole on this Bill. I believe that since the Minister has taken over his portfolio he has put a lot of sympathetic thinking into the various problems of individuals who come to his Department for assistance. I have had a lot of correspondence and a lot of discussion with him. I am sure that one could not be more sympathetic to the needs of these people than the present Minister. No doubt many of us who associate ourselves with this department will appreciate that we do get criticisms from members of the public. But when these criticisms are followed through I believe it is found that the departmental officers who operate this system are first class. They give sympathetic consideration to the really needy. T believe that there should be few or no complaints in this regard. Except in relation to items such as funeral benefits, the 100 per cent pension rate and some minor items, I compliment the Government on the introduction of this Bill. I reject the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and give my full support to the Bill.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr Speaker, I propose to address myself particularly to the amendment moved by the Opposition which calls for the appointment of a joint select committee to inquire into and make recommendations on all aspects of the provisions and operation of the Repatriation Act. I want to briefly set out some of the problems, as I see them, after occupying the seat of Wills for 15 years, during which time I have acquired a filing cabinet full of papers dealing with the frustrations of the operations of the Repatriation Act. These are not necessarily the results of bad decisions by the Repatriation Department. They are not necessarily the direct responsibility of the Minister for Repatriation because the Repatriation Act does not allow him a great deal of discretion. Quite a complete and complex administration system has been set up in order to try to give justice to ex-servicemen. I am afraid that quite often justice becomes too important and mercy becomes unimportant.
The proposition put forward by the Opposition is that at this stage, 50-odd years after the first Repatriation Act was passed, when we are considering our 51st amendment to it, it is time for a total reexamination of the system. No honourable member can believe that it is working properly. There are those people inside the repatriation system for whom it may well be said that they are doing quite nicely, thank you. There are certain aspects of the system which no doubt are the best in the world. If our repatriation system is the best in the world - I am not well-enough briefed on the situation in the rest of the world to know - then so it ought to be. So often we hear people saying all round the place that we have the best soldiers and the best thisandthat. Well, for the people who make the best sacrifices only the best is good enough. I do not believe that we have handled enough of the anomalies that have been discovered inside the system in the last few years to warrant this kind of complacancy. Therefore the Opposition has moved its amendment today.
The problems, as I see them, and as they develop from day to day in one’s office as a Federal member of Parliament from the continuing flow of clients, customers or constituents - call them what you willfall into the following categories: Firstly, there is the hospital system. There is the inadequacy of the availability of hospitalisation for certain people. There is the problem of the elderly ex-serviceman, particularly those of the Second World War. There is the question of the onus of proof under, I think, section 47 of the Act. There is the question of the rates of pension and there is the question of dependants.
I want to deal with each of those matters in turn. I shall refer first of all to the repatriation hospitals. The first thing we have to recognise - and this applies particularly to the First World War person and, I think, increasingly to people who served in the Second World War and the other wars - is that the repatriation hospital represents a badge of honour, one might say. When a person becomes incapacitated he does not feel so badly about it, if it is a result of service to the country and the country recognises this, and there is room in the repatriation hospital for him. I think this is a psychological and emotional factor on which we ought to place some value.
The service pensioner is a case in point. As I understand it there is a time limit on people who are chronically ill, those persons in hospital suffering from a non war caused disability. For the sake of argument let us say it is a stroke. That man would be about 73 and, on the law of averages, his wife would be 68 or thereabouts. He is stricken down and into the hospital he goes. For 12 or 13 weeks, T think it is, the repatriation hospital will look after him. T think these people probably would get the best service in the world. But then, as the time for them to be up comes nearer, there is a disaster looming for the family. The question is where are they going to put the husband, the father or the repatriation patient? This happens, tragically, too often. I believe that at least we ought to be able to fill the repatriation hospitals before we start to put people outside them. I think this is an important and urgent social measure. I do not see how any of us can justify a system in which hospitals such as the one at Heidelberg - I presume that the other hospitals in Australia are in a similar state - have empty beds and servicemen are discharged to go somewhere else where the service may not be as good, where the costs may be high and where there may be a difficulty of access, amongst other things. We are not just dealing with the repatriation patient. We are dealing with his wife, who is probably in not much better health. We are dealing also with members of his family who at this stage probably have families of their own. It is my belief, and I have always held this belief about servicemen, that these people accepted a total responsibility for the com munity at one stage in their lives. Not all may have done a great deal of fighting, but many of them have. However, they were on tap for years and the total sacrifice was the price they were prepared to pay. It is not too little to consider some total medical and hospital system for former servicemen, particularly the ones who are short of means.
I make a particular appeal for First World War soldiers. They have been discussed here for many years. One of the disabilities of the repatriation debates is that in the 15 years I have been here no really substantial changes have taken place in the repatriation system. One could almost lift out a speech one made, 6, 10 or 12 years ago, alter a few words here and there, change a few figures here and there, and bat on from there. That is not good enough. Ever since 1 entered the Parliament, and even before that when I was a serviceman myself, [ have believed that the people who have served most dangerously and most arduously in all the history of this country were those who served in the First World War. There are probably not more than a few tens of thousands of them left, because even the youngest of them must be getting into their 70s. This is the least we can do in return for the sacrifice and the difficulties they went through.
There ought to be a total medical benefits scheme for first World War servicemen. I would make the dragnet wider. If we have good hospitals it is an idiotic waste to leave some of their services unused. I do not know how many beds are available in the repatriation hospitals. Those statistics are readily available. My guess is that they are not more than half used most of the time. Yet we live in a community which is baffled by a shortage of hospital space and it is quite irresponsible to allow some of these hospital facilities to lie idle. The other question which I raise concerns the older servicemen and women. There is something about the repatriation umbrella which brings some psychological and emotional satisfaction to former servicemen. On the other hand, I think we ought to make medical benefits more accessible to them. Let us take people such as ourselves. I suppose that, for people of our age group and our salary group, the idea of a repatriation pension is not of any great significance. This would apply to a lot of people I know.
But the availability of medical treatment through the repatriation system would be very valuable. I would be inclined to grant medical benefits to former servicemen, after some sort of proof, whether or not their war service was responsible for their condition. I would make the proof very wide.
I would try to untie the medical system from the pension system. If there is anything that inhibits a proper appreciation of access to medical benefits it is the possibility of a pension. I believe it is time we separated the two and had a total medical and hospital benefits system. That would give the pension system a different evaluation. A large number of people are becoming increasingly dependent on superannuation, involving substantial amounts at various times. There is probably not a great necessity to spend our lives battling for a pension system. That does not overlook the fact that in some instances, or in most instances, the pension is a payment for discomfort, misery, suffering, hardship, and the possibility of a shortened life. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) pointed out that it would cost only about S4m to give full medical benefits to all the people who served in the First World War. I do not believe that to expand that scheme to include a few more thousand servicemen would cost the country anything more than it could afford.
