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 petition of the undersigned showeth:
That the Australian people both in Metropolitan and Rural areas should have the best of television programmes available to them and that television as a powerful means of communication should not be in the control of too few hands.
The increased quota for Australian dramatic productions should not be imposed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board at the expense of Australian professional variety or Australian documentary or educational programmes, but directed more towards cutting down expenditure on the purchase of imported productions, thus effecting a considerable saving in Australia’s overseas balance of payments.
The Australian Parliament has a responsibility to encourage the development of our National identity, character and heritage and the promulgation, for the sake of our children, of an adequate picture of Australia, her standards, morals and way of life, particularly through the media of radio and television, which is in the immediate control of the Australian Government.
Until constructive and positive action is taken by the Australian Government to promote Australian culture and protect the employment and professional standards of Australian writers, artists and producers in Australia itself there is little likelihood of stopping the flow of Australian talent from Australia to other countries.
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board must insist that its new quota standards of Australian dramatic content on television are rigidly imposed and enforced on all commercial television stations.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should -
Cause the Australian Government to recognise the right of Australian professional people engaged in the creative and performing arts to further develop their skills and talents in Australia, and to be protected from overseas programmes in a way that will encourage an Australian Television and Radio industry that can reflect and contribute to our identity and growth as a nation.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the residents of the State of New South Wales respectifully sheweth:
The red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for commercial purposes, have been reduced to a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy.
None of the Australian states have sufficient wardens to detect and apprehend people breaking the laws in existence in each state, and in such a vast country only uniform laws and a complete cessation of commercialisation can ensure the survival of our national emblem.
It is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale, unless some provision is made for its future.
We, your petitioners, therefore humbly pray that:
The export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
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 -
Your petitioners request that your honourable House make legal provision for -
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 . . . electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2603 XXIV A (December 1969) declares that the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which Australia has ratified, prohibits the use in international armed conflict of any chemical agents of warfare - chemical substances whether gaseous, liquid or solid - employed for their direct toxic effects on man, animals or plants;
that the World Health Organisation Report (January 1970) confirms the above definition of chemical agents of warfare;
that the Australian Government does not accept this definition, but holds that the Geneva Protocol does not prevent the use in war of certain toxic chemical substances in the form of herbicides, defoliants and ‘riotcontrol’ agents.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
that the Parliament take note of the concensus of international political, scientific and humanitarian opinion; and
that Honourable Members urge upon the Government the desirability of revising its interpretation of the Geneva Protocol, and declaring that it regards all chemical substances employed for their toxic effects on man, animals or plants as being included in the prohibitions laid down by that Protocol.
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:
That there is a likelihood that education in the Australian Capital Territory will in the foreseeable future be made independent of the New South Wales education system:
That the decentralization 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 community, be instituted to enquire into the form that an Australian Capital Territory Education Authority should take, the educational principles and philosophy that should underly it, and its mode of operation and administration.
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 electors of the Division of Sturt respectfully sheweth:
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.
-I want to inform the House of the following ministerial arrangements: Mr Holten, in addition to his duties as Minister for Repatriation, will assist the Minister for Trade and Industry. I have also made the following appointments of Assistant Ministers: The Prime Minister will be assisted by Mr Dobie. The Minister for Primary Industry will be assisted by Mr King. The Minister for Health and the Leader of the Government in the Senate will be assisted by Senator Marriott. The Postmaster-General will be assisted by Mr Robinson. The Minister for Labour and National Service will be assisted by Mr Street. The Minister for Civil Aviation will be assisted by Mr McLeay.
Senator Marriott will take up his duties after he has been sworn in as a member of the Executive Council. This will also apply to Mr King on his return from overseas.
I also wish to inform the House that the Minister for Works, Senator Wright, left Australia today to lead the Australian Delegation to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Kuala Lumpur. Senator Wright is expected to return to Australia on 24th September. During his absence, the Minister for Customs and Excise, Mr Chipp, will be Acting Minister for Works. The Acting Minister for Works will be represented in the Senate by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson.
-Order! Are there any notices?
– Mr Speaker, may I interrupt to ask whether it would be in order for me to ask a question of the Prime Minister now with reference to the statement he has just made?
-The honourable member may do so at question time. I will be calling question time shortly.
– But I cannot ask him now?
– May I ask for leave to make a statement on it?
– Leave is not granted.
– I ask a question of the Treasurer. Does the honourable gentleman recall referring in his Budget Speech 3 weeks ago to the need to exert a steadying influence on the upward course of demand in the economy? Has he now noted Associated Chambers of Manufactures and Bank of New South Wales statistics showing that 72 per cent of Australian manufacturers are operating below capacity owing to an insufficiency of new orders? Is the existence of this situation confirmed by the official demand statistics with which his Department is now supplying him? Do the statistics reveal that the Budget strategy has been based on a complete misjudgment of trends in the economy and, if pursued, will produce consequences of the most damaging kind?
– They do not. The last part of the honourable gentleman’s question is totally misconceived. The Budget strategy adopted this course: The Government felt that its most important function was to take leadership in the fight against inflation and that it should do what it could in its fiscal policy. The Government recognised that the inflationary pressures that we faced were of a cost-push variety. The Government recognised also that to deal with this problem was a difficult enough task but that to allow a situation where demand inflation was superimposed upon cost-push inflation would exacerbate the problem immensely and would not be a proper course of action to take. Therefore, the Budget strategy was designed to make sure, insofar as Government policy could do it, that we would not see the potential for demand actually occur to superimpose itself upon cost-push inflation.
We were under no misapprehension as to the level of demand currently and, if the Leader of the Opposition will read the Budget Speech properly, he will find stated there clearly in shorter words what I have been saying now. We knew what the level of demand was. We took action which would give leadership in cost-push but which would leave us free - that is, the Government and the community as a whole - to tackle a single problem and not have an exacerbation of demand pull on top of cost-push.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there are any rules and procedures relating to the classifying and declassifying of Government documents and, if so, whether he will advise the House what those rules and procedures are.
– There is a manual called ‘Protective Security Handbook’-
– I take a point of order. The Prime Minister should not be so blatant. He has a prepared statement. He can make a statement after question time.
-Order! The honourable member for Diamond Valley has asked a question and that question is in order.
– This is an authoritative document and I have checked on several occasions to see what rules are related to the declassification of documents. The first rule reads:
Classified documents should be kept under constant review and reclassified as necessary.
The second rule reads:
Documents should not be reclassified without the approval of the originating authority.
In this case the originating authority was the Department of Foreign Affairs. The declassification was made by the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs in consultation. They were unquestionably the persons authorised to reclassify. Might I say that there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind and there is no doubt whatsoever in the minds of those people who are best able to advise that the Prime Minister has undoubted and unquestioned authority to reclassify should he think it desirable.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service relating to the continued inactivity by the Government on its undertaking given during the Senate election campaign to establish or assist child minding centres. Is this inactivity still based on the temporary reasons of economy indicated by the Minister on 4th May or has the Government now repudiated the proposal as a matter of principle? If it is the former, how much is the Commonwealth saving by this particular austerity measure and when might some action be expected? If it is the latter, is the Government considering any alternative forms of assistance to working mothers, particularly those who must now work as a matter of necessity?
– The honourable gentleman refers to a proposal in relation to child minding centres made during the Senate election campaign. As the honourable gentleman states, I referred to this matter in reply to a question from another honourable member some months ago and indicated that the proposal had in fact been temporarily deferred, not on the basis that there was not a need to take action but rather on the basis that the Government’s major problem at that time, as in fact it still remains, was to contain inflationary pressures. In the context of that appreciation the Government has embarked on a deliberate programme of curtailing Commonwealth expenditure. It is in the light of that context that the announcement I made some months ago is a continuing matter of policy at this stage. I give the honourable gentleman no direct encouragement as to any expectation that the Government’s view is subject to variance at this point although at the same time I indicate that the matter will, of course, be under continuing study. The Government realises that there is a problem in relation to the issue to which the honourable gentleman refers. It is a problem which has been subject to detailed investigation and research by my Department and it is only because of the inflationary problem - a very big problem in Australia - that that project remains at the present time nonactive.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. Can the Minister tell the House whether any alternative billeting accommodation has been found for chief petty officers, petty officers and seamen who have been required to find outside lodgings while HMAS ‘Vampire’ is being refitted in Melbourne? Does the Minister agree with my contention that it costs more to sleep than to eat, especially in Melbourne?
– The accommodation of the crews of ships refitting in dockyards such as Williamstown is a difficulty. The Royal Australian Navy has been trying for some time to establish an accommodation block in the Williamstown area. Plans were proceeding well but the local council has seen fit to challenge these and has withdrawn its agreement, and at the moment fresh negotiations are under way. The accommodation block will be the ideal solution.
Meanwhile there are arrangements made whereby single sailors who are required to live ashore under these conditions have restored to them a living allowance. This used to be simply the restoration of, I think, the $1.30 a day that was deducted from their pay while they were fully provided for on the ship. This has now been increased because a survey was made by
Treasury and Navy officials into the cost of accommodation in that area. I think something like $21 a week is paid to a single seaman who is required to live ashore under these conditions.
It is recognised that a married man will have a home elsewhere. If he has to set up a second home, not only is a daily allowance given to him, but if he can demonstrate that accommodation actually costs him more than that allowance he is also reimbursed to the full extent. So he is getting his married quarters at a rate which is 15 per cent of his salary - it cannot be greater than 15 per cent of his salary. I believe that this rate is more than comparable with normal charges for rent in the community in these days. I think therefore a married sailor is well catered for in his married quarters and his full expenses for setting up a second home are reimbursed under circumstances such as those referred to by the honourable member. Therefore I do not believe that there is any real problem.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: Is it a fact that restricted imports of the drug prostaglandins have been authorised for use in Australia? What is the nature of the authorisation? If clinical trials are to be undertaken with this drug, in which hospital centres throughout Australia will the work be programmed? What are the clinical conditions to which use of this drug will be directed?
– I will be glad to convey the honourable gentleman’s question to my colleague in the other place and to ask him to give a full reply.
– In directing my question to the Minister for National Development I refer to the Prime Minister’s announcement in October 1969 concerning the extension of the national water resources development programme which allocated $100m over a period of 5 years as nonrepayable grants. Can the Minister say whether Western Australia has applied for assistance under the section which embraces smaller works to serve particular districts or groups of farmers? If so, what areas have been included for consideration?
– It is a fact that when the Prime Minister announced the extension of the national water resources development programme last year he indicated that the scheme would be extended to cover small dams as well as some other matters- Last year, I think it was in April,the Western Australian Minister for Wate Supplies submitted to me proposals foi inclusion in the programme. Some of th( items he submitted are presently under consideration. In the submission the Minister referred to 10 dams that he termed key dams, that is, small dams to be built in different areas at an estimated cost of about $lm. I think that was the estimate given at the time. These were to be located in areas outside the Comprehensive Agricultural Water Scheme which operates in Western Australia. We referred the matter back to Western Australia indicating that the item could be considered under the scheme and documentation could be submitted for processing. That is where the matter rests at the moment. We have not yet received the documentation. I understand that it takes a considerable time to conduct the necessary surveys. As soon as the documents relating to the 10 key dams are received we will know exactly the areas in which it is intended to construct them and we will then be able to examine the position.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. In view of the fact that Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd, paper manufacturers in Tasmania, have put off today 113 men at its Wesley Vale plant, in addition to 150 men at its Burnie plant - as was referred to by my colleague the honourable member for Braddon 3 weeks ago - ‘because of lack of orders due to imports of paper, can the Minister assist this company by restricting imports of foreign paper? Has the Minister had an opportunity to study the submission supplied to him by my colleague the honourable member for Braddon indicating record imports of foreign paper for the year 1970-71?
– If an industry is adversely affected or threatened by imports it submits a case to my Department for action to curb the rate of those imports. In other words, it requests that temporary action be taken through the Special Advisory Authority. A prima facie case first of all has to be made out before I am prepared to submit it to the SAA. If a case has been submitted, as has been mentioned by the honourable member, it would be in the process of being analysed at the moment. As soon as that is done a judgment will be made. I cannot say more than that at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has he seen the surveys published forecasting trends in the Australian economy in relation to private capital investment? Do those surveys justify the rather alarmist reactions of some commentators?
– I have seen the surveys and they do not justify the alarmist reactions. The rate of private capital investment from January to June of 1971 represented a 36 per cent annual rate of increase seasonally adjusted over the earlier 6 months. I put this question: Could we reasonably acquiesce in an increase from July to December this year of the same proportions? The answer must be no, because our resources would not stand it. In fact, we do not have any figures at present but we do have estimates. The first estimate is one made by the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, and the Bank of New South Wales. It must be remembered in relation to that survey that the people surveyed are members of an organisation which is publicly making clear its view that the Government ought to relax its restraints.
The other survey is that of the Commonwealth Statistician dealing with private capital investment in general. This shows a forecast of an increase in this current half year running through to December at a 14 per cent annual rate increase over the last 6 months, the last 6 months being a very high rate of 36 per cent. But put in simple perspective, the increase estimated for this 6 months is in fact an increase of 23 per cent over the corresponding 6 months of last year. Therefore it will be clear that there is no warrant for the present spate of alarmist reactions, but if they continue they can do harm. There is an undoubted underlying strength in the economy and as I said in my Budget Speech:
We will be keeping the whole situation under very close review throughout the year so as to make any adjustments in policy which might prove to be necessary.
I reiterate that statement now.
– I address a question to the Treasurer on the exemption of local authorities from payroll tax. His predecessor told me in a written reply on 30th October last that it is not possible to assess the effect on local authority rates and charges of the payment by such authorities of payroll tax because, if local authorities were to be exempted from payroll tax, this could lead to (a) a reduction in the rates and/or charges; (b) an increase in local authority expenditure; (c) a reduction in financial assistance provided to local authorities by State governments; or (d) a combination of (a), (b) and (c). I now ask the honourable gentleman whether he himself is now in a better position than his predecessor to say how council rates and charges will be affected by exempting the authorities from payroll tax.
– I apologise to the honourable gentleman, but I believe that his question does not take account of the arrangements which were concluded between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to payroll tax when the States took the authority to impose payroll tax. We had discussions with the States as to what should be the situation for local government. In those negotiations with the States we undertook that we would forgo the amount of money which would have been recovered. So the States will not lose and Commonwealth revenues have met the position for local government, except insofar as the trading operations of local government are concerned. Against that background I will look at the honourable gentleman’s question and see whether there is anything I should add to what I have said.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen the report originating from the Commonwealth Statistician, which states that Australia’s strike record is on an increasing trend? Is he aware that the average Australian is becoming heartily fed up with irresponsible and frivolous strike action? Finally, does the Minister agree that the statistics showing that there has been an 82 per cent increase in the number of working days lost as compared with the previous year are alarming, and does he agree with other statistics mentioned in that report?
– I have seen the report to which the honourable gentleman refers-
– You have said it all before.
