27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the Division of Adelaide respectfully showeth:
That the determination as to which young men are required to undergo compulsory military service under the National Service Act 1951- 1968 is arrived at by a ballot system, based upon arbitrary grounds as to their date of birth.
And that this procedure providing for selection by a method of chance is an unfair and arbitrary imposition on the human rights of a minority and discriminates against certain of the young male persons in the community in favour of others solely by reason of their respective dates of birth.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Section Twenty-six of the National Service Act 1951-1968 be repealed.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Sales Tax on all forms of Contraceptive Devices is 27½ per cent. (Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications Act 1935-1967). Also that there is Customs Duty of up to 47½ per cent on some Contraceptive Devices.
And that this is an unfair imposition on the human rights of all people who wish to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And furthermore that this imposition discriminates particularly against people on low incomes.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Sales Tax on all forms of Contraceptive Devices be removed, so as to bring these items into line with other necessities such as food, upon which there is no Sales Tax. Also that Customs Duties be removed, and that all Contraceptive Devices be placed on the National Health Scheme Pharmaceutical Benefits List.
And your petitioners, asin duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Sales Tax on all forms of Contraceptive Devices is 27½ per cent (Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications Act 1935-1967). Also that there is Customs Duty of up to 47½ per cent on some Contraceptive Devices.
And that this is an unfair imposition on the human rights of all people who wish to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And furthermore that this imposition discriminates particularly against people on low incomes.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Sales Tax on all forms of Contraceptive Devices be removed, so as to bring these items into line with other necessities such as food, upon which there is no Sales Tax. Also that Customs Duties be removed, and that all Contraceptive Devices be placed on the National Health Scheme Pharmaceutical Benefits List.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Sales Tax on all forms of Contraceptive Devices is 27½ per cent (Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications Act 1935-1967). Also that there is Customs Duty of up to 471 per cent on some Contraceptive Devices.
And that this is an unfair imposition on the human rights of all people who wish to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And furthermore that this imposition discriminates particularly against people on low incomes.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Sales Tax on all forms of Contraceptive Devices be removed, so as to bring these items into line with other necessities such as food, upon which there is no Sales Tax. Also that Customs Duties be removed, and that all Contraceptive Devices be placed on the National Health Scheme Pharmaceutical Benefits List. And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of residents of the Division of the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
Thai there is a likelihood that education in the Austraiian Capital Territory will in the foreseeable future be made independent of the New South Wales education system.
That the decentralisation of education systems throughout Australia is educationally and administratively desirable, and is now being studied by several State Government Departments.
That the Australian Capital Territory is a homogeneous and coherent unit especially favourable for such studies.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a Committee of Enquiry, on which are represented the Department of Education and Science, institutions of tertiary education, practising educators, and the Canberra communty, be instituted to enquire into the form that an Australian Capital Territory Education Authority should take, the educational principles and philosophy that should underlie it, and its mode of operation and administration.
Any your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth -
Whereas the Commonwealth has a clear mandate to act for the advancement of the Aboriginal people - And whereas the Parliament of Queensland refuses to repeal the clauses of The Aborigines’ and Torres Strait Islanders’ Affairs Act of 1965 which discriminate against the said Aboriginal people,
Your petitioners request that your honourable House take appropriate steps to procure the repeal of. or to nullify the effect of, the said Act.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, The humble petition of citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth - whereas -
the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian Education system.
a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all.
more than 500,000 children suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity.
Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one sixth of its school children.
only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies.
nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the National Government.
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
A joint Commonwealth State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which to base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities.
The immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aborigines, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children.
The provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Has a survey on road traffic accidents been completed in recent years by his Department estimating that the cost to Australia through death, injury and damage to property was approximately $800m per annum? Was this report shelved by his Department and if so, why?
– I am not aware of the report mentioned by the honourable member relating to a survey of road traffic accidents which estimated the cost to the community as $800m. I will make an inquiry of my Department to see how far it has progressed with a study that is under way. It may well be that the honourable member has some information that is not yet official, or not complete, or has not been presented to me. I will have a look at it and if there is any further information I can give to the honourable member, I shall do so.
– Would the Prime Minister be prepared to follow up the opposition to apartheid which he recently expressed to the Prime Minister of South Africa by writing to him immediately and indicating that the Australian people would welcome teams chosen on a multi-racial basis at the earliest opportunity?
– I have, for some weeks past, been contemplating writing a second letter to the Prime Minister of South Africa indicating what I thought were the feelings of the Australian people and, for that matter, my own feelings about the problems of apartheid and its association with sport. I have had discussions with the Foreign Minister about it but up to now we have felt that it would not be prudent to take further action - that one letter might be as much as diplomatic niceties might permit. Nonetheless, I will be only too happy to give further consideration to this letter. In the last letter that I wrote I pointed out the feelings of the Australian people - their regret and disappointment - and I also made known my own feelings which were exactly the same.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers have failed to reach agreement on the new Commonwealth-State housing offer set out in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech? Was the agreement in accord with the Prime Minister’s pledge that he intended to create a better CommonwealthState relationship? Was the new proposal a take it or leave it proposition? Is the immigration policy of the Commonwealth, which continues to place pressures on the States, one of the reasons for the refusal of the States to accept the proposed new agreement? Is the Prime Minister aware that the policy of the Commonwealth which resulted in increased interest rates on finance for housing in the private and public sectors in April 1970 aggravated the problems of the States and made it impossible for an increasing number of young people to meet the deposit gap and repayments necessary in purchasing a home? Are these people turning now in greater numbers to register with State housing authorities to enable them to secure homes in which to rear families?
– It is a pity that the honourable gentleman who has asked this question has not listened to what has been said by my colleague, the. Minister for Housing. It is a pity too that he has not listened to what was said by Mr Dunstan, the Labor Premier of South Australia, who stated that the proposed scheme is a much better one than the agreement which it is to replace and that as such he will accept it. It has been accepted also by New South Wales, but I believe that one State in particular is prepared to play politics. We cannot make the Commonwealth-State financial and economic relationships successful on our own. We will try. The way in which we are trying in relation to this matter - and my colleague has demonstrated this in the House beyond question - is illustrated by the fact that the amount of funds made available to the States under the new scheme will be substantially greater than the amount which would have been made available under the old scheme and will give a discretion to the States as to the way in which the money may be spent. If the honourable gentleman who asked the question wants us to return to the old scheme and give the States substantially less-
– I want a better deal.
– The honourable member has asked his question; let me answer it. If the honourable member wants to go back to the old scheme, he can let the Minister for Housing know. I am sure that he will be amazed at the temerity of the honourable member’s suggestion, but I know he will listen to him wilh courtesy and great attention.
– The Prime Minister would be more aware than anyone in Australia of the importance of combating inflation at this time. I ask the Prime Minister: Although no doubt there is every reason from the point of view of equity for a rise in parliamentary salaries, does he not feel that to increase them at this stage would call into question the credibility of the Government’s determination to combat inflation effectively? Does he not feel that in this case there are even more important issues than equity for politicians and that we should set an example of restraint to the rest of the community?
– At the time that people start to speculate about rises in parliamentary salaries, particularly the salaries for private members, we always hear the claim thai the time is not opportune and that sacrifices should be made by members of the Parliament. That is a common statement. I understand it and I understand the motives behind it. I also think that in contemplating this question we have to consider not only the justice of the claim but also the current economic climate and the Government’s austerity programme as well.
The Government has taken the lead and has produced a Budget that, I think, is more than adequate for the times. Tt is, in fact, a perfectly appropriate Budget. If other people, particularly the Opposition, sections of the trade union movement and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, were content to follow our lead I would be a very happy man because I know that the Budget’s objectives would be achieved. But I also believe that fairness must be taken into consideration and that the private member:, are entitled to a degree of fairness and should not be discriminated against. Bui in saying all that, because of the strength of the expressions in some sections of the media I can give this one assurance: I have had very little pressure brought upon me by private members to sec that salaries are increased. Naturally, I have been thinking about the level of parliamentary salaries because I think it is right that I do so. But I have not made up my mind. I would be prepared to listen to representations, but I would not in any circumstances commit myself.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that more than 75 per cent of egg producers have flocks of 1,000 birds or under and are as a result of high production costs and government-inflicted charges unable to meet their debts? Is it true that these charges on producers are levied by both State and Federal govern ments and that producers have to pay more than $2,000 a year before they can commence to earn a living? ls it a fact that pensioner producers in particular are severely limited in the size of their flocks by the Department of Social Services means test? How many producers are in debt to the Commonwealth and against how many has the Department of Primary Industry taken bankruptcy proceedings? How does the Government reconcile this state of affairs with the millions of dollars that it is spending on other sections of rural industry? Will the Minister examine the possibility of removing the Council of Egg Market nR Authorities of Australia charges from producers whose gross income is below the weekly minimum national wage and cease bankruptcy proceedings against pensioner producers struggling to eke out a living?
– I am not aware how many small producers there are, but I do not doubt the arithmetic that the honourable member for Shortland has produced in his question. There is a very considerable number of small egg producers in Australia. It is also true that in recent times there has been quite a radical change in the nature of the industry. As a result of the commencement of operations by a lot of large scale producers there has certainly been pressure on the incomes of the smaller producers. Indeed, throughout Australia at the moment a very critical problem is facing the poultry industry. Most of the egg boards are finding it more and more difficult profitably to market egg powder and egg pulp overseas. Returns to poultry farmers as a result have been quite critically affected.
There has been for some time in every State a move by producers to seek some rationalisation of production. Unfortunately one State Government has not yet seen fit to accept the recommendations of industry, and I am hoping that before long it will look towards the circumstances in which the poultry industry now finds itself and accept the recommendations which have been before the Australian Agricultural Council and which have been put forward by egg producer organisations so that the whole industry might be capable of organising itself more adequately in the present fairly critical marketing circumstances.
The honourable member has suggested that individual growers are prejudiced because of required payments of either the CEMA levy or other levies imposed by both State and Commonwealth governments. The objective of CEMA, of course, is to try to ensure that there is some stabilisation of income through sales of eggs for export. Every producer in Australia has an interest to ensure that his return shall be as far as possible equated on export markets, particularly when those export markets are so variable. I believe that the function of CEMA is to the advantage of not only the big producer but also the small grower. Of course the small grower’s levy is based only on his smaller scale of production. I am not aware of any action that has been taken through bankruptcy courts against individual small growers. However I will be happy to look at any individual case that the honourable member for Shortland may have, but I can assure the honourable gentleman that the relevant Act is administered by officers of my Department in accordance with the objectives which were set out in the legislation which was passed by this Parliament.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. He will recall that late last year the Government announced that it intended to introduce a rural loans insurance corporation to enable farmers to have greater availability of funds on long term conditions. Can the Treasurer say when the Government intends to implement this policy, or is the view that is being freely expressed in country areas correct, that is, that the trading banks have not been co-operative and that the scheme therefore will not come into being?
– I was asked a question on this point only a matter of a few days or weeks ago; at any rate in this session. I then said that discussions were proceeding. The matter is being examined within the Treasury by expert officers and by myself as a result of consultation with them. I am unable to give any indication at this stage when it will be introduced. That is the essential part of the honourable member’s question, and I regret that I cannot answer it.
– I ask the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts and Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities a question. It concerns the handling of Commonwealth advertising, which has been criticised by the Joint Committee on Public Accounts. I ask: Is tomorrow the closing date for applications from agencies desiring to participate in Commonwealth Press display advertising for the 5 years commencing next January? Did the Commonwealth Advertising Division call for these applications only 34 weeks ago but were the application forms accompanied by notes prepared some months before by the Commonwealth Advertising Council, which is wholly composed of agencies already doing advertising work for the Commonwealth? In view of the brief notice available to agencies not presently participating in Commonwealth advertising, will the Minister agree either to an extension of time for applications or for the period of appointment to be reduced to one year to allow other agencies the same opportunity to prepare for future applications?
– The facts set out by the Leader of the Opposition are substantially correct. These advertisements have been put out and those interested are being asked to submit applications so that we can consider them in order to get the best service for the Commonwealth in this important field. The previous arrangements were for a 5-year period, I understand, and that is why applications are being called for another 5-year programme. I have not heard it said as yet by any of the people interested that they want an extension of time. If the Leader of the Opposition has knowledge of cases where people have felt that the period is not long enough, would he let me know of them because certainly I have not had any applications to me for an extension of time? Most of the people Who I have heard are interested have been able to meet the deadline, but if the Leader of the Opposition has knowledge of a particular instance where this was not possible would he let me know of it and I will look into it?
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether it is a fact that the applicant for a hotel licence at Nhulunbuy on the Gove Peninsula has failed to comply with the terms laid down by the licensing court in the Northern Territory and that another applicant has submitted different proposals to be put before the court in about a week’s time. In these circumstances, and because of the strong opposition of Aboriginal leaders in the neighbourhood to the granting of a hotel licence, will the Minister take steps to ensure that the hearing is postponed for a period of, say, 28 days to enable the whole matter to be reopened and for the submission of fresh evidence, as desired by the Aboriginal leaders?
– It is true that at its July hearing the licensing court found that several requirements under the Liquor Licensing Ordinance bad not been met by the applicant. However, the licensing magistrate issued licences to Walkabout Hotel (Gove) Pty Ltd at Nhulunbuy last Monday. The magistrate took this action following a successful amendment of the Liquor Licensing Ordinance moved by an elected member of the Legislative Council, Mr Withnall. The effect of this amendment is that the formal granting of a licence does not have to await the quarterly sitting or a special sitting crf the licensing court, which does in fact require 28 days notice. The magistrate can now grant licences under this new ordinance subject to conditions being met by the application to him in chambers. In these circumstances and in view of the fact that a court decision has been taken it would be beyond my competence to reopen the case as has been suggested by the honourable member.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Has he read and/or heard of the views of Professor Ehrlich, an eminent ecologist, that, with the present growth in world population and taking into consideration the present known incapacity of the world to produce the necessary protein food, energy, etc. to support this population, the world is set on a disaster course?
Does he realise that these views are causing great concern in the community? Will he use the vast resources of the Commonwealth Government to appraise these views and either contradict them or notify the House as to how he can appropriately alter Government policy, and Government leadership in the world, to take into account the views of Professor Ehrlich?
– I have noi closely studied Professor Ehrlich’s statements but 1 have read comments about them in the Press and seen resumes of what he has said. I must say that I was not attracted by what he has said publicly. I well remember in my very early days at the university when 1 was studying economics that there were many other people who made similar forecasts and who turned out to be just as wrong. Where would we have been if we had taken notice of a most distinguished professor at the University of Sydney who said that we could not have a population much in excess of 15 million? We now know that we can take a vastly larger population than that and provide better living standards for people provided only that the LiberalCountry Party coalition remains in government. I think the honourable member being a thoughtful person and ready to accept what J have said will know the extent to which 1 disagree with Professor Ehrlich.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has he seen reports of a statement said to have been issued yesterday by the Japanese Embassy in Canberra relating to a matter discussed in the House yesterday? In the interests of fairness to al] parties concerned can he advise whether these reports are true, and, if not, what the actual statement issued by the Japanese Embassy said?
-I did see newspaper reports of a statement alleged to have been issued by Mr Kinase, who is Political and Press Counsellor of the Japanese Embassy. I think I should inform the House of certain additional facts relating to this matter. Firstly, I want to assure the House that what I said yesterday about the statement made to the Department of
Foreign Affairs by a Japanese official on 19th August followed precisely the written record made of that conversation at that time. Secondly, I want to say that naturally we did not allow the matter to rest there and although I did not want to engage in great debate on this matter I should now inform the House that subsequently - I think on 23rd August - a very senior official of my Department spoke to the Japanese Ambassador, Mr Saito. The Ambassador said that he had checked with the Embassy and he remained satisfied that no comment in the terms claimed by Mr Whitlam was made. He also repeated in the course of this conversation with my official that no-one in the Embassy congratulated the Leader of the Opposition on his speech. Thirdly, as to the report of this statement by Mr Kinase, he is the Political and Press Counsellor at the Embassy. Mr Saito, the Ambassador, is at present overseas. The person in charge at the Embassy at the moment is Mr Nishida, the charge d’ Affaires. I note that he also is reported this morning as making a statement as follows: 1 understand Mr Bowen’s remarks were correct. As far as 1 know, no-one from the Embassy has made any phone calls to Mr Whitlam complimenting him on his speech.
That is the end of the quotation.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the rate of unemployment, financial tragedy and family depopulation has now reached alarming proportions throughout the sheep areas? Is he also aware that powerful companies, some foreign owned, are already active in many areas ostensibly waiting to pounce on large tracts of bankrupt people’s land? Is it not time that the Government stopped its procrastination and wishful thinking about future wool prices and took positive action at least to hold or freeze the current position until an effective wool policy is implemented? Finally, is the Minister aware of the successful Federal and State moratoria policies adopted in the wool industry during the 1930 depression, when banks, private financial institutions and pastoral houses also had to bear some of the costs of national reconstruction in addition to the wool industry and the general taxpayers?
– As the honourable gentleman would be aware, through the rural reconstruction agencies which are being constituted in each of the States and which have only in recent times been formally reconstituted as a result of the introduction of legislation passed in this House, there is a provision for stay orders to be granted in certain circumstances. The general theory that the honourable member for Dawson has propounded rather suggests that throughout the country a stay should be put on the normal course of business. There is certainly a major problem facing rural areas of Australia. It is because there is a major problem that the Government has introduced the 36c price support scheme, with the objective of ensuring a flow of funds into those areas where in the past 2 years there has been a very marked decline in wool incomes. The 36c price support scheme is going to help not only the wool growers but the whole community depending on wool growing income. 1 do not believe that the position is such that we can afford to close down business completely throughout the rural areas. In my opinion, that would be the result of the introduction of a moratorium. Once a moratorium is introduced the whole of the normal conduct of business throughout the area covered by that moratorium is virtually brought to a halt. Not only is business brought to a halt but flow of funds from normal lending institutions is completely cut off. The whole basis for getting the rural sector back into profitable operation again is to maintain confidence amongst those who are traditional lenders, to try to ensure that some supplementary funds are available from Commonwealth sources.
The objective of rural reconstruction is to make those funds available for those people who have a reasonable prospect of again being able to operate in what is called a viable way. I believe that the combination of measures introduced by this Government is going to have a far more positive impact on restoring profitability in the rural sector than the introduction of a moratorium on the lines proposed by the honourable gentleman would have.
-I call the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– On a point of order: The Minister for Foreign Affairs cannot consult with the Prime Minister at the Table.
-Order! The honourable member for Dawson will resume his seat. Under the Standing Orders, if a Minister quotes from a document which is in relation to public affairs, provided it is not classified as being confidential, the Minister will be required, on request, to table that document.
– There is just one document. I said that I followed the precise wording of the conversation of which a written record had been made. I shall consider the classification of this document and the position in respect of it.
Opposition members - Table the document.
-Order! Standing order 321 states:
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister, unless staled to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, shall, if required by any Member, be laid on the Table.
If the Minister claims that the document is of a confidential nature he is not required to table it.
– Mr Speaker, let me make the position quite clear. I am not resisting the tabling. The fact is that the document covers various matters. As I say, there was a portion of the written conversation of which I used the exact words. I will have a look at the classification of this document. I will consider the matter after question time. I repeat that I am not resisting tabling the document. The action I take will depend on the classification of the document and I will consider it.
– Mr Speaker, I am entitled under the Standing Orders to have these papers tabled. If the Minister resorts to the subterfuge that they are confidential he can avoid tabling them. Under the Standing
Orders he is not entitled to make up his mind - so that he can consider the classification or have the documents adjusted.
– Perhaps I can reply to what has just been said by the Leader Opposition. Normally, when one has a record of a conversation, this record is regarded as a classified document. Therefore it is one that would not be produced unless there were exceptional circumstances. This is the first time that I have ever known for the actual record of a conversation - and that is all it is - to be asked to be produced. As I understand the position - and this matter took place some weeks ago and I cannot be accurate about it - other matters were discussed at the same time that could well be not relevant to this subject and could be regarded as confidential. So far as the conversation between Mr Aichi, the Ambassador from Japan-
– It was Mr Saito actually. Mr Aichi was the former Foreign Minister.
– Look, do not get too agitated. I am trying to help you a little. Mr Saito was the Japanese Ambassador to Australia. I will make certain that my colleague has a good look at this matter and at the part of the relevant document in particular which contains the conversation. But I want to point out that to my personal knowledge what the Foreign Minister has said exactly reflects what was said by Mr Saito, the Ambassador from Japan, to the very senior Foreign Office member to whom he communicated the information. Nonetheless, because of the section of the Standing Orders that is involved, I will discuss it with my colleague as soon as question time ends and we will see what we can do to accommodate the Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! I want to make it quite clear that unless the Minister claims that this is a confidential document it should be tabled at this time.
– I would like to make this clear to the House now that I have the document in front of me. It is marked Confidential’. I will discuss this with my colleague immediately after question time to see whether the relevant extracts can be made available to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a very carefully planned campaign on the part of the Foreign Minister with the assistance of one of the members from the back bench on his side of the chamber. The Minister must have known that this was a classified document before he came into the House.
-Order! The honourable member must speak to the question in relation to the Standing Orders. He cannot debate the reasons or discuss any matters appertaining to the document.
– Mr Speaker, I thank you for your ruling. I certainly do not want to contravene the Standing Orders in this respect. The Foreign Minister was fully aware of the standing order. He would have known before he came into the House whether he could be required under that standing order to table this document. He ignored the requirements in this respect and, having made the statement, he quite clearly now has an obligation to table these papers.
– Might J speak on the point of order? Mr Speaker, 1 am entitled to the protection of me Standing Orders. The Standing Orders say that 1 can require the tabling of this document unless it is declared to be confidential.
-I have already stated that.
– During the debate on the point of order there have already emerged matters which show how important it is that this document should be tabled now. The Prime Minister has stated that the Japanese Ambassador - his name is Mr Saito - had said something. Yesterday in the first answer which the Foreign Minister gave to a question without notice he referred to ‘an official of the Japanese Embassy’.
-Order! We cannot debate this question, as you understand.
– On the point of order–
– I am speaking to the point of order.
– Just do not be too anxious all the time. The point is that unless the Minister for Foreign Affairs states that this is a confidential document he will be required to table it in the House. The Prime Minister has said that the document is marked ‘Confidential’. If that is so, the Minister can say that this is a confidential document and he will not be required to table it.
– If I can put it very exactly: I will examine this immediately question time ends -
Opposition Members - No
-Order! The Prime Minister is on his feet.
– I will examine this problem immediately question time is over. I will do so on the basis that what we want to ensure is that that part of the document is declassified which relates to the conversation that took place. I will discuss that with my colleague and with my other colleagues, if necessary, immediately question time is over.
-Order! I want to emphasise my ruling on the Standing Orders, and unless the ruling is complied with it will be in defiance of the Standing Orders of this House. The relevant standing order clearly states - and T have read it to the House on more than one occasion - that if a Minister does not claim a document to be of a confidential nature, the document should be tabled in this House in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– I rise to order. It appears to me that the Minister has before him a document which is partly confidential and partly not confidential. This appears to be the statement made by the Prime Minister, as I understand it, and the question now is whether you, Mr Speaker, should order the tabling of a document which is partly confidential and partly not confidential. . I submit that such a document must be regarded as confidential.
-The Minister concerned has not informed the Chair whether the document is confidential or partly confidential and all that J am waiting for is some information.
– As to whether the document is confidential, I have in my hand the document from which I quoted some sections and typed at the top of it is the word ‘Confidential’. What I wanted was time to consider whether we can declassify this document. My own disposition, as you, Mr Speaker, can well imagine, would be to table the document but as I have the document in the House now, I think the fair thing to do is to consider this matter. It is at present confidential.
-The Minister has now claimed that it is a confidential document and he is therefore not required to table it.
– On a point of order: In this Parliament 4 years ago we had a similar position when the then Prime Minister read from a document and was forced to table it. The document amounted to an attack on the Labor Party. When it was tabled we found it was an anonymous document.
– Order! We are not concerned with that matter.
– To his credit he tabled it.
– That is a different matter.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it not a fact that every document which comes from the Department of Foreign Affairs is marked ‘Confidential’? When 1 attended the United Nations some 4 years ago every document which we received through the mission was marked Confidential’ or ‘Restricted’. Is this not the position here?
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order and I am not in a position to answer the question. I have already ruled on this matter.
– Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance. Yesterday in this House the Leader of the Opposition rose to defend his character. Today this further accusation - I might use the term ‘smear’ - has been made.
-Order! I will not tolerate a debate on this subject matter at this stage. I will listen to a point of order in relation to the interpretation of the relevant standing order but I will not listen to any debate at this stage.
– I seek your advice. What can the Leader of the Opposition now do to defend his character against this smear?
-Order! The honourable member well knows that it is not the duty of the Chair to advise any member of the Opposition or the Government on any tactics he may use or rights he may have. I have already ruled on this point of order and I will not take any further points of order in relation to this matter. I now call for further questions. I call the honourable member for St George.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended -
-Order! 1 call the honourable member for Paterson.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Are we producing at the present time in Australia 52 per cent of our petroleum requirements? Will our present oil producing fields be exhausted in approximately 10 years time? Is it imperative that oil exploration be speeded up? Will the Minister advise the House as to intended programmes by oil exploration interests?
– The percentage figure quoted by the honourable member is reasonably accurate at the present time but he knows, and I think that the House knows, that the self-sufficiency figure in Australia will go up to approximately 70 per cent during the next couple of years. However, unless further substantia] deposits of liquid petroleum are discovered in the period from about 1975 onwards, our percentage of selfsufficiency in liquid petroleum will commence to decline. I am not referring to the supply of natural gas of which some additional deposits recently have been discovered. Of course, self-sufficiency in natural gas is a different matter altogether. But the question of oil exploration is vitally important for Australia. At present there is a considerable degree of exploration work both off-shore and on-shore although the total expenditure in this field is a little less than we would like to see in the existing circumstances. However, I draw attention to the fact that Australia is subsidising, to a degree, exploration work that takes place, particularly on-shore. This applies especially to Australian companies.
In addition, I have made it clear by recent public statements and also by correspondence with the Australian Petroleum Exploration Association that a review of the whole incentive system will take place before the end of this calendar year. Some submissions were made by APEA some months ago. They were considered at that time by the Government but because of the then economic situation and the stringent restrictions being applied by the Commonwealth to its spending, it was considered that it would not be possible to extend any incentive schemes at that time, although the subject could be reviewed before the end of the calendar year. This Government has asked APEA to make further submissions if it so desires and, indeed, only this morning I received a letter from the Chairman of APEA indicating that its previous submissions still stand. They will be taken into consideration when the review is made before the end of the calendar year and subsequently the matter will be reconsidered by the Government.
– Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs checked and, if so, will he confirm or deny the reports in the ‘Age’, the ‘Canberra Times’, the ‘Melbourne Sun-Pictorial’ and the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ that yesterday the Counsellor of the Japanese Embassy whom he has named did, in fact, make a statement to the Press that an official of the Embassy had telephoned me after my address to the National Press Club?
-Order! I will not call the next speaker until the noise subsides and the House becomes quiet. Honourable members can please themselves.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Are waterside workers in large ports in Australia being paid up to $100 a week? If so, why is it that they now apparently want to work only 32 hours weekly and also want a morning tea break of 45 minutes when most employees have less time than this for their lunch break? Is it this union - that is, the Waterside Workers Federation - which has the record achievement of more lost time through strike action than all other unions in Australia combined?
– The honourable gentleman raises a question of considerable substance in relation to the Australian waterfront. As I recall the figures, the average weekly earnings of waterside workers employed-
Mr Whitlam - Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I draw your attention to the fact that, for the second time, the Prime Minister has taken out his pen to alter the document. (Honourable members interjecting)-
– He has put the pen down.
-Order! I will not allow the House to continue with this conduct any longer. If necessary, T will suspend the sitting.
– Will you suspend the Prime Minister too?
-Order! The honourable member for Stirling will cease interjecting. The Leader of the Opposition has the call and is taking a point of order.
– Mr Speaker, I draw your attention ot the fact that, for the second time, the Prime Minister has taken out his pen to alter the document which, after 10 minutes prevarication, the Foreign Minister declared to be confidential.
-Order! No point of order arises.
– Mr Speaker, on a point of order: The Foreign Minister quite clearly over the last 2 or 3 minutes has been sitting back with his colleagues, discussing the document with them, and in these circumstances-
-Order! I have enforced the Standing Orders pretty rigidly this morning, and I intend to continue to do so. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will talk on the point of order and not debate the question, I will listen to him.
– My point of order is that, in these circumstances, as the document has been discussed further by the Minister and his colleagues it ought now to be tabled.
– Let me put the position quite clearly to the House. The Minister has claimed that the document ls confidential. Therefore, he is not required to table it. The Minister has given an undertaking to the House that he will determine what is not confidential in the document and see what he can table. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, the point of order is without substance.
– Mr Speaker, I intended to declassify this document in the House so that the Foreign Minister could make it available immediately to the honourable gentleman. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition has seen so much in it that could not be seen in it by any other person. Nonetheless, the document is now declassified and I hand it back to the Foreign Minister.
– I table the document.
– I take a point of order. The Minister claimed that a certain document was confidential. It was the verbatim report of conversation. What right have these 2 individuals-
-Order! I have said to the House that I will not have this matter debated. The Chair is not aware of what the document is and the Chair is not aware of what is contained in the document. Therefore, I cannot rule on what right anybody has to alter a confidential document.
– During the course of this morning’s proceedings these statements have been made-
– That has nothing to do with the procedures of this House.
– You, as the occupant of the Chair, must remember-
-Order! The honourable member for Lang will resume his seat.
– You, as the occupant of the Chair, must remember what takes place in this House-
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. .
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! The House will come to order.
– Mr Speaker-
-Order! Are you speaking to the point of order?
– No. I have a question-
– Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. May I have my question answered?
– Has the honourable member for Balaclava finished his question?
-I think for the benefit of the House he should repeat it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Are waterside workers in large ports in Australia being paid up to $100 a week? If so, why is it that they now apparently want to work only 32 hours weekly and also want a morning tea break of 45 minutes when most employees have less than this time for their lunch break? Is it this union - that is, the Waterside Workers Federation - which has the record achievement of more time lost through strike action than all other unions in Australia combined?
– The honourable gentleman raises a question of considerable substance in relation to the Australian waterfront. The average weekly earnings by Australian waterside workers employed on weekly hire at permanent ports during the quarter ended March 1971 were about $96 and therefore close to the figure suggested by the honourable gentleman. During the same period the average working week of those waterside workers was 32.5 hours. New claims have not been made, as I understand it, at this stage, but no doubt will form the basis of negotiations for a new industry agreement which will seek to renew that which expires in June 1972. But I must join with the honourable gentleman in his reference to industrial disputes because there is no doubt whatsoever that the Australian waterfront is the scene of very great industrial disputation. That this is the case is certainly due to the fact that the Waterside Workers Federation has consistently broken agreement after agreement.
– And what about some employers, too?
– But I must also say, if the honourable gentleman will wait for a moment, that that position in my view is due in very considerable measure to the attitude taken by the employers of labour on the waterfront, because they have consistently failed to live up to the responsibilities undertaken under the National Stevedoring Conference Agreement. So that in being on this occasion very critical of the Waterside Workers Federation 1 do not want the House to be under any misapprehension that there is not at the same time great criticism to be made in relation to the employer organisations.
Or EVERINGHAM (Capricornia)- Mr Speaker, may I make a personal explanation? 1 claim to have been misrepresented.
-Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented this morning, or in what way has he been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented in this morning’s Press. This morning 2 news services telephoned me regarding a report that I had urged the legalisation of marihuana and the advertising of marihuana and heroin in order to increase revenue. I was referred to this report in an edition of today’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald- which is not yet available here. The report relayed to me is a gross and irresponsible misrepresentation of my adjournment speech last night. I shall quote from the Hansard report of my speech. I said: 1 refer mainly to the advertising of alcohol and tobacco which this Government sees fit to allow to continue virtually unrestricted because apparently it suits its version of the economy of this country. … I want to protest at the sort of answers I have been getting from the Minister for Health and the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan
Hulme) on this matter of advertising….. lt is all very well to say: ‘If people are silly enough to abuse alcohol and tobacco let them take the consequences.’ This is the same sort of argument that we could put up to justify, say, the licensing of heroin pedlars. . . . The Government . . . could build up quite a clientile and it could justify this by saying: ‘We have put out pamphlets. . . . The Anti-Heroin Association has just put out some television advertisements to warn people of the terrible dangers of heroin. If people are silly enough to use it to such an extent that it threatens their health, what is that to us? It is a major source of revenue.’ Why not get into that? It would bring in a lot more revenue than the Government gets from alcohol and tobacco and it would not kill as many people.
I further referred to the subject in these terms:
If anyone is going to argue that we should have revenue from alcohol and tobacco I ask: …. Why do we not start legalising marihuana and put a bit of revenue on that? Let them advertise it on television. Has anyone any good arguments against it? Is it not a better way of raising revenue than these dangerous drugs that are killing Australians? It has been said that you give the people the facts and it is their own fault if they take no notice. Anybody who has studied the advertising business or who has done a little bit of psychology knows that this is rot. . . . We should either ban cigarette advertising outright or. . . . require the advertisers to pay for equal time for publicity against cigarettes.
-Order! I think the honourable member has bad some leniency from the Chair. I ask him to explain where he has been misrepresented.
– If the House will bear with me, there are 2 more sentences in which I referred to this matter of the advertising of marihuana.
-Is this in relation to where the honourable member has been misrepresented?
-The honourable member may proceed.
– I said:
At the same time we should cease to make all advertising of these products tax deductible. This is the minimum we should do. It is said we must not restrict free speech. All right, let them advertise marihuana and heroin. Let them advertise alcohol and tobacco. But make them advertise the other side, too. and tax them on their advertising.
-Order! I think the honourable member has made his point.
– I raise a point of order. Earlier today the Prime Minister by some remarkable miracle-making process declassified a classified document. Mr Speaker, can you tell me under what section of Standing Orders or by what remarkable process that may be done?
– Order! ‘The honourable member will resume his seat. This matter has nothing to do with the procedures of the House.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965-1966, I present the sixth annual report on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30th June 1971.
Tactical Trainer Building at HMAS Watson’, Sydney
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969 it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of a tactical trainer building at HMAS Watson’, South Head, Sydney, New South Wales.
The proposed work involves construction of a building approximately 200 ft by 200 ft on 3 levels to accommodate administrative areas, amenities, syndicates and lecture rooms, auditorium, command cubicles, model room, plant and other services for the Navy’s action information organisation and tactical trainer, the submarine command team trainer and the naval tactical school. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $3. 2m. The Committee has recommended construction of the work subject to an amendment to the design to allow views over Sydney Harbour from the common rooms, if this can be achieved without prejudicing the completion target. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) has advised me that his Department studied this matter and recommended that no alterations be made because a major design amendment would be required which could not be undertaken in the time allotted for the preparation of tender documents. The present tender target must be achieved to ensure completion of the building in accordance with the timetable for delivery of electronic equipment. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can continue in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) whether in fact this tactical trainer will protrude above the skyline on South Head or whether it will be totally submerged within the existing landscape.
– I am not in possession of that information. I will consult with my colleague, the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), and supply the honourable member with the information.
– As Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Works maybe I could set the fears of the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) at rest. A considerable amount of trouble has been taken by the design authorities to lower the building so that it protrudes but certainly not above the skyline. I can give the honourable member a clear assurance on that from the plans as I remember them. I repeat that the new building will not protrude in any way above the skyline.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Construction of Community College at Darwin
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of a community college at Darwin, Northern Territory.
The proposal referred to the Committee involved construction of an integrated complex of buildings and services including an administrative centre, classroom block, workshop/ laboratory buildings, theatre, library and cafeteria building, residential accommodation, roadworks, parking areas, covered ways, sporting areas and associated engineering services. Acting on the recommendations and conclusions in the Committee’s interim report dated 7th April 1971, this House resolved on 6th May 1971, that it was expedient to proceed with the proposed works, excluding the residential accommodation, at an estimated cost of $3,610,000. The final report of the Committee dated 6th July 1971, recommended the construction of the residential accommodation as proposed, at an estimated cost of $390,000. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– The Opposition supports the motion and congratulates the Standing Committee on Public Works on its recommendations and investigations in relation to this matter. This is something which is not only badly needed in Darwin but which will give an example to the northern part of Australia, and perhaps the southern part of Australia, of what can be done in concentrated complex community colleges. This college is certainly needed in that area. There is one matter about which I am not certain and the Minister might inform me on it. Does this proposal mean that the residential accommodation is not to be constructed or has this only been deferred?
– I rise to support this motion also and to commend the Government on the expedition with which it has brought forward the building of this community college which, as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has said, is the first of its kind in Australia. I commend the Government for incorporating a theatre and concentrating on sports facilities because at colleges and schools in the Northern Territory in the past these facilities have been overlooked. I look forward with great pleasure to the building nf this community college. It will fulfil a great need in the north. I hope that the proposal will be approved by honourable members and the college erected as soon as possible.
– Speaking again as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Works, I think for the benefit of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) I should set the record straight. This is the final report with which we are now concerned. The first report dealt with everything but the accommodation. This final report deals with the accommodation. So the proposition put to the Standing Committee on Public Works was agreed to in 2 parts, the second part being the community college accommodation. While I have the opportunity it is worth pointing out the very great significance of the decision that was made by the Committee to agree to a different standard of accommodation. It is widely accepted in units of this kind in colleges and institutions generally whether they be defence or otherwise, that there should be what we would term barracklike accommodation or institutionalised accommodation. For the first time the Committee had the opportunity to examine plans of what we would call motel-like accommodation where 2 adjoining rooms shared toilet facilities, a bathroom and certain cooking facilities. The Committee found to its surprise that these units were as cheap, if not cheaper, than the usual institutionalised accommodation. This has opened up a whole field for the Department of Works to examine, and it has done this with a great deal of thoroughness. I take this opportunity to point out the significance of the decision that has been made by the Government to build accommodation that is different to a considerable degree from the accommodation that usually has been provided.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That in acordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of a communications building at Bendigo, Victoria.
The proposal involves the construction of a building of ground and 3 upper floors as the first stage of telecommunications complex and will accommodate trunk line and automatic trunk switching equipment, local subscribers’ services, tandem switching and a manual assistance centre. Provision has been made for the future erection of a radio tower to carry antenna systems for microwave communications. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $1.7m. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposed work and has recommended its construction. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide financial assistance to the State of South Australia to enable that State to make moneys available to Jon Preserving Cooperative Limited and Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Limited. The Cooperative canneries in South Australia and in New South Wales which take fruit grown in irrigation areas have been in financial difficulty for some time. The increasing indebtedness of the co-operatives had reduced returns to growers to the point where serious hardship was experienced. In these circumstances a thorough examination of the long term problems of the canned deciduous fruit industry was made by an interdepartmental committee during 1970.
This examination showed that the position of the industry in certain irrigation areas could not be corrected and would be likely to deteriorate seriously unless the canneries were provided with some assistance to overcome the problems of servicing their long term debts. These debts were at an abnormally high level in each of the canneries for several significant reasons. In the first place, devaluation of sterling left each of the canneries with a considerable loss on sales made forward without exchange cover. In the second place, the last 2 years have seen adverse crop yields. These have seriously affected the throughput, the average production cost and thus the profitability and cash flows of the canneries. In the third place, high capital cost of new equipment and inadequacy of old plant and machinery has seriously affected the profitability of both canneries.