It is important that there be a new look at the whole system. We have to examine the way a man’s entitlement is decided through the system, In the schedules to the Act - we are now on to the 51st schedule - efforts have been made to try to make the system tick. This is all very well but it has become increasingly onerous on the ex-serviceman. The tribunals do their best to be affable and friendly but no matter how hard they try it is very difficult for the ordinary ex-serviceman not to be awe-struck when he attends these tribunals. Ex-servicemen are not really used to arguing in legal terms. They are not even used to putting their thoughts down in writing. This situation applies particularly to the kind of ex-servicemen ( represent. They are not inarticulate in any way but they are not accustomed to arguing their case. 1 think the tribunal system has become unduly complex. It is certainly too legalistic.
The more the system is widened the less need there is for legalisms.
I believe - I am supported in my belief by arguments which have been put in this House for so long by so many people - that the onus of proof clause, as it is known, is too stringent. Section 47 (2) states: lt shall not be neccesary for the claimant, applicant or appellant to furnish proof to support his claim, application or appeal but the Commission, Board, Appeal Tribunal or Assessment Appeal Tribunal determining or deciding the claim, application or appeal shall be entitled to draw .
Honourable members know of dozens of these cases. 1 know of a case which is sent to the Minister every so often. It involves a man who was in the Light Horse, in the First World War. He was in an accident at Seymour. He was knocked off his horse, and injured in such a way that he limped thereafter. Now he is elderly. He is in his 70s. He is at a stage where he is almost totally incapacitated. Nothing can be found in the First Australian Imperial Force’s records of the casualty clearing station or whatever the hospital was at Seymour at that time to show that he was admitted. There is evidence that somebody else was killed at the same time. Evidence is available from one of his former brothersinarms who saw the accident and who says that it all happened as he described. Yet for some strange reason this man is not accepted as having a war caused disability. There must be thousands of these cases throughout the community.
I come now to the rates of pension. They are not good enough. As outlined in the booklet ‘Rates of Benefits’ the special totally and permanently incapacitated rate war pension is $38. The wife receives $4.05 and each child under 16 receives $1.38. I notice that the totally orphaned person receives $12 a week. One cannot keep a wife on $4.05. If there is a wife who can be kept on that amount most of us would like to meet her. Of course ii is ridiculous to argue like that. I know the amount of pension is not meant that way. It is simply a subvention upon the standard rate.
Let us take the example of the young man who is called up for national service, goes to Vietnam, treads on a mine and is totally incapacitated. Imagine his future. He comes back to Australia and is repaired eventually. He goes out to civilian life as a TPI pensioner. What is he receiving? lj he has lost an arm or a leg he does receive so much more, I know, but he is receiving somewhere between $40 and $60 as an average. If he is married and has children the rate goes up a little more. But where does that amount stand in relation to the community at large? It is well enough if he is 22 or 23, perhaps, but he will still be in the same relative position when he is S3. Because of the TPI situation the young man who has been invalided out of Vietnam has been conscripted into a lifetime of poverty. These rates are not good enough as a standard of living. The other pension systems are not supposed to be standards of living. We on this side of the House might claim that they should be; indeed we do. Nobody can say that the repatriation benefits system provides a standard of living in accordance with the Australian way of life. Anybody earning under $70 or $80 per week these days and with a wife and family is doing poorly. The average wage is getting up towards that although the basic wage lags behind it. I believe the rates of pension need serious examination.
The question that one would like to raise is that of dependants. I have mentioned it already in speaking of allowances. The provision for dependants is too meagre and I believe we can be much more expansive in matters such as the Soldiers Children Education Scheme. In view of the fact that we have a pretty extensive scholarship scheme and free education at various levels, it would not hurt us to expand the Soldiers Children Education Scheme to include the children of those who have not got war-caused disabilities but who have spent a considerable amount of their lives in the services. Take the case of a young man who joined the services in 1939, went off to war and fought in the Middle East and then in New Guinea and died when he was, say, 40 years of age leaving 3 children, one in matriculation year, one about 13 or 14 and one a bit younger. Although it could not be proved that his death was war caused especially if he died from a disease such as cancer or heart disease, I think it would be an act of decency for the community to accept some responsibility for the children of that man who served in combat in this way.
I believe it is important that the Party re-examine the whole repatriation system. I hope honourable members opposite will shed their fear of authority and party discipline - I know it is dangerous to suggest they should sometimes shed their fear of authority - and examine this repatriation question in the way we should. In many ways I regard the repatriation system as non-partisan. As for the RSL, for years we have been promulgating some of the things that it has now suddenly discovered. I only wish its spokesmen would get out in the streets and do a little more for the rights of servicemen through political action rather than its leaders preaching some of the nonsense that they have at various times. I live for the day when the RSL will really get out at election time and say Here are the issues and this is the side we will support this time’. Although I would regret it if it picked the wrong side, I for one would acknowledge its claims, in honour bound, if it had a good case.
– Like the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) I was not aware that this Bill was coming before the House today. I applaud the Government for the increases it has provided but like all ex-servicemen I would like to have seen the pensions increased still further. We had a conference with the ex-servicemen’s association which made certain suggestions in regard to the special services rate. We have gone partly towards meeting their requirements. The special services rate, the rate for a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman, is now $38. Taking into consideration the wife’s allowance of some $4 and the children’s allowance of $1.38 we do get somewhere near the former basic wage. But be that as it may, it still leaves the single ex-serviceman a little more worse off than the single age pensioner for whom we have made some allowance. Perhaps we should consider this matter in the future. There are other increases that are gratifying to see but again they are not as great as we would like them to have been. But nevertheless it does something to relieve the situation for the time being.
There has been an increase in the special compensation allowance of $6 for those whose incapacity is assessed at 100 per cent. This allowance decreases proportionately with the decrease in incapacity. It is satisfying to me to know that the temporarily totally incapacitated ex-serviceman who is incapacitated for a short period is now recognised and will receive a payment based on the TPI rate. This is good. I notice that this Bill also provides for increased rates of pension for war-blinded ex-servicemen, ex-servicemen receiving TTI and tuberculosis pensions, and the certain double amputees. Therefore, by and large there has been some improvement in repatriation benefits. Although 1 do not agree with the amendment proposed by the Opposition I will make sure that, as Secretary of the Government Members Ex-Servicemen’s Committee, we consider all the proposals that have been put forward and where practicable try to meet the suggestions that have been made.