– As an honourable gentlemen opposite says by interjection, it is true that the context of that report and the particular matters posed in the question by the honourable member for Angas are in fact totally consistent with what I have said in this House on a number of other occasions. Therefore, I simply restate that certainly it is true that there has been an alarming increase in strike activity in Australia. It is also equally true that the increase in industrial disputes is a matter of very real concern not only to this Government but also to every Australian because the community realises today the very adverse effects which industrial disputes and strike activity can have. Firstly, they can have an effect on productivity growth which, as the House will be aware, had the appalling record of a 1 per cent increase during the course of the past year. Secondly, industrial dispute and strike activity have an effect on the profitability of companies and, through that, upon the whole concept of managerial incentive. Thirdly, they have an effect on the general question of inflation, particularly on cost inflation in this country. This matter is, as the honourable gentleman suggests, a source of serious concern, and elsewhere I have developed the reasons which have led to an increase in strike action in Australia.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has any decision been reached regarding the justifiable application of Trans-Australia Airlines to operate between Perth and Darwin? If so, when will the decision be made public? If no decision has yet been reached, when may we expect that it will be reached?
– I will refer this question to my colleague in another place and obtain an answer for the honourable member.
– My question, which I address to the Minister for Primary Industry, concerns the canning fruit industry in the Goulburn Valley. Is there a financial liquidity problem with the Goulburn Valley canneries preventing payments due to pear growers for the 1971 crop? Has the Victorian Government failed to meet its obligations to help overcome problems of poverty amongst pear growers, which have been created by their inability to deliver fruit last season? Is it true that the Commonwealth sponsored rural reconstruction programme could be used to assist fruit growers but in Victoria has not been permitted to be so used? What prospect is there for an extension of rural reconstruction to encompass a tree-pulling programme for horticulture?
– It is true that pear growers in particular in the Goulburn Valley are going through a very difficult period. I understand that there is some difficulty with liquidity of canneries in the area. This is something which will affect pear growers. If they are unable to receive payment for their crops, of course their general position will deteriorate even further. The Victorian Government did make an approach to the Commonwealth Government some months ago for assistance to overcome the difficulties of pear growers in a peculiarly local area. Having considered that application, the Commonwealth decided that it was fully within the responsibility of the State Government to assist in solving the short term problem which affects so many of these people.
About 6 months ago a Canned Deciduous Fruits Advisory Committee was constituted. It was given the responsibility of looking into the long term problems of the horticultural industries, including those of the pear growers in the Goulburn area. It is intended that this Committee examine whether or not the reconstruction scheme, as it is now framed, is adequate for this industry. Certainly it is intended that, within the ambit of rural reconstruction, funds will be made available for debt adjustment purposes in the horticultural industries in the same way as they are made available in other industries. Of course, the allocation of funds is peculiarly a responsibility of the administering commission, and in Victoria it is a matter for the rural reconstruction commission of that State.
As to the findings of the Canned Deciduous Fruits Advisory Committee, I think it would be foolish for people in the Goulburn Valley to think that it may be possible to introduce a tree pulling programme in the short term. This could well be a recommendation of the Committee, but once the Committee has completed its deliberations it will be a matter for the Government to consider and to determine what action should be taken to implement the recommendations.
– I ask the Prime Minister: In view of his thwarted effort to write directly to the Soviet Premier, Mr Kosygin, does he intend to visit the Soviet Union or extend an invitation to Mr Kosygin to visit Australia in return for the visit of the former Deputy Prime Minister?
– This question opens up some very interesting vistas. I thank the honourable member for giving me the opportunity to think about it. If I do decide to go I will consult him about it.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts and MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities. With the de-escalation of American involvement in South East Asia, does the Minister foresee a considerable drop in the capacity of the tourist industry to attract foreign capital to Australia? Does the Minister con sider a change in charter flight policy a necessity to ensure the expansion of this still undeveloped industry? Finally, does he consider the imposition of a bedroom tax as being in the long term interests of this nation?
– The honourable member for Griffith has always expressed a great interest in the tourist industry and has encouraged the Government to do everything it can to help it- Any decision that is taken by the Government to encourage charter flights to Australia will of course increase the number of tourists who come to Australia and therefore will help the tourist industry. The imposition by the Victorian Government of a tax on hotels to help that Government with its present financial problems is a matter for the Victorian State Parliament. All I will say on this is that similar taxes have been imposed in other nations. Usually this action has been taken in order to provide extra money to help the tourist industry, and if any portion of the increased tax levied in Victoria can be used to assist the tourist industry that will be welcomed by us all, and particularly by the Commonwealth Government.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has his attention been drawn to recent reliable reports of the belated steps by Australian coal exporters to form a consortium to match the Japanese importers who have, as he well knows, always negotiated contracts under the direction of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry? Does this belated action or the necessity to form a consortium to ensure maximium return, not only for our coal but also for all our other mineral exports, highlight the Government’s irresponsibility in August 1967 in completely abandoning its export price guideline policy? Is it a fact that our mineral exports are being sold below world market prices with a resultant loss of millions of dollars of export income? Will the Prime Minister take immediate steps to reinstitute the export price guideline policy and strengthen it through a Federal government consortium for all our mineral exports to ensure maxium prices at world parity?
– I have not seen the report to which the honourable gentleman referred; but in general I can say this to him: If he wishes to look at the latest report on Australia’s export income, he will see the very substantial increase in our balance of trade as compared with last year and the fact that, with the exception of 2 items - tourism and the repatriation of profits and interest - we will be able to cover our total balance on current account. If the honourable member is not delighted with that record of performance of our export industries, then nothing will please him. It is to the permanent credit of this Government that never before has any government in Australia’s history been in a position in which it can forget the balance of payments as a problem and look at the domestic problems in order to give better standards of living, to keep a very high rate of employment and to go along with our development projects.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. He will recall that recently I asked him whether a statement in regard to the Citizen Military Forces could be made by him and debated in this House. Has he had sufficient time to have consultations with the Minister for Defence and others who may be involved in this matter so that we can have a jolly good debate on the Citizen Military Forces? The Minister knows what I mean by ‘jolly’.
– It is open to a wide variety of interpretations. I indicated on Tuesday last my interest and the Government’s interest in this matter- I have discussed the matter with the Leader of the House and, in order to apprise honourable members not only of the vital role played by the Citizen Military Forces but also of the problems as we foresee them and suggested solutions to any of those problems, it is my intention to make a statement to the House later in this session. I hope that this will be not only the culmination of many months spent in reviewing the role of the CMF but also the commencement of widespread community support for the CMF.
– I ask the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts and Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities a question arising from his statement 2 days ago on the National Film and Television Training School. Does the 12 months deferment which he announced mean that Australia will be unable to secure the services of the internationally famed film training authority, Professor Jerzy Toeplitz as the Interim Council had intended? Does he agree with the Interim Council member who has recently returned from a world study tour on behalf of the Council and who predicted that the school would not now produce any graduates for at least 6 years? Does he recognise the interdependence^ - the interlocking - of the 3 components of the plan which the former Prime Minister proposed at the last election for the development of an Australian film industry? Lastly, will this non-activity of another election promise, to use today’s phrase by the Minister for Labour and National Service - ‘this further piece of deGortonisation - threaten the success of the programme as a whole?
– In the first place the Leader of the Opposition might know, if he studied the statement that I made in this House and which he had asked for but did not listen to when I made it -
– I listened on both occasions.
– I am glad that the honourable gentleman listened to it outside the chamber if not in it, the second time, because the second part of it indicated some of the reasons why the Government decided, for the time being, not to go ahead with this school. If one compares the original undertaking concerning the school with the present position one will see that the original recommendation which came from the Film Committee of the Australian Council for the Arts indicated that the capital cost of the school, excluding land and buildings, would be $400,000 and the annual running costs $200,000. When we received the report of the Interim Council it was found that the capital cost, excluding land and buildings, was not $400,000 but $1.6m and the annual running costs were increased from $200,000 to over $400,000 at the end of 5 years. The costs were considerably in excess of the original recommendations and, therefore, the original decision to go ahead with this proposal had to be reconsidered because it was based on optimistic premises given by the Australian Council for the Arts. I believe it was quite right that the Government should reconsider the proposal in the light of the full report it received. That is the reason why the decision for deferment was made.
If the Leader of the Opposition studies my report to the House he will see tha t it indicated that in the meantime the Government will do quite a lot to help the film industry. Not only is the Film Development Corporation doing much to help viable films on a commercial basis but the Government also is helping through the Experimental Film Fund and the training scheme to provide talented young men and women in this field with training opportunities. I believe that a great deal will be done to honour our promises in the film industry until such time as the Government has extra funds available for the school. If the Leader of the Opposition studies my report he will see that the Government has provided opportunities for many talented people and that the film industry is developing quite well. I believe that the Government has made the right decisions for the time being.
– How soon will the school produce graduates?
– I think that there is a fair chance we may not get the professor to whom the honourable gentleman referred because he is probably going to London. However the report indicates that other people have been considered and if, in due course, we have a school, we shall take the opportunity to get the best possible available people to staff it. In the meantime we are getting graduates. Instead of training them all here we are sending some of the best of them overseas and others are given opportunities through the experimental fund. I believe that for the amount of money available a great deal is being done. To spend $7m to provide 12 graduates a year is rather expensive at the moment.
– My question to the Prime Minister is prompted by the fact that I represent the Mallee electorate in Victoria wherein are situated some of Victoria’s main tourist centres, all of which are adjacent to the States of South Australia and New South Wales. I refer to the proposed tax on accommodation in hotels and motels in Victoria and ask the Prime Minister whether he will confer with the Premier of Victoria who has recognised the problem, and point out to him that the buffer area suggested as a means of overcoming the problem will be completely ineffective, as there must be a boundary to this buffer area and those in the accommodation business outside this area will suffer from any legislation as proposed by the Victorian Government.
-Order! The question is out of order.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I refer to last week’s news media reports that the Government has decided upon a. site for a second airport for Sydney. Were these apparent leaks due to some departmental background briefing? When will this Parliament be paid the courtesy of being able to debate this belated recommendation? Further, in the interests of the many people who live in the sub-standard Sydney Airport area and who are affected by jet noise, will the Minister deny that the Government has decided not to develop a second airport but to construct further runways at Sydney airport despite the enormous cost involved?
– A few years ago, when I was Minister for Civil Aviation we established a committee to investigate this matter. A considerable amount of work has been undertaken on and a lengthy study has been made on what is a. very important project. As has been indicated by the Minister for Civil Aviation, the report was received some time ago and has been under study by his Department. Only a few days ago he announced that the.’ studies have been completed. The matter is now under consideration by the Government and the Minister expects to be in a position to make a statement in the other place in the near future. I understand that when that statement is being made, a similar statement will be provided to me which I shall be able to make in this House.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The question of the imposition of a 10 per cent tax in Victoria does not come under the ministerial control of the Prime Minister.
– Mr Speaker, speaking to the point of order might I suggest that it is in order to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the effect of some State policy because the only proper recognised method of consultation between the Federal Government and a State Government is between the heads of those governments. It would not be appropriate, I submit, for the honourable member to ask the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities this question because that Minister could not confer directly with the Premier of a State. Only the Prime Minister can confer with the Premier of a State. Governments can confer through their heads only in that way, and I submit that the question was in order.
– I uphold the point of order. I call the honourable member for Mallee.
– Mr Speaker, do I understand that I can now put my question?
– As I stated when I asked my question previously, I represent the electorate of Mallee.
– Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Mallee that he proceed forthwith with his question.
– Regarding the proposed tax on accommodation in hotels and motels in Victoria, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will confer with the Premier of Victoria, who has already recognised the problem, and point out to him that the buffer area suggested as a means of overcoming the problem will be completely ineffective as there must be a boundary to this buffer area and those in the accommodation business outside it will suffer from any legislation as proposed by the Victorian Government. Therefore I ask the Prime Minister to confer with the Premier to see if we can get some reasonable action that will not adversely affect Victorians.
– The honourable member knows that on many occasions he has brought to me delegations consisting of representatives of the Murray Valley Development League as well as several other bodies intimately concerned about the interests of his constituents. I think he knows too that I have always been only too happy to receive any delegation that he cares to bring along. I welcome the opportunity he has given me to speak on behalf of his constituents. I think the appropriate course to follow will be to extract from Hansard tomorrow morning the substance of his question and let Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, have it immediately; and I hope he will be able to reply direct to the honourable member.
– I address my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. A week or so ago another young man was imprisoned for 2 years under the National Service Act. That makes three of them, as I understand it. What right has he to play God with another man’s life and freedom?
– Order! The honourable member has no right to make such a reference, to pass disparaging remarks and opinions.
– What are the factors in the present international situation which require 9 battalions of infantry where 3 and 4 were considered adequate until 1964, even with a rather eccentric government in command in Indonesia? At that time he was of the age of those now conscripted and I ask whether he considered he should serve at that time.
– The honourable member can be his own expert on defence but certainly this Government would not want to follow his prognostications. I simply say to him, firstly, that the 3 men currently serving a term of imprisonment are so serving because they are in default of the law. They acted in default of the legislation passed by this Parliament which, I lave no doubt, is overwhelmingly supported by the Australian people.
– Let us have a vote on it.
– The honourable member would be better informed if he looked at the gallup polls. Secondly, if the honourable member for Wills cares to read the second reading speech on the National Service Bill which I introduced yesterday he will see the reasons why this Government believes and knows that -national service is an indispensable factor in the maintenance of those defence forces which Australia requires at this time to meet its defence obligations. We recognise that there is a fundamental difference of policy on this question on both sides of the “House. The Government does not resile from its responsibility. The Australian people recognise that if the Labor Party were in government it would dispense with national service and would slash the size of the Australian Army by one-third while it went about endeavouring to get sufficient volunteers. I believe that course would be anathema to the people of Australia.
– I raise a point of order. I asked the Minister 2 questions. In fact I asked him 3 questions but you, Mr Speaker, ruled that the first was insulting and out of order. I asked the Minister what were the factors of difference between now and 1964 that required a big increase in the number of people in the Army. I asked him whether he thought at his age he himself should serve and I asked him whether he would debate the issue in his own electorate.
-Order! I know very well what the honourable member asked in the question. There is no substance in the point of order.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The House will recall-
-Order! I shall ensure a hearing for the honourable member. There is far too much conversation on my right. As I have appealed for silence after question time about a dozen times in the last few weeks, I would suggest to honourable members that when they leave the chamber after question time they leave quietly. If it is essential for them to engage in conversation, that conversation should be held to a minimum and conducted as quietly as possible. When honourable members leave the chamber in numbers the business of the House is disrupted. If a Minister presents a paper he is very hard to hear. Honourable members who are interested in the proceedings of the House and the business coming before the House are obliged to look at me and say that they cannot hear. When honourable members wish to make personal explanations or when any other matter comes before the House it is almost impossible to hear those who wish to make their representations. I have appealed to honourable members on several occasions. I suggest to the House that it might heed a reasonable request from the Chair.
– The House will recall that I had occasion yesterday to rebut a. Press report. I would like to place on record that the offence has been aggravated by further reports in the Press and over the radio yesterday. In particular, they are reports of a statement by the New South Wales Minister for Health that I had made statements bordering on the criminal. These reports were entirely based on the false report to which I referred yesterday. I wish to place on record that there is no basis whatsoever in allegations that I advocate legalisation or advertisement of any illegal drug, that my whole point was to make clear that there is inconsistency and absurdity in the Government’s attitude of allowing the advertising of tobacco and cigarettes when it does not have resort to advertising and drawing revenue from other dangerous drugs.
