28th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon.J. F. Cope) took the chair at 2 p.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 humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost many citizens more, particularly single people and working wives.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalisation of health services which will lead to impersonalised and mediocre standards of medical care, the creation of a huge new bureaucracy, and will licit the citizen’s freedom of choice.
That the present health scheme can be amended to overcome existing deficiencies, and that the proposed scheme is totally unnecessary.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Everingham, MrBonnett, Mr Fairbairn, Mr Eric Robinson, Mr Turner, Mr Viner, Mr Wentworth and Mr Willis.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the proposed ‘free’ national health scheme is not free at all and will cost four out of five Australians more than the present scheme.
That the proposed scheme is discriminatory and a further erosion of the civil liberties of Australian citizens, particularly working wives and single persons.
That the proposed scheme is in fact a plan for nationalised medicine which will lead to gross waste and inefficiencies in medical services and will ultimately remove an individual’s right to choose his/her own doctor.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Govment will take no measures to interfere with the basic principles of the existing health scheme which functions efficiently and economically.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Adermann, Mr Donald Cameron, Mr Drury, Mr McLeay and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian health insurance program and any national health scheme;
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a general practitioner, specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Cooke, Mr Corbett, MrJarman, Mr Katter, Mr Killen and Mr McVeigh.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work - integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Hayden, Dr Patterson, Mr Sinclair, Mr Cohen, Mr England, Mr Fairbairn, Mr MacKellar, Mr Reynolds and Mr Turner.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Mr Whittorn.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that your petitioners oppose the proposed reduction of Commonwealth per capita grants to independent schools on the following grounds:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge the right of every Australian child to equal per capita grants of government money spent on education.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That there are many people in Australia who still prefer ‘God Save The Queen’ as the National Anthem in preference to the alternatives that have been suggested.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will urge the Government to include ‘God Save The Queen’ in any referendum or poll held for the purpose of deciding the future of a national anthem.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr King.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) left Australia on 8 November to lead the Australian delegation to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Conference in Rome. He is expected to return to Australia on Sunday, 25 November. During his absence the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) will act as Minister for Primary Industry. I also inform the House that the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley) is expected to be away from the House for a further 2 weeks. We all wish him a speedy and complete recovery. The Postmaster-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) will act as Minister for Education until Mr Beazley returns.
– My question is addressed to the ‘Minister for Sugar’, or the Minister for Northern Development, who apparently has been slighted by the Prime Minister in relation to another portfolio. I ask the Minister: Is he aware that his colleague the Minister for Health, in a letter to the Australian Sugar Producers Association, has described sugar as a second rate food, a third rate drug and a third rate poison? Does the Minister agree with his colleague’s description, and does he agree that his colleague’s intentions will be detrimental to the marketing of sugar in Australia?
Br PATTERSON - I am aware of the personal views expressed by the Minister for Health. I have some personal views of my own on this matter.
– What are they?
– I will tell the honourable member. Sugar, for example, is often stated as being a very valuable energy food, particularly for people who engage in hard physical work, as is well known. It is interesting to note that some of the world’s top athletes, cyclists and fooballers chew sugar. If I may I will give the House my own personal experience. When I was young my grandmother had a recipe consisting of rum, sugar and onion juice and it was guaranteed to kill all worms. Looking at the honourable member who asked the question, I should point out that sugar is also reputed to be a cure for baldness. When I was looking up the references on sugar I also found the claim that in actual fact it adds years of life to the virility of men.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question relating to citizenship ceremonies. Following the passing of the Australian Citizenship Act will the Minister consider issuing a new procedure for citizenship ceremonies to ensure that these most important occasions are given added dignity and decorum? In this connection, will the Minister also ensure that adequate advice is given on the national anthem following its selection in the new year?
– It is our intention, following the passing of the Australian Citizenship Act, to issue new guidance on procedures for citizenship ceremonies in the future. I should like to say that in more than 800 local government areas throughout the whole of Australia there has been over the years a very fine effort made by the overwhelming majority of local government bodies and their officers to assist in the carrying out of what were known in the past as naturalisation ceremonies. 1 know that in the honourable member’s area there is a very high standard. However, it is true that in one or two regrettable instances some of the people who have been representing Ministers, past and present, have not ‘been too clear as to which citizenship they were conferring and in what country the recipients resided. I recall that on one occasion a shire president took the view that he was naturalising a group of people who were former enemies of this country and whom he would never really like. He has been long sent to his reward. I would just say in reply to some concern that has been expressed in regard to a minority of cases in which there has not been due dignity and decorum observed that following the passing of the new Act we will be making a special effort to ensure that all local government bodies are aware of the drill and procedure and which will conform to the best standards possible.
We have taken advice on this matter following a visit to Canada and to the United States. I pay a tribute to the Canadian system of conferring citizenship by saying that it is a magnificent one. We hope to do even better in the future. I thank the honourable member for his reference to the new national anthem which will be selected next year. I think his suggestion is a very useful one. The advice will include guidance as to . its legal status, its words and, if possible, its music. I have made <a search of the legislation and at the present time there is no legal Australian national anthem but I am sure that as a result of the Prime Minister’s initiative we will have one next year.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a great number of Australians are very upset by the decision of the Governor-General not to attend Princess Anne’s wedding? Is it a fact that this decision was made by the Governor-General on the advice of the Government? If that is the position, what is the pressing emergency which could not have been adequately handled in the circumstances by one of Her Majesty’s State Governors in order that the people of Australia could pay proper respect to the Queen of Australia?
– The Governor-General did discuss with me the invitation he had received from the Queen and Prince Phillip to attend Princess Anne’s wedding. I know that he also discussed it with the Queen and Prince Philip when they were in Canberra. That is a matter on which the GovernorGeneral makes up his own mind. I do not consider it appropriate to state what might have been the purport of discussions between His Excellency and me on this or similar matters, nor what I understand was the purport of discussions between His Excellency and the Queen and Prince Philip. I should inform honourable gentlemen that my memory is that no other Governor-General is attending the wedding. I have not heard, I do not believe, that State Governors were invited to attend the wedding.
– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to statements made in a television program last night that the Government has run out of money and cannot meet its bills? Is this statement true, or is it another hysterical outburst by people who should know better?
– I can assure the honourable gentleman that the statement that the Government has run out of money is not true. Answering this question gives me the opportunity to inform people both inside the House and outside the House who ought to know better than to accept such a suggestion just what the circumstances are. Under parliamentary appropriation procedures no amount of money can be spent for any purpose until the authority of the Parliament has first been given. There are certain gaps in procedures due to time, and the money that is currently being spent for most purposes - what is known as Supply - is what was decided in the Supply measures which were introduced into the House in April and passed, I think, in May of 1973. Those measures gave what is known as Supply from the beginning of the new financial year, that is 1 July, to the end of November. In most years the Supply that is associated with the Budget passes both Houses by the end of November, and usually there is not very much difficulty about bridging between the commencement of the financial year and that time. However, this year, because of the very difficult legislative program in both this House and another place, Supply is later in being granted this year than is usually the case.
I have some information which shows that during the 20-year period from 19S2 to 1972 there was only one other instance of the Estimates not having been passed early in November, and that was in 1971. On 9 November 1971 the then Government, of which the Leader of the Opposition was the Treasurer and at which time I happened to be shadow treasurer, introduced an additional Supply Bill for $138m which passed this House, I am told, in 9 minutes and passed the Senate in about an equivalent time. Meanwhile we were able normally to go on with the Estimates debate. I intend tomorrow to bring down a Supply Bill for a much less sum than $138m. Honourable members will see what is in it. They will have the opportunity to debate it, I hope, shortly, because any time taken unnecessarily on that which is purely a technical measure limits the time for debate on other matters which I think honourable members want to debate more fully.
– Has the Treasurer seen the thesis put forward by Dr Porter of the International Monetary Fund in which he states that the lack of action by the former Government in not varying the exchange rate in 1971 could have led to an inflation level of 20 per cent this year had the present Government not acted to revalue the dollar and introduce other monetary measures? Is this a fact? Does the Treasurer believe that the money supplied in the year to June 1973 would have grown by 48 per cent, as predicted by Dr Porter, without the corrective measures having been taken by this Government?
– I am aware of the remarks attributed to Dr Porter, they were covered fairly fully in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’. As far as I am concerned, they were an unsolicited testimonial to the record of this Government since 2 December and were somewhat of a disparagement of the records of earlier governments. I hope that the text in full will be available both to me and to any other members of the House who might be interested.
– Is the Prime Minister aware of an article in this week’s edition of the ‘Bulletin’ by Professor A. L. Burns, who is Professor of Political Science at the Australian National University, expressing some concern at the deterioration in the world political situation and generally expressing fears as to the future? Does the Prime Minister see the presence of some 67 divisions of Chinese and Soviet forces on either side of the SinoSoviet border as being probably as volatile a threat to world peace as the situation in the Middle East? If so, does he accept the fears expressed by Professor Burns that the policy of this Government is placing at risk Australia’s capacity to depend on the future involvement of United States military forces on our behalf, particularly if there should be some type of explosion on the Chinese-Soviet border and a world war resulting therefrom?
– I have not noticed the article by Professor Burns. Naturally I am concerned at the continuing tension between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. I venture the optimistic view that the situation there is not so immediate a threat to world peace as was the position in the Middle East, because the 2 powers concerned are able to take direct responsibility for their actions whereas the 2 super powers which could be embroiled in the Middle East could be embroiled by the actions of their clients. I take the opportunity of complimenting the United States Secretary of State on his extraordinary diplomatic success in persuading Israel and Egypt to sit down together for the first time since 1948. Not having seen Professor Burns’ article, I do not suppose that it would be appropriate for me to expatiate further in the matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. Is Queensland being unduly penalised in receiving only $55m in Commonwealth finance under the proposed Australian health insurance program when on a per capita basis the figure should be $66m of the $460m total payout? If so, is Queensland being penalised for having the most economic and efficient scheme?
– I welcome the interested reaction of the honourable member. The program for universal health insurance which the Government will be introducing is a most generous one. It will allow public hospital systems throughout Australia to be restored to a proper standard, and the long term neglect which symbolised the past 20 years of administration at the national level will be a thing of the past. State governments can no longer conduct public hospitals at a proper level of service, qualitatively and quan titatively, unless there is a generous infusion of money from the national Government. We aim to do exactly that. The Queensland hospital system stands to gain immeasurably from the program we have introduced. It will be getting in 1974-75 I think $35m over what it would have got if the present system of hospital insurance were to continue - that is, the system which the Opposition would have maintained if it had been in government and which it would persevere with if it were ever returned to government. We cannot tolerate that sort of inequity.
There is no discrimination against Queensland. In fact, if the honourable member were to do a few calculations and relate the amount of money being provided to Queensland from the total pool of money being collected for hospital services to the proportion of taxable income which is raised in Queensland he would find that what is being proposed under this scheme is not only generous to Queensland but also effectively presents a redistribution of income to that State. So he should not labour the point too heavily because he might find that Liberal-Country Party State governments outside of Queensland might want to argue for some other system whereby this redistribution does not take place. We support the redistribution for the simple reason that Queensland’s hospital service has been allowed to regress for too long. In a desperate effort to keep the public hospital system in that State free, the State Government has pared back on all forms of expenditure. It has pared back to a completely intolerable level on education expenditure so that on a per capita basis Queensland has the lowest effort contributed on education of any State in the Commonwealth. This is reflected everywhere in public expenditure at the State level. In other words, not only does Queensland have a second rate Government but also second rate standards which are tolerated by that Government. The sort of program which we are introducing will bring some equity back into the system.
I conclude by reminding the honourable member that the ‘Australian’ newspaper ran a series of articles which can only, and quite fairly, be described as a rather scandalous exposure of deficient standards in the Queensland hospital system, of inadequate equipment, of delays in responding to requests for urgently needed medical equipment and of medical staff being imposed upon quite unnecessarily and unfairly in an effort to make the small amount of money, in a relative sense, that is available to the hospital system go far enough to keep the system in operation. But it cannot limp on much longer. We will do something about it. Members of the Opposition, as members of the Government, did nothing about it, never proposed to do anything about it and still do not propose to do anything about it.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour. Has he considered the proposal put forward by the Premier of Victoria for a Commonwealth-State conference to consider the current level of industrial unrest? If so, is he prepared to comment on the proposal?
- Mr Speaker, I certainly could not deal with a question like that in a few minutes. If the Leader of the Opposition will give me an assurance that leave will be granted, I win deal with it after question time.
– Yes, we will give you leave to make a statement.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. May I say, by way of preface, how pleasant it is to see him back so quickly in his place in the House and looking so fit. I refer to reports that the Government is likely to appoint a civil servant as defence ombudsman. Is the Minister aware that there is a widespread distrust - rightly or wrongly - in the Services of the part played by civil servants in matters affecting the welfare of servicemen? Will he give an assurance that this office will not be used as a convenient repository for redundant civil servants? Will he also give an assurance that before any decision is made as to the qualifications required for this office, the Services themselves will be consulted and that their views will be the principal consideration which will guide the Government in the making of an appointment?
– The Government has decided to appoint an ombudsman for the defence Services but at this time no decision concerning an appointee has been made. I can assure the honourable member that when that decision is being taken consideration will be given to the qualifications of the person who is to be appointed. Naturally, this is a matter that will be considered by the Cabinet. When a decision is being made to appoint an ombudsman for the Services not only the views of the servicemen themselves should be considered but naturally - I am sure the honourable member will agree - the views of the Government also are a very important consideration. I assure the honourable member that no decision has been made regarding an appointee but when an ombudsman is appointed I am sure he will be a person who has had considerable experience not only in administration but also within the Services.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. Is immigration from Japan expected to rise sharply in the future following the announcement of increased interest by Japan in the development of Australia’s resources? If so, what would be the order of such a rise?
– One of the great myths and legends of the Australian people is that there are always tremendous numbers of other people standing by, knocking on the door for entry to Australia. I looked into the precise position in regard to Japan when I was there very recently and I think the number of applications for permanent migration to Australia at that time was zero. But a great deal of interest has been displayed by Japanese in coming to Australia for tourist, business and education purposes. I was very happy to be able to make arrangements with the Japanese authorities to facilitate entry for all those’ purposes and the new arrangements are working particularly well.
In regard to the migration of Japanese to Australia for permanent purposes, I am afraid that those who feel that there is a great urge to come here are quite wrong. It might be as well to recall that on 2 previous occasions many years ago, I think from Queensland and South Australia, there was a suggestion that there should be special migration programs for the Japanese but on those occasions the Japanese authorities refused to co-operate because the terms and conditons were not good enough. That puts it in its historical perspective. In fact, there is very little interest in permanent migration but a great deal of interest in business, cultural and educational exchanges. We will facilitate them in every way possible. Co-operation is proceeding in a very sound and good way and I am very satisfied with the arrangements.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I remind the Minister of the growing use of light aircraft to make private and business flights to south-east Asian countries, particularly Indonesia. Can the Minister assure me that the quarantine procedures for passengers returning to Australia by such flights, especially from areas where foot and mouth disease is known to exist, are equally as stringent as those applying to ordinary commercial flights? For example, do occupants alighting from light aircraft have to walk through a disinfectant solution as do passengers from commercial flights when returning to or entering Australia from a foot and mouth disease area?
– I know that my Department has been looking at ways of effecting a closer inspection of arrivals from the Indonesian area since foot and mouth disease has been reported in Bali. I have no specific information about a particular kind of aircraft, but I will find out and let the honourable member know.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can he state what assistance is being given by the Australian Government to the starving drought victims in Ethiopia? Will he give an assurance that Australia will give assistance to the maximum and as quickly as possible? Will special consideration be give to providing assistance in the form of animal protein and vitamin and iron supplements?
– The drought in the Swahilian area of Africa about which Australia made a contribution some months ago has unfortunately spread in this season right across those latitudes and is now affecting Ethiopia. I think the best answer I can give to the honourable gentleman’s question is to read the statement which the Foreign Minister made on the subject yesterday afternoon. The statement reads:
Australia is to give a substantial quantity of wheat to assist in relieving the drought affecting Ethiopia and other countries in northern Africa.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs announced this today after examining reports from Australia’s Ambassador accredited to Ethiopia, Mr K. H. Rogers, who had been instructed to go to Addis Ababa to report first hand on the drought situation
The drought, the third in 3 years, had directly affected at least 2 million people. The effects were particularly severe in the Tigre and Wollo Provinces.
Because of poor communications in the areas hit hardest, it had been difficult to get an accurate picture of how many deaths had occurred, but the figures would be high. Distribution of relief food was also a problem because of communications difficulties. The next harvest would be cut in half because people had been forced to eat grain intended for seed purposes. Taking into account the very heavy cattle losses, Mr Rogers had assessed that acute food shortages would continue for more than 12 months.
The details of Australia’s contribution would be arranged as quickly as possible. Although no official request for assistance had been made to Australia, Mr Rogers had reported that an offer of wheat would be greatly appreciated. Other forms of aid would also be welcomed.
Senator Willesee commended the efforts in this regard of voluntary organisations in Australia, particularly Austcare, the Freedom from Hunger Campaign, the Australian Council of Churches and Australian Catholic Relief. I might add that in all these matters the Department of Foreign Affairs confers with its counterparts in other countries, and between us we do what we believe each country can do most quickly and most effectively. Wheat is one of the commodities which is in great need and with which Australia can most promptly and effectively assist.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. The Minister’s much publicised expression of opinion on the danger to public health of the consumption of sugar would now appear to be fully supported by another member of the Australian Labor Party - a very well-known member, Mr Barry Jones, MLA, from Melbourne. Mr Jones has suggested that laws restricting people’s sugar intake are likely in future. He said that when cigarette advertising was banned, liquor advertising would be next and a cut back in the advertising of sugar products would probably follow. When he made those comments Mr Jones was welcoming the State Government’s decision to fluoridate water supplies. He said that this would go only part of the way and that it was very likely that we would have laws restricting sugar intake. My question is: Will the Minister confirm that this is now generally Australian Labor Party thinking, which will soon emerge as policy, and will he enlarge on his own opinions so that the House and the people of Australia may learn his views in greater detail here in the forum of the nation?
– It has been Labor Party policy for some time that the advertising of cigarettes in all the media should be discontinued, and the Australian Government has moved to ban it in media under Federal control - that is radio and television. It will be phased out over 3 years. At the last Federal policy conference of the Party a move for a similar ban on the advertising of alcohol was made and was defeated. There was no such move on any other kind of advertising. I have had no communications with Mr Barry Jones. He is entitled to express an opinion in this matter. As far as I am concerned, I believe that the guidelines that have been laid down by the National Therapeutic Goods Committee are sound; that is, in brief, that all advertising that is misleading ought to be discontinued and that consumer protection organisations, in conjunction with governments, ought to move to ensure that that happens.
– Has the Minister for Shipping anything further to report on his investigations into the Government’s plan to subsidise Bass Strait shipping freight rates in order to remove Tasmania’s freight disadvantage when compared with equivalent ton mile rates on the mainland? The Minister will recall the Prime Minister’s promise on this matter in Hobart last November.
– The freight rate differential, and the disadvantages apparently suffered by Tasmania in regard to freight rates, have been referred by the Government to the Special Minister of State for an appropriate reference to the Grants Commission. I understand he has the matter under consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. In view of the adverse effects of high interest rates on the community in general, and on home owners and home seekers in particular, when will the Government take action to reduce interest rates?
– It is under continuing examination.
– I think that I have been furnished with the answer from behind. The matter is under continuing examination.
– Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to Press reports regarding the abolition of the age allowance scheme for income earners and its effect on New South Wales Railways superannuitants? As a result of the treatment of pension as income for tax purposes as from 1 July 1973, and following the 2 increases in pension since Labor came to office in December last, is it a fact that only a minor percentage of pensioners will be affected and that tax deduction will not be made from superannuitants receiving less than $40 superannuation a fortnight? When will the explanatory booklets on tax on pensions be distributed to pensioners?
– As the honourable member knows, we have made changes in the conditions of taxation for people over 65 years of age. Insofar as any of them are recipients of superannuation above a certain level - as the honourable member said, above $40 a fortnight - it may be necessary that there be changes in the deductions that formerly operated. A booklet is available at post offices on this subject and we have endeavoured to make it accessible to everybody as soon as possible so that people can see .for themselves what the position is. I repeat that at least four out of five existing pensioners will not pay any additional tax as a consequence of the changes, but in some cases additional amounts will be payable. Where weekly or fortnightly deductions are made we think it only wise that increased deduction be made so that instead of the sum being payable in one lump there will at least have been provision to meet it.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I refer to the answer he just gave to a question I asked. I ask him now: Who has the matter under consideration - what Ministers, Cabinet committee or departments? Will he state clearly and precisely the criteria which they are examining which will lead them to any conclusion about lowering interest rates?
– I sometimes despair that one who has been a Treasurer himself should expect any categorical answer to this kind of question.
– You gave a categorical answer to my earlier question.
– I gave the answer that the matter is under continuing review, as I hope would be the position at any time under any government. The measures were taken largely because right measures had not been taken in this country many years before. I think that the question I answered earlier was indicative enough of that situation. Had the former Government acted responsibly when it had the chance, the situation prevailing in this country today would have been different.
– Will the Minister for the Environment and Conservation inform the House whether the Government’s decision to offer financial support for a moratorium on the flooding of Lake Pedder has been conveyed to the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Eric Reece? If the answer is yes, will the Minister inform the House whether Mr Reece has yet replied to the Australian Government’s offer.
– A telegram and a letter were sent to Mr Reece, and quite by chance I have their terms in my pocket for from the correspondence and phone calls that I have received from many parts of the country I had a sneaking suspicion that someone would ask a question such as this. Mr Reece was informed that the Australian Government accepts the moratorium proposal contained in the interim report of the Lake Pedder inquiry and indicates to the Tasmanian Government the Australian Government’s preparedness to (a) meet the cost of the moratorium and (b) meet the costs arising from further action which might be taken following evaluation of the moratorium by the Australian Government. The answer to the second part of the question is no.
– Why did the Minister for Labour ask the Premier of Victoria to discipline Liberal senators from Victoria? Is this the type of standover tactic to be adopted by this socialist government in future? Did the Minister learn these methods from the leaders of left wing unions or did they learn to stand over the people of Australia from him?
– The first part of the question was why I asked the Premier of Vic toria to discipline the Liberal senators from that State. The answer is that I thought they should have been disciplined because they acted in an obstructive way. They allowed petty, party-political points to overshadow the good will of industry and, I think, the national interest. I have not learned tactics like this from the Communist Party, because I do not associate with members of the Communist Party and therefore I do not have advantage enjoyed by the honourable member for Balaclava in this regard.
– My question without notice is addressed to the Prime Minister, and it is supplementary to that asked by the honourable member for Kingston concerning the tragic famine in Ethiopia. Is it a fact that the need in Ethiopia is not only for food and drugs but also for medical expertise? Does the Prime Minister know that at least 15 finalyear medical students in South Australia who are awaiting their examination results have made offers, through me, to go immediately to Ethiopia until they are due to take up their hospital appointments in the new year? Will the Prime Minister do what he can to facilitate the examination of this offer in the hope that such help can be used?
– I did not know of the offer, which I applaud. I will have it investigated. I repeat, however, that Australia does consult with other countries to see what forms of assistance are most urgently needed in situations such as that which has arisen in Ethiopia and which country is in the best position to meet those needs. It is quite clear that most countries would be closer to Ethiopia than Australia and a number of those countries would have a greater number of doctors than has Australia. Australia does act very promptly in matters of international relations. For instance, Australia was the first country to contribute to the cost of the repatriation of soldiers and civilians between Bangladesh and Pakistan. More recently, in respect of another area, we were the first to contribute where vaccines were required. We do consult very promptly in all these matters.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour. What attention has the Minister given to the serious situation developing throughout Victoria and the repercussions around Australia caused by the striking electrical trades workers of the Latrobe Valley in Victoria? Is he aware that these men have been out of work now for 5 weeks, without any intervention by the Minister? Is he aware of the unsuccessful attempt by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Federal President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hawke, who recognised the dispute to be one of national importance, to bring about a settlement? What responsible action does the Minister propose he should take to settle this dispute to the satisfaction of the electrical trades workers and all other workers now unemployed as a result of the strike. In view of my grave concern for the affected workers, which I have expressed to them by way of offering to meet them, and my offer having been accepted-
-Order! Will the honourable gentleman please ask his question?
– Yes, Sir. Will the Minister accompany me to the meeting in the Latrobe Valley to learn at first hand the cause of the problem?
– The Leader of the Opposition has indicated that he will give leave for me to make a statement as soon as question time has finished, which is now really - subject, of course, to what the Prime Minister says. It will touch upon the matter that the honourable member has raised. If that undertaking still stands, I will leave the matter until then.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that the media have been describing as a new Australian, Dr Shapiro, who is a candidate for the State seat of Gordon in New South Wales? Will the Minister make it plain that anyone who has been a resident of Australia for 27 years and a citizen of this country longer than most Australians have been alive is not anew Australian? Will the Minister tell us when a new arrival ceases to be a migrant.
– I would assess - certainly it is the emphasis given by the Settlement Division of the Department of Immigration - that a man ceases to be a migrant when he becomes a citizen of Australia. Certainly the practice of describing people as migrants, newcomers or new Australians after 20 years or 27 years of being a citizen is one to be deprecated. I could never imagine, for example, addressing the honourable member for Wentworth, Mr Bury, as a migrant. He was bom overseas and has been a distinguished member of this Parliament and a citizen for a great many years. It would be artificial and contrived to describe him in a way which would indicate that he had arrived yesterday. In relation to the specific question asked by the honourable member, my information is that Dr Shapiro has been a distinguished member of the Australian community and a citizen for a great many years. I think it is not a good practice to continue these descriptions when people have joined the family of the nation; they are citizens and they should be regarded as such. I would say that when the man is a citizen, he has ceased to be a migrant, a new Australian or a newcomer. He is simply a citizen of the nation.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Honey Industry Act 1962-1972, I present the tenth annual report of the Australian Honey Board for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with fin’ancial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Act 1961- 1970 I present the twelfth annual report of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable members I table the joint communique signed by leaders of the delegations which attended the first conference of South Pacific Labour Ministers in Sydney from 30 October to 1 November. The conference was highly successful and it was a notable step forward in dealing with labour and related subjects in the South Pacific region.
– I ask leave to make a statement concerning the matters raised at question time by 2 honourable members.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker.
– I will give you leave but you could have the decency to give us a copy in future. When was the statement made available? There is a set procedure in this House covering these matters. You have a copy of the statement with you.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has repeatedly said at question time that if Ministers’ answers could take a long time they should seek leave to make a statement after question time. That does not mean that a Minister is always in a position to give a printed version of what he proposes to say any more than I am now reading from a printed version of my proposed statement. Therefore, it is not possible to give a printed version of what one intends to say. I can say - this is not in the printed text - in answer to the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) that, so far as the State Electricity Commission of Victoria is concerned, the plain facts of the matter are that until the Liberal Government of Victoria directed the State Electricity Commission not to negotiate with the unions in the Morwell Valley, the unions and the authority always settled their differences amicably by negotiation, and there were no disturbance such as the ones we have witnessed in recent years. The Liberal Government of Victoria issued a directive to the Commission saying: ‘In no circumstances will you in future negotiate agreements with the unions or try to settle your differences with the unions. From now on they can be settled only by wielding the big stick.’ From the moment the Liberal Government of Victoria prevented the Commission from carrying out normal negotiations with the unions which, for years, had been the order of the day we have had trouble in the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, and we will continue to have trouble. That is the real answer to the trouble in the State Electricity Commission of Victoria.
While the Liberal and Country Party senators continue their present obstruction of Government initiatives to reform our outdated labour laws, it is quite futile for anyone to talk about holding Commonwealth-State talks to improve industrial relations. That is the short answer that I give to the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) who asked me a moment ago whether I had noted the call by Mr Hamer and what I intended to do about it. I repeat that while the Liberal and Country Party senators continue to obstruct in the Senate Government legislation aimed at making the arbitration system work, as is now the case, then it will be absolutely futile for the Commonwealth to hold a conference with the State governments. The Australian Parliament has only very limited power to deal with industrial relations, and this power must be exercised through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But even this power has been further circumvented by the recent refusals of Liberal and Country Party senators to permit the Government to give legislative effect to its clear mandate for industrial reform. I repeat that the Government did have a clear mandate for industrial reform. Indeed the most contentious of the reforms which the Government had a mandate to introduce, that is, the repeal of the penal provisions, was specifically mentioned not only in the printed platform of the Party but also was specifically spelled out in the official policy speech by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
– And attacked by the Liberals.
– ‘And attacked throughout the campaign by the Liberals. So we can fairly claim that the repeal of the penal provisions was an issue at the election and it was an issue upon which we had a clear mandate. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, I repeat, just cannot function properly until the various reforms which the Government has proposed, and which so far have been rejected by the Senate, are in fact passed by the Parliament. In view of what has happened in the Senate, I am now proposing to convene a tripartite industrial’ peace conference to consider a package deal for bringing about greater stability to labour relations. I will chair the conference myself.
– Oh, that is powerful.
– Yes, I am prepared to chair the conference myself. I regard it as being one of the most important issues that has ever been proposed by any government since Federation. The present unsettled situation is causing considerable inconvenience as well as financial loss to unions, to employers and to the general public alike. The industrial peace conference will meet in Parliament House, Canberra, on 10 and 11 December 1973 by which time the Government will know the outcome of the referenda to control prices and incomes. I propose to invite representatives of the trade union movement, the Associated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia and the Employers Federation to be represented, together with the permanent head of my Department along with the most senior officers of the Department of Labour. These invitations will be posted to the respective bodies within the next few days.
Among other things, the industrial peace conference will be asked to study the Canadian experience in mediation and voluntary arbitration. This system has the support of the Government. It has the support of the Australian Labor Party, as will be seen by reference to the Party’s platform. It is also supported by influential elements of the trade union movement and by the more advanced spokesmen of employer organisations. Ways and means of making better use of conciliation and of ensuring the observance of industrial agreements must be found. We must find a way to make conciliation work and we must find a way to ensure the observance of industrial agreements. The Government is determined to make every effort possible to ensure that this laudable objective becomes a reality.
There is an urgent need for better communication between management and labour and for the removal of the persecution complex which has descended upon the trade union movement via the whole penal provisions of the existing Act. The Act is now functioning without resort to its strike penalties. They are serving no useful purpose and should be repealed, for a trial period at least. The Government is concerned with demands for over-award payments based upon the need to compensate for the erosion of real wages due to price increases that occur between national wage cases. The Government is equally concerned over the nonsensical disputes that revolve around issues like union membership and demarcation disputes.. The Government notes with regret the recent attempts by the New South Wales Government to seek party political capital out of industrial unrest.
– It is a disgrace.
