27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth: That the undersigned believe . . .
That hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice are intolerable anywhere in the world.
That the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist.
That to obtain justice among peoples, world financial and trading systems cun and must be changed.
That Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that . .
Australia’s Official Development Assistance in 1972-73 be increased to at least $240 million.
Australia’s aid policies be reviewed so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries.
Australia’s trade policies be reviewed to provide more favourable conditions for developing countries. by Mr Chipp, Mr Berinson, Mr Garrick and Mr Reid.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition from certain residents of the western suburbs in the Sydney Metropolitan area and surrounding districts respectfully showeth:
That due to an expanding passenger air travel business together with larger and more powerful jet aircraft, aircraft noise has already become a serious problem for people living in the vicinity of airports.
That jet aircraft operations have a detrimental effect by way of air and noise pollution on the environment and airports should be situated so as to preserve the environment of populated areas.
That protest should be made against the proposal to establish an international airport at Richmond owing to the detrimental effect it would have for the environment there and in Surrounding districts.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this House take appropriate steps to ensure that the Government does not proceed with the proposal to site the second, twenty-four hour international airport for Sydney at Richmond or anywhere else in the far western suburbs of the metropolitan area.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage, Dr Klugman and Mr Luchetti.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors in the State of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
The following conditions at the Ross Hill Infants’ school give further evidence of the needs in the State education system.
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your Honourable House will (1) make immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State Governments for educational services and (2) carry out a public national survey to determine needs of the States after 1975.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors in the Stale of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore respectfully pray that your Honourable House will (i) make immediately a substantial Federal emergency grant to all State Governments for public education services and (ii) carry out a public national survey to determine needs of the States after 1975.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Cope.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned residents of Lethbridge Park and surrounding areas respectfully showeth -
That as a consequence of the Government’s decision to refuse a visa to Mr A. R. Barry, a laboratory assistant from New Delhi, India, his brother-in-law, Dr Kapoor, is considering returning to India. That Mrs Kapoor, who is Mr Barry’s sister, is very homesick and is insisting on Dr Kapoor’s return to India if her brother is refused entry to Australia. That Dr Kapoor, who conducts a general practice, is highly regarded by all and is always on call and, in the event of his return, we would lose the services of a valued member of our community.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives will request the Government to reconsider its refusal to grant an entry visa to Mr A. R. Barry, a laboratory assistant from New Delhi, India.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Armitage.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, we, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, residents in the State of Western Australia do humbly petition and pray that all levels of Government responsible in Australia will take note of the wishes of we, the citizens, in so far as we request:
That the Commonwealth Government give urgent consideration to the return of the land compulsorily acquired from the Shire of Belmont for defence purposes namely lots 313, 314, 324 and 325 bounded by Alexander Road, Belgravia Street, Esther Street and Daly Street.
That the land be returned to the Belmont Shire for the purposes envisaged of constructing an Aged Peoples Village and a Community Development.
We further believe that this site is one of the choicest sites for residential development remaining in the Belmont Shire and we feel that the Shire has a lost a large proportion of its rateable land to the Commonwealth Government and that this will in some way compensate for the resumptions which have taken place and the lack of opportunity for community development which exists because of those resumptions.
Therefore, we urge that the matter be given urgent consideration so that proper planning and development of the Shire can continue.
Your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, we, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, residents in the State of Western Australia do humbly petition and pray that all levels of Government responsible in Australia will take notice of the wishes of we, the citizens, in so far as we request:
That the Commonwealth Government give urgent consideration to granting taxation concessions to those mothers who are forced to pay fees to have their children retained in Day Care and Family Care Centres.
That these mothers and children are being disadvantaged by the economic circumstances where no concession is made for the charges which must be paid to have their children so looked after. In fact, it means that a single parent is working for a subsistence wage and receiving a lower income than many who are living on Social Service at a cost to the community.
That these mothers efforts to maintain themselves and their families should be rewarded by taxation concessions for fees paid in recognition to their initiative and diligence by not placing their burden upon the community and so allow them to retain their dignity and standing in the community.
That single and married mothers are contributing to the community by the establishment of their home, the cost of which has become affected by inflation and so must continue to work to make the future for the children who are so cared for.
Therefore we ask that all these aspects be taken into urgent consideration and that taxation concessions for all child minding fees be granted to ease the burden.
We, the petitioners humbly pray thatthe House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled would take immediate steps to ensure provision of this taxation concession and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bennett.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees in Parliament House Canberra respectfully sheweth:
That the inadequacy of the present parliamentary building is resulting in unpleasant, inefficient and inconvenient working conditions in the House itself.
That the fragmentation of staff at West Block and other offices in the City due to the inadequacies of space in the present building causes inefficiency in staff control and working relationships.
That although the present patchwork extension system results in better accommodation for some sections of the working population in the House it has worsened the accommodation in other areas by shutting out light and ventilation.
That the older sections of the House, besides being cramped, are affected by extremes of heat and cold and quite out of keeping with modern office working conditions.
That the House lacks proper records storage facilities and other facilities, especially related to staff comfort, a requirement highly desirable in view of Parliament’s extended working hours.
That the present extensions, as with past extensions, have been costly to the taxpayer and economically shortsighted and will merely relieve the most pressing needs for a very limited period of time due to the inevitable growth of the business of this Parliament.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that an early decision will be taken by the Government to build the new and permanent Parliament House which will, in the long run. be a more economical way to house the Parliament and which will, at the same time, be an impressive and proud symbol of Australia’s progress and national unity.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Enderby.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, respectfully showeth.
That Lake Pedder, situated in the Lake Pedder National Park in South-West Tasmania is threatened with inundation as part of the Gordon River hydro-electric power scheme.
That an alternative scheme exists, which, if implemented would avoid inundation of this lake.
That Lake Pedder and the surrounding wilderness area is of such beauty and scientific interest as to be of a value beyond monetary consideration.
And that some unique species of flora and fauna will be in danger of extinction if this area is inundated.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government take immediate steps to act on behalf of all Australian people to preserve Lake Pedder in its natural state. All present and particularly future Australians will benefit by being able to escape from their usual environment to rebuild their physical and mental strength in this unspoilt wilderness area.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Postmaster-General’s Department, Central Office, policy of centralising Post Office affairs and activities under the various titles of Area Management, Area Mail Centres, Area Parcel Centres and similar titles is resulting in both loss of service and lowering of the standards of service to the Public, directly resulting in the closing of Post Offices which is detrimental to the Public interest.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of ‘Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Fulton.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The bumble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to
Ensure that emergency finance from the Commonwealth will be given to the States for their public education services which provide schooling for seventy-eight per cent of Australia’s children. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on 10th December 1948, Australia signed the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, Article 25 reads: ‘Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’
Yet, 23 years later, in our country of great national wealth and abundance it is to the nation’s shame that many thousands of our people live in a state of being inconsistent with the dignity and worth of the human person - languishing in poverty and want, neglect and the lack of proper care necessary for their health and well-being.
We, the undersigned, respectfully draw to your attention that the conscience of the nation is not at ease while the records of our country show that social services are not comparable with that of other advanced countries administering such services, therefore, we call upon the Commonwealth Government to immediately legislate for:
Base pension rate - 30 per cent of the average weekly male earnings, all states, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployed benefits equal to the foregoing.
Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensioners - hospitalisation, chronic and long-term illness, fractures, anaesthetics, specialist, pharmaceutical, hearing aids, dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropody, surgical aids and any other appliances.
Commonwealth Government to promote a comprehensive national scheme in cooperation with the States and make finance available to provide for the building of public hospitals, nursing and hostel-type homes necessary to effectively meet the special requirements of aged people, in conjunction with a comprehensive domiciliary care programme to enable aged people to stay in their homes.
Mental illness placed in the same position as physical illness.
Substantial Commonwealth increase in the $5 subsidy a day per public bed pensioner patient in general hospitals. 10 per cent of Commonwealth revenue to local government for general activities which now include social welfare, health, conservation and other community needs. Commonwealth subsidy for the waiving of rates for pensioners.
Commonwealth Government to increase the non-repayable grant to the States for low rental home units for pensioners.
Royal Commission or other form of public enquiry into Australia’s social welfare structure that Australia may be brought into line with accepted world standards of the most advanced countries.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Pre-school and after-school education facilities are in urgent need within the Australian community. The shortage has become more acute as more mothers join the work force.
In advanced countries pre-school and afterschool education are recognised as essential aspects of education for all children.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to provide the necessary finance to enable State education departments and local government authorities to establish:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth humbly showeth: That the undersigned believe:
That hunger, illiteracy, abject poverty and injustice are intolerable anywhere in the world
That the knowledge, skills and resources to change these unjust conditions now exist.
That to obtain justice among peoples, world financial and trading systems can and must be changed.
That Australia has the capacity to play a more significant part in enabling the developing countries to achieve improved social conditions for all their people.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that:
Australia’s Official Development Assistance continue to be increased so that aid given provides maximum benefit to the peoples of developing countries.
Your petitioners respectively request that the Government give consideration to these recommendations from our group study of ‘Action for World Development’:
– I ask the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities a question. Is it a fact that passengers who arrive from overseas by air in Sydney are charged about $150 to go on to Perth, whereas those who arrive in Perth are charged about $50 to go to Sydney? If so, why are international airlines, including Qantas Airways Ltd, allowed to discriminate in this way against overseas tourists who contemplate a visit to Western Australia?
– This would be a matter generally for the airlines to discuss. I shall take it up with my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, have a look at it and get the Leader of the Opposition an answer.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by reminding the right honourable gentleman that nearly 6 months ago he received representations from the Private Secretaries Association seeking a review of the basis on which payment is made for overtime worked by private secretaries. I ask the Prime Minister whether he has yet been able to respond to its claim that private secretaries should be remunerated on an hourly basis for overtime worked as are all other members of ministerial staff. If not, when does he expect to be able to reply? Finally, in view of the particularly long hours which are worked by private secretaries and the dedicated service given by these officers to members on both sides of the Parliament, will he give his personal support to their claim in an effort to remedy an obvious inequity?
– The House will know that this matter is within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board, and consequently I was under compulsion to refer it to the Board. I have been in touch with the Board on at least 2 occasions since the reference was made in an attempt to get a quick decision from it. Until 10 minutes ago I had had no reply, but I will ensure that the Secretary of my Department contacts the Chairman of the Public Service Board today to see whether the matter can be quickly resolved. As to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I agree with him that the position of the private secretaries needs urgent consideration. I think it should be considered on the basis that these men not only work long hours effectively but also give complete loyalty to those for whom they are working. I hope that these facts will be taken into consideration by the Public Service Board.
(Mr Daly having addressed a question to the Deputy Prime Minister) -
– Order! The Deputy Prime Minister is not responsible for the attitude of the former right honourable member for Murray. Therefore the matter is not within his ministerial jurisdiction and the question is out of order.
– The final part of the question
-I call the honourable member for Mallee.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you this question: Am I denied the right to ask the Deputy Prime Minister, for instance, the attitude of his Party on a matter relating to the conduct of the Party?
-I have already ruled the question out of order on the ground I stated. The honourable member foi Grayndler went right through a rigmarole before raising his point of order. The question he asked is out of order.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. There has been discussion in the Mallee electorate regarding the proposed Omega navigational aid station, chiefly in regard to where it will be located. Can the Minister supply information on his subject?
– A lot of interest has been created by the announcement that an Omega navigational aid station is to be installed in Australia. I have received an invitation from a councillor in Swan Hill - not from the Swan Hill Shire Council - to attend a public meeting which 2 academics who are critics of the proposed station are to attend. I regret that I will be unable to attend the meeting because of prior commitments. However, I have answered point by point the criticisms that have been made by these people. I will be happy to forward to the Swan Hill Shire Council any information it seeks on the subject.
The House will recall that I announced that 5 areas as possible sites for the navigational aid station were being investigated by my Department. The 5 areas are the Darling Downs, an area near Moree in northern New South Wales, an area north of Corowa, an area between Kerang and Deniliquin and another area north of the Divide from Wedderburn, near the town of Boort in Victoria. I am able to inform the House that the choice has been narrowed down to 2 sites following soil conductivity tests. The 2 sites are in the area near Boort and in the area between Kerang and Deniliquin.
Information is now being gathered in cooperation with the Department of the
Interior about properties for sale in those 2 areas. The navigational aid station will require about 1,000 acres for its operation. When the information is gathered, specific testing will be done on the available sites. I can inform the honourable member that Swan Hill was ruled out of calculations because the airport there is in regular use and radio interference would have been created for the Omega station. Other good, sound technical reasons came into the matter. I should point out to the House, as I have done before, that the investigating team has received exceptional co-operation from the municipal authorities in all the areas.
I have absolutely no knowledge of any disquiet on the part of any shire council. In fact, I have had representations from nearly every council in northern Victoria and the Riverina seeking to have the navigational aid station installed in that area. When the tests are concluded I will give further information to the honourable member and the House.
– I ask the Minister for Supply: Have quantities of radioactive waste from British nuclear establishments been dumped in Australia? In particular, were lead-lined boxes of radioactive waste flown from Britain and buried on the Maralinga testing site? If so, how much of this material was dumped? When did the dumping start and when did it cease? Why was this practice not disclosed to the Australian public?
– The honourable member has been careful not to make any statement about the source of the allegations and I think that that in itself is significant. I have no knowledge of the allegations he has made and I will certainly look into the matter. Referring to those areas in the Maralinga region which I mentioned in an answer to a question yesterday, might I say that the British Government spent a very large sum of money making areas as safe as possible by pouring great quantities of concrete to fill in areas that had been dug deep, and in restoring the surface area as much as possible. All of this took place nearly 20 years ago. The radioactive material present in those areas has in the main a half life of some 15 or 20 years, I think, from memory and so its effect, deep and buried and covered as it is, has been very much diminished in that time. However, I will make inquiries in relation to the particular charge which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has made.
– My question which is addressed to the Acting Minister for Health concerns the mercury content in fish. What quantity of shark meat would it be necessary for a person to eat before any indications of deleterious effect would be evident? Is there evidence in countries such as Sweden, Japan and so on, where fish consumption is much higher than in Australia, of illness due to the build up of mercury in the human body? Will the Minister please do everything he can to bring about most speedily a correction of the regulation concerning the mercury content in fish so that the valuable fishing industry may get back to normal and so that fishermen will be allowed to return to a trade that has flourished without devastation to human health for 50 years or more?
– In relation to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I am advised that, based on Japanese studies, at a level of 0.5 parts per million of mercury clinical symptons of toxicity appear at an intake of approximately 21i oz per day. I am advised also that in order to provide safety for vulnerable groups such as high fish consumers and unborn children, it is necessary to apply a safety factor of 20 to this, which reduces the safe intake, at the level of 0.5 parts per million, to one oz per day. In relation to the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, it is a fact that in Japan there have been epidemics of fatal poisoning due to this cause. In relation to the third part of the honourable gentleman’s question, as a result of the concern expressed by several Health Ministers, the Director-General of Health, who is the Chairman of the National Health and Medical Research Council, called a meeting of the Public Health Advisory Committee as recently as 6th September, last Wednesday week, to consider the available evidence in relation to this matter. As the honourable member will be aware, after considering all the scientific evidence available on this question, the Committee reaffirmed the previous position of the Council. This will now go to the full meeting of the Council in November. I appreciate the concern expressed by the honourable gentleman, which I share but apart from the health and scientific aspect, 1 do not think I can add anything further to what my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry said, I think, on Tuesday.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by drawing his attention to the fact that on 13 th September 1971 - a year ago yesterday - he indicated to the House that he had instructed his Department to prepare a submission on ministerial housing in Canberra so that policy on this question might be reconsidered by the Government. This undertaking was given in answer to questions and debates in this House arising from the controversy in respect of housing for the Minister for the Interior. I suggest that the Prime Minister should answer this question because he gave this undertaking.
-Order! I suggest that the honourable gentleman should ask his question.
– I noticed him pointing to someone else. I now ask: Keeping in mind that a number of his Ministers have this bargain rate housing, has he received that submission? If so, has it been considered by the Government? If so, will he now announce the policy on this question and why there has been a year’s delay to date in finalising the matter?
– If the honourable gentlemen wants me to answer the question, I will refer the matter to my colleague and get him to give an answer in writing to the honourable gentlemen.
– I ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made in the negotiations to purchase the Everard Park property in South Australia for Aborigines under the $13m land purchase policy announced by him earlier this year.
Mi MCMAHON- I did inform the House some time ago that there had been contact between the Government and the gentleman who had entered into an agreement to purchase Everard Park and that he had shown a willingness to hand over this property at cost to the Commonwealth. I have recently been informed that there is no disagreement whatsoever between the Government and the intended purchaser. This matter is being dealt with by members of the Attorney-General’s Department and officials in the Department of the Interior. We hope that we will have a settlement soon and that this property will soon be handed over to the Aborigines themselves.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. Are volunteers who served in Vietnam denied the benefits of the retraining scheme for national servicemen who served in Vietnam? Are both national servicemen and volunteers excluded from the benefits of the war service land settlement scheme? If so, will the Minister take immediate steps to have these ridiculous anomalies rectified?
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation to answer the question.
– This is a matter that affects the Repatriation Department. The position is that retraining and loans are available to all national servicemen, whether they served overseas or not.
– What about volunteers?
– Order! The question has been asked and the Minister is entitled to answer it.
– But he does not know what has been asked.
-Order! This is a matter of conjecture. I suggest that the Minister be given an opportunity to answer the question.
– The same benefits are available to volunteers in the Regular Army, volunteers who joined under the national service scheme and national servicemen who have served overseas, in Vietnam in this case and also those who served in Malaysia and in other conflicts. So these benefits are available under the special overseas Act and other Acts.
– That is not true.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. 1 regard this matter as being extremely important. That is why 1 raise this point of order. The Minister, perhaps not deliberately but because he does not understand the Act, has given false information to this House.
-Order! That is no point of order at question time
– It is a point of order. The Minister has given false information to the Parliament.
-Order! The position here is that a question has been answered and there can be no query of it. ‘I here are other forms of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows this. This is question time when questions are asked of Ministers. Ministers provide answers relevant to the questions and are quite in order in answering them. That is tha extent of the jurisdiction of the Chair at question time
– Mr Speaker, I assume that I will have the opportunity at an appropriate time to let the Minister and this Parliament have the correct information.
-Order! That is a matter for the honourable member
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. The position, as I understand it with respect to questions without notice, is that questions are directed to the Minister responsible. In this particular case, the war service land settlement scheme is administered by the Minister for Primary Industry. 1 think that the House is entitled to know the accurate facts on this question and the Minister for Primary Industry could give the actual facts in answer to the question.
-Order! There is no point of order. The question was directed to the Minister for Defence, and the Minister for Defence arranged for the Minister for Repatriation to answer the question. Similarly, as the honourable member knows, it is often the case that when Ministers handle a particular portfolio the Prime Minister himself delegates a Minister to answer a particular question.
– Mr Speaker. I rise on a point of order. Might it have been more helpful, since your ruling in respect ot question time is fairly clear that there are restrictions on the questions that honourable members can ask, if the Standing Orders were altered to refer to question and answer time?
-Order! There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Calare.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order, for the third time.
-I am sorry. I call the honourable member for Hawker.
– I put a reasonable question to the Minister for Defence. Personally I am not concerned who answers it, but I am entitled to a competent reply. 1 have not received one.
-Order! There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Calare.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Industry aware that the Bank of New South Wales in its quarterly economic review has come out strongly against any revaluation of the Australian dollar? What reasons did the Bank give for this? Does this serve to prove that all qualified opinion, even amongst banking institutions, is not on one side of this argument, the resolution of which will have such far reaching effects on export industry?
– I heard a radio report of the Bank of New South Wales quarterly report only this morning. In its report the Bank of New South Wales stated that it was against a revaluation of the currency because of the deleterious effects it would have on rural and mining industries. I think this typifies the attitude of any commercial body which has close contact with industry and knows the consequences of any revaluation of the currency. This Bank has enormous accounts in the rural areas and in the mining field. It knows the difficulties that people in these industries are undergoing and it knows just how disastrous revaluation would be at this particular time. Even though it is not terribly well qualified it has done very well in reaching this decision and it was reached because the Bank had its feet on the ground. I am interested to note that the
Australian Labor Party is now justifying its position on revaluation on the basis that it is better qualified intellectually to make a judgment. One of the interesting things shown in the history of the Labor Party is that whenever there have been currency alterations the Labor Party has always moved for depreciation. This has been its attitude at times when the Labor Party has had great leaders - I will give it credit for that - men who have come up through the ranks and who understand the problems of employment, industry and keeping the economy going. But now there is a new sort of Labor Party which seems to be controlled by the intellectuals. Anybody who has the audacity to have a counter point of view to theirs is ill-educated. It is nice that the Leader of the Opposition is a man of letters, and we know that he is a great scholar in the courts but, my word, that is small compensation for being a man amongst men.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question that is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Hawker. Are national servicemen and members of the volunteer forces who servied in Vietnam eligible for war service land settlement re-establishment? If they are not eligible, will the Minister confirm that ex-servicemen of the First World War, the Second World War and Korea were given this advantage? If those who served in Vietnam are not entitled to the same consideration and assistance in this respect will the Minister say why the Government has adopted a discriminatory practice against those who served in Vietnam compared with those who served in other wars in which Australia was involved?
– Even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would be aware of some of the difficulties that are besetting those in primary industry throughout Australia today. Most of these problems relate to the size of holdings and the degree to which people are able to operate efficiently on some of these holdings. Following the establishment of the war service land settlement scheme there has been a complete re-examination in recent years of the degree to which settlers have been able to operate properly. In answer to questions asked in this House I have indicated that there is concern over the degree to which some settlers receiving benefits under the scheme have been able over the years to face declining market opportunities and rising costs. This study has shown up problems in the case of Kangaroo Island, in respect of which some provisions have been made in the Budget, and in respect of some 5 settlers in South Australia where there have been difficulties resolved in ensuring an allocation of leases for blocks.
It is true that it was felt that in the case of Vietnam servicemen, whether members of the Regular Army or national servicemen, to provide the benefits under the war service land settlement scheme would not necessarily give them the opportunities that most of them would like to have if they were to go on the land. Accordingly, what the Government has done is provide for national servicemen funds which can be allocated to them to enable them to set up in a particular business. I cannot recall the exact sum, but my recollection is that there has been a greater sum of money provided for national servicemen engaged in primary production than for those going into other businesses. The range of benefits available to national servicemen is not entirely within my responsibility, although the part relating to the war service land settlement scheme is. It is true that there is no facility available under the war service land settlement scheme for national servicemen, but it is not true that there are no funds available for those who are going into some type of agricultural venture. The question that was asked by the honourable member for Hawker, of course, covered a range of portfolios. With respect to the questions asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and also to that asked by the honourable member for Hawker, I might provide an answer in writing covering all of those points which have not been answered.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and I preface it by saying that a number of my constituents have expressed concern to me that the Government’s position in relation to the acceptability of overseas portfolio investments in Australian companies is unclear. Provided such investment does not lead to acquisition or control of Australian companies, does the Government consider such overseas portfolio investment acceptable or not?
– The term ‘portfolio investment’ is a very broad ranging one. It covers a variety of different forms of paper that evidence an entitlement to money. But I think the honourable gentleman was relating the term to the purchase of shares on the stock exchange. It is important to draw the distinction between portfolio in the broad and shares on the stock exchange. It is also important to draw a distinction between actions which are designed to achieve control and actions which are designed to achieve a share of ownership through the stock exchange. We have a policy in relation to the purchase of shares on the stock exchange which does not erect any barriers to those purchases because, almost by definition, they are directed towards achieving ownership and not towards achieving control. Normally a takeover is made under the provisions of the Companies Act and is clearly designed as a takeover for the purpose of assuming control. I have been giving very close consideration to that matter and the Government is now considering certain papers which I have put before it.
However, I should like to make it clear that I have no recommendations in relation to portfolio investment in the form that the honourable gentleman mentioned, that is, the purchase of shares on the stock exchange. But if that purchase of shares is, to use the terminology, the action of a raider using the stock exchange to acquire control, that would be an entirely different matter and would have to be looked at in terms of a takeover seeking control. To return to the initial point made by the honourable gentleman, I have no recommendations whatever which would interfere with or put obstructions on the free flow of equity investments through the stock exchange from persons in overseas countries whose purpose was to achieve some ownership in Australia through the stock exchange in order to spread their portfolio interest in those areas where they believe that their equity capital would be well invested.