– Mr Speaker, I move:
I am raising this matter today because I was unsuccessful in my endeavour to bring the matter to the attention of the House last night. Mr Speaker, you will recall that I asked you if I could speak in the adjournment debate and if my name could be placed on the list of speakers. It was placed on the list. You will recall that 5 minutes before the debate was gagged I checked with you and you believed it would be quite OK and that the matter could be raised. Prior to that, I had personally seen a member of the staff of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) and pointed out to him that this matter would be raised. I also pointed out to the Minister himself that the matter would be raised. He was in the chamber- For some extraordinary reason just as I rose to speak the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) gagged the debate. This matter has some considerable urgency about it. I have mentioned that the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House was gagged before midnight. It was not that the House sat beyond midnight. The debate was gagged before that time. One cannot help but wonder what was the motive of the honourable member for Angas in gagging debate on this matter. Was he trying to prevent it being raised? I now have to use this method as the only alternative to raise this matter which I believe is one of urgency. It should be dealt with in an urgent manner. Honourable members will recall that on 26th August I raised this matter in the House. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon):
In order to protect ministerial reputations, is the Prime Minister prepared to initiate an inquiry and report to the House on the allegations in yesterday’s and today’s Canberra ‘Times’ -
That was 25th and 26th August - which imply that Ministers are being allocated houses in Canberra out of priority and at bargain rates, keeping in mind that today’s editorial -
That was 26th August -
In that newspaper refers to ‘a corrupting influence’ and ‘ingredients for scandal’?
I make it clear that I am not making this a personal attack on the Minister for the Interior. Personally I have a regard for him. But it so happens that he has become a Minister at a later period. He has gone on handling the matter in much the same way as did those Ministers before him. This is not the first instance of this occurrence by any means. There have been a number of cases where Ministers have obtained houses in this way.
-Order! I remind the honourable member that the motion before the House is for the suspension of Standing Orders. The honourable member cannot debate the substance of the matter which he wants the House to agree to debate. This is a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders only.
– I will not debate the issue. I thought that at that time in my speech I should make the point that this was not a personal matter in relation to the Minister for the Interior.
– At this stage I have not suggested that the honourable member is out of order. I thought he was getting dangerously close and that I should remind him of that fact.
– Thank you. The reason why I believe this matter should be treated with some urgency is because yesterday I received a reply from the Prime Minister to the question which I asked on 26th August. On 26th August the Prime Minister promised immediately to consult his colleague the Minister for the Interior and to give an answer very soon. He has now given the answer which I think I should read as I think it explains why the Standing Orders should be suspended. The Prime Minister said:
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.
Nobody argues with that statement. Only too well do we know that it has been previous practice. The Prime Minister continued:
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.
I think that is a quaint phrase. We have noticed that the period of occupation of the position of Minister has been very indeterminate. Yesterday I was talking to the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) about the matter. He suggested that His Excellency the Governor-General should be given a special allowance at this time to cover the cost of tea and biscuits for all the visiting Ministers who go to Government House to be sworn in. The Prime Minister continued:
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.
Nobody suggests that Ministers should not have some special facilities in Canberra, particularly the Minister for the Interior. He has to spend long periods here. But we can cast our minds back very clearly to a period in 1956 when a former Minister for the Interior, the then Mr Fairhall, suggested that $500,000 be set aside for the building of 10 flats or houses for Ministers and members who had to spend long periods in Canberra and that the accommodation be provided on a rental basis.
-Order! I request the honourable member to come back to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I shall do that. When one hears the Prime Minister’s reply the point I make is that it does not answer the main issue raised in my question, which was that Ministers were being given land and houses at bargain rates. They could make a profit as a result of action initiated by this Government. That is the main issue. If the Standing Orders are suspended that is the issue I would want to deal with. In his reply the Prime Minister has dealt only with the fact that in many instances Ministers have to spend long periods in Canberra. Nobody is arguing about that. Nobody would question it for one moment. What we do question is the fact that Ministers are not given houses to rent; they are given houses and land at very cheap rates. In this instance the land set aside for the Minister for the Interior was valued 20 months ago at $12,500 but it is now estimated to be worth $20,000.
-Order! If the honourable members does not comply with my 2 previous requests I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– Very well, Mr Speaker. Basically those remarks cover the issue. There is definite urgency about clarifying this matter. With the discussion which is taking place in the Press today if the matter is not clarified it will leave a cloud over the heads of various Ministers and particularly the Minister for the Interior. I think it is in the interests of Parliament, the community generally, the Minister for the Interior and other Ministers such as the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) - he also received a house under this scheme - that this matter be clarified as quickly as possible. It is for that reason that I move the suspension of Standing Orders and why I ask honourable members oppposite to support honourable members on this side of the House is seeing that the resolution is carried so that that matter may be investigated and reputations salved if possible.
-Order! Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion which is of particular concern to me for obvious reasons. The Australian Capital Territory is my electorate and the matter of houses for Ministers is the subject of so much of the motion because it has been referred to in the Press as the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) stated. The real reason for urgency in relation to this matter is because it cannot be understood without a reference as to why there is public concern in Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory over this development. It is for this reason that I refer shortly to the matter. There is a great housing shortage in Canberra. There are 6,000 people on the waiting list for a government house in Canberra. Some SO per cent or 60 per cent of people who come into my office every week come in with problems associated with housing.
The giving of this land to a Minister of the Crown pursuant to a practice of this sort brings this whole Parliament into disrepute. It savours of an unfair advantage to politicians generally, whether they be Ministers of the Crown or not, and it rubs off on us all. I hasten to add, as the honourable member for Chifley said in his speech, that no reflection is directed at the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt). To my mind, and I am sure to the minds of all honourable members, he has inherited this situation and he probably finds himself in a most invidious situation, although it has to be said that if the passage of time proves what I am convinced it will prove, in 5, 10 or IS years time he will make a tax free capital gain of $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 on that land. That is the common view expressed by real estate agents in this city at the moment.
-Order! I think the honourable member was in the chamber when T twice warned the honourable member for Chifley about not confining his remarks to the motion. The matters to which the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory is referring at the present time would be more aptly discussed in the debate that would follow the suspension of Standing Orders than in this debate on the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I appreciate your ruling, Mr Speaker, and of course I cannot quibble with it. But I have to put this: The comparison between the practice of the Government in having this system for Ministers for the Interior and the practice that it follows in providing housing and housing finance for the rest of the people of the Australian Capital Territory is causing dissension, alarm and suspicion. This gives the whole discussion an element of urgency and justifies its being referred to in speaking to the motion for the suspen sion of Standing Orders. This matter has to be discussed at this time. It is not as though we were discussing - I say this with great respect - something of great importance at the moment. The Budget debate is still proceeding, and the Budget is not worth the paper it is written on. It is not that we do not have time to discuss this matter at this stage. It could be done. The Parliament is about to adjourn for the weekend. Development is taking place on that house at the moment. Resources are being allocated for it. It may well be, for all I know, that the Minister himself is making provision for the allocation of his own private resources towards the purchase of it, which will cause embrassment to him if this motion is not debated and cleared up at the moment. However this is hard to see because, as I understand the answer to my question yesterday the house will be financed on something less than $2,000 even though the present value of it is approximately $40,000.
All these matters touch on this element of urgency and cannot be divorced from the feeling that exists in Canberra - I hope I can speak with some authority on this - that is reflected in the editorial’s of such responsible newspapers as the ‘Canberra Times’, and the Press coverage that that responsible newspaper gives to this subject, and the ‘Canberra News’ in recent weeks stating what they consider to be the feeling of the people of Canberra and which I have had occasion to advert to in public places outside this House. This matter is linked up with the use of the gag in this House particularly on matters concerning the Australian Capital Territory. As the honourable member for Chifley said, he was gagged when he tried to raise this question last night even though he believed he had made arrangements to have the question debated last night. It is linked wi’.h the unconscionable use of the gag during the last debate in this House relating to rn Australian Capital Territory ordinance. That was the debate on the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance. It is linked with the use of the gag on other occasions on which legislation affecting the Australian Capital Territory h-s been involved. It is also linked up with the remarks of the Minister the other day about territorial government, which he put o.T as something that might come about in. say 10 years time. These remarks also have drawn adverse comment from the people of the Australian Capital Territory through their newspapers and spokesmen, for example, the members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, in relation to the attitude of the Government towards the Australian Capital Territory.
It is that sort of feeling which is abroad that must be dispelled by getting rid of this suspicion that comes from this system that the Government has introduced in the last few years of giving Ministers of the Crown this incredible advantage. They compare very, very favourably. To illustrate the unrest, one can only compare this system with the system that applies to Commonwealth public servants. Commonwealth public servants are entitled to the same financial advantage as a Minister of the Crown but they do not get this particular block of land. They are allocated a block of land somewhere else in Canberra. This block of land is without doubt the best undeveloped vacant block of land in Canberra. I had a look at it this morning. It has been commented on by real estate agents. In that sense, a monopoly situation will exist. By all means the land should be given to a Minister of the Crown but not sold to him. It could be used for other Ministers.
-Order! I have already warned the honourable member about not speaking to the motion. I suggest that he come back to the subject of the motion before the Chair; otherwise I will have to ask him to resume his seat. The motion before the Chair is a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders and the honourable member cannot debate the question which it is intended to raise. The honourable member has strayed quite considerably in the last few minutes. If he offends again I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I have not tried to stray, Mr Speaker, because I have tried as well as I can to draw attention to the reasons why this motion is urgent.
-If the honourable member wants to dispute my ruling on this matter he has a perfect right to do so.
– I do not wish to dispute your ruling, Mr Speaker.
-I am trying to explain to the honourable member that the extra neous matters that are now creeping into the debate have nothing to do with the motion before the Chair. The reason for the moving of this motion is to enable this matter to be discussed, but the debate at the moment is restricted to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– May I put this as an additional reason why it should be debated now: The Minister was quoted in this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ as saying that he did not want to comment about the matters raised in the editorial in the Canberra Times’ yesterday about ministerial housing, or about the subject at all. Of course that it his right, but it only reinforces the feeling that is abroad in the community that there is something secret or hidden going on and that there is something that a little bit of light should be shone on so we can all know more about it. It is in the best interests of the Minister, the Government and every member,, of this House to have this matter debated properly now so that this practice which has grown up can be thoroughly investigated, reported upon and, I personally would hope, changed.
– I raise a point of order. I want to make it quite open and plain to the House-
-Order! What is the point of order?
– My point of order is that both the honourable member for Chifley and the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory have implied-
-Order! That is not a point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Since my name has been mentioned in this motion and in speeches in support of the motion, I feel that I should be given some latitude, too, to make certain points very clear. Since the question of ministerial houses has been the subject of much criticism both here and in-
– I raise a point of order. I want to give the Minister every opportunity. I do not want to keep interrupting with points of order. But if he supports us in having the Standing Orders suspended so that we can debate the matter we will give him an opportunity to reply to criticism.
– Order! This is no concern of the Chair. There is no substance in the point of order.
– Since the question of ministerial bouses and the allocation of land to Ministers of the Crown is mentioned in the motion and since 1 am the Minister for the Interior and have been the subject of considerable criticism in the Canberra Press in particular and by innuendo by certain honourable members-
– On the point of order, the motion before the House is for the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss this matter which the Minister is now attempting to debate. Mr Speaker, you quite properly ruled that the mover and the seconder of the motton could not debate this issue. We will give the Minister unlimited time to reply in the debate, if the motion is accepted. All that the motion requests is that the matter be aired in this chamber. The Minister will have unlimited time, if he is prepared to accept the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– 1 rise to speak on the point of order. 1 am amazed at the unfair statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. As he well knows, Mr Speaker was quite indulgent towards the honourable member for Chifley for about 1 1 minutes in which he was allowed to canvass the subject. Mr Speaker also showed indulgence to the honourable member for the Austraiian Capital Territory. The Minister has now spoken to the substantive motion for the suspension of Standing Orders for about 5 minutes. What about some fair play?
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I think the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) is being unfair because when I commenced to speak to the point of order I made it perfectly clear that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) may have unlimited time to reply in the debate if he accepts the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. I think that in making this suggestion 1 am being perfectly fair to the Minister and, I believe, to the Parliament.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was quite right in raising the point of order that he did, and 1 must uphold the point of order. But I point out, so as to enable some reasonable appreciation of the position by the Party, that so far in this debate f have twice reminded both the honourable member for Chifley and the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory, that they were contravening Standing Orders. If I have to make a ruling on the point of order raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I must remind the Minister for the Interior that the motion is that ‘so much of the Standing Orders be suspended*. Whether there will be a debate on the rights or wrongs of the subject matter depends upon whether this motion is carried.
– I think I need to reply to certain things, particularly in respect to the speech made in support of the motion moved by our friend the honourable member for Chifley. I was expected, as Minister for the Interior, to move to Canberra in order to discharge the duties of my portfolio, and I have acted completely in accordance with the existing policy.
– I raise a point of order. It is the same as the one raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. We will allow the Minister to explain his position if the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is carried. While the Government continues its policy of gagging, we will adopt similar policies.
– The motion is to suspend Standing Orders. As the matter has been raised by the Opposition, I must again remind the Minister that his rights in this matter are very narrow and that he has to comply with Standing Orders. He must confine his speech to the reasons why Standing Orders should or should not be suspended.
– One of the reasons given by the honourable member for Chifley for moving for the suspension of Standing Orders was that the Minister was given a piece of land on which to build a house. This is not so. The Minister has not been given a piece of land.
– I raise a point of order. I take the same point of order that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition took, on the ground that the Government can have any amount of time to debate and to explain its position. We on this side of the House want an explanation. At the same time we want a debate on the subject. As you have drawn the Minister’s attention to the limited extent of this debate, I ask you, Mr Speaker, to require him to keep to the subject under discussion or to resume his seat.
– Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance on a matter. Is it a sincere stance or posture that the Opposition is now taking after speaking for 21 minutes and then denying the Minister-
– You hypocrite.
-Order! The question raised by the Minister for Customs and Excise is no concern of the Chair. The Chair has to interpret Standing Orders and not the politics of the situation. I again remind the Minister for the Interior that, a point of order having been raised, he must confine his remarks to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, otherwise I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– The honourable member for Reid made an unparliamentary remark about me. I demand that it be withdrawn.
– I will not withdraw it. I said that he was a hypocrite. He is a hypocrite because today he adopts a righteous attitude, while last night he was a party to applying the gag so that the honourable member for Chifley could not speak.
-Order! If the honourable member referred to the Minister as a hypocrite, I will have to ask him to withdraw that remark.
– With respect to you, Mr Speaker, I withdraw the comment.
-I think that the honourable member should withdraw the comment unreservedly.
– I withdraw.
– In speaking against the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders, I want to make clear the reasons why I do not believe it is necessary to take up the time of the House in debating at length an issue which is a matter of Government policy, lt would have been far easier for me and my family to move into a Ministerial lodge. This happens to be my third move in 18 months.
