20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Eon. EdwardMattner) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Patents Bill 1952.
Tariff Board Bill 1952.
SenatorCOURTICE.- Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform mo when the Government intends to give effect to the report of the Sugar Commission?
– I have been very encouraged by the interest in the sugar industry that has been evidenced by Senator Courtice, both as Minister for Trade and Customs in the previous Labour Government, and as a Queenslander. I assure the honorable senator that my interest in the sugar industry is as keen as his, and that no time will be lost in dealing with the very important matter that he has mentioned.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether there is any truth in the reports that applicants for war service pensions are getting a raw deal from the Repatriation Department? Has the Minister any information that would confirm or disprove such statements ?
– I do not think that there is any truth in the statements that have been made to the effect that applicants for war service pensions, or increases of war service pensions, are getting a raw deal from the Repatriation Department. Over the. years, many thousands of unsolicited letters have been received from ex-service men and women, expressing their thanks not only for the utmost courtesy and sympathy that has been extended to them by the repatria tion authorities in the various States, but also for the efficient manner in which their applications have been dealt with. Of course, human nature being what it is, some applicants are bound not to be satisfied with the result of their applications, but on the whole I do not consider that the reports to which the honorable senator has referred have been justified. Advocates and ex-servicemen’s organizations are fully aware of the procedure to be adopted by an applicant for a pension, or increase of pension. An applicant for a new pension appears first before a repatriation board ; if the board does not accept the applicant’s disability as duo to war service, his application is referred to the commission. If the commission does not accept the application an appeal may be lodged with an appeals tribunal which is an entirely independent body, having no connexion with the Repatriation Department. The entitlement appeal tribunals are in a similar position to the assessment appeal tribunals which deal with increases of pension rates except in the case of an appeal for increase of rate of pension, when the appeal goes direct from the Repatriation Board to the assessment appeal tribunal. These tribunals exercise a great deal of care. The chairman of the assessment appeal tribunal is appointed by me from a panel of names which is submitted by returned soldiers’ organizations with representatives throughout the Commonwealth. Two other members are medical practitioners who have the necessary knowledge of the nature of the disability from which the appellant is suffering. The entitlement tribunal consists of three members. The chairman must be a barrister or solicitor. One member shall be selected for appointment from a list containing the names of not less than three “ returned soldiers “ submitted to the Minister by an organization representing “ returned soldiers “ throughout the Commonwealth. The members of the tribunals,sixinnumber,areall returned soldiers. Itismyintentionto appoint another assessment tribunal at an early date. The percentage of appealsthatare allowedishigherthan has been suggested by Mr. Lewis. Ihave taken a great deal ofinterestinthese tribunals and I feel confident that they have given the exservicemenagooddeal. They have given himthe full benefit of section 47 of the act which relates tothe onus of proof. Iconsiderthatthe implication in the reportsreferedtointhe honorablesenator’squestionwasentirely uncalledfor.
– On the17thSep- tember SenatorKendall asked me a questionconcerning ships takenfromthe Tasmanian service during the1939-45 war. The followinganswer is now supplied:-
Theundermentionedships were taken from the Tasmanian service during the 1939-45 war fornaval or military service: - T’alune, Zealandia,AlinaDoepel,Wanaka, Taroona, Lorinia,, Wannon, Tambar, Arga. Of theabove ships only one,Zealandia,. was lost through enemy action. The other ships were returned to their owners after the war. The costs incurred bythe Commonwealth in refitting these vessels were- Talune, £23,961;Lorinna, £47,228;Taroona, £116,507; Wanaka, £13,489 Tambar, £ 26,144; Wannon, £21,500. Arga andAlinaDoepel, which were purchased by the Commonwealth from their owners during thewar, were sold back to the original owners afterthe war and no special refitting charges wereincurredby the Commonwealth. Along with practically all other Australian registeredtonnage,othershipsin the Tasmanian service wererequistioned by theCommonwealth during the war, and were operated by the shipping companies as agents forthe Commonwealth.From time to time, such vessels may have been need for special trips on the Australian coast,but generally speaking they were notlost to the Tasmanian service.
-It is rumoured that the Minister for Shipping and Transport willvisit Western Australia in Novemberof this year. Should he do so, will the Minister make a point of visiting Gerald ton, one of Western Australia’s major outports, from which large quantities of chrome ore -the only chrome produced in Australia - and manganese are being shipped?