– Has the Prime Minister noted that, following the tabling of the Voumard report on local government finances, the Victorian Minister for Local Government said that the report could not be carried out without massive aid from the Commonwealth and that the United States Congress has just authorised grants to cities and local governments twice as great as its grants to the States? In any case, I ask the Prime Minister: What response have the States made to the suggestion he put to the Premiers after the matter was raised at question time 6 months ago that local government should be represented at the forthcoming constitutional convention? In view of this forthcoming convention, has his Government given consideration to any of the recommendations which the Committee on Constitutional Review, drawn from both sides of both Houses in this Parliament, unanimously made in 1958 and 1959?
– It must be obvious that no person in this House could yet have considered the Voumard report or its implications because, as I understand it, the report was released yesterday and is a very voluminous document. No copy has been sent to us.
– But the constitutional convention can.
– The honourable gentleman did not ask that question. If he will let me complete my answer I think he will receive the kind of answer he wants. Please let me finish the answer in my way. The honourable gentleman can then ask a second question if he wishes. It was a little premature of the Leader of the Opposition to expect thai any detailed consideration could have been given to that report by either the Commonwealth or, for that matter, the State Government. I will attempt to obtain a copy and see that it is submitted to close scrutiny quickly. As to another of the 3 complex questions that the honourable gentleman asked, I am a great believer in ensuring that the local government authorities are represented at the constitutional convention and I believe they will be represented. Whether they will have a vote is another matter, but the Liberal-Country Party Government is per sisting with its request that they be present and we will expect them to be able to express their views as fully as they wish.
As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, up to the moment we are concerned only with the problem of the preliminary conference that is to be held soon. We have not put substantive requests or substantive recommendations to that Committee, nor have we put to it recommendations dealing with the constitutional reforms that were suggested by the all-party committee. Nonetheless, that part of the honourable gentleman’s question makes a lot of sense and I can assure him that, when we make our recommendations at least, we will very carefully consider the recommendations of that committee, and those parts with which we agree we will refer to the constitutional convention.
– Has the Treasurer noticed a Press comment of a report from the Bank of New South Wales relating the phrase ‘incomes policy’ to the phrase totalitarian enforcement’? Does he agree with the report that such measures would be a stop-gap attempt to deal with inflation without affecting its root causes?
– I have not seen the article. I have seen Press reports relating to it. From the reports I have read it sounds as though, after labouring long and hard, the Bank of New South Wales economics writers have come up with the right conclusion. lt is my view that a prices incomes policy can never be a permanent feature of economic management. A prices incomes policy at best can only be to deal with a very special and extreme situation.
– So bash the unions. That is the alternative.
-Order! I am sick and tired of interjections this morning. I suggest that honourable members obey my request because I believe it to be a reasonable one at question time.
– The Government has been very concerned about the inflationary pressures in the economy and we have pursued a course of action which has had some success. The honourable gentleman will remember that the December quarter showed a consumer price index increase of 2.3 per cent, the March quarter showed 1.1 per cent and the June quarter showed 0.9 per cent. To put it in annual terms: In the calendar year 1971 it was 7 per cent and from June to June it was down to 6.1 per cent. Therefore we have had some success with our policies. We intend to continue to pursue those policies. We will not be put off the course that we propose by such sloganeering as ‘union bashing’. That is not part of our policy at all. What is part of our policy is to understand the cause of inflation and to try to deal with that cause and not merely the palliative of looking at the result.
The policy, which we have pursued with some success, is to be contrasted with the policy of the Opposition. The Opposition Party spawned by the trade unions and still controlled by the trade unions, is unable to have an incomes-prices policy because it cannot have a policy on incomes at all. Last March the honourable member for Hindmarsh attempted to introduce some form of incomes policy. There was an avalanche of protest and the honourable gentleman found himself under attack within the Federal Executive and that embryonic first attempt at some wages policy had to be abandoned. The Federal Executive decided that it would reach a conclusion of great wisdom and then say nothing about a wages policy.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. You have warned members on this side of the House on a number of occasions about the length of their questions. My point of order is that this is the third Minister who has made an answer which has been in excess of 3 minutes. I think that is extremely provocative.
– Order! The honourable member, as a deputy chairman, should know the situation in that regard. There is no point of order.
-I direct my question to the Treasurer. I refer to the New South Wales Auditor-General’s report which indicates that the Sydney Water Board has a capital debt of $703m and that 47 per cent of its income is taken up in paying interest and servicing the debt. Has the Board now decided to finance a large portion of its capital works pro gramme from revenue because of its inability to obtain Federal assistance? Does this mean that ratepayers in the Sydney area, for example, will be obliged to pay a further $100 to $150 a year in rates to finance works from which they receive no benefit? Because of the hardship this policy will cause people on low and fixed incomes, will the Treasurer favourably consider an application for Federal grants to finance water storage and reticulation on a national basis and is he prepared to receive a deputation from the local government constituencies concerned?
– I have some knowledge of the matters which the honourable gentlemen raises. I would be quite willing to receive a deputation. But I must say to the honourable gentleman that members from my own Party have been active in this matter before the intervention of the honourable gentleman.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. I refer to recent reports concerning the proposed Palmerston Freeway between the city of Darwin and the northern suburbs of Nightcliff and others. Will the Minister assure the House that if houses and land are to be acquired the owners will be fairly and adequately compensated for the almost irreplaceable loss of their position? Also, will he assure the House that one of the leading and most broadly representative sporting clubs in Darwin, which has a membership of 700, does not have its sports oval or new club house bulldozed over in the construction of the freeway?
– I rise to order. I ask whether it is in order for the honourable member to ask a question which in effect pre-empts the recommendations of the Public Works Committee in regard to the Palmerston Freeway. I point out that the recommendations of the Committee have not yet formally been presented to this Parliament.
– Has the Committee completed its work in relation to this matter?
– Yes, but the Parliament has not considered it.
– If the Committee has completed its work, the answer to the question can have no influence on the findings of the Committee. Therefore I rule that the question is in order.
– I have had a number of-
– I rise on a point of order. My learned colleague, the honourable member for Hughes, may not be in possession of certain written evidence on the subject matter now before the House on which an answer is being given by the Minister for the Interior. There is in connection with the Palmerston Freeway in Darwin written evidence in the hands of certain members of the Committee, of which the House is aware I am a member, that came through only yesterday, lt is to be considered by the Committee. Therefore I submit that the matter is still sub judice, if I might use that expression, and the question should not be answered by the Minister.
– I asked the honourable member for Hughes had the Committee’s investigation been completed. The honourable member for Hughes assured me that it had. Therefore I ruled that the answer would not influence the findings of the Committee.
– 1 take a further point of order. Mr Speaker, you asked a question of the honourable member for Hughes, who is a member of that Committee. He answered to the best of his ability - and he has ability - on the information available to him. The honourable member for Hunter, who also is a member of that Committee, has now drawn your attention to the fact that additional evidence is to be presented to the Committee. In view of that, Mr Speaker, I ask you to rule that the question asked by the honourable member for the Northern Territory is out of order.
– The Chairman of the Committee is in the House, and it would save a lot of problems, Mr Speaker, if you asked him what the position is.
-I was just going to do that. I ask the Chairman of the Public Works Committee whether he has completed the report.
-The report has been completed. The report has not yet been presented to this Parliament.
– It has.
-The question is in order.
– If the matter has been presented to the House and there has been no discussion on it, this question is pre-empting a discussion in this House. Mr Speaker, has there been a discussion on it?
-I am informed that the report of the Committee has been presented to the House. It is a public document. If we blanket questions about a report that comes into this House. I do not know where members will get questions from.
– On a further point of order, 1 raise the fact that as the honourable member for the Northern Territory is a member of the sporting club referred to in his question addressed to the Minister for the Interior he has a pecuniary interest in the club and the question should not be allowed.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– The honourable member for the Northern Territory-
– I rise on a further point of order. Mr Speaker, you asked the Chairman of the Public Works Committee whether or not this report had been presented. I think there may be a wrong impression on your part as to the answer given. Whereas it is a fact that the Committee has concluded its report and passed it on for presentation to this Parliament, in fact the report has not been presented to this Parliament. It has not been tabled in the Parliament, and from that standpoint the public at large is not aware of the contents of the report. In that sense the question asked by the honourable members must be regarded as a hypothetical one.
– I repeat my question to the Chairman of the Public Works Committee. Has the report been tabled in this House?
– Yes, it has been tabled.
– As the Minister representing the Minister for Works in this place, I think I may be able to clear the matter up. The report has been presented to the Parliament by the Chairman of the Public Works Committee. The next procedure is that after the Government considers the report it moves a motion that the work should proceed, or does not move such a motion. I have not yet taken that step but the report is before the Parliament.
– Here is the report. It is a public document.
– The honourable member for the Northern Territory has obviously tried to bring out a point of concern that is causing anxiety in the minds of people that he represents in Darwin. For reasons that I cannot comprehend members of the Opposition are trying to smother a reply to a very good question that he has asked on behalf of the people he represents. Of course, in the event of the Government’s proceeding with the recommendations in the report, under the Lands Acquisition Act the Commonwealth Government would purchase on fair and just terms any land that had to be acquired. The honourable member for the Northern Territory is trying to obtain an undertaking that the people whose land or property is in the path of the freeway will be compensated for any loss incurred. I think that is a perfectly reasonable request on his part. I have had a number of telegrams and representations from people who are most concerned about the proposed route of the freeway. The Government did, however, approve the Palmerston arterial road at an estimated cost of $5.4m. The Public Works Committee has presented a report and so it is before the Parliament. Certainly the Northern Territory Administration and my own Department will be considering the positions of the people involved. I assure the honourable member for the Northern Territory that his constituents will not be completely overlooked in this issue.
– I ask for leave to correct an answer to a question that I gave earlier.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When I was answering a question asked by the honourable member for McMillan, by a slip of the tongue I said that the daily intake of fish, according to the Japanese studies, necessary for clini cal symptoms of toxicity to appear was approximately 2i ounces. The figure I should have used is 21 i ounces a day.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Dried Fruits Export Control Act 1924-1966, I present the Forty-eighth Annual Report of the Austraiian Dried Fruits Control Board for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the financial statements on Commonwealth Railways operations for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the annual report of the Director-General of Health on the activities of the Commonwealth Department of Health for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957-1960, I present the Fifteenth Annual Report of the National Capital Development Commission for the year ended 30th June 1972 together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s Report on those statements.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented. The Treasurer has again misrepresented me on the same subject on which he has misrepresented me before when he said that the honourable member for Hindmarsh early last year advocated an incomes policy and was rejected by the Federal Executive which took the wise course of taking no action at all. I do not know how many times I have to correct these misrepresentations but I will make the correction every time I am misrepresented. I hope that as a consequence of this explanation and of reading direct from the minutes of the Federal Executive what I say might penetrate the skulls of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, because they are the ones who continue to misrepresent the position. The Federal Conference met on 13th December 1971 at Townsville after the Parliamentary Labor Party had dealt with this matter. A motion was moved by Mr Tack Egerton and seconded by me immediately the session of 15th December began at 9.30 a.m. That motion moved by Mr Egerton and seconded by me read as follows:
That this Executive condemns the Federal Government’s proposals to amend the Arbitration Act to the detriment of Australian workers and brands the proposals as a deliberate political stunt to provoke industrial disputes and so provide the Liberal and Country Parties with the kind of political climate that might deflect public concern from the vital issues of unemployment, rising prices, high interest charges and inadequate social services. We declare our total opposition to the retention of strike penalties in the Act and affirm that a Labour government will remove these provisions from the Act. We are convinced that penal sanctions create rather than settle disputes and we commend the ACTU in setting up a special committee to consider the question of strike penalties and the observance of freely negotiated voluntary agreements. We assure the ACTU that a Federal Labour government will work in the closest co-operation with them in the reconstruction of the arbitration system.
Mr Bill Hartley then moved an amendment which was seconded by Mr F. E. Chamberlain. The relevant part of it reads:
Consistent with the provisions of the Federal platform on industrial relations and the decisions of the recent ACTU Congress and the Interstate Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions of 18th November 1971, the Federal Executive determines that ALP policy supports the following principles–
This is Mr Hartley’s amendment -
– Mr Speaker, is this a personal explanation?
– How can I make my personal explanation without reading the resolution?
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh is not entitled to read the whole platform of the Labor Party.
– I am coming to the relevant part.
– The honourable member knows that the purpose of a personal explanation is to explain how he personally has been misrepresented. He should not raise matters of Party policy.
– Exactly. I will confine myself to the statement that the Federal Executive repudiated my position. The amendment continues:
That amendment was put to the Federal Executive and was defeated because only 2 people besides the mover and seconder supported it. The motion which I seconded was then put and carried. A move to secure a presidential ruling that the decision of the Federal Executive which was carried as a consequence of my seconding Mr Egerton’s motion did not constitute a rebuff to Caucus was rejected by the Federal President of the Party. I will conclude on this note: There is no excuse for the Treasurer misrepresenting the situation, misquoting me and misquoting what the Federal Executive did, because the decision of the Federal Executive was made known to the Press at the time it was taken. The full text of the resolution moved by Mr Egerton and seconded by me was given to the Press by Mr Young and was published.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation which involves a misrepresentation of me.
– Is the Minister asking for leave to make a personal explanation as a result of a misrepresentation by the honourable member for Hindmarsh?
MrClyde Cameron - I ask whether the Treasurer claims to have been misrepresented?
– If the honourable member will leave that question to me I will handle it in a moment. I also have to deal with something from the honourable member for Lalor. Does the Treasurer claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. In making his personal explanation the honourable gentleman said that I had said that he was rebuffed by the Federal Executive last year. I did not say that. I said that he was rebuffed by the Federal Executive this year - last March. In his personal explanation the honourable gentleman dealt with a series of events in 1971, culminating in December, relating to sanctions. I was talking about a rebuff in relation to a decision taken on wages policy, I think in March of this year in Adelaide. The honourable gentleman has quoted a great deal. Let me quote something which justifies the inference I have drawn, which has never been denied by the honourable gentleman. Indeed, it was the subject of very great publicity at the time the honourable gentleman wanted to institute a policy of holding down wages at what he described as the higher level of incomes. He ran into trouble with the Public Service, because the Public Service said that it would impose a ceiling and this would press the lower wages up against it. The honourable gentleman still has problems with the Public Service. It was the people in the Public Service who sent telegrams. Then there was a meeting of the Federal Executive, and the proposal put by the honourable gentleman did not last more than 48 hours. It was not proceeded with.
-Order! I do not think the Minister is in order in debating the whole question. If the Minister wishes to state where he has been misrepresented, he should do so.
– I was misrepresented by the reference to the events of last year when I was referring to this year. An illustration of the publicity given at that time is this small item taken from the ‘Australian’ of 25th April 1972:
The ALP’s shadow Minister for Labor, Mr Clyde Cameron, has angered white-collar union leaders by proposing a new wage policy which should give higher increases to employees on low incomes . . . They say the proposals, if adopted by the ALP, will destroy the long-established wage difference between different groups based on skills, responsibilities and value of work performed. The
Cameron plan will remove the incentives for promotion to upper-echelon white-collar jobs, they say.
My understanding - this is what I said this morning - was that the Federal Executive decided in Adelaide not to go along with what I described this morning as an embryonic wages policy of the Labor Party, because it would have been the first time that the ALP had a wages policy; it does not possess a wages policy.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh)-
Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented a second time. I now discover that the Treasurer was not making reference to penal provisions in enforceable industrial agreements.
– Wages and incomes.
– Yes, wages and incomes. He was referring to something that was alleged to have taken place at the March meeting of the Federal Executive. Again he is badly informed, and when I relate to the Parliament the full facts of what happened at the March meeting I hope that he will not misrepresent me on this issue any further. I have the minutes of the March meeting of the Federal Executive meeting in the House.
– Read them out.
– Table them.
– I have been asked to table them.
-Order! The House will come to order. I informed the Treasurer that I would not allow him to debate the question. I will allow the honourable member for Hindmarsh to show only where he has been misrepresented.
– I will look through these minutes.
– Ha, ha!
– Yes, I will table them and you will be stuck with what is in them.
-Does the honourable member, by leave, wish, to table them?
– 1 wish to table the minutes of the March meeting.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Now you are stuck with positive proof that you told a falsehood to the Parliament because those minutes are now formally tabled. The minutes will show that no proposition was put to the Federal Executive along the lines suggested by the Treasurer. Nothing was ever moved by me to suggest even in the most remote form a proposition to freeze wages or to have a wage or income policy or to freeze the wages of the top echelon of the Public Service. The minutes are tabled for all to see and when the Treasurer has read them I hope that he will have the decency to stand up in this Parliament on Tuesday and make an admission that no resolution was moved by me at all to freeze the salaries of the top echelon of the Public Service.
Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce- Treasurer)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I do claim to have been misrepresented. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said, after he tabled the minutes, that they would show that he did not move any motion whatever and that there is no income prices policy. The implication of what he is saying is that somehow, when I made my statement earlier this morning, it was wrong. Now, out of his own mouth he has said that the Australian Labor Party has no income prices policy. It leaves the accusation I made unrebutted. Labor has a prices policy but no income policy.
– Mr Speaker, 1 seek leave to make a short statement on export incentives.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Government has decided in principle to extend export incentives beyond 30th June 1973, the date on which legislation providing for these incentives expires. The existing incentive scheme has been under review and details of the new scheme will be announced as soon as practicable. It is the intent of the Government that the benefits under the new scheme will be comparable in nature and scope to those under the existing scheme.
The Government is aware of the need for an early and positive statement of its intentions when the current scheme expires. Otherwise, doubts and uncertainties could arise in the business community, with detrimental effect on forward planning and export sales together with doubts on investment decisions. The export incentive scheme was introduced in 1961. The operation of the scheme has coincided with a period of sustained export growth from S2,150m in 1961-62 to $4,900m in 1971- 72. There are income tax rebates for expenditure made on export promotion and payroll tax rebates or incentive grants linked to export growth.
I present the following paper:
Export Incentives - Ministerial Statement, 14th September 1972.
Motion (by Mr Chipp) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) was very short. It is not my purpose to say that the export incentive scheme has not had advantages or has not achieved some results but just as yesterday, when I found myself following the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) who was using aggregate figures for the balance of trade to try to justify a policy when those figures concealed more about the result of the policy than they revealed, we now have the same thing this morning. The Prime Minister has come up with aggregate figures for total exports, the overwhelming proportion of which is quite unaffected by export incentives at all. He has told us that he hopes to be able to announce de new scheme before very long. He his told us that there is a need for this scheme because there is doubt and uncertainty in industry. I am glad that has been admitted and recognised because there is a great deal of doubt and uncertainty in industry not only about the nature of the new scheme and whether it will represent any advance on the old one, which has had some successes, but because it has operated long enough to reveal its very serious deficiencies. There is no evidence at all that any of those serious deficiencies will be overcome in the new scheme.
The second thing about this scheme is that, as in everything else, this Parliament is merely a rubber stamp. It is merely the place where the Government publicly announces the decisions that it has agreed on somewhere else. The Parliament plays no part in the determination of anything. It is the place where the Government makes public the decisions that have been made in a department or in the Cabinet and it is the place where the Government gathers a feedback to ascertain whether it has gone too far or not far enough. This is not a decision making place it is merely a rubber stamp. I have stressed this so much in the last 12 months or 18 months that I had hoped that somebody else would have noticed it. This case is a very good example of what I have been saying. Undoubtedly a new scheme of export incentives is needed. The Prime Minister has told us that a new scheme will be announced before very long and the Parliament will be told what it is. The Parliament is not going to be asked to take any part in deciding what the scheme will do. It will play no part at all. I would have thought that some of the Government supporters who believe in democracy, who say things about this place which would indicate that they have some appreciation for it, would be ready to object to this kind of procedure. As no-one in this Parliament is going to have any other opportunity to say what he thinks might be included in the new export scheme - I suppose it has already been substantially decided anyway - I would have thought that one or two honourable members opposite would have been ready to take the small advantage that this statement offers for that to be done.
The greatest deficiency in an export incentive scheme up to now has been the absence of any realistic provisions for long term finance for exporters. It is not so much that they want something for nothing. If we are to increase our exports of manufactured products we will have to go to many parts of the world. But we will not be successful unless we can offer much longer term credit than is normally available through the commerical banking facilities and Australia industries development provisions. Wherever these provisions are found, they add nothing at all to the normal commercial banking facilities.
Recently Sir Alan Westerman, in effect, told a Senate committee that if he were not inhibited so much by Government policy, very largely derived from the historic interests of the commercial banking system, he could use an extra, I think, $300m. It seems to me that this is an area where the scheme to be announced by the Government in the near future should concentrate on developing new facilities, and a new and much more radical attitude to the provision of long term finance. Another thing which I think should also be given attention in this scheme - one can have no feeling that it will be given attention - is an extension of the research and development assistance. At present this assistance is on a very narrow basis, but if we are to increase our exports of manufacturing goods the increase will be in those products which have been the result of research to meet needs which differ from the normal needs that are generated within the Australian economy.
Experience shows that the research and development policy of the Government is too geared to academic qualifications. It is too favourable to the large organisations which are able to have a few university graduates on their staff. However it seems to me that the most significant industrial innovations that characterise Australian history up to at least 5 or 6 years ago have come from people who did not have any academic background. The development in Australia of cultivating machinery capable of effective use in hard soils has come from a background of academically unqualified inventors. There arc significant areas of the world where this Australian cultivating equipment is very much in demand and where the product has been designed to cultivate the softer soils of north-western Europe cannot compete with the Australian product. I know of a number of very high standard equipment manufacturers in Australia who receive no research and development assistance at all because they do not have a university graduate on their staff.
I hope that when the scheme eventually comes to the House the pipeline in which all these decisions are made - decisions which the House rubberstamps - will at least have been moved to take into account these 2 matters, namely, the need for long term finance to be provided quite differently from the standards of the ordinary commercial banks and the need to extend research and development assistance. I do not believe that any dollar spent on research and development is ever wasted. I would be prepared to waste a lot of dollars in this field rather than waste them in a number of other areas I could mention.
Finally, I protest at the way these things are done. Once more this matter has simply come into the House and we have been told - I suppose we should be grateful for this - that some time in the near future the Government will announce a scheme. At least today we are given an opportunity to say something about it, but I think there should be a way in which the Government much more deliberately could provide the House with an opportunity to say what it can and to contribute what it can to the development of a scheme before the scheme is finalised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the States Grants (Schools) Bill is to authorise payments to the States to implement the new measures of direct Commonwealth assistance to both government and non-government schools which were announced in this House by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 11th May last. I remind honourable members that the new measures consist of 2 parts. There is to be a programme of unmatched capital grants for both government and non-government school in the States over the 5 years period commencing
July 1973. In addition, from the beginning of 1973. Commonwealth per capita grants towards the running costs of nongovernment schools are to be on a new basis. Those schools will be assured of Commonwealth per capita contributions as a known percentage of the running costs in Government schools. It is the Commonwealth’s hope that the states will join it in basing assistance with running costs of nongovernment schools on the costs in government schools.
These proposals, and the legislation to give effect to them, follow the principles on which the Government has stated quite clearly that it wishes to assist Australian schools. The Commonwealth is a major contributor of funds from which the State governments derive their expenditure for both capital and recurrent purposes in schools. The Government has endeavoured to provide the States with general purpose funds from which they may improve both the quantity and quality of education. In addition, we have developed a range of programmes of direct financial assistance to particular areas in education. At the schools level we have made unmatched capital grants for science laboratories and secondary school libraries, for teachers colleges and since last December, for general facilities in both primary and secondary government schools. We have also made per capita grants towards the running costs of non-government schools. The Government has entered into these arrangements in recognition of an obligation for it to assist with particular areas of need, subject to understandings with the States and to the availability of funds and other resources. We have sought to develop programmes which will promote greater equality in the availability of facilities for all schools and all students.
Where the Commonwealth makes direct grants for capital purposes in schools, it does not attempt to interfere with the right of a State government to determine its own priorities. Under this new programme, each State will decide for itself the facilities to which priority is to be given. One State may be particularly concerned about the problems of inner city schools, others about growth in suburban areas and each will decide the relative priority of needs in primary schools as against secondary schools.
Non-government schools will receive capital grants under this programme only where a school has demonstrated that its facilities do not measure up to publicly known standards developed with the assistance of responsible expert advisers.