The stage has been reached where not a great number of ex-servicemen from the Boer War and the First World War are being catered for. I think that the number of ex-servicemen from those 2 wars receiving pensions has been reduced to 11,000. Of. course, not all of these 11,000 exservicemen would want to avail themselves of hospitalisation. Almost all ex-servicemen who become ill in their last years have a great desire to receive treatment in a military hospital. This is something that is emotional. Some of our greatest soldiers of high rank have asked that they be allowed to be in-patients of Service hospitals. Notwithstanding the cost of accommodating ex-servicemen in these hospitals I believe that the Government should consider the request that has been made and if possible accede to it.
I believe that the legislation relating to pharmaceutical benefits requires some amendment. I trust that the Government will consider this when a review is made next year of pensions and the attendant medical and pharmaceutical benefits. I also mention the funeral grant. Ibelieve that this grant is quite inadequate under present conditions. This is another matter that requires further consideration. I am sure that the Government will endeavour to meet the request of the ex-servicemen’s associations in this respect. Instead of a general inquiry I think that the Government members ex-servicemen’s committee could receive representatives of exservicemen, delve into these matters, and then put the details before the Cabinet. I find that outside inquiries are very costly and very long drawn out. I think it would be to the advantage of the ex-servicemen if we could meet their representatives and go into all the facets of repatriation benefits, medical care and hospitalisation and endeavour to get the funeral allowance increased. 1 want to state again how pleased I am with the way that the present Minister for Repatriation is tackling his job and with the sympathetic and compassionate way in which he deals with all matters that we as members of Parliament bring before him. Only this week a man came to me because there was some doubt about whether he was entitled to go into the repatriation hospital in Sydney. I spoke to the Minister at 10 o’clock in the morning on the day in question and by 5 o’clock the man had been transferred from a civilian hospital to the Concord Repatriation Hospital. This man felt that he had served his country and he wanted to go to the repatriation hospital. Perhaps he did not fulfil] all the requirements to qualify for admission but he had served his country. I am pleased to state that he was admitted to the Concord hospital.
The administration of the Repatriation Act is very wonderful. Although at times we may be disappointed by some of the decisions on war pensions given by the tribunals because they are not in favour of the ex-servicemen we are given some encouragement because we are told that these men have the right of appeal. I have found that the officers of the Department are most helpful in the advice that they tender and that they assist the men to get justice. As the honourable member for Wills (Mr Byrant) stated, we get many cases in which it is difficult to prove war-caused disability.
This applies especially to those excellent soldiers who in the First World War got a whiff of gas and carried on. It has been difficult for them to establish that their bronchial ailments came about because they were slightly gassed. I have had 2 or 3 experiences of having asked their relatives to go through all the letters and documents they had during the First World War. A pay book that was discovered by 1 man had the very well defined signature of Lieutenant
I think that the time has come when the onus of proof should be on the Commonwealth, especially in regard to claims by those who served in the First World War. It is practically impossible for those men to obtain evidence now. Most of their mates have passed on and it is difficult to locate those who are alive. In fairness to the tribunals, I must say that they endeavour to arrive at a just decision. I have spoken to an ex-chairman of a tribunal. He is a man of great integrity and he assured me that on all occasions the benefit of the doubt was given to the exserviceman. The Government has gone a certain way towards meeting the improvements suggested by the Returned Services League of Australia. However, I think all aspects of repatriation require a fuller investigation. To sift through all the material will take a long time. I appeal to the Government to give consideration to the plight of the 11,000-odd veterans of the First World War. They are in the evening of their lives. Should they become ill through any cause whatsoever - whether a war cause or not - they should be admitted to a repatriation hospital. I thank the Government for the increases that it has granted, especially in the total temporary incapacity pension. I trust that when similar legislation is being considered next year the Government will have gone much further towards meeting the improvements suggested by the RSL.
– I support the amendment moved by my Deputy Leader (Mr Barnard) on behalf of the Opposition. The amendment reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: whilst not opposing the second reading of the Bill, the House is of the opinion that -
the pension rate for the T. & P.I. ex servicemen, the general rate pensioners and war widows should not have been allowed to decline notwithstanding the proposed increases, in relation to average weekly earnings and
a joint select committee should be appointed to inquire into and make recommendations on all aspectsof the provisions and operation of the Repatria tion Act’
Each year the ex-servicemen’s organisations make 2 main submissions to the Government. The first is made by the Federal Executive of the Returned Services League. It is presented to an ex-servicemen’s committee of Cabinet. This year it was presented on Tuesday, 7th April 1970. The 1970 war compensation plan of the RSL raised certain points. It asked, firstly, for an independent non-parliamentary committee to review all the provisions of the Repatriation Act and to make recommendations to the Government. It wanted, secondly, a general review of war and service pension rates, suggesting certain figures as the amounts at which the rates should be fixed. It wanted, thirdly, repatriation, hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits extended to all returned servicemen of the First World War and the Boer War without their having to prove a war-caused disability. Fourthly, they wanted the funeral grant to be increased from $50 to $150.
That war compensation plan was almost identical with the plan that the RSL asked for in 1969, and we had to sit here and listen to the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), who identifies himself as the secretaryof the Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee, say that this plan put forward by the RSL will be considered by his Committee. I told honourable members that the RSL plan for 1970 was almost identical to its plan for 1969. It was presented to the Government on 7th April 1970 and yet a member of the Government - the secretary of the Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee - can come here and tell us that he will see that these plans are put before the Government again. The sooner he wakes up to the fact that the Government has no intention of taking any notice of the war compensation plan of the RSL the better it will be for his Committee and for the RSL proper.
The other main organisation that makes a submission is the Commonwealth Council of the Totally and Permanently Disabled Soldiers Association of Australia. This year the Council presented a plan which suggested that war pensions should not be taken into account for means test purposes for social service pensions. Their second point was that the totally and permanently incapacitated pension rate should be increased to $41.90 a week. Their next point was that the repatriation pensions payable to wives of TPI pensioners should be increased from $4 to $8. Their next point was that medical benefits should be made available for wives of all TPI pensioners. Their following point was that the funeral grant should be increased from $50 to $200 and that transportation rebates should be increased from $30 to $100. Their last point was that cancer should be accepted as a war caused disability whether it was war caused or not.
Both these submissions were couched in moderate language. The arguments were reasonable and they did not exaggerate at all, but most of the requests were ignored and others were only partially granted. It amazes me that the RSL and other exservicemen’s organisations are not far more angry than they are about the poor increases that are to be granted under this Bill. The only statement that I can find is one in an issue of ‘Reveille’ of this year. It is headed: ‘National President critical on Budget*. The article states:
The National President of the RSL (Sir Arthur Lee, K.B.E., M.C.) said the new Budget increases for repatriation pensioners were ‘totally unacceptable’. Sir Arthur said: ‘Why should ex-servicemen and women who had suffered disabilities through war service find the compensation they receive adversely affected by the need for allocation in other areas of Government expenditure?