-It is a disgrace. I thank the honourable gentleman for that comment. It certainly is a disgrace. This Government also deplores the fact that 60 per cent of the Australian work force is employed under awards, determinations and agreements that are governed by the sometimes conflicting laws of six separate State parliaments. Australia must be prepared to adopt the lessons that are being learnt from the experiences of western European countries in the field of worker participation. Considerable benefit will come to labour and management alike from permitting representatives of labour to share in the decision-making processes of management. I am encouraged by the remarks of the Opposition spokesman on labour matters, the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who compared with his predecessor appears to be almost a paragon of radical virtue. In order that these and allied questions can be fully debated at every level of labour relations management, government and trade union levels I will ask those attending the initial Conference to report back to their constituent bodies on the feasibility of certain proposals so that a further conference can give a positive response to them. The proposals to be discussed include:
Councils in each State undertake to take such steps as are necessary to ensure that agreements made by their constituent bodies are honoured throughout their currency.
It is hoped that the follow-up conference can be held early in the new year so that legislation can be prepared for presentation to the Parliament at the beginning of the autumn session. If agreement is reached on the question of wage indexation, there would no longer be the need for a national wage case each year, except when increased productivity made it necessary or desirable to lift labour’s share of the gross national product, or the Commission desired to lift the general living standards of the work force. Taken together, with effective measures for price control, this step alone would enable the Australian Government to dampen down inflation without causing massive unemployment. Any legislation needed to give effect to the decision of the Industrial Peace Conference will be accorded top priority so that a Bill can be presented to the Parliament at the earliest possible date.
The terms of reference have been carefully selected in order to ensure that the High Court will not invalidate the legislation necessary to give effect to whatever agreement is reached within the context of the 11-point program that I have proposed. I do not believe that the High Court will adopt a cast iron attitude towards questions of Commonwealth jurisdiction. I believe that the High Court will take the same realistic attitude towards Commonwealth power in the field of industrial relations as it did in the recent concrete pipes case which overturned the Huddart Parker v. Moorehead decision of some 40 years earlier. I believe that the High Court will find that the Constitution gives to the Parliament the power to do all the things upon which the Conference is likely to reach agreement. However, in the event of the High Court refusing to uphold the powers needed to implement the agreement reached by the parties, the Prime Minister will convene a conference of State Premiers to ask the States to transfer to the Australian Parliament such powers as are necessary to enable the Australian Government to give the agreement reached at the Industrial Peace Conference the necessary legislative backing. If the State Premiers reject the Prime Minister’s request, the Australian Government will seek the necessary amendment to the Australian Constitution to clothe the Australian Parliament with the same powers to regulate labour relations as those which presently reside with the 6 State parliaments.
The initiative which the Government is now taking is the most significant step taken in the field of industrial relations since Federation. Given the goodwill that I believe can be generated by a conference of this kind - it cannot be generated by a conference of this kind if members of the Opposition now try to seize on some petty party political point to try to throw cold water on it - Australia is, in my view, standing at the threshold of an entirely new and more fruitful and production era in its industrial relations.
– ‘by leave - This statement by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) comes at a most extraordinary time. The statement, dealing with a major issue of industrial relations, is made without notice to us under the pretext of providing additional information to an answer to a question in the House. Quite clearly it was a question which was, in our terms, a Dorothy Dixer.
– Made on the eve of an election in New South Wales, too.
– It was made on the eve of the elections in New South Wales, true.
– We are not impressed.
– Do be quiet, you silly ‘boy. More significantly, the statement has been made on the first sitting day after the departure from Australia of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Mr Hawke is not only the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions but also the President of the Australian Labor Party. This is an extraordinary time for the Minister to introduce a statement of this kind. To produce it in the way in which it has been produced flies in the face of all the traditions of this Parliament. One would think that the Minister was engaged in some clandestine operation, because he was so reluctant to allow the statement to be seen before he could stand up, in his own inimitable way, and tell us What was contained in it - suitably interlaced with comment.
I think it is worth setting a background to this matter before I deal with the statement. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when he was Leader of the Opposition, said: There will be less industrial disputes under us.’ That statement was made on a program called ‘A Current Affair’. If there were to be ‘A Current Affair’ today, certainly those words would not be used. What the Prime Minister would say today is: ‘What I hoped for and what I said is a lot of nonsense.’ Last year he said that there would he less industrial disturbance. This year the truth is that the Australian Labor Party, which claimed there would be less industrial disturbance when it was in government because it had a special arrangement with the trade unions, has been completely incapable of delivering that promise to the Australian people. It is the same with so many of its promises. The Australian Labor Party is incapable of delivering the promises. The Prime Minister’s statement was supported by the Minister for Labour.
– Order! The Minister for Labour was heard in complete silence. I ask honourable members to pay the same courtesy to the ‘Leader of the Opposition.
– The Minister for Labour supported the statement of the Prime Minister - who was then the Leader of the Opposition - that there would be more industrial peace in Australia under a Labor Government. We have the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures for the first 6 months of this year only. In the first 6 months of the year the time lost by strikes was 1.4 million man-days. The amount of wages lost by workers on strike increased from $l’3m to $23m. That was only until the end of June. We all know that since the end of June- for July, August, September, October and this month - the number of strikes has been quite remarkable. Australia today is facing chaotic industrial relations. If it goes on as it is, it will make the present inflationary situation so much worse that the whole future of this country will be put in jeopardy.
The Minister for Labour spoke not in terms of meeting today’s problems but in terms of calling a conference in the future to consider the Canadian legislation. I will come shortly to the particular principles that he set out. I do not want to discourage him from examining the matter by calling the parties together. What I want to do is nail the nonsense put forward by the Minister, that in some way this step will do something about the present industrial turmoil in Australia. It will do nothing of the kind. We have been warned that from midnight tomorrow there will be a national building strike. We do not know how long that will last. We hope that it will not eventuate, but all the signs are there that it will spread throughout Australia. Millions of dollars in buildings will lie idle while people are paying interest rates of 10 per cent or 12 per cent. It was this Government that lifted interest rates.
– ‘This is the low interest party.
– This is the low interest party. Honourable members opposite are a mob of heretics who spent their lives talking about low interest rates and now, within 10 months of coming into office, they have increased the long term bond rate by 2£ per cent. The Government promised the Public Service unions that it would extend long service leave to public servants in April. The Minister for Labor has repudiated that statement. Whether he is right or wrong, the fact is that he made the original promise. This action is about to bring on industrial disputation and strikes. The Minister promised a 35-hour week. He retreated from that and left his Prime Minister floundering. Everybody knows that it is not appropriate now to have a 35-hour week. Honourable members opposite keep quiet about it because they know that the people of Australia agree with us on this side of the House that it is not appropriate to introduce a 35-hour week now.
In Victoria there is a strike of power workers, with 150 men on strike. The net result is that thousands of people have been stood down. There is hardly a plant in Victoria today that is not working on alternate days simply because of the power strike. Recently there was the national rail strike. There was a recent strike in New South Wales over the 35-hour week, in which the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) played such a discreditable part for himself and for this Government. In New South Wales green bans have been imposed by the Builders Labourers Federation, and 10,000 people have been stood down as a result of the bans. There are bodies whose responsibility is to decide whether permits for buildings will be issued, it is not a job for any individual union to do that.
The Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) made a magnificent comment. I do not know for whom he was speaking but presumably it was for the Minister for Labour and the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is responsible for electoral affairs. The Minister for the Environ ment and Conservation is reported as saying: We middle class trendy intellectual environmentalists ‘, Just have a look at the trendy middle class intellectuals. How trendy they are! They are middle class, yes, with all the limitations of thought processes they would attribute to the middle class.
– You are always attacking the middle class.
– I thought the Minister wanted to belong to it. He has been trying to dodge being called a socialist, yet his Party’s policy stands for socialism. What is happening in Australia today is that these trendies like the Minister for the Environment and Conservation and the 2 Ministers at the table - the Minister for Labour and the Minister for Services and Property - have turned Australia into a place governed by white collar socialists. Give me a blue collar socialist any day. These white collar socialists no longer represent the class they came here to represent. They have drifted away. There is not a union meeting which the Minister for Labour could address which would welcome him, because everything he says is totally contradictory to what they stand for. Now he has to find ‘trendy middle class intellectuals’ in order to obtain some support for his proposals. I think it is a disgraceful thing for the Minister for the Environment and Conservation to allege that anybody who supports conservation is a middle class trendy intellectual. Such supporters are nothing of the kind.
The green ban strikes have been welcomed by the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. The Minister for Labour has not said a word about them. They are his responsibility, but the Minister for the Environment and Conservation speaks about them. On every other political issue that arises it is not the Minister for Labour who speaks but one of his colleagues. It is obvious from the whole range of strikes that are in existence today that the Labor Government knew that it could not deliver the goods it offered last year when in Opposition. The Government has failed. Why is the Labor Government’s standing at such low ebb? Because all of its promises have failed.
A question was asked of the Minister for Labour today about the call by Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria, for- a national con.ference. The Minister for Labour said that he would deal with the matter by way of a statement after question time. Iri fact, his statement bears very little relation to the question but it does have a very real relation to what Mr Hamer called for. Mr Hamer sent a telegram to the Prime Minister in which he said:
That is, the Victorian Government - is gravely concerned at damaging and costly strike situation in several key private and public industries. I ask that you cause your Minister for Labour to convene an industrial peace conference at the highest level as soon as possible.
What was wrong with that? Why did the Minister for Labour not do it? He sits mute and silent.
Mr Clyde Cameron - I am not going to break the Standing Orders by interjecting.
– Where was stormy Normie? Why can he not convene the conference if the Minister for Labour is unwilling to do so? Mr Hamer said that industrial turmoil was tearing at the heart of the nation’s industrial and commercial life. That is certainly a true statement which would not be denied by the Minister for Labour or any of his supporters, would be supporters or one time supporters who sit behind him in the Parliament. Mr Hamer went on to say that Australia needed to know what action its Federal Government intended to take to uphold conciliation and arbitration - a vital institution since Federation. Is there anybody in this House who denies that statement? If you will bear with me, Mr Deputy Speaker, I invite those who sit on the Government side of the chamber to say, by way of interjection, whether they disagree with that statement by Mr Hamer.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman will not invite interjections as interjections are out of order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, this statement by Mr Hamer is certainly true. He went on to say that Australia also needed to know what complementary action was needed from the States in their own field. That is the reason he called for the conference. There was nothing wrong with calling for such a conference. In fact, there was everything right with calling for it because the Australian economy cannot go on taking this assault by strikes for much longer. With inflation at the level it is at and productivity at ‘the low level it is at there is no doubt in my mind, or anybody else’s mind, that we are going to suffer very seriously in the future unless action is taken. The Minister for Labour proposes to call a conference on 10 and 11 December, by which time, he said, the results of the referenda will be known. But that is a month from now. Urgent action needs to be taken with respect to the strikes we are suffering from today and that urgent action needs to be taken by the Government and by the Minister for Labour. He should have supported the call for a national conference of the type which Mr Hamer has recommended. There is a far greater urgency about that than there is about the calling together of the conference of which he speaks.
The Minister for Labour took the opportunity, in the course of his statement, to condemn Liberal and Country Party senators. The fact of the matter is that it is not the senators he should be condemning; it is his own Cabinet, which would not allow him to pursue his Bill. If he had wished to do so he could have refused at any time to accept amendments to it. He could have put the issue to a double dissolution if he wished to do so. We were quite willing to accept that. We knew what we wanted as a matter of principle and we were not prepared to let the Government take, against our principles, action which could not be reversed when we came back into government. That is why we opposed the legislation previously and continue to oppose it now.
The tripartite industrial peace conference is to consider a package deal for the bringing about of greater stability in labour relations. The first term of reference should relate to consideration of ways of reducing industrial strikes in Australia. I have no objection to such a conference considering these other matters. They are for it to determine. But I do detect very clear similarities in some of the matters that were put down as terms of reference to ways of avoiding strike situations which were worked out between employer organisations and union organisations in the National Labour Advisory Council 3 years ago when I was Minister for Labour. They were agreed to by the parties concerned but they failed to win the support of the trade union movement, notwithstanding the fact that representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions had been the negotiators of them in the National Labour Advisory Council. So I cannot suggest that people should go into this conference with any great hopes for the elements accepted by them being put into effect. However I have no objection to an attempt being made. I do not propose to go through all the elements one by one as that would take time. Just as I gave the honourable gentleman leave to make a statement today, I ask him to give me leave to make a statement in the future on the 11 principles which the honourable gentleman has proposed should be put before the tripartite conference.
– If I had known that you wanted to have 2 cracks at it I would not have given you leave this time. You cannot have it both ways.
– I am asking for the debate to be resumed on the 11 principles at a later stage, Mr Deputy Speaker. If the honourable gentleman is unwilling to permit a debate on the 11 principles it is hardly a very strong basis for him to go into the conference saying he would not let the Parliament debate them. But if that is the sort of attitude he adopts, what else can we do?
– The Minister for Services and Property is in charge of things like this.
– Order! The Minister will not discuss matters over the table.
– It is quite clear that a close examination will have to be made of each of the 11 principles. The reason for the need for such an examination is this: If there is to be a conference that is designed to achieve an order of affairs in industrial relations which will bring about greater peace, proposals must have a hope of being accepted by the parties to that conference. Included in the principles is principle 7, which reads:
That for the purpose of removing the poisoned atmosphere that is now plaguing labour relations, the Government will ask Parliament -
This Parliament - to grant unions immunity from actions for torts -
That matter already has been before the House - and at the same time, repeal all penalties for strikes and lockouts against arbitral decisions of the Commission for a trial period of 1 year and renewed from year to year so that Parliament could examine its operations.
In the debate in this House on the removal of the penal clauses and immunity from tort for union officers it was made quite clear by members on this side of the House that if there is to be an arbitration system, which we strongly believe in and support, it necessarily follows that some sanction should apply to the awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That is what we stated quite clearly. The honourable gentleman then, knowing that that was rejected in the Senate, introduced a Bill in this House which did not include that matter. He is now to go to a tripartite conference refusing to allow this Parliament to debate the matter again. What is he going to say at that tripartite conference? He cannot say that the Parliament will do that which he is proposing. It is quite clear that principle 7 cannot survive.
In principle 8 he speaks of the parties asking the Commission to reintroduce a system of wage indexation similar to the previous automatic adjustment of the basic wage. Is that what is promised as a result of the referenda that are to be held? Does that mean that we are to return to automatic cost of living adjustments? The Treasurer (Mr Crean), in introducing the Budget, said that he expected average weekly earnings to increase by 13 per cent this financial year. The way wage rates have been increasing since the Budget indicates that average weekly earnings are likely to increase by a figure exceeding 13 per cent - perhaps by 15 per cent or 16 per cent. If there are automatic quarterly cost of living adjustments, the prices go up and wages go up which force the prices up. A policy of automatic quarterly adjustments is not an attack on inflation but force-feeds inflation, as everybody knows. Yet the honourable gentleman presumably is forecasting what will be done by the Government if it wins the referendum.
– And the Prime Minister did so.
– And the Prime Minister did so, as I am reminded by the honourable member for Berowra. Principle 9 talks about facilitating union amalgamation, to introduce preference to unionists. There is already provision in the Act for union amalgamation. The legislation has just been through this House and the Minister for Labour himself accepted the amendments. They must be taken to be what he wants. Why is a tripartite conference going to discuss it? The Minister for Labour accepted it.
– Under protest.
– I hope the Minister registered that protest with the cabinet.
– Of course. I also registered it in the Parliament.
– Yes, as you were being rolled out the door, you protested. The honourable gentleman then says, of course, that the High Court of Australia will be very suitably impressed by what is being done. The High Court is not a policy making body. Unlike the trade practices legislation that was in this House a little while ago, trying to make a judicial body the policy deciding body, the High Court will never be that. The High Court will interpret the Constitution as it is written, as a legal document, the framework of the way in which our democracy operates. So there is no reason to believe that the High Court will take a different view.
We would welcome .the opportunity to examine these principles in detail and to debate them so that when the tripartite conference is called together it will have the advantage of considering a debate of this House and not merely the ex-cathedra statements of the Minister, unlikely though the ex-cathedra statements from the honourable gentleman are, of what he believes is right or what the tripartite body might consider the Cabinet would do after it disagreed with the Minister. What this tripartite body needs to have is the views of the whole of the Parliament so that the Parliament can assist the tripartite body in finding the way of industrial peace. We will participate in that to the fullest extent. We give that undertaking. But of course it would be wrong for anybody to assume that we will not be critical where criticism is required, because only by speaking frankly can the parties know the opinions of all sides. In the meantime, the Government should not attempt to draw a smokescreen over its appalling performance in industrial relations with the prospect of a long term future conferene by the 3 parties - the Government, employers and unions. If the Government will do responsibly what is was elected to do, it will get support from the Opposition parties.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Mr HEWSON (McMillan) (3.34>- Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for McMillan discussing the statement of the Minister for Labour and the State Electricity Commission strike in the Latrobe Valley.
I do this for one very good reason, namely, to show my concern for the situation that has developed in Victoria as a result of the failure of this Government and the union leaders concerned to bring about a settlement of the dispute in the Latrobe Valley.
– I submit that the honourable member-
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– I have not finished my point of order.
– You have finished your point of order.
– I have not finished my point of order.
-The Minister will resume his seat.
– I resume my seat under protest, because I have not finished my point of order.
– That is a reflection on the Chair.
-If honourable gentlemen would remain silent, I will rule on the point of order.
– I have not finished it.
-The honourble member for McMillan has moved for the suspension of Standing Orders. He will not discuss any of the subject matter of the motion he intends to move if this motion is successful, f will not allow irrelevant debate on this. I suggest that the honourable member may show why he wishes the suspension of Standing Orders. If he debates the subject matter of the issues involved, I will be forced to take the same action with him as I did with the Minister for Services and Property.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thought I was doing reasonably well in explaining why I wished to have the Standing Orders suspended. I believe that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) failed to give me the answer to a question which he said he would provide in the statement that he made. He has not answered the question as to whether he would accompany me or invite-
-Order! That is not the subject of a motion to suspend Standing Orders. The honourable member is debating a matter which he raised at question time. He is out of order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member is surely in order. He is showing why it is important that the Standing Orders should be suspended. It is irrelevant as to what may be-
-Order! I take the same point with the honourable member for Mackellar as I did with the Minister for Services and Property. I have ruled that the honourable member for McMillan will not debate matters other than the suspension of the Standing Orders. He is raising matters which have to do with the substance of the succeeding motion. I rule them out of order.
– Whether or not it has to do with the substance of the motion is irrelevant, provided only that the honourable member is showing cause why the Standing Orders should be suspended. For that purpose, the honourable member is entitled to say why the matters are important and what they are.
-The Chair must interpret what is relevant and irrelevant. The House must interpret whether the decision of the Chair is correct. I rule accordingly. I inform the honourable member for McMillan that his statement must be relevant to the motion that he has moved.
– I think this time could well have been saved if the Minister had given me an opportunity to make a short statement.
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member for McMillan never requested that I give him leave to make a statement when the arrangements were made. The arrangements were made with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I know that honourable members opposite do not agree with him but he has been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition to represent honourable members opposite in discusions with me. Consequently, no representations were made through him. The honourable member for McMillan is completely disregarding the arrangements.
-Order! I cannot recognise any arrangements that have been made. I thank the Minister for Services and Property for the information, but leave was refused when requested.
– I take a point of order. Contrary to what the Minister for Services and Property said, the honourable member for McMillan did ask for leave to make a statement.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order. If the honourable member had taken the trouble to listen to what I said, he would know thai the arrangements between the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are not a mater for the consideration of the Chair. As far as the Chair is concerned, leave was requested and the request was rejected.
Mir HEWSON- The reason why I moved for the suspension of the Standing Orders was to raise a matter of grave importance. Many side isues have been brought into this by the Minister for Labour. When II asked for leave to make a short statement in reply, leave was refused. I am compelled to move for the suspension of the Standing Orders in order that I might get the opportunity to debate this question. This is a very serious question. The Minister for Labour made certain accusations against the Victorian Government which were quite untrue and without foundation. My concern for the people in the Latrobe Valley area is quite evident by the fact that I volunteered to act as a negotiator in the dispute that has occurred there. I feel that my concern is justified and that my request for the suspension of the Standing Orders so that I may debate this issue should be upheld. I hope that I will get the opportunity to debate this matter. There are many things about which I could speak if the motion to suspend Standing Orders is carried. I think that the Government has failed in its duty to recognise the damage that is caused to Australia
-Order! The honourable gentleman will be out of order if he discusses those matters which he considers he may discuss if the motion is carried.
– May I change to the other foot, Mr Deputy Speaker?
– If the honourable gentleman steps out of line again I will have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I repeat that it is a grave matter that we are discussing. I have asked the Minister to accompany me. He has said that he is going to call a conference of all unions, but he has not indicated to me that he will be calling the La Trobe Valley people together. He has not invited me to go with him. I want an answer to all these important matters. I think my reason for asking for the suspension of Standing Orders on this occasion is quite justified. I take it that I can make points to show why I want the Standing Orders suspended. One of the points is that I would offer my services to the Minister for Labour.
– Order! The honourable gentleman is quite aware that he using a debating device to evade my ruling. I suggest he does not do that.
– I am making my point.
– You are taking up enough time in doing so.
– That is quite right. I could have made a much shorter and much more effective speech if I had been allowed to make a statement. However, the time at my disposal on this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is fast drawing to a close, and in the remaining time allotted to me I want to say as much as I can to make the point that I am endeavouring to outline. Some of my submissions have been ruled out of order as being irrelevant, and I have been accused of wasting the time of the House and not explaining anything to the House. As I have said, this dispute has been going on for 5 weeks, and I have not yet seen any intervention by the Minister for Labour. I request him to intervene because of the failure of the leader of the ACTU to negotiate -
– Order! That has nothing to do with the question.
– I fail to see how the Government, having refused the Victorian Premier’s offer to have a conference on the matter, can hold up its head in respect of this matter. The Minister’s refusal to con ciliate with the Premier of Victoria and to talk with the men of the La Trobe Valley involved in this dispute is, I consider, a very good reason why the Standing Orders should be suspended to allow this matter to be discussed.
– Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill presented by Dr Patterson. (Quorum formed).
Bill read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this short Bill is to secure parliamentary approval of a new agreement between the Australian and State governments on rural reconstruction measures. The new agreement is supplementary to the Rural Reconstruction Agreement 1971 which was authorised by the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Act 1971. Although the 1971 Agreement provided for a scheme which would operate until 30 June 1975, the demand for rural reconstruction assistance in the first year was so great that the previous Government agreed that the funds, originally intended to cover 4 years, could be fully committed during the first 2 years of the scheme, that is by 30 June 1973. As a consequence, new arrangements were necessary if the scheme was to be carried on.
The scheme, as before, will offer three kinds of assistance: Debt reconstruction to assist the farmer whose long term prospects are sound but whose present debt load is threatening the viability of his undertaking; farm build-up to assist a farmer, whose property is too small to be economic, to purchase additional land to build his farm up to at least an economic size; and rehabilitation assistance to farmers who are obliged to leave the industry.
In the early stages of the scheme the major demand was for debt reconstruction assistance which accounted for over 85 per cent of applications in the first year of operation. By 1973, however, farm build-up assistance had become the more sought after form of aid. In the last quarter of 1972-73 about 66 per cent of applications were for farm build-up, and the trend is continuing. This development had been expected and indicates that rural reconstruction is beginning to achieve its long term objective in that it is moving away from the palliative measures of debt reconstruction to the more permanent restructuring which should result from farm build-up.
The 1971 Agreement provided for annual reviews of the operation of the scheme. In accordance with this provision the scheme has been reviewed twice by those Ministers of the Australian and State governments with responsibilities for rural reconstruction. At the first review in early 1972, it became apparent that the very great demand for assistance warranted compressing what had been planned as a 4-year program into 2 years. As a result, the whole of the $100m initially provided for the 4-year scheme, as well as $15m additional funds provided at the review, were fully committed by 30 June 1973.
At the second review meeting held in March 1973, it was agreed that the scheme had provided invaluable assistance to the rural sector. Although the outlook for primary industries had improved, there was still a real need for continued rural reconstruction assistance, albeit with a different emphasis. It was therefore decided to continue the scheme for a further 3 years until 30 June 1976. However, instead of determining a lump sum to finance reconstruction assistance for the full 3-year period, it was decided that the Australian Government would determine funds annually after consultation with the States and consideration of each State’s needs for the forthcoming year.
For 1973-74, the Australian Government offered to make available $36m, of which $24m would be funded in 1973-74 and the remaining $12m in 1974-75 to finance assistance approved during the closing months of 1973-74. In addition, a supplementary payment of 10 per cent of its base allocation would be made available to any State prepared to match such supplementary funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis from its own resources. The 1973 review meeting also agreed that the
Australian Government should determine, after consultation with the States, the allocation of rural reconstruction funds to each State and the proportion in which funds should be divided between debt reconstruction assistance and farm-build-up assistance.
For 1973-74 it was agreed that the allocations to the States should be: New South Wales, $ 11.5m; Victoria, $7 .9m; Queensland, $5.8m; South Australia, $4.3m; Western Australia, $5. 3m and Tasmania SI. 2m. It was also agreed that not more than half of a State’s allocation would be devoted to debt reconstruction assistance, unless the prior approval of the Australian Government were obtained to exceed this proportion, and that, the States would adopt as an objective the allocation of at least 70 per cent of total approvals to farm build-up. In order to avoid the situation which has occasionally occurred in the past, of a State committing its full annual allocation before the end of the year for which the money was intended, the States will now program their funds so as to achieve as even a spread as possible over the full 12-month period. The measures contained in this Bill are. real evidence of the Government’s recognition that some sectors of the farm community still need assistance to achieve the stability and wellbeing now being enjoyed by the larger proportion of rural producers. I commend the BiO.
Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BULL (No. 1) 1973-74 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 8 November (vide page 3077).
Department of Housing
Proposed expenditure, $9,149,000.
Department of Services and Property
Proposed expenditure, 860,284,000.
Department of Works
Proposed expenditure, $104,801,000.
– I deal with the estimates for the Department of Housing. The Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) recently mentioned in Queensland that in Australia we have today a housing situation in which there is an average of one house for every 3i persons which, as he stated and agreed, is a better position than in most other countries of the world. This is a position, of course, which was brought about by previous governments. It is to be hoped that this Government and the Minister in charge of this portfolio will do all they can to endeavour to maintain and perhaps even lift this level. Housing is one of the great needs of Australia. We are well aware of that. But it has also been one of the misfortunes of this country that many people have not had the opportunity to own their own homes. In today’s affluent society people are desiring to build better and larger homes. Consequently there is a great demand on the money market for home building in the private sector. However, the State governments throughout Australia are supplying the needs and the ways to provide housing for both the person in what is termed the lower income bracket and also, of course, for the person desiring to rent a home.
A national code of housing standards has been suggested. I think that a proper standard of home building would only improve the housing cost situation throughout Australia. This does not necessarily mean, as many people tend to take it, that a standard design in homes is demanded. But of course, as the Minister is well aware and would no doubt agree, standardisation of building regulations throughout Australia, agreed to by all States and the Australian Government, could only bring a better standard of home and a faster building of the home and consequently a greater production of items such as bricks, windows, etc. This, of course, will lower the cost of those goods in these days of rising prices.
The Minister for Housing has indicated his desire to have the State governments build homes only for rental. He would prefer that the State governments have no homes for sale; he would leave the provision of such homes to the private market. However, I would draw his attention, as I have done in the past, to Victoria which provides a very efficient means of home building and provides housing for both those who desire to rent a home and those who desire to own their own home. Until this year the Victorian Government provided houses at a very low rental of around $13 a week. This amount has since been raised to approximately $15 a week. I might add that that is still well below the so-called economic level of rental that the Minister has suggested should be the standard rental charged throughout housing estates. Under his scheme a person on the average income would be required to pay a rental in the vicinity of $20 a week, which would be a tremendous increase in the cost of renting a Housing Commission home in Victoria.
The Victorian Government has now introduced further legislation providing for the payment of no deposit for the purchase of homes built by the Victorian Housing Commission. A person, having rented a Housing Commission home for a while, has the opportunity of requesting that he be transferred to a position of being able to purchase the home. Of course, if he applies in the first place to own a home he can go into that house without paying a deposit and proceed to purchase it. The difference, of course, is that in renting a home he would pay a lesser amount of money a week than he would if he was buying the home. Incidentally, the amount paid to purchase the home is still below the $18 to $20 a week that the Minister would have the people pay as an economic rent level. So in Victoria I believe that the Housing Commission is well geared to provide housing on the best possible basis.
We talk about the shortage of homes. I think we all must agree that in certain areas there is a shortage of homes ready for occupation. But this is not necessarily brought about by a lack of funds. Provision of such homes will not be achieved overnight by this Government presenting millions of dollars to the States. Other problems are associated with home building. The major one, of course, is the supply of building materials. Unfortunately the acceleration in home building, brought about by the affluence of the society as much as anything else, has created such a demand on the market for materials that there is no one single item in the building industry which can be acquired immediately if a person is building a home.
It is not uncommon today, even in a country area such as my electorate, if one wants to order framing materials for a house, to wait up to two to three months. Bricklayers and bricks are impossible to obtain. This means that people wishing to build homes, or even if the Government is wishing to let contracts for housing commission homes, find that the contractors are unwilling to tender for contracts because by the time they actually get the materials to start the job they find that the cost of labour and materials has gone up so much that their tender price is no longer acceptable. I understand that moves have been made in Victoria to allow a rise and fall clause in contracts to overcome this problem. I think that this is a particularly good move. Perhaps the Minister should examine the proposition that a rise and fall clause should be allowed in contracts for people tendering for jobs for the Department of Works. Today one cannot blame a contractor for not completing or not starting a job if he cannot get material or if he cannot get sub-contract labour.
Another problem of housing is the lack of apprentices. This is perhaps being felt at the moment but it will be felt more so in the future. This is an area where I strongly suggest that the Minister consider providing funds where money can do some good, namely, in providing school facilities to encourage apprentices to learn their trade. I think the days have gone when apprentices should have to learn their trade while being employed by a tradesman. I think that we are getting to the stage where most children go to school until they complete tertiary or technical education. Therefore, they are not encouraged to leave school at the age of 16 or 17 and take on a trade with a S-year apprenticeship. I think it is time that this whole situation was looked at seriously in order to provide the opportunity for people to learn a trade at school at a sufficiently high standard and with enough knowledge so that they can go out at the age of 19.or 20 at least part way through their trade course so that they do not feel that they are losing money, or not earning enough money and sacrificing their future by taking on a trade. This is a real problem and something that we should look at for the future of our country’s trade industries. It is a serious problem but unfortunately the Minister is not even listening to me.
