27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 3 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 the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Education Council’s report on the needs of State education services has established serious deficiencies in education.
That these can be summarised as lack of classroom accommodation, desperate teacher shortage, oversized classes and inadequate teaching aids.
That the additional sum of one thousand million dollars is required over the next five years by the States for these needs.
That without massive additional Federal finance the State school system will disintegrate.
That the provisions of the Handicapped Children’s Assistance Act 1970 should be amended to include all the country’s physically and mentally handicapped children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable The Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the Citizens of South Australia respectfully sheweth:
The Red Kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for pet foods and other purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy.
lt is an indisputable fact, that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that: The export of all kangaroo products, including pet foods and furs, be banned immediately.
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 the Members of the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the citizens of South Australia respectfully sheweth:
The red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for pet foods and other purposes, have been reduced, to. a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy.
It is an indisputable fact that no natural resources can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that: The export of all kangaroo products, including pet foods and furs, be banned immediately. And, your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray.
– 1 present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the citizens of South Australia respectfully sheweth:
The red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for pet foods and other purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy.
It is an indisputable fact that no natural resources can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for their future.
We. your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that: The export of all kangaroo products, including pet foods and furs, be banned immediately. And, your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Al, what have you done with your kangaroos?
-Order! The honourable member for Moore will cease interjecting.
To the Honourable the Speaker of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The Petition of the undersigned citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That they are gravely concerned the tax concessions for people residing in Zone B have not been increased for eleven years.
Their concern is aggravated by the fact that many towns of high living costs which are situated geographically in isolated areas are either classified as Zone B or receive no Zone classification.
They ure also gravely concerned that taxpayers living in these isolated areas receive no tax deductions for travel and accommodation expenses when they or their dependants are forced to travel to cities to receive specialist medical treatment.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives will seek to ensure that the Commonwealth Government will take immediate steps to amend the above tax anomalies by
An early investigation of the location of Zone A and Zone B areas so that towns of equal isolation and cost factor will receive the same Zone concession.
An early investigation of the amount of concession entitlement for Zone B with a view to an increase in that amount.
The Income Tax Assessment Act be amended so that- travel and accommodation expenses be allowable deductions when a taxpayer or his dependants are forced to travel from isolated areas to cities for specialist medical treatment.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– 1 direct a question to the Prime Minister as the Minister responsible for communications with the British Government. I ask: Did the Australian Government or the Australian High Commissioner in Great Britain suggest to the British Government, as has been widely alleged, that the provisions of its Immigration Bill should not apply to patrials - in effect, to persons who had at least one grandparent born in Britain?
– Our High Commissioner did make representations to the British Government relating to the then provisions of the Immigration Bill as they related to patrials. He pointed out to the British Government that we felt that in our case where a great number of our people had their ancestors based on the United Kingdom the United Kingdom Government should look particularly at the effects of the then Bill upon Australians who might go to the United Kingdom. I am glad to say that the United Kingdom Government responded and changed the Bill in a way which we could regard only as satisfactory to our interests.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Government given consideration to amending the restrictive trade practices legislation particularly with regard to the subject of resale price maintenance? If so, can he indicate the lines along which the legislation will be amended?
– I thought until yesterday that it was well known to every member of this House and to most thinking members of the population that the Government had decided to introduce a Bill quite soon in order to control retail price maintenance. It seemed therefore extraordinary - even childish - that yesterday a notice should have been given to the House of an intention on the part of the Opposition to present a Bill which would duplicate the work that has been done - more effectively and adequately *done - by the Government. There are many arguments for and against retail price maintenance. A lot of people say they believe in orderly marketing and that orderly marketing is the best way there is of selling goods cheaply in shops. We have taken the view that we believe in competitive influences. We believe that in the period of very rapid inflation that we are going through at present it is better for us to introduce legislation now. or if we can, during this session of Parliament and have it passed as soon as we can. T hope that the Opposition, even the Leader of the Opposition, will welcome this Bill and will give it a quick and sure passage through the House. 1 cannot say exactly when the Bill is likely to be introduced. I had discussions as late as yesterday on this matter. J had a note this morning from my colleague the Attorney-General and T can assure you that he knows that we desire a Bill to be put through urgently. The subject of restrictive practices is a complex and difficult one. We have referred it to an interdepartmental committee for study. We have asked the committee to report back to the Government as soon as it can so that we can prepare a Bill, if we think it is necessary, to widen the scope of the existing Act. 1 can assure the House that both of these measures, together with our approach to arbitration, are consistent with our policy to restrain inflationary forces. I only wish that instead of jumping on the bandwaggon the Opposition would give us some help in controlling these forces.
– I ask the Prime Minister a supplementary question arising out of the answer which he has just given to the honourable member for Henty. On what grounds should this House have known that the Government intended to to legislate on retail price maintenance? Is it not a fact that last Thursday week during question time I raised the question of retail price maintenance and asked the Prime Minister what the policy of the Government was in this sphere and that the Prime Minister completely avoided the question?
– 1 think most people would know that the former Prime Minister did make a statement on inflation and in that statement he highlighted the fact that of the several measures that could be taken one was the control of restrictive practice. Since I have been Prime Minister I have stated that instructions have been given. I will obtain extracts from comments in the Press and present them to the honourable gentleman showing the date on which the relevant submission on retail price maintenance was given to Cabinet and the date on which the decision was made to send the matter to the draftsman.
– 1 raise a point of order. My question specificially referred to the question I asked last Thursday week, after the right honourable gentleman had become the Prime Minister of this country. I have not had an answer.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. Have personnel from Papua and New Guinea serving with the Royal Australian Navy seen service in Vietnam? If this is true would it be a contravention of our obligations to the United Nations as trustees for New Guinea?
– This matter has received some publicity in the last 24 hours or so. The situation as I understand it is this: The Royal Australian Navy-
– His oiliness-
-Order! The honourable member for Moore will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– The Royal Australian Navy provides training for cadets in its ships at sea. HMAS ‘Sydney’ is the senior ship for training Australian naval cadets, lt is true that personnel from Papua and New Guinea are training with Australian cadets. HMAS ‘Sydney’ is not offensively armed. She has no combatant role at the moment. Our cadets are placed on that ship not as members of the ship’s company but as supernumeraries. It is true that 2 cadets from Papua and New Guinea were members of a supernumerary training group on a. previous voyage.
The question has been raised as to whether we have contravened our obligations under the United Nations. It is a fact, as I have already indicated, that the Sydney’ is not a combatant vessel. I believe therefore that it is in the interest of the young men themselves that their training should extend to the senior ship of our squadron. If this were not so - in other words, if we were to exercise racial discrimination and say that young men who are training for a Naval career should not have available to them experience in our senior ship - we would lay ourselves open to an entirely different line of criticism. I must say that I do not see why any real objection should be taken to the training that was afforded to these young men in this case.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask: Has the Minister received further representations from the Australian Council of Churches and other interested bodies to amend the National Service Act to provide for an alternative form of service? If so, have these requests been considered? Will the Minister inform the House under what circumstances an alternative form of service will be approved and what form it will take?
– In replying to the question posed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition I want to make 3 points to the House. In the first place, the Government does not have a closed mind to the question of a civilian alternative to national service. Indeed, I would be happy to look at any representations received on this matter. In the second place, it is true - as the honourable gentleman has suggested - that recently the Australian Council of Churches and the Returned Services League have made representations concerning the question of a civilian option. These representations are receiving attention and when I am in a position to provide the honourable gentleman with a reply of substance as to what action may or may not be taken I will certainly do so. In the third place, I think the House would welt appreciate that this is indeed a most complex question. Despite the fact that it has been before the Government on a number of occasions it has not been possible to evolve a satisfactory and viable form of civilian option. I might add that this mutter has in fact been recently studied in a most comprehensive way by the Government Members’ Defence Committee.-
Let me also say that any satisfactory and viable scheme which is evolved would need to meet a number of quite important criteria, lt would need to be fair to the vast majority of young Australians who are in fact prepared to honour their obligations and to undertake national service in its present form. Any scheme which is evolved would certainly need not to represent any form of manpower control because that would produce constitutional difficulties of the type of which the honourable gentleman would be well aware. It would need to be a scheme which would not breach the International Labour Organisation’; Conventions on forced labour which, as the House would appreciate, have been ratified by the Australian Government. Finally and one of the most significant criteria which I believe ought to be referred to in this House, it certainly must not erode the primary function of national service which is, of course, to provide the Army with the number of personnel it requires to carry out the defence obligations imposed upon the armed services by this Government and to provide the Citizen Military Forces with sufficient reserves of trained men who will be available for use in a defence emergency. What I am saying to the House is that the mind of the Government is not closed but it ought to be borne in mind that this is a most complex issue. I will, of course, look at any recent representations that have been made, but I will do so in the context of the very considerable difficulties that this Government has faced in endeavouring to apply itself to the question of a civilian option.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether a newspaper article some days ago stated that grain sorghum production in New South Wales would be a record 12 million bushels? ls this figure far short of the total expected crop in New South Wales? What will the estimated total production figure be for Australia and have export markets been obtained for this very valuable crop?
– The honourable gentleman comes from a part of New South Wales which has benefited very considerably, as far as the grain sorghum crop is concerned, from very heavy rains which have meant that far heavier crops can expect to be harvested than were previously estimated, ft is true that over the whole of the area of New South Wales from which the honourable member comes, and also in . southern Queensland, there will be a far greater crop than was originally estimated. I have no figures at this stage which give the full extent of the expected crop but I can say that there are very good market opportunities opening in Japan for grain sorghum and coarse grains generally. I understand that as a result of this the prices which can be expected from the very substantially increased harvest should be quite firm as compared to last season’s prices. There has been some recent increase generally in sorghum prices which one hopes can be preserved in spite of the larger crop because of the very good export outlets that are available.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry and concerns the Commonwealth payment to wool growers under the emergency assistance plan involving approximately $30m. Is it a fact that many people whose wool income has dropped solely by virtue of switching from wool production to beef production and thereby suffering no loss of total income have received the full SI, 5 00 Commonwealth payment under the emergency assistance scheme for wool growers? If so, is this in accord with the intention of the Government.
– Even the honourable gentleman, whose electorate would not include many wool growers, will be aware that wool prices declined very considerably in the period covered by the emergency wool relief scheme. Since then there has been regrettably an even more marked decline and it is in the circumstances of that greater decline that a great deal of consideration has been given to the matter and the $100m rural reconstruction scheme formulated. The emergency wool relief proposal was designed to provide quickly a measure of immediate financial assistance for so many wool growers who suffered a very acute decline in rural income earned through wool production in that financial year.
There is no doubt that there are many wool growers who, having received up to the $1,500 grant, were able as a result to meet their obligations and remain in business in a way which would have been extremely difficult without that grant. Some of those who have not received the benefit unfortunately include the category to which the honourable gentleman referred but it is true that if criteria were to have been established on other than an arbitrary basis it would have been extremely difficult to provide for the distribution of the funds to wool growers as expeditiously as was felt desirable and necessary in view of the accelerated rate of decline in the wool market. There are several other categories, to which the honourable gentleman did not refer, of persons who are similarly excluded because of the arbitrary nature of the criteria. I might add that where there have been persons not eligible, substantially they will come within the ambit of other schemes which are presently before the State and Commonwealth governments, particularly the $100m scheme which, I believe, will be of > tremendous assistance in relieving the very real financial burden of primary producers.
– Can the
Minister for Primary Industry tell the House whether investigations have now been completed with the States concerning the rural reconstruction proposals and when legislation will be introduced into the Parliament? Further, can he state what progress has been made with the proposal for a rural loans insurance corporation? I am sure that he will appreciate that there is a great deal of private money on loan to farmers and that the establishment of such an insurance corporation is possibly the one chance of keeping this money out on loan to primary producers.
– Fortunately, all States have now agreed to the terms of the $100m scheme as submitted to them by my colleagues, the former Treasurer and the former Minister for Primary Industry. The scheme itself will necessarily be handed to the States when an agreement is concluded between the Commonwealth and the States. At the present time, 4 States have agreed to the formal agreement. The other 2 States, while having agreed in substance to the scheme, as yet have not advised us of their detailed acceptance of the agreement. I am hoping that the agreement will be forthcoming shortly and that legislation will be introduced into this House soon - certainly before the House rises for the winter recess.
The honourable gentleman will be aware also that another scheme was introduced some 3 years ago under which the Commonwealth offered to dairy farmers, on somewhat different but not dissimilar terms, assistance for reconstruction. I refer, of course, to the dairy farm reconstruction proposals and I am delighted to see today that at long last the New South Wales Government has accepted the terms and conditions of this agreement - I might add, on the basis offered to it as far back as 1968. The honourable member’s question referred also to a rural loans insurance corporation. I agree with him that if this proposal can be formulated and implemented quickly it will be of tremendous assistance generally to primary producers because of the high interest burden to which so many of them are presently committed. Discussions are proceeding between my Department, the Commonwealth Treasury and State departments as to the administrative way in which such a scheme can bc constituted. 1 can assure the honourable member that, as soon as possible, when the Government’s policy towards this scheme has been concluded, I shall make known further details of the scheme.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by asking whether he is aware that the Queensland Parliamentary Country Party is endeavouring to have electoral boundaries altered in a most disgusting way and in a way which has been highly criticised?
-Order! The honourable member shall not discuss or comment on a matter concerning a State Parliament.
– Success in its efforts would annihilate its coalition partners, the Liberal Party.
-Order! Although this has been the honourable member’s preface to his question, which he has not started to ask, up to this point I can see no relationship between the subject matter and the Prime Minister’s responsibility for his Department.
– Will the Prime Minister, being responsible for projecting throughout the world an image of Australia as a democratic nation, publicly support the efforts of 8 gallant Liberals who, last night, crossed the floor of the Queensland Parliament and supported the Labor Party in its endeavours to preserve the principle of future democratic elections in Queensland? Failing that, could he indicate to the House whether there is anything in the legislation that is about to be introduced in this House which would prevent from occurring in the future such a disgusting gerrymander as is proposed in Queensland?
– Mr Speaker, 1 regard the words ‘disgusting gerrymander’ as offensive and I ask that they be withdrawn.
-Order! I did not hear the words that were actually used. Does the Prime Minister wish to press the matter?
– It seems strange that a member of the Labour Party, whose organisation controls the choice-
– The honourable member had a great degree of liberty in asking his question.
-The question was in order. The honourable member referred to the Australian viewpoint and the protection of Australia’s image overseas.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr Speaker, and the answer is that this is clearly political propaganda based upon the organisation of 2 parties in Queensland over which I have no control whatsoever.
– I rise to order.
-The honourable member has already asked a question. The Prime Minister is endeavouring to reply to that question. I suggest that the honourable member wait until the answer is finished if he has a point of order he wishes to take.
– I repeat, because I think it is worth repeating, without the preliminaries I mentioned before about the nature of the question that was asked by the honourable member, that this is political propaganda based upon the organisation of 2 parties in Queensland over which T have no control whatsoever and in which I have no intention of interfering. I know that the Labor Party likes to interfere in everyone’s affairs. That is not my policy, nor is it the policy of the Government that I have the good fortune to lead.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. First, how many patrol boats are at present in service? Secondly, having regard to the length of Australia’s coastline and the extent of the waters to be protected, is the Government planning to build additional patrol boats? Thirdly, will the Minister keep the House informed of progress in this direction?
– The question of patrolling Australia’s very lengthy coastline is, of course, one which is currently receiving, and has been receiving for some time, considerable thought by the departments concerned. It is not just a question for the Royal Australian Navy but one also for those departments that ure concerned with fisheries and primary industry. There is an area of debate relating to whether or not this should be a naval function or a kind of coastguard activity or a civil police type of activity. The Navy is well aware of the requirement but is also very circumscribed at the moment in terms of its areas of surveillance. Indeed, its activities in many areas are restricted to perhaps one or two voyages a month. Nevertheless, the Navy is looking ahead to this whole question of its activities in the light ship and light destroyer area. For the first time in our history we are moving away from the background of depending on the Royal Navy, in the first instance, for the provision of these ships, and more recently on the DDG’s from America. We are beginning to design and will be building in Australia our own light destroyers that will give teeth to the task of looking after the safety of our coastline and the commercial interests operating along it. I think the honourable member can be assured that this matter is receiving current and urgent attention.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister seen reports that patients in Victorian mental hospitals may be locked up on a roundtheclock basis as a result of staff shortages and overtime restrictions arising from the Government’s anti-inflation campaign? Has he evidence that similar measures may be taken in other States? Do the hospitals involved include those constructed with Commonwealth funds and those treating repatriation patients? Will he immediately take steps to see that such hospitals are not used by the States in an inhumane manner?
– I would say firstly that the conduct of mental health institutions is a function of and a responsbility of the State governments. I will be glad to convey to my colleague in another place the particular points which the honourable member has raised.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. What is the function of the Industry Economics Branch within the Tariff Board? Which industries has this Branch investigated, and which are currently under scrutiny? Is the information obtained in answers to the questionnaires, which I presume are sent out, made available to all parties concerned in a Tariff Board inquiry? Are the research papers produced by this Branch available to honourable members to be used as a guide to enable them to assess the meaning of Tariff Board reports?
– To give the honourable gentleman the comprehensive reply which he might like I would have to ask him to put the question on notice or give him a considered reply later. I presume that the Industry Economics Branch of the Tariff Board, to which he has referred, is a section which has been set up to prepare what is known as staff papers. Already the Board has prepared one such paper. This Branch carries out a survey of an industry and solicits information in advance of a normal Tariff Board inquiry. Only one such staff paper has been prepared and distributed up to date. I cannot say what the Board’s intentions are for the future, but I would be happy to provide to the honourable member, after consulting with the Tariff Board, whatever information is available.
Mi KEATING- I preface my question, which I address to the Prime Minister, by referring to a question asked by the honourable member for Adelaide on 18th March. He asked what were the Government’s views concerning the matter of retail price maintenance relative to the dispute between Dunlops and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Prime Minister replied: ‘. . . Dunlops Limited is operating within the law and consequently is entitled to the protection of the law . . .* I ask the right honourable gentleman: How does he reconcile his notice of intention to legislate today with his expressed view of 18th March? Could it be because of the utterances of the former Attorney-General, the honourable member for Berowra, on the need to prohibit the pernicious practice of resale price maintenance?
– I have nothing to add to what I have already said, but what I can point out now is that on 18th March of this year, as reported at page 1073 of Hansard, in answer to a question I did correct the Leader of the Opposition as to certain statements that had been made in the House. I then pointed out - and I wish this to be accurate:
The Attorney-General did not say that we would be introducing any such legislation.
He did say that a submission was before the Government. That submission will be considered within the course of the next few weeks. lt was considered, and instructions have been given to the parliamentary draftsman to have a Bill produced on resale price maintenance. As regards my statement concerning the then Prime Minister, 1 have before me now his statement of 29th January 1971 relating to inflation in which he said:
Increased internal competition would help. And internal competition can be increased if the High Court upholds the validity of the present Trade Practice* Act, both interstate and intrastate.
He went on to say:
If it does uphold the validity, the Act can be strengthened and lead to more internal competition, if the Court holds the Act in part invalid, then we will have to consider approaching the Australian people and asking them to give us more power to make the Act wholly valid.
Therefore we have public statements, and statements by myself, that we are now going to legislate for the control of resale price maintenance and that the restrictive practices legislation will be dealt with in detail by an interdepartmental committee.
– -I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. As most of the wool growers I represent have suffered to an extreme degree from both drought and the present hopeless condition of the market, and as they cannot diversify or survive on present wool prices, they naturally wonder what the future holds for them. Will the Minister indicate whether any rise in wool prices may reliably be expected, which would help to restore the economy of an industry which is so vital to this nation’s economy?
– I recognise fully the honourable member’s concern over the economic circumstances of wool growers in his electorate and others in so much of the arid zone of Australia. It is of tremendous concern that there is at this stage such a low price in the wool industry. This situation has quite disastrous consequences for those who are so dependent on wool. It is very difficult to engage profitably in crystal ball gazing, but it is true that there are some factors now present in world markets which seem to justify an optimistic projection that there will be an improvement in wool prices this year. If one cares to look at the report given by Mr Alf Maiden, the Managing Director of the International Wool Secretariat, to the Australian Wool Industry Conference only a fortnight ago one will see that he referred to several factors which seem to indicate that there is quite a reasonable prospect of market improvement Those factors included a very real prospect of a general improvement in the economy of the United Stales of America and a general lowering of world interest rates.
An article in the ‘Financial Review’ this week dealt with one of the other factors he mentioned, that is that those who are predominantly manufacturers of synthetic fibres - the very real competitors of wool growers - are themselves suffering from rising costs and they are already increasing the price of their goods. Taking those three factors plus the fact that Japanese demand can be expected to improve this year, there does seem to be quite a reasonable chance that the expected improvement in ‘ the wool market will eventuate. Certainly I think all those factors taken in conjunction with the statement 1 made yesterday concerning the operations of the Australian Wool Commission give some grounds for confidence on the part of those people whom the honourable member represents.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister a question which is supplementary to those asked of him by the honourable member for Adelaide and the honourable member for Blaxland. I ask: What factors have made him change his attitude towards resale price maintenance since 2nd December 1965 when, as he will see at page 3555 of Hansard, he voted against restoring to the Trade Practices Act the ban on practices imposing resale price maintenance conditions in the terms-
– I call the honourable member for Sturt to order. The honourable member is not helping the Leader of the Opposition in any way. I suggest that the
House come to order. I have appealed to honourable members on many occasions but the only success that has been achieved in this chamber is the disruption of question lime. Honourable members have been deprived of their rights to ask questions. I suggest that the House conduct itself in a more restrained manner.
– I ask the Prime Minister what has made him change his attitude since he voted against restoring to the Trade Practices Act the ban on practices imposing resale price maintenance conditions in the terms outlined to the House by a former Attorney-General, Sir Garfield Barwick, in December 1962.
– The honourable gentleman wishes to live in the past. We are living in the present. All that matters in the political life of this country and in this Parliament is what we intend to do. 1 repeat, because the honourable gentleman has not quite understood it, that we will be introducing legislation to control retail sales practices, and f hope that we will be able to do it during the current session of the Parliament. J ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– 1 claim to have been misrepresented by you, Mr Speaker. During the presentation of petitions dealing with the preservation of ,1.—-1—, you called me to order when I had not interjected. Wc have no problems with .’…loos in the division of Moore. Our problems are of much greater magnitude.
– Order! 1 do not misrepresent anybody in this chamber.
- Mr Speaker, 1 have a personal explanation to make.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. It was I who interjected. I would not like the honourable member for Moore to be blamed for it. I asked the honourable member for Riverina what he did about his kangaroos.
-Order! If I misrepresented the honourable member for Moora by calling him to order in respect of something that was said by the honourable member for Hume, I now ask the honourable member for Hume to apologise.
– I apologise.
– Thank you
– I rise to a point of order. My point is that it is normal for threequarters of an hour to be allowed tor questions.
-Order! What is the point of order?
– My point is that normally, after petitions have been presented, three-quarters of an hour is allowed for questions. Both yesterday and today the Prime Minister cut down that time.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. This matter is not within the province of the Chair: it is a matter for the Government.
– Further to this point of order, Mr Speaker, is it suggested that the time allowed for questions, which is usually 45 minutes, is not within the province of the House but is merely a matter for the Prime Minister?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his scat.
– I asked a question, and I think it should be answered.
-The honourable member did not ask the question of any specific person; he claimed to have been misrepresented.
– No, ] did not. Mr Speaker, I asked you a question.
-Order! The honourable member for Riverina will resume his seat.
– I present the report of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on the Teaching of Asian Languages and Cultures in Australia.
– by leave - Following discussions with the States late in 1968, the Commonwealth in April 1969 established an Advisory Committee on the Teaching of Asian Languages and Cultures, with Professor J. J. Auchmuty, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Newcastle, as its chairman. The Committee was to make a comprehensive review of the current situation regarding the teaching of Asian languages and other aspects of Asian life and cultures in Australian schools and other educational institutions. This review was to include consideration of the factors that have tended to restrict the study of these subjects. The Committee was to report back to the Commonwealth and State Ministers for Education.
The Advisory Committee submitted its report to my predecessor on 28th September 1970, and he sent copies to all the State Ministers for Education early in October. He suggested to the State Ministers that, after they and he had had an opportunity to study the report in detail, they might meet to discuss the Committee’s findings and what might be done in the light of them. It is hoped that such a discussion might take place as soon as a mutually convenient time can be found. In the meantime, I have decided to release the Advisory Committee’s report, so that there might be an opportunity for public discussion of it. This action is being taken after further discussion and with concurrence of the State Education Ministers.
– by leave - The Opposition welcomes the tabling of this report. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Fairbairn) was gracious enough to send a copy to us early this morning, and some study of its contents has been possible. I do not want to comment at length on the suggestions for teaching Asian culture in primary schools and secondary schools in Australia. I think that the suggestions that are made are admirable. But I do want to speak about the teaching of Asian languages. On page 69 of the report. There is a table which sets out the numbers of students in teachers’ colleges who have completed preparation for the teaching of Asian languages. One finds the most extraordinary disparity between the States. Over the last 4 years South Australia has had 95 teachers qualified in Indonesian and Malayan; Western Australia has had only 1 but it has had 3 qualified in Japanese; Tasmania has had only 1; and Victoria has had 10 qualified in Japanese and 3 in Chinese. It is very clear that these numbers are inadequate.
Significantly, in another part of the report it is pointed out that where an institute of modern languages has been developed by a university, such as the University of Queensland, only 20 per cent of its students come from within the University and 80 per cent come from outside the University. So it is in fact a form of adult education. This shows us very clearly that the teaching of Asian languages should most decidedly not be confined to universities. The armed services need crash courses in oriental languages. The Royal Australian Air Force has such a course at Point Cook where oriental languages are taught. Many other departments of the Commonwealth Government - for example, the Department of Foreign Affairs - and of the State governments have a need for people trained in oriental languages. If the other recommendation of the Committee, the teaching of oriental languages at the secondary level in schools is to be attained then somewhere there must be an intensified training of the people who are to teach these oriental languages.
The suggestion elsewhere in the report about the establishment of a national school of languages, which I would hope would be in Canberra, is of urgent priority. It could be associated with the Australian National University, but the conditions of university entry should not be imposed on people who are going to study languages. After all, it has no necessary connection with all the rest of the qualifications that are required for entry to a university. People who have never matriculated may be able to study languages. I repeat that it is not a necessary function of a university but a national school of languages is absolutely vital. It is vital for the whole of our secondary level of education. It could provide a service for all the State Education Departments and all sorts of private educational institutions. It is vital for departments like the Department of Foreign Affairs.
This report has been a long time in coming down and a long time in getting the comments of the States. The Opposition suggests that the establishment of this national school of languages is of urgent priority and that it should be commenced some time within the next 12 months. For the rest, we welcome the report very much indeed.
– In his statement the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Fairbairn) said:
In the meantime, I have decided to release the Advisory Committee’s- report, so that there might be an opportunity for public discussion on it.
Will the Minister take whatever steps are necessary in the House to see that there is discussion in the Parliament on this matter?
– This is a matter for the Government and the Leader of the House.
– lt is not a matter for anyone but yourselves, surely.
-Order! The honourable member cannot canvass the matter.
– Surely the Minister could move that the statement be noted.
-Order! Is it the intention of the Government to do anything about this matter?
– The matter will be considered.
– by leave - On the night of 26th January 1971 a thunderstorm sudden in onset and severe in intensity broke over the Woden Valley. It was accompanied by torrential rain and in the flooding which followed 7 lives were lost and damage was caused to private and public property. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives. The inquest into the deaths began on 22nd February 1971 and the Coroner’s findings were announced on )5th March 1971. He found that each of the deaths occurred by accidental drowning.
Immediately after the flood the then Minister for the Interior requested reports from the Department of the Interior and the National Capital Development Com mission. As requested by the former Minister for the Interior the report by the Department deals with such matters as the storm and its effect on the Woden Valley, the police and civil defence response, loss of life, damage to property, possible action to prevent such a disaster happening again, and whether changes are needed in the warning systems and emergency procedures. The National Capital Development Commission’s report deals with the engineering design and construction of drainage works in the Woden Valley and with relevant road work.
In view of all the circumstances of this tragic loss of life and in view of the public interest I am departing from normal practice with respect to departmental reports and at the conclusion of this statement I will table the report of the Department of the Interior and the report of the National Capital Development Commission. I will also table the Coroner’s statement and findings. The conclusions drawn by the Department of the Interior were as follows:
The storm on 26th January was exceptional and extreme, lt was sudden in onset and produced torrential rain which within less than 30 minutes caused serious flooding.
The emergency developed and abated in a period of a little over an hour.
The flooding occurred al widely separate points. Five and probably 6 lives were lost at the intersection of Melrose Drive, Yamba Drive and Yarra Glen. The seventh life was lost some H miles south of this point on Yamba Drive on the eastern side of the Woden Valley. A city omnibus on the western side of the Valley at the intersection of Beasley and Basedow Streets was turned through 180 degrees and carried across the road by flood waters. Rescues were effected at places between those points and also at the Cotter Road crossing of Yarralumla Creek H miles downstream from the Melrose Drive. Yamba Drive, Yarra Glen intersection.
There was no previous experience to demonstrate how quickly the intersection of Yarra Glen with Melrose Drive and Yamba Drive could become dangerous through flooding.
Apart from the overtopping of the main Yarralumla Creek and sections of the Long Gully Creek formed channels there were severe overland flows in the Woden Valley which caused considerable damage to private and public property.