Let me now give some information about the provisions in Part II of the Bill for grants for capital expenditure and about the administrative arrangements which the Government intends to adopt for this new capital programme. The new grants will be available after the completion in June 1973 of the special short term programme under which $20m is being made available for facilities in government schools. Over the 5 years commencing July 1973, a sum of $2 15m will be divided between government and non-government schools in the States on the basis of school enrolments, giving $167m for government schools and $48m for non-government schools. The Commonwealth grants for the government schools are intended to be additional to funds which the States will provide within their works and housing programmes. For the non-government schools the Commonwealth grants will be virtually the only government grants for capital purposes, apart, of course, from the existing science laboratories and secondary school libraries grants.
The science facilities programme for both government and non-government schools will conclude on 30th June 1975 and, to enable the provision of those facilities to continue, the amount to be available under the new programme in each of the 5 years will be increased from the beginning of the third year. In each of the first 2 years the total sum will be $40m and this will be increased to $45m for each of the remaining 3 years. The separate programme for libraries in both government and non-government schools will continue throughout the 5 years period because of the greater outstanding demands still to be met.
State governments will be free to develop their own arrangements for use of these grants for government schools subject only to the conditions that at least 70 per cent of the total moneys are to be devoted to additional facilities rather than replacement facilities and that information will be provided each year which will enable the Minister to inform the Parliament about the particular projects on which the Commonwealth grants have been spent, lt is also the Commonwealth’s intention that each State will maintain the present share of loan funds being devoted to school construction so that the new Commonwealth grants will represent, in fact, a net addition to facilities in government schools.
For the non-government schools, the Commonwealth will appoint a representative expert committee to advise and assist the Minister and his Department in developing criteria and standards under which the new capital grants will be made available to non-government schools in the States. I am pleased to announce that Sir Ivan Dougherty of Sydney has consented to be Chairman of the new Commonwealth Committee on Facilities for Non-government Schools. In addition to that national advisory committee, there will be a single committee in each State to recommend priorities for the allocation of grants to individual projects which meet the Commonwealth criteria and standards. Representatives of the various non-government schools have agreed to form one such committee in each State. This is a most significant development as it will no longer be necessary to divide the funds in advance between Roman Catholic schools and other nongovernment schools. There will now be one priority list for projects in all of the nongovernment schools in each State. When the legislation has been passed we will move quickly to establish administrative procedures so that we may ensure that grants can be paid when the money becomes available from July 1973. It is the Government’s intention that building projects in non-government schools which commence on or after the day following enactment of the legislation will be eligible for consideration for Commonwealth grants.
Capital grants for the non-government schools will also be subject to the condition that at least 70 per cent of the money is to be spent on additional facilities rather than replacement facilities. We wish also to give emphasis to the provision of additional places, either for additional students or to reduce class sizes. The legislation lays down provisions for non-government schools to account for the expenditure of Commonwealth capital grants. In addition to ensuring that a grant is spent for the purpose approved by the Minister, a school authority will, after completion of the project, be required to furnish a statement signed by a qualified accountant certifying that the conditions attached to a grant for buildings and associated facilities have been met. In turn, the Minister will provide the Parliament annually with details of individual projects.
I turn now to the provisions in the Bill covering assistance for recurrent expenditure in non-government schools in the States. The Commonwealth and all State Governments have accepted a responsibility to make direct grants to nongovernment schools towards their running costs. However, those schools have lacked a firm an j secure base on which to plan their future development. The Commonwealth and the States have taken decisions from time to time about the amount and nature of their contributions towards the running costs of non-government schools, but there has been no arrangement for tying either the Commonwealth or the State assistance to some factor which would permit the schools to look to the future with any certainty.
The Government believes that the only way of ensuring non-government schools of continuing basic support is to tie that support to a proportion of the recurrent costs of educating children in government primary and secondary schools throughout Australia. Any other approach would fail to provide a guarantee to non-government schools. We reject the alternative concept of the application of a means test on nongovernment schools for the purpose of recurrent grants. Our policy in this regard is the policy favoured by the National Council of Independent Schools and the Federal Catholic Schools Committee.
Our attitude in this matter is based on more than a belief that every child has a right to a basic level of support from governments in education. It extends beyond our desire to provide non-government schools with the certainty and guarantee which I have mentioned. By rejecting the means test in the field of recurrent grants to non-government schools, we enable parents and friends and other interested groups and individuals to work for their schools, secure in the knowledge that they will not preclude those schools from Gov ernment assistance by improving their conditions and facilities beyond the means test level. I should add that it is very difficult for the parent of a child at a nongovernment school to accept the argument that everyone has the right to a complete Government-provided education in a government school, but that they lose any right the moment they decide to send their children to a non-government school whether it be for religious, geographic or any other reason.
Part III of the Bill will provide the authority for the new method of making per capita grants to non-government schools in the States from 1973 onwards and, as a consequence, the States Grants (Independent Schools) Bill (No. 2) 1972 is being introduced to limit the arrangements under the present Act to grants made to the end of 1972. In future the Commonwealth will make annual per capita grants on the basis of 20 per cent of an amount assessed as the estimated average cost of educating a child in government schools throughout Australia. There will be separate rates for primary and secondary schools in each calendar year and these will be determined and announced towards the end of the preceding year. The per capita rates will be derived from information provided by the States and the Commonwealth about estimated expenditure in government schools in the financial year which ends in the middle of the year in which the grants are to be made. To illustrate, the per capita grants for 1973 will be at rates of 20 per cent of the estimated cost of educating children in government primary and secondary schools throughout Australia during the financial year 1972-73.
The Commonwealth has invited the States to join with it in providing the nongovernment schools with an assured basis for assistance by themselves undertaking to make contributions towards the running costs of those schools equivalent to 20 per cent of the national average cost of educating children in the government schools. It is, of course, for each State to determine its policy in this regard and, from discussions which have taken place, I am hopeful that most, if not all of the States, will adopt a policy of tying assistance to nongovernment schools to the cost of running government schools.
The Bill lays down procedures under which non-government schools will account for expenditure of Commonwealth per capita grants. As with the present per capita assistance, a grant is to be available only for recurrent expenditure related to the school for which it is made. At the appropriate time the school authority will provide a statement from a qualified accountant certifying that this has been done. It will also be required to provide the Minister with an annual statement of income and expenditure for the school in a form which shows the major classes of income and expenditure. As with the capital programme, the Minister will provide the Parliament annually with details cf the per capita grants made in respect of individual non-government schools.
Under both the capital programmes for government and non-government schools and the recurrent grants for nongovernment schools, the Minister will be able to exercise a discretion to enable special schools, as, for example, those for handicapped children where the courses of study do not parallel those in government primary and secondary schools, to qualify for assistance. When the Prime Minister announced the new policies which are to be brought into operation by this Bill he said that they would represent a milestone in improving the education of all Australian children. I am sure that the House will endorse that view and that in the not too distant future Australians will look back on the enactment of this legislation as an historic event in Australian education. Under this measure the National Parliament will accept a basic obligation to provide supplementary support for the benefit of all school children and will do so in a manner which ensures both government and non-government schools of continuing support. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beazley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The existing legislation provides for recurrent grants to non-government schools in the States at specified rates for each primary and secondary pupil without limit to the period of operation of the grants. The introduction in 1973 of a different basis for determining these rates, as proposed in the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1972, requires the termination of the present arrangements at the end of 1972. Therefore, the purpose of this Bill is to limit the period of operation of the States Grants (Independent Schools) Act 1969-72 to the end of 1972.
Debate (on motion of Mr Beazley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honourable members will recall that in May 1970 Mr Justice Eggleston, as he then was, made certain recommendations in his report of his inquiry into academic salaries. One recommendation was that, in future, academic salaries should be adjusted automatically in accordance with national wage case decisions. The Commonwealth accepted that recommendation and has provided additional financial assistance to the States towards the cost of subsequent increases in academic salaries.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide additional contributions by the Commonwealth towards the cost of increasing academic salaries in universities in line with the increase of $2 a week awarded in the 1972 national wage case with effect from the first pay period commencing on or after 19th May 1972 until the end of 1972. For the 1973-75 triennium provision has been included in the grants recommended by the Australian Universities Commission which will be the subject of separate legislation later in this session. I seek leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard a table showing the salaries on which the additional Commonwealth grants are based.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
The grants also provide for an increase of $2 a week for academic staff below the grade of lecturer.
Apart from adjustments following national wage cases, academic salaries have not been reviewed since 1st January 1970. The Commonwealth Government, after consultation with State governments, has concluded that the time is appropriate for such a review and, on 11th September 1972, I announced that Mr Justice Campbell of the Supreme Court of Queensland had been appointed to conduct an inquiry into academic salaries in universities. Mr Justice Campbell will be assisted by Professor R. L. Mathews, Professor of Accounting and Public Finance of the Australian National University, and Mr M. C. Timbs, Executive Member of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, as assessors. It is intended that the inquiry should involve a careful investigation into appropriate salaries for the various grades of academic staff in universities and the Commonwealth will be ready to support any increases in salaries that might be recommended by the inquiry with effect from 1st January 1973, which is the beginning of the next university triennium.
Mr Justice Campbell’s inquiry will not be examining salaries at colleges of advanced education because the Commonwealth is adhering to the principles of the Sweeney report that salaries of lecturers and senior lecturers in colleges of advanced education should be broadly the same as those in universities. When the recommendations of the inquiry into university salaries are known, the Commonwealth and State governments will give further consideration to the question of academic salaries for colleges of advanced education. However, I remind honourable members that this Bill relates only to the provision of financial assistance in respect of the year 1972 for increases in academic salaries in universities in line with the 1972 national wage case decision. The cost to the Commonwealth of this salary adjustment will be $219,000. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beazley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Consequent upon the national wage case decision of May 1972, salaries for academic staff in colleges of advanced education have increased. The purpose of the Bill before the House is to appropriate additional grants in order that the Commonwealth might, under the accepted matching formula, meet its share of the additional costs involved. As a result of the revised schedule of grants for recurrent expenditure for 1972, supplementary Commonwealth grants totalling approximately $70,500 and representing a combined additional Commonwealth-State allocation of nearly $201,000 will be made available for colleges of advanced education in the States. In addition the Bill effects minor adjustments to the 1970-72 capital expenditure programme for New South Wales. These variations have been initiated by the State and they do not increase the grant previously allocated. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Beazley) adjourned.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement to correct the Hansard report.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– During the adjournment debate last night I was discussing a television debate which took place between the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, at the time of the oil strike. The remarks to which I wish to refer appear on page 1360, column 2, of the Hansard report. I stated:
Mr Hawke produced a document from a senior employee in the Ansett organisation to establish that in fact the Government had put pressure on Ansett to stop them negotiating.
As I remember that television debate, what I should have said was that Mr Hawke gave details of a conversation he had had with a member of the Ansett organisation to establish that in fact the Government had put pressure on Ansett to stop its representatives negotiating. This error was inadvertent and I did not notice it until I read today’s Hansard report.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In the Budget there is a comprehensive and balanced programme for assistance to the ailing aged - that is, those who suffer from impaired health in their declining years, and who need special care and attention. I do not think that any honourable member will deny that these merit some special provision. The Government’s programme in this field will be partly administered by my colleague, the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), and partly through my own Department. The 2 proposals which concern me in my Department are:
This Bill which I am now presenting, is concerned with the former of these 2 proposals, and it will implement the announcement made in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech to the effect that the present rate of subsidy payable to eligible organisations providing personal care services for the frail aged in hostel accommodation will be doubled.
As honourable members will be aware, the Aged Persons Homes Act assists eligible organisations to provide suitable accommodation in hostels for aged persons in 2 ways, firstly, by means of a $2 or $1 subsidy towards the capital cost of establishing approved self-contained hostel or nursing accommodation; and, secondly, by assisting eligible organisations to help meet the cost of providing personal care services in the intermediate or hostel form of accommodation.
In order to receive personal care subsidy it is not necessary for a hostel to have been established by the organisation with the aid of a capital grant under the Aged Persons Homes Act. Many organisations which established homes prior to the introduction of the Act are now receiving personal care subsidy in respect of those homes. This personal care subsidy, which is at present calculated on the basis of $5 a week for each resident aged 80 years and over, who comprise, by the way a little under half of their residents, was introduced in 1969 to provide an alternative to pensioners who would otherwise have been forced to go into nursing homes. As I said in 1969 when introducing the legislation, the Government is concerned at the fact that people whose only infirmity is the frailty of advancing years are sometimes admitted to nursing homes and other similar institutions unnecessarily, thus causing their sphere of activity and their scope for normal living to be unduly curtailed.
The purpose of personal care subsidy is to encourage organisations to provide such people with an adequate standard of personal attention in a less institutional atmosphere and at less cost to both the individual and the Commonwealth. In order to qualify for payment of the subsidy it is necessary for a home to provide meals and to employ sufficient staff to help any residents who need assistance with bathing and dressing, the cleaning of their rooms, their personal laundry and the general oversight of their medication; also we require a staff member to be available on the premises at all times in case of emergency. As I previously mentioned, the amount of the subsidy is calculated on the basis of the number of residents aged 80 and over. This provides an inducement for the accommodation to be made available to the frailer aged category of person. Nevertheless, it is a condition of approval that the personal care services I have referred to should be provided for any aged resident who n:eds such services, whether over 80 or not.
Since this assistance was introduced in 1969 it has been highly successful, having been responsible for many organisations introducing the personal care services into their homes. The subsidy is now being paid to 360 homes, which provide hostel-type accommodation for over 16,000 aged persons, of whom nearly 7,000 are aged 80 or over. Subsidy paid during 1971-72 amounted to $1.8m. Since 1969 the level of staff wages and other costs associated with the running of aged persons homes has risen substantially. In order to ensure that the real value, or purchasing power, of the assistance is not reduced, but rather increased, the Bill now before the House provides for the rate of payment of subsidy to be increased from $5 to $10 a week and for the increase to take effect from the first pay-day after the legislation receives royal assent. The increase will, of course, go much further than compensating for cost increases that have taken place since 1969. It is intended to increase substantially the incentive for organisations to provide hostel accommodation and to expand the nature and extent of the care that they provide for the frail aged residents of such hostels.
It is estimated that this increase will cost an additional $1.3m in 1972-73 and $2m in the first full year. Total expenditure on the subsidy is thus expected to be S3. 2m in 1972-73 and upward of $4m in the next full year, with cumulative increases in subsequent years as the supply of hostel-type accommodation increases. In so far as our crash programme to accelerate the construction of hostel-type accommodation succeeds, these figures may well be substantially exceeded. Residents in those nonprofit hostel type homes who have no assets or income outside their pension will receive a pension of S20 a week plus S4 a week supplementary assistance. In addition the home will receive SIO a week for all over 80; and since about 45 per cent of their residents fall into this upper age group, the average subsidy will be about $4.50 a week a resident. This gives a total available from the Government of about 528.50 a resident a week, which should be enough to provide for running expenses and leave a reasonable spending margin to pensioners.
This Bill represents but one component of a comprehensive programme being introduced by the Government in this session of Parliament to improve the health and welfare of aged persons. I will, as I have said, also be introducing another Bill under which the Commonwealth will offer to meet the full cost of additional ho 5 tei accommodation built by eligible organisations at present conducting homes for the aged which were established either without Commonwealth subsidy or when the subsidy was paid only on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This special offer, which will be limited to 3 years, will be in addition to the $2 for $1 subsidy scheme presently provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act, which, of course, will continue to operate independently of the new arrangement. In addition, the Minister for Health has announced that he will be introducing new forms of assistance for patients who require nursing care on a continuous basis, together with other measures aimed at encouraging aged people, who might otherwise be admitted prematurely or unnecessarily to nursing homes, to remain in their domestic environment for as long as they are able to do so. This Bill before the House makes a significant contribution to this total programme. I commend the Bill to the House.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to explain that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, has agreed to allow this Bill to go through today so that the benefits can flow to aged people. The Government is grateful for that suggestion and will co-operate.
I hope that those honourable members who wish to speak will limit their remarks so that the passage of this Bill and the next Bill to be introduced by the Minister can be expedited.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Wentworth, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the announcement made in the Treasurer’s Budget Speech that the Government would legislate in this session to assist the provision of additional hostel-type accommodation for aged persons. Before I proceed to give details of how the Bill does this it might be helpful to honourable members if I explained the general context into which the measure fits.
Since 1954, when the Aged Persons Homes Act was introduced, the Government has been subsidising the building by religious and other voluntary organisations of homes for aged persons, originally on a one-for-one basis and since 1957 on a $2 for $1 basis. Three types of accommodation (all of which are, of course, run on a nonprofit basis) are eligible for subsidy: Firstly, self-contained units, where residents may live independent lives under normal home conditions; secondly, hostel-type accommodation, where residents occupy separate rooms, but have meals and other personal care services provided for them; and thirdly, nursing homes, where those who are no longer able to look after themselves receive eitherlight or intensive nursing care, as required-
Capital grants made under this legislation to date total over $150m, with the aid of which accommodation has been provided for over 45,000 aged persons - 23,000 of them in self-contained units, 17,000 in hostel-type accommodation and 5,000 in nursing accommodation. Grants made during 1971-72 reached the record level of $23. 8m, demonstrating the continuing and expanding success of this legislation.
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the present position and the advances which have been made in recent years.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I am glad to be able to report to the House that in 1971-72 we broke records in numbers of beds approved in each of the 3 types of accommodation, and that preliminary figures suggest that 1972-73 may also be a record year, surpassing even last year.
Homes established under the Aged Persons Homes Act, of course, accommodate only a fraction of the aged population of Australia. Of our 834,000 aged pensioners, for example, departmental records indicate that over 519,000 or 62 per cent, live in homes which they themselves own. State housing authorities and unsubsidised hostels provide for at least a further 25,000 and approximately 40,000 are living in nursing homes which were not subsidised under the Aged Persons Homes Act, mainly those being operated commercially. Departmental records indicate that many of the remaining aged persons would be living, either with their families or relatives, under conditions they themselves would not want to change or in good-standard accommodation which they rent from private owners at a reasonable rate. A residue, however, would be living under unsatisfactory conditions; that is, either living in accommodation of an unsatisfactory standard or paying a rental that they are not able to afford. It has been estimated that as many as 50,000 pensioners may be living under these conditions. There is still scope, therefore, for further expansion under our Aged Persons Homes Scheme and the accommodation subsidised to this point of time could be doubled before reasonable needs could be said to have been met.
At the present rate of progress it would take many years to clear the backlog and, of course, in the meantime the need continues to increase. It has been estimated that the number of aged people needing satisfactory accommodation is increasing at the rate of 1,000 a year. The problem is not simply a matter of accelerating the rate at which accommodation is being provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act. It has become increasingly obvious that the need is not only for more accommodation, but for more of the right type of accommodation and for available accommodation to be directed more towards the people most in need of it. In other words, it is necessary to face up to the fact that an imbalance exists between the types of accommodation available to aged people.
It has been established through surveys carried out by the Department of Health, that many aged persons who have no real medical need to go into an institution are permanently occupying beds in nursing homes. It has been reliably estimated that this may be true of at least 12,000, or say, 25 per cent, of the patients in nursing homes throughout Australia. No doubt one of the causes of this situation is that, up to now, no alternative accommodation, of the type which really suits their needs, has been readily available. There are long waiting lists for most of the organisations under the Aged Persons Homes Act which provide hostel-type accommodation. At present there are over 51,000 nursing beds in Australia, nearly half of which are in New South Wales, and even at existing rates nursing home benefits are costing the Commonwealth over $78m a year. Before the end of 1973 the number of nursing beds is expected to rise to 55,000 and the Commonwealth commitment to over $100m.
More important than the financial consideration, it is sociologically bad for people to be put under care more intensive than they need. From the medical point of view they should be encouraged to exhibit the maximum independence. Nursing home dependence causes their sphere of activity and scope for normal living to be unduly curtailed. It is medically and psychologically bad to force old people, through the lack of any real alternative, to accept a nursing home regime when they have no real need to do so. The drain upon nursing and technical resources is also significant. The ratio of patients to staff in non-profit nursing homes is about two to one, which means that for every thousand beds about 500 staff are required, comprising 170 trained nurses, 200 nursing aides and 130 domestics. With nursing beds increasing at the rate of 5,000 per year this gives rise to an additional staff demand of about 2,500.
A number of reasons have been elicited for the growth of nursing homes. Firstly, the generous rates of nursing home benefits undoubtedly provide a great inducement for people to seek this type of accommodation. In effect they receive, even if only on the existing ordinary rate of nursing home benefit, a supplementary pension, free of any means test, of $24.50 a week; while for those on intensive care it is $45.50 a week. Both these figures will be substantially increased when the Budget proposals of the Department of Health become effective. Secondly, there is the lack of an effective system of screening admissions to nursing homes. As the house knows, the Department of Health proposes to remedy this situation.
Thirdly, there is the increasing and alarming trend in the community for families and relatives to look to nursing homes to solve the problem of accommodation and care for the aged. Many young couples today are either unable or unwilling to care for their aged parents, and look to the Government to find a solution to this problem. The introduction of the $14 a week extra payment for people who keep their sick relatives in their own homes, which again is proposed in the present Budget, and which will be under the administration of my colleague the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth
Anderson), will substantially ease the financial burden for those who assume or continue these family responsibilities. The fourth reason is by the relatively undeveloped state of home care services such as meals on wheels, home nursing and paramedical services, housekeeper and other home help, senior citizens centres, etc. In 1969 the States sought, and were given by the Commonwealth, matching grants to foster growth of these services, but growth is occurring very slowly. The Minister for Health and myself, as already announced, have obtained Cabinet authority to discuss with the States ways and means of accelerating this process and I trust it will not be very long before we can report some further progress to the House. The fifth reason for the unbalanced growth of nursing homes is the attitude of the States. Both nursing homes and home care services have traditionally been regarded as State responsibilities, but the States seem almost to have abrogated their responsibilities in the nursing home field and, in some cases, seem reluctant to assume their proper responsibility for home care services. Whatever the constitutional position, the Commonwealth cannot stand idly by and see the real interests of old people prejudiced by the failure of the States to face up to their responsibilities. The Commonwealth concern is the background to the comprehensive and balanced programme which I have outlined, of which the proposal in the present Bill is an integral part.
The contribution that the legislation I now place before the House makes to the Government’s multi-lateral approach to the problem, is to provide added encouragement for religious and other voluntary organisations to build more hostel accommodation as quickly as possible.
The Bill provides for the Commonwealth to make grants to eligible organisations towards the building of hostel-type accommodation on the basis of existing homes which were built either without Government subsidy or when subsidy was available only on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
The Commonwealth will meet the capital cost of providing hostel-type accommodation for two additional aged persons for every one at present accommodated in an unsubsidised home, or one additional person for every two in an existing home subsidised on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a maximum of $7,800 for every aged person or necessary staff member accommodated.
The Bill also provides for grants of up to $250 per person to be made towards the cost of furnishing these hostel-type beds.
It will not be necessary for the organisation to make any monetary contribution to the capital cost of the new home unless the capital cost exceeds $7,800 per person, or the furnishing cost exceeds $250 per person, or the bed capacity of the new home exceeds twice that of the unsubsidised qualifying home, or half that of the qualifying home subsidised on a oneforone basis. The Bill provides that the qualifying home should be one which, unless the Director-General of Social Services otherwise determines, would have attracted a grant under the Aged Persons Homes Act if built recently. In exercising his discretion under this section the DirectorGeneral will make allowance for advances in the standards of aged persons homes which have occurred since the qualifying home was established. In accordance with the principle established in the Aged Persons Homes Act, existing homes which were established wholly with funds provided by State governments will not be eligible for approval as qualifying homes. However, where the capital cost of the home was shared between the voluntary organisation and the State, a proportion of the accommodation, calculated on the basis of the organisation’s contribution, will be acceptable as the basis for a grant under this legislation.
The Bill also includes a requirement that construction of the new hostel must be substantially commenced within a period of 12 months from the date of approval of the grant by the Director-General of Social Services. Otherwise the approval shall be deemed to have lapsed. The object of this provision is to bring about the building of the new accommodation within a reasonably short period. The legislation will operate for a 3-year period only, commencing from the date on which the Bill receives royal assent. In order to ensure that the ‘free’ homes established under this Act provide accommodation for those most in need of it, it will be a condition of approval that the accommodation is to be allocated strictly on the basis of need, without any contribution being required or received from the prospective resident towards the capital cost of the home or the funds of the sponsoring organisation. Personal care subsidy, provided under Part III of the Aged Persons Homes Act, will be payable, subject to the usual conditions, to homes established under this legislation.