– My intended visit to Western Australia is morethan a rumour. I propose to go to that State when the Parliament rises,andI hope to extend an invitation to all Western Australiansenators to accompany me. I expect to be able to spend a considerable timein Western Australia. Geraldton is one of the centres thatI propose to visit.
asked the Minister for Shipping and’ Transport, upon notice -
Will the Ministerconsider the possibility of increasing the amount of sea-time necessary for merchant seamen to qualify for able seaman, which at the present time generally covers a period of two yearsbut can under certain circumstances be reduced to one year, and bring it into line with thethreeyear period considered necessary under the British Merchant Shipping Act?
Will he also considertheintroductionof some form of examination before seamen qualify as able seamen and bring the Navigaton Act into line with the British Merchant Shipping Act, which calls forboth the certificate of competency in seamanship and also the lifeboat efficiency certificate.
– I now furnish the the following answers: -
-I direct the follow- ing questions to theMinister for Shipping and Transport: - 1. How many salaried men who work 363/4 hours a week are employed in theCommonwealthRailways?Howmany 40-hour-week men are employed in the Common wealth Railways?3.Towhatannualleave,sick leaveandothersuch benefits are those employees entitled? 4. What is theeffectiveworkingweek of employees taking those leave entitlementsinto account? 5. What has been the estimated cost to all railway systems of the present working week compared with the 44-hour working week? 6. What has been the effect of those costs on freight rates-?
– In view of the detailed information that the honorable senator seeks, I shall forward the questions to the appropriate departmental officials and obtain an answer as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister ascertain how many millions of pounds have been paid by the State railways in interest on borrowed money? Will the Minister also let ‘ me know the annual interest bill on money borrowed for State railways? I wonder whether the Minister representing the Treasurer would delve into the Treasury figures and ascertain ti te number of people in this country who do not work but live on interest received on their investments.
– The question is a propaganda question, and I do not propose to put the department to the expense of ascertaining the desired information. The honorable senator might improve his knowledge by spending some time in examining the Treasury figures and ascertaining the information for himself.
– It is a fair question.
– Order !
– It is not unfair to ask the amount of interest that is being paid-
– Order ! The honorable senator will resume his seat.
– Mr. President, in my opinion, the question asked by Senator Brown was quite reasonable, notwithstanding the Minister’s reply that it was h propaganda question. I ask you now, sir, to say whether you consider the question was a legitimate one or merely an attempt to exploit political propaganda.
Government senators interjecting,
– I am speaking to the butcher, not to the block !
– Order ! Honorable senators may be interested to learn that I receive very many letters in the mail concerning the purpose of questions asked during “broadcasting time “. Most of them mention the frequency of the remark “I am speaking to the butcher, not to the block,” and express disapproval of such statements.
– My question to you, sir, relates to procedure.
– My reply to that question is that I observe the Standing Orders and implement them to the best of my ability. I have never consciously departed from the Standing Orders.
– As you are aware, Mr. President, I occupied your position for a period of eight years, during which I had the reputation, of being very fair. I should like to ask you, Mr. President, whether, if I put down a question on the notice-paper in relation to the amount of interest that has been paid by the railways each year on borrowed money, you will allow it to go through on to the notice-paper. This question has been prompted by the ungracious answer of the Minister for Shipping and Transport to my previous question. Would a question such as I have outlined be put to one side and not allowed to go on the notice-paper?
– Order ! From the vast amount of knowledge that Senator Brown should have gained during his eight years of occupancy of the chair, he should know that his question is entirely irrelevant. A Minister is entitled to answer a question in his own way, or to decline to answer it if he so desires, and the Chair has no power to interfere.
– In fairness, may I now ask a question-
– Order !
– I think this is grossly unfair.
Senator Brown having commenced to leave the chamber,
– Order ! If Senator Brown desires to leave the chamber he shall pay due respect to the Chair.
– I am retiring, and I am bowing to you, Mr. President.
– On the 11th September, Senator Wedgwood asked the following question: -
Can the Minister representing the Minister . for External Affairs say whether it is a. fact that ^although Australia has paid its
United Nations assessment for 1952 in full and that the United States of America has paid all but 1,000 dollars of its 1952 assessment of almost 16,000,000 dollars, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics owes nearly all of its 4,250,000 dollars assessment? Does the Minister consider that the failure of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to pay its assessment is a part of its campaign against the United Nations organization.