One of the other problems is the slowness of title transfers. Many people who start out to build a home are able to arrange their finance and their builder before the title to their block of land comes through. This adds to the problems associated with shortages and high costs. I do not know whether the Minister can do anything about this matter. I believe, however, that it is a problem that all governments should look at seriously to see what can be done to obviate this terrible lack of ability to obtain title transfers. Oh checking on tie matter myself, ! have found that titles officers claim that the State governments have insufficient money to enable them to employ extra staff to man their Titles Offices adequately. That may be an area in which the Minister could provide the necessary funds.
However, even if titles can be transferred quickly, people will not be able to build homes while there is a drastic need for more building materials. We all like to see home-grown and locally manufactured products promoted, but when there is a crisis, as there is at the moment, we should be doing all we can to import building materials to help the home builder. There are timbers in the islands that could be used for home building, although their use would increase costs. Instead of putting money into building and supplying mobile homes, it might toe better if the Government subsidised the importation of such materials so that home building can proceed at a better rate.
While I am on the subject of mobile homes, I must say that I am not against the Minister’s thoughts in this direction, for they provide a good answer on a temporary basis only to a problem that needs urgent attention. I realise that the Minister has studied the position in North America and in other areas, but I believe he must watch closely the danger of overcrowding and creating slums, which could result from the building and supplying of mobile homes.
– I wish to make a few remarks on the estimates for the Department of Housing. In recent years, because of the rundown in the migrant intake and the age of many migrant hostels, the problem of transition accommodation for migrants has become acute. In some areas, mainly in the capital cities, new flat-type accommodation has been provided on a transitional basis for newly arrived migrants. This applies especially at Geelong where, over a period, employment problems have militated against the need for or the desirability of migrants who are seeking employment being brought directly into that area. As a result the migrant hostel has not been replaced, and it does not even have a high priority for replacement.
There is considerable pressure from manufacturers and employer organisations within the Geelong area, and also from the Geelong Promotion Committee, to have the present hostel maintained as a transition centre for migrants. I am aware that recently departmental officers inspected the hostel, and- 1 know that the Minister himself inspected it earlier. The officers and the Minister would have come to the conclusion that the hostel, which consists of Nissen huts which have been nicely painted, remains a group of Nissen huts that are not fit for long term habitation. I am sure that the Minister and the officers could not have avoided that conclusion.
This is a serious problem, and it is not one that the employers, who are desperately short of labour, are really willing to take into account. As I see it, the problem is that a continuing need for migrant labour may or may not be able to be established. It certainly can be established with regard to unskilled labour for foundry-type work, for such workers will almost certainly pass through their initial places of employment in the first 6 months to 12 months of their residence in Australia. However, it is difficult to establish how the requirements for migrant labour can be met without replacing the existing hostel structure or providing some other form of transitional housing for migrant families. I say categorically that I do not believe the present hostel can be maintained with any decency by the Australian Government as a place where one would expect large numbers of persons to keep their families for any length of time. The hostel is not satisfactory, and it has not been satisfactory for some years.
I rise in this debate to impress upon the Minister the importance of having transitional migrant accommodation available in the Geelong area. The growth of industry, especially heavy industry, depends upon the availability of labour. In the main, heavy industry in Australia is manned by migrant labour. If transitional accommodation is not available, it is almost impossible to bring migrant labour into such an area. Ordinary housing is not available, first, because of the costs involved and, second, because at the moment housing commissions or the State housing authorities have a waiting time for such accommodation of between one and 3 years. This just does not meet the immediate situation.
There is another area of housing that I know the Minister has under consideration. It is of a different type. I refer to the need for emergency transitional housing for persons who, for various reasons, are displaced. This need has been drawn to the Minister’s attention. It is a subject on which State and Commonwealth governments must have long discussions, for at the moment the major problem with transitional housing other than for migrants is that it is not needed for long periods and it is fairly expensive to provide.
I rose in the debate to raise the matter of the migrant hostel to Geelong. I point out to the Minister that it is of extreme importance to industry and to the development of the area for transitional accommodation to be provided for migrants. It must be accommodation of a good standard, fit for people who are newly arrived in Australia to live in. I do not know what means are being adopted to deal with this problem or what negotiations have taken place, although I am aware that the interdepartmental committee has visited Geelong for discussions. However, I ask that Minister to expedite whatever conclusions are to be reached, and to ensure that accommodation is available so that the industrial expansion of that area, which is necessary and, as far as I am concerned, must be encouraged, is not handicapped by the fact that labour is not readily available and cannot be made available readily.
– Australia is a nation of home owners. That is the way the great majority of Australians want to live, and home ownership has been a great contributor to the stability of our society. Therefore, it is the task of government to see that in this respect the reasonable demands of the Australian citizens are met. I would suggest that this Government is failing very badly in that task. At present we have employed in the construction of new houses and flats a labour force of about 80,000. They are capable, with current techniques, of constructing about 140,000 dwellings a year. There is no doubt that the demand for new dwellings at the moment exceeds the supply, and the effect of demand exceeding supply, unavoidably, is always inflation. Not only is the effect of inflation to put up the cost of house building, but also it becomes very difficult for the lowincome family to secure suitable accommodation. These are the people that the Government is harming most although it claims to be trying to help them. What is being done by the present Government? The obvious way to match the imbalance between supply and demand is to increase production. What is the record of this Government in that area? The Government claimed that one action which would achieve some results was to cut down on the construction of city office blocks, apparently believing that this would increase the availability of labour for the construction of dwellings. This, as I am sure everyone in the Committee knows, is quite false. The materials used and construction techniques employed and the labour required in the construction of city office blocks are neither available nor suitable for the construction of suburban dwellings. To argue that by monetary or capital policies the construction of city office blocks can be reduced and therefore more dwellings constructed is thus quite false. I am sure that the Minister for Housing knows that argument to be quite false. At least that action by this Government has not actually ^educed the supply of dwellings as many of its other policies have.
For instance, the Government has eliminated the investment allowance in respect of new investments in plant and equipment. This can do nothing but reduce the increase in productivity and therefore the supply of new dwellings. As an example of what can be achieved, between 1960 and 1972, the total employment in the construction of new dwellings rose by 30 per cent but the number of new dwellings increased by 59 per cent. All of that increase was not the result of a rise in productivity. Some was due to changes in the balance between flats and other types of dwellings. Nevertheless, a substantial part of that increase was the result of a rise in productivity following wise investment in new plant and equipment.
The second negative effect of this Government has been the vast increase that has occurred in industrial turmoil. The Labor Government claims to have a special ability to reduce industrial disputes. The effect since the Labor Party came into power, as everyone knows, has been exactly the opposite. I do not need to dwell on the imminent strike by building labourers-
– That is about State issues; you know that.
– State issues indeed but it has been caused by Federal policies.
– What nonsense.
– I will come to that matter in a moment. The next action of this Government to which I refer was effectively to cut the supply of labour. There is an acute shortage of bricklayers and a shortage, but not so acute, of carpenters. Some calculations have been made of what the increase in the labour supply for dwelling constructions should be. The best estimates that I have seen are for an increase of 5,500 a year. Obviously, apprentices should be encouraged as one of the main means of increasing the supply of labour. But migrants are also important. I will take one example, that of bricklayers. Currently, the most critical shortage in the building industry is in this area. The Committee can see the significance that overseas sources play in the supply of bricklayers by these figures, which are for the last 3 years. In 1970, 321 apprentices and 1,152 migrants became bricklayers in the building industry. In 1971, there were 231 apprentices and 786 migrants entering that industry of bricklayers. In 1972, new bricklayers came from 231 apprentices and 620 migrants. What this Government has done by its policy is actually to cut back on the number of migrants and so create an artificial shortage which has increased the cost of housing. This in turn has affected all Australians who wish to have new dwellings.
What action should this Government take? I know that the Minister for Housing is aware of some of these areas of concern. He is doing something about them. The trouble is that his actions and his policies are all too frequently frustrated by bis colleagues who do the exact opposite of what is required. Let me explain what is needed. Firstly, every effort should be made to recruit building tradesmen overseas. They should be given assisted passages under our immigration scheme. Secondly, priority should be given to adult training and retraining in building trades. In this area, nothing significant is being achieved. Thirdly - in this respect, I do give credit to the Minister because he is trying to do something about this matter - every effort should be made in respect of design and method of construction to economise in the use of scarce tradesmen.
These are actions which should be taken. But until the Government does this and until it has increased the availability of labour and the ability to construct new dwellings, it will be deceiving and damaging the community if its policies lead to an increase in demand without an increase in supply. The inevitable result, if the Government causes this to happen for doctrinaire reasons or through mere incompetence, is that inflation will occur in the costs of building and this will harm all Australians.
What has this Government done to control demand? The Government has made a great point of increasing low interest Commonwealth funds for welfare housing or for those types of dwellings. This is admirable. But the trouble is that Commonwealth funds have not usually reached the people who most need them. This is more so when the Government in increasing the demand for this housing without at the same time effectively restraining the demand for other types of houses has increased the cost of housing for everyone to the damage of the whole community and in particular of the people whom the Government claims it seeks to help. In order to restrict demand, because it has not been able or willing to increase supply of dwellings, the Government has raised interest rates on new housing loans. The interest rate is now more than 9 per cent and will inevitably go higher. These increases hit middle income earners very heavily. The increase in the rate of interest for housing loans will be extremely onerous and extremely damaging. What this Government has succeeded in doing in a short time in office is to exacerbate the housing shortage. It has done nothing constructive yet and it has a serious responsibility for the present difficulties with housing.
– One would be excused for believing as one listened to the remarks of the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) that he had been asleep for the last 23 years and that he has suddenly become awake, alive and concerned about the plight of Australians. About the only reasonable comment that he made in the course of his remarks was with respect to young Australians who today seek to own their own homes. What a shameful and shocking record the Government which he supported had over almost a quarter of a century because of its failure to carry out any semblance of a decent policy directed to providing housing at a reasonable rental or purchase price for young Australians.
The legacy of despair that was left by the former Government to so many young couples and young people seeking housing is one of the reasons why in a time of prosperity in the building industry, as there has been in the term of office of this Government, every opportunity has been taken to catch up with the backlog. Those people who went out of office last December could have ensured that a great many more houses were constructed in their term of office if the 130,000 people whom they cast into the unemployment ranks had been used in the building industry to provide, additional housing. Yet now we hear accusations made about all the terrible things that this Government has done to cause a shortage of building materials and a shortage of labour. One would be led to believe by the remarks of the honourable member for Isaacs that the cause of all the problems of the building industry should be laid at the feet of this Government and its policies, including the responsible attitude that it has taken to the Australian immigration scheme which a former Labor Government introduced in the early years after World War II.
No doubt exists that the problems that remain for us in the building industry as a legacy from the previous Government are similar to the problems that we have been left in a great variety of different industries which are important in the economy of this nation. It is only the responsible attitude of this Government in tackling these problems that will overcome them and provide a better way of life for Australians whether they be young or old Australians, they can be reassured that, under this Government, their problems, such as the lack of housing, will be tackled in a responsible manner and will not be treated in the irresponsible fashion adopted by the previous Government, which, as I said, for almost a quarter of a century failed to meet the needs and requirements of Australians who sought housing.
I wish to direct my remarks now to the responsibilities of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I refer to that section of his portfolio which deals with the provision of the office accommodation for Commonwealth departments. I noted his remarks in the Press statement he issued at the opening of the new Australian Government offices in Cairns on 27 October. He said that that excellent building was designed by the Australian Department of Works to the requirements of the Department of Services and Property, that it would provide about 20,000 square feet of office space and that the overall cost was approximately $775,000. He referred to the policy of the Australian Government to continue its efforts to provide accommodation for Australian Government departments. He said that accommodation would be provided in buildings constructed on land owned by the Australian Government or in office blocks that would be purchased by the Australian Government for the purpose of accommodating the various Government departments.
Earlier this year I was present at the opening of a very fine complex of offices in Brisbane which cost approximately $9m and which will house about 1,600 public servants. I refer to the new Australian Government centre at the corner of Ann and Creek Streets in Brisbane. The great saving to the Australian taxpayer that will result from the Government’s policy can be seen from the fact that $32m was spent last year in renting the office space used by the various Government departments throughout Australia. The extraordinarily high sum of $11,767,000 was spent in New South Wales last year and of this amount $1 1,486,000 was spent in Sydney alone. The next highest expenditure of $9,305,000 was incurred in Victoria. An amount of more than $32. 5m was spent on the rental and leasing of office accommodation throughout the nation. Even in Canberra an amount of $3,566,000 was spent on renting office accommodation.
The practice of the previous Government was to allow such organisations as John McEwen House Pty Ltd to build office accommodation which was suitable for Government departments to lease from the constructing company. The many friends of the previous Government are listed in an answer to a question asked by Senator Gietzelt and answered by Senator Willesee on 6 June. John McEwen House Pty Ltd is listed as one of the companies to which this Government is paying rent for office space in Canberra. Other companies such as the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Australian-New Zealand Bank Ltd, the City Mutual Life Assurance Society, the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Ltd and Kalamazoo (Aus.) Ltd are listed. These companies are included among the 200-odd companies throughout Australia that are reaping the benefits of the short-sighted policies of the previous Government in respect of the provision of office accommodation for Government departments.
I congratulate the Minister for Services and Property for the policy that he and the Government have adopted. I congratulate also Senator Cavanagh for the outspokenness of his remarks earlier this year, when he made it clear that he would conduct a survey to learn the position. Of course, the position has been revealed in the figures which I have just cited. I congratulate the Minister for Services and Property for his efforts to concentrate on the provision of Australian Government accommodation in buildings owned by this Government so that the drain on the taxpayers money - obviously, $32m was wastefully spent last year - will become a thing of the past, and this money will not be directed at filling the coffers of the companies which have owned the buildings and in some instances completely paying off the mortgages that were established to provide the accommodation. The accommodation was provided supposedly for the companies themselves but in most instances only a small amount of accommodation was for the companies’ own use. These companies provided this accommodation safe in the knowledge that they had the sure tenancy of a friendly and favourable Government. I hope one day that the true story concerning the construction of John McEwen House and how the Country Party financed it from the Australian taxpayers’ funds will be revealed. The honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) is anxiously waiting to get to his feet. Perhaps he will reveal to the people a few of these previously undisclosed facts. The people of Australia will then know some of the tricks that the previous coalition Government got up to in the provision of accommodation for Government departments. It was for the benefit of their own political parties.
– We have just listened to a speech from the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh), I think it was. He does not make many speeches in the House. He is known usually for making interjections. His speech today was about the longest interjection that I have ever heard him make in this House. He has raised matters on which he said I might comment.
– The truth hurts, does it not?
– He is at it again, Mr Deputy Chairman. He has resumed his seat, but he is commencing his usual practice of interjecting and making wild and unfounded statements. That is his usual occupation. I will not waste my time going into the details of the project he mentioned, which is known as John McEwen House. However, I will make two or three comments on it.
Firstly, John McEwen House was erected after a great deal of bard work had been done by thousands of Australian people who had tremendous admiration for the dedication and ability of Sir John McEwen here in the national Parliament. If the honourable member for Bowman achieves one-quarter of the work that Sir John McEwen carried out for this Parliament and for Australia, I will be very surprised. I was tempted to say that I would give a garden party for the wharf labourers if the honourable member for Bowman ever reached anywhere near the standard of achievement of Sir John McEwen who was such a wonderful statesman and a wonderful member of this Parliament.
– Were you not the fund raiser for this project?
– In answer to the Minister who has just asked whether I was the fund raiser, I have just said that John McEwen House was erected as a result of the hard work of thousands of Australian people from both rural and city areas alike who respected the job that Sir John McEwen had done for Australia. In regard to the matter of Government departments leasing buildings, that is purely a commercial enterprise. If space is available and if the Government requires that space, it is quite within the law and within the policy of both the previous Government and of this Government for a commercial arrangement to be made. That is exactly what has happened. Instead of the accommodation shortage being overcome by the actions of this Government, I say that the position will be magnified and worsened by the creation of so many new bodies, such as the 47 new commissions, 10 new government departments and a greater number of public servants. This will result in a greater demand for accommodation in the capital cities.
It is probably true to say that housing in Australia is in the worst mess it has been in for years. There is a problem in regard to money, land, labour, materials and, of course, strikes also are a major worry. Added to all those factors is the general air of uncertainty about future policies of this Government in regard to both land and housing. The total blame for the housing problem cannot, of course, be levelled at the Government. However, there is no question that the very high level of Government spending, the lack of economic responsibility, the overall national policies of the Government and the inflationary climate that is being added to considerably by Labor’s financial policies are all factors contributing strongly to the mounting problems and chaos in the housing industry.
The Labor Government is pursuing policies which are concentrated on diverting money for the building of homes from the private sector to the public sector of the economy. The Government started this movement by increasing the bond rate, thereby forcing powerful financial institutions to raise their interest rates on debentures. This fact, plus the fact that short term unsecured notes also are offering peak rates, means that the flow of funds to building societies - which have been a considerable part of the backbone of the building industry - and to savings banks has dropped off alarmingly. Figures released in Canberra recently show that the flow of funds into building societies tumbled 43 per cent from $102m in August to only $5i8m in September. The same disappointing position existed for the savings banks in respect of their intake figures which, adjusted on a seasonal basis, dropped from $167m to $95m in about the same period. This was the situation in relation to the building societies and the savings banks before they raised their interest rates, but it is most likely that the trend will continue. The savings banks have been requested to cut back on loans to assist in an attempt to dampen down the overheated building boom. Building society spokesmen have indicated that they will probably be able to finance only about 54,000 homes this financial year compared with 78,000 last year. This, no doubt, has been brought about partly by Government domination of finance in general and interest rates in particular.
Action on interest rates generally has put a penalty on young people who have a mortgage on their homes and are looking forward to owning their own home in the future. It seems to me that the Government has raised the interest on the bond rate and has turned around to the lending institutions and said: But you carry the can as far as interest on housing loans to young people is concerned.’ But, of course, if the Labor Government achieves its policy objectives, eventually everyone will be living in a commission or government owned house or flat on leasehold land. This is a well-known socialist philosophy to which every member of the Labor Party is a committed signatory. As the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) said, the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) is one of the most dedicated of all socialists. He is one of the first in the queue to use the power of financial blackmail that is possessed by the Federal Government which is centralised here in Canberra. An example of this fact is to be found in his tactics in ‘negotiating’ - and I query the use of the word - the recent Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. He used financial and political blackmail - tout mainly financial blackmail - to force the States to agree to the terms that they did agree to in the long run. Mind you, they did not agree to the terms which the Minister would have liked. Reference has been made by some his colleagues during this debate to the statement the Minister made on 16 January 1973. What a famous statement that was! What a violent reaction it produced from every State govern* ment - ‘Liberal, Labor and Country PartyLiberal alike. In that statement the Minister said: t also propose that the sale of new homes built by the State Housing Authority after June 30 next to ‘be severely restricted, if not entirely prohibited, with sales to continue from their existing stock.
In other words, the Minister wanted all the money involved under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement - millions of dollars - spent only on rental homes. That is, of course, socialist philosophy. Luckily that position was prevented from coming about by the State governments. The Minister laughs when I mention ‘socialist philosophy’. He cannot deny that he is a socialist and that he has signed the pledge to socialise everything in Australia eventually. That is okay; that is his belief and he is entitled to it. But I do hope that the people of Australia will not fall for the trap and accept the dead hand of depressing socialism upon the Australian community. I will have a bit more to say about that later.
As I said, we saw the principle of financial blackmail being exercised by the Minister in the negotiation of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. It was a disgraceful display of high powered dictatorial financial standover tactics and against all the principles that we on this side of the House stand for.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– At the outset I must say that I do not like socialism and that I do not like these new socialistic philosophies and policies. We are now discussing the estimates for the Department .of Housing. Approximately every 5 years a new housing agreement has been negotiated with the Commonwealth, the 6 States being signatories. The terms of the Agreement were in fact exactly that - an agreement by seven equal partners as to how housing funds would be spent. In the past the 7 housing ministers met regularly and the main argument usually revolved around interest rates and repayment provisions, but at no time was there ever any essence of intervention by the Commonwealth whereby it gave directions to the States as to how the States allocations would be spent. As a policy since 1955 the Victorian Liberal Government has always fostered home ownership amongst low income earners and prior to coming into office in 1955 that Government had estimated that only 52 homes had been sold to housing commission tenants, but in the intervening 17 years the figure has risen to 34,667 out of a total building program of 74,651 units. The Victorian Government has always believed that the ownership of a home is the only opportunity that most people of limited means would have to obtain a real stake in life and its policy was one of no deposit and easy repayments plus a death benefit scheme which relieved the widow of any further repayment on the death of the breadwinner. It also retained a high percentage of houses built each year for rental purposes and kept a fairly even balance between houses built for rental and houses built for sale.
The Minister has said that the annual determination of the amount to be allocated to a State housing authority for housing would no longer be left entirely to the individual States but would largely be determined by the Commonwealth. Funds for co-operative housing societies were to be cut by 33 per cent and all in all the Minister’s statement of 16 January emphasised that the new socialist Government to which he belonged was moving very quickly to reduce the incidence of home ownership in the community with only one target obviously in view, and that was to have as many people as possible throughout Australia dependent entirely on the State for their housing needs. Conferences with the State Ministers were held in Canberra on Friday, 23 March, and in Adelaide on Thursday, 5 April, with all seven Ministers present on both occasions. These ministerial conferences were the strangest that have ever taken place. Votes were taken but not the slightest notice was taken of the wishes of the States, as has been the accepted tradition when the Commonwealth and 6 States come together as 7 equal partners.
The first statement by the Minister was that there would be no housing commission houses for sale after 30 June 1973. Then there was a change of attitude by him which allowed for 30 per cent of the homes built with the money provided from the Commonwealth to be sold. Great publicity was given by the Commonwealth to the tremendous concessions which were being offered to the States to allow them to sell 30 per cent of the homes. What utter nonesense this was, when in fact Victoria has been selling in excess of SO per cent of the homes it built each year. Each State spoke strongly in favour of an increase from 30 per cent sales to 50 per cent sales. The States firmly believed, following the Adelaide conference and the unanimous decision to increase their house sales from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, that this would be agreed upon by the Commonwealth. The States viewed with great concern the fact that the final draft of the joint agreement allowed for only 30 per cent sales.
One of the most tragic steps taken by the present Commonwealth Government was the elimination of the $750 home savings grant for married couples. This has been replaced by a proposal that interest on mortgages for home borrowings be tax deductible. But how many young married couples have the initial amount of money in cash which allows them to proceed with a buying program? Permanent building societies, which have done so much over a period of many years in helping people to save and build their own homes, will now fall under the hammer of the present socialist Government. Once again we see the attitude of the socialists is not encouraging people to purchase their own homes. Following the recent increase in interest rates, we can now see a complete winding down of the overall home building program. Throughout Australia many people are in dire need of a home for either renting or buying. Wherever one looks one will find the impersonal hand of socialism playing a most unfortunate part in progress.sively dampening home ownership.
I wonder what the future holds for us in our housing program when all the time this new socialist policy is moving in and taking its effect. Fewer houses are being built, the demand for houses is increasing, strikes are continual, labour and materials are in short supply. Housing is not a pleasant picture as presently seen throughout Australia. Australia is a young, developing and growing nation. We need houses and we need home ownership. We will not progress under a socialistic policy; we will progress only under a free enterprise policy.
– Before I speak on the main subject of my address, I should like to endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Balaarat (Mr Erwin) that the policies of the present Government are designed to turn people away from wanting to own their own homes, because the Australian Labor Party has said time and time again that home ownership is an indication of capitalism. I think it was one of the Labor Ministers in the 1940s who accused the then Chifley Government of turning Australia into a nation of capitalists. However, I shall pass from that subject.
I am glad to see in the Parliament the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is responsible for electoral matters, because I want to outline something which has concerned me since I first entered this Parliament, and, regrettably, about which nothing was properly done during the time of my own Party’s administration of the country. During that time endeavours were made to alter the electoral system but we never achieved this. If the Minister is as concerned about the manner in which democracy works as he appears to be in his utterances in this Parliament, I believe that his approach to the matter I now raise will be the test. I refer to the question of postal voting in Australia.
– You know all about rorts in postal votes.
– The honourable member for Bowman interjects that I would know about rorts. The facts are that when I came here in 1966 I just scraped in because I received one-third of the postal votes in my electorate. I made up my mind then and there to learn about the system of postal voting so that the ALP would not exploit the system in the following election as it had in the year I managed to win. The honourable member for Bowman is known in Queensland as one of the greatest exploiters of the postal voting system who has ever walked the State.
– Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise on a point of order. I am afraid that the honourable member for Griffith is confusing me with himself. He is the one who has that reputation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order. I suggest also that the honourable member for Bowman cease interjecting.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman. If the honourable member for Bowman cared to go through the Hansard reports since just after I arrived here in 1966 he would find repeated pleas from myself to the Government of the day to alter the postal voting system in the name of fairness and in the name of democracy. May I recount very briefly for the Minister the manner in which postal votes are exploited and then put to him a system which I believe would be most satisfactory in the interests of all?
– If I might interrupt, would the honourable gentleman take his time over this because I am most inexperienced in elections.
– The manner in which the Minister tried earner this year to put his electoral Bills through would indicate to the contrary. It indicates that the man who possesses the greatest expertise in exploitation and gerrymander is the Minister for Services and Property. But these interjections are taking up the time I have in which to deal with a very important subject. At the present time the postal voting system allows of exploitation by the various political parties. I do not suggest for a moment that the Labour Party is alone in this exploitation. All political parties engage in it. I believe with conviction that the exploitation of postal voting is such that it could prevent a party going out of office and ensure a party coming into power, depending upon which party is on its feet and is more agile in whizzing around and obtaining these votes. Under the present system legislation requires all persons over 18 years of age to vote. Unless they are almost beyond living this is a compulsion which applies to all over 18 years of age.
If we look at the Australian figures we see that in 1966 there were well over 100,000 postal votes. In fact there were approximately 150,000 postal votes. Possibly the number has now grown to nearly 250,000. What happens in each electorate? On the day it becomes lawful to do so, the various political parties visit the homes of the aged, sick and infirm persons with application forms and say: ‘Dear, here you are. Here is an application form. Sign on the dotted line and leave it to us.’ That is where the skulduggery begins. The political parties then gather together all the postal vote application forms and work their organisation in such manner. Let me say that I have never done this but I have seen it done by others.
– Your organisation in Griffith has done it if you have not.
– I deny that completely. My organisation has never done it. It was the Australian Labor Party that drew my attention to what goes on. The honourable member should lift his mind out of the gutter and recognise that I am trying to make a contribution for the betterment of all men. Let me return to what I was saying. The political parties then feed into the electoral office of the division concerned a bundle of postal votes in the morning of a particular day. They know that they will be processed that day. The last thing they have said to the person from whom they collected the application form was: ‘Do not do anything until we get back.’ They know that the electoral officer will post those forms that evening. So next morning they have their organisation ready, willing and able virtually to follow the postman around. When the ballot papers are delivered they make a visit and say: Well, here I am again.’ The elderly, sick or infirm person says: ‘What a coincidence; I have just received my ballot paper.’ Then the representative from the organisation says: ‘Well listen, dear. Give it to me. I will help you fill it out.’ No fair minded person in this Parliament could possibly condone that practice.
I suggest for the consideration of the Minister the implementation of the following practice: Considering that the Commonwealth requires people to vote, I believe that the Government has a responsibility to make it possible for those people who are confined to bed or who are too old or ill to go to a polling booth to have easy access to a postal vote. The present system enables the electoral officer of each division to mark against the name in his master roll the name of a particular person who previously had a postal vote on the ground of being aged or infirm. We should forget about the women who are pregnant and cannot go to the polling booth. We should forget about some of the others who are able to look after themselves. These aged and sick persons are the ones for whom we should be caring. When an election or a referendum, such as we have on the horizon now, comes around I believe it is the duty of the Commonwealth Electoral Office to send to those persons with as much detail as possible already completed, an application form and an accompanying note reminding them that it is their responsibility to read carefully the terms of qualification to establish in their own minds whether they qualify. This means that an elderly person would be helped significantly.
More importantly, it would take the responsibility out of the hands of the political parties. I do not trust them whether they be members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party, the Australian ‘Labor Party, the Democratic Labor Party or the Communist Party; when it comes to obtaining votes all parties are the same. They are all out to get what they can. If we adopted this procedure and made it the responsibility of the Electoral Office, we would he able to kill the malpractices which presently occur. It has always amazed me that when I came into this Parliament in 1966 I had to be the first to draw the attention of the Parliament to the fact that these malpractices occurred. Nobody else’s conscience had been pricked. I think that the way the system works is a sad indictment of honourable members who up until recent years accepted these bad things. This practice has been condoned and allowed to continue.
I hope that the Minister for Services and Property will recognise the truth of what I have said - that it is up to the Government of the day, the Parliament or the electoral officer to provide this service to the aged, the sick and the needy and to take the matter out of the hands of the political parties because they are the ones who are presently exploiting what is surely meant to be a democratic process. I would hate to think that when my Party is returned to power it won power by the exploitation of a voting system. Furthermore, I have never wanted 80 per cent of the postal votes. As long as I gain my fair share of about half I reckon I am doing all right.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to take the time of the Committee again for just a few seconds. I think that it is appropriate, following the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), for me as a Government supporter, although I have not had the length of experience that the honourable member has had either in parliamentary terms or iri postal vote organisation terms, to say that the Government is very conscious of the rackets and rorts that are being worked in postal vote collection, Of course, over the years these have been accentuated, developed and perfected under the Liberal-Country Party governments. I am sure that, whilst this practice was allowed to go on under those governments, it will not be allowed to go on under this Government. I know that the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), whose responsibility it is to handle electoral matters for this Government, is working on ways and means of overcoming these rackets and the disgraceful tactics that have been used in the past. I must say that I agree with the honourable member for Griffith when he says that people from all political parties have been guilty. That is the one point I really wanted to make.
I did not like the honourable member’s holier than thou’ attitude nor particularly did I like his statement that his organisation had not been guilty of any of these breaches and abuses of postal vote organisation during an election campaign. I take this opportunity of reminding him of completed postal vote application forms with the names and addresses filled in that have been sent out by his organisation together with an accompanying letter, not signed by the honourable member naturally because he would not breach the Electoral Act, but signed by a responsible officer, usually his campaign director - and posted to people throughout the electorate on the basis of the the card index system of postal votes for the previous election that he keeps. Yet he stands here today and suggests that everyone but himself is guilty. So I take this opportunity of reminding the honourable member for Griffith of that one fact. I have had copies of these completed postal vote application forms which were given to me by people in his electorate who had received them from him. To fool the people concerned - very often they are aged and infirm people who are put on the so-called postal vote list - the form has on the front of it the stamp of the divisional returning officer, copied by the political party. In this instance of course I refer to the Liberal Party. In this is an official document from the divisional returning officer.