I would like to reiterate that the primary intention of the Bill is to stimulate the building of additional hostel accommodation in order to reduce admissions to nursing accommodation of people who have no real medical need for nursing care. In order to preserve this intention the agreement into which organisations receiving grants under this Bill will be required to enter will provide that Commonwealth nursing home benefits shall not at any time be sought for any beds in the hostels established under this special legislation, that no existing hostel accommodation which was established under the Aged Persons Homes Act shall be registered for the purpose of receiving Commonwealth nursing home benefits on the basis of this special hostel accommodation, and that a further grant will not be sought under the Aged Persons Homes Act towards the cost of establishing nursing accommodation on the basis of the hostel accommodation established under this new legislation.
As most honourable members will be aware, the cost of establishing nursing accommodation may be subsidised under the Aged Persons Homes Act on the basis of one nursing bed for every 2 ordinary residential beds. It is not intended to permit hostel accommodation established under the Bill now before the House to be taken into account in this way for the purposes of the Aged Persons Homes Act. It will be expected, of course, that organisations which receive grants under this legislation on the basis of existing homes will continue to use the ‘qualifying homes’ as accommodation for aged persons. It will be appreciated that this new legislation is not in any sense a substitute for the existing aged persons homes legislation. That existing legislation will continue to operate unaffected by the present Bill, which is a temporary addition, to cover the 3-year crash programme. It is in order to make this quite clear that the present Bill is separate and not drafted as an amendment to the existing Act.
It will be seen that the Bill will give some existing organisations the right to construct new hostel-type beds entirely out of Commonwealth funds, and without drawing upon their own resources. In adopting this principle in this particular case the Government has 2 considerations in view: Firstly, the organisations, by the past provision of beds before the present subsidy became effective, have already contributed their fair share, and secondly, the organisations concerned have no further need to prove their bona fides because by their maintenance of their charitable work over a span of years they have already given the most convincing proof. The organisations which will benefit under this legislation will include church organisations, both Protestant and Catholic, which for long have very properly been engaged in this charitable work. They will include voluntary organisations such as the Returned Services League, associations for blind people and a number of others. They will include charitable trusts which have long been established. These are the organisations which will be entitled to take immediate benefit under the provisions of this new Act.
The new beds in this crash programme are all to be of the hostel-type; no capital donation may be required from their occupants; and they are to be allocated strictly on the basis of need. In amplification of these stipulations, I would set out the following principles which we have adopted: In determining the allocation of beds in accommodation provided under this Act organisations will be required to ensure that the beds are allocated, as I have said, without donation either by or on behalf of the occupant or intending occupant, and in accordance with need. ‘Need’ is to be decided by the organisation concerned having regard to the following: (i) degree of frailty or medical condition; (ii) age of applicant, priority to be given to those in the upper age groups, that is over 75 years of age; (iii) existing accommodation situation - preference is to be given to frail elderly people living alone or those whose families can no longer accommodate or care for them for domestic, social or other reasons; (iv) financial position of the applicant. Other things being equal, preference is to be given to pensioner medical service pensioners, particularly those who cannot afford to meet the rental of the premises in which they are residing.
The programme is thus specifically tailored to achieve its objectives: First, the quick provision of beds of the type most needed; second, the allocation of those beds to those who are most in need of them; and third, the administration of those beds by the charitable organisations, which are best qualified to administer them.
It is not possible at this stage to give a reliable estimate of the number of hostel beds likely to be brought into being by this legislation. Available information indicates that there are nearly 10,000 beds in unsubsidised homes conducted by voluntary organisations throughout Australia, but it is believed that a significant number of these would have been established with the aid of State Government grants and therefore would not qualify for the purposes of this legislation. In addition there are some 3,400 beds in homes that have been established under the Aged Persons Homes Act on a $1 for $1 basis in place of the present $2 for $1 basis. It is estimated that expenditure under the legislation could exceed $5m in the first full year. However, because an initial period is necessary for planning projects and calling for tenders, expenditure is not expected to exceed $2m in 1972-73, but it is my sincere hope that these estimates will prove to be overconservative.
This Bill represents only one part of the overall pattern of the measures being taken by the Government further to improve the position of our aged folk this year, but I feel sure that its importance will be recognised and applauded by all honourable members and by the churches and other voluntary organisations which have for so long been serving the community by providing much needed accommodation for the aged. I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Is it the wish of the House to proceed with the debate forthwith?
Mr Hayden - Yes
-Is it the wish of the House to proceed forthwith with a cognate debate on this Bill and the preceding Bill? That being so I will allow that procedure to be followed.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) pointed out in the House a few days ago the Opposition does not propose to delay in any way the passage of social service legislation through the House. If there is any delay, it will be caused by the Government and therefore will be its responsibility. It is our aim to ensure the speedy passage of social service measures so that the proposed benefits can be quickly provided for the public. For instance, the fact that the Bill to authorise increases in the social service benefit rates is not in the House now is solely the responsibility of the Government. Any further delay is the responsibility of the Government. When the Bill does come into the House, in accordance with the commitment given by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Opposition a few days ago in this House the Opposition will do all it can to see that it is passed on the same day.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) made some intriguing points in the course of his second reading speech on the Aged Persons Hostels Bill. I was gloriously attracted to the concluding stages of his speech in which he referred to the estimated cost of the legislation. He went on to say: but it is my sincere hope that these estimates will prove to be over-conservative.
In fact he is saying that he does not know what the costs are, and that is not an unreasonable situation when trying to calculate the cost of welfare services or many other aspects of public responsibility. In effect the Minister is saying that if there is any error it is on the side of understatement rather than overstatement. I wish that Government supporters would make that sort of error when costing the Labor Party’s proposed programme instead of being excessively liberal in calculating its cost. My next point is that I hope that the Minister and the Government will bear in mind his sincere hope that the estimates will prove to be over-conservative. It is consistent with the errors made by the then Prime Minister and the then Minister for Health during the last House of Representatives election campaign. On that occasion their estimates of the cost of changes to the health insurance scheme were nearly 100 per cent out.
It seems that there is no loss of virtue or loss of face on the part of the Government in making monumental blunders in costing its programmes, but if the Labor Party is Si out, according to its critics it is a critical situation, and it is relied on heavily by the Government. It is a relatively trivial point, but one that is elevated to great heights by Government supporters and deserves that observation. One wonders why it has been 3 years since any significant changes have been made in the general areas covered by this legislation. The term of a parliament is 3 years. Before the election of 1969 the Minister for Social Services described the home services for the aged as being an outstanding programme, but in fact it turned out to be a monumental flop in many ways. The Government was supposed to spend $2.Sm a year on a comprehensive programme covering home care, paramedical services, senior citizen centres, welfare work and nursing homes. In 3 years the total expenditure has been $2m. As I pointed out in last week’s discussion it is clear that the Government has underspent its allocation by $5.5m. But no matter, because the 1969 election is safely out of the way and it is time to move into the field again and make fresh errors which will not be discovered until the coming election is out of the way.
My major concern in this area is with the overwhelming tendency to be institutionally oriented in the development of these services. Recently in the House proposals were outlined to increase the allocation for home nursing services and a proposal introduced for payment of $14 a week for a personal care service. They are important improvements but they are narrowly conceived in terms of the overall needs of the community geriatric services in Australia. Even allowing for those improvements there is still this excessive commitment to institutionalisation. I noted the confession of the Minister in his speech. He admitted that 25 per cent of people in nursing homes - about 12,000 people - ought not to be there.
This is a scandalous state of affairs because it is well established that people who are unnecessarily in nursing homes tend to vegetate, to deteriorate mentally and physically. This trend is accelerated by the deficiencies of services in many nursing homes, the lack of stimulation, the lack of an arousing environment, and the failure of the paramedical services to provide a stimulating challenge. So we are still at the wrong end of the programme. The Government started with the institutions instead of starting in the community. It should have tried to keep people at home and to keep them involved and stimulated and interested in their community. To an extent something has been done. I have mentioned already the home care programme the Minister introduced in 1969. lt has been a spectacular flop, to this point anyway. To the extent that home nursing services exist, they have been much less developed than one would expect if one takes into consideration the sorts of statements and allocations the Government makes each year.
In relation to this legislation, although the Commonwealth indicates a level of subsidy available for home nursing, in fact what has not been indicated is that this legislation ties the amount of effective expenditure by the Commonwealth to the level of expenditure by the States. Accordingly, in 10 years there has been an underexpenditure of $22m. That means that these services could have been expanded considerably. Even so, the total amount of the allocation is relatively trivial in terms of national expenditure. It is certainly relatively trivial compared with the $100m which according to the Minister’s speech, nursing services will receive by the end of 1973. If I were to identify the priorities and distinguish where more money must go in the first place, I would say that it should be going to the home nursing services and to domiciliary services generally. The sort of controls that the Government is hoping to introduce to regulate admissions to nursing homes are belated and ought to have been introduced a long time ago. There are better ways of providing financial assistance for the development of home nursing services, but that is as much as I would be prepared to say at this time. We are getting a little tired of the Minister for Social Services picking up our clothes while we are bathing.
What is needed is a comprehensive view of what is being aimed at with these sorts of services which are being developed in an ad hoc way of the Government. First of all, what is the fundamental philosophy behind the development of the services? Why have they been developed and what are the aims of the services? If one has the answers to these questions, one accordingly can identify priorities to fit in with the aims. But there has been no such approach. It has been an ad hoc approach, largely establishing priorities according to pressures which occur in the community. Once we can identify these goals, establish where the gaps are, and, most importantly, what the needs are, we can develop an integrated and balanced programme of geriatric services in the community.
The Aged Persons Homes Act, for instance, has been in operation for 17 years. There has been no review of that Act and no major evaluation to establish whether this service has been effective. We do not know whether it is reaching into the areas which it ought to be reaching. Is there a lumpiness in the distribution of these services in the community? We do not know whether areas which are underprovided or not provided at all with these services are areas which have a great need but are missing out perhaps because of socio-economic disadvantages. We do not know whether, because of this haphazard distribution, the less affluent areas are missed out or are inadequately provided with these services.
Another aspect about which I feel some concern relates to hostel services, it seems that the money will be earmarked for established organisations or institutions. I wonder whether this might well be a case of big organisations getting bigger and areas which have none of these services missing out. Rather I would hope that this is not the case and that sort of thing can be avoided. I feel concerned about the very real possibility that areas wilh considerable need are missing out on the distribution of these services. .
Finally, I wish to refer to the Minister’s attitude towards the States, as set out in his statement. In the general terms in which it is stated, it is an attitude which I can support. I think that one of the reasons why welfare services in the community have been under-developed in many ways is that the Commonwealth has tended to take the easy way out by tying its expenditure allocations to some sort of formula which requires a commitment from the States in a fixed capacity or in a fixed amount. States have limited resources. As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) pointed out by way of interjection while the Minister was talking about this area, it is a simple problem to solve if the Government wants the States to be involved in the distribution of these services, and that is by giving them more money. But an even more effective solution is for the Commonwealth to assume greater financial responsibility, with perhaps any necessary adjustment to State allocations, and go directly to the people who are most immediately related to the public. I refer to local government authorities. They should be given more authority, more prestige and more significance in relation to the extent of administration that they discharge in the community. If this is done in this area and in other areas also, one could expect that there would be a considerable upgrading in the standard of local government.
In the long term one can see local government, co-ordinated in a regional concept, accepting much greater responsibility in the administration of the public affairs of the community. That would be a much more meaningful way of discharging democratic government in the community. Here in Canberra we tend to be remote from a great deal of the community for which we are responsible. But really we are only marginally remote compared with the relationship between Brisbane and, say, Cairns or Sydney and Murwillumbah or Perth and Wyndham. These capital cities are almost as remote from those places as Canberra is from those places. Local government authorities seem to be the best seat at which to aim if we are to try to improve democratic representation in the community.
The Opposition is not opposing the Bill. I repeat that it is our aim to expedite the progress of the Bill through the House in every possible way so that the benefits proposed will not be delayed at all.
– It is with pleasure that I rise to support both the Bills before the House today. They mark a very definite advance in the Government’s programme of assistance to the aged and the frail aged. Already it is a programme of which we can be proud and one that has entailed the spending of a tremendous amount of money. The need to provide accommodation in the many fields involved is very important indeed. Many organisations have taken advantage over the years of the Government’s $2 for $1 subsidy. It has been of tremendous assistance to many of those organisations. One of the very good features of these Bills is the provision of assistance to those organisations which already have proved their ability and their desire to do all that they can to assist with the provision of accommodation for the aged.
The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) said that the Government had provided money that had not been spent. Let us just get that into perspective. It is up to the organisations to apply for that money. If they have not applied then it cannot be spent. The Government is always prepared to approve an application provided it meets the requirements. I am reminded that back in 1967 when we were discussing the legislation which extended the $2 for $1 subsidy to local government bodies, the Opposition delayed the legislation for more than 6 months because it claimed that it was not specifically spelt out in the legislation that industrial unions could benefit from the $2 for SI subsidy. I remember very well that the then Minister pointed out that that was not so, that there was provision for industrial unions to obtain the subsidy. However, the Opposition held up that legislation for 6 months. It is rather significant that, as far as I can discover, no industrial union has ever applied for a subsidy. So I think the honourable member’s criticism was rather uncalled for and unfair on that point.
I wish to deal with the increased subsidy for nursing homes. This is something, of course, which has been needed urgently for quite some time. Many organisations which provide nursing homes and assistance for the aged are faced with great difficulties because of rising costs and increased wages. I feel that the personal care subsidy is an important part of this legislation. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) very carefully spelt out in his second reading speech that in order to qualify for this subsidy it will be necessary for these homes to provide meals, to employ sufficient staff to help the residents who need assistance with bathing and dressing, the cleaning rf rooms and so on. lt is important to note that this subsidy will be paid to homes caring for people over 80 years of age and also for any other aged persons who need particular care. Again this will involve the Government in substantia] expenditure. The increased subsidy should provide something over and above the cost to the hostel of accommodation and other expenses for each patient in the home. It should allow for some pocket money, which up to date too often has been missing. The Aged Persons Hostels Bill is a timely piece of legislation. It will bring a tremendous amount of relief in this area.
As honourable members know the Government has over the years provided assistance in relation to 3 types of accommodation: Firstly, for self-contained units, which assistance has been a tremendous success; secondly, for hostel type accommodation, which has not been taken up to a great extent due, I think, very largely to the cost of servicing this type of accommodation and paying for the staff; and thirdly, assistance for nursing home accommodation. There has been a tremendous increase in nursing home accommodation. Very often elderly people are forced to go into nursing homes because no hostel accommodation is available for them. A substantial number of pensioners would fall into the category of being better accommodated in hostel type homes. The Minister has estimated that about 50,000 pensioners - which is a large number of people - would be in this category. He said also that it has been estimated that the number of aged people needing accommodation is increasing at a rate of about 1,000 a year. The present method of subsidising homes on a $2 for Si basis will never catch up on the backlog unless urgent action is taken.
Assistance for the provision of hostel type accommodation is specifically directed at increasing the availability of accommodation as soon as possible. It is well known that many nursing homes, particularly the hostel type, have large waiting lists, I know that in my own area there is great difficulty in getting accommodation for people in nursing homes and in hostel type accommodation. Many of the country hospitals are filled with geriatric cases who are accommodated at considerable expense to the taxpayers. In many cases it is unnecessary expense and these people are not in the best atmosphere. The Minister went on in his second reading speech to’ point out very rightly, that a hospital or a nursing home is not always the best atmosphere for an aged person who still is reasonably active to be living in, and that it is much better for a person to look after himself as far as is possible rather than to be treated as a patient. We know that because of a shortage of staff there is a tendency - I speak from some experience on this because of my association with the situation - for aged people to be left in bed too long, not because of any lack of interest by the staff but because of the sheer inability to get them out and moving as they should be. The costs incurred in accommodating these people in nursing homes and hospitals would go a long way to providing hostel type accommodation.
We are continually faced with the problem of a greater demand for accommodation for aged people. This is something that is part of what we call our developing civilisation, but sometimes I wonder about it. More and more people are unable or unwilling to provide for or to care for aged parents. The provisions in this Bill for home assistance will be a big factor in this regard. I think it is very good that we are encouraging people where possible, to keep their relatives at home. It is essential that where this is not possible we should provide accommodation for people who are not nursing home patients. Most of us know how aged parents enjoy their grandchildren; they are very very welcome in small doses but when they are continually around it creates friction in the home. Very often elderly people are much happier in a different environment such as a hostel type atmosphere where they are able to move about and take an. interest in everyday happenings.
It is unfortunate that there is in some sections of the State departments a resistance to establishing hostels in country areas. People who have lived in the cities all their lives imagine that to go out into a country town is to go out to the bush or the scrub where there are no facilities whatsoever. I have in mind one proposed hostel which was criticised because no facilities were available for the people. It is situated about 100 or 150 yards from 2 substantial general stores; nearby is a post office, a public hall, a library, and even a hotel should anyone desire . to go there. How many hostels in a city would have facilities equal to or as convenient as those? .. .
Another point I stress in regard to institutions located in country areas - and I am thinking now of one which is in my electorate, the Mount St Joseph Old Peoples Home in Young - is the part which is played by the town. This home has become the responsibility and interest of the town because it is the only large institution of this type in this town, other than the local hospital, which excites the sympathy and interest of the people of Young. The individuals in it remain individuals rather than members listed in a card index system. The nome itself has became the responsibility of the local people and there is human atmosphere about it. There are many senior citizens who, having gone to the city to work, are pleased to come home to the quietness and the sympathy and interest of people in a country area. I stress that there is a need and a place for hostel type accommodation in the country.
There are many successful nursing homes in country areas which will be grateful for the assistance provided under this Bill. I am delighted to see the worthwhile financial assistance which will be provided in the provision of new beds and the purchase of furniture for new nursing homes. I think that this is a tremendously worthwhile provision for institutions which have already proved their interest and ability to look after aged people. These homes are being given an extraordinary amount of assistance to increase their ability to provide services for people. In other words, we are giving support to the tried and proven and those who have shown an interest. This is tremendously worthwhile.
I know that the Minister and the Government want to get this legislation through as quickly as possible, and I know how urgent it is. There are many other aspects that one could deal with in regard to these 2 very worthwhile Bills. I conclude my remarks by saying that these Bills, particularly the Aged Persons Hostels Bill which provides for a 3-year crash programme, will provide something which has been desperately needed in this community for a long time; they will provide a challenge and an opportunity for many people to accept some worthwhile assistance for the frail aged and the people in our community who need assistance and whose numbers are increasing as a percentage of the total population.
I commend the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) for the work that he has put into this matter. I congratulate the Government for supporting him. I do not think that we have ever had a Minister more dedicated to his portfolio. I speak perhaps with a little more knowledge than many because I am Chairman of the Government Members Social Services Committee. From working with the Minister and with that Committee I know just how sincere and keen he is and how hard he works to do all he can for those who are in need in this community. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill and commending the Minister and the Government for one of the most worthwhile measures that has been introduced in this Parliament for social services, atleast during my time in this House.
– These 2 Bills are of interest to the House and, doubtless, to a number of people. The Opposition, as has been indicated by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), is not at variance with the Bills and is anxious to ensure that whatever benefits flow from the legislation will not be impeded. The legislation is described as the Aged Persons Hostels Bill 1972 and the Aged Persons Homes Bill 1972. Generally the Aged Persons Hostel Bill is designed to grant to organisations which are eligible under the Aged Persons Homes Act, special assistance. It is intended that the Commonwealth will meet the cost of 2 hospital beds for every one unsubsidised bed operated by the organisation or one bed for 2 where the accommodation was previously subsidised on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Under the other Bill it is intended to double the present rate of subsidy to eligible organisations which provide personal care services for the aged in hostel accommodation. That, of course, will increase the existing subsidy from $5 a week to $10 a week.
As I have mentioned, the Opposition does not quibble with these proposals. Nevertheless, it is apparent that once again we have evidence of the piecemeal approach being taken to this total question. We feel that it is unfortunate that the Government has never properly set out to formulate adequate guidelines or a blue-print to enable the progressive overtaking of the enormous range of deficiencies that prevail in this area. We are pleased to know that a study is being made of poverty and the inability of pensioners, aged people and others to own their own homes. Professor Henderson is probably already on the job or just about to settle down to it. But it is obvious that no one person is able to fulfil all the needs that are so apparent in investigating the areas of social welfare, housing, health and the like as they bear on the aged pensioner section of our community.
How much better would it have been if the Government had not expediently plucked the idea for this inquiry out of the air in a pre-election period but had thought about it in a sensible way and decided that there were many aspects which needed proper examination. There should be a complex of expertise conducting the inquiry instead of one person, so that the whole Parliament could come back in 6 months’ time or a year’s time and be provided with proper guidance about the way in which we should progress in the future. In connection with the Aged Persons Homes Bill, I mention that one is always gratified to see any assistance given to that very fine range of organisations which makes it its business to provide housing for the aged. Nevertheless, there is a lot to show that there are some inadequacies in the present arrangement. Again, the Government is guilty of being ad hoc in its approach to the total question of aged persons housing. I know that in my own State, where there is an enormous housing problem, pensioners represent a substantial number of those who are finding difficulty in securing homes.
Only the other day I ascertained that of the 43,000 outstanding applications with the New South Wales Housing Commission 54 per cent of the applications received in 1969-70 were from people with incomes below $50 a week. In fact, in the preceding year people earning $50 a week or less accounted for 67.3 per cent of the applications. But here is the point I make: Elderly couples accounted for 16.17 per cent of the applications in 1969-70 and 17.9 per cent in the preceding year. I have correspondence from the New South Wales Housing Commission in relation to aged people wanting housing. Presumably these are people who are unable to gain admittance to an aged persons home, possibly because they have not key money or the starting price. If they cannot get into an aged persons home, where else do they go? They apply for a housing commission home.
I have had letters from the New South Wales Housing Commission indicating that such applicants can expect to receive accommodation in 5 or 6 years. It is not very encouraging for people who are 65 years of age or more - that is the starting age for a male aged pensioner - to be told at 65 or later that they have to wait some 5 or 6 years for a house. In fact some of these people have received letters from the Secretary of the New South Wales Housing Commission stating: ‘We are unable to advise when a house is likely to be made available’. Generally speaking, of course, the problem that we are confronted with today - the inadequacy of the legislation that we are confronted with today - is the inadequacy of the total funds made available for welfare purposes in Australia. I do not want to labour this point at all, but in passing it should be mentioned that lots of people, including active people in the aged persons homes organisations, are gravely concerned that in Australia we are spending 5.5 per cent of our gross national product on social welfare. If that percentage were increased we would be able to overcome this great backlog in the provision of aged persons homes and in the provision of hostel care. In other comparable countries a much greater proportion of the gross national product is devoted to social welfare. I know that the figures have been used before, but we must be unhappy with the position. The European Economic Community countries are expending 15.2 per cent of their gross national product on social welfare. In Scandinavian countries it is 10.9 per cent.
No wonder our migrants are dissatisfied. They have less security about their future here than was the case in the countries from which they came. Many migrants with whom I have had a personal encounter are quick to tell me that this is why so many of them are leaving to go back to their home countries. I think that about one-third of our migrants are returning at the moment. They are obsessed with the uncertainty of their future. They do not know what will happen to them with respect to accommodation. They do not know whether they will have the thousands of dollars necessary to enable them to get into an aged persons home when they retire or to secure hostel accommodation, which is the very essence of one aspect of this legislation. I mention now the percentage of gross national product expended on social welfare by other countries. Canada spends 9.9 per cent; the United Kingdom, 8.8 per cent; Switzerland, 8.2 per cent; New Zealand, 6.6 per cent and Australia, 5.5 per cent.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– In his speech the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) indicated that only a fraction of the aged population of Australia is accommodated under the Aged Persons Homes Act and, of course, this is the case. There is a great deal to be done. The Minister went on to say that, after accounting for those who are provided for in other ways by State authorities and the like, the remainder live in unsatisfactory conditions; that is, they are either living in accommodation of an unsatisfactory standard or paying a rental they are not able to afford. I am pleased to see the Minister’s frankness in this regard. I am not sure whether he has overstated or understated the position.
– It is about right.
– The Minister said that it is about right. I do not want to quibble, but if that is right it is a serious enough situation. He said that there are as many as 50,000 pensioners with unsatisfactory living conditions. We know that in Australia approximately half of all single pensioners do not own their homes; and I understand that more than 200,000 married pensioners do not own their own homes. It is obvious that a very serious situation prevails. There is a need to spend more money on aged persons bornes and hostel-type accommodation, which is substantially the subject of this legislation. The Minister has indicated that there is a need each year for some 5,000 extra beds, but there is nothing in the proposals before the House at the moment, nothing in this pre-election gesture, which would make any significant impact on that outstanding backlog.
