27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.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. citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for:
A further undergraduate representative on the Council of the Australian National University. 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 citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
That the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system; a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children; only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies; and nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the National Government.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth-State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginal rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– 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:
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 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 1.970 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 Slates 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.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That unless otherwise ordered, commencing on Tuesday, 27th October, and continuing until and including Friday, 30th October, the House shall meet for the despatch of business on the following days and at the times specified: Tuesday, 27th October, 2.30 p.m.; Wednesday, 28th October, 2.30 p.m.; Thursday, 29th October. 10.30 a.m.; and Friday, 30th October, 10.30 a.m.
I also give notice that at the next sitting r shall move:
That standing order 103, the lt o’clock rule, be suspended until the end of the year.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it the view of the Malaysian Government that the question of the admission of Communist China to the United Nations should be determined by a simple majority vote at the United Nations?
– Already 1 have answered this question on 2 occasions. I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave yesterday, which 1 have taken particular note is reported in Hansard this morning. What I want to put to the House is that all the questions that are being asked here by members of the Opposition seem to indicate that they have no regard for the rights of the people of the countries to determine their own future.
Implicit in everything they say is that they do not mind the use of force, violence and intimidation.
– I rise to order. I refer to standing order 145 which states that an answer shall be relevant to the question. I remind the Minister that the question was:
Is K the view of the Malaysian Government that the question of the admission of Communist China to the United Nations should be determined by a simple majority vote at the United Nations?
– There is no substance in the point taken.
– If the honourable gentleman had listened and understood - this is the second time I have had to use this phrase - he would have realised that the question had in fact been answered yesterday and, I believe, the day before. If he looks in Hansard he will see the answer. I repeat that implicit in all the questions asked by the Opposition is that it believes in the use of force and violence to achieve-
– I rise to order. If the Minister’s answer is relevant to my question he is implying that I am advocating the right to use violence. I object and ask that he withdraw that statement.
– There is no point of order.
– I finish on this note: If honourable members opposite, or some of them, wish to deny the accuracy of this implication it would be wise of them to make their position well known in the House.
– That is exactly what I was doing and you, Mr Speaker, ruled me out of order.
– The honourable member has asked his question. There are many questions asked in this House seeking information. The honourable member asked for information and although the information given may have been greater than the honourable member sought, the answer was relevant to the question.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether Australia’s representatives at the United Nations are continuing to express our concern for the millions of people in Europe and elsewhere, who, through ruthless and oppressive Communist action, have been deprived of their basic human rights completely against the principles of the United Nations Charter.
– We have for a long time expressed our views, both in the Third Committee and before the General Assembly of the United Nations, stressing that we believe in the principles of nondiscrimination and that every person should have the right to life and self expression no matter what his race, creed or colour might be. I can assure the House that we will continue this practice. We also take the view that we do not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. But there is one reservation to this rule and that is where oppression or the suppression of human rights is continuous. On those occasions we will intervene and let our views be known even though that might be regarded as interference. This will particularly apply to the views we express about suppression of the rights of the Jewish people in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
To indicate our point of view, at the anniversary meeting of the General Assembly on the 24th of next month - it is a special meeting - a declaration will be made relating to the rights of individuals, particularly the rights of minorities in certain countries. I think it wise that this part of the declaration be read to the House because it should be on permanent record. This is what we will support as the Australian Government:
Although some progress has been achieved, there are still serious violations of human rights against individuals and groups in several regions of the world. We pledge ourselves to a continued and determined struggle against all violations of the rights and fundamental freedoms of human beings, by eliminating the basic causes of such violations, by promoting universal respect for the dignity of all peoples without regard to race, colour, sex, language or religion-
– I rise to order. The Standing Orders are clear. This period is allocated to questions without notice yet the Minister is obviously and blatantly reading a prepared reply to a prepared question.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle knows, as indeed the whole House knows, my feelings on this matter.
– Why do you not carry out Standing Orders?
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.
– I am not deaf, Mr Speaker.
-Order! Apparently the honourable member for Newcastle does not understand what I have said. I have said on many occasions - I will repeat it now - that there is no way in which the Chair can ascertain whether questions asked are or are not on notice. It is not within the province of the Chair to decide this question.
– The quotation continues: and in particular through greater use of the facilities provided by the United Nations in accordance with the darter.
This declaration will be accepted not only by the liberal countries of the world but by the Communist countries as well. I only hope that in voting they will show the goodwill and honesty that are necessary to live up to the resolution.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs. Is Malaysia willing to co-sponsor a resolution recommending the admission of Communist China to the United Nations?
– This question must be becoming a little boring to the House because I have already answered it. I do not think the question and the answer in themselves are important; what is important is the intention of the Malaysians and what they do. If the honourable gentleman can contain himself for a few days at the most he will see, on the voting papers ofthe General Assembly, exactly how the Malaysians vote.
– I ask the Attorney-General a question. Does an adequate law enforcement system require a full range of extradition treaties between Australia and foreign countries? What is the present position of the adequacy of the extradition treaties presently existing between Australia and foreign countries? What steps is the Government taking to ensure that there are sufficient and adequate extradition treaties in operation, if necessary by negotiating additional treaties?
– The answer to the first part of the honourable member’s question is, yes. Law enforcement is greatly assisted by the subsistence of adequate extradition treaties between Australia and other Commonwealth countries and between Australia and foreign countries. Australia is party to a number of extradition treaties with foreign countries which are non-Commonwealth countries. Those are treaties that were not entered into by Australia in her own right but were entered into many years ago under the umbrella of the United Kingdom. However, since the enactment of the Extradition (Foreign States) Act by this Parliament in 1968 negotiations have been carried out with the Federal Republic of Germany. These negotiations have reached an advanced stage and a draft treaty now awaits approval by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany. I have indicated my approval of the draft that has been submitted. Negotiations have been on foot for some time between Australia and Italy. In the case of Italy, drafts agreed between the officers of the respective governments have been exchanged and await further consideration and discussion. Shortly, 2 senior officers of my Department will be leaving for overseas to visit Israel, haly and, it is hoped, Austria in order to conduct negotiations designed to produce extradition treaties with those countries.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for Defence. As the Australian Government disagrees with the Malaysian Government’s new attitude on the question of the admission of Communist China to the United Nations, what effect does this have on our relations with Malaysia and our concepts of forward defence in Malaysia?
-The first part of the question has been answered at length by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs. So far as the second part of the question is concerned, our relationship wilh Malaysia over the 5-power arrangements that are being worked out between Malaysia. Singapore, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and ourselves are very good indeed. One of the things that annoys the Opposition, I think, is that it realises that the Prime Minister, in a speech in February of 1969, made a commitment on behalf of Australia for the support of the regional defence in the Malaysian-Singapore area, believing then that the British were going lo withdraw their forces from the area. Now, with a change of British Government, we have a direct bonus from this Australian initiative announced by the Prime Minister - the return and the maintenance of British forces in this area on a continuing basis. The point that disturbs the Opposition so much, with its isolationist attitude to these matters, is that it knows this is a bonus from the policy of this Government. The United Kingdom Government could not have made these decisions if the Australian Government of the day had said: ‘We are not concerned with security in the region. We also are going to withdraw behind our shores.’ This is the reason why the Opposition is trying to direct so much attention to this point, trying to make people feel that there are difficulties when in fact there has been very good progress as a direct result of the initiative of this Government.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. The honourable gentleman has stated that it was his intention to introduce legislation to amend the Bankruptcy Act. Is he aware that the Queensland Government has decided to set up a rural reconstruction board in that State to deal with the urgent financial problems faced by many primary producers? Because the amendment of the Bankruptcy Act is necessary to allow this Board to operate effectively. Can the Minister give an assurance that the legislation will be introduced during this session of the Parliament?
– As a result of a conversation I had recently with one of the Parliamentary Counsel, I am in a position to give the honourable member the assurance that he seeks, and I give it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In trading with Communist China yet refusing to recognise that nation, is Australia becoming isolated from a majority of the countries of Asia and from Australia’s partners in the Commonwealth?
– The implication seems to be that the majority of the countries in Asia and other members of the British Commonwealth are not trading with Communist China and therefore, because we trade with Communist China, we are becoming separated from them; but this of course is a completely false premise. As far as I know, most countries in the world trade with Communist China, though a number of them, including ourselves, have regard to a list of exports so that warlike material is not traded with Communist China. On the question of the recognition of that country, some countries recognise and have diplomatic relations with Communist China. We do not.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Army a question. I presume that hs has made a recommendation to the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee regarding senior serving officers of the Citizen Military Forces. Can the Minister advise me how the rate of pay for such officers is compiled? Can he advise me whether there is concern in the Army about the delay in reaching a decision in this matter?
– This matter is before the Defence (Conditions of Service) Committee, which comprises representatives not merely of my Department but of the other Service departments, the Department of Defence and the Treasury. The matter has been considered over a recent period of time. No decision has as yet been arrived at for formulation to the Minister for Defence and the Treasurer, who have prime responsibility for its implementation and acceptance. Naturally my Department and I are keenly interested in the findings of the Committee. I can say no more, naturally, as the Committee comprises interdepartmental representation. It is my hope that, as the Minister for Defence indicated himself some week or so ago, the matter can be brought to fruition without too much delay.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question supplementary to the one asked of him by, I think, the honourable member for Diamond Valley. The honourable gentleman told me in a written reply on the 15th of last month that the Extradition (Foreign States) Act applied to Italy, among other countries, and did so without any limitations, conditions, exceptions or qualifications. I ask him: What change in circumstances has brought about the negotiations with Italy to which he has now referred?
– The position is that although the Act is capable of application to Italy and applies to it in that sense-
– You said it does apply.
– It does; Italy is a country to which the Act is applicable, and I can recall that one of the first decisions I had to take after assuming office nearly a year ago was to open negotiations with the Italian Government for the formulation of a treaty. Those negotiations have been continuing, and I had an informal conversation with the Italian ambassador last night in which he informed me that things are progressing very smoothly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Interior in his capacity as the administrator of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I ask: Would it be possible to arrange for a referendum in conjunction with the coming Senate election on the question to electors Do you favour a Socialist State?’ Or does the coming Senate election give electors the opportunity to signify their opinion in this regard?
– I shall deal first with the honourable member’s question concerning whether a referendum should be conducted. The question whether a referendum should be conducted on any subject at any time is always a matter of policy. Now 1 come to the second part of his question. If the electors are aware of the policies of the parties nominating candidates at the election there is an opportunity for those electors to register a vote on the question whether or not they want a Socialist state. I think the policy of the Government in this regard is well known. We respect both free enterprise and the rights of individuals. We certainly respect the proposition that initiative should be rewarded. It is a little difficult to tell these days what the policy of the Opposition is, as there seems to be a bit of a smokescreen. But 1 can say that when the right honourable member for Melbourne was the Leader of the Opposition he made no secret of the fact that socialisation was the most important plank of the Labor Party’s platform. Even at this moment I hear some honourable members opposite saying ‘Hear, hear* to that proposition. That first plank of the Labor Party’s policy still exists, I understand. It was renewed at the last Federal Conference, and the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange remains the most important plank of the platform. Therefore, it is true to say that if electors are aware that this is the Labor Party’s policy they will have an opportunity to cast their vote on the question at the Senate election. There is one other point that needs to be made. It is a little difficult to tell which way Labor would achieve socialisation. When one hears the honourable member for Lalor getting up in public places and saying-
– I rise to order, ls the policy of the Labor Party within the purview of the Minister’s office? If it is not, his answer is out of order.
-The Minister is replying to the question that was put to him.
– I was saying that it is a bit hard to tell in which way the Labor Party intends to achieve this socialisation. Indeed, when one recognises-
– I rise to order. I submit that a simple question was asked of the Minister: Would a referendum be conducted on this topic? This is not an opportunity for a dissertation on Socialism or any other ideal.
– Order! 1 would suggest to the Minister that, as the question was asked of the Minister in his capacity as the Minister in charge of the Electoral Act, he is now going outside the ambit of that capacity.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I just want to round off the point, because there were 2 parts to the honourable member’s question. In deference to the Chair-
-Order! I have already suggested to the Minister what course he should take.
– Thank you, Sir. When we have the honourable member for Lalor saying that authority has had its day, and the Leader of the Opposition-
-Order! The Minister, in his answer, is going beyond the bounds of the question.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: Has he noted the criticism of the shipping conference system contained in the annual report of the Australian National Line? Has he noted the claim by the Chairman that the conferences are hamstringing Australian efforts in international shipping? I further ask the Minister: What can be done to eliminate the unfair practices such as overtonnaging a trade and refusing a reasonable share, as listed in Sir John Williams’ report? Further, the Minister will have noted that the report discloses a loss of $210,612 for coastal trading operations in 1969-70. Can the Minister say how much of this loss was borne by the Darwin trade, the north Queensland trade, the Tasmanian trade and the bulk cargo trade?
– It is true that for the first time in some 14 years of operation the Australian National Line has incurred a loss, lt is also true that in the report Sir John Williams referred to some of the disabilities which the Australian National Line, together with its 2 partners in the Eastern Searoad Service, has faced in achieving what it secs as a necessary measure of sharing of the available cargo in the Japan-Australia trade. Towards the securing of a greater percentage of that trade, negotiations arc proceeding between the ANL, as a member of the conference, and other members of the conference. However, it is not true that Sir John Williams was criticising the conference. What he was criticising was the extent to which there seems to be within the trade crosstraders who have a greater percentage of the trade than the Australian national flag carriers which comprise not only the Australian National Line but also the Flinders Shipping Company.
What Sir John Williams seeks is an opportunity for the Australian national flag carriers to be able to compete equally with the Australia-Japan Container Line, which is the other major group of carriers in the trade. His objective within the conference is to ensure that there shall be both a greater percentage of pool points, or share of the trade, available to the ANL and, as soon as possible, a fourth Eastern Searoad Service vessel.
As to the second part of the honourable gentlemen’s question, it is true that the
ANL has incurred in the coastal sector of its operations a loss of about $200,000. This loss is over the whole of the coastal trade. It is a reflection of the causes to which Sir John Williams alluded - the slow delivery and slow completion of new types of trader vessels which were scheduled to take over from the conventional vessels but which because of building delays in the dockyard were, in some instances, up to 12 months late. This is indicative of some of the difficulties that ship owners operating with conventional vessels incur, in that because they are operating conventional vessels they have a much higher order of costs than when they are operating cellular container ships or modern types of unit load vessels.
One of the principal difficulties with which the ANL is faced in the coastal trades is that it unfortunately has had to keep in service for too long conventional vessels, for which the costs of operation are far higher. It is substantially because of that, that over ad of those operations a loss has been incurred for this 12 month period. With the introduction of the new unit load vessels, of these specialised vessels and without the presence in the international trades of some of the peculiar factors operational in the last 12 months - in particular, the Tilbury dispute and the taint problem in reefers - and, of course, the lower percentage of conventional vessels operating, I am hopeful that the position may improve substantially in the next 1 2 months.
35-HOUR WORKING WEEK
– Has the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service been drawn to the statement by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that this is the year of the 35- hour week? Will the Minister inform the House of the measures that the ACTU President is pursuing to achieve this objective? Does the Government feel that the Australian economy and our producers for the export markets can afford such a reduction in working hours?
– I see the author of this statement in the chamber. As I read the statement, I think it was in these terms: 1971 will be the year of the 35-hour week. Now, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the honourable member for Hindmarsh, I will state quite emphatically that I believe that the aspirations of this country will not be achieved by the precipitate arrival of a 35-hour working week.
The Government has constantly maintained the position that increases in award conditions should be achieved through the arbitration tribunals. That remains the policy crf the Government’ and is one which, naturally enough, I thoroughly endorse. Therefore, it must be a matter for the arbitration tribunals. I think that when these matters come before the arbitration tribunals it will be encumbent upon the Government to use the power under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to intervene in the public interest and to put in the public interest the arguments against it or, at least, against too precipitate an arrival of it.
The cost is quite great. The volume of the cost can be measured - people will say if 1 give figures that I have not calculated them correctly - and is without doubt in excess of $2,000m a year. To put it into percentage terms, the unit costs of production will be increased by approximately 10 per cent or 12 per cent.
The point I make is that the only way to achieve the aspirations which the people of Australia want - I refer to a sense of idealism and indeed a sense of social conscience - is by community wealth. Community wealth will not be achieved by sheer money wealth. The only way that it can be achieved is by real wealth. All wages and all conditions must be real. There can be no real increase without an underlying productivity growth.
At this point of our national history, we have an economy which, I think, is - this is how the commentators claim it to be - in good shape. What I would like to see is a fully employed economy - fully employed not only in the sense of the work force but also in terms of the constituent parts of it. While it is fully employed, we can look forward to progress. While it is not fully employed or while there are slacks or when the tensions are too tight, we will not be able to achieve these things. I believe that the 35-hour week is something which ought not to be achieved this year or next year.
Finally, so that there can be some criterion of measurement of the cost of a 35-hour week I point out that if we add together the total amount lost in industrial strikes, the total payout in workers’ compensation and the total cost of 4 weeks annual leave, we still have not arrived at the cost of the introduction of a 35-hour week.
– I ask the Minister for Health a question. The honourable gentleman will remember the finding of the Nimmo Committee in March last year that in many nursing homes the accommodation is poor, the food unattractive and monotonous, and the treatment almost solely confined to the administration of drugs, and that a large proportion of the patients become prematurely moribund and remain bedridden until the end. I ask him what action he has taken on the recommendation of the Committee that the Commonwealth and the States jointly investigate all problems associated with nursing homes. Moreover, what action has he taken on the recommendations by the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs in September last year that the Commonwealth should make unmatched grants to the States for the construction or enlargement of State nursing homes and that the Commonwealth should introduce nursing home insurance to provide cover over and above the existing arrangements?
– As to the first part of the question, basically the constitutional responsiblity for standards in nursing homes is a matter for the State governments, as of course was recognised by the honourable gentleman, or at least was implicitly recognised by the Nimmo Committee as was evident from the recommendation of that Committee which was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. One encouraging development in relation to nursing homes has been the tremendous improvement in standards that has taken place in most nursing homes as a result of the introduction by this Government 2 years ago of the intensive care benefit That benefit has enabled the nursing homes to provide themselves with adequate staff. It has made it possible for officers of the States and of the Commonwealth Department of Health to insist on standards which it was not possible to insist on previously. I make the point that already the Commonwealth by its action has taken a very substantial step towards improvement of the conditions in nursing homes which were commented on by the Nimmo Committee.
Now I come to the second part of the honourable member’s question. There has been considerable discussion between the Commonwealth and State officers in respect to the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee, particularly the recommendation which applied to the titles of nursing homes. A misleading impression was given when a nursing home called itself a private hospital, and this had a misleading effect on contributors to insurance organisations. As to the third part of the question, the honourable gentleman will be aware that the Prime Minister in his policy speech before last year’s House of Representatives election undertook to examine the possibility of bringing into the health insurance field intensive care nursing home patients who had been members of an insurance organisation - I forget the exact phrase - for some time. An intensive examination of that question, together with the other problems in the nursing home field, has been going on and I expect the Government to be in a position to make a decision on this in the not far distant future.
Now I come to the last part of the honourable member’s question regarding the recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital costs that the Commonwealth should make unmatched grants to the States for public nursing homes. As the honourable gentleman will be aware, the Government took a considerable step forward some time ago by offering to the States matching grants for the provision of public nursing home beds. The arrangement was not severe because the States had to spend no more to obtain the matching Commonwealth funds than they had spent in previous years, in most cases. Two States have already taken advantage of this. Some have not done so yet but they are making encouraging noises that they intend to do so. It is the Government’s intention to see how this works itself out before taking any new initiatives in this field.
– Will the Minister for Primary Industry tell the House what effect he believes the introduction of a 35-hour week would have on rural industries?
– If there is one sector of the Australian community that is feeling most severely the effects of increasing costs it is the rural sector. Any measure that could increase costs to the extent that the Minister for Labour and National Service indicated - by from 10 to 12 per cent - would strike the death knell for many farmers across the nation. For the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to have a national policy which would foist a 35-hour week on this nation is, I believe, showing complete recklessness, irresponsibility and lack of sympathy for the problems of people in country areas.
– Yesterday in reply to a question the Prime Minister suggested that intranational - that means inside a nation, and I say this because some honourable members complain that they cannot bear what I am saying - tensions are caused by colour differences and he gave the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Malaysia as examples. Can he tell me, first, who are the coloureds who are causing severe tensions in such white countries as Canada, Northern Ireland and Belgium? Secondly, if he agrees that different religious beliefs and languages can cause similar tensions, does he suggest that only English-speaking migrants imbued with the ecumenical spirit be admitted into Australia?
– I think that the 2 things are entirely different though, of course, as we will have noticed with great regret in this nation, even though people may be of the same colour they do have, when they are racial minorities of significance, tensions which can lead to the kind of actions which have recently been taking place in Canada. That, however, is quite different from what I was talking about yesterday.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and
National Service. Mr Whitlam - Put it on notice.
– If I do I will have to wait too long for an answer, ls it a fact that the Waterside Workers Federation has served notice on the stevedoring companies concerned that if the Government is not prepared to allow the respective stevedoring companies to honour the agreement for a 35-hour week recently reached between the Federation and the Australian National Line all special working agreements for ANL terminals will be cancelled as from 22nd November 1970? Is it a fact that if the agreement is not ratified the ANL terminals will have to be worked under the hours, terms and conditions generally applicable in the port - that is, under the awards? Is it a further fact that an ANL official has been reported as having stated that if the special working agreements are cancelled and the terminals are worked under the awards the additional cost to the Line could be a conservative Sim annually; and, in any case, would such an estimate be a reasonable assessment of the extra cost? Finally, if these are facts, how does the Minister justify the Government’s action in refusing to allow the respective stevedoring companies to sign the agreement reached between the Australian National Line and the Waterside Workers Federation?
– There is a very short answer to this question: No, they are not the facts. However, to get the honourable gentleman off his own petard I will answer the question at greater length. Actually he has a question on the notice paper - one of about 170. It was placed there yesterday before he knew of today’s Press speculation. Now he wants to resurrect his question orally, despite the fact that it is on the notice paper. But the question having been asked, let me deal with a few of these matters.
The honourable gentleman slides across the term: ‘Why do we refuse to honour the agreement?’ Then no doubt at a later point of time he will refer to Hansard and say: There it is uncontradicted’. Well, it is contradicted. There was no agreement. There were negotiations between the 2 negotiating parties. The 2 negotiating parties reached the point in their negotiations where they had an accord. But there was no agreement, and there could be no agreement until it was approved, and it has not been approved.
Over a long period of time there has been a co-ordinating responsibility for all government departments and instrumentalities. The Department of Labour and National Ser vice has the co-ordinating responsibility for those departments and instrumentalities which have relativity to outside industrial areas. The Public Service Board has the co-ordinating responsibility for other types of departments. It is in pursuance of that course that the Government has acted. It may interest the honourable gentleman to know that that procedure dates from the Chifley Government, and it has to be so. The Chifley Government recognised that it was necessary for this reason: If all departments and instrumentalities were able to make their own separate arrangements, then naturally enough, unions would attempt to isolate an individual department or instrumentality and force a concession from it, and they would use that concession to attack other areas. It would produce chaos. It would produce a tremendous amount of industrial disputation.
Another point that needs to be made is that the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions are participants in an agreement in relation to the waterfront. Under the terms of that agreement, all special agreements were supposed to be negotiated within the terms of the arrangement with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Council. In regard to the series of questions which the honourable gentleman has asked, what I understand will happen now is that the Australian National Line and the Waterside Workers Federation will negotiate within the terms of the Stevedoring Industry Council agreement, and I would not presume to say what the result of those negotiations will be.
Report of Public Works Committee Mr KELLY (Wakefield)- In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Development of Avalon Airport (Victoria) to Boeing 747/Concorde Standard.
Ordered that the report be printed.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1970-71 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 20 October (vide page 2520).
Proposed expenditure, $45,773,000.
Department of the Cabinet Office
Proposed expenditure, $235,000.
– When this debate was adjourned f was speaking about delegations to South East Asia last year and the visit of the Australian delegation to the Australian armed forces at Nui Dat and Vung Tau, just to ensure that people started to look at the subject of the positioning of our troops and our future there in a more reasonable light than the announcements from the Government. Briefly I remind the House that our troops at Nui Dat are not a garrison force. If they were removed military arrangements in the area would not be disrupted. They are not in a continuing battle situation. They are not in immediate contact with our allies. So the immediate withdrawal of all our troops would in no way endanger the war-like operations of our allies. Therefore, there is no possible justification for the continuing placement of the 2 battalions there after we withdraw the first battalion at the end of this month. All the strictures and horrified hysterical pronouncements from honourable members opposite when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said that our troops should all be withdrawn are quite invalid. There is no political gain to be made. There is no evidence that our operations in South Vietnam have produced any political change. Consequently, it is quite immoral and unjustified to leave our troops there.
Before the debate on these estimates closes I want to refer to the responsibility of the Prime Minister with regard to the New and Permanent Parliament House. I will not argue the question of the site, but the report has been before the Parliament for 5 or 6 months. I remind honourable members that in their own interests and in the interests of this Parliament they should read the report carefuly and make a few decisions about what they want in the building. The report is fairly full but members of the Committee could work only according to their own judgment. So I think it is important that all honourable members read and consider some of the questions raised by the New and Permanent Parliament House. The first question is: What kind of accommodation does each member want? If we end up with plans that do not fit the needs of members it is our own fault. There is also the question of what kind of internal arrangement we want in the House and what kind of public access there should be for people coming into the House, bearing in mind the right of the community to come here and br heard. What kind of public halls do we want and what should be the positioning of the chambers? it is important that all honourable members pay some attention to the report and consider it earnestly. I hope we will take steps in the near future to have an open debate on it and hear expressions of opinion. T appeal to each honourable member to read the report carefully and decide whether the recommendations of the Committee are relevant to the needs of the Parliament as he sees them. It is the personal responsibility of each member to ensure that the planning for the New and Permanent Parliament House goes ahead and that it is done on a proper basis, lt is of no use grizzling afterwards.
– In this debate on the estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department I wish to speak briefly on one matter which was raised by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) last evening. Towards the end of his speech the honourable member said:
The professional engineers case was a prime example of the stubbornness of the Prime Minister and his blindness to facts, reason and the need for fair play. It is no use Hie Prime Minister denying - and I do not believe him if he does deny it - that be used his influence upon the Public Service Board to prevent the professional engineers from retaining the position they secured in the general wage structure of Australia as a result of the 1961 engineers case.
It is with respect to that allegation that I wish to direct a few remarks. I, like the honourable member for Hindmarsh, have a great deal of sympathy for the claims being put forward in Australia at the present time by and on behalf of professional engineers. It seems to me, if one looks at the position of professional engineers in this country’ - at the training they have to undergo and at the work that engineers in this country are engaged on today - that they are entitled to much higher salaries than they are receiving. To give proper and due recognition to their significance in the industrial development and progress in Australia in general they should be paid much higher wates.
I strongly disagree with the suggestion of the honourable member for Hindmarsh that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) - on other occasions he suggested the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) also - had exerted pressure or influence on the Public Service Board and the Arbitration Commission in the engineers case. I have made a study of these allegations and I have come to the conclusion as a result of my researches, and starting off without any prejudices at all, that the allegations are unjustified. I say they are unjustified from a detailed reading that I have made of the judgments delivered by the Arbitration Commission in the engineers case.
I would like to leave this aspect for a moment and return to the first of the two points that I said I wished to raise in respect of this matter. The University of Melbourne Appointments Board earlier this year published a survey of professional incomes in Victoria. That survey contains some very interesting and useful information illustrating the relative position of engineers in respect to other professional men. For instance, one can start off with the dentistry profession. From the analysis that the Appointments Board made one can see that only 8 per cent of the dentistry profession earn under $6,000 a year and that 60 per cent of the members of this profession are earning $10,000 a year or over. Let me take my own profession - the profession of law - which 1 followed before I took the steady slide towards bankruptcy. Thirty per cent of those in the profession of law are earning less than $6,000 a year - very happy days - and 46 per cent are earning $10,000 or over. If one goes further down the list - one has to go a long way down - one comes to the engineers. This profession, according to the list, is below the profession of surveying, for instance, where only 16 per cent are earning $10,000 a year.
In the profession of psychology 14 per cent of those engaged earn $10,000 a year or more. Then we come to the engineering profession which is the third last category on the list of the numerous professions examined by the Appointments Board. One finds that the very large percentage of 27 per cent of people in this profession are earning less than $6,000 a year, and that only 12 per cent are earning $10,000 or over. That is a very small percentage. It is only in two other professions - the professions of agricultural science and social work - that there is a lower percentage of men employed who are earning a salary of $10,000 a year or over. I would have thought that those figures by themselves illustrate the first proposition I wish to make, that when we consider the importance of engineers to the industrial development and progress of Australia and the salaries they are receiving, which are set out in surveys such as the one I have just mentioned and others, we must agree that the salaries are lower than they should be.
– The Government should recognise that, should it not?
– The honourable member for Sturt refers to the Government. I was just about to come to the Government.
– Yes. get into them.
– I do not need the encouragement of the honourable member for Sturt to get into the Government because I am quite capable of doing that from my own examination of the facts. When one looks at the position of engineers in the Commonwealth Public Service one can see that their position is not very satisfactory. One can see, for instance, the very useful material that the Australian Association of Professional Engineers has produced and submitted to the Commonwealth Public Service Board in support of its claims for higher salaries. The information set forth in those submissions demonstrates the very unsatisfactory position that professional enginers are in as far as their relative positions are concerned. One can look, for instance, in this material that the Association presented to the Board and see that a technician, for instance, at a minimum age of 21 years is earning a salary of $3,989 a year. His qualifications are the Leaving Certificate plus a 4-year technical college certificate which is the equivalent of a 2-year full time course.
One can go up the scale to an individual described as clerk class 5, whose salary at the minimum age of 23 year is $5,356 a year. That gentleman would be an honours graduate who had completed a 4-years course of study plus a 1-year administrative training course. When one conies to the engineer, one finds that a diplomate engineer aged 21 - this is according to information that I have - receives a salary of only $3,867 a year. This is lower than the salary received by the technician I referred to earlier and, indeed, much lower than the salary received by the clerk class 5 who has gained an honours graduate degree. One might say that perhaps this should be so to some extent because the clerk class 5 has, after all, gained an honours degree. But then one should look at the engineer who has completed a 4-year course in engineering at a university. Having completed that course at the minimum age of 22 he receives a salary of $4,213 a year. This salary is still very considerably less than that received by the clerk who has done an honours course at a university for the same period of study. 1 wish 1 had more time in which to pass on to the Committee more of this information because in summary I think I can fairly say having examined it in some detail, that it does illustrate a very unsatisfactory situation so far as the salaries of professional engineers are concerned.