Let me go further and remind the honourable member for Griffith of the blatant misuse of the privilege of allowing people to vote by post that was carried out during the last election campaign by his friend, the dishonourable - I mean the honourable - member for Lilley in the days of the last Parliament, Kevin Cairns, the great architect of virtue, the Democratic Labor Party member of the last Parliament who sat in this chamber. He abused every privilege that he had, including using an employee of the divisional returning officer for Lilley - a poor unfortunate woman whom he got hold of and on whom he used his vicious influence to get her to send out propaganda for him and to send out together with the ballot papers for the postal vote applicant a how-to-vote card for Kevin Cairns, the Liberal candidate for Lilley. Who bore the brunt of the responsibility for what happened?
Not Kevin Cairns. He knew nothing about it. He would not be a party to any malpractices in postal vote collections! No. He left it to the poor unfortunate woman who worked in the electoral office to bear the responsibility for actions taken on his behalf and on behalf of his organisation. They were the parties truly responsible for such a vicious and malicious political act. Can a sitting member for Parliament do anything lower than to send out howtovote cards through an electoral office in order to try to save one’s political hide?
I will support any call that is honestly and sincerely made for the clearing up of the postal vote rackets and rorts that are carried out at present and have been carried out for many years in the past. I condemn the previous Government for failing to take action to clear them up. I am certain that I can pledge, on behalf of the Minister for Services and Property, that the Government will carry out the action necessary to clean up the disgraceful practices that have been followed over the years and which have been sanctioned, supported and, in some instances, sponsored by the political students of the Liberal Party who have stood for and in some cases tried to hold seats.
– Briefly I should like to answer some of the accusations which, unfortunately, have been made by the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh). In the past few minutes he has made a speech which, unfortunately, has dragged the contribution I made to the debate down to gutter level. I listened quietly to his accusations. I recall very clearly how in 1969 a man, who later became Federal President of the Australian Labor Party and is now the member for Lytton in the Queensland Parliament, Mr Tom Burns, tried 3 weeks before the election of that year to make a big issue of the claim that I was engaging in illegal practices. It was proven then that I was not and have never been so’ engaged. I am prepared to swear to that on the biggest stack of Bibles the honourable member for Bowman possesses.
– Your organisation was.
– Sit down you fool.
– I will bring the letter into the chamber and show it to you.
– I will read the letter. The point I am making is that there is nothing illegal about what I have done. I am not to be condemned if I have been smart enough to take advantage of leeway which was left open to me because of the Labor Party’s exploitation system in the area, as long as I am working within the framework of the law. I have never purported to be anything that I am not. I have never at any time done anything illegal in relation to postal votes. I can live with myself in relation to this matter. Members of the Labor Party have on a couple of occasions tried to make accusations to the contrary, but they have always come off the loser. In 1969 a Labor alderman, after the Labor Party had tried to bring up the point that the honourable member for Bowman made, said to me: ‘That little effort was worth 500 votes to you. They are stupid. They should keep their mouths shut because you are not doing anything wrong*. All I am asking is that we do something. Now that the subject of politics has been raised, I remember how during the 1966 election campaign a Labor alderman ran one of my workers off the road in a car at Stones Corner. He forced the car into a park. He was a big man. He came up to my worker-
– A thug.
– Like a thug. That is the word. He came up to him and said ‘Give me that postal vote form. I want your name. I am going to report you’. The poor blighter did not know if he was doing wrong. That is the way in which the Labor Party carries on.
– Strong arm tactics.
– The honourable member for Angas said it uses strong arm tactics. He is correct. It is time all right. It is time something was done about this matter. It is time we recognised that all political parties are guilty of malpractices and not just one party. The tragedy is that the system has lent itself to the type of exploitation to which I have referred. When a system is as bad as this one it is about time we did something about it. For my own record in this respect honourable members opposite need only read Hansard. They will find that I have made dozens of speeches and asked dozens of questions in the House on this matter since the first occasion on which I raised it - 28 September 1967 - in an endeavour to get the system changed to a more honest one.
– There are a couple of matters I would like to raise briefly in reply to some matters raised by members of the Opposition. One would think from the speeches of some members of the Opposition that their record in Government over 23 years was absolutely exemplary. No one would have thought from the speeches they have made that, for instance, there had been a drop in the amount of money spent on housing in successive Commonwealth Budgets brought down by Liberal-Country Party governments. It is worth having a look at the figures. In the 1954-55 Budget funds allocated to the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement made up 2.68 per cent of the total Government expenditure. But by 1971-72 the proportion of money spent on government housing out of the Commonwealth Budget had fallen to 1.8 per cent. That is the record of the previous Government.
What else was the record of the previous Government? When the Labor Government came to office it found that there were 93,000 people throughout Australia on the waiting lists for housing commission homes. No one would think from listening to the speeches of members of the Opposition in this debate that there had been any increase at all in the allocation of money for housing by the present Government. It is worth having a look at the figures. The amount originally allocated last year by the States of their own choice to the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement was $ 166.9m. In actual fact, in modification of that, the total allocation was even less. The amount allocated under the first year of the new Agreement will be $2 18m. That represents an increase of 29 per cent. That is what the present Government has done. There has been a very great and very significant increase in the allocation of money under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. That is the record of the present Government.
I was interested also in the remarks of the honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin), who castigated the Government over its policies on rental housing and the ownership of houses. It was quite obvious from the remarks of the honourable member for Ballaarat that he does not even know how the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement works. He informed the chamber - I listened to what he had to say - that only 30 per cent of the money allocated under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement may be used for homes for purchase. The facts of the matter are that 30 per cent of the funds made available under the Commonwealth-State
Housing Agreement go to what is called the Home Builders Account. I should think that probably 124 members of this House would know what the Home Builders Account is. The honourable member for Ballaarat, in one of his rare contributions to debates in this chamber, made it quite plain that he does not know what it is. The money that is made available to the Home Builders Account - the 30 per cent - is for houses for purchase. It is to the remaining 70 per cent that the 30 per cent to which he might have been referring applies. In fact it is not as though only 30 per cent of the money will be available for houses for purchase; 30 per cent goes to the Home Builders Account for houses for purchase and 30 per cent of the remaining 70 per cent also is provided for houses for purchase. I think this ought to be made quite clear. It is just pitiful to see how ignorant some people can be about this most important and significant item of expenditure under the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement.
I cannot quite understand how honourable members opposite do not seem to have any concern for the person who, for one reason or another, rents a home. We saw what happened a couple of years ago with the Premier of New South Wales when, at that time, the stock of rental housing in that State was dwindling pitifully. ‘ Some of the traditionally working class homes in the inner suburbs of Sydney were being sold. What happens is that developers go along and persuade the tenant of a house to buy his house and they say they then will buy the house from him at a profit. The developer redevelops the land and makes a substantial cop for himself. The result of this is that the area is redeveloped and that housing traditionally used by a lot of inner city workers is lost forever. Many of these people have to be displaced to the outer suburbs from where they must travel long distances to their work. This is the situation of which Mr Bourke, the Chairman of the New South Wales Housing Commission was and is very well aware. I heard him speak publicly on this point on one occasion and for his pains he was chastised by the Premier of New South Wales. Now, of course, the New South Wales Housing Commission is fully in agreement with the very progressive policy of the present Australian Minister for Housing who has placed very heavy emphasis on his policy, under the new CommonwealthState Housing Agreement, of retaining an adequate stock of rental housing. 1 want to add just one more point, because I do not want to detain the Committee for much longer. I should like to reiterate to this Government the suggestion which I have made on a previous occasion. I refer to action which I believe ought to be taken to try to do something about escalating land prices. I suppose no one can claim to have a panacea to this problem and many different solutions have been tried in the past. However, I advocate that we give strong consideration to implementing a capital gains tax on the unearned increment in land values. This should be a capital gains tax with a difference in that we should tax that capital gain whether or not it is realised. This tax should be applied to land which has not been built on, so that if somebody buys a block of land and its value increases by 100 per cent, I believe that capital gain, after making some allowance for inflation, should be taxed if that property has not been developed. Even if the property has not been sold, the tax should be levied. I believe this would have the important effect, like any assets tax, of providing an incentive for the person who holds that land to sell the land forthwith if he is not going to develop it himself. This might provide a real measure of assistance in increasing the supply of land available for housing. One of the situations which could be expected to occur under such a scheme is that the Government, having put a valuation on a block of land, would say to Mr X: ‘Your property has increased in value by 80 per cent’, and Mr X could then say: ‘I do not want to pay the tax on that amount of capital gain because I think the increase in value of the land is only 20 per cent’. We could easily settle that difference by the land commission offering to buy the land from Mr X at his price with a capital gain of 20 per cent. This would be a very good way of increasing the supply of land for housing. I have mentioned this in the House before and, once again, I ask the Government to give consideration to my proposal because I believe that the most important thing we must do to make more housing available for the people of Australia is to do our utmost to ensure that land prices cease rising at a faster rate than are wages.
– I should like to make one short comment on a matter that was discussed earlier by the honourable memfor Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron), namely, the obtaining of postal votes from elderly people. I believe that practices which have developed over the years and are used by both major political parties are to be condemned. There is nothing more unedifying than to see canvassers on behalf of candidates scrambling for the votes of elderly and sick people. I offer very shortly the thought to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) for inclusion in the legislation on electoral matters which he has foreshadowed he will bring down that the right to vote of people over 70 years of age should be voluntary and not compulsory, and the seeking of postal votes from those people by canvassers on behalf of candidates should be outlawed. We would then have a truly voluntary vote available to those people over the age of 70 who genuinely desire the vote, and there are many who do desire to exercise their right to vote. For those who are too sick to get to the polling booth on polling day, administrative arrangements ought to be made through the Commonwealth Electoral Office for a voting paper to be taken to those people, not by representatives of political parties but by officers of the Electoral Office. I offer these short comments to the Minister for his consideration.
I wish to speak now on housing because of the great concern I have at the intended abolition by the Government of the homes savings grant scheme. It is a concern that not only I but also a great many people within the community feel because the homes savings grant scheme is a stepping stone to home ownership by young couples. When young couples set out on the path of obtaining a home, the very first thing they must do is to accumulate the necessary money to put down a deposit on that home, enough money to enable them to borrow from an established institution. What this Government proposes to do is to kick away from those young couples that very first stepping stone, and this from a party which espouses so much the cause of the people in the community who are not affluent. The Government is making things more difficult for the less affluent people in the community and restricting the availability of housing finance to those who are more affluent and more fortunate.
It must be remembered that when the Homes Savings Grant Bill was introduced on 5 May 1964 it followed an election promise by the then Prime Minister, the right honourable Sir Robert Menzies, to introduce such a scheme designed to encourage young people to accumulate savings towards the purchase of their home. It was also intended to channel savings during the savings period prescribed to institutional lenders who would make more money available in the community for housing generally. So, there was a double-barrel purpose behind this scheme. The phrase that was commonly used in those days and one which really underwrote the scheme was that it was intended to enable young couples to overcome the deposit gap. I would be surprised to hear the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) propound the idea that there is no deposit gap confronting young couples today. It exists today as much as it did in 1964, and I believe that the primary objective for which that homes savings grant scheme was introduced in that year is as good today as it was then.
In the interim statement for the year 1972- 73 that has just been published by the Secretary of the Department of Housing, the policy behind the scheme is expressed as I have stated it. It is also pointed out in that statement that, during the past year, a record number of 47,260 applications for grants were received and a total of 40,847 grants amounting to $21,343,564 were approved. Payments of grants amounted to $21,286,919, the highest in any year since the scheme commenced. No one can deny that this scheme has been of tremendous benefit to the young people of this country, and I think it is to be much lamented that it is the policy of this Government to destroy a scheme which has been of such value to the whole community.
At the same time as the homes savings grant scheme was introduced the government led by Sir Robert Menzies set up the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, which was enabled to underwrite lending by institutions for housing to the extent of 90 per cent of the value of the home being purchased. Prior to the Corporation being established, banks and building societies would generally lend only about 60 or 70 per cent of the value, which of course meant that there was a tremendous deposit gap for young couples to overcome. However, by the combination of the homes savings grant scheme, which provided the incentive for young couples to save that first amount of money to embark upon home ownership, and the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, which enabled institutions to lend up to 90 per cent of the value, that deposit gap was virtually obliterated.
The growth of home ownership and lending for housing in Australia can be judged from 2 sets of figures which I shall quote quickly to the Committee. Let me deal first of all with the growth in homes savings grants - from 24,740 in 1964-65 to the figure that I have already mentioned, 47,260. The statistics I have show that up to the end of 1971-72 the total number of grants was 248,334, which means that over a quarter of a million people in Australia have benefited from this scheme. In 1965-66, the year in which it was established, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation underwrote 2,002 housing loans, and in 1971-72 it underwrote 44,520 loans. This shows a tremendous and rapid scale of growth in the underwriting of housing loans throughout Australia. One can also see the pattern reflected in the volume of business that building societies have done during that period. I have only the statistics relating to the underwriting of building society loans by the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, but they show that the number of loans increased from 1,578 in 1965-66 to 36,153 in 1971-72.
On top of that, schemes have been put forward by both the Government and the Opposition to provide some measure of relief to people who are paying off housing loans, either by a tax deductibility scheme as put forward by the Government or by a rebate scheme as put forward by the Opposition when it was in government. One can see that if the homes savings grant scheme were retained and relief were provided in either of these ways, the total package would benefit all home seekers, particularly young couples who want to own their own homes. At a time when the Government is proposing to introduce a tax deductibility scheme, it is a tragedy that it is dismantling - more than dismantling - the homes savings grant scheme and rejecting it altogether. It is fundamental, indeed obvious, that in housing matters a government must start at the beginning. If it is part of the Government’s political philosophy to promote home ownership, it must start at the beginning. The start is the savings which young people must accumulate. At this beginning, we must provide government assistance by way of an incentive to save through the homes savings grant scheme.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I thank honourable members on both sides of the chamber for the useful suggestions and comments they have made on the estimates for the Department of Housing. Little has been said about the Department of Works, and it is unnecessary for me to make any comments in that regard. It was amazing today and last Thursday to hear the contentions of honourable members opposite on housing problems that have persisted for a long time. Their objective was to lay the blame for these problems at the door of the present Government. I seems to me that any fairminded person would have to concede that most of these problems are the product of bad policies pursued by our predecessors in office. The chickens are coming home to roost. The Australian Government has a sense of responsibility in relation to the matter. We have a sense of anguish about the deficiency of homes in Australia and the increasing cost, and we have under consideration many proposals that are designed to alleviate those problems.
The clear fact is that housing, both as a parliamentary issue and as an administrative area, was downgraded by the previous Government and its Liberal-Country Party predecessors. These governments had little appreciation of housing and all the matters associated with it. For example, they gave no proper consideration to new growth centres and new cities. They gave lip service to decentralisation, but that was about all they did about it. In contrast this Government, with the cooperation of the States, is bringing about real and significant developments in this field. My colleague the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) is taking very real initiatives in regard to the availability of land and the regulation of land prices.
Comments have been made about the shortage of tradesmen. Although this Government has been in office for less than 12 months, Opposition members have tried to blame it for this shortage. Admittedly there is a shortage of tradesmen, but the fact is that the shortage of both tradesmen and materials reflects the complete vacuum in the previous Government’s planning machinery for housing. When I took over the housing portfolio one of my first inquiries was to ascertain whether there was some objective in regard to the housing needs of Australia. I wanted to know how many houses would be needed by 1978, 1980 or 1985. To my surprise, I found that the previous Government had conducted no research on this question. It had failed to enlist the services of academic people who could have effectively undertaken surveys and made inquiries on housing needs. Had it done so, it would have been able to plan for the supply of materials and money. As a result of the former Government’s lack of foresight, there was no objectivity in this area of housing when I took over the portfolio. We still lack that objectivity, but we are in the process of getting it. We realise and concede the need for planning and we aim to achieve this objective as quickly as possible. Under the former Government, with no planning and research in housing, this was a seriously neglected area.
In that kind of setting I can go on to discuss the housing situation. I do not suppose that the people who are queued up for housing authority homes or building society loans in Australia care very much whether the former Liberal-Country Party Government caused the present situation; all they care about is when they can get the money for their home. I could reel off all kinds of figures to demonstrate the irresponsibility that characterised the previous administration in respect of housing, but it would be futile to do so. I shall just take a case in point, and I shall not labour it after giving the relevant figures. In 1970 the banks, assurance companies and permanent building societies together made available $1,1 13m. This was increased in 1971 to $ 1,407m and in 1972 to $2,280m. That is an increase in 2 years from $1,1 13m to $2,280m. There is not one tittle of evidence to show that the former Government gave any thought to backing up that great additional flow of money with additional manpower or material resources. Obviously when any of these aspects are out of perspective or relationship something has to blow and the lid goes off it. Periodically, this has been the history of the country over the last 23 years. We realise that this kind of failure to treat the situation has to be arrested. As I said, we have to get on with the job.
I will just comment on several of the matters raised by colleagues on both sides of the chamber. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) both talked about the problems arising from the cyclonic conditions in Queensland. I want to say to the honourable member for Maranoa in particular that following the damage caused in north Queensland by cyclone Althea in December 1971 the Acceptable Standards of Construction Committee of the major lenders in Queensland amended the building standards to improve the requirements for the construction of housing throughout the high velocity wind area north of the 24th parallell in Queensland in which cyclonic winds are experienced.
Of course this does not cover the Brisbane area where the recent cyclone occurred and it is obvious that these examinations will need to be made in respect of the Brisbane area having regard to the high incidence of damage caused there. I suppose that it is fair to say that a great deal of the damage may have occurred in respect of houses which were built without any regard for the acceptable standards that were decided upon by that Construction Committee. The Government realises that this matter is one which needs further attention. The extent to which some thought should be given to alleviating the problem also needs further attention. There has to be more application to the principles enunciated by that Acceptable Standards of Construction Committee.
I take the opportunity to say that, in respect of the recent storm in Brisbane on 5 November, the Department of Housing was very anxious to give every possible service, particularly to the people whose homes were financed by the Defence Service Homes Division. I understand that the Department set aside 10 telephone lines to receive calls and had a number of competent officers in the field dealing in a very short time with some 250 insurance claims in the Moorooka, Yeronga and MacGregor areas. The Defence Service Homes Division takes a very great pride in the attention that it gives to people who makes claims under the defence service homes insurance scheme.
I take the opportunity to mention the tremendous advantages which accrue to people who avail themselves of this scheme as against the alternative schemes. Without making a big thing of it, it is important to show what a public instrumentality can do. The premium for a brick home insured for $15,000 under the defence services homes insurance scheme would be $10.86 compared with the premium payable to a private insurance company, for the same amount, of $37.65. The premium for a timber home insured for the same amount under the defence services homes insurance scheme is $10.86 and the comparable coverage from a typical private insurance company would be $82.65. So honourable members who may be interested in these figures can be assured that they are on very safe ground when they advise the people who are able to take defence services home loans to avail themselves of that service because it is to their advantage.
The honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer) is a mixed bag in these debates. He is very hard to follow. The first point he made was that he regards my efforts in respect of housing as energetic, and I thank him for that. I regret that the same kind of energy was not in evidence over the previous years. If it had we might not have the problems we are confronted with now. He said that there is a complete scarcity of homes for rental, especially for the low income groups in New South Wales. This is surprising coming from the honourable member for Bennelong. He is usually at very great pains to say the opposite. It was not very long ago that he prefaced a question to me in this place by saying that there were 40,000 dwellings vacant in Sydney. He cannot have it both ways. I want to tell him-
– They are pretty expensive to rent.
– Of course they are pretty expensive to rent. The honourable member for Bennelong made contentions to the effect that the Australian Government should be virtually underwriting these rents. He is saying that there is no housing shortage in Australia and that there are 40,000 dwellings to rent in Sydney. He says that all the Australian Government has to do is to rent them to people on low incomes. It seems as though he is in the business of advocating that we underwrite the rent of these expensive homes. I am pleased to see that apparently he does not have an ally in the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham). He certainly does not have one in me. What the Government wants to do is build up an adequate stock of homes for rental.
I take the opportunity just to deal with this matter here and now. I was going to deal with it in respect of the contentions of the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) but I will not have time to reply to every point that has been made. It is interesting to see that a predecessor of mine as Minister for Housing does not go along with these continuous rebukes that have been directed to me in respect of my desire to see the State housing authorities build up a stock of rental homes. In fact, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), who is not only a former Minister for Housing but also a former Treasurer, has expressed very strong views on this question. I should like to read several of them to honourable gentlemen opposite. In a speech on 1 May 1973 he said:
One of the obvious shortages in the housing field in Australia is housing for rental. We have probably reached the stage where home ownership has been relatively overdone. We now have an increasingly mobile population which needs to shift from place to place and not to undertake long term commitments like buying a house. These people need to rent houses and to be able to move quickly from one place to another and from one job to another. This is a requirement which is most acutely felt amongst the lower income groups. I do not believe that the housing commissions run by the States, which differ very much between themselves, have given proper recognition to the basic problem. That is more rental accommodation, particularly housing, for the lower income group.
He goes on at quite some length. I will not be able to read it all. He continues:
I believe that public moneys for housing have been to some degree misapplied. For instance, many houses sold by the State housing commissions have worked out. as nice little capital gains for their purchasers.
Referring to me, he said:
I believe that the Minister is right in tilting the housing commission operations much more towards the provision of rental accommodation, which is what Australia badly needs overall.
He goes on further to say:
I am pleased to see that with this new policy there will be a greater diversion towards constructing rental accommodation. In the past varying means tests have been applied to housing problems. Houses have been sold or let to a great number of people who could well afford to finance themselves on the private outside systems. Over the years these people have virtually been subsidised by the taxpayer. It is quite timely that this system should be changed.
That is an extract from a speech made by the honourable member for Wentworth as reported in Hansard of 1 May 1973. So I point out that I do not stand alone in contending that there is a great deal of virtue in having a stock of rental homes, which we have encouraged the States to engage in developing. There are many people who seek to pass through State housing authority systems on their way to home ownership and it is our job to make certain that everybody who wants shelter has it available.
It is interesting to see what the cost is of replacing rental homes. I will cite the figure in respect of the New South Wales situation. Of 48,617 Housing Commission homes erected, only 22,771 now remain in public ownership. Those houses cost $126m to build. However, if those dwellings were allowed to pass from public ownership, replacement cost would be $500m. These figures are supplied by the New South Wales Housing authority. Honourable members can well imagine how greatly disadvantaged we would be if we went on to sell off more homes. I understand that the Leader of the House wants to terminate this debate.
– The Leader of the House knows that I am on the list to speak. I have asked to speak.
– If the Leader of the House is not going to extend much sympathy to the honourable member for Mackellar, I cannot say I blame him very much, for the honourable gentleman appears to be down for everything that is going. This seems to be an expression of his frustration. As one who in the past has made arrangements with the honourable member that have been broken, I am not surprised at the attitude of the Leader of the House on this occasion.
– I object to that. That is untrue, and the Minister knows it.
– That is the position as I see it, so I do not have a lot of sympathy with the honourable member for Mackellar. I will not be able to deal with many of the matters that were raised in the debate. However, I would like to say to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) that in regard to the problem he raised in connection with the Norlane Hostel at Geelong, I have personally inspected it. As the honourable gentleman pointed out, the hostel consists of igloos which are no longer regarded as desirable accommodation. In addition, a committee has inspected the establishment. As yet I have not received its report. We will be looking at it very carefully, and as soon as further information is available, I will be very happy to provide it for the benefit of the honourable gentleman.
The honourable members for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) talked about the strike situation in the building and housing area. I think it is fair to comment, that the strikes are not against the Australian Government but happen to be in respect of matters which concern State administrations. It is not the fault of the Australian Government if more conciliatory attitudes are not brought to bear in New South Wales and as far as my own statements on that stroke are concerned, I just say that I have been very much at pains to confine my remarks to issues that concern my own administration, which is the construction of public works on behalf of the Australian Government.
There are many other matters on which I would like to comment. It is possible that I will be able to evaluate the suggestions and comments made in the course of the debate and, in view of the shortage of time to deal with them today, I may set out to provide the honourable gentleman who made them with written comments where that appears to be appropriate.
– I will not delay the House very long but there are a few important things that must be said. I listened with attention to the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson), who rightly said that more houses were needed, and one of the reasons he gave was that there had not been enough planning in the past. That may be true, but the primary reason why there are not more houses now is the unrest and industrial disturbance that is taking place in the building industry. This is not just a matter of strikes; this is also a matter of shortages, with men working inefficiently because they cannot get material and because they cannot get things delivered on time. Young couples are being deprived of houses because of the planned chaos in the industry.
Apparently the Minister did not want to say anything about that. However, unfortunately for him, he has said something about it, and I wish to draw the attention of the House to a pamphlet called ‘Shelter’ which apparently is put out by the Minister and which is paid for out of public funds. Most of this pamphlet consists of pro-communist propaganda. There is an article in it called ‘Switched On’ by the Sydney Residents Action Group, and we. all know for whom they are a front. Then we have an article entitled ‘Those Green Bans’ by a man named Thomas and finally an article entitled ‘Strangling the Unemployment Ghost’ by a man named Jack Mundey, a communist, who is leading the disruptive tactics in the building industry and who is in cahoots with the Minister. It is true that at the end of the pamphlet ‘Shelter’ there is a note to this effect:
The views expressed by contributors to ‘Shelter’ do not necessarily represent Government policy, the personal attitudes of the Minister for Housing, Mr Les Johnson, nor official views of the Department.
Fair enough, but if one wants to know what the views of the Minister are, one goes first to Hansard and looks at an answer that he gave to a question on 7 November last in which he showed himself completely on side with the strikers. Next one goes to a Press release by the Minister on the same date, in which again he puts himself completely on side with the strikers. He talks about an illegal lockout of unionists. That was his phrase. It was not an illegal lockout; there was nothing illegal about it.
Furthermore, the Minister did nothing while the building workers organised strike after strike and brought the industry to chaos in accordance with a plan. Yet the Minister sat silent because he is on side with them. That is one of the reasons why there has been this upsurge of industrial strife. The strikers know that they have a great and powerful friend here in Canberra, and that is why there can never be industrial peace in Australia while this Government remains in office, and this Government is run by the left wing on these industrial matters.
Now I come to an interview on, I think, This Day Tonight’, again on 7 November, given by the Minister. It is still in the same vein, still in complete accord with the strikers. If permission were given me, I should like to have the text of that interview incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury)Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
Richard Carlton - Mr Johnson, can I put to you the proposition that you are adopting in essence a double standard; financial penalties on builders who engage in lockouts, on penal clauses, no financial penalties on unions who engage in strikes.
Mr Johnson Well, I’m responsible for building Government works throughout Australia, Australian Government works, the fact of the matter is, those works were just standing there, not involved with the green bans dispute in any way, I’ve had no trouble from trade unionists, all that’s occurred is that Mr Martin, in a very aggressive and belligerant and an unjustifiable way in my view, has decided to lock out the workers. So there’s twenty four million dollars worth of project’s come to a standstill.
Richard Carlton- But surely Sir, I mean, that is a double standard though, you want to impose penalties on the builders for engaging in lockouts, but no penalties on the unions for engaging in strikes.
Mr Johnson No I’m not handling the unionists on the job at all, if there’s any action, and there hasn’t been any action taken by the trade union members in respect of Government contractors, or contracts, if there had been, it would be the job of the contractors, to take the unions through the arbitration system.
Richard Carlton - But it is the Government’s position though, that there shall be no penal clauses on unions, so, I mean, if you’re proposing that penal clauses on employers will solve industrial disputes that involve lockouts, why can’t the same standard be applied, penal clauses and penalties on unionists for engaging in strikes?
Mr Johnson Well, first you’ve got to observe the fact that to move into Government projects has got nothing to do with industrial disputes, which is about green bans. We’re simply saying that we have the obligation and the contractors have the obligation to get the work done in terms of the contract, here seems to be no justification for locking people out. Now if it’s going to cost the Government money, it’s obvious that we should be looking at ways and means of putting into the contract provision which will enable us to recoup the additional expense.
Richard Carlton- Penalties.
Mr Johnson Penalties, yes.
Richard Carlton - So this is a delicate industrial situation and the terms of Mr Martin, that I quoted a moment ago, that er - aren’t you just being as tough as he is, though, in this occasion, is there no room for a little delicacy on your part as well?
Mr Johnson Well, I don’t think so, look I have very good relationships with the Master Builders Association, I get commendatory remarks from many of their executive officers from all over Australia, it seems to me that since Mr Martin has arrived on the scene we’ve had nothing but trouble, and now it seems that there is a tie-up between Mr Martin and the Government in the State elections situation in New South Wales. I can’t see why the taxpayer should have to bear the brunt of Mr Martin’s political prejudices.
Richard Carlton - Well, could you elaborate on that Sir, what do you mean by that, it’s put rather abstrusely
Mr Johnson Well, it just seems to me that Mr Martin is involved in the business of setting the stage for a police confrontation with Trade Unionists, now so far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to allow this to cause the projects, very big projects too, to increase in price or to have them delayed in such a way that the community will suffer. These jobs involve telephone exchanges, defence projects, many great projects that concern public welfare.
Richard Carlton - That’s a serious charge you’ve made against Mr Martin, he’ll most certainly have yet another opportunity to appear on the program, but let me just conclude with another point. Which is more serious in this situation, these odd lockouts that are occurring in Sydney in just a few contracts, or beit, 24 or 30 million, or what ever, which is more serious, those few lockouts, or the great spate of industrial unrest that is causing disruption is just so many areas of activity.
Mr Johnson Well, the lockouts are important, I look after my own affairs, arid it’s only the lockouts which are disrupting the Government building program in Sydney.
– I think it will be interesting for the readers of Hansard to know just how far the Minister has gone in his sympathies with the building workers, and in expressing those sympathies in a television interview. It is interesting also to note that the Minister said in the interview, and he said in the House a moment ago, that he was concerned only with getting government projects going. That is strange, is it not? When government projects were held up - for example the Mail Exchange at South Sydney - by building union extremists, the Minister did nothing. Indeed, if I may quote from the transcript of the interview on This Day Tonight’ with Mr Richard Carlton the Minister said: ‘It is only the lockouts which are disrupting the Government building program in Sydney’. The Minister knows perfectly well that that is not true. He knows how the building workers walked off the South Sydney project while the cement was still wet and half poured. Of course the Minister knows it, and he did nothing about it. This double standard, to which the interviewer on “This Day Tonight’ drew attention, is evident in the actions of the Minister and in the actions of the Government on the industrial front.