Following discussions between the Commonwealth and the South Australian Governments, it was assessed that for the Jon Preserving Co-operative relief from commitments to service long term debts to the extent of $780,000 would be required and for the Riverland Co-operative similar relief in respect of long term debts of $1.8m was necessary. The Commonwealth and State Governments agreed to share equally in providing this assistance. The Bill authorises financial assistance to the State of South Australia to an amount equal to the amount expended by the State in making advances to Jon Preserving Cooperative Limited and Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Limited up to $390,000 in the case of Jon Preserving Cooperative Limited and $900,000 in the case of Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Limited.
The Bill provides that payment of the amount is subject to such conditions, if any, as the Minister by instrument in writing determines, and the conditions may require payment of the whole or part of the amount. The intention is that the advances made from Commonwealth and State funds to the canneries will be made on terms which will relieve the co-operative of debts servicing obligations for the time being, but the money will be provided by wayof loan rather than grant. The Commonwealth and State Ministers concerned will review the affairs of the canneries from time to time and if circumstances should make this possible or appropriate repayment can be required.
Both the Commonwealth and State Governments would of course have preferred that the need for this assistance had not arisen. The facts were, however, that the growers and communities on which these canneries depend would be faced with grave disruption and severe personal hardship if some way of relieving the canneries from the effects of their long term indebtedness commitments had not been found. This Bill seeks Parliament’s authority for measures decided upon in consultation with the State concerned to meet a critical situation in the most appropriate way. In addition a Canned Desiduous Fruits Advisory Committee has been set up by the Australian Agricultural Council. This Committee has membership from the Commonwealth, the States and from growers and canners. It is charged with the responsibility of inquiring into the means by which the long term problems of the industry can be resolved and making recommendations to the Australian Agricultural Council.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The content and purpose of this Bill are similar to those of the Bill which I have just introduced. The Bill provides for the provision of financial assistance to the State of New South Wales to the extent of $874,000 conditional upon the State making an advance of an equal amount to Leeton Co-operative Cannery Limited to enable that co-operative to reduce its financial indebtedness. The circumstances and reasons for the high indebtedness are similar to those which I have explained in respect of the South Australian Grant (Fruit Cannery) Bill 1971. The Canned Deciduous Fruits Advisory Committee to which reference was made in introducing the South Australia Grant (Fruit Canneries) Bill 1971 will also report to the Australian Agricultural Council with respect to the long term problems of the industry in New South Wales.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to reduce the period of full-time national service from 2 years to 1 8 months, as announced by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 18th August. National ser vice has been and continues to be a significant element of the effort expended to ensure the maintneance of an effective defence capability in this country. Adopted at the end of 1964, its immediate purpose was to increase within an acceptable time span the essential strength of our Army from its then low level of 23,000 men to a level that would be adequate to allow the Army to fulfil its role in national defence.
Subsequent developments have fully vindicated the Government’s judgment. Since the introduction of national service the increase in the volunteer element of the Australian Regular Army has been at an average rate, in round terms, of 1,000 men a year resulting in a strength of some 28,000 men at 30th June 1971. In this same period the national service scheme has provided more than 51,000 men. More than one-third of the Army has comprised national servicemen. A secondary objective of the national service scheme is the encouragement of stronger Citizen Forces to ensure the support that the regular forces will require in time of a defence emergency; to this end men can elect at the time of registration for national service to undertake part-time service in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to full-time national service. At 30th June last more than 12,000 men were serving part-time in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to national service and almost 2,000 had already completed their Citizen Force obligations, normally extending over 5 or 6 years. Notwithstanding that fewer national service registrants have been opting for Citizen Force service, optees still comprised 35 per cent of the CMF at 30th June last. Equally relevant in any realistic and complete assessment of the contribution of national service to our defence manpower is the position of our reserve forces. Fully trained former national servicemen on the Army Reserve total some 21,000 men, or over 70 per cent of the total strength of the Reserve.
In summary, 51,000 national servicemen have been called up and enlisted; they have comprised more than one-third of our fulltime military forces. Thirty-five per cent of the Citizen Military Forces are national service optees and over 70 per cent of the Army Reserve are fully trained ‘ former national servicemen. Yet it is, I observe, an essential plank of the Labor Party’s defence platform that national service should be abolished. Compulsory military service is traditionally a subject of controversy in Australia; in that context the national service scheme has generated opposition in certain sections in the community. Nonetheless, the majority of Australians continue to support it and this includes the vast majority of those affected directly by the requirement it imposes for compulsory military service. Whatever a man may say or do up to the stage at which he is called up, the real test is surely whether or not he reports for service at the time of call-up. As at 30th June 1971 6 men had been imprisoned for failure to report and render service and 96 other men had failed to report and render service and their cases had not been finalised. These included cases where prosecution proceedings had been approved or commenced, including where warrants had been issued for the man’s arrest, and conscientious objector cases awaiting hearing.
This compares, as 1 have said, with 51,000 men called up and enlisted. Or, taking the most recent year, 1970-71, those who failed to report for service without reasonable cause represented considerably less than 1 per cent. An additional 3 per cent were granted total exemption as conscientious objectors. But as against this, 9 per cent of the national servicemen who were called up and enlisted were volunteers. They sought to be enlisted as national servicemen and were accepted.
National service was not introduced because of Vietnam. It was introduced in November 1964 but national servicemen were not sent to Vietnam until 1966. National service has not been maintained for 7 years solely because of Vietnam. In fact of all national servicemen called up only one-third have served in Vietnam. National service cannot be discontinued because we are withdrawing from Vietnam. It is vital that it be maintained because the alternative would be a significantly reduced full-time military force unable to meet its defence obligations. This would be quite unthinkable for this Government.
The Government and the Opposition both accept compulsory military service in principle. Neither is opposed to compulsion as such. 1 understand it is a plank of the Labor Party’s defence platform adopted at the Launceston Conference that it would retain the ‘right to raise a national service force should the security of Australia be threatened’. Where the Government and the Labor Party differ, however - and differ markedly - is as to the circumstances in which compulsory service may be necessary. The Labor Party’s attitude is one of rigidity. It is therefore inadequate, and this is one of the lessons of history. It would use a force in the national interest only under threat of defence emergency. The Government, however, has adopted a more flexible approach than would be possible for a Labor government encumbered as it would be by dogma imposed on it from outside. As the Prime Minister said recently, the Government continues to stress the importance of volunteers as the basis of our armed forces. However, if Australia’s defence manpower requirements cannot be met by volunteers, any Government would invite condemnation of its policies if it were to refuse to require men to serve, for this would entail dependence on an Army of inadequate strength. No responsible Government could act in this manner.
The Labor Party policy apparently presupposes that the men which it would hastitly draft in an emergency could be trained to the necessary proficiency in a sufficiently short time. However, I remind the House that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard), the Labor Party’s defence spokesman, averred on 19th August that ‘a soldier can be fully trained in 6 months’. I only mention in passing that in practice specialists of the number and range which a modern Army demands often take considerably longer than this to train before they can serve in a complete capacity. But, in any case, is 6 months a realistic period on which to base a nation’s long term defence preparedness? By the time Labor’s conscripts - I use the words so beloved by that Party - were ready the emergency they were to meet could have become a catastrophe for Australia. The Labor Party is committed, after abolishing national service, and I quote recent comments by the Deputy Leader, to ‘take appropriate measures to build strong forces by forming a volunteer Army*. One would have expected an alternative government to adopt a more responsible attitude to the need for continuing defence of national security and to ensure that it was, in fact, achieving strong forces through the measures it would take to attract volunteers before it placed our defence interests in jeopardy. Moreover, any judgment cannot rest solely on any short-term trends. Surely too much is at stake for that. The essential issue is one of defence preparedness
Recent statements of Labor Party spokesmen taking up the cry for an allvolunteer Army have obviously had in mind the report of the Gates Commission in the United States. Honourable members will know that the report proposes all-volunteer armed Services for the United States through substantial pay increases for its members. The Commission states that the viability of an all-volunteer force ultimately depends on the level of military pay, entry standards and conditions of service. It judged that the level of pay was a paramount influence in the rate of recruitment and in its investigations it relied heavily on the economists’ concept of elasticity, in this case the elasticity of supply. Its investigations led it to project that a 10 per cent increase in pay would produce a 12.5 per cent increase in the rate of recruitment.
Current research indicates, however, that the elasticity of supply of volunteers to our Army would not be so high as has been estimated for the United States. One obvious factor is the relative difference in our levels of unemployment. As I mentioned during the Budget debate, in recent years in the United States the level has averaged 4.4 per cent, with a peak of about 6 per cent. This compares with the average level of 1.3 per cent and a peak of 1.8 per cent in this country. Moreover, the Gates Commission itself observed that in a growth economy similar to ours civilian employment can be expected to be relatively more attractive than military service. Essentially, these facts point up the differing situations that exist in Australia and in the United States. The basic recommendation of the Gates Commission was that pay for recruits should be brought into line with civilian pay levels and that this would have a sub stantial effect on recruitment levels. It identified service pay as being about 60 per cent of comparable civilian pay and its recommendation was not therefore without justification. But this is not the position in Australia. Whether pay increases would result in the forces required has yet to be demonstrated in the United States. Bear in mind also that the Gates Commission was contemplating a situation where the United States armed forces were to be reduced overall by 25 per cent. Our situation is quite different and such a decrease would reduce the Army to the existing level of volnuteers which is not considered adequate for our needs.
In summary, in the present Australian context national service is an indispensable factor in maintaining the Australian Army at a size adequate for our defence obligations. The Opposition is not opposed to conscription in principle but it could only use the power in predetermined circumstances; that is, when Australia is under direct and immediate threat. Such an approach is completely unacceptable to this Government and, I believe, to the people of Australia. The Opposition would presumably leave us without an adequate Army while it set out proving whether volnteers could be obtained. The Government for its part is not prepared to place Australia’s defence effort at risk in a dubious exercise of this type. Nor is it so foolhardy as to believe that we can train men for a few months, then conscript them in an emergency and that all will be well. As the Prime Minister said when announcing the changes which I am about to discuss:
We must maintain a defence capability that is evident both to friendly countries and to potential enemies and which we could develop in adequate time should more immediate threats arise.
That goal cannot currently be achieved without national service. When the Prime Minister announced the reduction in the period of national service to 18 months he referred to the fact that we face a changed situation from that which existed in 1964 when national service was introduced. That is to be expected. That the overall framework within which defence manpower requirements are determined should change is inexorable. And while it is now judged that the full-time strength of the Army can be reduced by some 10 per cent by reducing the period of full-time national service, national servicemen will still represent some 30 per cent of the total Army manpower, 12,000 out of a force of 40,000. The reduction in the number of men serving fulltime in the Army will not diminish the reserve of more than 20,000 fully trained men that national service maintains in the community; indeed the number will increase. The decision to introduce national service, a decision which was not without courage, has been proved by the successful manner in which the scheme has provided the manpower that the Army needs to fulfil its role in our national defence strategy. There have been changes affecting that strategy. The Government recognises that. Nevertheless, for the reasons I have put forward, national service must be retained and the present Bill gives effect to this logic.
Let me turn now to the National Service Bill itself. It provides specifically for a reduction from 2 years to 18 months in the period of full-time national service. It also deals with matters consequential upon that reduction. There are also other related matters in the national service scheme which do not require legislation and I propose to refer to them as well so that the House will have a complete statement of what is involved.
As 1 indicated, the Government has reviewed the changed situation bearing on our defence manpower requirements and concluded that the number of men serving full-time in the Army can be reduced by some 4,000 by reducing the period of fulltime national service from 2 years to 18 months. In future all men called up for full-time service with the Army under the national service scheme will normally be required to complete 18 months full-time service. As to men currently serving when the legislation comes into effect, their obligation will also be reduced. However, it will not be practicable to simultaneously discharge all men who complete their required service immediately the Bill becomes operative. The House will appreciate that this is because of the complex arrangements involved including the return of men from Vietnam and the administrative tasks entailed in discharge. There is to be therefore a phased discharge programme involving approximately 8,000 men over some 3 months.
In brief, the discharge programme will be: (a) men who were called up in September 1969 will be discharged at the normal time, namely 30th September 1971;
In equity, all men who were included in the same Army intake are to be discharged together. I am sure honourable members will agree that those who have been serving overseas should not be treated less favourably than other men.
There will no doubt be some men who when they entered the Army arranged their personal or business affairs on the basis of an anticipated absence of 2 complete years. An early release might in their case be to their disadvantage and provision is being made for them to continue their service, up to the original period, if they wish to do so. All the men that I have mentioned, whether or not their service extends beyond the new standard period of 18 months, will be eligible for reestablishment benefits in the normal way. National servicemen currently have a total liability for service of 5 years. Two years of this is full-time with the Army; they then serve, usually with the Regular Army Reserve, for a further 3 years, this latter involving no training commitment. Alternatively, men may, upon completion of their period of full-time service, volunteer and be accepted for service in the CMF for not less than 3 years. The Government has agreed with its defence advisers that the total commitment of 5 years should not be reduced. With the shorter period of fulltime service, the period on the reserve or the CMF will normally be 3i years. This will maintain at the present level the number of men serving full-time or already trained for call-up in an emergency.
As is well known, it is a feature of the present national service scheme that all men can elect to serve part-time in the citizen forces as an alternative to full-time national service. This encouragement of stronger citizen forces is, as I have already indicated, to provide for the support that the regular forces will require in a time of defence emergency. Men opting to serve in the citizen forces have been required to complete 5 or 6 years part-time service depending on whether or not they had completed 12 months membership and efficient service prior to their registration for national service. Provided they complete the required period of service satisfactorily, they are granted indefinite deferment of their liability for national service. Upon reduction of the period of full-time national service consideration was necessarily given to the part-time alternative. As the Prime Minister has announced, there will in future be a single period for parttime alternative service which will be applicable to all men, namely 5 years. Such service will involve 165 days in total and reduction beyond this would not be equitable vis-a-vis full-time service. The single period will considerably simplify the option of citizen force service and will, therefore, be of benefit to young men when registering for national service.
Service in the full-time Forces in Australia or continuous full-time service in the naval, military or air forces of an overseas country, count towards the period of national service liability in Australia. In practice where men have already completed 15 months service they have not been called up. This meant minimum service with the Army for 9 months. In future the period of previous service precluding call-up for national service will be at least 12 months. It would not be appropriate to relieve men of any national service obligation where they had served a lesser period. While this means a reduction in the minimum period of their full-time service to 6 months, the men in this group will also be required to continue on the reserve for 3£ years in the same way as other men.
From the inception of the present national service scheme the penalty for the most serious offence against the Act, that is failure to render service, has always borne a direct and equivalent relationship to the period of service for which men are liable. This relationship will be maintained and the period of maximum imprisonment correspondingly reduced with the reduction in the period of full-time service. This will apply notwthstanding that men may have been liable for 2 years full-time service at the time of their failure to report for service. Likewise men currently imprisoned for this offence will be eligible for release on the completion of 18 months imprisonment less the normal remissions for good behaviour applicable under State law.
In summary, the Bill now before the House implements the Government’s recent decision that, while current circumstances permit some reduction in the size of the Army, national service must be maintained to ensure adequate forces for Australia’s defence needs. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Peacock, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to amend the Western Australia (Southwest Region Water Supplies) Agreement Act of 1965, to raise the upper limit on the Commonwealth’s financial assistance payable under the Act from $ 10.5m to $12m. Under the Act as it stands the Commonwealth is providing financial assistance up to $10.5m on a dollar for dollar basis with State expenditure to accelerate extensions to the comprehensive water supply scheme in the south-west of Western
Australia. The Commonwealth assistance is in the form of loans repayable over 15 years. The purpose of the scheme is to provide water for stock and domestic purposes to new areas aggregating about 4 million acres. The Commonwealth contribution under the present Act is available over the period of 8 years from 1965-66 to 1972-73 inclusive. At 30th June 1971 $9,842,000 had been paid to the State.
The revised cost of the works to which the Commonwealth is contributing is now estimated at approximately $24m, compared with the estimate of $21m made at the time the Commonwealth agreed to assist the scheme-. It is proposed that the Commonwealth should share with the State the increase in cost, thus preserving the dollar for dollar basis of assistance under the present Act. Accordingly, the maximum amount of Commonwealth assistance payable will be raised to $12m. The terms on which this additional assistance will be available are identical with those under the present Act. In view of the proposal contained in this Bill to provide an additional amount of up to SI. 5m over the remaining 2 years of currency of the Act, an amount of $1,950,000 has been provided in the Estimates in the current financial year. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
SOCIAL SERVICES BILL (No. 2) 1971 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 26 August (vide page 773), on motion by Mr Wentworth:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:
On 15th March of this year the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said in this House:
We will follow this immediate increase- and he was referring to a then recent increase in pensions - in pension rates with a fundamental review of social services and related pensions and also of methods of adjusting such benefits. This review, which has already been commenced, will be under consideration in the near future with the object of bringing emerging decisions into effect for the year 1971-72.
The year 1971-72 has commenced, and it is quite clear that no emerging decisions have been brought before this House, and it is obvious from the strategy implicit in the Budget that there will be none introduced at any stage in this current financial year. The Prime Minister has dishonoured - as indeed has the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) - an important promise to many people in Australia who had been expectantly looking forward to a fairly radical alteration and improvement in the system of providing social welfare benefits and services in the community.
I refer particularly to the Prime Minister’s reference to ways of improving the methods of adjusting such benefits. There is quite patently a need in the community to tie pension payments to some sort of index which automatically adjusts the payments according to not only cost of living movements but also to general prosperity movements in the community, at least on an annual basis. But this hope has been destroyed. We assert without any reservations at all that the pension payments proposed are inadequate and that pension payments generally are inadequate. In spite of the embellishment of the Minister for Social Services in his second reading speech - and I draw the attention of honourable members to the modified manner of that embellishment compared with previous speeches on this subject at the second reading stage - I cannot help but meditate whether the shadow of the executioner’s axe still hangs over his head as the aftermath of the most recent palace revolt in the Liberal Party ranks. But in any event, even with his penchant for embellishment, I am sure he will not challenge my statement that the level of the payments - and I say this bluntly - is not adequate.
Neither he nor I nor anyone else in this House would like to live either in retirement or invalidity on the level of social service payments being provided. But I will be more specific and I will relate the payments to the average standards of prosperity. For instance, the single age pensioner rate at the end of 1971 certainly will have improved as a percentage of average weekly earnings, from 18.9 per cent to about 20.4 per cent. But what the Minister has neglected to draw attention to - and of course one understands this - is that there will be a fairly significant erosion in the purchasing power of these payments in the course of the next 12 months, and on the basis of the data supplied in the Budget papers? The single age pensioner rate will be down to 18.9 per cent of weekly average earnings at the end of this financial year. That will be the lowest level of those payments in the entire postwar history of this country. I think it is fair enough to ask the Minister to give some sort of undertaking to this Parliament that there will be a supplementary budget on social service payments introduced early in the new year to ensure that this sort of extreme financial deprivation is not imposed on these people.
T turn to child endowment. Of course, for one child there has been a long term run down of purchasing power relative to average weekly earnings because child endowment for the first child has not been increased for very many years. Let me refer to the case of child endowment for 3 children under 16 years. Certainly there has been an improvement from 3.5 per cent to 4.1 per cent of average weekly earnings, but by the end of this financial year that figure will be down to 3.8 per cent - again the lowest level in relation to average weekly earnings in the post-war period. A similar situation applies to the class A widow’s pension. There has been an improvement to 30.4 per cent of average weekly earnings, but by the end of this financial year there will be a slump to 27-9 per cent of average weekly earnings in the pension for a widow supporting a dependent child over 6 years of age. The rate of unemployment benefits has been lifted slightly from 20.1 per cent to 21.3 per cent of average weekly earnings, but by the end of this financial year it will slump to 19.6 per cent. So that is the Government’s record, and perhaps it is not only the shadow of the executioner’s axe hanging over the Minister’s head that restrained his usual ebullient embellishment of what is proposed by the Government on this occasion, but the plain hard realisation that what is being proposed is minute and that by the end of this financial year it will be gravely eroded.
I turn to the question of anomalies, and again I draw the attention of the House to the Prime Minister’s statement in March of this year. Nothing has been done to eliminate the anomalies which riddle the system of social services which operate in this country. For instance, there is a rather peculiar situation surrounding a de facto wife. No matter how long standing, how loving or how commendable in so many ways has been a relationship between her and her de facto spouse, in the event of his death she will have no right for herself or her children to social service benefits from the Commonwealth Government.
– Get your facts right for a change.
– It is true that assistance is available through a Commonwealth-State provision of finance, but it is subject to a very stringent means test. But if an invalid pensioner has illegitimate children - no matter whether she has one or a dozen - she is entitled to assistance from the Department of Social Services for each of those children. Again, there is the case of a married couple where the male partner is receiving the age pension and the wife is under 60 years of age. The means test applied to them is more stringent than that applied to the case where they are both of pensionable age. Where they are both of pensionable age they can receive the maximum pension which, together with the permissible level of income, can give them $52.50 a week, but where the wife is under 60 years of age they are able to receive only $42.25. Again, where a lad of 17 years of age is invalided he is entitled to a full invalid pension of $17.25 a week, plus a supplementary allowance of $2 a week if he is living at home and allegedly paying rent, making a total of $19.25 a week. But if he is not invalided and if he is living away from home and becomes unemployed, he is entitled to only $4.50 a week. These anomalies create a great deal of injustice in the community.
Let me move on to another question. I refer to the question of poverty within the community and the failure of the social services programme now before us to meet the needs of the people. By using the formula adopted by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, Melbourne University, one finds that on the updated poverty level the standard rate of pension is more than $5 below the poverty level. That is using the figures for the June 1971 quarter in Victoria. By the end of this financial year that rate will be more than $7 below the poverty level. If we take the case of unemployment and sickness benefits for a man with a spouse and 2 children on short term benefits he is more than $21.50 below the poverty level. He will be more than $26 below the poverty level by the end of this financial year. All widows except class A who are supporting one child under the age of 6 are at present below the updated poverty level. By the end of this financial year they will all be below the poverty level.
One would have expected too that in this Budget the opportunity would have been taken to define a broad programme not only involving social security payments but actual welfare services and mobilising the resources available in the community against poverty in the community. For instance the Melbourne survey showed that one child in 10 lives in poverty in that city; that one aged person in 4 lives in poverty; and that 3 out of 10 widows are poor and one invalid in 4 is also poor. The interesting thing is that in 1968-69 the estimate of that survey was that the cost of pretty much eliminating primary poverty, that is financial poverty, on the basis of the findings of that survey would have been about Si 00m. One could therefore conservatively estimate that the cost today would have been about $150m.
If we are able to whistle up at a moment’s notice $60m, $80m or probably more than $100m for relief to the wool industry - and I have no doubt that there are some arguments that would support a case for some sort of financial assistance for that industry - surely we should be able just as easily to provide the sort of financial resources needed effectively to combat primary poverty in the community. A rich society such as ours that can afford to support a high level of waste and a high consumption of luxuries should obviously also be able to afford to support dependency at a comparatively high level. This calls, of course, not only for the provision of adequate social security payments but the development of welfare services in the community; an appreciation that a complex of services has to be mobilised and integrated within the community to combat this problem. We have to have an appreciation that it is not only a matter of serving the people with field social workers but other factors are included such as housing and more importantly education and the environment.
Perhaps we ought to start at education because to me this is strong and compelling evidence of the need for an expression, as a result of a thorough inquiry, of a dovetailed programme to combat poverty in the community which will mobilise various sectors which are providing public services at the present time. Education is a clear example of how cultural deprivation operates. For instance, if we go through a break-up of various facets of education to the extent that we are able to use these facets to interpret relative performances we will be able to see how the disproportions occur. For instance in government schools only 9 per cent of applicants in 1971 received Commonwealth secondary scholarships. In Roman Catholic schools the figure was 12 per cent but in non-Catholic private schools more than 20 per cent received Commonwealth scholarships.
If one penetrated into this schooling structure and started to regionalise or sectionalise it and analyse why particular sections, for instance Government schools, did not do as well as other areas we would find that there would be fairly common criteria which one could identify. These include low income, lack of aspiration and motivation, which is a generational sort of thing and will continue within those family groups pretty much unless we do something to improve opportunities for these people, and also retention rates for secondary schools. As a further indication of what I mean I point out that only one child in 4 at a Government school completes the full period of secondary schooling whereas 8 out of 10 children at non-Catholic private schools complete their full period of secondary schooling. Pre-schooling is a highly essential influence on the development of young people’s minds. Fewer than 3 out of 100 children of pre-school age attend an approved pre-school in New South Wales. Only 1 in 13 attend in Queensland. One in 10 attend in Western Australia and 1 in 7 attend in South Australia and in Tasmania. But in the Australian Capital Territory every second child of pre-school age is attending a qualified pre-school training centre.
The significance is that it is an established fact that children who have the opportunity to attend a pre-school develop certain personal skills; develop a better ability to handle conceptualisation; they develop their tactile abilities and so on and in addition they develop certain personality traits which allow them to adjust to group environment more easily. The result of all this is that when these children go to primary schools they make progress much more easily. The evidence is quite convincing that this is a great advantage to these children. However it is more than this. If I can tie up all these school factors, indicating as they do, that many are missing out while some are doing particularly well, if we are prepared to use the educational system in this community as a special supplement to make up for the cultural deprivation of so many children we can make considerable progress in combating poverty insofar as attitudes and abilities are concerned.
I can appreciate that not infrequently genetic factors come into these things but in the totality of the problem 1 am talking about these are a small proportion of the problem. The real problem is lack of opportunity, lack of experience, lack of knowledge of what the broader world involves and what it can provide. We need more than our current system of education. This would be totally inadequate because the present system is geared to churn out inputs for industry. What we need is a highly enriched system of education for our children who live in this poverty area but we cannot restrict ourselves there. We have to go beyond the children and work within the homes because unless we are prepared to do this the work being done in the schools - the creative constructive and progressive work that is done there - will be seriously undermined. We have to reach out to these people.
I have mentioned before the need for regionalised development of our welfare services to back up this sort of programme of which 1 am speaking. 1 will not develop that again today but 1 would add that we do need to establish a parliamentary joint select committee on social welfare. We have not had such a committee since the 1940s with the result that we are still proceeding, so far as the social services and social welfare benefits at the federal level are concerned, according to reflexes learnt in the 1940s - several decades ago - and which were the product of people who had been through a traumatic experience of a major world depression that shattered this country and a major world war which also seriously disrupted it. These attitudes were developed at a time when the country was trying to establish itself on a firmer and more prosperous basis but this is not so today. Australia now ranks as one of the 4 wealthiest countries and accordingly is in an eminently suitable position to provide much more generous benefits financially and much more adequate services in terms of welfare assistance in the field than it has done so far.
If we had such a joint committee, which I repeat we have not had since the 1940s, there would be an appropriate opportunity to develop something which we badly need - a philosophy behind what we are doing in social welfare. We could achieve a statement of purpose and a definition of the goals which we are reaching out to. Perhaps in the course of this we could also analyse in the committee of inquiry the hidden sort of social service benefits which the Government provides - the hidden transfers through the taxation system. As honourable members well know there are fairly generous concessional deductions allowable for a family such as medical, hospital and education expenses as well as life assurance payments but what the taxpayers do not generally realise is the way that these falls result in a massive transfer from low and moderate income earners to high income earners. In the financial year 1968-69 $805m was allowed as deductible claims for family purposes involving medical, hospital and educational expenses. Let me specify one case to indicate how the low and moderate income earners are carrying the burden of this transfer from their pay packets to support the higher income earners. Given that a certain volume of tax collection must be raised, every dollar of tax collection forgone from one sector has to be made up from another. So, if we reduce the burden that must be borne by the higher income groups, by commensurately increasing the burden on the lower income groups, then the lower income groups will have to make up this payment in some other way. In the case of the child deductibility allowance, where there is a family of a man, his wife and 3 children, and he receives a salary of $2,700 a year, he will gain a tax saving of about $99; whereas the man with a salary of $16,000 a year will gain a saving of $406 on his tax payment. Let us relate this to weekly benefits. The man on the comparatively low income of $2,700 will receive a benefit equivalent to $2 a week but the man on $16,000 a year will benefit by $8 a week. This is a completely inequitable practice to have operating in the community. It works counter to the whole purpose and philosophy behind the development of any sort of responsible system of social services.
A current topic of considerable interest is the subject of national superannuation. Immediately one raises this subject one must deal fairly briefly with the record of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). He seems to be Australia’s great loser as a Minister in this Federal Parliament. He lost out on the Gurindji land rights case after promising 8 square miles of land to the Gurindji tribe at Wave Hill. I do not condemn him for that but rather do I condemn his colleagues. However, he was the man who, in 1963, promised that he would eliminate the means test. Then, as he had said on many occasions before and has said subsequently, he said:
There is no use talking about the liberalisation of social services unless you are prepared to spend additional funds. 1 would face up to this.
We should now have a plan to phase out the means test in 3 years.
The Minister has had a good 3 years in office and what has he achieved? He has achieved 2 means tests - one where payments are made on a base or standard rate of pension of $17.25 a week or at the married rate of $15.50 a week and the other, affecting 181,000 pensioners or a little over 17 per cent of the total number of pensioners, where the standard rate pension is $15.50 a week and the married rate is $13.75 a week. That is the basis on which the calculation of entitlement is made. So, as his record, we have 2 means tests instead of the elimination of the means test which he promised.
Of course, we have no national superannuation scheme in spite of the fact that on 2nd July this year the Minister said to the Council of the Aging at a dinner in Brisbane that he already had a scheme prepared - ‘a scheme prepared’ were his words - for national superannuation. That is, at the very least a draft was available. But he went on and gave even more compelling evidence that the progress of this policy was well advanced, for he said that it was ready for adoption. Any person in the community would interpret this as meaning it was ready to implement; that it had been endorsed by the Cabinet; and that it was merely a matter of formality for it to be introduced in the Budget session. But, of course, we do not have a national superannuation scheme. The Minister even had the gall in this House on 24th August to deny that he had at any time indicated that ‘such a draft does exist’ - again, I am quoting his words - after saying that the programme had been prepared and was ready for adoption. This leaves the man’s integrity in a seriously questioned light. This is his record: He has lost out on the major issues that he has promised to the people of this country. His promises, as he then was, were mighty; his performances, as he is now, are nothing.
The record of the Liberals on national superannuation is deplorable. It can engender only mistrust from the Australian electorate. The first Liberal Party Government to propose national superannuation was the Cook Government in 1913. That Government allowed the legislation to lapse and
Page Government in 1923 also quickly forgot about it. 1 will amend that; it is not fair enough. The Bruce-Page Government did not quickly forget about it. After the report of a royal commission, legislation was introduced in 1928 but the Government allowed the legislation to lapse and did not proceed with it. In 1938 the Lyons Government made a further proposal to introduce national superannuation.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m. -
– Before I continue my remarks where I left off prior to the luncheon adjournment, my attention has been drawn to a rather slight slip in a point I made earlier. It was in relation to the rights of de facto wives. I would like the record put straight. They do in fact have certain rights. I think the modest way in which the slip was made and the amends proposed rather enhancingly uphold the principle of the frailty of mankind. 1 will continue now where I left off. I was discussing the frailty of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) in his failure to have accepted a proposal of national superannuation. I indicated that at least this was consistent with a tradition which was less than commendable of antiLabor goverments - the 1913 Cook Government, the 1923 to 1928 period under the Bruce-Page Government and the 1938 period under the Lyons Government - which gave pledges to the public that people had rights in retirement and in certain situations of crisis need, and that the only way to overcome or to satisfy these needs was through a contributory system of social insurance. On each occasion the proposals were dropped, usually within a short period. I arrived at the point in my speech where in 1938 the Lyons Government had made such a proposal and prepared the legislation. Of course, as I said before, the proposal was dropped.
Interestingly enough, to continue with the history of this tradition, the then Attorney-General, Mr Menzies resigned, to quote the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, as a most emphatic means of registering his protest. His protest was against the dropping of this programme. In 1944, 1945 and 1949 Menzies, as Leader of the Liberal Party, reiterated a number of times his complete commitment to, and his pledge to the public, of the introduction ot a system of national superannuation. In fact, in his policy speech in 1949 he said this:
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment and o!d-age. It is only under =u-h a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right, and so get completely rid of the means test.
During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem, with a view to presenting to you at the election of 19S2 a scheme for your approval.
He was confirming principles he had laid down in the Parliament on a number of occasions. I will not quote the exact words, but in the Parliament on 29th March 1944 he went to some great lengths to spell out his philosophy on this point. The historical fact is that on being elected in 1949 he promptly forgot about the proposals for a contributory system for national superannuation. In spite of his proposals and his pledge to eliminate the means test, in spite of the terrible things he said it was responsible for, and the terrible things which succeeding spokesmen on social services in his Party have said that the means test is responsible for - not the least of those spokesmen has been the Minister for Social Services - today we have not a perpetuation of the means test, but 2 means tests in operation.
One wonders to what extent the private insurance companies are responsible for torpedoing each of these proposals. I had a quick look at the 1969 statistics on superannuation and found that premiums amounted to SI 97m and payments to S92m. As private insurance companies retain about 53 per cent of what is paid in as premiums, this would be a figure of approximately SI 05m. If one starts to analyse the statistical break-down, one finds that this is a particularly profitable area of business for private insurance companies.
The Labor Party’s programme is for national superannuation, national compensation and national health insurance as the first phase of a comprehensive scheme of social security. There will be a base rate benefit under a national superannuation scheme of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. This will be adjusted annually automatically because it will be tied to an index. Incidentally, I will be releasing a costed programme which I have evolved on the weekend but I do not want to say anything more about that at the moment. We will be backing up all that we are proposing for social security with the development of regionalised welfare services. That is what the Labor Party proposes because it rejects the parsimonious patchwork system of social services presently operated by the Liberal-Country Party Government. We think that they are totally inappropriate to this last third of the 20th century. Australia as the fourth wealthiest nation in the world should be the leader, the innovator the great laboratory of social welfare inventiveness, innovation and improvement in the world. We have the resources and the ability to do this. The rights of our people demand that we should do nothing less.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Finally, I want to test the sincerity of the Minister and members of the Government and their frequent pledges about national superannuation. Accordingly, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Oxley moving a motion for the appointment forthwith of a select committee of this House to inquire into and report upon Australian proposals and overseas practices in relation to a national superannuation scheme.
– I second the motion.
– I wish to speak to this motion. It is necessary, given the facts which I have briefly outlined in my address to the House in relation to a promise or an undertaking given by the Minister for Social Services to the Australian community on national superannuation, and its sudden disappearance as a Government policy programme, to test on behalf of the Australian public the sincerity of the Government on this programme. It is more important that this Parliament has before it such data as it can have made available to it on the subject of national superannuation. There are 2 basic principles on which the scheme can be developed, a funded scheme or a payasyougo scheme, but within each of those 2 basic principles there are many variations of how the scheme could operate. It is clear that before any final and precise undertaking is given by any Party as to the form of national superannuation to the implemented, there should be an inquiry in which public attitudes could be fully expressed and a searching analysis made of any proposals which might be given serious consideration. Of course, there is no doubt that this Parliament has the right to legislate in this respect.
I turn now to the 1937 conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on unemployment insurance and the 40-hour week. At page 18 of the report Mr Menzies, speaking as an eminent legal practitioner, indicated that the Commonwealth does have the power to implement legislation to allow national superannuation to be introduced. He pointed out correctly that under the Commonwealth Constitution the Commonwealth Government does have power over insurance, and while it does not have power to compel the States in this respect as to what they are to do, nevertheless it has power to introduce its own forms of insurance. So there can be no quibbling that we lack power or authority to introduce a system of national superannuation, nor can there be any quibbling that the scheme is practicable. In the early part of this year I costed a flat rate benefit scheme, a pay-as-you-go programme, which is within the capacity of the Australian economy to bear. When we realise that approximately $600m is already paid out in age pensions and Service pensions - actually the figure is higher than that - that on top of that approximately $580m is paid into private life insurance and superannuation, and that the cost of tax collections foregone for insurance policies which are claimed as tax deductible items is $125m, we are already outlaying a substantial proportion of the amount which would be involved in these costs.
-Order! The motion before the Chair is that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member moving a motion. This does not enable the honourable member to traverse the whole of the ground of social services, as he would be rightly able to do in the discussion should his motion be carried.
– The purpose at this point is that it is appropriate for us to make a decision on our attitude on an inquiry into national superannuation. We are discussing the Social Services Bill. The whole concept of national superannuation is germane to that Bill. It is especially germane given public statements by the Minister for Social Services that the Government had ready for adoption a programme of national superannuation and that many people’s expectations have been lifted in this respect. Again this is the only way in which we can initiate at this point action which will allow us to establish what in fact the attitude of this Parliament is towards an inquiry into national superannuation.
I find it hard to believe that the Government would be seriously opposed to this proposition because all we are seeking through the suspension of Standing Orders is that a select committee be set up to inquire into and report upon the proposals for a national superannuation scheme in Australia and the practices in other countries. I would even welcome an opportunity of giving evidence myself before the committee on some proposals I have, one of which, as I mentioned, will be released this weekend. I repeat that this is an opportunity for the Government to do something constructive in relation to public demand for a national superannuation scheme. The first step is to set up an inquiry to involve the public in discussion on what is being proposed, and to subject to severe scrutiny and analysis any proposals put forward to determine their appropriateness and practicability for the Australian economy and the Australian people.
– I second the motion that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) from moving a motion for the appointment of a committee. I point out that this will not necessarily involve the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) - I assume it will be the Minister - in making a decision immediately as to whether the Government would be prepared to agree to such a committee being established. 1 take it that the honourable member for Oxley could move his motion and that the debate on this motion could be then adjourned so that the Government could discuss whether such a committee should be set up.
I feel strongly that such a committee should be set up. The question of a national superannuation scheme is an extremely difficult one. I am sure thai the Minister for Social Services agrees with me. There is obviously disagreement in the Ministry and the Cabinet on this matter. There are a number of different possible schemes. It is a question of deciding what kind of scheme is in fact the best scheme or the scheme most applicable to Australia. I will not canvass which scheme 1 would support. I would just like to submit that anybody who would argue straight out that he knows what kind of scheme he would support would only be a person who has never really considered the possible alternatives. I put it to the House that if a person has ever thought about the matter deeply he would realise all the sorts of difficulties involved in establishing such a scheme. Therefore the proposed committee would be one of the most appropriate select committees to be appointed by this House. It therefore gives me great pleasure to second the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– Standing Orders would very properly prevent my saying anything about the substance of this matter. I address myself to the one thing I should, namely the timeliness. It is somewhat extraordinary that in a matter of this character the Opposition should bring forward suddenly and without warning a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. This throws a lurid light upon the sincerity of the motives of members of the Opposition. In my view they are not concerned with the interests of the pensioners, the age or those who need the help of social services. They are concerned only with political advantage. Indeed, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has made this abundantly clear by his attitude in the House and indeed on television, where he could scarcely keep out of his voice a gloating satisfaction ;n trying to score a cheap political point.