– I raise a point of order. With all due respect to the Minister - and I have respect for the Minister and his family and I know that he must be concerned and embarrassed about his position - the only way in which we can solve the problem is by the Government agreeing to the suspension of Standing Orders.
– This is a rather unusual procedure in the House. I am afraid that I will have to ask the Minister to be seated if he continues with this line. He is required by Standing Orders to keep to the motion before the chair. I can appreciate his position but I have to interpret the Standing Orders.
– I was speaking against the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders so that a motion could be moved to appoint a select committee to inquire into and to report upon a certain subject. I do not think this course of action is necessary. I do not think it is necessary to suspend Standing Orders, in the light of the situation that exists. With respect to the House, it would be far easier for any Minister to have available to him a lodge furnished, upkept and maintained at the cost of the Government.
– 1 rise on a point of order. A short time ago you, Mr Speaker, gave a ruling. I asked that you either order the Minister to keep to the subject or ask him to resume his seat, as the chair has done on so many occasions when members on either side of the House have persisted in disregarding Standing Orders. You have asked the Minister on more than half a dozen occasions this morning to keep to the subject under debate. He persists in disregarding your ruling.
-Order! On every occasion so far I have upheld the point of order. I cannot uphold it on this occasion because the Minister was giving reasons why Standing Orders should not be suspended.
-I want to give the reasons clearly to the House, in fairness to the honourable member for Chifley who undoubtedly raised this to protect me as Minister for the Interior. It was a very generous and nice act on his part and that of the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby). I have some very great friends on the opposite side of the House and I thank them very much. However, I am opposed to the motion because I do not believe that it is necessary to suspend Standing Orders, to change the policies or to establish a select committee. The existing policy is that Ministers whose duties require them to spend long periods in Canberra are allocated government dwellings, and this has been the policy since 1956 when the then Prime Minister approved the procedure. In 1958 the Government decided-
– I rise to order. The Opposition is prepared to give fair play to the Minister. I repeat that he can have unlimited time to speak on this issue. He is now speaking from the notes he prepared in order to answer a matter that was to be raised last night in the adjournment debate. He is debating the matter that has been incorporated in the motion to suspend Standing Orders. I do not want to be unfair to him. I want to give him a full opportunity to debate this matter. But I think it should be done in circumstances in which not only the Minister has an opportunity to debate it but also the 2 honourable members on this side of the House who moved and seconded the motion have an opportunity to debate the issues involved. The Minister again is departing from your ruling, Mr Speaker, and I ask you to uphold my point of order.
– I uphold the point of order. I suggest for the last time that the Minister speak to the subject under discussion: otherwise I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I do not feel it is necessary to suspend Standing Orders, because the fact remains that in 1958 the Government decided that immediate housing should be provided for Commonwealth officials, both civilian and defence, who came to Canberra with the central administrations of their departments. At the same time the Government agreed that houses larger in size and of better quality should be built for people who required them in the Australian Capital Territory-
– I rise to order -
– Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
That the motion (Mr Armitage’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker - Hon. Sir William Aston)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) who said that I, the Minister, was given land. This is not correct. The Department of the Interior has allocated a block of land upon which a Government executivetype dwelling is being built. It will then be available to the occupant, whoever it might be - in this case it is supposed to be the Minister for the Interior - for $37 a week.
– Order! I think the Minister would be far better if he asked to leave to make a statement.
– I suggest to the Minister that he should ask for leave to make a statement. If he seeks leave to make a statement it will not be denied.
– Then I take this opportunity to ask for leave to make a short statement on this question.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr Speaker-
– Will we likewise have an opportunity to reply?
– The honourable member knows as well as I do that this is not a matter for the Chair.
– Will we be given leave to make a statement?
– Order! There is no substance in the honourable member’s point of order. He will resume his seat.
– It is regrettable that so much of the time of the House has been taken up with this matter this morning. In making my statement 1 want to make the position very clear to all honourable members and to the public at large so that no reflection shall be cast upon any member of this House or the Parliament itself. Unfortunately, sections of the local Press have tended through their columns to give a wrong impression. Too often members of Parliament are subjected to criticism of this kind - the smear type criticism - which does not make our job any easier. I want to put the record straight as to the present policy of this Government.
Ministers whose duties require them to spend long periods in Canberra have been allocated government dwellings since the then Prime Minister approved the procedure in 1956. rn 1958 the Government decided that immediate housing should be provided for Commonwealth officials, both civilian and defence, who came to Canberra with the central administrations. Al the same time the Government agreed that houses larger in size and of better quality than standard houses, up to 17 or 18 squares in size, should be built for people who required them and who were prepared to pay the appropriate rent, lt has always be*i a practice to allow people in Canberra who are renting government built houses to purchase the houses of which they are the tenants, subject to whatever conditions of sale and/or restrictions on subletting or resale prevailed at the time. Ministers who have purchased houses have been subjected to those conditions and restrictions. Valuations have been carried out by the same Government valuers and in the same way as for every intending purchaser of a government built house. Rentals for houses occupied by Ministers have been fixed on the same basis as have rentals for other Government dwellings.
The Minister for the interior, when allocated a house in accordance with this long standing procedure, is required to pay the appropriate rental. In the instance of the present house I checked to see what that rental would be. I was told that it would be approximately $37 a week providing that rentals in the Australian Capital Territory did not rise. The land is valued at approximately $14,000 and the estimated cost of the house is approximately $26,500. The Minister for the Interior would not become eligible to purchase the house until the normal waiting period had expired, in accordance with the conditions applied generally in the case of tenant purchase.
In this case I am led to understand by my Department that the option to purchase would not be made available for 32 to 33 months during which time the occupant must rent the bouse at the rental I mentioned. Similarly, whatever restrictions on sub-letting and resale are in force at the time would apply to any purchase by the Minister. No valuation or sale concessions are granted to Ministers. The same arrangements are applied to them as to Common wealth officials for whom larger houses have been provided upnder Government approved procedures in cases where residency in Canberra is necessary to carry out the duties of office.
Allocations have been made to the defence forces Chiefs of Staff and to other senior defence force officers, as well as to high ranking civilian administrators in the Public Service, as part of the recognised need to provide adequate accommodation in Canberra for people responsible for maintaining the efficiency of national administration. Full information has been supplied to the Press in connection with the allocation and sale of houses to Ministers and to senior Commonwealth personnel. I say clearly that neither my Department, the National Capital Development Commission nor 1 at any time has resisted in any way making available all the information requested by the Press. I think that about 60 questions on this issue have been put to my Department and to the NCDC. 1 have instructed them to make all the facts known to the public generally because I believe that there is nothing to hide and nothing to cover up so far as this policy is concerned. Whether there should be another policy is a matter for debate and argument. I want to make it clear, and I am sure that honourable members will understand, that in this case nothing sinister has been done. Nothing has been done that has contravened in any way the established practice that has applied since 1958. Thus the provision of a house for the Minister for the Interior is in accordance with long standing policy. The practice followed in respect to senior Service and civilian officers has not been departed from in favour of Ministers. T thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) for giving me the opportunity to make this statement to the House.
– I ask for leave to make a short statement in reply.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am indebted to the House. I will not take too long. One can stand here and sympathise with the dilemma of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt). The situation in which he finds himself is not his fault. 1 repeat that noone has directed any criticism at him at all. But one sympathises with the situation and the natural, human urge suddenly to think that he is being attacked. He is not being attacked, and I hasten to tell him that. A practice has grown up in Canberra which is a bad practice because it allows people in the situation in which the Minister finds himself to make a profit out of the position that they happen to occupy for a short period of time. The Minister may be the Minister for only another week, or even another day. We have experienced the actions of this Government in the last 12 months or so. Of course he hopes that he will be the Minister for a much longer period of time.
It is wrong that in 5 or 10 years time he may make a handsome profit out of the fact that he happens to be a Minister of the Crown at the moment. That is wrong. It creates a bad image. It creates a feeling of suspicion. Of course the Minister is right when he says that nothing sinister is going on, but that suggestion is open to other people outside who do not know the true situation. Such things are often said, as the Minister has pointed out. All that the Opposition says is that the house should be the Minister’s house but it should cease to be his if another person takes his place as Minister. In other words, he should occupy it as a tenant for the period he is the Minister.
– The same as the Lodge.
– It should be the same as the Prime Minister’s Lodge. In that way no-one is open to criticism. The situation has the appearance of being fair. The present system does not have the appearance of being fair particularly, as I said earlier, when there is such a crying, desperate shortage of housing in the Australian Capital Territory and when a number of people in different categories are not entitled to the advantage of the benefits to which the Minister is entitled. Those are the only points I wanted to make. The Minister should reside in the house on a tenancy basis for the period of his occupancy of the position of Minister for the Interior, and no longer, as is the case with the Prime Minister’s residence.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, 1 wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. There has been a clear implication, probably accidental, running through the remarks of the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) and the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) and indeed in the ‘Canberra Times’ this morning, that the gag was moved last night in some way to stop or thwart the actions of the honourable member for Chifley. As the person who moved the gag, I want to give a personal assurance that I knew nothing of this move. I give that personal assurance to the honourable member for Chifley. Furthermore, I state that if in the future he feels that some specific matter should be raised, and he is not one of the first 6 speakers - which was the case last night - I would be always open to being informed on such matters. Last night I was not so informed. I say that in good spirit and to clear the Government of charges of certain intentions which I assure the House were not there.
– Pursuant to section 9 of the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937, I present the annual report on work done under the Act during the year ended 31st December 1970.
Motion (by Mr Swartz) - by leave - agreed to:
That Mr Robinson be discharged from attendance on the Library Committee and that in his place Mr O’Keefe be appointed a member of the Committee.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of primary and pre-schools at Bradshaw (Alice Springs) and Nakara (Darwin), Northern Territory.
The proposal involves the construction of 2 school complexes to a common design, each to accommodate 800 infant and primary pupils and 70 pre-school pupils. The schools have been planned on the op:n space class teaching principle, and facilities will include separate infants and primary assembly areas, a library, an infant’s learning area, 2 primary learning areas, administration area and central plant area. All buildings will be single-storey, connected by covered ways. Learning areas will open onto enclosed courts and gardens. The total estimated cost of the proposed works is $2.475m. I table plans of the proposed works-
– When I saw this item on the notice paper, my first inclination was to oppose the motion. But this action would he taken wrongly to suggest that I was opposed to the procedure of reference of projects to the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works. I say that for this reason: A procedure exists whereby a reference of a work need not be made to the Public Works Committee. In a matter of urgency, the Commonwealth can proceed to construct a development project without reference of the work to the Public Works Committee for approval. The Parliament has always taken the view - and I think that it is the correct view - that matters involving the expenditure of public moneys on the construction of building projects should be scrutinised by a competent committee, that is. by a committee such as the Public Works Committee.
I take some exception to the reference to the Committee of school building projects. I believe that both of these proposed projects are urgent, because of the definite deficiency in providing school facilities. This situation is found not only in the Northern Territory but also in other areas. The 2 schools about which we are speaking today are urgent and they should be constructed immediately. The Public Works Committee will visit the Northern Territory and take evidence on the projects. In all probability, as a result of that evidence, the plans will be improved. Evidence will be given by people who are conversant with the area and the conditions.
It is possible that the Public Works Committee may recommend some amendment of or improvement to the plans. I know and accept that that happens. This is good practice. But the Committee when it investigates these projects takes evidence, writes its report and presents its recommendations to the Parliament. This procedure takes some months. It may take 6 months or even longer. This practice is fully justified with respect to the majority of building projects, whether they be for roads or for structures. But I think that some serious consideration should be given when there is an urgent need to construct schools, and there is-
– How do you know this? Have you been to the places?
– There is an urgent need to construct these schools.
– How do you know?
– I do know. Does the honourable member say that no need exists to construct them?
– 1 am asking you how you know that an urgent need exists?
– Is the Commonwealth so far advanced in its education system in the Northern Territory that no need exits to construct much needed schools urgently? This proposition to me is >o exaggerated that I am surprised tha: the Chairman of the Public Works Committee should make such a statement.
– I did not make a statement. I asked you a question.
– He does not understand how efficient we are.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)Order! Interjections are out of order!
– I take the point. If these projects are not urgent the arguments that I am putting forward do not apply. What I am saying is that schools are urgent. If they are urgent - and I am saying that they are urgent - surely we should not need to wait until the Committee’s investigations follow the normal course of events and its report is submitted to the Parliament. Surely the pro forma is good enough for the construction of schools in the Northern Territory to proceed as soon as a Cabinet decision is taken to build those schools. However, I recall the celebrated case years ago in Darwin about airconditioning. The Public Works Committee played a major part in rectifying the obvious error regarding that matter. In view of the experience that the Commonwealth has had in constructing schools in recent years in the Northern Territory, I think that no real need exists now for costly and certainly time-consuming investigations. Perhaps I should say that relative to the cost of the project the cost of the investigations is not great, but the investigations are time consuming. If a project is urgent, it need not be referred to the Public Works Committee and its construction can proceed.
– You should read the Act.
– I know that that is in the Act. This can be done. In the case of the beef roads, when I was in the Bureau of Agricultural Economics I wrote a submission recommending that particular beef roads project be not referred to the Public Works Committee because of its urgency. This Parliament, through the then Minister, agreed to this recommendation. All I am saying here is that where a necessity or an urgency exists to do something - in this case in relation to schools - we should not become bogged down in what could be called the red tape of investigation and the taking of evidence which results in the presentation of a report simply approving the project. Because the provision of schools in the Northern Territory for improved education purposes is urgent, I say that the need to construct these schools is urgent.
– As Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Works, I express some surprise at the attitude adopted by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Firstly, I say quite specifically that I would hope that Parliament would resent bitterly any move which resulted in a proposed work not being referred to the Public Works Committee, if no question of urgency was involved. I will leave it to the Minister for
Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp), who is at the table, to dispose of the question of urgency.
The honourable member for Dawson raised the question of the urgent need for educational facilities in general. In the Northern Territory projects of this type are planned carefully. The Committee has these projects referred to it in orderly succession. It has been known for some time that one of these projects was on the planning board. It has been carefully planned and programmed into the system. It was surprising to hear the honourable member for Dawson say that these projects are of such urgency that construction should proceed without any hearings on them by the Public Works Committee.
I think that I ought to put the record straight regarding the question of any delay caused by a Committee hearing. As the honourable member knows, at some stage I was Minister for Works. I know from experience that great value is obtained from the clarification that comes to the thinking of a department when its plans are put before the Public Works Committee. In some cases, a project is delayed; in other case, no delay at all occurs because the proposition is crystallised and alterations are not necessary in the plans as the project proceeds.
I was quite surprised that the honourable member for Dawson should have adopted this attitude. Usually he enters a debate in this chamber prepared to present a case. In this instance, obviously he did not. He thought: ‘Well, there is something going on here; it must be urgent or it would not be done at all’. This is not the way in which things are done in the Northern Territory. This has not always been the case but certainly it has not been done this way for a long, long while, particularly with regard to the education programme. These projects have been planned in a way in which they have not been planned for a long while. These planning programmes have been welcomed.