The Minister said that 5,000 additional beds per annum are required. When one thinks of such a great annual requirement one does not just think of capital cost, though it is significant enough, or the kind of resources that this Government has been ploughing into the alleviation of the problem over previous years. There are other factors. In fact it has been indicated that for every 1,000 beds that are required 500 staff need to be obtained. The Minister broke that figure up in the following way: 170 trained nurses; 200 nursing aides and 130 domestics. We are told that 2,500 staff are needed each year to meet this yearly 5,000-bed demand. Where is the anticipation and planning directed towards the fulfil ment of this staff deficiency. It is obvious that there is a lot left to be desired and that this legislation will hardly scratch the surface of the problem. It is fair to say that the Government has abdicated its responsibility for the frail aged people. It has relegated this responsibility to private enterprise. We see from time to time in the Press headlines such as ‘geriatric boom’. We learn that the nursing home area of private enterprise is going on to the stock exchange, that the rate of profit is up to 19 per cent and that people are being required to pay between $50 and $100 a week for nursing home care, with no capacity to gain admittance to a home run by a public authority. Obviously there is a great need for us to stimulate the endeavour to increase public accommodation for aged persons. In a way we are just tinkering with the problem here.
Among the proposals before the House is one which intends to increase the subsidy from $5 to $10 a week for the care of people over 80 years of age in aged persons homes and the like. There are a number of matters to be looked at here. We are told that there are 7,000 people over 80 years of age already accommodated in some 360 homes. Their problem is serious enough, but why do we have to isolate these people on an age basis? If one is frail and incapable of caring for oneself in a nursing home or any other sort of accommodation, it does not matter what one’s agc is. If one is 60 years of age and incapable of caring for oneself or to go into one of these establishments, one would place the same burden on an aged persons home or nursing home as a person 80 years of age would. This is just the tip of the iceberg that this Government is tinkering with in this legislation. I know of situations in my own electorate - the Sutherland area of Sydney - where there are elderly people incapable of looking after themselves in self-contained or hostel-type accommodation who are bedridden and under 80 years of age. Just how many people are there who are not being accommodated under this legislation. What surveys are being carried out? We should ascertain the extent to which we are making an impact on the problem of people over 80 years of age by increasing the subsidy from $5 to $10. What does this really do? What is the cost of caring for these people? What is the extent of the deficit left to the people, organisations, churches and the like who run these establishments?
It is not just the capital cost of providing that care which is important. It is also a matter of meeting the cost of providing nurses and domestics to look after these people. And it is not just a matter of providing, as the Minister said, an adequate amount for persons 80 years of age and over, because there is still this great area that remains substantially unattended and neglected. The fact of the matter is that we have had this piecemeal approach to the care and accommodation of aged people generally, and as a result there is a disparity between the level of care being provided around Australia. The Minister would readily acknowledge that, because we on this side of the House have extracted from him from time to time information along those lines. We are able to say, for example, that in New South Wales the proportion of people of pensionable age in accommodation provided under the Act is 2.26 per cent; in Victoria it is 2.88 per cent; in Queensland 2.47 per cent; in South Australia 6.73 per cent; in Western Australia 4.73 per cent; in Tasmania 4.29 per cent; in the Australian Capital Territory 3.28 per cent and in the Northern Territory 1.71 per cent. Why is it that we have such a high level of accommodation provided for such people in South Australia - 6.73 per cent - and such a low level - 1.7 per cent - in the Northern Territory? Obviously this shows an ad hoc approach. We leave it to the entrepreneuring capacity of churches and organisations, when the obvious thing to do is approach the total problem on a regional basis so that we can ascertain the real needs. If it is a question of priorities we should be allocating funds proportionally throughout Australia.
The other criticism that can be made of the situation that prevails, and that will prevail even after this legislation is passed, concerns the insufficient emphasis placed on the need to keep these people in their own homes or to. keep them in the care of relatives. It is not always a good thing to cause people to receive institutional care. There has been insufficient concentration and emphasis on this particular problem under the Government’s administration over 23 years and during the period that the Minister has been in office. We need to give local government and other regional authorities the capacity to provide some services - physiotherapy, nursing care, visiting nursing aides, home medical, occupational therapy and social worker services - so that people who would like to stay in their own homes would have the back-up paramedical and social facilities available to them to enable them to stay there. This would release resources being made available under the Aged Persons Homes Act and other relative legislation and these could be concentrated on providing for people who have a genuine need for institutional care. The Minister for Social Services has acknowledged this. He said that many people go into such establishments who ought not to go there and I believe that there will have to be a more composite and package deal approach to this problem which, up to the present, has been approached in a piecemeal, fragmentary and ad hoc way.
– I congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on his vision, his enthusiasm and, above all, his understanding and his humanity in the administration of aged persons homes. The proposal before the House is that a subsidy will be paid to nonprofit making homes to enable them to break even - that is, so that they will not be out of pocket. The homes will be allowed up to $5 a week for each encumbent so that the residents may purchase personal necessities for their own use. Up to date, the difficulty has been that where the survivor has been left alone at an advanced age, in many cases that person finishes his life in a nursing home, though he would be better off in the sort of home for which this Bill gives assistance.
It is surprising how many people who are in nursing homes would be much happier and contented and better served in an aged persons home. Statistics that I have seen show that up to 50 per cent of the inmates in nursing homes do not require nursing home attention. In point of fact, loneliness is their main difficulty. They need someone nearby with whom they can converse and exchange confidences and, at times, to supply minor services and assistance. Very often the survivor is left in a family home which is far too commodious and which, because of its size, creates difficulty with which the aged person cannot cope. Experience has shown that where one is left alone, one becomes disinclined to prepare meals. There is a tendency to live on prepared meals such as bread and butter, cake and the like, instead of having a balanced diet with nutritional value.
A medical friend of mine has studied this problem overseas. He went to various food producing services and when he returned to Australia he found that a good number of aged people, especially, as I stated, where only one person remained in the family home, did not go to the trouble of preparing a well balanced meal. Under this scheme to assist aged persons homes, a subsidy will be paid not merely to encourage people over 80 to live in such homes. The homes will be required to provide meals and to employ sufficient staff to help any residents who need assistance with bathing and dressing, the cleaning of their rooms, their personal laundry and the general oversight of their medication. It also requires that a staff member should be available on the premises at all times in case of an emergency.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) stated that, ostensibly, the services were only for people over 80 years of age. That is not in accordance with the Minister’s wishes. The Minister stated:
As I previously mentioned, the amount of the subsidy is calculated on the basis of the number of residents aged 80 and over. This provides an inducement for the accommodation to be made available to the frailer category of person. Nevertheless, it is a condition of approval that the personal care services I have referred to should be provided for any aged resident who needs services, whether over 80 or not.
The services are being extended considerably. In my electorate there are 3 aged persons homes with a total of 174 beds. Previously, they did not participate in this scheme. However they will now receive a subsidy of about $1.25m. So, although the honourable member for Hughes said that this scheme does not embrace all that he would like, there are 3 homes in a small portion of Westmead and Wentworthville in New South Wales which will attract a subsidy of about $ 1.25m.
The Minister for Social Services is to be congratulated. People who are now residing in aged persons homes and various institutions for aged people would be far better off if their families had the necessary conveniences to look after them and in another Bill to be introduced into the House, those families will receive $14 a week for looking after aged persons. Many aged persons homes which previously did not attract a subsidy and which were in business before 1954 will, because of their character and the services that they have rendered to the community, receive the total subsidy to which I have just referred. I congratulate the the Minister for Social Services and the Government on what they are doing in this regard. Comparisons are odious. Honourable members opposite have spoken about Sweden and Switzerland. Of course, they have been established for 1,000 years and they have the advantage of time. In most cases, they are pocket handkerchief size in area and they do not have the huge area with which Australia must contend. The Minister for Social Services should be proud on what he has accomplished.
– I am very glad to have an opportunity to say a few words on these 2 Bills. I refer firstly to the Aged Persons Homes Bill 1972 which will amend the Aged Persons Homes Act. This Bill provides for an increase in the subsidy from $5 to $10 a week for each of those persons over 80 - the frail aged - residing in aged persons homes, as long as the accommodation reaches the agreed standard. We have no quibble about that provision, although, in the short time that we have had to read the second reading speeches of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), I was interested to note that when examining just what funds would be available to approved organisations the Minister spread this $10 a week over everybody in the organisation and came up with an average figure of $4.50. In other words, the Minister, too, realises that there is a great need for extra income for many of these people, whether they are over 80 years or not. However, a little is better than nothing and we are very glad to know that some organisations which have residents who are over 80 years of age will receive this extra help.
I could perhaps remind the House at this stage that the attitude of the Opposition in debating these Bills today, as the Minister has realised, is that it does not want to hold up the payment of these benefits. The benefits are to be paid from the date of the royal assent. At one stage, we were prepared to have only our spokesman on this matter speak in the debate. Since then we have learned that many members of the Government parties want to speak to the Bill, and this affords an opportunity to the rest of us also, at short notice, to talk about the Bill, to congratulate the Minister for Social Services on those areas where, as I have said, a little is better than nothing and also to mention errors of omission.
The second Bill, the Aged Persons Hostels Bill 1972, is a little more difficult to understand. From the quick look I have had at the Minister’s second reading speech, I believe that he has overlooked altogether setting out again just which organisations will benefit by this and the formula under which they will benefit. Perhaps he felt that there was no need to do this because it was set out in the Budget. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) said in the Budget Speech:
To encourage the provision of hostel accommodation for the aged we will, as a special arrangement limited to 3 years-
I repeat that I have read the Minister’s speech only hastily but I did not see anything in it about the limitation to 3 years -
I was very interested in the whole of the Minister’s second reading speech on this Bill but, in the short time I have had to look at the speech, I could not find where that was brought in, and that is the kernel of what this Bill is all about.
As I understand it, having taken that formula, those organisations which are approved organisations will receive $7,800 per person to provide the hostel bed, buy the land and build the building, and will receive $250 extra for the furnishing of the room related to that particular bed. I would like to have learned from the second reading speech just how far the $7,800 will go. Unfortunately, in searching my files, I have found that the relevant documents are in Adelaide. Only recently I wrote to a number of the leading organisations in this field in South Australia to find out what their bed costs are at this time, in relation to the amount of donation which the average person is expected to find to make up the difference under the existing Aged Persons Homes Act. The Minister will realise that, when he comes to apply a means test in relation to the pensions payable, he is allowing a limit only for each one of these donors who goes into these homes. I think that the limit is about $2,500. I think that in South Australia our land and building costs are the lowest. In previous speeches in this Parliament the Minister has mentioned that we have the. lowest costs in Australia in relation to this matter. That is one of the reasons we have the provision of more beds under this Act. In South Australia alone the average donation that is required these days under the Aged Persons Homes Act is nearer $4,000 than $2,500. This leads me to believe that many of these organisations will have to find a margin over $7,800 plus the $250 for furnishings.
If the Minister has any more recent information about this I would be very grateful if he would enlighten the House, because I consider that it would be misleading the public to give the impression that donations will not be required. I know that donations cannot be asked for from those who will benefit under this Bill because the whole purpose of these extra hostel beds is to provide beds for people, who have not the wherewithal to provide the donation. But donations from the public to the organisation may have to be sought in order to make up the balance over $7,800 per bed plus the $250 for furnishings.
The next aspect of the Minister’s speech on which I invite comment from him relates to those who will benefit under the Aged Persons Hostels Bill. I realise that they will mainly be those who are in greatest need and who have not been able to provide donations for the type of accommodation which has mainly been available under this Act hitherto. I commend the Minister for that. But he made a lot of play in his second reading speech about how this would relieve the nursing homes; how a tremendous number of people in nursing homes, who are costing the community a lot of money, may be transferred; and how we hope that they will benefit under this legislation and therefore relieve the nursing homes. On the other hand, elsewhere in his speech he talked about the 834,000 people in our community who are pensioners. He divided them into 519,000 who are in their own homes, 25,000 who are in state nursing homes or unsubsidised hostels and 40,000 who are in unsubsidised nursing homes. He did not actually mention the balancing figure, but his figures seem to me to leave some 200,000 pensioners who either live with their families or live in adequate rental accommodation. That leaves 50,000, to use the Minister’s own figures, who are living in unsatisfactory conditions. It seems to me that it will be those 50,000 who are at present in unsatisfactory conditions because they cannot afford the donations required to take advantage of the Aged Persons Homes Act, who will use this hostel accommodation and that the Minister will not be relieving the pressures on the nursing homes as he hoped, as I understood his second reading speech.
I now want to echo or reinforce what has been said already by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) in relation to the whole field of housing for aged persons. I think it should be mentioned here that one of the tremendous problems in providing accommodation under these existing Acts relates to another part of Government policy. I am now referring to land prices and building costs in Australia. As the Minister knows, before coming into this House I was on the board of the largest organisation in South Australia providing this accommodation. I left because I felt, from experience after coming to this House, that I was not able to attend board meetings, that the responsibilities were great and that it was of no use continuing on the board if 1 could not play my part at the board meetings.
– The honourable member will be able to go back next year.
– We will see whether the honourable member for Diamond Val ley or I go back to our previous callings first. I will make no boasts about it but let me say that I am quietly confident. Anyway I would hope that they would have me back. At that time I was on the board of the Elderly Citizens Homes of South Australia Incorporated, providing over 1,200 beds under the Aged Persons Homes Act. It is the cost of land and building prices generally that is making it extremely difficult to provide accommodation of the right sort at about the $4,000 mark donation if the proper reserves were being put aside to look after nursing home accommodation and the other needs. Once one took responsibility for people coming within the organisation one not only had to see that they had their individual living unit but also that this hostel type accommodation was provided for them when they could no longer look, after themselves entirely or, when they could no longer live in hostel type accommodation, that there were nursing homes available’ providing, on the one hand, ordinary nursing home care and then, later, intensive care. 1 want to make the point quite clear’ here ‘ that we would be helping enormously the whole field of housing for the aged if we tackled this other, problem of land prices and building costs. This should be mentioned in this context because in my view the present Government does not have a policy in this area. Wc need the sort of policies that my party is outlining in this very field. If we could bring down land costs we could provide far better housing _ accommodation for these older people.
The other matter I want to mention under the- heading of errors of omission - because now is the time to clear this up - is one that the Minister knows about because, he and I have had a number of dealings with him in regard to it. I refer to my belief that this Act should provide the funds to enable the modernisation of older accommodation. The Minister was good enough to come with me on a hot Sunday last summer to the Cottage Homes Incorporated group of flats in the suburb of Prospect, which is in my electorate of Adelaide. There we found the original organisation ‘ in South Australia providing the sort of care that the Minister and I seek for older people. The organisation has some magnificent sites and some buildings which were adequate in days gone by but which are now inadequate. For a sum which is far less than the sum required to put up a new unit, existing units could be modernised with great saving of resources to the community. At the same time, this would save a lot of old people the problems associated with moving away from the area in which they have lived and have been very happy for many years.
Instead, under this existing legislation, this organisation and others like it throughout the country are forced to sell up their existing sites. It is not economical for some of them to do this. However, they are forced to take this action. They are forced to use the sum which they receive for their sites to build a new set of units. Often, they require donations from those coming into the new units in order to make ends meet. The Cottage Homes Incorporated organisation is at present attempting to raise funds in South Australia in order to modernise its units and save the community the resources about which I talk. I am sure that the Minister will support me in hoping that the appeal is successful; but there is doubt about this. How much better it would be it the Aged Persons Homes Act provided funds to enable organisations such as the Cottage Homes Incorporated to modernise their flats and thereby make a lot more people a lot happier.
I remind the House that we have not had the time in this debate to be in touch with the relevant organisations in our electorates which will be affected by the legislation in order to ascertain their views about it. However, over the next week or so I will be learning about their views and I hope that I will be able to contact my colleagues in the Senate so that they can discuss this matter when the legislation comes before that chamber. However, in the meantime I congratulate the Minister for what is good in these 2 Bills. However, I also lay emphasis on what I consider to be the errors of omission.
– Opposition members in this debate, whilst supporting the legislation, have criticised it. One of the criticisms has been that it is an election gimmick. To me when people use the criticism of something being an election gimmick they mean that they really do not consider it is necessary, but because there may be some popularity attached to it, that particular action is being taken. I believe it is up to the Opposition to say quite clearly whether or not it believes that this sort of legislation is necessary because by using the term ‘election gimmick’ I contend that members of the Opposition are saying that they consider that the legislation before us is not necessary. We on the Government side believe this legislation is most necessary. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the Government are to be congratulated on instituting it.
Members of the Opposition have also said that the legislation is piecemeal, partial, and ad hoc. I believe, after listening to speakers from the other side of the House that they show piecemeal, ad hoc and partial reasoning because there seems to be some confusion on what the priorities should be. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) said that perhaps we should modernise some of the homes rather than add to their numbers. Another Opposition member spoke about nursing homes and the number of 5,000 beds a year was quoted. He said that perhaps this was not sufficient. But the purpose of this legislation is to reduce the need for the great number of nursing home beds that are appearing year after year. If anyone says that this legislation is ad hoc, partial or piecemeal I believe that this only indicates that he has not read properly the 2 second reading speeches of the Minister for Social Services, the Budget announcements or the statement by the Acting Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) on related nursing care measures which also must be considered in this context. These measures, possibly more than any of the other Budget proposals, reveal an overall planned approach to the achievement of important comprehensive social goals.
Furthermore, the extent of the Commonwealth initiative goes beyond these 2 important measures that we are debating at the moment. One has to consider other Budget announcements within this context. Just in passing I refer to some of the points made in the statement of the Acting Minister for Health on nursing care benefits. The Minister outlined increased nursing home benefits for pensioners, the inclusion of nursing home insurance benefits in the voluntary hospital insurance scheme, the new domiciliary care benefit of $14 a week for aged persons cared for in a private home and the increased subsidy for home nursing services.
The 2 Bills we are debating, together with these other measures which I have just mentioned, have important social objectives. The first is to provide a 3-year crash programme with unmatched Commonwealth grants for increased hostel type accommodation and to do this in a way that will provide a measure of justice to those organisations that were pioneers in this field and which provided these beds prior to the 1957 government initiative of $2 for $1 for every bed provided. Furthermore, a part of the requirement in respect of these beds is that there will be no ingoing or key money, whatever one likes to call it, attached to the provision of these beds. The beds will be allocated on a needs basis. By the provision of the money to organisations with a proven record in this field, I believe, these extra beds will be more quickly and more efficiently established than by channelling money through any other source.
The second objective is to provide more facilities for the aged who need care, but not the intensive care that is provided by a nursing home. The legislation makes the provision of extra hostel accommodation plus the doubling of the personal care allowance of $5 to $10 a week plus the home nursing care subsidy. All these benefits will provide an impetus in the desired direction - that is to allow more beds for those people who require some form of assistance but not the type of intensive care assistance that is provided by a nursing home. The third social welfare objective that these measures will achieve is for these desirable developments to take place at less cost to the Government than would be the case if the alternative development of more and more nursing home beds were adopted.
Unlike some speakers from the Opposition who talk about this assistance going only to certain areas, I would like to remind the House that these benefits will certainly go to many country areas. In Victoria many of the long-established old folks homes are sited in provincial cities and not necessarily in the metropolitan area. There is a large group of self contained units for aged people, known as Miller homes, scattered throughout Victoria. I have 3 of these groups in my electorate. As the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt) mentioned earlier in this debate, the higher average age of the community in rural areas places a heavy responsibility for the care of aged people on local hospitals, filling beds in the hospital with what are really geriatric cases and on the smaller percentage of working age people. This occurs because of the higher average age of the community in rural areas. The provision of these funds will reduce this burden on both local hospitals and that section of the community which is called upon to assist with everything that is required to keep a rural community going.
Finally, the channelling of these funds through local community and religious organisations, as the Government is doing, I believe will mean that there will be more personal and involved concern for the aged people who are to be cared for. This will avoid much impersonal institutionalising - a term that has been used by the Opposition in its criticism. I believe also that we will avoid much of the criticism that has been forthcoming, because there will be more personally involved care at the local level to avoid the institutionalising that occurs in many of the larger State run homes and in some of the other countries that the Opposition has put forward as examples we should follow. I believe that the Government’s provision of these funds to established organisations will enable us to avoid this pitfall. I have very much pleasure in supporting this legislation and in congratulating the Government and the Minister concerned.
– By general agreement, the Aged Persons Homes Bill and the Aged Persons Hostels Bill which were introduced this morning will be put through all stages today. This will ensure that increased benefits will become payable earlier than might otherwise have been possible, and the procedure is acceptable on that basis. However it carries with it the serious disadvantage that there has been no chance to consider either the detail of the Bills or the supporting speeches of the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) except in the most superficial way. As a general principle, I think it ought to be said that this is highly undesirable. In the nature of things this same procedure is likely to be proposed regularly, at least on social service matters. Rather than allow that to happen I believe it would be preferable to draft appropriate legislation so as to provide benefits from the date of introduction rather than from the date of enaction and to allow an ordinary and more considered debate to follow.
In the present circumstances I propose to make only 2 brief comments. .The first is related to the Bills presented and the second is related to more general aspects of the workings of the aged persons homes scheme. By way of introduction I make the general comment that the aged persons homes scheme, whatever its deficiencies, is a good scheme. It represents one of the best initiatives that the Government has taken in the field of social services and these Bills will improve it further. Not the least important of the features of this legislation is that it provides for an increase in hostel accommodation and for an enforced departure from the earlier and present emphasis on donation-linked entry. This is highly desirable in relation to the hostel type accommodation provided, and it is only to be regretted that this same change has not been introduced in relation to ordinary unit accommodation. I have spoken on the question of income-linked entry before in this House, and I urge the Minister to continue to consider ways in which this linkage can be reduced.
One area that has still been left unsatisfactory by these Bills is the continued ineligibility of State institutions for Commonwealth subsidy. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The fifth reason for the unbalanced growth of nursing homes is the attitude of the States. Both nursing homes and home care services have traditionally been regarded as State responsibilities, but the States seem almost to have abrogated their responsibilities in the nursing home field . . .
The limitation of State contributions to the provision of nursing home beds extends also to their lack of provision of hostel and self-contained accommodation for the aged. For example, in Western Australia until this year no State housing accommodation at all was available for single male aged pensioners, and for both male and female single age pensioners there is now a waiting list of five or six years. Why is there this poverty of State assistance in such an important field?
The Minister asked a question to which he provided the answer himself later on in his speech when he said:
In accordance with the principle established in the Aged Persons Homes Act existing hemes which were established wholly with funds provided by State governments will not be eligible for approval as qualifying homes.
Frankly, I cannot see and have never been able to see what principle governs this limitation. It precludes the States from the $2 for $1 capital subsidy on accommodation. It also precludes them from the personal care subsidy for hostel residents over 80 years of age, which is being increased by this Bill to $10 a week. The exclusion of the States is a curious anomaly and a serious disincentive and it must contribute to the Minister’s own estimate of 50,000 pensioners still living under unsatisfactory conditions. Again 1 urge that this is an area requiring obvious and simple amendment. I cannot imagine why these amendments have not been introduced before. I can see no reason for their being delayed further.
May I put a further question to the Minister? In his speech he states: . . the primary intention of the Bill is to stimulate the building of additional hostel accommodation in order to reduce admissions to nursing accommodation of people who ‘ have no real medical need for nursing care. In order to preserve this intention the agreement into which organisations receiving grants ‘under this Bill will be required to enter will provide that Commonwealth nursing home benefits shall not at any time be sought for any beds in the .hostels established under this special legislation …
If I understand this provision correctly, it says that for all practical purposes the new hostel beds are not to be changed to nursing bed accommodation at any time in the future. I question whether this is really wise. After all further on in his speech the Minister lists one of the criteria that qualify entrants in this way:
Age of applicant. Priority to be given to those in the upper age groups, that is over 75 years of age;
In other words, we are dealing with people who potentially at least will require nursing home accommodation and assistance within a few years. In these circumstances why should we be shutting out all our options so completely? The Minister will know well enought the problems of those organisations which have residential accommodation only or residential and hostel accommodation only and find elderly residents requiring nursing home care. The result is often a virtual eviction either to a private nursing home or to another centre, often accompanied by great personal distress. If an organisation is prepared to plan its hostel well enough to allow a later changeover to nursing home accommodation, why preclude it from such a change for all time? Why be so inflexible about it?