I would now like to come back to the basic point that what one should be looking at is the shortage of engineers in Australia, the length of training, the detailed training that engineers go through and the great and essential value of engineers in the important matter of the industrial development of Australia. If I could leave that aspect of the problem I would like to refer to the second point which I earlier said I wished to make in this debate. I want to refute without any hesitation the allegations made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh that the Prime Minister had exerted pressure on the Public Service Board. Indeed, on this occasion - I think on numerous other occasions as well - the honourable member has said that this pressure has been followed through to pressure on the Arbitration Commission. In the first place I think it is only fair to say that it has been made clear by the Minister for Labour and National Service in terms and over his signature that this is not so. He has completely denied all of the allegations made. But what is more important is (hat when one considers the judgment of the Arbitration Commission following the deci sion of the Public Service Board one sees in articulated clear terms a clear statement by the Commission that it rejects any suggestion that it brought down its decision in the engineers case because of anything that had been said by the Public Service Board. The Commission expressly rejected that suggestion. So I say that I completely disagree - I think the evidence supports this without any shadow of doubt - that there has been, in this case or indeed in any other case, any pressure brought to bear from the Prime Minister or from the Minister for Labour and National Service on the Public Service Board and through it on the Arbitration Commission. The facts just do not bear it out.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to direct my attention to that section of the estimates of the Prime Minister’s Department which covers matters dealing with the Aboriginal population of Australia. I am pleased that the Minister for Social Services and Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) is at the table. I am moved to speak in this debate by the fact that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) last night raised some matters about the Wattie Creek situation during the debate on the estimates for this Department. He made some passing reference to matters which I had previously raised in the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Interior. I felt that, in the first place. I ought to reply to some of the matters he raised. He referred to the circumstances in which the strike took place in the cattle industry in the Northern Territory in 1 966. The honourable member for the Northern Territory has purported to show that in these matters the Aboriginals now living at Wattie Creek and in the adjacent area and the Aboriginals who went on strike in 1966 were manipulated by union organisers, many of them Communists, and that the initiatives that I ascribed to the Aboriginal people in this matter did not, in fact, exist. A careful examination of the speech which I made in the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Interior would indicate that I suggested that the Aboriginals had an initiative in the choice of the site where they at present reside at Wattie
Creek. What I said was that when the strike broke out the Aboriginals established a strikers camp near the Wave Hill welfare settlement and that subsequently they went to the site of Wattie Creek which was the site of their own choice. The honourable member for the Northern Territory has a most curious split personality on the question of advancing the Aboriginal people in the areas which he represents in this Parliament. Right throughout the speech which he made last night he poured scorn on the people who come from the south, the people representing Abschol. I I rather gathered the impression that when he referred to do-gooders and stirrers he might have included me in that number.
But he closed his speech by suggesting the sort of people who are needed to help the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory, and he admitted that the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory needed help. He said that the people who were needed had certain qualities of patience, tenacity, a knowledge of the local people and a sympathy for the Aboriginal people. Of course we endorse all that he said in that regard. It is one of the functions of this Government to ensure that it provides adequate salaries and working conditions to encourage people to go and spend their lives working among the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory and other parts of Australia to carry out the work that should be done. The honourable member concluded his speech by saying:
I do not think that any of the yakkers down here would be capable of undertaking such a task.
It is a responsibility of this Parliament, and it has been a responsibility that members on both sides of the Parliament have accepted for a number of years, to raise in this place matters concerning the Aboriginal people. My concern is about the dichotomy which exists in the Government. Until recently the Minister for Social Services who is, under the Prime Minister, the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, was regarded as the Government spokesman in matters of this kind, but on 3rd September the Minister for the Interior made a statement in this place that the Government would not recognise traditional Aboriginal land rights. I put it to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs that what the Minister for the Interior said ran contrary to many of the things that he himself has said. Indeed, it ran contrary to many attitudes of the Northern Territory Administration.
If the recent legislation dealt with in the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, which will enable Aboriginals to obtain a title to land in the Aboriginal reserves, is not a recognition of traditional land rights, what is it? If the statement made by the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs about the sacred objects and sites of the Aboriginals at Wingellina in Western Australia, in which he expressed his concern that these places should not be despoiled and damaged by the mining company or other developments there, was not a recognition of traditional land rights, what was it? I ask the Government to clear up this division in its own ranks to ensure that the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs spells out well thought out and well determined policies and that these are applied right throughout Australia.
The attitude of the Australian Labor Party is quite clear. We recognise that the Minister has run into a lot of trouble in his dealings with the States. We know that he is seeking by negotiation to have the Slates of Queensland and Western Australia, for example, alter and remove discriminatory legislation, and we know that it is a very difficult thing to move the States. All governments, of whatever political colour, have found the problems of moving the State governments in areas that they regard as their own responsibility to be very great indeed. But there is one thing that the Commonwealth Government should do, and it involves sorting out in its own mind what its policies are. In the Northern Territory, where the Commonwealth with the assistance of the Legislative Council of that Territory is directly responsible, the Commonwealth should be setting an example to all Australia as to its enlightened policies in Aboriginal affairs.
So my appeal is that the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for the Interior get together and clear up their differences. Let them work out policies, and let us not have the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs suggesting to the States policies which his own Government is not applying through the Minister for the Interior in the Northern
Territory. It does not give me any satisfaction to be saying some of these things, but it is transparently obvious to any person interested in Aboriginal welfare in this place that these problems exist. I would like to see the Minister indicate an attitude on Aboriginal land rights; the recognition of land rights for Aboriginals who live in a traditional way; the recognition of communities of people as at Wattie Creek and the rights that they have, because they are communities of people and have retained a good deal of their tribal integrity; a measure of compensation for land rights which would be spelt out with legislation which has already been introduced into this Parliament and which will shortly again be discussed.
We get all these curious statements by honourable members opposite. We get the honourable member for the Northern Territory suggesting that Aboriginals already have a vast amount of land in the Northern Territory reserves, and we all recognise that. Most of these reserves, certainly those in Arnhem Land, were proclaimed by the Scullin Government. The honourable member for the Northern Territory suggested also that if the Aboriginals needed land this is where they could get land. Again I feel that the Minister should ask the managers of the pastoral properties around the Wattie Creek, Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs areas how they would feel about the suggestion made by the honourable member for the Northern Territory that their Aboriginal stockmen and the workers on their stations should, if they want land, leave these areas where their employment is a vital aspect of the pastoral industry and go and live in Arnhem Land or some other Aboriginal reserve.
We face a very serious situation. None of us would take away from the Minister his sincerity and dedication to the welfare of Aboriginal people. But if he is the spokesman for the Government on these matters, it is up to the Government to ensure that the principles laid down by the Prime Minister and the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs are carefuly thought through into a programme of action and that this programme of action and the sorts of things he has suggested to the States are applied in the Northern Teritory. In other words, we are asking the Minister to make quite clear who is the
Government spokesman on Aboriginal affars and to lay down policies, and we are asking the Commonwealth Government to set an example in implementing those policies.
– May I apologise to the Committee for my absence during part of the debate last night. Owing to the sittings of Cabinet, it was not possible for me to be here all the time. I want to speak briefly about some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) in the debate, particularly in relation to Weipa. The matters he raised were really not only matters in the competence of the Queensland Government but also substantially they were matters which arose before the passing of the referendum. He suggested, and I want to make this quite clear, that the Commonwealth should use its powers to prevent exports in order to coerce the Queensland Government in this regard. I think that this was an irresponsible suggestion. We on this side of the Parliament believe in the rights of the States, and we would not be a party to the kind of suggestion made by the honourable member for Kingston.
I remind the Committee that Weipa is part of an immense development plan, the other part of which is at Gladstone and the associated complex. If it were not for the bauxite from Weipa, the great and desirable developments which are now occurring at Gladstone would be out of the question. I could not quite follow the honourable member’s arithmetic in regard to the shares issued by Comalco, but let that pass. Forty thousand shares have been allocated for Aboriginals, but in addition to that I have acquired and hold in trust 10,000 shares which are specifically for the Aboriginals of the Weipa area. This is something which I hope will be repeated, and repeated on a greater scale.
I would like to make a few remarks in regard to another matter raised by the honourable member for Kingston. This is a matter in which, if I may borrow a word which the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) used a few moments ago, there is not only a dichotomy among members of the Opposition but, logically, there is some kind of general dichotomy in our approach to these matters. He spoke of what he described as our apartheid policy. We have not got an apartheid policy. Let this be clear and definite. We do not think that as a permanent thing there will be 2 nations in Australia. Our position is quite different, for example, from that which is obtaining in certain parts of Africa. We want the position in which Aboriginals will choose for themselves, because of the nature of their development and the opportunities in front of them, to be part of the whole Australian nation. But let us not deprive the Aboriginals of the privacy of some kind of separate development as a temporary thing in the transition phase while they are preparing themselves to come into the wider fabric of Australian life. It is just here, 1 think, that - if I may use the phrase - the do-gooder is likely to do most harm.
Aboriginals are not all in the one category. If one is speaking of the Aboriginals that most people know down here in the south then one would say that the direct assimilation process is the only one available. But for those Aboriginals who are in the north of Australia, those who are in areas of minimal contact with other people, it may be that there is some better way. I am not suggesting for one moment that we should have any permanent apartheid in Australia. That is the last thing which the Government or, I believe, the people of Australia or the Aboriginals themselves would desire. But we must give to the Aboriginal people themselves a certain degree of choice in this matter and a certain degree of privacy when they choose it for themselves, and in this period of transition. This is something which applies, as I said, not to the situation that most people know down here in the south but to the situation in the north where there are peoples who have only a small degree of contact with others.
It is on this aspect that we find this kind of division between those who look for this kind of proper development which will, I am quite certain, result in the merging of the Aboriginal people into the general fabric of Australian life in the long run, and those who want to short-cut it, those people who would denounce as apartheid, as the honourable member for Kingston did last night, what is not apartheid but is only a reasonable policy. I do not impute, of course, to the honourable member for Kingston any but the highest motives in this regard. I do think that he is perhaps a little ill-informed and 1 think perhaps from what he said last night that he may be ranking himself among the do-gooders who, with the best intention in the world, may be doing a certain amount of harm.
It is necessary to have some kind oi knowledge of this matter and, in particular, it is helpful to look at what happened in Australia in past times. We find, for example, that 150 years ago around Sydney and around the west of Victoria, 30 or 40 years later, that many people believed that all they had to do with the Aboriginals was to break up their civilisation or culture and to Europeanise them as quickly as possible and that all would be well. Look at the result. All was not well. This is something that happened in our past and some of the people who were concerned with this were people with the very highest motives. For example, there is nobody in Australian history who would have approached this problem with a greater degree of sincerity and dedication than Robinson of Tasmania. Indeed, not only did he approach it with the highest motives but also with a very great amount of contact with and knowledge of the Aboriginal people themselves. Yet his endeavours failed because, I believe, he was trying to Europeanise too fast and trying to bring these Tasmanians - I am talking now of a century ago - indirectly into the European framework without giving them the chance of a reasonable transition. 1 feel that he was somebody whose motives were of the highest order. He was a man for whose dedication we all have in retrospect the most unstinted admiration, and yet we see the unhappy result of what he was trying to do. I would not like this kind of error to be repeated and I would think from what I read of the remarks of the honourable member for Kingston that he might be in danger of falling into that error.
In regard to the reserves in the Northern Territory which were mentioned by the honourable member for Brisbane, the position is that until fairly recently no action could be taken because of the failure of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory to deal with the relevant land ordinances. That failure has now been remedied and there is machinery in operation. There are very big reserves in the Northern Territory. Some of these are poor land, some are desert land and some are mountainous, but included in them are some of the best lands in the Northern Territory. There are many, many millions of acres of absolutely first class land. I do not know whether many honourable members would have been over the Daly River Reserve.
– That is my place.
– Yes, the Aboriginals often mention the honourable member with the very greatest admiration and respect. Little else is on their tongues. I do not know whether honourable members would know that the Daly River Reserve contains 2 plains, one to the north and the other to the south which are both absolutely first class land. They may not know about the even better Arafura plain which lies in the north of Arnhem Land and which consists of many, many millions of acres of absolutely first class land. This land is kept for Aboriginals and at the present moment we are trying to decide what is the best method of tenure. This is not easy to decide because in some cases individual tenure is asked for and in other cases group tenure is asked for, and the Aborignals themselves are not always clear in their own minds what they want in this regard. But we are going to do some things immediately which will not, of course, preempt the whole of the reserves but which will make it possible for all the Aboriginals who so desire to have access to land. In 3 places in Arnhem Land it is proposed to set up - and we are at the present moment examining the best way of setting up - large pastoral ventures which I hope will carry agricultural land and intensive farming with them. These places are on the Roper River, at the head of the Wilton River, north-west from the Bulman and in the Arafura Swamp which is near the site of the old Florida homestead. I hope that these projects will go forward.
I am at present discussing the possibility of also having in some other place small farming tenures which could be available to individual Aboriginals because, as I have said, there is not an absolute uniformity in what the Aboriginals themselves want. This is the way in which these reserves in the north will be developed. Then we have the immense reserves in Central Australia. This is dry land. Some of it is good land by the standards of the centre of Australia. The Haasts Bluff area, for example, would be regarded as some of the best pastoral country in the centre of Australia. I am hopeful that here we will have a pastoral venture, which already exists, expanded and put more and more into Aboriginal hands.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed expenditure has expired.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
– In recent times there have been opportunities for debate on the differences in the general attitude of the Government and the Opposition to social services expenditure and the way in which it should be applied. One of the obvious things under this heading has been the increase in the roles seen for local government in the matter of social services, both from the point of view of the Government and from the point of view of the Opposition. I believe that the approaches in the 2 cases are quite different, but there is agreement that the local government level is very important because of its very close contact with the people concerned. So it is on several of these matters relative to local government in the social services field and the anomalies that crop up that I wish to spend the time at my disposal.
The major portion of my electorate is covered by the city of Preston. One problem there is accommodation for the aged. The simplest thing to do is to quote a letter which I have received from the Town Clerk of the city of Preston. It reads:
My Council has been giving consideration to a proposal to erect homes for elderly citizens of this municipality.
Preliminary plans have been prepared for 22 units, the estimated cost . being $170,550, and it has also been hoped to incorporate a small hospital in the plans to cater for elderlies no longer capable of living on their own. 1 think this is a very wise plan that the Department of Social Services should encourage. The letter continues.
U had been hoped to obtain Commonwealth assistance towards the cost of this project, under the Aged Persons Homes Act, but an inquiry to the Department of Social Services revealed that, if Council obtained loan funds to finance their proportion of the cost, no subsidy would be available. For your information, a copy of the letter is enclosed.
Council is certainly nol in a position to finance a scheme such as this from revenue and feels that ratepayers should nol be expected to bear the entire cost involved.
Then there is a request for me to seek assistance for them in this way. I think this puts the problem very succinctly. I appreciate that section 9. (l.)(b)(i) of the Aged Persons Homes Act amongst other things specifically excludes the subsidising of money borrowed by an applicant organisation to establish a home for the aged. One can appreciate why this occurs with private or charitable organisations. But it is very difficult to see why, with a local government organisation, the same system should apply. There are major problems in this field. Many municipalities are affected differently from others. To expect the cost to be met from revenue would indeed place a most unfair burden on the ratepayers. 1 trust that some consideration will be given to this matter.
The same municipality of Preston raised the matter with me of rates payable by pensioners. I have had experience of age or invalid pensioners coming to my office in tears about the increases that have occurred in municipal rates. This occurred also when the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works rates went up by 15 per cent. This is one of the problems that must be associated with pensioners under the care of the Department of Social Services. I inquired of the Preston City Council how many pensioners there were in the city who were liable to pay rates. I received an answer as follows: 1 have no record of the number of pensioners in this city or of the number who are liable to pay rales. However, payment is deferred upon application by aged pensioners and an increased number is taking advantage of this concession. The present figures are -
These figures relate to deferred payments. This represents quite a drain on a local government body having to give this sort of consideration to pensioners. I believe that other steps should be taken through the Department of Social Services to give these local government bodies further relief and further assistance in this way and so eliminate some of the very depressing effects on the pensioners. The Council of the city of Heidelberg approached me with regard to home help services. Here is another illustration of the widening involvement of local government in the social services which we are trying to give to the community. Perhaps this is not so much a concern of the Department, although it is intimately concerned with home help services. IT may be more a matter for the Treasury. The letter I received from the Town Clerk of the city of Heidelberg reads:
In the main home help is only given to persons needing assistance upon the production of a certificate from a qualified medical practitioner and therefore it is submitted that expenses incurred for this type of service should be permitted as a deduction.
One of the problems we find in the field of social services is that this sort of consideration is not given. The homes and hospitals for the aged are so inadequate and the fees charged in private institutions are so high that an aged or invalid pensioner cannot afford to meet the charges, and families are therefore expected to subsidise quite heavily the fees of pensioners in these institutions. The amounts may vary from $10 to $50 a week. This has to be found by families, often with heavy demands in raising children, buying homes and so on, for their elderly parents. They can receive no tax deduction for this. They are told that if that is allowed the pensions are then affected. These pensioners are supposed to be totally supported by the pensions that they are receiving. If the Minister can tell me how they can meet nursing home or hospital fees of the nature of $60 to $90 per week out of a pension of $15.50 per week, [ would be very interested to know. A large number of persons in this category are in the electorates of all honourable members. This is a real problem. I am speaking only of the sort of social services that the Government gives and perhaps some of the areas where it could think of giving relief to these elderly persons.
Another matter that concerns me is whether the Department of Social Services in making its allocations for pensioners has taken any note of the type of assistance that States may give to pensioners. Over a number of years, the Victorian Government, through its Department of Social Welfare, has given assistance to families receiving Commonwealth pensions, such as widow’s pensions and so on. In the past, on a number of occasions, when the rates of these pensions have been increased by, say, $1 per week, an equal amount has been cut off the supplementary assistance provided by the State. Victoria moved right out of the field of family assistance as from 30th September 1970. This move has caused quite a lot of distress amongst some of the persons so affected. I have had a number of them along to see me, giving me copies of these letters that they have received. I believe that even if not consciously notice has been taken of these payments by State governments. Perhaps even subconsciously there has been some knowledge of them. I believe that notice has been taken in determining amounts. It is to be deplored that State governments have taken this action. I believe that they have some responsibility, particularly in the family assistance field, for the provision of supplementary assistance because of the variation of expenses and variation of the facilities that are available. For example, the removal of this assistance in Victoria denies a number of other benefits such as dental treatment. I hope that the Department of Social Services will give this matter further consideration.
– Speaking to the estimates for the Department of Social Services, I note that an increase of $60.3m is provided over the amount expended last financial year. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) said earlier this year that with the consolidation of the Government’s health plan it will be possible next year to resume what he called ‘pensioner progress’. He went on to say that he felt that the Parliament would find this year of consolidation would be of great use in the development of our future co-ordinated plans for the improvement of all social services. He is looking to the future, as we all are. I am certain that he will be working very hard to increase the lot of pensioners both in northern and southern Australia.
I am on my feet principally to raise again the case of pensioners in northern Australia. I have done this before. I have made representations. I have spoken to the various pensioners’ associations which, I believe, included this matter in the submission that they made earlier this year in relation to the Budget. Again I implore the Minister and the Government to take into consideration the extra cost faced by people on fixed incomes living in the north of Australia. A differential rate, as I have said before, should be provided for the pensioner in the north. I read in a newspaper only this week that Darwin wharf labourers are to receive a differential of $10.50 per week added to their pay. Civil servants in the area receive a tropical or a district allowance. So it goes on. I make a similar plea for the aged in the north because they are living under conditions similar to those which give rise to people like civil servants and wharf labourers receiving differential payments.
I wish to speak on one more topic. This concerns services for aged people in the Northern Territory. These services are insufficient. I know that the Minister is very sympathetic towards this problem and that the Government gives great assistance all over Australia with regard to it. In Alice Springs, there is a very commendable old timers home run by the Australian Inland Mission. This geriatric centre is about the only established one in the Northern Territory although I believe that the Baptist Church in Darwin is moving in this direction. Katherine and Tennant Creek have no such facilities for the aged. In most Territory towns, including Alice Springs, many of the aged people must live in hospitals towards the end of their days. This is not satisfactory for them and it certainly is not satisfactory for the staff of those hospitals who find that a good deal of time that really should not be taken up in this way is spent with these aged people. As they are in the hospitals, the hospital staff must look after them.
I know that at the moment in Alice Springs very careful plans are being commenced for the incorporation in the town plan of the development of the present old timers home and for some of the land adjacent to be brought into use for that old timers home. By this action it is hoped that, as the community grows - and Alice
Springs is growing very fast - the problem in relation to the aged and the housing and welfare of them will not reach crisis proportion. I am mentioning this matter here and now while the Minister is present because a very community minded bunch of people have available to them an architect, a town planner and the necessary land and they will produce an overall plan for expanded homes for aged people in Alice Springs. I ask the Minister to give this matter, when it comes forward to him, his very serious consideration. I know that he will and I know that he will give sympathy to this forward looking project to assist the aged in the Alice Springs area.
– I wish to take this opportunity to draw attention to the situation that has arisen with respect to pensioners in Western Australia who have received, as have all other Australian pensioners, an increase of a paltry 50c per week only, in their pensions. The situation that they face is that the State basic wage in Western Australia has been increased by $2 per week for males and $1.52 for females. The maximum basic wage now payable to males totals $38.45 per week against the minimum pension payable to married couples of a paltry $27.50 per week. A female earning the basic wage in Western Australia receives $26.40 per week. There is a difference of only 90c between that amount and what is received by a married pensioner couple. As some magical solution to the problem, the Government must believe that 2 can live as cheaply as 1 woman - that is, not a man and a woman.
It is incredible that pensioners do not receive a pension equivalent to the male basic wage. Even that wage has been recognised by the Industrial Commission of Western Australia as being totally inadequate as a living wage for it has arrived at the amount of $49 per week as being the minimum wage payable. This represents an increase of $6.60 per week which has been granted since pensioners received their paltry increase of 50c per week. In addition to this, the Industrial Commission of Western Australia has agreed that it will grant an additional 10 per cent increase to the wages of those who are not receiving an over award payment. The poor pensioner has not received even a 10 per cent increase on his paltry pension. Without doubt the trade union movement would and will say that their increases do not give a complete answer to their membership. It is no wonder that the members of the movement are in deep sympathy with the struggling parents, aunts, uncles who are in fact the pensioners of today for without doubt they wonder how they themselves will manage when their turn comes to be pensioners. I can only request the Government to give urgent attention to this matter with a view to amending its thoughts and take action to increase the pensions to a reasonable level. It is far past the time when pensions ceased to be a political football, being increased only when an election is pending.
These pensions are a right, not a charity or a political handout. Let members of Parliament try even to feed themselves with the amounts paid to pensioners let alone try to maintain themselves, for we do not even delude ourselves that these pensions are sufficient amounts on which to live. We pay for and make arrangements for a parliamentary pension with substantial payments from our salary but not all Australians are so fortunate. I ask the Parliament to forget the political advantage of the present system and to find a quick and genuine solution to the plight of the pensioners because they are the ones who have to bear every sales tax increase put on by this Government Every community cost increase caused by wage and other rises and by inflation generally is reflected in pensioners’ living costs. Very often when they receive concessions they are treated as second class citizens by the parties granting them and are not treated as equals for the purpose of the concessions. The concessions are made available only during off hours or seasons. A prime example of this is to be found in the Commonwealth Railways, which does not make available during school holidays concessions for interstate travel - I quote this only as an example- or so it is alleged by pensioners who attempt to travel at these times. It is indeed unfortunate if they have a young family of school age and they wish to travel interstate with them. This is not impossible for such instances do arise in the case of mature marriages or in cases of grandparents looking after young families. Why should people be placed at any disadvantage just because of age? They should receive these things as a due and proper right for which they have paid taxes all of their lives. In many cases, or even in the majority of cases, they have served their country in the armed forces and been prepared to make the supreme sacrifice on behalf of it. Let us give them the proper recognition which is due to them.
Take the case of the pensioner with a younger wife who has’ not reached pensionable age. Their problem may be solved if she is able to work - having regard to the problems of the means test. But if she is not well enough to work - and 1 do not feel that she should have to work - she will not get the invalid pension unless she is 85 per cent incapacitated. One hopes that room will be found for such persons in the sickness benefit pensions in the future, or that some provision will be made to allow a pensioner to obtain a minimum payment as a married man to enable him to maintain a wife, just as the arbitration courts provide for a married man with a wife when considering his minimum wage. Why should an elderly man of pensionable age be forced to continue to work just because he wishes to support a younger wife? This situation arises more often than we would imagine.
The inequalities of the means test system affect not only the civilian pensioner but also the Service pensioner. It is far past the time that this aspect was genuinely looked at by this Parliament. All honourable members must be made aware of the individual irregularities which arise under the present system. In fact, if a person pays his way in a superannuation scheme and also pays social service taxes he will be adversely affected by the application of the means test whether he be a civilian pensioner or a Service pensioner. A recent example of this was a Service pensioner on $28.18 a fortnight. His pension was reduced to $27.78 per fortnight because he had an increase of 70c - a paltry 70c - in his superannuation payment. This came about because he made provision for himself over the years by paying money out of his own pocket. He has now been deprived of a portion of his Service pension. If he has a war disability pension, which, as I understand it, is given to him to compensate for some disability which he incurred in the service of his country, he is affected by the means test when he retires because his war disability pension is taken to be part of his total income. This is a shabby situation indeed. It is about time that this pension was continued as a separate item altogether, not affected by the means test.
This Act which was formulated, I believe, in 1917 should be completely reviewed in its total concept. The funeral allowance was last increased in 1950 to $50. This is totally inadequate to allow for the burial of a person with the dignity befitting one who has served his country. The constant problems confronting some ex-servicemen in respect of repatriation and pharmaceutical benefits cry out for a review. We should find an early solution to these problems so that the majority of persons who are affected will be assisted in their old age. It is imperative that these matters should be resolved before they become political, footballs too, to be kicked around only at election times. That is, of course, if this has not already happened.
We in Western Australia have become concerned at the present plight of the pensioner who needs the care of a nursing home but who does not attract the $5 a day intensive care provision. These people are being asked to leave some of the private homes if they do not have assistance from their families because they cannot afford to meet the costs when the only income is the pension. Other persons are more fortunate in that they are being supported in denominational homes which are endeavouring to carry them, but this is not practicable for any length of time because the denominational centres are rapidly feeling the increased costs within the community which are being passed on to them. They are having serious difficulties in continuing to exist and maintain these people who have only the pension as income and who they wish, because of their compassion, to maintain in these homes. I sincerely ask the Minister to look into this aspect of maintaining these aged people.
– When I look at the estimates for the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department the first thing that strikes me is the very marked efforts that are being made by the Government to ensure that it is channelling a very large section of the available money into these worthy areas. I want to speak only about repatriation and to draw the attention of the Committee to one or two things. For instance, in repatriation alone there are 105,000 people at present receiving compensation for war service and there are also more than 55,000 Service pensioners. I will come back to this aspect later on and deal with a combination of those two groups. But in passing I would mention that these benefits are costing the people of Australia, through the Government which is making available the expenditure, $234m out of a total expenditure for the whole of the Department of $337m, which is a very significant amount when one comes to examine it.
There have been increases over the whole range of pensions and the pension for the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman has risen to $38, and the total cost is about $45m a year. There are 23,000 TPI pensioners. The intermediate rate, which was only fairly recently introduced, does not cover such a wide range. It covers those fellows who are able to work intermittently only. In other words, they are still able to earn considerable income but because of the injury sustained due to war service they are on occasions intermittently affected by the injury and so they are given a sort of halfway pension. Then we come to the standard rates and the various percentages which are paid according to the disability. Let me once again emphasise the word disability’. Because I have not sufficient time in this debate I will not go into other activities of this Department such as assistance to war widows and orphans, special compensation, travel allowances and those sorts of things to which the Government has always lent a very sympathetic ear.
I want to raise a matter that I have raised before. I presume I will have to do so again next year, although I hope not. I hope that by then what I have to say may be found to be worthy of acceptance. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Bennett), who preceded me in this debate, touched briefly on this matter. When war pensions were introduced the purpose was to provide some compensation for a disability that was suffered by a serviceman in the course of carrying out his duty in the defence of Australia and which could, and probably would, affect his earning capacity for the rest of his life. A war pension is not given as a reward for service - for having enlisted and served the nation. It is not given in payment for services rendered and it cannot, in any respect, be regarded as earnings. No-one has ever earned a war pension. It is not even income, because it is specifically designed to replace lost earning power, lt is not regarded as income when a person who receives such a pension fills out his taxation return, but for the purposes of the means test it is regarded as income. This, I submit, is completely wrong. The pension is given freely to replace lost earning power.
In the Repatriation Act a war pension is described as a pension payable under the Act but not including a service pension. I must include some technical detail in my speech to round off the picture. A Service pension may be granted in the case of a man of 60 years or a woman of 55 years provided he or she has served in a theatre of war at a rate not exceeding the maximum payable if he or she were qualified to receive the age pension. In passing I should comment that it would be very much simpler if this had not come under the Repatriation Act at all. The Service pension is given to returned men and women who are aged 60 or 55 years respectively. A person can receive the full age pension subject to a means test which relates to any money which is regarded as income. If a person goes down the street and does some work what he receives is regarded as income. If a person, by his endeavours, is able to invest money, the income he derives from that investment is subjected to the means test. But a war pension is not given to any man as an income; it is designed to cover a disability. The recipient of a war pension is probably prevented from going down the street and doing some work and so competing on even terms with a civilian age pensioner.
My submission is that most decidedly a war pension should be removed from the means test, and I ask that this be done. I asked for this to be done last year and I hope that I do not have to ask again next year, but if I have to do so, I will. I am not alone in making this plea. The Federal President of the Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Soldiers’ Association in one of his letters referred to the disability pension and said that the war pension should have no connection whatever with the age pension. This is a widely held view. According to figures that have been made available by the Repatriation Department for the 1970-71 Budget, about 30 per cent of all TPI pensioners qualify for a part social services pension. The TPI man can have a big income and still get the TPI pension. I know of some men who are very comfortably placed but because of their war disabilities they get this pension.