The present procedure for determining the level is outmoded and must be changed.
The war compensation increases in the Budget fail to reflect the rise in the cost of living which has occurred in recent years.
That was a statement by the Federal President of the RSL. I have read other statements that he has made on subjects other than repatriation. His language was much more violent on those occasions, but then he was generally attacking Labor Party policies or Labor Party members. But now, when he has an opportunity to come out with a critical analysis of the repatriation proposals in this Budget all he says is that they are totally unacceptable. If they are totally unacceptable what further has he done about it? I suggest that he and his organisation have done exactly nothing. They must have forgotten that in 1968 they put out a pamphlet. I have one in my hand. At the top of it we have a photograph of soldiers in battle dress marching along a street and at the bottom we have 3 elderly gentlemen - I take them to be exservicemen - sitting on a park bench. The wording is ‘Honoured in war . . . Forgotten in peace’. Inside the pamphlet we find this statement:
The Commonwealth Government’s neglect of war pensions for incapacitated veterans must be resisted.
Further on it states:
The present levels of war pensions are a disgrace to the Government, a disgrace to Australia and a betrayal of those who have suffered in war.
Another pamphlet was published in February 1970. It was authorised by the National Executive of the Returned Services League of Australia. On the front of the pamphlet is a photograph of a man who no doubt is training for service in Vietnam. The question is asked: ‘What do we owe him?’ Inside the pamphlet it says that we owe him a great deal, including adequate compensation cover, satisfactory reestablishment opportunities and comprehensive medical and hospital benefits. Then the pamphlet sets out the RSL’s requests which were to be presented to the Government in April. Also inside the pamphlet is a table showing the erosion of compensation values. It shows that between 1950 and 1970 the minimum wage increased by 207 per cent, the average weekly earnings for an employed male increased by 246.5 per cent and the special TPI rate pension increased by only 157 per cent and the general rate or 100 per cent pension increased by only 143 per cent. The RSL and other organisations have requested the Government to stop the erosion of compensation payments to ex-servicemen.
The main request of the RSL this year and last year concerned the setting up of an independent, non-parliamentary committee to review completely the operations of the Repatriation Act and the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act and all their provisions and to make appropriate recommendations to the Government. Last year and again this year the Government was asked to set up an independent committee. The only thing that the Government has done through the new Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) is to announce the setting up of a departmental committee.
I am surprised that the Minister in his second reading speech did not refer to the fact that this departmental committee had been set up. >He did not say who were likely to be the members of the committee. He failed to give any idea of the attitude that the members of the Committee will adopt or the course they will follow. He did not indicate whether they are to make a comprehensive investigation or whether they are to look only at parts of the respective Bills.
On a number of occasions the Opposition has moved an amendment which was designed to set up a joint select committee of this Parliament. We have moved a similar amendment on this occasion. We first suggested the setting up of a joint select committee of the Parliament to inquire into the provisions and operation of the Repatriation Act as far back as 1963. That is as far back as I have checked. When the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) was speaking earlier today he suggested that we had stolen the idea for the setting up of a committee from the RSL. If anything, the RSL has stolen the idea from the Australian Labor Party. Instead of a joint select committee of the Parliament, the League has suggested the appointment of an independent, non-parliamentary committee. But thereafter, it seeks exactly the same things as we do.
I have in my mind an amendment which was moved by the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) to the Repatriation Bill in 1963. It refers to the setting up of a joint committee on repatriation. It sets out the constitution of the committee, the tenure of office of members of the committee, and then it provides for resignations, the filling of vacancies, the election of a chairman and vice-chairman, the number of members who would form a quorum, the procedure at meetings, the sitting of the committee during recess, the power of the committee to send for persons, papers and records, the powers, privileges and immunities of the committee and the functions of the committee. As I said, I did not check further back than 1963, but the Labor Party suggested the setting up of a repatriation committee as far back as then. In the documents I have in front of me I have copies of the amendments which were moved in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1969 as well as the amendment which was moved today seeking a joint parliamentary committee inquiry. In other words, from at least 1963 onwards the Australian Labor Party has sought an overhaul of the Repatriation Act.
The 1914-18 war has been finished 52 years and the 1939-45 war has been finished 25 years, but as far as 1 can recall there has been only one non-departmental review of the Act since it was passed in 1917, and that was in 1943. There was a departmental review about the 1950s when the Government first came into office. But the Repatriation Act would not have had the same ramifications in those days as it has now. The Act has been amended in so many ways since it was passed that I think it is absolutely essential that the Act should be looked at in its entirety. The Labor Party suggested the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee in 1963 because it felt that repatriation was a matter which should be beyond the realm of politics. The Labor Party believes that people who, as the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) said, are prepared to pay the supreme sacrifice of serving their country should be entitled to compensation if they are injured or wounded in any way while doing so. The Labor Party has suggested that the inquiry be conducted by a joint parliamentary committee because the matter would then become the responsibility of the whole Parliament. If the inquiry were conducted by a Government or departmental committee it would still come within the realm of politics. Whatever decision a Government or departmental committee arrived at would be criticised by the Labor Party for its failure in some respect or another. 1 do not think that a departmental committee would satisfy the wishes of the RSL or of exservicemen generally. 1 make the plea that either the request of the RSL be agreed to and an independent committee of inquiry be set up or the request of the Opposition be approved and a parliamentary committee be set up. There is a great need for changes to be made in the Repatriation Act. The honourable member for Wills detailed a lot of the anomalies. I will not go through them because I promised not to take my full length of time, but the Act does need overhauling. In my opinion the Repatriation Act is extremely costly and inefficient in some directions. I think more could be done for our ex-servicemen than is being done at present for perhaps the same expenditure. However, I am not going to say in the House why I have come to this opinion. I would say why at a meeting of a joint parliamentary committee, where perhaps I would not run the risk of offending some ex-servicemen. Any decision arrived at by such a committee would be a joint one. There are good reasons for changing the Act. I believe that all honourable members, irrespective of what side of the House they are on, should support the amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I also wish to protest against the rather paltry increases in certain repatriation benefits which are provided in this Bill. I strongly support the amendment which was moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). I note that at a recent conference the Returned Services League advocated that the determination of repatriation benefits should be taken out of the realm of politics. I think the RSL’s proposition is quite reasonable. It has suggested that if war pensions or, more properly, war compensation payments were tied to some kind of cost of living index we might well advance towards the objective of taking them beyond the realm of politics. The RSL suggested that a formula should be devised wherein compensation payments would be related to the minimum wage in the community.