I will leave it to the Minister to dispose of the question of whether these projects are unduly urgent. I am certain that if the honourable member for Dawson had approached the Minister and asked whether the projects were unduly urgent and whether
Public Works Committee hearing was necessary, he would have received a reply. I can assure the honourable member that, generally speaking, the programming of educational facilities in the Northern Territory is well conceived and well planned. I have not seen these references. The case with respect to them may be different. But I can assure the honourable member that, generally speaking, school building projects ought to go to the Public Works Committee for hearing. I am surprised to hear the honourable member question the necessity for such investigation.
– In supporting this motion which intends that the Public Works Committee travel to Darwin and Alice Springs to consider the. building of these 2 schools I commend the Government because this reference, together with one which is on the notice paper, will be the third instance of considerable Government spending in the Northern Territory that has been brought into the House this week. I think that this illustrates the Government’s confidence in the Northern Territory and its ability to plan in this area. I notice that the schools are to have 870 pupils which means that they will be large schools. A great deal of thought and planning has gone into their design. The point I make is that the Government is looking to the future in building these large schools for pre-school and infant children so I certainly commend the Government for its planning. The population of the major towns in the Territory is increasing at a rate of over1 1 per cent and these projects indicate that the Government is looking to the future and planning the schooling of the increased numbers of children which must result from this population growth. I was also glad to note that a library is to be included in the schools which was not the practice in days gone by.
– in reply - In answer to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) the information is that each project is expected to take 18 months to construct. Completion is desired by the Department of Education and Science before the commencement of the 1974 school year. The Department has been asked to obtain ministerial approval to proceed with the preparation of tender documents during the period of the Public Works Committee’s reference and report. The tender target date is March 1972 which indicates, I think, to the honourable member for Dawson that there is not so much urgency as to preclude reference to the Public Works Committee. I would have thought that the honourable member for Dawson would know that because he should know that the Government has, in cases which it does deem to be urgent, dispensed with the making of a reference to the Public Works Committee. One wonders whether the honourable member for Dawson consulted his colleagues on the Committee and I wonder what the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Fulton), the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) - who, I am sure, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) as Chairman of the Committee, will testify are doing magnificent work on that Committee - would think of his intervention this morning in this way without reference to his colleagues.
– Mr Deputy Speaker,I seek your indulgence to ask the Minister one question. Is the Minister saying it is not urgent that a school be built in Darwin?
– I said nothing of the kind. I read out the information supplied by my colleague the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) which I would have thought would satisfy any curious mind.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The work involves the construction of 91 miles of sealed road, 20 feet wide, from a point near Orange Creek on the Stuart Highway, some 26 miles south of Alice Springs, to the Ayers Rock turn-off, li miles north of Erldunda and the sealing to a width of 12 feet the 102 miles of gravel surfaced beef road from Timber Creek to Dingo Gap near the Western Australian border. The estimated cost of the proposed works is $5. 4m. The Committee has agreed that there is a need for the works in the reference and has recommended construction as proposed. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– -The Opposition supports the motion moved by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp). From the initial investigation and implementation of beef roads- or development roads as they are now termed - this type of project has received the full support of the Opposition and the Parliament. They have been proved to be part of a development project of great worth. I was associated very closely with this project in the initial stages of its development and it gives me a certain amount of pleasure to see the progress that is being made. We are considering a part of a long term programme in the Alice Springs district. In that area beef roads have already been constructed from the Stuart Highway to Yuendumu, a distance of about 180 miles, and from the Stuart Highway to Plenty River, about 130 miles. There is a network of these roads in the Victoria River district from Katherine to Willeroo, across to Dingo Gap linking up then from Dunmarra and Willeroo; and the Top Springs to Wave Hill Road.
In the Barkly Tableland district key links have been established from Anthony Lagoon to Borroloola, and then there is a road going into Cape Crawford. These roads are all part of a specially designed system and I do not think anybody would disagree with the conclusions reached in the early 1960s after investigations and economic evaluations were made. We have learned from experience of some of the problems. I note that the sealing of the Timber Creek to Dinge Gap Road will be only 12 feet wide. 1 appreciate the prob lems involved, including the nature of the traffic and the costs of construction. Certainly bitumen 12 feet wide is far superior economically to no bitumen at all. It has been proved conclusively that it is false economy to construct unsealed roads in the northern areas, but I am not convinced that a bitumen road 12 feet wide is good economy. I understand that the Committee gave some thought to this matter but I suggest that when the road is constructed sections of it up to a mile in length be made 18 feet wide, and the remaining sections be made 12 feet wide. A study could then be made of the effects on the shoulders of the road.
It could be false economy to build a road 12 feet wide for road trains over 100 feet long. Their numbers are increasing and so will the need for passing and overtaking. This transport does affect the shoulders of the roads, as we all know. I fully support construction of a development road from Alice Springs to Erldunda. This project has top priority and should have been constructed long ago. I do not think anybody would disagree with that contention. It will be one of the most intensively travelled roads in the Northern Territory because it will be really a tourist road rather than a beef road. The Alice Springs district, and particularly the Ayers Rock area, is one of the two areas of Australia to which international tourists most want to go. The other is the Great Barrier Reef, part of which is in my electorate.
– 1 agree.
– The Minister is a great believer in northern development also, and he spends a considerable amount of time in the north. Beef roads are now called development roads, and I like that change. When we were working out criteria in the early days we had, of course, to confine our evaluation principal!) to the beef cattle industry. We could not evaluate, quantitatively anyhow, the effects that these roads would have on the tourist industry. I believe it is correct to suggest that the road from Alice Springs to Eldunda will in the near future be one of the most intensively travelled roads in the whole of the Northern Territory. 1 am pleased to see that this road will be sealed to a width of 20 feet. Of course, there are cattle stations along the road. I can speak only from memory but I think there would be probably 12 cattle stations, with a turnoff of between 8,000 and 10,000 head of cattle, which would be serviced by this road. I think that these figures would be near enough to being correct. However, they show the significance of this road from the point of view of the beef cattle industry. Of course, the main beneficiary in the long run will be the tourist industry.
The other road is the Timber Creek to Dingo Gap road. I assume that someone will seal the section of road between Dingo Gap and the Western Australian border. I should have read the report but I have not done so, and I can only assume that this section of road, which is about 8 miles in length, will be sealed. I imagine that noone would be silly enough to seal the road from Timber Creek to Dingo Gap and leave the 8 miles on the other side of the Gap to the Western Australian border unsealed.
– It will be done by the Western Australian Government.
– 1 thank the honourable member for that information. The Western Australian Government will be doing it, even though this section of the road is in the Northern Territory. This, of course, is regarded as the missing link in the Northern Territory and particularly in the Victoria River district. We have other key roads from Katherine to Willeroo, from Dunmarra to Moolooloo and from Top Springs to Wave Hill. However, in terms of sealing the road from Timber Creek to Dingo Gap is the missing link. Of course, it was one of the original beef roads in terms of gravel, although it was also the missing link in terms of gravel for quite some time. Now it is the missing link in terms of sealing. I believe that it will be a significant tourist road. Already more and more people are going into the Northern Territory and the east Kimberleys. Tourists in cars and caravans are going across that way. Now that the road is to be sealed many more tourists will be using it. In particular they will be going to Kununurra and to the great Ord River project of which I know my honourable friend the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) is a great supporter.
I believe that these roads are probably some of the best possible investments that the Commonwealth can make in the northern part of Australia. Although their prime purpose is to serve the cattle industry in particular - this industry has been the major beneficiary in terms of production up to the present time - it is obvious that these roads have done a tremendous amount of good in opening up the Northern Territory, the east and west Kimberleys and the western and northern parts of Queensland. I hope that the Government will continue with this programme. One thing that does concern me - and I hope that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) will pass this on to the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) - is that the programme of beef roads is now coming to an end, not so much in the Northern Territory which is subject to a different set of decisions, but certainly in Western Australia and Queensland. As the Chairman of the Public Works Committee emphasised before the suspension of the sitting, it is essential that planning be done so that we know well in advance the roads, wherever they may be, that will be sealed. This is essential from the point of view of economy.
I will not say more than that except to refer again to the matter of the sealing to a width of 12 feet. The Chairman of the Public Works Committee might take this up again with the Government or the Minister. They might give some thought to sealing certain sections to a width of 18 feet so that the economies of sealing to 18 feet as against 12 feet can be measured. One thing that we have learned in the north is that road trains play havoc with the shoulders of 12 foot wide sealed roads, if those roads carry heavy traffic. So if the Chairman of the Public Works Committee can do as I have suggested, I think that he will be doing a service not only to the engineers in terms of experimental work, but also to the nation in terms of showing whether we should put down 18 foot wide sealed roads rather than 12 foot wide sealed roads. That is something which a lot of people would like to know, because very few of us have the answer.
– In rising to support this motion I should like to point out to the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that the Dunmarra to Top Springs road is not sealed. 1 am sure he knows that. 1 support his remarks about whether we should consider sealing the Timber Creek to Dingo Gap road to a greater width than 12 feet. As one who has ruined the wheel rims of his car as it dropped off the side of the road coming out of Mount Isa, I appreciate the damage that can be done by heavy transports on narrow sealed roads. The sealing of the Alice Springs to Erldunda road will be of tremendous importance not only to the cattle stations in the area but also to the tourist industry.
As the beef roads programme is coming to an end, I suggest that the Government should consider carefully sealing the remainder of the road. A tremendous amount of traffic comes from the south bound for Ayers Rock. I know that much of it goes to Alice Springs and from there to Ayers Rock, but a great number of Australians would take their cars and caravans into this area if this road was sealed to Port Augusta. I know that five-sevenths of the road is in South Australia and that the South Australian Labor Government probably will play politics over the sealing of the road. However, I believe that someone should seal it. It is the last major road in Australia to be sealed, so I urge the Government to consider that matter.
I have had a great deal of experience in the trucking of cattle on unsealed roads, and I can appreciate the great advantage which the sealing of the Timber Creek to Dingo Gap road will be to the cattle stations in the area. There are some very good stations there such as Auvergne, Kildurk and Newry. They are good class cattle stations with high turnoffs of stock.. Many other stations in the area will be able to transport their cattle to Wyndham in the west and to Katherine in the north east. I strongly support the sealing of this road.
After sealing of the road which is the subject of the motion before us, I urge the Government to consider sealing the road from Erldunda down to the Northern Territory border and then to negotiate with the South Australian Government on the question of sealing the remainder of the road. When my wife was travelling in my car in that area last weekend she saw at Ayers Rock 54 buses belonging to different tourist operators. This indicates the extent to which the tourist industry is developing in this area and the type of vehicles which use this road. Buses also badly damage the edges of 12 foot wide sealed roads and cause a hazard thereby. I urge the Government to look at that question.
– In my capacity as Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Work* I would like to inform the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) that there was a very close inquiry into this question of the width of the seal on the Dingo Gap road. I understand that he has not read the Committee’s report. I realise that he has many other matters on his plate and he cannot do everything. But had he read the report he would have found that the formation and construction of the road will be completed up to the sealing stage and then later it can be sealed to the full width. So the next step of sealing, which obviously will be taken at some time, will be an economic one; the road will not have to be built up from the beginning. Also, the honourable member will know that if a 12-foot strip is sealed less maintenance, is involved and that, when it comes to resealing the road, the wider the road the more it will cost. The thinking is that when the time comes to reseal it - it varies, of course, with the traffic and the temperature - it will probably be economic to seal it to 18 or 20 feet.
I think the honourable member for Dawson should be aware that there was a very close inquiry into this matter. The Committee divided on it. Senator Branson favoured sealing the road to the full width. Messrs James, Corbett, Kelly and Johnson and Senator Prowse agreed that it should be sealed to 12 feet. I also inform the honourable member for Dawson that in discussing this matter we had the benefit of a very close inquiry conducted by the Department of Works on this very subject. I shall see that he receives a copy of the Committee’s report. 1 think it will set his mind at rest to know that the examination is proceeding on this very important question. Also I assure the honourable member that the matters about which he has expressed anxiety today in relation to this road were looked into very carefully by the Committee.
– in reply - I wish to delay the House for only a short time in order to answer the questions raised by my friend the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) about experimental sections. The Department of Works went into this question and considered the extra costs involved in the construction of experimental sections on a wider basis, as suggested by the Public Works Committee. Those costs would have been truly significant and the Department considered that before proceeding with such work detailed inventories should be made in order to discover the extent of the problem.
Accordingly, a detailed survey and inventory of the occurrence of shoulder and edge wear were undertaken, first on the Katherine-Willeroo road and then on the Willeroo-Top Springs, Daly WatersCape Crawford and Stuart HighwayHumpty Doo-Mount Bundey roads. All of these roads will be well known to the honourable member. This investigation indicated that only one single lane beef road - the Katherine-Willeroo Road - was suffering from significant edge and shoulder wear and that the main reason for this - lower than normal standard of alignment, curves and crest - was not applicable to the other roads. In the light of these findings it was considered that the construction of purely experiemental sections of 2-lane beef roads would not be justified. However, the collection of further data will continue on a long term basis.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 26th August (vide page 775), on motion by MrHolten:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure in relation to this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Bill (No. 2) 1971 as they are associated measures. Separate questions may, of course, be put on each
Bill at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hallett)There being no objection I will allow that course to be followed.
– The Opposition makes 3 major criticisms of this Bill which implements the repatriation provisions in the Budget. The first is that the Government has persistently delayed the initiation of an inquiry into the rationale and principles of the Repatriation Act. The second is that the increases in benefits announced in the Budget do not curb the erosion of pension values in terms of the growth in average weekly earnings of the Australian work force. The third is that for the seventh consecutive Budget the claims of the great mass of pensioners getting the general rate have been completely overlooked. On the question of an inquiry into the repatriation system, the situation at the moment is rather confusing. A deparmental inquiry was begun and it has heard some evidence and taken submissions. This was superseded . by the announcement on 27th May by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) of an independent inquiry after repeated requests by exservicemen’s organisations for such an inquiry. On the same day, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Hol ten) announced that he was considering the terms of reference and suitable personnel for the inquiry. He said the appointment of a judge or an eminent lawyer with war experience was one of the possibilities under consideration. Nothing more was heard of this independent inquiry until I raised it during question time earlier this week. The Minister said that the reason for the delay had been difficulty in getting an appropriate chairman from the judiciary to conduct the inquiry. He said, further, that the terms of reference would have to be the subject of considerable discussion but he hoped to be able to announce them in the near future.
The Minister’s explanation for the delay in appointing a chairman may have some merit. If the Government wants someone from the judiciary, someone of the calibre of Mr Justice Kerr who is conducting the inquiry into Service pay and conditions, then obviously it may have to wait months or even years. The Minister made it clear that the Government wanted someone from the judiciary. Apparently the alternatives of an eminent lawyer or senior public servant or other appropriate person have been rejected. Unless there is some certainty that a senior person from the judiciary is available pretty quickly, the Government should reconsider its attitude because it is causing unnecessary delay in this important inquiry. If a suitable judge cannot be found then the Government should look to the Bar or to the Public Service or to other areas of public life. The Minister’s explanation for the delay in the terms of reference are completely unconvincing. It should have been possible for the terms of reference to be drawn up before now, particularly as a departmental inquiry had begun. This would have made it a comparatively simple matter either to take over the departmental terms of reference or to expand and change them as necessary. This could have been done in a matter of days. Instead, we have waited 13 weeks.