– Good luck to them.
– 1 agree. They deserve this pension and it is quite right that they should get it. At the other end of the scale, however, there are men who, because of their disabilities, have not been able to make a place for themselves in civilian life - and this applies to the TPI pensioner and the 100 per cent rate pensioners as well - and build up an income that will maintain them adequately. The war pension is given because of a disability. This is the only source of money that some of these TPI pensioners have. There is no reason why such a pension should be taken into account in the application of the means test. In assessing eligibility for the age pension the war pension should not count. If this were the position their incomes would be increased considerably, but they would not be receiving too much for what they have suffered. As my time has almost expired, I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) whether he will give serious consideration once again to this matter. I have had some interesting discussions with him about it. I have discussed it with the previous Commissioner and I hope that the new one will also take up the subject.
– After having heard so much talk in this chamber during the Budget debate and also during discussion of these estimates, it seems that social services have great appeal to most people, and I am moved to paraphrase an expression attributed to Mark Twain, that social services is something that all Government members speak about but none do anything about. We have heard many speeches similar to that just delivered by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) who said that there should be greater benefits for returned servicemen and greater benefits paid by the Repatriation Department. He used the word sympathy’. Sympathy is on the same page of the dictionary as ‘symphony’ and synthetic’. It is more than sympathy that these people want. Members of the Opposition are not in a position directly to influence the Government on this matter, except by raising questions. Members on the Government side must surely have the ear of the Government and must be able to influence somebody to do the things that apparently they want done. Without exception they have all sought the same thing.
When one commences to speak on the social services issue - and it is on that which 1 want to speak rather than repatriation - naturally one thinks of pensions. I suppose that with the miserable amount that is paid as pensions and because of the inequitable way in which they are determined - it has been said that pensions are a political football with a 50c increase in off-election years and a $1 increase in election years - it is only reasonable to associate pensions with social services, but to my mind social services cover a far wider field than the payment of pension. The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) mentioned the difficult position that pensioners find themselves in with respect to the payment of rates to municipalities and charges to public utilities. Pensioners in my area asked me to approach the Treasurer (Mr Bury) to see whether he would consider making a payment to their municipality equal to the amount of rates that they were expected to pay. The Treasurer did a fine job in his reply. He wrote a long letter of li pages explaining why the Commonwealth could not do anything about this request and suggesting that an approach should be made to the State government and the local government. If this were done we would be right back again to the matter of inequitable fund raising.
Municipalities obtain their funds from rates and rates fall as heavily upon the unemployed as the employed and as heavily upon the lowly paid as the highly paid and there is no way in which a municipality can distinguish between people in raising its revenue. The municipal council of the city of Broadmeadows, on which I have served as a counsellor for the last 10 years and which would not be considered, by any yardstick, to cover an affluent area, finds itself in the very difficult position of trying to levy rates on people in the area so that it can provide them with social services. That in itself is a ridiculous state of affairs. It would make sense if the municipal council of the city of Broadmeadows were able to raise its finance in an affluent area and then spend it in an area where it is needed. However, only the Commonwealth Government is in a position to do this; only the Commonwealth Government can raise revenue on the basis of people’s incomes. Therefore, this question of social services rightly lies at the feet of the Commonwealth Government.
On page 9 of the Melbourne ‘Sun NewsPictorial’ of Monday, 12th October 1970 there is a half-page article dealing with the work that is being carried out by David U’Ren, who is the superintendent minister of the Methodist Circuit in Broadmeadows. The Methodist Church, like the municipality, is concerned about the need for the provision of social services and social welfare in the area. However, it is in the same position as the municipality which is unable to raise the necessary finance to undertake this work. Frankly, this question of social services falls into the lap of the municipality because the Federal and State governments have abdicated the field.
The Methodist Church in Broadmeadows has committed itself to a debt of approximately $50,000. Part of that money has been raised, but only last weekend Mr U’Ren told me that $10,000 was still to be found. The work to be performed by the centre which is to be established by the Methodist Church is true social service work. The centre is to be used to provide for the social welfare of the people in the area and, according to the surveys that have been made, there is a very great need for such a service. But it is being left to voluntary organisations to do this work. The Brotherhood of St Laurence has provided a full-time social worker for the area. The Methodist Church is playing its part by providing a part-time social worker. Churches of other denominations in the area are providing part-time social workers, and the Victorian State Government has provided a full-time welfare officer.
Honourable members might say that if an office of the Department of Social Services were established there, the area would be well served. But in my mind, although it would be a forward step to establish such an office, it probably would not fulfil the enormous need for the provision of social services for the people. There is in the area a large number of people who have recently arrived from Europe. Also in the area is a very large number of deserted wives. Generally the area is inhabited by unskilled workers who cannot demand a very high income for their labour. Because of this these people are subjected to all sorts of community pressures which they cannot withstand. Family counselling is required to show the people how they can overcome the pressures and the problems. But no attention is being given to this matter by the Federal Government. It has completely neglected this matter. When the matter is raised it is stated, as the Treasurer did, that it is the responsibility of the local people.
I return to what I said earlier. There is an annual rates debt of $40,000 for the city of Broadmeadows. In other words, people cannot pay the rates which are now being charged. As everybody knows, the amount of rales charged is geared to the earning capacity of the lower income people in the community. If this is not done, the rates remain unpaid. It is so easy to say that the local people should be looking after this matter of social services, but this is a difficult thing to do when the municipality has an annual rates debt of $40,000. It has long been my thesis that local people should act only in an advisory capacity. The advice should be transmitted from the local people to the people who can solve the problems by providing finance - the Federal Government. There is no provision for the matter I have raised in this year’s estimates. Something should be done for these people.
The municipality of Broadmeadows is in a hopeless position. But to add to the problems of the municipality, we have instant families. The Housing Commission built 500 houses in the area and 1 ,500 children moved into them. This creates pressures which cannot be borne by the local people. The municipality cannot take money from the poor people in order to give a service to the poor people, and that is about what it amounts to. Only the Commonwealth can provide the finance, but it is not doing so. I criticise the Government for not providing the finance. I trust that the responsible Ministers will give this matter further attention.
– In this debate on the estimates for the Repatriation Department I wish to refer only to one specific matter. Briefly, it is the provision of repatriation benefits of various sorts for British ex-servicemen. This is a matter on which I have had some discussions with the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten), and it is a matter on which correspondence has passed between us. I must say at the outset that I am very grateful for the consideration which the Minister has given to this matter so far, and if I may say so, I am grateful in anticipation of the consideration which he will give to it in the future.
Briefly, the history of this specific matter is that originally I wrote to the Minister expressing certain views which had been conveyed to me by a constituent of mine, Mr R. Winstanley of Bundoora, in Victoria. The gravamen of those representations from Mr Winstanley to myself was to the effect that repatriation benefits should be made available to British ex-servicemen. The Minister replied, and I am sure that he would not mind at all if I were to read to the Committee a short, powerful extract from the letter which he sent to me. He said:
The- British authorities have pointed out in the past that they would nor consider any arrangement which would result in varying rates of pension and other benefits for their ex-servicemen in other parts of the world.
The argument which the Minister put forward in that short extract was an argument that could fairly bc described as Government policy, and Government policy which has been held and expressed for some years. Indeed, if my memory serves me correctly, I remember seeing letters in which the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, expressed a similar view.
Having considered the view expressed by the Minister, by the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and by Sir Robert Menzies, I must say that I thought it was a fairly persuasive argument. The British authorities had expressed the view that they would not countenance any system that would give differing benefits to their ex-servicemen who were in the United Kingdom or who had migrated to one of the Commonwealth countries. However, subsequent to that I attended, by invitation, a meeting of the British Sub-branch of the Returned Services League. On that occasion Mr Winstanley, the President, Mr N. E. Jakes and a number of other members of the organisation had a discussion with me, in the course of which they pui forward some arguments of their own. I must say that they put them forward with reason and moderation, and at the same time with some force. 1 want to express to the Committee the tentative conclusions to which I have come about this matter of the provision of repatriation benefits for British exservicemen. They are views which I expressed to the Minister in a subsequent letter which I. wrote to him. Concisely stated they are as follows: In the first place, it seems that the whole approach of looking at repatriation benefits for British exservicemen on the presumptions that the Minister expressed to me and which previous Prime Ministers have expressed, is, with respect, wrong. I suggest that it is not a proper approach to consider what the British Government expects its expatriates to receive in repatriation benefits or any other form of social service benefit. British migrants settle in Australia. They make their homes here and many of them become Australian citizens, lt seems to be unreal that we should be shackled to any direction or request by the British Government as to what benefits should or should not be received by British migrants, especially those who have become Australian citizens. I would suggest that the proper course is to look at the position of the British exserviceman in Australia to determine what are appropriate benefits to give him, regarding him as an equal for this purpose to an Australian born ex-serviceman. If that is done benefits such as war service homes loans and service pensions should be available to British ex-servicemen as much as they are available to Australian exservicemen. If one uses the basic test I have suggested - that is, that we look at the exserviceman in Australia to see what he should or should not be entitled to in the light of Australian conditions and standards - the proper question to ask is why should British ex-servicemen not be entitled to war service homes loans and war service pension. To put this aspect of the matter concisely, I think it is time we imposed an Australian test for entitlements of exservicemen and not some direction or request from the British Government.
The next point that should be made is that British ex-servicemen in Australia far from being at an advantage over their compatriots who remained at home are at a positive disadvantage. Firstly, they do not have the benefits of the British free medical and hospital scheme that they would have available to them in the United Kingdom, in their capacity as ex-servicemen. As an ex-serviceman in Australia the British migrant is on the same footing as an Australian who is not an ex-serviceman and who has to participate in the contributory national health scheme. If he were in the United Kingdom he would receive free hospital and medical benefits by virtue of his capacity as an ex-serviceman. Secondly, if he is receiving a British war pension the rate of his pension is not based on the realities of Australian conditions and prices, although he is living under them, but on British conditions and prices. His pension is calculated on one set of criteria; he has to spend it in a completely different set of criteria. In particular, devaluation must mean that he is now getting less value for his British pension than he got before devaluation. Yet we do nothing to compensate him for the difference. This seems to highlight the unreality of determining a man’s entitlement by reference to circumstance and conditions outside Australia.
Thirdly, the British ex-serviceman in Australia does not have the advantage of appearing in person before a repatriation body or appeal tribunal. Although the Australian Repatriation Department acts as agent for the British war pension authorities, and although this is obviously a benefit and a useful service, the immigrant does not have the advantage of personal appearance before the body that decides his pension entitlement or the opportunity that goes with that advantage of being able personally to describe his condition and of enabling the tribunal to assess the exserviceman’s case by seeing him in person. It would seem to me that the British exserviceman in Australia is at a disadvantage in these respects when he should not be. It could well be said that the Australian Government should at least examine this state of affairs to see whether he can be compensated for that disadvantage. A num ber of reforms which could be considered come to mind. Firstly, the loss suffered as a result of devaluation could be compensated. The loss suffered by the British ex-serviceman has been suffered through no fault of his own and it seems to me that there is at least a prima facie case for some compensation, especially for those British immigrants who have taken out Australian citizenship or otherwise evinced an intention to settle permanently in Australia. Secondly, could not the agency of the Repatriation Department be extended by agreement with the British authorities to use the Australian machinery for the examination and determination of claims in Australia with an undertaking by the British authorities that the decision reached by the Australian body will be final and binding on the British body? That perhaps may be somewhat idealistic but I would suggest with respect that it is worth examining. I would go further and say that such a reform would give the British ex-serviceman the advantage possessed by his compatriot at home of personal appearance before the body that makes the decision on his case.
However, the 2 principal matters to which I think attention should be given are the provisions of war service home loans and the provision of service pensions. There are numerous reasons that could be advanced in support of these reforms but the main reasons are as follows. Firstly, the Australian soldier fought not only for Australia but also for Britain. Likewise, the British soldier fought not only for Britain but also for Australia. It being a common struggle with common interests and with common sacrifices being made irrespective of the accident of the soldier’s birthplace, it would seem logical that there should be common recognition given by the Australian Government to those who now make their home in Australia - one of the countries for which they fought. Secondly, the British ex-serviceman in Australia is taxed to provide finance for, amongst other things, war service homes loans and service pensions. I suggest it is fair that in these circumstances he should reasonably expect the same benefits, or perhaps some of them, as his Australian counterpart. I have already expressed those views to the Minister and I know he is considering them. I know he will not lake any exception to my raising them on this very appropriate occasion because it seems to me that the interests of British exservicemen deserve that these views be expressed and that some recognition should be given to the representations and work of the British Sub-branch of the Returned Services League for what 1, at least, consider to be a desirable end.
– In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Social Services I desire to comment upon what I believe to be the worst feature of an overall very mediocre social service structure. In using the word ‘mediocre’ 1 am conscious of trie fact that the majority of the Australian public will recognise that I am being most generous to the Government. The matter that greatly concerns me is the scandalous way the Government treats an enderly couple where the wife is not of pensionable age. In such cases these unfortunate frustrated people are expected to exist on a combined weekly income of $15.50. Week after week most honourable members receive inquiries on this matter from aged couples in this terrible position yet this Government during its 20-odd years of continuous office in our so-called prosperous society has consistently ignored appeals from members on both sides of the House to stop imposing this terrible penalty upon aged couples whose only fault, if it can be so called, is the fact that some 30 or 40 years ago when they married the difference in their ages was more than 5 years.
To illustrate the point more clearly 1 propose to refer to a typical case that came to my notice some time ago where the husband on reaching the age of 65 years was retrenched. He applied for and received an age pension. His wife, who was 58i years of age and the mother of 1 0 children, had not worked for wages for almost 40 years. She had no skills other than those of a housewife and mother but she was expected to seek employment in order to ensure that for the next 18 months that she and her husband would be able to exist. Instead of being completely disregarded by the Government and left to fend for herself in the jungle of the unskilled unemployed she should have been immediately granted some government assistance. In fact, a government with any sense of pride or decency would honour rather than humiliate her.
I am aware that this type of situation has been raised many times in this Parliament. It seems to me - it has even been suggested by some of the Government supporters - that the only reason why no corrective action has been taken is the fear that a small percentage of single pensioners may marry younger women in order to obtain the married couple rate of pension in lieu of the single rate. This type of reasoning is completely unacceptable to me. However, if that is the case, in an effort to offer some kind of compromise solution it is with sincerity that I suggest to the Minister for Social Services and the Government that the Act be amended immediately to make the wife of an age pensioner eligible for a similar pension, together with the fringe benefits, provided that the couple have been married for a period of at least 3 years prior to the date of the husband becoming eligible for the pension. I say this although in my heart I believe that this amendment should not be necessary because the wife should now receive the pension as soon as her husband becomes eligible.
The House will recall that the Minister for Social Services in his second reading speech on the 1969 Social Services Bill made reference to a survey on poverty in Australia conducted by Professor Henderson and his colleagues in the University of Melbourne. The Minister sought to show by way of a complicated table that pensioners who have no means beyond their pension - the people who are really at the bottom of the income scale - were, in real terms of purchasing power, substantially above the poverty line datum as disclosed by the Melbourne survey. The Minister, of course, made no reference in the table that he presented at that time to the couples in the category to which I am now referring. I challenge the Minister to tell the House just where these people stand in relation to Professor Henderson’s ‘poverty line’ as adjusted to the latest level of the consumer price index. I invite the Minister to take up this important issue during this debate and tell the Committee and the people why the Government continues to keep a small section of the aged people of this community in a position well below the starvation line.
I have no doubt that if the Minister does reply to me he will endeavour to make a case that one or both of the couple should obtain a part-time job to supplement their social service pittance. This is practicable in some cases but in the majority it is not, especially when the male partner has no particular skills and his wife has not been engaged in industry for some 35 years or more. What employer is likely to employ aged people in these circumstances? Even if one or both of them is able to obtain some employment the means test still keeps them in a position much worse than that of the couple who are both eligible for the pension. As I understand the Act at present, a pensioner couple with no means beyond the pension can earn an additional $17 before the pension is affected, thus making their total weekly income $44.50 a week but where only one of the couple is a pensioner the total allowable income, before the pension is reduced, is still only $17, making a total income including pension of $32.50 a week or SI 2 below that applicable to the pensioner couple. In these special circumstances a simple amendment to the Act could be made to allow such a couple to earn the additional $12 a week and thus put them on par with the pensioner couple. This could be achieved without it costing the Government one additional cent.
Some aged couples in this category who cannot obtain employment and who happen to own their own small cottage are placed in an impossible position because of the fact that they are not even eligible for supplementary assistance. Some of these people who have approached me can show clearly that out of their miserable pittance of $15.50 a couple a week they must put aside over $4 a week in order to cover their land tax and council and water rates which, in total, almost invariably exceed $210 a year. Added to this is the high cost of urgent and necessary maintenance which most honourable members will realise would be considerable on a 40-year old wood and iron or asbestos cottage. Many of these people spend their aging years in constant fear that the roof may leak or that the plumbing may fail in the sure knowledge that, if these things happen and maintenance is needed, the small amount of money left for food and clothing will almost completely disappear.
Much has been said and written about the approach of Nazi Germany to the aged and the frail. This approach which consisted mainly of brutal extermination shocked and disgusted the world. Yet today in a rich country like Australia there is this small section of aged people who were among the pioneers of our land and who during their working life readily accepted heavy taxation in the belief that the government of the day would maintain them in a reasonable manner in the twilight of their lives. Instead they now find that they are expected to exist on this small pension income which can only be described as something very much less than is needed to cover the lowest concept of a reasonably plain diet. The subtle Government approach to this serious problem in my view can only be construed as a definite policy designed to shorten the normal life expectancy of these most unfortunate people. The Government must stand condemned for allowing such a tragic situation to continue for so long. I trust that the Minister for Social Services will recognise this injustice and take some immediate steps to rectify it.
– I was interested to listen to the remarks that were made by, I think, the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) a short time ago. I believe that he advocated the massive grant of federal funds to local government - I think the honourable member referred to his service in local government - and suggested that local government should, in fact, take care of social service work within the States. I think it is true to say that this is the line that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has been pushing for some months. Unfortunately I do not have any recent quotations of what the Leader of the Opposition has said on this subject but I am sure that I have heard him say something to this effect in this House in the last few days.
– Who is that?
– The Leader of the Opposition. I happen to have a quotation which is contained in the 1956 Hansard of this place. I think we would have to say that it is accurate. During a speech in Parliament the honourable member was asked whether he had abandoned nationalisation. He said:
No. We advocate municipalisation in regard to local services, mutualisation in regard to insurance offices and nationalisation of services which affect everybody in the nation.
I find it very difficult to follow the Leader of the Opposition. I’ regard him as something of a political chameleon which, as honourable members know, is a lizard which turns red when it is put on a red rock and blue when it is put on a blue rock. I have a quotation from what was said by the Leader of the Opposition, which I am sure will be of interest to the Committee, as reported in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of 8th April 1968. The Leader of the Opposition was addressing, of all places, the New South Wales Fabian Society.
– ls that relevant?
– This is entirely relevant because the honourable member for Burke said that social services should be instituted through local government. The honourable member referred to his 10 years in local government, and I can claim to have a few years in it as well. This quotation is perfectly relevant because it shows that either the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition has changed completely or hrs credibility is open to doubt.
– You may have misconstrued what he was saying.
– I do not think so because it is in Hansard. What he said is clearly there on record. 1 would like to read to the House what the Leader of the Opposition said to the New South Wales Fabian Society in 1968. The Press article is headed: ‘Hit at Local Government’. The dateline is Sydney, 7th April. The article stated:
There was too much local government in New South Wales, the Federal Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said in Sydney today.
There were governments everywhere - local, State and Federal - but only the Federal Government had the money effectively to govern.
The States got a certain amount of money from poker machines, racing and so on, but ‘people’s vices are not so great that governments can tax many more of them.’
All political activity in local government would be more efficient if there were fewer local governments.
I think I heard an honourable member interject that that is true. The article went on to state:
All political activity in local government would be more efficient if there were fewer local governments.
It is very hard to follow the Leader of the Opposition. He is, to say the best, inconsistent. I would like to say something of Socialism and the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party because that philosophy has an effect on the matter of social services which is before us. I would like to refer to the book containing the constitution, rules and platform of the Australian Labor Party and particularly to page 20. which under the heading ‘Social Welfare’ deals with pensions. It goes into great depth but. in a sentence, it says that the pensions should be a percentage of the average wage. Nowhere in that book does it say what the percentage should be, although ( understand that there have been other references by the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that it should be 30 per cent. It seems to me that the policy should be spelt out in some detail rather than merely referring to a percentage.
– What is your policy?
– I will deal with that loo in a moment. The percentage should be dealt with in detail. Is it 30 per cent? Is it 10 per cent? What is the percentage? All the way through the policy of the Labor Party this atmosphere of Socialism keeps pushing through, lt states that defence should be a percentage of the gross national product. Just imagine how much-
– I take a point of order. [ understood that we are discussing the estimates for the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department, f have been listening to the debate for the last 5 minutes and 1 have not heard the honourable member for Boothby mention these estimates. 1 know that he is not very bright, but surely he should know what we are talking about.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! As I understand it, the honourable member is reading something in relation to the Opposition’s policy on social services.
– He was talking about local government, nothing to do with social services.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I was dealing with page 20 of the document setting out the Labor Party’s constiutiion, platform and rules under the heading ‘Social Welfare’.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Sturt will cease interjecting. I warn him for the last time.
– What I am saying is entirely relevant. I intended, but of course there will not be enough time, to expand on the policy of the Labor Party on such things as overseas aid. This also is tied to some other percentage. It is a percentage of the gross national product. While there is an opportunity, I would like to say how much 1 deplore the remarks that were made last night by the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Kirwan). Referring to national servicemen, he said that national service had made criminals out of people who would otherwise have gone through the whole of their lives with unblemished records and would have been a credit to this country. I wish to be dissociated from that sentiment. In my view, those young men are very much a credit to their country.
– Is that why-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I have warned the honourable member for Sturt, who is again interjecting. I said that I warned him fox the last time. If he interrupts again and disobeys the Chair I will name him.
– I raise a point of order. Like the honourable member for Sturt, I feel unduly provoked. The honourable member for Boothby is talking about national servicemen and not the estimates covering the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services.
– We are dealing with repatriation.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I take the point of order that, as has already been put to you, the honourable member in the last few sentences in the last few minutes has utterly departed from the estimates for the Department of Social Services. In fact, he referred a minute or two ago to a statement made on other estimates in this Parliament the other night and was dealing with national service and other matters which have no possible relationship to social services. You have been very lenient with him. I think you have been lenient enough.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! There have been a lot of interjections all the time from the honourable member’s own side which have made it a little difficult and a little incoherent. I ask the honourable member for Boothby to confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman, I think that, by the same token, my remarks are not entirely irrelevant because national servicemen eventually become returned soldiers. We are dealing with repatriation, and what members on the other side of the chamber think about returned soldiers is relevant to the estimates we are discussing. What the honourable member for Forrest said about national servicemen when they become returned soldiers was absolutely disgraceful.
I shall get back to the question of pensions. I was dealing with the matter of the average wage. It is important, when we have regard to the amount of social service pensions paid by this Government, that we consider it in relation to what is the most common wage. I have referred to this before in this place. According to a Press report in the ‘Australian’ only today the wage most commonly paid in Western Australia until this moment has been $46 a week. I think that members ‘ are less than honest if they do not study the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on the Social Services Bill and determine what is the true value of the pension.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to enter this debate and to accuse the Government of the most shabby treatment of the aged that has ever seen in this country. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) completely overlooks the problems of the aged in his own electorate. I demand that this Government, as a last possible step, endeavour in some way to show its sincerity and human feeling for almost a million aged people and introduce into this Parliament a Budget which will sustain the people who are reliant upon monetary handouts from this Government, however small that may be. I make my demand because of the hypocritical, mean and stupid manner in which the Government has gone about this Budget and has ignored the pleas of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who, if one can believe what one hears around the corridors, placed before the Government proposals much better than those which the Government adopted in respect of age pensioners. I do not know what sort of language one can use in this chamber, but if it were not so unparliamentary I know what sort of language would describe members of the Government and their lousy attitude towards pensioners generally.
-I have heard you using it here in interjections.
– You are a liar, Sir, and I will withdraw that remark if I have to.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (MrDrury) - I beg your pardon?
– I want to-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order!
MrMcLeay - I distinctly heard the honourable member for Sturt call the honourable member for Mallee a liar, whichI do not think he is.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! Did the honourable member for Sturt use that word?
-I called him a lair. lt may have sounded like ‘a liar’. There is not a great deal of difference.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! Did the honourable member for Sturt call the honourable member for Mallee a liar?
– No.I called him a lair because he implied that I had been doing things on this side of the chamber. That was untrue. However, if it would satisfy the Chair, and if the honourable member for Mallee thinks that he has been insulted I shall withdraw the remark.
-I rise to order. The honourable member for Sturt did call me what the honourable member for Boothby said he did. He very definitely did so. He said that because I had said I had heard him using in interjections some language that was a disgrace to this Parliament.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order!I point out to the honourable member for Mallee that the honourable member for Sturt has already, at my request, withdrawn the expression.
– I should not have fallen into that and wasted my time on the honourable member for Mallee. What I want to say is that recently in Adelaide at a church forum the Reverend Irwin Vogt, who has the interests of the aged at heart, saw fit to criticise the Federal Government, and indeed some State governments, in regard to a very urgent matter. I demand that this Government pay some attention to the request of that reverend gentleman. 1 do not have sufficient time to read his speech, but I am most certainly prepared to layit on the table for all members of the Government to see, because it indicts them for their stupidity and lack of understanding of the problems of aged people in the community. I am prepared to lay it on the table along with certain recommendations that were put to a so-called responsible Minister in regard to what was required as an immediate need in the geriatrics area. However. I challenge the Government to introduce a supplementary Budget to overcome this pressing problem.
Over the years this Government has introduced a number of measures on the understanding that they would benefit the aged but because of the Government’s shortsightedness and its lack of understanding of the problems of the aged they have not received these benefits. The Government has ignored a number of reports that have been made in regard to the aged. In a Melbourne newspaper yesterday afternoon there was a report on a survey made by Professor Downing on this particular matter which Government members have probably read. The Government has had available to it reports on welfare programmes in countries comparable to Australia and what has happened in those countries. Honourable members opposite have only to go across the Tasman Sea to get literature on the New Zealand system of social welfare and after a glimpse at those documents they will see the shocking inequalities that they render unto the people of Australia. Government members are completely devoid of any understanding of the problems of the aged. If they are not devoid of this understanding then all I can say is that they ought to be condemned more than they are at the moment in this regard.
The Government must realise the high proportion of the population which falls within this group. More people are entering this group each day but they enter this welfare sector realising that they are joining the ranks of the poverty stricken. We bear much of what this Government has done in the field of homes for aged persons, but what action has it taken? Under this legislation Aged Cottage Homes Incorporated in South Australia has built homes for hundreds of people in one small area, and in this area there is no infirmary, no qualified nursing sister and no other amenities at all. These organisations were, of course, given a subsidy by the Government which they used to the full. This company took from the occupants of these homes what an aged person would regard as large sums of money. $2,000 or more, under an agreement which the company has not honoured. This is not justice. The agreements contained provisions that would give the aged people a life tenancy on these houses and yet this company in Adelaide, which is in my electorate, has served eviction notices on these people. This action is an absolute and utter disgrace. What can be done by this Commonwealth Government in regard to this matter of serious concern? The Government can do absolutely nothing because it did not have the good sense and foresight to retain and maintain a controlling interest in these aged persons’ homes.
I received a letter this morning from one of these aged women in Adelaide who pointed out that old ladies have been found dead in their flats. I can produce this letter now. There are no facilities whatsoever in these places. These people have had increased costs foisted upon them in spite of the fact that they signed documents which can only be regarded as legal documents. These people have been treated in the most shabby and shocking manner imaginable. 1 have even heard of cases where people have gone to make payments to this company and received receipts written on the backs of envelopes. Is this any way to treat the aged? Does the Government pay any regard to organisations which it recognises as being bona fide organisations and which in fact have the interests of the aged at heart? Surely we are not arriving at the stage in this country where, because of their social service payments, the aged will be exploited and become big business as we see happening in America today? This is where we are heading unless this Government takes stock of itself.
I will leave that point for a moment because 1 want to deal with another urgent problem. What does this Government intend to do between now and Christmas for this sector of the community? In the last 24 hours we have seen a report of a cost of living increase in almost every State in Australia. On almost every other page of our newspapers we see statements by people in the community who are concerned about the problem of the aged in the field of housing and these people say that these things should be looked at. We heard in this chamber today the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) answer a question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and I must confess that I think that answer means that nothing will be done to relieve the problem of medical care for the aged. We have the situation in South Australia where there is a lack of accommodation for these people, but, in addition to that, even where there is accommodation high costs are being inflicted on the organisations that have some real desire to help the aged. These costs are rising out of all proportion to the pension rate and yet the Minister had the hide today to talk about intensive care for the aged. Tt is all very well for him to talk about intensive care. What he ought to have been saying to this House if he was honest is that there are medical officers in South Australia who walk into these aged persons’ homes unannounced and unheralded, and if they see a person who is normally bed-ridden lifted perhaps momentarily from his bed, away goes the intensive care subsidy, ls that any way to treat aged persons in this day and age, to spy on them? ft is an absolute disgrace and is an indictment of this Government. In conclusion I challenge the honesty, courage and integrity of honourable members opposite and I challenge them to rise in their places during the course of this debate and answer some of the questions asked about the problems of the aged in this community, ft is no good talking about soldiers on national service. What the honourable member for Boothby ought to be saying is that some of our soldiers who have become old are now living in poverty on a pittance. There are many who have not qualified for a pension under the Repatriation Act. The Repatriation Department has one of the worst, if not the worst, record of any department in the Commonwealth.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) ~-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– 1 must Say that the display of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) has not been one of his best. In fact, during one period he really abused the forms of this House.
– I rise to order. Is the honourable member taking a point of order?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - There is no substance in the point of order. It is a matter for the Chair.
– 1 am taking my second period. I feel a bit loquacious this afternoon. 1 have listened to the honourable member for Sturt attacking honourable members on this side of the House. He has used expressions like ‘talk around the lobbies’. He made some suggestion that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) does not have the support of the Government. Another expression which be used was ‘a lack of understanding of the problems of the aged’. He also said that we are interested only in exploiting the aged.