As I said, I will not address myself - nor am I allowed to under Standing Orders - to the substance of the matter before us. I only say that to have brought this matter forward in this way argues that the Opposition is not concerned really with doing anything. It is no concerned with any result; it is concerned only with scoring, if it can, a cheap political advantage. I do not think that the House should demean itself by making itself party to trickery of this nature. If we have an Opposition which is not sincere in this matter but which is trying to use the pensioners and the aged for its own purposes, we can well imagine the kind of disruption which it would hope to inject into any committee established in this way. As I said, I will not address myself to the substance of this matter. 1 address myself only to the timeliness and I protest at the impropriety of bringing this matter forward in this manner. I move:
That the question be now put.
– I rise on a point of order. I did not originally intend to rise on a point of order. I was hoping that the Minister would not move that the question be put. My point of order is that the Minister, who occupies a responsible position-I would like to think that he has a responsibility in this matter - has acted and spoken in the most irresponsible-
– Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. There is no substance in his point of order.
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker- Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Hayden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has been somewhat critical of certain aspects of the Bill. However, I would like to assure the House that considerable concessions have been made, and I shall be mentioning some of them in my speech. Contrary to what the honourable member has said, this Bill will give effect to important social services proposals announced by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in his Budget speech. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has explained these proposals in more detail in presenting the Bill before the House. I would like to add, as secretary of the Government Members Social Services Committee, that I know the Minister to be hard working and deeply conscious of the needs of those who are dependent on social services. He is always seeking some new approach to their problems and is constantly working hard for greater social justice. 1 think this is evident in the Bill he has brought before the House, as the greatest increases have gone to those in greatest need. For instance, the single pensioners will receive the maximum increase of Si. 25 a week. There is also a SI increase in the married rate of pension and for Class B widows. Class A widows will receive an increase of SI. 25 a week and the wife’s allowance is to be increased by $1. However, perhaps the most significant part of the Bill is the $2 increase in child allowance payable to all age, invalid and widow pensioners, as well as to recipients of unemployment and sickness benefits. There will also be an increase of 50c in child endowment for the third and subsequent children. The total increased expenditure on social services in the 1971-72 Budget is SI 47m, bringing the total in the Budget to SI, 182m which is an increase of 141 per cent over last year’s Budget.
Expenditure on social welfare and repatriation now constitutes the largest single item of expenditure in the Budget. So it is hardly fair for the honourable member for Oxley to say that the Government has done little in this regard. Coming back to the substantial increase of $2 in child allowance, no doubt all honourable members have had experience with one-parent families. Of course, not all such parents are widows or deserted wives; more than 10,000 widowers come into this category. They do not receive a pension or an allowance. The Government has given high priority to the one-parent family. Many parents in this category have had great difficulty in providing for their young families. Unfortunately, many widows have to go out to work to supplement their income, with the result that their children are neglected or have to fend for themselves. Many a widow has to send her children off to school before 8 a.m. and, as she does not arrive home before 5 p.m., the young children have to look after themselves.
Under the new provisions in this Bill a widow with 4 children could receive social service payments amounting to $45 a week. I think it is important that I should itemise this $45. It is made up as follows: The basic pension of $17.25, a mother’s allowance of $4, children’s allowance - that is tor 4 children- of $18 and child endowment of $5.75. In addition the parent can take a part time job and earn up to $26 a week, making a total of $71 a week. I am sure that there are many widows who are not aware of their entitlements under this Bill; it will enable many widows who can supplement their income to stay at home and look after their children. One can never assess the importance of having a mother at home to look after her young family when they arrive home from school and I do feel this is perhaps the most important aspect of this legislation.
Insofar as age pensioners are concerned, the critics quickly gloss over the many concessions which are of considerable value. Concessions for transport, medical service, postal charges and so on add several dollars to the value of the pension. For instance, the rate for a combined radio and television licence will now rise by $6.50 to $26.50 but pensioners will be unaffected by the rise and will continue to pay only $4. Also I do not think the value of free medical services could ever be accurately assessed for those people who do not keep good health and depend on them. My main criticism perhaps of this Bill is that I would have liked to have seen an increase in the supplementary allowance payable to single pensioners paying rent. There are more than 175.000 pensioners living alone and paying high rent and these are the ones facing the greatest hardship. Many are paying rent as high as $14 a week and this is placing them in a position of extreme hardship. There are also married couples who come into the same category and they are also in need of increased assistance.
There is another matter I wish to raise. I feel it is a pity the Government has not provided an incentive to encourage young people to maintain their parents in their own homes where they can uphold their dignity and independence. Socially I believe the right place for them is in the home of their families. In many instances young people who look after their parents live frugal lives and many sons or daughters have been prevented from marrying because they have accepted the responsibility of looking after an aged relative. This in itself saves the Government in many instances from having to provide alternative accommodation. Some people make great sacrifices to look after an aged parent or relative and surely such qualities as those should be encouraged. I would have liked to have seen some incentive in the Budget in the form of tax concessions to encourage young people to accept a greater responsibility for their parents because old age is something we all have to face up to at some time or another. I feel that if our elderly citizens are to be adequately provided for we must continually search for improvements in the field of social services. Where there is a genuine need in the community we must all accept a greater responsibility both in the Government and private sectors. Unfortunately today not many people are prepared to accept a greater responsibility for those in necessitous circumstances. Consequently more people are coming into this category and I believe this trend will continue.
As we become more affluent we seem to care less not only for people in needy circumstances but, as I have said before in this House, also for members of our own families. I am sure this was not the case pre-war when members of large families were prepared to share their possessions with a genuine concern for those in need. I might mention that this is not the position in the Asian countries where it is a family’s responsibility to care for the parents and other relatives, and to me they appear to be much happier for the experience. I have been in a house in India where 76 people were living under the one roof; the sons and daughters have married and their children have married and have had more children and so on. The point I am making here is that there may have been only 2 or 3 sons working. However, they were happy to share what they had with the other members of the family. Perhaps it is only under such circumstances that the real meaning of ‘to give’ and ‘to serve’ becomes abundantly clear; to give with humility and purpose and to share sacrificially with those in need. Man as he is is incomplete and no doubt has to be completed in our time. Surely if we are to make progress in this direction we have to look a little beyond self-interest.
Most people in Australia today have never been in a better position to give more freely of their time and means to assist their parents in old age. 1 might mention that the great great grandfather in the house in India where 76 people were living was the complete master in his home. He was prepared to share his house and what he had with other members of his family and was held in respect and, no doubt, loved for it. His children were, of course, his means of obtaining social services. He had provided for them and likewise they would look after him until the day he died. The lesson, of course, was that he was not only looked after by his children but also he received their love and affection and, perhaps of even greater importance, had respect and dignity in old age. Unfortunately in Australia today we tend to throw overboard many of these fine attributes and traditions that have stood the test of time. I believe post-war affluence and possessions, together with a more demanding life, have changed our attitudes and motives towards each other to such an extent that we have lost sight of the elementary principles of why we live our lives on earth.
We are here for very simple reasons and one of these is to help each other. However, as I said before, the Government can do only so much. All it can do is to provide our elderly citizens with the means to obtain adequate necessities in old age or to supplement their savings if they are on superannuation. In retirement, however, I believe our senior citizens are looking for much more than materialistic possessions. I believe what they also seek no government can provide - that is love and understanding from members of their families. I believe it is a great pity that so many of our young people neglect their parents in old age. By so doing they are missing out on something very important in life. Even if the Government had the revenue to provide our elderly citizens with everything they need and accepted full responsibility for them, they would be missing something vital - that is that warm, human, personal and friendly touch that only members of a family can provide.
A more happy and satisfactory life for our senior citizens, invalids, TPIs and so on can come about only as a partnership where members of a family must accept a greater responsibility along with the Government. I am sure that if more people showed a genuine interest and made some sacrificial contribution towards assisting those in need they would be happier and more contented for the experience. I know that such an approach would certainly encourage the Government to a far greater effort.
In conclusion, I repeat that no government should be expected to take over the entire responsibility of caring for those in need while members of their families contribute little to their welfare. However, where it is proved that there are no relatives or people able to assist I believe the Government should accept a full responsibility. These simple facts are the fundamental principles of Christianity and of course, this is what social service is all about. It is about time these principles were practised more in our daily lives. This Bill has many good proposals and I commend it to the House.
– 1 support the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party’s shadow Minister for Social Services, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). In the first place I think that it might be worth noting that this amendment has been moved in almost precisely identical terms to the amendment which was moved when a social services Bill was last up for discussion in Parliament on 31st March this year. The duplication, of course, is not a matter of coincidence; it is not through any lack of drafting ingenuity. It is quite deliberate. It is meant to demonstrate, admittedly in just a small way, that we are concerned and that we protest at the fact that in spite of all of the Government’s hints, suggestions, promises and implications to the contrary, the Government has still produced no basic rethinking or restructuring of the Australian social welfare system. Everything now is precisely the same as it was before, except that a few decimal points have been moved. It is business as usual in an area which calls, on the Government’s own admission, for radical new initiatives. .
On 22nd February this year the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), when speaking on the Social Services Bill, said:
It will not be long before the Government resumes its 20 years of continuous progress in increasing the standard of living of pensioners. This will not involve simply the question of raising renton rates, although I have no doubt that this will be partly involved. However, there are other things as well which are of even greater importance to pensioners. The Government has these things fully in its sight and is at present making the appropriate plans for their implementation.
On 15th March this year the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said:
We will follow this immediate increase in pension rates with a fundamental review-
A fundamental review, I stress - of social services and related pensions and also of methods of adjusting such benefits. This review, which has already been commenced will be under consideration in the near future with the object of bringing emerging decisions into effect for the year 1971-72.
On 30th March 1971 the Minister for Social Services, in his second reading speech of the Social Services Bill 1971, said: 1 hope before long to be able to bring before Cabinet the results of the review to which the Prime Minister has referred.
Then, during the winter recess the Minister indicated that a national superannuation scheme was as good as just around the corner. After this buildup, which was directed specifically at positive and fundamental action in 1971-72, were we not entitled to expect - and more importantly were not pensioners entitled to expect - that all or at least some of the measures in the Opposition’s amendment would be implemented? Were they not entitled to expect a really significant pension increase or a system at last of automatic pension adjustment in line with advancing community standards, or a national superannuation scheme at least in outline, or a move towards the abolition of the means test? What sort of fundamental review is it that produced a $1.25 increase when an increase of $1 was virtually automatic?
I have said in earlier debates that one of our greatest difficulties and frustrations in trying to get to grips with the social welfare system as it exists, and as it appears likely to develop, is the lack of definition and purpose. We are never told what we are aiming at. We never know what we are aiming for. In his second reading speech on the Social Services Bill (No. 2) the Minister for Social Services said something potentially significant. He said this:
In recent years, each budget has laid special emphasis upon one aspect, in accordance with an overall plan.
I repeat what I believe to be the most significant statement of his whole speech - . in accordance with an overall plan.
Of course, the Minister has the right of reply in this debate and I urge him to use that opportunity to explain just what this overall plan is. Such a plan should exist if we are not to waste our resources and multiply the anomalies of the system indefinitely. I have to confess, however, that I have never heard of it before.
If it does exist I say quite seriously to the Minister that it is important that he should enunciate it. If nothing else it would at least clarify the social welfare differences between the Government and the Opposition and enable the public to judge our relative positions more sensibly than they are now able to do. There would be other important advantages. Whichever plan - whether it be the plan of the Government or ours - becomes the Australian pattern, it will cost a great deal more money and will require a greater proportion of the national wealth than we are now devoting to this area. This raises in turn serious questions of funding. In his recent speech on the Budget the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) pointed out realistically in my view that there have to be limits to the extent that revenue from exising forms of taxation can be increased. He pointed to the possible alternative of a retail turnover tax. Personally I am not greatly attracted to that proposition as an alternative but we may have to consider it. We should be looking also at the possibility of a capital gains tax and a graduated company tax. But above all, and least palatably from the public point of view, we may have to look at a restructuring of the income tax system which not only goes to restructure the income tax rates but goes also to a radical change in our attitudes to tax concessions. With the concurrence of honourable members 1 incorporate in Hansard a table showing the estimated cost to revenue of allowing deductions in respect of the 1967- 68 income year - the last year for which these figures are available - on account of spouses and equivalents, children under 16 years of age, student children, net medical expenses, life insurance and superannuation payments, education expenses and gifts.
The table was provided on 15th September 1970 by the then Treasurer in reply to a question on notice. It shows, for example, that the cost to revenue in the year in question was, in round figures, $126m for allowances for spouses and equivalents; $164m for children’s allowances; $ 106m for medical expenses allowances; $191m for life insurance and superannuation pay ments allowances; $70m for education expenses allowances; and $12m for gifts allowances. I believe that it can be realistically said that each one of these concessions meets, or is designed to meet, some social welfare aim. But obviously social welfare aims which are met on this basis will be met haphazardly at best and perhaps not at all. ti addition, there is the inherent difficulty and incompatibility between a tax system structured to work progressively, that is, those who can afford more pay more, and a rebate system which operates regressively, t that is, those who need least receive most. If we were clear in our own minds as to what our social welfare aims are and confident enough that they were right, we might just pluck up enough courage to say to the electorate something like this- ‘Look, we know how much you love a tax deduction.’ I love a tax deduction, too. ‘We know how you will
As will be seen from the totals column in this table, over 60 per cent of taxpayers who qualify for education deductions earn less than $2,800 per year. To put it bluntly, tax rates for family taxpayers are so low at that point that the individual tax saving is negligible. resist and resent any attempt to reduce or eliminate a tax deduction, but please try to put your attention to the facts.* What are the facts? Firstly, the taxation deduction system as a welfare instrument is regressive and totally haphazard. Secondly, for the great majority of people it simply provides no assistance at all. To illustrate this latter point, again with the concurrence of honourable members, I incorporate in Hansard page 107 of the latest Taxation Statistics, that is, those for 1969-70, showing taxable income and deductions on account of education expenses.
I ask honourable members again to consider the cost to revenue table which I have already incorporated in Hansard. It will be seen from this table that in 1967- 68, the total cost to revenue of the deductions listed was $893m. The comparable figure for the previous year, 1966-67, was
$785m. In other words, over that year there was an increase of about SI 08m in cost to revenue. On that progression it would probably be modest to estimate that the cost to revenue this year will be approximately $l,400m, or $200m more than the cost of our entire social welfare programme because, as the Minister for Social Services indicated in his second reading speech, our entire programme for the forthcoming year is estimated to cost only $l,187m. In other words, we could double the funding of our social welfare programme by re-allocating the sums now foregone in what can roughly be regarded as social welfare tax concessions. However, if we are going to be realistic - and I mean realistic in the political sense - we will not be able to do any of that without a massive public education programme, and that in turn requires that we must be able to say in advance what the aim is, what the overall plan is. Only then will the community be able to judge whether it is worth paying for. I return then to what was really my original, basic and only point, if you like, and that is to urge the Minister to look at the possibility of enunciating what the long term programme is, rather than continuing the past tradition of adopting ad hoc plugging measures.
There are at least 5 other matters related to social services which raise themselves in my mind as a result of this Bill, but obviously it is not possible to deal with them all here. I want to mention them, though, and I hope that at a later stage of the Budget session it might be possible to deal with them more adequately. The first is the question of the married wife’s allowance. I once had occasion to look at the second reading speech of the Minister who introduced the first measure providing for the married wife’s allowance in 1943, and when I read what he had to say I could not help thinking how old fashioned and anachronistic it all seemed because in those days of the original legislation in 1943, the only wives eligible for the wife’s allowance were wives of invalid pensioners or of totally and permanently incapacitated age pensioners. The reason that appeared to me to be so anachronistic was that although the Minister at that time did not explicitly make the point, it was fairly obvious that the assumption of the original legislation was that if the wife of an age pensioner was not positively tied to the house by reason of her husband’s incapacity, then she should go out and work. That appeared to me to be a very old fashioned and anachronistic sort of attitude, and it is not just distressing, it is absolutely appalling to find that that is still the situation today, except for pensioners with children in the family. That is an appalling state of affairs. It is one which has slipped by our notice, I can only believe, and one to which we will have to give proper attention.
There are other matters also raised by this Bill. There is the question of earning limits, which seems to have fallen behind general community standards of income. There is the question of child care for working mothers and working widows, which was a feature of the Government’s platform in the last Senate election campaign but which has been let slip since. There is the special role of accommodation in any consideration of a social welfare system. All of these matters are too long, too difficult and perhaps too complicated to attempt to deal with at this stage. However, as I have a few moments left, I shall say something about the fifth point which has been raised in my mind by the current legislation. It concerns the continued inability of pensioners to receive their pensions if they choose to spend their retirement years abroad. I say at the outset of my comments on this aspect that I believe that a respectable argument for a change in this restriction can be advanced even on economic grounds. One could argue, for example, that it would be beneficial from the Australian viewpoint to have accommodation released by departing pensioners for use by members of the community who are still productive. Again, the movement of aged persons abroad could be expected to lessen the pressure and cost of medical and hospital services at home to an extent outweighing whatever disadvantages might be feared to follow from the transfer of the significant pension funds abroad.
But, of course, the main argument for portability of pensions abroad rests not on economic factors but on simple human considerations. If people have lived and worked in Australia long enough to qualify for the age pension - that means at least 10 years - and if thereafter they prefer to return to their original homeland or to settle in some other country whether to rejoin their children who may have migrated or for some other reason, why should we prevent them from doing so?
– What other countries allow them to do this?
– 1 am coming to that. I am pleased that the honourable member has raised this matter and I will reply to him in some detail in a moment. It is of no use to say that these pensioners are free to leave. In theory they are but for those who are wholly dependent on the pension that is the equivalent of saying that they are free to starve. We effectively prevent these people leaving as surely as if we had our own iron curtain. We should not stand in their way. Economically it is unnecessary and morally it is absurd. We might well take a lesson in this respect from other countries which allow age pensions to be transferred abroad. Many of these countries are less developed and less affluent than we are. The following list is not exhaustive but it includes at least some of the countries which pay all pensions for persons living outside their original country of residence. They include Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Ecuador, Greece, Iran, Italy, Ivory Coast, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru and Turkey.
We come into a different category. The category into which we come in this respect includes countries which pay pensions abroad under reciprocal arrangements. In this category we have Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, France, Iraq, Jamaica, Luxembourg, the Philippines, Poland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and others. All these countries, like Australia, operate the external payment of pensions only on a reciprocal basis. I ask honourable members to look in this respect at the sort of reciprocity which applies. For example, the United Kingdom has reciprocal arrangements with Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, the Irish Republic, Israel, Italy, Jersey and Guernsey, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United States of America and Yugoslavia. Let me tell the house the countries with which we have a reciprocal arrangement, and there is no need to hold one’s breath because they are New Zealand and the United Kingdom. That is all. This position is absurd.
I have already said that there is no justification for this outmoded approach. Perhaps it could once have been justified on economic grounds but certainly not now. Perhaps at other times its real basis was that persistent anti-foreigner feeling which lasted in this country beyond the Second World War but surely we have outgrown that as well. Frankly I believe we have this absurd restriction just because it is there, lt is an example of inertia in the absence of effective pressure group activity against it and it is time that it went. Our social services system is one of the most important and one of the most expensive areas of Commonwealth responsibility. We have to get used to the idea that it will come to cost much more. The question is whether it will become better. 1 believe that the Opposition’s amendment <s a serious suggestion as to how it might.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– May 1 first commend the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) for his very thoughtful and well composed speech on social services. He has obviously done a lot of homework and he has done it with great sincerity, which is in contrast to the efforts of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who attempts to score political points all along the line and who does not have any great sympathy for social service recipients as the honourable member for Perth obviously has. As to the suggestions that we should abolish or reduce some of the taxation concessions I wonder whether the honourable member for Perth realises that most of these concessions were introduced to assist the family man, particularly the man with a large family who is on a low income.
Turning to the provisions of this Bill I draw the attention of the House to the fact that it represents an all time record in the payment of social service benefits. The figure has reached the staggering sum of $l,182m a year. That represents a 14 per cent increase over the figure paid last year and it is no small matter indeed. This is in line with Liberal-Country Party Government policy over the years - a constant rise in a constant widening of the field of social services. The Budget gives the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. The pension rise has not been $1.25 but $1.75 over the year as a 50c increase was granted earlier in the year. That is quite a substantial amount. Of course it is not enough. No-one ever feels that he is getting enough. Even members of Parliament do not feel that they are paid enough.
The same thing applies to pensioners but listening to some members of the Opposition one would think that the Government has reduced pensions. One would think that this amount is a miserable sum. Noone can say that an increase of $66m over last year is chicken feed. This is a tremendous amount of money. We hear so much about the 170,000 pensioners who will not benefit from the pension increases but we never read anything about the one million who will benefit from this Budget. We never read in the Press or hear from the Opposition about the very substantial outside incomes that many pensioners receive and enjoy. It is true that a single pensioner can earn up to $10 a week or $500 a year without his pension being affected or that he can earn $41 a week before he loses any entitlement to his pension. That is roughly $2,000 a year. The same thing applies to a married pensioner couple. They may earn $17 a week without any effect on their pension or $72 a week before they lose their pension. That is about $3,740 a year, which is a substantial amount.
The Government has obviously set out to increase benefits in the areas of greatest need. I have heard so often people- on the other side of this House saying that this is what we ought to do - to help the people on low incomes. Here they are with tongue in cheek objecting because the Government is doing this very thing. A comparison of the value of the pension today with the value of the pension when the last Chifley Government was in power in 1949 - and God knows it is long enough ago - reveals that the single rate of $4.25 in 1949 would have a present value of $11. What is the single pension today? It is $17.25. That is about 50 per cent better than the last Labor Government could manage. Similar differences occur right down the scale. As I have said it has been the policy of successive Liberal-Country Party Governments to widen the field of pensions as well as the payments. This Budget certainly does this. Although age and invalid pensions are the basic pensions this Budget does cover pensions in many other fields as well.
I agree that one of the problems - and I think that most of us come in contact with this - is those people who are totally dependent on their pension and who have to find suitable accommodation at a reasonable price. In some areas it is possible to do this; in others it is not. As the honourable member for Perth said there are other areas which need to be looked at in the field of social services. One is the allowance for a wife particularly in special circumstances such as an elderly pensioner with a young wife who has to go out to work to support him. There have been very substantial increases in children’s and guardians’ allowances. These are innovations brought in by a succession of LiberalCountry Party governments. Increases have been granted to widows over 50 years and over 45 years with a dependent child. This is tremendously important.
The Government has introduced these benefits through its new policy. Deserted wives and their dependent children also will benefit. If ever there was a field in which there was a need for something to be done it is here. It is not so very long ago that there was no assistance for deserted wives. Today they are on the same rate as a widow. This is an area with which I have had a good deal to do because it so happens that with the recession in the country areas accommodation has become available in country towns. A lot of deserted wives have come to country areas. So many of these people come to these towns with 3, 4 or 5 children and virtually only the clothes which they wear. They do not have sufficient bedding materials and that sort of thing. There is a tremendous job to be done in this field. The people in country towns are doing a big job in assisting these people to become individuals in these country towns. Very often they get better support in the country towns than they would in the vast cities. A tremendous job is being done in the rehabilitation of deserted wives.
If there is one thing a deserted wife needs it is to regain her self-respect and independence. Quite often she has lost her selfrespect through no fault of her own and no blame can be attributable to her. She feels that she has been discarded and is ashamed that she is a deserted wife. It is most important to bring deserted wives back into the general community and to retrain them for jobs so that they can earn and provide their children with better education. I have witnessed the absolute transformation of young deserted wives who have come to country towns where local residents have taken them into their hearts and supported them. The local women have introduced them to their social institutions and have looked after the children while the deserted wives have been trained for employment. Subsequently the deserted wives have been able to earn a living and become independent. The Government has assisted in this process. Rehabilitation is available on an ever-increasing scale, not only for training but also in the provision of tools of trade, equipment, books and travelling expenses- Much has been done in this area and I commend the Minister for his great sympathy.
Many improvements have been made to the unemployment and sickness benefit which includes dependants allowances. This has made life much easier for many people on the low wage scale, particularly those who do not enjoy the best of health and who have the ever present fear that their dependants will suffer if they become ill and temporarily lose employment. Child endowment is designed to help the family - to encourage Australians to have larger families and to populate our country with the best migrants we can have. I believe that what the Government has done in respect of child endowment alone is deserving of great commendation. One could continue at length outlining various forms of assistance which the Government has made available. It has assisted the Meals on Wheels organisation. This is an organisation which operates more particularly in the cities, but almost every country town has its little group of people who are assisting the Meals on Wheels organisation to provide meals. It is often more difficult for country residents than it is for city people to go somewhere to buy food or to obtain a meal and many women are doing a tremendous job in meeting this problem. They are assisted by the Government. I do not overlook the work that is being done by employees in country hospitals. Nursing sisters frequently take an active part in providing meals and even delivering them. The encouragement that the Government has provided has been extremely worth while.
It should not be necessary for me to refer to the assistance that is provided in respect of handicapped children. Throughout the Australian community there are’ vast numbers of children who are handicapped in some way. It is only when a school for handicapped children is established that people appreciate just how many children are involved. It is surprising to see the number of such children in small country towns. A great job is being done in the provision of training centres and of teachers for handicapped children. One of the great values of organisations like Meals on Wheels and those bodies which look after handicapped children is that they involve the people of a community. This is important. It will be a sad day when people become no more than cards in an index system or numbers on a sheet.
If there is one thing that people in trouble, invalids, old people and handicapped children need, it is sympathy and understanding. The Government has attempted to enlist the aid of those who are prepared to assist people less fortunate than themselves. The work of the sheltered workshops cannot be commended too highly. Many a child whose future looked bleak has been given new independence and a new outlook on life because of the training he has received in a sheltered workshop. Sheltered workshops, through the assistance given by the Government, have been expanding and extending throughout the nation. Yet we hear only criticism of what the Government has done; we do not read about the good things that the Government has done.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits introduced by this Government has been the $2 for Si subsidy for the building of homes of all kinds - not only home units, which have filled a tremendous need, but also hostel type accommodation which caters for people who are beyond looking after themselves as well as they ought to be looked after, and who are unable to cook their own meals. By this means provision is made for people who have not quite reached the stage of being nursing home patients. Perhaps this is an area that needs greater development. These people want to be independent but they need their meals provided. This is a tremendously important area and one in which great work is being done. In my area at the moment there is a move to take over quite a large college, a magnificent building, that has recently been closed and to convert it into a hostel. This would relieve the pressure on some of the nursing homes because the nursing homes and country hospitals today are crowded with geriatric patients who could be cared for much more satisfactorily and in a better atmosphere in a hostel than in a country hospital.
The subsidised pensioner medical service has been a tremendous boom as has been the scheme which subsidises the cost of medicines which are required urgently by elderly people. I am pleased to see that old people have not been forgotten in the proposal to increase radio and television licence fees. Through the concessions which have been afforded them, they benefit when necessary fee increases take place. They are still receiving quite substantial telephone concessions. One of the great problems which constantly face the Government in the provision of adequate pensions is the erosion of the value of pensions.
– I would that some honourable members opposite would regard this problem more seriously because I blame the Hawke- Whitlam axis for greatly increasing costs to the community. They are forever promoting trouble and rolling strikes, thereby increasing costs. If the Opposition were serious, it would look more carefully at its amendment and be genuine in its approach before bringing forward such an amendment. If members opposite were really genuine they would recognise that this is an area which should be examined carefully by all members. It is beyond question that rising costs hit, first, the pensioners, the sick, the old, the low income earners and the people with large families. Ti the Government is to increase pensions and make the widening range of social services effective, it is necessary that something be done to help keep costs down.
In closing, I warmly commend the Minister for Social Services. As one who has worked closely with him I know just how deeply sincere he is about social services and how keen he is to do his job. He does not always get everything he would like to get but which of us does? I deplore and express disgust at the attack made by the chief spokesman for the Opposition upon a man who is trying his utmost to do a really worthwhile job for the pensioners. I do not think that we have ever had a Minister for Social Services who has been more sincere or has worked harder in the interests of the needy than the present Minister. I strongly support the Bill and oppose the amendment.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, firstly I should like to comment upon the remarks made by the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) who has just resumed his seat. He stated that under the tapered means test a person could earn $41 a week and still receive a full pension, but what he did not tell the House was that that person could not have assets worth more than $419. I presume that there would not be 1,000 people in Australia who would qualify in the way suggested by the honourable member. Of course, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) says that the pension value is being eroded by the efforts of Bob Hawke and by the trade union movement. But I remind him that the Government has been in office for 22 years. During that time we have seen inflation spiral year after year. I am sure that if the honourable member for Hume stopped to think once in a while it would be an exhilarating experience for him.
The Social Services Bill (No. 2) which is now before the House provides for increases in age, invalid and widows pensions, in certain allowances and in child endowment. However, the Bill completely ignores the urgent need to improve other aspects of social services which I shall refer to later. Let us examine age and invalid pensions. The increase of $1.25 announced by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) in the Budget was one of the greatest confidence tricks ever perpetrated on the
Australian community. Practically all single pensioners imagined that they would receive an increase of $1.25, and married couples imagined that they would receive a combined increase of $2. It will be a terrific shock to a section of recipients when they find that they miss out altogether. For example, a single pensioner now receiving $13.75 a week or less, and a married pensioner couple receiving a combined pension of $24.50c or less, will receive absolutely nothing. They will not receive one cent. Of course, those to whom the tapered means test applies are completely overlooked. It is interesting to note that the Minister for Social Services, as a backbencher in many of his contributions to social welfare debates, was a fervent advocate for the abolition of the means test. Yet, today we find that he is the Minister responsible for the introduction of legislation which imposes a much more stringent means test than the existing merged means test which applies to the vast majority of pensioners.
As usually happened in past years, the Minister and Government supporters, including the honourable member for Hume who has just resumed his seat, in their endeavours to divert attention from this legislation compared the amount of pension now paid with that paid by the Chifley Government in 1949. To make a comparison on this basis is absolutely absurd. I do not intend to pursue this line of argument except to mention that the 1949-50 Budget brought down by the Chifley Government provided for an expenditure of $l,134m. At that time the pension stood at $4.25m. The 1971-72 Budget provides for an expenditure of over $8,669m, or seven and three-fifths times larger than the Budget in 1949. By using the Minister’s argument, one pension of $4-25 paid in 1949 should be seven and three-fifths times greater or $32.30 today. However, we should not be interested in such frivilous analogies. What we must concern ourselves with is the immediate problem of the pensioners in their never ending struggle to exist on the niggardly amount of pension which will operate when this Bill is passed by this House and the Senate, with the ever increasing prices which will again spiral as a result of increases in company tax, fuel tax, postal and telephone charges and so on contained in the Budget. Surely honourable members would be aware of the record high costs of meat, groceries, fruit, vegetables and other vital necessities. A piece of rump steak is now a luxury which the average pensioner could not afford. In additon, clothing costs, shoes, shoe repairs and the like must be taken into consideration when assessing the needs of a pensioner. We must also bear in mind that a pensioner receives no price concessions when he goes into a shop to make a purchase. He pays the same price as any other member of the community does.
Whilst it is true that some single pensioners paying rent or lodging receive a supplementary allowance of $2 a week, which is subject to a means test, they are paying $8, $10 and up to $12 a week for a room in areas in my electorate. This is the direct result of amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act in New South Wales introduced by the Askin Government - that is, the Liberal colleagues of the Minister for Social Services. In addition, Mr Askin increased pensioners’ bus and train fares by 100 per cent. I viewed on television and noticed in the Press last weekend some of the remarks that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made at a gathering in his electorate. He said, inter aiia, that poverty must be eliminated. Similar remarks were uttered by his predecessor, the former Prime Minister and the present right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). But what has been done about it? Absolutely nothing! What possible or positive ideas could the Prime Minister have on poverty? He does not even know what the word means. He has never known what it is to want. He has never been short of money to buy the essentials of life. He has never known what it is to worry about where next week’s rent is coming from. He has never known what it is to be unable to buy decent clothes and a pair of shoes for children to wear to school. But unlike the Prime Minister, I can speak from experience During the great depression of the 1930s, I received dole coupons to the value of 14s 2d a week from which I paid 6s a week in rent for one tiny room. This princely sum was to keep myself, my wife and baby daughter.
Because of that experience, I. submit that I am more qualified to talk on the subject of poverty than is the Prime Minister. In consequence, I believe that the provisions contained in this Bill to increase the age and invalid pensions are an absolute scandal and a disgrace to the Government. The one and only satisfactory method of providing a fair and just pension is to adopt the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) during the 1969 election campaign - that is, that the pension should be 25 per cent of the average weekly male earnings. This would obviate the necessity for the pensioner organisations to come begging cap in hand every year to Canberra seeking a just pension. Wage and salary earners have access to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to obtain increases to keep up with the cost of living, and quite rightly so. But the poor old pensioner is at the complete mercy of the Government for any pension handouts. These- forgotten people are the pioneers of this country and are entitled to a reasonable standard of living so they may finish the rest of their days with a sense of pride and dignity.
Let us examine the pensioner wife’s allowance which will be increased by $1 a week, from $7 to $8. This is probably one of the worst features of the Bill. This allowance has remained stationary for some considerable time, despite spiralling costs. Yet, the increase proposed in this Budget is only a miserable SI. This allowance is payable only to a wife, not of pensionable age, of an invalid pensioner or of an age pensioner of 70 years or more. I shall point out a serious injustice arising from this allowance. For example, a married pensioner couple who qualify for the full increase will receive a combined rate of $30.50 a week. Yet a couple to whom the wife’s allowance is paid will receive a combined rate of $25.25. If the husband qualifies for the supplementary allowance, the combined rate will be $27.25. In the first case, the rate is $5.25 below that of a married pensioner couple, and in the second case it is $3.25 below that of a married pensioner couple. Why should this be the case? The same cost of living applies in all cases; yet one pensioner couple is better off than the other. Conversely, Labor Patty policy provides for the full pension to be paid to a wife in these circumstances.
I now wish to deal with the pensioner funeral benefit which was introduced by the Curtin Labor Government in 1943. An amount of $20 is paid to the person responsible for the cost of the funeral to help defray the expense. It is hard to believe, but nevertheless it is true, that the amount is still $20 today after 28 years of increased costs. In the case of a married pensioner couple, if the husband dies his spouse receives $40. This alteration was made only a few years ago. I wish to give honourable members some interesting news on this matter. I made inquiries at one of the larger undertakers in my electorate as to the cost of a funeral. He told me that the very cheapest funeral would cost $71.40 for the casket and $135 for the hearse and one mourning coach. The allowance that is offered by this Government is not sufficient to place a deposit on the casket.
– You cannot go without the casket.
– I know this is a grave matter. Now I turn to the maternity allowance. This benefit, except for a slight adjustment, has not been altered for over 20 years despite the fact that prenatal care and hospital and doctors’ costs have skyrocketed over this period. It would appear that the Government is showing little concern about assisting mothers to bring children into this world. Let us examine child endowment. Before commenting on this section of the legislation, I should first like to trace the history of child endowment, which I submit is most interesting. In 1926 a New South Wales Labor Government introduced child endowment for the first time in Australia. The payment at that time was 50c for each child. I remind honourable gentlemen that the purchasing power of 50c in 1926 would be at least equal to the purchasing power of $2.50 today.
In 1927, with the defeat of the Labor Government, the Nationalist Party, the forerunner of the present Liberal Party, took over. One of its first deeds was to abolish the payment of 50c for the first child. Later in 1941 the Menzies Government introduced child endowment throughout Australia. The payment at that time was 50c for each child except the first child. It is interesting to note that although the Menzies Government introduced Australiawide endowment it did not believe in the principle of this social benefit. The Government was forced into this action by a judgment brought down in the Commonwealth Industrial Court by Judge DrakeBrockman. In 1941 the federal basic wage was based on an amount deemed to be sufficient for a man, his wife and 3 children. The judge in his wisdom said that he considered the basic wage was sufficient only for a man, wife and one child. As a consequence the Menzies Government, of which Arthur Fadden was Treasurer, panicked because it knew that there would be a sizeable . increase in the basic wage unless child endowment was introduced. Hence the benefit was initiated by the Menzies Government.
In 1941 the basic wage stood at $7.90. In 1945 the Curtin Labor Government increased endowment by 25c from 50c to 75c. At that time the basic wage was $8.60. Again in 1948 the Chifley Government increased the payment, by a further 25c from 75c to $1. The basic wage was then $11.90 a week. So it can be readily seen that over a period of 7 years from 1941 to 1948 during the war years and early post-war era 2 Labor governments were responsible for doubling child endowment despite the fact that the basic wage had increased by only $4 over that period. In 1950 the Menzies Government introduced the payment of 50c for the first child. In January 1964 the Menzies Government’ increased the payment for the third child by 50c from $1 to $1.50 and the payment for each successive child by the same amount.
In 1967 the Holt Government increased the payment by 25c from $1.50 to $1.75 for the fourth child and by 50c from $1.50 to $2 for the fifth child with a further 25c added for each successive addition to the number of children. Yet the endowment of 50c for the first child has not been adjusted for 21 years and the endowment for the second child of $1 for 23 years. Despite the increases in this legislation, 85 per cent of endowed families, that is, in the first child and 2 children categories, will not receive any increase at all. In most cases the increases to those familes with 3 or more children will be a welcome benefit. However the increases will certainly not act as an incentive or encouragement to stimulate the natural birth rate, which has been declining steadily over the past few years. The major cause of this decline has been the failure of the Government to increase the rates for the first and second children.
As Commonwealth statistics show, those families in the lower income brackets have the highest number of children, but many parents today are hesitant about having larger families simply because they cannot afford to do so. It has been said by the Minister for Social Services and many of our experts in this field that our declining birth rate demands urgent attention. I agree entirely with this viewpoint, but the paramount question is: How do we remedy the situation? I re-emphasise that the initial step is to increase the payments for the first child arid second child. Honourable members on both sides of the House have continuously supported a migrant intake to assist in populating this country. This great programme was initiated by the right honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Calwell) in bis capacity as Minister for Immigration in the post-war Chifley Government and has been carried on successfully by various governments since 1949. It is true that we must populate this country, but in doing so we must not close our eyes to the fact that we need to increase the natural birth rate. A baby boro in Australia is of equal importance to a welcome migrant.
I now turn to the B class widow’s pensions. Recipients of this pension, if they qualify in the same manner as an aged or invalid pensioner, will receive an increase of $1 a week from $14.25 to $15.25. In referring to this section of social services I shall point out a grave inconsistency detrimental to widows in this category. Several years ago the age and invalid pension was fixed at a base rate. It applied to every pensioner whether single or married. This system was abolished by the Menzies Government and the combined married pension was reduced. This step was taken on the basis that 2 can live more cheaply than one. That reasoning is completely shattered when account is taken of the fact that a B class widow, who naturally is a single person, is obliged to meet the same living costs as a single age or invalid pensioner; yet she will receive an amount equivalent to that paid to each member of a pensioner couple or, to put it another way, $1.50 a week less than the single age or invalid pensioner. Put simply, it makes nonsense of the Government’s argument that 2 can live more cheaply than one when it does not practise what it preaches.