It seems a modest request to ask that, for instance, the totally and permanently incapacitated pension rate be related to the full minimum wage in the community. The RSL could have asked that the TPI rate be related to the average adult male wage, which would be a considerably higher amount. I understand that the average adultmalewageisoftheorderof$77a week as compared with the minimum wage of $42 a week. But TPI pensioners will not get even $42 a week. Under the provisions of this Bill they will receive $38 a week, which is $4 a week below the current minimum wage. The RSL asked for the 100 per cent general rate pension to be increased to $21 a week, which is one half the minimum wage, but it will remain at $12 a week with provision for a $6 a week special compensation allowance. It was also suggested that war widows should get 50 per cent which would place them on $21 a week but they got a paltry increase of 50c a week which put them on $15.50 a week. The allowance for the wife of a TPI pensioner has been unaltered for some years. The wife of a TPI pensioner now receives $4.05 per week. It was suggested by the TPI Association that this amount ought to be doubled but no increase was granted to them whatsoever. Another suggestion by the TPI Association was that the wife of a TPI ex-serviceman should receive repatriation hospital and medical treatment. This benefit will be denied many of these people under the terms of this Bill. I understand that about 35 per cent of the wives of TPI ex-servicemen will not receive such treatment.
Reference has already been made to the paltry funeral grant which has, since the early 1940s, remained at $50. This is expected to cover the burial of an exserviceman although the fact is that today the most ordinary funeral costs at least $200. I wish to add my protest to that of the honourable member for Lang regarding the type of inquiry that the Minister for Repatriation proposes for repatriation procedures. It is suggested that a departmental inquiry will be undertaken to inquire into repatriation procedures. A departmental inquiry would amount to the organisation carrying out an internal investigation of itself. Surely this could not be nearly as effective as an inquiry by an independent tribunal such as that advocated by the Returned Services League, or a joint parliamentary inquiry as suggested by the Australian Labor Party.
I noted in regard to the suggested departmental inquiry that there was no mention of the terms of reference including the notorious onus of proof provision or the automatic acceptance of cancer,
The contention of the Labor Party has always been that it is virtually impossible to say that those conditions were not contracted, at least partially, by an exserviceman during his war service. I only hope - and this is a special request by RSL subbranches in my electorate - that such an inquiry irrespective of how it is constituted will make a special review of sections 24, 48 and 101 of the Repatriation Act which deal with the procedures for investigating eligibility for benefits on the basis of disabilities or death occasioned by war service.
I am rather concerned about the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. There appear to be considerable variations in the percentages of appeals being upheld or disallowed by the Tribunals. Honourable members may be aware that there are 4 Appeal Tribunals. They deal with more than 2,000 cases in any one year. It would appear that the samples are significantly large to ensure that the differences are not just accidental. In the year 1967-68 Tribunal No. 1 allowed 13 per cent of appeals, and it also allowed 13 per cent in 1968-69. That Tribunal was at least consistent in its decisions in terms of percentages. Tribunal No. 2 which investigated the same kind of appeals by ex-servicemen upheld only 11.9 per cent in 1967-68 and 9.7 per cent in 1968-69. Tribunal No. 3 upheld 22 per cent - almost twice as many as the other Tribunals- in 1967-68 and 22.4 per cent in 1968-69. Tribunal No. 4 upheld 15.8 per cent of the appeals in 1967-68 and 14.3 per cent in 1968-69.
I realise that it is somewhat difficult to grasp the import of these figures, but at least they show that the Tribunals were consistent in the number of appeals that each upheld in those 2 years. However, there is a marked difference in the number of appeals allowed by the Tribunals. I wonder whether there is a good deal of subjectivity in the judgment of tribunals. If there is it might well be a matter for investigation by the inquiry that is about to be conducted. I have always thought that the means test on war pensions ought to be abolished. This has always been advocated by the Labor Party. It is ALP policy that war pensions, including the general and special rate, and family allowances, shall not be taken into consideration as income for the payment of service pensions or corresponding social service pensions. The Labor Party stated m its election policy last year that this proposal should be implemented within 3 years with substantial relief being granted in the first year. Many special rate pensioners - TPI pensioners - will not get the full benefit of the $2 increase in the pension which is provided for under this Bill simply because it will be deducted from their part-service pension.
Finally, 1 want to mention a recent experience I had concerning an exserviceman. The gentleman was a World War II ex-serviceman. The case was brought to my attention by his brother. The exserviceman was suffering from acute cancer. It was spreading through his body. He had gone to the repatriation authorities seeking to have his disability accepted as being due to war causes. It was not accepted. He had to go to a general hospital. They could not maintain him in the general hospital, so his brother came to see me about whether something could be done. I asked whether an appeal had been made to the repatriation authorities to have this man accepted as being eligible for a service pension subject to the means test. The man obviously had no income and he had very few assets, yet it had never been suggested to him by the repatriation authorities, when he did not get a war pension, that he might apply for a service pension. I made a good many representations on his behalf and ultimately he was accepted as being eligible for a service pension and was transferred, belatedly, into the Concord Repatriation Hospital.
So far so good. It was bad enough that he had been delayed to this extent. But after he had been in the hospital about 2i weeks the doctors of the Repatriation Hospital said that he was well enough to be. transferred to a private convalescent home. I heard one of my colleagues referring to this sort of thing earlier. In this case it was insisted that he was well enough to be transferred, despite the fact that it was acknowledged that he was in a state of advanced carcinoma of the prostate with metastases. It was expected that he could die at any time. This is not the first incident of this kind that has come to my notice. It was insisted by the Repatriation Hospital authorities that he be transferred to a private convalescent home.
His relatives protested vigorously, but the social worker insisted that the doctors message was that he was well enough and that there was no reason why he should not be transferred after only 24 weeks in the Repatriation Hospital. By the time the ambulance reached the convalescent home, bis condition was such that the doctor and nurses at that home registered utter amazement and dismay that a man in his condition should have been so transferred. That man died 4 days later. This is not good enough. I like to think that I have had very good relations with the Repatriation Department generally, but just lately a sequence of this kind of case has come to my notice. I think they ought to be looked into.
I do not want to trespass on the time of other honourable members who want to speak, so I will curtail my remarks on this subject. I wish the Minister had made his statement about the setting up of an inquiry in this Parliament, not to some outside body. He could have done that at a later stage if he wanted to. I wish he had made a statement about the kind of inquiry he envisages. At least then we might have been able to debate it in this House and we might have been able to make suggestions about its terms of reference. I hope in the future that he will follow the example of some of his colleagues and make any announcement of that kind here in the Parliament. This is the place where it ought to be made in the first instance.