The response of the police and other emergency services was satisfactory.
The presence of warning signs or depth indicators or better lighting might have helped to avoid or reduce the loss of life at the intersection but whether this would actually have been the case in the circumstances of this particular storm is doubtful. However, warning signs and depth indicators have been installed and the lighting is to be improved.
The warning system and the emergency procedures applicable in these kinds of circumstances have been closely examined. Some improvements have been made and others are in hand. No changes have been revealed or suggested, however, which would have ensured adequate warning of such serious and sudden flooding as occurred on 26th January.
A review is being made of all other sections of roadway in the City of Canberra which may be subject to periodic serious flooding in order to determine those sections where like or alternative action should be taken.
Priority is being given to the installation of highway lighting in areas subject to periodic serious flooding as well as the section of Yarra Glen from Carruthers Street to Yamba Drive.
Improvements have been made in the civil emergency procedures and the practicability of giving earlier warnings to the authorities is being further investigated.
A new section is to be included in the forthcoming reprint of ‘Driving in the ACT’ on the danger of driving on roads covered with water. Information about the nature of storms of the kind which occurred on 26th January and the implementation for public safety are to be given wide .public circulation.
A number of people exposed themselves to serious personal danger to save others. Without their courageous efforts there could have been further casualties.
The National Capital Development Commission summarises its report and conclusions as follows:
The low level crossing at Melrose Drive-Yamba Drive across the Yarralumla Creek was designed to provide for the passage of normal dry weather flows up to approximately 800 cusecs through four 48-inch diameter pipes. The crossing was designed to withstand flooding and to allow the passage of flows above 800 cusecs over the causeway section, but at velocities considerably less than in the main channel.
The crossing has been in operation since April 1967 during which time there has been flooding, though not frequent, of the roadway and some restriction to movement of traffic.
The interchange replacing this crossing is programmed for construction commencing this year.
The stormwater drainage in the area has been designed in accordance with accepted practice in Australia. This provides drainage pipes and channels for flows of frequent occurrence. Less frequent heavy flows are carried outside these conduits in open parklands or defined floodways. The review of drainage under the exceptional conditions of 26th January requires a consideration of the entire system of pipes, channels and floodways.
The basic concept of providing stormwater drainage in accordance with accepted practice is still considered sound and valid.
The storm of 26th January has demonstrated the need for some additional capital works beyond those currently in progress or planned. These works are in such areas as Mount Taylor, Farrer, Torrens and Mawson and have been identified as the result of the collaborative investigation by the construction and maintenance authorities.
These supplementary works will be constructed as soon as the detail investigation and design is completed.
The Commission sees considerable value in a further collaborative review of other areas of Canberra assuming a hypothetical storm situation of unusual characteristics similar to that which occurred in the Woden Valley.
Attached to the Department of the Interior’s report is a report by the Department of Works on the hydrology of the flood. The conclusions reached by the Department of Works were as follows:
Analysis of the hydrological data support a conclusion that the storm and flood in the Woden Valley on the night of the 26th January 1971 was an event which must be considered of rare occurrence with an average return period most probably in excess and even well in excess of 100 years for the Woden Valley in its past and present condition.
When compared with subsequent relatively large floods in the Woden Valley on the Sth February 197J and the 10th February 1971, the flood of the 26th January 1971 was more hazardous not only in its far greater peak flow rate but also in the rapidity of the rise rate of the flood which caused areas to change from safe to unsafe within a relatively few minutes.
I refer now to some points in the Coroner’s statement. The Coroner said:
The drainage system in the Woden Valley was designed to flood from time to time, and water beyond the capacity of the drains was to be accommodated in the greenbelt and road systems adjacent to the drains. The Department of the Interior and Commissioner of Police were not advised by the National Capital Development Commission that the causeway at the Melrose Drive-Yamba Drive intersection was likely to flood, and that the adjacent roads would be subject to floodwaters from time to time; and it was contemplated by the National Capital Development Commission that the intersection and road system would be under the control of the police, or some authority, when danger to the public was imminent.
On this point, the police have the responsibility of dealing with any danger or danger area. They did so on the night of 26th January and they are highly commended for their efforts. The Coroner’s statement reflects the situation in quoting from the evidence of a senior member of the police force that ‘it has always been the practice for members of the police force to make themselves aware of any situation likely to prejudice public safety and police are required to take such action as is necessary for the protection of life and property in such situations’.
The Coroner in his statement said that the causeway at the Melrose Drive- Yamba Drive intersection was flooded to some degree up to 6 times a year since it was opened to the public in April 1967 but there was no evidence of the causeway, when flooded, being controlled by police prior to 25th January 1971. The evidence at the Coroners inquest was based on Police Operations Room records checked back to the beginning of 1970. A check of earlier records discloses that police attended the intersection when it was under flood on 10th May 1968. The greatest depth of water was about I foot and there was little current. Traffic continued to cross the intersection under police direction. As far as can be ascertained, on no occasion prior to 26th January was the intersection rendered impassable to traffic by flood.
In the light of the absence of any previous experiences of such a severe and sudden flood, it does not seem likely that prior formal advice would of itself have prevented the loss of life on the evening of 26th January. Indeed on all the evidence the flood water came down at a speed which no early warning system could conceivably have coped with - for the first of 2 cars travelling together encountered a thin film of water covering the road while the second car stopped and in no time its occupants were in difficulties. However, close day to day working relationships on the part of all authorities ate imperative. I look to a thorough and necessary mutual understanding to minimise dangers to the public from any foreseeable contingencies. In addition to the above working relationships, I have arranged that, when the National Capital Development Commission has completed the construction of a project, it will in the future formally advise the Depart ment of the Interior of any aspects of the project which could have special administrative significance.
Again the Coroner recommended as follows:
If. they have noi already done so. the Commissioner of Police and Department of Interior should establish immediately a system which will enable potential areas of danger in the Woden Valley to bc brought under police control before danger lo the public arises.
Under established practice, police are informed whenever the Bureau of Meteorology issues a road weather alert. Potential dangers are also reported from police patrols and by the public. Police operations and procedures are set out in the report by the Department of the Interior. However, [ am pleased to report to the House that arrangements have now been made for the Bureau of Meteorology to advise the police if serious thunderstorms are likely. Other improvements have also been made in the procedures for alerting emergency services.
For most occurrences these procedures will continue to ensure that potential areas of danger will be brought under police control before danger arises. For example on a number of occasions apart from 26th January 1971, the Melrose Drive- Yamba Drive-Yarra Glen intersection has been flooded but there was sufficient time for the police to take control. I am also pleased to report that ways and means are being investigated of improving the established system so that even at the shortest notice police control could bc available where needed. However, it is unlikely to be practicable to assure a certainty of police reaction in time to avoid danger under every circumstance. The Coroner also stated:
The principle* adopted in the design of Melrose Drive, Yamba Drive, Yarra Glen as a junction in the flood plain of Yarralumla Creek was consistent with engineering practice in that it provider a conduit for norma! dry weather flow and the floodway consists of both the pipe conduit and u substantial greenbelt area and roads subject to flooding.
The National Capital Development Commission reports that the crossing was provided as an interim east-west connection across the Woden Valley to meet traffic demands. The crossing is not part of an expressway system but adjoins the end of the present expressway. The major traffic route system has now been deter.mined and traffic build-up is makins; the construction of the planned interchange essential, and tenders are to be called in 1971-72. The experience of 26th January has indicated the need for further works in connection with such matters as the catch drain around Mount Taylor, the underpass at Beasley Street near Lambrigg Street and the drainage of water from the as yet undeveloped area of O’Malley. These works will proceed. The Institution of Engineers’ report ‘Australian Rainfall and Runoff’, is the standard reference for drainage design in Australia. It is accepted standard practice to use locally applicable rainfall recurrence rates in determining drainage capacity. I have now traversed the Coroner’s findings and the reports by the Departmant and the National Capital Development Commission. There can be no doubt that the storm which caused the flood was exceptional and extreme. It was sudden in onset and produced torrential rain. Its severity was intensified because the storm remained more or less stationary for about an hour. From data collected, mean rainfall over one square mile of southern Woden Valley suburbs in approximately one hour was estimated to be 3.5 inches. About 45 minutes elapsed from the time when the rain first began to fall to the time when severe flooding occurred at the causeway. In such a situation nothing could be done to prevent the tragedies. Even those present at the scenes of the tragedies from the outset were unable to help the victims.
Now, I briefly summarise this statement as follows: Detailed investigations and reports by the Department of the Interior, the Department of Works and the National Capital Development Commission have been completed and are now available to the public. When the National Capital Development Commission has completed the construction of a project, it will in the future formally advise the Department of the Interior of any aspects of the project which could have special administrative significance. Arrangements have been made for the Bureau of Meteorology to advise the police if serious thunderstorms are likely in the Australian Capital Territory. Other improvements have been made in the procedures for alerting emergency services. Although not as a result of the flood, the particular crossing of the Yarralumla Creek where five lives are known to have been lost - and probably the sixth - will be replaced by a high level flood free interchange, construction of which is to commence next financial year. Once this work is completed this particular location should not be subject again to disasters of this kind. In the light of this tragic experience, other areas of Canberra which are or may be subject to flooding are being investigated to see whether safeguarding action or additional action is needed. Since the Woden Valley disasters, improvements in road warning arrange ments as well as other warning systems and improvements in emergency procedures have been made. Lessons which are of wider application have been learned from this disaster.
However, no matter how effective these measures may be, there will remain an onus on the public to exercise great caution during extreme storms, bushfires or other natural hazards. Police, firemen and members of the public carried out a number of rescues. I draw particular attention to the conclusion reached in the report of the Department of the Interior that in effecting rescues these people exposed themselves to serious personal danger. They are to be commended for their efforts.
I present the following paper:
Flood in the Woden Valley, Australian Capital Territory - Ministerial Statement. 31st March 1971- and move:
That the House take note of the paper.
I now present the following papers:
Department of the Interior Report on Woden Valley Flood of 26th January 1971;
National Capital Development Commission Woden Valley Flooding. Report on Design and Construction Aspects;
Transcript of Proceedings before the Coroner, Mr W. Nicholl, S.M., at Canberra on 15th March 1971.
– by leave - I regret having to say that the statement we have just listened to has all the earmarks of a whitewashing exercise. The flooding that occurred in Canberra on the night of 26th January was severe and it was unusual. There can be no doubt about that. But those of us who were in the city at the time were aware of heavy rain and those of us who travelled through the Woden Valley the next morning saw that it was not only the heavy rain that caused this tragedy which resulted in 7 people losing their lives by being swept away from a main expressway in perhaps the most modern city in the world; rather it was a tragedy of errors which resulted from a combination of factors such as administrative mistakes, engineering mistakes, planning mistakes, a lack of liaison between Government departments. The flooding resulted not so much from the amount of rain that fell as from the way the storm water was channelled through the flood plain. The storm water in earlier times would naturally have flowed into the Yarralumla Creek which feeds into the Molonglo River. The surface of the major road had been laid on that flood plain at the ordinary level and was not built up. Anyone who knew the area and had driven over it for any period of time since the Woden Valley was first developed in about 1964 knew - it was almost common knowledge in Canberra in 1968-69-70 - that that intersection or causeway was prone to flooding.
All that happened on the night of 26th January was that we got heavier rain than usual, lt is impossible for anyone to say that this was such an unusual feature that it would never happen again in terms of practicalities. It is all very well for the Department of the Interior, through its spokesman, the Minister for the Interior, to make a report in reply to an attack that has been made on it. lt is all very well for the officers of the National Capital Development Commission to make a report - a reply considered in secrecy behind closed doors, lt is not possible to challenge that reply in any way, yet the officers of the Commission were under attack. Almost every newspaper - perhaps every newspaper - In the Australian Capital Territory suggested that errors had occurred somewhere. Old-timers who live in the Woden Valley have said that it was madness to put a road along that stretch of the flood plain without building it up to some level. There had been a number of occasions - indeed, the Coroner found this - when traffic had been held up because of flooding. If there is no record of this experience, the system is at fault for not having recorded the facts. There is ample evidence that such flooding had taken place in Canberra.
If one examines what has happened since the flood occurred, one sees that a number of allegations have been made. For example, it has been said, and said several times, that that roadway was put down as a sort of temporary expedient. It has been said that it was never intended that the road should link up with the intersection in the way it does but that having used the limit of the money that had been allowed by the Treasury, when the planners and engineers sought additional finance they were refused by Treasury. It has been said that on no fewer than 4 occasions the National Capital Development Commission requested finance from Treasury to build at that intersection a proper overpass which safety demanded and required. It has been said also that the original plan for the drainage system of that area of Canberra in the Woden Valley included the provision of retarding ponds because that was a natural water catchment area but that shortage of funds ruled out the retarding ponds and a concrete channel was constructed. One allegation suggests that the pipes that were used were pipes left over from other projects. lt has been said that the National Capital Development Commission knew that the work at that intersection was temporary and expedient and that when more money was available, sooner or later, it would get around to improving the situation. However, shortage of Treasury funds has prevented such work. These allegations have been made in the Press in Canberra and have been repeated a number of times. 1 have referred to them. But the allegations have never been answered, lt is not good enough to say that the coroner did not comment on them. The coroner’s terms of reference are particularly narrow. He is charged with the duty of inquiring into the cause and nature of death and although he is assisted by a lawyer that lawyer’s job is directed to calling evidence into the cause and nature of death. Lawyers representing the Government, the Department of the Interior and the National Capital Development Commission were present at the coroner’s inquiry. An examination of the evidence indicates that a difficulty arose because some of the lawyers representing the relatives of the deceased persons came in at a late stage of the inquiry and were not given a real opportunity to probe the situation.
When the meteorologist who was called to give evidence at that inquiry was asked the crucial question: How often are these floods likely to occur? - not what the National Capital Development Commission said it believed might be the likelihood of their occurring - he said over and over again: ‘That is not my expertise. I really would prefer not to answer.’ He said that about 4 times until eventually it was pui to him that such floods might occur once in 100 years. That gentleman had made it abundantly clear by inference and expression that he did not want to answer the question because it was outside his field of expertise. It is interesting to refer to the report which the Minister for the Interior has tabled because it leaves open one of the most crucial issues related to the problem of flooding. In that report the following passage occurs:
Data are still being collected, particularly those relating to past records of high intensity rainfall in the Canberra area. These and the characteristics of the storm are being studied in detail and will be the subject of a comprehensive paper which the Bureau of Meteorology hopes to publish in 2 or 3 months’ time.
That quotation appears in a report which has been tabled today. We do not know now, and we will not know for 2 or 3 months, what is the best evidence concerning the recurrence of storms of this intensity in Canberra. How can anyone say that such a storm will occur once in every hundred years or once in every 500 years? Meteorological experts - anonymous it is true - were being quoted in the Canberra newspapers 2 or 3 days after the tragedy as saying that there was nothing uncommon about this kind of rainfall in Canberra. They were saying that such storms can happen. One geographer was quoted as having said that it was not usual but that throughout Australia rainfalls of this intensity can occur. I think the meteorologist at the coroner’s inquiry said that an efficient thunderstorm with the dew point rating of the storm of 26th January could produce 6 inches of rainfall in an hour. The storm of that night produced only 3i inches of rainfall, and that rain fell at the other end of the Woden Valley and not at the relevant site.
With the greatest respect to the Minister for the Interior I submit that the reports he has presented put forward the view of people who are vitally interested in and concerned with what happened. There has been no chance to check their opinions or their assessments. Even now it is being suggested that a high level crossing will be built at the intersection. When was that decision made? Was it something that the planners asked for back in 1968, as has been suggested, and were they refused permission to proceed with such work because of shortage of funds? Was a decision made? The Minister says that it was not made. But was a decision made in some departments as a result of this flood, and not before the flood? Questions like this cry out for an answer. It is horrifying to think that experts can say that the tragedy happened not because they made a mistake but because they planned the intersection in such a way that 2 or 3 feet of water could pour over it with a velocity that would swing a large bus through an angle of 90 degrees and move a Porsche motor car heaven knows how far. The water carried some bodies 2 to 3 miles and washed I or 2 bodies into trees and left them perched there.
Many questions are not answered in the report. They are not answered in the Minister’s statement. I shall end on a rather emotional note. I apologise for so doing. I shall quote from a letter which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’. It was written by the mother of one of the deceased and it appeared on 27rh March. I shall read the letter because it puts the thinking of people as succinctly as it can be put. It reads:
No doubt others have written letters to the Editor regarding the flood disaster of January 26. Having lost a son in the raging waters, I neglected to read your paper over those sad and shock-filled few weeks following the tragedy: I was too numb to know or care then, having accepted the happening as an act of God.
The first print that penetrated after the loss of a treasured son was a headline in your paper dated February 25, ‘DESIGNED TO OVERFLOW. As I read, my numb acceptance gave way to an anger, an abhorrence that cannot be described.
Yarra Glen-Melrose Drive-Yamba Drive was designed to overflow; to do what it did on the night of January 26, and not a sign, not a warning of any kind to alert people to the danger of it.
I interpolate to point out that the Minister has made it clear that signs will not help when there is such a velocity of water. The meteorological people do not know when such floods may occur and they are still carrying out investigations. Signs will not help, nor will all the police in the world help. If a similar rainfall occurred at a peak hour 200 to 300 motor cars coud be jammed up waiting to pass through that intersection. How many people would drown in such a situation? The letter continues:
My son was injured in an automobile accident when a baby not a year old, resulting in head injuries that rendered his left side spastic. After years of heart-breaking exercising and perseverance he had achieved so much that he was almost normal, and the future looked bright for him. His life had been a challenge; 18 years of dogged determination requiring great inner strength and will-power.
Now he is dead, through no fault of his own, and the powers-that-be, are they to be allowed to cover their mistakes so easily, so callously? Or is there to be an open inquiry into the negligence of whoever is responsible for this thoughtless disregard for Canberra residents’ safety?
I wonder how people living in the Woden Valley feel when the sky darkens angrily: are they thinking of their children who have to travel these roads back home? Those whose houses flood, the precious contents they have worked so hard to buy in this expensive city in which we live, do they ask, is it going to happen again?
There are many questions. Will there be any answers? 1 cannot put it any better than that. But it seems to me that we still have this decision which, it is said, was made before the flood, ft may have been, but its implementation certainly was not carried out. There are enough admissions in the Minister’s statement to suggest strongly, by way of corroboration, that a lot of those allegations that have appeared in the Press of this city were correct, that the execution was delayed and the implementation of the recommendations was delayed because of a shortage of finance. If the allegations are correct, then with callous disregard and a covering up in one way or another the system allowed the road to be made and the intersection to be put there. Everyone knew that traffic was being held up there at night. The police may not have written it down all the time. Perhaps they were not told to. But it is the system that is at fault.
If honourable members look around this city they will find similar examples of this lack of liaison. This city, which is a wonderful city in many ways, is plagued with this one difficulty; one department all too often does not know what another department is doing. If there were local government and a mistake like this happened the people of Canberra could vote the government out. The people of Canberra cannot vote out of office the Federal Government. They have no alternative. We see similar examples in other areas. There is being talk about a tower built on Black Mountain. No-one knows who is pulling the strings, whether it is the Postmaster-General’s Department or the Department of the Interior. One cannot find out anything. It is the same in the education field. The Department of Education and Science and its relations with the Department of Works and the Department of the Interior are such that one cannot get to the bottom of things. No matter how many questions one asks one cannot get through. An open investigation of this tragedy is perhaps the most pointed way in which the whole matter could be demonstrated. The whole thing requires a searching and thorough investigation, not just a series of one-sided reports by departments that are vitally interested in what is thought about them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
-I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s delay in acting on recommendations it has received and undertakings it has given to safeguard the environment.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places).
– On 2nd April 1968 the Senate resolved without opposition or dissent to establish a Select Committee on Air Pollution. On 7th May 1968 the Senate established a Select Committee on Water Pollution. The Select Committee on Air Pollution reported on 10th September 1969 and debate was adjourned on the motion of Senator Branson. Senator Branson’s motion lapsed when the Parliament was prorogued. It has never been revived. The Select Committee on Water Pollution reported on 10th June 1970 and on 17th September the Senate resolved to take note of its report. Honourable senators who constituted these Committees, including Government senators who were a majority on each Committee, agreed unanimously that pollution of air and water is a clear and growing threat to the interests of all Australians. They agreed unanimously that pollution cannot be brought under control unless the Commonwealth’ gives a lead.
The former Prime Minister promised in his opening speech for the Senate campaign to establish within his own Department an Office of the Environment. He emphasised: The time to begin to correct present pollution and prevent increasing pollution is now; On 21st January creation of positions for a Director and Assistant Director of the Office of the Environment was announced in the Government Gazette, but on 24th February, in reply to a question by me without notice, the then Prime Minister acknowledged that as an anti-inflationary measure these positions would not be filled. When I asked him whether the saving of $25,000 to be achieved in this way would equal or exceed any reduction in the cost of pollution which might be brought about by making the appointments immediately, he replied: 1 doubt very much whether the delay incurred in this will greatly increase pollution or have any really deleterious effect.
The new Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) has replaced apathy with antagonism. He has not merely persisted with his predecessor’s refusal to appoint staff for the Office of the Environment but has consigned the Office itself to that limbo of left-over Gortonian aspirants and ideals, the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. This should surprise nobody. The new Prime Minister is a miniature from the Menzies mould. He has repeatedly demonstrated his inability to recognise, much less master, those issues which belong not to the forties but to the seventies. He bns repeatedly shown that he is indifferent to problems involving the qualify of life.
The Select Committee on Air Pollution concluded:
An air pollution problem exist: in Australia today, anil the potential dangers will be far greaser and more costly to remedy unless urgent co-ordinated action is taken immediately.
The Select Committee on Water Pollution concluded:
The problem of pollution is so vast, the responsibility so diffused, and the ignorance of causes and consequences so widespread, that only a concerted national effort can save many Australian water resources from becoming unusable.
Let me remind the House that these conclusions are based on evidence which is already at least 2 years old. Let me draw attention to their emphasis on the fact that our situation is deteriorating. Hardly a day goes by without new examples of pollution being reported or familiar examples taking more grotesque and threatening forms. Our harbours and waterways in particular are victims of mismanagement and misuse. Cockburn Sound yields from its own waters annually 4£ million pounds of scallops and up to 30,000 pounds of whiting and herrings. It is a nursery for Western Australian fisheries from Albany to Shark Bay, a haven both for major shipping and aquatic sports, a source of water for the industries which line its shores. Yet British Petroleum’s refinery regularly dumps arsenic into the sea off Kwinana. The Kwinana alumina plant contributes caustic soda via a refuse pit situated within half a mile of the shore and a fertiliser plant adds daily 350 tons of calcium sulphate. Sewage effluent will soon be flowing into the Sound from the treatment plant being established at Point Peron and thermal pollution currently running at an hourly rate of 12 million gallons will rise to 62 million gallons.
Nor is this all. The capacity of the Sound to deal with present levels of pollution depends upon a free exchange between its waters and those of the open sea. Federal Liberals in their haste to establish naval facilities now threaten to curtail this exchange. Naval facilities were proposed by the Labor Party as long ago as 1961 but promised by the Liberals only in 1969. Proper preliminary surveys and planning have now been sacrificed in the rush to make up for 8 wasted years.
The Department of Works has acknowledged in a submission to the Public Works Committee that linking Garden Island with the . mainland by a causeway rather than a bridge will reduce the flow of water in and out of Cockburn Sound by ‘approximately half to one-third’. It advised the Committee that a diminished flow will still ‘be adequate to maintain the existing general hydrological pattern and ecological balance in the Sound’. Evidence adequate to justify so sweeping and optimistic a conclusion simply does not exist. When Senator Branson and the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) moved that ‘the committee recommend the construction of the proposed causeway’, my colleagues the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton) proposed by way of amendment:
Unless the government is able to convince the Parliament that the work, is urgent, further investigation should be carried out to ensure that impairment of the Cockburn Sound environment will not occur.
Their amendment was defeated, ff the Department and the Committee are wrong, it will not be Western Australian fishermen, industrialists and holiday-makers alone who pay the price. Stability of the sea-bottom in the Sound is maintained by its sea-grass cover. Destruction of this cover by pollution and excessive turbulence will produce movement of mud and sand on a scale sufficient to threaten the viability of the naval base itself.
Let me cross the continent. Botany Bay and the Georges River provided until recently the main sites for oyster-farming in New South Wales. They yielded on an average each year 100,000 sacks of oysters valued at about $4m. This industry is now dying. It is being killed by pollution.
Between April and June 1967, Mr G. C. Wells and Dr R. A. Edwards of the Department of Food Technology within the University of New South Wales tested 4 oyster growing sites and found that all of them exceeded at times the maximum permissible count of coliform bacteria, which is 200 bacteria for every 100 millilitres of oyster flesh. They discovered counts as high as 160,000 bacteria per 100 millilitres of flesh. To this problem has now been added one more serious by far. On 14th March 1971, the ‘Sunday Australian’ disclosed that oysters taken from Botany Bay contained 2.8 per million of mercury. Mercury finds its way into Botany Bay from factories such as that of Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd, where mercury cells are involved in the production of chlorine and caustic soda. It is a cumulative poison which produces among other symptoms loss of voluntary movements, blindness, deafness and insanity. How long can any responsible government allow its citizens to be exposed to hazards of this kind? Who is to compensate oyster growers for the costs of relocation imposed upon them by industries far larger and more affluent than their own? Who will see that they are not again in their new locations exposed to ruin by pollution?
President Nixon has warned Americans that unless the problem of air pollution is solved within the next 10 years, cities such as New York and Los Angeles will become uninhabitable. It would be excessively optimistic to assume that Australia’s urban complexes - already among the largest in the world - will escape a similar fate. We have learnt within recent weeks that concentrations of 20 parts per million of carbon monoxide occur in Sydney’s George Street over 8-hour periods for 10 per cent of the year, and that concentrations as high as 40 and 50 parts per million occur intermittently. These are figures comparable with Denver, Chicago and Los Angeles, which are among the most highly polluted cities in the United States. The maximum concentration of carbon monoxide for a 5-minute period is 115 parts per million in Sydney, 1 14 parts per million in Denver, 81 parts per million in Chicago and 72 parts per million in Los Angeles. Maximum concentrations for an 8-hour period are 40 parts per million in Sydney, 37 parts per million in Denver, 39 parts per million in Chicago and 32 parts per million in Los Angeles. Sydney’s air is already more highly polluted with carbon monoxide than the air of almost any other city on earth.
Honourable members will have noted the warning given by Professor R. A. B. Holland of the University of New South Wales that carbon monoxide in concentrations of this order is an actual threat to drivers’ eyesight and a potential cause of heart disease. They may have wondered what is being done by the Australian Transport Advisory Committee to alleviate this hazard. The answer, I fear, is ‘very little’. The Committee’s ‘Australian Rule for Vehicle Emission Control’ proposes that by 1974 automotive emission of carbon monoxide should not exceed the equivalent in United States terms of 274- grammes per mile, whereas the present United States limit is 23 grammes per mile and the United States limit proposed for 1975 is 4.7 grammes per mile. The Australian ru.c proposes that by 1974 automotive emission of hydrocarbons should not exceed 41 grammes per mile whereas the present USA limit is 2.2 grammes per mile and the United States limit proposed for 1975 is 0.25 grammes per mile. These are not exact comparisons, but it is clear that in ]974 new Australian cars will still be emitting 12 times as much carbon monoxide and 19 times as much hydrocarbon as 1970 United Slates models and 58 times as much carbon monoxide and 164 times as much hydrocarbon as 1975 United States models.
This is what the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) calls a sane approach to reducing the problem of air pollution. Ironically, the Minister’s measures to control the carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons will themselves exacerbate pollution caused by oxides of nitrogen. Nitrogen oxides are catalysed in certain climatic conditions to form the photochemical smog for which Los Angeles is notorious. The Minister has derived his emission control standards from Europe where conditions of !hi< kind are unknown. More efficient combustion of carbon monoxide will incrca.se emissions of nitrogen oxides. They will thus create in Sydney, Brisbane and to a lesser degree Perth the photochemical smog characteristics of the American cities to which all three are climatically comparable.
Thi: former Prime Minister told me on 24th February that while establishment of the Office of the Environment had been postponed, he had written to the Premiers on 11 th December about a National Advisory Council on Pollution which would be established as soon as replies had been received. These replies are now in the hands of his successor. He had to wait until Mr Askin sent in his reply. It came in a week ago. Once again, as with answers an education. Mr Askin is always the last, or the last but for Sir Henry Bolte. As yet we have had no indication of the response by the new Prime Minister to these replies. Does he believe that an Advisory Council will meet the need acknowledged by the Select Committee on Water Pollution in its conclusion that:
The overwhelming weight of our evidence suggests that order can bc brought to this chaos of authorities only if they are co-ordinated at the national level?
Does he believe that it can replace the Commonwealth-State Bureau of Air Pollution which his colleagues of the Select Committee on Air Pollution agreed was necessary? 1 cannot credit that initiatives adequate to meet the problem of pollution will be forthcoming from a body dominated by men such as the Premiers of Victoria and Queensland.
Honourable members will recall Sir Henry Bolte’s assertion that ‘pollution is not as important as a $100m industry’. They will recall the determination with which Mr Bjelke-Petersen opposed the appointment of conservationists to the Queensland Environmental Control Council and supported drilling for oil inside the Barrier Reef. Pollution is a national problem upon which we must bring to bear a national outlook. The Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution concluded:
Water pollution is only part of u much broader pollution problem which is threatening our whole national environment.