Not only the Minister for Housing is involved. I think, Mr Deputy Chairman, you would properly call me to order if I mentioned what other Ministers were doing on this same plan. I make passing reference to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren) who have been cooperating in this plan to incite the strikers to defy authority. I am not trying to condemn the building labourers and workers themselves. 1 am talking of their leaders who are misleading them and who are not really endeavouring to obtain good conditions for them.
What their leaders are doing is trying to bring about what they call a revolutionary situation. We have already had a minor revolutionary situation. They succeeded in doing this. This is a rehearsal for revolution. They think that perhaps it will take them 6 years, 7 years or 8 years to foment these incidents so that each one leads to something more significant and more important. But all the time they can only go ahead because they have the sympathy of Ministers here in Canberra.
The Minister for Housing, who is at the table, should know very well what the Communists are up to. Before he was elected to this chamber he was a paid official of a communist union which was run by Jackie Hughes. I do not know how close to Jackie Hughes he was. Perhaps he will tell us. But because of his association with activities in those days he must be perfectly well aware of what the Communists are up to. That being so, why does he co-operate with them now? People who are duped in this manner can be excused. They do not know what the left wing is up to. There are plenty of people of good intention who co-operate without knowing what it is all about. But one cannot expect a Minister of the Crown to be as innocent as that. One certainly cannot expect a person who, in his past, has been associated with this kind of organisation and disruption to be as innocent as that. I am not trying to denigrate the Minister’ e past. I am simply saying that, because he has had that kind of past, he must know what is being done now with respect to these so-called green bans.
There is nothing so treacherous as a badintentioned person with a good cause. Some of these causes were initially good. But they were not adopted by the Communists for any good purpose. They were adopted in order to suck in innocent people. For example, I know plenty of socialites in Sydney who have been sucked in. They have not realised what they were being used for. But surely that kind of excuse cannot be applied in respect of Ministers in Canberra. They must know what it is all about. When they make statements such as the Press statement which was issued by the Minister for Housing on 7 November, or even the passage that I have quoted from Hansard or, equally, the interview on ‘This Day Tonight’, surely they know what it is all about. The same kind of excuse cannot be given for these Ministers as one would afford other people who have not had experience in this type of game. I do not wish to overstress this matter.
– No, do not do that.
– I do not wish to overstress it. I do not wish to make out that the plans for revolution have gone any further than in point of fact they have. I think that the common sense of the Australian people will assert itself and that even the workers in the building industry will see that the union leaders have been misleading them and organising them to operate against their own real interests.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee because I am well past the stage of taking the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) seriously. He does not trouble me. He overstates his arguments. He is quite reckless in what he says. He has defamed so many people in this Parliament that if his attitudes were to be used as a yardstick there would be nobody in the Parliament with any credit. Words reel out of him and afterwards he qualifies them and compromises and apologises. One just cannot be disturbed when the currency of reliability becomes so debased.
It is a fact that I have expressed by way of an answer to a question in this chamber and by way of radio and television interviews my concern with the fact that an area for which I have responsibility has become affected by an extension of the industrial trouble in New South Wales which arose out of the green ban problems. I am not the Minister with responsibility for labour questions. I decline to move into that area. I have no prerogative in regard to green ban matters at all.
– Why did you make that statement supporting them?
– I have just approved a request by the honourable member for Mackellar to incorporate the statement in Hansard.
– What have you to hide?
– Nothing has been hidden. The honourable member has some sense of guilt. We have nothing to hide about this matter. Let me put it in my own quiet and responsible way. I am simply saying to the Committee that there is a green ban dispute in New South Wales. It concerns the Builder’s Labourers Federation and the Residents’ Action Committee on the one hand and, on the other, substantially the State Government of New South Wales. In other words, those people are saying that irresponsible decisions are being handed down about developmental projects - that is what they are saying - and that no attention is being given to their contentions. That is the situation on one side.
On the other side, there are Australian Government public works of $24m in value, none of which is the subject of the green ban disputation. The employees have no desire to impost and, to my knowledge, no record of importing the green ban problem into the public construction area. I have said in my interviews that that is the case as I understand it. But the Master Builders’ Association has decided to lock out employees from our Commonwealth works projects for some unaccountable reason and has extended the dispute into the area for which I am responsible. I have taken pains to let the Association know my feelings on the question. I feel that it is an unfortunate disruptive tactic for either side to take when, by expanding this green ban problem unnecessarily into the area of public works, it affects so many important proects.
The other day I made mention here of some of the projects on which work is being disrupted or which have been threatened with disruption. These projects include the Killara Telephone Exchange; the. Gore Hill studio extensions; the Bradfield Park National Standards laboratory; the Mascot Telephone Exchange; Commonwealth State Law Courts, Sydney; North Ryde Animal Genetics Laboratory; Quaker’s Hill, ‘Nerimba’ ship’s living quarters; City South Telephone Exchange; Lakemba telephone exchange; Homebush telephone exchange; and the Parramatta telephone exchange. Some other projects are involved. I am told that already works valued at $24m have been affected and that works worth another $27m are under threat. So, works valued at $50m are involved. It seems to me that I should be taking the responsible attitude of discouraging the Master Builder’s Association from extending this lockout technique into my area of responsibility. I have told the Association that I have under consideration a proposal which will take into account the lockout record of tenders. If their record is bad, which demonstrates their incapacity to complete public construction programs according to schedule, I cannot for the life of me see why, as a Minister, I should accept their tenders if it will result in these important projects being delayed and the cost of the projects being increased. Who is expected to bear the increased cost which arises because of the fact that some builders and some employers apparently are bristlingwith belligerence and want to lock out people? Is it to be the Australian taxpayer? If some builders or employers want to lock out people who are working on jobs where there is disputation about green bans, that is another matter. That is the concern of the Minister for Labour, but these matters are my concern.
I unequivocally state that I do not want carrying out the programs for which I have responsibility the kind of builder who will lock out people at the drop of a hat. I do not know whether the honourable member for Mackellar regards that attitude as unreasonable, I do not think it is. In other respects I have been minding my own business, and I intend to go on in connection with these matters will be grateful getting the Australian Government’s construction projects completed on schedule and at a minimum cost. I believe that while I maintain that attitude I will be upholding public interest. I think that the Australian public who already have been subjected to too much inconvenience in connection with these matters will be grateful for the responsibility which I am demonstrating.
– The Minister for Works (Mr Les Johnson) has made some remarks which I think should be answered briefly, and I shall not take more than 5 minutes to do so. He has shown his sympathy–
Motion (by Mr Daly) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $65,797,000.
Proposed expenditure, $507,387,000.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $86,084,000.
– There are many things about the Government’s social security program with which, naturally, I find myself in great sympathy for the simple reason that they represent a continuance of the activities and the attitudes which were initiated under a previous government. I would be the last person to criticise many of the things that have been done. I would rather talk about some of the things which have not been done and which I hope will be done in the very near future. The Government introduced a proposal - which I certainly commend - to pay special allowances for what are called double orphans. It is a peculiar phrase. I do not suppose any orphan is anything but a double orphan. It was a good proposal. However, in my view, it did not go far enough and it did not touch the main heart of the problem. In saying this, I speak with disappointment because I hoped that the previous Government would do something more in this regard. It is a good thing that the Government is doing something for children who have lost both their parents. In the past this responsibility has fallen within the provision of the States and their child welfare departments. Perhaps the States have done as much as they could in this field, but because they have been short of money they have not done as much as they should have done. So I commend this proposal.
Another related group that should be helped are widowers with dependent children. I suppose that one has to extend the definition of widower to include deserted husbands and divorced men whose children are still dependent upon them. But I speak primarily of those who have lost their wives through death. It is an appalling situation that nothing has been done for these people. We have nothing equivalent to a widow’s pension. I wonder whether the women’s liberation group might think of doing something along these lines. If one talks about equality of the sexes, something has to be done for those men, whose wives have died, have dependent children and find it difficult to carry on.
Then we have not a new class but a class which is unhappily becoming much more common, and I speak statistically, not morally, of the deserted father. Not very long ago it was fairly uncommon for a woman to leave her husband and abandon him with the children. This, unhappily, is now becoming much more common, and something should be done for men placed in that situation. The proposal that I make is quite a simple one. We should start by paying what I would call a motherless child’s allowance. It would be paid to children who have lost both parents. Sure, they are motherless. This proposal to some extent, has been covered by the Government’s scheme.
A motherless child’s allowance could also be paid in respect of children who are in the custody of their father either because their mother is dead or because she has deserted the family home and has left the children uncared for. This would be a matter of some consequence. If my memory is correct, this proposal would cost up to $15m a year. It is not entirely a trivial matter, although it is not a very great one in terms of government expenditure. In my view, this is about the worst gap in the whole of our social service structure. There are other gaps, and some things are more massive, but let us do something for these people. I am ashamed to think that we have done nothing for them yet. I am not trying to score a point off the present Government because I am afraid I would be scoring a point off previous governments in this regard. It is an appalling gap in our whole social service setructure
I do not think that it is appropriate just to pay a widow’s pension to widowers. It is true that with the existing tapered means test and the increase in the ‘free area’ to $20 it is still possible for a man to earn something. A man traditionally is the breadwinner. I do not think it is right to put him in the position of having to stay at home in order to receive the widow’s pension or whatever one likes to call it. Perhaps some kind of housekeepers’ allowance could be paid or some help could be given to board out the children so that they could come home at weekends. People will want different things. I do not think that the Government would want to impose a set pattern on all these men, but I suggest to the Government that this is an area in which we could be moving and in which we could be investigating. I hope that it will be more than an investigation. I hope at least that a motherless child’s allowance will be introduced in the near future and that later it will be supplemented by a housekeepers’ allowance or something like the mother’s allowance that is given. This allowance could be given, in my view, free of means test because the widower, as distinct from the widow, would not be receiving the normal widow’s pension. It is a terrible hardship for a man who has lost his wife - even by desertion and much worse if he has lost her by death - to find that he is placed in a financial position in which he has to break up his young family and perhaps lose contact with his dependent children. If he is lucky he may have a mother,- a sister, or a relative who will come to his rescue, but even in that case some kind of extra financial assistance should be available. If there is to be a breakup during the week days at least there should be provision whereby under such circumstances the family could be reunited at the weekend. I commend this suggestion to the Government.
I would have liked to have spoken at much greater length on some other matters but time does not permit. I reiterate what I said before and that is that the most massive problem that lies in front of us - not the most acute but the most massive - in the field of social services is, I think, help for the young couple with a forming family. I refer to the position of a couple starting a marriage with 2 incomes coming into the family. They have no children. There is a change in that position when the first child arrives. The wife stops working, or should stop work. She should be in a position to choose to live at home. At that time, when their income diminishes, the needs of the family increase. We have not in the past, I think, had sufficient vision to see that something must be done about this situation. If our social structure is to become secure we must think not only of the young people but also primarily of the young people with a forming family. Other people are perhaps not so badly off. But young people with a forming family are a class of people who are due for real assistance when the social security program is expanded, as I believe it will be. I do not believe, of course, in the welfare state as such. The welfare state has -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
– (Quorum formed) I want particularly to draw attention to the tremendous reforms that have already been introduced by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham). Without a doubt, already in a period of only 11 months, they have created a completely new perspective and completely new horizons in the fields of social welfare and health services. Even in the short period since the Budget was introduced very great reforms have been brought to fruition, and I think that every possible credit should go to the 2 Ministers concerned for the job they have done. I realise that they have the great problem of finding the necessary finance, to overcome some of the money problems that still exist because practically nothing was done in these fields for so many years. There was a time when Australia could boast that it was one of the great countries of experiment in social welfare. That has not been the case for the last 23 years. We steadily slipped back behind other countries. Today we are catching up again.
While I realise only too well that the problem of finding the necessary finance is a very great one I still think there are some matters to which it would be well to refer. I particularly refer to the problem of the deserted wife, the widow pensioner, who is still finding it pretty hard to make ends meet.
For example, a widow pensioner with 2 children would get a total of $39 a week in pension. But even her position is not as bad as that of the deserted husband, of whom we hear very little indeed. The deserted husband, of course, is placed in a very difficult situation when he finds himself responsible for the upkeep of his children. For example a case which came to my attention involves a male divorcee with 5 children aged from 9 to 15 years. He is earning $65.10 a week, and he pays $16 a week in rent. On the other hand a female divorcee earning the same amount - keep that in mind; earning the same amount per week - with the same number of children would be entitled to a pension of $44.45.
We do not know how many people would be in the same category as the man to whom I have referred. We know that if we introduced a scheme to help them a means test would have to be applied. Nevertheless I have struck cases in my own electorate which are very sad, and the man concerned is in a very difficult position. Let us say that there are some 20,000 such people in the whole country who would need assistance. They do not number very many in terms of voting power. They do not constitute a big lobby electorally, but from the point of view of morality and trying to do something for people who are put in an impossible situation I think their claim is very strong. It may be necessary to introduce some type of pension which would be based on a means test but which would allow deserted husbands to find some way of getting housekeeper services, or alternatively the Australian Government might have to make a grant through the States to local government authorities for housekeeper services for people placed in this situation. I suggest this is one matter that requires very deep thought.
Added to that, I think it is time we looked at the question of extending the domiciliary home nursing care service to those under the age of 65 years. Presently a person aged over 65 years can get assistance, but for a person 64 years of age assistance is not available. I suggest to the Minister for Social Security that in the future, when the necessary finance is available, this is something which should receive very definite thought.
I compliment the Minister for Health on the job he has done for community health services. In my own area, at Mount Druitt quite recently a community health complex worth $528,000 was opened. In Blacktown there is a child immunisation clinic worth $12,000. For the whole of the region there is a community nursing program involving 30 nurses. Actually the number of nurses will work out at 45. The cost of that service is $145,500. The Fairfield-Penrith community health back-up services cost $103,000. A specialist conslutative team for the whole region is provided at a cost of $276,750 and a health education team services the whole region at a cost of $22,550. For Mount Druitt there is a therapeutic day care centre costing $65,000 and a pediatric out-patients service costing $15,950.
I make one other point before my time elapses. There is a very strong move in Mount Druitt by the medical profession to try to stop the community health complex in that area having an outpatients’ section, that is to say, a section where people can go to get treatment. The reason for the move, of course, is that treatment would be free. The doctors there feel that this would mean they would have unfair competition, but the facts are that the members of the medical profession throughout that area are very hard to get hold of at night and during the weekends. Time after time people make calls to the doctors, but the doctors will not attend patients during these times. So the obvious thing is to have an outpatients’ clinic at Mount Druitt staffed by full time doctors who, in the first instance anyhow, can give assistance, give treatment, at nights and at weekends. I think that is the approach that needs to be taken. I am rather upset that there is this strong lobby by the medical profession, whose members still will not give the necessary attention themselves but still want to object and put barriers in the way of the Australian Government providing that very necessary service. For those reasons I ask the Minister, when this matter comes before him, to consider it carefully. Apart from that, I think that most honourable members would agree that both the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Security have already done a wonderful job. They have opened up completely new perspectives and completely new horizons. They have introduced reforms which should have been introduced many years ago. They have a big job to do. They are already handling it. They have done this in the very short period of 1 1 months.
– Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr BOURCHIER (Bendigo) <8.>10)- In speaking to the estimates for the Department of Health, the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Security I would like to mention firstly the community welfare centres that were introduced this year. I understand that the Department of Health has received some 500 applications for these welfare centres and that now, unless there has been some alteration, something like 120 applications have been approved. Two centres are already in operation in Canberra. The Department has an appropriation of $10m for this project. It is a very worthwhile project. I believe that 100 per cent of the funding of these welfare centres is to be provided by the Government in the first year. However, one wonders a little about what will happen after the first year because I think that the amount then drops to 80 per cent or 90 per cent for capital subsidy and 70 per cent or 75 per cent for recurring expenses. Whilst even this is well worthwhile, I wonder how some of the local government bodies where the centres are to be introduced will be able to meet the added costs unless the State governments come to the party. I certainly hope that the State governments will do so.
I congratulate the Minister on the recent announcement, which I received by mail today, that in Victoria an amount of $2,512,000 is to be expended on this particular project and that this will enable 17 such projects to be started, including one in Eaglehawk in my electorate. I understand that there is agreed expenditure of upwards of $200,000. The people in the electorate of Bendigo, and in Eaglehawk in particular, will be delighted by this achievement.
I refer now to the care of young people who are severely disabled. Not many of us are aware of this problem. I must admit that I did not know too much about the problems associated with this matter. As we are all aware, there are many young people today who somehow manage to knock themselves around severely in car accidents mainly, but in other ways as well, and become totally disabled. This situation is never very nice, but fortunately in the metropolitan areas there are hospitals which provide facilities and training for these people. Unfortunately outside the metropolitan areas there are centres - I must cite my own city of Bendigo - where the sons and daughters of the residents have incurred such disabilities. They are left in the hospital until such time as they can be moved to Melbourne because we do not have in Bendigo the facilities to treat them, look after them and train them. I think that the Minister should have a look at this matter. I realise that it is impossible to provide facilities in every little town or borough but surely there are major centres throughout the country which could become areas where these people could be left in good care, reasonably close to their relatives and could receive the training that they need.
A matter which I have raised before and which my own Government introduced last year concerns domiciliary nursing care. I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) at different times. I know that he agrees with me that there are a lot of anomalies associated with it. He has helped with the introduction and continuation of this care but unfortunately no steps have been stated - the Minister may be planning some - as to what action will be taken to overcome these anomalies. We have a situation in which people who need nursing care on a doctor’s orders cannot receive it because of the lack of nursing facilities. This happens not only in country areas but also, I believe, in some metropolitan suburbs. Whilst the nurses are at the hospitals they are not necessarily able or allowed to provide home nursing services. Therefore we have the problem that patients who need nursing care cannot always be transported to a hospital a couple of days a week to receive such care. If these people are eligible for nursing care, if a nurse oan call once a week or even occasionally and if a doctor is prepared to vouch that these people need such care, why can they not receive the nursing care benefit? Their families who look after them are still facing the added cost involved in looking after them at home. After all, that was what the Bill was all about in the first place - to help these people to be cared for in their own homes. I sincerely ask the Minister, if he is not already doing so, to have a very close look at this situation.
I turn now to the matter of pension increases, This Government introduced a scheme whereby pensions will rise by $1.50 twice a year. To the Government’s credit, this has been done so far. Of course, the idea was that this would bring the pension up to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings, but unfortunately with the galloping inflation we are suffering the pensioners are actually losing the battle. Perhaps the Government will be forced to bring in supplementary legislation. Whether that be the case, I believe that the pensioners are suffering badly. Perhaps this is not really related to the Department of Social Security. People from 65 to 75 years of age who have an income and who are eligible to receive a small part-pension will be subject to taxation. They will lose the age allowance. In other words, instead of gaining money they will lose it. It does not take much knowledge of mathematics to realise that. The cost of living and high inflation are eroding the pensions which the Minister and his Department have supplied. As I mentioned before, perhaps the Government will have to bring in a supplementary small Budget before the next increase is due. The pensioners are receiving money in one hand and losing it from the other. I refer particularly to people in country areas who have suddenly found that their telephone rentals have increased and that the concessions they receive from the Department of Social Security do not make up the difference.
I am very concerned about homes for the aged blind. The patients in such homes who can actually sit up are sitting around all day. Obviously they have to be classed medically as totally blind. They have to be aged before they can obtain entry to such homes. Yet these people are considered ambulant. Some expert from the Department of Health comes around, looks at a patient and says: ‘Oh, yes, you are sitting up’. Perhaps he prods him - I do not know. If the patient barks or makes a noise he says: ‘You are an ambulant patient. You are not entitled to be classed as an intensive care patient’. Let us face it, all of these people are intensive care patients. They cannot look after themselves. They are totally blind and incapable of looking after themselves. They are aged. They need all the help we can give. A very small number of patients is involved. A large number of these patients is treated as ambulant patients and they do not receive the benefit of the extra subsidies allowed for intensive care. This is a shame. It is not necessarily the fault of this Government. It is something that needs to be repaired, and I hope that this Government will do something about the situation.
The same thing can apply of course, to community homes for the aged. A doctor can say that a person needs intensive care, demands it, and receives it in hospital. But again the expert comes around and says: ‘You do not have enough nurses on your staff. This patient can get up and walk so he is entered as an ambulant patient and you cannot receive the benefit’. The hospital has to carry the burden of caring for these people who need intensive care. If the doctor is prepared to state that such a person needs intensive care, that should be enough. It may even call for 2 opinions on the matter. The opinion of the people who know that patient’s history should be sufficient to attract the benefit for intensive care.
Because my time is limited it would be impossible for me to cover this field but I want to mention briefly units for single people and married couples. At present the grant is $5,200 for single units. They now cost at least $7,800. In fact, that was their cost yesterday. Today, because of the increased cost of building, they are probably costing around $10,000. This is an area that perhaps should be looked at. I know that the Minister has some misgivings about the possibility of there being some shuffling of rents and transfer fees, but I honestly believe that this is an area in which we can provide accommodation in which aged couples can live together in a little comfort in the few years left to them. I trust that the Minister will give serious thought to that aspect, not from the dispassionate side of how much it is costing or how much a hospital might be making but from the point of view of what he can do for the aged people of this country.
– The honourable member’s time has expired.
– One of the most important areas of responsibility which desperately needs Australian Government attention is that relating to the health services of this nation. Up until recently the Australian Labor Party was the only political party - (Quorum formed.) I noticed that not one member of the Liberal Party of Australia entered the chamber after the quorum was called for, although I am speaking about a very important subject, that is, the health program. Two or three members of the Liberal Party were present before the quorum was called. That shows the Liberal Party’s interest in the health needs of this nation. I was pointing out that the Australian Labor Party was the only political party until recently to examine and campaign on the quality and accessibility of health care and health insurance. In government the Liberal-Country Party coalition caved in to any Australian Medical Association pressure and ignored the recommendations of its own committee of inquiry into health insurance - the Nimmo Committee. Its plans for rationalisation and reform of health insurance in Australia were swept under the carpet by the LiberalCountry Party coalition for fear of opposition from the powerful private insurance funds. In fact, the Australian Country Party has never shown any interest in this important area. Until recently I was unaware that it had even appointed a spokesman on health and welfare. It may as well have appointed the same public relations firm as the AMA because what it says is identical with what the AMA says.
The Liberal Party also has had its problems. Its first appointment to the shadow portfolio, the honourable member for Kooyong, Mr Peacock, was removed after only a week on the job. The next incumbent, the honourable member for Corangamite, Mr Street, was clearly more interested in tariffs and other matters and answered Press queries with the statement: ‘The doctors have not told us yet what to say’. The honourable member for Hotham, Mr Chipp, the latest incumbent, was given the position when he proved to be too popular in his original area of interest. Is it any wonder that when the Opposition finally gets around to examining the Government’s proposals it seems to be the mouthpiece for one or other of the vested interests instead of carving out its own policies in this area? I partly excuse Mr Chipp from this accusation for he has shown a commendable attempt to be fair. But even he has failed to differentiate between health insurance and health care and delivery. Many of his criticisms have failed to take into account the pioneering work being proposed and carried out by Dr Sax and his National Hospitals and Health Services Commission.
I would like to examine the Opposition’s statements on our scheme, which was approved by the AMA in its gazette of 1 November. Mr Chipp is honest in his ignorance of the realities of health care today and in his doubts as to whether things are as bad as the AMA claims. But he, too, falls victim to the shockhorror forecasts of the AMA and the General Practitioners Society as to what is going to happen to health in Australia under our proposals. He trots out the old ‘over utilisation of services’ under a system of totally free hospital and medical treatment. He cites what is happening in overeas countries but presents no evidence to back up his assertions except for the hoary old fallback of human nature. I will certainly point to overseas experience to demonstrate that over utilisation is more likely to occur under our present system of feeforservice than under a free system which is, of course, not what we are introducing.
Free medical care from general practitioners exists only as a choice for doctors and not patients. A Canadian survey published in the New England ‘Journal of Medicine’ in May 1973 showed that patients thought by doctors to have sought medical advice rose by 1.1 per cent of all patients to 1.9 per cent, whereas those whom doctors thought should have sought medical advice earlier fell from 2.6 per cent to 1.8 per cent. Closer to home, the Director of the Melba Health Centre was reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 12 November as having said that there was no sign that people were using the free service unnecessarily. Dr J. S. Lawson, the Director of Tasmanian Hospital Services, has found that operation rates for tonsillectomy, appendectomy and hysterectomy conducted on a feeforservice basis in Australia were much higher than operation rates in other countries where doctors did not receive a fee for each service. This was published in Volume 14 of the National ‘ Hospital Journal*.
– Which doctor was that?
- Dr Lawson.
– J. S. Lawson?
– That is correct.
– He once stood as a Labor Party candidate, did he not?
– That merely indicates that he is an intelligent-
– He was at school with me and once stood as a Labor Party candidate.
– Order! If the honourable member for Kooyong wants to participate in the debate he can rise in his place when his turn comes, but he will not debate-
– I think it is fairly important because he has been quoted as being an expert authority.
– Order ! I inform the honourable member for Kooyong that he will remain silent or not remain at all.
– What the honourable member for Kooyong said indicates that Dr Lawson is not only highly intelligent but also honest in his approach to medical care. The widely respected Professor of Public Health at the University of California in Los Angeles, Dr Milton Roemer, has found that feeforservice acts as a positive inducement to suppliers of medical care, particularly doctors, to provide more services than are necessary. If any abuse does occur it is more likely to be found among the suppliers, the doctors, than the consumers, the patients. Finally, the Journal of the American Medical Association of 9 October 1972 at page 182 reported little evidence of a substantial increase in the usage of general practitioner services in systems which placed no financial burden on the patient. The planning report does, in fact, allow doctors to bill over the accepted fee as a deterrent measure, but the main point is that over use does not depend just on a patient’s whim and is just as much, if not more so, the responsibility of doctors.
Finally, Mr Chipp is at his most naive when he talks about the quality of health care and its deterioration under the proposed health scheme. In one breath he mentions people with minor illnesses and ailments going to public hospitals rather than to a general practitioner and then says: ‘If this is free, human nature being what it is, as is experienced in the United Kingdom and Canada and, indeed, was experienced in Queensland not too long ago, a great many people will flock for treatment’. I suggest that people will not be flocking to hospitals for free treatment if their doctor is offering free treatment in his surgery. But patients may be flocking to hospitals for treatment because their doctor is in a group practice which employs a locum service with barely qualified doctors to do the night and weekend work. Mr Chipp knows of this happening because he cited it as happening to him. In this situation many people do not have a choice - they have to go to a hospital to get any care at all.
The changing patterns of medical care and the future use of paramedical and allied health workers are important areas of study which Mr Chipp has failed to mention in his critique of our plans. I think he should have held his criticisms off a little longer and read a bit more in this area before he made his misleading comments. The same applies to the Country Party spokesmen on our health plans, but with even more reason. They have shown themselves to be unashamed apologists for the Australian Medical Association, perhaps because of the Miss Australia bait held out to entice them. They have shown no sensitivity at all to the important question of health care. Their solution to any problem seems to be to keep the existing hopeless mess, just because they created it.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I listened to the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Doyle) with a great deal of interest. I did not know that he was such a student of Mr Chipp, as he referred to him. I presume he was talking about the honourable member for Hotham. I suppose the honourable member for Hotham will speak for himself a little later in the debate. The honourable member for Lilley certainly has made a close study of what the honourable member for Hotham has said, that is, if he compiled his speech himself. I have my doubts about that. It seemed to be a carefully prepared speech and one which could bc laid at the door of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). The honourable member talked about the Government’s health scheme, which is losing credibility with the public as time goes by. His remarks were just like the pre-election speech made last year by the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), who misrepresented to the Australian people the position of the Australian Labor Party in regard to many fields.
On this occasion I shall deal just with the issue of health. The Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, said:
The Labor Government will introduce a universal health insurance scheme. It will bc administered by a single Health Fund. Contributions will bc paid according to taxable income.
That was the only, mention by the Prime Minister, in his pre-election speech, of contributions by the Australian public. He did not mention anything about the sum of more than $400m that has to come from Consolidated Revenue and which represents another contribution by the taxpayer. He did not mention anything about the levy on workers’ compensation or third party motor vehicle insurance, which again must come from the taxpayer. The Prime Minister represented the scheme as being financed by a contribution of 1.35 per cent of a person’s taxable income. In this section of his policy speech he deliberately misled the people just as he has done in many other areas. I shall be dealing with his comments on repatriation within a few minutes.
I have only 10 minutes to discuss these 3 departments. As a former Minister for Repatriation, I should like first of all to commend the departmental officers for their preparation of the estimates for the Repatriation Department. Although the estimates will not be discussed in great detail by many speakers during this debate, I can assure honourable members that I personally appreciate the amount of work that has gone into the preparation of these estimates and I compliment the departmental officers on their work. It is appropriate that these 3 departments are being discussed in the one debate because they are fast becoming one department. Somebody mentioned the Department of Health. He referred to it as the Heath Department. It has had the ‘1’ belted out of it. The Department of Social Security with its empire building Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) - I have referred to him in that way before - is gradually taking over the other 2 departments. The items contained in the estimates for the Repatriation Department illustrate this point. There exists a great deal of concern amongst many people who want a clear statement from the Government - I have challenged the Government on this issue time and time again in this House - about the future of the Repatriation Department. The last time I mentioned this matter, the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) gave the answer that the Government had not considered it and that was not part of Labor policy. That is not an answer to the question at all. I now invite the Prime Minister or the Ministers who arc responsible for these 3 departments to make a clear statement regarding the future of the Repatriation Department. Is is or is it not to remain a separate department? Not only officers of the Department but also members of ex-servicemen’s organisations and other people, including members of the Parliament, want to know about this important matter.
One particular matter relating to the Repatriation Department to which I want to refer is the provision in the Appropriation Bill relating to a person’s eligibility for medical and hospital benefits available to ex-servicemen who served in a theatre of war. I cannot see that the fact that a serviceman served in a theatre of war has anything to do with the matter, lt is very illogical to give medical and hospital treatment to people who suffer from some form of cancer - we all know there are hundreds of those- only if those persons have served in a theatre of war. There is no possible medical explanation or reasoning behind this decision. Why should a serviceman who, through no fault of his own was not posted to a theatre of war, not be entitled to these benefits? We all think of a theatre of war as being outside Australia, but in technical terms a theatre of war is an area above the parallel of latitude 14.5 degrees south as between 19 February 1942 and 13 November 1943 and it relates only to the Northern Territory. If a serviceman was in a similar latitude in Queensland he did not serve in a theatre of war, and therefore is not entitled under this legislation to medical and hospital treatment.
To my mind this is the height of illogicality. The Government should either cancel eligibility for cancer treatment or it should broaden the legislation to include all servicemen who volunteered for service overseas. That is a point that I wanted to bring to the notice of the Government.
– He was the former Minister for Repatriation.