– Yes, that is right.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! I I have warned the honourable member for Sturt two or three times this afternoon. As be well knows it is against the Standing Orders to interject. 1 have warned him a number of times and I will not warn him again.
– It does not disturb me, Mr Deputy Chairman. But I would like to say to the House and to the honourable member who has interjected that if the tragic situation ever arose in which the Labor Party became the government there is not a single thing that he or any other member of the Parliamentary Labor Party could do about anything. They would do exactly what was decided for them by their bosses outside this Parliament and I think this is a deplorable situation. No-one is going to tell me that that is not the true position, that the Labor Party and its policies are not controlled by people not elected by the taxpayers of Australia.
– Name them.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Robertson is out of order.
– He is also out of his place. I would use as an example of this lack of parliamentary control the dreadful situation which exists at the moment in South Australia where a referendum has just been held and where the will of the people will not be executed. I have in front of me-
– 1 rise to order. I contend that the honourable member is not speaking to the estimates before the Committee at the present time. He is dealing with quite a number of other matters but not one syllable has he uttered in reference to the estimates.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Boothby.
– J will not deal with that any more except to say that there is pictorial evidence of the Premier of South Australia waiting outside a house for the executive of the Labor Party to tell him in what way the Government should bring in its legislation as a result of this referendum. But i will now deal with the question of single pensioners, something which has been overlooked by all speakers today. In my view - it is unpopular to say it - the section of the pensionable community which is worst off is that which contains single pensioners. I have had discussions with and made representations to the Minister over some years about this matter. When I use the expression ‘those who are living in genteel poverty’ I am thinking about widows, widowers and unmarried elderly women who live in their own homes, who do not pay rent but who pay rates. I would like to suggest to the Minister once again that this matter be considered at the time of the next Budget and that perhaps a case should now be settled for people in this situation to be paid a supplementary pension. It is increasingly difficult for those sorts of people to maintain their properties with one pension coming into the house.
I believe that families such as those of migrants with 4 or 5 children, deserted wives, widows and deserted widowers with dependent children are the ones who are seriously affected in the community. A lot of the crocodile tears we have seen thi.s afternoon have no sincere and genuine application. One matter that has been overlooked is intiation, In my view, the person hurt first and hardest in an inflationary situation is the pensioner. Every wage increase and every loss in productivity is paid for by the pensioner, the superannuitants or persons on fixed incomes. I take the view that militant trade unionists do not give a darn for the pensioner. That is most unfortunate and unrealistic, because I should think more than half the pensioner community is made up of former trade unionists.
In the last 4 years, average weekly earnings have increased by an average of about 7 per cent per annum and consumer prices by about 3 per cent per annum. In the first 6 months of the current year (1970) the rate of inflation has accelerated to an annual rate of 4-) per cent.
If it continued for any length of time, this rate of inflation would be quite unacceptable - not just to the Government with economic responsibility to maintain balanced growth and development, but to large sections of the community who are powerless in the redistribution of income, wages, and assets which is the social vice of inflation.
He was referring to the group I mentioned, the pensioners. I think it was the honourable member for Sturt who briefly mentioned the Pensioners’ Little Budget Campaign. He referred to an article by Professor Downing. Just before I came into the chamber I received a copy of a letter sent to the Prime Minister and one sent to me by the Pensioners’ Little Budget Campaign. In that letter the writer says:
The Committee is nol associated with any party– which means political party -
. nor do any of its supporters represent any party or pensioners’ Organisation.
I have some doubt about that, because yesterday 1 received a letter from a single pensioner referring to this campaign and to the Pensioners’ Federation and the plight of single pensioners. I would like to quote briefly from this letter because I think it is entirely relevant and it is certainly about social services. The writer says in her letter:
That is the Pensioners’ Federation - . . were so hostile too to our differential pension, which Mr Molt first introduced in 1963. Mrs Ellis is the ruling spirit, and is always anxious to get ‘Little Budgets’ after the big one. lt. is clear profit for her, as she owns her own house, and lets flats. They are nol needy, as how could they go regularly, year after year, lo Canberra.
I mention this because there is a movement for a ‘Little Budget’ sponsored by the Brotherhood of St Laurence, who are always ready to fall in with the idea of more money from the Government. But there are things such as housing for pensioners, more money per week for the lone property owner, the payment to surviving members of family units, such as mother and daughter, or two sisters etc. who should be paid al least two-thirds of the 12 weeks double pension now paid to the surviving marriage partner.
She goes on to say:
Although the Little Budget is ostensibly being asked for by high Anglican circles, it is nevertheless the brain child of Mrs Ellis. There arc so many of we lone pensioners (70 per cent of all groups) that we pick up news from all over the place, and we are well aware of the source of most appeals to Canberra. We ourselves were fortunate in helping to obtain the States Grants for aged persons dwellings, and those who can earn find the tapered Means Test of great benefit.
That is good to know. The letter continues:
But the Pensioners* Federation never included such things in their curriculum-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking on the estimates for the Department of Social Services let me say briefly to the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) that his speech was the weakest defence of Government Estimates that I have ever listened to.
– Don’t waste time.
– I certainly do not intend to. Let me state bluntly in dealing with the question of social services that this is a great country to live in if one is fit. young and healthy. But if one falls by the wayside one faces dire poverty. These are the facts of life today. If ever a government stands indicted in the eyes of the people, this Government does. It deserves complete and utter condemnation. The miserable pittance which was grudgingly doled out to the aged, the sick, the infirm and the veterans of this country is an utter disgrace and a national shame. Let me bluntly put the economic facts. They are quite simple. The increase in Budget expenditure this year will be 11.2 per cent. The increase in the social services expenditure will be 5.8 per cent, slightly more than half the rate of the increase in the overall expenditure of the Budget. Last year the social services expenditure increased by 14.9 per cent There lies the problem. - Let me state briefly lo the Committee that the plight of the pensioners, of the sick and the needy, is to be dealt with by what is termed social welfare. In its handling by this Government over the last 2 decades it has become a social mess. To those unfortunates in our community it is sheer social misery. I am appalled at the sheer lack of understanding of the depth of poverty and degradation throughout our community. I am amazed by the number of people who are not fully conscious of it. People ought to be aware of the fact that in this so-called affluent society over a million people are living in poverty. That is an average of one in 12. I ask the honourable member for Boothby whether, after 20 years of Liberal-Country Party government, he can justify that. Two decades ago this nation had the greatest record in the field of social services of anywhere in the Western world. Today we are fifteenth down the list. That is an indictment of this Government’s attitude lo those in need,
I turn to the question of poverty. The honourable member for Boothby always has the capacity to apply the philosophy of guilt by association. I personally have the greatest regard for the Brotherhood of St Laurence. It has called for a national inquiry, as has the Catholic Church in Australia. Let me just quote what Rev. Hollingworth said on 18th August last. His statement is apposite to this question. He said:
There is something wrong with an economic system in which the established minimum wage and pension rates are on the poverty line . . .
This country spends more on research into pigs and the pig industry than it does on people.
Mr Hollingworth said further: . . 120,000 Melbournians are living on or below the poverty line.
Professor Henderson carried out a survey into the question of poverty in the city of Melbourne. This survey has been quoted before and its findings need to be asserted again in this Committee. I believe that Professor Henderson contributed quite a substantial amount of money to the survey before the research could be undertaken. This fact in itself is an indictment of this Government. As I understand them, the statistics flowing from this inquiry clearly indicate that one out of every 5 married couples in the city of Melbourne is living in poverty. In the city of Melbourne alone there are 42,300 children who are living in poverty.
I turn now to the subject of child endowment. No reference was made to this subject either in the speech by the Governor-General in March of this year or in the Budget. If there is one group in this community that is suffering at poverty level this group is in that area to which child endowment is paid. I put a question to the Minister for Social Services on this matter in April of this year. My question sought the alleviation of the high proportion in our community suffering in abject poverty. I put this, in part, to the Minister:
To alleviate this poverty, will he take steps immediately towards an increase of existing child endowment rates to $3 per week for the third child and to $4 per week for the fourth child and subsequent children?
I proposed this action so that people living in poverty in this respect might be removed from this area of need. This question dealt with the City of Melbourne Survey into Poverty. The section of the question prior to the one that I have just read - it introduced the request that I made-reads:
Did the survey also reveal that 6 per cent, or 42,300 of that city’s children are growing up in acute poverty and that of these children 40 per cent come from families with at least 4 children and 22 are children of fatherless families?
The reply to the compassionate needs of these people was a complete and utter rejection by the Government of the proposal.
Let us consider the question of child endowment on the statistics available. The payments have not been adjusted. In fact, in 1950, child endowment was set at 50c per week for the first child. That amount has not been altered since. If the Minister wishes to apply to that amount the indices that he used in his second reading speech in dealing wilh the subject of social services, that amount should now be $1.13 a child per week. The payment was set in 194S at Si. lt should be $2.56 a child per week now. In 1964, the amount was set at S 1 .50 a child per week. On the statistics presented, the amount should now be $1.84 a child per week. If one looks at this matter broadly, one sees that there is no question of relativity at all as far as social services is concerned.
Wage and salary earners throughout this country make applications to tribunals to keep their standards of living level with various costs which rise throughout the community. Doctors have extracted an undertaking from this Government that their fee level will be lifted concurrently with rising costs to maintain their professional status. Why is it that pensioners are to be denied this privilege. Really, it is not a privilege; it is a right.
What I fail to understand is why, throughout the whole 20 years that this Government has been in office, the Government will not depart from the question of the machinery applying to pensions. I believe that there can be only 2 reasons for this. One is that the amount paid out to pensioners is not proportionate to costs. It is a Budget issue and the Government wishes to keep the control of it within its hands. Secondly I think - and there is no doubt about this at all in my view - that pensions are used deliberately by this Government as a political gimmick at election time. The living standards of pensioners throughout Australia are in the hands of this Government and are nothing more than a vote catching medium. It is high time - I make this special plea - for pensions generally to be taken out of the sphere of politics. Pensions should be established on a scale commensurate with rising costs, that is, whether they be age, invalid or other pensions. Whatever the pension is, it should be taken out of the sphere of politics. In this way, the standard of living of pensioners at least will be commensurate with rising costs in the community.
– 1 am glad that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has directed a review of the ‘form letter’ recently sent to many pensioners. 1 am glad also that the Minister believes and will endeavour to arrange that the letter should be more personal and should relate to the particular circumstances of the pensioner to whom it is addressed. Mav 1 say, however, that I am disturbed at the Minister’s statement that the decisions conveyed in the form letter are correct and are not in question but that it is only the wording - the form of the letter - which is in question.
How can the Minister be so complacently sure that the requirement to surrender pensioner medical cards is in every case correct? Already review has shown that in some cases it has not been correct. How can a pensioner, how can anyone, be sure that the income and property figures are stated correctly in the departmental records when no figures at all are given to the pensioner? It seems to me that the Minister himself recognised this when he said that the letter should set out the particular circumstances of the pensioner, that is, the particular circumstances on which the decision is based. But this is not in accord with his statement that the decisions are correct already and that no review of the decisions is necessary, only a review of the form of the letter.
Do not the letters show that the Department itself is doubtful of the correctness of its decision? In this respect, 1 refer particularly to those letters which state: ‘Your pension is suspended’. If the Department is completely satisfied that the pensioner is not entitled to the pension, one would expect the pension to be cancelled, not suspended indefinitely without the pensioner being given any right of appeal or to challenge the decision conveyed to him.
I imagine that these ‘pension-suspended’ letters go out where it is the view of the Department that the person who is receiving a pension because of the tapered means test has nevertheless already received more than would entitle him to a pension even under the tapered means test for the remainder of the present financial year, that is, until 30th June next. But if that is so, surely the decision is of such importance to the pensioner that the matter should be set out in a way that the pensioner may examine.
I am particularly astonished that this Minister, in spite of his record in this House as a libertarian, as a champion of the rights of the individual and as an opponent of every form of authoritarianism, now should so roundly say that he is opposed to giving the pensioner the right of appeal against departmental decisions. He says that there is available to the pensioner something which is more valuable to him than the right of appeal to a tribunal; and that, he says, is the pensioner’s right to go to his member of Parliament and the right of the member of Parliament to approach the Minister - a state of society, it seems to me, in which the Minister asserts that no-one counts for anything except the politician and the official, and, by the way in which it has been applied, a state of society in which as far as pensioners are concerned enterprise has no encouragement and thrift has no reward.
The abandonment, as indicated by the Minister, of the principle of democracy that the individual is superior to the state and that the state is the servant of the individual is the precursor of totalitarianism, the master state, either Communist or Fascist. It is sad to see a Minister of the Crown embracing attitudes in this House which make it easier to establish either of those forms of hateful dictatorship, Communist or Fascist. It is particularly sad when the Minister, prior to his promotion to the feather bed of high office, was himself so determined in his onslaught on any vestige of encouragement to this dictatorial rule and on any infringement of the rights of the individual in the community. 1 would never have thought that I should have to remind this Minister that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and that part of that vigilance must be to establish and maintain - not favours to citizens, subject to politicians and officials - but the rights of citizens and the equal rights of all citizens - not a division into first class citizens on the one hand and pensioners as second class citizens on the other. Senior citizens are entitled to equal rights with all other citizens. Pensioners are not to be regarded as second class citizens for whom Big Brother always knows best and who must meekly accept the orders and decisions of politicians and officials who, as the Minister suggests - and I think he says it quite wrongly - will use their discretion, not apply the law but use their discretion either for or against the senior citizen, the pensioner, dealing with him by whim or by grace instead of in accord with the pensioner’s rights under the law.
The basis of the Minister’s argument would mean the destruction of the rights of appeal which every taxpayer has against a decision of the Taxation Department. It would mean the destruction of a whole system of appeals to tribunals, which has been established for repatriation pensioners. The Minister must know that if he attempted to abandon that right of appeal for ex-servicemen in pension matters he would bring down upon his head the tremendous wrath of the Returned Services League. He would not dare to go so far. Pensioners are not people with such power to exercise against the Government. They are, nevertheless, equally entitled to tribunals as are the other classes of people whom I have mentioned.
The pensioner does not seek charity, nor does he seek to be the object of compassion, as the Minister would, in his midVictorian way, appear to indicate. The pensioner seeks his rights as a human being, as one who has worked and paid taxes, as one who requires justice under the law rather than the exercise of official discretions.
I trust that the Minister in his review of the letter will review not only its form but also the decisions that it conveys. Also, I trust that he will consider whether, when a suspension of a pension is proposed the pensioners should be given the figures and the suspension should not operate until there has been time for the matter to be fully examined. Further, where the income of the person is only a very small amount above that amount which would enable him to retain all his pensioner medical card, he should be told plainly by how much his income now exceeds the permissible maximum so that he can in his own way, if he wishes, without deliberately divesting himself of assets, adjust his income so that he can once again obtain this pensioner medical entitlement, which is so much more valuable and precious to many pensioners than even the pension itself.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) agreed to:
That, in relation to the proceedings on the following Bills, viz.: States Receipts Duties (Administration), Stales Receipts Duty (No. 1), Slates Receipts Duty (No. 2), Slates Receipts Duty (No. 3), States Receipts Duties (Exemption) and Stales Grants (Receipts Duty), so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent
orders of the day for the resumption of the debate on the second readings being called on together.
one question being put in regard to, respectively, the second readings-, the committee’s reports stage, anil the third readings, of all the Bills together and
the consideration of all the Bills as a whole together in a committee of the whole.
Debate resumed from 14 October (vide page 2101), on motions by Mr Bury:
That the Bills be now read a second lime.
– These measures might be described as the overhang, the vestiges, of what took place in this House on 12th June 1970 and subsequently in the Senate when there was an attempt to validate, by Commonwealth power, what had been declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Australia. When we were discussing receipts duties legislation on 12th June, on behalf of the Opposition I moved:
That all the words after ‘that’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the House declines to give the Bill a second reading as it is of opinion that the Bill provides a cumbersome and regressive means of compensating the Stales for the revenue they lost through their Receipts Duty Acts liming been declared unconstitutional’.
Many people took into account the invalidity of the legislation which operated from November 1969 to 30th September 1970, and relied on the validity of the High Court’s decision, lt intrigues me that a government which claims to subscribe to law and order should, when it suits it, be prepared to use any sort of subterfuge to validate what the supreme court in our constitutional system - the High Court - says is invalid. People who have not paid the duty that they would have paid in terms of invalid State legislation from November 1969 to 30th September 1970 are now to be compelled, under this vestigia! arrangement, so to do. The Opposition did not support the earlier legislation, which was frustrated in the Senate. 1 do not intend to talk about the powers of the Senate at this stage. We claimed that it would have been a much tidier arrangement for the Commonwealth to have recognised the plight of the States. The only reason the States had to resort to this regressive form of taxation was that there was not sufficient reimbursement of revenue from the Commonwealth to meet their needs.
Our suggestion was thai instead of having this rather cumbersome form of taxation imposed differently in different States on different subject matters an amount equivalent to what would be collected in receipts duties should be added by the Commonwealth to the formula of reimbursements to the Stales. It is rather surprising how equivocal the Government has been about what is realised from receipts duty. What will happen is that for the next 4 or 5 years from 1st October 1970 receipts duty imposts will no longer have impact in Australia and what would have been collected by this means - and apparently the sum still has to be worked out and indicated separately for the various States - will now be added to the reimbursement formula. This simply shows how fragile are these arrangements because as recently as June 1970 at a meeting of State Premiers a formula was determined. We have legislation before the House to adopt that formula, but even now that formula has been thrown into discard by adding to it sums, as yet undetermined for each particular State, which will form part of the base of the reimbursement system for the next several years.
As I indicated, the Opposition proposed that what the Government now intends doing for the next 4 to 5 years should have been done in June. All I can say is that what the Government said was wrong in June 1970 it now admits as being right for the next 4 to 5 years. However, we suggest that the Government should not be vindictive, lt seems to me that in many respects it is being vindictive towards those people who relied on the interpretation of the High Court. 1 should be interested to hear from some of the legal gentlemen who are on the Government side their justification for this proposal. The High Court rules, by a majority decision, that what had been regarded as a receipts duty tax was no such thing but that it was an excise that it was competent for only the Commonwealth to impose. Some people in Victoria and in the other States paid the tax. They were exhorted to do so by the Victorian Premier. According to a Press clipping that I. have in my possession, on the same day as the High Court decision was announced there was a plea from the Premier of Victoria that even though the tax was invalid people should continue to pay it. If the Government believes in law anil order, surely once a law has been ruled to be invalid there is no obligation on people to obey it and they are within their constitutional rights in not paying the tax. Those people who accepted the validity of the High Court’s decision and did not pay the lax will now be forced to pay the amount that the invalid law required them to pay.
I submit that this is ali that remains: These measures are the vestiges of the scheme that was introduced here two or three months ago. What kind of procedures have since persuaded the Treasurer (Mr Bury), the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and others to concede now what we said ought to have been conceded in June? Nevertheless, they still want their pound of flesh even though, contrary to Shakespeare’s example, the pound of flesh is being asked for illegally. Basically, this is what the legislation does. It compels those who relied upon the decision of the court to pay the duties which the State, under an invalid law, would have imposed upon them. I will be interested to hear my friends opposite, who when it suits them talk about law and order, justify this kind of arrangement.
– I will.
– I know that the honourable member for Curtin will, but it remains to be seen whether he will be convincing, or any more convincing this time than on previous occasions. I think that he has a very difficult wicket on which to bat. 1 know that there are some supreme batsmen on his side, and I am not sure whether the fact that they are putting him in first wicket down is a tribute to him or whether they think it does not matter. Nevertheless, I will be interested to hear his observations.
I must confess that when the Bill was introduced and the memorandum of explanation was circulated I got short circuited on to the wrong track because as well as the present memorandum being circulated, an old one was circulated at the same time. T got bogged down in consideration of the provisions in clause 88 of the Bill. That clause has now been omitted from the Bill and included as a separate measure. But in the old Bill clause SS referred to what was called a transitional period. Of course, the transitional period has now expired because the Bill dealt with the period from November 1969 to either 30th September or 1st October of this year - I am not quite sure what the closing off point is. In any event, that period has expired. But I must confess that 1 was a little intrigued when 1 considered the way in which the Commonwealth seems to be coming to the rescue of the States in this period, which is now only historical, and some of the implications that seem to have arisen out of that now famous case known as Worthing’s case. I refer to a rather interesting article written by Mr Robert Sorby in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 24th July 1970. He said:
Section 52 may be as celebrated as section 92.
He went on to say:
Unlike the receipts tax on the sale of goods, the High Court has not, in an oblique fashion, invalidated the tax.
He was referring to the stamp tax duty. He continued:
What it has done -
And this is something on which the States still rely, to a great extent. After all, every one of us draws cheques, and I am afraid that with the rate at which inflation is running in this country at the present time, we are drawing cheques much more frequently now than previously. But every time we draw a cheque we pay tribute to the State in the form of stamp duty. This matter is much more significant to the States than are the matters now in jeopardy. Mr Sorby said:
What it has done is raise the possibility that the tax might be avoided under certain conditions.
He raises the rather intriguing proposition that the colonnades of the General Post Office in Sydney or Melbourne might be used for the conduct of all sorts of transactions. Apparently, because the transactions are conducted on Commonwealth property the stamp duty which otherwise would be payable could be avoided. This seems to me to be a much more real difficulty for the States in the future than is the question of whether or not they will get under this legislation some revenue which they ought to have received several months ago. Probably the Treasurer is like I am - a little bit intrigued by the differences which lawyers place upon words which other people seem to think are plain English. I raised a question in the House last night. I had difficulty in finding the difference between the words ‘having the force of law, and the words ‘for the peace, order and good government in the Territory. Apparently, lawyers see a lot of difference in those words. As I understand Worthing’s case, a lot seems to be made of the point whether transactions take place on Commonwealth property. Later on in this article the learned writer - T presume he is a learned writer - said:
The Commonwealth has to try and assimilate State law into Commonwealth law so that it will apply to activities in Commonwealth places.
To do this with receipts taxes -
That is what we are considering at the moment - for example, which are lower in Queensland, would mean the possibility of contravening section 51 (ii) of the Constitution.
Again, I do not know whether this Bill contravenes section 51 (ii) of the Constitution. According to the explanation of the
Treasurer, the Bill allows for a lower rate of receipts duty in Queensland than in the other States. The general rule seemed to be that in some States the rates were equivalent to S I per $1,000 of the transaction and in Queensland they were equivalent to about 20c per SI. 000 of the transaction. 1 do not know whether that sort of a clause in this legislation could be subject to further scrutiny. But I think it points to the need for a serious examination to be made of this matter. I do not know whether the examination should take place on the basis of a constitutional convention, which is very difficult to secure once the Constitution has been formed. But, nevertheless, it ought to be recognised that there are difficulties in defining finance, on the one hand, and function, on the other hand.
There is no doubt in my mind that when it comes to functions, the States have many important functions to carry out at the moment. This applies to both State governments and local government authorities, and we will be able to put further arguments on this matter next week. But there is no doubt that when it comes to functions, there is a great gap between the functions which the States have to perform and the financial resources at their disposal to carry out the functions. Surely this is what is involved in this legislation. I think that belatedly the Commonwealth has recognised that this device for the imposition of receipt duty was a much more messy process than seems to be the case previously. This evening I was speaking to my colleague, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). He said that if you took an orange as an example, receipts duty would have been applied 6 times between the place where the orange was grown on the tree and the place where it was finally sold to me as the consumer. I think it was recognition of that kind of thing which made the Commonwealth Government realise that it would be better to compensate the States for the revenue which they would have received from this sort of taxation than to continue to apply the tax.
The other point is that to me it is still rather vague as to what the future intention is. I draw some distinction between what appears in the Bill and what was said by the Prime Minister on 8th October last. This Bill was introduced after 8th October. This is a statement made by the Prime
Minister on receipts duties, lt was thi Prime Minister’s official statement No. 100 for 1970. Has he issued 100 statements this year? It seems incredible.
– You are kept well informed
– This one does not inform me very well. That is why I refer to it. It reads:
Discussions thi.; afternoon centred upon the arrangements to be applied regarding receipts tax during the 4 years after 1970-71. lt was agreed the total amount which would have been collected by each state on transactions in 1970-71 would be accepted as the base figure for collections in future years for that State.
When somebody asked the Treasurer the other day whether in aggregate the sum was $80m or $50m he was a little acidic about what the sum really was. He disputed the figure given but I am afraid he did not say what the figure really was. I would hope that sometime during the course of this debate we might have what we could call a reasonable assessment of the sum. One of the curious features about this matter is that everybody thought the receipts duty legislation would form part of the Budget. I went through every item of anticipated’ receipts in the Budget and nowhere is there any mention of the anticipated yield from the application of the receipts duties legislation. This was a bit of a mystery to me. I would like to know what sum the Commonwealth believes it will collect as a result of this legislation, which validates what had formerly been invalid. How much does the Government expect to collect on behalf of the States under this legislation, which has application only for the period November 1969 to the end of September 1970? How much does it imagine will come from it? Surely one is entitled to ask this when financial legislation such as this is before the House. Surely one could have some idea of the likely yield from the uncollected part of the tax. The Prime Minister’s statement continued:
It was also accepted that the figure arrived at for each State-
Apparently the Treasurer has not arrived at it yet - as a base, would be escalated-
What ‘escalated’ means in this context I do not quite know - in the remaining four years of the present financial assistance arrangements in accordance with the formula applied to tax reimbursement grants at the June Premiers’ Conference.
The Stales agreed to meet together to seek some common field within the area covered by the receipts duty in which they could commonly impose a tax, such taxation revenue to be an offset against the Commonwealth liability for payment to the States.
It would seem, contrary to what was suggested in a speech a week or two later, to suggest that this tax can still be revived on conditions that the States are yet to work out. The statement continued: lt was agreed that if a common field of taxation could not be discovered the States would try to work out, each one, a field in which tax could be imposed.
Surely this implies a great degree of uncertainty about the future. The statement continues:
These arrangements were made subject to the proviso on the part of the Commonwealth that they depended on the conditions governing the offers of the Commonwealth made at the June Premiers’ Conference.
Liability for receipts duty of all kinds, as at present levied, ceased on transactions after 30th September.
Whilst they ceased after 30th September, I think the interesting question to some people is whether there is any possibility of their being revived within the next 4 years. I would like to have an explanation about that. The other feature that is still of somewhat intriguing significance is what the Premier of Victoria intends to do about payroll tax. We had a statement in this House on 30th September by the Prime Minister, following a speech which was made in the Victorian Parliament by the Victorian Premier. The Prime Minister concluded by saying:
If Victoria or any other State or States were not to pay payroll tax there would thus be a direct and significant effect on the Commonwealth budget.
What will be the effect on the Commonwealth budget - this is what I asked a few minutes ago - of the amount that will be collected as a result of the measures now before us? The Prime Minister seemed to be very worried about what would happen to the budget if the Government did not get the payroll tax but he does not seem to be concerned at all about what might happen to the budget if he collects another $50m or $60m as a result of validating a formerly invalid receipts tax. He continued:
The Government is therefore unable to accept the position taken by the Victorian Government as stated in Sir Henry Bolte’s Budget Speech.’ My Government will, therefore, consider what course of action it should take in relation to Sir Henry Bolte’s statement in order to see that the Commonwealth Budget is not impaired.
Surely it is relevant to the legislation now before us to know what the Government intends to do about Sir Henry Bolte’s pronunciamento. I read after the House adjourned last night the very interesting 37th report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission tabled yesterday. It seems to be implied there that one of the conditions for the agreement to the formula for reimbursement, which was to apply from June but which has now been breached to some extent by this undisclosed amount of receipts duty, was that the States agreed still to pay the payroll tax. But Sir Henry Bolte, a very individualist sort of character to say the least, says he does not feel he is bound by that. 1 do not know what the figure is but I would think offhand that it would be $8m or $9m from Victoria in respect of payroll, tax on Government undertakings at local or semi-government level. I take it that is what he will not pay. This would make some difference to the Budget. These are all the unexplained ends.
The Opposition opposes this measure because it believes it is a rather vindictive act at this stage. Having been defeated in the courts, the States said to the Commonwealth: ‘You get around the High Court decision by passing legislation of this kind!” The Government attempted to do so in June. It was frustrated in another place and now it seeks to change horses in midstream so far as the next 4 or 5 years are concerned but still wants to backdate the legislation. The Government has not given any indication of the magnitude of what it expected to collect but when it suited the Prime Minister he made a great song about the effect on the budget if he did not collect the payroll tax. In the face of all these unexplained ends the Opposition has no course other than to oppose the measures before us.
– Though members on the Government side might disagree with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) I think it is fair to say that it is always of interest to listen to his speeches because they are reasoned. One can always take an interest in points he makes with a view to rebutting them. He endeavoured in the course of his remarks to base his reasoning on the facts of the situation. In all fairness, I must say that he did not express his opposition to the legislation wilh very much vehemence. One could not help wondering whether maybe this was a perfunctory opposition but I will come to that later. I thought the honourable member was kind to refer to me as the first batsman on behalf of the Government. I noticed a newspaper article the other day which made such an interpretation of some remarks I made on legislation dealing with convertible notes. That, of course, was rather a misguided view. The newspaper quoted certain remarks which 1 had made and attempted to say that I had spoken on behalf of the Government and that the interpretation 1 placed on the Bill must be the Government’s policy. Of course that was over-generous, as honourable members will understand. The truth is that every good team such as the Liberal Party team in this House allows its members from time to time the privilege of opening the batting and facing the fast bowling. I think it is fair to say that the Treasurer (Mr Bury) after all introduced these Bills and so it could hardly be said that he did not open for the Government. The Treasurer is sitting at the table and may make some remarks later.
I want to go over the subject of receipts duties briefly because a lengthy debate took place on this matter in the House previously. But it is necessary each time we debate receipts duties to keep our remarks in context. Receipt duty legislation, as is known, began in Western Australia after a rather detailed search by the Treasury officials of that State for a tax which the State could impose in order to receive more income. That was a difficult task. It is not easy under the constitutional law which exists in the States and in the Commonwealth to find anything novel, but something was found and I think some tribute should be paid at this time to Mr Townsend, who is the Under-Secretary of the Treasury in Western Australia. As 1 said, the States attempted to find a growth tax. It was found. I think this was regarded by those in Government circles as something of an achievement and a find. It was always expected that there would be problems as one went along. We have a situation in which many honourable members on this side of the House, at any rate, and in the country would believe that it is a good principle to try to find taxes which can be raised by the States on the principle that those States which are to spend large amounts of money should have the responsibility and the right to raise it. So this avenue was sought.