The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answer: -
As of the 22nd August, 1952, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics owed 574,000 dollars’ of its assessment of 2,092,061.50 dollars for the Working Capital Fund and 4,214,735 dollars of its assessment of 4,229,590 dollars for the 1952 budget. lt has been the usual practice of the Soviet Government and its satellites, and indeed, until this year, that of the United States of America also, to pay their contributions rather late in the financial year. However, they have always fully met their obligations.
– In the temporary absence of the Minister representing the Treasurer, I shall direct my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, whose reply, I am sure, will be just as skilful. Has the Minister noticed the survey published by Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited which states that it is very doubtful whether the 1952-53 budget will provide a psychological lift to offset deflationary influences? Does the Minister place that announcement in the category of calamity howling?
– The answer to the first question is “ No “. I shall obtain an answer to the second question from the Minister representing the Treasurer.
– Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral state whether the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is in a position to take advantage of the temporary easing of the labour market to push on with the installation of the telephone facilities in country districts for which applications have been standing for a long time?
– The honorable senator was good enough to advise me of his intention to ask the question, and T was able to get a reply from the PostmasterGeneral, which reads as follows : -
Using its available material and man-power to the best advantage, the department is pushing ahead with the development of the national telephone network, in accordance with a balanced programme, which covers the erection of buildings, the installation of new exchanges and extension of existing equipment, the provision of trunk lines, and the connexion of subscribers’ services in both the country and metropolitan areas.
For example, hi the country districts of Tasmania, the department connected 1,7SS new subscribers’ services in 1950-51, and 1,830 in 1951-52.
In July last, 14S new services were provided in the country areas of Tasmania, and 17:i were provided in August. It is anticipated that, during the financial year 1952-53, 1,!)00 new services will be added in the country districts of that State.
– At present Commonwealth statutes are issued in annual volumes, but about sixteen years have elapsed since they were last consolidated. Is the Attorney-General able to indicate when the acts passed during the last sixteen years or so will be available in consolidated form with earlier acts? If congestion at the Government Printing Office is holding up the publication of the consolidated acts, will the Government consider investigating the desirability of having the printing of this important work done by private printers and publishers?
– The whole of the drafting work in connexion with the new consolidation has been completed, and the material is in the hands of private printers. We had hoped that the consolidated volumes would be available before this, but there have been some unavoidable delays. Whilst I should not be prepared to say that the consolidation will be ready this year, I think it is a fair guess to say that it will be available next year.
– As the Minister representing the- Treasurer is temporarily absent, will the Minister for Shipping. and Transport obtain for the Senate the following information: - (a) the total number of loans owed by the Commonwealth and the annual interest thereon; (b) the total number of debts taken over from the States, with itemized details for each State and the annual interest thereon; and (c) the total number of loans incorporated in the State debts borrowed for the State railways and the annual interest thereon?
– I do not think that the staff of the Treasurer should be put to the time and expense of ascertaining that information.
– In other words, the Treasury officials cannot supply that information?
– I suggest that during his leisure hours next year Senator Aylett might obtain that information for himself.
– The particular information that I sought from the Minister representing the Treasurer is: Who is the officer in the Treasury with whom I can communicate to obtain the information that I desire?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister representing the Treasurer.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by reminding him that in answer to questions that I have previously asked about Government loans, he has stated that the response to Government loans is the criterion of the prosperity of the country. In view of the fact that every loan that has been floated by the Australian Government during the Inst twelve months has failed, does the Minister believe that this country is still prosperous ?
– I commend Senator Grant to a statement that was made by Mr. Monk before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– Will you, Mr. President, say whether you have seen the printed answers to questions asked upon notice in the House of Representatives, which are supplied to all members of that chamber? Since those ques tions are of particular interest to all members of the Parliament, will you indicate whether a similar procedure can be adopted in the Senate ?
– I am cognizant of the matter to which the honorable senator refers. I have already made inquiries, and I will again endeavour to ascertain what can be done in the direction indicated.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) recently stated in this chamber that the national economy was regaining stability because of the economic policy of this Government, and in support of his assertion he alleged that the most recent statistics indicated an increase of the cost of basic commodities of only 3s. a week. However, I remind him that the last increase of the basic wage amounted to lis. a week and it is expected that the next increase will be 10s. a week. In the circumstances, can the Minister inform the House how he reconciles his statement that the national economy is regaining stability with the inflation that is now proceeding? Has something gone wrong with the Government’s plan ?