I am not suggesting that we move from this stage to an open slather. There may be the possibility of some sort of improper advantage being taken of the proposal I put to the Minister, although frankly I have to say that I cannot really envisage what form that could take, given that we are dealing exclusively in this area with non-profit organisations. I therefore put to the Minister that nothing would be lost by qualifying the proposed absolute prohibition either by setting a period of years beyond which the limitation would no longer apply, or alternatively and probably preferably, by vesting the Director-General of the Department with discretion to allow a changeover if the circumstances justified it. Again 1 see no reason why such an amendment should not be made. I put it to the Minister seriously for his consideration.
The only other matters to which T want to refer now relate more generally to the operation of the aged persons homes scheme as a whole. In particular, I think it is most undesirable that the Commonwealth, after making such an enormous contribution in the field - it is now in excess of SI 50m for capital works - should withdraw completely from any responsibility or control of any sort of all over the operations of the homes once they are established. It is also most unfortunate that the Commonwealth in drawing up the agreement with approved organisations has not reserved some sort of right of participation for the residents of these homes. Even the financial accounts of the homes are not available to the residents. In my contact with residents I have not come across one aspect of administration of the scheme which has produced so much antagonism, frustration and unhappiness.
I see no reason for the secrecy and no reason for the Commonwealth to have refrained in the past and to continue to refrain from requiring resident participation and the presentation of financial accounts as a matter of course, to both the Commonwealth and the residents. The only check that the Government has reserved for itself is to be found in clause 1 1 (2) of the current agreement. It reads:
The organisation shall furnish to the DirectorGeneral at his request all records, books of account and documents relating to the approved home or homes in the possession or under the control of the organisation, and afford all requisite assistance to enable the Director-General or his agents to ascertain the true financial position of that home.
In other words, all that is required is that the home, on request of the DirectorGeneral - and only on request - is obliged to make this information available. So far as I have been able to ascertain, no request has ever been made by the Director-General to any home in Western Australia for a statement of its financial accounts. I have previously complained in appropriate debates that not only has that not been done but also it has been pointed out to me that a member of Parliament inquiring on behalf of his constituents is not entitled to make such a request.
I am also informed that if the DirectorGeneral did make such a request for financial accounts and received them as required by the agreement, he would not be in a position to make that statement available either to members or to the residents concerned. I think that is an absurd situation. We are dealing with enormous sums of public money - totalling over $150m. Every year millions of dollars must be paid by residents as rentals, maintenance contributions or ingoing. Further enormous sums are contributed in this way and there is no conceivable reason why secrecy of the sort that has been established should be allowed to continue. 1 again make it clear, as I always do when I raise this subject, that there is not the slightest question of improper practice by the voluntary organisations running these homes. They are doing a magnificent job; the whole scheme could never have got under way without their assistance. To have loaded the Commonwealth with the administrative burden probably would have aborted the scheme from the start. There is no question of improper practice by the organisations, but why they, and why the Commonwealth going along with their views, should insist on the retention of what amounts to a secrecy provision is really, so far as I can see, unsupportable. I add that to my list of suggestions to the Minister and again put it forward seriously. Only a simple alteration would be required and it would provide benefits in terms of the satisfaction of the residents out of all proportion to any minor administrative difficulties that might be involved for either the Department or the organisations.
The matter I have just raised in relation to the financial accounts of the homes is related directly to the question of rentals. Among the aged persons homes in my electorate there is at least one that has been in the practice of charging up to $11 a week rent for a single pensioner resident. I have also pointed out on earlier occasions that that is better than or equivalent to commercial rent, bearing in mind that the aged persons homes are free of ordinary rating requirements such as water rates and council rates, are exempt from land tax and that two-thirds of their capital funds have come to them from the Government.
I am quite sure that they would be better investments than commercial buildings, if one wants to look at it that way, when $11 a week is received; but even apart from that extravagant example, a highly undesirable situation has developed. I believe that it must be related to the lack of resident participation to which I have already referred. Very modest rents are still generally paid, and the example I have in mind concerns a home at which the rental has gone up to $3.80, which we would regard as modest enough except when related to the previous rental of $2 a week. In that case it is a shock to the system and we have to appreciate the feelings of the people on whom an increase of almost 100 per cent is landed overnight.
In at least one other home a move has been made not only to increase rent quite substantially in percentage terms but also to adopt a procedure whereby rent in future will go up automatically with each pension increase. In the case I have in mind a decision has been made that the cost of single pensioner accommodation will in future be 20 per cent of the single weekly pension. This has absolutely no relevance. It is completely unrelated to any questions concerning the cost of running homes of this sort. I believe it is wrong in principle and it is also inconsistent with the general policy that has governed the operation of this scheme. I refer to the recent budget when pensions rose by $1.75 and rents were due to increase by about 40c accordingly. This is not justified on increased costs or any basis other than that the pension had risen. I think it is an undesirable trend and inconsistent with the nature of the scheme. It is related directly to the forfeiture by the Government in earlier days of any right to have a continuing role in the running of the homes. It also goes without saying that it is linked to the inability of the residents to have the right to participate. I think these are all serious matters. The people are elderly and sensitive and in many cases have financial difficulty in meeting even the modest rents. I think the time is long overdue to take these residents into the confidence of the Government and of the management committees and to give them a say in their own affairs.
I am sorry to have taken as much time as I have. I conclude on the note on which I started: The scheme is a good one. I welcome the improvements that are made to it by the provisions of this Bill. I think we all appreciate the efforts of the voluntary workers who have done so much to keep this scheme advancing so well. I would like to add one word of appreciation for the way in which the Department has administered the scheme. It has been flexible. I think it has realised that it is dealing with voluntary workers and voluntary administrators - I was. about to say ‘amateurs’ but I do not mean that in a disparaging way - who were not always up to the position of dotting their i’s and crossing their fs as far as applications are concerned and who sometimes disqualify themselves from assistance in the strictly formal terms. I find that in its administration of this scheme the Department has been very understanding, very flexible and consistent in emphasising the intention rather than always the letter of the legislation.
– I do not propose to take vew much of the time of the House because I think the occasion does not justify it. The details of the scheme have already been explained to the House and I do not want to spend a great deal of time on it. I do not want to over-emphasise it so far as you are concerned, Mr Speaker, because whilst you have been concentrating upon old people and their troubles, I understand on good authority that you have just become a grandfather. So you must be concentrating in your mind on very young people at the present time. I am sure the House congratulates you.
– Thank you.
– The 2 Bills which are being discussed together comprise only part of a well planned scheme of help for the aged. They are 2 very important parts and they are 2 absolutely new initiatives that have come from this Government. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who is sitting at the table, is to be congratulated, because I have no doubt that he thought of these new proposals. They are something new to be added to the great volume of assistance that is given to old people in this country. I congratulate the Minister on putting forward these new ideas.
I think the Government should b2 congratulated because until 1954, when this Government was in power, nothing of this nature had been done for old people in Australia, It was this Government which initiated the idea of homes for the aged, and this has been a magnificent scheme which has been implemented throughout the length and breadth of Australia. It has catered for and given happiness to tens of thousands of old people all over Australia. I think it was the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) who said that local government authorities are not doing very much under the Aged Persons Homes Act. I would remind him that participation by local government authorities is not precluded at all.
– 1 was referring to State governments.
– An amendment was moved last year, I think, to allow local government authorities to participate under the Act, and I hope that they will continue to take some part in this scheme. Although this legislation is part of the general pattern of the Government’s help for the aged, it has nothing to do with other legislation which will be introduced. We do not want any confusion about the fact that this legislation actually has anything to do with new legislation that will be brought forward in relation to the home nursing scheme or domiciliary care, which is part of this Government’s policy and which is designed to see that old people are encouraged to be looked after in their own homes or their relatives’ homes. Those matters will be included in further legislation that will be introduced at a later stage. The scheme envisaged in the legislation before the House is to encourage the building or extending of homes already in existence for old people and is to provide for the way in which they are looked after in hostels. It is a very excellent scheme indeed. I remind the House, because nobody has mentioned it, that the part of the scheme which under the Aged Persons Homes Act provides for a personal care subsidy will apply not only to people who are living in premises under the Act as it exists at present but also to the building of new hostels and the extension of existing hostels. I understand that the new personal care subsidy will apply in those circumstances.
The only criticism of any note that I heard coming from the Opposition was that made by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who is the shadow Minister for Social Services. The honourable member said that the Government was institutionally orientated, and I think this criticism has been repeated by a number of other speakers. This criticism becomes significant when one looks at things that are happening in other fields, and I draw attention to it. It appears that what the Opposition would like to do is bypass the States and give money directly to local government authorities under section 96 of the Constitution. Of course, this would mean a centralising of power in Canberra, and this is in line with a lot of other things that the Labor Party advocates. I draw attention to this because it must be remembered that the States themselves bear a great deal of responsibility for the welfare of aged people. Of course, local government authorities are instruments of the States. However, I think the States bear equal responsibility with this Government. The Minister drew attention to this point, and I hope that the amount of money being provided by the States for this purpose will not be reduced in any shape or form.
The public, too, should be encouraged to assist in schemes of this kind. Great benefits that have accrued to some of the big institutions throughout Australia that are criticised by the Opposition stem from public assistance. It is because of public participation in these great organisations that they have prospered and done so much for old people. I do not want to go through the whole list of these organisations. I am particularly interested in two of them. One, which is in my electorate, is the Montefiore Jewish Home. In my opinion, there is an unfortunate tendency for some of our present younger generation not to give the proper respect and attention to our old people. One must admire, as I do, people like those of the Jewish community who always attend to their old people. 1 think this is something which we have to encourage and I believe it is in the Minister’s mind when he deals with a question such as this. This institution in my electorate is one which will benefit very greatly by this scheme, and I know just how it will use these benefits.
Another institution with which I have been connected is in the electorate of Mr Speaker. I refer to the Little Sisters of the Poor at Randwick. This is one of the very biggest organisations. It is doing a magnificent job. I would imagine that its participation in this scheme will be of tremendous help in expanding that very worthwhile organisation. There must be hundreds of such organisations, but these are 2 about which I have particular knowledge and which will benefit tremendously under this scheme. But the point I am making is that this scheme is presented in such a way as to encourage public participation - citizen participation - to help our old people, and I think it is a very worthwhile scheme. This is getting away from what the Labor Party would want, that is, to centralise the control of these things and not encourage proper public participation.
I do not want to speak for much longer in this debate. I just want to refer, as the honourable member for Mitchell did, to the fact that old people live a lonely life. It would be better for them to live in their own homes. Those who are eligible for assistance under the aged persons homes scheme can get that assistance. I repeat that aged people who perhaps do not have many relatives live a very lonely life but in hostel accommodation they meet other people in their own age group and make personal friends, and their requirements are serviced. This gives to them some happiness in- their old age. In this respect I think we all have a responsibility to aged people. None of us can avoid this. I would hope that there would arise a greater recognition not only of the physical needs of old people but also their psychological needs and happiness in their old age. This Government and the. Minister are to be commended upon these innovations which are only . part of a well planned scheme for assisting the aged people .in this country. I say again to this Government: Congratulations for being the only government in the. history of Australia which has paid attention to the need for. assistance to be given to aged people in Australia.
Mr FOSTER (Sturt) ‘ (3.27)-] realise that . a restriction has been placed on the time we take for this debate and I am not opposed to it. I do not say that by way of criticism. I rise to associate myself with the remarks that have been made in this debate by speakers on this side of the House - the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), the honourable member for Perth (Mr Berinson) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) appeared to indicate that no assistance had been given by previous governments in regard to the housing of elderly citizens. I do not want to join him in any bitter debate on this point but I think he has overlooked the fact that under previous governments, of different political complexion or persuasion, there was a rebate system under which a percentage of the money allocated by the Commonwealth was given to the various State housing authorities or trusts which made a direct contribution by erecting homes for the elderly citizens in our community. I have just been informed by my good friend and colleague the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Webb) that in Western Australia this situation still obtains.
It is all very well for supporters of the Government and honourable members on this side of the House to say that the Government is to be commended for having introduced these measures. I feel that it would be much better to say in this place this afternoon to the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), without being critical in any shape or form, that it is indeed most heartening to see that the Government, which is the main taxing authority in the Commonwealth if not the only one insofar as measures of this kind are concerned, has met its responsibility. The Minister will recall quite a bitter debate between himself and myself on a previous occasion in this House on this very matter. I have not dealt with these matters to the extent that one may consider a person who has some interest in them would, but I am pleased to say in regard to some of the homes in my own area which were showing very inherent weaknesses that, as a result of what I have said in this place and as the result of consultations with pensioners in these homes, most of the suggestions and most of what I have had to say in this House has been put into effect by the board of the Aged Cottage Homes. I refer to such things as the employment of a full time officer and active and open participation in the running of the homes by the residents in the form of committee work. They are recognised by the board and they are invited to meetings by the board. I am not sure how often this takes place but there is now a dialogue between the residents and the board and this has meant that much of the bitterness which previously existed has disappeared. This in itself is a good thing. One matter which I had continually raised was the manner in which the board dealt with residents. There had been a great deal of mental anguish particularly on the part of the aged female residents of the homes. I am happy to say that this has now been overcome or is about to be overcome.
I note that the health provisions will be a matter for debate later. There will be a continuing Commonwealth interest, if I may use that term, which will commence some time during next year. This is one of the matters which I have often raised in this place and it is one which I feel should be given further consideration because there ought to be a continuing interest by the Commonwealth in these homes. I think we all agree that the increasing cost structure, that is to say the cost of maintenance, rates, local government rates which include water rates, and the rates imposed by taxing authorities within the State sphere, is beyond the control of various nursing homes. Consideration ought to be given to this point.
I would appreciate the assistance of the Minister in regard to a matter that is still before the board of a home which I will not name and which is in my electorate and about which I am sure the Minister is aware. I draw his attention to the suspension by his Department of a rent subsidy. If the Minister would like me to take up this matter with him later I would be only too happy to do so.
– Of course.
– I hope that the provisions in this legislation will quickly be recognised by those organisations which have a great amount of work to do. I conclude on the note that it is not quite true to say in this place this afternoon - the Government brought in the relevant legislation in 1954, from memory - that nothing has been done in providing accommodation for the aged. I think the Minister will readily agree, because he visits these homes not only within my electorate but electorates throughout the Commonwealth, that a very great amount of work has been done by church and voluntary organisations over the years in regard to elderly people. Some of these organisations are very large, catering for the very infirm down to those people who merely want accommodation in their declining years and who are still quite active and are not as unfortunate as others in the community. I regret that time does not permit me to say anything more because I promised the Minister that I would take only 5 minutes. I hope that this Government, for the short time that it will remain in office, will continue to recognise its responsibilities in regard to this matter.
– It is not often that we hear the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) in a quiet, reflective, expansive mood. I must say it is a very pleasant change. I think that on this occasion we should express our appreciation to the honourable member for drawing our attention to the favourable situation that exists in South Australia, at least at the moment, so far as these facilities are concerned and thank him for what I understand to be the implied if not the almost expressed recognition of the. work of Mr Ian Wilson and his distinguished father in this field. I think the honourable member is to be commended for his generosity in that regard. In the course of this lively debate I think there has already been enough detail given as to the operation of the scheme envisaged by the 2 pieces of legislation which are before the House at the moment. I will not go over them again. Suffice it to say, very briefly and really just for the purposes of history when this speech of mine comes to be considered, that the Aged Persons Homes Bill increases from $5 to $10 a week the subsidy paid to non-profit homes caring for people over 80 years of age to provide personal attention for these people.
The Aged Persons Hostels Bill provides for very substantial appropriations by the Commonwealth Government for the provision of hostel accommodation. I mention briefly - nevertheless I think it is significant - that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) expressed a hope in the course of his second reading speech that the legislation with respect to the subsidy increase from $5 to $10 would have the effect of enabling aged persons homes organisations to balance their books in view of the very precarious situation in which a lot of them have been. There is only one such organisation with Which I have had association myself. I do not profess, as has probably become apparent already, to be an expert in this field. However, there is one such organisation and one such home that I have had something to do with, namely, the Judge Book Memorial Village in Eltham which is run by the Community Welfare Foundation of Melbourne. I have spoken to officials of that organisation and I must say that they are very pleased indeed at the legislation with which the Government is now proceeding. They have indicated that this measure to increase the subsidies will quite clearly bring about a very substantial improvement in the situation at the Judge Book Village. This, of course, has been assessed already, at least in general terms and the officials can see the very real contribution that the Government has made to the effective continuing operation of the organisation of the Judge Book Village and they are, of course, most appreciative. It would seem quite clearly that the Minister’s hope will be justified. He deserves every congratulation that has been given to him by previous speakers for his work on this important step forward.
Finally, because I think it is important that we should put these things into perspective, I turn once again, but briefly, to the honourable member for Sturt and some of his comments in reply to my colleague, the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer). Honourable members will recall that the honourable member for Bennelong drew attention to. the fact that the vast series of measures for the benefit of aged persons in this field were new. The point he was making was that it was a new programme in a new field and that new benefits had been conferred in recent years under these schemes. The honourable member for Sturt took issue with him on this. All I say is that the facts stand for themselves. If the honourable member for Sturt and other honourable members will look at the record in this field they will see quite clearly - I can see your own approval of this proposition, Mr Deputy Speaker - that these are new schemes with new benefits that have been introduced by this Government.
One can take this further, I refer briefly to this aspect because I do not want to get too far from the subject of the debate, but it is important to regard these measures that we are considering within the whole context of social services. Quite clearly in Australia comparatively few social service measures have been introduced by Labor governments in the history of this country. Indeed, one could say that the most desirable social service measures always have been introduced by non-Labor governments. If we look through these measures and at the various types of facilities that we are discussing, such as the Meals on Wheels programme, assistance to handicapped children, sheltered workshops and the home care programme, we see, of course, that they were all introduced by this present Government or its immediate predecessors. I think this should be borne in mind in view of the comments that come from members of the Opposition suggesting that the Government is not concerned with social welfare. This is absolute nonsense. As I have said, it can be easily demonstrated that the most worthwhile measures have been introduced by this Government and its predecessors.
Mr FOSTER (Sturt)- I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown), who has just resumed his seat. He made certain inferences. It was my unfortunate experience in relation to my 2 predecessors in this House to have to work most actively prior to the last election to ensure that eviction notices issued under the name of a board with which those 2 members were associated were, in fact, withdrawn and not served on 87-year-old widows. I do not want to say this but-
-Order! There is no personal explanation.
– I support the 2 Bills before the House and congratulate the. Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the Government on their introduction. They have been met right across Australia with acclaim and I feel sure that this is why so little opposition has been expressed to the legislation. This indicates clearly that the legislation is good and that there are very few points in it which could be opposed by the Opposition. J feel that the Bills will be of great benefit to the aged persons and will assist those wonderful citizens who have, in many instances, taken on the responsibility of looking after aged persons homes and, in particular, those, people looking after the hostel type accommodation. Several of these homes are situated in my electorate and they are conducted by dedicated citizens who have, over the years, battled financially to keep them going. The 2 homes to which I refer are the Maitland Benevolent Society at Maitland, which the Minister recently visited with me, and the
Elizabeth Gates Memorial Homes at Singleton. They are both very fine institutions doing a magnificent job with local committees of dedicated people. This legislation will be of inestimable value to these organisations and to their inmates.
I also pay tribute to the service clubs, the Returned Services League and the public generally who have given support to enable many of these homes to remain financially sound and to provide services and attention for the aged folk. The legislation that we are presently debating will be of great benefit to those already existing institutions. A visit to such homes is always an enlightening experience. To see at first hand the accommodation and comforts provided for the aged inmates and to see their independence and contentment gives a visitor an appreciation of the wonderful work being performed in this most important field. As has been stated by the Minister, the Government’s programme in this fi eld will be administered partly by the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). The proposals with which the Minister for Social Services is concerned provide for an increase in the subsidy paid to non-profit homes caring for people over 80 years of age and a 3-year crash programme to provide more hostel-type accommodation in line with our aged persons homes organisation.
Australians are living longer these days. More aged people are in need of accommodation than ever before. It is interesting to note that in 1950 there were 211,081 people over 75 years of age; in 1960 there were 275,940 people over age 75 and 120,832 people over 80 years of age. By 1970 there had been a tremendous increase to 380,481 people over age 75 and 178,041 people over 80 years of age. These figures draw attention to the fact that it is necessary to look after the aged people. Under this Bill the present rate of subsidy payable to eligible organisations providing personal care services for the frail aged in hostel-type accommodation will be doubled. It is a condition of approval that personal care services be provided for any aged resident who needs such services whether he or she be over 80 years of age or not.
It is extremely interesting to note that at present a subsidy is being paid to 360 homes of hostel-type accommodation caring for over 16,000 aged persons, nearly 700 of whom are 80 years of age and over. Last year’s subsidy in this field was to the order of $1.8m. With the increased costs of running hostel-type homes it has become necessary to increase the rate of payment from $5 to $10 a week and it has been pleasing to hear the Minister announce that this increased payment will be available from the first pay day after the Bill receives the royal assent. Therefore let there be no delay in the passing of this legislation. I was pleased to hear the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) echo these sentiments. Surely this increased payment of $10 a week will be an incentive to the establishment of more hostel-type accommodation. It will cost the Government, on present figures, $14m in a full year. This figure, of course, may be substantially increased depending on the demand for hostel-type accommodation under the crash programme. This Bill is a practical application of the Government’s desire to improve the health, contentment and well-being of aged persons.
I would like to say a few words on the Aged Persons Hostels Bill which provides additional hostel-type accommodation for aged persons. Announcement of this measure was made originally in the Budget Speech by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and the passage of the Bill is being handled by the Minister for Social Services today. The assistance provided to non-profit organisations for building since 1957 has been on a $2 for $1 basis, and the total assistance given by the Government in this field to date totals over $150m. This is surely a magnificant contribution to this sector of the social welfare field. It demonstrates too the success of the policy adopted by the Government. I have witnessed many aged persons homes being built under this plan in country areas and in each instance great success has been achieved, I have already mentioned that local committees have been formed on a purely non-profit, voluntary basis and have given splendid service.
It was interesting to hear the Minister state in his second reading speech that of our 834,000 age pensioners over 519,000, or 62 per cent, live in their own homes. Of course, it would be a wonderful situation if that could be arranged to a greater extent.
State housing authorities and unsubsidised hostels provide for a further 25,000 people while 40,000 people live in commercially operated nursing homes. Some are living with relatives under excellent conditions. However, it is estimated that 50,000 pensioners may be living under unsatisfactory or poor standard conditions and paying high rent. It is these people for whom the Government is endeavouring to provide. There are long waiting lists with the organisations providing hostel-type accommodation under the Aged Persons Homes Act. This Bill will give some existing organisations the right to construct new hosteltype accommodation from wholly Commonwealth funds; that is, they need not touch their own resources.
For 2 very good reasons I feel that the Government has been very fair in its adoption of this procedure. Firstly, the institutions have already contributed a fair share by providing beds themselves before the present subsidy became effective. Secondly, the institutions have no need to prove their bona fides, because their actions over the years have given undoubted proof of it. The new accommodation to be provided under this crash programme is all to be of hostel-type and no capital donation will be required from the occupants. The accommodation is to be allocated on the basis of need and the Minister today gave a very detailed account of the regulations that will apply in this regard. The Bill also provides grants of up to $250 for each person towards the cost of furnishing these homes. These 2 Bills will be of great benefit to aged people right across Australia and clearly spell out the Government’s regard and concern for the welfare of the aged.
– It gives me considerable pleasure to speak on the Aged Persons Hostels Bill this afternoon, and at the outset I offer my sincere congratulations to both the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) and the Government for what they have done in this field of social welfare. We have heard during the debate this afternoon a number of comments from both sides of the House; from the Opposition side they have been critical comments. I suppose at this time of the year, just prior to an election, this is only to be expected. Anyone who cares to read today’s Hansard tomorrow and to analyse what has been said by the Opposition will see that what Opposition members have said comprises fairly empty comments. This in itself is an acknowledgment that what the Government is doing is of great value. I heard one Opposition member earlier refer to the Bill as trifling, and as a result I made some calculations to see how it will affect my own electorate. In my electorate there is the Hospice at East Brisbane which will now qualify for 40 new beds, the Lutheran Church Senior Citizens Home at Woolloongabba which will qualify for 14 beds and the Bethany Aged Christians Home at Norman Park which will qualify for 7 beds. The Hospice will receive S3 12,000, the Lutheran Church at Woolloongabba $109,000 and the Bethany Aged Christians Home $54,000. I can assure honourable members opposite that when I conveyed this news to the people in charge of those homes they did not regard it as trifling.