Australia should adopt a national approach to the management of its water resources which sets out acceptable standards, co-ordinates the aims and aspirations of State and local government authorities and creates the machinery to achieve them in balance with other national goals such as those for growth and development.
My party supports wholeheartedly the attitude and approach implicit in this recommendation. Whilst not opposing establishment of a Commonwealth-State Advisory Council on Pollution, we believe that establishment of the Office of the Environment is incomparably more important and should no longer be postponed.
– lt seems to me that this matter of public importance is very similar to other matters of public importance which have been raised by the Opposition. It is very easy for honourable members opposite to rise in their places and, having done some research and having gathered some notes together, criticise the Government for not having acted on every suggestion which they bring forward. I think there is no doubt that the Australian people, as well as the members of this Parliament, recognise the problems of pollution and the problems in the environment which result from pollution. Indeed the Government has moved in relation to various aspects of this matter. Of course no credit is given to the Government by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Vvhitiam), but nevertheless something is being done. I shall come later to the Office of the Environment.
I remind honourable members, as the Leader of the Opposition has done, that rivers and streams in Australia do not. flow merely within a particular State. Many rivers and streams flow into other States and they may create pollution problems in those States. I believe that it is a hopeless proposition to put before the Parliament that pollution is merely a Commonwealth responsibility and that the States must play an inferior role in this matter. We know that the substantial increases which have occurred in our population and in all of our industries have had an effect on harbours and the atmosphere, particularly in the congested areas. But there is nothing novel about this situation. The position is worse in other countries, and because they have been so seriously affected a good deal of investigation has been carried out in those countries. A good deal of information on pollution is available to the Commonwealth and to the States of Australia. In March 1970 the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, in an address to Australian Jaycees said:
We as a Government are only too conscious that in developing this great nation of ours we must take care to protect and preserve our environment. Prosperity is of little consolation to a people who have lost those things that contribute to the quality of life. . . .
Your organisation is to be commended for seeking to awaken in the individual a sense of responsibility for protecting his environment. Pollution not only involves governments and civicminded groups such as yours, but everyone in the community.
The Leader of the Opposition would, of course, seek to put the responsibility completely on the Commonwealth Government. He knows that there are limitations to what can be done in so many areas which perhaps in a philosophical sense are deserving of some attention. He has no responsibility in providing the wherewithal of manpower or funds with which to deal with problems as adequately as they should be dealt with. In November 1970 the then Prime Minister charing his campaign on the Senate election made further statements in relation to this matter. He said:
There is a mounting, and justified, concern in Australia at the risks of environmental pollution.
Such pollution is not the inevitable by-product of advanced technology and population increase, but it does represent a failure to take fully into account the environmental consequences of our actions, and of the disposal of waste products by individuals and factories.
The results in Australia are not yet approaching the catastrophic results which are threatening to occur in the more heavily industrialised and more heavily populated countries.
But the time to begin to correct present pollution and to prevent increasing pollution is now.
The State Governments are showing an awareness of this and the CSIRO has been carrying out a wide range of investigations into environmental quality, lt has indeed been engaged in some 48 projects concerned with such matters as studying biological control of insect pests as distinct from insecticide control - methods of treatment of factory effluent, control of the ash content of coal.
But in many cases pollution can best be tackled by a National Body - since, for instance, pollution of a stream in one State can lead to pollution of a river in another State.
We therefore have taken the decision to set up a Commonwealth Office of the Environment under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department.
This Office will be responsible for advising the Commonwealth and recommending to us action that should be taken to prevent or reduce pollution arising out of the activities of any Commonwealth Department or Authority.
We shall also approach the States to seek the formation of a National Advisory Council to advise the Commonwealth, and the States, on action to be taken in areas where co-ordination can properly be achieved.
Following that the then Prime Minister wrote to the State Premiers suggesting that there should be a conference of officers to discuss the matter of pollution and the problems of the environment. Four of the States indicated their willingness almost immediately to participate in those discussions. The Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria said that they were not yet ready but that they desired to set up their own organisations to deal with pollution and environmental problems so that they might have some information relating to the problems in their own States. They would then be pleased to discuss the matter with Commonwealth officials. As a result the Commonwealth felt there was not a great deal of virtue in discussing these matters with 4 States when the 2 major States, which everybody would agree have the grestest development in terms of industry, were not at that time participants in any discussions.
Because of the decision of those 2 States the intention of the then Prime Minister to bring down legislation in relation to these problems was delayed. I think it is important to remember that (here is now an Office of the Environment which has been mentioned in the new administrative arrangements and. as the Leader of the Opposition said, that Office will come under the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. The Leader of the Opposition may sneer at this Department if he so wishes. This new Department is something which, with a good many other things, has come about with a change of Prime. Ministership, lt may be that is not the sum total of its responsibility within that Department. I suggest that we should not accept the criticism offered by the Leader of the Opposition that the Prime Minister is indifferent to these problems. The Prime Minister is far from indifferent in regard to these problems. It is very easy for the Opposition to adopt the attitude that the Commonwealth government should do everything. The Leader of the Opposition, being a Queen’s Counsel, should know that the Commonwealth has different responsibilities lo those of the States and in so many areas it is essential that there should be discussion between the States and the Commonwealth lo enable solutions to be reached so as to achieve the best possible result rather than have a fragmented type of co-operation which leads to confusion in the minds of the public and confusion in the minds of those who are responsible for dealing with the various problems.
A report was presented to this Parliament yesterday on the threat of the crownofthorns starfish to the Great Barrier Reef. Was that a matter on which nothing was done by the Commonwealth Government? That was a problem which was regarded as part of the responsibility of the Commonwealth. Those honourable members who come from States other than Queensland may think that this matter was not important but as a Queenslander I can tell them that it was tremendously important from the point of view of the Queensland Government and it was accepted as such by the Commonwealth Government, which participated in the appointment of a committee, to inquire into the problem. The report presented yesterday clearly indicated a desire on the part of the committee 10 continue research into this matter. The Great Barrier Reef can very readily be described as a national asset. The same situation applied in relation to oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. The Commonwealth unhesitatingly joined with Queensland in the appointment of a committee to investigate problems which could flow from oil drilling on the Reef. To suggest that nothing has been done by the Government or that the Prime Minister is indifferent is, of course, completely incorrect.
The Leader of the Opposition made reference to committees which had been set up by this Parliament such as the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution, the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution and the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - a Commonwealth instrumentality - has spent a great deal of time and money on research and its officers have been engaged in making assessments in regard to many matters adversely affecting this country. There is no doubt that there has been tremendous technological progress in recent years. Take for example the progress of the plastics industry. I do not know whether any honourable member in this House has ever tried to bring about the rotting of plastics, but I think honourable members will find that it is terribly difficult to do so. Many of today’s waste products are far more difficul I to dispose of than those of 10 years or 20 years ago. lt may be- that we will need further technological development if we are effectively to dispose of our waste products. This is not a matter which we should rush into. I believe it is a matter which requires steady progress if we are to obtain solutions to the various problems.
– We have to have personnel to do the necessary work. The Minister is not explaining why there is a delay.
– I mentioned the Office of the Environment, which has come under the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. There is no justification for continuing with appointments to that Office until we can meet the States. The Commonwealth has every intention of making this an important aspect of this Department’s work. I took over responsibility for this Department only a week or 10 days ago. Surely the honourable member does not expect me to be a miracle worker and to solve at once all the problems which were referred to by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon; but I can assure the House that this is a matter of importance as far as the Government and the Department are concerned.
We must also take note that it was only last week that the present Prime Minister saw the chairman of the committee which had investigated the crown of thorns starfish. The Prime Minister told him that he was prepared to put before the Cabinet the question of a public inquiry into pollution. There will be not only discussions between Commonwealth and State officers but probably a public inquiry. The Leader of the Opposition may be able to give evidence, together with other people who believe that they are authorities in this field. The community could acquaint itself through the mass media with the evidence presented to this committee and be wiser about the facts. This may be the beginning of a substantial impact on the problem. I know that work on the protection of the environment has been done in the transport area and I hope that my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon), will participate in this debate and that he will deal with pollution in his area of responsibility.
– I hope that the House will excuse me for not answering the dreary monologue of the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) in regard to 2 decades of negativeness. I support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). In particular I emphasise the importance of action by the Commonwealth Government to conquer, control and rectify pollution now. I listened to the young pompous Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) speaking at the luncheon given today in honour of Prince Philip. He said that he was shocked when Prince Charles revealed the polluted condition of one of our beaches in Port Phillip Bay. The arrogance and stupidity of this man! Is he not aware that for years shit, human excreta, has been washed on Sydney’s major beaches both north and south of the harbour due to inadequate treatment? Many Sydney beaches have had to be closed to human habitation. It is still a fact of life and will continue to be so until the Commonwealth makes grants available to overcome the problem. lias he not smelt the stench of rivers like the Parramatta, Georges and Lane Cove?
I speak not only as a member of this Federal House but as a member of the human race. I want to deal with some philosophical aspects of our environment. Some time ago Backminster Fuller first introduced the term ‘spaceship earth’. The real problem is whether sufficient numbers of men will realise that they are needed on a spaceship in time to save it. As in an Apollo space craft, we are locked in a limited space with limited resources of energy, air, water and nutriments. The space craft has a limited capacity to renew these resources of energy, air, water and nutriments. At the moment the situation is equivalent to 11 astronauts crammed into an Apollo capsule designed to hold 3 people, and that is the predicament of spaceship earth. At the end of this century there will be 21 in the same spaceship. We have in our capsule many other species who are fellow travellers. Each man in spaceship earth produces waste of natural origin, but in addition he adds millions of tons of all sorts of man-made products to the oceans and the atmosphere, which he still regards as cesspools for his waste. U Thant has stated:
The drama of Apollo 13 also gave us an exhibition on a small scale of what might easily become the problem of Spaceship Garth. The problem in those agonising days of Apollo I3’s return from the moon was basically the uncertain balance between the capacity of the spaceship to support life and the demands made on it by its inhabitants. Until recently, the earth could, without difficulty, meet the needs of its passengers and could also absorb the various waste products which they produced. But now we face a rapidly increasing imbalance between the life-sustaining systems of the earth and the demands - industrial, agricultural, technological and demographic - which its inhabitants put upon it. This is an unprecedented challenge to all earth-people here and now. If we fail to meet that challenge, it could become an unthinkable disaster for our children.
It is accepted by reasonable men that the task of fighting pollution and preserving the environment cannot be met by our State governments, which are in chaos in every department. Our national Parliament and Government have to lead us - not hide or pass the buck - out of this chaos.
I do not want to spend time in detailing the many examples of the increasing environmental degradation. They are becoming more numerous and better known. All States in Australia are now setting up organisations to co-ordinate anti-pollution, measures. The only problem is that they have not the finance to meet their commitments. There are significant differences between the various States and because of this there is a real danger the States will compete with each other for industry by being more lenient than the next on pollution control. Uniformity, therefore, is essential. If present Commonwealth inaction continues for much longer the people in the Territories under the control of the Commonwealth will bc severely discriminated against compared with their counterparts in the States as no clean air or water Bills affecting Commonwealth Territories have been passed.
The proposed Office of Environment can act in 2 main ways: Firstly, by developing programmes designed to rectify past mistakes; secondly, by developing programmes which will institute sound planning and resource management to prevent the mistakes being made in the future. To rectify past mistakes, the need in the short run is for money - 1 emphasise that it is the Commonwealth which has the financial resources - together with the institution of Federal guidelines to cover Commonwealth Territories, thus ensuring uniformity. The second challenge is larger and is separated into 3 main areas - Federal action based on international agreements: Federal action based on the legislative power of the Commonwealth; and Federal action to coordinate functions which are constitutionally the responsibility of the States.
International agreements could include agreements about conservation of marine species and protection of the sea from pollution: export and import policies which have impacts on the environment or which protect endangered species of flora and fauna; and presentation of cases to international conferences. Federal action based on the legislative power of the Commonwealth could include legislation for Commonwealth Territories, for areas of the continental shelf, for acts by departments under Commonwealth control such as the Postmaster-General’s Department and for various projects of national development.
There are many ways in which the Commonwealth can act as a co-ordinator. Firstly, the Commonwealth has taxation powers which could enable it to institute a pollution tax on items which are environmentally undesirable. Such funds could be used to provide grants to the States to police and regulate anti-pollution measures and to purchase land for dedication as national parks.
The Office of the Environment could define the optimum human environment as a series of goals towards which all Federal and Stale agencies work. Grants of money for research and development and the choice of how resources - minerals, water, urban and rural land, to name a few - are used, should conform to the highest national priorities. Legislation could be passed by the Commonwealth in relation to the Australian Capital Territory and other Territories. These Acts could be comprehensive, cover the whole human physical, and psychological environment and be based on goals already mentioned. These could serve as models for legislation which may be passed by the Stales. There should be Federal grants to encourage the passage of legislation within the States. The States cannot pass legislation unless they have the financial resources. The Commonwealth Government has to make finance available to meet these commitments.
The Commonwealth has power to levy taxes, lt could strive for uniformity by levying taxes in accordance with the legislation - for example, special taxes on pollution, tax incentives to encourage pollution control and, if necessary, a tax surcharge to encourage pollution control and to give grants to the Stales, local and semigovernmental authorities to ensure a system of policing the environmental effort. Once legislation has been passed by the Commonwealth and by all the States a joint Commonwealth and State authority should administer pollution and environmental control. Joint co-operation on all levels of government can conquer, control, rectify and make Australia beautiful. It is about time, after 2 decades of negativeness, that this Government started to act.
– The one point that is important in the speech of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) is that he has just made in his examples of pollution an indictment of 40 years of Labor government in New South Wales, because the only examples he quoted came from New South Wales. The LiberalCountry Party Government in power there now has to face the problems left by 40 years of Labor government. That shows the sort of stagnation that occurs under a long term of Labor governments. The only other point in his speech worth mentioning is that his interpretation of what the Office of the Environment can do in the Commonwealth field is really a rehash in his own words of the policy speech of the former Prime Minister delivered last year. So in fact the honourable member has told us nothing new.
Having heard the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) explain the Commonwealth’s activities in connection with pollution and environment across a very broad field, one has to come to the conclusion that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) today in moving this resolution is jumping on one of his usual band wagons. It is a sad commentary on the affairs of the nation that this has to be so, but the Leader of the Opposition is a famous band wagon jumper and he is using the forms of the House to jump on another band wagon. One other thing that was revealed by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition is that he also ignores the States and local governments and shows that even in the handling of garbage he would adopt a very centralist approach and ignore the sovereign rights of the States and local government. The people of Australia ought to be very aware of the approach that the Leader of the Opposition takes in all of these matters.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the activities of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, which is made up of Commonwealth and State Ministers of different political colours and includes a couple of members of Labor governments. That has been the traditional makeup of the Council over the years. The Leader of the Opposition believes that the Australian Transport Advisory Council is not adopting a firm enough approach in the matter of air pollution from motor cars. He went to some pains to point out that the standards adopted in Australia are, in his view, lower than those adopted in America. Of course, conditions are quite different in America from Australia, lt was recognised by the advisers to the Australian Transport Advisory Council that the conditions in Europe were more similar to those in Australia. We do not have the density of motor cars in Australia that exists in Los Angeles or Chicago. We do not have the density of 8-cylinder motor cars for a start. The whole standard of motoring is on a completely different basis. We have adopted the standards laid down by the Economic Commission for Europe. It is believed that in London, where the size of motor cars is more comparable with that in Australia, this standard is satisfactory. The fact is that the Australian Transport Advisory Council has made a move, and the Leader of the Opposition is a bit late.
The Australian Transport Advisory Council has moved to overcome the problem of emissions from exhausts of motor cars. It has moved fairly satisfactorily in the view of the advisers from the health departments of the different States. The move has been made in co-operation with the States and with the petrol and motor industries. The introduction of these new regulations will make a difference to air pollution in Sydney, for example, where it is said that 60 per cent of air pollution comes from motor cars.
Another area of Commonwealth involvement is oil pollution at sea. Honourable members will recall that last year, following the grounding of the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’, my predecessor very quickly moved an amendment to the Navigation Act to cover that situation. At that time he foreshadowed further long term amendments to the Act to update it. He introduced a Bill which contained some new provisions. The 5 main provisions were that it provided for the Minister to take action when he was satisfied that oil was escaping, or likely to escape, from a ship and cause pollution, lt empowered the Minister to require the owner, master or agent of a ship to take whatever action he felt necessary or appropriate in relation to the ship or its cargo, and failing action by such a person the Minister could cause action to be taken.
Furthermore, any costs incurred by the Minister in taking action could be recovered from the person on whom the notice was served, and the Commonwealth’s cost of cleaning up any oil that escaped from the ship by reason of the notice not having been complied with could also be recovered from the person on whom the notice was served. Penalties of up to $2,000 were applied in respect of each day on which a notice was not complied with and the oil continued to escape. The legislation applied to all vessels to which the Navigation Act applied, but it was specifically provided that the Act did not apply in relation to a foreign registered ship unless the ship was in Australian coastal waters. The former Minister made further changes to the Act so that the charge would be laid against the ship owners and not against the master of the ship, as was the previous case. In the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory where the Commonwealth has sole jurisdiction there are proper measures to control pollution. Strict mining regulations control the establishment of mining companies in the Northern Territory.
I suggest that the problem goes further than was spelt out by the Opposition. I have no doubt in my mind, and it can be seen from the world studies, that the continuing build up of population in high density housing must inevitably lead to problems of pollution. One has only to look at the problem of New York with its 12 million people and the problems of London and Tokyo to recognise and accept that fact. In London, studies have been made of the problems of pollution. There has been much activity in the field of controlling pollution of the air and pollution of water. At the same time the policy has been to develop new cities. It has been found that not only by encouraging the establishment of factories and service industries but also by providing proper sports grounds, theatres, schools and all of the other amenities that go with a big city - after all people want more than just a job - people have been attracted out to these places. Twenty-seven of these cities have been successfully established or are in the process of being set up in Britain. As a result the population of Greater London has been reduced. One of the things the Opposition ought to be turning its mind to is a problem of that nature. To be able to attract people out of our big cities in that way would have a bigger bearing on the quality of life than simply considering the problems of the emission of exhaust fumes from motor cars or the handling of garbage. The Opposition has jumped on to a convenient bandwagon. Opposition members could have turned their minds to some other problems about which they believe the Government is not active. However, this happens to be one field in which the Government has been very active. The Postmaster-General drew attention to the fields in. which the Commonwealth is active. I have detailed 3 or 4 fields in which I, as the Minister for Shipping and Transport and formerly as Minister for the Interior, have had some responsibilities. Therefore I say to the Opposition: Get on with the business of the House and stop wasting the time of the Government and the House.
– The House has heard an account from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) about what has been done overseas to arrest pollution and the destruction of the environment. I should not need to remind him that the purpose of this debate is to encourage this Government to accept its responsibility with regard to Australia’s problems. The terminology of the matter of public importance before the House is that we are to discuss the Government’s delay in acting on the recommendations it has received and the undertakings it has given to safeguard the environment. There is no doubt that in the Senate campaign last year the then Prime Minister committed the Government to the early establishment of a new department to handle pollution. This department was to be the Commonwealth Office of the Environment. This proposal is now to be shelved. Vacillation is the order of the day in regard to the crisis of our times. This cannot be excused. The new department, along with Canberra’s hedges and lawns, has become one of the first casualties in the Government’s austerity drive. The abandonment of the programme at this point throws into sharp relief the dubious scale of values and the poor order of priorities held by this Government.
Some time ago a Senate select committee applied itself to the consideration of pollution and environmental problems. The findings of the committee shocked and sensitised the nation. The people to a man became concerned about the urgency of the problem. For a major party to display an indifference and disregard about environmental matters in the Senate campaign that followed the report of the committee would have spelt disaster. Instead the then Prime Minister took a positive stand. He said that the Office of the Environment would be responsible for advising the Commonwealth and recommending action that should be taken to prevent or reduce pollution arising out of the activities of any Commonwealth department or authority. He announced that the States would be asked to form a national advisory committee to act in an advisory capacity. Most of the States have already acquiesced in this proposal. The announcement was made that 2 senior positions were to be created, one at a salary of Si 3,6 10 and the other at a salary of $11,250. They were to be alone in this Commonwealth bureaucracy to take a positive attitude about this mailer and to exercise leadership. They were to operate under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Department. How appropriate that would be. lt is the Prime Minister’s Department and the Prime Minister himself who have the capacity, the authority and the stature in the parliamentary and governmental spectrum to effect coordination in a useful and practical way. However, instead we find that the new organisation is to be relegated to the repository of abstract activities - the Department of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. To my way of thinking this is just not good enough. I strongly doubt whether one of the most junior Ministers in the Government will have the authority, the capacity and indeed the experience sensibly and sensitively to integrate into the activities of so many other departments which have a responsibility about these matters but which for far too long have been the subject of neglect under the present structure. 1 want to refer briefly to the enormous ramifications involved and to the hotchpotch nature of efforts made by this Government to control our environment so far as Commonwealth responsibility is involved. Firstly I refer lo the Department of Education and Science which, as honourable members know, controls the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The . Department conducts research into environmental pollution through this body. Also, the Depart ment is responsible for the secretariat of the Wildlife and Conservation Conference. So here we have one department which is already affected. Next we have the Department of Health which has an enormous responsibility in this field. The Department organises meetings of Health Ministers which are held periodically. The Department of Health is responsible for the National Health and Medical Research Council which provides advice on radiation, pesticides, hazardous materials, atmospheric pollution and lead poisoning. One can already start to see the interrelationship between Commonwealth departments. The third department is the Department of National Development. Through this Department, the Australian Water Resources Council and the River Murray Commission advice is provided on such matters as oil pollution in off-shore drilling areas. More importantly, and I believe very significantly, the Department of National Development has a responsibility in regard to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the whole question of radiation. Problems could emerge in the future if this area is not effectively controlled. Problems could arise at Lucas Heights and subsequently at Jervis Bay and at all the other nuclear power stations which it is predicted will be established in the not far distant future.
Also, there is the Department of the Interior. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, who preceded me in this debate, was formerly the Minister in charge of that Department. He ought to be aware of his former responsibilities as Minister for the Interior in regard to environmental matters for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. In addition, the Department of Primary Industry is responsible for the use of pesticides and fertilisers. The Department has a general oversight of the responsibilities of the Australian Agricultural Council. The Department of Trade and Industry also is involved in environmental matters because it is concerned with the export and quality of foodstuffs. Again the question of pesticides residues is involved. In addition, the Department of Trade and Industry - is greatly concerned with manufacturing industries. It is aware that pollution control will greatly add to manufacturing costs. Another department which is involved in this field is the Department of Civil Aviation which is concerned with noise pollution. The Department is concerned with the problems of noise at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport, Avalon Airport and many other airports. The Department of Labour and National Service is concerned with noise in industry and with diseases caused by pollution in certain industries. 1 would need to spend some time to enunciate the wide range of responsibilities that the Department of Shipping and Transport has in regard to the environment. Australia has signed the International Convention for the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil. The Department of Shipping and Transport is responsible for the secretariat to the Australian Transport Advisory Council, which controls such matters as the exhaust from motor vehicles. I have mentioned just some of the departments involved and some of their ramifications although I have not developed them at any length. As I said, the Department of Shipping and Transport exercises enormous responsibilities. This can be seen when we take into account the recent oil spillages in Botany Bay and other places, which have been the subject of publicity, and the continuance of oil spillage at sea, the discharge from bilge tanks at sea and the need to innovate techniques to prevent the ruination of our foreshores.
With just these few examples we can start to get a bird’s eye view of the wide range of ramifications for which there ought to be a proper co-ordinating authority in the national Parliament.
I say without any hesitation that there is no need for anyone to get finicky about this matter. The Government has failed the people of Australia. It should be indicted for its insensitivity to their feelings. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, who preceded me in this debate, had the audacity to speak in glowing terms about what other countries have done, but he did not mention what this Government has failed to do. I could go on to enunciate many critical situations in which environmental pollution is the order of the day. For example, the Commonwealth has acquiesced and co-operated with the States in allowing an overseas company to come into my electorate and establish an off shore coal loader which will be responsible for the ruination of a part of Australia’s most beautiful coastline - the area between Sydney and Wollongong. The Government is more concerned about private companies making a profit than it is about the rape and pillage of our resources and the human factors involved.
I come back to the matter which was initiated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), namely, that this Government has delayed acting on recommendations and, indeed, has failed to fulfil the undertaking it has given on the hustings to the people of Australia at election time. The Government was elected by the people of Australia on its promise to do something about pollution. It has a mandate from them to do something. I believe that the fact that it has failed to honour its promise is a matter on which it stands indicted.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. According to the blue business sheet for today a time limit of 2 hours has been allowed for this debate. Will you inform me whether time will be made available to enable honourable members on this side of the House who wish to participate in the debate to do so?
– There is no substance in the point pf order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I want to make it very clear at the outset that all State governments and the Federal Government are conscious in the extreme of their obligations in regard to pollution. There is now, and there will continue to be, the greatest co-operation by all concerned in the development of an overall or national outlook on the management and exploitation of Australia’s resources for the benefit of mankind.
I reject completely the charges made by the Opposition. Perhaps the best way I can possibly do this is to state the facts of involvement by the Government in its endeavour to encourage the orderly and responsible use of our bounties. It is, of course, an inevitable consequence of increasing technological development and rising standards of living that man is more and more modifying his environment. The ! words ‘ecosystem’ and ‘biosphere’ are frequently used instead of the word ‘environment’, in current writings on this matter. Both words contain the thought of involvement with the complete environment, including all forms of life, and this is the basic thinking of the Government.
It is apparent that any adequate consideration of the overall quality of the environment must involve practically all the major scientific disciplines and that a recurring feature will be the action and reaction between various phases of the environment as changes occur in any one of them. The problem is aggravated by the fact that it is often impossible to foresee the consequences of a step which is taken for a particular beneficial purpose but which may in the long term have quite damaging effects. Current concern about the long term effects of DDT is a good illustration. It is interesting to note that, together with proposals and action to restrict the use of DDT, the World Health Organisation itself has pointed out that a complete ban could have disastrous effects on the programme to eradicate such scourges as malaria. Another example in an entirely different area is the complex series of problems involving soil erosion and river pollution which can result from changes in land management with the objective of increasing agricultural productivity.
J mention these 2 examples to point out to the Opposition that there is such depth of thinking and planning in relation to the overall problem that decisions in the interest of all concerned cannot be made hastily. In fact, quite apart from the complex technical problems, there are very difficult questions of economics and finance associated with any move for environmental control. For instance, control of industrial establishments to avoid atmospheric and water pollution can involve significant costs and can affect the viability of an industry which is in competition with comparable industries overseas which are working with less stringent requirements and in some cases, are receiving Government assistance to meet them. This is also one of the reasons favouring the fixing of uniform standards throughout Australia. Furthermore, the justification for the cost involved in adhering to a particular standard may not be clear when, as often happens, the benefits are largely qualitative and relate broadly to the maintenance or restoration of a particular set of values associated with aesthetics or congenial living conditions.
The concept of the imposition of standards for the treatment of wastes or for other practices presupposes the establishment of programmes for collection of the data which will provide a measure of the quality of the environment, particularly air and water but including land, flora and fauna: the establishment of standards to be set; and an adequate legal and administrative framework to ensure adherence to standards. All these tasks are quite difficult, but all our talks with the States through the Australian Minerals Council, the Australian Water Resources Council and the Australian Forestry Council, for example, and with private enterprise are aimed at their consideration in the national planning sense to which I just referred. Of course, much has been done so far. I feel that, far from being critical, the Opposition measure should acknowledge the breadth of thinking and action that is occurring with such wholehearted cooperation by all the elements concerned.
It should be obvious to the Opposition that air and water movements do not conform to State boundaries. Pollution may in some cases introduce health hazards which also extend beyond boundaries of a State. It may, in some cases, have very long term consequences and may be virtually irreversible. As I mentioned earlier, variations in different States in the standards set for pollution control can have an important effect on the economy of some industries. For these and other reasons, and perhaps simply because this whole question has become one of major national significance, the Commonwealth’s aim is to take a leading role with the object of ensuring satisfactory and uniform practices and standards.
Its overall objective is to provide for effective management of resources, ensuring optimum benefits for present use, consistent with maintenance, and where possible betterment of the quality of the environment.
Let me be more specific on the 3 areas of action being taken specifically at the present time by my Department - on mining, forestry and water. The philosophy of the Government is to seek the achievement of maximum satisfaction of material and cultural needs consistent with minimum interference with the natural environment. It takes this philosophy into the councils of the State Ministers for Mines and into its discussions with private enterprise. I believe that we are making most substantial progress. All States concur with the overall goal. The Australian Mining Industry Council encourages its member industries to undertake economic redevelopment to regenerate areas damaged and to take measures to forestall any future pollution or other environment hazard. This is the first concrete fact of achievement that I would state to the House.
The second is the report by the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution which made many pertinent findings. Several of its recommendations have been embraced wholeheartedly by industry and individuals. There is no doubt about the validity of the principal thesis of the report, namely, that there should be national co-ordination of effort in the management of water quality. How it is to be achieved is a matter for consideration. I believe it can be achieved through the type of machinery and programme which’ is already in use. In this respect, the Australian Water Resources Council at its last meeting agreed to set up a technical committee, with extensive terms of reference, on the quality of water.