In concluding my remarks let me analyse briefly the amendment which was moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) on behalf of the Opposition and which I wholeheartedly support. Paragraph (1) of the amendment states: the increases proposed are inadequate, -
I believe this is undoubtedly true. Paragraph (2) states: social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living
My own personal opinion is that no honourable member would quarrel with that view. Paragraph (3) states: steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty
I submit that honourable members would unanimously agree on this point. Paragraph (4) states: a national superannuation system should be established and the means test eliminated
This is long overdue and would be implemented by a Labor government. Paragraph (5) states: pension payments should be a proportion of average weekly earnings adjusted annually
This is Labor policy also. Paragraph (6) states: a joint select committee should be established to inquire into and report upon the social welfare needs of the Australian community.
Such an inquiry, although belated, would be very acceptable. I strongly support the content of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley.
– The policy of the Government on social services is to give most aid where it is most needed. This is an honourable and proper policy. What is the policy of the Opposition? Insofar as it has a policy and is not merely opposing for the sake of opposing, the Opposition would like to spread social services equally over the community regardless of need and regardless of the fact that this would inevitably mean less to those who need it most - at the some time, of course, weeping copious crocodile tears for the plight of the poor. Let us examine what has been done in the last 22 years of rule by the present Government parties. Over these years pensions have steadily risen faster than the cost of living. I must admit that I would like to see automatic cost of living adjustments for pensioners together with additional increments so that pensioners share in rising national prosperity, for pensioners of all people have the least margin to absorb rises in the cost of living. But we must recognise that the pension has been rising substantially faster than the cost of living. Social service expenditure this year will be 14i per cent higher than last year and represents a real increase in the purchasing power of the pension. For instance, while the consumer price index rose by 5.4 per cent between the 1970 and 1971 Budgets, the standard rate of pension rose by 11.3 per cent. (Quorum formed.)
One fact that is always ignored by the Opposition is the extent of the fringe benefits which this Government has provided for pensioners. Concessions for transport and the pensioner medical service add several dollars to the value of the pension. There are other fringe benefits. The rate for a combined radio and television licence will now rise by $6.50 to $26.50’ but pensioners will be unaffected by the rise and will continue to pay only $4. The value of their concession thus rises from $16 to $22.50. Similarly, while general telephone rental rates will rise by $8 pensioner rates will rise by only $5.32, raising the value of the concession from $15 to more than $18. Increases in pharmaceutical costs will not affect pensioners to the same extent as the rest of the community. Of course pension rates are not the only aspect of social services to be improved in the Budget.
Child endowment, a measure first introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government as was generously recognised by the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), has been increased for third and subsequent children, so that a family with 3 children receives a total income supplement of $2.50 a week while a family with 4 children receives $5.75. On this side of the House we have always believed that particular help should be given to families with children. When wage increases have to be spread ‘ over a greater number of dependants the relative improvement of the whole family is reduced. Increases in child endowment for the third and subsequent children will
Assistance to one-parent families ranks very high in Government priorities. In the Budget there were great increases in the child’s allowance so that $4.50 a week will be paid for each child, representing an increase of $2 for the first and $1 for subsequent children. For instance, a widow with 3 dependant children will receive a total payment of $38.25, or $45 if she had 4 dependant children. The special attention that is being given to assistance to families with children stands as a key feature of the social services programme.
These advances in social services are important but there are limits to what can be done. In this Budget the main aim had to be to control inflation because inflation not only damages the economy as a whole but also damages the pensioners and particularly the retired non-pensioners who are living on fixed incomes. The Budget is a responsible attempt to contain inflation.
The Opposition on the other hand would have the Government embark on a programme of galloping inflation. Not only would it spend more in every direction but the Leader of the Opposition would like to abandon the means test at an annual cost of $300m. He under-estimated by only about $140m and ignored the fact that this would increase the annual cost of each future $1 rise in the pension from $60m to $100m. This could not but harm existing pensioners. The Leader of the Opposition would have us spend more in every other direction and this could only add disastrous demand-pull inflation to our present cost-push inflation. Pensions are basically a transfer payment from the current work force to those in need. Our ability to provide adequately for those in need depends ultimately on the output of the current work force. The Opposition would like to see this output cut sharply by reducing the
– 1 can quite understand the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) taking only half the time allotted to him if that is all he can say to defend the Government’s very inadequate provisions in this Budget. He makes the point that pensioners should pay the penalty for the inflation in the community today and suggests that the reason why the Government could not make increases of a satisfactory standard in the Budget was because of its attempt to control inflation. Of course, as with all Government supporters who have spoken we heard a rehashing of the old story of how wages, strikes and so on are the causes of inflation. I wonder when I will hear some reference to the exorbitant interest rates charged in Australia today. This country pays about the highest interest rates of any country. I heard Sir Henry Bolte recently make mention of the tremendous burden placed on the economy by such high interest rates. There is also the land speculation that takes place today. What have wages to do with the price of a block of land, especially an undeveloped block of land? How many people are paying exorbitant prices for land in our cities and larger towns today? Then there is the cost involved in the Vietnam war and the exhausting efforts of our defence forces, the Fill fiasco and so on. All these things have to be loaded on to the costs of any economy and these are some of the reasons why pensioners and others dependent on social security payments are not receiving the payments they should expect to receive.
The honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) said earlier that this Budget provided for a record expenditure on social welfare. I suppose every Budget brought into this Parliament will provide for higher expenditure than was provided before. Even if we do not increase any pensions, unemployment benefits, maternity benefits or child endowment, each year we would see an increase in the expenditure on social welfare simply because our population is forever increasing and because the number of people who are eligible for those benefits is increasing, So it is just futile and fatuous to talk about record expenditures. I suppose there are many ways in which we could evaluate what has been provided in this and other associated measures. One of the ways would be to look at how worth while are the provisions made in the legislation and to see how Australia fares in comparison with other countries in the provision of social welfare.
The latest comparative figures available in respect of general Government expenditure on health and welfare as a proportion of the gross national product are the figures for 1968. They show that as a proportion of gross national product - that is, the value of all the goods and services any country produces in a year - Denmark spends 20.S per cent on its health and social welfare programme, the Federal Republic of Germany spends 18 per cent, Sweden spends Hi per cent, France spends 16.8 per cent, Italy spends 1S.8 per cent - honourable members will be wondering where Australia comes - the Netherlands spends 13.3 per cent, the United Kingdom spends 11.2 per cent, Norway spends 10.2 per cent, Canada spends 10.7 per cent and Australia spends 7 per cent. In other words, we spend about one-third as much as the country at the top of the list, Denmark, as a proportion of our gross national product.
If we confine ourselves to expenditure on social services as distinct from social services and health and if we compare our expenditure with that of the European Economic Community, we find that it spends 1S.2 per cent whereas Australia spends 5.5 per cent, which is again onethird. One of the ways to look at this problem is to see how we measure up with what other countries do for their dependent people - the widows, aged people and invalids. Let us look at what the Budget does. I suppose it would be more interesting to look at what it does not do- One of the noteworthy things about it is that about 200,000 pensioners are not going to receive any benefits from this Bill or the
Repatriation Bill. About 181,000 of the people affected by this Bill will receive no increase whatsoever and the rest of those comparable people on service pensions provided by the Department of Repatriation will miss out.
The thing to remember is that the people who will miss out under this Bill are the very same people who missed out in April this year when the 50c increase was provided. Another 30,000 people will receive only part of the increases provided by this Bill. Then there are hundreds of thousands of others who were not covered by any of the previous legislation who, because of the existence of the means test, did not receive any pension whatsoever. The standard rate of pension payable to single people principally will be increased to $17.25. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) said that this amount keeps up with the cost of living increases. He went on to say - I think, fairly correctly - that it more than compensates for the cost of living increases. I suppose that is one way of looking at it.
Does the pension increase measure up to the rises in living costs that recently have taken place? I think that a more justifiable comparison would be: How does the pension now compare with the average adult male weekly earnings in the community, that is, with what the average male brings home each week? Measured against that, the standard rate of pension provides only 20.4 per cent of the average weekly earnings index. The pensioners thought that they ought to receive 30 per cent. That was a modest demand. They will receive only about two-thirds of the measure of prosperity in the community, or what the average weekly earnings provide.
Pensioners on the married rate will each receive 18 per cent of average weekly earnings. There is no 30 per cent for them. Leaving all the statistics aside, pensioners, the people in retirement, will not receive anything like their fair share of the national prosperity. This is why the Opposition in its amendment condemns the provisions of the Bill. I am prepared to say that Class A widows, widows with dependent children, have come out of this legislation best of all. They will receive a reasonable increase, particularly in respect of dependent children. I am glad to see it.
But I am sorry that there .has been no relief of the means test for such people. My colleague, the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope), pinpointed another kind of widow who still receives a very inadequate share of the . benefits. She is called the Class B widow, the widow who has no dependent children and who is over the age of 50 and has not yet turned 60. She receives the same rate as the married pensioner. She does not receive the single rate of pension. As a result of the SI increase provided by this Bill she will receive $15.25 whereas, if she had turned 60 years of age, when her needs might have been less, she would have been eligible for $17.25 or $2 a week more.
I hope the Minister pays attention to these matters and that this will be reflected in some of the improvements . that are made each year. I hope that the Minister, if he has a chance in the next 12 months, and if there is not another change in the Ministry, will look particularly at the case of the Class B widow to see why she should not logically receive the same as any other single pensioner in the community. Then there is the matter of the dependent wife’s allowance. The $7 weekly payment will be increased to $8. The usual case is that the husband has turned 65 and is receiving the age pension or has become an invalid, and his wife is not yet eligible for a pension. Then the wife will receive $8 a week. But is it fair to ask 2 people in this retired situation to live on a total of $25.25 a week? I do not think it is reasonable. Here again we ought to have some kind of rule that provides that when the husband reaches retirement age he and his wife should receive the married rate of pension even though she might not yet be the required age.
One wonders what happens -to people where the husband having turned 65 is not classified as an invalid and his wife has not yet turned 60. In their case they receive only the one pension between the two of them. There is not even a wife’s allowance applicable in such circumstances. I ask the Minister to look at that position also. Other members of the Opposition have made reference to the lack of portability in the Australian social security payments, particularly in regard to age pensions. I refer to those people who have become eligible for an Australian pension but who’ for one reason or another have decided to go in their retirement to some other country. There will be a number of these people. Naturally enough, some of the immigrants who come here, after staying for a number of years and qualifying for an Australian pension by living here and paying taxes as good citizens, might decide to go home and live with their families in their years of retirement. It is quite proper that those people should be allowed to take their pensions with them.
My colleague, the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson), listed a number of countries which provide for portability of pensions. Such people, whether they be Australian born or born overseas, if they wish to spend their last days in some other country, should be allowed to take with them their Australian pension for which they have qualified. Countries like Canada, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Malta, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Sweden, in certain limited circumstances, allow their people to take their pensions with them if they go to live in another country. In all humanity we should extend the same benefit here in Australia.
Rent allowance or supplementary assistance is another thing that seems to have escaped attention in this year’s Budget. The means test which is applied in the case of the rent allowance is a pretty rigid one. The maximum any person is entitled to receive is $2 a week. If the pensioner earns $3 a week the eligibility for the rent allowance ceases. There has been no easing of the means test in respect of this; there has been no increase in the rent allowance itself; there was never an application of the tapered means test to it; and it has become comparatively worthless. I remind the House that some 160,000 pensioners are dependent on this rent allowance. There are many other people who I think ought to be eligible but who miss out on it. I remind the House too that this lack of action in respect of the rent allowance is taking place at a time when rents have been literally skyrocketing. In reply to a recent question the Minister blithely admitted that he had no knowledge of what the average rents in the community were. I think he ought to have a look at them and see the justification for easing this means test on the rent allowance and for increasing it and extending it to other deserving people.
One of the very notable things about this legislation relates to the means test. Instead of taking measures to get rid of it we have introduced new means tests. What we have in fact done is to make utter confusion out of what was already confusion. Most people have had great difficulty in following the application of the means test, and what difficulties they had in the past will be only small fry compared with what they have to contend with in this legislation. This comes from a Minister who has talked so much and written so much in newspaper articles and so on about the immorality, the injustice and the lack of economy in the imposition of the means test.
– Did he not say so in Queensland just recently?
– It is true that he said so recently in Queensland. I think, to do him justice, that he personally believes that the means test is immoral, unjust and uneconomic. As a matter of fact, only a couple of years ago in support of the tapered means test, which was some move towards abolishing the means test, he said:
In this field the proposal for a ‘tapered means test’, which is incorporated in the present Budget, is in itself the greatest step forward yet taken, to encourage thrift, self-help and self-reliance’ not only among pensioners but, even more importantly, throughout the whole community.
I approved of what he had to say on that occasion. This Bill, though, is a complete repudiation of what was said on that occasion. The Minister went on to say in a later part of that speech in 1969 about the tapered means test:
I have often heard the Minister say that in fact abolishing the means test would not cost nearly as much as a lot of people might think and that by increasing productivity and by discouraging people from spending their money abroad in order that they might come within the purview of the means test and by helping to stabilise our balance of payments position the abolition of the means test would be a good thing. This Bill is a complete repudiation of that whole philosophy. One of the sore points that I have struck in dealing with pensioners in respect of the means test is the fact that money paid in taxation is included in the calculation of the means test. Where a person earns some income by working, even though part of that income is lost in tax, the whole amount, including money paid in tax, is still regarded as income for means test purposes. I think that is most unfair. The Government gets the money; so why assume that it still belongs to the pensioner and use it to reduce his pension.
I am afraid that time is passing me by but one of the things I would like to advocate strongly is the setting up df an inquiry into the operation of the whole social services structure. There is an obvious need to examine the whole hotch potch of our social welfare programme. There is a need to establish some rationale about the whole thing. As the honourable member for Perth said, we have to clarify what it is that we aim to do. What level of help ought we give? What provision ought there be for updating regularly our social service payments? To what criteria ought that updating be related? Who should get the fringe benefits and who should provide them? At the present time the provision of a lot of them is left to municipal councils and like bodies. Should we say that fringe benefits are a demeaning influence? Should we have a contributory scheme? Should we in fact be doing something about abolishing the means test and introducing a national superannuation scheme? I was very disappointed indeed today to see every Government supporter vote against the move by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) to set up a select committee of this Parliament to inquire into the best means of establishing a national superannuation scheme. This is a sorry day for many people outside the Parliament who have been encouraged by the Minister to believe that something was about to happen in regard to national superannuation. Not only is it not happening but the Minister, on behalf of the Government, and every honourable member who supported him, today renounced any move to do anything in that regard.
There are many things that I would have liked to have said on this Bill but which will have to wait till a later occasion. But I do want, before I finish, to stress the important points the Labor Party has been advocating in respect of social security. We believe that pensions should be at least 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. We strongly urge that they be regularly and automatically adjusted - at least once a year. I mentioned in a previous speech that many countries make such regular adjustments. As I said earlier, the pension should be made portable so that people can take it overseas if they need to do so.
There ought to be a national superannuation scheme set up at the earliest possible opportunity and there should be a progressive abolition of the means test. There ought to be a comprehensive inquiry into the present patchwork scheme with its many inequalities and inequities and the present departmental inquiries ought not be kept secret but ought to be made available to the public to peruse and to discuss. I refer to inquiries that have recently been made in the Department of Social Services such as the one about the care of the aged in Australia. Those things should not be kept a secret but should be made public. I support the Labor Party’s programme to set up autonomous regional departments of welfare which will involve the co-operation of State, local and Federal authorities. I would like to see community service agencies such as we see operating in the City of Newcastle. These may be linked also with the Labour Party’s programme for a genuine national health scheme and a national hospitals commission. We urge too that consideration be given to the welfare of the mentally and physically handicapped and I hope that full notice will be taken of the recent inquiry carried out by the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare into this subject.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the Bill before the House. I feel sure that all Government supporters are in agreement with an increase in pensions but the main problem is just how much can be provided and from what source it will be derived. As there are 1,000,000 pensioners in this country, an increase of $1 a week means an increase in budgetary expenditure of $60m. We have been criticised by the Opposition for a supposed lack of financial support for social services. An examination of the exact position most certainly does not reveal this to be so. In fact, expenditure in the Budget on social welfare and repatriation is the largest single item of Commonwealth expenditure. As a matter of fact it is the largest amount provided for social welfare in the history of the Commonwealth. The provision of social services, repatriation benefits, health services, housing and other welfare activities will require an expenditure of $2,095m. This is almost $268m more than last year and $78m of this increased amount represents current improvements in social welfare.
Pensioners in the main are people who have helped develop this country, paid their taxes, reared their families and in their years of retirement, are entitled to social services pensions to provide them for their needs and requirements. I believe - and I genuinely say this - that this Government has, after careful investigation and consideration, granted increases to pensioners after having listed government priorities in order of national importance, having had due regard to other important items of government such as education, defence, health, housing and matters concerning the development of Australia. Every year this Government has increased payments to pensioners. This fact has been noted and appreciated by these people.
I meet many pensioners in my travels throughout my. huge electorate. In most instances they are happy people. Many pensioners also appreciate the many fringe benefits which are available to them such as rebates on municipal rates, concessions on rail fares, television, radio and many others and also the services provided by the Meals on Wheels organisation. These benefits help pensioners enjoy their retirement.
I know that there has been a certain amount of repetition in the debate on this Bill. However, I feel that it is good that we should have a look at the provisions relating to the increases provided under the
Bill. I intend to go through the provisions one by one because I believe that if any repetition arises it relates to the increases that have been allocated to the various pensioners.
Firstly, the standard rate pension will be increased by Si. 25 per week for those on full pension. Some part-pensioners will receive part of this increase and the basic new rate will be $17.25 per week. Secondly, the married rate of pension - applicable also to B Class widows - will be increased by $1 per week for those on full pension. Some part-pensioners will receive part of this increase. The basic new rate will be $15.25 per week, or $30.50 per week for a married couple. Thirdly, the wife’s allowance - and this includes allowances payable for unemployment and sickness - will increase by $1 per week. Fourthly, the adult rate for long-term sickness benefit will increase by $1.25 per week, and the junior rate by 75c per week. Fifthly, the rate of child endowment for the third and each subsequent child under 16 years of age in a family is to be increased by 50c per week. Sixthly, the rate of child endowment for each child under 16 years of age in an approved institution is to be increased by 50c per week. Finally, children’s allowances for age, invalid and widow pensioners and for unemployment and sickness beneficiaries will increase by $2 per week for the first child and by $1 per week for each other child. This will bring the allowance to a uniform $4.50 per week for all these children. Those are the increased rates that are applicable under this Bill.
Pension and allied increases will benefit over 1 million pensioners at a cost of $66m. It is interesting to have a look at the number of pensioners in their various classifications and the amount that they will be receiving under this Bill. There are 683,000 age pensioners who will receive $40,300,000; 119,000 invalid pensioners who will receive $7,300,000; 76,000 widow pensioners who will receive $4,400,000; 5,000 long term sickness pensioners who will receive $300,000; 31,000 in the classification of wives of pensioners and beneficiaries who will receive $1,700,000; and 155,000 children of pensioners and beneficiaries who will receive $12m. This means that a total of 1,069,000 pensioners will receive $66m. The increase in child endowment will cost about $26,500,000 and will benefit 1,020,000 children in about 610,000 families.
The total annual cost of the benefits included in the Bill is about $92m. I was impressed with the matter brought forward by the honourable member for Holt (Mr Reid), who spoke about the need for members of a family to look after and care for aged parents. I believe that this is a matter which requires examination by the Minister for Social Services and by the Government. No provision has been made in the Budget for an allowance to such people. I believe that if an allowance was made a pressing social problem could be solved. In many cases aged parents are cared for in nursing homes away from their families. If an allowance were given, these people could be looked after in their own home under normal family conditions and in a more satisfactory and happy atmosphere. If such an allowance were contained in the Budget it is felt that this step would be not only humane and christian but it would relieve the congestion in, and the financial problems of, hospitals and nursing homesThis is a proposition and should receive attention. I believe that it would be well, received by the people and families of this country. As the honourable member for Holt said, in many instances eastern countries can show us family care and respect for aged people which many of us would benefit by copying.
Between budgets, pension rates have risen over twice as fast as prices. This is a fact. It means that pensions as provided in this Budget will have an increasing purchasing power. If, in this Budget, the Minister had adjusted pensions strictly in accordance with prices, the .standard rate of pension would be only $16.34 per week and the married rate of pension would be $14-49 per week. Ever since 1949, when Labor lost office, the trend has been to increase pension rates faster than prices so that the real value of pensions continues to rise. I have an interesting table which shows the actual rate of pensions in 1949, the value of the 1949 rate at 1971 prices and the actual rate in 1971. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate this table in Hansard.
These increases will help to ease the financial burden faced by many families.
There are many other benefits and concessions provided by the Government that assist parents in maintaining children. The cost of revenue to the Government through providing concessional deductions for children in respect of education exceeds $250m a year. Through its various scholarship schemes the Commonwealth Government spends at least $40m a year. Assistance is given to families through the National Health Act. Health insurance rates for a family with children - however many children - are pegged at the rate applicable for a married couple without children. Special assistance is also provided for handicapped children and for children of pensioners. All these matters indicate the attitude of a responsible Government, which is to provide benefits in respect of children in a way which will help in making them better citizens of tomorrow. It is all very well for an opposition to criticise a government in regard to social benefits, but when one looks at the Government’s record I think one can say that the record stands up extremely well. I should like to commend the Minister on the drafting of the Bill and his sincerity and understanding in formulating the largest financial Social Services Bill in the history of the Commonwealth. I support the Bill.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) on behalf of the Opposition moved the following amendment:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: while not opposing the Bill, the House is of opinion that -
the increases proposed are inadequate,
social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living,
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
a joint select committee should be established to inquire into and report upon the social welfare needs of the Australian community’. 1 think that the House is indebted for the research done and for the substance of the speech made by the honourable member for Oxley in support of that amendment which deserves the support of all members of this Parliament. It is regrettable that the Government saw fit a short time ago to vote against the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders in order to allow the setting up of a committee to inquire into social welfare. 1 was a member of the Joint Social Security Committee of this Parliament for some years. It introduced, on a bipartisan basis, some of the great reforms in social services in the 1940s. The fact that the Committee was abandoned by the present Government’s predecessors is one of the most regrettable features of the social welfare system of this country because the Committee did commendable work. It provided great benefits for -the people and vast knowledge for members of the Parliament. Other Labor speakers on this side of the House have ably supported the honourable member for Oxley in presenting to the Australian people the case for a real social welfare programme and not the half baked, patched up propositions brought forward by the Government.
As I listened today to the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) and to the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) 1 came to the conclusion that no honourable member opposite has ever seen a pensioner, let alone lived with one. Do honourable members opposite realise what it is like to live on $17.25 a week? There are 160,000 pensioners doing it. Thousands of pensioners in my district live on this miserably mean income which this Government believes to be adequate at a time when the average wage is $91 a week. It is scandalous in the extreme, it is unforgivable politically and does not give any justification for the Government not to give an adequate pension to people who are eligible to receive one.
I had great hopes for the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) - we all did. I think that he is sincere, well intentioned and knowledgeable. I thought that all of these attributes fitted him to take his place in this Parliament as one of the great social welfare Ministers of our time. Of course, I was fortified in this view by the magnificent speeches which he made from the back bench and on his rise to power in the Liberal Party. I was also fortified in this view by the knowledge which he showed at that time. When he was appointed to the Ministry we on this side of the House thought that for once a Liberal Prime Minister - there have been so many since that time that I do not know who it was at that time - had picked the right man for the job. But what has happened? I know that the Minister is well intentioned, but he has no influence or any effect whatsoever on the Ministers - and one cannot say that he has not had plenty of Ministries to work on because they are changed like one changes his shirt; it is not the one team all the time. But the Minister has never been able to give effect in this Parliament to the expressions on social welfare which he so ably put to this Parliament in days gone by. Why, he has even thrown aside his baby which he showed could be reared almost overnight in the abolition of the means test without cost to the nation. His proposals for a national superannuation scheme have been repudiated publicly by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). Now he has introduced a half baked, patched up proposition, which is a shadow of the great programme which we thought he would introduce. With all the good intentions in the world he has proved conclusively to the Australian people and to pensioners in particular that the only way to get a social welfare programme, to which even he would subscribe, is to elect a Labor government in Australia.
Let us look at what the Minister said in his second reading speech. He said:
This Government places its greatest emphasis upon improvements in social welfare - under previous Liberal governments we have made great strides and under future Liberal governments will make even greater advances.
What a phoney proposition that is. Liberal governments have been in office for 22 years, but they still provide only a miserable $20 with which to bury pensioners when they die. That rate has never been changed in 25 or 26 years. As the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) said, in the case of a married pensioner couple, if the husband dies the spouse receives $40. The maternity allowance is still the same as it was when it was introduced 26 years ago. By heavens, there will be some old people in this country if they wait for great Liberal reforms, in line with the statements which have been made, to be given effect.
Today we are debating again in this House Liberal proposals which mean little to the vast majority of people- In the proposals which were announced by the Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) the most meagre provisions are reserved for the aged, widowed and invalid pensioners. The Government is providing for a rise of $1.25 a week to single pensioners, taking it to the princely sum of $17.25 a week, and $1 a week to a married person, making a pension of $15.25 a week. The wife’s allowance has been increased after a period of 3 years by $1 a week to $8 a week. I do not think that that would keep a dog in meat for a week in this day and age, but pensioner with a wife tied to the home, is expected to live on $8 a week. The increased social service benefits will cost $92m in a full year. They represent the very minimum to the most deserving section of the community. They come at a time when the average income of Australians is said to be more than $90 a week and when spiralling costs have forced prices and the cost of living to an all time high. They come at a time when every section of the community realises that those on pensions in thousands of cases are really in want in the fourth wealthiest nation in the world, as the honourable member for Oxley said. Yet what does the Government do? It gives this meagre increase to the most deserving section and completely repudiates its responsibility to our pioneers. 1 will go so far as to say that had there not been a possibility of an elections being held this year there would not have been any increases at all in social service benefits.
As I mentioned earlier, the Minister for Social Services, who is sympathetic but ineffective, receives scant consideration from the Cabinet in submissions for adequate social service benefits. That in itself is a great disappointment to him, to honourable members on this side of the House and to about one million people who thought that welfare benefits would be given as they require them. We find that the whole programme being outlined now, in the light of a Budget running into $8,000m, is niggardly in the extreme. Every dependent wife should receive a full pension in accordance with the policy -of the Australian Labor Party. To make matters worse, as has been said by other speakers, of the 878,000 age, invalid and widow pensioners in Australia, no fewer than 181,000 will receive no increase at all because of the means test, and another 27,000 will receive only part of the increase. Altogether 17 per cent of pensioners will get no benefit and 22 per cent of age pensioners will’ go without.
To summarise the position: No increase will be given to 148,000 age pensioners, 17,000 invalid pensioners and 16,000 widowed pensioners. This is a scandalous and unforgivable confidence trick on people who depend on a pension. Any government introducing legislation of this kind denying pensioners an increase must surely have forfeited the respect and support of every fair minded member of the community. There are many wealthy companies like the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, which earn profits of $80m and S90m a year and plenty of wealthy people who can well afford to pay more taxation in order to enable adequate pensions to be paid to those in need. It is to the eternal discredit of this Government t’:at it allows them to escape their responsibility at the expense of the suffering, the aged, the sick and the infirm. In Australia today to our eternal discredit great poverty exists amongst large numbers in the community. For instance, pensioners who have no income other than supplementary assistance and the $17.25 per week pension total approximately 160,000. A survey conducted by the Melbourne University not very long ago showed that one in 4 aged people live below the poverty line. To say the least these figures are very alarming yet they only indicate the true position.
Our social services which were once our pride have gradually deteriorated in purchasing power and benefit to such an extent that they do little more than maintain in a degree of poverty those unfortunate people in the community who may be aged, sick, widowed or unemployed. This is happening ‘ in an Australia that has unlimited potential and untapped natural resources. Australia was founded as a convict colony. Our forebears by energy and drive, suffering and sacrifice, worked to build an Australia in which all could enjoy social and economic security in the years ahead. This was a glorious heritage and everyone in this country today should be snaring in the Australia that they visualised and helped to build. There should be no poverty in Australia. It is the responsibility of any government to provide for those in need in keeping with their way of life.
We heard honourable members speaking of the situation in 1948 and comparing the pension rate of that time with the 1971 rate. Pensions should be set to provide a mode of living at the time a person receives the pension. It is wrong to compare the situation today with what existed in 1948 when television, radio and motor cars were virtually unknown in many homes. Today these items are a part of our way of life and pensions should be adequate to provide these necessities. I could refer to the situation in 1910 and say that the pension was dreadful compared with the 1948 level, but that is a silly argument. It is just plain silly to compare the pension rate of 1948 with the 1971 rate. It is true that there is poverty in other less fortunate countries to which we subscribe quite liberally but I want to make my position clear. I believe that charity begins at home and the first responsibility of a government is to its own people. Poverty should be eliminated firstly in Australia and it should be our aim to ensure that not one Australian lives in want and fear and that they should enjoy above all else freedom from hunger.
The Government has neglected its responsibility in this field. I believe that Australians should demand a drive to provide adequate social welfare benefits in line with the amendment moved by the Opposition in order that all should enjoy the prosperity and the wealth of Australia which at this time is shared by only the fortunate few. Many have never had it better. Many more have never had it worse. Let us begin at home and abolish poverty and ensure that the pioneers of this country and those in need shall be cared for and protected in their days of distress. By that I do not mean we should give them the pittance that is handed to them under this Bill. We accept gratefully the morsel that has fallen from the great Government’s table. We on this side have to accept it. The poor people who want it know that it is not adequate. We know this too but we cannot oppose the legislation and therefore we must accept it for those who are in need. Consequently I condemn the broad concept of this Government’s social welfare programme but not the few meagre dollars that it is handing out.
When one looks at the record of what this Government has not done in the field of social welfare one sees that these handouts are made just tq one section of the community. Earlier I referred to the wife’s allowance. It is 3 years since this allowance was increased and 5 years earlier it went from S6 to $7. The guardian’s allowance which was introduced in 1965 has never been increased and it probably will not be increased. It was introduced because an election was in the offering at that time. The supplementary assistance commenced at $1 in 1958 but it was not increased for 7 years when it went to $2. It has not been increased in the last 6 years. There are 160,000 people who are dependent on that meagre handout.
Looking at some of the other items I see an allowance of $20 for funeral benefits. As was mentioned the other day in this place, it ought to be at least $160. The Government has neglected its responsibility in regard to child endowment for the first child; also the unemployment benefit. A man who leaves his job at $40, $50 or $60 a week and who is unemployed for any length of time gets the princely sum of $10. Recently an increase was made to the benefit for an unemployed junior. This benefit is now S6.75 but it had not been increased since 1969 and the last increase before that was in 1957 - a period of 12 years. This is the pattern of the development of Liberal policies on social welfare.
If the Government is to achieve the type of society which we want to live in where poverty is abolished and people will be able to live with a reasonable degree of security it will have to move at a faster rate than it is moving at the present time. We on this side are not the only ones who condemn the treatment which the pensioners receive in Australia today. I have in my hand a letter from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation signed by Irene Ellis, the national honorary secretary. That circular, which was sent to all members of this Parliament, states:
Firstly, in view of inflation, and in fact, pensioners will become the defenceless victims of the very budgetary measures proposed by your Government - increased telephone charges, postal charges and 2 cents a gallon on petrol will add to inflation and rising prices and largely nullify the Budget pension increases. The Government giving with one hand and taking back with the other by the method of indirect taxation.
That letter further states:
This Federation calls for an immediate examination of the whole Australian social service structure and the appointment of a committee to carry out a full scale public inquiry into providing a more humane and equitable pensions system.
The letter - a copy of which was sent to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) - also stated:
Pending this legislation your Government should immediately:
Amend the Budget to provide for an increase of $5.00 per week in social service pensions and to provide $5 per week for the dependent wife.
Cancel Budget proposals for increases in indirect taxation - telephone, postal, petrol etc.
Grant a 50 per cent reduction on telephone rental, call charges and installation to pensioners.
Time does not permit me in this debate to deal with all these points but here is evidence of condemnation from the organisation set up to protect these people. The Government has plenty of money for everything but what should be its first priority. It has plenty of money for that remarkable aeroplane the Fill that does not fly. That has meant about $500m down the drain. The Government has plenty of money to send men to Vietnam to take part in a war in which they should never have been engaged. The Government has spent a lot of dollars in putting a water spout in Lake Burley Griffin which shoots water 400 feet into the air. Last year the Government gave $27m to the pensioners by way of benefits and it gave $100m to 100,000 wool growers. That is where the Government’s priority lies. Certainly the wool growers were entitled to the benefit. They received roughly $1,000 per head but the pensioners each got 50c.
The Government should get its priorities in order and ensure that those in need, as the Minister for Social Services has said, receive concessions. Taxation concessions are granted to people in this country who do not need them. These people should be forced to pay more tax in order to remove the anomalies that exist. Today, more so than ever before, one almost needs to have a university degree to work out what the pension rate will be. Today when a person asks me what he is entitled to by way of pension I say to him: ‘Bring in your bank book, a list of your assets and we will sit down and work it out together.’ It is so complicated that the average person cannot work it out. Instead of abolishing the means test and instead of removing the anomalies which exist in this area the Government has retained the means test and built up the anomalies again and again.
In the limited time left to me in this debate 1 want to make a few comments in regard to this very important legislation. I represent thousands upon thousands of persons who are entirely dependent on the pension. I live amongst them and I see them. These people live in want in a great and prosperous country. Any government, from whichever side of this House it comes, that does not give to these people an equitable pension to enable them to live with a measure of security and comfort in this day and age is not fulfilling its national responsibilities. Regrettably I say to the Minister for Social Services, who has the best intentions in the world, that you have failed because of the gloomy collection of men behind you in the Ministry who do not witness the plight of the pensioners. The honourable member for Isaacs and his friends live in splendour in areas such as Toorak and St Kilda. They do not know the problems of the people in the metropolis of Sydney - in the inner city areas and suburbs. That is why the Minister finds it difficult, because these are the types of men the Liberal Party puts in the Ministry. They are the kind of people the Minister must convince, and they do not even know the problems which he is facing.
I accept with whatever gratitude I can express the morsel that has been given to those people who are dependent on pensions and social services but I condemn the Government for not accepting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) earlier today. I believe that the Government deserves general condemnation for the contempt in which it has held the pioneers of this country, who made the nation and yet today are denied a reasonably respectable place in society and a reasonable standard of living. Again let me say that I support enthusiastically the amendment of the Opposition. I hope that for once in a way we will see that Liberal independence whereby honourable members opposite can vote as they like - cross the floor and say anything - and nothing will happen to them. For once, let them cast an intelligent vote and support the Opposition’s amendment.
– I rise to support the Social Services Bill and oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for all the effort he has applied in this instance. Of course, we on this side of the House would have liked the Bill to go further but the Minister has endeavoured to meet the situation where the need is greatest. The Opposition has made great play of a national superannuation fund. It is, of course, easy for the Opposition to promise something it knows full well it will never have to inaugurate. The Opposition works on hypothetical figures with never a chance of creating a scheme that will stand investigation by actuaries and mathematicians. The Government Members Social Services Committee has been working on the production of a national superannuation fund since and before I entered this House in 1963. The present Minister for Social Services, who is a mathematician of no mean ability and at one time was economic adviser to the New South Wales Government, presented 2 schemes to the Committee in 1965. The first dealt with annuities which are popular and accepted in other countries but not in Australia. As a bank manager I had many inquiries from people wishing to protect themselves after their retirement. The first difficulty was the provision of money value say some 30 years after they purchased an annuity or subscribed for an annuity over a period. The other difficulty was that an annuity ends with the death of the beneficiary. Most Australians could not accede to this. They always desired to be able to provide or leave their dependants some money and for this reason annuities have never taken on to the extent here that they have overseas.
The other scheme propounded by the present Minister for Social Services was a straightout superannuation fund. He had put much time and work into setting up the framework of such a fund. As I remember it, it was the first 3 or 4 years of such a fund that caused the difficulty in implementing the scheme. It would not be possible or desirable for 2 schemes to be operating or running at the same time. It would have to be one or the other - a pension scheme such as we now have or a superannuation fund. As I pointed out in my address on the Budget, we have difficulty in establishing a superannuation fund in Australia because we are not a settled community. The influx of adult people each year in the middle age group and beyond offers some difficulty but not an insurmountable difficulty. A great many people are covered by private superannuation funds in Australia and it would be difficult for the Government to match these funds. Some of the private superannuation funds have been in force for over 100 years and their accumulated funds are tremendous. These funds have been built up by contributions from employees and are heavily subsidised by employers. The pension paid is supplemented by the employers to ensure that its purchasing power is equal to that of the original pension paid for on retirement.
Some years ago Australia had a social services tax. I do not know exactly why it was suspended but had the money raised by the tax been set aside and wisely invested it would now have proved a foundation on which to set up a superannuation fund. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) spoke disparagingly of what he called privately owned insurance companies. The major insurance companies in Australia - of course, I am referring to life assurance - with the exception of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd are all mutual companies or associations which means that their entire funds are held for the benefit of the policy holders. No profits or dividends are paid to anyone. Each year a bonus is declared and added to the amount insured which is payable at the termination of the policy, either at death or at a specified age. However, the companies do grant loans against what they call the surrender value of a policy.
One thing that stands out like a beacon is that whatever the Government legislates to do or to pay to pensioners, it will do. It will not be pie in the sky as is offered by the Opposition. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services but, as I have mentioned, 1 would have liked the Bill to have gone further especially in regard to those people who are subject to the means test. However, it must always be remembered that it was this Government which first brought in the merged means test and, latterly, the tapered means test whereby a married couple, with means as assessed up to $65 a week, would attract a part pension until such time as the income with means as assessed reached $70 a week when the pension would cease. This is a good effort which has been initiated by this Government and I am positive that this position will improve gradually to the point when the only people excluded will be those whose incomes make them independent of any assistance the Government is providing. To shout from the housetops that the means test will be abolished in its entirety is so much hogwash and kite flying- This Government is out to assist where the need is the greatest and progressively to improve the position of those people. I state unequivocally and without any reservation that to abolish the means test in its entirety can be done only at the expense of those people deserving our greatest attention and those who are in the greatest need.
We heard a clamour some years ago and even up to 1969 that the pension should be equated to the consumer price index. Had the Government done this, pensioners over a number of years would have been $2 to $3 worse off each week. The basic pension is considerably higher than it was at this time last year. That is good, but I would like to see it further improved. However, it is higher than it has ever been in the history of Australia. The increase in the consumer price index during 1970-71 was 5.4 per cent. The standard rate pension rose during the same period by 11.3 per cent, from $15.50 to $17.25 and the married rate pension by 10.9 per cent, from $13.75 to $15.25. In his second reading speech the Minister for Social Services said:
Ever since 1949, when Labor lost office, the trend has been to increase pension rates faster than prices, so that the real value of the pension continues to rise. If the old Chifley pension had been adjusted strictly in accordance with prices, it would today be only $10.80 a week. The difference between that figure and the rates now proposed is one measure of the increase in the real value of the pension during this period. It does not, of course, measure the whole of the improvement, since in addition we have brought in supplementary assistance and extra allowances for children, besides introducing new fringe benefits whose average value is of the order of $5 a week.
I am sure that the Minister would have liked to have gone further in this legislation. But the facts of life have to be faced. In the circumstances, I congratulate him on the measure that he has introduced into the House.