– Nothing has gone wrong with the Government’s plans, although I must say that the people of Australia have been caused a certain amount of fear, uncertainty and doubt because of the miserable propaganda of the Australian Labour party.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when I may expect the courtesy of a reply to a question that I placed on the notice-paper almost a month ago in relation to the production of butter and the subsidies paid to producers ?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of my colleague the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and ascertain when I can obtain that information for the honorable senator.
– As longer than the normal time devoted to questions has passed, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice-paper.
– I rise to order! I was on my feet seeking the call before the Minister for Trade and Customs rose, although it is quite possible that you did not see me, Mr. President.
– Order ! I accept Senator Hendrickson^ assurance, and, in fairness I shall permit him to ask a question.
– The Minister ha3 stated that questions that have been asked by the Opposition have caused anxiety to the people. I point out that many questions asked by Opposition senators have not been answered by Ministers. When we asked questions some time ago-
– The honorable senator is not asking a question.
– Will the Minister inform the Senate whether the figures issued by the Department of Labour and National Service showing that 26,000 persons are unemployed are correct ?
– I shall repeat, reluctantly, what has already been said by myself and my colleagues about this matter. Some members of the Opposition seem determined, regardless of the damage they are doing to the country, to cause a great feeling of uncertainty about the unemployment situation. I assure the Senate that there is no foundation in fact for such fear. Nothing can prevent such a fear from spreading if the honorable senator and his colleagues continue their propaganda.
– I riSe to order ! I should like to be informed of the standing order that provides for the termination of question time upon the request of a Minister.
– There is no obligation on a Minister to answer a question j he does so merely as a matter of courtesy.
– I have asked the President for information, and I shall abide by his ruling.
– Order ! No standing order makes such provision. However it has always been the practice of parliaments with which I have been associated to conform to a certain code of honour in relation to their proceedings.
– The Minister did not display much courtesy to the Senate by asking that further questions should be placed on the notice-paper, when other honorable senators of the Opposition had indicated their desire to ask questions.
– Order! I assure Senator Sheehan that nobody has tried to usurp that right. I shall now proceed with questions upon notice.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) . - I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The retrograde nature of the Government’s policy on hospital benefits for patients in private hospitals, in private and intermediate wards of public hospitals, and in the public wards of public hospitals.
– d move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11.30 a.m.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in SUPPOrt of the motion,
– This motion, as the Senate will appreciate, is a formal device to enable a matter of urgency to be debated. That matter is the retrograde nature of the Government’s policy on hospital benefits in private hospitals, in private and intermediate wards of public hospitals and in the public wards of public hospitals. In speaking to this motion I shall be far more concerned with public hospitals and patients in private and intermediate wards of public hospitals, than with other types of hospitals. On the 20th August the Government published very comprehensive regulations dealing with all these matters: They ure very complicated and confusing, even to a well-informed reader. They cover about twenty pages and about 59 clauses. I would defy any ordinary elector, after one reading, to emerge from his perusal of the regulations with anything but a most confused mind on the subject of hospital benefits.
I submit that the Government should produce some pamphlet or document which will inform the people of Australia what they should do and what they should refrain from doing in order to qualify for hospital benefits. My one criticism of the regulations in relation to private hospitals is that they discriminate between people and are coercive. Under the private hospital benefits regulations which were previously in force a patient in a private hospital or in a private or intermediate ward of a public hospital had Sr. a. clay contributed to his hospital expenses. No conditions were imposed upon him. Now, an additional 4s. a day is to be paid if the patient is insured. This new condition has been imported into the field of hospital benefits by the Government. There is no justification for this Government so to discriminate between patients in private hospitals. Why should the Government give Ss. a day to those sick people who are not insured whilst it gives to those who have insured themselves for a benefit of not less than 6s. a day, an additional 4s. a day? There can be no justification for discrimination between people. This principle has the evil of being coercive in that it imposes an obligation upon patients to insure. It represents a coercion of private patients into the field of friendly society insurance. If the Government had done the right thing by private hospital patients it would have left their benefit unconditioned. It would have said, “ Because we have failed to halt inflation and because we have not stabilized the currency of the country we shall double the amount of our contribution “. Having regard to the economic conditions of this country and their deterioration under this Government, the benefit for patients in private hospitals should be doubled and made 16s. a day without condition, discrimination or coercion.