The States, of course, found difficulties because one after the other they implemented similar legislation but the court determined that certain parts of the legislation were illegal or invalid. I will return to this point later. One knows the history of the part the Commonwealth has played because it has been recited here. The Commonwealth saw a need to give assistance to the States and it used its constitutional power to bring forward Bills which would make valid those sections which had been found invalid. I would assert that all State governments of any political colour have certain rights to endeavour to raise revenue by implementing perhaps new avenues for doing so, and to endeavour to budget for it despite all the doubt that surrounds implementation and innovation in a new field. 1 venture to say that all new fields will be found to be legally difficult. However, it is for the States to decide what they will do. In fact, they did decide to cover various avenues such as a receipt duty tax on wages. It was for them to decide exactly what the scope of the tax would be. So all the arguments which have been ventured from time to time about the tax being iniquitous - I think that is the jargon, and of course every tax is regarded as iniquitous because no-one likes paying taxes - could be applied equally to the stamp duty which has existed for many years on cheques. If there is a cascading effect or any regressive element, then all of these disadvantages apply equally to cheques and I do not hear anyone complaining about them.
If one maintains the argument that it is a regressive tax - 1 will come to the incidence of it in a minute because 1 think that is relevant here - and if one looks at the tax in terms of the whole of the Australian economy and criticises it in this way, then 1 believe one is assuming that the Commonwealth alone should have the power lo raise taxes. I do not apply this argument only to significant taxes; I apply it to all taxes because the tax we are discussing at present is relatively small. That is a view which is nothing short of a plea for giving to the Federal Parliament practically the whole of the power to raise taxes in this country and I submit that, at this stage of our history al any rate, that is a very wrong course for us to take.
Apart from the principles involved there is the very important fact that the receipts duty tax is one that is very small and has a very small incidence. In fact, it is lc in SIO or .1 per cent. Although much has been made of the cascading effect of this tax, I would be prepared to challenge any calculation that I have seen, particularly those that were run in June in newspapers in Queensland, as being exaggerated. In fact, I have pointed out that this is a minute tax. A great deal of unfair publicity has been given to it. The ‘Courier Mail’ in one infamous article on its front page said that the tax would put the grocery bill of the. average wage earner up by $1 a week This is absurd. The question here is one of degree and not one of principle. This is so when one is talking in national terms as did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on 12th June when he made a big argument about how unfair this tax was and so on. Tt is right that one should appreciate that one is talking about something which has a very small impact. If one says that this is the kind of tax which will lead to inflation one first has to demonstrate that this tax in itself - not as an excuse - will cause a rise in prices. I do not think that has been shown. Certainly I have seen nothing to this effect in what I have read. The truth is that rising costs in practically every case are the result of rising wages. I would assert that where increased productivity can fairly give rise to rising wages, that is fair. But what happens in many cases is that wages rise irrespective of increased efficiency and productivity. In any case, the point I am making is that by far the greatest element in rising prices is related lo wages and not at all to other matters, including this minute tax. I want to refer to one or two matters that 1 promised the honourable member for Melbourne Ports I would deal with. The honourable member started out on the point that certain people had relied on the decisions of the court and had withheld the payment. I think it has to be pointed out that although the court did decide one very precise thing, the major thing it did was to throw a great deal of doubt over other areas of existing State law. The position was, and is, that in State law there exists an area where one knows the receipt duty is valid, an area at the other end where one knows it is invalid and a great unknown grey area in the middle. The Bills before us lie over all the invalid and doubtful areas in order ‘to make them all valid.
– The States were unanimous in vacating one of the doubtful areas.
– That is a point I want to come to in a moment, but at present I merely say that in fact it was widely understood around the Commonwealth that the Commonwealth would attempt to make valid those sections which either were invalid or could be invalid. Alter all, there is a very good practical reason for all this; the States have collected these sums of money. They have budgeted for them, as they had to do, because their Budgets must go up to the end of each financial year. They have spent that money. No-one here would deny their need to spend their income. It was not easy for them to determine how much they would receive. It has not been easy in any of the years, even though in Western Australia it has been going on for some years. The States had a need. They budgeted as best they could, and they spent the money.
After all, budgeting is an accounting based on the decisions which a government makes concerning the priorities of expenditure and a government’s judgments of how it should receive income and its overall decisions on competing priorities, giving as much equity as it believes is possible to individuals and to classes of individuals, and making reasonable judgments about how much will be raised and how much can be spent. Each year is entirely separate and once it has gone one must go on to the next. That is the problem of having to make decisions from day to day rather than sitting down and assessing the position in retrospect and having advantage of knowing what we now know to be the legal position. So I do not believe, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said, that there is any question in these Bills of anyone being vindictive. There is a question here of endeavouring to validate a position which has arisen through a decision of the courts. I think it would be agreed by everyone here that if any State did attempt to repay any of the receipts duty or to determine, of the receipts duty it bad received how much had been validly raised and how much had been invalidly raised, it would be presented with enormous difficulties. That really is not a practical proposition.
The Bills have now been presented in such a way that the validations which are sought will go to 1st October, and that will be the end of the matter. The Premiers have for their part stated that they will repeal the existing receipts duty legislation in their States, and it could hardly be otherwise or they would be setting a tax on a very small area of their public if they were to rely on those sections which are regarded as still being valid, and I have already said that there is a very large field which could be regarded as invalid.
I think the point should be made too - this affects the points raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports with respect to the Budget - that it was quite clear that the receipts duty that will be received under these Bills, as was to be the case with the receipts duty that would have been received under the Bills previously presented, will be received in the various States by offices manned by public servants of State and Federal governments.
– But collected for the Commonwealth and repaid under section 97.
– This is quite so, and this is the point I wanted to make. By this process certain bookkeeping adjustments would be required. But in any case it would be the same return. It would be the one cheque, and the one receipt, banked into the same account, and the amount would never leave that State, because under section 96-
– There would be the Commonwealth account, though. Otherwise it would be illegal.
– There will be the Commonwealth account, but in fact the practical application will bc that this money will go straight to the States, and this is important for more than one reason. The State in which the receipts duty is received will be the State that spends it. Reference was made in the debate on 12th June to the fears of some of the Premiers that the Commonwealth would be receiving this money and would be having a hand in its allocation. Those fears were unfounded, because the amount raised within a State stays within that State; because of the overlaying of the State and Federal legislation as I have said, the whole area of receipts duty will be validated. Whatever journal entries or bookkeeping adjustments will have to be made for the purpose of the Commonwealth responsibilities of keeping proper Treasury records will involve relatively academic figures. I think this is important.
Some of the Premiers’ fears that the Commonwealth would take this money, put it into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, hold it and decide how it would be spread amongst the States, were, I would say, fortunately unfounded. As to the quantum of this revenue, I understand it is an amount that can be calculated only by the States themselves, lt is a tax imposed by them, the Commonwealth merely lending its power to the States. The Commonwealth Treasury officials are now discussing this matter with each Stale Treasury. There will be a clear estimate of the amounts involved, which can be estimated then but not before.
I want to conclude on the note that these Bills are to validate to 1st October what has become a very confused position but surely it is a position which the States would find almost impossible to undo. There is a need for this matter to be cleared up, and I submit that the opposition by the Labor Party to these measures is opposition for its own sake. It achieves nothing. It makes the position untenable. I support the legislation because I am certain this is the right way to overcome the problem in relation to the collection of receipts duty.
– I have been sitting here wondering how on earth I could liven up this debate, and I have come to the conclusion that, if I may use the similes that have been used already, I am batting on a sticky wicket, particularly after the speech of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), which was nothing but a damning of the Bills with faint praise. Of course I am batting on that sticky wicket also because the whole history of these Bills as they are before the House now is one of sordidity - 1 think that would be one of the adjectives one could use - as far as this Government is concerned. I would like for the sake of the record once again to trace why we are debating the Bills here tonight in their present form. First of all, the Commonwealth Government a few years ago forced the States, led by Western Australia, then followed by Victoria and after that by all the other States, with Queensland bringing up the rear, into this regressive form of taxation. I am proud to say that the Australian Labor Party in almost every case solidly opposed this form of taxation from the start. I am pleased to see the honourable Jack Tonkin, who is the Leader of the Opposition in Western Australia and the next Premier of that State, in the Speaker’s gallery tonight, following the last of this sordid history of the receipts tax.
Then there is the second episode. A feast for the lawyers, I think we can call it. The Hamersley case was the first, in September 1969. It was inconclusive because there were only 6 judges sitting on the bench of the High Court of Australia due to an unfortunate death on that bench. Three went one way and three the other. So we had to wait a little longer until we had the case of the Western Australian Government v. Chamberlain Industries Ltd, a good Western Australian company but nevertheless not sufficiently patriotic to its own State to pay the tax without some form of protest. Eventually, of course, we had the test case of the Victorian Government versis IAC Wholesale Pty Ltd and by majority judgment once again the Hamersley case was followed. We found that with, I believe, 17 barristers in court in the case of the Western Australian Government versus Chamberlain Industries Ltd, and with the court office selling the judgments at S27 a set, the outcome of it all was that duties imposed by the various States on receipts of payments in whole or in part on sales of goods manufactured in Australia - and this came to mean even assembled in Australia - are duties of excise within the meaning of Section 90 of the Constitution and therefore invalid.
So that was the end of the second episode in this sordid history. The third was when we had the spectacle that my friend and colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports told us about, of the Government bringing in a miserable set of Bills such as the ones we have before us now - this was around early June - which we debated in this chamber on 12th June. My colleague has already reminded the House of the amendment moved by the Opposition at that time, the amendment having the effect of saying that this form of tax was cumbersome and regressive and that we were declining to give the Bill a second reading because of that. I repeat that I am proud that we took that stand at that time, and T would be willing to debate the form of these Bills with the honourable member for Curtin in front of almost any audience in this country; he was saying some extremely stupid things about them. [ think at one stage he said that the UnderTreasurer in Western Australia, if that is the title that the gentleman has, was to be commended for finding this growth tax. f would think that the man who thought up this form of taxation would be suffering nightmares for the rest of his life because he had been forced by the activities of the Commonwealth Government to impose this form of regressive tax on the people. I will come back to this a little later after I have been through the history of this tax to remind thu House of what we think of this form of tax, namely this receipts duty tax.
The next episode was one of high drama when the Bills were thrown out of the Senate. Now, it seems to me utter hypocrisy for newspapers or any other commentator in Australia to commend the Democratic Labor Party for doing this. Mow could the Democratic Labor Party have done it without the resolute stand taken by the vast majority of senators in Opposition, namely those from my own Party, the Australian Labor Party. The DLP is merely the rump of the Opposition although it was with the help of members of the DLP that these Bills were thrown out.
So we came to the sixth episode in this history when the Treasurer (Mr Bury) announced in his Budget Speech that the Bills would be re-introduced. Of course, the nation expected the same Bills to be re-introduced. This brought us to the seventh episode when I think what could best be described as wheeling and dealing went on in the corridors of power. Senator Gair, and probably Senator McManus with him, waited on the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and told him that the Bills would meet the same fate in the Senate. Once again, this could happen only if the Australian Labor Party in this Parliament stood resolute against this unpopular form of tax. The upshot of all this is that a compromise was reached, the sordid compromise that we have here tonight, of validating legislation in retrospect.
I do not think anybody ought to be proud of legislation validating in retrospect what has already been collected in many cases, what has been sent in to State stamp duty offices in other cases under protest, and in still further cases what is awaiting the decision of this House as to whether it has to be sent in in the form of duties from 18th November, when the Hamersley case was first decided, to 30th September, the date decided by that other partner in the present Government coalition, namely the Democratic Labor Party. The DLP decided the date on which the tax would cease. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) interjected I thought most aptly when the honourable member for Curtin was speaking, asking ‘Where will the money be found?’ I would like at this stage, before I get on to details of the receipts duty legislation, to remind the House that 1 asked the Treasurer on 13th October this question:
Does the Treasurer recall saying in his Budget Speech on 18th August, lets than ?. mouth.’’ ago, that his proK>s::ls aimed to produce ‘a balanced Budget,–
That is his proposals in the Budget - a Budget shaped to the requirements of … an economy still threatened by disruptive inflation’? Did not indeed the Budget estimates arrive al a small surplus of S4m? How does he reconcile this policy and also the Government’s inability to find an extra deserving amount for the pensioners of this nation with the newly announced policy of finding overnight an extra $50m for the States, as announced after last Thursday’s Premiers Conference?
His answer is a little too long for me to take precious time in reading il tonight. To paraphrase it, he said that he would not agree that it was $50m although most other commentators in the nation agreed it was, that it was unfair of me to mention the pensioners although I fail to see how it is unfair when it is a shocking indictment of the Government that we cannot find S25m for pensioners to live in something less than the dire poverty in which they are living at the moment and yet because of Senator Gair’s visit to the Prime Minister’s office we can find S50m overnight to make up for this tax.
But the main point that I want to raise is that if we can find this S50m - and I say that the amount is near that figure if it is not quite that - we can certainly find a few extra million dollars to reimburse the States for that amount which has not been collected by the States up to 30th September or which has been collected by the States under protest and which is the only amount which the States would have to reimburse to taxpayers within the boundaries of their States. If $50m can be found overnight for this then certainly there is no reason for these Bills - and I say the extra money can be found. I would certainly prefer to have my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in charge of the Treasury because he would raise a little more for the pensioners at the same time, but our whole attitude towards the priorities in the finding of this money and the payment of it would be vastly different if that were so. f have been through the history of these Bills and I want to repeat that it is a shameful situation that we find ourselves in. Yet there seems to be some surprise, if one can go by what the honourable member for Curtin has said, that we are being consistent on this matter. Perhaps he needs reminding of a few other characteristics of these Bills other than the ones that I have mentioned in passing. First of all, it breaks down one of the cardinal principles that all taxation should follow and that is equity. The honourable member for Curtin mentioned this matter. My friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned the multiplication effect. I think, if 1 remember rightly, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned the orange and how there were about 6 transactions from that of the orange being plucked from the tree until it reached the hands of the person who ate it. Indeed, each one of these 6 transactions drew to it separately some receipts duty. Another way of putting it is that there is an arbitrary multiplicative effect according to the accident of the number of transactions, and this is particularly heavy on any area which has a low-profit high-turnover ratio. Any business which runs on a low profit but on a high turnover is particularly hard hit by a tax such as this one. The second characteristic of the tax is that it is regressive in nature. I mentioned this earlier. It does not apply to people according to means. It does not follow the principle of the ability to pay, as I also mentioned earlier. The third characteristic is that it has been responsible for an inefficient allocation of resources in the community. In fact it encourages monopolies and restrictive trade practices. Whereas in those areas it is possible to pass on the tax in increased prices, the small businessman or the person who is operating in a competitive area has greater difficulty in passing it on.
Another most important characteristic of the tax is that it is expensive to collect. I know from experience that many new computer programmes had to be written. In some cases new accounting machines had to be purchased in order to collect the necessary information. It is ridiculous for the honourable member for Curtin to say, arising out of those 2 points, that the tax was not inflationary. To stand here in the House of Representatives of our national Parliament and tell us that the only cause of inflation, or the main cause, is rises in wages is ridiculous in the extreme.
– 1 did not say that.
– Well, the honourable member said almost the same as that. I invite him to look at Hansard tomorrow, if he has not altered the proofs in the meantime, to see what he repeated on a couple of occasions on this very question. Another of the characteristics of the tax which needs to be attacked in the strongest possible terms - and the House and the nation need to be reminded of this - is the way in which it encourages evasion. Every retired person who had some small dividends coming in was obliged to keep a receipt book and to place a stamp on the receipt for that little dividend coming in. How many people knew this, or how many when they learnt about it got worried in their old age because they had not been carrying out these forms which they were obliged to carry out under the Act? The evasion in the community was enormous. I am very glad that we are not going to have to put up with this position much longer.
These are the main characteristics of the receipts duty tax which we in my Party have found obnoxious. No other country has a tax like this one. We have been consistent in our opposition to it. We have forced on the Government alternative forms of financing the States to the States having to levy this form of tax. Unlike the Australian Democratic Labor Party, we are not doing deals in any corridors. As I said earlier, we are sticking to our principles in opposing bad legislation. I have mentioned that there is an alternative to the present course. There is no need for these Bills. The Commonwealth can reimburse the States for what the States would otherwise have received up until 30th September.
I conclude by stating that I hope there will be a change of heart by the other Party in the coalition, the Australian Democratic Labor Party, and that its members will not allow us to tag on to them the responsibility which will be theirs for seeing that this tax is collected even up to 30th September. By saying that, 1 am inviting them to oppose the legislation in the Senate, because my Party will no doubt not have the numbers to throw it out of this House.
– It had not been my intention to speak on this series of Bills tonight, but the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) has provided sufficient provocation for me to make at least one or two comments on his speech. I have been intrigued by the attitude which underlies the honourable member’s speech, in that he was concerned about the position of the States in the federation. One could almost say that the unstated presumption of what he was talking about tonight was States rights. He was concerned that the States would not have sufficient power to determine their own future and that by various means the States have had to develop a tax such as this in order to pursue their own paths of progress. But of course the States have always opposed a tax whereby they would have been able to pursue their own paths of progress.
Let me just make this point, and I think it is appropriate: The Party opposite is not a party that has ever understood State rights. It is a party which, particularly in financial matters, is completely devoted to the abolition and the denigration of States rights altogether. So that is the necessary basis upon which one is to understand the contribution of the honourable member for Adelaide. I have been intrigued with one or two of his other comments. I shall speak for only 8 or 9 minutes, but these things need to be said. It is true that no taxation is acceptable. I do not know of any taxation that is acceptable. I know nobody who pays a tax which is acceptable to the payer. But one has to look at the alternative to a tax not being paid. The Commonwealth gave an undertaking in respect of the receipts duty tax. It was a very generous undertaking which followed the meeting of the Commonwealth and the State Premiers earlier this year. The Commonwealth was quite incredibly generous to the States.
I fail to understand why anyone should raise objections to that series of circumstances, to the generosity on the part of the Commonwealth to the States earlier this year and to a more than generous attitude in relation to the States involved in this series of Bills. I do not want to go into the figures. They are there. Anybody who analyses the Budget knows quite well that the room for manoeuvre by the Commonwealth in respect of the Budget was narrowed significantly by its generosity to the States earlier this year. So we come to the tax itself. The Opposition says it is regressive. What it is regressive in relation to is never made perfectly clear. It is like the amendment that was moved by the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) in relation to the income tax Bills, that those Bills should be withdrawn and redrafted because they were regressive. Regressive with respect to what? The income tax Bills simply meant that those on higher incomes paid higher taxes, both average and marginal taxes. No tax is regressive where one pays a higher taxation, average and marginal, as one’s resources increase. I suggest that honourable members opposite have not quite understood what the word ‘regressive’ means. When they apply it to the receipts duty tax they completely undercut the amendment upon which they voted earlier in respect of the income taxation measures. The alleged regressiveness in respect to these matters-
– Would the honourable member allow me to be more progressive in relation to his own tax?
-Order! The honourable member for Adelaide has already spoken in this debate.
– More progressive? The honourable member for Melbourne Ports may recollect those Bills. He has apparently read a speech I made on that occasion. I pointed out that the amendment he really meant to move was that the income taxation measures were not sufficiently progressive. He has shifted his ground. Occasionally a little knowledge dawns upon all of us. One would presume from this, for example, that regressive taxes are anathema to the Party opposite. Let me make this clear. I have said previously that in those parts of Australia where the Party opposite has significant power - this applies to many local authorities - the most regressive taxes, in the form of rates, are levied at the highest level by local authorities controlled by the Australian Labor Party. Where that Party has the opportunity to exercise power, it raises the money in the most regressive manner possible. While in this Federal sphere, where they have neither power nor responsibility, honourable members opposite speak in a vacuum, in areas where Labor has significant power it has shown a love and affection for regressive taxes.
– Have a look at the local authorities in both New South Wales and Queensland. Have a look at the local authorities that have raised their rates more over the last 5 or. 6 years than any others. Honourable members will find that without exception they are Labor controlled local authorities. This situation applies in Sydney, in the area represented by the honourable member for Werriwa and in Queensland and in significant local authority areas. 1 will give another example of regressiveness. Earlier this week, cost of living figures based on the consumer price index were published with respect to the various capital cities. The capital city in which the rise was greater than in any other was Brisbane. But why was it greater? What kind of a tax was it that caused this rise in the cost of living to be greater there than anywhere else in Australia? lt was in fact the fare component of the cost of living adjustment. The fare component is itself a regressive tax judged on any basis whatsoever. But the fare component is levied in Brisbane by a Labor local authority.
– Where was the lowest increase? It was in Adelaide where’ a Labor Government holds office.
– Well, there we are. Experience varies in different areas - not always due to Labor policies.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Adelaide ceases interjecting.
– There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. It was mentioned that the Labor Party has been consistently opposed to this tax in the States in which it has authority or in which it is a signilficant Opposition. The most significant State, as far a this tax is concerned, is Queensland because it was proposed to increase the tax by 400 per cent or 500 per cent in Queensland. The actual increase depends on how one makes one’s calculations. It was precisely in that State that the Labor Party agreed without opposition and without amendment that the tax should be increased by 400 per cent or 500 per cent. So one can never in these matters as in other matters blame the Opposition for consistency. One has to admire the fact that it obviously regards flexibility as the supreme virtue in terms of economic considerations.
It was said also that the Budget is now being destroyed because approximately $50m will be involved in payments to the States. We are told that the Budget will be destroyed as a result of this measure. That is just not correct. When compared with the total revenue raisings of the Comm-wealth, $50m is a very small amount of money. It will not affect the Budget significantly. Other variables can affect a Budget more than $50m. We know that fact. Let me say this: The accusation concerning irresponsibility of the Budget has been made by a Party which has opposed nearly all the revenue raising components of the Budget itself. Let that Party reflect on what its attitude has been to the sales tax measures and to the excise measures. Let it reflect on what its attitude has been not to revenue raising components but to decreased revenue raising components such as the income tax measures. The Opposition has either opposed or criticised every one of the significant measures whose purpose was to alter revenue and expenditure accounts related to this Budget. Yet the Opposition accuses the Government of irresponsibility concerning the Budget. 1 do not think it understands what the word means.
– Why did the Prime Minister say that the refusal of Victoria to pay payroll tax would affect the Commonwealth Budget?
– Well, the payroll tax can be quite a significant part of the total revenue of the Commonwealth.
– $9m only from Victoria.
– But, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports would understand, a principle exists not only on itself but is capable of expansion into even a Frankenstein monster. He should know that. He has participated in party proceedings for sufficiently long enough to appreciate that point.
The final point which I think is appropriate is this: The honourable member for Adelaide seemed to be concerned that a Party represented in the Senate would gain some credit from this measure. He referred many, many times to Senator Gair and to the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Let him take up himself his fight with these people. I can only reflect while he was talking about this matter that he regretted that the Democratic Labor Party had sufficient influence apparently to make with the Government some arrangements which were of advantage to some of the people of Australia. That reflection itself does not concern the DLP - that is their problem - but it reflects the ultimate impotence of the Opposition to effect meaningfully policies that are operated in this country. Tt is reflection of its impotence more than the impotence of anybody else. ft had been my intention to speak for 8 or 9 minutes only. I will recapitulate the general principles involved in the contribution by the honourable member for Adelaide. I mention that I did not hear the speech made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. The honourable member for Adelaide said that no taxation is acceptable. Taxation that is regressive certainly is unacceptable. The Opposition has shown that it has an affection for that kind of taxation which it has implemented in those parts of the country where it has power and in fact in the State of Australia where this tax was to be increased more than any other the Labor Party welcomed the tax without opposition, without comment. Yet the Opposition charges anyone who would pass the tax as being irresponsible. It is charging sections of its own Party.
The comments with respect to the Budget have been made in a vacuum - and I would suggest in a mental vacuum also. Those who would say this ought to reflect what has been their attitude in respect of the measures which have applied in the Budget. They would have shot it through with inconsistencies. They have attempted to do that from the day the Budget was announced. They have opposed all the significant revenue raising parts of the Budget and the effects of destroying those would be upon their own heads. Finally, I would say that their fights with other more significant political parties are a reflection more of their impotence than their responsibility.
– Tonight, I have heard the most apologetic speeches from the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and I can understand why they arc apologetic. Apparently they are ashamed of the backdown by their own Government. The Australian Labor Party opposed this legislation when it was brought into this House originally as a permanent measure. We opposed this method of assisting the States with additional revenue because this type of legislation was grossly unfair. We still oppose the receipts tax even as an interim measure.
Receipts tax is a harsh and inequitable tax. It is levied on the total business turnover, irrespective of the extent of expenses incurred in arriving at this turnover. There is no equity in this type of taxation. Indeed, it unfairly discriminates against businesses in country areas. Official Government figures issued by the Department of Decentralisation and Development in New South Wales indicate that country businesses have a cost of production disadvantage of at least 1 per cent on sales. Yet, these businesses in country areas have to pay on a turnover basis the same rate of receipts tax as their more fortunate competitors in city areas where production costs are lower. I ask honourable members of the Government who are members of the Country Party whether they agree with this type of legislation that unfairly reacts against those business people whom they are supposed to represent.
Let me make the position quite clear as far as the Australian Labor Party is concerned. The Australian Labor Party has opposed the introduction of a receipts tax in every State Parliament and also in the Federal Parliament. The tax was introduced first by the Liberal Government in Western Australia in 1967. It was opposed by the Labor Party in both Houses of that Parliament. In 1968, the tax was introduced by the Liberal Government in Victoria and again was opposed by the Labor Party. In 1969, it was introduced by the Askin Liberal Government in New South Wales and was opposed by Labor Opposition Leader Hills. A South Australian Liberal Government introduced it in the same year and the tax similarly was opposed by the Labor Opposition there. The Tasmanian Labor Government was forced to introduce receipts tax because the Premier of that State was informed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission that, unless it fell into line with the action taken by the other States, the Commission will recommend a corresponding reduction in the grant by the Commonwealth to that State. The Australian Labor Party has been consistent all along the line in its opposition to this type of legislation.
I wish to highlight the reasons why this type of legislation was forced on the various States by the Federal Government. I can do no better than quote the words of the Liberal colleague of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in New South Wales - the Hon. R. W. Askin. These remarks were made at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Canberra on 26th February 1970. I quote from page 3 of. the proceedings of that Conference. Mr Askin said:
I know, Mr Prime Minister, that you are well aware of the position. We believe that in the matter of State taxes we have just about reached saturation point. Wilh a view to trying to help ourselves, and with a bit of prodding from Mr Bury’s predecessor, we went into the receipts tax field.
The person who did the prodding, Mr Bury’s predecessor, was the honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), who was subsequently dropped from the Treasury portfolio. The receipts tax was conceived in haste and despair by State governments due to the parsimonious attitude of the Commonwealth Government towards the States. It was a product of the crisis in Commonwealth-State financial relations and like most things conceived in haste in eventually turned out to be illegitimate. We can apply that analogy to this legislation which died almost before it was born.
One of the greatest inequities of this receipts tax was its cumulative effect. The producer who produced the raw materials which were sold to the manufacturer paid receipts duty ou the sale price. After the manufacturer had used the raw material and when the product was paid for by the wholesaler the transaction was again subject to receipts tax. The wholesaler sold the article to the retailer and again it was subject to receipts tax. Finally, it was sold to the public and again was subject to receipts tax. All of these payments, of course, were passed on to the public and the inevitable result was increased prices. This legislation had a significant effect on firms and companies with large turnovers and small profit margins, but they did not bear the cost of the tax. They passed it on. Again the inevitable result was increased prices, mainly in food lines. The present Treasurer (Mr Bury) had this to say when he originally introduced the State receipts duty legislation in this House on 4th June 1970. 1 quote from page 2962 of Hansard:
He went on to say:
In these circumstances, it would clearly be dangerously irresponsible to allow a retrospective reduction in tax revenues at the rate of some $70m per annum.
On 4th June he spoke of existing demand pressures and substantial loss in budgeted revenue collections and he said that it would be dangerously irresponsible to allow the reduction in tax revenues of some $70m per annum. Yet in October this year, some 4 months later, the Prime Minister agreed to pay the States the equivalent of their lost revenue from receipts tax. Various figures have been mentioned, between $50m and S70m a year. I think that this snows the deviousness of this Government’s policies. If it was dangerously irresponsible on 4th June what has happened in the intervening 4 months? Were the Treasurer’s statements on 4th June a true statement of the position or were they made merely to bolster up the Government’s desire to introduce a further piece of regressive legislation? I think the latter is the position. Maybe the Treasurer or the Assistant Treasurer can give an explanation of these apparent inconsistencies.
In conclusion I would like to state that this Government stands condemned on 2 counts. Firstly, it should never have forced the States to introduce this inequitable and regressive tax. It would not have been necessary if the Commonwealth had faced up to its responsibilities and dealt with the State governments and local government authorities in a fair and equitable manner. Secondly, the Government, having made its decision to go ahead with this legislation when it first came before this House, should not have succumbed to the political blackmail of the Democratic Labor Party in the Senate, whose main objective was to preserve the political life of the DLP representative in Queensland. If the Government was sincere in its belief that receipts tax should have been implemented on an indeterminate basis, it should have had the courage to stand up to its decisions and gone to the people on the issue. On both counts it failed and stands condemned.
That the Bills be read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bills read a second time.
Messages from the Governor-General recommending appropriations in respect of the States Receipt Duties (Administration) Bill 1970 and the States Grants (Receipts Duty) Bill 1970 announced.
Leave granted for third readings to be moved forthwith.
Bills (on motion by Mr Chipp) read a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1970-71 In Committee
Consideration resumed (vide page 2568).
– In the short time that a member has to debate these Estimates it would be presumptuous for him to think that he could alter the course of the nation or engage in highly political matters. In any event we are discussing the estimates for the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services and I believe we should take this opportunity to talk about matters that sometimes may be of a nonpartisan and preferably an objective nature. However, I believe that the social service legislation of this country has just happened over the years it has evolved. It probably would have happened no matter who governed Australia but it would have happened. I hope, to a lesser extent if my Party had governed. Nevertheless this is a fair kind of assessment. We are moving into dramatic changes in the social service field. There has been political expediency along the way. Too often ad hoc commitments have been made by party leaders, probably leaders of all kinds of parties. These off the cuff decisions have been made when it has been felt necessary to gain some political advantage at election time.