– A number of speakers on the Government side this afternoon have tried to justify these very inadequate social service increases on the grounds that by comparison with rising costs and payments made during the time of the Chifley Government things are better than they were. But that is not the point. The point is that we are dealing with tens of thousands of people who simply cannot provide a reasonable and civilised living standard in a community that is exceedingly affluent, in which very great profits are being made and in which unprecedented wages are being earned. That is the whole point about these social service increases. In fact, at the end of this financial year many people will be worse off than they were originally because of the inflationary effect that this Budget will have both directly in the charges that it imposes and indirectly through the effect that it will have on the economy.
I would like briefly to refer to a subject that I have mentioned before. It is the position of the aged blind in the home at Bendigo called Mirridong. It is a situation about which I am very concerned. The 32 people resident at this institution are on the average 80 years of age. The Commonwealth has put itself in the extraordinary position of assisting the institution with its capital costs to provide extra nursing accommodation for 20 people. What is extraordinary about the situation is that although the Commonwealth has assisted with the capital costs, it has not assisted with the recurrent costs with the result that the Mirridong Home for the Aged Blind in Bendigo can still accommodate only 32 aged blind instead of the 50 for which it is suited.
I have made representations to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on this subject. Unfortunately, I have not received the constructive and satisfactory reply that I expected to receive. The result is that the financial position of Mirridong’ is deteriorating so rapidly that after about the end of October it could be forced into a position of having to close. This is so for one simple reason: It is that while wage increases are taking place at a tremendous rate the income of the home remains static. In fact, it has no more than $4,000 in its reserve account to carry on for the present financial year. I and the executives of this institution do not see how the institution can carry on. When the new wing was opened in March of this year it was hoped that it would provide accommodation for an extra 20 people. But the committee which runs Mirridong decided that it had better suspend action and see what benefits were contained in the Budget, and consider whether it could finance extra residents in this new wing. Unfortunately, the Budget was a great disappointment. It is quite impossible at present to foresee how this institution will even be able to cater for its present number beyond October.
Here is an example of what has been happening in the field of rising costs. Weekly bed costs have risen rapidly by almost 50 per cent since 1968-69. In Mirridong average bed costs in 1968-69 were $44.51 a week. They rose in 1969-70 to $49.49 and in 1970-71 to $64.25. A very substantial increase has occurred, mainly accounted for by increases in wages. Of course, that is a problem that results from Commonwealth policies - the Government’s failure to control inflation in the community. The aged blind living in Mirridong are being made victims of that failure by this Government to meet its own responsibilities because they cannot cope with the increasing costs.
For example, in 1970 there was a wage increase which amounted to about 4 per cent, but in December 1970 there was a very substantial increase of 18 per cent. In 1971 there was the national wage increase of 6 per cent. Recently, another increase has been announced which could cost the institution an extra $6,240. This has caused a very serious situation. As I say, the Mirridong home has no more than $4,000 in its reserve account to carry on for the present financial year. The Minister for Social Services is sitting at the table. I would like him to look at this subject very urgently because it is a very important matter. My correspondence with the Minister shows that he has not done as much as he could do in relation to this matter.
I turn to another subject which is also very important. It is still in the field of health care for the aged. This Budget has been a severe disappointment to organisations that are in charge of public and private care of the aged in Australia, and in particular in Victoria. Many of the people who run these organisations were led to believe that there would be an increase in the subsidies paid towards the care of the aged. They were led to believe, or certainly had some grounds for hoping, that there would be an increase in expenditure by the Commonwealth Government on the capital development of public nursing homes. They also had grounds for hoping that nursing home accommodation in the future would be covered within the system of voluntary health insurance. On each of these 3 counts they have been grossly disappointed.
This Budget shows utter neglect for the needs of the aged ill and infirm. I instance what has been happening in the field of public nursing homes in Victoria. One has only to look at the figures provided by the Hospitals and Charities Commission of Victoria to see how vastly inadequate is the provision for the aged ill and infirm in Victorian public institutions. One has only to compare 2 figures to see this. Since 30th June 1968 the number on the waiting list has risen from 4.653 to an estimated 7,500 at 30th June 1971. So there has in fact been a 50 per cent increase in the waiting list.
By comparison the number of nursing beds has increased in the same period by only slightly less than 5 per cent. At 30th June 1968 in Victorian public nursing homes there were 3,820 beds. In 1971 there were only 4,000 beds - an increase of a mere 180 - while the waiting list had increased by one half to approximately 3,000. What we should have in Victoria ideally is at least a tripling of the amount of accommodation for the aged ill and infirm in public nursing homes, but in fact all that we have is not a 200 per cent increase but a mere 4.7 per cent increase in the number of beds.
I instance the situation in my electorate merely to give an example. In Bendigo and Castlemaine we have 2 very fine public nursing homes. We have the Bendigo Home and Hospital for the Aged and the Alexander Home and Hospital for the Aged at Castlemaine. Altogether 698 people are accommodated and cared for in those 2 institutions. They have a combined waiting list of 586, but the interesting thing is that for at least 4 years now both of those institutions have had drawn up plans which would provide extra accommodation for a combined total of 268. If those plans had been implemented, one half of the waiting list of those 2 institutions would have been catered for. But the money has not been made available from the State Government to meet its responsibilities and the waiting lists continue to lengthen. There is a combined waiting list of 586. A person can wait up to 2 years to get into one of these nursing homes in Bendigo and Castlemaine.
One of the very interesting things is that in the city of Bendigo, where there is project for 6 additional storeys above the day hospital at the Home and Hospital for the Aged, it was planned to accommodate an extra 168 people. The people of Bendigo 4 years ago contributed $100,000 for a project which was estimated to cost about $1.5m. So the people of Bendigo have already met their responsibility, but the money is still lying idle because Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, will not allow the Hospitals and Charities Commission to release this money for the aged ill. I will reveal the situation behind this later on.
What could we have expected? What were people reasonably entitled to expect? The first thing we were entitled to expect was an increase in nursing benefits because the main problem with nursing homes is not merely the capital expenditure in putting the institutions up but more importantly it is maintaining them once they have been constructed. The main source of funds for this work is the Commonwealth. In fact it is not possible for more nursing homes to be put up in any State without an increased grant from the Commonwealth Government for maintenance costs. In Victoria we have a subsidy of $2 a day for aged ambulatory patients in nursing homes. This subsidy has remained unchanged since 1962, when it was made available to all patients. In 1958 the $2 a day was made available to those who had private health insurance. It is interesting to note that in 1958, when the $2 a day for each patient was made available, the single rate pension was $8.25. Thirteen years later the single rate pension has doubled to $17.25, but the $2 a day provided by the Commonwealth remains the same. At the same time the $5 a day intensive care benefit has remained the same since 1969.
Unless these benefits are increased or more money is made available directly to State governments the chaos in public nursing homes throughout Australia will continue. To see how grossly unfair these benefits are one has only to compare them with other benefits. For a public general hospital the Commonwealth makes available a $2 a day subsidy, and with hospital benefits it makes available $13 a day for public ward accommodation and up to $28 a day for private ward accommodation.
Yet the Government draws this grossly artificial distinction between conventional acute illness and the illnesses associated with old age. This is unreasonable and inequitable.
We can see an example of the decreasing impact of the Commonwealth subsidy on the financing of these institutions by looking at the Castlemaine Alexander Home and Hospital for the Aged. In 1969 the Commonwealth contribution met 24.2 per cent of the running costs of this institution. By 1971 this figure had dropped back to 21.2 per cent. All the Commonwealth has to do is merely maintain its subsidy at the present rate and these institutions will be strangled. This is what is happening. In 1969- 70 26.8 per cent of the running costs of the Mirridong Home for the Aged Blind were being met by the Commonwealth. In 1970- 71 this figure had dropped to 19.1 per cent. To deal with this problem requires capital grants to the States for nursing homes. This was recommended by the Senate Select Committee on Medical and Hospital Costs, which said that it was unreasonable that there was such small development in public nursing homes and that this could be rectified only by the Commonwealth’s making unmatched grants to the State governments. This is what the Commonwealth Government has not done.
It was also reasonable to expect that nursing home hospital care, in the framework of this Government’s philosophy, would have been included in the voluntary health scheme. This has not been done. The result is that if a person cannot get into a public nursing home he must go to either a private hospital or a private nursing home. I understand that at present in Victoria the minimum weekly cost in a private nursing home is $66. A person’s pension and the Commonwealth subsidy cannot make up that cost. In other States the average weekly cost would be a minimum of $45. In addition private hospitals do not provide the occupational therapy, physiotherapy and the various other paramedical types of care that the public nursing homes provide.
I end this section of my speech by quoting from the Victorian Council for the Aging, the Victorian Association of Homes and Hospitals for the Aged and the Victorian Council of Social Services, who wrote this telegram to the Federal Treasurer reflecting their frustration and disappointment at this Budget:
The undersigned co-ordinating organisations representing those non-profit bodies responsible for all aspects of care for aged and infirm people express the bitter disappointment of their members at the disregard in’ the Budget of the needs of the elderly who require supervised accommodation and nursing or domiciliary care. Our sense of shock is the more profound because of “he courtesy with which our many submissions and deputations were received and the understanding that Ministers showed at the problem. End result of this will inevitably lead to a reduction in the volume and the quality of the care given to sick aged pensioners by voluntary and State nursing homes and a consequent undermining of the function of the Aged Persons Homes Act. 1 think everything they say in that telegram is entirely true. Finally I make some reference to the dispute that has existed for 2 years now between the Government of Victoria and the Commonwealth Government over the Victorian Government’s refusal to participate in the Commonwealth Government’s system of comprehensive care for the aged. This is quite a disgraceful and scandalous situation. Sir Henry Bolte is making aged people hostages in his stand and deliver campaign against the Commonwealth Government. What Sir Henry Bolte is saying is that the Victorian Government will not accept Commonwealth money for the care of the aged until the Commonwealth Government produces a financial relationship with the States that is satisfactory to the Victorian Government. That quite clearly is blackmail.
It is the aged people who are becoming victims of Sir Henry Bolte’s running battle with the Commonwealth over financial responsibility. It is a scandalous and intolerable situation. The result is that the Victorian Government has now denied aged people in that State of at least $1,159,600 over 2 years, and possibly towards $1m, through refusing to take part in the scheme. For example, under the States Grants (Nursing Homes) Act introduced in May 1969, more than 2 years ago, Sir Henry Bolte has deprived Victoria of $549,000. Under the provisions of the States Grants Paramedical Services Bill 1969 he has deprived Victoria of $136,000 and under the provisions of the States Grants (Home Care) Bill 1969 he has deprived Victoria of an estimated $274,000 for housekeeper and borne help services and perhaps $200,000 “for senior citizens centres. It is not possible to estimate how much he has caused Victoria to lose in subsidies for welfare officers at senior citizens’ centres. This battle has gone on now for 2 years. The Commonwealth Government is making available money which is urgently required by aged people in Victoria but Sir Henry Bolte refuses to allow it to be provided to them. I do not blame him for everything because, as the Senate Select Committee pointed out, this assistance, particularly for nursing homes, should be provided on an unmatched basis. But the point is that almost Sim which has been made available over 2 years has been denied to the aged people who are being sacrificed because of Sir Henry’s political disputes with his comrades in the Liberal Party.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Social Services Act 1947-1970 which the Bill before the House proposes to amend covers a number of items ranging from birth to death - from maternity allowances to funeral benefits. The Government proposes very small increases in just a few of the benefits but completely ignores the remainder, many of which should have been increased considerably quite a long time ago. A very substantial number of recipients, including the best part of 200,000’ pensioners, will receive exactly nothing from the proposed amendments and, as a result of Government action in other areas, they will now be much worse off. Even where increases are given, such as in endowment for families of 3 or more children, a very large part, if not all, of that increase will be regathered by the Treasury through increased charges imposed by the Government upon several articles which the majority of families find necessary to purchase. I refer to the additional excise placed on tobacco, cigarettes and petrol and to the increased charges placed on postage stamps, telephone calls and rentals, television and radio licences, chemists prescriptions and so on, all of which place, a far greater burden on the poor than upon the rich. The very people for whom the Government pretends concern, the largs families, will be hit the hardest.
The Government apparently considers it should be applauded for what the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) describes as social service payments at a record level. The Government wants people to believe that because social service payments are now higher than they have been before the people receiving those benefits are better off than they have ever been. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course, the fact is that the cost of living has also reached a record high and pensioners and other recipients of social services are no better off and in most cases are much worse off in terms of the value of benefits they receive than they were several years ago. This was made very clear by the pensioners in the resolution of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation Conference in May of this year. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) referred to that in his speech. I want to make it clear that the pensioners’ views have not changed as a result of the proposals now before us and I quote from the letter sent to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) by the Federation on 27th August of this year. It said:
On behalf of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation this Federation condemns the failure of your Government in the 1971-72 Budget to pay due regard to humane and social values …
It continues: . . pensioners will become the defenceless victims of the very budgetary measures proposed by your Government - increased telephone charges, postal charges and 2 cents a gallon on petrol will add to inflation and rising prices and largely nullify the Budget pension increases. The Government giving with one hand and taking back with the other by the method of indirect taxation.
Further on it continues:
It is clear from the provisions of the 1971-72 Budget that your Government is continuing the policy of patching up the outmoded social services structure of our country and indeed creates further inequalities and injustices within the present structure by denying a pension increase to a large number of pensioners.
This Federation calls for an immediate examination of the whole Australian Social Service structure and the appointment of a Committee to carry out a full scale public inquiry into providing a more humane and equitable pensions system.
Those remarks certainly do not show any signs of enthusiasm for the Government’s policy. As you would know yourself, Mr
Deputy Speaker, the pensioners in Western Australia have also called for the setting up of a committee of inquiry. This can be seen from an article in yesterday’s edition of the ‘West Australian”. The article said:
Pensioners in Western Australia called for the Commonwealth Government to appoint a Senate committee of inquiry to look at anomalies in the Social Service Act causing distress to pensioners.
They also want the committee to assess what proportion of the average wage a pensioner should receive.
So it is quite obvious that if we want to see justice done to social service recipients it is necessary to arrive at proper amounts and proper guidelines for the future. What belter way of achieving this is there than by setting up a committee of inquiry? The Government had the opportunity to do this today in this House by supporting the proposal of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). Instead it completely rejected and ignored the requests of the pensioners.
If we look at what has happened in the field of social services over the last few years it becomes quite obvious that the present Government during its 20-odd years in power has never made or attempted to make any detailed or close study of what is actually required to improve or even retain the purchasing power of the benefits or allowances in the Act. It is clear that the Government has no plan, system or pattern in what it does. It adopts a simple hit or miss attitude and it would be a safe bet that there is not one honourable member on the Government side who could tell us how the Government arrived at the increases of $1.25 and $1 in some pensions or the increase of $1 in the wife’s allowance. I was rather interested to compare those increases with the Government’s decision to double the charge for prescriptions under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) gave this explanation:
The charge payable by patients has been SO cents since the charge was adopted in 1960. A charge of SO cents appropriate eleven years ago, cannot be regarded as appropriate today. Accordingly, the Government proposes to introduce legislation to increase the charge to one dollar.
That doubles the charge of 1960. Had the Government decided to follow the same line of thinking with regard to pensioners it would have increased age and invalid pensions for both single and married couples to $20 a week and the pensions for B and C class widows to $17.50 a week. But apparently it uses a very different yardstick when measuring items of revenue than it uses on items of expenditure. The fact is that the cost of living has been steadily increasing ever since this Government took office and the value of the £1 and subsequently the value of the $1 has been steadily decreasing. No-one can deny that. Surely we are entitled to assume that each item of benefit now in the Social Services Act was inserted with the idea and for the purpose of assisting financially the persons concerned. If this is correct then surely it is simple logic that if the assistance is to be retained at only its original level of purchasing value there must be an increase in the amount of that assistance or benefit of each item at least once each year, measured against the overall standard of living. But this does not happen under the haphazard methods adopted by the Government. Tt obviously has no concern for the value of a benefit or its real purpose.
The situation under this Government is one in which an increase in benefits is made sometimes once a year, sometimes once every 2 years, sometimes once in 3 years or 10 years, and in some cases never. For instance, with regard to married couple age and invalid pensioners, and widow pensioners, from 5th October 1961 up to 1st October 1964 there was no increase in the amount of pension, and similarly between 1st October 1964 and 13th October 1966. From 5th October 1961 until 13th October 1966 only one increase was given, and that was only 50c. Yet during the 3 years and the 2 years in which there had been no increase in pension there had been, on the other side of the ledger, a substantial increase in the cost of living. Therefore the pensioner couples obviously suffered a reduction in their living standard during the years referred to, and they have never caught up.
Other items in the Social Services Act such as the wife’s allowance and allowances for the first child of pensioners have gone as long as 9 years without any increase, with a total increase of only $2.35 over a period of 20 years, or an average of 12c a year. As for child endowment for the first child and the second child, the maternity allowance and the funeral benefit, it is anybody’s guess as to how many years will elapse before we see any alteration in those items. Child endowment for the first child has not increased during the past 21 years. The maternity allowance and the S20 funeral benefit have not changed during the past 26 years. Even the funeral benefit paid to the surviving partner of a pensioner couple who is responsible for the burial of his or her partner has not altered over the past 6 years even though funeral costs have increased considerably.
Supplementary assistance has not increased either during that same period of 6 years despite the increase in rents. The guardian’s allowance remains the same as it was 6 years ago. Quite obviously the Government is in no way concerned about the diminishing value of the several benefits. No doubt this is why it has never bothered to determine a proper formula or base rate and why it is not interested in setting up a committee of inquiry. As I said, even if we wanted only to ensure the retention of the original purchasing power of pensions and allowances it would certainly be necessary to have regular reviews. But even if that proposal is accepted, it is not sufficient in itself, because, to my knowledge anyway, there has never been since this Government took office a proper inquiry or study to determine what the purchasing power should be. This being the case, it is quite wrong and indeed irresponsible simply to measure today’s payments or the proposed payments against those of, say, 1949, as the Minister did, and say that they compare quite favourably.
The plain fact is that the payments were not sufficient in 1940 under this Government. They were not sufficient in 1950 under this Government. They were not sufficient in 1960, and they are certainly nowhere near sufficient today. Experience over the past 30 years has made it abundantly clear that pensioners and others will not receive their proper entitlements until such time as a full inquiry is carried out to ascertain where benefits are required and what the commencing amounts should be. Actually, this Government has no intention of making regular and proper adjustments to the several social service items, whether in relation to cost of living, purchasing power, average male weekly earnings or anything else. The Minister made this quite clear when he said:
In recent years, each Budget has laid special emphasis upon one aspect, in accordance with an overall plan. This Budget, as 1 have said, is especially oriented towards the needs of dependent children.
This obviously means, if we look at past performances, that pensioners can forget about any further increases in child allowance for at least the next 3 years, or even perhaps for the next 7 years. Mothers can forget about any further increase in child endowment for at least 5 years, and perhaps 8 years. They can forget altogether, about the possibility of any increase for the first and second child. I say this because the Minister referred to an overall plan and because the last increase for the first child of a pensioner was in 1968, and before that in 1961. For the second, and other children the last increase was in 1969, and there was a period between 1963 and 1968 when there were no increases given at all.
With regard to child endowment the increase now proposed for the third child is the first since 1964 and, for the fourth child, since 1967. As the increase in child endowment this time applies only in cases where there are more than 2 children in a family and as the amount is only 50c, at a time when the Government places emphasis on children’s needs, it must be pretty obvious that any increase daring the next 4 years or so will be very small indeed, if there is any increase at all. Certainly there can be no thought about yearly adjustments. The Minister also said in his second reading speech:
The standard of the Australian community as a whole has risen and pension recipients should share in that rise.
That is quite an interesting comment which suggests that in the Government’s view the general community standard has increased very considerably. If that is the Government’s claim then, considering the very meagre increase in pensions - for instance, an increase of $8.25 in the rate for a married couple over a period of 15 years and an increase of $4.50 over the same period in the wife’s allowance - it would be even more interesting to know how the Government arrived at what the Minister described as the pensioners’ share. I would be interested to know on what basis the Government drew the comparison between standards today and those of, say, 1949 or 1950, because it is quite ridiculous to suggest that today a pensioner trying to exist on the pension alone is any better off than he was in similar circumstances several years ago. As a matter of fact, if we use the average male weekly earning rate as a basis of comparison - to my mind it is a fair comparison if we are going to talk about community standards - then pensioners trying to live on the pension today are substantially worse off than they were in the early 1940s. Some people may be surprised to learn that there are more than 600,000 people in that category.
In 1946 the pensioners received 25.5 per cent of the average male weekly earnings. In the very first year of this Government’s office that dropped to 21.9 per cent. Even after the increase proposed in this Bill the rate for the single pensioner will be down to about 19 per cent and that for the married couples will be even lower. So, as I said just now, it would be very interesting indeed to learn what measurement the Government used in relation to what it calls giving the pensioners a share of the rise in community standards. Government members when they are speaking on pension matters invariably use the maximum permissible income and property limits to try to justify their argument about pensioners receiving a fair deal. One very seldom hears them raise the case of the pensioner who is desperately trying to survive on the pension itself. Surely he is the very person who should be considered when the base rate is set. One should look at the person in the very worst circumstances when setting the base rate for pensions. The base rate, or the minimum rate, should be an amount which is sufficient to allow a single pensioner or a married couple, as the case may be, with no income or property to live in a normally dignified and independent manner similar to that of any ordinary Australian citizen.
This is certainly not the case today and never has been the case as long as I can remember. The pensioners in those particular circumstances have always been forced to go without meals, to go without sufficient clothing and to go without blankets so that they could continue simply to exist. The same situation applies today, yet the Government evidently sees no cause for concern. The Government has also continued with its unjust and brutal treatment of married couples where only one is a pensioner. Those 2 people are expected to live on $5.25 less a week than a married couple who are both pensioners, even though the circumstances may be exactly the same. Here again the Government uses the old argument of what the wife may earn, to justify its disgraceful attitude towards those people. The Government’s lack of concern for the plight of such couples is made clear by the fact that over a period of 19 years the wife’s allowance has been increased only 4 times at an average increase of 24c a year. Then if we look at the Government’s poor record in relation to short term unemployment and sickness benefits we find that in 1962 the benefits were $8.25 a week and were not increased until 1969. The amount paid in 1969 remains the same today with no proposal to increase it. At the present moment it is the magnificent amount of $10 a week. The Minister would spend more than that on a decent steak dinner. The benefit has increased by only $5 over a period of 21 years or approximately 24c a year.
This is a completely disgraceful situation and certainly one where a committee of inquiry would recommend a substantial increase. Indeed, this would occur over the whole range of social services and no doubt the Government sees that the overall recommendations of such a committee would highlight the starvation attitude of the Government and that would be another reason why it would not want to set up such a committee. No matter how one looks at the pensions and other social service benefits it is obvious that the amounts provided in each case are quite inadequate to meet their original purpose. It is obvious that the majority of pensioners do not receive sufficient to permit them to live as normal Australian citizens. It is clear that parents with large families are not being assisted to the extent that they should be and that in turn the whole family is suffering in the areas of health and education. It is evident that there are significant areas of real poverty which are not diminishing and it is clear that these situations will not improve and will more likely deteriorate unless a full inquiry is held into all aspects of social services. I am pleased to support the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m. (Quorum formed)
– The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) states that the trend has been to increase pension rates faster than prices. His argument is based on an out of date consumer price index which does not reveal the real cost of living. This was shown clearly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) during the course of his speech on the Budget. Even if the Minister were correct, standards change over the years. What were once luxuries have now been necessities. For comparison he goes back to the days of the washing board, the broom and the Coolgardie safe. These are the days of the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner and the refrigerator. They are now necessities. Every family - including the aged, invalids and widows - needs them. The Government claims that we live in an affluent society. There is grave doubt about that as far as some sections of the community are concerned. But if this claim be correct, I assert that every section of the community is entitled to enjoy that affluence.
The pensioner, like other members of the community, will be faced with increased taxes, increased telephone and postal charges and increased transport costs. The increases in pensions provided for in this Budget will be swallowed up in increased prices before much time has passed. The Government is always happy to quote average weekly earnings to show how the wages of workers have advanced throughout the period but dodges the issue when it comes to comparing pensions over the years. If average weekly earnings can be used as a guideline for one thing surely they can bc used as a guideline to measure the value of the pension.
In 1949 under a Labor government the age pension was 26.9 per cent of average weekly earnings. That applied to both married and single pensioners. The single rate is now 19.49 per cent of average weekly earnings and the pension for each married couple is 17.23 per cent based on average weekly earnings of $88.50, which was the last figure we received calculated on a seasonal basis. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who led for the Opposition on this debate, pointed out that the percentage will be even lower before the next Budget as average weekly earnings increase.
The pension has never been lower compared with average weekly earnings. No mention was made in the Budget of some progress being made towards the abolition of the means test which was so strongly advocated by the Minister for Social Services when he was a back bencher and from which he has now gone to cover. No mention has been made of the promised national superannuation scheme about which there has been quite considerable discussion in this chamber over the last few days. Before he became Minister for Social Services, the Minister took every opportunity in this place to advocate the abolition of the means test. I refer to a speech made by the Minister, without quoting it, on 17th September 1963 which appears at page 1034 of Hansard. On 20th August 1965 the Minister said:
The means test is an extravagance which the Australian economy can no longer afford.’
To quite a number of people it is humiliating to have to go before an officer of the Department of Social Services and submit themselves to all sorts of questions about their private affairs. It is assumed that the poor will try to cheat and consequently they are subjected to all sorts of embarrassing questions- The abolition of the means test would remove this embarrassment and would relieve the Government of the tremendous cost of administering and conducting these investigations.
The age pension should not be considered as a handout. It is the right of those who have contributed throughout their working lives that they should receive something in return. The pension is no more a handout than the grant that may be given to a professor for scientific research; no more a handout than the farmer receives as a subsidy for wheat production, or a dairy farmer who receives portion of a subsidy. There is no means test on the wool grower as to how the $60m will be distributed. Some families on farms have other business interests and wool growing is only a sideline for them. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, 12,000 major growers will split up among themselves $33m while 80,000 smaller growers will be left to share $27m. The big grower will receive an average of $2,750 and the smaller grower $337. Why then should there be a means test on the pension? In view of the advocacy of the Minister of this much needed reform, one would have thought that some move would be made in that direction and would be revealed in this Budget. But that has not been the case.
In 1954 a single pensioner received a pension of $7 and the allowable income was $7. A married couple received a pension of $14 and the allowable income was $14. The pension as a result of this Budget is now $17.25 a week for a single person and the allowable income is $10. So the value of the allowable income has dropped from 100 per cent in 1954 to 57.9 per cent now. The married couple’s pension is now $30.50 a week and the allowable income $17 - a drop from 100 per cent in 1954 to 55.7 per cent now.
The Government made quite a song a few years ago when it increased the amount of allowable income to $10 for a single pensioner and $17 for a married couple. This was the first increase in the allowable income since 1954 and in fact did not represent the same value as regards purchasing power as did the amount of the $7 allowable income in 1954. Due to increased cost of living in the past 7 years the value of the allowable income has been further reduced. It is true that the tapered means test has been introduced - a means test, in actual fact, within a means test. This means that a pensioner earning more than the allowable income can keep 50 per cent of what he earns until he reaches a given figure. This is in effect a 50c tax in every dollar. Even the taper has now been tampered with.
Under this legislation the single pensioner who has an income of up to $11 a week and has no more than $420 in property will get the full increase of $1.25. If he has between $11 and $13.50 per week in income he will get part of the increase of $1.25. But if he has more than $13.50 in income he does not get any increase, in pension. The married couple who have up to S9.50 in income each will get the full $1 per week each; if they have between $9.50 and $11.50 per week in income each they will get part of the $1 each; and if they have over $11.50 in income each they will receive no increase at all. Of course, that depends on their having no more than $840 in property between them. The same applies to the property equivalent of weekly income. So instead of abolishing the means test or reducing it further, the Government has imposed a means test within a means test. But that is not unusual for this Government.
Every recipient of social service benefits has been short changed since this Government took office. Increases in social service benefits have not kept pace with price increases. Benefits are always dragging behind costs. As a result of increased inflation over the years taxpayers have been passed into higher income tax groups, and although the taxpayer gets less in real wages in his pay packet, the Government takes more from him in taxation and gives him less in return. For some years now the people have been the victims of the thimble and pea trick. They have been giving good money for bad. They have been contributing to the National Welfare Fund in the form of taxation and getting shrunken benefits in return. The value of the dollar has shrunk to about 30c as compared with the position in 1949. People are losing in 2 ways: The value of social service benefits has been clipped just as though an extra tax had been imposed on the people, and they have moved into higher income tax ranges without getting any more purchasing power in their pay packets.
This Government stands condemned for its callous disregard of our aged and invalid people and widows. One would almost think that it was a crime to grow old. Instead of making people’s twilight years more pleasant, this Government is making them a misery. It is to be regretted that the wife, who is under 60 years of age, of an invalid pensioner or an age pensioner who is unemployable will get an allowance of only $8 a week - an increase of $1 a week. This means that unless the wife can find work - as she is expected to do by this Government - the couple will have to live on a miserable pittance of $25.25 a week. If a wife has an invalid husband she may not be able to work. Also, after being out of industry for a considerable number of years it is pretty difficult for a wife in her advancing years to get back into employment. Labor’s policy provides that a wife in such circumstances should get the full pension.
The discrimination between a single pensioner and married pensioners continues. The Government was responsible for reducing the value of the married couple’s pension as compared with the pension of the single pensioner. The ludicrous position arises where 2 sisters or 2 brothers or a brother and a sister or indeed an unmarried couple living together are much better off financially than are a married couple, as regards both pension and allowable income. They can receive $4.50 a week more pension between them and, with the allowable income, they can have $7.50 a week between them. The Government should restore the value of the pension paid to married couples and the limit of the allowable income until such time as the means test is abolished. The rate of pension and the allowable income limit should be the same for a married pensioner couple as it is for 2 single pensioners living together.
The Minister should bear in mind that maintaining a home these days is often more expensive than paying rent. There is a strong case for providing supplementary assistance to married pensioner couples who own their own homes. Single pensioners can get supplementary assistance for rent, subject to a means test. As the Minister made comparisons with the position in .1.949, he can hardly object if we do the same. In 1949 a man, with a wife and 2 children, on the minimum wage paid $1.60 a year in income tax. A man with the same family, who is on the minimum wage now, pays $2.85 per week or $148.20 a year in income tax. He pays more income tax in a week now than a man in similar circumstances in 1949 paid in a year. The average minimum wage for the 7 capital cities now is $46.30 a week.
In 1949 child endowment paid to a family with 3 children - which is close to the number of children in the average family - represented 11.3 per cent of the average male earnings. Under this Budget, a family with 3 children will receive $3.50 a week in child endowment. Average male earnings are now $88.50 a week, so child endowment represents less than 3.95 per cent of average male earnings. A comparison with the minimum wage also shows how the value of child endowment has dropped over the years. In 1948 when the minimum wage was $11.60 a week, a family with 5 children received $4 a week in child endowment. The same sized family now receives $8.25 a week, but the minimum wage is now $46.30 a week. To retain the same relationship child endowment now should be over $11 for a family with 5 children.
The recent Budget was not a family budget by any stretch of the imagination. The increase in child endowment does not make up for the loss Of purchasing power through inflation over the years, .lust recently Professor Ehrlich criticised the increase in child endowment not because the amount was insufficient but because the increase might result in more children. He is known as the ‘populate and perish’ man. If a couple had more children as a result of this miserable increase in child endowment, they would be gluttons for punishment. lt is interesting to analyse how the family income shrinks as extra children come along. The minimum wage is now $46.30 a week. A married man without children pays $4.15 a week in income tax. This reduces the family income to $42.15, or $21.08 a week each. The first child arrives and the tax is reduced to $3.40 a week. The couple receive 50c a week child endowment, which gives the family $43.40 a week, or $14.47 each. The second child comes along, the tax is reduced to $2.85 and they get $1.50 a week child endowment. The family income is now $44.95 a week, or $11.24 each. With the third child, tax paid weekly is $2.40 and child endowment is $3.50 a week, leaving the family income at $47.40, or $9.48 for each unit. With the fourth child taxation is reduced to $1.95 each week and child endowment is $5.75 a week, making the family income $50.10, or $8.35 for each unit.
The examples that I have given deal with the big majority of families, because 75 per cent of all families have less than 4 children, leaving 25 per cent with 4 children or more. This shows that the bigger the family the less each family unit has to live on. Surely there is some justification for doing something for the families. The Government’s failure to increase child endowment for the first and second child is to be deplored. The effect on the family budget when the first child reaches the age of 16 years is most noticeable. The 50c a week child endowment for the first child is taken away, and the endowment for the second child is reduced to 50c a week, from $1 a week, making a loss of $1 a week in child endowment. The payment to the third child is reduced from $2 to $1 a week making a loss of income of $2 a week. This is a big drop in income for a family.
Let us look at how other benefits have shrunk in value since this Government has been in office. Funeral benefits for pensioners amounts to $40 where a pensioner is responsible for the funeral costs of a spouse, a child or another pensioner. In other cases the funeral allowance is $20, which is the figure that was fixed by the Curtin Government in 1943. It has not been altered for 28 years. In 1943 the minimum wage was $9.60 a week. To maintain the same relative value the funeral benefit should be at least $80. The value of the benefit is now less than 25 per cent of what it was in 1943. The same comment applies to maternity allowance. The existing rates, which were set by the Curtin Government in 1943, range from $30 to $35. In order to give the same benefit in purchasing power, the rates should be increased at least 4 times. From the inception of maternity allowance in 1912 until this Government came into office, the allowance would always pay the expenses associated with the birth of a child. Tha: is nol so today. Consequently, married couples are putting off having children. Both parents have to go to work in most cases in order to get their home together before having a child.
A recent survey on poverty shows that one in 16 people in Australia live in poverty. Mr R. J. A. Harper, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Melbourne, made that statement as a result of a survey which was carried out by a team from the University. The survey showed that 133,000 people in Melbourne - one in 16 - were at or below the poverty line. Mr Harper said that there was nothing to suggest that a similar study in other capital cities would not reveal the same result. The Melbourne survey showed that older people were in the largest poverty groups. This is a shocking indictment of Australian standards. In his book ‘The Hidden People’ John Stubbs says: ‘If you lift the rug of the affluent Australian society you can find half a million poor people underneath. They share overpriced rooms, shiver in winter and sometimes live on dog’s meat.’ He points out that Federal and State governments are not interested in finding out about them and sometimes even conceal the data they get. This is true. I have asked the Government to arrange for a full scale investigation of the extent and nature of poverty in Australia but without any result. The Government prefers to let sleeping dogs lie. Stubbs points out in his book that until the Government undertakes a major survey of our social security system our poor will continue to live half lives. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment so ably moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), which reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: while not opposing the Bill, the House is of opinion that -
the increases proposed are inadequate,
social service payments generally are inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living,
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
a joint select committee should be established to inquire into and report upon the social welfare needs of the Australian community’.
I commend the amendment to this House.
– In following the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) in this debate it is appropriate for me to remind the House that he is a member of the Australian Labor Party which has not been returned to power since 1949 after 9 Federal elections. In fact the Australian Labor Party has won only 3 elections in the last 55 years. I do not believe that the people of Australia are so empty minded as to accept everything the honourable member for Stirling said in his speech because these people have already shown that they are capable of sifting truth from fiction. The truth is that every honourable member in this House - he does not necessarily have to sit on the Opposition benches - would like to see a better deal for those people who are dependent upon the Government for assistance. I for one do not classify those who need social service benefits as people who are incapable of doing anything for themselves. There are opportunities available to some but not necessarily to all. It is up to the Government to ensure that those people who do not progress are catered for by a distribution of the wealth of this nation.
Listening to what the members of the Opposition have said in this debate one would think that we as a nation of almost 3m square miles and some 13 million people have nothing else to do in building this country. There are other fields into which our finances have to be directed. The people who listen to the broadcast of the debates tomorrow will probably hear honourable members on the opposite aide talking about the problems of city development, highways, beef roads, defence - although they rarely ever talk about that one - primary industry and Australia’s contributions to underdeveloped nations which depend on us for foreign aid. It is a fact of life that there is just so much money to be distributed each year. This Government has to have a system of priorities, particularly at a time when we hear members of the Opposition castigating the Government for what it has not done and at the same time taking a 2-bob each way attitude and saying that they support this Bill. The Opposition does support this Bill.
There has been an increase in pension rates and the Government has worked to channel money into the area where it is most needed. We heard tonight members of the Opposition suggesting a system of superannuation. This is something which is not wholly unattractive to me but the fact is that each and every Australian as a taxpayer contributes in a way to a superannuation scheme. The question is: Do we give it to everybody or do we channel the available resources into the area of greatest need? I do not wholly embrace a system whereby people, on reaching qualifying age for a pension, have to lay on the table all their private financial affairs to be examined by some Government department. However, in a nation the size of Australia with a population of only 13 million money is a problem. Surely the Government has a responsibility to channel this money into the area of greatest need.
It is always interesting to listen to speeches by members of the Opposition because every time they speak on the subject of social services their speeches are broken into 2 parts. If people read the Hansard record carefully they will clearly see that in one part of a speech members of the Opposition talk about greater increased assistance to areas of need but in the next part they talk about pensions for everybody. Members of the Opposition are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people. Everyone knows that there is just so much money to be distributed. I thought 1 might draw attention to honourable members to some interesting figures on social service contributions. I want to point out how much extra this community of ours has directed into social services with a population of 13 million people today compared with the amount involved in 1949 with a population of some 7 million people. In 1949 when this Government first came into power the Labor Party was spending only a lousy $149m on social services. Today this Government is spending S 1,1 81m. That is a tremendous increase over that period. In 1949 there were 403,000 people in receipt of age and invalid pensions and 43,000 people in receipt of the widows’ pension. Today there are 941,000 people on the age and invalid pension and 90,000 on the widows’ pension. It can be seen that the ratio of pensioners to population generally has increased since 1949. Australians are being asked to carry a greater burden today in assisting people who come within the field of social services than they were a generation ago. I am not condemning this but we should bear in mind the other things which have to be done in this country. It is all very well for members of the Opposition to scream as the honourable member for Stirling did tonight and dismiss the good work that has been done by this Government.
There are one or two points which I would like to repeat. I believe that we in Australia are contributing to national wastage. Elderly people in receipt of the pension but without any supplementary assistance, who have a home, who are fortunate enough to retain good health and who live on, will in time have their assets depleted. They reach the stage where they will be unable to make a contribution towards the maintenance of their homes. I believe that this is a direct contribution towards the creation of areas of run down housing - I do not want to use the word ‘slums’. I wonder how much this nation can afford not to assist these people. Serious consideration should be given to devising some means whereby, having acknowledged the fact that these people are unable to paint their homes or to meet the cost of maintenance on their homes, they could obtain loans at low interest rates in the same way as we assist those people with supplementary allowances who live in rented accommodation. This is much the same thing. I believe - and I notice the Minister nodding approval - that something should be done in this area.