The third example is in the field of forestry. The Australian Forestry Council resolved at its last meeting in July that its standing committee of officials should study aspects of forestry activities in relation to the maintenance of the quality of the environment and report to the next meeting of the Council. I think I have covered adequately the firm and progressive steps that have been taken by the Government in co-operation with the States and with industry. Of course, this is by no means the end of thinking as far as the Government is concerned. There are many examples that have been given to this House of action that has been taken and it is at the present time, as has been stated, the intention of the Government to establish before not too long an office of the environment. This will deal with problems associated with pollution as far as Commonwealth Government departments and instrumentalities are concerned. In addition it has been and is still the intention of the Government to institute negotiations with the States to set up a national council on the environment which will cover many of the aspects I have mentioned. So because of the points I have raised and the facts I have set before the House I believe the Opposition motion has no substance and should be rejected.
- Mr Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Giles) agreed to:
That the business of the day be called on.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to effect changes to the Commonwealth Electoral Act to improve voting facilities for electors, to change some provisions which are no longer appropriate, to. introduce some new procedures and :to . remedy some defects in the existing electoral law. During the last session of the previous Parliament, the then Minister informed the House that a review of the provisions, of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Regulations thereunder had been in progress for some time, and that, although it was not possible to reach the point where amendments to the Act could be presented, to the Parliament for consideration before: the 1969 House of Representatives election, the Government’s intention. was that the review should be resumed immediately after the elections and taken to finality as soon as possible. This has been done and the amendments we propose, are the subject of this Bill.
While certain of the proposed amendments are formal or machinery in character and need little or no explanation, other provisions of the Bill seek to bring about much needed changes in the electoral law and it is to these that I will devote most of my remarks. It is proposed to extend the absent voting facilities on an Australiawide basis so that an elector who is outside the State or Territory for which he is enrolled may on polling day record an absent vote at any polling booth open on that day anywhere in the Commonwealth. Under the existing provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, absent voting is restricted to an elector who is outside the subdivision for which he is enrolled, but is within the State for which he is enrolled. Accordingly, an elector who on polling day is outside the State for which he is enrolled must record a postal vote and, unless he has made a prior application, his only recourse is to attend at the office of a Divisional Returning Officer or the Returning Officer for the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. However, in this day of extensive travel, many electors find themselves interstate on polling day, but without having made prior application for a postal vote it is then often impossible to get to the office cf a Divisional Returning Officer. A side effect of the proposed extension of absent voting will be an alteration to the grounds upon which an elector may make application for a postal vote.
It is also proposed by this Bill to provide improved voting facilities for patients and inmates of hospitals, convalescent homes and institutions. The present policy is to establish a polling booth at each 50- bed hospital, etc. where suitable arrangements can be made with the appropriate authorities, but these booths are confined to fixed locations and, in practice, serve only the staff and walking patients. Thus, in order to vote, non-ambulant patients must make an application for a postal vote prior to polling day. Under the proposed law, the Presiding Officer, by arrangement with an appropriate person at the hospital or institution, will take the ballot-box from bed to bed and ward to ward. Scrutineers will, of course, be able to accompany the polling officials. The proposed provisions will have some flexibility in that at the larger hospitals and institutions, a static booth will operate throughout the hours of polling while at the same time one or more roving polling learns will attend to the voting requirements of the non-ambulant patients. At the smaller hospitals and institutions where two polling officials can ade quately handle the voting requirements of both the walking and the non-ambulant patients as well as the hospital staff, the one team of polling officials will operate from time to time, either as a static or a mobile booth as the occasion demands. Postal voting facilities will still be available to those patients who, because of the nature of their illness or impending treatment, will not be able to utilise the mobile booth facilities on polling day.
The next proposed provision to which I shall refer arises from a problem which has caused much dissatisfaction among people who lose their franchise rights when they are posted overseas as representatives of a Government or a public authority. While an elector, who is only temporarily absent from the address for which he is enrolled (including a person posted overseas), may have his name retained on the electoral roll during his temporary absence, he loses his entitlement to enrolment if he ceases to live in the subdivision for which he is enrolled and he does not have a particular place of living within that subdivision to which he has a fixed intention of returning. We propose that where a person, who is qualified for enrolment, is living outside Australia in the service of the Commonwealth, a State or a public authority, but is not entitled to enrolment under the existing provisions because he does not have a particular place of living to which he intends to return, he shall, if he has a fixed intention of living in a particular subdivision when he returns to Australia, be entitled to enrol on the roll for that subdivision, but will be enrolled in respect of his overseas address.
Under the existing law, a name may be removed from the electoral roll by objection on the grounds that the person does not live within the subdivision for which he is enrolled and has not so lived for one month last past, but the authority to remove a name by objection is not supported by other complementary provisions, as it should be, limiting the person’s right to enrolment to one month after he ceases to live in the subdivision. It is therefore desirable that the conditions under which a person loses his entitlement to enrolment be clarified. New provisions are added by this Bill to section 41 to specify that an elector ceases to be entitled to be enrolled one month after he ceases permanently to live in the subdivision for which he is enrolled. A new provision also makes it clear that a person, who is only temporarily absent from the subdivision for which he is enrolled, is entitled to have his name retained on the roll providing he has a place of living in the subdivision to which he intends to return for the purpose of continuing to live thereat. In addition, where a person is enrolled for an overseas address a new provision will afford continuity in entitlement to enrolment for up to one month after he returns to Australia.
I now turn to a matter which the former Minister for the Interior introduced in this House during the latter stages of the last Parliament. I refer to the provision which deals with the position of a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory who wishes to be nominated for election to the Commonwealth Parliament. In the case of a member of a State parliament the position is quite clear. Section 70 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act debars a person from nominating for election to the Commonwealth Parliament if he is, at the date of nomination, or has been within 14 days prior to the date of nomination, a member of the Parliament of a State.
In the case of a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, if he were elected to the Commonwealth Parliament it is possible, though not certain, that he would need to resign from the Legislative Council to take his place in this Parliament. The Government believes that there should be no uncertainty in this matter. Just as it has been thought wise that the member of a State legislature should not be eligible to stand for election to this Parliament, so it is considered that a member of the Legislature of the Northern Territory should not be able to nominate. Accordingly, the Bill provides - and this is the sole purpose of this provision - that no person who is at the date of nomination, or was at any time within 14 days prior to the date of nomination, a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory shall be capable of being nominated as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
Provision is also made in the Bill to prevent a person from becoming a candidate for two or more Federal elections held on the same day. At the 1969 Federal elections, a person in South Australia - I am sure well known to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) - nominated as a candidate in the Senate election to fill a casual vacancy in that State as well as for the House of Representatives in the Division of Hindmarsh. Although no specific debarment is included in the existing law, the Government believes it was never intended that a person should have the right to such dual nomination and this is borne out by the fact that when consenting to a nomination and to act if elected, the person nominated must declare that he is qualified under the Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth to be elected as a senator, or as a member of the House of Representatives, as the case may be. While the consent and declaration imply that a person may not become a candidate at more than one election held on the same day, a returning officer has no alternative where a person makes the required declaration other than to accept the nomination and leave the question to be decided in a court of disputed returns. In the South Australian case, an impossible situation would have resulted had the dual nominee been successful in both elections - certainly challenges would have been mounted in the court and most likely fresh elections would have been ordered. The Government considers that the position should be put beyond doubt by embodying provisions in the law to prevent dual nominations. The proposed new provisions, if they become law, will operate to invalidate nominations of the same person as a candidate at two or more elections held on the same day, unless that person withdraws his consent to the earlier nomination before consenting to a further nomination. Where nominations become invalid by this provision the deposits lodged by or on behalf of the candidate shall be forfeited.
A further provision in the Bill will require each intending candidate to declare, at the time of nomination, that be has not changed his name within the previous 12 months, or, if he has changed his name within that period, to specify in the declaration his former name or former names. Changes of name by marriage are excepted. Concern has been expressed in the past at the possibility of a candidate assuming the name of, say, the sitting member, primarily for the purpose of gaining some political advantage at an election and thereby causing confusion in the minds of the electors. The Bill makes provision so that any former name of a candidate specified in the nomination paper may be shown on the ballot papers as an addition to the name under which the candidate is nominated where similarity in the names of two or more candidates is likely to cause confusion.
At the Victorian Senate election held on 26th November 1966, how-to-vote cards obviously intended to mislead voters as to the political affiliation of certain candidates were printed and distributed. Under the existing provisions the printing and distribution of such material is not an offence provided it does not contain a representation of a ballot paper. However, pursuant to provisions contained in this Bill, it will be an illegal practice to print or distribute matter intended or likely to mislead voters, whether or not the offending document represents a ballot paper.
The Government also proposes to insert a provision in the Act to enable candidates to take proceedings in the Supreme Court by way of an injunction to restrain the printing, publishing or distributing of any electoral advertisement, notice, handbill, pamphlet or card having thereon any directions intended or likely to mislead an elector, or containing any untrue or incorrect statement intended or likely to mislead or improperly interfere with an elector in relation to the casting of his vote.
Another clause in this Bill deals with gifts, etc. by candidates. Under the existing law it is an offence for a candidate, who announces himself as a candidate within 3 months of polling day, to offer, promise or give directly or indirectly to any club or other association any gift, donation or prize but it does not embrace a person who announces himself as a candidate before the 3 months period. It is therefore proposed to prohibit any person who has at any time by act or statement announced himself, or allowed himself to be put forward, as a candidate for election, from making a gift, donation, prize, etc. within the 3 months period immediately prior to the day following polling day. The existing provisions are also unsatisfactory in their present form in that a candidate could unwittingly be in breach of the law by making a gift or donation at a time which subsequently turns out to be within 3 months of polling day. To meet this situation it is proposed to give a candidate a defence against a prosecution if he proves that, at the time when he made the gift, donation, prize, etc., he believed on reasonable grounds that the polling would not be within 3 months.
The existing provisions of the Act impose a limit upon the amount which may be incurred by or on behalf of a candidate as electoral expenses. After each election, every candidate is required to submit to the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State a return of his electoral expenses. In addition, every organisation which has incurred expenses in an election is required to file a return with the Commonwealth Electoral Officer.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Newspaper proprietors or publishers are also required to submit returns setting out the amount of electoral matter inserted in their newspapers, the amounts paid or owing therefor and the particulars of the organisations or persons authorising the insertions. No limitation is imposed under the Act upon expenditure by political organisations or upon the amount of electoral matter which might be published in a newspaper and the requirement upon these bodies to submit returns, which entail considerable preparation, serves no useful purpose except perhaps as a means of checking upon some aspects of the returns submitted by candidates.
With respect to expenses by candidates, it has been argued that the present limits of $1,000 in the case of a Senate election and $500 in the case of a House of Representatives election are insufficient by present day standards. Accordingly, if the practice of limiting electoral expenses by law was to be continued, such amounts would need to be very substantially increased. In any event, it is logical that any obligation upon a candidate to disclose electoral expenses should be confined to expenses incurred by him personally or with his authority. It seems unreasonable that a candidate should be held responsible for expenses incurred in his interest, but without his authority. The expense provisions would be difficult to enforce and no prosecution has ever been made for breaches of these provisions. No expense returns are required in respect of State elections in New South Wales, Queensland or South Australia.
After very careful consideration, the Government concluded that no good purpose is being served by limiting the amount which may be expended by a candidate at an election or by the submission of returns of expenses. Accordingly, the repeal of the relevant provisions is proposed by this Bill. Where a street is renumbered or re-named, advice is normally received from the municipal authorities and action is taken by the Electoral Registrar to amend the relevant roll entries, but the existing provisions do not clearly specify the authority for this action. Accordingly, it is proposed in the Bill to remedy this situation by providing a specific authority. A provision is included in the Bill to remedy a defect in section 117. Under that provision, a person’s right to vote shall be deemed to have been challenged if the Presiding Officer puts any of the prescribed questions to a voter. However, under section 115 of the Act, the Presiding Officer must put some of the prescribed questions to every voter, thus the right to vote of every elector is deemed to have been challenged. This Bill will remove a conflict which presently exists between the Broadcasting and Television Act and the Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to announcing the address of the author in a broadcast or telecast. While the Broadcasting and Television Act requires the announcement of the name only of the author in a broadcast or telecast, the Commonwealth Electoral Act requires the announcement of both the name and the address of the author. It is considered that the relevant provisions should be the same in both Acts. In any event, there is adequate safeguard in the Broadcasting and Television Act whereunder the name, address and occupation of the author must be retained by the station making the broadcast or telecast and must be furnished to the Australian Broadcasting Control . Board upon request.
I now turn to a matter which causes some concern on the occasion of every election. The existing provisions prohibit the posting up or exhibiting on a building or place any electoral poster larger than 1,200 square inches in area. This restriction applies irrespective of whether the building or place is, or is not, a public place, and consequently, it is a contravention of the law to exhibit such a poster within a room being used for an election meeting, although relief from the 1,200 square inches restriction is given in respect of signs on or at the office or committee room of a candidate or political party. Under a provision proposed by this Bill, the exhibition of an electoral poster of any size will be permitted at a meeting held within a building in connection with an election or referendum. The Bill seeks to provide more realistic penalties for breaches of the electoral law. The provisions will introduce monetary penalties for certain offences where imprisonment terms only are now provided. Many of the existing monetary penalties have remained unchanged since 1902 and in most cases the amounts are completely out of balance with the alternative imprisonment terms. The present definition of ‘candidate’ is inappropriate where an election is uncontested. Accordingly, by this Bill the words day fixed for the polling for the election’ are to be inserted in lieu of ‘day of election’.
Honourable members will appreciate that the proposed provisions are fairly complex and extensive and certain of them necessitate consequential amendments to the Electoral and Referendum Regulations and to the Regulations made under the Australian Capital Territory Representation Act and the Northern Territory Representation Act. It has therefore been provided that specific sections will come into operation upon royal assent and the remaining sections will come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. This will allow time for the drafting of the necessary Regulations and the printing of other associated documents. I believe that the provisions in this Bill will be welcomed by all honourable members and T commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move:
The sole purpose of this Bill is to effect changes in the declarations to be made by candidates in the nomination forms used at Senate elections where casual vacancies are to be filled. Similar changes to the nomination forms to be used at Senate elections where periodical vacancies are to be filled are provided in the Commonwealth Electoral Bill which I introduced earlier.
The proposed changes in the nomination forms will be necessary for the implementation of the proposed amendments of the Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to more than one nomination by a candidate or in relating to any change of name by a candidate within the twelve months period immediately preceding his nomination. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Hunt, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to bring several of the provisions of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act into line with the proposed amendments of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Opportunity is also being taken to correct an anomaly in the prescription relating to informal postal ballot papers. Under the proposed amendments of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the provisions relating to the submission of returns of expenses by organisations, etc., and the submission of returns by newspapers will be repealed, and this Bill repeals parallel requirements in relation to referendums.
The terms of the existing section 48 of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act make it an offence to print, publish or distribute any advertisement or document containing a representation of a ballot paper, or any representation apparently intended to represent a ballot paper, having thereon any directions intended or likely to mislead an elector in relation to the casting of his vote at a referendum, but it is not an offence where the adver tisement, etc., does not contain a representation of a ballot paper. Provisions contained in this Bill make it an offence to publish a misleading advertisement, etc., irrespective of whether such advertisement, etc., contains a representation of a ballot paper.
It is proposed to add a new section to the Commonwealth Electoral Act to empower the supreme court of a State to grant an injunction in relation to the doing of an act that is an illegal practice. Clause 4 of this Bill makes the relevant provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act applicable to a referendum. Section 37 of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act, which relates to the rates for telegrams, is amended by this Bill to accord with the relevant provisions of the Post and Telegraph Rates Act.
The penalties prescribed for offences against the provisions of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act are outofdate by present day values. The amounts of the penalties are updated by this Bill to accord with the penalties for parallel offences under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Sub-section 2a of. section 21 of the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act specifies that a ballot paper shall be informal only on grounds prescribed by Part XII of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the regulations relating to postal voting. However, Part XII of the Commonwealth Electoral Act does not, in fact, prescribe as to the informality of ballot papers. Section 21 (2a) is therefore being amended to omit the reference to Part XII of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Daly) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30 March (vide page 1171), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following wordsin place thereof: while not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that - (1) the increases proposed are inadequate,
social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of Hying,
steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty,
a national superannuation system should be established and the means test eliminated,
pension payments should be a proportion of average weekly earnings adjusted annually and
the subject of social services should be referred to a select committee of this House’.
The proposed adjustments in pension payments are a mean, contemptible exercise in political opportunism. The increases were struck in haste. They were not struck because of a realisation of the socio-economic need of a substantial proportion of the population; nor were they introduced because of the imperatives of social and economic justice; nor were they introduced because of a humanly inspired sense of moral concern for and obligation towards the rights of a very large number of people in the community. Rather, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has brazenly put it in public, they were established as ‘a symbol to mark the new Prime Minister’s accession to office’. That is the length and breadth of the substance behind the proposal now before the House.
It is worth recollecting that less than 3 weeks before the announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) that these increases would be introduced, the Minister for Social Services completely rejected proposals by members of the Opposition that the current rates of benefits under the social service payments scheme were inadequate, that for many they represented a level of payment which perpetuated the recipients’ existence in poverty. Not only did the Minister for Social Services reject this argument, but when steps were taken on this side of the House for a vote to express an opinion as to whether the increases which we were proposing should be implemented, every honourable member on the Government side, from the Minister for Social Services and the Prime Minister down to the most junior backbencher, voted against the proposition. Had several honourable members opposite supported the proposal of the Labor Opposition, substantial increases would have been granted in social service benefits for many needy people in the community.
In the course of the debate Government speakers expressed the Government’s philosophy as substantiation of their particular and peculiar attitude. These spokesmen were carefully selected supporters of the Government. After all, the Minister for Social Services went around and hand selected members on the Government side of the House who would participate in the debate. So there was no carelessness about who was representing the Government, and there could be no excuse for what was said by those representatives. So, in order to rebut the Labor Party’s argument that there was an urgent need for improved social service payments, we heard a speech from a member of the Liberal Party, the honourable member for Holt (Mr Reid). What he said as an expression of the Government’s philosophy on social welfare is worth repeating. He said:
The urgency discussion initialed by the Opposition is a purely materialistic one because an additional $1 or so is not the greatest need of our elderly citizen. Pensioners do not live by bread alone. They are human, and they need love and affection. I am sure that a visit from a relative, or better still from their own children, would mean far more lo our elderly citizens than would an increase of $1 a week in their pension rates.
So the Liberal Party’s philosophy on social service benefits has been enshrined in the record of this Parliament. It has not been denied by any Government spokesman, least of all by the Minister for Social Services. So I return to the point I made earlier - that it was contemptible, political opportunism which motivated the Government’s hasty decision to propose the increases which we are now considering - a 50c a week increase for those who are entitled to full pension rates and proportionate increase for those who receive a pension which is between the full rate and a rate within 50c of it.
Of course, the real reason why this amendment to the Social Services Act has been introduced is that the Government, when the Prime Minister suddenly made this announcement about the increase in pensions, was in a very difficult situation. A constitutional problem confronted the Government. One Prime Minister had fallen and another had replaced him. So at a cost of $5. 5m of the taxpayers’ money - that is what it will cost for the rest of this year for this completely inadequate and selective increase in social service benefits - the Government decided that it would buy the headlines of the national Press of Australia. It was not worried about the welfare of pensioners. It wanted to buy the headlines of the nation’s Press, to direct attention away from its own internal discord and brawling and the unseemly standards which were being exposed to the public gaze by the revelations and counter-revelations of Ministers as they fought their internecine warfare. This is the magnificent symbol of conservative social welfare achievement proposed for the 1970s and, to boot, there is added a means test within a means test. This means test within a means test is introduced by a Minister who, for so many years as a back bencher, made his mark as the doughty opponent of means tests. He gave undertakings that should he ever be in a position to do so he would effectively take action to have the means test eliminated within a few years. He not only perpetuates the standard but also reinforces it with the introduction of, I repeat, a means test within a means test.
Let me move on to some of the points made by the Minister in the course of his speech. He referred to a level of real benefit payments adjusted according to movements in the consumer price index, lt is quite reasonable to use the consumer price index to adjust money amounts over a period if one is calculating cost of living movements only, but what the Minister does not take into calculation, although he makes a reference to it in the course of his speech, is that ‘as productivity rises, so also should pensions’. This is true, but he has not taken it into account. In a technically developing economy the capacity of a given volume of capital investment to produce increases each year. This is the productivity that we hear so much about from Government supporters in a very imperfectly understood way. Nonetheless, they frequently speak about it. There has been no allowance for productivity here and there has been no allowance for the general standard of prosperity distributed throughout the community.
I can remember well that when I first arrived here about 10 years ago the favourite reference of Government spokesmen when queried about wage standards in the community was average weekly earnings. Let us see how pension payments relate to average weekly earnings, because this is the meaningful way to gauge whether pension recipients in fact are participating on an equivalent basis and in a consistent relationship with the average standard of prosperity in the community. The current standard rate of pension was down to 18.4 per cent of the average weekly earnings for the December quarter. This is really rock bottom. We have never hit such a low relationship of the pension to average weekly earnings in the post-war history of this country. Let us consider the post-war record of meanness of this Government. In 1946 the standard rate of pension was 25.5 per cent of average weekly earnings. By the late 1950s it was down to 22.2 per cent: by the late 1960s it was down to 20.2 per cent; and we entered the 1970s with it falling away quickly to 19.6 per cent. It is now 18.4 per cent, only a few months after entering the 1970s.
This meanly conceived and cynical political contrivance of offering a mere 50c to pensioners at this point lifts the standard rate of pension from the lowest level in the post-war period to the second lowest level in relation to average weekly earnings. The additional 50c will lift the standard rate pension from 18.4 per cent to 18.8 per cent of average weekly earnings. Is this the magnificent achievement of which the Minister for Social Services is so proud? If the Minister feels- that he gulls the Australian public, I can assure him that he is not so successful with outside interests. The ‘London Times’ of 10th March 1971 reported in these terms: .
Distribution of wealth in Australia is among the most inequitable in the civilised world. The rich are very rich and the .poor are very poor, and while there is really no excuse for poverty in such a potentially rich country, nevertheless it exists to an alarming degree.
The article goes on to add:
Poverty in Australia is the poverty of a rich country and it is popularly believed that her social services are among the most generous in the world. But those who believe that are sadly mistaken.
Of course they are. To realise this one has only to look at a table showing percentage expenditures on health and welfare in this and other countries. With the concurrence of honourable members 1 incorporate in Hansard a table showing these percentages.
– Although I have agreed to the incorporation of the table, the honourable member should have shown it to me earlier.
– I could not see the Minister earlier, although it is unusual not to hear him. The Government’s proposals neglect many needs and many aspects of social service benefits. They cover age and invalid pensions, pensions for widows classes A, B and C. and long term sickness benefits, but they neglect many other areas, and in covering those areas to which I have referred they cover them in a very restrictive sense. For example, they do not touch child endowment, guardians allowances, short term sickness benefits or unemployment benefits. This is rather disturbing because there is a long term trend which shows that people in rural areas must be suffering as a result of this. Again, with the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the break-up between the rural and metropolitan areas in relation to those who register for unemployment and job vacancies.
From this table one discovers that there is a fairly consistent pattern. In the metropolitan area job vacancies notified over the period from about July 1969 exceeded those registered for employment, but in the rural area there is this long term trend of registered job seekers exceeding considerably the job vacancies notified. On this basis it is hard to understand why members of the Australian Country Party, for instance, do not voice some compassionate concern for the people whom they are supposed to represent, because clearly people in rural areas are suffering quite a disadvantage because of this.
In 1946 unemployment and sickness benefits for a man and his wife were 35.3 per cent of average weekly earnings. By the late 1950s they had fallen to 27.6 per cent, and by the 1970s they were down to 22.7 per cent. They are now down to about 20 per cent. This represents a desperate situation for these people who have to live on this standard of income. Again, we find that the level of sickness benefit for a man with a wife and 2 children is about $21 a week below the poverty line struck by the Melbourne survey. Widows, who are the most vulnerable in the poverty area, are receiving almost $4 a week below the poverty level, despite the 50c increase. Again, the standard rate of pension is about $4.75 below the anticipated poverty line, based on average weekly earnings expected for the end of this financial year.
In relation to many of the figures I have cited I refer honourable members, and anyone who happens to read the report of this debate, to pages 416 and 417 of Hansard of 22nd February 197] where they will see a table which was incorporated in the course of a statement that I made on that occasion. I refer them also to an answer by the Minister for Social Services to a question which I asked, which appears at pages 1121 and 1122 of Hansard of 18th March 1971. This shows the alarming disparity and the long term erosion in the prosperity standard of people who are dependent on social service benefits visavis the average standard of prosperity in the community as measured by average weekly earnings. Of course this- clinches the case for tying social service benefits to average weekly earnings on some sort of percentage base with a yearly adjustment. This sort of thing has been done in the United States of America and in most other countries.
All that the Government proves by refusing to act in this respect is how backward it is in its thinking on welfare. It is still obsessed with poorhouse values which were more appropriate to the middle of the last century than they are to a commu nity which is preparing to enter the 21st century. I repeat that the Government’s response to this has been predictable. There has been a predictably mean adjustment to an old, worn, inadequate and, frankly, discredited system. The Government seems to be obsessed with the practices of the past and it refuses to face the challenges of the future. So far as social services are concerned, Australia is pre-Beveridge, and Beveridge was in the 1940s era in Great Britain. Most of what he has put forward as far as welfare thinking is concerned has been superseded. In case there is any quibbling on the part of any Government supporters as to the accuracy of what I say about the deficiency of the system of social service benefits in this country I will quote from a report of the Committee on Social Patterns of the Immigration Advisory Council entitled ‘The Departure of Settlers from Australia’. ‘ ft reads:
Eighty-eight per cent of all returnees-
That is, migrants returning home; - felt that ‘inadequate social services in Australia’ had some influence on their decision, and it also ranked as the most important single reason
This report is now a couple of years old. We see no radical rethinking, no fresh concepts emerging, no efforts to remould the sort of welfare practices, policies and values which apply in this community and yet clearly we need new values. We need a system of social security which gives comprehensive protection. We need a system of welfare programmes that will back this up. It is not of much use giving money to people with need and more especially people with chronic need unless you have the welfare services to back up this sort of assistance to help people to become selfsufficient, to maintain their self-respect and to uphold their personal dignity.
Let us look at some of the proposals on social security. A national superannuation scheme is clearly needed in this community. I have made some suggestions publicly on a national superannuation scheme. The Australian Labor Party is not committed to this scheme. At this point it is still considering possibilities in this respect. Incidentally, I wrote to the Treasurer and asked him whether he would be able to assist me with some accurate costing of what I had proposed, because after all one has limited resources to do this sort of thing. J asked whether the Department of the Treasury would assist. The Treasurer indicated with reservations that his Department would assist with this exercise if not too much time and not too many of its resources were taken up. The fact is that the Department had several officers working on the paper, a copy of which 1 supplied to the Minister, for several days before 1 asked the Treasurer for assistance. So much for the sort of services which can be made available to members of the Opposition.
The argument for a superannuation scheme seems to be an overwhelming one. The 1968 survey by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics disclosed that between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of a State population was without superannuation cover. Specifically a scheme such as this would assist employees in private enterprise, more than 60 per cent of whom are without superannuation rights. It would even help many Government employees, 30 per cent of whom have no cover. It would be of special assistance to manual workers, more than 67 per cent of whom have no superannuation cover. Of course, these are Victorian findings but. 1 think it is reasonable to assume from them that one can get a general trend of the need for this sort of programme in the community.
We want to go into an appropriate scheme of national superannuation for widows, for invalids, for the sick and the unemployed. I will give one illustration of unemployment benefits in Ontario, Canada. In that province wage earners and the selfemployed contribute to an unemployment benefit fund and for each 2 weeks for which they have contributed in the past 12 months they have a one week entitlement of benefits at 80 per cent of their income earning capacity. Canada and Australia are comparable countries in this sort of thing and certainly in economic terms and the social welfare programmes that this country is capable of achieving, lt is quite clear that Australia has the capacity to introduce this sort of system for the benefit of the community. We have the power to do it and having the power we must fulfil the responsibility to introduce these things; to give people a sense of security and to assure them that the community is concerned about their welfare and that in times of crisis need especially there will bc adequate support for them.
I would like to go beyond this. I have recommended to the Labor Party that we need a comprehensive national compensation scheme. The arguments for this sort of compensation programme have been persuasively put by the report of the New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry on Compensation for Personal Injury. Recompense for injury under workers compensation and under third’ party insurance cover is currently subject to important limitations which are derived more from legal technicalities and complexities than from a recognition of the injured party’s needs and rights. Workers’ compensation benefits are generally struck at relatively low levels and too often, where extended periods of dependence are concerned especially, cause grave hardship. In any case the system of protection ignores what occurs in the twothirds of the day away from work. In the case of common law actions, these are tempered by counter claims of contributory negligence. The most disadvantaged are those unfortunates who are unable to identify the party causing the injury or who are unable to establish proof of fault or who are the hapless victims of what lawyers disarmingly describe as ‘an act of God’.
The Royal Commission’s report preferred to observe that of the 2 processes overall economy is ensured in the one case by restricting benefits and in the other by limiting beneficiaries. In neither case is satisfaction of human needs and personal rights a determining factor. The Commission in its report was positive and convincing in its criticisms of these 2 systems, and clearly the defects in those equivalent systems of insurance operating in this country are vulnerable to similar objections. We must recognise that even if capable of improvement the present methods of compensation for injured parties are no longer adequate. People’s needs and rights, following on injury, rather than the sorting out of legal conundrums based on proof of fault, ought to determine the right to compensation benefits. The problem is a social one for which the community at large must bear responsibility, rather than it being a cause for lawyers jousting in the lists provided by our court rooms. The defects of common law processes have been established by a Toronto study which suggests that the claims of plaintiffs are satisfied by the common law process in inverse proportion to the severity of their injuries’.