– There is no sound medical reason for this decision. The babble of interjection that is coming from sections of the Labor Party illustrates their interest in and appreciation of the job the ex-servicemen and ex-service women have done for this country over the years. I just bring that point to the notice of the people in the galleries and also to the radio listening public. It is a very serious matter that I am bringing before the Parliament.
I mentioned the pre-election policy speech of the present Prime Minister and the honourable gentleman’s deception of the public in relation to health. I should now like to turn to the section dealing with repatriation and ask for a clarification and an explanation of the paragraph concerned with repatriation. A year ago the Prime Minister said that, having set the special or totally and permanently incapacitated rate pension and the general rate pension, other pension rates and allowances would be adjusted proportionately. There has never been any explanation to the Parliament of what is meant by the words ‘other pension rates and allowances will be adjusted proportionately’. I ask the Government to give the House and the public an explanation of exactly what is meant by those words. The Government specified what the TPI rate will be in relation to the minimum wage and it specified what the 100 per cent general rate pension will be in relation to the minimum wage; but then, it just said ‘other pension rates and allowances will be adjusted proportionately’. I think the House, the people and the exservicemen and ex-service women are entitled to receive an explanation of what those last few words in the section of the Prime Minister’s policy speech relating to repatriation really mean.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Tonight I would like to discuss a very important field of health care which has administrative and financial implications for 3 departments, the Departments of Health, Social Security and Repatriation. I refer to our hospital system, both public and private. There are over 1,000 approved hospitals, both public and private, in Australia today, excluding Repatriation hospitals, with over 80,000 beds. Their running costs are enormous, even in the public sector alone. The States now spend over $320m a year directly on hospital services. Even the Commonwealth spends more than $44m on Repatriation hospitals, plus a further huge amount in indirect payments to the States and in the form of subsidies to private hospitals. The Australian Government recognises the importance of hospital care within its total health plan. It has appointed the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, headed by Dr Sidney Sax, to recommend increased capital expenditure on hospitals, both new and established, and also alternative forms of health care which may serve to keep people out of these high cost, capital and labour intensive institutions, and to use more appropriate forms of medical care. This is well worth lengthy discussion itself, but I intend to examine mainly the impact of the Government’s White Paper on health insurance, and see how it will affect the present structure of hospital services in Australia today.
First of all, the Government’s attitude is summed up well in the White Paper’s opening lines. They are:
The level of a person’s income should not be a barrier to receiving whatever hospital or medical service he or she may need . . . Similarly in a country as wealthy as ours no one should be subject to the indignity of a prying means test to determine his or her eligibility for various forms of health care. The freedom of people to choose the type of hospital care they want, and their right to the ready availability of medical services are fundamental principles of Government policy.
While the Australian Government plans a great reform in the provision of availability of treatment in, and financial assistance to, State public hospitals, it recognises that private hospitals controlled by religious, charitable and community organisations play an important role within the nation’s health services. They provide an opportunity for freedom of choice by patients and also for the expression of high vocational motivations by those who work for them. Personally I cannot help but think of Calvary Hospital in my electorate of Barton in New South Wales, where, with loving humanity, many patients, mostly unfortunate terminal patients, are attended to irrespective of religious faith by the kind sisters of the Little Company of Mary, who also provide services at Lewisham Hospital.
The Government endorses and will generously support the continuance of the dual public-private hospital system and will provide financial support for private hospitals and the patients they treat, so as not to restrict the autonomy of these hospitals or the services they provide. We will ensure the freedom of these hospitals. Religious, charitable and community hospitals will be able to set and control their own policies without unnecessary Government interference. I hope that will be noted. Now back to the details of how the scheme will work for patients needing hospital care. Again I quote from the White Paper. It states:
Patients entering public hospitals will have the right of free accommodation and treatment as hospital patients . . . irrespective of their incomes. They will also be able, if they prefer, to be treated as private patients (patients who elect to receive medical treatment in hospital from their private doctors, and who will have preference in the allocation of any intermediate or private wzrd accommodation.) Private insurance funds may offer insurance tables to cover the extra costs of ‘preferred’ hospital accommodation. Doctors treating private patients in public or private hospitals will continue to charge on a fec-for-service basis. Their fees will be eligible for medical benefits from the Health Insurance Commission. Special arrangements to cover the costs of most types of treatment and accommodation in religious, charitable and community non-public hospitals, and which at the same time guaranteee the autonomy of these hospitals are also included in the Program.
I continue the quote from the White Paper. It reads:
These arrangements will give patients entering hospital a greater range of choice than they have at present.
Yet we hear all this talk of restriction of choice. I quote again from the White Paper:
For all other medical services anyone will be entitled to attend a doctor of his or her own choice at little or no cost. Payments will be on a feeforservice basis except in any cases where doctors voluntarily choose some other method of medical practice such as contract practice.
This is a further quote from the White Paper:
A central objective of the Program is to ensure that medical and hospital services are financed for the whole population in the fairest and most efficient way. For this reason the contribution of individuals to the Program will take the form of a levy of 1.35 per cent on taxable incomes. For the majority, of Australians this will mean smaller contributions than they would have to make if the existing health insurance scheme were to continue.
The Government recognises that in Australia there is a strong desire by patients to make their own choice of doctor and, in particular, of their doctor of first contact. It must be stressed that preservation of this right has always been central to the Government’s proposals, was central to the Planning Committee recommendations, and continues to be a central objective of the program set out in this paper.
The Government has always recognised that many people prefer to pay extra for particular types of hospital accommodation and treatment and that some people may wish to insure for the full costs of any medical services they receive ….
The primary intention of the Program is to provide complete insurance coverage against the costs of standard ward hospital treatment and an appropriate and predictable level of coverage against medical costs. This is in no way incompatible with opportunities for members of the public to purchase preferred and optional hospital and medical services. In addition to provisions for private hospital insurance there will be opportunities for people who wish to do so to take out supplementary private insurance against the portion of medical fees not covered under the Program and the costs of ancillary and allied health services.
There is no intention to enforce uniformity on the overall hospital system, and indeed it is acknowledged that hospital services geared to locally recognised needs are desirable.
The agreements which will be made with State Governments and non-public hospitals for hospital insurance and the payments for medical services performed in hospitals will recognise these facts.
The new system should have great appeal to the States for it marks the acceptance of a continuing commitment by the Australian Government to finance 50 per cent of their hospitals running costs. Under the new scheme they will receive an extra $80m a year. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table from page 42 of the White Paper which shows how each of the States will be treated.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
– I thank the Committee. The scheme will also be of great benefit to Australians. For the first time they will all have access to completely free hospital care and treatment, and will also have a generous portion - $16 a day- of their hospital costs paid if they choose private ward accommodation, or private hospital care. Here I might point out that if they do choose this form of treatment the charges made by their own doctor will be covered under the medical benefits schedule. The extra charges for their preferred private treatment can be covered by private hospital insurance, the rates for which will, through Government regulations, be comparable to present private rates. I compare that $16 a day with the $2 a day paid by the previous Government towards hospitalisation in our various State hospitals. There is much more I would have liked to have said about this scheme, Mr Chairman. It will be a great scheme.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I congratulate the Government for plugging two of the gaps in areas of social welfare injustice in providing for the single or no-parent families with dependent children, the supporting mother’s benefit, which clarified one area, and the double orphan’s pension for the parentless or orphan child. I know that I am speaking on the same subject as did the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) but I am quite happy to do that because I believe that there is one area still outstanding which is the single most serious area of social welfare injustice in Australia, and that is the single male parent with dependent children, the widower, the divorced or the deserted father. The Australian Birthright Movement was reported in the ‘Australian’ of 17 October 1972 as saying that at that time there were approximately 11,000 of these people in Australia.
Any single parent has problems. The woman has a problem in earning an income while she looks after the house and the children. The man has the problem of paying for the housekeeper and child-minding facilities while he earns an income. A paper “The Deserted Father, A Study of his Problems’ by the Family Services Committee of the Victorian Council of Social Service, Melbourne, on this subject had this to say:
The problem is much more complex when a father is deserted. He too may stay at home to care for the children whilst receiving social service benefits. However, the community tends to frown upon such a reversal of roles, and the father himself frequently cannot accept what he considered as a degrading position. Yet if he continues at his job. who does run the home and care for the children? As the community is prepared to take the responsibility as breadwinner for a deserted wife should the community also take responsibility for the provision of a substitute mother? This need is a much greater one and more difficult to meet because of its personal nature and the consequent demands in times and effort.
That is a fairly old paper. When I asked the Parliamentary Library Research Service to provide some material on this question of the single male parent 1 was surprised at how little material is available. A woman, if she has one dependent child, can work and earn up to $26 a week before the benefit of $32 a week is reduced. The man - nothing. The man is not even allowed child-minding or housekeeper services as tax deductions. The single male parent usually has a greater earning capacity than has the woman so the general benefit level cannot be applicable. But there should be some payment to cover the housekeeping and child-minding expenses. Just as a purely tentative suggestion I suggest a payment of $10 a week for the first child and $5 a week for succeeding children. If this Government can introduce a single parent benefit to cover this area of need I believe it will be doing a great service for Australia. I hope that the Government does this while it is in power rather than wait for the next Government to return.
The other matter I wish to mention concerns the danger of the introduction of exotic diseases into Australia, particularly foot and mouth disease. The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) referred to this today in a question when he pointed out one of the weaknesses in our protection system in relation to small aeroplanes flying from somewhere in South East Asia, where there is foot and mouth disease, to some area in Australia which does not have preventive facilities. There is a greater avenue through which this disease could come in, and that is through the breakdown of inspection and disinfection procedures at our major airports. This is happening at a time when more people are entering Australia - perhaps this is one of the reasons why the system is breaking down - from countries where diseases such as foot and mouth disease are prevalent. A good example is Bali, a very popular holiday place for Australians now, where there is foot and mouth disease. This is also happening at a time when one of the greatest outbreaks of foot and mouth disease is occurring in Asia Minor. It is spreading from that area to other parts of the world. I quote from an article in the Shepparton ‘News’ by Mr K. D. Bowtell, Managing Director of Consolidated Meat Holdings Ltd. This was reported in a number of newspapers. He said:
I returned recently from Europe where I inspected farms and meatworks in foot and mouth countries but I had to ask the authorities to disinfect my footwear. A friend who returned about the same time from the same area forgot to ask the authorities and they didn’t disinfect his shoes though he bad nominated on the customs entry that he’d been on farms in foot and mouth areas.
When I returned from the parliamentary delegation tour of China via Thailand and
Malaysia, I also reported on the customs form that I had been in those countries and that I had imported certain animal products. The customs officer did not bother to inspect the footwear or the other items. I drew his attention to this. He had a quick look and said: Oh, they’re all right. We won’t bother to spray them’. I could mention an increasing number of other people who have returned from farms in foot and mouth areas in other parts of the world who are having the same experience. The general consensus is that Darwin is quite good and that the procedures there are followed fairly well but that Sydney is very lax. There, one virtually has to force the customs officer to carry out the correct procedures. This is not good enough. When I was in New Zealand last year I found that the New Zealanders were far more conscientious with their application of disinfectant procedures than we are in Australia. Once again I quote Mr Bowtell to draw the attention of the Committee to the danger to Australia. He said:
At any one time, there is about $84m worth of export in store in Australia and another $48m worth of meat in transit to oversea countries. Thus $132m worth of meat would immediately be classed as a health hazard’ and would be unsaleable in most parts of the world.
The meat industry is our greatest export industry, the one with the greatest future. We are putting it at risk with the present failure to carry out procedures at our major international airports. I know that this matter perhaps is not completely the responsibility of the Department of Health in the sense that that Department has the overall responsibility through the animal quarantine section and that the officers at the airports are customs officers and not officers of the Department of Health. I am also aware of the expert group of people in the animal quarantine section in the Department. I believe it would be better for Australia if they were transferred to a national veterinary service in the Department of Primary Industry, but that is beside the point at the moment. I ask the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) to take this up with his officers to see that for the future of this industry which is important to Australia the procedures are strengthened and carried out as they should be with people coming in to Australia from foot and mouth disease affected areas of the world.
– I rise to speak on the estimates for the Repatriation Department, the Department of Social
Security and the Department of Health. In doing so I commend the Government for the tremendous forward steps already taken in such a short period of office of 10 or 11 months. However, a few anomalies still exist in several areas, some recognised and already the subject of planning to rectify them. Others as yet unrecognised still create concern. Recently I had brought to my attention by a constituent the position in which he is placed. As a youth of some 14 years of age he joined the Merchant Marine Service to help in the war effort. He worked as a merchant seaman for the full period of the war and suffered the harrowing experience of convoy duty under fire, with accompanying ships being torpedoed. Yet he points out that today he is denied repatriation benefits, as are his comrades of that period. Although he desires to retire when he reaches age 60 years as he would were he eligible for repatriation benefits, he now cannot do so. It is little wonder that he and others, who transported so many of our servicemen and shared the horrors of war with them, resent being treated differently. It is no wonder that they wish to be treated under the same legislation as their naval counterparts. I put this plea forward on their behalf now that so wide ranging a definition has been given in other areas such as that of national servicemen. Surely something can be done to grant full equality of rights to those men. Surely they served this country as well as any branch of the Services. We accepted with gratitude their services, their sacrifice, and their taxes.
Another section of the community, small in number but recognised by no one at this point of time, should be subject to review and to consideration in this repatriation legislation or in similar legislation. I refer to those men, Australian citizens, who served with the United States Army small ships in the New Guinea war zone. Those men were civilian employees, Australian citizens, paying Australian taxes. They were required to wear a United States service uniform and to serve under fire. Now no government, Australian or United States, wishes to recognise them as a liability under their repatriation legislation. That is an incredible situation. I know it will be possible to say that in some areas they can be covered under the merchant seamen’s legislation, but this is not factual. I instance the case of another constituent of mine, Mr Bert Andrew, who served with distinction in United States small ships in New Guinea waters in the early stages of World War II and suffered malaria and injury. He was, in fact, recommended for an award for bravery by the United States authorities. However, his claims for recognition of war caused effects to his health have been rejected since 1943 by the United States authorities. In fact, the Australian authorities have said that he should negotiate with the United States of America.
Good grief, does not such a man even get the briefest of representations by his own authorities, the Repatriation Department? That Department should be able to act on his behalf, or he could be represented by the Department of Social Security. Surely we can assist our own citizens to obtain their rights from another nation or ally, a country that was not an enemy in the war. During all this period we accepted such persons as Australian citizens, imposed our laws on them and exacted taxation from them. Let us now protect them. It is shameful that they are ignored. Perhaps it is because they are so few in number that they are being ignored.
I return to those people who have just been granted benefits because of their service in the 1914-18 war, and those persons who qualify as being more than 75 years of age but do not yet receive fringe benefits. They have indicated to me their thankfulness for the proposals made and the benefits granted, but it is pathetic to hear them complain of doctors who ask them to pay fees in cash before a consultation for their families is even entered into. I refer, of course, to their wives where they do not qualify for benefits. That comes hard for such people when they realise that even to be referred to a specialist - there is no other way to see a specialist except by being referred by their general practitioner - they must produce S4.80 in cash before the consultation takes place. As one man put it to me, it is nothing but money-grubbing. Thus one realises what any increase is benefits means to them. Hopefully, subsequent legislation in this session will eliminate most of their problems.
I must make reference again to women of some 45 years of age who, if their children turn 16 years of age, are expected to work until they reach 50 years of age. Some of them are utterly devastated by the thought. It is all right, perhaps, under the existing Government, which believes in full employment; people such as these are, in the main, able to find suitable employment. However coming, as we have, from a period of grim unemployment under the previous Administration, which believed in having a pool of unemployed, these people were strongly disadvantaged. Unemployment benefits are not the answer.
To look at the home nursing care aspect, it seems to me that the criterion that a registered nurse must attend the patient creates extreme difficulty for some persons who remain at home, particularly diabetics. When they become unable to administer insulin to themselves, often it is found that no nurse has called or, in fact, in some isolated areas it is impossible to obtain this assistance. If we feel that it is desirable to keep as many persons as possible out of nursing homes, it is necessary to look at the question of having neighbours or relatives calling to attend to them, even though they are living alone. It is far better for those who wish to do so to have the ready assistance of friends and relatives. No doubt the Minister has this aspect under review. I ask him to consider the needs of these people - many of them already in nursing homes - who, if this problem were solved, would be able to live in their own homes.
In the short time left to me I must make reference to an amazing letter that I had from a doctor in Western Australia. I assure honourable members that I have written to him commending him for his honesty. The letter refers to the campaign that was mounted in Western Australia by some doctors in the Balcatta by-election. One of the doctors was a candidate for the Opposition. As this was a State election the local candidate, now the member, stood aloof and did not answer the misleading campaign, which became a onesided issue. So a swing in the State by-election has been attributed to this one-sided propaganda campaign. Bear in mind that no legislation had been prepared; only a request had been made to a caucus parliamentary committee outlining ideas and recommendations, and it has been the subject of discussions ever since. To say the very least, a campaign was mounted on an issue that was misleading, if not dishonest. The relevant paragraph in the doctor’s letter to me reads as follows:
Although it was a State election, Federal matters influenced the electors considerably. It is of interest that the Liberal Candidate concerned was a private medical practitioner, part of whose publicity included the fact that he was an A.M.A. Branch Councillor. He was known to be totally opposed to the DeebleHayden Health Scheme. He had been interviewed on the main Perth commercial T.V. station prior to the 1972 Federal Elections because of his action in preparing and making available anti-Hayden antisocialised medicine pamphlets for distribution from his own surgery and that of the doctors in the Federal seats of Stirling, Swan and Forrest. A week before the Balcatta by-election the ‘Sunday Independent’ gave prominence to the fact that the treasurer of the Balcatta Liberal Campaign Committee, also a member of the A.M.A. Branch Council and outspokenly opposed to the proposed new Health Scheme, had appealed to doctors for funds for the campaign. A letter appealing for financial support for the campaign, written by another doctor in the electorate to other private doctors throughout W.A. was given prominence in the media.
I wrote and thanked the doctor for his honesty. I said:
However, the position was most unique in that the public had in fact, really only heard the viewpoints of the anti-Hayden pamphlets made available by yourself presenting what was only one side of the argument. You will appreciate of course that we, at that point of time, did not have available any legislation to present until the report recommending the formulation of that legislation which is now to hand in the form of a white paper and no doubt you will have the opportunity to study it.
Later in the letter I said:
Thank you for taking the trouble to write to me in the matter and expresing your support for the Western Australian Labor Government.
I commend him for his support of and his satisfaction with the State Labor Government in Western Australia.
– I should like first to remind the Government that the first principle of repatriation is compensation, and that there is a responsibility on governments to recognise that an individual’s service in the armed forces in the defence of his country is worthy of compensation when, as a result of that service, he suffers some disability. I mention this as a lead-up to what I have to say later.
Unfortunately, as the period of time from the end of the war becomes greater people are apt to forget that there are some members of the community who remain handicapped and will be constantly suffering, regardless of the time that passes since they received their disability in war service, and that that will remain so until death claims them. People may forget such a man, but governments should not. Although I appreciate that since the repatriation system was introduced in 1917 extensions and modifications ‘have been made to the original provisions of the scheme by successive governments, I feel that periodical reviews of those provisions and their administration should continue to be made. Medical science has improved greatly since the inception of the repatriation scheme, and is continuing to improve. This could mean that a particular treatment that 20 years ago was regarded as the best possible treatment might now be outdated and that a different type of treatment, recently innovated, might be better for the patient in question. This could mean the recall of a number of patients to hospitals to receive that modern treatment. But I am sure that the beneficial result to the Repatriation patient would more than compensate for any additional administration or finance involved.
Briefly, what I mean to suggest is that wherever there is a possibility of a Repatriation member being relieved of any suffering through receiving modern treatment for his disability, that treatment should be given regardless of cost. I also mentioned that a periodical review of the administrative system was necessary. While I appreciate the efficiency of the departmental staff, there are times through no fault of their own, when the administrative work load becomes very heavy, and besides inconveniencing the staff, inconvenience must flow on to affect the Repatriation member. This should not be allowed to happen. A member’s business with the Department should be completed as expeditiously as possible with as little inconvenience as possible. Again, I mentioned earlier that the first principle of repatriation is compensation. But some people’s idea of compensation is different from others, and this needs to be clearly defined. There are those who think that monetary compensation alone is sufficient. But I think that this is a negative approach. Rehabilitation must play a big part in compensating an individual who has suffered some disability in the service of his country. Successful rehabilitation of an incapacitated member can mean a lot to that member’s dignity and pride and could be the means of enabling him to become a useful member of the community and of greater assistance and value to his family.
– Do you think that it might have the reverse effect?
– That could be. Where it is possible a member should be encouraged to avail himself of the opportunities of modern methods of rehabilitation and be assisted by the Government to do so. Successful rehabilitation in lots of instances could give a number of Repatriation members a new or greater interest in life and a reason for living. While this is being done to some extent at the present time, the scheme could be expanded, and as well as those members affected, the country would also benefit.
One other matter which could be given consideration .deals with the situation where a member appearing before a commission or a tribunal has his claim rejected and is informed of the reasons for the rejection by mail or is told in some other way. Now, the Government proposes that the tribunal or the commission must give him reasons for the rejection of his claim. I am of the opinion - and that is my problem - that where a member has a terminal disease, a problem of mental health, or some incapacity due to previous venereal disease infection, the reasons for his claim’s rejection as not being due to war service should be guarded, coded or clouded in some way - I do not care how it is done - in order to avoid embarrassment to his family.
Unfortunately, in 10 minutes which is all one is allowed in this debate one is not able to deal adequately with all relevant matters. Another very pertinent point I would like to raise dealing with the treatment of Repatriation pensioners is the method of deciding just what a Repatriation member’s worth is in the way of pensions. Under existing arrangements the establishment of rates of pension appears to be extremely complex and, even after this has been decided, any increases to pensions are left completely to the whim of governments according to Budget requirements. In other words, a Repatriation member gets an increase in his pension if the Government of the day regardless of its political colour thinks it is politically expedient for it to do so. I cannot help but feel that in many instances the real reason for the member receiving the pension has been forgotten, and the increase, or the size of the increase, is made according to what the Government of the day will think is popular in order to angle for the ex-servicemen’s vote. I have felt this for many years and I still feel it. This arrangement must conflict with the principle of adequate compensation, and payment to incapacitated servicemen should be removed completely from this parliamentary scene and the subsequent dispute over it between Government and Opposition eliminated. I can see no. reason why a fixed relationship between, say, the special rate pension and the minimum wage - this matter has been raised before, but this is my feeling - could not be made, with the general rate and other pension rates being adjusted proportionately. These compensation payments could be adjusted automatically with changes in the minimum wage, and always effected as soon as administratively possible.
We know there are different degrees of disability. But if the special rate pension was related to the minimum wage rate, at least it would be a base to work from. We know that all special rate pensioner disabilities vary. Some such pensioners can undertake some form of employment, while others cannot. This we know. All of us have seen examples of it. With the introduction of the rehabilitation scheme that I mentioned previously, it could be possible that some of the special rate pensioners could be permitted to undertake some form of employment to bring their income up to a reasonable living wage. But in the case of a special rate pensioner not being able to undertake any employment whatsoever because of his physical disabilities an employability allowance equal to a percentage of the minimum wage could be paid. This is in respect of the case where there is no possibility of the man being rehabilitated or undertaking any form of employment.
If there were to be any restrictions on this pension, I would say the employability allowance would only be payable subject to the amount of any income from other sources. But where encouragement is given for the special rate pensioner to receive rehabilitation treatment for his physical disability, and where possible to assist the member to perform some type of employment, I would say that this would be gladly received by Repatriation members in that category, for I am sure - I know this from speaking to many of them - they would rather do this than receive any employability allowance.
Unfortunately, the time allotted to me has nearly expired. I wish to mention one point in conclusion. I hope that I can complete my remarks on this matter as it is something which disturbs me greatly. This is to do with hearings at tribunals. I believe that members of a tribunal should accept the evidence that is placed before them, treat it impartially and with justice, and should be allowed to make their decision without interference from any person or persons outside the tribunal. I have reason to believe - I have been informed - that there are members of the House of Representatives and members of the Senate who have been in touch with chairman of tribunals and/ or advocates prior to a case being heard. I believe that more will be heard on this matter later.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable member’s time, has expired.
– I wish to devote my time in this debate to the Government’s health insurance program and the question of privacy. More than 6 months public debate has taken place on the report of the Health Insurance Planning Committee. The White Paper spelling out the Government’s intentions was tabled in this House last week. Later this month, legislation to implement the program will be introduced. Since the Planning Committee’s recommendations were made, many false charges have been laid against the program by the Australian Medical Association, the General Practitioners Society in Australia, the larger private health insurance funds and by members of the Opposition. There have been blatant lies and misrepresentations galore, all designed to instil fear into the public. It has upset me to see many of the people whom this program will most help being unnecessarily worried by the propaganda of those who oppose the program for their own selfish reasons.
One of the most ridiculous accusations that has been made against the program is that it will involve an invasion of personal privacy. Not being able to argue rationally about the main issues of the program, its opponents have dragged in this red herring and, using just a whole lot of emotive words, have tried to discredit it. Mr Cade of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia talks about ‘a health dossier on every Australian’ and ‘doctors will be facilitating the accumulation of medical dossiers on their patients’.
– Who is Mr Cade?
– He is the General Manager of the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia. In its propaganda to the public, the Medical Benefits Fund goes further. One of the little slips which it includes with its bills contains the following words:
If the Federal Government are allowed to force through their compulsory nationalised health insurance scheme, details of your personal and private life are no longer confidential.
As with all Federal Government bureaucracies, privacy goes to the wind, your private details become the property of Federal files.
What an insult to refer to Australian public servants in that manner. It continues:
Many Government Departments will have access to details of your private life.
Your private details are respected as confidential with your present scheme. Keep it that way . . .
What a load of rubbish that is. The Australian Medical Association in its more oily publicity used the following phrases:
The politicians say these personal records will he kept secret. We sincerely hope so. But we would feel a lot happier to have your records kept safely locked up in a doctor’s filing cabinet and not rattling around inside a Government computer.
That is further rubbish. Let me allay all the rumours and put the facts straight once and for all. The facts regarding privacy are that this new program will guarantee privacy for the first time. In a moment, I shall give an outline of how the system will work and the guarantees that will be built into it to ensure privacy of records. Firstly, I wish to emphasise that the records which the Health Insurance Commission will maintain will be for statistical purposes only. In any case, they are not medical histories. No record of diagnosis or details of treatment are required. So there will bc required even less detail than is required by the private funds under the existing scheme. I refer to paragraph 1.22 in the Planning Committee’s report. It states:
Complete confidentiality of information about individual patients and doctors is an essential feature of the plan. The Committee recommends that safeguards be written into the legislation along the lines of those in the Taxation and Social Services legislation. Statistics about the operation of the plan would be restricted to those which did not breach the privacy of individuals.
I seel: leave to incorporate in Hansard 5 paragraphs. Nos 2.1 to 2.5, from the White Paper on the Australian health insurance program. I obtained permission from the previous speaker, the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett), to incorporate this section of the White Paper.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! Is leave granted? There being no oboection. leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
ELIGIBILITY FOR BENEFITS
2.1 The benefits of the Health Insurance Program will be available to a-1! Australian residents. The entitlement to benefits will be accorded by the legislation and will not depend on registration or any form of action required of individuals. 2.2 For the convenience of beneficiaries of the Program, and as part of an efficient administrative system every adult in the community will be given a health insurance card. A card for the children in a family will be given to their mother or guardian. It will not bc necessary for a card to be produced to a doctor or hospital for a patient to receive medical or hospital services. It must be emphasised that the purpose of the card is simply to enable members of the public to obtain benefit payments as conveniently as possible. 2.3 It should be borne in mind that many existing health insurance funds require contributors to produce numbered membership cards or books to facilitate benefit claim processing. Indeed, one large fund is issuing to contributors membership cards similar to the health insurance cards proposed for the Program. 2.4 All people who can establish their identity as residents of Australia will be entitled to have their claims paid on presentation of these claims to the Health Insurance Commission. The simplest and most convenient way for a person to meet the Commission’s identification needs is to record the number of his or her card on the claim form. The Government is confident that the vast majority of Australian people will co-operate in the simple processes involved in administering the Health Insurance Program on an economic and efficient basis. 2.5 During recent months there has been gross misrepresentation of the purpose of health insurance curds. It has been suggested that the issue of the cards will in some way be an invasion of individual privacy and even that they will ‘depersonalise’ medical services. These suggestions are completely unfounded. The legislation will contain provisions under which it will be an offence for any person or authority to require the production of health insurance cards as proof of identity other than for the. purposes of the Health Insurance Program. The Government will insist that complete confidentiality regarding individual patients and doctors is maintained by the Commission. The information required for the processing of claims will bc less than is now required by private health insurance funds. A special committee has been established by the Government to recommend steps necessary to guarantee the privacy of individuals. The committee includes a representative of the Australian Medical Association. The relevant measures decided on as a result of this study will be incorporated in the health insurance legislation at the appropriate time.
– I shall outline now the method by which the operation of the Health Insurance Commission will work so far as records are concerned. When a bill is sent to the Commission a record of it will be filed on a computer, but the computer record will be in terms only of a number allotted for the type of service covered by the bill. It will not involve a detailed diagnosis code. Thus, in the case of a consultation with a general practitioner the number allotted will identify the service simply as a consultation. It will not reveal the nature of the consultation. So, the details of services rendered will be limited in the computer record.
There is another major protection. Data held by the Health Insurance Commission will relate only to the Department of Social Security card numbers and not to the names of patients. Patients’ names will not be available in these records. They will be available on a separate registration index only. Thus, even if an individual’s record was extracted from the computer it would not reveal the patient’s identity. The only way in which the patient could be identified would be for the inquirer to have access to the registration index at the same time. Such complete access will be denied to all but a handful of doctors employed by the Commission to check on any possible fraudulent abuse of the insurance system by private practitioners. Even they, as I have indicated, would still get only the barest details of services rendered to patients. Barriers to access by other persons will be built into the computers. This is a feasible and necessary safeguard. In addition to this, records will be kept for about a year only, so there is no possible way in which anyone could check up on the long term record of a patient.
Let me make a comparison with the existing system. Under the existing system of health insurance, patient histories are held by the private funds in manual files for the most part, although there is a notable trend towards computerisation of claim processing. Some funds have been using computers for some time. This indicates that already there is a move towards the storage of records on computers. Also, under the existing system of health insurance, data is available to a wide range of private fund employees. Fund employees who currently have access to patient histories are not subject to any legislation concerning the privacy of history data, whereas all Commission employees under the new scheme will be subject to strict security provisions enforceable by law. So much for the feigned concern of the Opposition, the Australian Medical Association and the funds about secrecy. It was the present Opposition which presided over the so-called voluntary scheme and its lack of secrecy and protection.