In considering other aspects of this Bill, it is interesting to note that tonight we have heard much criticism about the value of the dollar. As I said at the outset of my speech, I think that without doubt the position of pensioners still leaves a lot to be desired, but the fact is that things are not nearly as bad as members of the Opposition suggest. They try to paint this Liberal-Country Party Government as being a government which does not care but I completely reject that attitude and philosophy because the facts of life are that, having regard to the relative values of pensions over the years, pensioners are better off today than they were under a Labor government. It is appropriate to compare pension rates with other costs as they were in 1949, using a base rate of 100. In the 22 years since 1949, the consumer price index has risen from 100 to 254 while at the same time the maximum rate of age and invalid pensions has risen from that same base rate of 100 to 376.5.
– There was no such index in 1949.
– Order! I have already requested the honourable member for Port Adelaide to cease interjecting. If he does not obey my request to him, I shall have to deal with him.
– In case the honourable member for Port Adelaide is unaware of it, I point out to him that the basic wage rate changed to the minimum wage rate in 1967. However, the pointI was making, which was obviously upsetting members of the Opposition because they do not like the facts, is that the maximum rate of age and invalid pension has risen by more than 34 times from the base rate of 100 to 376.5. So obviously pensioners are better off today than they were in 1949.
In our society today there are perhaps greater demands on the standard and quality of life, and this is a point I underline. There is little reason or justification for any government to point to figures and say: ‘These show that it is all right’, because the population of Australia in the 1970s demands a far higher standard of living than it did 20 or 30 years ago. People become used to a way of life and to deprive them because of old age cannot be justified by anyone. The recent pension increases to $17.25 a week for single pensioners and to $15.25 a week for married couples have raised another social question. No doubt, many constituents contact honourable members on both sides of the House objecting to the different rates of pension payable to single people as opposed to those payable to married couples. Some time ago I made several representations to the Minister for Social Services about this. I suppose any member of this House can stand up and beat the drum and say how unfair it is and how unjust it is. It is a little like the application of the means test. But the Government spends money in the areas where it is most needed. There is no getting away from the fact that a married couple who live under the same roof and who share the same electricity bills, the same gas bills and the same rates, etc., must be better off financially than the single person who is living on his own in a house or in a rented room. I feel that this matter requires some fairness of judgment on the part of all members and it must be considered as one aspect of the application of social service benefits to the various demands made upon those benefits.
Another interesting point is that many membersof the Opposition slate Australia as a country that is backward when compared to the social service standards in other countries. AsI have mentioned, geographically Australia covers a large area - some 3 million square miles - and to compare Australia’s standards with the standards in Scandinavian countries is not exactly appropriate because those countries have entirely different problems and have different demands on their money from the demands made in Australia. It is interesting to note the poverty survey which was done by Professor Henderson. After the time of his survey Professor Henderson challenged claims that Australia was one of the worst off nations in expenditure on social services.
While on the subject of poverty, in my own constituency changes can be seen to be taking place. They are taking place also in inner city areas where older homes are being replaced by industrial complexes and where people are being moved out. The Aged Persons Homes Act is another example of Government assistance to elderly people. Under this scheme, the Commonwealth Government contributes two-thirds of the cost of building new dwellings to accommodate the elderly. I should like to pay tribute to the initiative, foresight and drive of the Blue Nursing Service which, in Brisbane, has done much to alleviate the problems of the elderly.
It is most noticeable that whenever social services and the like are discussed, members of the Australian Labor Party dismiss completely and disregard the progress that has been made by this Government over the last 20 years.I should like to mention for the benefit of members of the Opposition some of the things that this Government has done since it came to power at the end of the 1940s. In 1951, it introduced medical benefits for pensioners, aged persons income tax concessions and pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners; in 1954 the Government instituted the aged persons homes scheme; in 1956 it introduced television licence concessions for pensioners and additional pension benefits for second and subsequent children; in 1957, the Government introduced a home nursing subsidy; in 1958, supplementary assistance for pensioners was introduced; in 1963, it introduced nursing home benefits; in 1964 the Government introduced telephone rental concessions for pensioners; in 1965 the guardians allowances for pensioners with children was implemented; in 1968 it introduced hearing aid services and special temporary allowances; in 1969 there was introduced the subsidy for dwellings for aged persons and a personal care subsidy for aged pensioners and home care and paramedical services; and, in 1970, the Government introduced the Meals on Wheels subsidy.
Members of the Opposition have the audacity to underline all their speeches with political undertones and suggest that this Government has done absolutely nothing since it came to power in 1949. As I have suggested, of course there is a lot more to be done but a nation the size of Australia, with its small population, can do only so much at once. I have every faith in the Minister for Social Services and in his genuine concern for the welfare of people who are dependent upon the Government for assistance. Another aspect that we can all look forward to is the improved rehabilitation system which also comes under the jurisdiction of his Department. People who, a few years ago, would have been virtually laid up for life and rendered incapable of working are being retrained and returned to the work force to play a useful part. This is a double edged knife. Not only do these people cease to require financial assistance from social service benefits but they are also able to make a contribution to our society which is to the long term benefit of all Australians. 1 commend the Bill and conclude by expressing the hope that this will not be the end of a procedure under which pensions have been increased twice in one year. They were increased at the beginning of this year and, 6 months later, were increased again. For the first time, the Government has set the pattern. Let us hope that it keeps this in mind and continues with this type of assistance so that in the near future those people who now rely upon the Government for assistance will be enabled to hold their heads high with pride and without suffering some of the deprivations that are most certainly evident in the community.
– I am surprised to hear an honourable member as young as the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) saying that he believes that the job of dealing with the nations problems is too big for the Government. That is what he implied. He made 2 or 3 references to the size of the nation. The nation was the same size at the time of federation in 1901, and it has not changed materially since then. Obviously, the problems have grown, but so has the prosperity of the nation. I think that the most ridiculous set of arguments advanced in this House were, unfortunately, those advanced by the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). In some sort of an effort to justify the present rates of pensions and social services, which I am sure the Minister is not satisfied with, he collated the 1949 figures using price indices and by some strange quirck of the imagination projected those rates into the future and imagined they would still apply despite the changes in the living standards of very many in the community, despite the changes in the average national income and despite all the other changes which have taken place in our community- He then used those figures as a basis for justifying the current rates of pensions. I wonder whether the Minister would be prepared to do that in all circumstances and in all economic cases. I very much doubt whether any responsible person is prepared to suggest that the standards of 1949 should and would be maintained by a Government in any modern country today. But the Minister seems to think that that is some magic period. For my purpose now I use the single rate age pension, which is the higher value pension at the moment, as a percentage of average male earnings. That is a far more relevant comparison and one which the Government likes to use on other occasions when it wants to criticise people or suggest that people are well off. The rate for the single age pension in 1949 as a percentage of average male earnings was 24 per cent. The single rate pension in 1971 is 20.3 per cent of average male earnings. In 1949 the married rate pension was 24 per cent of average male earnings. It was the same as the single rate pension. The married rate pension today would be something closer to 18 per cent of the average male earnings.
Child endowment for the first child was the basis of great election programmes and promises by the Liberal Party in 1949. When that was introduced, it represented 2.6 per cent of average male earnings. Today it represents .6 per cent of average male earnings. It was introduced as a result of a completely cynical election promise because it has never been altered since it was introduced in 1950. Child endowment for 3 children under 16 years of age represented 11.3 per cent of average male earnings in 1949. Today it represents 4 per cent of average male earnings. 1 think that that in itself is sufficient evidence to deal with the Minister’s claims that families and pensioners are better off today. If pensioners are receiving a lower percentage of average male earnings, they are worse off. This is the position despite considerable prosperity in Australia and despite regular statements about what a prosperous nation Australia is. It would appear that we are a prosperous nation when it comes to spending money on things which are not accountable to the Parliament. When spending money on such things as the Fill aircraft, $l00m is nothing. But when it comes to finding money to ease the burdens of those less fortunate than the majority of people in our community, that money has to be totally and fully accountable.
I will never forget the situation on the first evening I spent in this Parliament. It was the occasion of the presentation of the 1967 Budget. Tonight I heard the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) say that this Government has raised pensions every year. On the first occasion that I was in the Parliament for the reading of the Budget Speech the then Treasurer, the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), gave the pensioners a great big dose of sympathy. The money could not be found to provide them with anything else but sympathy. The honourable member for Griffith has said that a pension rise was granted in the 1970-71 Budget and another pension rise was granted 6 months later. I just wonder how cynical people can become. On the occasion of the presentation of the 1970-71 Budget this was said to be a magnificent achievement. It was only great public pressure which brought about a further 50c pension rise. That pension rise was qualified with the introduction of the fourth means test that has been brought into operation on age pensions in Australia. We have a means test for supplementary assistance, we have a so-called tapered means test, and now we have a means test for the standard rate pension. I think that the manner of operation of the standard rate pension should be pointed out to the House. A person in receipt of the full standard base rate pension, with virtually no other income, has received since March of this year an increase of $1.75 in the pension. Persons outside the fringe area of that base rate pension have received no increase whatsoever. I do not think that the Minister would doubt that since the last rise in the 1970-71 Budget there has been a considerable movement in prices. But those pensioners who are part pensioners, who do not qualify under this fringe benefit provision, are penalised to the extent of 50c for every $1 by which they increase their income. There has been no alteration in the means test to cope with these increased prices. Such people are penalised by the Government to the extent of 50c for every $1 by which they increase their incomes because their pensions are reduced but they receive no compensatory increases in pensions. They are debarred from increases in pensions and if they are capable of increasing their incomes they are effectively debarred from doing that too.
A cruel means test has been placed on these people. Not only are they not to receive any additional income, by way of pension increases but also they are to be taxed at the rate of 50 per cent on any additional income which they earn privately to cover the increases in costs which are taking place in our community. They cannot look for any increase at least- until the next Budget if the present policies of the Government continue, and we are not in the position to predict what turn the policies will take. It was only 2 years ago that the tapered means test was introduced. According to the Government, everyone was to receive a pension. Listening to Government speakers tonight, one would imagine that the only people who can expect to receive rises in the future are those people on the standard rate pension. I think it is fair to say that the Government has played a cruel confidence trick on at least 17 per cent of age and invalid pensioners in our community. They have no avenue by which they can realistically expect to increase their incomes to cope with increasing prices. The means test limits have not been altered for a number of years. Such pensioners are fined 50c for every additional $1 they earn, if they can earn an additional $1. If they are not capable of earning an additional $1 they receive nothing because they have no way of increasing their incomes.
I turn to another matter which I believe is of serious consequence. It is the present rate of funeral benefit. A pensioner responsible for paying for the funeral of the pensioner partner receives assistance of S40 from the Government. This represents approximately 10 per cent of the cost of an average funeral today, and would most likely represent considerably less than 10 per cent in country areas. A couple of days ago, I asked the Minister for Social Services a question relating to the costs of increasing that benefit. If the Minister has studied the figures he will realise what is involved. I asked the Minister what the cost would be of increasing the funeral benefit from $40 to $150 which would cope with a little more than one-third of the total cost of the average funeral. The total cost to the Treasury of that sort of increase would be approximately $3m. I do not think that any honourable member on the Government side would suggest that $3m is a tremendous amount of money. In fact, in the context of a $8,000m Commonwealth Budget it is a very small amount of money, and it surprises me that the Government has not seen fit to increase this benefit. To increase the benefit to even $100, which is totally unrealistic in line with today’s prices, would cost the Government $1.7m. Yet there has been no increase in the Budget, not even a $10 increase to relieve a pensioner of part of the financial burden of the funeral of his or her partner.
It is tragic to see pensioners putting away 5c a week to try to insure themselves against a pauper’s funeral when the Government is not prepared to spend less than $2m to provide something like an adequate funeral benefit. The amounts of money concerned are so small that they would not be noticed in the Commonwealth Budget. One wonders what devastating effect it would have on the Australian economy if the surplus for this year, instead of being $600m, were reduced to $597m. I do not think it would have any effect but it would provide pensioners with some relief from a massive cost incurred at a time when they are completely incapable of meeting that cost.
One important matter I draw attention to is the serious position which is evolving because of the ever increasing cost of local government rates for pensioners who own their own homes. These pensioners, irrespective of their total income, do not qualify for the supplementary assistance allowance which exists for pensioners who are paying rent. In some cases, because of the alterations in the character of areas in which people live and the alterations in valuations, the levels of rates and the maintenance of property are becoming a burden almost equivalent, if not equivalent, to the burden which is incurred by a pensioner paying rent. I believe that some consideration should be given to assistance in this field. It seems to me unfair that a person who has saved sufficient money to purchase a home and therefore has somewhere to live is not able to obtain any form of assistance to cover the cost of maintaining that home.
I quote an extreme example of the type of situation which a combination of Commonwealth laws creates in our community. A person with an income of $32,000, who is anything but poor, and who pays $200 a year in municipal rates receives a Commonwealth tax reimbursement of $140 on that $200. He therefore in fact pays only $60 in rates to the municipal authority. A pensioner couple with an income of $1,586, which is approximately the married rate pension, and who pay $100 in rates receive no reimbursement from the Commonwealth and no assistance from any other authority. Thus for a house of half the value a person with a twentieth of the income has to pay $40 more in rates than does the person with a $32,000 income. This is a serious anomaly, and I believe that if the Commonwealth is to provide assistance for rates, whether it be by tax reimbursement or in any other form, the reimbursement should be on an equitable basis and all persons should be able to share. Because a pensioner does not receive enough income to pay tax, that pensioner is denied the opportunity to participate in a scheme of subsidising rates. This is a serious matter and one which should be considered. There are obviously other anomalies in the tax laws but I am dealing only with those that relate to social services. 1 want also to deal with the pensioner medical scheme. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the drugs which are available to pensioners are being changed with considerable rapidity and are causing severe heartburning to many pensioners who. having become used to one type of drug, are denied this drug and then asked to utilise some new drug which they do not trust or in which they do not have the same faith. In many cases of illness with elderly people, as with young people, confidence in the remedies provided are quite often as important as the remedies themselves. I direct attention also to surgical aids. Under the pensioner medical scheme a pensioner may have various types of operations but such things as colostomy bags which become necessary as a result of an operation are not available to the pensioner under the scheme. The pensioner has to pay the full cash price to the chemist. This is a totally ridiculous situation. The Government is saying to the pensioner that he must have an operation to save his life or to prolong bis life. The operation is carried out and then the pensioner is told: We will reduce your standard of living by X number of dollars a week because you have to buy all the equipment necessary to maintain yourself for the rest of your years on this earth.
A worse case is the cost of pacemaker heart units, which cost $600 or $700 and are not available under the scheme. The full price has to be paid by the pensioner or the money has to be found by some charitable means. This is not a sum of money which a pensioner can afford. One of these units quite obviously is not placed in a person’s body unless it is absolutely necessary. This is something which I believe the Government should provide for a person whose life depends on such a unit being fitted. It seems to me to be immoral to say to a person: ‘If you can pay $800 for a pacemaker unit you can live. If you cannot you can go away and die’. That is the situation at the moment.
I want to deal briefly with the position of pensioners’ children. There is at the moment no way in which a pensioner’s children can adequately be provided with a norma) education. In any education system they are second class citizens. 1 believe that if a person qualifies for a pension, especially an invalid pension, and has young children, some scheme should be evolved whereby his children can be provided with the wherewithal to obtain the education to which they are entitled and which is within their capacity to receive. We prolong the poverty cycle by forcing children to become self-conscious of the fact that they cannot participate in a normal manner in the affairs of their school because of the incomes of their parents. We prolong the cycle by creating a second class student in denying children of pensioners the normal opportunities. 1 wonder what a pensioner’s child thinks when the rest of the school, especially if it is a high school, is coming to Canberra to have a look at Parliament House, which I would hope would be a part of their education, but because of the costs involved the child cannot have that part of his education. It is also true to say that in most oases the children of pensioners are forced to leave school at an earlier age, unless they are extremely lucky, because of the incomes of their families and the economic circumstances in which they find themselves. They are in fact denied the normal opportunities of other children in the community because of the economic circumstances of their parents. I believe it should be a high priority item on any government’s agenda to ensure that these children are given the same opportunities as other children.
Finally I mention women who become involved in bigamous marriages. At the moment there is no coverage for them in the social services legislation. It is unfortunately true that a small number of women become involved unknowingly in bigamous marriages. There is very little protection for them. If they have children of the marriage and become technically deserted wives when they find out that the husband is already married and is incapable of maintaining them, the only way they can obtain any relief from the Commonwealth is by an act of grace payment from the
Treasury. This is a most unsatisfactory situation because they do not know their rights. I believe it should be possible to place the victims of bigamous marriages in the same circumstances as deserted wives. There are not many people involved and the cost would not be great. I believe that a humanitarian service would thus be provided to a group of unfortunate women in our community.
– I would not seek to answer the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) in detail, but I will take up one of the last points he made in relation to the children of pensioners. If there is anything which this Budget has done and if there is anything which the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has sought to do it is to increase very significantly the children’s allowance. The children’s allowance which is appropriate to the children of pensioners has been increased by $2 for the first child, $1 for the second child and, taking into account concomitant alterations in child endowment for the third and later children, for the third child of a pensioner the allowance has been increased by $1.50 a week. These are very significant increases indeed. To suggest then that the Minister for Social Services has been rather recalcitrant in this respect is certainly to make an unjust quite unfair charge. But it is to be expected. After all, when one feels a wind blowing, in respect of social services one does not have to be a weather man to know which way the wind is likely to blow. In respect of social services one always trims one’s sails to catch the wind and the Opposition has done this this afternoon and continues to do it tonight. It has cried continually and is still doing so. It has done it over the years.
I would suggest that in a few moments when the Minister for Social Services speaks he will dry up some of the mess the Opposition members have made this afternoon and answer some of the points they have raised. I further suggest that when the Opposition cries it does so neither with its head nor with its heart and is all the more guilty of neglecting both those aspects. The principle which ran through the contributions from honourable members opposite on social services was a simple one which needs examination. They propose always that they are against an examination to determine need and they are against an examination to determine where help is really required only when they feel there is some political advantage in it. But in respect of so many other policies, in respect of educational policies, industry policies and economic policies, they propose assistance according to need only when they can divide people by class, industry, social values or social origins and they have done it continually. So the Opposition’s philosophy on social services cannot be distinguished in any way from the philosophy which it applies to other areas where assistance has to be given by a government and this attitude needs to be examined for what it is worth.
In a broader sense it has failed to look at 3 aspects at which it is necessary to look in an economy if social services are to be distributed. It has failed to look at the 1971-72 propositions in a budgetary or economic context, but it has always failed to do that. It has failed to realise that there can be no resources to distribute if one has a philosophy against the production of resources, and that also has to do with some other policies. Finally the Opposition embarks on what it calls the single issue campaign, never looking at poverty in a broad sense but looking at it piecemeal to see what benefit it can wring out of its false cries of anguish over these matters. Let us look at these 3 deficiencies of analysis which the Opposition has been putting forward this afternoon and tonight. This Budget in a broad economic context was a Budget which had to restrain Government expenditure. It was subjected to rather severe restraint in relation to increases in expenditure which the Government had to make.
What are the social welfare proposals within that necessary economic constraint of expenditure? If one examines the cash social service benefits, and they are predominantly the matters to which the Minister for Social Services has referred, one can see that the increase in those benefits enshrined in this Bill are the greatest increases in cash social service benefits proposed in any one year in the history of this country. Let me repeat that. These are the greatest proposed increases in cash social service benefits ever proposed (jj the history of Australia. There should be tome credit given to the Government for that.
– What about inflation?
– Of course, 1 have an interjection from the Opposition’s shadow Minister for Health based on his own family code policies. 1 suggest that if he wants to understand a budgetary and an economic context he should consult the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) because currently he is the only one on the Opposition side who even seeks to understand the matters in their wider context, and they need to be understood in their wider context if ever the Opposition is to propose meaningful policies.
There are other matters to be considered. I have been intrigued to hear this afternoon the similarity between the proposals put forward by the Opposition and the proposals for a social welfare programme made by the Opposition’s other partner in power, the Austraiian Council of Trade Unions. The ACTU proposed figures, which have been repeated ad nauseum this afternoon, false and rather meaningless figures, concerning the proportion of national income spent on social services. The ACTU programme, from which the Opposition dares not significantly differ, wanted an increase in social services not of some $230m this year, which is the greatest increase ever, but of over $ 1,000m a year. The honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds), for example, proposed certain things in respect of pensions and one small proposal would have required an increased expenditure on its own approaching $400m this year. . his is just absurd; it is not commonsense. If the Opposition wishes to propose something for everybody it should at least dress the proposal up in terms so that the faults in its analysis are not so easily exposed. Of course, the honourable member and his colleagues are speaking as members of the Opposition who have never had experience in government.
Of course, they are not the only ones to do this. For example, the former British Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government. Mr Roy Jenkins, warned against the type of redistributist policies which seek to take everything, to skin entrepreneurs of profits, to skin salary earners like onions, and he made it clear that to appropriate everything from public authority funds is to put a country in a state of continued stagnation. Let me quote the advice which was given by the Labour Chancellor who had experience in this field. Not long before his party went out of power, he said: i don’t see a future of achieving our social objectives by constantly shifting resources from the private to the public sector so that people have a less and less proportion of their income to spend as they choose.
He knew some of the facts of life, lt is rather interesting to eximane further the manner in which the thought of a talented Labor Opposition member such as the former Chancellor, Roy Jenkins, changed once he gained power. He realised then that the way to open the window on social services to people was to have an economic policy, not a piecemeal one-issue analysis policy such as the Opposition here has been putting forward continually this afternoon. I will read a further extract of his advice which it is appropriate to consider. Tn 19S2 the said gentleman, being keen on on redistribution and it then being 12 years before he assumed responsibility in government, was on favour of equalisation through public funds at increasing and higher rates of taxation. In 1969 when he had achieved some responsibility and when he had to achieve policies which invoked responsibility he had this to say:
To a greater extent now than in 1952 1 believe that a generally rising standard of living which, of course, is lied up very closely with economic growth-
The Opposition did not mention anything about economic growth - is an important equalising factor, but it is incomparably easier to open up new windows to new groups of people on a basis of a rising standard of living th:in in a purely redistributist framework.
Of course the Opposition has pursued this latter framework for all the faults it has, considered in isolation. Today we know that a policy attributed to concepts of social justice can only be administered where there is a significant and adequate rate of economic growth. That is why social services have become important policies for governments in the Western world particularly since the 1930s. The reorganisation of economies has enabled social service policies of various values to be implemented.
In looking at policies relating to age pensions, families and endowment the Opposition has completely ignored that aspect of consideration. One other matter deserves consideration. There is another equation which always has to be considered by a Minister for Social Services. If in a country those who propose a distribution of social services cause production not to occur, there will be no goods or resources to distribute. I would like somebody to explain to me how people who propose economic mora.toria, who propose political strikes and who cause loss of production can enable those resources which are capable of redistribution to be developed. These are simple contradictions in fact.
The Opposition should appreciate that in respect of social services the people of Australia appreciate the deficiencies in the arguments put forward by the Opposition. The third aspect of the Labor Party’s policies which must be considered is related not to a single unit analysis of poverty but to a broad analysis of poverty. Time after time this afternoon the Government has been charged with generating and tolerating a high rate of poverty in Australia. Over the years the Opposition has quoted Professor Henderson and Professor Downing. Of course, honourable members opposite have not done their homework. Otherwise they would have appreciated that for nigh on 5 to 6 years when the first analyses were made Australia had one of the lowest proportions of households existing at a poverty level of any similarly measurable country in the world. That was pointed out in this House in 1966.
Let me state the analysis that was done then but which has conveniently been ignored. It is demonstrable, for example, that in the United States of America, choosing an adequate poverty level, between 17 per cent and 19 per cent of households existed at or below that poverty level. It is demonstrable in the United Kingdom that under the British Labour Government the proportion of households existing at a poverty level, taken from an analysis of the Fabian Society, increased and ended up at a level between 11 per cent and 14 per cent depending on the type of analysis. In 1966, on early analyses, it was thought that between 7 per cent and 8 per cent of households in Australia were at a poverty level. The two great advisers to the Opposition, which honourable members opposite have quoted ad nauseam - Professor Downing and Professor Henderson - contend, as Professor Henderson contended in a letter to the London ‘Times’ earlier this year, that 5 per cent of households in Australia are at or below a poverty level. We do not like to have any families existing at a povery level, just as nobody wants to have even 0.1 per cent of people unemployed, but where performance has been good it ought to be recognised. Let me refer to the letter written by Professor Henderson to the London ‘Times’ on 17th April 1971. He said:
The proportion ‘in poverty* in Australia is at 5 per cent, much lower than in Britain.
This is after years of Labour governments. He continued:
This is due to a much higher minimum wage which lifts nearly all earners’ families out of poverty as well as rather more generous pensions.
He then referred to the spurious analyses concerning the percentage of Australia’s national income which is devoted to social services. In this case it is a misunderstanding of what national income this involves. He continues:
It is our judgment that the incidence of poverty in Australia is lower than in any country in the world with the possible exceptions of New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries, and that the distribution of wealth and income is more equitable than in any other country, with the same possible exceptions.
That is a fair commendation and one which ought to be accepted by those who have had responsibility. I only regret that in its own analyses of these matters the Opposition has neglected the broad analysis. It has neglected the economic analysis, with a fair assessment of how appropriate social welfare is to social justice within the context of the Australian economy.
One thing further needs to be said and needs to be repeated over and over again. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development makes its own analyses of the most sophisticated countries in the world. From its own broad analyses carried on from the end of last year and from analyses of Australia’s demographic structure the OECD feels that by 1980 the standards within Australia will be second only to those of the United States. This may not be good enough, but it is
Sot a bad performance. It has to be remembered that such a performance has been achieved not with the assistance of the Opposition but against its continued misunderstanding and lack of appreciation for what is done. A social welfare policy can be pursued only with a certain type of social engineering. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) pointed out that the growth in the Australian work force has been a most significant engine to enable social welfare development to proceed.
I regret very much that, as the very basis for the determination of a social welfare policy, the Opposition has adopted policies with respect to Australian family codes and immigration, which is itself an addition to the work force, which run counter to every tradition that we have had in Australia. That Party talks about social welfare and redistributist responsibilities while at the very base and soul of Australia’s development it has adopted principles which are contrary to 70 years of its own history. These are involved in social welfare policies. They may be outside the precise considerations of the National Welfare Fund but they are concerned in Australian social welfare. These are the charges which that Party ultimately will have to answer. These are the charges related to odd policies adopted at Launceston in relation to these matters which will have to be answered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard). No matter how much he may seek to evade these things; no matter how much he may seek to avoid these things, the Australian working man is concerned about the adoption of strange policies which have been pursued by the Opposition. I can only say that in some respects knowing that the Australian Labor Party has always wanted in Australian sentiment. In fact it has adopted some of Dr Erlich’s policies before he ever came to this country.
– I want to say one or two things because I believe that the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) has devoted the whole of his 20 minutes to an abstract study of Australian economics based upon the very abstruse theories upon which the country has proceeded for the last few years. The principles upon which this Party bases its policy have escaped his notice. It is one of the tragedies of Australian politics that he happens to be Minister for Housing. He has no understanding of the human suffering that lies behind these figures at all. I rise just for a moment or two to say one or two things. I represent one of the industrial centres of Australia. It has a population of 120,000. It has, according to the last census, one of the greatest concentrations of migrant population in Australia. One has only to drive down Sydney Road, pause for a few minutes and take a step to the left or the right down any of the streets, knock on the second, third or fourth door and one will find pensioners, migrants, children and deserted wives living in poverty. One will find people on the basic wage living in poverty because the housing policy, the social services policy and the employment and general social structural policies of this Government have failed to face the fact that the ultimate, direct and absolute responsibility of government is people.
As I said in the Budget debate last night I believe that we have an opportunity that is completely different from that of the rest of the world because we are in a unique situation resulting from our great capacity in the industrial area, in the primary production area and in mineral deposits. For the Minister for Housing to be satisfied that we are third or fourth best in the world is not good enough because the opportunities are pre-eminent and they surpass those of overseas nations. We do not face the tremendous social problems of the United States. So we on this side of the House say that social services is the way in which government redistributes income to take up the difference between a decent standard of living and the poverty line which is inflicted upon some 1 million Australians - that is as far as we can see, but it might be even more. There can be no escape from that.
No rhetoric, no sophistry, no multiplication of figures and no statement that we are now paying out more cash benefits than ever before can deny the fact. This use of absolutes - that the population of Australia is larger than it was ever before; therefore the amount of money spent on social services must be larger than ever before even if the benefits are relatively the same - is not relevant. I did not intend to take part in the debate on the Social Services Bill but I do so because the Minister for Housing has given a typical example of Liberal Party philosophy - if philosophy is not too kind a term to place upon such a miserable misuse of rhetoric. He dodged and avoided and abdicated his responsibility. He should take a close look at how the people of Australia live and i weep for the people who will have to wait for houses while he stays on as the Minister responsible for housing.
– Mr Speaker, I have listened with interest to the whole of this debate and 1 want to thank those honourable members of this side of the House who have participated in it. We have had many constructive speeches, not least from the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns), and also from the honourable members for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), Holt (Mr Reid). Hume (Mr Pettitt), Mitchell (Mr Irwin), Paterson (Mr O’Keeffe) and Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). But I would thank nol only honourable members from this side of the House but also members from the other side of the House. I listened attentively to what they had to say and in particular there were points made by the honourable members for Perth (Mr Berinson), Barton (Mr Reynolds) and Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) which I will certainly have a look at. I thought that they were constructively approaching some of the real social service problems. 1 was puzzled a little al some of the errors which were made by Opposition members. I do not refer to the one made by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who is the shadow Minister for Social Services because he himself very generously acknowledged his error.
But I was a little puzzled by what the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) said. He has been in this House longer. I think, than most of us. He mentioned what had happened in regard to the Joint Committee on Social Security. He left the impression that that Committee had operated until 1949 and had gone out of existence with the change of government. I looked al the record and I found that this is nol true. That Committee started to disintigrate as from 1943 - according to Mr Kewley in his book - and it did nol meet as a combined committee after 1946. I will not go into the questions of why this was and I will not try to allocate the blame for this to one side of the House or the other. My recollection of it is that the members of the then Opposition, who are now the members on this side of the House, found it impossible to go on with the members of the then Government who are now in Opposition. But I do draw from it the moral that there is a difficulty in the operation of these so-called combined committees in this sphere. I think it is relevant that I should mention this in view of the abortive motion for the suspension of Standing Orders which was moved by the honourable member for Oxley who apparently does nol grasp the historical background of this matter.
I was also very interested in the egregious error of the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope). I will not weary the House by quoting figures but I think I should perhaps take his error as an example of the fallacious figures that have been brought forward by members of the Opposition ad nauseam in the course of this debate. The honourable member for Sydney said that our Budget expenditure is now 74 times what it was under the Chifley Government, so of course the pension - which was then $4.25 - should also be multiplied by 7i. This was his argument and he brought it forward. He had forgotten apparently that under the Chifley Government there were 403,000 pensioners. Today there are 942,000 and if we take this into consideration and apply the reasoning that he applied - I do not justify it; I only say it is his reasoning - we would come up with the result that the pension would now be a little under $13.50. That is his reasoning although, of course, the basic pension rate is now $17.25. I simply give this as one example of the incomprehension on the part of the Opposition of the real nature of the figures concerned.
Much has been said about the rates of pension. There has been a continuous improvement carried on by this Budget in the real value of the pension. In the last 12 months prices have risen by 54 per cent or thereabouts and the pension has risen by about 1 1 per cent - nearly twice as much - and this does measure an improvement in the real value of the pension. But let me agree with the contention brought forward by several members of the Opposition that we should expect this kind of rise because the standards of the Australian people have risen continuously. I agree with this and I will agree that as standards continue to rise so our sights should continue to rise and what would have been considered a satisfactory pension at one time will be inadequate for the future when the general level of the standard of living of the community has risen. But at least let the Opposition realise that this gives the lie to the propaganda which it has been using continuously in this House since I have been here by saying that the standard of living of the worker was being depressed. Of course the standard of living of the worker is rising. We hope it will rise further. This is a process which we should all be glad to see. I do not necessarily disagree with the contention that has been voiced from both sides of the House during this debate that there will be some merit in tying the pension to some external index. The Government has not decided to do this. It has not rejected the idea without commitment. It is still under study. But I am wondering whether the Opposition has appropriately considered what index it should be tied to. I would agree that it should not be tied to the consumer price index because by so doing we would anchor the real pension at a level and. as I have said, I believe the real level of the pension should continue to rise.
The Opposition has contended that the pension should be anchored to average earnings. This, I think, is equally fallacious. Average earnings are very volatile and, as it happens, they have risen very much faster in recent years than the average incomes of the Australian community. The index that we will be looking for is not one which is tied to the favoured section of the community - the wage earners - but takes account of the less favoured sections of the community such as the entrepreneurs, the rural producers, the farmers and sections of that nature. One should look for a fair average. When I looked at these figures I found empirically 2 things. Firstly I found, looking over the last 20 years as a matter of fact, that the average minimum wage has risen by about the same rate as average
Australian incomes. There have been little variations one way or the other from year to year but the trend lines are almost the same. When I looked further at the rate of the standard rate of pension I found that its trend line was almost the same - a little bit above the line sometimes, a little bit below sometimes but never far from it and going always in the same direction. I am wondering whether we might not profitably recognise de jure what we have in point of fact recognised de facto. It would not make very much difference and it might give more satisfaction.
I am not saying for one moment that this is a commitment. Honourable members have said during the course of this debate that it might be well if we mulled over these things a little bit before making a decision. I put this suggestion for what it is worth, but as I said, it is not a decision. However, it would not make very much difference in point of fact if we tied these 2 things together.
Of course, there are other considerations. I think it was the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) - and I hope I am referring correctly to the honourable member in this case - who said: ‘Look, we did not have washing machines and television sets years ago but they are now necessities of life’. Well, this may be so. But children have always been a necessity of life, and this is something of which this Government has continuously taken account. I do not make any apology for the fact that the Bill now before us is child oriented.
– The first time in 22 years.
– The honourable member said: ‘The first time in 22 years’. This is a very good interjection. It enables me to remind the House that in Chifley’s time virtually no allowance was made for children at all. The children of widows received nothing extra at all. Also, there was only a meagre allowance for the first child of age and invalid pensioners and none for the others; and then an allowance was given only when the age pensioner was an invalid. We have changed this. We have given an allowance of $4.50 for every child in this category. Furthermore, we have put on for the first child in the shape of a mother’s allowance an extra pension of S4 if the child is over 6 years of age and $6 if there is a child under 6 years of age. If we look at the family endowment and mothers allowance together, for the first child there is an extra payment of $9 and if there is more than one child it is about $7 per child. This is an extreme improvement over what Chifley gave. We have had some cognisance of family responsibilities and this is a measure of the improvement which we have made. We have tried to look at this in humane terms and not in the way that the Labor Party looks at it - purely in terms of vote getting. The Labor Party has said that children have not got votes. We know that children do not have votes but we do think in terms of the children. I hope that the honourable member is now thoroughly ashamed of the interjection which he made.
It is very easy for the Opposition to talk in millions and hope that the millions will come. I think the Minister for Housing mentioned the way in which the Labor Party was tied to resolutions of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I heard the honourable member for Barton endorse the proposition that the basic pension should be one-quarter of average male earnings which are now of the order of $93 a week. This would mean an additional expenditure of something between $350m and $400m a year. This is the kind of irresponsibility that comes from people who have not thought about what they are saying. When the Minister for Housing mentioned this and quoted quite correctly the figure there were howls of incredulity from members of the Opposition. They had not realised what they were saying. In addition to this, I think, the ACTU brought forward a social services programme which would cost in excess of another $ 1,000m. I say these things because it is very easy to hold out carrots for donkeys; it is very easy for members of the Opposition to say: ‘Look, we are going to give you this, that and the other’ without trying to reckon up the costs.
We have talked a great deal during the course of this debate about poverty. It has been correctly quoted that Professor Henderson, who was the author of what is known as the ‘Poverty Line’ has gone on record in writing quite recently as saying that poverty in Australia was less practically than any other country in the world.
– So it should be.
– So it should be and I hope that it will be. I hope that we will continue with this good record. But let the members of the Opposition who have been crying out how bad our record is in Australia compared with other countries remember that the expert whom they called in as evidence said exactly the opposite to what they are saying. During the last 20 years we have had in Australia the highest record of employment that any country in the free world has ever had over a similar period. This is one of the basic reasons why our expenditure on social services is not as high as that of other countries. It is not the only reason but it is one of the basic reasons. Our expenditure per head of population on smallpox is very much less than that of India, but does that mean that we are not doing enough in Australia about smallpox? The answer is no, because we have not got smallpox any more than we have heavy unemployment, and let that be remembered by honourable members opposite when they try to indulge in these fallacious comparisons.
During the course of this debate I felt that honourable members opposite were indulging more or less in their routine performance. They pretend to be interested, but during most of this debate there have been only 3 or 4 members on the Opposition benches. They have put up a spokesman to talk the gramophone kind of thing which they themselves talk in the hope of getting votes. But they themselves do not believe it; they were not here to support their spokesman. My time has nearly expired. There arc many other things that I should like to have said. The Government is moving forward on this question. It has an overall programme, which is evidenced in the kind of thing that we have been doing over the last 20 years, which has brought about improvements, some of which I have been able to describe. But do not let the House think that we have come to the end of the road. We have not done so, and we will not be satisfied. There are plenty of things ahead of us.
– What about a national superannuation fund?
– Honourable members opposite have quoted ad nauseam a statement made in this House a few months ago by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). That statement was made in a context which has changed in 2 important respects. One is the failure of overseas prices for our primary and other exports. The other is the inordinate inflationary pressures which have been generated very largely under the encouragement of the Opposition. These things have changed the picture to some extent. They have meant a deferment, but only a deferment of the kind of thing that the Prime Minister presaged and expressed so admirably in the speech he made in this House, which honourable members opposite have quoted and which honourable members on this side of the House will be quoting as time goes on and as the Government’s policy unfolds.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the course of his speech the Minister said I had implied that the Government had disbanded the Social Security Committee after the 1949 elections. I point out to the Minister that I did not imply that at all. What I implied was that the Government had boycotted that Committee. I now quote from Hansard what was said by the then Minister for Health, Senator McKenna, in the Senate on 8th May 1947, He was asked this question by Senator Tangney:
Will the Minister for Social Services inform the Senate whether the Government intends that the Social Security Committee, the Government members of which were elected last November, shall continue to function, in view of the vast expansion of social services envisaged by the Government due to the success of the referendum of this issue?
Senator McKenna said:
In recent months I have heard nothing about that particular committee, but by reason of the fact that the Government has nominated its own members, it would appear that the Government is interested in the continuance of that committee. Speaking for myself, I should welcome the reestablishment of the committee. I may need correction on this point, but I am under the impression that the Opposition parties have declined to appoint representatives to that body; and that accounts for the fact that the committee is not functioning at the moment. If that is the decision of the Opposition parties, I hope that they will reconsider their attitude and allow that very useful body to carry on with the splendid work it has already done in the social services field.
Later, on 14th May 1947, Senator Tangney asked the Minister for Health this question:
Following on a question I asked last Thursday, and the answer given by the Minister for Health and Social Services, I now ask the Minister whether in view of the fact that the Opposition is still on strike in connection with its representation on the Social Security Committee, will the Minister consider appointing a conciliation commissioner to arrange for the reconstitution of that committee, so that some of the many social problems awaiting solution may be investigated during the next parliamentary recess?