– I too will be very brief in my remarks. We want to see the passage of this Bill today because it has to go to the Senate next week. The sooner the Bill is passed, the sooner the benefits will be available. So it is right that we should make only short speeches. It is appreciated that honourable members opposite have been keeping very closely to the time limits that they said they would observe. I am supposed to speak for 5 or 8 minutes. I will try to keep to that It will probably be one of the shortest speechesI have ever made. On one occasion my speech consisted merely of saying: ‘I support the Bill because I believe it is in the best interests of Australia’. I then sat down. I do not intend to be that brief on this occasion.
I appreciate the attention given by the Repatriation Department to the exservicemen that 1 represent. From the head of the Department in Victoria, the Deputy Commissioner, down through the different grades of people I have met, they have treated the men I have taken to see them with the greatest courtesy. This courtesy is appreciated by all honourable members.
I do not have time to say very much and therefore I want to be very definite. The honourable member for Barton (Mr
Reynolds) spoke about the amount of the total and permanent incapacity pension. I have to move from one point to another very quickly in order to cover the case. He referred to what he called the lowest wage. He mentioned the sum of $38 for the TPI pensioner and $42 as the lowest wage. Debates of this nature were taking place when I first came into this House. By the way, the Minister for Repatriation at the time was the father of the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Bass (Mr Barnard). He was a very fine gentleman and I was very friendly with him. I put a case to him suggesting that more money should be paid because the pension was not as much as the basic wage of those days. Mr Barnard then put me on the right track. At that time 1 was the honourable member for Wimmera. I represented that electorate for the first 34 years of my time in this House until the name of the electorate was changed to Mallee in an electoral redistribution. Mr Barnard said: ‘The honourable member for Wimmera does not understand that that amount of money, the basic wage, is all that the man gets. It covers him - or is supposed to in theory - and perhaps his wife and 2 children. On the other hand the wife and children of a TPI pensioner also get pensions. Therefore the TPI pensioner is better off than the man on the lowest wage’.
I saw straight away that I had not understood the position. I had only been a member for perhaps 6 months. I could see immediately the wisdom of what Mr Barnard said. I have mentioned this matter on different occasions in these debates but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the son of the man who put me right, never seems to grasp the point or to concede it when making speeches in this place.
Moving on quickly, Jet me say that I think one of the important things is the has to be established. It is very good for a man to get a 20 per cent, 40 per cent or up to a 100 per cent pension. But if a man on a 100 per cent pension is not getting enough to compensate him for his disability then I, as his representative, will put up the case that he should get the intermediate pension. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) spoke about this matter today. Incidentally, he had a lot to do with the introduction of this pension. The intermediate pension was established for men who are not totally and permanently invalided - men who can do some work but whose incapacity is more than can be compensated by the 100 per cent rate. Therefore it is eligibility that is important.
Recently I dealt with the case of a man I had served with. In presenting his case 1 said to the departmental officer: This is a typical example of why the intermediate pension was established.’ That man received the intermediate rate. Later he could not work at all and was transferred to the TPI rate.I could speak about these things that have happened for much longer than the 5 or 8 minutes at my disposal. One honourable member said during this debate that ex-servicemen do not get much sympathy from the Government. They do not want sympathy. They want justice; they want a good pension. Sympathy does not get them anywhere. I wrote down what the honourable member said at the time.
Many other things have been said in this debate and I do not know which to deal with. Generally speaking I say definitely that I want the Repatriation Department and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) to watch closely over these men coming back from Vietnam. A lot of us know what jungle fighting is like and these men should get the best possible deal.I do not mean that they should get a better deal than the men who served in the two World Wars or other smaller conflicts. I do not believe that. But they should get the same. There is nothing too good for an exserviceman. Who decides eligiblity? Is it the Minister? No. He cannot do anything. He cannot say: ‘Give this man a pension.’
– Simply because it would be right out of the bounds of justice and fair reasoning. He cannot do it. When one works the whole thing out, the person who decides who is going to get a pension is the doctor who examines the man. If he recommends a pension for a man he is almost sure to get it. Let us take someone who is not satisfied with the 80 per cent pension he receives. I am repeating myself, but I want to do so. If the man’s condition is such that the pension does not meet the situation, a case should be made out to put him into the category of the intermediate pension. Then he could do some light work and still receive that pension. If he then finds he is still incapacitated the only thing left for him is the TPI pension.
I have been asked whether I will vote with the Opposition for the amendment. Somebody said: ‘If you come over it will not break the Government. It will not put the Government out of office.’ My answer was: ‘No. I know that.’ I would not go over if I thought it would defeat the Government. If I went over knowing that it would not defeat the Government, and got some paltry publicity in doing so, I would not be acting in the best interests of common sense and I would not be true to myself on a principle. I was called to task recently for saying that Government supporters, believing that the Government does its best for Australia, including exservicemen, want to keep it in office. The Labor Party wants to get into office. We have a party system. How many Labor members come over and vote with the Government? I have seen two of them do it while I have been here. The other day 2 Labor members voted with the Government on the question of aircraft noise. They are the only two I know of. After all, people outside might say that the honourable member for Wimmera, or Calare, or Mallee should vote for these things with the Opposition. We know that this is only political talk. Not one member on the Opposition side would vote with the Government no matter how much he wanted a certain thing to happen.
I hope the Bill will go through. I compliment the Minister for the work he has already done. He has not been in this portfolio for long so we cannot blame him for anything. Perhaps we will next year, if he does not get moving. I believe he is ardently working to give the ex-servicemen whom he represents as the Minister for Repatriation the best possible deal that this country can give them. Nothing is more justified than giving those men and women who served this country in its dire need the best deal that Australia can give them. They were willing and able to serve Australia in the great world wars we have seen. We owe them the privilege of being members of this democratic Parliament. But for them we would never have been able to continue in existance and in peaceful occupation of the Commonwealth of Australia.
I am grateful to the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) for the unprecedented restraint that he exercised so that I might speak for a few minutes in this debate. He is obviously worried about why he finds it difficult to vote with the Opposition. That is a matter for his own conscience. I think it should be made clear and brought into sharp relief that the issues on which the Parliament is about to be called to vote are very limited and very specific. They concern the minimum rate for the TPI pension. We have been discussing an official request from the Returned Services League that the TPI rate be made equal to the minimum wage which, as my colleague the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) pointed out, is $42 a week. The provisions before the House provide for a TPI rate of $38 a week. Surely this does not present any great problem from the standpoint of honourable members opposite? One wonders what the situation would be like if troops were being sent overseas and the Prime Minister was at the port or railway station, saying: ‘Cheerio, Chaps. I just want to give you this final assurance on behalf of the people of Australia. If you get knocked over and you can never work again and can never be an ordinary citizen again you can come back here and we will guarantee to give you an amount which is $4 a week less man the minimum wage.’ Not many volunteers would turn up to go overseas and serve the country in that situation. 1 understand the implementation of this scheme would cost $8.5m. Surely that amount would not break the exchequer or bring about the insolvency of the national Government of Australia?