If we were to look closely at the effects that this proposed Act will have throughout the nation we would find that it would be most beneficial, particularly to Australia’s older citizens. We have heard comments this afternoon from various honourable members about the problems of growing old, and the Minister mentioned in his second reading speech the alarming trend in the community for families and relatives to look to nursing homes to solve the problems of the accommodation and care of the aged. He also mentioned that many young couples today are either unable or unwilling to care for their aged parents. 1 would prefer to think that they were unable rather than unwilling, because I believe that if a person is in a position to do so - and I may be branded old fashioned for saying this - he or she has an obligation to do something for the parents. Upon looking at what this Liberal-Country Party Federal Government has done, I, as a member of one of those Parties, bear no shame for what this Government has done for the aged, because since it came to power in 1949 a great deal has been done. Prior to that time - and I know that there are Opposition members who would probably condemn their own Party’s performance when in government - very little was done to assist the aged in this country. We have seen the introduction of the Aged Persons Hostels Bill and this, coupled with the Aged Persons Homes Bill and the States Grants (Dwellings for Aged Pensioners) Act certainly is taking the worry and concern out of growing old.
In my electorate in the last couple of years 3 or 4 blocks of units for aged persons have been erected jointly by the Commonwealth and State governments. Single pensioners who do not have a home of their own and who have been found to be living in below standard circumstances are given a unit for which the single rate is about $3.50 a week and the rate for a married couple is approximately $5 a week. In my time as the honourable member for Griffith, I have seen the establishment of the Panorama Lodge by the Methodist Church where approximately 70 people now have accommodation in what I regard as very satisfactory surroundings. All these actions combined are certainly tangible evidence that this Government has been a government that has cared. When I look at the table and see the Minister for Social Services sitting there, I recognise him as being symbolic of the concern which has been shown over the years and I know that he derives a great deal of satisfaction from witnessing the strides that have been taken in recent times.
The Opposition was fairly political earlier today in denigrating what is being proposed in these Bills so, just as it has been political, I feel it is fitting that I should conclude my comments today on a political note. I do not regard politics as being just a game because politics involves people. Each side of the House attempts to make political capital out of the other side and for our side to ignore this completely would be to let down the entire nation. The Aged Persons Homes Act permits local councils to erect aged persons homes. This is another benefit which has been introduced by this Government. In my home city of Brisbane we have a Labor city council which has a budget larger than that of Tasmania. Many people presently are wrestling with the rights and wrongs of what is being done by the State Government in that city. Since the introduction of the provision which enables local councils to contribute one-third of the cost of aged persons homes, that Australian Labor Party city council has not driven even a bent wooden peg into the ground. Yet, honourable members opposite masquerade around pretending they belong to a Party of concern. Certainly, it is a Party of concern around election time.
Honourable members opposite claim that everything that the Government is doing at this time is just political and is designed to win votes. What is politics all about? Governments stay in power by responding to the wishes of the people and if, on occasion, a government can more than anticipate the needs of the people through proper planning, I believe that in so doing it is showing the nation that it is not a tired government that has been in office for 23 years and is showing that it is not time that it was kicked out because it is lethargic. It is showing that it is able, as it has been in the last 2 decades, to lead this nation into the future as capably as it has been led in the past.
In conclusion, I wish again to congratulate the Minister for Social Services on this innovation. The Aged Persons Hostels Bill is a little different from the Aged Persons Homes Bill in that it stipulates that no key money is required to gain entry into these new hostels. This means that in the electorate of Griffith some 61 aged persons who could not otherwise have afforded to take advantage of the. Aged Persons Homes Act will soon be able to seek and obtain accommodation to ensure that their latter years are pleasant years.
– in reply - I thank honourable members on both sides of the House for what they have said during the course of this debate. May I just sum up and try to put some matters in perspective. The 2 Bills which we are debating together are part of a pattern. The doubling of the personal care subsidy will enable the hostel type accommodation to be run without loss by the organisations concerned and still leave a spending margin for the inmates. The new subsidy for hostels will enable the organisations to expand more quickly the hostel type accommodation. This is a crash programme for 3 years and is designed to have quite an immense impact upon the entire situation.
Since we are not going to have a Committee debate, may I take this opportunity of reiterating some of the details of the Aged Persons Hostels Bill in case they are not quite clear in the minds of honourable members. The qualifying home really is one which has not received the full subsidy. If it is a qualifying, unsubsidised home and it is a home which, in essence, is the same whether it be maintained as a hostel type, nursing home type or unit type aged persons home, it will qualify. The unsubsidised home is one which has received no subsidy. The subsidised qualifying home is one which was built between the years 1954 and 1957 and which therefore received only a $1 for $1 subsidy. This is the basis of the computation on which the subsidy will be paid. For every bed in an unsubsidised qualifying home, there will be 2 new subsidised beds. For every 2 beds in a subsidised qualifying home there will be one new subsidised bed. So, if we take the example of an aged persons home which has 50 beds and which has received no subsidy, under the new provisions it will be entitled to receive the new subsidy on 100 beds. In the case of an aged persons home which has 50 beds and which, in the past, has received a $1 for $1 subsidy, it will now be entitled to receive the subsidy on 25 beds.
– Does that mean that there will be no subsidy for homes which had received a $2 for $1 subsidy?
– No, they have already received their full subsidy. The subsidy is $7,800 per bed, to which is added $250 for furnishings which, in round figures, is a total subsidy of $8,000. This subsidy must be spent on hostel type accommodation without donation by the incoming residents and accommodation must be given in accordance with need. However, a new hostel need not be built on the same site as the existing home. The organisation will have a free choice as to whether it will invest the new subsidy in its existing home on its own site or whether it will move to another site. The organisation will have a free choice in that regard and it may use the money for one home or for 2 homes as it sees fit. We are not going to try to trammel that. What we want are hostel beds quickly. We want them without donation by incoming residents and we want them allocated to those in need. These are the requirements. Because they are going into the administration of organisations which have, by their past actions, given evidence of their full bona fides, we will ensure that the best possible use will be made of this money.
I have instanced to the House church organisations, bodies like the Returned Services League, organisations for the blind and charitable trusts of long standing. These organisations are all run by good people and they will find it no hardship at all to take the money, to say ‘We will take no further donation in respect of it’ and to allocate it in accordance with need. Do honourable members think, for example, that organisations like Chesalon Church of England, St Vincent de Paul, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Lutheran homes or the Montefiore homes will find these conditions onerous? Of course not. It will be very much the opposite. I am sure that they will be welcomed. I want to see from this an efflorescence of hostel beds all over Australia to meet the needs of old people and to prevent the undue incursion of aged people into nursing homes in the future. This is what the programme is aimed at and this is what it will do.
I think that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) raised an important point when he asked: ‘Will this $7,800 be sufficient?’ In general I think it will because we are dealing- with hostel type accommodation which, taking it by and large, is the most economical type of accommodation to build. Our investigations indicate that at present, for this amount or less, a bed can very conveniently be provided. It may be that they will not be able to provide the full number of beds. I do not know this. The plans will be approved from time to time by my Department. This scheme is very flexible. It is inflexible, I suppose, in the sense that it has to be directed to those most in need and it has to be run by those who are best qualified to run it, but in its administration within those limitations it will have a great deal of margin for operation and I believe it will be very quickly effective.
I do not know what the reaction of these organisations will be - I have not been in touch with them - but I think I can predict it fairly certainly. I feel that these charitable organisations - seeing the need, knowing that they can now go ahead without further capital expenditure themselves and knowing that because of the cognate Bill on the subsidy they will be able to run without loss - will feel that they have every reason to act quickly. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), I think it was, spoke about our estimates of cost. How can we have a firm estimate of cost when we are dependent on what voluntary organisations themselves decide? We cannot command them. But it has been a principle in the past with the Aged Persons Homes Act that a proper application for a subsidy has never been refused on financial grounds, and I see no reason to believe that the present Bill will not be the same in that regard.
I have taken note of the other matters that have been raised in this debate but I shall not refer to them in detail. Perhaps I should mention but one or two of them. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) spoke about this scheme being piecemeal. It is not piecemeal. This is part of a scheme to help the ailing aged, the most comprehensive scheme, the most effective scheme, traversing the Department of Health and my Department. I think it is the most comprehensive and the most effective scheme that we have ever had in Australia and, in all probability, it is the best and most forward scheme that exists in any part of the world, because it covers the whole spectrum in a way in which I do not think any other scheme does with the same efficiency and effect. It is perfectly true that we will not solve these problems overnight. Buildings take time.
– About 23 years.
– An honourable member has said ‘23 years’, but in that time this Government has made greater strides for the real benefit of the ailing aged than have ever been made before. We have a system here, in our aged persons homes organisation of which we may well he proud. I have heard the phrase ‘key money’ used in this debate. I have heard people speaking of the nation’s take. I remind the House - honourable members will know this from the monthly statements which I circulate to all honourable members - that the majority of beds which are being built under the old system are free of donation. I remind the. House also that even the beds that have been built with donation eventually become charitable beds, because each bed will have 10, 12 or 15 occupants during the course of its lifetime. Old people, generation after generation, will use them and be. grateful. We are accumulating a stock of real charitable beds. This could not have been done so quickly or effectively under any other scheme. This new Bill that we are bringing in is by no means a substitution for our existing’ aged persons homes scheme. The aged persons homes scheme as we have it will go on unchanged. This will be a temporary addition to it, a crash programme designed as part of the Government’s scheme to help effectively the ailing aged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Wentworth) read a third time.
– by leave - I would like the indulgence of the House to clarify a point in the second reading speech I made this afternoon on a Bill concerning additional supplementary payments. I spoke to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) about this earlier and he explained that it was not possible for him to be here. I wish to draw the attention of the House to what may be regarded as an ambiguity in my second reading speech on the States Grants (Universities) Bill 1972 and in my public announcement of 11th September when virtually identical words were used relating to the date of effect of increases in academic salaries arising from the inquiry to be conducted by Mr Justice Campbell. The position is that the Commonwealth will stand ready to make supplementary grants to the States on the basis of the usual formula in order to cover increases in academic salaries to take effect from 1st January 1973 which may arise from the recommendations in Mr Justice Campbell’s inquiry. Any such increases will, of course, require a Government decision on Mr Justice Campbell’s recommendations. That is the point that I have not made clear - that any rises would require a Government decision.
– by leave - I seek the indulgence of the House to clarify and correct an answer I gave to a question asked by the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) this morning. After studying the proof of the Hansard report I realised that I misheard and misinterpreted the question and therefore part of my answer related to the repatriation benefits for treatment and pensions which are available to all Army people who served in Vietnam on special service. I have, discussed the matter since with the honourable member for Hawker and I learnt then precisely what he meant in his question by the word ‘volunteers’. The honourable member for Hawker told me that he was referring to those who enlist for short term service in the Regular Army. The first part of the honourable gentleman’s question was:
Are volunteers- that is short term Regular Army personnel - who served in Vietnam denied the benefits of the retraining scheme for national servicemen who served in Vietnam?
The correct answer is that the retraining benefits of the national service vocational training scheme are not available to Regular Army personnel. The national service scheme is available to all national servicemen whether or not they served overseas. It is designed to help compensate them for the disruption to their civilian occupation. As to the other part of the question relating to the war service land settlement scheme, this is a matter concerning the Minister for Primary Industry who outlined the situation in that area in his answer to a question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) at a later stage during question time.
– I move:
The proposal is for the demolition of the existing post office and its replacement by a new post office and telephone exchange. The new building will house a ground floor post office and two upper floors of telephone exchange equipment. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $1.4m. The Committee has concluded that there is a need for the work and recommends its construction. Upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– I will not keep the House very long on this matter but I think that one aspect of it justifies some special mention. The construction of this post office and telephone exchange at Shepparton is not a large undertaking. As the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) indicated, it is to cost $1.4m. The proposed work is for a new post office and telecommunications centre. This complex will serve a great region - the Shepparton region in Victoria. The matter which gave the Public Works Committee some concern - and I think some conclusions ought to be drawn for our benefit in future - is that in the view of many people the construction of the proposed works will involve the destruction of a building of historical significance.
The post office and the court house which this proposal intends to destroy was constructed in 1883. Many people who know the Shepparton area regard the existing post office and court house as a landmark in that region. It is used on post cards and the like. A number of people have indicated in various ways their opposition to the destruction of this complex. Such people include representatives from the Country Women’s Association of Victoria and the Shepparton Historic Society.
The court house was acquired from the State of Victoria in 1870 and the post office was transferred to the Commonwealth at the time of federation. I can assure honourable members who have never seen this building that it is magnificent and in my view it is a shame that it is to go. We were told that in Victoria alone the Post Office holds some 29 buildings which have been classified in some way by the National Trust. This particular building has such a classification. Earlier it was classified by the National Trust as being of sufficient interest to be recorded. Subsequently it was reclassified. The current classification of the building is that its preservation is desirable. This contention worried a number of members of the Committee who have learnt, through their involvement in public works matters, to be non-vandalistic and to have some regard for the aesthetic factors in life:
There are in Victoria a number of outstanding buildings among the 29 post offices which have a very high classification. I hope that no government will ever want to destroy some of these buildings which are part of our national heritage. Some of the post office buildings that are of significant historical value are located at Sale, Koroit and Maribyrnong. Some investigation was made into the possibility of preserving the post office building at Shepparton. Speaking from memory 1 think that an additional $490,000 would be involved if that objective were pursued.
The point I want to make is that this desirable business of classifying post offices of historical significance should not be entrusted to the Post Office. In my view, the process of determining whether or not post office buildings should undergo a modernising programme or remain as they are should be accepted by the Government as a governmental responsibility. I should like to suggest that the Ministry for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts - this Ministry which is very ambiguous in many respects and which from the environmental standpoint hardly seems to have come down to any positive line of objectivity - should start to accept some responsibility in this regard. I believe that the Government should look at all such post offices in Australia - and they are 150 in number - which have a National Trust classification. The Government should determine a real sense of priority about them and decide whether any of them are to be subjected to a modernisation programme.
I do not know whether the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson), who is in the House at the moment, has consciously applied himself to this matter and whether in fact he concedes that it ought to be the responsibility and the prerogative of his Department to liaise with the Post Office in this case and indeed with many other Departments where there is a responsibility to determine whether an historical building, such as the Customs House in Sydney, is to remain.
– We have talked to the National Trust about this.
– One of the unfortunate facts, if the Minister has associated himself with this problem, is that no evidence was given to the Committee about the Government’s interest in retaining this building, or if in fact it has any interest in retaining any building at all. It is quite impossible for members of the Public Works Committee to see the relative historical merit of buildings because we could never see all the post offices in a State or, for that matter, in Australia. I venture to say, in all reality, that it would not be possible to retain all the buildings which have some historical value and significance. It would be of very great assistance to the Committee, the Parliament, and the community at large if a scale of priorities was determined by the Minister. I strongly commend the idea that he should apply himself to working towards that end.
It is of some interest that although the building is to be removed it will be removed in such a way as to facilitate its rehabilitation or reconstruction by the Shepparton City Council on an international centre. Of course, a lot of historical significance will go and some damage will occur in the removal, but at least it is some solution. I would be greatly encouraged if the Minister would make some comment as to the suggestion I have made regarding the desirability of his Department preparing a scale of priorities for the preservation of historical post offices.
– I support the proposal before the House for the construction of a new post office and telephone exchange at Shepparton, which is in my electorate. I congratulate the Public Works Committee on this recommendation and on the conscientious and detailed study that it made of these proposals. I think its example in this regard is a most worthy one for a parliamentary committee doing its work in a conscientious way. Not only did the Committee study the alternative proposals which were put forward, but it visited the area and allowed local opinion and the views of Shepparton people on the proposed demolition of the existing building to be heard.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) referred to the problem that arose because this building is of historical value in the Shepparton area. The real problem the Committee faced was to decide whether the existing building could be maintained and altered to provide sufficient facilities for the Shepparton area in the future or whether it would be better to demolish it and build a new post office and telephone exchange. I believe that the Committee made the right decision, because Shepparton is one of the most rapidly growing provincial areas in Australia, and growing with it is the postal and telecommunications business, which will require a larger and more up to date building than can be provided by the alteration of the existing building.
I am glad that the honourable member for Hughes also mentioned the careful demolition of the existing building. In the evidence the Shepparton City Council requested careful demolition so that the building material could be obtained, free of charge, for re-erection on another site. I remind the Parliament that it was stated by departmental representatives at the hearing that the Shepparton City Council could be assured of the co-operation of the Commonwealth in arranging the careful demolition of the building, and the contract would provide accordingly. I hope that the Commonwealth adheres to this assurance and also that the Shepparton City Council is able to continue with its project to re-erect what is the only old building of any significance in the Shepparton area. I repeat that I support the proposal and congratulate the Committee on its good work.
– I wish to voice brief support for the sentiments expressed by my friend, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). I do not know Shepparton all that well, but 1 have driven through it on numerous occasions. Part of the charm of our country towns is the buildings that were put there by our great grandparents and our grandparents. I do not care what is done to the Shepparton Post Office as part of taking it down and putting it up somewhere else; not only is the building being shifted but the charm and character of the street in which it stood is being changed. I am confident that no other country in the world would proceed in this way. It is true enough that we have only 100 years or so of this kind of history. If this generation had been operating in Britain over the last 2 or 3 centuries I have no doubt that the British would no longer have Canterbury Cathederal or Westminster Abbey. I believe there is a total Philistine approach to this question of what might be called progress. I oppose it.
I recall when I first entered this Parliament the long and homeric battles that took place about the Customs House in Melbourne. There were those who said that that valuable building must be destroyed. They said: ‘We can put something else on the site’. After long battles in which the Public Works Committee played a very important part, the building has been preserved, I think, to the advantage of Melbourne- certainly to the advantage of the Federal members whose offices are there. It also sets standards different from those that prevail in this rather materialistic and vandalistic age. I am a little disappointed that the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) does not see it that way. I have been through the transcript of evidence taken by the Committee on this matter in a hurried way. I do not think he appeared before the Committee and put a point of view one way or the other. I would expect that members of this Parliament at least ought to be attempting to preserve those aspects of the past which give us charm, character and some stimulation. The longer I live the more gratitude I feel and the more respect I have for my grandparents’ generation. Under great difficulties and with minimal resources at their disposal they created many of the things that give Australia its character. I will be astonished if the subsequent building that goes up - probably a glass box and a reinforced concrete structure - will preserve the existing charm of the street in Shepparton where the post office is presently situated.
– I want to make a few brief comments with regard to the Shepparton Post Office. I have been informed that the Australian Post Office has a category of priorities in relation to the historical value of its buildings. It has taken the trouble to look at the buildings that it has throughout the Commonwealth with the object of giving a higher priority to the buildings which have a particular, special or greater historical significance. So the Post Office has not been neglectful of this angle. I also pay a tribute to the interest taken by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) in this matter. He has discussed it with me.
– He never appeared before the Public Works Committee.
– It is his own prerogative whether he comes before the Committee. I feel that he had such confidence in the Committee that he felt it would lake the right decision, which he has just complimented it on doing. So he has taken a very keen interest in the matter. It would not be possible to retain all the buildings that perhaps even the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) might like to retain. There is a cost involved iri doing this. While I have a great respect and admiration for the historical societies and the work they do - in fact they are operating in my own area - I feel that- some degree of priority has to be given to those buildings we should preserve. I believe also that there has to be some measure by which assistance can be given to those organisations who want to preserve buildings such as the Shepparton post office. But we also have to look at the cost to the community over all. Perhaps some measure, some pattern or some formula could be arrived at whereby people could make application for assistance in the renovation or the preservation of these buildings, provided they themselves are prepared to undertake perhaps the maintenance of them in the future. I am not setting down specific guidelines, but I believe this is something that could be looked into. I repeat that my understanding is that the Post Office has a priority system under which it has placed into various categories the buildings which it thinks should be preserved because of their historical significance.
– I am grateful to the members of the Public Works Committee for having raised the preservation of important and ancient Commonwealth buildings. I have already been giving a lot of thought to this subject, and I have had discussions with members of the Australian National Trust, who often advise on the category buildings should be placed in and their importance. Suffice it to say that after hearing the debate today I shall be reinforced in my determination to see whether we can do more in the future than we have done in the past. Honourable members may know of the success that I had as the honourable member for Fawkner in saving the South Yarra Post Office from destruction. I therefore can say that over the years I have shown as much sympathy to the problem as have members of the Public Works Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1972, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Redevelopment of Kormilda College for Aboriginal Students, Darwin.
The proposal involves the construction of new buildings to provide residential and educational facilities for 310 male and female Aboriginal students preparing for secondary education or undertaking 3-year post primary courses. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $3.3m. The Committee concluded that there is a need for the work and recommends that it proceed to construction. Upon the concurrence of the House in this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
– I support this motion with a great deal of pride and enthusiasm. In the 6 years that I have been a member of the Public Works Committee I cannot recall the Committee’s showing such a deep interest in a reference before it. I think the members of the Committee were truly reflecting the interest of the Australian people expressed a few years ago their vote in a referendum proposal put to them by the Government, by which they expressed concern for the uplifting of the standards of the Aboriginal people. The inquiry by the Public Works Committee was very lengthy. The Committee’s Chairman, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), who is known for his devotion to his task, worked us almost to. breaking point When the inquiry was held in Darwin, on some nights we did not finish taking evidence until after 10 o’clock.
The Australian people should be proud of achievements in the higher education field for the Aboriginal people through Kormilda College. It certainly did want uplifting. It was one of the most dilapidated buildings ever to be inspected by the Public Works Committee. Many parts of it were riddled with white ants. It was an old Army building and I think that all Australians would have been embarrassed had visitors from overseas seen the dilapidated condition of the building in which Aborigines were being educated.
The proposal involves the construction of new buildings at Kormilda College to provide residential and educational facilities. As the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has just said, these facilities are for 310 male and female Aboriginal students preparing for secondary education or undertaking 3-year post-primary courses. Some evidence was given to the Committee which made it difficult for the Committee to reach its conclusions. We welcomed conflicting opinions given in sworn evidence before us. There was merit in many of the opinions expressed to us by studious and wise people.
We had evidence from Miss Sommerlad of the Australian National University who had done a 12-month study of the way of life of Aborigines, particularly at Kormilda College. Her opinions conflicted with those of representatives of the Northern Territory Welfare Branch.
Evidence was also given by Mr WesleySmith, a very enterprising young fellow who shows a deep interest in community affairs in the Northern Territory and throughout Australia. He is an agronomist with the Department of Agriculture in the Northern Territory. I thought his evidence was rich in merit. He suggested that resort be had to different educational practices. He was not opposed in any way to the rebuilding or modernisation of the College. Miss Sommerlad believed, as did all witnesses before the Committee, that the uplifting of Kormilda College would be beneficial to the education of the Aboriginal people. The main conflict before the Committee concerned the educational training methods for Aborigines. Mr Wesley-Smith pointed out that there should be greater encouragement and greater use of Aboriginal teaching students. He said that they should be used at all levels in the educational programme and, in that event, he wanted to know where the appropriate accommodation had been planned in the new buildings.
While we might agree that it was an interesting and intelligent submission we are cognisant of the fact that a ceiling must be placed on the expenditure, no matter what is the project. Mr Wesley-Smith was suggesting the provision of accommodation for the families of Aboriginal teaching students. I hope that one day, if it is found that the employment of Aboriginal teaching students as teachers at Kormilda College is a step in the right direction, provision will then be made to house their wives and children. Mr Wesley-Smith was supported in his view by Mr Bruce MacKenzie, a director of the Young Men’s Christian Association at Darwin.
Mr Wesley Smith also referred to the work of Japanese Professor Mazrui, a world authority on education who teaches children of 4 years of age to play the violin. Mr Wesley-Smith emphasised that the basis of the professor’s success lay in teaching the mothers of the children to play the violin.
He related that point to housing the parents of the students at the college or in its immediate precincts. However, the estimated cost of the project is S3. 3m and that could be doubled if all the recommendations of the witnesses which conflicted with the views of the Welfare Branch were implemented. All members of the Committee were concerned with the cost.