Senator McKenna said: 1 acknowledge the great value of the work that has hitherto been done by all members of the Social Security Committee, and I am not aware that the present position is anything in the nature of a ‘strike’; it may be merely a boycott. In any event I suggest that the intervention of a conciliation commissioner might have fruitful results, not only for the Parliament, but also for myself and the country. Perhaps this matter might be better pursued when the Senate reaches an item which appears later on the notice-paper.
That conclusively proves the point that I made and that I have been misrepresented. The greatest social security committee that was every set up by this Parliament was boycotted and disbanded because of the actions of the Liberal Party.
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar - Minister for Social Services) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) has quoted me out of context. If he will do me the honour of reading the speech which I delivered a moment ago and which no doubt will appear in Hansard tomorrow - and he can see the green copy of my speech if he wishes - he will see that I was fully cognisant of these matters and that I explained them to the House. I said that these matters illustrated the difficulties of having a combined committee. He will see that I was fully cognisant of these matters. I said what I did not to try to put blame one way or the other but to illustrate the point that I was making - that there were always difficulties in having this kind of combined committee. If, indeed, the Social Security Committee was responsible for the splendid social service programme of the Chifley Government, I remind honourable members opposite that they themselves have been disavowing it in this House tonight.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Hayden’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker - Mr E. N. Drury)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
– by leave - I move:
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– On a point of order! What is the motion?
-If the honourable member had been listening he would have heard the motion.
– I could not hear because of the noise.
-The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– No. May I speak to it?
-I call the honourable member for Wills.
– I take it that the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has moved that these matters be struck from the notice paper or expunged from the record. Is that so?
– Let me take No. 51- the teaching of Asian languages and cultures in Australia. This report was placed before this House some time earlier this year. I personally asked the Minister to bring it on during the last session and he said ‘Yes, I will see whether we can do that’ but he has not done this. There is no chance of its coming on during this session, by the looks of things, and to add insult to injury he will now remove from the notice paper what I consider one of the vital subjects of Australian education. If we are to continue to run this place in this manner then it is a charade. As my friend the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) has said, the place is becoming redundant.
– I will say it again in a minute if I get the chance.
– He is right. I sympathise with the Minister’s position in this matter but something must be done to allow the Parliament itself to decide what matters it will discuss. If we had a proper consultative system between the parties in which a team from each side could sit down and discuss matters and decide on the way in which to handle these things there might be some point in it.
-Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the chamber.
– As a conductor, Mr Deputy Speaker, you seem to be able to generate a good deal of audience participation. The teaching of Asian languages and cultures in Australia is a subject which has been neglected for years. That is one point I take on this issue. The other point I make is this: Would it not have been a matter of courtesy to the House for the
Minister to have announced that he proposed to take this step? I cannot see anything on the blue sheet.
– Why did not the Government put this on the blue?
– Yes, instead of our having to put on a blue, let the Government put this information on the blue. Would it not have been simple courtesy to the Opposition to let it know what the Government was proposing to do so that the members of the Opposition could consider the matter? It was just by chance that I heard of this. We have come to the stage now where we cannot believe anything that we have been promised in the past and there is no hope for the future. The Parliament is operating with a total disregard for the decencies of ordinary social intercourse and I personally object to this item being removed from the notice paper.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I register the strongest possible protest at this action. The fact is that a couple of days ago we objected to what goes on in Parliament; yet in the last few moments the Leader of the House (Mr Swartz) moved this motion while the House was in a state of complete babble and bubble. Because of members of the Australian Country Party who are on my immediate left, one can rarely hear anything over their gabble. The Leader of the House ran through a list like somebody gabbling at a wool auction, and with just as little result. Members of the Opposition were unable to hear all that he said. The Leader of the House should be honest about this. I ask him why the dickens this matter was not on the blue sheet. Why could not members of the Opposition have been given notice of this proposal earlier in the day? Some items on the notice paper were discharged the other day and the Leader of the House comes in here at this hour of the night and attempts to discharge other matters. Why does the Government fetch the Opposition to the Parliament at all? Is it to save some form of public face? The Government is not allowing the Parliament to function as it should function. It sees fit to be critical of the trade union movement. Let me say this to honourable members opposite and to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for that matter: If a trade union were to run its organisation in the way that the Parliament has been run for the last couple of weeks the country would indeed be in strife.
I do not know whether the Leader of the House is tied hand and foot by a decision that has been made dictatorially by Cabinet. I do not know whether he is tied by the dictatorial attitude of the Ministers, with a Whip or a Deputy Government Whip barking somewhere in the background.It is not too late for the Government to have some conciliatory thoughts on this matter. ‘Conciliation’ is a word that honourable members opposite often use but which they never put into practice. The Government should have discussions with Opposition members so that the Opposition will know what the Government has in mind. It is just not good enough for Government members to adopt the attitude that: ‘We have the numbers and to hell with everybody else’. I conclude by registering my protest at the manner in which the Leader of the House has notified us tonight of the intentions of the Government in regard to a number of matters that are on the notice paper. The Government may consider them unimportant but we on this side of the House do not.
Deputy Speaker, I rise merely to make an explanation. Unfortunately. I have to point out to the House and, particularly, I suppose to members on my own side, that the responsibility for this matter is properly mine. Last week the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) discussed the matter with me. He suggested that there were a number of matters on the notice paper that might be removed but only with the co-operation of the Opposition. This matter was discussed by members of the Labor Party Executive but. unfortunately, the information was not conveyed to Caucus.
– Well, there are a number of reasons for this. It is not that members of the Opposition were not entitled to be told; they should have been told. However, because of another discussion, I did not have the opportunity to do so and so I think it is only fair to point out that the Minister had put this matter on the notice paper with my co-operation. He had notified me and 1 had indicated to him that so far as the Executive was concerned, these matters had been considered. Two of them, at my insistence, were left on the notice paper and the rest, with the concurrence of the Executive, could have been removed. I agree that this information should have been conveyed to the Caucus. Unfortunately, this was overlooked and therefore I have to accept complete responsibility for it.
– It was not overlooked; the time ran out.
– As the honourable member has pointed out, it was not overlooked but time ran out. However, that is exactly the situation and unfortunately this matter arose today. It was on the notice paper and thereforeI accept the full responsibility for it.
– In view of the circumstances, as Leader of the House, I will withdraw this motion. There is no intention on the part of the Government to have anything removed from the notice paper if it should still remain there. However, it has been customary over the years to review the situation every few months. There are always a number of dead items on the notice paper that are removed by agreement. The customary procedure was pursued on this occasion, but, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) has pointed out, Caucus did not have the opportunity of reviewing the proposal that had been put forward. In these circumstances, with the concurrence of the House I should like to withdraw the motion and renew it again after the Opposition Caucus has had an opportunity to review the motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Debate resumed from 8 September (vide page 970), on motion by Mr Snedden:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘The House condemns the Budget because (a) it breaks the Prime Minister’s pledge to Parliament on taking office to bring into effect for 1971-72 a fundamental review of social services and of methods for adjusting them, (b) it contains no proposals to balance the finances and functions of the Commonwealth, the States and local government and (c) it produces no programmes for high national objectives of social welfare, economic strength and national security’.
– The continuing lament which substitutes for Opposition policy has become so repetitive in this debate that I feel that perspective should be restored in regard to the Budget. It cannot be stressed too often that despite Opposition criticism, problems in the rural sector of the economy and international inflationary pressures, Australia has one of the brightest and certain futures of most countries. Despite the deflationary action taken by the Government in the Budget, it is unchallengeable that Australia has one of the strongest economies. It has a substantial growth rate; it has enormous prospects for future growth; and it has a government which is prepared to accept its responsibilities and to act, as it is now doing, in a constructive way. Despite this, I cannot over-emphasise how seriously the Commonwealth regards the problem of inflation. The Government continuously gives consideration to statistics and reports on trends and has given yet another lead in this Budget by dramatically pruning Commonwealth departmental expenditures. Conferences have been held with the States, with national, primary and secondary industrial groups, with commerce and with employer and employee organisations to obtain a cross-section of views to assist national economic judgment.
In other words, the Government has shown and is still showing its determination to contain inflationary pressures at an acceptable level with every means in its control, and 1 am sure the nation as a whole has endorsed the actions taken and sentiments expressed. However, it is essential that proper perspective be maintained. Everyone knows that inflation is universal, that the higher costs of materials and goods purchased by one country from another are reflected in increased internal prices which, in turn, influence the cost of living. Everyone knows too that decisions on wages by the Commonwealth Concilia tion and Arbitration Commission and other tribunals have immediate repercussions on national and State economies and help perpetuate the wages-cost spiral, lt is not within the power of the Commonwealth Government to control these 2 major facts. However, the Government does not deny the great responsibility that devolves upon it to do everything within its power to offset inflation by its own example, or by following monetary policies that will ensure the rate of inflation does not exceed the growth in national productivity. It is able to do this with reasonable confidence, because governmental planning for the future has been responsible for the fixing of national goals, and there is every reason to believe its predictions of growth and diversification will come true.
Briefly, the Government aspires, among other things, to a high rate of economic expansion, a growing population and work force, better educated children and full employment. The solid base for national development along these lines was laid down throughout the 1960s. This decade will see the structure grow. In the Government’s view, economic growth will be determined by fundamentals which might reasonably be expected to remain the central features of development in the future. These are a constant rate of population growth; a high rate of public and private investment; the encouragement, along with our rural industries, of continued industrial expansion and diversification; and the exploitation of mineral resources. These are fundamentals well known to us all. It is the Government’s accepted duty and, indeed, the aim of all Australians to work towards their continued conversion into fact. But let us look at some of the achievements the success of these basic policies implemented by this Government has made possible. In the last 10 years our exports have doubled and our work force has grown from under 4,000,000 to well over 5,000,000. And there is virtually full employment. There has been, and there continues to be, a spectacular rate of growth due in part to a high rate of capital inflow. This is proof, if ever it were needed, of the regard in which Australia is held by world financiers. Greatly increased sums have been provided for education and federal spending, as announced in the Budget, will this year rise by 14 per cent to $346m. Pensions and repatriation benefits have again been increased and social welfare spending in the current year is estimated at $2,095m.
The sum of $100m has been allocated already for the development of national water resources in a 5-year programme. Assistance to rural industries in various forms is expected to total $275m this year. That is $65m more than last year. The current 5-year Commonwealth aid roads agreement will cost $l,252m, an increase of 67 per cent over the previous agreement. Expanded measures assist Aboriginals with housing, education and health, and encourage viable Aboriginal businesses. The means test has been tapered and taxation concessions provided as an incentive to saving and to thrift.
These are but a few of the highlights of the Government’s internal achievements in the last 3 years alone. But they are sufficient to indicate that the whole intent of the Liberal-Country Party Government is to further the advancement of our nation and the welfare of its people. And that brings me to some aspects of the Budget’ completely pertinent to this Government’s policy. It is sometimes and misguidedly suggested that the Commonwealth takes all and gives little. This, of course, is not so. In this Budget, for instance, payments to the States go up by 15 per cent to $3,280m, more than a third of the total estimated expenditure. Social welfare, as I mentioned a moment ago, will this year absorb $2,095m, and education $346m. Dealing with defence, everyone wants a secure Australia. The Federal Government’s policy is predicated on this. But it has to be paid for. This year, expenditure on defence is up by $117m to Si, 252m. These 4 items alone - payments to the States, social welfare, education and defence - account for $6,983m out of a total anticipated expenditure of $8,833m. I have not mentioned payments to rural and other industry of S274m, advances for capital purposes $495m, including $56m for Qantas Airways Ltd to buy new aircraft, or departmental running expenses which, principally because of salary and wage increases, will increase by $84m. These are the facts of expenditure that combine to produce one of the world’s highest standards of living within a secure nation.
But, of course, money must be found to provide these things as well as to combat inflation. So the Government changed the company tax system to yield $24m, lifted the personal income tax levy by 2i per cent to yield $68m, raised the excise on tobacco and petrol to yield $157m and increased radio and television licence fees to yield $llm. The Government regrets the need to do this, but makes no apology for this action. It has acted responsibly and honestly with only one consideration in mind - the ordered advancement of our nation. Responsible economics are dictated by budgetary planning, not politics. Politics and very little economics have featured in the Opposition’s reply to the Budget. This is not nearly good enough for the people of Australia.
I should now like to deal with some activities associated with my Department of National Development. The Australian economy has undergone a marked transition in recent years with minerals and mineral products now providing a dramatically increased share in export earnings. Mineral exports have risen from 5 per cent in 1949-50 to 6 per cent in 1959-60 and 24 per cent in 1969-70. This is due largely to growth in trade with Japan, which now takes about 54 per cent of our minerals exports. The importance of minerals in the Australian economy is firmly established and it is vital that Australia makes optimum use of these natural resources to ensure continued national prosperity. Particularly through its Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, my Department has played a leading role in the discovery and assessment of Australian mineral resources. Bureau activities in the fields of geology and geophysics have won wide recognition and, coupled with the work of State geological surveys and private mineral exploration groups, add up to a national achievement of the greatest significance. Exports of Australian minerals and mine products are increasing at a rapid rate. In 1970 they were worth a record $Al,139m compared with $A865m in 1969. Iron ore, bauxite and black coal are the biggest factors in this growth. The Pilbara region of Western Australia has become one of the world’s most important sources of high grade iron ore. Last year more than 80 per cent of the 50,000,000 tons of iron ore produced was exported, 88 per cent of it to Japan. That nation has contracted to buy Australian iron ore worth nearly $7 ,000m up to 1992. The Pilbara, the source of most of the export iron ore, is being developed at a high rate. By next -year, production is planned at about 70 million tons a year, and capacity capable of producing 100 million tons is proposed by 1975, dependent on an upturn in steel production as compared with the original forecast. Raw steel production by Australia’s only steelmaker, the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd, is expected to rise from last year’s 6.7 million tons to more than 9 million tons by 1973.
Black coal is produced in every State except Victoria, where large deposits of brown coal are tapped for electricity generation. New South Wales is the leading black coal producer and in 1969-70 supplied 34.9 million tons of the 47.5 million tons produced. Queensland supplied 9.3 million tons, about half the 17.5 million tons exported. Bowen Basin, in Central Queensland, is the scene of great coal mining activity with several new fields being opened up to help supply the coking coal needs of the Japanese steel industry. Existing operations in Queensland and New South Wales have been enlarged and exports which were worth about SI 78m in 1970 are expected to exceed S300m a year by 1973.
Australia has become one of the world’s largest producers of bauxite and alumina following development of a number of large deposits, among them Weipa on Cape York Peninsula, the largest known bauxite field in the world. Weipa is estimated to have reserves of at least 2,000 million tons. Bauxite production rose from 7,796,003 tons in 1 969 to an estimated 9,240,667 tons in 1970. At Gove an alumina refinery is to come on stream next year, treating bauxite mined in the area. It is also possible that an alumina refinery will be built at Weipa by 1975 or 1976, thus adding considerably to alumina production, which in 1970 reached a record level of 2,104,106 tons. The Queensland Alumina Ltd alumina plant at Gladstone in Queensland is expanding and by the end of 1972 it will have a capacity of 2 million tons a year. Aluminium production in 1970 reached a record level of 201,000 tons. Smelters operating at Point Henry in Victoria, Bell Bay in Tasmania and Kurri Kurri in New South Wales accounted for this production.
Australia is the world’s biggest producerexporter of the 2 main titanium-bearing minerals, rutile and ilmenite, leading the field in the production of rutile and holding a high place on the list of principal ilmenite producers, Australia also is the world’s leader in production of zircon, which is the other main commercially valuable component of mineral sands. Other minerals of rising importance on the Australian scene include nickel, which has been discovered in quantity in Western Australia and Queensland, and copper. In addition, more than 2,000 million tons of phosphate rock have been discovered in north Queensland and studies are being made into the feasibility of transporting the rock from the largest deposit, Lady Annie, 160 miles to a new port in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
With the commissioning of the Kingfish field in Bass Strait in April this year, Australia will soon become 70 per cent self sufficient in crude petroleum, but new discoveries will be needed to maintain this position. In 1970 natural gas production rose sixfold to 53,000 million cubic feet. The mining industry is clearly an important participant in Australia’s future. Our future prosperity depends in no small way on the successful exploitation and development of our natural resources. The past few years have been a large and relatively troublefree expansion in the production and export of minerals and metals in Australia. Announcements of future plans for production suggest that the rate of expansion would continue well into this decade, lt would now appear that the expansion in certain areas is not to be without its problems.
On a world basis the growth in demand for some minerals has not been as high as forecast. The minerals where production is growing rapidly - iron ore, coal, bauxitealumina, nickel and salt - are minerals, reserves of which have, or are being shown to be quite extensive and for which there is a large overseas market. Japan plays a dominant part in the marketing of our production in all of these minerals and has been a major element in providing a rapidly expanding market for us. Many of the present difficulties arise from the halt in Japan’s growth rate, and that country’s ability to regain its previous rate of expansion is likely to be influenced by the present monetary developments and the existence of the United States 10 per cent surcharge on imports. Both these factors could influence Japan’s ability to export the finished products produced from the Australian raw materials. Despite these trends, the long term prospects for the export of minerals, including uranium, which I have not time to discuss in detail tonight, indicate a growing rate of contribution to our national economy. Large ports are being developed in many parts of Australia to facilitate the economic handling of raw materials, while mineral deposits are being worked with a high degree of skill and efficiency. Australia, already a force in the international minerals market, appears certain to be a significant source of basic and processed minerals and metals required by the world’s manufacturing industries for many years to come. This is one aspect of Australia today that the Opposition fails to mention when painting its picture of economic gloom. In conclusion, I commend the Budget as a sensible and responsible approach to the economic situation and economic policy of this financial year and again reject completely the arguments that have been put forward by the Opposition in endeavouring to denigrate a country of an undoubted present and a great future.
– On 29th June this year, while the House was in recess, I released a report of 110 pages entitled ‘The Australian Way of Death*. Literally thousands of manhours had gone into the compilation of the report, which was a private survey of death and injury due to motor vehicle accidents in Australia. It had involved voluminous reading of everything I could lay my hands on regarding the subject, lt had involved travelling interstate and intrastate talking to a wide range of acknowledged experts throughout the automobile traffic safety field and finally it had meant making choices between the vast multitude of theories put forward by so many experts as to how one can effectively put into operation a cohesive plan to reduce the tragic and mounting toll of human life and suffering occurring on Australia’s roads every day. There is no one simple solution lo the road toll. There are dozens of measures that can be put into effect, each one contributing to a greater or lesser degree. What is important is to find an order of priorities that will have the maximum effect for the minimum of effort and expense. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following table:
In a 10-year period. 31.000 Australians have died and 670,000 others have been injured in 9 of those 10 years. If the rate of increase in road accidents remains the same for the next 10 years as it has been over the past 10 years, we will lose a further 50.000 Australians killed, with well over a million injured. National com parisons are difficult to make for a variety of reasons. The accuracy of data collected, methodology and so on make comparison unreliable. Even so, on a variety of measurements, Australia’s accident record is amongst the worst. With the concurrence of honourable members 1 incorporate in Hansard the following table:
Whilst the figures per 100,000 population and per 100.000 registered motor vehicles are in accord with those provided by the Treasurer in House of Representatives question No. 2925 on 6th May 1971, the figure per 100 million miles driven (15.8) varies considerably from that provided by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon). No State in the United States of America has a 100 million vehicle mileage rate as high as the Australian figure.
With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard a table showing the death rate in the United States of America per 100 million vehicle miles.
It is unfortunate that the only way one can get through to some people regarding road accident problems is to measure it in economic terms. In reply to a question asked of the Minister for Shipping and Transport about estimated costs to the nation, he gave me details of a report compiled by Mr J. D. Thorpe, former Chairman of the Victorian Traffic Commission, who estimated the cost in Victoria in 1966- 67 as being approximately SI 00m. Using this as a basis, it would be reasonable to assume that the national cost is approaching S500m per annum. However, there is an unconfirmed report, which I alluded to in my own survey, that the Department of Shipping and Transport did its own estimation of the costs about 3 years ago and came up with the figure approaching S800m. If this rumour is correct and the Minister or his predecessors and the Department have deliberately shelved the report, it would mean that at the present rate of inflation the cost of motor vehicle accidents would be approximately $1 billion per annum. Our costs average about $40 per person per year. That means that in a 5-year period, a family of 5 Australians sharing one family car would be paying about $1,000 towards the expense of injury producing car smashes.
Many reports have stated that from onequarter to one-third of all hospital beds and associated facilities are required exclusively for the use of motor vehicle injured. The Liberal Party attempted to discredit Labor’s estimate of costs and all of Labor’s social welfare proposals are answered by the oft repeated cry: ‘Where’s the money coming from?’ Any significant reduction in Australia’s road toll would mean a reduction in the amount required to provide medical and hospital facilities, even if the present health scheme was maintained in its present form. The Minister for Labour and National Service, in one of his hysterical outbursts of union baiting, has highlighted the number of working days lost through strikes. He ought to spend a little time examining the number of working days lost through death and injury through road accidents, not to mention industrial accidents. He might be shocked to learn how many people are wiped out at the beginning of their working careers. Few Government and automobile spokesmen in Australia would disagree with the size and scope of the problem. But the disagreement occurs over who or what is at fault and the best methods of solving the problem. Fundamental to any understanding of the causes of road traffic fatalities is an understanding of what happens before, during and after an accident.
The problem can be broken down into 3 phases - pre-crash, crash and post-crash. The pre-crash phase concerns all the factors in the road-use system which affect the possibility of a traffic accident occurring. For the human component, examples of such factors include age and the influence of alcohol; for the vehicle, visibility, handling behaviour and the efficiency of the braking system; and for the environment, highway design and layout, and traffic management measures. Attention to all or any of these factors in the direction of safety is the aim of measures designed for crash prevention.
The crash-phase starts at the moment of collision. Examples of factors concerned here are, for the human being, the use of seat belts or the wearing of crash helmets; for the vehicle, interior design; for the environment, the design of roadside furniture and the properties of natural hazards such as trees. Alteration of factors in this phase could lead to the reduction of death and injury in a crash by the amelioration of its consequences on the human body. This is the phase of injury prevention. Lastly, the phase which is labelled post-crash relates to factors which may still be operating after the collision and which may be modifiable in the direction of safety. Such factors include, for the human, the quality of medical care; for the vehicle, the chance of a fire occurring as a result of impact; and for the environment, the ease with which rescuers and medical teams can reach the scene of the crash and evacuate the injured from it to suitable medical care.
The whole of the emphasis in the recent industry-government-media campaign against the road toll has been aimed at the driver - the nut behind the wheel. We know that drivers make mistakes. We know that at some stage during his driving career of 40 or 50 years, a driver is going to have a momentary lapse in concentration, drive too fast, be distracted by someone inside or outside the car, drink too much or make any one of a thousand mistakes that could lead to an injury or death producing accident. The point is: Should he die for it?
The situation in Australia is only marginally better than it was in the United States before the publication of the book Unsafe at Any Speed’ by the then 32-year old Connecticut lawyer, Ralph Nader. Primarily, Nader based his attack on the failure of the automobile industry to use the science and technology that was available to it in the production of safer automobiles. He accused them of placing undue emphasis, in the designing and marketing of automobiles, on style, power, comfort, prestige, sex-appeal and sales of safety. He said:
The American automobile is produced exclusively to the standards which the manufacturer decides to establish. It comes into the market place, unchecked. When a car becomes involved in an accident the entire investigatory enforcement and claims apparatus that makes up the postaccident response looks almost invariably to driver failure as the cause. The need to clear the highway rapidly after collision contributes further to burying the vehicle’s role. Should vehicle failure be obvious in some accidents, responsibility is seen in terms of inadequate maintenance by the motorist. Accommodated by superficial standards of accident investigation, the car manufacturers exude presumptions of engineering excellence and reliability, and this reputation is accepted by many unknowing motorists.
Nader was especially critical of general vehicle design. Among his comments were: the annual model change adds $700 to the average cost of American cars, most of which is used on stylistic changes. A similar expenditure on safety design each year would make a much safer product: (this figure was based on research done at Harvard and M.I.T. in 196S).
Nader stated that safety measures which do not rely on, or require people’s voluntary and repeated co-operation, are more effective and more reliable than those that do. He went on to say:
A crash-resistant vehicle which protects the occupant from collision forces can make accidents safer, it not altogether safe. Technology is capable of producing cars 100 per cent safe at under 50 m.p.h. The plain fact is that it is faster, cheaper and more enduring to build operationally safe and crash-worthy automobiles that will prevent death and injury than to build a policy around the impossible goal of having drivers behave perfectly at all times, under all conditions, in the operation of a basically unsafe vehicle and often treacherous highway conditions. We can try ad infinitum to get all 95 million drivers to learn, and instantly act on this learning, that panic brake applications in certain emergency situations, particularly wet surfaces, are likely to lock the brakes and thereby cause loss of control of the vehicle. Or we can simply apply what is presently known and build automobiles with anti-locking brake systems. A crash-worthy automobile ls the last clear chance to prevent bloodshed; it is that final net that catches all the contributing factors in the collision sequence and cuts the sequence so that casualties are prevented or minimised.
Nader’*, determined campaign forced the United States Government to act. In 1966, President Johnson signed the Highway Safety Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act providing for a National Highway Safety Bureau that is responsible for providing leadership and co-ordination of a national programme o. reduce traffic crashes, deaths and property damage. The latest report to hand - June 1970 - indicated a significant number of accomplishments, including, first, the issuing of 29 motor vehicle standards and the proposing of an additional 95 since 1967’ Secondly, it provided for the establishment of highway safety programmes for irnplementation by the States. In order that the States may receive the financial benefits available from the Federal Government, their highway safety programmes must bs approved by the Secretary of the Department of Shipping and Transport and must be in accordance with uniform standards in the following areas: Periodic motor vehicle inspection; motor vehicle registration; motor cycle safety; driver education; driver licensing uniform traffic codes and laws traffic courts; alcohol; identification and surveillance of accident locations: uniform traffic records; emergency medical services highway design, construction and maintenance; traffic control devices; pedestrian safety; police traffic services; and debris hazard control and cleanup. Thirdly, it forced the automobile industry to provide detailed information to consumers with regard to vehicle performance, in areas such as stopping distance, acceleration and tyre reserve load. Fourthly, it stipulated that by July 1973 every new car will be equipped with a new air bag safety device, or a suitable alternative, that will protect driver and front seat passengers from injury in head-on crashes up to 30 mph. Fifthly, it provided for governors to restrict the speed of cars to 95 mph with a warning system at 80 mph. Sixthly, it instituted and financed research that resulted in 1,200 new findings on the real causative factors behind crashes. Seventhly, it let contracts for the design and construction of prototype safety cars that will provide a very high probability of survival of the occupants in head-on crashes at 40 mph to 50 mph and side crashes at 20 mph to 25 mph, as well as a 70 mph rollover capability. Finally, it introduced recall legislation which enables the Federal Government to force manufacturers to recall defective vehicles. The Safety Bureau now has access to all inter-industry reports - from manufacturer to dealer and from dealer to manufacturer. It also carefully scrutinises Press reports, motoring magazines, customer complaints, etc., enabling it to detect any consistent pattern of defects running through a particular model. During 1969 almost 8 million vehicles were recalled. Failure by the industry to comply with recall orders can lead to fines of up to $400,000.
Let me now give details of the history of apathy and neglect in Australia. On 14th May 1959 the Senate resolved that a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report on road accidents. On 21st September 1960 the report was presented to Parliament. In view of the information available and the limited scientific and academic research done at that stage the report was a remarkably good one. It contained a blueprint for an Australian road safety programme that would have laid the basis for reducing death and injury and adjusting itself to scientific and technological advances that occurred in the United States and Europe during the mid- 1960s.
The seeds of disaster were sown in the following foreword comments to the report:
In a Federal system of government, under which individual States have responsibility and sovereignty in respect to most aspects of road safety, difficulties arise in effecting comprehensive programmes of any kind, as they necessitate agreement among the States and, in many, instances, with the Commonwealth.
The Liberal-Country Party Government has used this as an excuse to do virtually nothing. In respect of only five of the recommendations - those referring to road safety education, vehicle design, and safety equipment, accident reporting and statistics, traffic management and the Australian Road Safety Council, and these only in part - has the Commonwealth played any significant role, and then it has been hardly anything to write home about.
In February, I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport the following question:
Can he say what constitutional power enables the Commonwealth Department of Civil Aviation to control all air traffic and air traffic accident investigations yet denies the same right of road traffic and road traffic accident investigation to his Department?
To provide an answer to this question would necessitate the giving of a legal opinion. It is regretted that an answer cannot be supplied.
When this question hit the deck at the Department of Shipping and Transport it caused quite a flap. I know that top level discussion took place before the nonanswer given was decided upon. The Government knew it had been caught out and, as always on this matter, was evasive and deceptive. It decided to try to bluff its way out of making an admission that would have illustrated its failure to take the initiative in regard to automotive transport that it had taken in the 1930s in regard to civil aviation. The major reason for safety regulation in aviation, shipping and rail transport is that the industries involved are economically affected by any accidents. Apart from the property damage, if there were any consistent, large commercial aircraft crashes with the resultant high death toll, there would be a not unexpected drop in passengers. Aviation accidents attract a great deal of attention.
The Commonwealth’s failure, however, can be illustrated by what it has failed to do in the following fields. Firstly, it has contributed a miserable $3,350,000 over the past 11 years. Secondly, it has failed to lay down specification standards on safety design rules for roads built with the $ 1,252m provided by the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1969. Thirdly, it has allocated substantial amounts of money for industrial research to some of the largest companies in the world including General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd $469,646, the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd $25,000, the British Leyland Motors Corporation $25,000, and Chrysler Australia Ltd $161,000 without any report to the Parliament and without any indication that the money would be spent in road accident research. Whereas the Commonwealth financed the setting up of the Department of Aeronautical Research in 1939, no counterpart exists in the automotive field. The only publicly financed institution wholly concerned with traffic safety research is the Traffic Accident Research Unit - TARU - a segment of the New
South Wales Department of Motor Transport, headed by Dr Michael Henderson. This sort of research work should be done at a national level, available to all States, and in a more comprehensive manner.
The most abject failure in recent times is the failure of the Commonwealth through its new Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) to implement safety belt legislation in the Australian Capita) Territory and the Northern Territory. This is particularly true in view of the resounding success so far in Victoria. The greatest failure, however, has been in the field of vehicle safety. No doubt honourable members are aware of recent surveys released by automobile service organisations. On 26th May the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria - the RACV - presented its survey on car faults. It stated that 2,946 faults were present in 672 cars tested during the warranty period. There were no details as to the make of the car nor was there a detailed analysis of the size and scope of the faults, or whether they were safety related. There appears to be a gentleman’s agreement by the automobile service organisations not to name any particular company. This is hardly surprising in view of the establishment nature of most of these organisations that are invariably made up of businessmen who have a sympathetic understanding for the problems of their colleagues. It is not considered cricket actually to name a company that has been selling vehicles with defective brakes. (Extension of time granted.)
In Australia the system of design rules for motor vehicle safety is dependent on complementary State legislation. Design rules operate at first registration of a motor vehicle, and because they apply only to new vehicles no penalties are involved. A vehicle which fails to comply with the design rules at first registration would not be registered. The Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board under the Australian Transport Advisory Council certifies compliance of prototypes with design rules. The Vehicles Structures Branch of the Department of Shipping and Transport has charge of the administration of the rules. Obviously, the industry has to have forward notice, usually referred to as lead time, to institute new design rules, but there is absolutely no excuse for the vast difference between the lead time granted in Australia and the United States, which varies from a minimum of 2 years to 5 years. In the United States the average life of a car is 7 years and the lead time for new design rules is 2 years to 3 years. This means that it takes about 10 years for the safety features to be incorporated in 95 per cent of all cars in the United States. The collapsible steering column would reach this percentage by 1975. In Australia the average car has a life of 10 years. This means that the steering column will not be completely operative in all cars until 1981. Many Australians will die during the next 10 years as a result of tardiness in not introducing this design rule until 1971.
There are a number of reasons why this delay has occurred. Primarily it is because the industry wants no control at all and has invariably fought to delay as long as possible any new imposed safety features, Initially the Advisory Committee on Safety in Vehicle Design was lambasted by industry representatives for trying to impose safety standards in Australian cars that were tougher than those operative in the United States. It was claimed that it was absurd for a small country like Australia producing less than half a million vehicles per annum to push for tougher standards than America had. The Australian Transport Advisory Council - ATAC - consisting of the Federal Minister for Shipping and Transport, the 6 State Ministers for Transport and the Minister for the Interior, bowed to industry pressure. ‘Let us stay with the Americans’ was the cry. However, during 1969 and 1970 a dramatic change occurred in the American programme and the pace to get safer and safer vehicles quickened. The Advisory panel quite rightly expected that industry could be kept to its original argument. Not a bit deterred, the industry did an aboutface and now argues that Australia cannot expect to keep up with the United States. I thank the Minister for allowing me this extra time. I know that I have had to omit many of the things I would like to have dealt with and I hope I will get opportunities in later debates on the Estimates to complete this part of the story on road safety.
– In dealing with some of the provisions of the Budget I would like to look at 2 of the main problems confronting not only the Government of this country but also the governments of most developed nations. I refer to what is commonly called the rural crisis and also the urban crisis. These are often considered as separate and discrete problems but I believe that it is only by a realisation of the closely interwoven nature of the 2 and by actions taken coincidentally that sound and effective solutions can be achieved.
I would like briefly to examine the rural situation. When doing this we should also be endeavouring the evaluate the role of the agriculture sector in a modern developing economy such as ours.
City people tend to have great misconceptions about country life, and the monetary returns achieved by landowners. These misconceptions are fed by the emphasis that has been placed on the social occasions occurring in the country and the activities of country people during visits to the city. The image of broad hats, boots and banknotes has been absorbed by the city dweller over a long period. With food prices continually rising it is hard for anyone not conversant with the problem to listen to, let alone be sympathetic to, the plight of the primary producer. In the past, the landowner has traditionally been well off but now something has changed. The thing that has changed, of course, is Australia, particularly the type and sophistication of our economy.
A commonly forgotten fact in any discussion on the role and problems of the agriculture sector is that the income elasticity of demand for food is relatively low. This means that as a country increases its productivity and its income per head, the demand for food tends to grow less rapidly - and any increased prices tend to be absorbed by the processors rather than being reflected at the farm gate. In Australia, as in other countries, much of our total agricultural production is sold on the export market, and hence is forced to compete at world prices which are generally lower than home market prices. AH this, of course, is very well known, but it is of particular relevance in our case because home export industries facing steady or lowered world prices are faced with the domestic situation of a rapidly expanding economy with even larger increases in wages and costs. Increased productivity has not compensated for these cost increases.
The economy is now such that the contribution of agriculture to the gross national product has fallen from roughly 20 per cent after World War II to less than 9 per cent today. This means that the rural producer is faced with falling real income compared with the rest of the community. Compounding this problem, the nature of agriculture results in resources tending to become relatively immobile when used in the industry. Land generally does not return much for other uses; capital can become relatively fixed when invested in specialised machinery and facilities, and labour is often untrained for other purposes - or in many cases is too old to consider changing. The effect of this immobility is to prevent ready shifts of resource* out of agriculture when economic pressure would recommend such shifts. Rural property owners are likely to accept lower levels of income rather than seek employment elsewhere, particularly if they are older or where the level of skills required in alternative employment deters them.
These factors I have mentioned are complicated by the vagaries of the weather; and Australian agriculture has been bedevilled by the climatic extremes which affect so greatly the most carefully laid production plans. Additionally world demand and supply of primary products is notoriously variable with many traditional strong sellers being displaced by synthetics and a very real rise in the capacity of individual countries to produce an increasingly high proportion of their own primary product needs. The individual producer is then confronted with the real problem of what is the best thing for him to do. In most instances he is encouraged to become more and more efficient, adopt new technology and to produce at full capacity. As most of his fellow producers are doing exactly the same thing, the net result is often to increase the supply faster than the demand resulting in lower prices and even total lower returns in many instances. This means that if productivity in agriculture is growing almost as rapidly as in all the other occupations - the growth in productivity per head in agriculture since the 1940s has been very marked - the percentage of the population engaged in agriculture must decline. Additionally, the structure of the agricultural industries must be continuously adapted to a declining labour force, and also the sizes of the farms need to be adjusted to take cognisance of higher real wages.
In Australia the proportion of the national work force engaged in agriculture has declined to less than 8 per cent. This process is repeated in every industrially developing country in the world. We should accept that it is inevitable, and should make sure that we adapt our policies, bearing in mind the effect that drift from the land has on other sectors of the economy, to this inevitability. Agriculture will progressively find itself in competition with industry for manpower and resources. Protective policies can contribute to greater efficiency when they reduce price variations, but when they are maintained at a consistently higher level than normal equilibrium price they encourage the allocation of resources to the production of a commodity at a level above that which may be desirable. They can be and are designed to reduce cyclical variations in returns but their effect should always be to keep adaptive changes orderly, not to mask their necessity or excessively to slow their progress.
The problems of the property owners are reflected in a very direct sense by those engaged in supplying goods and services to agriculturists. The people of country towns - the merchants, store owners, machinery agents and a host of others - are as severely affected as any property owner. The problems are compounded by the fact that the small country towns no longer are required to furnish labour and services to surrounding land owners. Increasing mechanisation, improved motor transport and roads, amalgamation of holdings and the subsequent drift of population, have rendered many small country towns obsolete.
Educational facilities and job opportunities are severely restricted. There is little to offer young people, particularly those with above average intelligence and drive. So, of course we find small country towns los ing their brightest sons, businesses contracting and an acceleration of the process towards decay. It is a little different from the larger country towns, particularly those with more established secondary industries. But it must not be forgotten that the declining fortunes of the rural sector have much greater ramifications than would appear at first sight. This is another facet of the problems of the agricultural sector which is often overlooked by the city dweller. It is not just the landowner who is threatened by the economic rigours of today. All those concerned with him - of course, this extends to city suppliers - are affected by his success or his failure.
What then of the city dweller? I said originally that the problems of the city and the country were closely interwoven. We all know the massive problems confronting major cities the world over. High land prices, overcrowding, transport and traffic difficulties, environmental disturbance and pollution, psychological problems leading to high crime rates, the rising costs of the provision of public facilities and the absence of recreational facilities are just some of the factors which combine to reduce the quality of life in many big cities of the world. The problems are very different, because there are job opportunities, and educational and cultural attractions. There are avenues for those with drive and imagination to put their talents to work. The rewards are great, but so are the costs.
It is a sad commentary on our achievements when a man has to spend up to 20 per cent of his waking hours travelling to and from work, when weather forecasts include the level of eye irritation likely from exposure to the atmosphere, when traffic police can spend only minutes on traffic duty and children are not allowed to play outside because of atmospheric pollution, when the individual becomes depersonalised and lashes out with all sorts of anti-social behaviour, when the city becomes just too big for the good of the people living in it. We are confronted with these problems in Australia - particularly, of course in Sydney and Melbourne - and they are rapidly being compounded as more and more people, whether from natural increase, immigration or drift from the country areas, come to where job opportunities exist.