Evidence of this nature from overseas, confirmed by experience in this country, demonstrates the need for a coherent consistent and adequate remedy for personal injury which is unencumbered by distended legal processes. As I said, responsibility for such a programme should be a community one and accordingly everyone should have an entitlement to the protection of such a scheme, that is, the aged, the young, the housewife, the self-employed as well as the employees. This protection should be available for the 24 hours of each day and for any form of debilitating injury whether it occurs on the factory floor, in the office, on the road, in the home or elsewhere. Economic and social loss sustained by an injury is in no way moderated because it occurred away from work or off the road. There should be a consistent method of assessing compensation entitlement so that those who suffer equal losses should be treated equally. Compensation should be earnings related in recognition of the peculiar situation and special needs of those unfortunate enough to have their expectations and aspirations in life suddenly disrupted or even destroyed by injury. The compensation fund could be provided from 2 sources. Firstly, income from third party insurance premiums could be replaced by a special tax on petrol or tyres. The New Zealand proposal for a driver’s licence fee, was simpler to administer in that country, is. fraught with difficulties here because of the varying methods of issuing licences in the States. Secondly, income from employers liability and workers compensation insurance could be replaced by a payroll levy. This eliminates risk ratings and merit discounts between industries. However, because ‘all industrial activity is inderdependent . . . there should be a general polling of all the risks of accidents to workers’.
Again, while the merit system may be an incentive to greater industrial safety on the one hand, on the other it has led to abuse in some instances where merit discounts have meant big money to some establishments. Because of the interdependence of all industrial activity, including distribution as well as production, public risk third party insurance should be replaced by a suitable payroll levy. By using the J 967-68 figures and relating them to a 1970-71 estimate of real gross national product of about $3 1,660m one can gather a rough guideline - of course one must stress the’ roughness of its nature - of income from these sources. In the case of employers liability and workers compensation contributions, plus public risk third party insurance, a retention ratio covering administrative costs and profits of 32 per cent is maintained. If the national compensation scheme achieved the economy of operation expected of the New Zealand scheme of 10 per cent retention ratio, there would be an additional S50m in real terms available for extra benefits. That is in real terms. In terms of inflationary movements the amount would be considerably higher. This would represent an increase of about one-third in the amount which would be paid out in benefits. Interestingly enough, the 10 per cent retention ratio would cover the cost of an accident prevention education programme.
The economies that the New Zealand report expected would be achieved came from avoiding wasteful duplication by having a national commission as a public undertaking rather than the proliferation of competitive profit-making private companies providing the service. The selfemployed would contribute further income to the scheme through a levy on earned income. Because of the lack of statistical data it is not possible to estimate the full cost of such a scheme. However, if the New Zealand expectations are appropriate to Australia the scheme, would be selfsupporting on the basis of these sources of income.
As far as the economy is concerned, the added cost burden would be slight, coming almost exclusively from the petrol or tyre tax for any additions above current third party insurance income necessary to cover the current rate of outgoings. This would be diffused and easily digested by the economy. There would be added savings, as an offsetting factor, from this scheme through the additional benefits gained by eliminating costly duplicated insurance services and largely eliminating expensive litigation. On this last point of litigation, it has to be recognised that this common law right exists as a State prerogative and, therefore, an arrangement would have to be made whereby eligibility for compensation under this scheme would be accepted at the expense of forgoing this right.
The cost of the payroll levy is a transfer cost from one method of income raising, namely, employers liability and workers compensation insurance, plus public risk third party insurance, to another form; that is, there is no additional burden cast on the economy. The New Zealand situation may vary from ours in respect of this matter but only slightly, I expect, and we can gain good guidelines for future policy development in this respect.
In this area of social security we must, as a moral responsibility in the community, introduce a system of guaranteed minimum income for those people unfortunate enough to live in the area defined as one of relative poverty. But we must go beyond this. We must introduce a system of regionalised social welfare programmes, a subject I have raised many times before in this House. As an indication of how dilatory we are in our thinking in this regard, I refer to the Seebohm Report of 1968 in which submissions were made on this point, submissions which have been acted upon in Great Britain.
I conclude by suggesting that this House should refer the total area of social welfare, not only the benefits now provided but also the funds of services which should be provided, both financially and by way of welfare programmes backing up financial services, to a select committee of this House so that we can have some objective, in depth, analyses of the needs in this community and so that appropriate recommendations may be made to this House on the kind of policy which should be developed in the future. We must maximise public involvement in all of these things when we do them in the future. There has been too much secrecy surrounding the work conducted by the Department of Social Services on policy matters affecting the welfare of many human beings.
Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I always endeavour to be present in the House when the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) is speaking. After all, he is the Opposition’s shadow Minister for Social Services. If the Labor Party ever became the Government of this country be would become the Minister for Social Services. Therefore what he says is important. What he says now in this House is what we must expect to occur if - my colleague near me has said: ‘Heaven forbid’ - Labor occupies the Treasury bench.
The honourable member for Oxley is, as we all know, an intelligent and hard-working member of Parliament. As one trained in economic theory, honourable members would be justified in expecting from him a real contribution in this debate. I am afraid he has let us down rather badly tonight. Outside this chamber I find him a very personable young man. He is affable and friendly and one cannot help liking him. But when he rises to speak in this chamber his personality undergoes a change. For some unknown reason he takes on a Jekyll and Hyde personality. His face becomes pale and drawn, his eyes take on a hungry look, his voice becomes rather staccato and unfortunately he tends to become sarcastic. He put on this type of performance in this chamber last night while the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was making his second reading speech. This was very disappointing to those who like him.
Supported by his colleagues, he interjected, he moved frivolous points of order, he argued with you, Mr Deputy Speaker, he capriciously moved dissent from your ruling and then just as capriciously withdrew his motion. His continual interruptions went on ad infinitum until the Minister’s time had expired. For those of us who wished to hear the Minister’s speech the honourable member’s activities were frustrating, to say the least. However the Minister, as we all know, is a hardened old character and as usual he carried the day. There has never been, I submit, Sir, a Minister with more understanding of the problems of pensioners than the present Minister, or a Minister more desirous of improving their lot. As vice chairman of the Government Members Social Services Committee I have the honour of working closely with him. I know his thinking on these matters and I am proud to be associated with him.
T would have thought that the honourable member for Oxley and all other members of the Opposition would have been keen to give this Bill a speedy passage because it is aimed at alleviating some of the problems that pensioners are facing. It is an urgent interim measure. Instead, the spokesman for the Opposition moved an amendment containing 6 clauses. This tends only to widen the debate and to take away from the real issue which is the provision of interim relief to pensioners until the next Budget. I will not bother dealing wilh the first 4 clauses of the amendment because they are exactly the same as those which the honourable member moved in the Budget debate last September. The House defeated them and showed him. and the Opposition, what it thought of them. The fifth clause of this amendment states:
Pension payments should be a proportion of average weekly earnings adjusted annually . . .
The Minister answered this point adequately last night in his second reading speech. He pointed out that the current inflation is duc to the fact that average weekly earnings have outstripped productivity and that average weekly earnings are above award rates. The Minister supplied a graph to illustrate this point. I know that it upset honourable, members opposite because of the way they performed. However, despite all the interjections, the Minister answered this point very well and I will not waste further lime on it. The sixth clause of the amendment states:
The subject of social services should be referred to a select committee of this House.
All honourable members know that last night the Minister said in his speech that the whole matter of social services is the subject of a Cabinet inquiry. I was disappointed - I am sure the Minister was disappointed - that the Government decided, when considering the last Budget, that because of the state of the economy and because of the money spent on the new health scheme, it could increase pensions by only 50c. Although this offset the effects on pensioners of recent price rises due to inflationary pressures, it did not continue the- great strides forward to which we had become accustomed under this Government. Most honourable members are aware of the Government’s achievements in the field of social services.
It would be pointless to compare, in money terms, the position of the pensioner at the time of the last Labor Government with his position today. It is so long since we have had a Labor Government, and money values have altered greatly. The Australian people have refused for the past 22 years to trust the Labor Party with the running of this country, and I believe rightly so. But we can make a comparison by converting monetary figures into real value, that is, by adjusting the monetary pension to what it will buy. This, of course, is done by comparing the real value of the pension calculated from the cost of living index in 1949, the last year of a Labor Government and the cost of living index today. It is interesting to turn back the pages of Hansard to the last time a Labor Government presented a Budget in this House. The right honourable J. B. Chifley was then the Prime Minister and Treasurer of this country. Chifley’s Budget of 1949 did not increase pensions in any way. He told the Parliament:
The Australian Labor Party, and particularly myself, would have liked to have seen several measures introduced in this country, including a scheme of national superannuation. I think it will be possible in the days to come to give consideration to such a measure. I stress, however, that it could not be financed out of present taxes.
Mr Chifley went on: tt is no use attempting to fool the people with promises. These things can only be done by the imposition of additional taxes.
I remind the honourable member for Oxley to heed those words of that former Labor leader. Whatever else honourable members might think about Mr Chifley and his policies. Mr Chifley was nonetheless a responsible Treasurer. Unlike some members of the Opposition, he knew that governments have no money of their own; that they cannot pluck money out of the air. The only money they can spend is what they collect from the people, and this they distribute throughout the various sectors of need. If taxation is to remain static, one sector can get more only if another sector gets less. If one sector is to get more and the other sectors are to remain static, the taxpayer must be asked to pay more taxation.
It is easy for a party in opposition to demand more money for this sector today, more money for another sector tomorrow, and yet more again for another sector the day after. On the surface it makes their party very popular with the various pressure groups whose cause it espouses. But unlike the Government, the Opposition is not called upon to fulfil those promises. It is easy in such circumstances to make rash and illogical statements. But a responsible Opposition should be able to produce a p:an as 10 how its promises are to be financed. The honourable member for Oxley admitted tonight that some of the plans he was putting forward had not been accepted by the Opposition. In order to prove their sincerity members of the Opposition should show what other sectors of the economy are to suffer to supply the vast funds which would be required to satisfy their demands. Are they suggesting that we should cut down on health services, national development, defence, housing or aid to underdeveloped countries? They should tell us what they suggest. They cannot with any credibility claim to raise the money by increased taxation, because the Labor Party went to the people at the last election with a policy to reduce taxation. So how does it aim to obtain the money that would be required? I think the House is entitled to an answer to that question. 1 mentioned earlier that to get a real comparison of the true policy of the Labor Party with that of the Government we must compare not the face value of the pension offered by a Labor government with that offered by the present Government but its real value, that is, what it will buy. The Chifley Labor Government in 1949 paid the single pensioner a measly sum of S4.25 a week. Adjusted to today’s values, this would amount to S 1.0.33 a week. This Bill will give to the single pensioner SI 6 a week, and with fringe benefits which have been introduced by this Government it will amount to much more. So much for what the Labor Party says in Opposition and what it does when in government. It is interesting to read the Budget Speech made by Mr Chifley in 1949. He said:
A man and his wife who are both pensioners may each receive an income and still retain their rights to pensions. Including income from other sources they may receive £7.5s. a week between them.
In today’s currency, that is S14.50 a week and. adjusted to the present value of money, it amounts to about $35 a week.
So $35 a week at today’s values was the ceiling that Mr Chifley thought was sufficient for a pensioner couple to live in comfort. But these are not the views of the present Government. Under the present tapered means test introduced in 1969, and which I believe was one of the greatest strides forward in social services that this country has seen - I pay tribute to the Minister for Social Services for being the bruin behind this - a married couple may have an income and part pension amounting to $74 a week, whereas Mr Chifley would have regarded $35 a week as sufficient. The Government figure is in real terms more than double the figure set by Mr Chifley. Likewise, a single pensioner can have an income,’ plus part pension, of $42 a week before the pension cuts out. With various fringe benefits, most of these people would not be too badly off.
A few weeks ago my colleague the honourable member for Holt (Mr Reid) said that what pensioners, needed as much as money was love, and I think he had a point there. Many children of pensioners, despite the fact that their parents have kept them and looked after them for years when they were children, tend to neglect their parents when they become old. They forget about them and expect the rest of the taxpayers to be financially responsible for them. It is not only the taxpayers’ responsibility to look after pensioners, the children of those pensioners should also accept some responsibility for .their parents. Let us have a look at the fringe benefits, because they are, as 1 have said, a valuable adjunct to the pension. The pensioner receives free doctor and specialist services, reduced fares on city, country and interstate transport, free treatment in public hospitals and free pharmaceutical benefits. It is estimated that the free medical benefits to pensioners are worth approximately $3 a week on top of the pension of $16. In addition pensioners enjoy television licence concessions, home nursing subsidies, nursing home benefits, telephone rental concessions and a rental subsidy of $2 a week where applicable. When these fringe benefits are added to the straight out grant of $16 it will be seen that the true value of today’s pension is probably nearer $25 a week for a single person. I am not saying for a moment that I would nol like it to be higher. I believe most of us would.
However some pensioners who live with their children or who own their own homes are not too badly off on this amount. 1 remember a few years ago, when I was in the Jaycees, a group of us cutting firewood, loading it into utilities and delivering it to pensioners. I remember vividly driving up to a big home in the electorate of Wills where a man was cleaning a Mercedes Benz in the drive. 1 said that I had a load of firewood for a Mrs X, a pensioner. He said: ‘Oh, yes, that’s Mum. Just stack it behind the garage.’ He did not even help us unload it. Most of the cases that we called on, unfortunately, seemed to be people who did not really need that assistance. So it will be seen that pensioners in such a position are not as badly off as some others, and if we increase the pension across the board we may not be putting the available money to the best use, directing it to the place of greatest need. There are areas of particular need. There are pensioners, mainly the single ones without a family, living in rooms or rented premises who are in real need. It is these people for whom assistance is most urgent. Another group which I believe is harshly treated are those who, through thrift or membership of superannuation schemes, just fail to qualify for a pension. They are often worse off than the pensioner because they do not qualify for the fringe benefits.
I do not believe that the piecemeal doling out of $1 here and $J there is the answer to the problems of the pensioner. The only adequate answer, as I see it, is a national superannuation scheme to which everyone contributes during his lifetime and from which everyone will benefit in his retirement. It is done in other countries and I believe it can be done here. It has been talked about by nearly every government since federation but it has never been enacted. I hope that in the Cabinet study of social services which is now proceeding the matter will be fully investigated and acted upon. I certainly would like to see the scheme introduced. It may take a few years to implement fully, but it must be implemented.
In announcing the rise of 50c a week in pensions the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) pointed out that this is only an interim measure and that the Government hopes to resume in the near future its former pace in respect of expansion of pensions. I hope that we will see a further rise in pensions included in the Budget in August next. I believe we will. Members of the Opposition may argue amongst themselves as to whether increases in pensions represent ‘feather bedding’ of the pensioners, to use their own term, but we on this side of the chamber do not believe it is. The Government is charged with the responsibility of maintaining a sound economy. Irresponsible government financial policies would lead only down the road to disaster and depression. If this Government were irresponsible it would make handouts to all and sundry. It is easy for the Opposition to make irresponsible promises. It is another thing for the Government in office to fulfil them. We would all like to have seen larger increases in pensions. No-one would deny that. However, the Prime Minister has promised that the matter will be reviewed again in August. For the reasons I have stated I oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition and give my wholehearted support to the Minister and the Bill.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden;. In doing so I wish to deal first with the extraordinary proposed increase of 50c a week in pensions. That amount is little more than the price of a bottle of beer or a packet of cigarettes.
– Or 2 loaves of bread.
– That is so. However, the major point is the manner in which the increase has come about. The fact is that the Opposition has been calling for a considerable time for an increase over the whole range of pensions and for a review of the social service structure, particularly in respect of age, invalid and widow pensions. It became a very big issue. It has been said fairly widely around the lobbies that the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), before he attained that office, was opposed in Cabinet to any pension increases at this time. When he became Prime Minister, in his first address to the House in that office, he suddenly became a fervent advocate of pension increases, to the extent of 50c a week. In the light of that sudden change of attitude one cannot help but feel that the increase is being granted in a cynical manner, as a blatant political gimmick. The increase is far too small. It is a case of too little too late. It is hoped that it will provide a facelift for the Government’s image at this time. It was felt that something had to be done to divert attention from the dissension within the ranks of the Government parties. I repeat that it is far too little and far too late.
The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), who preceded me in this debate, referred to a former Labor Prime Minister, the late Ben Chifley. I am very pleased to remind honourable members that my electorate is named after Ben Chifley. I agree that he was always a responsible person. He was a very responsible Treasurer and a very responsible Prime Minister. It is very interesting and enlightening to hear today, so many years after Ben Chifley’s death, Government supporters beginning to shout his praises. 1 wish they had done it earlier.
– What did they say about him in 1949?
– That is a good point. We can remember some extraordinary statements being made about him at that time by Government supporters. We can remember some extraordinary reports in the Press, which supported the Opposition of that day, the present Government. The notable achievement of the Labor Government in office from 1941 to 1949 was its steady improvement of the lot of pensioners. When it achieved office in 1941 one of its first actions was to increase pensions appreciably. During its period of office it took every opportunity to increase social service payments, even during the difficult days of the war and postwar periods. The reforms in the area of social welfare introduced by that Labor Government make a long list. I refer, for example, to Commonwealth university scholarships, and so on. right through the range.
The honourable member for Deakin referred to the 1948-49 period. At that time the average weekly earnings for each employed male were $17.7. The pension payable to single age and invalid pensioners at that time represented 24 per cent of average weekly earnings. I understand that the increase now proposed by the Government will be implemented on 8th April. Estimating average weekly earnings for the current year as $81 a week - for the last quarter ended December they were $84, but Christmas payments and so on were included in that calculation - when the increase is paid pensioners will be receiving only 19.75 per cent of average weekly earnings. In other words, age and invalid pensions for single pensioners as a proportion of average weekly earnings have been reduced since 1948-49 from 24 per cent to 19.75 per cent. Surely those figures answer the claims of the honourable member for Deakin. Surely they vindicate the attitude of the Chifley Government when compared to that of the present Government.
However, I do not wish to dwell on the past. The important point to consider is what is to be done for pensioners now and in in the future. I wish to refer to a few particular problems. I repeat that it is amazing that with the. present Prime Minister’s elevation to that office, from being opposed to pension increases he has decided to grant an increase almost overnight. It is remarkable, and I think most unfortunate, that a pension increase is being granted in such a cynical manner, for blatant political propaganda purposes. It is. an attempt to give a facelift to the Government’s image. I invite honourable members to consider the plight of single pensioners today. Still nothing of a major: nature has been done to improve the situation of the single pensioners. In New South Wales rentals have become very high and the single pension has still not been adequately improved.
Let us turn now to the civilian widow pensioner. I want to make it clear that 1 am not in any way trying to denigrate the war widow’s pension. I believe that, if anything, the war widow’s pension is still not sufficiently high to account for the loss which she has suffered. But in the type of society in which we live today there is no doubt that a far greater number of husbands, breadwinners and. family men, are dying younger. Quite regularly we hear of men who have passed away in their thirties from such things as coronary occlusions. In those circumstances where the man dies of injuries or illness which cannot be proved to be the result of his war service then his wife does not receive a war widow’s pension. Furthermore, his wife is subjected to a means test. On the other hand, if the man were to die as a result of injuries or illness suffered during his war service his wife would receive a far greater pension than the civilian widow and the pension would not be subjected to a means test. As I said. I am not in any way attempting to denigrate the war widow’s pension. lt is time that we had a look at the civilian widow’s pension to see whether it is adequate and whether or not it should be subject to a means test. A woman came into my office quite recently. Her husband had deserted her, and she has 4 children all under the age of 16 years, including twins 22 months of age. She receives a pension of $34.50 a week to look after those 4 children. The twins have to have special diets because they are not particularly healthy. As a result of the worry she has incurred the woman is suffering from ulcers. This did not happen before she was deserted. The pension for a deserted wife is the same as that for a civilian widow. In a case such as this I cannot do other than to make a special appeal for this Parliament to look very carefully at the civilian widow’s pensions. I do not think they are adequate.
A woman, whether she is a deserted wife or a widow, faces a very great problem when she suddenly finds her responsibilities not doubled but -more than doubled. She has to take care of the children. She has to fill the dual role of both mother and father. She has to do it under very difficult circumstances. She should not be forced to go out to work but should be encouraged to stay home so that she might be able to fulfil that dual role and that far greater responsibility which has been thrust upon her. For that reason I ask very sincerely that the issue of the adequacy of the pension paid to the civilian widow and the deserted wife be looked at by this Parliament. Also this Parliament should give consideration in the very near future to removing the means test from the civilian widow’s pension as is the case with the war widow’s pension. I do not think that is an unreasonable proposition, lt should not be objected to by any section of this House.
When I mentioned this matter previously in the Parliament I can remember that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) nodded his head. T had hoped that in this Bill some amendments would have been brought before the Parliament to implement these proposals. I cannot understand why it is that a woman has to wait 6 months before she can receive a deserted wife’s pension. She has to be deserted for 6 months and she has to have applied for a maintenance order against her husband. That maintenance order could be the very thing which, once the action is taken, removes all chance of reconciliation between the two parties in the future. Yet this is being forced upon the woman by the decisions of this Parliament. I know that the Minister understands this. He nodded agreement to it when I last spoke in the Parliament. I would have thought that this would have been a golden opportunity to bring in-
– He must have fallen asleep.
– No, he was not asleep at the time. This would have been a first class opportunity for amendments to have been brought before the Parliament lo implement reforms on those two issues - the elimination of the 6 months waiting period before a deserted wife can receive a pension and the elimination of the need for her to take maintenance proceedings against her husband before that can be done.
The other aspect I want to deal with is child endowment. For some reason or other child endowment has been forgotten by this Parliament for some years. 1 mean no disrespect to migrants from overseas when I say that the best migrants we can have in this country are the natural born ones. Yet for some reason or other child endowment has been completely forgotten and is being completely ignored by the Government.
Taking the average weekly earnings as a basis and applying child endowment for 3 children as a percentage of average weekly earnings one finds that in 1950 a mother with 3 children received child endowment of 12.9 per cent of average weekly earnings. Based on the October 1970 figure for average weekly earnings, today she would receive 3.8 per cent. Surely this is an indictment of any government which says that it advocates and supports assistance for our younger people and for families. My electorate is one of the youngest, if not the youngest, electorate in this country.
It would contain more young people and more large families, particularly in areas such as Mount Druitt, than any other electorate in this country. I am very proud of this. But I feel that those people should be given encouragement to have families and they should receive help to give them a reasonable opportunity in life in the future.
One of the most effective methods of doing this would be by increasing child endowment. One could touch on many other areas, such as the inadequacy of the present pension, as I have mentioned; the inadequacy of the increase in pensions; the inadequacy of invalid, widows and deserted wives pensions; the inadequacy of child endowment; the inadequacy of maternity allowances and the inadequacy of units for age pensioners. Today, the waiting time for such a unit is about 5 years. This is a ridiculous situation. Of course, it is not really a. fair dinkum list because a large number of eligible people simply will not apply for these benefits. This is the situation in regard to pensions at present, and it is for this reason that the honourable member for Oxley moved his amendment, paragraph (6) of which states that the subject of social services should be referred to a select committee of this House. If this is accepted the whole of the social services framework of this country may be fully reviewed, so that all the people who are recipients of social services may be able to put their case as to what reforms are required. I say emphatically, and all members of the Opposition agree, that the day has come when these piecemeal alterations and piecemeal variations have to go by the board. The day has come when there must be a full revision of social services so that all sections of our community, the aged, the sick, the widowed and all the rest, receive justice from this Parliament.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). He was really only shedding crocodile tears and I felt that there was a deep lack of sincerity in what he was saying.
– You speak for yourself.
– That is the way I feel about the honourable member.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honourable member in order in reflecting upon the motives of the previous speaker?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The honourable member for Chifley expressed concern about civilian widows. I can see the mouth of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) moving but I cannot hear what he is saying. It is interesting to note that during the time the Labor Party was in government we saw none of the legislation that the honourable member for Chifley now foreshadows in relation to widows. I happen to have with me the date on which legislation was introduced which affected civilian widows, deserted wives and the other sorts of people whom we class as widows. That legislation was introduced on 1st October 1956. As I recollect, the present Government was in office in that year. From pay day 16th October 1956 class A widows with 2 or more children were granted an additional pension of $1 a week for each child after the first. I had hoped that the honourable member for Chifley would stay in the chamber and listen to the rest of these details because I am sure he would learn something. Alterations to that legislation were made in 1961 - 5 years later- 1963. 1968 and 1969. So I reject utterly any suggestion that this Government does not have any concern for widows and deserted wives.
The honourable member for Chifley, who has now left the chamber, mentioned a couple of other matters which I think should be dealt with. As I recollect, he used the expression ‘around the lobbies’, which is popular among honourable members opposite, when talking about the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). He said that he is the first Prime Minister to be opposed in Cabinet to the increase in the pension. Speaking for my colleagues, I do not think any of us know exactly what goes on in Cabinet. Even the honourable member for Sturt, with his power of insight, does not know. Nobody knows what happens in Cabinet, not even Government supporters. I reject as being totally untrue the statement that the Prime Minister is’ anti-pensioner. It is really quite a ridiculous suggestion.
The honourable member then went on to say that this 50c increase is far too little far too late. I make the point that this is an irresponsible statement. We have listened to the honourable gentleman for 20 minutes but, as far as I am aware, he has not put forward one concrete suggestion as to what he thinks should be the increase in the pension. What does the honourabe member think it should be - Si, S2 or $10? Whatever he thinks it should be he has to justify it because surely the Budget must be balanced.
The honourable member went on to talk about dissension within the Liberal Party. This suggestion is really quite ridiculous. Of course we have dissensions but they are disagreements in relation to personalities. We do not have ideological differences, and honourable members opposite cannot make the same claim. We do not have lefts and rights, anti-Communists and proCommunists within the Liberal Party. The honourable member said that the Australian Labor Party increased social services. 1 think that statement is false. I am not sure in which year it happened but, as I recollect, the only government that ever reduced social services was a Labor government. I think that occurred in the 1930s, during the depression years. So I reject utterly the remarks made by the honourable member for Chifley. The honourable member expressed a great deal of concern for war widows. He said he did not want to denigrate war widows. I certainly hope he would not want to do so. He made the point that a lot of people were dying younger and that as a result there were a lot more widows in Australia as well as deserted wives whose husbands had left home, f think the honourable member also criticised the lack of pension provision for a deserted wife during the first 6 months of desertion. The Government takes the view that for the first 6 months the deserted wife is a State responsibility. This is a question of social welfare, and in fact we have all expressed concern about this situation. 1 remember making a speech in this place about an unmarried mother who was paid a social welfare benefit of 35/- a week. When she reached 19 years of age the benefit was increased to 40/- a week, and when she reached 20 years of age it was increased to 45/- a week. Honourable members oppo site cannot say that the Government is not aware of these things because it has made it possible for such a person to receive a full social service pension once it is established that she is genuinely deserted.
I would like to make a few remarks about the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), and about this legislation. I am pleased that the Minister is in the chamber to hear my remarks. The honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) referred to the fundamental review of social services and related pensions which is taking place and also the methods of adjusting such benefits. I would like to say to the Minister and to the Government that in my view it is extremely important that the review take place. We do not want any airy-fairy sort of legislation or review such as that which F am afraid honourable members opposite tend to think about. We do not want something which is tied to the average wage. In my view, we want something which completes our case, in accordance with which we have established social services on the basis of need.
I would remind the House that the social services programme was established in 1905 on a basis of need and has been expanded ever since. One point made by the honourable member for Chifley with which I would agree is the necessity of recognising the need of the single rate pensioner. I have made, as no doubt the honourable member and others have, submissions to the Government to the effect that the single rate pensioner is the person in the area of greatest need. This is so whether the single rate pensioner is an unmarried mother, a deserted wife, someone living in what one could describe as genteel poverty, a widow or a widower. In any review of pensions I would like to see emphasis laid on the need of the person who is in receipt of one pension. 1 would like to see that rate of pension increased.
Later in his second reading speech - I am sure he will not mind if I am slightly critical here - the Minister referred to 2 engines. He said:
Price increases occur through excess demand, which makes possible sales at an increased price. Behind :his process there are 2 engines, a big engine and a small one.
The Minister then went on to describe the small engine. He said:
The small engine is the tendency of certain businessmen to increase their profit margin - that is, to increase their prices faster than their costs.
I disagree with the Minister strongly on this. There are very few small businesses that are making any profits at all these days. I would say that most of them are lucky to break even. I do not think we can blame the small businesses for this.
– It is the smaller engine.
– The Minister has made the point that it is the smaller engine. 1 do not think lhat is an engine at all. One cannot do worse than make a loss. The Minister made the point that the big engine is the tendency of workers to demand overaward payments. With this 1 would agree. I recall an answer which was given by the former Minister for Labour and National Service in this place 2 or 3 weeks ago when he said, as I remember it, that in excess of 40 per cent of over-award payments secured within the last 12 months have been secured as a result of direct action outside the arbitration system. So I agree with the Minister for Social Services on the score of the big engine. I think that some employers are equally guilty in this matter in that they tend to succumb easily and pay over-award rates in order to retain their staff. One point which has been ignored consistently by honourable members such as the honourable member for Chifley is that of fringe benefits.
– 1 do not think that you like me.