I pass now to the subject of public hospital benefits. In 1945 the Labour Government introduced a scheme of public hospital benefits. A benefit of 6s. a day for each patient in a public ward was made payable to the States, not to the hospitals, on condition that no means test was imposed in the public wards of public hospitals and that no charge was made. 1 submit that that was a most humanitarian condition.
– It made all the hospitals bankrupt. . i
– I shall deal with that allegation. The amount of the government benefit to which I have referred represented more than the hospitals had been collecting from their patients, so that there was an element of generosity in the scheme. Can anybody hold that that action caused the hospitals to go bankrupt ? Those of the patients in public wards who had taken the precaution to insure themselves against the hazard of illness and hospitalization collected their benefit from their friendly society or hospital fund and put it in their pockets in order to help tide them over a period when not only were they sick, but their normal source of income had been cut off. In 1951 the present Government repealed all the Labour hospital benefits legislation. I add that the Labour Government had later increased its contribution from 6s. a day to 8s. a day, a payment which has been operative almost up to the present day. In 1951, as I have said, the Government repealed the whole of the Labour legislation and took a blanket authority to enter into new agreements with the States. The Government has not been frank with the Parliament. A great many discussions have been heard about the impact of the new agreements on the hospitals, but neither the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) nor his representative in this chamber, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), despite repeated requests, has placed before the Parliament any information regarding the contents of the agreement that has been submitted to the States on this vital subject. The Opposition claims that that information should have been made available to the Parliament long before this.
Let me contrast the one condition that was imposed under the Labour hospital benefits scheme - that there should be no means test - with the conditions that have been imposed by the Government in relation to its benefits scheme. Every State in the Commonwealth accepted the one condition that had been imposed by the Labour Government and all the public hospitals of Australia, as a result, dealt with their patients on a completely uniform basis. No charge was made for medicines, accommodation, diagnosis or for the occupancy of hospital beds.
– And the hospitals were broke.
– They are broke now because of the Government’s failure, not only to put value back into the £1, but even to stabilize the £1. The only difficulty in the hospitals arises from their rapidly increasing costs, which this Government promised to halt, and which it has done nothing to halt. The Government is riding inflation and benefits by every increase in the basic wage - by every swelling of inflated incomes. It benefits all the time and keeps the States on fixed and rigid incomes.
– That is not true.
– Relatively, it is true. The benefit paid to the States when this Government took office was at the rate of 8s. a day for each patient. If the
Government had done what it should have done and had paid to the States 36s. a day in respect of public ward patients, there would be no need for this complicated superstructure, the coercion of the States and hospital patients that is implicit in this new approach.
Let us look at the provisions of the Government’s new scheme. First, no payment at all will bc made by the Government to a State government that does not accept the agreement - not even the 8s. a day. Queensland, which has declined to come into the agreement, is being deprived of the 8s. a day to which, for six years, it was entitled, because it’ will not accept the very coercive conditions that have been laid down by this Government. Recently, I asked the Minister for Repatriation, who represents the Minister for Health in this chamber, whether the new agreement includes a clause which provides that the additional 4s. a day will not be payable unless a charge is made by the hospital concerned. Yesterday the Minister informed me that no such clause is included in the agreement. That may be completely true, but the Minister failed to inform me of the existence of a regulation, published on the 20th August last, to the effect that unless a hospital charges more than 14s. a day, no portion of the additional benefit will be paid. The same end is thus achieved by regulation, although no clause to that effect has been included in the agreement.
The position of hospital benefits to-day, as far as the additional payment of 4s. . a day is concerned, is that unless a hospital charges a patient more than 14s. a day it will not receive any portion of the additional benefit of 4s. a day. If the hospital charges 15s., there will be an additional benefit of ls. ; if it charges 16s., there will be an additional benefit of 2s.; and if it charges 18s. or more a day, the full payment of 4s. a day will be made. For the benefit of honorable senators, I point out that the regulation to which I have referred is regulation 41. There is, therefore, complete coercion, in those circumstances, of a. State government to make a charge. It is compelled to do so in order to receive the benefit of the additional 4s. a day. In effect, the Government says to hospital patients, “ You are entitled to have 8s. a day con:tributed towards your hospital costs if you are not insured. If you are insured, we shall pay 12s. a day, as long as the hospital compels you to pay 18s. or more a day “. I suggest that is evidence of more discrimination and more coercion.