The Commission’s health insurance number, which will aid data security, has been carefully designed to ensure that it cannot be manually assembled from personal details and that these details cannot be derived from an examination of the number. It is understood that one fund, the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria, will shortly replace membership books with plasticised personal identification cards for each member. Presumably the member’s number will also be used as an aid to data security and for computer processing. Although the Australian Medical Association is extremely critical of the Government’s proposals to supply such membership cards under the universal health insurance program, it has mtaintained a continuous silence when a private fund does exactly this. Safeguards will be included in the legislation to the effect that the use of health insurance cards will be restricted to programs administered by the Department of Social Security. It will be illegal for any person to ask another to identify himself for any other purpose by producing his health insurance card or by quoting his health insurance number.
In addition, the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) already is establishing a group to advise him on the general question of the protection of individual privacy. The group will consist of experts in the relevant fields of law, computing and civil rights. Its first task will be to make recommendations on the manner in which unwarranted invasions of privacy, which at present exist or for which there is potential in large scale administrative operations such as health insurance, may be guarded against. In order that the interests of the patient be represented, the Minister for Social Security has arranged for a representative from the Medical Consumers Association to be a member of the study group. The Australian Medical Association is represented as well. The appointment of a special committee by the Attorney-General shows clearly that the Government has a firm commitment to the principle of the right of privacy. The Government agrees with the principle set out in Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that ‘no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy’.
Clearly, the collection and storage of data concerning individuals by both public and private bodies is, in this computer age, a vital aspect of this issue. In its February issue of the ‘Australian Computer Journal’, the Australian Computer Society stated that it was the Society’s belief that provided proper safeguards are incorporated in them, computer based data banks should pose less of a threat to privacy than manual or other noncomputer systems. That is exactly the aim that we are pursuing for the Health Insurance Commission. It will indeed be safer than the present collection and storage of medical information by private health funds which operate without any legal limitations in this regard.
– The honourable member for Dension (Mr Coates) has dealt at some length with what he described as health dossiers and the impossibility of the information made available to Government departments being used against individuals. I express significant concern in the opposite direction. I quote as an example what happened during a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians on 19 July this year. I refer the honourable member for Denison to page 35 of the Hansard report of the proceedings on that date and to the cross-examination of a witness by one of his own Labor Party colleagues, Senator James McClelland. In this instance Senator James McClelland used the private medical records of a witness to discredit him. I should like to read briefly from the Hansard record of those proceedings.
Senator James McClelland stated:
So that we will not have to do any guessing, I ask you on behalf of this Committee to request the Minister for Defence, who is responsible for the Navy, to make available to this Committee all papers concerning the Naval service of Leslie Leonard Shaw, and in particular of medical examinations and medical and psychiatric opinions relating to his discharge from the Royal Australian Navy.
The point I wish to make is that there are some people in the community who will willingly attempt to destroy a person by using the person’s so-called private records. So far as any security in any Government department is concerned, having looked at Senator Murphy’s attitude towards the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, I believe that there is no security whatsoever. I dismiss the defence that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Coates) has put forward.
Last Thursday just a few minutes before the House dealt with a private member’s motion on health insurance this so-called White Paper entitled ‘The Australian Health Insurance Program’ - my colleague the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) referred to it as a whitewash paper - was tabled. We had a few minutes to look at it and we still have not had time to really examine it. I have had a chance to have a look at some aspects of this so-called White Paper but before dealing with them I ask the
Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) whether he will ask the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to answer the 5 questions that I put to him in the debate last Thursday because he did not answer any of them.
– Enumerate them and I will.
– I will enumerate them. 1 thank the Minister for his interjection. The first relates to the error of $10m in calculating doctors’ fees and the second relates to the erroneous figure used by the Minister to discredit doctors in Perth on 14 August last when he referred to the cost of medical services when we on this side were in government. He inflated the figure by 100 per cent. Thirdly, will he explain the figure, which 1 claim to be incorrect and false, and which is repeated in this so-called White Paper, in regard to the number of people who are not insured and who previously he said had no protection. I want to know where those people are. Fourthly, will he explain the estimate he made in October 1972 of the amount of $700m as the cost of the health scheme when the Labor Party got into office? We all know that the amount will be infinitely higher than that. The fifth question relates to the miscalculation in respect of doctors’ incomes which he mentioned on three or four occasions, starting at $23,000 and ending at something under $20,000.
They are just a few of things which I have selected from the debate last Thursday which the Minister did not answer and to which we would like to have answers. I would like the Minister to be a little more explicit than is the White Paper in regard to the number of Australians who are not insured. I appreciate the fact that the Minister is paying attention and will give us some answers. He will remember saying that one million people have no protection. In the White Paper he said that over one million Australians are not insured. Will he give the Committee some explanation on this matter? According to figures I have, 83.2 per cent of the Australian population are voluntary members of health insurance funds; 9.6 per cent are in the pensioner medical service; 3 per cent are in the repatriation medical benefits service and almost one per cent are covered by defence forces benefits. On the figures that I have, that is nearly 97 per cent of the population.
I have dealt with just some of the points that were raised in the debate last Thursday. We on this side of the chamber have had no opportunity to have a thorough look at this White Paper but there are two or three things in it which stand out. At page 4 the White Paper - I take it this is the Minister’s paper - he deals with what he describes as the wealthier person’s contribution for insurance cover and how that is worth more as a tax deduction. The Minister quoted the case of a man with a wife and 2 children in the State of New South Wales, earning $70 a week and paying $77 a year for medical and public ward hospital insurance after tax. I would not dispute that; it is probably right; I have not had time to look it up. But the Minister went on to say that a comparable family on $400 a week pays $52 a year after tax. I would like to know the grounds on which he worked out that figure. There are many hypothetical inferences. What concessions were used in arriving at those figures? What assumptions were made in regard to the period of hospitalisation? I think those figures are quite ina.curate
I think that the statement on page 51 paragraph 4.29 is false. I will not use anything stronger than that, Mr Deputy Chairman, because you would not appreciate it. It is less than truthful. Paragraph 4.29 states:
The $16 per bed day which will be available under the new program compares with a $2 per day Australian Government benefit now paid to patients in private hospitals.
That seems to indicate that patients who are currently going into private hospitals are recouping only $2 a day. The position is that the cost of accommodation in a private hospital is at least $30 a day and under our scheme - the voluntary scheme - patients who are currently going into private hospitals are recouping nearly the full cost. So in truth this White Paper is under-estimating by $14 a day the actual amount of money that is recouped. I wish that the Minister would be serious about this because it is a serious matter. Paragraph 4.3 1 of the White Paper reads:
These arrangements will provide substantial cover foi the average fees of private hospitals throughout Australia.
That is quite untrue. If I were allowed to use a stronger word, I would do so.
– It is not telling the truth.
– It is not telling the truth. Paragraph 4.31 of the White Paper continues:
It should be pointed out that if the present system were to continue, patients seeking coverage for private hospital treatment would be required to take insurance cover for at least $14 per day more than that proposed under the new program.
That is a false statement. At the moment a person in the voluntary scheme has almost the whole of the $30 refunded. Under the program which your Party, Sir, is sponsoring, a person would have to pay the difference between $16 and $30. The Government would not pay; it would be the person who would have to insure privately. On top of that he would pay the compulsory tax.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak on this matter of health insurance which I consider to be probably the most important social legislation that this Government will introduce into this place. It has been grossly and irresponsibly misrepresented by a number of organisations, the worst of which has probably been the Australian Medical Association.
– Who wrote that?
– Will you be quiet?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The last six or so speakers have been heard in relative silence. I hope that the same courtesy will be extended to the honourable member for Cook.
– The AMA has misrepresented this scheme. I was very interested to read, I think in last Friday’s ‘Canberra Times’, a statement by Dr Repin that the Government had altered a number of things in the scheme and that this just showed the stand that was taken by the AMA, of course, was a correct stand. Let me say at this time that of all those who contributed to the great amount of debate and discussion that has gone on since the Green Paper of the Health Insurance Planning Committee was introduced into this Parliament - I remind the House that this was one of the few occasions on which a scheme has been presented to the Parliament and to the people who are interested in it - one of the poorer contributions was that of the Australian Medical Association. Many people who are associated with health care in Australia were prepared to come forth to debate and discuss the matter sensibly and to give up a great deal of their time to see whether this health scheme, whilst it may not have been exactly what they would have chosen themselves, was something that would be to the benefit of the Australian people.
It was only in the latter times of the public debate that the Australian Medical Association condescended to discuss with people involved in the Government any irregularities that it might have seen in the scheme, and I must say that its contribution was the least of all the contributions. Yet its members have decided to embark on a vast propaganda campaign against the Government’s proposed health scheme. One can only imagine, because of its slowing down now following publication of the proposal contained in the White Paper on the Australian health insurance program which has been tabled in the Parliament and the impending legislation that will be placed before the Parliament, that it did not get the anticipated result from doctors and others to its fast funding scheme.
Two things have been grossly misrepresented to the people of Australia, and that misrepresentation has been very apparent in the correspondence that other members and I have received. I refer to the health schemes in Great Britain and Canada. The British national health service has received a great deal of criticism in this country from people who evidently are bent on seeing its failure and many of whom do not truly appreciate the significance of the scheme. It seems to me that the scheme has been quite a satisfactory one. Indeed, as time goes by, the scheme is improving. But there is no relationship between the scheme that the Australian Government is presenting to the Australian Parliament at this time and the British national health scheme. The 2 schemes are entirely different. They bear no comparison whatsoever. For example, the English scheme is a per capita scheme. It is based on a patient register. In other words, a medical practitioner is allowed to enrol up to a certain number of patients whom he is allowed to treat, and he gets a per capita payment for the number of people who appear on his register. The Australian scheme is exactly the opposite. It is different in every way. The general medical practitioner service here is based on doctors in private practice receiving a fee for service, and the Government’s self insurance program is based exactly on this principle. In other words there will not be any change from the present practices of the general practitioner or from the right of people to choose their own practitioner. So the proposed scheme is exactly the same as the present scheme.
The AMA has represented the British scheme to the people of Australia as being a dismal failure. It is interesting to see just what the ‘Lancet’ of 30 June this year said in relation to the British scheme. It said that the British national health service has ‘reached full adulthood not without blemishes but is virile and popular and indispensible’ and ‘that in every country, developed and developing, the growth in the costs of health services threatens to get out of hand’. It went on:
In the UK, the pace, judged by any of the several admittedly imperfect yardsticks is slower than elsewher
So I think the first thing that should concern the Australian people is that in most countries, certainly in most Western developing countries, the costs of health services are taking too much of the national resources. We are spending far too much above what we ought to spend on these services. I thought that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), when speaking recently, made a very valid point, that is, that it is most unlikely that in various areas people are healthier or unhealthier than in other places. It is interesting to look at the United States system, the costs of which have spiralled out of all proportions in recent years. Milton Ferris in his article ‘Crisis and Change in America’s Health system’ said this:
It is a shocking fact that the United States has twice as many surgeons and twice as many surgical operations per capita as England and Wales, where surgeons are paid by salary.
I think honourable members can form their own opinion on what Milton Ferris and the Minister were getting at. The fact of the matter is that an over-utilisation of medical services can occur, and this has been the case in the United States where the costs of health services are totally out of proportion with what they oght to be in relation to the nation’s resources.
– If the schemes are so bad in this country why have conservative governments not repealed them?
– The reason why conservative governments have not repealed them is that they are so successful, and the public demand them and will not be without them. I think I should refer to the Canadian program because there has been a great deal of criticism of the Canadian program. There has been a great deal of misrepresentation, and it is quite unfair to the system. It has been said that there has been a 30 per cent yearly increase in costing for the Canadian system. That is probably right with the inflationary trends we face. But the cost of the present Australian scheme rose from $276m in 1969 to $598m in 1973, an average yearly increase of 20 per cent. So the increase in the cost of the Australian scheme is far in excess of the increase in the cost of the Canadian system over that period of time I do not think that the Australian Medical Association should be holding the Canadian system to ridicule in relation to the cost factor when our own system is grossly worse than the Canadian system has been.
In Canada there has been an average reduction in a physician’s working week of 81 hours. Average daily patient contacts have fallen by about 9 per cent. So the scheme seems to be working. It seems to be producing a far better health service than one would anticipate from the scheme we have in Australia at present. Nevertheless the Australian Medical Association misrepresented the Canadian scheme in an article it published, and it was taken to task for doing so. The President of the Medical Society in Nova Scotia wrote to the Australian Medical Association in the following terms:
I must say that we in Nova Scotia, and I believe generally throughout Canada are well satisfied with Medicare . . . Certainly we have had problems but we use effective communications to resolve them . . . To a considerable extent this article has misrepresented the situation in Canada, particularly in regard to Nova Scotia.
He obviously does not hold the same opinion as the Australian Medical Association expressed. What the President of the Medical Society of Nova Scotia wrote goes to show that the Australian Medical Association, either being uninformed or intentionally, has misled not only the people of Australia but its own members by articles of the nature of that to which I have referred, which have been without any foundation whatsoever. I am quite sure that the proposed Australian scheme, which is not the same as either the English or the Canadian schemes, will be an outstanding succes
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In this debate I want to draw the attention of the Commit tee to waiting lists, not in relation to the present scheme under which they are at a minimum, but in relation to the scheme proposed by the Government inherent in which, in contrast with the present system, the only possible restraint upon over-use of medical services looks like being long waiting lists with those who are providing medical care directing the majority of their attention to minor ailments and not showing the required concern for .those whose medical needs are greatest. My concern this evening is to draw the attention of the Committee and of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) to waiting lists of old people who are seeking accommodation in modern, self-contained flats; of old people who need modern accommodation in hostels where the type of service provided takes account of their frailty and their declining ability to provide for themselves in all respects; of old people who need to go into modern, well-run nursing homes run by charitable and benevolent organisations on a non-profit basis where they can be provided with care and given the rehabilitation services to which many of them will respond. This is not the first occasion upon which I have raised this matter. I raise it tonight because the procrastination of the Minister in arriving at a decision is reaching scandal proportions.
I refer particularly to an urgent need - a need which was urgent last month, was urgent the month before and was then drawn to the attention of the Minister- which today is as urgent as, if not more urgent than, it was then. That is the need to upgrade the amount of subsidy available to charitable and benevolent organisations willing and able to provide accommodation for the aged, whether they be sick or able to look after themselves in self-contained accommodation. In South Australia there are a number of these organisations who have done a marvellous job in providing adequate and proper accommodation for various classes of aged persons - the sick, the frail, and those who are well. The programs to these organisations are grinding to a halt as a consequence of the Minister’s procrastination.
In September I urged upon him the need to lift at least to $10,000 the ceiling limit in relation to which the $2 for $1 subsidy would be paid - a subsidy which he constantly refers to as being a $2 for $1 subsidy but which in fact is now less than $1 for $1. In September of this year in the Government publication called ‘Shelter’, in an article written by Mr Neville Brooke of the Melbourne organistion the Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Minister’s concern was reported upon. In that article the writer drew attention to the Minister’s alarm at the proportion of funds provided by charitable organisations as their share of the cost of developing home units and which is generally raised from ingoing donations has gone from 35 per cent to 62 per cent. But it is raised not only from the contributions of the ingoing occupants. Much of this money is raised by residents already benefiting from this type of accommodation - people who collect paper, gather bottles, sew aprons, make jams and run fetes in order to raise the funds that will attract the subsidy.
Only recently I attended the magnificent Lutheran homes in my electorate. I attended on this occasion to be present at a fund raising fete to which 300 or so residents made a magnificent contribution. They had been working for months, indeed years, in order that their organisation would have the funds with which it could build a nursing home and hostel to provide for those of the residents who become sick or frail and for others in the community who could benefit from that accommodation. The board of management of that organisation has recently called for tenders to build a 12’8-bed hostel and nursing home complex. The board is faced with a dilemma. A month ago, on 13 October, in Adelaide the Minister said that the question of the ceiling limit on this subsidy was under review. In September we were told that he was alarmed. There is no outcome of the review on 12 November - a month after the Minister made his statement in Adelaide that the review was taking place. The statement was made a month after the urgency of this matter was drawn to his attention.
There is another organisation in Adelaide - a municipality - which would build selfcontained unit accommodation for the aged if it knew the outcome of the Minister’s review. Until it knows, it is unable to indicate to those people who are in urgent need of accommodation the magnitude of the contribution that the municipality will require before it can proceed with its $500,000 project. The difference in contribution that could be made by an updating of the contribution level which was last set in January 1971 could be as high as $1,000 per occupant. How often do we hear the Minister say that his concern is for those people in need - for those people with limited means. Yet his failure to grapple with the problem of updating this subsidy limit does not give much credit to his argument that he is concerned for those who are in need. In fact, one wonders whether his procrastination is designed to destroy the purposes of the Aged Persons Homes Act, because he can protest that there is a $2 for $1 subsidy whilst on the other hand the ceiling limit remains and the whole scheme is strangled by the financial inability of the organisations building this type of accommodation to set their contributions at such a high level either that it means it is impossible for occupants to pay it or alternatively that it means it is impossible to raise the funds through fetes and similar fund raising activities.
The position of the Lutheran homes is so serious that whilst they await the decision of the Minister as to whether he will update the ceiling limit - he has indicated that it is under review so they as resident trustees should not make a decision until the review is announced - on a Sim contract with building costs rising as they are rising today it is costing the Lutheran homes at least $12,000 a month in the rise - not fall - clause of a possible building contract. That $12,000 means one fewer nursing home available to the needy aged in the South Australian community. In fact, today it was drawn to my attention that a home in the electorate of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) has received a tender which indicates that, excluding the land cost, the cost in Adelaide and South Australia today of building a hostel unit is $9,300, the cost of building an independent living unit is $10,000 in addition to the land cost, and likewise the cost of providing a nursing home bed is $10,000. Yet the maximum that will be subsidised is $7,800. How can the aged be provided for by organisations with the facilities, the know-how and the capacity to build this accommodation when the Aged Persons Homes Act is being topedoed by procrastination as a result of the failure of the Minister to treat as urgent the updating of the subsidy limit, to put it at a realistic level so that it is restored to a $2 for $1 subsidy instead of something less than that.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to speak in the debate on the estimates of the Department of Social Security in relation to the important matter of the Australian health insurance program. Although the proposals received the overwhelming support of the people at the last election the Opposition has allied itself with the extremist elements of the medical profession in an attempt to thwart this popular mandate. These elements, who prostitute the capitalist enterprise system to the detriment of the Australian people and tarnish the reputation of the majority of fine, reputable physicians, have managed to delay the introduction of a comprehensive universal medical insurance scheme since the first attempts by the Bruce-Page Government.
The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) has referred to the motion he moved in this House last week. His motion sought to head off the introduction of a vitally needed reform in Australia. He sought indefinitely to postpone the introduction of a universal health insurance scheme .that provided everyone with protection against health costs and that was financed by a 1.35 per cent levy which was based on an individual’s capacity to pay. The Government’s proposals, as outlined in the White Paper presented to Parliament toy the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), have been endorsed by this popular mandate. Yet the honourable member, with patrician indifference, has sought to deny the popular will on the spurious and specious grounds outlined in his motion of last week. The Minister covered the honourable member’s so called reasons for an inquiry during .the debate last week and convincingly demonstrated the falsity of his claims.
I would like to examine the reasons behind the honourable member’s desire to perpetuate the present inefficient system and the actions he has .taken to further this aim. His desire must be so strong that it has moved him to take quite outrageous steps to support his point of view, as I will soon show. Firstly, in an earlier debate in this chamber, he claimed that if his Party had remained in government it would have improved its own scheme, which was in any case nearly perfect. His Party had 23 years in government to build and improve its scheme and it failed to do so. Any steps it took to change the scheme were taken grudgingly and meekly. It was ready to drop any plan at the hint of disapproval by the
Australian Medical Association. The only man to stand up to this medico-political pressure - the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) - was quickly deposed when he attempted to reform the system.
The honourable member for Boothby has generously conceded that the present scheme could be improved to help the needy, provided of course they are prepared to accept the crumbs of charity, but constant attempts to do so by his Government through subsidised benefits failed because of .their complexity. Only 4 out of every 100 persons eligible for assistance actually receive it. So any patching up he intends will be doomed to failure if it merely perpetuates this complexity. That is no comfort or protection for the one million people - the census and statistics survey published in May 1973 confirmed that the figure was one million people - who are not covered against the costs of medical and hospital care.
It is when .the honourable member starts to do some sums to back up his prejudices that serious distortions and deliberate misrepresentations begin appearing. For example, in his speech in this chamber on 11 October he purported to show that it will cost a person $49 a week to enter a public ward of a public hospital. He obtained this figure by stating the costs of a public ward bed and subtracting a mythical $13 as the maximum Commonwealth contribution towards these costs. He has completely ignored the Government’s intention that all Australians who choose to be treated as hospital patients in a public ward of a public hospital will receive treatment absolutely free. It is untrue to claim anything else. Yet he seems to be determined to perpetuate and extend this error outside of Parliament in a deliberate campaign to mislead the public. He has widely circulated throughout his electorate and South Australia a pamphlet that has already caused widespread concern among innocent Australians. These misrepresentations cannot be allowed to go unchecked. The pamphlet is riddled with inaccuracies. I will try to point out as many as I have time for.
Firstly, it says that women will not be able to choose their own doctor for confinements. The honourable member must know that that is untrue. The Green Paper, in paragraph 3.65, and the White Paper, in paragraph 4.22, state specifically that hospitals should appoint general practitioners to sessional staffs for midwifery only and patients should then be treated at no cost if they choose to be hospital patients. Secondly, the honourable member claims that patients will be able to choose only between a public or private hospital. That is again untrue. Patients will be able to choose the type of care they prefer in a public hospital irrespective of whether they want to pay extra for a semi-private or private room or want to be a private patient with their own doctor treating them for a fee. As the honourable member must know, patients still will be able to choose their own doctor for medical care. Patients will be admitted to hospital by their own doctor or specialist and not ordered to a particular institution, as he has falsely claimed. They will be referred to a specialist by their own doctor, the same as happens now - nothing else.
Again we have the big lie on free hospital treatment, but now it has become bigger. Perhaps the honourable member believes the old Geobbels dictum of the bigger the lie the more chance one has of getting people to believe what one says. He said that as well as the surcharge tax people will have to pay at least $119 a week for a public ward bed. Remember that it was $49 on 11 October. Tonight we heard that it would be $14 a day or $98 a week. He also added that it would cost $1 89 for a private room. The honourable member explained these figures, as I said earlier, by taking the cost of a hospital bed and subtracting what he thinks the common subsidy will be. What he has not said is that the subsidy is paid .to the hospital via the State hospital authorities. This, plus a further amount, will mean that 50 per cent of the public hospital running costs will now be paid by the Australian Government. In return for this generous financial boost for them the State hospitals will provide a free bed in a standard ward for any Australian who chooses this form of hospital treatment. All treatment and accommodation will be absolutely free. It is wicked - in fact, immoral - for the honourable member to try to persuade people otherwise. Who would have thought that he would stoop to deception in his attempts to stir up opposition to the Government’s plans? Yet obviously this is what he has done.
The rest of the pamphlet is equally unpleasant and inaccurate. It boasts of the Government being forced to backtrack on private insurance and centralised hospital con trol. The honourable member and his unknow cohorts have, as far as he has been able to ascertain, made no submissions to the Minister for Social Security. The fact is that private hospital insurance was always allowed and it was decided also to allow private medical insurance as an example of the Government’s desire to allow freedom of choice. Centralised hospital control is just a figment of the honourable member’s imagination. The Green Paper and the White Paper both make it clear that hospital arrangements will be characterised by co-operation between the Australian Government and the State hospital authorities.
Then we had the inevitable cry for support, for money to publicise non-Labor views. In this respect at least the honourable member for Boothby has been honest in stating that it is really just another political trick on behalf of the Liberal Country League. As if it does not already have enough great and powerful financial friends to help it in its fight. The private health insurance funds, for so long a law unto their directors rather than their contributors, see the days of overseas trips and executive aeroplanes going and do not like it. They have been extremely generous in their use of their contributors’ money to spread falsehoods about the Government’s plans. They are fine bedfellows for the honourable member, as are the overseas owned drug companies which have yielded to the blandishments of the AMA and the General Practitioners Society to contribute to their fighting funds. The AMA and the General Practitioners Society are keen ,to fight a dirty campaign against our scheme and the Minister personally - probably against the better wishes of their silent majority of members.
In conclusion, I am disappointed by but not really surprised at the smear and fear campaign of the honourable member for Boothby. Some people believe that they have a monopoly on righteousness, virtue, the truth and, until we proved otherwise last December, even government and will use any weapon, however twisted, to prove their point. This shabby little pamphlet was designed to instil fear in people who are unable easily to find out the truth for themselves. The honourable member for Boothby has, by the use of false propaganda, indicated the lengths to which the Opposition will go to fight the proposed health scheme. His motion, which was defeated last week, was just the icing on the Opposition’s poison campaign cake. Is this pamphlet what the Opposition is really about? If it is not, I challenge the Opposition’s spokesman on health and social security and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) to repudiate this document on behalf of the Liberal Party of Australia or be equally responsible for the lies it spreads.
– It is appropriate at this moment to recall words spoken in this Parliament by the late Eddie Ward, who was an avowed socialist. He once said: ‘If you pluck the feathers from the duck they can never put them back again’. In short, he was saying that one day his Party would come to power and would do so much so quickly that even if it lost the next election it would leave the country in such a state that it would be difficult for the returning Liberal-Country Party coalition to restore the damage. We have heard a very emotional address by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb), who was the previous speaker in the debate. The words he uttered, along with the words tonight of many other supporters of the Government, have simply been a precis of the utterances of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). I am highly suspicious that all of these prepared speeches have been written by the staff of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) because hardly an original thought has come out in this place tonight. We have heard an emotive claim that the management of the medical health funds has been running around the world on contributors money.
– You obviously do not have competent staff writing your speeches.
– You go back to building Aboriginal hostels. You even got sacked from doing that, so leave me alone. Claims have been made that these people have been running around the world on contributors funds and that they have been spending money campaigning against the proposed national health scheme. The honourable member for La Trobe at least has the decency to nod his head like a cockatoo in agreement. I clearly recall some time ago - it could have been as far back as 1968 - the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, directing a question to the then Minister for Health, Dr Forbes, asking for an assurance from the then Government that the health funds would not be allowed to spend contributors money for the purpose of propaganda.
At that time, the then Liberal Minister for Health gave an assurance to the Parliament and to the people of Australia that the Liberal-Country Party Government would ensure that this was not done. So much foi all the garbage that has come from the Government ranks this afternoon and this evening.
As a Queenslander, I have been a little concerned about the proposed health scheme. Government supporters have been particularly silent on the manner in which the proposed health scheme - a scheme that has been conceived in the womb of the Minister for Social Security, a fellow Queenslander - will affect the people of Queensland. They have been very silent on this point. Might I relate, for the benefit of Government supporters, how the people of the State of Queensland will be affected by the scheme. I know that honourable members opposite think that anyone north of the New South Wales border does not matter. They think that, because there are only 18 Federal seats in Queensland and that whatever happens in Queensland is not going to affect them very much, they do not have to worry about Queensland; they can forget about Queenslanders. The Government has a hide to impose -its scheme upon the people of Queensland. Day after day the Minister for Social Security bleats in this House about how Queensland is going to benefit by the provision of another $3 5m a year - a wonderful thing! But when the Government imposes an added tax on the people of that State, sure the State Government or the Commonwealth Government will receive some extra benefit, but from whose pocket will this extra money come? Do not parade yourself in here as a generous being, Mr Minister. You are probably taking from the people of Queensland more than the additional provision of $35m a year which you have promised them.
Let me relate for the information of those honourable members from the deep south the way in which we work in Queensland. To the great credit of earlier State Labour governments, they introduced a scheme whereby Queenslanders forever would be granted free hospitalisation in the event of their becoming sick. When the Country-Liberal Party coalition came to power in that State in 1957 there were dire warnings from the outgoing Labour Government that this scheme would be abolished. But 1957 is a long time back and this health scheme is still in fashion in Queensland. I know that the Minister says:
Oh, it is a dilapidated scheme. It is not worth a razoo. They need an injection of $35m’, as if $35m were some magic amount which was going to cure all ills. Every scheme under government control, whether it be education, health or a host of other things, is open for improvement, and it becomes a question of examination and acceptance of a particular standard. But now, if the people of Queensland do not wish to belong to a health fund, they do not have to contribute. This Government offers nothing. It just says: ‘We are going to take 1.35 per cent out of your pay, whether you like it or not’.
The Minister for Social Security says that four out of five people are going to be better off than they were before. I do not believe him. I know that, as a Queenslander he is not prone to untruths, but I wonder who has concocted those figures. The Minister has never come out and explained how he has arrived at this magical figure of four out of five people. If people in Queensland want to belong to a health fund, they can do so. If they go into a public hospital, they can utilise their medical benefit fund as an extra insurance against loss of wages or any other losses they might sustain through their hospitalisation. They can use intermediate and private hospitalisation. But the Government is giving the people of Queensland no choice. It is imposing upon us some grandiose scheme which we have got to like or lump. Furthermore, the Minister referred to the fact that wealthy benefit under the present system and that is a scheme which works against the poor. I do not think that those on the Government side who have heard me speak in this House would have gained the idea that I am a champion of big business or the wealthy people, because I am not. I recognise that the poor in our society need assistance. The true meaning of liberalism is a system whereby we allow those with initiative and drive to move along and, in turn, this helps those who are more needy and lifts them up also. The fact is that those who presently gain some tax benefit from their medical benefit fund contributions are surely those who are already paying by far the greater amount in their initial contribution to the coffers of the nation. A person who is earning $400 a week may be paying to the Government 70c in the $1 for the last couple of hundred dollars, and receiving only 30c in the $1 himself. The Government advances this emotive question and justifies its actions by saying: ‘Well, the present scheme works against the poor’.
– Go on, go on.
– Be quiet and listen. You have not learned in the past, so listen a bit more. I admit that the previous scheme had its weaknesses in that some sections of our society were not insured, whether it be through ignorance or whether the means test imposed by the previous Government, whereby we had 3 categories of persons who would receive different scales of contributions from the Government to help them did not work. I do not know. But just because we had only 85 per cent of Australians covered under our scheme - I notice that the Minister includes Aboriginals in the far west-
– It was 96.4 per cent.