The task then is to take some concerted action aimed at reducing the problems. Dealing firstly with agricultural industries, our policies must not be aimed at simply propping up uneconomic rural industries or inefficient or uneconomic land owners. We should aim at rationalising our agricultural industries so that those engaged in them will be able to compete on world markets without massive injections of support funds from the taxpayers’ pockets. This means, in effect, a strengthening of emphasis on rural reconstruction. I believe very firmly that we should widen the eligibility provisions for this scheme to enable land owners, not yet reduced to the economic disaster level at present required before help can be given, to gain access to funds, with, at the same time, a solid emphasis on the need and provision of effective re-training programmes and a ready realisation of the need for property consolidation. The $40m provided this year is a worthwhile step, but I believe more emphasis should have been given to this method of coping with the rural problem, perhaps at the expense of some of the other rural measures announced. By broadening the scope and finances of the rural reconstruction scheme, anybody engaged in any form of agricultural production would have a claim, provided he was eligible under the terms of the scheme.
The marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme provides an example of what can be achieved by reconstruction. It may be that there is a case for the Government to examine the possibility of encouraging the leasing of land on a much greater scale than is presently the case. This would have the attraction of not requiring people to sell up their property and would also result in a continuing income for the lessor, whilst requiring less capital outlay for the lessee. Again, the Government’s actions with respect to dairy farms may serve as a model, with the Government paying the lessor the value of improvements on his property as a capital sum with the costs to the lessee reduced accordingly.
Whilst I would be the first to agree that the wool industry deserved and needed some immediate help, and that the money injected into this sector will result in payments to many of those people servicing the industry, I think the need has never been more urgent for an independent sur vey into the future prospects of wool as an industrial fibre. The once sacred word wool’ has, in a sense, now become profane. This country, as we all know, was to a large extent built upon the golden fleece, but now the price has dropped to a level where continuing support would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. I notice that in the Australian Wool Commission’s interim annual report to Parliament for 1970-71, in the section headed ‘World Demand’, the Commission states that there was a 22 per cent fall in the average price for the season, together with an 8.9 per cent reduction in the quantity of wool purchased at auction. Exports of Australian wool to the United States of America, Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands fell by over 40 per cent in comparison with exports in 1969-70. Japanese purchases fell by 2 per cent and exports to only France, Germany, Belgium and some Asian and Eastern European countries were increased. These trends make me extremely hesitant to predict a large scale revival for wool, particularly when one takes into account the level of sophistication of research effort aimed at improving artificial fibres.
I find also that one of the largest manufacturers of knitting machines in the world is now making machines which will not take the present types of woollen yarns. This is a tremendously disturbing phenomenon because if knitted woollen garments are not capable of being produced on these new machines, wool’s already greatly depressed share of the knitted garment market must inevitably decline still further. There is thus this urgent need for an independent survey into the future for wool because, without some factual appreciation of the situation we face, we will find the very real prospect or danger of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars endeavouring to maintain an industry whose product may no longer be wanted.
I believe this Government in addition to pursuing these rural policies, in conjunction with the State governments, should now embark on a policy, of selective development. Australia is a country with scarce resources of manpower and capital. Bearing this in mind I believe the consulting Governments should choose a few growth centres using such criteria as readily available local natural resources like water and timber, good surface transport connections with established trade outlets and the potential within its area of influence for industrial growth and subsequent service industries. The Government should concentrate the resources that are available on the development of such centres. It is impossible, I believe, to develop such centres solely on agricultural industries. The object should be to provide attractive employment, housing, schooling, recreational and cultural opportunities, so that not only would those people originally from a rural setting be attracted to the centres but also many people at present living and working in major cities would be encouraged to move to such a centre.
I believe these attractions and developments can be achieved in a number of ways. Firstly, it would be possible for the head office of certain State public service departments to be located in selected growth centres. At the same time industry would be encouraged to set up in these centres by a combination of States and Commonwealth provided incentives. These need to be clearly set out, so that the individual industry can carry out a cost benefit analysis without the need for submitting proposals before consideration can be given by individual decentralisation departments. These incentives should include, investment grants, taxation concessions, communication cost concessions, freight cost concessions, help with the cost of factory building and housing and the provision of aid for local government bodies to assist in the provision of public facilities.
It is my strong belief that this is a tremendously worthwhile area for a productive display of co-operative federalism. The process will not occur naturally except perhaps with respect to the development of mining prospects of various kinds. It needs a catalyst, followed by continued Government action. This action can only adequately be carried out by the Federal Government in co-operation with the States. What in effect I am saying is that the people of Australia need to feel that they have a government with a clear idea of the direction in which it is guiding the country, and the objectives it hopes to achieve. There is then a real need for a clear statement of national objectives, a demonstration by the Government of knowledge and appreciation of the prob lems confronting urban and rural people, and the presentation and implementation of co-ordinated programmes with FederalState co-operation in tackling the problems and working towards the objectives.
Debate (on motion by Mr Kirwan) adjourned.
United States Communication StationDefence - Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement - Political Parties-
Shipping: Sinking of vessel ‘Hanna’
Motion (by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to address the House tonight on a matter which I consider to be of the utmost importance to every man, woman and child in Australia. I regret that I have had to wait until this late hour when the House is about to adjourn to raise this matter. On previous occasions in this House I have attempted to raise the fact that the American Defence Department, because of the attitude of this Government, has situated in this country bases at Pine Gap and at other centres which means that Australia will become a prime nuclear target. During the course of the last 24 hours or so we have been made aware of this station by what was said in the Australian radio programme ‘PM’. A Mr Klass has gone on record on that programme and has spelt out in quite clear terms what we on this side of the House have suspected because of what we know and because of what we have picked up in certain American journals, that is, the existence in this country of bases of a type that we should not have here. Their only purpose in the overall scheme of things is connected with the American defence system.
There can be no doubt in the minds of honourable members opposite after what was revealed yesterday on the programme PM’ of the existence in this country at Pine Gap of part of a global communication system which will not add to the defence effort of Australia. I would defy any honourable member opposite to try, and I would take to task any member of any defence committee in Australia who in fact tried to inform me that the existence of these bases in Australia will serve Australia’s defence. Therefore, it would seem to me that the Australian people just have not been considered. Where is Australia’s nuclear deterrent? Has the Government, in acceding to the United States request for the establishment of these bases which are designed not to defend Australia but to make it a prime nuclear target, abdicated its responsibility for the preservation of the people of Australia in its attempt to curry favour by acceding to every request made by the United States in relation to that country’s defence interests?
We in Australia have not been considered by the United States so far as the provision of a nuclear deterrent for Australia’s defence is concerned. In addition, there is no evidence of an American interest in providing a protective umbrella, such as that which the United States provides for her own defence in the North American area generally. There is a complete absence of this protector in Australia 01 in the near locality to Australia. Further, there is no consideration for a rocket system based on the capability of Australia to defend itself. There is a complete absence of any system similar to that which affords protection for the United States. One can only conlude that in the event of a global nuclear world war III America considers that the people of this country are expendable. This is made obvious by the fact that the defence experts of the Washington Pentagon are interested only in this continent in the interests of the American defence system and consider that Pine Gap in Australia will provide the necessary warning for the United States to take defensive and retaliatory action in any nuclear war for the purpose of American defence.
It seems to me that in a global conflict, or even in the threat of a global conflict, there is every possibility that this country would be the first to be attacked. Why has Washington interested itself in this country? It has done so because, by our geographical position and by the placement here of a base such as Pine Gap, we can provide adequate warning for an American defence system. It will provide some considerable hours of warning that America would not have if a place like Pine Gap had not been established in Australia, but it does not provide - this is the thing that ought to concern members in this House and every thinking person in Australia - any form of warning to Australia. One of the first things that a country hell bent on destruction would consider is whether it has any enemies in this regard.
Since taking part in the World War of 1939 to 1946 - I have expressed this view in this House before - I am almost a complete pacifist so far as any future war is concerned because I hold very strongly to the belief that if nations today do not learn to communicate with one another, to speak to one another and to get along with one another, the human race on this globe is most certainly doomed. But I am concerned because we have become a prime nuclear target. We have no defensive system, and one would be within the bounds of reason to expect that the reason we would be attacked is because the world knows, even if we have not been told in this country because of the attitude of the Government, the position that we hold in this country as an integral and important part of a global communications system.
If one casts one’s mind back, it was found necessary to use radio direction finding equipment to combat the tank armadas in the last war in the Western Desert and later on in Europe. These were used to knock out a command tank or a communications system so that everybody scattered. In the year 1971 and during the next vital years of the 1970s one would hope that some worthwhile discussion will take place between those 2 opposing global interests, namely the Eastern Bloc countries and the Western Bloc countries in a concept of understanding and peaceful intent.
Of course, we must take quite the opposite view from that expressed by this American gentleman who tries to tell us what good boys we are and what wonderful fellows the Government members have been in allowing America to build at Pine Gap what they want, when they want. In fact, he spelt out quite clearly that it could well be that the Australian Government and the defence officials of this country may not be aware of what they have let themselves in for by permitting the construction of this base in the centre of this country. I gave consideration to moving the suspension of Standing Orders during the course of the day so that this matter could be debated, but I thought: What would be the good of that; the Government would play the numbers game in relation to it. I think the time has come, because of what has been revealed in the last few hours, to tell the public how they have been hoodwinked. Certain people have written books and articles about this matter and there has been a great deal of speculation as to what is at Pine Gap. We now know what is there. We know what we are up against. We now know that because of its existence we do not have an adequate defence system. This should be the concern of each and every one of us in this place. I would be appreciative if some member on the Government side, either tonight or at some other time during this session, would stand in this House and inform us and the people of this country what is at Pine Gap. The time has arrived when there can no longer be any subterfuge in this respect.
In fact, it is common knowledge that at Pine Gap there is a great deal of American equipment and that there are a great many American personnel involved in this area of Australia. The people of this country should not be considered to be juvenile in their thinking in regard to this matter. They are not to be considered as secondary. I can only hope at this stage that the Government and those responsible for placing this global communications system there will at least have the courage and the principle to stand up in this House and inform the whole country of our position. Then we can relate it to what we consider ought to be necessary for our own defence instead of acting, in this part of the world, as a defence satellite of the millions of people who live in America, at the expense of the people who live in this country.
– I would hate to disappoint the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) by not replying to his speech, part of which I heard as I came into the House. It often confounds me, and I think it should also confound the Australian people, to hear the speeches that he makes. The honourable member has not been here for very long but similar speeches have been made by members of this Parliament who have since lost their seats at the various elections. The installations in Australia have been the subject of agreements between the Australian Government and the Government of the United States of America. All such agreements have been placed before the people of Australia and have been voted upon at elections time and time again. When one looks at the debates on the North West Cape installation, which was an election issue, and when one looks at the speeches of distinguished members of the Opposition prior to elections in years gone by, one finds that these matters were great issues. But on those issues the Australian Labor Party was repudiated by the people of Australia.
When one looks at the debates on defence in this House one cannot find a very convincing defence policy put forward by the Australia Labor Party. I think it would be reasonable to say that the Labor Party has lost most Federal elections on its foreign policy and its defence policy. The honourable member for Sturt is rather ingenuous if he suggests that the people of Australia do not have a fairly reasonable idea of what is involved in various stations that have been set up in Australia. If they are what the honourable member for Sturt says they are, surely to goodness he must admit and the people of Australia must also admit, that if we have a treaty with a friendly power whom we hope will come to our aid in the event of hostilities we cannot expect to have it all the one way. After all, our whole defence concept at present rests primarily upon the ANZUS pact.
– Do you think they will come?
– My distinguished friend from Robertson asks me: ‘Do you think they will come?’ I can only say that I hope they will. It seems to me to be worthwhile for the people of Australia to play their part. It is not just a matter of whether we think they will come. I have listened over the years to the honourable member for Lalor (Mr J. F. Cairns) talking about how he would defend this country. He would have a fleet of ships in the Sunda Strait sailing around the north of Australia but his outlook is that it would not be an Australian fleet but an American fleet. The honourable member like other members of the Opposition, spends his time placing American forces throughout the world but he never says anything about Australia’s responsibility. All that I can say to the honourable member for Sturt is that I think it is reasonable to say to the people of Australia that we are in a rather lonely situation in this part of the world and that we depend on the treaty which we have with the United States under ANZUS. A treaty does not involve just a one-way responsibility with some people it is always a matter of ‘ask somebody else to do it. Everybody else has a responsibility te protect us.’
Some of the things which were said by members of the Labor Party during defence debates and at other times prior to the last war about Papua New Guinea and threats of war are really quite incredible. In every defence debate the Labor Party voted against any increase in expenditure. I admit that when the war came along the Labor Party did for various reasons - they were not all defence - go into office. But what was the first thing it did when it got into office - and I do not blame the Labor Party for doing so? It sought the United States of America to come to our protection. If it were left to half the ignoramuses who represent the Labor Party outside of the Parliament - of course, there could not be any of them inside it - we would do sweet Fanny Adams about defending ourselves. As far as they are concerned if any threat arose they would get down on their knees and plead for somebody to come to their assistance. I would not say that about the honourable member for Sturt because I know that he played a very valiant and chivalrous part in the last war.
If we are to have mutual defence treaties and alliances with others and expect them to come to our aid surely to goodness we must accept some responsibility for defending ourselves. The honourable member for Sturt raised the possibility of a confrontation between an Iron Curtain bloc and a western bloc. What is he suggesting we should do in the event of such a confrontation? Is he suggesting that we should sit here stark naked and do nothing? Is he suggesting that we should be all issued with the old .303 rifles and go out and, as I have heard the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) put it before, man the Australian coastline with about a 100-mile distance between each troop? Surely to goodness if we are going to have alliances with other countries and expect those countries to have obligations to us it will be necessary for us as a nation to accept some responsibility and to play some part in the organisation of our own defence. In my opinion the establishments to which the honourable member for Sturt referred have not only a defence concept but also a very important peace concept. There are very few things in respect of direction finding equipment or beam systems for shipping that do not also have a defence concept.
All I can say to the Opposition is that if it were to go out and propound this line to the Australian people’ it would only get the same result as it got in respect of the Malaysian defence agreement, the North West Cape issue and the Cuban situation. On ever)’ occasion the Australian people have repudiated the Labor Party. Indeed. I think the Australian people will continue to repudiate the Labor Party as long as its members make speeches like the one the honourable member for Sturt has just made, which was nothing more than a sell out of our alliance. In effect, he said that we should just sit here stark naked and undefended.
– Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. I am one of those people who were misrepresented in the speech made by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) when he stated that the Australian Labor Party supported the Cuban revolution. Nothing is further from the truth and he should know it. There is not one Labor Party man in this House who supported the Cuban revolution. If there is, let the honourable member name him.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I think the honourable member for Sydney misunderstood me. I did not say that the Australian Labor Party supported the Cuban situation. I said ‘over the Cuban situation’.
– That was the inference.
– If the honourable member would care to look at the Hansard report of the speech I have just made tomorrow, I think he will agree with what I have said. If he does not agree, I will apologise.
-Order! The honourable member for La Trobe will resume his seat. The honourable member is getting beyond the bounds of a personal explanation.
– This evening I wish to raise the matter of the proposed Commonwealth-States housing agreement. I understand that the State Housing Ministers will meet the Commonwealth Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) in Canberra in the next few days. This meeting will be the third of a recent series of meetings which have been held to discuss the new Commonwealth-State housing agreement- Several conflicting opinions have been publicised in recent weeks as to the advantage of this new agreement. Two States have put forward definite opposition to the proposals which were announced in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden). The Victorian Minister for Housing, Mr Meagher, in a Press report on the 22nd of last month said:
In April the Commonwealth promised to hold discussions with the States before deciding on any future housing policy. The Budget makes a mockery of that promise. They have announced a new policy before they have even spoken to us.
On 29th August, in another Press article dealing with the controversy, the Queensland State Housing Minister, Mr Hodges, said that the Commonwealth housing scheme would mean fewer Housing Commission homes for Queenslanders. The article stated:
Mr Hodges said that if adopted, the new scheme would mean higher Housing Commission rents and house repayments.
The article continued:
Last November the Commonwealth promised us there would not be any change in the scheme. They have not consulted with us, yet they called us down and told us to take it or leave it. What was the good of taking us down there if we could do nothing about it?
I point out to honourable members that Mr Hodges’ statement was made after the Housing Ministers had met on 27th August. It is not my intention this evening to pass judgment on the agreement currently under consideration but I do wish to say that the very fact that the Commonwealth has not proposed any escalation clauses in the agreement to run from 1971-72 to 1975-76 is a matter of concern as to its merit. This very fact prompted the Queensland Housing Minister who, I might add, represents the same political affiliations as the Minister in this Government, to say:
There’s inflation and costs are rising. Without escalation clauses things might be all right for the first year. But after that the effects would gather pace. Over the 5 year period there would be a serious drop in the buying power. This would mean fewer Housing Commission homes for Queenslanders in future, because fewer houses would be built with the same money.
Despite the promise in this House on 22nd April this year that the Commonwealth would confer with the States before a new agreement was decided upon, no such conference was held. Instead, what has happened is that despite the pious promises of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in March of this year that his attitude would be to adopt a new approach to Commonwealth-State relations, the States were never consulted on this matter. They were confronted with a new agreement and dictated to in a take this or take nothing attitude.
Let me quickly put on record how I am certain of my claim of Commonwealth dictatorship in this vital matter of Commonwealth-State relations. I will show also how the Minister for Housing in recent weeks, both inside this House in reply to my question on 24th August and in his statements outside the House, has blatantly and maliciously misled both the States and members of this Parliament. Earlier this year, due to the inability of the Government to arrange a new Commonwealth-State housing agreement and have it endorsed by the States prior to the end of the last financial year, it was necessary for the Minister to introduce to the Parliament an interim measure to enable the Commonwealth to make advances to the States for housing for a period from July 1971 until such time as a new Commonwealth-State housing agreement could be finalised. At that time, in his second reading speech, the Minister said:
It will not be possible to negotiate a new Agreement with the States in time for presentation to the Parliament before the end of the present sittings. The States are, however, substantially dependent upon advances from the Commonwealth for maintaining their housing operations. I expect shortly to be in a position to commence negotiations with the States and to reach agreed conclusions in time for introduction of appropriate legislation early in the Budget sittings.
Under the scheme which then existed, the Commonwealth advanced money to the States at a concessional rate of interest which was 1 per cent below the long term bond rate. The interim measure was introduced in this chamber on 22nd April last. Two days previously the Minister for Housing replied to a question on notice from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) who had asked:
What has been the (a) date and (b) outcome of discussions between the Minister and the State Ministers concerning the 1971 housing agreement.
The Minister said in reply:
I expect to discuss any such future arrangement with the State Housing Ministers at a meeting to be arranged as soon as possible.
I admit that in reply to my question on 24th August last the Minister for Housing made out that certain negotiations had taken place, implied that the Premiers were acquainted with some of the details of the proposed housing agreement and that the Commonwealth’s job had been done because the promised meeting had taken place. I point out that the promised meeting was a meeting between the Ministers for Housing. In his reply to me in this place the Minister said:
The details of these arrangements were made known to the State Premiers and to the State Treasurers by the Prime Minister at the Premiers Conference over 2 months ago.
That does not sound to me as if it was the type of proposed housing agreement conference which the Minister for Housing referred to on both 20th and 22nd April.
When the House of Representatives adjourned on Friday, 7th May, to my knowledge no such meeting had been held. To the best of my knowledge, and 1 have checked extensively for any ministerial statements or Press reports - these usually are based on Cabinet or ministerial information leaks and therefore are fairly reliable - no such meeting was held during the parliamentary recess. Parliament met again on Tuesday, 17th August. At 8 p.m. that evening the Treasurer presented the Budget and in his speech delivered the death blow to the existing Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Furthermore he destroyed also any possibility of a beneficial and harmonious agreement being established in its place.
Surely, Mr Speaker, it is time the Minister for Housing endeavoured to bring some truthfulness and honesty into his handling of this matter. Either a conference or a meeting was held with the State Housing Ministers before the new agreement was announced or it was not held. The meeting was promised in this House on 20th April. It was referred to by the Minister again on 22nd April. Hansard records those promises. I challenge the Minister now either to state quite definitely when that meeting took place or to apologise to the House for his misleading statements which some people could regard as untruthful.
– The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) has decided to fish in the area of the proposed housing arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States. Pursuant to that aim he has quoted certain State Ministers for Housing, particularly Mr Meagher from Victoria and Mr Hodges from Queensland. He quoted certain views they expressed concerning the nature of the Commonwealth’s proposals and has presumed that they believe the proposals operate to the disadvantage of .the States.
Before I deal with that point of his case let me once again scan chronologically the list of arrangements that occurred. Early this year, in April, it was stated that it was hoped to have a further discussion between the Commonwealth Minister for Housing and the State Ministers relative to a new housing agreement or some new housing arrangements. The meeting in that form did not occur. It was replaced, and was replaced to the knowledge of State Premiers and State Treasurers and the officers accompanying them at the Premiers Conference early in June. At the Premiers meeting inside and outside this chamber in June the States were told 95 per cent of what the Commonwealth was prepared to offer in relation to housing.
It was also indicated to the States that something further would be offered to them in relation to housing, and that occurred. What these officers and senior State officials were told was that the Commonwealth was proposing to make grants of $2.75m available for each year over a 5-year period for 30 years. That is, for each year of the housing arrangements the Commonwealth was to offer to the States $82.5m and that was to continue for a 5- year period. In other words, $2.75m was a cumulative sum and in fact a very generous sum. It was also indicated to the States that they would be released from their obligation under the previous Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to make available up to 5 per cent of their advances for the purpose of Service housing, that the Commonwealth would make all the advances in relation to Service housing and that there would be further assurances in relation to those matters. They were also told then, in early June, that there would be a further offer in the Budget and that this was to be announced publicly quite apart from their own knowledge of it, in the budgetary context. That offer made in early June was correct.
Subsequent to that, I undertook to visit a number of the States and I spoke with a number of Ministers concerning the matter. For example, I spoke with the Deputy Premier in South Australia and his Under Treasurer, having communicated with the Premier of South Australia earlier. I spoke also with the Minister for Housing in Victoria, and others. The opportunity was available to State Ministers for Housing to know the details, certainly 95 per cent of the details, in relation to the housing agreement. As was pointed out at a subsequent conference between the Commonwealth and the States, there was no advantage whatsoever to one State compared to another in terms of the details of the proposal. But, of course, some States had done their homework. That is the way in which it occurred.
A meeting between myself and the State Ministers for Housing was held last Friday week in Canberra. The proposals were discussed at that meeting. There was vigorous, amicable discussion concerning the Commonwealth’s proposals to the States. Of course, some States said that I had indicated to them that they could take it or leave it. Those words have been quoted in the Press. Those words were never uttered by me, as far as I can discover from reading the transcript of the meeting between the Commonwealth and the States. But I do not regard that as being very important. So the present situation is this, as the honourable member would know: A meeting has been held between the officers of the Commonwealth and the States in relation to this matter, and it is hoped that at an early, convenient date another meeting will be held between the State Ministers for Housing, their officers and myself to explore further the benefits of the Commonwealth’s new arrangements.
It has also been indicated by the honourable member for Bowman that some State Ministers have said that this would make housing loans dearer for them and they would build fewer houses through their own State authorities than under the previous agreement. That is incorrect. These arrangements are very substantial and generous. They are a substantial improvement on anything that has ever been offered previously by the Commonwealth to the State. As a matter of fact, if one were to compare this offer and its nature with the offer made under Commonwealth and State housing agreements by Labor governments, the latter arrangements and proposals for agreement would pale into insignificance alongside the generosity of this offer. In fact, many of those vitally concerned with this new proposal have indicated that this offer is better than has ever occurred in the past. Of course, whatever the Government did in the past was always significantly better than whatever a Labor Government contemplated doing.
One of the gentlemen who has indicated that this offer is better than what has occurred in the past is the present Premier of South Australia. Another gentleman who has indicated that the offer is better than the previous arrangement is the Minister for housing in New South Wales. Of course it is for the States to decide how they assess these matters and how they do their homework in these matters. I cannot do it for them. But I do say that to suggest that this proposed arrangement would make housing dearer or that it would induce increased costs in housing reflects a lack of knowledge of what is contained in the agreement. It should be borne in mind that one of the interesting features in this proposed agreement is that of all the organisations concerned with housing in Australia, probably the co-operative terminating building societies are most intimately concerned. In fact they are almost as intimately concerned as some State governments. As in the old agreement it is proposed that up to 30 per cent of the funds should be subvented to the co-operative terminating building societies because these people cater for the low and moderate income earners. If this proposal is good for the States it is good for the co-operative terminating building societies. If it is bad for the States or the approved organisations - South Australia works through different organisations - it is bad for those people who work through the home builders account, the co-operative terminating building societies and, in South Australia, other organisations.
It is interesting to bear in mind that the Australian President of the Australian Council of Co-operative Building and Housing Societies has made a statement, after examining the details of the proposals, indicating that they represent a substantial improvement on what has been offered in the past. He has expressed some concern that the negotiations may break down. A statement was published in the Financial Review’ of 2nd September 1971. I read the part of the statement which it is appropriate to consider in this context on the generosity of the Commonwealth’s offer. It states:
The Australian Council of Co-operative Building and Housing Societies has come out in support of the Commonwealth’s new housing proposals, which have been rejected by all States except NSW and South Australia.
The president of the council, Mr B. Knowles, said … he believed the proposed Commonwealth grant was equivalent to an average interest concession of at least 1.4 per cent-
When one considers that the interest concession under Labor governments was between 4 per cent and i per cent one can see what is involved in the different arrangement - which was substantially higher than the present concession.
The terminating societies hoped that the reported breakdown in negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States would be quickly resolved’ . . .
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Recently I asked a question on notice regarding the sinking of the S.S. ‘Hanna’ or its presumed sinking after its crew had left it on 4th March of this year some 2,000 miles from Fremantle with its decks awash and at least four of its main bulkheads collapsed in what was moderate weather for that time of the year. The crew were fortunate that they were taken aboard the m.v. ‘Glastone Star’ which had stood by for 24 hours. What appals me is that this ship had been allowed to put to sea in an obviously dangerous condition with the possibility of loss of life to the crew and the further danger of the hulk to other shipping. In normal circumstances one would think that a ship such as this would have been kept in port. The S.S. ‘Hanna’ had been in its new owner’s hands for some weeks. I believe that Taiwanese interests had purchased it from American interests. The ship had gone from Taiwan to Adelaide to load bulk grain. At Port Pirie in South Australia 2 Commonwealth surveyors ordered structural defects to be repaired. Repairs included welding plates over splits in the ship’s deck. The work was effected under the supervision of representatives of the American Bureau of Shipping. However the grain was not loaded and the ship proceeded to Bunbury in Western Australia for a load of ilmenite sand. This was after a permit had been issued by the representatives of the American Bureau of Shipping, which permitted the S.S. ‘Hanna’ to carry cargo provided it underwent a complete survey within 60 days.
At Bunbury the harbourmaster, acting as a Commonwealth surveyor, inspected the vessel in relation to the cargo and discovered further structural defects. A Department of Shipping and Transport surveyor from Fremantle further inspected the vessel and endorsed the decision of the Bunbury harbourmaster that the repairs should be effected under the supervision of the American Bureau of Shipping, whose local representative subsequently issued a report to the effect that these repairs had been effected, confirming the view of his counterpart in South Australia that the ship be allowed to carry cargo provided that it was surveyed within 60 days of the date of the South Australian inspection. Because of this, according to the then Minister’s reply to the question, and because it held the necessary international certificate this potential coffin was allowed to sail, no doubt with full insurance cover on the vessel and its cargo of ilmenite sand.
The vessel was subsequently abandoned about half-way between Australia and South Africa with broken frames and adjacent steel plate buckled and sinking 9 days after leaving Bunbury in Western Australia and in comparatively good weather for that time of the year. The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Shipping and Transport have expressed in writing to the Panamanian Government, with which the ship was registered, and to the American Bureau of Shipping their concern in the matter. I ask: Is this good enough? Here is an obvious situation where a floating death trap was discovered in Australia and allowed to leave. How many other ships travelling under Panamanian registration are in the same condition? How many other ships receive clearance certificates from the American Bureau of Shipping, which is a classification society authorised to act on behalf of the Government of Panama, when the vessels are in an unseaworthy condition? This is an international scandal and it is up to the Australian authorities to ensure that this type of incident cannot again occur and not to leave the burden of responsibility to the seamen to refuse to man such ships or to waterside labour to lose its income by taking industrial action to prevent the loading of such vessels.
It is of no use to say that some other authority issued a clearance. It needs the confirmation of our own Commonweatlh surveyors to ensure that this dangerous practice is not tolerated. It is no good waiting until we have a loss of life of crew or until another vessel, possibly a passenger vessel, collides with a floating hulk. No party actually saw the ‘Hanna’ sink. No attempt was made to ensure that the hulk was disposed of. Where was the Australian Navy on this occasion? Who has some evidence of where the hulk is? The casual manner in which this whole matter has been treated is beyond comprehension. If some loophole does exist in our international agreements in relation to safety it is up to the Government to close that loophole. This can be done only by proper inquiry and investigation, by the responsible Ministers exerting their authority to ensure that the full facts of such incidents are fully disclosed and by taking action to ensure that Commonwealth inspectors are not in fact overruled by some outside party. I believe this is what has happened in this case.
An inquiry, preferably an open inquiry, into this matter is needed, for beyond doubt the people who practise in this field of marine surveying will want the responsibility sheeted home to the people concerned. If someone took a risk on behalf of some shipowner, this should be revealed not as a matter of retribution but as a preventive against such incidents in future not only to guarantee the safety of those who man the ships but also to protect those who travel as passengers in these and other ships. On this occasion all were lucky. Had heavy weather been encountered, as could be expected in this area at this time of the year, it could have led to heavy loss of life. This is an untenable situation and not one which we should be prepared to stand by and allow to happen. No doubt this House will be informed of the replies to our official protests to the Panamanian Government and the American Bureau of Shipping and an inquiry will be instituted into the standard of qualifications and other relevant information regarding the circumstances of those who certificated the vessel as fit to leave the Australian port.
– I had not intended to intervene in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, but I think I should set the record straight in one important particular. A few moments ago the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) stated that no member of the Australian Labor Party supported Castro in Cuba. I have no doubt that when he said this he believed his statement to be true. I am not in any sense casting doubts on his veracity. Nevertheless, the statement is, to my personal knowledge, untrue. At the time of the Cuban disturbances I participated in a debate on television with the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) who was then the honourable member for Yarra. He gave that support. A few moments ago the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) indicated that he was in support of Castro.
– I rise on a point of order. I did not say that. I ask that that statement be withdrawn. I said that I did not withdraw any of the support that I gave to Castro. I do not withdraw any comments I have made in this House.
– I do not remember the honourable member for Reid speaking.
– I am quite happy to accept the honourable member’s word. He said that he withdrew none of the support that he had given to Castro. Those are his words. I accept them for what they are. I want to make it quite clear that I believe that the honourable member for Sydney was speaking what he thought was the truth. Unfortunately it was untrue because certain members of the Opposition - not all - have given and do give support to Castro in Cuba.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the first place, when I rose to order while the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) was speaking I did not say but I did mean to say ‘in this House’. It was a Party decision in regard to this matter. No member of the Opposition spoke in this House in support of Castro. If he had, he would have been dealt with by the Party. It was a decision of the Party.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I want to clarify the position. I said to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) that any comment of support that I have given Castro I do not wish to withdraw. I made certain statements in this House in 1960 during a debate on a Bill dealing with the employment of waterside workers. I will stand by those statements. I do not wish to withdraw them. That is my position. I hope that tonight I will have an opportunity to speak. I hope that the debate is not gagged before I am given an opportunity to speak.
Motion (by Mr Giles) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.3 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Road Safely Statistics (Question No. 4026)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At its meeting in July 1970 the Australian Transport Advisory Council directed its Advisory Committee on Road User Performance and Traffic Codes to examine this matter.
At present, this committee is undertaking a study of Road Traffic Accident Reporting systems.
As soon as this study is completed, a report will then be submitted to the Australian Transport Advisory Council.
Shipping: S.S. ‘Hanna’ (Question No. 3473)
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Under the provisions of the 1960 Safety of Life at Sea Convention, the Government of a country that authorises a classification society to issue certificates on its behalf fully guarantees the completeness and efficiency of the inspection and survey ofthe classification society.
The vessel was inspected prior to proposed grain loading in Port Pirie, South Australia, by surveyors of the Department of Shipping and Transport, who did not declare the vessel unseaworthy but required certain structural defects in the vessel to be repaired under the supervision of the American Bureau of Shipping. In the event the owners did not proceed with the proposed grain loading, but subsequently decided to load a cargo of ilmenite sand. After repairs had been carried out, the representative of the American Bureau of Shipping issued ‘Hanna’ with a certificate which permitted the vessel to continue to carry cargo provided it underwent a complete survey within 60 days. (2), (3) and (4). The vessel proceeded to Bunbury, Western Australia, where it subsequently loaded ilmenite sand. The Harbour Master at Bunbury, acting as a Commonwealth surveyor, inspected the vessel in relation to the cargo and discovered further structural defects. A Department of Shipping and Transport surveyor from Fremantle then inspected the vessel and endorsed the view of the Harbour Master that certain repairs be carried out, under the supervision of the American Bureau of Shipping. Subsequently the American Bureau of Shipping’s local representative issued a report to the effect that the repairs had been satisfactorily carried out and confirmed the view of his counterpart in South Australia that the vessel be ‘retained in class’, that is in effect, be permitted to carry cargo, provided it was surveyed within 60 days from the date of the American Bureau of Shipping representative’s inspection in South Australia.
In the circumstances outlined above, and because the repairs required by the Commonwealth surveyors had been carried out and the vessel held necessary International Certificates issued by the American Bureau of Shipping, it was allowed to sail.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
What weight rail will be used in the proposed railway line from Port Augusta to Whyalla.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The rail to be used in the proposed Port Augusta-Whyalla railway, line will principally be second-hand 80 lb rail which has been inspected and accepted as in good condition. Some new 94 lb rail will be used in special locations such as points, crossings and over the new bridge at Port Augusta.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What is the estimated additional annual cost of paying age pensions at the new rates proposed by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech to all persons who are qualified by residence and who are, respectively (a) 80 years and over, (b) 79 years, (c) 78 years, (d) 77 years, (e) 76 years, (f) 75 years, (g) 74 years, (h) 73 years, (i) 72 years, (j) 71 years, (k) 70 years, 0) 69 years, (m) 68 years, (n) 67 years, (o) 66 years, and (p) 65 years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A preliminary estimate of the order of additional annual cost is:
$30m (p.a.) for eligible persons 80 years and over
$40m (p.a.) for eligible persons 79 years and over
$45m (p.a.) for eligible persons 78 years and over
$55m (p.a.) for eligible persons 77 years and over (e)$65m (p.a.) for eligible persons 76 years and over
$75m (p.a.) foreligible persons 75 years and over
$90m (p.a.) for eligible persons 74 years and over
$105m (p.a.) for eligible persons 73 years and over
$120m (p.a.) for eligible persons 72 years and over
$140m (p.a.) for eligible persons 71 years and over
$155m (p.a.) for eligible persons 70 years and over
$175m (p.a.) for eligible persons 69 years and over
$200m (p.a.) for eligible persons 68 years and over
$230m (p.a. for eligible persons 67 years and over
$265m (p.a.) for eligible persons 66 years and over
$305m (p.a.) for eligible persons 65 years and over
The preliminary estimates shown above are based on the assumption that all persons eligible by residence and age would claim a pension if the means test were abolished. They represent the additional cost over and above the liability which would exist for current pensions if paid at the rates in the Social Services Bill before the House.
Sea-carriage of Goods (Question No. 3908)
asked the Minister for
Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
Can he say what proportion of the (a) nonAboriginal and (b) Aboriginal population of (i) primary school, (ii) secondary school and (iii) tertiary level (specifying level) age received (A) fulltime and (B) part-time education in (I) each State and Territory and (II) Australia in the last year for which figures are available and for the year 10 years earlier.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In general, statistics do not differentiate between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. Hence, I am unable to provide the information requested.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
What steps have been taken to involve nursing education with colleges of advanced education as recommended last year in the reports on nursing education in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Proposals for the introduction of new courses in Colleges of advanced education are made by the colleges and State co-ordinating bodies in submissions put to the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education on a triennial basis. Submissions for the 1973-73 triennium are now being received. When the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education has studied these proposals it will submit its recommendations to me, and these will then be considered by the Government.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Trade with Great Britain (Question No. 2270)
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The following is provided in answer to the honourable member’s question:
As Australian export statistics do not classify goods according to the tariff of recipient countries,
British import statistics were examined to determine the value of British imports of Australian goods which received no margin of preference in 1970. Comparable British import data on a tariff item basis were not published for the other years requested. The results of the examination are shown in Table 1 below.
This table does not include, however, any goods which might not have received the preferential treatment provided in the British Tariff. This could occur where the legal requirements governing the grant of preference were not fulfilled.
Table 2 below shows Australian import clearances of goods of British origin which received no margin of preference in 1965-66 and 1969-70. Unlike Table 1, the value of Australian import clearances shown in Table 2 includes those goods for which the Australian tariff provided a preference but which received non-preferential treatment.
Comparable figures for the general categories of imports are not available for years prior to 1965-66 because a new Australian Customs Tariff, based on the Brussels Tariff Nomenclature, was introduced in that year.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
– On 26th August the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) asked me a question without notice about the allocation of houses in Canberra to Ministers. I have discussed this matter with the Minister for the Interior, as I undertook to do, and I have looked at the relevant papers.
I can assure the honourable member that the action taken to provide the Minister for the Interior with a house in Canberra is consistent with previous practice.
For many years now there has been provision for the allocation of houses on a priority basis to people who have to be brought to Canberra by the Commonwealth Government for special purposes and whose period of residence here is indeterminate. As is common knowledge, Ministers have been regarded as coming within this category. This is a sensible approach.
Apart from their duties as Members of Parliament, Ministers have many pressing commitments which require their presence in Canberra when Parliament is not sitting. Particularly is this true of the Minister for the Interior. I think this is well understood, and further I think the practice of Ministers bringing their families to Canberra and establishing homes here is welcomed.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
In which of these schools and in what year
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Minister for Education and Science lays before the Parliament each year a statement on the Libraries Programme which lists the names of government schools which are receiving facilities under the Programme and the names of non-government schools, together with the amount of each grant that has been approved by the Commonwealth Minister. The most recent such statement was tabled on 5th May 1971. The form of the statement reflects the fact that the allocation of funds under the Programme to individual government schools is the responsibility of the State Minister of Education.
A similar statement is to be made for each of the remaining four years of the Commonwealth
Science Facilities Programme. Such statements on the Science Facilities Programme have been presented at appropriate intervals in the past. The last such statement, presented on 29th May 1969, set out the approved Programme for the three years ending 30th June 1971. It listed the names of government secondary schools which were expected to receive facilities under the Programme and the names of non-government schools together with the amounts of money which would be offered during the three year period. As soon as possible I shall present a statement to Parliament which sets out the amounts actually paid to individual non-government schools during the three years.
If more detailed information is required on grants to individual government schools the honourable member should approach the State Minister for Education concerned. If information on a particular non-government school ls required, however, I shall be happy to provide it to the honourable member.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
If information is required on grants made to a particular non-government school under the Commonwealth Science Facilities or Libraries Programmes, I shall be happy to supply it.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710909_reps_27_hor73/>.