T shall deal for a while longer with coercion of State governments and of hospital patients. On the 21st January, 1951, the Minister for Health stated -
The hospitals will be given back their independence. In future, they will not be subject to unnecessary Commonwealth controls. Limitations on domestic hospital policy in return for limited Commonwealth aid imposed by the Federal Government under the 1945 Hospitals Agreement will be removed.
This is the Government that was going to remove all controls on hospitals. Instead of doing so, it now compels the hospitals, by exerting financial pressure, to charge all patients. It compels the States of Australia, willy-nilly, to reverse the hospital policy which they had carried out for a period of six years. This action by the Government is resented by the States. Some days ago, the Queensland Treasurer, Mr. Walsh, issued a financial statement in which the following passage occurred : -
Hie present Commonwealth Government has now made clear its opposition to free public hospitalization, and has withdrawn the payment of 8s. per day per bed because the State Government will not agree to allow the Common wonlth to force it to charge patients in public hospitals.
Honorable senators should note the use of the word “ force “. I come now to a recent financial statement made by Mr. Madden, the Treasurer of Tasmania, in which he said -
The Commonwealth-State Hospital Benefits Agreement, under which a subsidy of 8s. per daily occupied bed was paid, was terminated by tin- Commonwealth Government as from the 20th August last.
Speaking for his Government, he continued -
We deplore the decision of the Commonwealth Government to terminate the free hospitals scheme.
I am not aware of the comments that have been made by other State governments, but I ‘know that the New South Wales Government has protested vigorously against the fact that it is being coerced into the agreement proposed by the Commonwealth. Not only is there coercion of the States to impose a charge on hospital patients, but there is also coercion of them to accept the agreement drawn up and submitted by the Commonwealth. Pressure has been exerted on the States to coerce hospital patients into insuring. That, of course, is a very obvious and consequential effect of the action of this Government. If a State is to benefit by collecting the additional 4s. a day, patients in public hospitals must be insured. There is, therefore, pressure on State governments to compel the people to insure, whether they wish to or not.
I submit that the claim by this Government that it is freeing public hospitals represents colossal audacity. The Government has infringed the sovereignty of the States and has embarked upon a programme of coercion and discrimination between one hospital patient and another. I have heard criticism by members of the Government to the effect that free beds in public wards are available for patients who can afford to pay. There is no class in the community that is more entitled to free hospital treatment than are the people who have paid to make that very thing possible, not only for themselves but also for many others who cannot afford to do so. But that is not a proper point of criticism. A broad, humanitarian, progressive policy was introduced by the Australian Labour party under which the main test of entitlement to admission to a bed in a public hospital was the acuteness of the illness. If that test waa passed, the person concerned was admitted to an institution where all the amenities were immediately available, including diagnostic, therapeutic and specialist treatment.
– If the patient could secure a bed in the hospital.
– We are not embarking, upon that aspect of the matter. Let us deal with the hospital benefits scheme of the Government. The question of hospital accommodation is another matter. We may perhaps be able to take it up with the Government on another occasion and ascertain why the States are not able to provide adequate hospital accommodation.
We have come back to the old and out-moded system of quizzing every hospital patient to determine whether he should be admitted to a public ward, an intermediate ward, or a private ward where he will pay in full. No doubt, staffs will have to be paid to collect debts, and there will be again the old, wretched business all over Australia of people in financial difficulties - and they are usually in the greatest financial difficulty when they are ill and convalescing - being quizzed at the wrong time and pressed for payment. No matter what contribution the Commonwealth makes to the upkeep of beds in a public ward, by fu’ the greatest proportion of the cost is still paid by the State governments. For the greater part of the treatment afforded, the community at large - and in this instance the communities in the States - bear the cost. When we find that a public bed costs 50s. a day or more to maintain and that the charge that is now to be made is approximately £1 ls. a day, let us be frank and admit that the major portion of the credit for whatever is done in public hospitals rightly belongs to the States. I say to the Government that the new scheme that is to operate from to-day has earned the deep resentment of a vast number of people throughs out Australia. Uniformity has been discarded. I understand - although I am open to correction on this point– that a different agreement has been made with each of the States. What a deplorable departure from a situation in which every person in Australia who was ill could go into one of the best hospitals in the land and receive medical treatment of any kind!