-It was 96.4 per cent. This 85 per cent figure is open to question. Just because there was not a 100 per cent coverage, it does not mean that the Minister for Social Security has any justification for tipping the system upside down and trying to introduce a socialist approach. Unfortunately, the light is on indicating that my time on this occasion has nearly expired. The proposed Australian health insurance scheme is just the end of a socialist dream and I am quite sure-
– Yes, totalitarianism. The references to Canada and Britain are not good enough in this country. Australia is an individual country. We are an individual people. As a Queenslander, I reiterate that I come from an individual State where you are allowed to do as you wish with health care.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In the course of my address I hope to show the concern the previous Government had for the low income earner. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) told us that the previous Government had the concern of the low income earner at heart, but an analysis of the existing health scheme would show how little regard it had for such people. The proposed health insurance program of this Government represents the most extensive reform in financing health services in the history of this country. Health services constitute one of the most technically complex and financially expensive areas of activity in any advanced country. In this country, they are long overdue for examination and overhaul. The Government’s health insurance program will provide this overhaul.
In looking at .the financial aspects ‘ of this scheme, we see, firstly, that health costs at the moment are of the order of $2,000m a year. This is an extraordinarily large amount of money. In fact, it represents something like 5.3 per cent of the gross domestic product. In other words, something like $5 out of every $100 of income produced in this country is being expended on health services.
Costs as a percentage of gross domestic products have been increasing and if they continue in their present spiral they will represent 12 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of this century. So we are talking of an area in which the Government has an extraordinary responsibility to ensure that expenditure of this importance is appropriately allocated. It is the Government’s role to allocate resources efficiently, and it must certainly be concerned with efficiently allocating this area of resources, which represents such a large proportion of our expenditure.
The current health insurance scheme is inefficient, inequitable and inadequate. It is inefficient because there are so many funds; there are over 90 hospital and medical insurance funds. They are administratively inefficient. There are so many of them that they cannot possibly have the economy of scale that one large fund would have. They necessarily waste funds in competing with each other through advertising. They advertise in competition for contributors, which is a waste of money in terms of the benefits that could be obtained from one basic fund. They have been guilty of wasting money on lavish buildings and they have undoubtedly held large amounts of funds in excessive reserves. The Nimmo Committee recommended that their reserves needed to be no more than 3 months contributions. Some funds have been holding reserves of up to 2 years contributions. This is an extraordinary waste of contributors’ money.
The current scheme is inequitable because the poorer a contributor is the more his contributions cost; and conversely, the richer a contributor is, the less his contributions cost. This is an extraordinary inequity in the very heart of the health insurance scheme. This occurs through the tax deduction system. Because the marginal tax rate is higher under a progressive tax system, contributions become less expensive the richer the contributor is. Let me give a quick example by taking 2 extreme levels. With taxable incomes of over $40,000 a year, the marginal tax rate is about 67c in the $1. For $100 spent on contributions to a health insurance fund, a taxpayer in this category would save $67 that he otherwise would have to pay in tax. making the net cost to him for hospital and medical cover the sum of $33. A person in receipt of the minimum wage would have a higher marginal tax rate of 15c in the $1. This means that, instead of spending on hospital and medical insurance he would have to pay $85 after receiving a taxation rebate of $15. It will be seen that the after tax cost becomes less and less as the income becomes higher. This absurd inequity shows the total disregard that the previous Government had for low income earners in relation to health schemes. Our scheme will totally alter that situation, as I shall show in a moment.
The current scheme is also totally inadequate in that it does not cover everybody. The honourable member for Boothby knows this, although he refused to acknowledge it in this House. Only 86.5 per cent of the population of this country are covered by a health insurance scheme. This includes pensioners. In other words, 13 i per cent of the population are not covered by a health insurance scheme or any other scheme of assistance. This is established by a Commonwealth Bureau of Statistics report, reference No. 17.7 entitled Persons Covered by Hospital and Medical Expenditure Assistance Schemes, August 1972’ and issued on 31 May 1973. If honourable members opposite want to know the facts they should stagger into the Library and get a copy of it. They will find, as I have said, that only 86.5 per cent of the population of Australia are covered by health schemes; in other words, 13.5 per cent are not covered. This includes the State of Queensland. Queensland is a special example, in that the people of Queensland are. entitled to free public ward hospital treatment and are free of the means test for this purpose.
Mr McLeay - That was introduced by Mr Bjelke-Petersen.
– It was not introduced by him. If one excludes Queensland, one finds that 89.9 per cent of the people outside
Queensland are not covered. In other words, one in every ten is not covered. This is an extraordinarily high proportion. It means that the current system is hopeless in the way in which it sets out to cover the people of Australia. Of course, there are subsidised medical benefit schemes which cover 4 per cent of the number of people they are supposed to cover. It is an absolute scheme, a total farce, and it must be changed.
The Government’s proposed health insurance program will overcome these deficiencies. The basic level of health care will be provided efficiently, equitably and fully. It will be efficient because there will be only one fund to provide the basic cover for medical and hospital costs. This will have considerable advantages in administrative efficiency compared with the present system under which 90 or more funds compete to provide some services. It will be equitable because of the 1.35 per cent levy. It will mean that the higher a contributor’s income, the more he will pay, up to a level of $150 per annum. This is infinitely better than the current system, which is quite the reverse. Currently, the richer a contributor is, the less his contributions cost him. We shall change that completely, and so we should if we are concerned with equity.
The proposed scheme will be adequate in that it will cover the whole population. There will be not a 86.5 per cent cover, but a 100 per cent cover. In other words, there will not be a large section of the population at risk, so to speak, faced with the disaster of large hospital and medical costs if any member of the family falls ill. The total cost of our scheme will be about the same as the present scheme but it will be raised more equitably and spent more equitably.
It is clear from what I have said that the criteria that underlie this scheme are efficiency and equity. These are the concerns of economists; so it is appropriate that this scheme was devised by economists. One of the absurd arguments of the Australian Medical Association and others was that this scheme was basically achieved by economists, not doctors. What they say is that Dr Scotton and Dr Deeble are doctors of philosophy, not doctors of medicine, and they ask what they would know about medicine. Here we are talking about the funding of an insurance system, not about how to conduct appendectomies, tonsillectomies or hysterectomies. We are talking of the allocation of resources, which is an area for economists. It has nothing to do with the conduct of medical operations or how to make medical diagnoses.
The source of funds will be a levy of 1.35 per cent on taxable income, not on gross income. There will be a related contribution from Consolidated Revenue and also a levy on workers’ compensation and third party motor insurance premiums. The 1.35 per cent levy will be paid in the same way as income tax; in other words, it will be deducted weekly or fortnightly. It will be shown as a separate amount on pay slips. So taxpayers will know that they are contributing to a health scheme that costs money and they will know exactly what they are paying. Where taxable incomes are $1,040 or less no income tax is payable now and no levy will be payable either. Aged persons have taxation rebates, which means that they pay no tax on taxable incomes below $1,920 per annum. They will not have to pay the levy either. Pensioners with pensioner medical service entitlements will not have to pay the levy. Low income families will be protected. A man on the minimum wage and with a wife and one child to maintain will not have to pay anything. With more children, the amount that he can earn and still not pay any levy will go up. A man with 2 children will be able to earn $64.50 and pay no levy; a man with 6 children will be able to earn $82.10 and pay no levy. This will be adjusted with increases in the minimum wage. This means that the scheme being put forward by the Government will be much cheaper for most of the population. I have not had time to go through particular examples, but it is true to say that three out of four families will be better off under the scheme and seven out of ten single people will be better off.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I had not intended to speak on these estimates but I was stung by some of the comments by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). Because they are statements that are made continually, particularly by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), I think I should take them up at this stage and say something about them. Over a period of at least 12 months the Minister has worked on the theory that if one says .things often enough people will believe him. Unfortunately that does not seem to be so. I want to mention 5 points made by the honourable member for Gellibrand. First of all, he used the old war cry that taxpayers in the higher tax brackets pay less for medical benefits than people in low income groups.
– Do you deny it?
– I do deny it because the whole fallacy of this particular exercise ignores the fact that a very large proportion of the cost of medical services in Australia is borne directly out of the Treasury and that is contributed to by people paying income tax. The person on the higher income pays substantially more of his income in tax than does the person on a lower income. The honourable member for Gellibrand mentioned that some people pay tax at the rate of 60c in the $1 of income that they earn. What low income earner pays 60c in the $1 in income tax? He pays nothing like it. So if one takes into account the contributions which taxpayers on higher incomes make to the general revenue of Australia, substantial proportions of which come back in the form of medical benefits, one sees that the higher income taxpayers are paying more than their share towards the health services of the lower income groups in the community.
The second point that the honourable member mentioned, and one that the Minister harps on continuously, is the small percentage of Australian people who are not covered by present health benefit schemes. No statistics have been presented to the Committee which would indicate in any convincing way that the claims which the Minister makes are accurate, nor is there any breakup to determine why those people are not covered by medical insurance and what particular groups they fall into. For example, are the people in Queensland who are not covered included as part of the total percentage? If they are, it is completely misleading.
– It is dishonest.
– And dishonest. The Minister would well know that there are large numbers of people in Queensland who are uninsured because they have no reason to be insured unless they wish to be .treated in intermediate or private wards. So all those people could have been included in the percentage of people not covered by medical benefit schemes. Also, there are young people who have just left school to start work. I would venture to suggest that a large number of them would be uninsured for the simple reason that they do not believe that they need to be covered at this particular point of time. They are still young and healthy. There is no reason at all why they ought to be insured. People in those groups would comprise a very large proportion of the numbers that the Minister bleats about as not being covered. There is also a significant number of people who object to taking out insurance of any sort at all and who are prepared to pay their medical bills as they fall due without any insurance at all. There must be some proportion of the community that would be in that category.
I move on to the third point made by the honourable member for Gellibrand. He accused private insurance funds of using contributors’ money for the purposes of advertising. How hypocritical can one get? The Government itself has spent $250,000 of taxpayers’ money trying to publicise a Labor scheme. Whatever the Minister might say, it is a Labor scheme. It is not a Government scheme; it somehow has evolved as a result of an independent inquiry by a couple of economists Labor dragged out of a university. The Government certainly had an inquiry after it became the Government to give some sort of respectability to the scheme that was cooked up when it was in Opposition.
If, as we have been told over and over again in this chamber, the Government has a mandate to bring in a national health scheme, if the people have spoken conclusively on the Government’s scheme, why does the Minister need to spend $250,000 advertising the scheme to the people who are supposed to have been convinced by his propaganda at the election and who voted for the Government, giving it, as he says, a clear mandate? Of course the pamphlet that was put out was entitled ‘The Plain Facts’. A more misleading title could not be conceived if one sat down and .thought for one million years. The plain fact of the matter is that $250,000 of taxpayers’ money has been squandered on that pamphlet which has now been abandoned by the Government because it has brought in another White Paper which chucks most of that pamphlet out the door. It has been $250,000 down the drain to satisfy the vanity of the Minister.
I come >to the next point made by the honourable member for Gellibrand, namely, the manifestation of efficiency in a larger scheme. What rot. One has only .to look at the Department of Social Security itself to realise the inefficiency that creeps into large scale Government operations. How many pensioners can go to the Department of Social Security and talk to anyone sensibly about .their file? They never get any answers. They do not even get replies to correspondence. And this is the same sort of massive bureaucracy that is now advocated for health insurance. It is nonsense to talk about economies of scale and efficiency; it is absolute rubbish. Some of the smaller private insurance funds are more efficient than the bigger ones and also more lenient towards their contributors .than the larger private insurance funds. So do no let us say that private insurance funds are inefficient because they do not take in everybody. That is just plain nonsense.
I move to the fifth point. Four out of every 5 people, the Government says, will be better off under the proposed scheme. I suggest that this takes no account of the situation of the working wives. Honourable members will know how many people in their electorate have come to them and pointed out that they will be paying increased costs under the new Labor health proposals because if the wife works she will pay. If the husband works he will pay. If the teenage children work during the school holidays. They will pay. If one adds all together one will find that every family that has more than one person working will pay substantially more under the first phase of this scheme. If the experience in other countries proves anything it proves that nationalised medicine becomes more expensive year by year. It is not a question of doctors’ fees. If the Minister is honest he will admit that doctors’ fees take up only a very small proportion of the total health bill to the country. The real cost is in hospitals and the cost of the equipment, the servicing and the staff involved in running the hospitals is enormous and increases year by year under nationalised health proposals because of the use made of these facilites by the community. So while the taxpayer might say that he is paying 1.35 per cent in the first year, he will be paying a devil of a lot more before he is finished with this nationalised health scheme.
– In the few minutes that are left to me this evening I should tike to say something under the heading of the estimates for the Department of Social Security. I see now that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) has returned to the chamber. In his weighty remarks on the health scheme he mentioned feathers. I should like to draw to his attention a statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) earlier this year when referring to .that great Queenslander, the late Sir Arthur Fadden, who said: ‘Who knows what the future holds? A rooster today may be a feather duster tomorrow.’ Maybe that is what the honourable member for Griffith was referring to with his own proposition.
This evening the people of Australia must wonder what stirs the Opposition to come forth and spend such money in opposing the introduction of a national health insurance program for which this Government has a clear mandate. What is the stimulus? What is the motivation? The answer, in a few words, is that members of the Opposition represent the establishment, and they have their job to do. They must protect the establishment, for behind the opposition to the universal health program are representatives of the vested financial interests of this country - the bastions of conservatism. Those champions of inequality who sit opposite and who talk about an inequitable scheme at the same time persist in supporting the continuation of a scheme that operates to the detriment of the low-income earner. What a pity it is that medical practitioners - honourable, genuine and dedicated as the majority of them are - are being used by these bastions of conservatism and their financial interests to attempt to destroy the prestige and the respect in which the Australian public used to hold members of the medical profession.
I do not have time to talk about choice of doctors, which I wanted to discuss, but I shall refer to a pamphlet that is being distributed by one of these democratic organisations known as the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia. I put it to honourable members that it is an honourable association. It must be, otherwise it would not be distributing literature which purports to represent a democratic and just point of view to the Australian people but which, in essence, is an exercise in deception as it misleads, confuses and frightens people. Let us look at a few of the points put in this pamphlet. The first is:
And where are the doctors going to come from to staff the standard beds in public hospitals?
We all know that the real shortage of doctors is caused simply because too many general practitioners want to be specialists as there is more money in specialisation. We have enough doctors, but we have them in the wrong places. The next point made by the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia is as follows:
This means that you would have longer delays and queues at your local doctor’s surgery.
What doctor’s surgery in Australia does not now have queues? As recently as last week a group of 40 persons had to wait for 3i hours to see a doctor at a group practice in my own electorate. I challenge members of the Opposition to go to the Newcastle region to see in operation the illustrious current health service under which patients have this wonderful choice of doctors. I challenge them to go to any practice at all to see whether they can consult a doctor of their choice at that particular time. I assure them it is impossible. Their argument is a fallacy; it is all bunkum. They know it does not happen, yet they insist on putting this view before the Australian people. There is no freedom of choice of doctor, and no wonderful service is available. It is all a fake. The Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia in its pamphlet states:
By the way, the Government is also setting up its own health clinics and employing staff doctors on salaries.
Later it says:
The only interpretation I can put on that is that all salaried doctors, all doctors who Work at the repatriation hospitals and all doctors who have treated our ex-servicemen for 50 years, work only half as hard and are half as efficient as doctors in general practice. I wish members of the Opposition would get in touch with ex-servicemen’s organisations in this country and tell them what they think of the doctors and the staffs that man our repatriation hospitals. We have had a system that has been in operation for 50 years, but obviously members of the Opposition think that it is decrepit, inefficient, and does not result in patients being treated as well as they are treated in general practice. They argue that something ought to be done about it. Why not tell the ex-servicemen that? Members of the Opposition are saying that salaried doctors are not as good. Then this honourable organisation, the Voluntary Health Insurance Association of Australia says:
Under the Government scheme of standard beds and salaried doctors in hospitals, you are likely to be examined and treated in a public hospital by a total stranger.
I ask members opposite: What happens when Mrs Brown goes to hospital and a specialist is called in, and it is the first visit he has made to Mrs Brown? Is he a total stranger to her, or has he had some earlier relationship with her so that he is not a total stranger? I ask honourable members opposite to consider this, for that is the view that this Association which they support puts forward - this democratic association, of which the Medical Benefits Fund is a member, and of which the board of 24 members-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Luchetti) - Order! It being 10.45 p.m., and in accordance with the order of the House of 22 August, I shall report progress.
-Order! The question is:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to place on record my very grave concern at what this Government is allowing to happen in Victoria and the consequential hardships being experienced by the population because of the Government’s inability to bring about a settlement of the strike by the electrical trades workers employed by the State Electricity Commission in Victoria. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has failed to reassure me that he has any real concern for the people he so proudly boasts that he and his Government represent. This strike - one of many being allowed to drift on; or perhaps it is inspired by Labor Party supporters - illustrates the insincerity of the Government which refuses leave to honourable members to talk about such problems in this House. I have yet to hear the Minister for Labour accept my invitation to come to the Latrobe Valley to talk to the electrical trades workers or to listen to their side of the case. Industrial turmoil is tearing at the heart of the nation’s industrial, commercial and community life. Mr Bob Hawke, the man who wears or attempts to wear 2 hats, one as President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the other as President of the Australian Labor Party, recognises the dispute as being one of national importance. But he has failed absolutely to help the situation. The men rejected his terms. He did not go along himself to hear their case; he sent someone else to do it, so he got the information second hand.
I ask the Government: Is it insensitive to the loss of $9m in wages over the last 2 weeks as a result of power rationing in factories? This is almost the figure for the whole of last year. What will the total figure be for the whole of this year when we achieve that figure in only 2 weeks? I believe there is a very fundamental reason why the electrical trades workers cannot accept the present offer. It could well be that a previous award introduced to cover the creation of a new classification has upset relativity payments and created a chain reaction of entitlement.
There are many points in favour of a round table discussion to which I have invited the Minister for Labour. His lack of interest causes me concern because I am now faced with the grim reality of seeing hundreds of people affected by this strike of over 5 weeks duration. I see the looks of despair on honest men’s faces as they stand by the principles they hold dear. I hope these desperate men are not being misled by their union leaders. It seems incredible if they are, so I am assuming until I am satisfied further that the State Electricity Commission and its employees are deadlocked. No one from the Minister’s Department or the Minister himself has bothered to stir himself to try to solve this serious matter.
I was amazed to hear the Minister for Labour say that the Victorian Liberal Government was standing over the State Electricity Commission administration to create the impression to the public that the Federal Government was incapable of handling such a situation. What a ridiculous statement. It does not take any action by the Victorian Government to highlight the fact that this Federal Government is an incompetent, irresponsible and” incapable Government. It is all very well to blame the Victorian Government when this Government gives great credence to the role of the great arbitrator, Mr Bob Hawke. He waited until he thought the men would surrender and then he stepped in and delivered his ultimatum, hoping that he would join the ranks of ‘I am the greatest’. But he was rebuffed. So, with complete abandonment, he trips overseas and lets this situation deteriorate.
Well, Mr Speaker, I am not prepared to let the matter rest there. I hope to enthuse enough responsibility into the Minister for Labour to see him accept my invitation. But I personally have grave doubts because of his performance to date. In fact, his nation-wide broadcast, stating that he is preparing for a national conference as soon as the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions leaves the country, indicates to me that he is prepared to prance around and make great clarion calls for industrial peace. He is another who wants to be ‘the greatest’. But he is not prepared to take individual strike issues of an unusual nature and get down to a face to face, nitty gritty decision. It may upset his national image to descend to more material and realistic practicalities of industrial problems. Is the Minister sincere when he talks about this great national conference on industrial matters and in his great praise of the conciliation and arbitration system which he says should operate similarly and which would do so if he were prepared to make it do so.
As I have said, it is all very well to put over to the strikers the story that their plight can be blamed on the Victorian Government. But that is purely a smokescreen for this Government’s failure to ensure that the conciliation and arbitration system works. If union leaders are irresponsible enough to flout genuine decisions, then I would sack them. I would sack them if they perpetuated a strike to the detriment of the workers whom they are highly paid to protect. I also would stop the union leaders’ pay for the duration of the strike. I am sure that if union leaders’ pockets were as empty as the workers’ pockets are whenever a strike occurs there would be fewer strikes. So let me assume that the union leaders in this strike do not fall into that category. As I have stated, people are concerned. I am concerned. I must assume, because of what I see around me, that this Government and the Minister have no sympathy for the children, the wives and the workers. I share with all the families affected by the strike all the desires for a settlement as quickly as possible. I am appalled by the shallow political motives which point by innuendo to the State Government as the arch villain. This Australian Labor Party Government, for the basest of reasons, stands idly by while mothers are forced to give cold meals to their childen and to put them to bed in the dark with no warmth on cold nights because of power restrictions.
Where is the age of industrial reasonableness which the Minister promised? Where is his sense of compassion? The answer is that there is no reasonableness or compassion in this Minister for Labour. His sense of responsibility lies in the gutter in-fights of Labor policy making, where he performs so well to the detriment of the nation as a whole. His false and mocking television image stands naked. It is an image fuelled on egotism but never on responsibility. The strike to which I refer is now in its sixth week. It has gone beyond the normal avenues for settlement. In all conscience, I appeal to the Minister to reject his Utopia of national conferences and to be a man and come among men.
– I rise to refer to a statement attributed to the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) concerning the appointment of the former Federal Secretary of the Australian Labor Party to the staff of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I indicate at the outset that I can see nothing inconsistent or incorrect with the appointment of Mr Young. Indeed, I believe that it is important for the Australian Prime Minister to gather around him the best expertise that is available in any area. After all, one of the great problems facing industry, government and other areas of activity - the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson) referred to some of the industrial problems that are prevalent in the community today - is the lack of communication. There is a great need for people to communicate. I believe that Mr Young will play an important role in this regard and make a significant contribution to the proper functioning of the Prime Minister’s Department.
With the present climate of industrial relations in Australia, with an inflationary trend and with wages possibly not able to keep pace with the trend, there is discontent in the community. There is a great need for people to thrash out these matters and that is the whole basis of our conciliation and arbitration system. The system is based on discussion, and I am quite sure that Mr Young will make a great contribution to the Australian Govern ment in this regard. What amazes me is the attack by the Leader of the Australian Country Party. After all, if one looks at the record of the previous Government in providing jobs for the girls and the boys, one sees a very significant list. As I was sitting here talking to my colleagues they wanted to add another twenty or thirty names to the list that I have compiled myself.
The first person on the list is Sir John Spicer, who was a Liberal. He was appointed to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The next is Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who was appointed as High Commissioner to New Zealand. Then there is Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood, who was appointed to the Metric Conversion Board. The next on the list is Sir Denham Henty, who was Leader of the Liberal Party in the Senate and who was appointed to dozens of committees. Then there is Sir Howard Beale, who was appointed as Ambassador to the United States of America. Next there is Mr Dan Mackinnon, the former member for Corangamite, who was appointed as Ambassador to one of the South American countries - I think it was the Argentine.
The next person on my list is Sir Hubert Opperman, the famous cyclist, who was appointed as Ambassador to Malta. Mr Gordon Freeth, upon his defeat at a general election, was appointed as Ambassador to Japan. The next on the list are His Excellency Sir Paul Hasluck, who is the present Governor-General, and Lord Casey who was a former Governor-General. Mr Roger Dean, when he was defeated for the seat of Robertson, was appointed as Administrator of the Northern Territory. Subsequently he was appointed to an Ambassador’s position. Mr Fred Chaney, on his defeat in an election, was appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory. There is a classic example in the case of Mr Ian Allan, who honourable members will recall was the former member for Gwydir. He was not defeated; he had to get out.
– He had to make way for the President of the Country Party.
– He had to make way for the Honourable Ralph Hunt who was then the President of the Australian Country Party. Mr Ian Allan was appointed to the War Graves Commission. Mr Bill Arthur, who was the former member for Barton, was appointed as an adviser to Mr Gorton. Mr Peter Brown, who was defeated for the seat of Kalgoorlie in the early 1960s, was appointed to Treasurer Holt’s staff. The next person on the list is Mr Frank Davis, who retired from the seat of Deakin. He was appointed as Chairman of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Percy Joske, a former member for the seat of Balaclava, was appointed to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.
– There was Sir John Pagan.
– Yes. I guarantee that the five or six Opposition members present in the chamber could add another 2 dozen names to the list. I think that Government supporters, if they exercised their minds, could add many more names. Many of the people I have mentioned have made a very significant contribution in their positions. Just because a person has served in government, I do not think means that he is not capable of rising to a higher position or of serving in a greater capacity. I fail to see why the Leader of the Australian Country Party should launch his attack if it is for no other purpose than to gain political advantage. If he wants to gain political advantage perhaps I could hand to the Press the extended list of names that my colleagues and I could compile. Over the 23 years of the former Government’s administration, almost every member who was defeated or disposed of in some other way because it suited the political climate at the time, got another job.
-Order! It being 11 o’clock, the House stands adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for ‘Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
Will he provide the following information on the administration of emergency grants to students: (a) the total amount provided by way of each grant, loan, or by any other means, (b) the number of students assisted by way of grant, loan, or by any other means, (c) the number of applications for assistance received, and the number rejected, (d) the academic progress of students assisted by way of grant, loan, or by any other means, (e) the average interest rates, if any, charged upon any loans made during the reporting period, (f) the amount of repayments due under the conditions of any loan, and the amount of repayments actually made during the reporting period and (g) the sufficiency of any grant made to the university for providing assistance to students in need.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable members question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What sums were expended on Aboriginal welfare from the day the previous Minister took office to 31 August 1973 in each of the following categories: (a) projects, (b) housing, (c) land, (d) sporting associations, (e) sporting activities, (f) education, (g) health, (h) personal loans or grants and (i) other.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable members question:
Expenditure by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on Aboriginal welfare for the period 2 December 1972 to 31 August 1973 was as follows:
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice: <1) Will he provide full information concerning his objections to the Public Service salary increases and the way in which he proposed to change those increases.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In response to these claims the Public Service Board offered a 12 per cent salary increase for all Third Division classifications involved and a 16 per cent salary increase for Second Division officers.
A flat percentage increase within each division, and a different level of increase between divisions, widens still further the gap between executive classes and rank and file workers and does not pay sufficient regard to the position of the lower paid workers. I believe that increases should have been designed to provide the greatest good for the greatest number. This ought to have been done to ensure that the needs of the lower paid workers and their families are properly met.
An alternative approach to salary fixation which I proposed in this instance, and which would have achieved this objective, is to share the total cost of the salary increase equally between all the participating employees.
My proposal would have benefited approximately 74 per cent of all officers covered by the agreement because it would have given increases equal to or greater than proposed by the agreement for all officers with salaries of $6832, or less. No less than 58,000 officers would have received the same or more than the offer under my proposal.
The following table gives a comparison between what Second and Third Division Officers would have received under my proposal compared with the amounts that they in fact received under the arrangements entered into between the Board and certain Public Service unions.
<2) The Public Service Board and certain union officials did reach agreement on increased salaries for Second and Third Division Officers.
The agreements followed negotiations between the Public Service Board and the unions. No Minister of State respondent to the relevant Determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator was represented in those negotiations and consequently they had no opportunity to put a point of view on either the method of adjustment of salaries or the amounts of increase.
The Public Service Board is only one of the respondents to the relevant Determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator. The other respondents, including the Ministers of State, had no opportunity to agree or otherwise to what was proposed.
Country Radio Stations: Landline Charges (Question No. 1006)
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australia-South Africa Trade (Question No. 1027)
asked the Minister for Overseas
Trade, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
ELSA area of Melbourne have only recently reached the stage where the introduction of the service is feasible.
asked the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
– I am informed that the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
Will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees, which have been established since 2 December 1972, of which officers of his Department are members.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. On 20 September 1973, my colleague, the Prime Minister, informed the right honourable gentleman in reply to a Question Without Notice about interdepartmental committees that, if he wished to know the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee, and for what period of time it had been active, the Prime Minister would bc happy to provide him with that information.
If the right honourable gentleman wishes to have information about a particular committee on which my Department is represented, I will assist him as far as possible having regard to the Prime Minister’s answer to Questions Nos 964 and 10S7.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Responsibility for work on the Eyre Highway rests with the appropriate authorities in South Australia. However, the following information has been supplied by the Department of Highways, South Australia.
It is expected that the twenty-one mile section between Penong and Bookabie will be sealed by mid November 1973 at which time the highway will be open for use by motorists.
Work is proceeding on the remaining 232 miles to the South Australian/Western Australian border and it is expected that the entire route will be sealed by June 1975.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
After I rescinded the decision of the previous Government that timber sleepers would be used on the Trans-Australian Railway, I directed that new tenders be called and invited both the timber and concrete industries to put submissions to me on the type of sleeper that should be used on Commonwealth Railways and gave each industry the opportunity to comment on the other’s submission.
These submissions and comments, which covered technical as well as social and economic aspects, were fully considered prior to my decision to award the contract in favour of concrete sleepers. The Bureau’s comments on the technical aspects raised by the submissions are included in the Bureau’s supplementary report which I tabled in Parliament on 16 October 1973.
asked the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At present the wedge tailed eagles are not protected under the Fauna Conservation Act of Western Australia and in pastoral areas they are still declared vermin. However, CSIRO is conducting research into their general ecology and their role as predators and this situation will be reviewed when a report of their investigation is available. In the meantime fauna authorities are satisfied that the bird is not endangered in the State of Western Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
When will the Minister answer as a question on notice the information sought as a question on notice at page 1253 of Hansard (19 September 1973).
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The information required by the honourable member has been provided by the Minister for Primary Industry in a letter dated 6 November 1973.
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Will he provide a list of the interdepartmental committees which have been established since 2 December 1972 of which officers of his Department are members.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. On 20 September 1973 my colleague, the Prime Minister, informed the right honourable gentleman in reply to a question without notice about interdepartmental committees that, if he wished o know the composition and function of any particular interdepartmental committee, and for what period of time it had been active, the Prime Minister would be happy to provide him with that information.
If the right honourable gentleman wishes to have information about a particular committee on which my Department is represented, I will assist him as far as possible having regard to the Prime Minister’s answer to Questions Nos 964 and 1057.
Assisted Migrants from Italy (Question No. 983)
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and <3)(a). The number of assisted settlers arriving in Australia from Italy from December 1972 to June 1973 and from December 1971 to June 1972 were as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport upon notice:
How many permanent maintenance camps are there on the:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The charge made for individual lighting sets provided at eleven of the camps is $1.00 per week which covers the rental of the generating set, maintenance of the set and the supply for four gallons of petrol per week. Four gallons of petrol per week would provide approximately three hours of lighting per day. Any petrol required in excess of four gallons per week is to be provided by the tenant. No charge is made for camp lighting sets provided at 21 camps, which are singlemen’s camps.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following information for answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Has the Government’s new immigration policy meant the end of a Nurses Training Program in Australia for Asian girls?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. Young people from Asia or from any other part of the world may apply for nurses training in Australia. Their entry to Australia will be subject to their ability to meet uniform entry requirements but account will be taken of the availability of equivalent courses in their home country.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1973/19731112_reps_28_hor86/>.