The Opposition’s attitude to an inquiry into the repatriation system has always been put consistently to the Parliament. It is that a joint select committee drawn from both Houses should undertake this examination of repatriation machinery. The Opposition sees no reason to change this attitude because the Government is moving in an extremely dilatory fashion to set up an independent inquiry. There is no lack of qualified people on either side of this House who could sit on such a committee. This House is filled with eminent and qualified administrators who could chair such an inquiry. It seems pointless for the Government to be looking for someone from the judiciary when a select parliamentary committee could be chaired by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) who has impressive legal qualifications and who is familiar with these problems from the days when he was Minister for the Navy. There is no need to look for an eminent ex-serviceman in the community to be chairman when an eminent exserviceman who has been Prime Minister and Minister for Defence is sitting on the Government back benches. The right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) would make an excellent chairman of such a select committee in view of his Service and administrative experience. At present there is a shortage of committee work for members of this House. The only joint committee currently functioning on an important issue is the Joint Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation and its business is nearing completion.
I hope it does not become a fetish of the Government that it must have a senior judge free before it can undertake urgent reviews and investigations. In some cases an independent committee is warranted. An example of this is the Kerr Committee where swift and decisive action on Service pay was necessary, but a full-scale inquiry into a major piece of legislation like the Repatriation Act properly is the prerogative of the Parliament. For this reason the Opposition insists that this inquiry should be undertaken by the Parliament, and at a later stage of my address I will take the opportunity of moving an amendment which expresses the views of the Opposition. This will not be the first occasion that I have put to the Parliament a motion to have a select committee appointed to inquire into the Repatriation Act. I make no excuses for repeating, on the occasion of the resumption of the second reading debate on the Repatriation Bill, the opinion of members of the Opposition that a joint select committee should be appointed.
I remind the Minister, if he needs to be reminded, as I remind the Parliament and parliamentary ex-servicemen’s organisations that there has been no inquiry into the Repatriation Act, which was introduced into this Parliament as far back as 1918. since a joint select committee of this Parliament was set up under a Labor government. That committee was headed by a former prominent member of the then Parliamentary Labor Party, the former member for Lalor. As the Minister will know, that committee reported to the Parliament with recommendations which were accepted almost in their entirety by the government of the day and which had the support of the then Opposition which now comprises the Government members in the Parliament. I remind the Minister that it was competent for that committee at that time to consider and recommend a sensible provision which adjusted the Repatriation Act in relation to the onus of proof clause. Although there is some doubt about whether the onus of proof provision is being administered and interpreted today in the generous way in which that committee and ultimately the Parliament recommended that it should be interpreted, that section had the effect of being able to bring from 3 Attorneys-General submissions that made it clear beyond all shadow of doubt that where the onus of proof was in doubt the benefit was to be given to the ex-serviceman. 1 refer to this matter merely to indicate that this was one of the issues which received considerable attention at that time from a competent committee which had been set up under a Labor Government. I believe there is every justification for using the same arguments as were advanced then - there are greater arguments now, 25 years later - for appointing a joint select committee which would have an opportunity to deal with the ramifications and the anomalies which the Minister knows only too well are contained in our repatriation legislation. For this reason, as I have already indicated to the House, I will, at a later stage of my address, by way of amendment, express the opinion and intention of Opposition members.
I turn now to increases in the benefits, particularly to those upon which the Minister concentrated in his second reading speech and announced in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) only a fortnight earlier - that is, special rate pensions and service pension payments. Of course, these are very great areas of need and the increases made are necessary. The improvements made in these areas do not obscure the neglect for the seventh consecutive year of the general rate pension, and the inadequacy of other benefits. The totally and permanently incapacitated rate, which is commonly known as the special rate pension, has been increased by $3.50 to $42.50 a week. This follows an increase of $3 in 1970-71, $2.50 in 1969-70 and $3.50 in 1968-69. It must be acknowledged that the Government has increased the TPI rate regularly in recent years. By the standards of changes in other welfare payments, the special rate pension has been treated reasonably well. But the latest increase barely maintains the parity of the special rate pension with average weekly earnings. As a proportion of estimated weekly earnings for 1971-72, the new special rate of $42.50 is 44.4 per cent, the same as for 1970-71. The Budget has maintained this relationship, but more significantly it has restored none of the erosion of the special rate in real terms which has occurred over the past 10 years. In 1961-62 the special rate pension was 55.7 per cent of average weekly earnings. If estimated average weekly earnings for 1971-72 are set at $95.80, allowing for an increase of 9 per cent as indicated on page 2 of the Treasurer’s Budget Speech, then the TPI rate would have to be set at $53.36 to restore the relativity which existed 10 years ago. This would mean an increase of $14.36 in this years Budget; instead, TPI pensioners have been given an extra $3.50 which just maintains the relativity to average weekly earnings of 1970-71. Under the Government’s approach purchasing power is being gradually whittled away from the special rate pension. In these circumstances it is deceptive to talk about concentration on areas of need when a policy of allowing the relative value of the TPI pension to fall sharply is tacitly pursued.
I turn now to the general rate pension. This legislation is similar to last year’s legislation in that a major defect lies in provision for general rate pensioners. The bulk of repatriation pensioners are general rate pensioners assessed at one level of disability or another. The general rate pension has been $12 a week since 1954 when it was increased by 50 cents.
– Since 1964.
– I am sorry if it sounded like 1954. I hasten to assure the Minister that I said 1964. That is bad enough. I would certainly not be happy to think that the Government had left the pension unchanged since 1954. After all, 1964 is 7 years ago.
As a consequence, the general rate pension has been eroded at a quite remarkable rate. In 1961-62 the general rate pension was $11.50, only 50c less than it is now. At this level it represented 24.2 per cent of average weekly earnings. In 1964-65, when the last increase was made, the general rate pension was 21.7 per cent of average weekly earnings. In the subsequent years this relativity to average weekly earnings has fallen quite drastically. In 1967-68 it was 17.9 per cent; in 1969-70 it had fallen to 15.2 per cent; and the latest Budget has brought it down to 1.2.5 per cent - the lowest level in the history of this pension. lt would be very interesting for the Minister for Repatriation to explain to this House how the Government can allow a pension which is paid to the great majority of repatriation pensioners - those whose disability has been accepted as being the result of their war service - to decline to its lowest ebb in the history of the Repatriation Act. This is no credit to the Minister and no credit to the Government.
The compensatory nature of this pension is completely negated by such a rapid deterioration in its real value and this deterioration is the result of deliberate acts of public policy. In my speech on the equivalent legislation last year I analysed at some length the implications of the Government’s treatment of the general rate pensions. In this year’s Budget the Government’s strategy towards this particular pension has become more apparent. Last year great play was made of increasing the special compensation allowance, which had been introduced in 1968, from $3 to $6. I pointed out the extreme selectivity of this increase because it applied to general rate pensions assessed at 75 per cent or more disability, that is, from 75 per cent to 100 per cent. It would be extremely difficult for me, in the limited time I have available this afternoon, to deal with this issue and make the Minister understand the proposition I put in this Parliament before, which was: How does one assess the difference in the degree of disability of an exserviceman as being between 75 per cent and 70 per cent or below, but particularly 70 per cent? The difference in the pension is $6 a week.
– It is done by guesswork.
– The answer is obvious. If I took the opportunity to quote the figures available they would show, as I have pointed out already to the House, that the great majority of repatriation pensioners in Australia come under the classification of the general rate pension. It would be extremely interesting to be able to quote these figures for the Minister. No doubt he has had the opportunity to study very carefully the 1969-70 report of the Repatriation Commission. That is the last one available. The report for 1970-71 is not yet available and therefore 1 must refer to the figures for 1969-70. There is a total of 195,399 pensioners in the category receiving the 100 per cent general rate pension. Slightly more than 30,000 of that number are in the category above 75 per cent. Quite obviously, for the Government to assume a greater responsibility for this section would mean that all those below that category have been completely ignored by the Government in terms of budgetary finance. Naturally the amount now being paid is being paid to the smallest number possible. This has distorted the whole structure of the general rate pension against the majority of pensioners assessed at less than 75 per cent. In effect the Government acted selectively by weighting the pensions received by a minority of general rate pensioners. lt should be emphasised that the Opposition does not begrudge the extra money to the ex-servicemen who benefited by last year’s Budget. They deserve it and they are entitled to it. But the increase should have applied all the way down the scale. The limitation of the special compensation allowance had the effect of splitting general rate pensioners into 2 categories. This selective attitude to the general rate pension is perfectly plain in this year’s Budget. Again, there is no increase in the general rate pension but a small number of general rate pensioners get some additional benefit. Again, no-one begrudges the extra benefit to those fortunate enough to get it. but it continues the highly discriminatory approach which the Government has adopted to general rate pensioners.
In this Budget the selective approach has been applied to pensioners who get special assistance under the Fifth Schedule of the Act. These pensioners get the general rate pension plus a special loading because ot the nature of their disability. As well as general rate pensioners, a number of TPI pensioners on the special rate are classified under the Fifth Schedule. Pensioners getting increases in this Budget are listed under items 7 to 15 of the Schedule. The first category covered is pensioners suffering from amputation of one leg above the knee and another below the knee. Under the provisions of the Act. these pensioners get the $12 a week general rate pension plus an additional rate of $11.20 - an increase of $4.10 in this Budget. This gives these men a total pension of$23.20 a week. According to the report of the Repatriation Commission for 1969-70, 17 pensioners are paid at this rate.
The second group of pensioners is those who have lost two legs below the knee. They will get a total pension of $19.50 - an increase of $2.75. According to the Commission’s report, 31 pensioners will get this increase. Fifteen pensioners suffering from loss of an arm and an eye or a leg and an eye will get an extra $2.30, lining their pension to $18.50. These 3 groups of pensioners are all getting the maximum 100 per cent general pension rate. Pensioners with loss of leg above the knee or an arm above the elbow are assessed at 75 per cent disability. They get a basic pension of $9 a week, that is. 75 per cent of the general rate. Under the Budget their total pension is lifted to $12.25 a week - an increase of $1.10. In 1969- 70 there were 625 pensioners paid at this rate.
The next category comprises pensioners with loss of leg below the knee or an arm below the elbow. They get the $9 or 75 per cent pension plus an extra $1.70 which is an increase of only 35c under the Budget. There are 485 such pensioners. The last category is made up of those pensioners who have lost vision in one eye. This is by far the biggest group of the pensioners under the Fifth Schedule. In 1969- 70 there were 1,339 of them. Their disability is assessed at 50 per cent which gives them a basic pension of$8.50, an increase of 70c under the Budget. Regrettably the report of the Repatriation Commission for 1970- 71 has not been tabled so I have not been able to bring up to date the number of recipients under various classes of general rate pension.
On the figures of the 1969-70 report -I do not think there would be any substantial variation - only 2,512 general rate pensioners will benefit from the provisions of this Budget. The total number of general rate pensioners in 1969-70 was 195,399; so just over 1 per cent of general rate pensioners get any benefit from the Budget. Based on last year’s figures the total cost of these increases is just over $3,000 a week which is a pretty miserable sop to throw to this group of repatriation pensioners. Last year the maximum number of general rate pensioners who could have benefited from the increase in special compensation allowance was 35,629 or just under 20 per cent. So in the past 2 years only one in five general rate pensioners has benefited from Budget increases, if the Government is given the most charitable assessment of the impact of its measures.
The Government may claim it is assisting the areas of greatest need; this claim would have some validity if regular increases had been made in the general rate pension. It cannot be substantiated when this basic rate of pension which is an essential ingredient in the subsistence of most repatriation pensioners has not been increased for 7 years. The Government has adopted a highly selective approach; certainly these unfortunate men with the injuries listed under the Fifth Schedule deserve the increase they got. But they should have got this increase in conjunction with an increase which would have lifted the whole structure of general rate pensions. This selective approach is illustrated again in the increase in the attendant’s allowance. The higher rate has been lifted by $2 to $16 a week and the lower rate by $1 to $9.50. The attendant’s allowance is a worthy welfare provision but again the application is extremely limited.
It is well to put these much-vaunted increases in perspective; they are so selective and so limited in their application that their overall impact is mainly cosmetic. They allow the Government to claim it is improving repatriation benefits and services without making any improvements in the entitlements of most recipients of pensions. As I have indicated, the extra cost of two of the increases announced by the Government - that is the attendant’s allowance and extra benefits under the Fifth Schedule - is about $4,200 a week, or about $220,000 in a full year. On 1969-70 figures, the increase in the intermediate rate pension will work out at about $120,000 a year, and the extra $3.50 a week for special rate pensioners at about $4. 2m. In all, these increases will cost the Government about $4.54m in a full year. I stress again that these calculations are based on last year’s Repatriation Commission report, although I do not think the latest figures in the 1970-71 report due to be tabled soon will make any significant difference to my estimates.
The fact remains that whatever one should say about the increases and the commendation which I suppose should be given to the Minister in relation to the paltry increases which have been given under this legislation, the Government has once again completely ignored the pension plan submitted by the Returned Services League of Australia in relation to the special rate of pension which it suggested should be equivalent to and not less than the minimum wage paid to workers in Australia today. It suggested that the 100 per cent general rate pension should be at least 50 per cent of the minimum wage and that the same ratio should apply to war widows. The League indicated that the funeral allowance which is now paid at the rate of $50 in the case of a deceased exserviceman - I think it has remained at this level since 1952 - should be increased to $200.
None of these matters has been mentioned by the Minister. They have been set aside in their entirety. The submission put to the Government by those who represent in a responsible way the Returned Services League of this country was completely supported by the Commonwealth Council of the Disabled Persons Association of Australia. I believe that they put forward an equitable case for a measure of justice from this Government but their representations have been completely ignored. How much longer should we go on accepting these conditions from a government which boasted back in 1949 that it would maintain the relative purchasing power of repatriation pensions but which has failed to do so? I move:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill the House condemns the Government because -
it has failed to restore the relative values of repatriation pensions and
the Bill does not provide for the appointment of a select committee to review the Repatriation Act, its operation and all of its provisions, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Government’.
– Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I support this Bill. It goes part of the way towards helping to alleviate the damage caused by war to men’s minds, bodies and souls. Never before or since the first great conflict of World War I has man been called upon to endure the terrors, hardship, confusion, frustration, pain, filth and vermin-infested environment which were endured by the men who fought in that great holocaust. A great number of these men, but for 7 days leave annually or evacuation from the war zone because of injury or of wounds, suffered this veritable hell for the whole period from 1914 to 1918. The Second World War was fought in a different manner but nevertheless the men had to suffer much hardship and privation, and the civilian population was more involved than it had been in the First World War.