Committee members also expressed concern with the problem of plural marriages in the Territory. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), perhaps could place greater emphasis on that aspect. He was interested in the moral degradation of young girls who attend Kormilda College, return to the missions and become virtually victims of the lust of elderly Aborigines. As a father of daughters I regard that problem very seriously. The Welfare Branch is trying to discourage this practice but I think more vigorous efforts could be employed to abolish it.
– Is that practice not dying out?
– I do not believe it is. It is certainly not dying out to the extent that the Committee would like to have seen and it caused us some concern. Other members of the Committee are probably waiting to speak to this motion. This is a step in the right direction. The Committee welcomes the raising of the standard of the buildings. I personally want to go on record as congratulating the Government for what it is doing in this regard. I think the whole of the Australian people would be behind the Government in the spending of this S3. 3m to upgrade Kormilda College at Darwin.
– I rise to support this proposal. In commending the Government on the planning that it has put into these proposed works, I could not omit to commend the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works which spent so much time and gave so much consideration to the many problems which came up during the hearings in relation to Kormilda College. During the year of its existence Kormilda College has been of tremendous and real value, to Aborigines and Aboriginal students from every corner of the Northern Territory - including those in Arnhem Land, those at Port Keats Mission and those down in the central area of the Northern Territory. The buildings which comprise Kormilda College were pre-wai Army huts. They were in a very bad state and a lot of money needed to be spent to do the upgrading work which is now proceeding.
One of the things that I would not like to see overlooked is the spirit in which the people assisting and teaching these boys and girls at Kormilda College have done their work. I have been there when the rain has been pouring in and driving across their open air theatre. Despite the state of the buildings and these other hardships, these people have still maintained this magnificent spirit. I think this spirit has been passed on to many of the students at the College. I have seen the students performing at sport and performing at their theatre and 1 have noticed that they do have a very fine college spirit. The College is doing a tremendous amount of good. These people are able to come from all over the Territory to a place that will help to develop their character. I hope that Yirara College at Alice Springs will do the same thing.
I commend the Government on the thought and the planning that it has put into both of these colleges. With the provision of these new buildings Kormilda College will have a manual trades area, art, craft and domestic science buildings and also buildings in which the students will be taught agriculture and animal husbandry. This is a very good approach because many of these boys and girls come from settlements and missions and areas where cattle husbandry is carried on. In some areas there are beef cattle studs and other studs as well as the growing of agricultural products. If the students can gain some training in these matters at the College it will be a very good thing. I notice in the plan for the College that there is a natural amphitheatre in the area. This is to be developed as a corroboree ground where students can perform native dances. Also they will be able to put on concerts which I am sure will be enjoyed by the students themselves and by any visitor who might be present. So I commend the Government and the Public Works Committee for the work that is being done at Kormilda College.
– No-one can quibble about the need to replace the old buildings which Kormilda College has occupied for some years. I think the College was established in 1967 but the buildings were established some 30 years ago. They have been used as an Army hospital, a transit centre for Qantas Airways Limited, and they have a warehouse effect about them rather than that of a modern educational institution. The buildings which will replace this complex of shacks are of very suitable design. The concept of this College actually emanated from a report of the Watts Gallagher Committee of 1962. I think that the work done by that Committee probably served in some measure to update the thinking which took place 10 years ago about the concept of providing residential colleges for Aboriginal people.
There are approximately 6,000 Aboriginal children in schools in the Northern Territory, and the likelihood is that many of them will leave their home towns and come to one of the 3 residential colleges being provided in the Northern Territory region. The Dhupuma College at Gove was established this year. Kormilda College is operating in these old fashioned buildings and, of course, the new Yirara College is being established at Alice Springs. It will open in 1973 and accommodate some 300 students. With the 610 students able to be accommodated at Kormilda, there will be at any one time approximately 700 or 800 children in these residential colleges. Obviously this is a matter which has to be thought about very carefully because it involves taking the children of this race of people in substantial numbers away from their tribes and villages.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) spoke of the beneficial efforts on children who attend Kormilda College. Doubtless there have been some very beneficial effects, but there is obviously a need for the people in the departments who are responsible for these children to have a very good, hard look at the situation. My colleague the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) touched on this matter earlier when he referred to the research worker, Miss Sommerlad, who spent, I think, about a year there in 1970. She revealed a number of deficiences and some very serious problems which need attending to and which need to be accommodated in some measure in the design and utilisation of the complex of buildings which we are now discussing. For example, she was able to establish that in 1970, the year she was there, the dropout rate was 43 per cent. She established that only 17 per cent of the students who enrolled in 1968 or 1969 and who could have completed a post primary course - that is a 3-year course - in fact did so. Of the students who did not drop out, 83 per cent had no further education when they returned to their home communities. In total, more than 63 per cent of all students dropped out before completing a minimum of 2 years. Of all enrolments in the first term of 1970, 43 per cent dropped out during the year.
All of us here would have liked to have seen a much better result. We cannot blame the result on the Aboriginal children, many of whom go to these colleges with great anticipation, great hopes . and great enthusiasm, but something happens to them when they get there. Without over-emphasising this point, Miss Sommerlad referred to the incidence of deviant behaviour. I am not putting emphasis here on the interpretation of deviant behaviour as we usually understand it. The fact of the matter is that there was a very large incidence of deviant behaviour involving running away from school, being absent without permission, breaches of discipline, and some of the other more undesirable things. Miss Sommerlad said that some 23 per cent of the students surveyed engaged in 4 or more types of deviant behaviour. More than half of the students have been absent from the College without approval on at least 2 occasions, and a considerable number engaged in promiscuous behaviour. This sort of thing happens these days in this permissive society among all races and in all age groups. However, the incidence among these students might be more alarming than we would like to see.
She mentioned also that there were psychosomatic symptoms among many children. She found 10 different types of psychosomatic stress. Only 2 students failed to exhibit any symptoms at all. Twenty-five per cent showed at least 4 symptoms. They involved maladjustment, identity confusion, suffering from nightmares and symptoms of high sickness. Basically it seems that these symptoms often emanated from a change of life style involving emotional stresses which these young people were not equipped to cope with. This young lady, whose investigations have been the subject of an expression of appreciation by the Northern Territory Administration, went on to make some proposals as to how these problems could be overcome. 1 want to emphasise 3 or 4 of them.
We have ascertained that insufficient Aboriginal staff was employed at Kormilda. In an institution where there is a great problem about finding employment for graduates one would feel that there would be much more application to this matter of facilitating the employment of Aboriginal people on the staff of an Aboriginal students college. Miss Sommerlad believes that there should be greater parental involvement at the College. This is not always easy because the children come from far-off places, but it is important to ensure that facilities for parents are provided and for them to be encouraged to come to the College from time to time and participate in the community life. She believes that there should be greater emphasis in demonstrations and practice of Aboriginal culture. The honourable member for the Northern Territory referred to this. There is some recognition of the need for these things but in the view of Miss Sommerlad and others who have a hard application to Aboriginal affairs insufficient is done. She believes that the children are left to their own resources to too great an extent after school hours and that more staff should be available to service these periods. She strongly advocated that there should be a school counsellor and a vocational guidance officer.
Her criticism included the contention that there is very little interaction between the Aboriginal people and the white people in the local community. She said that there is very little encouragement to Aboriginal identity; there is little chance to practice skills, decision making and to engage in business accepting responsibility. There were others who made critical remarks. My colleague, the honourable member for Hunter mentioned the very forthright evidence given by the Director of the YMCA,
Mr McKenzie. He was not carried away with the Kormilda idea at all. In fact he had this to say to the Committee:
It is another act in the continuing Aboriginal tragedy. Very little consultation has been solicited from Aboriginal people; even the Administration hand-picked Advisory Council seems to have been ignored.
He said that there is no question that there was insufficient consultation with the Aboriginal people. In fact after the Committee had virtually completed its inquiry it decided to re-open it because at that stage not one Aboriginal person had given evidence, nor had any representatives of the missions from which many Aboriginal children come. So we decided to re-open the inquiry to encourage the representatives of these missions and the representatives of Aboriginal organisations to come before the Committee. Surprisingly there was little response. Mr Bill Ryan, who is an Aboriginal Welfare Officer, came along. He was the person of Aboriginal descent who stood out as a witness, and he had the most forthright ideas about the whole Kormilda concept. He disparaged it and indicated that he himself had come from an entirely different situation.
I believe that we have to look hard at the alternative which he put forward. During the war years he was moved from the Northern Territory down to an area in my electorate known as Otford where a number of Aboriginal children came, and he said that the desirable thing was to get them out of this segregated atmosphere and maybe have a residential place for them to live but otherwise to send them into community schools where they could obtain an effective association with the white community. Mr McKenzie of the YMCA questioned the Kormilda College concept and he said that there was insufficient emphasis on physical education, sex education, recreation and counselling. He said:
The socio-cultural, socio-economic and sociointegration/segregation aspects of Aboriginal life have been ignored.
This whole inquiry has not been without controversy by any means. I believe that the time has come for something more expert than the Public Works Committee to conduct an objective inquiry into the form of Aboriginal education to be under taken in the Northern Territory. It obviously should be the prerogative of skilled educationalists.
Views along these lines were expressed by a number of witnesses including Mr Wesley Smith, who was referred to by one of my colleagues. Generally speaking I would acknowledge that the dedicated people who comprise the staff of the College have been working under great difficulties. There were some who would like to have given the Committee the benefit of their experience, and I will mention this aspect of the matter. There seems to me to be in the Welfare Division in the Northern Territory a pervading intimidatory atmosphere the like of which is not known in any other government department that I know of in Australia. We have had several instances during the course of various Committee inquiries where some people have expressed the view that if they gave evidence before the Committee, giving the benefit of their experience and their involvement in Aboriginal affairs, they could be the subject of prejudice in their jobs.
This is a Public Service community; so much of the Northern Territory is like that. In Alice Springs, in Darwin and in other parts of the Territory the very wellinformed people are public servants. Sometimes they are not in the department which is the subject of the inquiry but they have useful information to give. One is the deputy headmaster of this school. One or two people who have have very worthwhile experience in the Kormilda institution wanted to speak but it was clear that they had received advice that they could put their jobs in jeopardy if they gave evidence. This kind of intimidatory atmosphere has to be swept away if we are to get the benefit of the views of these people who have applied themselves to these problems for so long, lt is all right to go through the motions of bringing some Aboriginal people along who have been trained in the school and say to them: ‘What do you think about this place?’ Invariably they say: ‘It is a good place’. If we say: ‘Can you think of duy way to improve it’, they say: ‘No’. Obviously many of these people lack the experience to identify potential and the alternatives and too often the Administration uses this technique to justify its proposals.
It is far more desirable that they should bring in the experienced people who are educationalists or welfare officers and expose all this business to sensible examination. The best interests of the Aboriginal people are going to be served only if we face up to the facts. It is not a matter of embarrassing governments. It is not a matter of identifying undesirable things to the discredit of anybody. The positive approach is to tap all these sources and informed views so that there will be a better deal for the Aboriginal people in the future than there has been in the past.
– I just want to add a few words to this debate with regard to the rebuilding of Kormilda College. As my colleagues on the Public Works Committee have pointed out, this reference aroused a very great deal of interest. The Committee investigated it with as much thoroughness as was possible having regard to the time which was available to it and the amount of work which the Committee has to do. 1 think it is worthy of mention that because some people were not able to give evidence at the initial hearing and because the Committee felt that further evidence might be desirable we considered the matter on a second visit to the Territory so that people would be able to give further evidence. The Committee did request evidence to be given on behalf of some of the churches in particular so that we would have as good a picture as possible of the type of building and the type of education which would be in the best interests of the Aborigines. I believe that the Committee faced up to this aspect. One of the great difficulties that faces Australia today is to provide the best type of education possible for our Aboriginal students. I walked around the College with a number of groups, as did my colleagues. I talked to members of those groups and discovered that they had received a reasonable standard of education. Their education was improving. It was obvious that as a result of the Government’s approach to this matter we are providing the younger Aboriginals with a better standard of education and this is gaining a more ready acceptance of Aboriginal parents. However, this is no easy matter.
The need to promote the best type and standard of education for our Aboriginal children should give us great concern. From what I saw of Kormilda College I believe we are fully justified in reconstructing it. Although this is somewhat outside the Committee’s reference, I believe there will be a need to see that those students who are educated at the College are provided with the best type of employment commensurate with their education. They should be encouraged to take employment. This aspect should be followed up. I believe that the education methods being adopted at the college are as good as the Government has been able to devise. The College will play an increasingly important part in educating Aborigines who, in turn, will be able to influence their families and other Aboriginals in the community to recognise the advantage of a better educational standard. 1 have travelled around the Northern Territory with the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and have visited some of the settlements and Aboriginal missions. I have seen the great need for this type of education. As the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) pointed out, there are differences of opinion as to how best education can be provided. I commend the honourable member for Northern Territory for the tremendous interest he has shown in this and in many other projects in the Northern Territory. He is always alive to the need for improvements in his electorate. I thank him for giving me the opportunity of seeing at first hand the Aboriginal problem in the Northern Territory in a way that I would not have been able to see it without his assistance and the benefit of his tremendous knowledge. 1 am confident that Kormilda College will play a tremendously important role in the education of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. I believe that it is necessary to expand the College as much as possible because it is through Aborigines that we will be able to reach those other Aborigines who are not yet convinced of the need for and the benefits of a higher standard of education.
– It was interesting to hear the adulation of the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) for the honourable member for the Northern Territory. It is obvious that the honourable member for the Northern Territory has hidden talents which as yet have not been exposed to the public gaze in this Parliament. I do not advocate the preservation of the buildings at Kormilda College on the grounds of antiquity. At least we can be gratified that they have given long and faithful service since the Army had them erected in 1942. I do not suggest that we know the answers to the problems with which we are confronted. This is not an exercise in criticism of the Government. None of us knows the answers to the questions concerning the development of the culture of the Aboriginal people in such a way that they are able to fit into our societies. The Aboriginal people face a different challenge from the challenge facing the rest of the community, most of whom are able to live in a totally Western European type of society. The Aboriginal must live in a society which is basically Western European, in the numerical state of the nation, and also with his own race. This is a challenge to the intellect, psychology, emotions and spirit of a people and we really cannot understand it. It would be presumptuous for anybody to say he knew the answers. At least we can say that Kormilda is a step in the direction of trying to find the answers. As the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) has pointed out, we are a long way short of those answers.
I should make it clear, though, that the late arrival of the Government in showing interest in Aboriginal education was dictated more by the activities of the Labor Party in this Parliament than by any other factor. The Aboriginal Affairs Committee of the Labor Party has visited Kormilda on several occasions, the last as recently as July of this year. I suggest to the House and to the appropriate authorities the need to start looking beyond Australia’s horizons for answers to these questions. My colleague, the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), referred to some of the answers that Japanese researchers and social scientists have discovered to some of these questions. The whole problem of education of the Aboriginal people is still a closed book so far as we are concerned. Delving is proceeding throughout Australia, but we do not know the answers. At Easter time when I was in the Northern Territory for a conference of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders I had an interesting discussion with 2 people involved with the Aboriginal people. One was a senior inspector of schools in the Northern Territory. He pointed to the need for the young Aboriginal people who are going to make the pace for their own people becoming completely absorbed in the English language. The other man, who operates in Alice Springs among the Aboriginal people, said how important it was that they should be educated in their own language too. We have not developed techniques for bi-lingual or bi-cultural people in our society and therefore the Committee’s investigations have opened up a new area for examination by us.
As has been pointed out this afternoon, we will have to turn all the wit, will and expertise in the community to the problem. I simply reinforce those statements that have been made about this question. Kormilda College, with all its adventurousness and with the new concept that we hope will develop inside it, will still be faced with tremendous problems with the Aboriginal children who come here. I refer to its utter loneliness and to the fact that children will be taken from their total communities 300 miles or 400 miles away and be placed into another community where basically the people who run it are not of their race. They will be isolated from the general community so we must develop many more techniques for parental involvement and community involvement. I do not think it matters much if we spend a few more million dollars doing this, as it is one of the greatest social and intellectual challenges Australia faces.
I should like to see more trained Aboriginal people involved on the staff of the College. I would agree that the time has come when we could place there people who do not fit our concepts of what the public service should be. Some of the best people to place as house parents would, of course, be people from the students’ own background. The challenge is the same as it is for ourselves. How do we make education for the Aborigines relevant? We have not found the answers yet for adolescent education in Australia and therefore we need not be totally disheartened because we have not found it for the Aboriginal people. I appeal to the House and to the Government to make some general appeal to the international bodies concerned with questions of education and the training of across cultures rather than cross cultures. We should be a little less chauvinistic about these matters and should turn all our wit and will to them. I hope that Kormilda is a success and that we will provide all the resources that it needs. But, as has been pointed out and as is manifest in the evidence which has been made available to me - over 500 pages of it - the staffing and management of Kormilda still has to be a good deal more adventurous.
– I do not propose to take up much of the time of the House but I would like to say something about page 2 of the report where it refers to the aims of the College. I take it that on both sides of the House we are, without exception, supporting the expenditure of this money on Kormilda College. However, somebody should say, as did the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) who preceded me that there are certain values in the Aboriginal society that we tend to take for granted. On page 2 of the report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works it states that the Government’s policy is for assimilation of Aborigines, a parallel education system and so on. lt goes on to spell out a number of criteria. I would like to join with my colleagues in making a plea for greater Aboriginal involvement in this College. 1 realise it is not just a question of providing buildings, because if the culture of Aboriginal people is to be recognised and respected by teachers and instructors - and this comprised one of the items on page 3 of the report - it is obvious that the choice of staff has to be made very carefully. lt seems to me that there is something arrogant about our society that has permeated all our activities over the last 200 years in the sense that most Australians now regard the Aboriginal society and culture as an inferior society and culture which will eventually be replaced by our own. 1 do not accept that proposition at all.
A college such as this must guard against trying to turn the people who go there into what might be called white blackfellows. Many of those young people will go back and spend their lives in the communities from which they came, and this is a good thing. But if in the future the Aboriginal parents are to agree to their children going to Kormilda and other similar colleges much will depend on the effect that their time at Kormilda has had on these young people. It will also depend on the opportunities for gainful and rewarding employment that are provided in their communities. It is not enough to expect Kormilda College to be a halfway house in the transition of young Aborigines from the Aboriginal society into our own society. We have to recognise that most of these young Aborigines are interested in learning something about our society, but probably most of them will choose to return to live in their own communities. This is not a bad thing; it is a good thing. The College should genuinely reflect these desires among the Aboriginal people and respect them. The point was well taken by the honourable member for Wills that there is much about Aboriginal people that we do not understand. In those circumstances it behoves us all to tread warily.
– I did not intend to speak in this debate but, as a member of the Public Works Committee, I should say that it was not the Committee’s duty to investigate educational facilities. Its duty was to examine the site and see that the building was suitable and that the work was necessary. The educational facilities are a matter for the Department of Education and Science. However, during the hearing of evidence a lot of information came before the Committee with regard to this College and it was stressed on many occasions by witnesses that they would like to see more Aboriginal involvement in the teaching of Aborigines. We would all agree with this. But it was not the duty of the Public Works Committee to examine the educational facilities at the college. Its main object was to see that the site was suitable, that the building would be adequate and that it was necessary to spend this money on building the College.
Throughout our investigations a lot of questions were asked about educational standards and how they would be achieved. I do not think that this was wrong. But at the same time in my opinion it was not the duty of the Public Works Committee to investigate the educational standards or the methods of teaching. The College will do a good deal for the advancement of Aborigines in the area providing we do not frighten these people off. We cannot expect to bring these Aboriginal children into our’ society and up to our standards of education without looking at their side too. We frighten many of these children off with our education because they do not understand what we are trying to do for them. In fact we might be doing wrong in trying to build their standards up too fast. Along with my colleagues, I believe that there should be more involvement of Aboriginal teachers and others who understand the Aborigines and understand what we are trying to do for them. They must understand that by what we are trying to do for them they can improve themselves, but we must not force upon them something that they do not want. Too often we try to do this.
The College could be successful providing we take a proper attitude towards the environment there for these children. I say this guardedly because I have lived in an area which has a lot of Aborigines and I have been to school with these people. They do not understand what we are trying to do for them. They think we are trying to bully them to come up to our standards. This is not right. They have to be taught that we are trying to help them, but we have to understand them in the same way as they have to understand us. The College could be the beginning of an understanding between both races. If it is successful then we have done a good job. However, the Public Works Committee was presented only with the task of finding out whether the site was suitable, whether the building was suitable and whether the expenditure was warranted, and this is what the Committee has done. The Committee has done everything it can to encourage educational facilities, but I feel sometimes that we are trying to force the Aboriginal people into doing something they do not want to do. if we can involve some of our educated Aborigines in the education of their people we could do a lot more for them than we are doing at present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave of the House to make a brief statement relating to an article that appeared in the Courier-Mail’ on Wednesday, 13th September 1972, about the salaries of members of this Parliament.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– In the ‘Courier-Mail’ of 13th September 1972 under the headline: 3 Members seek more House power’ and the sub-heading: ‘MPs gripe at pay, facilities’, the following appears:
CANBERRA.- Federal politicians of both parties grumbled yesterday about poor pay, inadequate offices, lack of staff and the grass roots of the Parliamentary system.
The article continued:
Mr Daly said salaries were too low and the general public could not be blamed for thinking parliamentarians were not ‘up to much’ if they earned only ‘a couple of bob more’ than the average. (The salary of a Parliamentary backbencher is $15,200, including an electorate allowance of $3,200).
As is normal, the article is unsigned. Consequently I rise now to correct what was said in this article. I do so in the interests of all parliamentarians and particularly in the interests of the public. So let me put the record straight. City members of Parliament get a base salary of $9,500 and an electorate allowance of $2,750 making a total of $12,250, compared with the $15,200 referred to in this newspaper article.
– Will they make up the difference?
– 1 want to get to that. A country member of the Federal Parliament receives a salary of $9,500 plus an electorate allowance of $3,350 - a total of $12,850- as compared to the $15,200 stated by the ‘Courier Mail’. So, honourable members can see that either somebody is holding out on us and we are being underpaid or this article is completely false. Without being suspicious in any way and without reflecting on anyone, 1 would say that we are not being held out on but that this article is completely false and, as such, it should be corrected.
No-one minds proper comment on members’ salaries and conditions but the strange thing about the Press of this country - this writer probably is no different - is that the only salaries it criticises are those of the members of this Parliament. Although I am not quibbling about their salaries, I understand that metropolitan members of the Queensland Parliament receive $9,690 and I think that they have just been granted an 11 per cent increase which has been back dated. What does the ‘Courier Mail’ have to say about that? Every State parliamentarian in Australia, practically without comment from the Courier Mail’ or any other newspaper, has had an increase in salary in the last 12 months. There have been increases in New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland. I would say that the lowest paid members of Parliament in Australia are the Federal members of Parliament, when people ask for wage restraint, they should point to Federal members of Parliament. It is almost 5 years since the salaries of Federal members of Parliament were increased. So, why do the ‘Courier Mail’ and the author of this article not give a bit of credit to the Federal parliamentarians who are even bearing the increased costs of newspapers to read this rot that this person writes. This kind of misrepresentation has gone unchallenged for too long and I think that we in this Parliament are entitled to demand that it be corrected.
The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has just given me a cartoon which appeared in today’s ‘Courier
Mail I am sorry it cannot be incorporated in Hansard. Mr Deputy Speaker. Contained in the cartoon are the words ‘vote 1 for your sitting member’. People are standing around the member of parliament and the caption reads: The kindest thing we could do is to vote him out of his misery’. That cartoon is based on this inaccurate - I would say deliberately inaccurate - article by an unknown reporter. I would go so far as to say that the reporter and the editor of the newspaper should be called before the Privileges Committee of this Parliament to explain why he has denigrated members of Parliament when he could have checked this information as easily - probably more easily than - any other information in the Parliament. 1 do not make that statement idly. This reporter should at least be called upon to apologise to the Parliament and to correct his statement and we should demand that the correction be printed in the same way as the original article. Ail members from both sides of the Parliament could well be affected by this article in the forthcoming election.
Let us not forget that when newspapers attack the salaries of members of Parliament, they do not attack Liberal or Labor members. They attack every member of the institution. For some strange reason, they believe the only people in any section of society anywhere in Australia who are not entitled to a fair - not an extravagant - remuneration are members of the Federal Parliament. It is time that these people were called to book. In order to bring up to date this insignificant individual who wrote the article and the editor of this newspaper, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard this public document which sets out the salaries and allowances of Federal members of Parliament.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1972/19720914_reps_27_hor80/>.