– I have a very high regard for the honourable member. However, I am on this side of the House and he is on the other side. I believe it is important lo get the true facts recorded somewhere in this place, that is, in Hansard. I cannot remember a single speaker on the Opposition side ever referring to fringe benefits. For that reason, if for no other, I want to refer to fringe benefits. Do honourable members opposite think that fringe benefits do not exist or are undesirable? I claim that if we asked 99.9 per cent of people who receive a pension whether they would sooner have a higher pension and no fringe benefits-
– Hear, hear!
– I appreciate the interjection. If we asked pensioners whether they would sooner have a higher pension and no fringe benefits or whether they would rather have the fringe benefits that they receive at the moment and the present pension 1 believe that virtually all of them would say: ‘Please keep it as it is; we want fringe benefits’. Many people of pensionable age are elderly people. I would like to point out what I believe to be the true value of the pension today, and my thinking is consistent with Government policy since I came to this place. The single rate pension is $16 a week. The supplementary pension, which is granted to someone paying rent, is $2 a week. The fringe benefits have been costed - if I do not run out of time I might be able to put these figures in Hansard - to be worth $5 a week. Therefore, the true value of the pension spread over the 1 million pensioners in Australia today is $23 a week. That is 40 per cent of the most common wage received in this country.
I think there is a tendency for people in this country to talk about the average wage. I do not really think that we should think in terms of an average wage because not many people receive the average wage or anywhere near it. Most people receive a wage of about $50 a week, and this is the most common wage. When we are being critical of the Government or are working out percentages surely it is reasonable to base our thinking on what is the most common wage received. I am sure that honourable members will agree that the pension received by the single pensioner is just over 40 per cent of the most common wage.
– You were only just saying that you did not think we should relate the pension to weekly earnings at all.
– I do not quite understand the interjection made by the honourable member. What [ am saying is that I would like to see the single rate of pension, expressed as a percentage of the most common wage and in actual money terms, lifted. The married rate pension is $28.50 a week. If we add $10 a week for fringe benefits - because there are 2 persons each receiving fringe benefits to the value of S5 - the true value of the pension received is $38.50. This pension would represent over 70 per cent of the most common wage.
– There is a little bit of guess work in this.
– It is not guess work: it is pretty accurate. The point I want to hammer home is this: Who is better off under these conditions? fs it the Italian or Greek migrant who cannot speak English very well, who has four or five children and who is receiving a wage of $50 a week, or is it the married pensioner couple who are receiving a combined rate of $38.50? Naturally everyone wants to increase the present level of pensions. But what we are really talking about is lack of privilege, areas of poverty and areas of need in the community. I continue to make the point that in my view the most underprivileged people in our society are the single rate pensioners to whom the honourable member For Chifley and others have referred and migrants and other people with four or five children and who receive a single income equal to the most common wage.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Social Services dealt in some detail with the cost of living rise indices. When we examined the position last year we found that in money terms there was an increase in the cost of living figures of 49c for the married rate pensioner and 56c for the single pensioner. On this occasion the percentage is slightly higher. It seems to me that this is a responsible way for us to consider what the increase in pension should be. The honourable member for Chifley did not refer to increases in the cost of living in Australia. Flow else can we judge what the increase should be? How else can we make a judgment? This is the only way in which governments can fairly work out what the increase in the pension should be.
In the time remaining I would like to refer quickly to the break-down in figures in case people disbelieve me about the value of fringe benefits. Honourable members will remember that I referred to the figure of $5, which is what the Government and those of us who support the Government claim is the true value of the fringe benefits. I shall quote figures for last year. I do not have figures for the current year. The pensioner medical service costs this country $161m, which worked out at $3.10 per pensioner. The nursing home benefits cost $3 6m, which was 80c per week per pensioner. The miscellaneous health benefits cost the country $2. 7m, which worked out at 6c per pensioner. The personal care subsidy, which is paid by the Government to those who run hostel type accommodation, church homes and so on, cost $1.6m or 4c per pensioner. Telephone, radio and television concessions cost over $8m or 17c per pensioner. Housing assistance cost over $25m, which worked out at 61c per pensioner. Last year the total cost of these social service benefits, which include health services, was in excess of $230m. Divided among the 1 million pensioners in the country, this works out at $4.78 per pensioner. I talked about $5.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley)- I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to. have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I . do, by the member who has just resumed his- seat, the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). Among other slanderous remarks that he made, he said that I had left the House because I was not prepared to hear the arguments that he would propound against my address which concluded just before he spoke. This is not so. Unfortunately I had to leave the House, but not for the reason that the honourable member thought. I had to leave the House because I had just received a note from the attendant that somebody wished to speak to me on the telephone. After completing the call I returned to listen to the remainder of his slander. I think the House should understand just what occurred.
– r rise to support the amendment moved, by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). Firstly, I would like to refer to one rather remarkable part of the speech made by the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay). He arrived at the’, somewhat remarkable figure of $5 as the value of fringe benefits. I do not know how he arrived at this figure. He did not break it down into various components. He did not mention how that was made up. Let us have a look at the medical services for a start. Surely, if the pensioner patients were not receiving the medical benefits, those without any other means of support would have to be treated as public or charity patients. So the virtual gain to the pensioner in actual money value of the pensioner medical service is zero. The other point is in relation to travel concessions. They are not met by the Commonwealth Government. They are left as the responsibility of the State governments.
The Opposition does not want to oppose the rise in pensions of 50c a week, miserable as it might be, but the Opposition does condemn the Government for the present situation in which people on fixed incomes now find themselves. This situation has been brought about by the Government’s total lack of coherent planning or policy in social welfare matters, combined with a complete lack of responsibility in its decisions affecting the Australian economy. It is scarcely necessary to point this out to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). From his second reading speech last night it was quite clear that he was well aware of the vulnerability of the Government on this matter. He knew that the Government is bankrupt in this area of policy, so he chose firstly to evade the vital issues when trying to justify the Government’s record and, secondly, to make his rather irrational, inaccurate and intemperate attack upon the Australian Labor Party. He said that the inadequacy of the pension was the fault of the ALP. The Minister knows in his own heart that the Government’s record is pitiful, but he is not to be pitied because any pity that can be spared must go to the pensioners who have been . told that somehow they must eke out a living on $16 of today’s depreciated currency.
The Minister sought to justify the Government’s record by comparing the pension rise with the rise in the consumer price index. Surely this is a fraudulent comparison. He knows perfectly well that the more relevant parameter in this day and age is the average weekly earnings. Why did he not refer to the relationship with average weekly earnings? I know he cannot claim that he has not heard of this parameter because he did not hesitate to talk about it later in his speech when he was comparing average weekly earnings with award wages. Yet, when he discussed the rate of pension increase in recent years, he carefully avoided the subject of average weekly earnings. He related the rate of pension increase to the consumer price index only. It is not difficult to see why the Minister did this. He must know that in a number of countries it is the practice to increase the value of the pension so as to maintain its relationship with average weekly earnings. If we look at the situation in Australia we find that the relationship of the pension to average weekly earnings is decreasing and that the level of the basic pension is dropping relative to the level of average weekly earnings.
Much play has been made by Government speakers about the relationship of the pension to the consumer price index. However, let us have a look at the relationship of the pension to average weekly earnings from the time of the previous Labor Government. We find that in 1946, when there was a Labor government in power, the base pension was 25.5 per cent of average weekly earnings. For most of the mid- 1950s the level was maintained at something like 22i per cent. The low level of 18.8 per cent has now been reached. To what level will it descend? No wonder the Minister did not want to refer to average weekly earnings. As a comparison he used the consumer price index. Such a comparison is outdated. 1 ask the Minister to indicate, when he makes his concluding remarks on the second reading debate, whether the value of rent is included in his consumer price index figures.
If the Government did adopt the average weekly earnings as a criterion, this in itself would not be sufficient. In this connection I would agree partly with the remarks made by the honourable member for Boothby, because the adjustments relative to average weekly earnings are relevant only when alterations to the pension are being considered. Therefore, it is of no value to consider the absolute value of what the pension should be. We should go further and use objective criteria of the requirements of pensioners if they are to enjoy the standard of living to which they are entitled and which the Australian community expects. What kind of living should be an acceptable standard for pensioners?
The previous Prime Minister, the present Minister for Defence (Mr Gorton), stated that the standard should be what he called one of frugal comfort. Accepting this as a yardstick - and the Australian Labor Party certainly does not - there is no evidence that the Government has ever bothered to find out whether this standard can be achieved by the present deal which the pensioners are getting. It has been left to bodies outside the Government.
Even the Minister for Social Services would be aware of the recent study of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic Research. This carefully planned study was carried out in the light of estimates of needs in food, clothing, housing and so on. Estimates of food requirements were taken on the assumption that the income available was used to the best advantage - in other words, that the most economical use was made of the money available for the provision of adequate protein, calories, vitamins and so on. The findings included the rather staggering estimate that 15.2 per cent of aged persons in Melbourne are living below the poverty line and a further 10.6 per cent are living in marginal poverty. These figures are in relation to aged persons, but the study also indicated many other areas of poverty.
Has the Government given any thought to evaluating the incidence of poverty and how to meet it? If it has the Minister for Social Services certainly has not betrayed this fact. The most abhorrent feature of the Government’s attitude is that it is using the hapless pensioners as a weapon to combat inflation. I pointed this out in the Budget debate last year and this criticism is still valid. Pensioners are already the hardest hit by inflation. However, instead of compensating them for this fact, the Government has compounded the inequity by minimising the pension to try to protect everybody else from inflation. The Government has since made some perfunctory attempts to counter inflation but, having failed, it is still not prepared to protect the most vulnerable group in the community from its effects.
A major reason why the Government has found itself floundering in the field of social services is the utterly irresponsible Budget which was brought down last August. I refer in particular to the so- called relief in income tax. The chickens have really come home to roost here. Nobody argued about the need for a restructuring of the income tax scale - that is, the relative incidence - but the reduction in income tax which was introduced was totally irresponsible and indefensible. Giving the greatest relief to people in the higher income groups, the measure was in itself regressive. To make up some of the lost revenue other regressive sales taxes were introduced. This action was a further penalty on pensioners and other people on low incomes or with large families. Having done this, the Government decided that it could not afford to pay anything more than a pittance to the pensioners. It should be noted in passing that this is one of the reasons why the States have been left out in the cold and have had themselves to impose regressive taxes.
The Government’s whole system of priorities is completely chaotic. Another example of this fact was brought to my attention today. While pensioners will be receiving an additional Si a week above the pre-Budget level some wool growers are receiving a payment of $1,500 a year although, as has been alleged, some of these wool growers have not suffered any loss of income because they have made up their income by diversifying, from wool into beef. I questioned the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on this aspect today but he chose to evade my question. What sort of system is in operation when a wool grower can get nearly $30 a week but a pensioner can get only an additional $1 a week? How can the Government in conscience justify this disparity?
I wish to deal now with that section of the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services in which he chose io blame the Australian Labor Party for the whole problem. His reasoning appears to be that pension increases are necessary because of rising prices, that rising prices are due to excessive wage demands and that somehow this is the fault of the Labor Party. Anyone would think from listening to the remarks of the Minister that the Australian Labor Party has been in government for the last 22 years rather than the Liberal-Country Party coalition.. The fact is that the Australian economy is the responsibility of the Government. If excessive price increases have occurred it is the fault of the Government and nobody else. It is certainly the Government’s fault in this case in that it has refused to take any action to control prices. There is now a wealth of evidence to show that the cost pu.sh is not a major cause of inflation. There is a whole plethora of papers by Professor Pitchford, Professor Hancock and others which amply demonstrate this fact. On what grounds does the Minister claim that wage earners are causing inflation by negotiating for over award payments? What does the Minister have to say about excessive price increases? What arc his views, for example, about the recent announcement of a 15 per cent price increase by the already highly profitable Carlton and United Breweries Ltd? What does the Minister have to say about people whose incomes are below the average weekly earnings? 1 would like to quote a statement by Professor Downing on this matter. He said: in these circumstances of what is happening to the salarial, to the professions, to civil servants, to employers, and to the mineral exploiters, it may rather be thought surprising that the Arbitration Commission, the ACTU, the unions and the workers have been so moderate. They certainly cannot be expected to lie down under a charge that they are leading any acceleration of inflation.
In the light of that statement it is difficult to make any sense of what the Minister has said. Again, what has the Government done about the excessive tariff protection which is protecting industries to such an extent that excessive prices and profits are so commonplace? What positive measures have been taken by the Government to control prices? The only positive move has been by the Australian Council of Trade Unions when it struck a blow for the consumers in acting against resale price maintenance. The Minister has been quick to condemn the. wage earner, but what has he said about the perks enjoyed by people in the upper income groups - for example, tax free expense accounts? lt is high time the Government took a good look at carving up the national cake a bit more equitably. Instead of doing this it is heaping inequity upon inequity. An example of this is the tax allowance for dependants. The greater the income received the greater the reduction in the tax payable. The Government seems to have no sense of social justice at all. It has always been content to argue that the best way to increase the size of everyone’s share of the national cake is to make the cake larger. While conceding that this argument has some force, I think the time has come to take a further look at this policy because it is now apparent that if this is all the Government is prepared to do - it is not even doing that well - the gap between the haves and the have nots will widen. Thus we must make the redistribution of income a primary objective. I am fully aware that this may mean a reduction in capital formation for investment and that this may mean a slowing down in the economic growth, but I believe that this is a price which the community must be prepared to pay. The Government is not prepared to consider the pensioners and other needy citizens and that is why it stands condemned. The Liberal-Country Party edifice will crumble at the next election like a house of dominoes, which is the fate it very richly deserves.
– In rising to support this Bill I wish firstly to comment on a few of the remarks which were made by the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun). I think it is significant although very disturbing to note that the honourable member for Kingston is a medical practitioner. He said that he would like to tear up the pensioner medical scheme cards. Thank Goc! all doctors do not adopt that attitude. In commenting on the problems of wool growers he has shown his colossal ignorance of their plight. He is completely uninformed on the subject. His reference to them was completely ridiculous. I think it would have been better if he had compared pensions with the salaries of doctors rather than the earnings of wool growers. I remind the honourable member that doctors, dentists and chemists are among the largest investors in this country. There are many sections of the community which could be better compared with the position of pensioners than the wool growing section. Many wool growers today are not even getting the amount the pensioners receive; in. fact, they are receiving far below it.
I wish to quote from the second reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). He said:
The Bill gives effect to the announcement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 15th
March that an immediate increase would be granted in pensions now being paid at maximum rates, with similar increases for certain other benefits.
He went on to say that an across the board increase would be granted to widows and deserted wives and people in receipt of the sheltered employment and rehabilitation allowances as well as long term sickness benefits. I wish to reply to some of the remarks which were made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) in relation to the widow’s pension. I wish to run through the list of payments to widows with children over the last few years. The rate being paid in 1949 was $4.75 a week. If that amount is brought up to present day figures it would represent about $1 1.54 a week. There was no allowance whatsoever for children in 1949. In 1956 the Liberal-Country Party Government increased the rate to $8.50 per week which included $1 per week for second and subsequent children. In 1958 supplementary assistance was introduced. In 1963 the rate had risen to $18 per week which included the mothers allowance of $4 a week and $1.50 for the first child. An additional pension was introduced for student children aged, from 16 to 18 years. This is typical of the improvements this Government has provided since it came into office. In 1965 supplementary assistance was increased to $2 per week and the age for student children was extended to 21 years. In 196S the additional pension for children was increased to $2.50 for all children, giving a total pension of $24 per week. At that time a widows training scheme was introduced. All of these benefits for widows have cost the Government a lot of money.
In 1969 the additional pension for second and subsequent children was increased to S3. 50 per week. The mothers allowance was increased from $4 to $6 where the child was under 6 or an invalid. In 1970 the rate for a widow with 2 children, if one was under 6, and with supplementary assistance included had risen to $29.50. In 1971 under this Bill that amount has increased to $30 a week.
The means test has been eased in the meantime and many other benefits have been provided as well. This Bill supports the Government’s undertaking to continue to increase pensions. This will be a preliminary increase, and the Government has undertaken that there will be a fundamental review of all social service and related pensions. This is in line with the consistent policy of this Government and previous governments from this side of the House and in direct contrast to the policy of the Australian Labor Party. It is at stark variance with the policy of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who objected to further assisting pensioners whom he considered had already been feather bedded. The Leader of the Opposition believes - I think erroneously - that he has the support of the great majority of pensioners. I am sure that he has not because many pensioners realise that this Government has been doing its utmost to assist them. We know that the Leader of the Opposition would rather promise the world to the middle income groups in an attempt to get them to support him because his main aim is to become Prime Minister. I think it is much more likely to be Mr Hawke who becomes Prime Minister if we are ever unfortunate enough to have a Labor government in the next few years.
Pensioners of all classes have been affected by the machinations of Mr Hawke. I do not exclude from this situation big business which has been paying over award payments, thus increasing the cost of living. The Government has been continually increasing pension rates to try to cope with the cost of living, .and it has kept ahead of the cost of living up to this time. Surely the worst enemy of pensioners, people on superannuation, salaried people on fixed incomes and people on lower incomes is the man or organisation which continues to force inflation upon this community. This applies particularly to the family man in the lower income group and to the exporter, be’ he in the primary or the secondary field; If we price our primary and secondary exporting industries out of business there can be no other result but rising unemployment.
The table incorporated in Hansard by the Minister clearly shows how this Government strove to keep pace- with the rising costs by increasing the purchasing power of pensions. It is the purchasing power of pensions, not the amount - of pensions, which really counts. This Government has done its utmost in this regard. As the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) stressed in his speech, the Opposition failed to mention the fringe benefits which have been introduced. They are of considerable value, not only from a monetary point of view but also in the relief and satisfaction which they give to many pensioners who realise they will be looked after if they become ill or need hospitalisation. We admit there are areas where there is still great need, and we are concerned about those areas. There is a need for better housing for pensioners, particularly in the cities; the cost of housing for pensioners is one of the great problems in the raising of the standard of living of pensioners in the large cities. There are concessions in many areas such as nursing services, household help, television and radio licence and telephone concessions. lt is interesting to note that the University of Melbourne in its research into pensions has come up with a result. It said that 90 per cent of aged people in this country live better than a family dependent on a minimum award wage, taking into account that the basic needs and debts of the aged are of course less than those of a young family, lt goes on to say that only 2 per cent of the aged live in chronic economic need. It refers to single old people who pay more rent than they can afford and to a few aged migrants not eligible for the pension. Ownership of a house free of debt is a major factor in maintaining the living standards of the aged. Over 70 per cent of our pensioners live in debt-free, rent-free homes, but we do know there are a number of pensioners who are paying excessive rents for unsatisfactory accommodation. This is an area which the Government is determined to consider in its fundamental review of all pensions. The Opposition’s amendment highlights the insincerity of the Opposition in many factors regarding pensions. Paragraph 1 says:
The increases proposed are inadequate.
Yet this Government has continually raised pensions. This Government has never reduced pensions. It has introduced fringe benefits. I suppose pensions will always be inadequate, because somebody has to provide the money to pay them. The Opposition says the increases are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living. I have read out the comparisons made by the Melbourne University. The standard of living of our pensioners is very much higher than it is in other countries. I do not deny it could be better, but it is a good deal higher. Paragraph 3 of the amendment says: steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty.
That is surely hypocrisy from a party which is continually pressing for greater inflation by its actions and its demands for higher wages without an increase in productivity. Paragraph 4 of the amendment says: a national superannuation system should be established …
Many of us are in support of a national superannuation scheme. 1 might remind honourable members that when Lord Casey was in this House he first introduced the national superannuation scheme. It has been a very difficult scheme to work out actuarially and at this very time the Government is studying very carefully the possibility of introducing a national superannuation scheme. But to abolish the means test without some such satisfactory scheme would mean to spread the available money much more thinly. One of the reasons why we have been able to pay . a higher standard of pensions in this< country than is paid in many other countries with a similar standard of living is because we have been selective in the payment of pensions. We have endeavoured to pay pensions to those with the greatest need and not to those who do not really require, a pension. Paragraph 5 of the amendment says pension payments should be a proportion of average weekly earnings adjusted annually.
Where will the money come from? Again I remind honourable members that in every speech in every campaign recently the Leader of the Opposition has promised to reduce taxation. Perhaps he has that magic wand or does he intend, as my colleague, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) says by interjection, to print notes? Paragraph 6 of the amendment says: the subject of social services should be referred to a select committee of this House.
After hearing what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition I would hate to have him considering the future payments to pensioners. As I have said before, there are areas of real need of which the Government is conscious, particularly in the areas of inadequate housing and high rents. I stress again that neither the Minister nor any other member of the Government parties is satisfied or ever will be satisfied with the whole range of pensions, because the position is continually changing.
This Government has done ils utmost to pick up these problems and to deal with them as they come along. We hear members of the Opposition criticising the Government and saying: ‘This is piecemeal’. That is completely unfair criticism of the genuine attempt by the Minister and the Government to pay pensions in areas in which there is the greatest need and in which discrepancies arise. The Prime Minister has promised a complete review of pensions. I stress again that despite the rising costs in this country the pension has kept pace or more than kept pace with the increase in the cost of living. The Opposition continues deliberately to ignore the great benefits that are provided in the form of ever-increasing fringe benefits. I believe that the amendment highlights the insincerity of members of the Opposition when they discuss pensions in this House. I strongly oppose the amendment and support the Bill.
Or GUN (Kingston) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. 1 have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) and also, by interjection, by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). When I was referring to pensioner medical service cards I was not trying to imply that the pensioners did not appreciate their medical cards. However, the honourable member for Hume suggested that I would want to tell the pensioners to tear up their medical cards. I think the Minister at least would appreciate that before the introduction of the pensioner medical service a great many of the pensioners were receiving their medical and hospital treatment for nothing, more or less as charity patients. All I am saying, therefore, is that it is fallacious to reckon this cost in trying to make an arbitrary addition to the value of the pension.
– I thought you said that they might as well tear up their cards.
– I definitely did not say that.
– Under the provisions of this Bill certain pensioners are to receive an increase of 50c a week. It refers to age, invalid, widow and tuberculosis pensioners. Under this unimaginative and degrading Bill, which takes into account none of the wide consequences of a sensible approach to social services, 50c is to be handed out to a small number of the variety of social service recipients. The tenor of what has been said by honourable members opposite is that they are satisfied with that situation. Let me say that honourable members on this side of the House are not.
No proportionate increases are to be paid to the thousands of people who receive part pensions. Only those who receive pensions at the maximum rate or at a rate within 50c of the maximum rate will qualify for the increase, which will take effect on the first pay day in April. There is no retrospectivity in this measure, unlike that for the Second Division officers of the Public Service who recently gained large scale and retrospective increases. There is no increase in any of the social service provisions apart from pensions. For example, there is no increase in child endowment, payments to pensioners’ dependent wives and their children, supplementary assistance or mothers’ allowances.
The whole proposal is so riddled and loaded with anomalies and inconsistencies that it is difficult to imagine that anybody would be prepared to stand up and justify it in the Parliament of the nation. 1 ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who is sitting at the table, whether he approves of the notion that units of 2 people should receive an income involving a great disparity as compared with units of one person. 1 refer, first of all, to the situation of a pensioner couple, where 2 married people are receiving a pension. Under the provisions of this Bill they receive payments amounting to $28.50 a week. In the case of a pensioner and his non-pensioner wife - and many such wives are unable to work - the pensioner receives $16 a week and his wife $7 a week, making a total payment of $23 a week. The first couple receives $28.50 a week, giving a disparity between the second couple of $5.50 a week. Then there is another couple, perhaps living next door, and the husband is the recipient of an unemployment or sickness benefit. He receives $10 a week and his spouse $7 a week, a total income of $17 a week. In this situation, represented by three different units of 2 people, the disparity is as high as $11.50 a week. If the Minister for Social Services can rationalise this position and cause it to look like a sensible social service policy I will be most impressed with his efforts.
If we consider the situation applying to units of 3 people, the position is almost as bad. For example, in the case of a class A widow with 2 children, she receives $16 a week pension, 50c for the first child and $1 for the second child giving her a total income of $17.50 a week. In some circumstances, a mother’s allowance of $6 a week may be paid, but not in all circumstances, and so the income for that unit of 3 people could be regarded as $17.50 a week. In the case of an invalid pensioner and his non-pensioner wife and 1 child, the husband receives $16, and his nonpensioner wife receives $7 and they receive for their first child $2.50, giving a total income of $25.50 a week. A third group of 3 people can comprise a sickness pension beneficiary who receives $10 a week, his wife $7 and for their child they receive $2.50, making a weekly income of $19.50. The situation exists where people can be living in comparable circumstances, in the same sort of house and dealing with the same butcher, baker and candlestick maker, yet under the Government’s scheme they are expected to live on varying incomes. If the Minister for Social Services is going to reply, I should like him, if he possibly can, to justify that situation.
Only a conservative government that has degenerated to the point where human need has become the plaything of political expediency could deal with such important sociological matters in such an offhanded and indifferent way. This paltry and inadequate increase is the accidental by-product of a series of unbecoming events in which the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and his Government take little pride. It represents a desperate attempt by an insecure Prime Minister to curry favour with his wavering supporters. Without a censure motion, this pension increase may never have seen the light of day. It was thrown in at the end of a disjointed and defensive speech by the new Prime Minister almost as a mere afterthought The announcement was fortuitously facilitated only by the consideration of the House in granting an extension of time so that the Prime Minister could make his dramatic announcement to the Parliament. Now, we have the new McMahon line. At a meeting of pensioners the other day, the Prime Minister was referred to as ‘Half-dollar Bill’ and halfdollar bill is his policy. Now that average earnings have soared to $84.80 a week, the Prime Minister is content to give a pension of $16 a week to single pensioners and $14.25 to each married pensioner. To me, this does not appear to be related to anything at all sensible. Conceptually, this primitive half-dollar mentality is a relic of the dark ages, the like of which cannot be seen in any other comparable country. Pension rates are being set in isolation from many critical factors which should be taken into account. The cost of living is the most important factor to be taken into account in determining the adequacy or otherwise of pensions. Without this sensitivity, pensioners must be periodically impoverished.
Throughout 1969 the cost of living rose at a rate of 3 per cent per annum. In the first quarter of 1970 it rose by 3.4 per cent, in the second quarter by 3.5 per cent, in the third quarter by 3.8 per cent, and in the fourth quarter the increase moved up to an unprecedented rate of 7.6 per cent. That represents the highest rate of increase since 1951 and is three times higher than the average rate of increase. Clearly, pensions must be integrated into the transient price structure if the value of pensions is to be maintained.
The proposal that pension movements should be geared to productivity measurements is certainly not the answer. After all, even the national wage bill has continually represented a diminishing proportion of the gross national product. In fact, over the last 15 years, from 1955 to 1970, wages, as a percentage of gross national product, have fallen from 63.2 per cent to 61.7 per cent. That has happened despite the fact that during that same period the work force actually rose from 89 per cent of the population to 91 per cent of the population. If workers in industry with the power of their representation cannot keep pace with productivity, what chance has the pensioner? The best that can be said of the Australian pension scheme is that it concentrates the limited resources made available on those most in need. However, the needs of such people are far from placated, and all the other desirable features of a comprehensive social welfare scheme are ignored.
Only a year ago, the Minister for Social Services was forced to admit in answer to a question that no fewer than 123 countries have a national superannuation scheme. That information was contained in an answer to question number 130 which appeared in Hansard of 21st April 1970. The countries whose people are covered by superannuation schemes are often those that do not enjoy anywhere near the degree of prosperity which we concede exists in Australia. The list starts with Afghanistan, lt continues in alphabetical order and includes countries such as Albania and Algeria, down to Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia, and finishes with Zambia. But no such scheme exists in Australia. This once proud country that led the world in the field of social services is now right down at the bottom of the list.
It is interesting to refer to an article in the London ‘Times’ of 10th March 1971. The article refers to the proportion of gross national product which is expended by a number of countries on social welfare. The Scandinavian countries spend 10.9 per cent of their gross national product on social welfare; the member countries of the European Economic Community spend 15.2 per cent; Canada 9.9 per cent; the United Kingdom 8.6 per cent; Switzerland 8.2 per cent; New Zealand 6.6 per cent; the United States of America 5.9 per cent; and in Australia the figure is down to 5.5 per cent. The Government seems intent on polarising poverty in retirement. The inflationary nature of the economy in which average earnings rise by 5 per cent or 6 per cent per annum makes it difficult, if not impossible, for people to save in preparation for retirement. In any case, those who can and do save receive scant consideration in terms of the means test.
Professor Downing who, as I think I need not remind the House, is the Profes sor of Research in Economics at the Melbourne University had this to say in his paper on ‘National Superannuation - Means Test and Contributions’:
In an economy where money incomes are rising, as they have been in Australia over the last 30 years, it is inevitable that most savers will be bitterly disappointed with the outcome of their savings efforts when assessed in terms of their incomes at the time of their retirement.
Their bitterness in this situation is aggravated by the fact that the pension, the reward in their eyes of the improvident, is regularly raised as money incomes rise; by saving they have done their bit to abate inflation, but compensation for inflation goes to those who, by failing to save, have done nothing to abate it.
Professor Downing goes on to propose in detail a comprehensive compulsory national superannuation scheme with portable benefits. It is a scheme that has been tested in academic circles in this country and has stood the test of time. The Downing scheme varies contributions and pensions according to earnings while employed, lt involves government and employee contributions. This is one of two significant schemes put forward in Australia since 1965.