I mention these things because from time to time one hears remarks grudgingly expressed about pensions granted to returned servicemen. I state categorically that whatever pension we grant to exservicemen and women, especially those totally and permanently incapacitated, they are justly entitled to, and a grateful nation should be proud to grant it. War widows must never be equated with other widows, because their husbands died either while actually defending Australia or of wounds or illness contracted on service. What I have stated in regard to war widows must not be construed to mean that fair and equitable pensions should not be paid to civilian widows. On the contrary, I support any adjustment and increase we can give.
The onus of proving that an injury or illness is war-caused is a difficulty and a hazard for the ex-servicemen. In the light of events that have occurred, and the effluxion of time, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) should give further consideration to this matter. I know that the appeal boards and tribunals are scrupulously fair, but their decisions must be made in accordance with the Act and regulations.
Over the years I have been able to assist many returned servicemen, more particularly those who were gassed but who continued on duty. By 1917-18 the whole of northern France, especially around Villers.Bretonneux, Albert, Armiens and Amentiers and even the dugouts in which these men slept, was impregnated with gas. Is it any wonder that in after years they were afflicted with bronchial, respiratory and lung complaints? The improvements to the pensions and allowances will benefit the more seriously disabled ex-servicemen, the widows and the children. The Bill provides for an increased payment to exservicemen who are totally incapacitated, to those who have related disabilities or tuberculosis, to those whose incapacity allows them to work only intermittently, to those who need the assistance of an attendant, to those who have lost a limb or an eye and also to war widows.
The total and permanent incapacity pension will be increased by $3.50 a week to $42.50 a week. The intermediate rate, for those who can work only part time, will be increased by $1.75 a week to $30.25 a week. The attendant’s allowance will be $16 a week - an increase of $2 a week. The lower rate of $8.50 a week paid :o those who are blind or paralysed or have had a severe amputation will be increased to $9.50 a week. Those amputees who have always been paid the equivalent of the special TPI rate will receive an increase of $3.50 a week. Amounts which are, in addition to pension, payable in respect of other amputations or the loss of an eye will be increased by various amounts according to the degree of incapacity suffered. The new amount payable will range from $1.70 a week to SI 1.20 a week. War widows pensions will be increased by $1.25 a week to SI 7.25 a week. The children’s allowance will be $7 a week; an orphan child - when both the father and the mother have died - will be paid $14 a week.
Pensions have been increased. This demonstrates again the Government’s sincerity in regard to Service personnel. Its treatment of ex-service men and women is better than, if not superior to, the treatment afforded to ex-service men and women by most other countries. I am pleased that the Government has decided to set up an independent committee of inquiry into all phases of repatriation. 1 trust that it will be set up without further delay so that its report can be analysed and acted upon before the next Budget. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) became entangled with percentages. That is a weak reed upon which to rest. If one relates a figure to a small amount the percentage is higher than if one relates that figure to a larger amount. One is to 2 is 50 per cent; one is to 3 is 334 per cent; one is to 4 is 25 per cent. That shows how quickly the percentage diminishes when the amount is increased. As I advised the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) recently, when one speaks of percentages one should always state to what the percentages are related and what comparisons one is drawing.
In regard to the figures that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted, wages were lower at the time to which he referred than they are now. Therefore, the percentages were much higher. The Government, in reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said it is not responsible for the grading or reclassification of repatriates. This is done by the boards and tribunals and although at times we feel very dissatisfied with their assessment of some of these people whom it endeavours to assist from time to time, the Board and tribunals are composed of men of great reputation, of great honour and of great capacity. They judge and assess the position only according to the evidence before them.
I had a returned soldier come to me who was gassed on 17th June 1917. For 20 years he had been endeavouring to get a pension, i told him to go home and bring back to me everything he had on the matter. Looking through the back of one of his pay books I saw an entry ‘17.6.17 Slightly gassed, continued on duty’, and there was no doubt about the signature A. W. Smith’ which was all the way down the column. Of course, he got his TPI pension immediately but because the onus of proof was on him and the man’s inability to express himself and to organise the evidence he had at his disposal to prove that he had been gassed in the field, tie had not obtained the pension earlier. In recent years I have had quite a number of people come to me. For the benefit of my friends in this House I want to stress that northern France was impregnated with gas - the soil and the air. Although a man may not have been affected immediately because of his exposure to it, after an effuction of time he may have suffered considerably and then not enjoyed the life that he should have enjoyed but for this unfortunate experience of war during 1917-18. I commend the Minister for the way in which he has tackled his portfolio. If ever there was a man desirous of doing the right thing by his fellow ex-serviceman it is the present Minister and I trust that he will be able further to increase these pensions and do much more for our returned servicemen while ever he holds the portfolio.
– I begin my speech by quoting the following words:
The Federal Government is betraying National Servicemen returning from Vietnam. When they are discharged the Government merely sloughs them off, like a snake sheds its skin.
That is a strong statement and it leaves no doubt about the grave dissatisfaction with the Government’s treatment of our newest returned servicemen; and if there is dissatisfaction with the treatment of our newest returned servicemen there is also similar dissatisfaction with the treatment of our ex-servicemen of the 1914-18 War, the 1939-45 War and the Korean War. If a member of the Australian Labor Party said these words that I have just quoted he would be charged by every member of the Liberal Party and of the Australian Country Party with exaggeration. So the identity of the author becomes most important. That statement was made by Mr Colin J. Hines, the present President of the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Services League of Australia. I quoted from an article in ‘Reveille’, the official organ of the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Services League. That is not the only statement that Mr Hines made and I might say that when he made this statement he was the Acting President of the New South Wales Branch of the RSL. Recently he was appointed President of the New South Wales Branch of the RSL, so the statements that he made while he was Acting President received the official imprimatur of the New South Wales State Congress. Mr Hines goes on to say in this article under the heading ‘Repatriation Benefits’:
The Government must take another look at the repatriation benefits pension offered to servicemen returning from Vietnam.
During World Wars I and II every recruit was covered for repatriation benefits from the day of enlistment to the day of discharge.
National servicemen receive no benefit while they are in Australia and they can only claim repatriation benefits for incapacities that happen from the day they left Australia to the day they returned.
I interpolate here: Provided that they are in a zone that has been declared. Mr Hines continued:
The entire pensions scale for returned national servicemen must be reviewed.
Today a boy can be totally and permanently incapacitated at the age of 22 and he will receive only $39 a week. To receive this he must not work. How can we expect such a person to live?
Further, when people know about this, how can we expect them to encourage their sons in future years to go into service for their country?
The League believes the TPI rate should be not less than the Commonwealth minimum wage, which at the moment is $47.10 a week.
At present the returned servicemen on 100 per cent rate pension, that is, those, who are permanently incapacitated but still able to work, can only receive $12 a week. We believe this figure should be half the Commonwealth minimum wage, $23.55 a week.
Similarly, war widows today only receive $16 a week. Again we think it should be half the Commonwealth minimum wage.
Those words must be taken as the considered view of the New South Wales Branch of the RSL. They were uttered by the Acting President, who is now the President, at a symposium held in Dubbo earlier this year. The Opposition believes that the grounds for dissatisfaction expressed by Mr Hines are legitimate. That is the reason for the amendment which was moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) earlier this afternoon. That amendment reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill the House condemns the Government because -
it has failed to restore the relative values of repatriation pensions, and
the Bill does not provide for the appointment of a select committee to review the Repatriation Act, its operation and all of its provisions, and to make appropriate recommendations to the Government.
All members of the Australian Labor Party support this amendment with the utmost sincerity. We have moved an amendment in those terms on previous occasions and we have moved other amendments in this place during repatriation debates in the time that I have been here, each time trying to get better justice for the exservicemen and women of Australia than the Government is prepared to give them. Each year the National Executive of the
RSL presents its war compensation plan to the Ex-servicemen’s Committee of the Federal Cabinet. It goes to the highest body in this Parliament, to specially selected members of the Cabinet, men who are exservicemen themselves and who should have some understanding of the rigours of war. These were fairly well expressed by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) who preceded me in this debate. He spoke of the tribulations of war and of the need to understand those tribulations and the pressures that are on servicemen when they are in conflict.
Not only the National Executive of the RSL but also the Commonwealth Council of the TPI Association present a compensation plan to the Government. This year both organisations suggested that the special or TPI rate of pension should be increased from $39 to $46.40, which is the present average minimum wage throughout the Commonwealth of Australia. In support of the claim both organisations presented figures to show the decline and erosion in value of the TPI pension. Let me give a few examples. In 1920, when the basic wage was £3.1 ls, the TPI pension was £4 a week, or 9s. above the basic wage in those days. In 1932 it was 18s. 4d. above the basic wage in those days. In 1943 it came down to 2s. under the basic wage at that time. In 1955 it had declined to 51s. under the basic wage in those days. On 1st October 1970 the minimum wage throughout the Commonwealth was $46.40 and the TPI pension was $38. In other words, it was $8.40 below the minimum wage.
In April ot this year there was a specially announced $1 increase to TPI pensioners. The announcement came in the first speech that our present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made in this House after he had deposed the previous Prime Minister. The rate of TPI pension came down then to $7.40 under the minimum wage and, with the increase that we are now discussing of $3.50, the TPI pension will be brought up to $42.50, which is $3.90 below the minimum wage. From 1943 to 1970 there has been an continuing decline in the relativity of the TPI pension with the minimum or basic wage. The record decline occurred in 1970. Even with 2 increases in this year the TPI rate is still $3.90 below the minimum wage.
I submit that if it was considered that totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers were worth 9s above the minimum or basic wage in 1920 the same criteria should apply today. The payments that are made to our totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen are to compensate them for their war injuries and their lack of earning capacity. To obtain the totally and permanently incapacitated pension rate, a person must not work at all. These men are entitled to maintain their standard of living and are justified in requesting a pension equal to the average minimum wage.
Comparisons with other sections of the community illustrate the unjust treatment meted out to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. To placate the honourable member for Mitchell I give the basis of the comparisons. In 1950, the basic or minimum wage was $13.80 a week. The present minimum wage is $46.40 a week. That is an increase of 236 per cent. The average weekly earnings of an employed male in 1950 were $21 a week. Today the figure is $95 a week, an increase of 480 per cent. The private soldier in Group 1 in 1950 was paid $1.80 a. day. He is now paid $5.96 a day. With the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Financial Terms and Conditions of Service Employment, known as the Kerr Committee, the daily payment will be greater. Even on $5.96 a day, this private soldier enjoys an increase of 231 per cent over the amount he was paid in 1950. A base grade clerk, aged 21, in the Commonwtalth Public Service, in 1950 received an annual salary of $948. He now receives an annual salary of $3,466. This is an increase of 265 per cent.
In 1950, the special rate pensioner received $14 a week. With the proposed increase, he will receive $42.50 a week, or an increase of 204 per cent. So this class of pensioner is to receive an increase well below the increases received by the categories of people I have mentioned. If totally and permanently incapacitated exservicemen were able to earn the average wage only, their income would increase by over 100 per cent. The claim by the association representing totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, supported by the Returned Services League of
Australia, should have been granted by this Government. The figures that I have quoted clearly indicate that the Government has neglected these men who are suffering and have suffered from the war injuries that they received.
In its compensation plan, the RSL also suggested a general review of all war pensions. I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) and the Government on giving extra consideration to war widows and their children or to the orphaned children of ex-servicemen. No increase has been granted to any category of war pensioner other than those who are more seriously incapacitated. In Australia there are approximately 195,000 exservicemen on rates of pension between 10 per cent and 100 per cent. These 195,000 incapacitated ex-servicemen have been ignored completely.
Since 1950, the rate of the 100 per cent war pension has been increased by 157 per cent only. The 70 per cent rate war pension since 1950 has been increased by 71 per cent only. No increase at all has been granted for a number of years to exservicemen in receipt of war pensions ranging from 10 per cent to 70 per cent. I believe that the Government has decided to freeze war pensions paid at rates between 10 per cent and 70 per cent. If this is the case, the Government and the Minister should be honest enough to announce this decision as a policy. It has not been done so far. I do not think that any government has the right to mislead its ex-servicemen into believing that at budget time they stand some chance of getting an increase in their pensions.
I notice that my time is fast running out and I merely want to mention that in this debate today on repatriation we will hear from a Country Party Minister. I understand that there will be only one other speaker from the Government side to support the Minister and that he will be a member of the Liberal Party, as was the previous speaker on the Government side. Of those 2 members of the Liberal Party, the first to speak was the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin) who is an exserviceman of the First World War and, I think, of the Second World War. He was a member of the Australian Flying Corps in the First World War. The other member of the Liberal Party who is listed to speak is a man whose endorsement as a Liberal candidate has been taken from him by the Liberal Party organisation. In this assertion I can rely only on the official list of speakers in this debate that I have seen. The point that I, come to is that there are a number of ex-servicemen sitting on the Country Party benches. The Minister is a member of the Country Party and apart from the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) - even if he had not intended to speak I guarantee that he will now - not one member of the Country Party is prepared to uphold the policy of this Government on repatriation.
I have spoken to the Minister about these matters and if I have sounded heated it is because I believe that the exservicemen and women of Australia deserve better treatment than they have received from this Government. To prove not only my sincerity but that of all members of the Labor Party, with the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the repatriation platform of the Australian Labor Party as approved by the 29th Commonwealth Conference.
– Because I have irked him the honourable member for Mallee is prepared to show his spite and not want it incorporated in Hansard. I conclude by saying that I want all ex-servicemen and women to see the type of person that is demonstrating-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I am terribly disappointed with the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart). The closing remarks that he made were not worthy of him but they do show the poverty of mind of members of the Opposition in their approach to this sort of subject. All I want to say - and he has taken up very valuable time which he had agreed not to do - is that for several years 1 have been trying to bring a different approach to this question of the repatriation payment. Everybody seems to be bedazzled by the actual rate and we hear all sorts of arguments - we have had them repeated today again and again - about what the rate of this is and what the rate of that is. But this is not the point. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten) in his opening remarks in the second reading speech very rightly said:
The purpose ot the Bill is to give effect to the Government’s proposals in the repatriation war pension Held.
The payments thai we are talking about are war compensation payments. They have nothing to do with pensions. They have nothing to do with an assessment of an amount on which somebody should be living. We have heard repeatedly about the number of people who are to get such and such a rate of pension. I am not concerned about the rate. I believe that totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners should be getting a lot more. I would propose that they should get a lot more if they needed it. It is important that the men in need receive assistance. I believe it is quite wrong that the unfortunate Digger who does need a service pension should have his repatriation war compensation payment included in his income for means test purposes. I believe there is an irrefutable case for the contention that these payments, which are purely for compensation, have no bearing whatsoever on a man’s earning capacity. He receives compensation because his earning capacity is limited by something that has happened, but many of these fellows are still able to earn just as much money. They receive compensation because they suffered a disability caused by war service. 1 will not take up any more time because this afternoon it is limited. I would love to spend half an hour discussing this matter. I believe that future representations from the Returned Services League. TPI organisations and everybody else making representations to the Government on repatriation matters should be on the basis that a means test for a service pensioner should be along the same lines as that applied to applicants for an age pension. If an ex-serviceman is disqualified by the means test, he does not get the service pension, ff a TPI pensioner has quite a reasonable income, as so many of them have, there is no suggestion that his pension should be reduced because he happens to be in more fortunate circumstances than others; but some TPI pensioners are simply not able to work. Their wives have had to look after them and nurse them. I could continue for a long time on that point but I will not. Those people do need the extra payments. If the TPI pension and all other compensation payments were not regarded as income they would be able to get the service pension when in need of it. That is all I have time to say this afternoon, if others are to enter this debate.