Our social service system is oriented to cash benefits. I believe we have a dollar complex. Indeed, recently we have had a half dollar complex. But there has been a recognition by both sides of politics in Australia that man does not live by bread alone and that there are finer things and other forms of social services that should be considered. Probably the classical example of this is the aged persons Homes Act which is not based merely on giving people money. We are, of course, subjected to a constitutional dilemma in Australia. Some years ago a referendum was held and the effect of that determination was that the Commonwealth was left with the prerogative of providing cast benefits alone. Conceptually we should think of social services in terms not of what one is given that counts but of what one finishes up with. This is the kind of orientation that I should like to see with our social services.
I want to speak, for a minute or two. about the Aged Persons Homes Act. When we are speaking of social services, often we do not recognise that we are not talking merely of statistics and figures but about people and their hopes, aspirations and desire to have security and dignity in their advancing years. After all, if a person has worked a long life as a boilermaker in Sydney or as a farmer at Wyalong we ought to concede to him the dignity that he has acquired. Too often this is not the. end result of our social service system, lt is not just a matter of sustenance; it a matter of people feeling that they have a right to live and a purpose for which to live. We should help people to their independence and when we think of aged people we should be helping them to realise the great potential that they have - not the potential in terms of dynamic achievements in the contemporary sense of their going out to forge a new enterprise, to start a new factory or a new farm but the potential in terms of the product of their great experience. They should be encouraged to give of their wisdom and of the benefits that they have derived from a family involvement and from all the lessons of life. To realise these things is the hope of each one of us.
We need to overhaul our Social Services Act. It should be subjected to something like a royal commission. I do not know the answer, but the Act should go into the melting pot to come out of the crucible fortified and representing what Australian people really require. Whether we are Liberal or Labor. I do not believe that we are satisfied with what we have at the present time or, conceptually, that we are satisfied with what either of the major political parties in Australia aspires to reach. I believe that there is great technology in social work. A great revolution has taken place in social work. We are behind in these matters in a relative sense, so far as world endeavour is concerned, and we ought to seek to get the best of men’s experience in this field. 1 have been concerned to learn that there are so few professional people, such as social workers and the like, engaged in the departments that are sensitised to human relations. I believe that there are 50 or 80 - I cannot remember the number, but it does not matter - social workers employed in the Department of Social Services. That number is insufficient. There are some social workers employed in the Department of Immigration and in the Department of Labour and National Service. We have not done enough to adapt to the technologies that are available.
There is a general tendency for us to be case oriented rather than client oriented. If a person has a problem, he goes to the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and the officers there can do certain things. But they are limited by the Constitution in what they would like to do and what they know they ought lo do. So it does not go any further than that. Sometimes^ case is hawked around, in my own personal experience to as many as 24 different agencies of a public and benevolent nature, and still the basic cause of the problem is not identified or even resolved. I think that we have to get a merging of the various areas of involvement - State government, local government, benevolent organisation and Federal Government - into a regional social services concept.
I did not intend to speak for loo long about that matter. As I have only about 2 minutes left, 1 should like to refer to the Aged Persons Homes Act, which I know is near and dear to the heart of the Minister. He and I have shared platforms, which we both have enjoyed. ] personally subscribe to the Aged Persons Homes Act and the principle of it. I disagree with some of my colleagues who believe, for example, that the benefits of the Aged Persons Homes Act should not be made available to people who have some money. Very often the benefit derived by people under the Act is that they have the opportunity to live in a convivial and appropriate environment with people of their own age. I believe that that kind of opportunity ought to be made available to people, regardless of financial considerations. Sometimes wealthy people can benefit from this environment. They have a need for company.
I commend in general terms the Aged Persons Homes Act which is a product of this Government. That is not to say that it does not need some overhaul or examination or improvement: I think it does. That is the matter to which T want to refer, although I will not have the opportunity to do it in detail. But I am very concerned to see the sort of inexperience that is displayed by the very good people who run these aged persons homes around the countryside. I have one in my own electorate, and I will give an example of the kind of thing that happens. Recently a circular has been distributed - and this is not unique by any means - which declares that after people have paid $2,000 or $3,000, which can be very important to these people and which attracts a subsidy of $2 for $ 1 , they have no right of tenancy. The circular states that no rights of tenancy are created by residents in the particular village or aged persons home. I have seen this kind of thing create great anxieties.
I think that the opposite kind of emphasis is required. If wc are to have regard to the dignity of these people and to the importance of their contribution, we ought to put this kind of thing into reverse. We ought to be telling them that they have full rights of tenancy unless they become unsuitable as tenants; unless their behaviour or health makes them incompatible with the best interests of the other people who live in the aged persons home or village. I will not have time to elaborate on this matter as I had hoped to tlo. I believe that these things have happened because of the amateurish nature of some of the people who run these homes - well intentioned though they might be. They do a wonderful job, but there ought to be a set of rules, not to provide an institutional kind of background but at least to ensure that reasonable things are done to protect the dignity of the people in the homes.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s lime has expired.
– I should like to endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). I suppose that the electorate of Hunter is no different from any other electorate. But day after day many tragic cases are brought to my notice. These cases involve old people who have to go into private homes for the aged in order to receive special attention. These homes are run for profit. Admittedly they are subsidised by the Government, but 1 believe that it should be the Government’s responsibility to provide Government homes for these old people. I suggest that the Government could make allocations to the States for the purpose of establishing homes, similar to the Lidcombe Old Men’s Home. When an old man is deprived of wealth or friendship, at least he can go into the Lidcombe Old Men’s Home and still receive $3 or $4 of his pension which he can use to buy the ordinary amenities, such as tobacco or cigarettes, or to have a SOc bet on a horse or a dog. or to buy a garment for himself.
I remember the time when the Rathmines air base was to be disposed of by the Commonwealth. I pleaded passionately with the Government to use the air base as a home for the aged. It was situated on the shores of Lake Macquarie and well made wharves had been built by the Air Force. Aged people could have enjoyed the beauty of Lake Macquarie. Even if they were in wheelchairs they could have been wheeled out on to a ferry and for a very small fee they could have been transported around Lake Macquarie to look at its beauty. But my pleas fell on deaf ears; it was not to be. The Government stands condemned because of its failure to provide adequately for old people who have to go into privately controlled homes where, in many cases, there are instances of exploitation.
I was honoured by the presence of the Minister in an area in the lower part of my electorate. He came to inspect the Salvation Army home which had been established at Dora Creek on the shores of Lake Macquarie. It is an ideal setting. I know that the people in my electorate were very proud to have the Minister there. I believe that he was equally proud to see this home which had been established on the upper reaches of Lake Macquarie. The Salvation Array established the home not for the aged but as a rehabilitation centre for alcoholics, lt is progressing very favourably, and this is due to the financial assistance which has been granted by the Commonwealth. But this home is different from homes for the aged. People who go to the Salvation Army home at Dora Creek are not bedridden.
The honourable member for Hughes and I are particularly concerned about the way in which some of the people who run these private homes for the aged exploit the situation in order to make a profit. The profit motive is the driving force behind these people. The need to care, to comfort and to show affection towards old people is secondary; profit comes first. Eventually I should like to see the Government run these homes so that profit becomes a secondary factor or a minor factor in the provision of aged persons homes. That is all 1 want to contribute to the debate. I hope that these homes which are run for profit soon will go into oblivion and that the care and comfort of old people will become the first consideration.
– 1 want to address a few remarks to the estimates of the Department of Social Services. However, before doing so might 1 ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) if he has yet had an opportunity to investigate the case 1 raised the other night of a migrant who, on the present basis, will be 109 years old before he gets an age pension. I presented an application form to the Minister and he indicated that for anybody 100 years old he expected to be able to waive the general conditions and make available a pension. No-one knows how long this migrant will live. He is 105 now and he cannot wait much longer for a pension. 1 ask the Minister whether he has investigated it, what can be done and whether he can remove this anomaly in the legislation so as to avoid a similar situation arising in the future?
I also wish to speak about the Government’s recent increase in the Budget of 50c for pensioners. Without being extravagant in my language I would say (hat would be one of the most miserable increases in the time T have been in the Parliament. The full cost of the increase was $27m. The Government says there is no money for pensions, no money to provide for people who have no other income. About 200,000 people exist on $15 a week. The Government says that higher pensions could not be afforded because of the need to balance the Budget. But without any effort, in order to placate the Premiers on the eve of the Senate elections, out of the air S50m is grabbed. No money for pensioners but plenty to placate the States - the Boltes and people like him. If the Government can find money in that way it should make it available to provide assistance for more than 1 million people dependent on social welfare. There was no shortage of money when the Government wanted $400m to spend on Fills. There was no problem at all when it wanted to buy more Phantoms. There is plenty of money for Vietnam. If the Government is in trouble tomorrow in respect of some other economic matter with the States more money will be provided. I do not quibble at money being provided for essential services but I do say that the Government’s priorities in social welfare are completely upside down.
The first consideration of any government should be for the aged, the sick and those people in the community who cannot care for themselves. How the Minister for Social Services, whom I know from past experience has great sympathy for these people, can stand in this Parliament and justify this miserable and contemptible increase is beyond me. The reaction of the public on these matters has been very sensational, considering how pension rises or the conditions of the pensioners are generally forgotten. But the public from all sections of society have been shocked by this meagre increase in pensions. The increase takes a single man to the princely sum of $15.50 per week. If he is a pauper he gets up to $2 a week extra, making a maximum income of $17.50. If my memory serves me rightly, and I believe it does, it means that the maximum amount a man in that category can get is $17.50 per week at a time when the average income of Australians is about $75 to $80 per week. A man can leave work today that is bringing him in, say, $50 and tomorrow is expected to live entirely on $17.50 per week. It is scandalous. It is a disgrace to Australia, a disgrace to the Government and a disgrace to anybody associated with it in this time of affluence and prosperity for big sections of the community. Of course, it is still a sin in the eyes of the Government to be married. Only $27.50 a week is granted to a married couple. That has never been changed. It is discrimination of the worst kind against married pensioners and it is being continued by this Government.
Instead of making substantial payments to those who are in need and discontinuing its discrimination the Government grabs out of the air some amount. It has always intrigued me how in granting pension increases, the Government never assesses by any method what is necessary. Why is 50c decided upon? Is it just pulled out of the air? Why could it not be 70c, 80c or 90c. The real answer is that it is all guesswork done only for political purposes, lt should be taken out of that category and based on some reasonable proposition in line with the cost of living. As 1 said a moment ago I am prompted tonight to remind the Minister that so shocked have the public been by the treatment given to pensioners that a pensioners’ little budget campaign has been launched at 67 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, in Victoria. I received a copy of a letter dated 20th October 1970 which read:
I would like to draw your attention to the Pensioners’ Utile Budget Campaign which believes that many Australians are concerned at the meagre pension increase of 50c given at a time when most sections of the community have benefited from wage increases, improvements to hospital and medical benefit programmes and were further assisted financially by tax deductions. The Campaign has already received substantial support in Victoria. The Presbyterian and Methodist Conferences and the Anglican Synod have endorsed the proposals and the Press has given prominence to the Campaign with news reports and editorials.
– Are you supporting the pensioners little budget campaign?
– I think there should be an immediate introduction of a new budget to provide, if for no-one else, for those in this section of society. The sponsors of this campaign are people from a wide range of organisations. The sponsors include Professor R. R. Andrew, Mr Robin Boyd, Sir James Darling, Mr R. C. David, Mr S. M. Gilmour, Professor B. S. Hetzel, Mr R. G. Hobbs, Professor the Rev. Davis Mccaughey, Professor Jean I. Martin, Mr Eric Pearce, Mr Leslie M. Perrot, junior, the Rev. Gordon Powell, Rabbi Dr I. Papaport, Miss Elizabeth Sharpe, Rabbi Dr H. M. Sanger, the Rev. John Westerman and the Most Rev. Dr Frank Woods. The Organising Committee comprises Mr David Scott, the Rev. D. Dargaville, Mr Walter Lippman and the Rev. P. Hollingworth. In a splendid little document the campaign lists chapter and verse the failure of this Government in respect of social welfare. On the first page of this letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) of 8th October 1970 it states: 1 am writing to you on behalf of the Pensioners’ Little Budget Campaign Committee which consists of people who are not themselves pensioners but who have joined together in a voluntary capacity to urge upon your government new initiatives in the field of pension and post retirement welfare, following the introduction of the recent Federal budget.
This in itself shows the shock the public received from this meagre increase. Then the letter condemns the 50c increase in pension which only brought some pensions up with the increased costs of last year. The letter to the Prime Minister goes on to outline how a person on $200 per week receives $5.50 reduction in taxation, and a person on $140 a week receives a S3 reduction under the Government’s proposals. But pensioners, who have to catch up with an 8 per cent increase in the cost of living in the last year, receive a miserable 50c per week or 7c a day. As 1 mentioned in a previous speech, they can buy a newspaper 4 or 5 days a week to find out how the cost of living has gone up and then they find they have spent their increase. The letter goes on to say:
The 50c increase provided for pensioners in the budget will cost the Treasury $30m for this year. The lax concessions to the middle income groups -
Those in the middle income group get up to $30,000 a year. This is a pretty successful middle income grouper - will cost S228m or seven times more than the increase in the pension payments.
This is a scandalous state of affairs, ls it any wonder that those people, destitute and desperate, sick and aged and alone, have lost faith in the Government and the protection that it should give to them. Time does not permit me to run right through this letter written by David Scott to the Prime Minister, lt no doubt has reached the Minister for Social Services. If any justification is needed for a pensioners’ little budget it is outlined in this letter in clear and unmistakable language and in a way which indicates the sincerity of this wide range of people who feel interested enough at this stage to do something for the pensioners whom the Government has neglected. I suggest to the Minister that he should take notice of what has been written by men in a position to know, all of whom would be on substantial salaries and realise how difficult it is to make ends meet particularly if people are only pensioners. I suggest to the Minister that he should immediately review the situation and do something in the spectacular way we thought he would do things when he came to the Ministry. He should get up in the
Parliament and say: ‘For once the Prime Minister has listened to me and 1 am willing to introduce a little Budget Let him give a stimulating approach to social welfare, not the old decadent approach be has brought to the Ministry which we thought had gone when he was elevated. He should in that way do something m a practical way for these people who really need it, those dependent for their existence on SI 5.50 a week or, if they are married, $27.50 a week. Tt is too low for any section of society, lt is too low particularly for the aged and the sick and 1 urge the Government to do something about it in line with what has been suggested in that letter.
– 1 want again to take up the matter of the Government’s neglect of this very vital and unfortunate area of the community. Who will care for the sick and the aged in view of the fact that the Government expresses so little concern? The plight of the sick aged in our community is of crisis dimensions. The simple fact is that there are insufficient beds for nursing care available for those whose only income is the pension. Mrs Polkinghorne, who conducts a telephone bed service for sick aged in Adelaide, said the other day that in one half day she had 8 calls on behalf of sick aged pensioners and was unable to find a placement for any one of them. Whilst the numbers are not known, we have good reason to believe that there are lots of people in this category occupying beds in the Royal Adelaide Hospital who should be discharged to long-stay infirmary care, but the almoners are unable to find placements for them. This is only an example and no doubt it applies widely to public and community hospitals. It costs $200 a week to keep each one of them in the Royal Adelaide Hospital. There is also the anxiety and insecurity which these people, experience while they are there because they know the pressures that are on them to leave.
There are some things the Government could do right away to ease this situation. The Morris Hospital has empty wards which could be made available for the sick aged. The excuse that staff is not available is not valid. There is no reason why the rosters and disciplines of the Morris Hospital wards could not provide the flexibility in working hours which would attract married nurses, lt is an open secret that some chronically sick aged people are certified for admission into the Glenside Psychiatric Hospital simply because no alternative accommodation can be found. If this is not a disgraceful affair, if this does not stir honourable members opposite, then all I have to say is that they are content to see people reduced to a psychiatric state because they have to go into these hospitals regardless of whether they suffer from mental illness. It must be a great reward to honourable members opposite to think that they sat through sessions within their Cabinet and within their Party room to have done absolutely nothing about this very pressing problem. The increase in pensions of 50c a week means nothing. This is a long existing situation in South Australia, and of course it must prevail in other States. We must decide whether adequate care and nursing facilities are available to sick aged pensioners.
Finance is a factor in all of this, or if you like, the ability to pay. There are approximately 43,000 aged people in voluntary private and State nursing homes across Australia, and about 32,150 of this number are pensioners. This does not account for those who cannot get care. An anomaly in our hospital benefits funds is that for the most part these people do not qualify for benefits at the point of their greatest need. We find that most people believe that paying into hospital benefit schemes will cover them in nursing homes. This is rarely so. Voluntary and some private enterprise nursing homes undertake the care of pensioners on the basis of what they are able to pay. We know too that there are private nursing homes which will accommodate the sick aged only until their money runs out. Well, I guess the alternative for them would be bankruptcy. But the nation’s concern must be with the humanities in all of this. Recently a matron of a private nursing home motored a patient back home because no cheaper alternative accommodation could be found. The anxiety and tension which many families endure over this situation must contribute in no small measure to the nation’s health problem. This, I do not suppose, will stir honourable members opposite either
New awards being gazetted this year could close voluntary organisations providing nursing care unless substantial assistance is forthcoming swiftly from either State or Federal sources. Of course, we all know in this chamber that the cry from the Government is that this is a State problem. However, the fact is that the Commonwealth is the principal collector of taxation. It holds the purse strings and it is time that it showed sufficient principle by untying the purse strings for the benefit of the aged in the community. It is established that it is Government policy to encourage and support voluntary agencies in the field of aged care, and it can be reasonably anticipated that this new crisis in rising costs will receive realistic Government attention. We hope that that does, in fact, occur. Immediate financial assistance is imperative if voluntary agencies who major on nursing care for pensioners are to remain open. This cannot wait for another Budget. Governments expect to meet crisis situations from time to time. Bushfire relief and drought relief are usually met by swift decisions. An immediate $5ra may well match this Australia-wide crisis, and such a grant would win wide public support.
We should note that the present pension rate has not in any way increased the ability of the pensioner to meet increased charges for care. The 50c a week increase in the present Budget is an insult to pensioners and an affront to the public conscience. A 50c increase gives no additional purchasing power to the recipient. The present rate of pension represents only 35 per cent of the minimum basic wage in this country. The decision makers of Australia would not be prepared to live on the basic wage, much less on 35 per cent of it. Add to the pension the supplementary payments for which some pensioners qualify and the result is much the same.
It is time this nation stopped treating out aged people as third-class citizens. Pensions should not be a disposable pawn in any Budget. Justice must be done, and it is high time this nation said to Canberra that the rate of pension should always allow our senior citizens to live without anxiety. The rate of pension should always match the inflationary spiral of new costs. We can only conclude that in the current Budget the welfare voices in the Cabinet were not heard. I made reference to this earlier in the debate. The official line is that there will be a new deal for pensioners next year. What the nation can afford next year it can afford this year. The character of a nation will always be determined by what it does for the homeless, the aged and the sick.
J would now like to refer to nursing home fees. A statement in the ‘Advertiser’ on 30th July 1970 gave the impression that pensioners are being accommodated in a majority of nursing homes at a fee of around $35 a week, towards which the Commonwealth Government pays $14 a week and the pensioner $17 a week. On 22nd July 1970 the social workers conducted a survey of nursing homes and found that there were 39 beds available in the following price ranges: S30-$39 - 1 bed: $40-549- 1.1 beds: S50-S59- 20 beds; S60-S69- I bed; and $70-579-6 beds. Some of the dearer beds would have been eligible for a Commonwealth subsidy of S3 5 per week. However, it can be readily seen that in all. cases the pensioner will need extra finance from some other source to meet the weekly fee. Most of what I have said during the course of my contribution has come from a sermon which was preached by the Revend Erwin Vogt in the Maughan Church in Adelaide on 4th October. Most of what I have said came from the lips of that gentleman who is vitally concerned, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who is at the table knows, wilh the increased cost factor confronting homes that care for and are concerned with the problems of the aged, the sick and the ailing. This gentleman is concerned that these people should not be left alone in homes be they homes provided by Commonwealth subsidy or others because they have reached the stage in life where they can no longer care for themselves. They have reached the stage in life where in fact the Meals on Wheels organisation can be of little assistance to them because of the fact that they need more intensive care than a knock at the door and a meal placed on the table. It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that these people are looked after.
The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay), who has left the chamber, during the course of his speech this afternoon talked about what should happen on State government levels. His remarks were removed from the matters which should have concerned him in a debate of this nature. The honourable member saw fit to ridicule the move made by Mr Scott in Melbourne, which the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) dealt wilh, by saying that it was almost a subterfuge. He even cast some doubts on the character of some people who are representatives of the various pensioner organisations.
If honourable members on the opposite side of the House, who claim to be the government for the people and by the people, have any courage, any thinking or any conscience they will get up off their backsides and do what should be done. They should recognise their mistakes and correct them by introducing into this Parliament not later than next week a Budget which will at least go some way towards alleviating a very real social problem within our community. We will all get old, whether we are members of this House, spectators or what have you. We should not have to pay taxes for years in what is described as one of the richest countries in the world where people can fleece the public on bodgie share deals and so forth. The Government allows that to happen and then does not correct its mistakes in the social welfare side of the Budget.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The proceedings of the Committee are not being broadcast, and I do not want to set out with any fiery speech making tonight. 1 am grateful that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is here. 1 think that he is probably among the most receptive of Ministers and, having regard to the speeches he made before he became Minister for Social Services, and indeed before he became the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, I believe he has good aspirations. T would like to spend a few minutes in backing him up on the declarations of intent that he made before he became a Minister.
As I said, 1 am not here for the purpose of political aggrandisement. I am here to say a few words about some matters which I believe are in need of careful examination. I am impressed with the comments of my colleague, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who is one of the Opposition leaders in social service matters. He referred to the Pensioners Little Budget
Campaign, lt is a good thing in this country that we can get things like little Budget campaigns from ordinary people from Brunswick Street, somewhere. There is a sense of democratising about this. We still have not lost the idea that ordinary people can emerge with a campaign and a crusade which will be heralded in this Parliament by an effective speaker such as the honourable member for Grayndler. These campaigns have enunciated some very important things. They have first of all emphasised the inadequacy of the pension. Quite frankly, if 1 were the Minister for Social Services I would not be over-interested in giving to people who did not need pensions or extra money that extra money until the base rate had been increased for people who had very little. I think this all revolves about our sense of priorities.
There has been the contention by this Pensioners Little Budget Campaign, commendably in my view, that there should be a full scale inquiry into all aspects of postretirement income provisions. 1 think there is so much scope for contributory superannuation schemes, to which my Party is committed, that it is time we ali became more realistic about these things. We have been silent on the means test through the course of this debate and silent on the need for a national superannuation scheme. We are talking in a debate that has a background of announcements that the cost of living has gone up by 50c a week. That is the extent of the increase for pensioners in the last Budget. The cost of living has gone up over a short period of 8, 9 or 12 weeks. I do not know what the exact period is, but it would not matter what it was. The cost of living has gone up substantially. Of course all of us here must readily concede that the pensioners should not be left behind in this rat race. We should be able to contrive a scheme which relates pensions to something such as average male earnings, the basic wage or whatever yardstick is operating these days. I believe that there should be an advisory council of experts, the technologists about whom I talked earlier, people who have graduated from universities and people from trade unions who are oriented to these problems to give some background to the Minister, whether he be a Liberal or Labor Minister, because nobody is terribly satisfied with what is happening at the present time.
I started a short time ago to talk about aged persons homes and some of the highly beneficial aspects of them. I want to make some expressions of concern, as one who upholds the Aged Persons Homes Act, about some of the more deleterious developments which are emerging in this very complex field. When things become substantial, large scale and complex we can expect problems to arise. One of the aged persons homes with which I have an association and for which I have a very high respect, says this in its manifesto:
If you have attained latter years of life and would like to spend them in an elderly people’s community where you are able to come and go as you please, have relations and friends visit you at any time, pursue your interests with others, form new friendships, forget the anxiety and stress of everyday life, enjoy privacy, peace, security and loving care, then the accommodation of … is available to you.
That pretty largely explains what the place is all about. Elderly people who come into the establishments such as the one to which I have just referred do not come in free of charge. They contribute, sometimes more than they can afford. Sometimes they borrow from friends and relations to obtain the benefits outlined in this prospectus When they get to the establishment, having paid their $1,500 or $3,500- that is the way these, places are set up now; people pay an entry donation or a foundation contribution which attracts a $2 for $1 subsidy - they find that things are not quite as good as they expected them to be. This happens even in the most benevolently run places, those establishments run by people with very good intentions.
Apart from the capital cost involved in entering one of these establishments, the people entering them are not free from charges. They have to pay maintenance fees which, in regard to the home to which I have referred, range from $2.25 a week for studio accommodation to $4.50 a week. When the people get to these places they are subjected to a change of emphasis and different conditions from those which were described in order to attract them and recruit them to these places. A short time ago, 150 tenants of an aged persons home who were filled with anxiety called me down and said: ‘Help us. We are really agitated about a circular that has gone out in this establishment.’ It was a very fine establishment which I uphold with great enthusiasm. 1 will read a couple of the regulations that were put out in the circular. One stated:
No rights of tenancy are created by residence in . . . lt then named the aged persons home. It seems to me that this is an unnecessary and negative thing to do. The alternative, the antithesis, would be to say: ‘Every right of tenancy is created unless your state of health or your behaviour ceases to be compatible with the best interests of people who live here.’ Honourable members would be staggered to see how the sense of security of these aged people was undermined as a result of this circular. Other things contained in it are disturbing. For instance, another regulation states:
Any resident given notice to vacate his or her accommodation and leave the village must do so within 14 days of such notice being given. The village management reserves the right to declare any cottage, unit or room vacant at any time without assigning a reason therefor.
I am talking about our parents, our fathers-in-law or mothers-in-law, about what we might become and what many of our constituents are, and about the kind of situation they may be in shortly, it should be the enduring and consistent cause and endeavour of people who run these places to be more sensitive about the way they put things, having regard to the dignity that should be characteristically recognised in old age. 1 believe that it is necessary, because of the lack of expertise that often prevails in the management of these places, for some sort of guiding rules to be provided. I have been astounded to see the application forms which operate in regard to some of these places. One of them, for example, declares that the tenants of a certain establishment have limited rights. Often there is only one establishment in an area and it squeezes out others which are sought to be established by other benevolent or church organisations. The form to which T refer declares that if a person goes into this establishment he has no right to have any alcoholic liquor, he has no right to engage in any gambling and he has no right to smoke on the premises.
I think that a person in the full blossom of life, the maturity of old age, should be entitled to exercise his own discretion about these things at 60 or 70 years of age, as I do at 46 years of age. I am very concerned about the circumscribing, the restriction, of these people under the auspices of the aged persons homes scheme, which after all is subsidised by the Australian taxpayer on a $2 for $1 basis. There are some wonderful people running this wonderful concept, the aged persons homes scheme. They need the benefit of some rules from the Commonwealth.
– There are just one or two things that I want to say on the Estimates for the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department which are being considered together on this occasion. It is rather unusual, of course, that one should rise towards the end of a debate prior to the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) winding up the debate, but it is also most noticeable that the last 3 or 4 speakers in this debate have been honourable members from this side of the House. As in the case of the debate on the Repatriation Bill Government members have refused to speak, and one can hardly blame them. The same position applied in relation to the Social Services Bill. The plain fact is that the people of this country and, I think, honourable members who sit on the Government side, are aware of the dissatisfaction that exists in the community in relation to the Government’s attitude to both social services and repatriation.
I cannot deal with all of the matters that I would like to cover in the short time that is available to me tonight. I have already indicated to both of the Ministers that I will cut the time that is normally available to me in order to allow them to speak. The plain fact is that there arc people in this country who want to express their dissatisfaction with this Government in relation to both the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department. One can hardly blame them. I read with a a great deal of interest the reply given by the Minister for Repatriation to those on this side of the House who spoke in relation to repatriation matters. Frankly, he said very little. He could not justify the Government’s inaction and the fact that it had completely ignored the representations that had been made to it by those who are responsible for the welfare of exservicemen in this country. Both the Minister for
Social Services and the Minister for Repatriation sit together at the table waiting to give answers. Let the Minister for Social Services stand up and repeat what he has said in this House on many occasions in relation to those who must depend upon this Government for a measure of generosity in order to enable them to be able to meet the ordinary and normal commitments of everyday life.
How often did we hear the Minister for Social Services, when he sat on the back bench, referring to the iniquitous means test, as he often described it, and how it ought to be abolished. I want to hear the Minister tonight talk about the means test and what he believes ought to be done about it. I want to hear him talk about what be believes ought to be done in relation to the inadequate pensions that are today being paid to age, invalid, widow and repatriation pensioners, and particularly to serve pensioners, and how they can exist on the miserable amount that they receive from this Government. I think it is time that a responsible Minister - one who spoke with, I believe, some sincerity when he sat on the back bench, on the abolition of the means test and the inadequacy of the income received by pensioners - spoke in his reply about the miserable 50c increase that he gave to the pensioners in this Budget and which has led to the kind of representations that every honourable member in this Parliament, whether he sits on the Opposition side or the Government side, has received from the various organisations which are concerned about the welfare of these people. Let the Minister explain some of the anomalies that now exist in relation to the social services legislation.
I regret that time does not permit me to deal with this at great length but let me give one example to the Minister for Social Services who greatly commended the merged means test when it was introduced into this Parliament. What the people in this country who depend upon the amount they receive from this Government in age pension or some other pension require more than anything else is a medical entitlement card. When the Government introduced the merged means test it spoke in glowing terms of the numbers who would corns’ under the social services legislation and who would receive at least a portion of the pension as a result of the Government’s attitude and the Government legislation. But the plain fact is that the thing they wanted more than anything else was the medical entitlement card, and the Minister for Social Services knows that all of those people who came into the pension scheme as a result of the merged means test are denied the benefit of the medical entitlement card. The same applies to those who are in receipt of a part service pension under the Repatriation Act. They too are excluded under the merged means test.
I invite the Minister for Social Services to challenge me when I say that if a person who is successful in receiving a part age pension has a certain income in addition to the amount received from the Department of Social Services he is excluded from receiving a medical entitlement card, although if the position is reversed he receives the medical entitlement card. How anomalous is this situation? These are matters that ought to be looked at, as the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) suggested, and corrected as a result of an investigation by a competent committee which can examine not only the social services and repatriation legislation but would be in a position to report to this Parliament on the poverty that exists in Australia. Surely the Minister for Social Services must be aware of these circumstances. Surely he must have had brought to his attention during the period in which he has been the responsible Minister some of the anomalous circumstances which apply in relation to those people who are in receipt of a pension under the social services legislation. But now that the honourable member has been promoted to the front bench he is no longer interested in the abolition of the means test or in the introduction of a national superannuation scheme. He accepted a 50c increase for pensioners without any opposition at all. Indeed, not only did he accept it, he stood up in this House and justified it.