The other was put forward by Professor R. C. Gates. He also proposed a comprehensive national superannuation scheme which was to be financed by employee, employer and government contributions and which would pay a uniform pension to all contributors. Both of these schemes are of long standing and are actuarily sound yet for some unaccountable reason the Government consistently refuses to listen to them, to identify them or to concede that they are sound, and no contention is ever put in support of them by any Government supporter in the successive debates we have in this Parliament on social services.
There are examples such as the Canadian scheme which could be followed. The Canadian pension plan was introduced in 1968. lt is a comprehensive welfare programme. lt provides a minimum level of income for all Canadians. It is compulsory and contributory and is wage related. It covers old age, disability and dependent survivors, it adjusts to the cost of living index, and it includes self employed people. It embraces the provision of food, clothing. shelter, vocational training, household supplies, tools of trade, health care and welfare services.
There has been a great deal of argument and disagreement about the relationship of the present rate of pension to the cost of living index. I think it was one of my colleagues who made the point that for some unaccountable reason we have suddenly switched away from establishing a relationship between pensions and average weekly earnings. Surely this is a reasonable test to apply. It is not a matter of the cost of living, the basic wage or anything else into which there are injected all kinds of disparities and irregularities. I do not think the Minister for Social Services would be inclined to quibble and argue with the figures made available by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library Statistical Research Service. It is very interesting to note these figures and to see the decline in recent years in the ratio of pensions to average male earnings. First, it is important to say that away back in 1949-50 the pension paid to married, age and invalid pensioners was at a much higher level than that which prevails at the present time. The amount of pension paid in 1949-50 was equal to 21.9 per cent of average male earnings.
It is always tedious to read figures and 1 will not be tempted to do so, but I will summarise the position by saying that right up to 1964-65, according to this official chart which I hold in my hand, the figure never fell below 20 per cent. In 1964-65 it was 20.1 per cent. I do not know whether the Minister is prepared to say that the country is now in dire straits, that we have deteriorated under the Gorton Government and the McMahon Government and that people are getting it tough. I have heard in recent times of the affluence of the stock exchange and that people are getting rich in this country at an unprecedented rate. If one looks at the taxation figures, people in many situations seem to be doing quite well. But although the pension paid from 1949 to 1965 was never less than 20 per cent of average male earnings, after 1965 the percentage suddenly nose dived. In successive years we went down to 19.3 per cent, 19.4 per cent, 18.3 per cent and 18.1 per cent. Then we come to the last percentage which I have. My mathematical prowess has never been acknowledged, even by myself, but I was sitting here a moment ago working out the percentage that $14.25 represents of the acknowledged average male earnings of $84.50.
Where did 1 obtain those figures? I do not think that the Minister would argue with me when I say that the rate for a married pensioner now is $14.25 a week. The Prime Minister, in announcing this measure, said that average male earnings are now $84.50 a week. On my calculations the proportion of the pension rate to average male earnings is not in the 20 per cent bracket; it is down to 16.8 per cent. Some people say that figures can lie and that liars can figure, but I do not want to engage in any of that nonsense. My calculations are based on an official table, and the Minister may be good enough to disillusion me if I have made a mistake in this matter. I would be much obliged if he would do so, but until I receive that answer I contend that after 20-odd years of this Government’s term in office we have reached the stage where pensions now are a smaller proportion of average male earnings than they have been since 1949-50. If that is the case it is a downright disgrace and the sooner something is done about it the better.
There is a number of other matters to which one would like to refer. This is not a Social Services Bill at all. It is a Bill of expedience which is designed to try to retrieve a lost reputation and to gather a miserable handful of votes. The Bill is not based on human compassion. The milk of human kindness has turned sour. The Bill is designed to get votes and nothing else. It is not related to a national welfare scheme. No concern has been shown for the maternity allowance, which has remained unaltered for 25 years, or for the 1 million people who, according to all the experts, are impoverished. There is no mention of child endowment, which has remained unaltered for the first child for 18 years, for the second child for 20 years and for the third child for 4 years. If one looks at the losses that are involved one is absolutely appalled.
I believe that we have reached the stage in this country where there is a need for a royal commission to inquire into the whole question of social welfare. This tinkering and tampering, this patching and papering is not the kind of thing which brings our country into good repute. More significantly, it is a disgrace that we are not keeping pace conceptually with the contemporary ideas which are manifesting themselves in comparable countries. My colleagues who will follow me in this debate, if given the opportunity, will outline alternative schemes which are summarised in the amendment which every honourable member who has any heart, any human compassion and any regard for justice will willingly support.
– One understands how people who speak of percentages get things out of proportion, lt is erroneous lo compare pension rates with average wages. In 1949, because of the Chifley Government, very few people earned more than £500 a year. If one tries to relate pension rates to very low wage incomes one gets a distortion of the facts. I believe that my friend the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) was genuine in what he stated but, as he said, figures and percentages lie. I say to honourable members opposite that when they speak of percentages they should always relate them to something. This is how they get out of their depths.
Some 6 or 7 years ago it was argued that pension rates should rise following increases in the prices index. Had the Government been persuaded to adopt that policy pensioners would have been receiving $3 to $4 a week leass than they are receiving today. Honourable members opposite who delve into these matters should try to get accurate percentages and their facts right before expounding on them in this chamber. They have made many contradictory statements about a national superannuation scheme. The honourable member for Hughes mentioned the name of a professor who had said that the value of savings had depreciated over the years. Of course this happens. This is one of the difficulties faced by people who take out insurance polices, and it would be one of the great difficulties with a national superannuation scheme.
As one who has studied and given long hours of thought to national superannuation I can say that no-one would be happier than I and no government would be more pleased than this one if it were possible and feasible to bring in such a scheme without imposing exhobitant taxes to finance the scheme for the initial difficult period of 3 or 4 years. Over the last 25 years our population has grown. A similar growth in future would add greatly to the difficulty of introducing a national superannuation scheme. Another difficulty would come from the fact that in many cases people coming into the scheme would be past middle age. It has been proved actuarially to the Government Members Social Services Committee that it would be almost impossible to launch a national superannuation scheme.
There is no greater advocate of national superannuation than the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). For the whole of the time that I have been in Parliament this has been his one great aim and his one great desire. He is a mathematician of no mean ability, having been during his lifetime financial and economic adviser to the New South Wales Government. He is a man of great ability in this field, but so far he has not been able to supply facts and figures to those of us on the Government Members Social Services Committee to show that it would be possible or feasible to establish a national superannuation fund. Much reference has been made to the wishes of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) to do something for pensioners, and there has been much play on suggested dissensions within the Liberal Party, which is a partner in the coalition Government. I want it to be known that there is no dissension. There may be, as there are in all organisations, a few people who are offside with one another, but there is no great dissension in regard to policy or in relation to what we are doing for Australia.
Various speakers, whom I shall not mention separately, have harped on the average wage. T appeal to the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) not to compare the situation of war widows with that of any other section of the community. To do so is unfair and unjust. I do not mind the honourable member doing as such as he can for civilian widows and advocating increased and better benefits for them, but he should not compare or contrast them with war widows.
– Why not?
– I shall tell you why. If the honourable member will listen he will hear some common sense. The war widow’s husband was killed in the service of his country and was not covered by any form of insurance such as workers’ compensation or third party insurance. Therefore a grateful and dignified country should endeavour to pay to the war widow and her children the maximum amount of pension. If a man is killed at work or as a result of a car accident he may be covered by workers compensation in the former case or third party insurance in the latter. If a family is provident, especially in the early stages of married life, the husband will take out an insurance policy on his life. There are many forms of insurance, especially for those who are in receipt of a low wage, by which provision can be made for a family in the event of a tragic happening. I am not against anyone who is endeavouring to obtain increased benefit for civilian widows, but I ask honourable members not to compare civilian widows’ pensions with war widows’ pensions.
In determining a pension we should not have regard only to the average salary or wage. Unionists in my electorate have long since realised that it is not what they get in their pay envelope, but what they can purchase with what is contained in their pay envelope, that counts. The sooner we wake up to this, the sooner we will be on the road towards defeating the inflationary trend that now exists. When the Opposition moves an amendment to a Bill it invariably uses the words ‘whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that . . .’It has not the determination or the fortitude to challenge the legislation. I think 10 or 15 points of order were taken last night in an attempt to frustrate the Minister for Social Services in his endeavour to get this Bill through the House to enable pensioners to receive the additional benefit as quickly as possible. If the Opposition wants to oppose Government legislation its members should be game enough to stand up in this House and state their intentions. I dare say that the reason is that if the Opposition put forward some airy-fairy proposal and if by some mischance it ever became the Government, its members would have to stand by what is stated in this amendment which contains the words ‘the increase proposed is inadequate’, and ‘social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living’. The amendment is indefinite. It states nothing positive.
– That is true. They are inadequate.
– Then why not state figures? Let us have something definite or pass this Bill in its present form so that the people will receive the additional benefit. At the present time people are singing from the rooftops about the need for a national superannuation scheme without first giving any thought to it. They have taken as a guide a professor who perhaps has never worked in an insurance company, a bank or a factory but has obtained his degrees in economics without having any experience in the professions I have just mentioned.
We are most fortunate in having a Minister who is most desirous of helping those most in need. It was very gratifying to hear him repeat so many times last night the promise of the Prime Minister to have a thorough investigation into all aspects of social services. This is only a continuation of the wonderful benefits that have been introduced. Every improvement to the base pension set out in the Social Services Act has been made by a LiberalCountry. Party Government. Nobody can contend that what I am stating is not the truth. Every side benefit has been given by a Liberal-Country Party Government. The base pension has been operative since about 1908.
I congratulate the Minister and 1 hope he will continue to do his best to iron out the anomalies, particularly for single pensioners who have to pay rent. I trust that their position will be alleviated. I have been associated with pensioners for 25 or 27 years. I took an active part with a former honourable member for Mitchell, Roy Wheeler, who put up a tremendous fight to get the differential rate for pensioners. I am very proud of the part 1 played in that respect. I commend the Minister and I oppose the amendment.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). My colleagues already have outlined what we of the Australian Labor Party believe should be done in the field of social services. I wish to record my emphatic protest that pensions and social services are still a matter of handouts at election time or when the Government is in trouble. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) challenged members of the Opposition to stand and say what the Labor Party would do. That is what we have done tonight. We have set out a rational basis for social services, something which the Government has never been guilty of doing. Never at any stage during the expansion of its social services programme has it shown any sign of adopting a rational basis or any recognition that social services should be related to need.
The paltry nature of the increase set out in this Bill has been indicated by my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) who pointed out that it bears no relationship to the present need of the pensioners and that it has no fi ni basis on which it can be founded economically. The increase is a figure plucked out of the air at a time when this House was dealing with a censure motion and the Government was struggling for credibility. Tied to the increases set out in this amending Bill are promises by the Government of a review and a mors realistic approach. It is rather surprising that after 22 years the Government has finally got around to a realistic approach to social services. One cannot be overcome with admiration because at last it is going to do this. One can assume only that the Government at last is willing to try to devise a national superannuation scheme. Who knows; it may even tie it to a percentage of average weekly male earnings, a real figure. Of course it ridiculed the idea when my Party presented it at the 1969 elections. This included the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman), who now finds it so practical a proposition. The honourable member for Mitchell does not find it so practical but his sole reason is that in the initial stages one would have to cover people who are actuarially undesirable.
What a rational argument for trying to delay the introduction of such a scheme! After all, the Government opposed it at the last election. It is still the same team that contested the election - or claims to be. The present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) claims that the so-called mandate the former Prime Minister had is his mandate. He baulks at putting himself and his team to the jump. He knows that he has to show some apparent interest in people and not just in business interests.
Cynical as the approach may be, he knows that it has to be done if the crumbling vote of his Party is to be prevented from breaking away further.
Can we have confidence in a Minister for Social Services who has no appreciation of the improvement in world wide conditions in the last 20 years and who uses as a comparison the immediate postWorld War period. I was interested to hear from the honourable member for Mitchell that the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) was an adviser to the Treasurer of New South Wales. I would be fascinated to go back and see how the New South Wales budgets during that term coped with the situations. This post-war period which he uses as a base comparison was a time when this country had to sacrifice and work to make up for the ravages of war on our economy and the wastage of men and resources that occurs during such wars - men and resources that could have taken this nation to great heights in the 1940s if there had been no war. This is the base line he uses. What a practical application to the realities of time.
However there has been a world wide increase in productivity and prosperity through advancing technology. More and more people have been getting a greater share of this prosperity; yet still there are many who do not get their fair share. To listen to the Government members hopefully awaiting the call for the next re-shuffle of Cabinet one would be led to believe that all this know-how, technology and discovery leading to this world wide prosperity started with them and resided in their performance. Never have they been able to accept the proposition that social services should be related to need. We are dealing with human beings. How can we accept that a little loving kindness is all that is needed, as was suggested by one honourable member recently? Let me quote the real feelings of people who are affected. Firstly I refer to a letter written by the Preston branch of the Combined Pensioners to the Prime Minister in October 1970. I remind those who have become confused by recent events that this was the immediate past Prime Minister. The letter states: . . Mr Bury said he realised our helplessness, and considered it his duty to help us. He limited his help to 50c per week. Are we treated in such a manner because we cannot express our economic and other grievances militantly or in any physical way, but can only point out our distress and need for urgent assistance? ‘The Affluent Society’ and ‘Qualities of living’ mean nothing to us. We have no share in them. Discontinuance from 30th September 1970 of supplementary assistance for children in Victoria of parents receiving a full Commonwealth pension, including widows, means that over $219,000 will not be distributed amongst those children this year. The present and future is bleak and grim for these mothers and children. Have some consideration for these people and give the children something they have not, a chance in life, a chance to get out of a poverty stricken state, a chance to earn enough to avoid becoming part of the hard core of poverty to which they are condemned for life under their present circumstances. We beg you to put into effect the policies and put into effect those portions of your rethinking and election promises to those who are most in need.
Does the present rise, of 50c a week alter those promises in any way? Does it help to lift any of these people out of the trough of despond and need, a need that affects children and will have effects in the succeeding generation?
I remind honourable members of correspondence at the same time to the Minister for Social Services where they spoke of Professor Henderson’s work and said:
The reports of Professor Downing, the Harper and Nimmo reports and others have already shown the existence of shocking poverty and distress suffered by so many. Year after year these responsible investigations and reports are made again and again, but what remedial notice or action taken? The answer is very little, if anything.
The long list of applications for assistance in many forms viz., housing, hospitalisation, rest homes domiciliary assistance, etc, continue to grow larger. In the case of Government subsidised hospital homes, applications have increased by 300 per cent but available beds by only 5 per cent. There are more than 5,000 applications lodged with these homes and similar conditions prevail in other social service fields. We have been taught that ‘those who lead must also serve’. We call on you and your Government to ‘serve’, to show an appreciation of the situation and do something to relieve these people who are in the greatest need, those on the bottom rung of the ladder.
They are the people who are most affected by this Government’s attitude to social services. Government supporters are quite unable to appreciate the need for a rational basis for pensions. They view pensions as a handout, and not as a right.
– Garbage, garbage.
– Let us consider the situation of the elderly, chronically ill. They may be able to get a bed in a public hospital for treatment in the acute phase, but only for a limited period. Where do they go then? State Government hospitals for the aged in Victoria have a waiting list of over 5,000 people, while their capacity is just over 4,000 beds. The honourable member for Griffith comments ‘Garbage’. Four thousand beds are available for 5,000 chronically ill elderly persons. What does he expect them to do? Are they just to wait for 3 or 4 years, the ordinary waiting time, to get into those institutions? That is the time they can expect to wait. Of course, Government members, like the well known biblical character, with a characteristic motion of the hand can say: T wash my hands of the matter. It is the responsibility of the State.’ These people may go to nursing homes. The benefits provided in nursing homes made the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) choke with emotion, and almost collapse, overcome with gratitude to his hero the Minister for Social Services. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) was much more cold blooded. He distributed this amongst all pensioners to show how much it increased their weekly total. What are these benefits? A basic fee of $14 a week for each patient is paid direct to the proprietor of the nursing home, and $21 a week for those who are medically classified as heavy nursing cases. In the main this classification is done at the desk in the Department and often disagrees with the patient’s own medical practitioner’s opinion. I am told by proprietors of such homes and by doctors who handle large numbers of these patients that only about one third of those who apply for this additional subsidy get it, and that the average duration of payment is about 6 to 8 weeks.
Nursing home fees amount to $60 a week and upwards. If we take away the $14 we are left with $46 a week. If we take off, say, $15 of their pension - we ought to leave them with a few cents pocket money a week - there is still at least $31 to be found. The heavy nursing subsidy in some cases will reduce that figure to $10 a week. Where, oh where, does this $10 or $31 extra come from? Does it come from families who are already trying to raise young children and accept their responsibility to their elderly parents? What is the alternative? Where do these people go? In their admiration for their nursing home benefits, how does the Government see this picture? Have Government members, like myself and a number of other honourable members in this chamber, had to deal with these problems? Do they know of old people who are kept at home by their children who love them, even though they completely disorganise the household and lead to breakdowns of the mothers of the families and the disadvantage of children in those families.
Another method of their disposal is for the medical practitioner, if he can find the slightest degree of senility or mental disturbance, to certify them for admission to a mental institution. Indeed, this is where many of them are. But I am falling into the same attitude as Government members and looking at things piecemeal. The Opposition’s amendments plead for an overall look at the social services. Do they satisfy the needs across the board, for housing for the normal age pensioners, and then for the institutions for those who require graded services up to their terminal illnesses? Government members appear to think that the families of pensioners dodge their responsibilities. I challenge them to produce one shred of sociological or scientific evidence to support this. Recently during the preparation of a paper, which honourable members can read in the Medical Journal of Australia, I had occasion to check this. What evidence there is suggests the reverse, that there is a high sense of responsibility towards elderly persons in the community and that people greatly disadvantage themselves in catering for them.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to the realisation, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with organisations and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable to his dignity and to the free development of his personality. That is stated in article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Does the Government accept the dignity of the individual under these circumstances? Where does this legislation show acceptance of the need for preservation of such dignity? Honourable members on the Government side have talked of the fringe benefits, but these fringe benefits make mendicants of people in this situation. If they received a proper rate of pension they could handle their needs with dignity instead of having to come as mendicants to receive concessions and so on. I believe all these things show a need for the appointment of a select committee to examine the scope of our social services. If the Government accepts the Universal Declaration on Human Rights it should drop its piecemeal attitude and adopt an overall social service plan related to the needs of the whole community.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During his speech the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) referred to my interjection when I used the word ‘garbage’ and tried to tie it in with another part of his speech. My interjection followed his claim that Government members view social service benefits as nothing but handouts. I repeat: Garbage.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Wentworth) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise tonight to make a plea to the Government that it make available to the States emergency grants so that they can effectively deal wilh the crisis that is affecting hospitals. I am particularly concerned about the reports which have been appearing over recent months, but which have been more dramatic over recent days, concerning the desperate position facing public hospitals whether in city areas or rural areas, and in particular homes and hospitals for the aged. This is not merely a Victorian problem by any means, because if honourable members look at the newspapers they will see that the same problem is present in all States. However, 1 am concerned with Victoria in particular.
Over the last week there have been reports that Victorian hospitals - country hospitals, public hospitals in the cities and aged persons’ hospitals - will face a combined total debt of at least $2Sm in the next financial year. This figure is conservative. That is to say, the combined debt of these hospitals is likely to be even more serious than this. The Melbourne Age’ on 26th March broke down these figures as follows: Twenty-seven of the Melbourne metropolitan hospitals have a combined debt of Si 0.4m and country hospitals in Victoria have an overall debt of S3. 3m. Homes and hospitals for the aged are in a very desperate position; the Age’ report quoted a percentage of these hospitals as having a combined debt of $1.5m. 1 do not intend to go into great detail about the ins and outs of financing hospitals. All 1 want to do is to make an urgent plea that the Commonwealth accept responsibility for this situation and recognise that the crisis can be removed or relieved only by its intervention.
Just how this situation affects my own electorate can be seen in the situation facing Castlemaine and Bendigo in which are located 2 hospitals for the aged. The Alexander Hospital at Castlemaine has a total of 330 patients and the Bendigo Hospital has a total of 357 patients. In other words, these 2 State nursing homes have a total of 687 patients and between them they had a waiting list of over 500 patients last year. The financial position is becoming very serious indeed. For example, last year the Bendigo Hospital for the Aged had a surplus of $15,276, but by 30th June this year it is likely to have a deficit of $67,431. The figures that I shall incorporate later with the concurrence of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who is at the table, and honourable members will set out the overdraft position. The figures will also show how serious the position is at the Alexander Hospital at Castlemaine.
Reverting to the general situation through Victoria, it is clear that the position which has now been reached is very dangerous indeed. The figures which show a combined debt of $25m do not include hospitals for the mentally ill or private hospitals - and I am particularly concerned with the non-profit making private hospitals. Also, these figures do not include the extra burden that has been placed on hospitals by the 6 per cent national wage increase, the variation in the State incremental payments scheme, the new penalty rates for nurses or the expected variations to the wages of nurses which I understand are likely to be very substantial. A figure of 50 per cent has been asked for but perhaps 20 per cent or 30 per cent may be given. Whatever the increases are they will have a serious effect upon the hospitals.
What does all of this mean? The situation is bad at present. It will deteriorate even further unless aid is given by the Commonwealth Government, lt is clear that the State of Victoria is not in a position to meet this crisis. No increase in income from the State Government for these hospitals can be expected until November of this year. The Hospitals and Charities Commission of Victoria has told the hospitals that they must improve their finances. This is a rather difficult sort of suggestion to make in view of the situation which the hospitals are facing. The hospitals have been told that no additional staff should be obtained and that casual and establishment staff vacancies should not be filled except in extreme emergencies. It is clear that many of these hospitals will have to cut back on important and vital services. For example, a representative of St Vincent’s Hospital was reported in the Age’ of 26th March as stating that the hospital would have to cut back on radiology, pathology and dietary services to the public.
The Country Hospitals Association and the Association of Victorian Homes and Hospitals for the Aged said at their conference last week that they faced the prospect of dismissing staff, closing wards and turning away patients. This is an extremely critical situation. The Commonwealth Government must accept a major responsibility for this situation. This matter cannot be ignored with the claim that it is a State responsibility. With the concurrence of the Minister and honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a survey of the financial position of some public hospitals, general hospitals and homes and hospitals for the aged which I have carried out within my electorate. As I am allowed only 10 minutes in which to speak on the adjournment I cannot give all of the details. Honourable members will see from these figures how critical is the situation in these hospitals. For example, if we look at the position of Bendigo Hospital, it is clear that medical services may be cut unless immediate financial assistance is given. This assistance will not come from the State.
– Does the honourable member desire to incorporate this material in Hansard?
– Leave is granted.
– Thank you. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate this material in Hansard.
Note: These figures are based on the assumption that there will be no further salary increases before 30.6.71.
Maintenance account overdraft at - 31.12.70- $6,097 1.2.71-810,907.
Reduced by supplementary government grant and payment of outstanding accounts at 1.3.71- $6,263.
Estimated overdraft by 31.3.71- $3,000-$3,500. Estimated overdraft by 30.6.71- $8.000-$9,000.
Bank position 29.3.70- credit of $800 29.3.71- overdraft of $2,000.
Estimated cost of 6 per cent national wage increase and payment of Saturday and Sunday time to nursing staff and shift allowances - $4,600 per annum.
Hospital at present has no outstanding debts to traders, etc.
Budget has always been balanced, but hospital may have to increase fees if and when staff wages are increased.
Heathcote District Hospital
Seymour and District Memorial Hospital
Lancefield Bush Nursing Hospital
Balances its budget, but prospective increases in nurses’ salaries could cause concern.
STATE NURSING HOMES AND HOSPITALS FOR THE AGED
Bank position 30.6.70- overdraft $75,676 31.12.70- $108,095 estimated overdraft by 30.6.71- $159,000.
Estimated deficit by 30.6.71 will be $67,431.
Estimated overdraft by 30.6.71 will be $87,000 (= estimated overdraft of $127,000, less grant of $39,500 from Hospitals and Charities Commission).
Medical services at Bendigo Hospital will have to be cut unless immediate financial assistance is given. If these services are not cut the debts will build up and costs in the future will increase. If the hospital were to pay its creditors it could not pay its staff next week. This is the situation the hospital is in. lt has to balance one against the other. By the end of June the hospital will be 3 months behind in its debts. The hospital has been placed in an extremely dangerous situation.
A very serious financial situation has been staved off at Maldon only by cutting the number of hours worked by nurses and delaying the maintenance of buildings and equipment. But this is only a short term solution. In Kilmore the bank overdraft on the hospital is increasing but the hospital cannot expect any increase in income and it is not sure that the bank will increase the overdraft without some certainty as to government aid. At Castlemaine, wage increases and other additional costs have increased the deficit and it will be approximately $51,000 by 30th June this year, lt is suggested that an increase of 10 per cent granted by the nurses wages board will add a further $3,250 to the deficit for this financial year. In the 120 years that the hospital there has been in existence its largest deficit was $7,000. That was 10 years ago. By the end of this financial year the overdraft is likely to be $60,000, but the bank has placed on the hospital an overdraft limit pf $30,000. I could refer to the situation in Gisborne, Heathcote and Lancefield and at the Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged and the Castlemaine Home and Hospital for’ the Aged, but these details are included in the figures that I have had incorporated in Hansard.
Unless action is taken by the Commonwealth Government it is clear that the crisis which is developing in Victoria will accelerate, lt is clear that essential public services in health will have to be curtailed. Many hospitals will not be able to get overdrafts from banks. A number have been told that money will not be available. Some will cease to be going financial concerns. A Premiers Conference will be held next Monday. It is essential that the Commonwealth should make available to the State governments money for their hospitals. Later on the direct planning of hospital care in Australia can be undertaken. It is clear that this Government is not prepared to do that. An urgent situation is facing us now. lt must be tackled. That can be done only with Commonwealth assistance.
– Tonight I wish to refer to a problem which I believe without doubt will bc a major one in future years. I refer to the remarkable achievements of science in the field of technology in producing substitutes for foodstuffs. I refer specifically to synthetic meats. I would consider that the greatest potential threat to the Australian cattle industry is not lost markets, a drop in demand or a change in dietary habits to other natural foods but the technological development of substitutes. In the post-war years we have seen what synthetic fibres have done to the Australian wool industry. We have seen also the development of substitutes for butter. I refer particularly to margarine. Now we are seeing remarkable achievements in the field of technology in producing substitutes for meat. The present position is analogous to the position many years ago when synthetic textiles were introduced. Honourable members will recall that wool industry leaders treated with the utmost scorn and contempt the suggestion that there was any chance of synthetic fibres ever making large inroads into the wool industry. This was at a time when synthetics were in their infancy. A similar analogy can be drawn now in relation to the production of synthetic meats. I believe that the cattle industry should heed very strongly the lessons to be learned from the wool industry.
At present Japan, the United States of America and Europe are concentrating an increasing amount of resources on the production of synthetic or simulated meat. In the main, soya bean and, to a growing degree, particularly in Japan, wheat are being used in the manufacture of simulated or artificial meats. Soya bean has the 10 major elements and the essential amino acids, with the exception of the sulphur acids. Scientists have been able to replace the sulphur acids, thus overcoming any problems that might have arisen due to their absence. Science is now developing artificial proteins. Whereas the soya bean protein is extracted from plant material, science is now developing artificial proteins by biochemical means by the application of carbohydrates and hydrocarbons. This research work is a tremendous potential threat to the manufacturer of foodstuffs.
The microbiological proteins or the artificial proteins have a fermentation basis. For example, yeast grows as a culture on petroleum products, such as natural gas and heavy natural gas. To give the House some idea of the way it can be manufactured in terms of density of weight, 1 lb of culture can double in weight in a matter of hours and in a day it can weigh 2 tons. This is an indication of the tremendous microbiological scope in the manufacture of artificial proteins. There are also the bacterial proteins, which grow on such substrates as cellulose methane, and the fungal proteins which grow on the culture generated carbohydrates. All of these scientific achievements in this field are aimed at the production of synthetic meats. Because of its high protein content - up to 96 per cent - the soya bean is by far the best of the edible fibres in terms of selling power. The protein concentrates I have mentioned are being used successfully at present as an additive to meat products. It is from there on that I see the danger.
Judging from the relative prices and, of course, the high protein it would appear that the soya bean isolates are the best. The production of simulated meats is now being extended into the actual cuts of beef, particularly in Japan. These protein concentrates, by scientific methods of thermoplastic extrusion, by which they can be divided and spun like nylon threads into a texture, and by dividing with proteins such as the white of an egg, which are coagulated protein, can be shaped and moulded into a product which resembles almost perfectly any cut of meat except ones with a bone in it. I have no doubt that it will be possible to simulate the bones if necessary. As these proteins are being manufactured into simulated meats the scientists are adding the deficiencies in terms of the elements. For example, they are adding artificial fats, artificial flavour and artificial colouring. They are also adding suitable nutrient qualities. The end product is one which, in terms of appearance, is basically the same. Science has shown that it is very hard to tell the difference between simulated and real meats as far as the cheaper cuts are concerned, especially if they are used in stews, curries, hamburgers or as mince or something like that. When it comes to the higher priced cuts of meat, such as fillet and rump steak or sirloin roasts, there is apparently a basic difference with respect to palatability, but the scientists are working on this problem. Europe, the United States of America and Japan are the 3 main producers and consumers of simulated meats. There is a growing market at the present time in the United States in the institutions - hospitals, hotels, restaurants, cafes and so forth - for this type of meat. This is principally in relation to the cheaper types of simulated meat as distinct from the more refined cuts.