I would like to talk about a number of matters this afternoon but I know there are difficulties with time because honourable members have to catch aeroplanes. I would like to make some reference toa matter to which I referred during the Budget debate but to which I have as yet received no answer. I want to raise the matter again as I understand the Minister is going to speak. The honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) talked about the various appeals tribunals and the extent to which the appeals before them are disallowed. I am referring particularly to the No. 4 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal.
This Tribunal is not the most benevolent in the world. I understand that out of 2,432 appeals heard during the year it allowed 344. I have the various tribunal reports before me and that is about the average rate of successful appeals.
– They would get the sack if they went over that average.
– I used to think they were quite sycophant. I feel one of the problems in presenting contentious repatriation matters these days is that some of the top brass of the Returned Services League have become subjective and sycophant. I have their annual report in front of me. If I had time I would read out the Commonwealth honours which have been awarded to the top echelon of the RSL which, these days, seems to spend more time in anti-Labor propaganda than in advocacy on behalf of the ex-servicemen of this country. I am not talking about the ex-servicemen at the grass roots level and the RSL sub-branches. To my way of thinking they still make a fair endeavour on behalf of the people they represent. But I am not at all satisfied that the top echelon does not sell out to the Government. If one went through their names, which time will not allow me to do, one would see that the vast predominance of them has been generously endowed with Commonwealth honours. I would hope these people would not be influenced as a result of that. Serving on the No. 4 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal is the Chairman, Mr K. L. Harding, the Deputy Chairman, Mr N. C. McGregor and a member, Mr W. E. Lambert. I pay tribute to those gentlemen because they are not prepared to be a rubber stamp as the top brass of the RSL seems to be. In the report they stated:
The Tribunal, therefore, has to spend much time in correcting errors of typing, exclusion or assemblysothattheseotherusersmayhavea reasonably reliable summary. Many errors are quite grotesque and often misleading - if not detected and corrected they could actually prejudice the successful prosecution of an appeal. Quite apart from the additional time required before and during hearings much confusion is caused by advocates and medical advisers being required to work from corrupt copies before the Tribunal can assist at a hearing to set the record straight
This increasing burden on the Tribunal, if allowed to continue, can only result in a reduction of the number of appeals determined.
These very strong comments have come from an official tribunal which has the imprimatur of the Repatriation Department and the Minister. In other words, they have dared to say the truth about the position of ex-servicemen who appeal.
– That is what you think.
– That is what the members of the Tribunal think. That is the important thing, lt is apparent that members of Parliament would not know except when they have experience with exservicemen who make applications for war pensions and who appeal in respect of the determinations made. We often see their dissatisfaction. I am one of those who feel that in many instances ex-servicemen do not get a fair go. My attitude has now been substantiated by this tribunal which is saying that the Repatriation Commission is not providing the information which is necessary and that there are grotesque and misleading mistakes being made in the evidence put before tribunals. If the tribunals have the wrong evidence before them how can they possibly come to a fair and just conclusion? This is the kind of matter which justifies the other aspect of the amendment which has been moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard).
The amendment asks for 2 things. Firstly it seeks to lift the rate for totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen to the minimum wage in the community. Apparently some honourable members opposite find it difficult to approve of this fundamental principle. The other leg of the amendment refers to the fact that the Bill does not provide for the appointment of a joint select committee to completely review the Repatriation Act, its operation and all its provisions, and make appropriate recommendations to the Government. The RSL is of that view and we are arguing it today because of the type of example I have given. If time would permit I could give many examples which would justify the need for a review or inquiry. Who would be afraid of a review or inquiry if there was nothing to hide? My colleague, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), proposed that we should separate pensions from medical treatment. If one looks at the utilisation of repatriation hospitals it can be seen that there is plenty of scope for that. Indeed, it is a much smaller problem if one only has regard to the aspect of pharmaceutical services and medical treatment outside the hospital system. I have no further time in which to elaborate on that but I ask the Minister whether he will treat the No. 4 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal’s comments wilh the respect and consideration that they deserve? It is some weeks since I raised that matter in the Parliament and I ask the Minister whether there has been an inquiry and, if so, to what extent can the ex-servicemen be placated in respect of this tremendously important matter.
– in reply - I understand that because of the timetable of the House I have exactly 74 minutes in which to sum up the debate and answer some of the queries, so I shall get straight to it. Obviously I will not be able to menlion all the matters I would like to. Dealing very briefly with the matter the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) raised, he said that the No. 4 Tribunal had said that there were grotesque and misleading mistakes in the summaries prepared for them. The report 1 have is that the Department makes every effort to ensure as far as practicable that the summaries are accurate. In every case there is a complete check of important documents - for example, all papers covering medical examinations on entry to and on discharge from the forces - and the recording of all determinations and decisions by the statutory determining authorities. In addition, there is a further 10 per cent check of summaries many of which range in length up to 40 pages or more. At the time the Tribunal’s report was tabled last year the then Acting Minister was given the background of matters raised. At that time we indicated - and this is the important point - that within the period covered by the Tribunal’s report there had not been an instance of criticism to the Commission either by the No. 4 Tribunal or any other tribunal.
I refer now to the matter that the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds) raised regarding the man who was transferred from a repatriation hospital to another hospital. This was done after a discussion with him, his brother and his sister-in-law. It was agreed he should be transferred to the Bexley Nursing Home which was close to his family.
– They strenuously deny that agreement.
– That is my information. If the honourable member wants me to take it further I am prepared to. Regarding the review committee that has been set up within the Department, anybody - including honourable members and particularly the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) - will be eligible to make submissions. If the honourable member has suggestions to put forward for improvement of the repatriation system he is welcome to do so. He can submit his suggestions to the committee of inquiry through the Chairman of the Commission.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) is the main spokesman on repatriation for the Australian Labor Party. I listened to the honourable member today for 45 minutes and he did not put one single proposal as to what the Labor Party would do about pension rates and hospital treatment for ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 war if that Party was in government. One would think to listen to him that he was a tremendous supporter of the policies of the Returned Services League and of the League itself. Indeed, one would think that all honourable members opposite were great supporters of this organisation. However, 1 want to concentrate particularly on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The Party of the Deputy Leader certainly does not support RSL policy on Vietnam for a start, even though the honourable member has admitted that he is convinced that there was aggression by the North Vietnamese against the South Vietnamese.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was critical of a speech I made to the RSL conference in Queensland. He said that I didnotdevoteenoughtimein my speech to pension rates and other aspects of the repatriation system. At least I devoted much of my speech to compensation rates and other matters connected with the repatriation system. In October last year the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a 13-page speech to the Queensland RSL in which he did not make one reference to repatriation. Yet, he is critical of me. That is all the time I have to spend in dealing with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. There has been a great deal of play-
– I rise to a point of order. Cannot the Minister be required to confine his remarks to the Bill before the House?