Honourable members on this side of the House can appreciate the plight of people throughout Australia who have to live in those circumstances. We are prepared to make representations on behalf of the pensioners of this country to a government which is not at all sympathetic and which has, throughout the whole period of its office, been prepared to grant a miserable increase in an election year but never at other times. I invite the Minister to challenge me on this proposition. Let him look at the records and he will find that whenever this Government has granted an increase, small though it may have been, it has always been in an election year. I regret that I have not the opportunity to reply at length to the Minister for Repatriation. I do not make a personal attack upon him, but the plain fact is that all the representations made to his Department by a very responsible organisation in this country, which speaks for the exservicemen of Australia, were completely ignored by the Minister and by the Government.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said that he would speak for less than his time so that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) and I might have an opportunity to reply. The honourable member was carried away. I realise - in fact I am quite certain - that the Opposition has approached this whole matter in a nonpolitical manner, because honourable members opposite have said so, and of course I must take their word for it. But judging from the tone of their speeches and the way in which they have been going on with this kind of rhetoric, one would have thought that they were concerned not with the pensioners but with the coming election. Indeed, it is rather peculiar to find that on the one hand the Government is accused of doing something good just before an election and, at another time, of doing something miserable just before an election. There does not seem to be very much consistency or logic in that.
I would have thought that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would know the difference between the merged means test and the tapered means test. If he looks at Hansard he will see that on several occasions in the course of his speech he was speaking about the merged means test when he meant the tapered means test I do ask him to. do his homework and, if he Wants to help the. pensioners, to try to find out what the truth of the matter is. Would the honourable member please get his facts right? He is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and he should not make this kind of egregious error.
I wish to speak about one or two minor matters. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) drew to my attention some time ago the case of a man who, he said, was 104. I had a look at the case. 1 found that the man concerned, as far as can be ascertained from our records, is not 104 but 100. But this is a small exaggeration. What was rather more to the point was-
– I raise a point of order. Might I point out to the Minister that the man took 5 years off his age to get into the country.
– -As far as we can see from the records, he was 94 when he came here. The important point is that he came here under a guarantee of full maintenance from his son who lives here and who is, I understand, able to perform the conditions of that guarantee. Furthermore, I found that the man was paid a special benefit for about 3 or 4 years, erroneously and under the impression - I do not know how it came about - that he had come into Australia without any maintenance guarantee. Although I think he is liable to repay this amount of special benefit which was being paid under a false declaration or a mistake, or whatever it might be, I can assure the honourable member for Grayndler that we do not propose to press this matter and we will write off this liability.
Let me come to some matters of rather more consequence and substance. It is a bit hard to be accused personally of doing nothing about the means test when the tapered means test which the Government brought in has been, I think, the greatest single advance on this whole front in the history of pensions in Australia. There have been other advances. Perhaps I am claiming too much when I say that it is the greatest single advance; at any rate it is a very, very great advance. It is a little bit hard to be told how little we are doing about pensions when, as a matter of fact, we have held their level - we have not increased it substantially, but we have held it at its peak. Do not let us run away with this kind of political propaganda, which is what it is. I want to do more for the pensioners, as everybody in this House on the Government side and on the other side wants to do more for the pensioners, and all sections of the Australian community. But the money we give to one section has to come from another. We have to try to balance this up.
I have no doubt that as the productivity of the Australian economy changes and improves - I believe it will do that in spite of the very considerable shackles that are being put on it by industrial disruption which, I am afraid, honourable members of the Opposition are sponsoring - it will be possible then to give more to one section without taking it from the other, because we will be able to give it from the increased productivity. 1 will not take up the time of the House by going into this in detail. I spoke about it in my second reading speech on the Social Services Bill. I am glad of the interest shown by honourable members in the estimates for the Department of Social Services. I appreciate the constructive things that were said on both sides of the House. Honourable members have spent a lot of their time in regard to the aged persons homes scheme. They have been good enough to describe it as an excellent scheme, which indeed it is. I know that, like all human schemes, it is not free from defect. But do not let us exaggerate these defects. It is true that at the present moment - if honourable members will look at the schedules which I have circulated they will see this - about two-thirds of the beds being provided under this scheme are being provided free of donation. I pay tribute to the church and lay organisations which make this possible.
About one-third of the beds come in with capital donations. One would think, listening to honourable members opposite, that they were not quite appreciative of these facts and that they were inclined to think that all beds in this scheme were beds donated by the incumbents and the residents. At all events let us be fair about this. The only other thing I want to say, because my friend the Minister for Repatriation needs to say something, is this: There has been a change in the outlook of the Australian community in regard to looking after its own old people. A few years ago there was none of this. The sub sidised nursing homes, were not available. The aged persons homes were not available. We are providing these things, and still our provision is not adequate for the demand. It is a new demand. It is a demand which is coming on because there is a new outlook among the Australian people and some improvement overall in the living standards of the whole of the Australian people.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - I call the Minister for Repatriation.
– Tell us all you know, Mac. You have 3 minutes.
– ‘The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), as usual is. wrong. I have not 3 minutes, but 5. So 1 must be brief. First I want to comment on some of the things that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) said. He said during the debate on the Repatriation Bill recently that Government members refused to stand up and support the repatriation submissions in the Budget. If one has anything to say one should stand up. That is right. The Deputy Leader stood up for 45 minutes and said absolutely nothing. He was . critical of the Government but he did not make one constructive proposal about what the Opposition would do to incease the pensions payable under the Repatriation Act if it were in government. He did not make one constructive proposal in 45 minutes.
He said that we totally ignored in our considerations the submissions from the Returned Services League. That is not true. The submissions made by the National Executive of the RSL were taken into consideration on this occasion just as 1 take into consideration everything that is submitted by the RSL which does such a magnificent job for the ex-servicemen of Australia. But equally as important as taking into consideration some of the points that the RSL put forward is taking notice of its policy on a matter vital to Australia. That is its defence policy to which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and his Party are opposed totally. This is just as important as supporting the pension plan proposed by the RSL.
As is typical of the Opposition, its members have put forward certain matters and have said that the Government ought to tlo more and to spend more regarding those matters. These things all involve the expenditure of more money. Where are we to get the money from? That is the proposition that I put to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If he wants compensation payments through the repatriation system increased he should make his proposals, say what he is going to spend and where he will obtain the money to finance his proposals. I can apply the same argument to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He is reported in a newspaper this morning as saying that he will find funds for 2 new cities in Australia. Where will he find those funds? I ask: Will be increase taxation or what will he do?
That is my answer to the Opposition except to say that when it was in government - I refer here to what has been said by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the means test - totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners could not obtain any payment other than their pensions. At least under this Government the TPI pensioner can share in the means test and can get up to $58 a week. Neither I nor the Government was quite happy with the provisions made in the Budget estimates for the Repatriation Department. The appropriation this year is $337m. This is a pretty substantial sum of money for this financial year. Of course we would have liked to have done more and to have provided more money but due to the general budgetary situation and due to the economic situation generally in Australia, the Government acted in a responsible manner and came to the conclusions to which it came. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) and the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) raised 2 matters that I certainly will consider in the future-
Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed expenditures has expired.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Shipping and Transport
Proposed expenditure, $83,900,000.
– Mr Deputy
Chairman, The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Snipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) have endeavoured at question time, by ministerial statement and in debate to reconcile the uncritical eulogies they used last year and in 1968 to justify Australia’s entry into container shipping with the reality of containerisation as it is known to exporters and primary producers. They have endeavoured, that is, to justify and rationalise a colossal confidence trick perpetrated by overseas shipping conferences not on our exporters and primary producers alone but on the Government itself.
Dupes are never so pathetic as when they insist gold bricks are real. Need 1 remind the Minister for Trade and Industry of the expectations which he so glibly aroused in this House on 23rd February 1967 and which without exception have now been disappointed? Need I remind the Prime Minister that the predictions he made on 26th November 1968 remain without exception unfulfilled? The ‘valuable insights’ into conference economics which the Minister for Shipping and Transport promised this House on 22nd April 1969 led him on 5th June at Griffith to attack the prospective 4 per cent increase in freights on wool as unjustifiable. They led him on 29th July at Darwin to threaten the Northbound Conference with the shipping provisions of the Trade Practices Act.
Asked to reconcile with these assertions his subsequent inaction, the Minister now says that ‘Having expressed very strongly my beliefs politically, in terms of the introduction of a new form of shipping, that there was no justification for an increase in the freights 1 acknowledged then and later that this was, of course, without concern to the economies’. He added: ‘I do not believe there is political justification for the increase although there might be economic justification’. Primary producers must judge for themselves the truly Delphic obscurity of the Minister’s explanations. They must judge for themselves what the Minister for Trade and Industry meant when he sard last Friday that ‘the Government knows that the higher freight rates substantially are a reflection of the costs of the shipping companies’.
Has the Minister forgotten that on 15th January the Chairman of Overseas Containers Ltd, Sir Andrew Chrichton, revealed ‘the revenue on the United Kingdom - Australia trade that we had anticipated achieving in the first 2 years was achieved in 7i months’? Has the Minister forgotten that Sir Andrew said: ‘If Tilbury re-opened, with the revenues we are obtaining, we should undoubtedly be making a profit on the Australian operations’. Tilbury has been re-opened, and still freight increases have been imposed. Did the Australian National Line as a member of the conference support these increases? Did it consult on the matter with the Government, and if so with what result? Why has the Minister for Shipping and Transport failed so abjectly to make good his threat to invoke the as yet untried shipping provisions of the Trade Practices Act? Does he feel that the Leader of the Country Party had undermined him by asserting the rights of the overseas owners of the wool to negotiate as they wished with the overseas shipping interests, and by discounting the rights of the producers of the wool to take part in the negotiations?
The Minister for Trade and Industry will scarcely deny that his great and powerful friends, the overseas shipping interests, contributed heavily to the establishment of McEwen House. Why, however, has the Minister for Shipping and Transport not invoked the Trade Practices Act in connection with the 10 per cent increase for general cargo? Even the Leader of the Country Party admits that the meat, dairy and canned fruit people are entitled to be heard. What credibility, however, does the Trade Practices Act possess within the cosy infra-conference relationship to which the Government has made itself a partner? In accepting membership of the conferences the Government has forfeited the deterrent value of the Act. Country Party ministers have only themselves to blame for the impotence of which they now complain.
The Minister for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Shipping and Transport are understandably reticent about proceedings within the conferences, but the Chairman pf the Australian National Lines, Sir John Williams, has provided a clear picture of the way in which Australian interests are treated by the Govern ment’s shipper friends. The Minister for Trade and Industry is now known to be leaving us. His autocratic and capricious administration will shortly be a thing of the past in those departments within the public service which have been little more than Country Party fiefs.
In the ANL, as in the Tariff Board, top public officials are therefore beginning to speak out again in a manner to which we are not accustomed. The annual report of the ANL - I suppose the Government counted on it not being released until discussion of these estimates had been concluded - reveals that within the AustraliaJapan conference the capacity of Eastern Searoad Service in which the ANL is a participant has been systematically writtendown, circumscribed and exploited. Equity and fair play as they are understood within the conference have penalised Eastern Searoad Service for its efficiency and obliged it to transform a profit into a loss by paying ‘excess’ earnings to conference members who are less efficient or less lucky. They have led to the creation of an over-tonnage of cellular shipping specifically designed to squeeze Australia’s investment in roll-on roll-off vessels, ls it any wonder that Sir John concludes:
The virtues of the ‘conference’ system have been loudly proclaimed and certainly virtues there are. But whatever justification there may be for pooling shares’ at a lime of vast technological change such as the industry is now going through, and with the need to promote and aid any new development likely to yield a more economic service, the question should be faced as to whether those members of a conference, by their voting strength alone, should be able to hamstring the enterprise of national minorities whose ships have proved their worth, by refuging a reasonable share, by over-tonning the trade, or by any course save by providing an equal or better service.
While Sir John referred in particular to his experiences with the Australia-Japan conference, I think it is unlikely that he had in mind that conference alone. I remind the House that when Ministers first foreshadowed the Government’s acceptance of conference membership I warned them:
The Government is not negotiating in these mailers with amateurs or altruists. It is negotiating with men who have grown up in the toughest of all areas of commercial endeavour. Persons well versed in the affairs of the overseas shipping trade entertain serious doubts about the Government’s capacity to hold its own under these conditions. They - question whether the Government will be any more successful in ito dealings with the shipping magnates than it waa on an earlier occasion with the armaments magnates.
In his statement on 23rd February 1967 the Minister for Trade and Industry promised feeder container services from all Australian ports to the major terminal ports. He promised that the cost of the feeder services will be absorbed so that there will be a single Australian freight rate. Compare and contrast again the Minister’s undertakings with arrangements now in force. Compare his undertakings with the situation as it is known to shippers in northern Queensland, who must move goods at their own expense from Townsville to Brisbane, where at last the container interests accept delivery within the terms of their original bargain. Compare it with the situation of shippers in Tasmania, where feeder services were begun only last month and are limited to whatever tonnage may be left over on ANL vessels after the demands of conventional cargo have been met. These are arrangements applying within the relatively privileged Australia to Europe trade. Pity the poor exporter whose customers are the Japanese, and who ships his product from a centre other than Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne which are terminal ports, or from Adelaide which has the sole feeder service. Pity in particular the Tasmanian exporter, who since last month has been denied a direct service to Japan by the conference and must therefore meet the full cost of shipping his product to the container terminal at Melbourne. This is Country Party solicitude for the primary producer. Crippling freights and inadequate shipping services are what it gets him.
Rampant consumer dissatisfaction with container shipping is apparent in the decision of wool growers to seek cheaper, noncontainer freight services outside the conference system. It is apparent in the application of the Australian Dairy Produce Board to the conference for lower freight rates on the grounds that services provided do not justify the recent increases. It is apparent in the approach by the Australian Dried Fruits Board to the Government for an overseas freight subsidy.
Nor are unkept promises the whole story. Let me recall that when the Government was allowing itself to be inveigled into its disastrous misalliance with the conference shipping lines the prospects for increasing competition in overseas shipping had seldom seemed more bright. Developments in train while the Minister for Trade and Industry was playing matchmaker would have brought up to 96 vessels into service on the Australian run.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I think an arrangement has been made, Mr Deputy Chairman, under which I may take a second period. I shall proceed to do so.
– At the same time, tensions within the conferences had raised the probability of a breakaway by some European operators. Such developments could not have done other than bring about a sharp reduction in freight charges.
The Government’s decision to ally itself with the conferences effectively aborted all this great promise. It strengthened conference solidarity and weakened the impetus to independent operations. I predicted on 23rd April 1969: ‘in these circumstances there will be no breakaway, no increase in competition and no reduction in freights’. I predicted: ‘the Government’s actions will bring about a result directly opposed to its professed objectives’. Where is the Government spokesman who will now stand up and say that I was wrong? The Government’s promises for containerisation have proved to be a deception. The shipping provisions of its Trade Practices Act are a delusion and its failure to protect the interests of Australian exporters is a disgrace. The Deputy Prime Minister admitted this to me in answer to a question on 24th September when he said that the Trade Practices Act gives no authority to intervene or stipulate. Now, as always, Labor’s view is that Australian interests will be best served if Australian ships carry not the whole of her trade but half of it, her customers and suppliers carrying the other half. There have been times when the Minister for Trade and Industry in his own muddled manner appears to share this goal. On 22nd February 1967 he told the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) that negotiations on the matter with Japanese interests had been in hand certainly longer than 6 months and perhaps 12 months. He warned the honourable member, however, that these negotiations were not likely to be brought to a conclusion very quickly.
Will the Minister now say whether these matters have been brought to finality? Will he indicate how much more satisfactory the situation would now be if Senator Spooner bad not allowed contracts to be written on an f.o.b. basis instead of, as would have been more appropriate and advantageous for the Australian interest, on the basis of ci.f.? Can he point to one single redeeming feature in the whole sorry mess of Government shipping policy? A Labor government would not conduct its negotiations on behalf of Australian exporters from inside the pockets of the conference shipping lines. Labor will strengthen where necessary, and where necessary unhesitatingly invoke, the shipping provisions of the Trade Practices Act to stabilise freight rates. It will encourage exporters to look beyond the conference lines whenever conference enterprise is unable or unwilling to meet the legitimate needs of export economy. In shipping as in so many other matters, Australian primary producers turn increasingly to Labor and away from their self-styled spokesmen in the Country Party for arrangements which are equitable, economic and efficient.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has read from what is obviously a carefully prepared speech designed to be as offensive as the words can be constructed to be offensive. It is a poor contribution to the debates of the Parliament The main thing that comes out of listening to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition is that he either does not understand the shipping arrangements or he is trying to misrepresent them. It is one or the other. Let me repeat in broad terms what the shipping arrangements are. They are that a container service is being introduced to Australia^ - I am speaking now particularly of the British-European trade - which will from its early initiation consist of 9 container ships and eventually, taking into account European-owned ships. 14 ships. These 14 ships as against about 100 ships previously in the conventional trade - will carry the great bulk of Australia’s cargo between Britain, Continental Europe and Australia.
So as to get the major efficiencies out of this very efficient device of shipping, these ship turn around at only 3 Australian ports, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney, lt is uneconomic to send these great container ships to the small outports, so it is part of the whole arrangement that the outports shall be serviced by conventional ships, either to carry the cargo the whole distance or by ships or other means to bring the cargo to the container port, lt was the intention, it is the intention-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Mallett) - Order! It being 11 p.m. and in accordance wilh the order of the House of 26th August I shall report progress.
– Order! lt being after 11 p.m. and in accordance with the order of the House of 26th August I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Part of the arrangement, which clearly should be recalled, was that whatever kind of ship the cargo was being carried in between Europe and Australia, the freight rate would be the same. If it was carried from Fremantle in a container ship or if it was carried from Cairns at much greater expense by conventional ship the freight rate would be the same, lt is completely obvious to everyone that if the container ship is more efficient, and there is no doubt in the world that it is more efficient than the smaller conventional ship, the costs being different but the freight being the same, what is happening is that the container ship is being paid rather more than its costs and the conventional ship less than its costs in freight rates to bring about this average - the same freight rates for all purposes. That is the concept.
Tremendous, unexpected and unpredictable costs have been added to the shipping costs of this trade. There was the industrial unrest, caused, I understand, by a dispute between land based unions in Tilbury which rendered this tremendously expensive container terminal completely inoperative for, I think, about 18 months. During that period all Australian cargo that went in container ships was landed in European ports and carried separately to Britain with no additional charge. That was a burden that just cannot be laughed off. The calculated cost of that industrial dispute, in which the shipowners were not involved, the seamen’s union was not involved and no one in Australia was involved - it was an inter-union dispute on the land at Tilbury in London - was more than £Stg3m. This, of course, is a matter that one cannot escape having taken into consideration when freights are being determined. In addition to this, I am informed that the wages of British seamen have increased by 40 per cent in this period. Stevedoring costs in Australia have increased by more than 30 per cent in this period. The significance of stevedoring costs is to be seen when I remind the Committee that before we had the container service freight rates were determined on the costs of the conventional- shipping service and it was clearly established that about 40 per cent of the total cost of shipping to Europe by conventional ships represented stevedoring costs on the wharf. I repeat, there has been a 30 per cent increase in those costs. I am not complaining about it. I am stating it as a matter of fact which has to be taken into account in determining the freight rates.
What has happened is that the additional costs that I have mentioned indicate a justification for a freight increase of 20 per cent in respect of conventional ships. If the container service had not been introduced and if all our cargo was still being carried in conventional ships to Britain and Europe, my advisers say - and no-one has challenged this figure - that those additional costs would have indicated a 20 per cent increase in freight rates. What has happened is not a 20 per cent increase in freight rates but a weighted average increase since 1966 of 4i per cent - 4 per cent on wool, 5 per cent on fruit and 10 per cent on other general cargo. My advice is a weighted average increase of 44- per cent, but the indication for conven tional ships was for an increase of 20 per cent. But they have not had an increase of 20 per cent; they have had an increase of 4i per cent which means, clearly, that the lower costs of the container ships have been subsidising the freight charges of the more expensive conventional ships. There is not the slightest doubt that a breakup of the present freight charges would indicate that there should have been a much higher increase on conventional ships and perhaps no increase, or even a reduction, in the freight rates of container ships. But under the policy, which I hope no-one will challenge, of charging the same freight rate from Australia for our cargo to Britain and Europe irrespective of what type of ship it is carried in, the result has not been a reduction or standstill in freight rates for container ships and a great increase for freight rates of conventional ships, but an average 44 per cent increase overall. This quite clearly indicates the efficiency of the container service.
Some problems have arisen from the initiation of such a tremendous innovation in shipping as the container service. I am told, for example, that there has been a problem with refrigerated cargoes. There was a problem of taint in containers. This is the sort of thing that does occur when there is a great new innovation. That added to costs, but I understand that the problem has been overcome. There have been other problems. For example, I have told honourable members, and I repeat it. that it was intended to lift cargo from Hobart and bring it to Melbourne at no charge to the shipper, but I did not say, and I have also said this in this chanber before, that that would operate from the first day that the container services were introduced, because it involved a negotiation with the Australian shipping interests which were to carry the cargo from Hobart to Melbourne. This was a negotiation where obviously the Australian shipping interests were in a very strong position to demand a high freight rate because the policy intention had been revealed and the contract had not been negotiated by the container interests with the Australian shipping line.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I shall now take my second 10 minutes. I agreed to this course when the Leader of the Opposition was speaking. There have been delays in the arrangements that were intended, that still are intended, to lift the cargo from what are called the outports and bring it to the container ports at no charge to the Australian shipping interests. I hope that no honourable member will be so unreasonable as to think that in spite of this grand design to have the benefit of the high efficiency of containers, the benefit of a single freight rate no matter where the freight originated and the benefit of not having an extra charge for the cost of the conventional ship bringing the cargo from the outport, there is cause for a serious complaint because we could not wave a wand and bring this in in one day. Indeed, it is not the responsibility of the Government to do it. It is not within the power of the Government to do it. There is only one class of government which would dream of simply ordering private enterprise about - telling it what it will charge and what it will do. I was in this House when a Socialist government was in power - when it was selling the wheat growers’ wheat to New Zealand at less than its value. Whatever it was, this is the mind of the Socialist government - it just decides what it would like to be done and, irrespective of the rights of private citizens, sets about compelling them to do it. We make no bones about the fact that we do not operate in that way.
I do not retreat an inch from Che statement that eventually - and I am told this can be expected next year - arrangements will be in operation which will bring cargo from the outports to the container ports along the lines that were originally intended. I think I have said enough to make it quite clear that notwithshtanding £Stg3m loss on the Tilbury incident, notwithstanding the 40 per cent increase in seamen’s wage on this trade and notwithstanding the 30 per cent increase in stevedoring costs in Australia, over a 4-year period the increase in the cost of Australian shippers’ freight to Europe and Britain has been, on the average, just a margin above 1 per cent per annum. Can anyone name any enterprise in Australia - whether it is in relation to the selling price of goods in the shop or the selling price of goods from the manufacturer, or wages or salaries - in which there has been an increase in charges of only 1 per cent per annum?
The truth of the matter Ls that as a result of the introduction of the container service, Australian primary producers and exporters have undoubtedly been saved from what would have been a very severe increase in freight charges. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition was designed to be politically offensive and, as I said when I rose to speak, it reveals either that he does not understand the facts of this combined conventional ship, container ship, one freight, shipping service - and he ought to understand it - or something much more serious. If he does understand it, then he stood up in the Parliament and misrepresented the position.
HMAS ‘Cerberus’ - Sydney Airport - Carriage of Mail by Air - Electoral: Broadcasting and Television - Security
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House tlo now adjourn.
– My remarks tonight are prompted by a speech which was made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) regarding the construction of facilities at HMAS ‘Cerberus’ at Westernport in Victoria. He outlined the facilities to be made available. It is proposed to provide sleeping, messing and amenities facilities for chiefs and petty officers at this establishment. These include three 3-storey sleeping blocks each of 100 cabins, hot water systems, laundries, builtin furniture in cabins, bars, games, television and ante-rooms, shower facilities, carpets and a few other items of that nature.
In these circumstances I want to suggest to the House a further amenity which will bring comfort, serenity, cleanliness and exhilaration to the petty officers concerned. Why not provide each bed with a pair of Sheridan printed sheets? My research indicates the outstanding qualities of this product. I quote a few of them for the benefit of honourable members. It is said of these sheets:
It ls said that they are available In: Sheridan’s Sunspray, a dainty all-over daisy pattern of Pink on White,
For a change one may try: Petaldown, a very feminine print is the Gold/Pink/Lilac colour combination, or perhaps Fleur, a delicate small-flower design, in Gold.
Furthermore, one does not lose out by choosing these super designs because:
Sheridan sheets are as modem as anything overseas. They’re terribly quick-drying. They’re creaseresistant, so they look fine without ironing. Completely preshrunk as well.
They would look nice in the cabins. Another wonderful feature is: the way the bottom sheet fits the mattress so it just can’t rumple and bed-making is easier.
Sheridan printed sheets have other modern advantages, too. Their weave of SO per cent polyester/SO per cent cotton is the reason why they are so luxuriously soft and light, yet last much longer than ordinary sheets.
In fact, it is said - and this is remarkable:
And of course they’re colourfast. Sheridan make them fitted or flat, for single, double and king-size beds-
Big enough for any petty officer - with matching pillow-cases, all at sensible prices.
In fact it is said:
Beautiful bedrooms begin with Sheridan Printed Sheets.
To cap it all, with every pair of sheets one receives a free copy of ‘Guide to Personality Decorating with the living colour of Sheridan’, a 16-page book filled with helpful decorating ideas and exciting colour photographs.
Naturally, I will not mention any names, because this is not a commercial. But I am reliably informed that the very best people use Sheridan sheets. In fact, the way these sheets have found their way on to the best of beds is the talk of the town. I would like to say more, but some people seem to think that the less said about Sheridan sheets the better. However, take it from me: They would certainly give a lift to HMAS ‘Cerberus’. I suggest to the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) that he place an order, and then the petty officers could preen and prance like peacocks.
– I wish to bring to the notice of the House tonight the extraordinary secrecy that surrounds the report of the interdepartmental committee that was set up by the Government to inquire into whether there should be a second airport for Sydney and, if so, where that airport should be sited. I have been carrying on quite a lot of correspondence with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) and mentioning the matter in this House for some considerable time. In every instance the implication in what the Minister has said has been: When the time comes and the interdepartmental committee’s report is delivered to the Government, we will be able to discuss the matter with you*.
We hear now that the report has been delivered, although the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation in this House, did not seem even to know yesterday, when answering a question, that the report had actually been submitted. In answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) he said:
I indicated at the time that my understanding was that the committee had concluded its work in relation to the survey it was undertaking and that a report could be expected to be submitted to the Minister for Civil Aviation in the near future.
When I interjected and said: ‘He says he has it’, the Minister said:
If he says he has received it I will stand corrected . . .
That is an extraordinary statement to be made by the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation in this House. He did not even know whether the report had been received. That is a vital issue. I have asked the Minister for Civil Aviation in the corridors of the Parliament when this report will be tabled and will this report be made public. He now says: ‘Oh no. We cannot do that. It has to be referred to the Government It is purely a Public Service committee report and it is not for publication*. People throughout the country and those in the various areas who expect they could be affected by the recommendations in this report, have been awaiting the report avidly yet the Minister implied that when he received the report it would be made public. What is the reason for the extraordinary secrecy which now exists in respect of this committee’s report. Is it because we have a Senate election coming on? Is that the reason? It would appear that that could have some basis bearing on it and be part of the motive of the Government in suddenly pigeonholing the report and not letting us know where we stand or what is going on.
A lot of rumours are circulating and we are concerned about this matter. The Minister in correspondence to me said, in effect: ‘I cannot say for sure what this Committee will recommend but I expect it will recommend more than one site. It will recommend a number of sites. It will comment upon them and give the reasons for and against them’. Those are the inferences he cast. He said: ‘Then it will come forward and we will refer the matter to the State governments’ - in other words, pass the buck to them - ‘and see what they think about it’. But the rumours are now circulating that the committee is interested in Richmond as one of the areas for a second airport for Sydney. Even in his- correspondence to me the Minister said that he expected Richmond to be commented upon in the committee’s report as one of the areas for a possible second airport. It is also suggested that the Wyong area and Holsworthy are commented upon in the committee’s report. These are the rumours that are circulating. Then there is another suggestion, and it is a very good reason for the Government’s holding up the announcement until after the Senate election. It is suggested that the committee might even be interested in National Park. That would get all the conservationists up in arms, not to mention the people in the Richmond, Londonderry and Penrith areas which cover the districts Of Penrith, Si Marys, Cambridge Park, Mount Druitt, Richmond, Windsor and the like. All of those people would be affected if, as the Minister said, it was expected that those areas would be commented upon in die report. The municipal councils of Blacktown, Penrith, Windsor and the Blue Mountains and the shire council of Colo have formed a committee to protect the areas against the possibility of a second airport being constructed. The committee has asked the Minister for Civil Aviation and the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) to receive a deputation. I have here the Minister’s reply. In a telegram to me on 23rd August after I had asked him to receive the deputation he said:
I feel that until the Government receives the report of the interdepartmental committee which I expect to be completed within a month it would serve little purpose to discuss the possibility of an airport for civil use in the Richmond area.
The report has been received. Surely this is the time for him to receive that deputation. My friend .Senator Fitzgerald asked the Minister in another place yesterday whether there is a possibility there could be a second airport at Richmond. The Minister said in answer:
How Sydney can avoid having an international airport and a domestic airport in a situation like this, I do not know. There is no problem about my seeing the people of Penright, Richmond and Windsor.
I am glad to hear that. He went on:
It is purely a matter of finding the time. As soon as the Senate rises for the next recess I intend to make arrangements to meet them.
I can tell honourable members now that the representatives of those councils are quite happy to come here to Canberra to see the Minister. There is no question of time involved; they do not want to have to wait until he goes to Sydney. The sooner they get to see him, the better it will be. I wrote to the Minister on 6th October and asked him whether Richmond had been mentioned in the interdepartmental report, and if so, the text of the reference. Despite 3 telephone calls to the Minister’s office I still have not received an acknowledgment of my letter, let alone a reply.