– I support the attitude expressed by my colleagues the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) and the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) to the Repatriation Bill. I will not spend a lot of time on this matter. I do not know why we are always put in the position of having to rush the Repatriation Bill through Parliament. We discussed the last Repatriation Bill in exactly the same circumstances as we are discussing this Bill. We are virtually talking about repatriation as we board the aircraft to go home. I think that shows the measure of the Government’s regard for repatriation.
When the Government brings before the Parliament a Bill as shabby as this one, I can understand why it wants to rush the measure through.
On many occasions in the past we have discussed such Bills in the middle of the night. The Returned Services League has submitted to all members of Parliament that 2 principles should underlie repatriation legislation. The League asserts firstly that the very nature of life in the armed forces, especially in time of war, set apart as it is from other types of employment, ought to lead to appropriate compensation measures, medical treatment and rehabilitation as a compensation for such service. It asserts secondly, and I believe quite rightly, that a firm commitment was made by this nation to ali men and women who went to serve in the nation’s defence. The commitment was that they would receive proper treatment should they need it after their service. I shall not go into all the figures that have been mentioned this afternoon.
The Returned Services League, which represents most of the ex-service people in the community and speaks on their behalf, has put pretty simple and I believe thoroughly modest recommendations to the Government. The League asked for 4 things, as I recollect them. Firstly, it asked for an independent inquiry. To give the Government its due, it has announced that there will be an independent inquiry. But I am waiting, as are many other honourable members of this House, to see that inquiry actually instituted. I shall not go over the reasons which the Minister for Repatriation gave for the inquiry not having been instituted till now. Frankly, I think that committee could have been set up. I think it is well past the time to decide the terms of reference of such a committee.
The second major claim made by the RSL was that there should be a complete review of Service pension rates. There is nothing like that in the Bill. The Minister would not pretend that there was. The League asked that the special rate pension, or what we know commonly as the TPI rate, be fixed at the level of the minimum wage. I understand that the minimum wage at the moment is $46.40. However, all that special rate pensioners are to be given is $42.50. Admittedly this is an improvement on the rate that is operating at present, but it is nearly $4 a week less than was asked for. The League asked that the 100 per cent general rate pension be $23.20 or 50 per cent of the minimum wage. However, no such provision has been made for the 100 per cent general rate pensioner or any other level of general rate pensioner. The same applies to the war widow. The League requested that the pension paid to war widows be 50 per cent of the minimum wage. Instead of receiving $23.20 the war widow receives $17.25. Admittedly she also receives a domestic allowance of S8 a week. The League also requested that all other pensions be increased proportionately.
When 1 spoke yesterday on the Social Services Bill I mentioned that many social service, age and invalid pensioners would not get any increase whatsoever and that others would receive only a proportional increase. The same applies to Service pensioners under the Repatriation Bill. The League also asked for an assurance from the Parliament that in future all pensions would be automatically adjusted according to minimum wage adjustments. No provision and no assurance whatsoever to this effect has been incorporated in this Bill.
For many years now the RSL has requested that repatriation, hospital, medical and pharmaceutical benefits be provided to all returned ex-servicemen of World War I and the Boer War. I speak subject to correction when I say that Boer War survivors as at May 1970, according to the latest figure available to me, numbered 286. It would not hurt this country very much to include these veterans in the priority given to those most in need. To help these 286 Boer War veterans would not place a very great demand on our resources. I believe that as at May 1970 there were 79,300 World War I veterans and that their average age was 75 years 4 months. It would not hurt the Government to help these people. Unfortunately the Government will not have to service these ex-servicemen for very long.
The fourth major request of the RSL was that there should be an increase in the funeral grant from $50 up to $200. But not one cent extra has been provided in this Bill; the funeral grant still remains at the paltry figure of $50. A statement was made in the ‘Repatriation Newsletter’ setting out the Government’s policy. The newsletter stated that the increase would benefit more than 135,000 people. But what are 135,000 compared to all those people who are in need of repatriation assistance? The statement continued:
The Government this year has been mindful of the available resources and the allocation of funds between the many competing priorities within the community.
What we are calling into question then is the Government’s sense of priority. If there is a war on there is no trouble in getting assurances that these people will be looked after. There is no trouble at all in raising the funds to provide for the material of war. But when these people come back and they are sick or are partially or wholly unemployed because of their disabilities it is another matter. The priorities are never as great once a war is over as they are when it is on.
The RSL also suggested informally to us - I am referring to the Labor Party’s ex-servicemen’s committee - that there ought to be a review of the Repatriation Board’s practice. It suggested that the functions of the Board ought to be strengthened, and I heartily agree with that sentiment. The RSL said that the Board, if it rejects an ex-serviceman’s claim for war compensation, should give reasons for the rejection, and I am sure that that sentiment would be popular with every exserviceman in Australia. The Board having given its reasons, it should then be possible for the applicant to confront the Board to discuss the reasons that have been given. In the short time available to me I cannot deal with the rationale behind that request. 1 will not delay the House any longer, except to call its attention to the reference made by my colleague the honourable member for Lang to what the new President of the New South Wales branch of the RSL, Mr Hines, said about veterans returning from the Vietnam war. Even people who have served in a war as recent as the Vietnam war have been denied adequate rehabilitation rights. One of the things that particularly impress me is the fact that these young men returning from service in Vietnam, where they have chanced their lives in the defence of Australia - whatever we might have thought personally about their involvement in Viet nam - complain bitterly about the inadequate rehabilitation treatment that has been provided for them. For one thing, they can receive only 1 year’s full time vocational training or 2 years part time training. Why should they not receive the same period of training as was given to those of us who returned to Australia after World War II? Why should they not receive full vocational training? If it is a university course, why should they not receive a full course? After all, as I have said, they have chanced their lives in the defence of Australia. Other aspects of their rehabilitation which were raised by Mr Hines have been mentioned already by my colleague the honourable member for Lang. I believe that this Bill is woefully inadequate. It is one of the worst and shabbiest repatriation Bills ever introduced into this House. Therefore, I will vote strongly in support of the amendment.
– Anyone listening to honourable members opposite, either in this chamber or over the radio, would have heard only a lot of criticism and not one precise proposal put forward. It has been a repeat performance of the debate on the Repatriation Bill last year. Before I come to the main substance of my remarks. I want to comment on the reference by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) to the time allowed for this debate. This debate was due to commence not at 2.30 this afternoon, as it did, but at 11.30 this morning. But the Australian Labor Party deliberately delayed the House for 1) hours this morning and so deprived some honourable members of the opportunity to speak on the Repatriation Bill. The honourable member for Lang referred to the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull). The honourable member for Mallee was to speak in the debate, but because the House is to rise, as we all know, at approximately 4 o’clock he decided that he would forgo his opportunity to speak.
I gave the honourable member for Lang permission to incorporate in Hansard the Labor Party’s policy on repatriation. He showed it to me and I said that he could have it incorporated in Hansard. As the honourable member for Mallee has mentioned to me, the incorporation of a policy in Hansard means nothing at all; it is performance that counts. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) was .speaking I got a piece of paper and headed it ‘Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s proposals in precise form’. I thought that I would make a note of them as he spoke- What did I finish with? A blank sheet of paper. Not one proposal came from him. I view him as the shadow Minister for Repatriation and the Opposition’s chief spokesman on repatriation matters, which he is. But in the 30 minutes for which he spoke he did not give the Australian public or the ex-servicemen’s organisations of this country any indication at all of what the Labor Party would do for ex-servicemen if it were in office. In the last 2 minutes of his speech he mentioned the 1971 Returned Services League war compensation plan. Every Opposition speaker indicated his strong support for this great returned servicemen’s organisation.
Just let me deal with some of the comments made by Opposition speakers and indicate their degree of sincerity. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that no attention has been given by the Government to the 1971 war compensation plan submitted by the RSL. This is nol correct. The principal point of that plan was the establishment of an independent, nonparliamentary inquiry into the repatriation system. The Government has decided to have this. If we look at the terms of the amendment moved by the Opposition and supported by every Opposition speaker, as one of its supporters said, we find that it is diametrically opposed to the No. 1 priority contained in the RSL’s 1971 war compensation plan. The amendment seeks an allparty joint select committee: the RSL sought an independent, non-parliamentary inquiry, because it wanted the matter lifted out of the realm of politics and for other reasons. Nevertheless, part of the amendment moved by the Opposition is diametrically opposed to the RSL’s plan which Labor Party speakers said they supported.
Great play was made on the amount of the pension for the totally and permanently incapacitated. The general theme running through the comments of the Opposition was that the TPI pension is S42.50 while the minimum wage is $46.40. and that the RSL in its war compensation plan has asked for at least an amount equivalent to the minimum wage. Let us just deal with 2 or 3 factors concerning this. If we put all the cards on the table, we see that the basic rate of $42.50 for the TPI is free of income tax, as it should be, but the minimum wage is not. If we take this into consideration, for the single man the net TPI rate is $42.50 and the net minimum wage is $41.05. 1 am not pretending that the TPI war compensation rate should not be higher but I am saying that if it is compared with the minimum wage we should put all the cards on the table. Let us realise that the TPI pension is tax free.
I have dealt with the single TPI pension. The rate for a married TPI pensioner with 2 Children is $49.30 while the net minimum wage of a married person with 2 children, after payment of income tax, is $43.55. So there is a difference of $6 in round figures. According to my figures, the TPI rate paid to a married man with 2 children is about $6 a week more than the minimum wage. In addition to. the actual sum paid, of course, there are all the fringe benefits available to every TPI pensioner. These fringe benefits include full medical treatment, eligibility for sales tax exemptions and eligibility for a concession in respect of radio and television licences. It is not correct to use the argument of $42.50 versus $46.
Mention has been made of the annual report of the Repatriation Department not being available for this debate. Regulation 122 of the Repatriation Act requires the Repatriation Commission to submit annually a report to the Minister, but no time is laid down for the presentation of this report. However, it has been traditionally presented before the Estimates debate and not before the Budget debate. For the last 3 years the report has been presented at about this time, and it will be tabled next week.
– Have you got it in your hand? Is it in your office?
-No. I want to mention briefly the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Irwin), and the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan). Since 1 have had the honour of being a Minister I have always appreciated their dedication to the welfare of ex-servicemen. I have appreciated the sincerity of the honourable member for McMillan in saying that any war pension should not be taken into consideration when the means test is applied. 1 can understand his argument. I am sure that we all realise that there is some weight attached to it but the Government is unable to agree. Honourable members have spoken in this debate about the annual report, and why there has been a delay in appointing a chairman and arranging the terms of reference for an inquiry into the repatriation system. I inform honourable members, particularly those on the Opposition side, that the officers of the Repatriation Department have had tremendous strains placed on them in the last 6 to 9 months. I pay a special tribute to the officers in the Central Office, not only the senior officers but also the other staff within the Department who have handled over 600 letters a month and have dealt with the difficult matters relating to the departmental inquiry, the preparation of information for the Senate inquiry with the Estimates, the preparation of the relevant section of the Budget and of minutes relating to a wide range of matters within the repatriation field. A great deal of work is involved in the Repatriation Department.
While I am paying tributes I want to pay a brief tribute to the Returned Services League and the other ex-service organisations which have been of great assistance to me even though, at times, they may have been critical. That is their right. I recognise their right to be critical at times. This is the job of these organisations, but I do thank them for their cooperation and the way in which we have been able to consult together. I have not sufficient time in this debate to deal with all I wished to raise and those matters raised today by the Opposition, but I point out that this Budget contains significant adjustments in repatriation benefits. Everyone in this Parliament and outside it knows that only a limited amount of money is available to the Government, and that that money comes from the taxpayers. Having listened to the debate today, the people will know that the Australian Labor Party does not have a specific proposal either as to how it would allocate the money or, as the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said last night, even how the money would be raised. The fact is that in this Budget and in the last Budget the TPI pension rate has been increased by $338 a year, and the war widow with 2 children will receive an additional $369 tax free. The increased benefits in this Budget will raise the total expenditure for the Repatriation Department from $3 3 9m to S3 80m. I do not think that the Labor Party could match that, let alone beat it. However I would wish that the Labor Party would tell the people, firstly, how it would allocate the money and, secondly and more importantly, where it would get the money. I reject the amendment completely.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Holten) read a third time.
House adjourned at 4.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How many children were born in each of the past 5 years with (a) physical and (b) mental disability.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
This information is not available in my Department.
Armed Forces: Cost of Recruiting (Question No. 2607)
asked the Minister for
Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following consolidated statement includes expenditure incurred in recruiting advertising and administrative expenses associated with operation of Recruiting Centres.
asked the Postmaster-Gen eral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) Yes. Major items of equipment used in the TRESS system are no longer being manufactured and expansion of the system is not possible. However, additional equipment and parts are not a problem at the moment because a downward trend in telegram lodgments has obviated a need for expansion.
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Subsequent to the publication of the book, People in Poverty’, Professor Henderson expressed the view that the incidence of poverty in Australia, as determined from the survey of poverty in Melbourne, is among the lowest in the world.
asked the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Social Services: Agreement with Malta (Question No. 4027)
asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
What progress has been made towards concluding the social services agreement with Malta.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The matter is still under consideration.
Overseas Investment in Australia (Question No. 3477)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What is the well known attitude of the Government towards overseas investment to which he referred in answer to my Question No. 2768 (Hansard, 5th May 1971, page 2633).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government’s policy on overseas investment in Australia was set out in a statement made to the House by the former Prime Minister on 16th September 1969.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Statistics have not been maintained relating to the number of persons who have been- required to leave Australia. In the great majority of cases temporary entrants who are refused permission to settle here accept the decision and arrange to leave Australia.
The departure of Australian born children in these circumstances has never been recorded for statistical purposes. 1 believe, however, that the number of Australian children departing as a consequence of one or both parents being deported would have been minimal and probably of the same order during each of the past 5 years.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
For further information, I refer the honourable member to my answer to Question No. 3794.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Ship building: Tariff Board Report (Question No. 3937)
asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
When is it anticipated that the Tariff Board report on the Australian Shipbuilding industry will be available?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Tariff Board report on the Australian shipbuilding industry was forwarded to me by the Chairman of the Board on 12th July 1971.
The Government will release the report with the minimum of delay, consistent with a full and careful study of all aspects of the Board’s findings.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
On what dates (a) did the Premier of New South Wales write to him requesting special Commonwealth grants for works to relieve rural unemployment, (b) did he reply to the Premier and (c) did the Premier renew the request (New South Wales Hansard, 25th August 1971).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
What were the amounts in 1970-71
advanced for War Service homes
received in principal and interest on War Service homes and
received in respect of War Service homes liabilities discharged before the end of the repayment period.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1971/19710910_reps_27_hor73/>.