– Order! That is not a point of order.
– A great deal of reference has been made to the TPI rate. The position is that not all TPI pensioners will receive only $38 a week. If a person is married he will receive $4.05 for his wife which gives him $42.5. This amount is 35c short of the minimum wage. In addition to this, payments are made for children. Also, a TPI pensioner receives free medical treatment and other associated benefits. This Government has been criticised because not all TPI pensioners will receive the full increase of the TPI and means test pensions. The reason for this is that war pension is taken into account as income for the means test. The position is that a single TPI pensioner will receive an overall increase of $1.50 a week. When the Labor Party was in office the position was that an ex-serviceman did not get anything else if he was in receipt of a TPI pension. He did not receive any social service pension at all. However, under this Government’s system a TPI married couple in certain circumstances can receive social service benefits which will take the full amount to $58 a week. This is much better than anything that was given under the Labor Government up to 1949.
There has been criticism of the general rate. It has been said that the general rate has not been increased. I can understand this criticism. However, at least the special compensation allowance has been increased by $1 a week which means that about 70 per cent of pensioners on the 100 per cent
Tate will be receiving $18 a week. This maintains the value of the 100 per cent pension as at 1964. War widows generally willreceivea 50c increaseinpensionand war widows with 2 children will receive an increase of $2.35 a week under the provisions of this Bill.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister permitted to make a second second reading speech in the debate?
– There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat.
– The honourable member is obviously overwrought, poor fellow. Because of the time I want to conclude by thanking very much those honourable members who paid a tribute to the members of the Repatriation Department. I know that these tributes were sincere and are well deserved. On behalf of the staff of the Department I thank honourable members. It is certainly heartening to be ministerial head of a department that has such a good image.
Finally, the provisions of the Repatriation Bill of course will not satisfy everybody around Australia but the fact of the matter is that this Bill will enact the decision of the Government. The Government considered other aspects of repatriation and not only the areas in which improvements have been made. Of course the Government studied them, but in the light of the Government’s overall policy the Government decided on the increases that have been made. These amount to a considerable sum of money. Total expenditure by the Repatriation Department for this financial year will be $335m, which is a fair sum of money in anyone’s language. This is an increase of about 6 per cent on last year, which in view of the general economic objectives and policy of the Government represents a reasonable increase in the expenditure of the Repatriation Department. I do not think that the Opposition amendment can be assessed in terms of cost. We have already set up a committee of review. It commenced work last Monday. I am sure it will do a thoroughly efficient job and a much speedier job than an independent inquiry would do. I remind the House that the Canadian people had an independent inquiry which took 4 years to complete. We do not intend to take anywhere near that time to complete our review of the system.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Barnard’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Holten) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 3rd Sep tember (vide page 933), on motion by Mr Holten:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Holten) read a third time.
House adjourned at 3.51p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many migrants have been given assistance towards a second passage since the commencement of the migration scheme.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The grant of a second assisted passage is subject to much more selective conditions than those which apply for persons receiving assistance to travel to Australia for the first time. Eligibility is confined to married couples and family groups able to demonstrate a change in the conditions which prompted their departure from Australia. Persons selected are required to undertake to refund the assistance given them should they leave Australia within five years (for first assistance the undertaking expires after 2 years), and the passage contribution of $180 payable by adult family members is considerably more than that payable under other assistance schemes.
Arrivals under the Second Assistance Scheme began in September 1968. Settlers arriving under the scheme numbered 390 (198 males, 192 females) in the financial year 1968-69 and 1,508 (769 males, 739 females) in the financial year of 1969-70.
Of the total of 1,898 arrivals, 492 were family members who had not previously received assistance to travel to Australia. A further 134 family members travelled under separate schemes, so that of the more than 2,000 persons who have settled in Australia as a direct result of the scheme, 626 (30.8 per cent) had not been previously assisted.
Ballot Papers (Question No, 1679)
asked the Minister for the
Interior, upon notice:
On how many occasions in the (a) 1966 and (b) 1969 elections for the House of Representatives were candidates of the (i) Australian Labor Party, (ii) Australian Democratic Labor Party, (iii) Liberal Party of Australia and (iv) Australian Country Party on top of the ballot in each State.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
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:
(a) There was not a loss of power from two engines but there was an interruption to the power of one engine on the port side because of ingestion of seagulls,
While both of these factors were present in the circumstances of the accident they do not alone constitute the cause of the accident.
asked the Minister for Immi gration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following two tables give the information requested by the honourable member in relation to the number of migrants who were (a) repatriated and (b) deported in the financial year
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How many of the registered (a) medical and
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Hospital Fund which had exceeded operating expense levels of15 per cent and 12½ per cent of contribution income respectively in 1968-69 had exceeded those levels in the last 10 years were:
Gazelle Peninsula: Evictions (Question No. 1594)
asked the Minister for
External Territories, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Question No. 1508)
asked the Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation Conventions (Question No. 1398)
asked the Minister for
External Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Commonwealth authorities wrote to the Premiers on 19th August 1964, concerning the attitudes of the States to the Convention. 1969 Amendments to the International Convention on Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil
On 7th August, 1969, Commonwealth authorities wrote to the Premiers about the proposed amendments and obtained their views. On 16th July 1970, the Premiers were sent details of the amendments as adopted by the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation. 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969 Amendments to International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, and 1969 International Tonnage Measurement Convention There have been no communications with the States. 1969 International Convention Relating to Intervention on High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties, and 1969 Internationa] Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage Texts of the draft conventions were sent to the Premiers on 22nd July 1969.
New South Wales Prevention of Oil Pollution of Navigable Waters (Amendment) Act 1969 was passed 6th November 1969 and came into effect 6th November 1969.
Navigable Waters (Oil Pollution) (Amendment) Act 1969 was passed 26th November 1969 and came into effect 19th December 1969.
Prevention of Pollution of Waters by Oil Act Amendment Act 1969 was passed 27th November 1969 and came into effect 27th November 1969
Oil Pollution Regulations 1967 were made 10th January 1967 and came into effect 18th January 1967.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700918_reps_27_hor69/>.