I raise this question very definitely and sincerely. What is the reason for the Government’s secrecy in this matter? The implication of the Government’s behaviour over the past months was that when it received the report it would make it available to the public and members of this Parliament. But suddenly the report has been pigeonholed. It is not to be made available. What is the reason for the secrecy? Obviously it is because a Senate election is imminent and the report contains information and comment which would react to the detriment of Government on the eve of that election. Some of the areas which could be affected, including Richmond, may have been commented upon. There may also be comment on the rumour concerning the area of a National Park.
That would react to the detriment of the Government in its election campaign. So it is to be kept secret until the election is over. Then the cat will be let loose. The Government will throw the matter over to the State Government and say: ‘Here is the buck. You cop it and make the decision.’ 1 call upon the Government to release the report now and let us know where we stand. Advice should be given to the areas which are concerned that they could have a second airport placed there, with the consequence of aircraft noise. Let them know where they stand so that the people concerned can make representations to the Government as ‘ quickly as possible and before the Senate election is held.
– I wish to bring forward 2 matters which concern the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme). On 13th October I directed to the Postmaster-General a question in which 1 referred to the reduction of 29 per cent in the rate paid for the carriage of mail by domestic airlines. The Postmaster-General said in reply, amongst other things, that of the 2 domestic airlines, the arrangement had been accepted by Trans-Australia Airlines but not accepted by Ansett Airlines of Australia. The implication is that TAA readily agreed to the reduction in the rate and that the Ansett organisation was still negotiating or discussing it.
I would like the Postmaster-General to table in this Parliament the file of correspondence on this matter between the 2 airlines and his Department so that honourable members would have an opportunity to peruse it. They would be able to see for themselves what transpired in communications with the 2 domestic airlines and for that matter, also what happened in negotiations with Airlines of New South Wales, East-West Airlines and the others. We are aware that apart from East-West Airlines, the rest of them are mainly members of the Ansett organisation.
I believe that TAA accepted the Government’s decision under protest and under duress, for the simple reason that it is a Government authority and for no other reason. The Postmaster-General is not present in the chamber tonight, but honourable members opposite could ask htm to table the file so that we could better understand the bureaucratic manner in which the rate was reduced by the Government by 29 per cent. We could see whether the reduction is justified. If it is justified, we could ask why it was not done much sooner when the’ costs of wages, fuel, air navigation charges and other expenses were much less than they are today. If the reduction is justified today, it should have been applied years ago. I should like some explanation from the Postmaster-General as to why it was not reduced some years ago. I ask him to look at these few points and to give me information on them. Most important of all. 1 want the Minister to advise us of the conditions under which TAA accepted the decision. Also, f should like information on the terms which were laid down m regard to the carriage of mail by Ansett because I believe that in no circumstances has Ansett ever accepted the proposition =is fair and reasonable. I believe that this reduction in charges is a typical example of bureaucracy on the part of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
One does not get the opportunity very often to speak in the adjournment debate. Bearing this in mind, I should like to refer also to another matter. On 9th July I wrote to Mr Wright, Chairman of the Australian Boradcasting Control Board, and drew his attention to what I considered was a breach of section 116(4.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act. I wrote in the following terms: [ will be grateful if you could answer the following question:
The reply dated 22nd July which I received from Mr Wright included a copy of section 116(6.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act. So far as I was concerned my main question was whether the matter I had referred to was political. In reply to my first question Mr Wright answered yes. He agreed that a by-election was being held at that time. In answer to my second question Mr Wright stated:
My third question to Mr Wright was in the following terms:
Did the Board according to custom send a circular to all Television Stations…..
To this question Mr Wright answered yes. In answer to my fourth question Mr Wright stated:
In answer to my fifth question he stated:
This was in answer to my last question in which I asked whether the contents of the Press conference had contravened the Broadcasting and Television Act. In my view there was an obvious breach of the Broadcasting and Television Act which clearly lays down conditions regarding the telecasting of election material. We have had this reaffirmed by the Government within the last week. We were told that there would be a complete blackout of all election material, whether televised or broadcast, from the Wednesday prior to the Senate election. So this prohibition has been reaffirmed. What I want from the Government is an explanation as to why the television Press conference which the Prime Minister held on the Thursday before the Monash by-election was allowed to be televised in Victoria. I want to know why the Act was contravened and why some action has not been taken against the broadcasting stations and television stations?
I wrote again to Mr Wright on 29th July and stated:
In my fifth question I asked ‘Did the contents of this press conference contravene Section 116(4.) of the Broadcasting and Television Act’. In reply you said ‘Not as far as the Board is aware. If such a question did arise, in connection with a telecast of this kind, you will realise that it could be decided only by the Courts’.
I then went on to ask what he was going to do about it. the reply I received from Mr Wright was as follows:
In reply to your question, the Board does not propose to make any further inquiries in the matter. Those members of the Board and its Executive who observed the programme did not consider that it raised any question that there was a breach of section 116(4). You will appreciate that, to involve a contravention of section 116(4.), the matter broadcast or televised must fall within the definition of ‘election matter’ as set out in section 116 (6.’). This section is specific in intent and is more limited than is implied in the general expression ‘political’ as referred to in your letter.
All I want to draw attention to are some of the matters that were referred to by the Prime Minister on that occasion in his television interview with the Press. He referred to the National Service Act and Victoria in particular. He was asked very pertinent questions about whether he would take proceedings against certain members of the Australian Labor Party who had made a statement at that time which had upset him.
– That is not political, though.
– Not political in the least. He spoke about the National Service Act, the National Health Act and State receipts tax. These were things that were not political and that would have no effect on the Monash by-election. So the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has seen fit to take no further action about the matter. As far as I am concerned, if the law applies to one in this land it applies to all of us and in particular to political parties and governments. If a government introduces legislation, believes in it and wants to preserve it, let it carry it out in principle and observe it. As I mentioned earlier, the Government has decided not to amend the Electoral Act to delete the blackout on political broadcasts from midnight on the Wednesday before an election. I consider that this was a blatant example of an abuse of a Federal Act of Parliament by television stations. I am not saying at this stage that the Prime Minister is responsible for it, but I am saying that the Government should take action on it.
– Perhaps the principle of law and order does not apply to the Prime Minister.
– The principle of law and order does not apply to the
Government; it applies only to the Opposition. Opposition parties are always disloyal but governments are always most loyal. The other matter I refer to is the demand by the Prime Minister for time on ‘This Day Tonight’. I believe that recently he made an approach to Mr Hamilton the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and demanded time on this programme. When he was advised that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), and the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcom Fraser) of his own party, had appeared on the session the night before he was quite put out. It was only after he went to the ABC later on and claimed that the ABC news bad unfairly and biasedly reported-
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have had quite an interesting adjournment debate, I think, tonight, ranging from the obsession of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) with sheets, which he claimed was not a commercial but for which he could have been well paid if be had put in a bill to the sheet manufacturers concerned. I think we can leave that matter to one side because really what he was interested in was not sheets but washing what he thought was dirty linen but was not. The debate ranged from this matter to a plea from the heart of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) on how bad it is to reduce the rate paid to the airlines for the carriage of mail when, by so doing, we reduce the income of Ansett Airlines of Australia. If that is what he feels, fine. That is his right in approaching the matter.
– I want the facts brought out.
– The honourable member can have the facts brought out. I am sure he can. But the real facts are that rates paid for the carriage of mail have been reduced. Does the honourable member agree? He may not like the fact, but they have been reduced. As a result not so much will be paid to Ansett Airlines, and this, upsets the honourable member for Newcastle. It does not. upset me. So he can go to the public and say: ‘I think it is ter rible that the rate paid to the airlines for carrying mail should be reduced because Ansett’s income will be reduced’ and I will say: ‘I do not think it is terrible’. And we can leave it at that.
But what I am interested in as well are some of the statements made by the honourable member for Newcastle in referring to my own activities. He stated - I will talk about the last matter he raised - that I went and demanded time on ‘This Day Tonight’. What in fact happened was that the Australian Broadcasting Commission representative approached me and said: Will you appear on “This Day Tonight”?’ I said yes, and we then arranged a time for it. Subsequently the ABC representative came to me. rather shamefacedly, up here and said: ‘We are terribly sorry but Sydney will not let you go on “This Day Tonight” because they cannot get Mr Whitlam to go on and they do not think it would be fair to put you on even though they have approached you, asked you to go on to it and made a time with you’.
– ls that fair dinkum?
– That is fair dinkum. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am a tolerant man but it did not seem to me to be entirely reasonable that having been approached and having made agreement of that kind f should be wiped by some person in Sydney. I did raise an objection to it. 1 did not go on the ABC that night but they did, on a subsequent night, put both Mr Whitlam and myself on the ABC. That is the story to which the honourable member for Newcastle referred and that cannot possibly be properly represented as going and demanding time on the ABC and getting upset when it did not happen.
If I may say so, Mr Deputy Speaker, to continue this story of the ABC approaching me and asking me to go on and then telling me I could not go on, they also had an arrangement for me to go on ‘Four Comers’. They had Mr Whitlam on ‘Four Corners’ some weeks before. They .sought to put out feelers to try to take me off that too, but they did not come to full conclusion at the time. That is all I have to say on that particular matter, Mr Deputy Speaker, raised by the honourable member for Newcastle. I think that if he accepts those facts he will agree that it was hot right to say what he did about me.
In regard to the other matter raised by the honourable member for Newcastle, which was a broadcast, a Press conference on television held here in Canberra. I want to make these points: First of all, Mr Deputy Speaker, there is no reason whatsoever why I should not have a Press conference in Canberra and why that should not be televised merely because there was an election in Victoria. It could bc, even if we accept-
– Read the Act.
– I will read the Act to you in a moment. Even if we accept what the honourable member for Newcastle said, he must agree that there is nothing wrong in having a Press conference, nothing wrong in having it televised, nothing wrong in having it broadcast in every other State than Victoria, but he thinks there was something wrong because it was broadcast in Victoria itself. Let me make this clear.
– Order! The Prime Minister is replying to a comment made by a member of this House. I would suggest that the right honourable gentleman be heard in silence.
– Let me make this clear, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is not within my power or province, or within the power or province of the Government, to say which stations in what State will take a television programme that is being sent out. It is entirely within the province of those stations themselves to make that decision. Surely nobody thinks that a Prime Minister or a Government can say to a station: ‘You must take a programme’. That is obvious. If a station takes a programme and is in contravention of the law, it can be prosecuted. But under no circumstances can it be said that that station was told or made to take a programme by a Prime Minister or a Government. That is the first point I want to make.
The second point I want to make is that however it may appear to the honourable member for Newcastle it did not appear to to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that those stations in Victoria which took this programme were in any way in contravention of the Act. The Board must be regarded as knowing at least as much about this subject as the honourable member for Newcastle. The actual section of the Broadcasting and Television Act to which the honourable member for Newcastle referred says this:
In this Section election means an election of a member or members of either House of the Parliament in the Commonwealth or a State.
Election matter means matter commenting on or soliciting votes for a candidate at an election.
Nothing in my view, and in the view of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is more important, in the Press conference I had could be said to be commenting on or soliciting votes for a candidate in a Victorian upper House election. The Act also states:
Matter commenting on or advocating support of a political party to which a candidate at an election belongs.
AH I did in this Press conference was not to comment on or advocate support for anything but to answer questions which I was asked by pressmen, and since I was asked on one occasion concerning the former Victorian A.L.P. Executive’s call for disobedience of the law and mutiny I naturally said I thought this was a most unfortunate thing for such a formerlyeminent body to have advocated. But that, all must agree, cannot have been a matter for decision at an election for the Upper House in Victoria because it has no authority whatsoever in these matters. Was it a matter commenting on or stating or indicating any of the issues being submitted to the electors? No, it was not. None of the questions I was asked was concerned in any way with any issue being put to the electors for the Upper House in some Victorian electorate. Was it a matter referring to meetings held or to be held in connection with an election? No, it was not. However, it was not for me to interpret the Act, merely to bring it to the attention of the honourable member for Newcastle. It is for the Broadcasting Control Board to interpret the Act and it has so done. If I may say so, I believe it has shown a thoroughly impartial, sensible and unquestionable approach as to how this Act should be interpreted. But, if in any way-
– That is because it found for you.
– It has at least as much experience as the honourable member for Newcastle. But if it was in any way to be held to be wrong then that could be tested in the courts, but it should not be held up as an attack on myself or on the Government which, to come back to the point I made before, was unable to say to any radio station or television station that they must take or should take the programme which was broadcast from Canberra at that time. I believe that this statement by the honourable member for Newcastle is just as untenable as the other unsupported and unsupportable statement he made that I demanded time on’This Day Tonight’. So all I can say is that having had these cases put by the honourable member for Newcastle I repudiate them. Having had his plea on behalf of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd that postal rates should not be reduced so that Ansett Industries can have a higher income, I reject that too. In regard to the honourable member for Grayndler, who seems to have taken to bis bed, I can only say: May choirs of angels sing him to his rest, and the longer the rest the better.
Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) - I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. At no time did 1 make a plea on behalf of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. What I want is for the facts to be brought out as to whether the reduction in mail charges was justifiably made this year, and if it was. why they were not reduced years ago. 1 want the facts. I want the file brought forward. As far as Ansett is concerned, all members know our attitude.
– Order! The honourable member for Newcastle has explained his position.
– I was hoping that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) would not leave the chamber because I was going to raise a matter which concerns him. I also want to say that I am delighted to see so many Ministers in the chamber during the adjournment debate tonight. I hoped that the Prime Minister would be in attendance last night when at least part of the estimates were being discussed because he has been conspicuous by his absence during most of the discussions. I raised a matter concerning his
Department and seeing he is in the chamber tonight, rather than dropping him a little note and waiting some weeks or months for a reply, I thought he might be good enough to stay and hear what I had to say. This matter refers to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation - the Commonwealth secret service - which is administered by his Department.
J said last night that officers of that organisation had called upon aged pensioners in South Australia and by their very presence had intimidated aged people, in particular the wife of a pensioner who was absent from his home at the time. They waited for some considerable time for the husband to return and finally left after warning his wife that she had best advise her husband to be careful what he had to say in future and not to write so many letters. Upon his return, the husband found his wife considerably upset. Having committed no great crime in his life, he could only deduce that the - I almost said wallopers’, but perhaps I should not use that term - police had been there because on occasion he had found it necessary to direct letters to parliamentarians which, in the main, remained unanswered. From time to time he bad directed correspondence to Ministers andletters to editors which bad appeared in the columns of various newspapers from time to time. I would appreciate it if the Prime Minister would investigate these allegations.
On a previous occasion ( related a similar event concerning yet another pensioner. That was some considerable time back, I understand. I feel that the situation is an untenable one - a word which the Prime Minister used a while ago when replying to what the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) had said in an earlier debate. The Prime Minister should investigate this type of activity by people who hide behind a cloak of secrecy. If the Commonwealth requires them for security reasons, they most certainly are being misplaced when they knock on the doors of aged pensioners who are not offending in any shape or form.
I shall take further advantage of the Prime Minister’s presence in the House tonight. A matter was brought to his notice by way of a question. He replied to that question. It deals with twins being called up for national service. I have written lo the Minister for Labor and National Service (Mr Snedden) requesting exemption on compassionate grounds for the son of a widow who has 8 children, 5 of whom are attending school and the sixth is due to commence school next year. The young man who has been called up cut short his education on the sudden death of his father. He is working in a department store in Adelaide. The Minister replied that there is no provision for exemption on compassionate grounds, other than for the lad to appear before the court. 1 think this is yet another case of the stupidity and the non-thinking of the Government. 1 have yet another case to mention. It is of a deserted wife who has 3 sons, 2 of whom have served already in Vietnam. The third son is about to be called up. Once again the Minister for Labour and National Service said that there was no provision for exemption and that the young man could go to court. Surely this state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. I would appreciate it if the Prime Minister - as he assured a member in the House the day before yesterday, I think it was - would investigate this matter also.
I want to raise a matter concerning the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). I notice that he is not present. In the chamber this afternoon, during the debate on the social services legislation, he mentioned certain matters about South Australia. He insisted that certain Labor members of the State House, because of the late shopping referendum held recently, ought to vote in the House of Assembly in South Australia in accordance with the manner in which the vote was cast in their electorate, which returned a ‘yes’ vote. 1 point out to the honourable member, who now strides somewhat slowly into the chamber, that if he thinks that ought to apply so far as the Labor-held areas are concerned he should tell Liberal members such as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Millhouse, from Mitcham, Dr Tonkin who holds Bragg and Mrs Steele who holds Davenport to vote as their electorates voted on the day of the referendum. If he does he will find he is not on very good ground. I will mention another Liberal member - the man who won the seat of Hanson, Mr Becker. That is what the honourable member should do, instead of coming into this chamber and making the statements that he makes.
– Is it all right if I go now?
– The Prime Minister has not been in the chamber very long while the Estimates have been debated, so he might as well go. But before he goes, I have another matter to raise. During the course of his reply to the honourable member for Newcastle, the Prime Minister stated that there was a certain ban on radio and television programmes prior to an election being held in the Commonwealth or in one of the States. But it should not have applied on this occasion. It applied on one occasion to my good friend and colleague, the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby), when he was completely banned from the ‘Big Country’ show because an election was being held in Victoria. I am sure that the honourable member for Riverina on that occasion did not intend to campaign in the State elections in Victoria.
– He would not have been political.
– That is right, he would not have been political. Let me come back to the honourable member for Boothby.
– He is in the House now.
– I know he is. I implore him to pay attention to those people in his electorate who, I understand, have visited his office from time to time, have written letters to him from time to time and are disgusted because he will not pay attention to their needs as far as social welfare is concerned. Of course, I am copping the work from his electorate. I cannot knock them back. Having come up through the university of hardship, they have problems and they ought to be listened to by somebody. If the honourable member wants to repent to the electorate and wants the file from my office concerning people from his electorate-
– And mine.
-. . . and from the electorate of Adelaide, he can most certainly have it, provided he gives me a personal assurance that he will do all he possibly can on their behalf. I tell the honourable member that he would have to get on his knees to do it because he is certainly passing them over at the moment. I end on this note: If the honourable member, along with the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) who should never have left the South Australian Legislative Council - I believe that he often thinks he is still therecontinues to blab about State matters and closed shop agreements, he should look at some of the closed shop agreements in the shipping service.
– What about the closed shop in the Adelaide Club?
– He had a carpet put down and took unfair advantage of his position when he was in the Unley City Council. He talked about local government during the social services debate this afternoon. He had a carpet put down. The carpet supplier was well paid for it. He took unfair advantage of his position whilst he was on the Unley City Council. I suppose he does not like to hear that sort of thing, but it is a fact. The honourable member criticises so often and so frequently the trade union movement - he may not have got the message a couple of weeks ago - but it is about time he withdrew the television advertisement on behalf of his firm in Adelaide. He used the trade union movement to make that film at the cost of the poor old ship owners, not that I hold any brief for them.
I conclude by saying that if the honourable member for Boothby wants that file from my office - it is getting a bit hefty - he can come and get it if he gives me an assurance that he will work on behalf of his electors instead of dragging stupid flags into this place and making an idiot of himself. I do not want to send him a telegram to come and get it.
– I would be very pleased to receive the file to which the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) has referred. 1 would then proceed to table it in this place. There would not be a single person who has ever been to my office who has not had service, whether he or she comes from the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Australian Country Party or even the Communist Party. I would like to have the list to which the honourable idiot referred tabled in this Parliament.
– I rise to bring to the attention of the House a situation which exists due to the ease with which overseas nationals may enter into matrimony in Australia. The incident I will refer to concerns an American national who allegedly bigamously married a young lady in my electorate. The ceremony was performed at the Perth Registry Office in September 1969. The American stated by oral declaration, supported by the production of a telegram purported to be sent from his mother, that he was divorced. Subsequent information came to hand that he was still married at the time of the purported marriage. He subsequently left Australia with his legal famly, returning to the United States of America. Whilst he was in Australia his 4 children were under the care of the Child Welfare Department. So government departments had some knowledge of him and of his circumstances. On discovering the true situation the young lady immediately-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 12 o’clock midnight, the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. today.
House adjourned at 12 midnight.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Aboriginals: Bequest to Gurindji Tribe (Question No. 1357)
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
Fluoridation (Question No. 1437)
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
Therehas been no change in the situation in either Melbourne or Brisbane since my replyto you of 20th August 1969.
Defence Expenditure (Question No. 1485)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (5) The details of expenditure on the requested bases are shown in table A below.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Have any of the Judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court ever been consulted by the reporters who write the headnotes of Industrial Court judgments appearing in the Federal Law Reports.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. This is the normal practice.
Police Photographs at Demonstrations (Question No. 15*1) .
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
In view of his claim that police photographs at demonstrations are only taken to help . in court proceedings, will he give an assurance that all photographs and negatives will be destroyed immediately if no court proceedings eventuate or, alternatively, at the conclusion of any proceedings.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I did not claim that photographs are only taken to help court proceedings but I did stress their value for evidentiary purposes.
In the circumstances I am not prepared to give the assurance sought.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The necessity to land at Adelaide on some of these direct Melbourne/Perth flights was brought about by operational requirements. An intake of extra fuel is required at Adelaide when there are strong head winds or prevailing weather conditions in Perth necessitate Meekatbarra as the alternate airport.
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:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the right honourable member’s question is as follows:
My attention had not been previously drawn to this particular statement but I am aware that similar statements have recently been made about the incidence of what are generally termed specific learning difficulties due to minimal brain damage.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Has the Department of Civil Aviation yet accepted the new incinerator at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport which was completed in accordance with the contract in June 1968 (Hansard, 14 May 1969, page 1822).
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Following the initial test firing of the incinerator in December 1968 modifications to the burner units were required to cater for the higher than anticipated moisture and free water content of the airport garbage. These modifications were progressively carried out during 1969 and the burner units are now satisfactory.
At the same time it was also necessary to provide a separate source of water supply to the incinerator for the purpose of cleaning the outgoing gases. This resulted from a request from the Sydney Water Supply and Drainage Board that wherever possible their mains should not be used for industrial purposes.
A pre-takeover inspection of the incinerator complex in June 1970 indicated that a substantial number of relatively small but important items required further attention before the complex could be put to full-time use and these matters are now in hand by the Department of Works. When these are completed the takeover will be implemented.
It is not always appreciated that the range of material which is to. be disposed - from dry cardboard boxes to liquids - has presented an enormous problem to both aviation and health authorities. It is a problem which has been receiving universal attention.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Ginninderra High School, Canberra; Holt Primary School, Canberra; Duffy Primary School, Canberra; Belconnen 20 Primary School, Canberra; Building for the Trade group of departments,
Canberra; Wagaman Primary School, Darwin; Commonwealth Centre, Hobart; P.M.G. Administration Building, Brisbane; National Standards Laboratory, Sydney.
Third Party Insurance: Motor Cycles (Question No. 1629) Mr Enderby asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
Will he inquire into and make known the principles and facts whereby third party insurance premiums on motor cycles with a capacity exceeding 250cc have been assessed at $88.75 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Can he say whether these premiums are less in all other parts of Australia.
Did the Third Party Insurance Premiums Advisory Committee have any evidence and representation before it when it last decided to assess third party premiums on such motor cycles.
If so, (a) what was this evidence and what were these representations and (b) were they presented unopposed and untested by the leading third party insurer in the Australian Capital Territory.
Was a mistake made in assessing the premiums.
ls he satisfied that a tribunal like the Third Party Insurance Premiums Advisory Committee, which has the duty of checking the reasonableness of third party premiums in the Australian Capital Territory, should have no representative on it of consumer interests or the motoring public.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
X 2 (the relativity factor) = $80.54. $80.54 + $3.75 (administrative costs) =$84.29 $84.29 + 5 per cent of gross premium $84.29
=- = $88.73.
The $88.73 was rounded to $88.79.
As the Third Party Insurance Premiums Advisory Committee recorded in the conclusions to its report published in November 1968:
The scale of relativities used was determined as a result of investigations made into the relationship between the average cost of claim in respect of different classes of vehicles in the A.C.T. and in certain States to the average cost of the claim for private cars;’. The relativity factors relating to all classes of vehicles are currently under review by the Third Party Insurance Premiums Advisory Committee.
The Committee had before it: v the annual statistical returns lodged with the Registrar of Motor Vehicles by the authorised i insurers under Regulation 8 of the Motor 1 Vehicle (Third Party Insurance) Regulations; and : a information supplied by the N.R.M.A. Insurance Limited relating to their overall third parly insurance experience in the A.C.T. This f information was considered by the Committee when lt recommended the margins for profit, contingencies and administrative expenses. The information was studied by the Committee with the benefit of advice from the Commonwealth Actuary. The Commonwealth Actuary is a member of the Committee.
Mr J. H. Pead; Nominee of the A.C.T. Advisory Council representing private motorists; and
Mr S. G. East ; Nominee of the Chamber of Commerce representing commercial vehicle owners.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has advised me that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Early this year the 3 Associations representing professional engineers in the Commonwealth Service lodged claims with the Board for increases in those rates. On 18th June the Public Service Board, ‘ in a meeting with ‘ the 3 Associations, advised them that the evidence available to the Board was insufficient to justify increases in the rates endorsed by the Commission in December 1969. The Board’s reasons were explained in a written statement issued to the Associations at that meeting. On 30th September 1970 the 3 Associations again met the Board and produced additional material relevant to the salaries of professional engineers in the Commonwealth Service: This material is being studied by the Board preparatory to further discussions with the Associations.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As I have already advised in answer to Question No. 1894 by the honourable member, the three Associations met the Board again on 30th September and produced, inter alia, additional material relating to rates paid outside the Commonwealth Service and in particular rates paid in private industry. That material is under study by the Board preliminary to further discussions with the Associations.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to . the honour able member’s question is as folows:
Canberra will not, however, include any element of profit on the land sub-division operation. Under the present system there is no relationship between land costs and leasehold rents, which are fixed on the basis of 5 per cent of the valuer’s assessment of the unimproved value, the value being subject to reappraisement every 20 years.
There are of course other factors also. At recent auctions some purchasers have secured blocks for a premium lower than the cash payment that will be required at the expected level of reserve prices; in other cases premiums have been higher than the level of cash payment expected to be required under the new system. As stated above, however, the reserve price will be set at levels which do no more than recoup the Commonwealth for the costs of providing the serviced blocks of land.
Teaching Hospital, Westmead, New South Wales (Question No. 1942) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for
Education and Science, upon notice:
To what extent has the Universities Commission been consulted on the planning and financing of the projected teaching hospital at Westmead, New South Wales.
en - The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Universities Commission is aware of the proposal of the Government of New South Wales that clinical teaching facilities should be incorporated in a new hospital to be built at Westmead, but has not yet been consulted on the project 1 have no doubt that, when preliminary planning is sufficiently advanced, a submission will be made to the Australian Universities Commission.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
On what dates has (a) he written to . each Premier and (b) each Premier written to him concerning the Premiers’ reaction to die nation-wide survey of educational needs which was presented to the Australian Education Council on 25th May 1970 (Hansard, 15th October 1970, page 2199).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The State Education Ministers released a summary of the findings of the Nation-Wide Survey of Educational Needs on 1st September. 1 wrote to all Premiers on 7th September asking for the reaction of their Governments, and for an indication of the extent to which they would wish to give priority to the proposed programmes in education, having regard to their other responsibilities. As at the time of preparation of this reply I have received letters from the Premiers of Queensland and South Australia dated 12th and 16th October respectively.
Papua and New Guinea: School Children (Question No. 1475) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
How many (a) indigenous and (b) expatriate children of school age live in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
How many (a) indigenous and (b) expatriate students in the Territory attend:
administration (A) primary, (B) secondary and (C) technical schools,
subsidised mission (A) primary, (B) secondary and (Q technical schools,
unsubsidised mission schools and
How many (a) indigenous and (b) expatriate children of Territory residents are assisted to receive:
tertiary education in Australia or elsewhere overseas, and what is the (A) nature and (B) amount of assistance to the students and the cost to the Administration in each category.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What steps have been taken to secure information from the States on school dental services (Hansard, 12th June 1970, page 3649).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As I stated in the reply to the previous question (Hansard, 12th June 1970, page 3649) except in Commonwealth Territories responsibility for school dental services rests with the States. The scope of these services varies from State to State and a short description of the services in the various States and Territories is given in the Commonwealth Year Book. The Acting Commonwealth
Statistician has provided information given below. This consists of statistics for all States for the 2 most recent years together with brief notes concerning the State services to which they relate. Unless otherwise specified the statistics relate to examination and treatment of pupils attending government and non-government schools.
New South Wales. The service aims to examine as many children as possible and to encourage those with defects to seek private treatment. It is provided by dental clinics at government schools, mobile clinics and a dental team with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. 1968- 83,175 examined; 21,298 treated 1969- 71,653 examined; 21,337 treated
Victoria. The service aims to examine and treat children during their first school year and annually thereafter until they are 8 years old (but to continue treatment to the age of 12). It is provided at three metropolitan dental centres, by annual visits of staff to country schools and treatment at mobile units, and by visits to children’s homes and orphanages. 1968- 32,972 examined; 25,483 treated 1969- 31,887 examined; 24,710 treated Queensland. School children are treated at hospital dental clinics in the larger towns, and those beyond easy reach of hospital dental clinics, at rail dental clinics or with portable equipment at schools.
The following figures exclude examinations and treatments at hospital dental clinics: 1967- 68-27,573 examined; 9,240 treated 1968- 69-27,418 examined; 8,916 treated Sooth Australia. Examination and treatment are provided mainly for children in government primary schools; at static dental clinics- in larger country schools and by the School of Dental Therapists in the metropolitan area. The figures below exclude examinations and treatments at the School of Dental Therapists: 196g_3,744 examined; 2,878 treated 1969- 6,268 examined; 5,000 treated
Western Australia. Children are examined at schools, institutions, and Aboriginal missions, and treated at government clinics, or referred to private dental practitioners. In 1969 the scope of the service was extended with a view to the examination of all children in the first primary grade, and as appropriate in later primary grades. 1968- 7,785 examined; . 4,062 treated 1969 - 17,460 examined; number treated is not available
Tasmania. The service aims to examine and treat every school child each 6 months, at fixed surgeries and fixed and mobile clinics. Statistics of treatments are not available. 1967- 68-40,396 examined 1968- 69-45,609 examined
Figures for the Australian Capital Territory and for the Northern Territory are as follows:
Territory 1969 12,695 Northern Territory 1968-69 .. 12,920 12,270 (revised)
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19701021_reps_27_hor70/>.