It is only in the last 2 or 3 years that this process has been developed. It is obvious that, as with the development of synthetic fibres, there will be a time lag. The initial response from the public to simulated meat has to be gauged, particularly as I say, in countries like Japan. If the response is favourable enough the scientist really gets to work as he did with synthetic wool fibres. One of the great, selling points with simulated meats is that the scientist has been able to develop a product which has a higher protein content and a lower fat content than natural meats. In a dietconscious, health-conscious world, and particularly in the higher standard of living countries, this is a point which is, influencing people in buying the meat. As far as the other comparisons are concerned, in terms of texture the scientist has developed and is developing simulated meat which has approximately the same nutritive value as natural meat. The chewing quality is something which is hard to substitute, because there is such a tremendous difference between chewing qualities of different types of steaks. One of the advantages of simulated meat, in fact, is its uniformity. But it is in the field of palatability that the scientist has still not been able to solve the problem. The higher priced cuts such as fillet and rump steak have without doubt a better palatability factor than the simulated meats. But there is no doubt that the scientist will solve this problem also. I mention this matter to the House because I feel that the Australian cattle industry has to give it more thought. We cannot be complacent. Science is developing at a rapid rate today in the field of technology and simulated meats.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think we can be grateful in some ways to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) for drawing the attention of the House to the problem that can be posed to the beef industry. However, it is a matter which honourable members on this side of the House have also been taking a little notice of recently at Party committee meetings. Therefore 1 think I will take a minute or two to show how, in some areas, the honourable member for Dawson and I see things differently. I do not think it is any longer true to say that there is a big market for protein in many developing countries. I think that more and more if there is an express need these countries are succeeding in developing their own supplies. Of course this is the logical way of doing it. If we think - I realise this is not quite what the honourable member said - that we should develop industries based on selling proteins to areas in need, I suggest that the reservoir will rapidly dry up. 1 believe that our role in those countries should be that of advice and technological help. I shall expand on that thought. There is an idea - and I think it is solidly based - that it is time to think bard about alternate exports to wheat, which in some areas perhaps is no longer quite as viable as it might be because of the type of restrictions and quotas which are placed on it. Many different commodities can be considered. For instance, in Queensland, the State of the honourable member for Dawson, and in northern New South Wales sorghum has been used for some time. I do not think that sorghum has altogether proved entirely successful under all seasonal conditions which apply in those States. Certainly this year crops are booming and looking extremely promising, but I think that one can already perceive that this is not necessarily a crop that should be grown within the tolerances exercised in a State such as Queensland.
In thinking of sorghum, unquestionably the by-products of the oil seed crops such as peanut and cotton have a part to play. As mentioned by the honourable member, the soya bean has its value not in oil but primarily in meal production. He quite rightly drew the attention of the House to this meat substitute and its dangers. There is really only one country in the world so far as I know which has made inroads to any marked degree in this field and that, of course, is the United States of America. I think the honourable member will find that there are 2 firms in Europe - I am told they are in Germany - which quite recently have given up the manufacture of this commodity at a time when one might have supposed the technological breakthrough was just as possible in that area as it was in America.
I think the analogy that the honourable member drew in his speech between artificial fibre production and the wool industry has some bearing on the psychological moment at which something catches on or does not catch on. There are people - and I mention Dr Hohnen of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics - who believe that there is a psychological stage at which matters jell. There is the technological breakthrough on the one hand, a price mechanism as perhaps in the case of beef in America where the price became unduly high and encouraged the production of substitutes; but even more than that, there is the psychological means of acceptance that suddenly makes people think the artificial fibre T-shirt is a better article than the Vyella shirt, leaving the price differentiation out of it. These are matters worthy of note. 1 do not know whether or not the initial moves in this country to produce artificial meat substitutes will catch on but so long as the production of beef goes on increasing and its price does not soar - probably the economics of our beef industry are second to none in the world - I doubt whether the differentiation would exist for this to occur. 1 would like to conclude by making a few more comments about export grains as an alternative to wheat. This is a dangerous matter to discuss in a minute or two because it means that we have to generalise, but it seems to me that there is quite a future for the production in the southern districts of rape, sown with mustard to stop bloat in stock. There is the field pea industry, which comically enough affects the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). I suppose for 25 years or more - and the honourable member for Wakefield can supply chapter and verse on this a lot better than I can - there has been virtually no research work done on the field pea industry. Yet there are members in this House, and one is sitting on the cross benches now, who have been exporting peas to Japan at a very worthwhile price. We are still in the infancy stages with some of the alternative crops that can be grown. A lot of the trouble we experience from time to time is in the older industries. So long as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, with Government funds and industry donations, produces experimental and research work, there is an automatic degree of investment in fields in which perhaps investment should not be made at this time. Yet when there is the possibility of export rape seed, field peas, feed barley, and six-row barley we find that investment and effort have not been put into the production of seed crops, some old and some new, which could very welt have a marked effect on the future export potential and welfare of this country. Perhaps the honourable member has promoted something by way of this debate and I hope it throws some light on the problems. I am sorry I am not quite so well prepared as he was, but he has touched on a subject that is of great importance to all.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to raise the matter of Jetair Australia Ltd. Recently in this House questions were directed to the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is now the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin). Obviously they were Dorothy Dixers. Some curious replies were given on 18th and 24th February in regard to these matters.
Before I refer to the Jetair company I want to talk about 3 men - A. Barton, J. Bovill and R. A. Rydge. Two of these 3 - Barton and Bovill - are or were directors of Brins Australia Ltd, Landmark Corporation Ltd, Palgrave Corporation Ltd and, before that, Associated Gem Corporation Ltd. That last company had a paid-up capital of $10,000 and was owned by Barton and Bovill. They sold that company to Palgrave Corporation Ltd, which they controlled, for $250,000 in shares. Of the remaining companies, one - Landmark Corporation Ltd - has become bankrupt. These 3 men - I ask the House to note their names, Barton, Bovill and Rydge - are directors of a number of public companies, including Bounty Oil, Westmoreland Minerals and Harbourside Oil.
Now I come to the Jetair company. It was incorporated in New South Wales in May 1969 with a paid-up capital of $77.50 in 155 50c shares. The owners and directors were Barton, Bovill and Rydge. Their plans for the Jetair company were set out in the March 1970 issue of ‘Rydge’s Business Journal’. The said Jetair company had acquired a number of DC3 aircraft and 2 Viscount aircraft and was currently planning to become a third major Australian airline. The article said that the Jetair company was proposing a public float involving shares to the value of almost $10m. The article pointed out that its success would depend on the Government’s granting an airline licence and permission to import new and suitable aircraft.
How did the Jetair company acquire its aircraft? Two of these DC3s were owned originally by Trans-Australia Airlines. TAA, in conformity with Government policy of selling aircraft outside Australia, sold the aircraft for approximately $18,000 each, with an additional $20,000 bond to guarantee that they were taken outside Australia, to a company subsequently acquired by the Jetair company. The Jetair company broke the bond and forfeited $20,000 on each of the aircraft. Its 2 Viscount aircraft came from the Royal Australian Air Force through the Department of Supply. The Department of Supply sold them to an overseas firm, again in conformity with Government policy. Conveniently, that firm defaulted on a debt due to one of Barton’s oil companies while the aircraft were still in Australia, and the aircraft were seized in settlement. However, this time Barton’s guile went for nought because the Department of Civil Aviation, which itself is no mean hand at devising ways and means of getting what it wants, refused to license the aircraft.
Nevertheless, at that stage - March 1970 - the Jetair company had aircraft, some routes and the relevant applications before the Government, and was set to go public. The owners of the Jetair company hoped that their friends in Cabinet would be able to get them a third airline licence and lo force the Government to grant them permission to import new aircraft. But, even if they did not succeed, they could float a public company and grant themselves large shareholdings which could be disposed of before the inevitable crash came. Either way they stood to profit. They did not go ahead - not because of an attack of remorse, but for the very good reason that their underwriters withdrew their support. Undeterred, they sold the Jetair company to a public company, spending the public’s money. This company was controlled by - guess who? It was controlled by Barton and Bovill. The company - Brins Australia Ltd - is a company with a paid-up capital of $505,000, acting as merchant bankers and using as accountants the firm of Hungerford, Spooner and Kirkhope. I make no comment on that. I give this by way of background.
The questions that 1 want to raise now are these: Why is the Government buying aircraft from people whose approach to dealings involving public funds is at least questionable, not to say shady? ls it because of their contacts with the Liberal Party? I wish to give some further information which will show the necessity for answers to additional questions. What 1 am about to say is based on contrasts between statements made to the Parliament by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs in this House on 18th February 1971, as reported at page 249 of Hansard, and by the Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) in the Senate on 25th February 1971, as reported at page 347 of Hansard. There are discrepancies in the accounts given by each. If one is to be believed, then the other is not telling the truth.
Let me go over these point by point. First, when and how did it come about that the Australian Government decided to supply aircraft to Nepal, Cambodia and Laos? On Tuesday, 16th January 1971, Senator Turnbull asked Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson whether he would find out the dates on which the Government received requests for DC3 aircraft from the Governments mentioned. Sir Kenneth said that he would put the question to his colleague in the normal way. On Thursday, 18th January, Senator Sir Kenneth
Anderson told Senator Murphy that, in view of the interest being shown: it may be necessary lo have a complete consolidated, chronological statement of the circumstances.
Later in his reply he said: 1 think that before Tuesday I shall collaborate with the Department of Foreign Affairs to obtain a chronological statement setting out what happened.
It was not until one week later, on Thursday, 25th January, that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson made his statement. It can hardly be considered a full chronological statement and nowhere does it deal with Senator Turnbull’s request for the dates on which the Government received requests for DC3s if, in fact, it ever did so. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said:
In 1969 the Department of Foreign Affairs decided to supply S DC3 aircraft as foreign aid, 2 to Nepal, and 3 to Laos.
These were to come from the Royal Australian Air Force. More than 18 months later, in December 1970, Jetair advertised 6 aircraft for sale. The Minister continued : the Department of Foreign Affairs ascertained that . . . Cambodia would be glad of the RAAF aircraft.
Did he, in his ministerial wanderings and meanderings, create a market? The Government did not receive a request from Cambodia - it was bailing Jetair out. See how quickly it acted when its friends in Jetair were involved. The Government decided, in early 1969, to supply Nepal and Laos and bought the first Royal Australian Air Force planes in March 1969. Two years later they still have not been delivered. But, let Jetair advertise and within 2 months the Department of Foreign Affairs arranged to dump its own aircraft in Cambodia and made a private treaty to buy all Jetair’s aircraft, even though, according to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, there are still 5 surplus DC3 aircraft, already belonging to the Government, remaining at Laverton air base. This information appears on page 76 of Hansard of 17th February 1971. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s report to the Senate glosses over essential details but makes it clear that the decision to provide aircraft to Cambodia was not taken until Jetair advertised its aircraft for sale less than 3 months ago, in December 1970. Let me recall a statement made by the former
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr McMahon) which appears on page 249 of Hansard:
In the light of what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said, that statement is not true, it is a lie, and it is up to the former Minister for Foreign Affairs to explain why he misled the House.
There is a second discrepancy. When talking about the cost of converting Royal Australian Air Force DC3s to civil airworthiness standards, Senator Cotton told Senator Keeffe:
From inquiries made this morning it seems that an average of $50,000 an aircraft is reasonable, perhaps even conservative, as a figure.
This statement appears on page 133 of Hansard. The previous day, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson had told the Senate: lt is estimated that the cost of converting them to passenger configuration and of obtaining a certificate of airworthiness for civil operations would cost upwards of $50,000 per aircraft.
This appears at page 74 of Hansard. Allowing for the initial purchase price of $10,000 to $15,000, this would make a total cost of $60,000 to $65,000. When the former Minister for Foreign Affairs gave details to the House he said: [f we purchased similar Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and wanted certificates of airworthiness we would have had to spend on the purchase price and conversion something of the order of $80,000.
That is a considerable discrepancy. Was that figure advised by his Department or was it conjured up by the Minister to bolster his case? Time will not permit me to go into greater detail, but the fact is that the Minister has a case to answer to the House regarding this shady deal with Jetair. He should supply information about the people and personalities who have been concerned with this matter. From the number of Dorothy Dix questions that have been directed at the new Prime Minister, it is obvious that the Government is concerned. The Prime Minister should be in the Chamber tonight, or at least he should take note of what has been disclosed here and tell the truth, as he sees it, about the position. It is not good enough that this capitalist oriented Government should look after its wealthy friends in the manner it does.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I atn quite sure that when we are able to see the speech of the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) in print and to read it in the cool calm of the morning we will have a clearer idea of what he was talking about. But I am sure from the few words of relevance heard this side of the chamber that it was a well written speech, but it did not have the usual thrust of his more spontaneous addresses. We look forward to reading the interpretation of it in the morning. 1 do not want to deal with the remarks of the honourable member for Sturt. I have another matter that I would like to raise before the House this evening. I am very glad that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is in the chamber. I want to mention the position of young invalid people in the prevailing circumstances of our community. 1 wish to quote in particular one case that 1 have in mind. It is the case of a young girl of approximately 18 years of age who is slightly mentally retarded and who has been employed for the last 2 years in a factory where she performed a fairly repetitious type of job. Due to the increase in the wage structure caused by the decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the national wage case her employers felt that they had to reduce their staff, that they could not afford to continue to employ so many mentally retarded people. Although such action is rather hard on such employees, one can understand it to a certain extent. When the wage structure is forced up, the first people to go are those who perhaps have been in rather unusual circumstances employed. The tragedy which occurs in such situations should be understood by honourable members and by people outside the House.
There must be many similar cases of unfortunate people who have been capable of maintaining employment but who suddenly, because of an increase in the wage rate, have been forced into unemployment. At the present time when such people become unemployed they receive the unemployment benefit. I ask whether it would not be possible for the Minister for Social Services or the Government to introduce some scheme by which an employer could be subsidised to maintain these people in employment. Would it not be possible for the Government to make a plea to the Australian Council of Trade Unions - to Mr Hawke who claims that he is acting in the best interests of the people, whether he is or is not - or individual unions to allow the Government to subsidise an employer above and beyond a certain rate of pay to help these unfortunate people? Such people are not sufficiently disabled to enter a sheltered workshop. They are capable of holding a job in industry, although perhaps at a reduced rate of efficiency as compared with a person who is 100 per cent fit.
Another problem arises when employers engage such persons at 18 years of age. Once they reach the stage where they are entitled to receive the full adult wage many employers put them off. It should not be beyond the bounds of possibility for the Government, in conjunction with the trade unions, to work out some scheme whereby these people, instead of being forced onto invalid or unemployment pensions, should be encouraged and should be enabled to stay in industry. There is nothing worse for a person who is disabled than suddenly to be confronted with unemployment. The fact that such persons may receive unemployment or invalid benefits when they are not working is of little solace to them. They want the pride of being able to work and of being able to bring back to their homes the money they earn for the work that they do.
I think this is a subject to which many of us may not have given deep consideration. I know that there are problems in the unions. I know that these things can be abused and that people can employ and underpay these people; but as long as these matters can be watched I feel that greater opportunities can be given to these people. In the case that I have in mind a job came up with an organisation associated with one of the large newspapers in Victoria. The parents of this girl applied for the job which was merely the repetitive folding of newspapers. It was not a difficult job. I think it was quite within the capabilities of this girl. It seems that the assistant foreman said that there was no problem as far as a semi-handicapped person was concerned as long as she was capable and he felt that she would have no difficulty in doing the job. It was then referred to the next highest executive on the management rung in the firm and the girl’s parents were told that no handicapped person need apply. I thought this was an extraordinary reply coming from newspapers which frequently publish great articles on what is not being done for handicapped people and how handicapped people should be assisted not only by governments but by industry, by unions and by others to take their place in this nation at this time.
I ask that the Minister look at this matter because I know that he realises, as we all realise, that a disabled person does not want charity but wants the opportunity to earn, to have a job, to be independent and to have some pride. I think the way we have acted in the past is wrong. Perhaps because of difficult circumstances people have had to rely on social services and on invalidity pensions. Perhaps we should allow them to do a job in industry and subsidise the employer for keeping these people and paying them the full award wage. It may be that this would be cheaper for the Commonwealth than paying the full invalidity or social service benefit and having them do absolutely nothing. It is a matter of these people being occupied and I feel that we should be capable of finding, in conjunction with the unions, some system that will not only implement what we are saying in respect to the rehabilitation of these people but also give them some hope for the future.
– This afternoon during question time I took the opportunity to bring to the attention of the House and, in particular, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) the critical situation that has developed in Queensland in recent times with the currently existing threat to democracy in that State. I gave the Prime Minister a chance to support the important principle of democratic government. He chose not to take it and Hansard now records that decision. I think it is fitting this evening that I place on record some facts associated with the Country Party proposals to gerrymander the Queensland electoral boundaries, a gerrymander that will certainly destroy democratic government in Queensland for many years to come and will guarantee that the Country Party-Liberal Party coalition will remain in power for many years, lt will also guarantee that the Liberal Party, now the junior party in the coalition, will have no hope of replacing the Country Party as the senior coalition party. All parties agree that a redistribution of electoral boundaries in Queensland must take place. The last redistribution took place in 1958 and since then the State’s population has increased from 1,500,000 people to over 1,800,000 people. With the major changes in population distribution that have taken place since then the need for a redistribution is agreed upon by all parties in the Queensland Parliament.
The 1958 redistribution established three distinct zones which I will mention briefly for the benefit of honourable members. The metropolitan zone - that is, the Brisbane City area - comprised 28 seals and in that zone the average enrolment was to be 11,000 people. The provincial zone included cities such as Ipswich, Toowoomba and Maryborough. It had a total of 12 seats and the quota in that second zone was 12,189. The third zone, the country zone, contains the remaining 38 seats. That makes a total of 78 seats in the Queensland Parliament. The quota for country seats was set at 8,324. Population increases and movements in the past 12 years have produced many imbalanced electorates. The largest metropolitan enrolment is in the Asply electorate which has 22,473 voters. The smallest enrolment is in the inner city electorate of Brisbane which has 8,088 voters. Five metropolitan electorates have enrolments in excess of 20,000, another four have enrolments exceeding 15,000, while three have enrolments below 10,000.
The position is much more evenly balanced in the provincial city electorates. The difference in enrolments in provincial city electorates is in the vicinity of only 2,000. Cairns has 15,212 electors and Ipswich East has 17,324 electors. Again, in the country electorates the numbers enrolled reflect great discrepancies. Murrumba has an enrolment of 20,660 electors, while in Balonne there are only 6,890 electors - a difference of 14,000. Throughout the State there are 19 electorates which have 16,000 or more voters and 11 which have approximately 8,000 voters.
This great variation in enrolments proves conclusively that a redistribution must be carried out in Queensland without delay. No electoral system in a country which claims to be democratic can justify making one person’s vote only half as valuable as that of another person.
– Tell us about the Australian Labor Party’s redistribution.
– I will admit that in the past redistributions have been carried out in Queensland by all parties, but the redistribution proposed by the Country Party in Queensland is a gerrymander to end all gerrymanders. In the present Queensland Parliament the Labor Party has 31 seats, although it won 46 per cent of the votes in the 1969 State election. The Country Party gained about 20 per cent of the votes but it has 25 seats in the present Parliament. The Liberal Party was supported by about 25 per cent of the electorate and it managed to hold 20 seats in the present Parliament. There are 2 members of the Queensland Parliament who are not members of any of the major political parties.
The Prime Minister has now gone on record as saying that he intends to shirk his responsibility - a responsibility, might I remind him, which is seen not only in the eyes of his fellow Australians but also in the eyes of many of our Asiatic neighbours who themselves are striving towards democratic forms of government and in the eyes of the whole world. Those power crazy Queensland politicians - the Premier and the Leader of the Liberal Party - with their ruthless, Fascist style redistribution plan have gone to such lengths that the Liberal Party State Executive has demanded the rejection of the redistribution plan. The State Liberal Party President, Mr Eric Robinson, has gone on record as saying that the Country Party’s proposal, if adopted, will mean that electoral injustice has been achieved at Country Party insistence. The Leader of the Opposition in the Queensland Parliament, Mr Jack Houston, calls the proposal, as I said earlier, the worst gerrymander the world has ever seen - the gerrymander to end all gerrymanders.
Influential members of both the Liberal and Labor Parties in the Queensland Parliament confess that they get sick in the stomach when they think of what is being done by this gerrymander in Queensland.
Despite the unpopularity of his leadership over many different issues in recent months, the Queensland Premier in his well-known arrogant style has carried the gerrymander to the point of no return. The combined efforts of 8 Liberal members - Mr Chinchen, Mr Porter, Mr Murray, Mr Lickiss, Mr Hughes, Mr Miller, Mr Hewitt and Dr Crawford - and the Labour Party have so far prevented the completion of this ill-conceived electoral gerrymander. It leaves the situation still uncertain. Present indications are that in a desperate effort to forestall the Parliament approving a reasonably fair amendment which was proposed yesterday evening by Mr Porter, and which has the support of a majority of members of the Queensland Parliament, the Country Party and the Chalk Liberal axis will endeavour to keep the measure well away from further debate in the Parliament. So the present unjust and imbalanced electorate size will be maintained until after the next State election, which is due in May 1972. In other words, an overdue redistribution will have been pigeonholed to preserve a virtual dictatorship in Queensland. Democracy has suffered a cruel blow in the State of Queensland.
Thursday, 1 April 1971
– It is interesting to hear these lilywhite Laborites talking about gerrymander. The Queensland Government is an infant in this field compared with the Labor Party when it was in government. Firstly, I point out that the present electoral boundaries are based on the zonal system which was introduced by Mr Hanlon, the Labor Premier, and which was then continued by Mr Nicklin in 1958. That system which involves 3 zones is the basis for the present system.
– The boundaries have shifted.
– I know they have shifted. If the honourable member looks at the Bill which was before the Queensland Parliament he will see how many fewer country seats there are now. The gerrymander by the Labor Government in Queensland when it was in office brought about a position in which the combined vote of the Liberal and Country Parties was 30,000 more than the Labor vote yet they had 12 seats fewer than Labor in the Parliament. That was the gerrymander which kept the Labor Party in office in Queensland, so honourable members opposite should not talk about gerrymander. Honourable members opposite are squealing. They do not like their own sins being brought home to them. Let us consider the proposal which was put as an amendment last night and let us consider the gerrymander. Is this the way that honourable members would have Queensland represented in the State Parliament, with 52 seats within 100 miles of Brisbane?
– That is where the population is living.
– We know that the Opposition has indicated time and again that it has no sympathy for people in country areas. The proposal advanced by the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland was even worse than the one which was carried by amendment last night. The proposal which was carried last night provided for 52 seats within 100 miles of Brisbane and 12 seats only for the area west of the Great Divide. That is a wonderful representation for Queensland! Yet the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland wanted to have 9 seats only for that area. The Liberal Party, represented by the Deputy Premier of Queensland, supported the Bill which was before the House. These lily-white Opposition representatives who have committed the gravest sin in a gerrymandering that has ever been experienced in the history of Queensland should have a look at themselves before they come in here and talk about gerrymandering, because they do not want the rural dwellers to have any reasonable representation at all. The Labor Party will forever be in disgrace for wanting to continue the inadequate representation of the rural people instead of wanting to have their representation increased. I know what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said about people in the country being regarded as pagan and what he has said about the civilised people being in the cities. He has said this and he did not deny it until 12 months after when it was printed in the newspapers. That is the attitude of the whole of the Opposition. There may be a few on the Opposition side who have some sympathy-
– On a point of order: Can the honourable member be forced to prove his stupid remarks?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Sturt will resume his seat and cease interjecting.
– There may be a few on the Opposition side who represent country electorates now. Are they game to advocate the deletion of further country electorates? They have not got the guts to do it. They just listen to the executive of the Queensland Labor Party. They go about among the people but they do not tell the people what they stand for - less and less representation for country people and country interests. 1 think it is time this was shown up.
– I have never heard such a lot of humbug from Uncle Charlie in my life.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) agreed to: That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.7 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
National Development, upon notice:
Queensland, $34. lm
South Australia, nil expenditure to date.
Queensland, 2,490 miles
Northern Territory, 1,610 miles
South Australia, 300 miles
These mileages represent the total length of roads approved by the Commonwealth for construction or upgrading as beef roads. Details of the progress to date on construction of these roads and of total expenditure by the Commonwealth and States since the beef roads scheme began in 1961 are contained in a report recently issued by my Department. The publication is entitled ‘Beef Roads, A Review of Progress’ and copies are available, on application, from my Department. Copies are also held in the Parliamentary Library.
Navy, upon notice:
What was the date on which he first became aware of the information contained in his reply to question No. 383 (Hansard, 16 February 1971, page 64).
My predecessor first became aware of information contained in his reply to question No. 383 in mid-December 1970. A good deal of difficulty was experienced in collecting the information since rules of organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act seldom specify the dates on which elections are to be held.
Is he able to say whether the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission regards the doctrine of comparative wage justice as a relevant factor in the determination of wage claims.
In the determination of wage claims the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission considers all relevant factors placed before it by the parties and interveners. Comparative wage justice could be among those factors.
Arbitration (Question No. 263S)
Will he answer part (3) of question No. 2120 (Hansard, 16 February 1971, page 100).
There is nothing to add to the answer to Question No. 2120 (Hansard, 16 February 1971, page 100).
In view of his answer to question No. 2040 (Hansard, 16th February 1971, page 97), in which he states that he does not know how many employees not engaged on continuous shift work already receive at least four weeks’ annual leave, how did he make his calculations as to the cost of granting an extra week’s annual leave to all employees in Australia.
Information of a comprehensive and precise nature is not available about the number of employees not engaged on continuous shift work who are already receiving at least four weeks annual leave. However, the main areas in which employees receive at least four weeks annual leave are known. In estimating the total cost of granting an additional week’s leave an allowance was made based on this knowledge.
Labour and National Service the following question, upon notice:
What birth dates were chosen by ballot in each of the registration periods from the inception of the present national service system until the commencement of the publications of birthdates chosen.
In June last year it was decided that it would be beneficial to publish the results of future national service ballots commencing with the twelfth ballot, which was held in September, 1970. It was also decided that the results of earlier national service ballots would not be published as the mcn affected have long since been notified of the result of the ballot as it affected them.
Social Services, upon notice:
The preliminary results are being subjected to more detailed examination, which may well result in the raising of the figure of 750,000 referred to above. It is my intention to make a further statement on this matter when our studies have reached closer to finality.
Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Commonwealth Technical Co-operation Schemes (Question No. 2350)
What steps did he or the Prime Minister take at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Singapore to assert the eligibility of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea under Commonwealth technical assistance programmes.
None. The question did not arise in the meeting in Singapore. The Territory of Papua and New Guinea is eligible to participate in those Commonwealth technical co-operation schemes which are not closed to it by geographical limitation, e.g. the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan. It has already benefited from Commonwealth programmes such as those under the Commonwealth Co-operation in Education Scheme.
It is entirely a matter for the States to determine to what extent interest they are required to pay on Loan Council borrowings is ‘passed on’ to their railways. Comprehensive and detailed information on this matter is not published by the States, but I understand that all of the States have relieved their railways of some part of the debt charges’ payable on the advances that have been made to them. (See, for example, page 154 of the Thirty-Seventh Report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.)
The Commonwealth has provided financial assistance to the States for various specific railway projects, mainly for rail standardisation works. Some of this assistance has been in the form of grants, some in the form of interest bearing loans. Interest and other debt charges payable on these loan has,I am informed, generally been charged by State Governments to railway accounts. Details of interest payable on the loans are given in Table 60 of ‘Commonwealth Payments to or for the States 1970-71’.
On what dates, in what journals and in what terms were applications sought for the position of director of the Australian National Gallery.
Advertisements seeking applications for the position of Director of the Australian National Gallery were placed in the following journals on the dates shown:
The advertisement placed in these journals was in the following terms
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL GALLERY APPOINTMENT OF DIRECTOR
Applications are invited from suitably qualified persons for the position of Director of the Australian National Gallery.
The initial stages of the planning, designing and construction of the Australian National Gallery are now under consideration by the Interim Council of the Australian National Gallery and the National Capital Development Commission. The Interim Council seeks the appointment of the Director to participate in the work.
Important collections which the Australian National Gallery will hold include
The national Collection at present contains some 3,000 items representing paintings, drawings, etc., which have been acquired by the Government over many years on the advice of the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board. There are also other collections including one of Primitive Art.
The Gallery will be erected on a site in Canberra - the most rapidly expanding capital city of Australia, with a good climate. The Director will be located in Canberra and will have opportunities to travel overseas.
The successful applicant will be expected to have competence in the management of a Gallery and in the acquisition of works of art. He will be responsible to the Council for the Gallery.
A salary will be negotiated up to$A1 2,000 per annum.
Terms of Appointment -
To be discussed but it is contemplated that the appointment will be, in the first instance, for 5 years.
Closing Date of Applications - 28th February 1969. Applications should be addressed to The Secretary,
Prime Minister’s Department, Canberra, A.C’.T. 2600 Australia
What proportion of the $500,000 budget for drug education programmes is devoted to discourage the use of (a) alcohol, (b) tobacco, (c) opium derivatives, (d) cannabis, (e) sedative drugs and (f) stimulant drugs.
The $500,000 allocated by the Government for drug education is being used for programmes approved by the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence. These programmes do not relate to any particular drug or drugs and are, where possible, integrated within existing health education activities in the various States. These programmes are not designed to discourage the use of alcohol or tobacco.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 March 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710331_reps_27_hor71/>.