– What is there to prevent that now?’
– If the Govern ment would lay on the table of the Library copies of the agreements that have been made with the States; as it should have done long’ ago so that” members of the Parliament could be fully informed of what the States were being’ asked to sign, E should be in, a much1 happier position than 1” am in to-day and, I believe, in a much stronger position, to criticize the Government’s proposals’. We are going backwards in more ways than one. Under the scheme that has been in operation until’ to-day, a person wh’o fell ill collected his owns insurance benefit and put thic proceeds in his. pocket. Under the new scheme which virtually compels people to> insure, the proceeds have to be paid to a hospital by the insurance society. According to the regulations the benefit must be at least 6s. a day and citizens are obliged to insure accordingly. It is a completely retrograde step to deprive a person of an extra bit of money that he needs at a time when he is not only sick but also is cut off from his normal source of income. And this scheme under which. State hospitals are forced to make charges to their patients comes from a government which has told the people again and again that it is out to abolish the means test! This is the test of the sincerity of that promise. In 1949 and again in April, l9ol, members of the present Government parties promised that in 1952 they would submit to the people of Australia a plan to abolish the means test.
– That is not true.
– It is literally true to the last Word ; yet the Government is now forcing the means test with all its iniquities and consequences upon the State governments and Upon public hospitals. In Tasmania there are no’ better hospitals than the public hospitals.
– The poof people cannot get into them.
– If hospital policy and particularly loan policy were adequately dealt with by this Government, there would be hospital accommodation for everybody who needed it. The people of Australia will, at the first opportunity, show their resentment of this retrograde step by the” present Government.
– I preface my reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) by reminding hiM that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made the following statement in bis policy speech prior to the 1949 elections : -
If you entrust us wM* office, we shall regard ourselves as> under an. obligation, hu cooperation with the States’ and. using, all the available financial resources of the Commonwealth, to make an attack upon the problems that I have described^ It is ai grave error to1 treat the problem of a national medical health sei: vise as if it meant’ nothing more than the making of monetary payments to citizens from the Treasury. The whole question is on’( of putting first things Rust. The’ programme here envisaged will be expensive, but it will be: practical, and invaluable.
Clearly, it was envisaged in 1949 that the present Government’s national health scheme would be all-embracing, and would include pharmaceutical benefits-, medical benefits, tuberculosis benefits, medical benefits for pensioners;, child nutrition, and medical mental institution benefits.It isquite true that not all thosephasesofthe scheme have yet been incorporated in the Government’s comprehensive plan, but most of them are alreadyoperating. By dealing with each phase of the nationalhealth scheme individually, theMinisterfor Health (SirEarlePage)hasbeen able to establish the necessaryorganization and to ensurethe satisfactory working ofthe scheme asawhole. In relationto hospital benefits, the Government’s intention all along has been to introduceacontributory schemewhichwouldbolster publicmorale andassistthefinancesofthe hospitals. Arevisedhospitalbenefitsschemewas necessary becauseofthedrasticdecline inhospitalrevenues,especiallynon- governmentalrevenues,duringthe past years.In1944, 40 per cent.oftotal hospital expenditure wasprovidedfrom Commonwealth and Staterevenue, and theremaining 60 percent.came from patients’fees, hospital contribution schemes, donations, and subscriptions. In 1951,the total ofCommonwealth and State payments had risen to more than 80 per cent. of hospital expenditure, and 20 per cent.came from the other sources that I have mentioned. Unfortunately thus drasticdrop in nongovernmental hospitalrevenue came at a timeof rapidly rising costs, andevery hospital balance-sheet went intothe “ red “. Accordingly, the Government announced in January., 1951,that it would inaugurate a hospital benefits scheme which, ineffect,would make18s. aday available to hospitals fromCommonwealtih and voluntary insurance insurances,sources,compared with8s.previously paid under the Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme. The effect on hospital revenueof this proposal, which hasnow been accepted by five of the States, has beenvery striking. The total gain for combined Commonwealth and organization benefits would give a revenue of £12,500,000 for 1952-53comparedwith £6,800,000 in 1948-49. Thegain will be brought about in this way:In January, 1952, the Government inaugurated the hospital benefits scheme, which, for the first time, brought in the non-profit making voluntaryorganizations ‘experienced in the handling of hospital benefits, including friendly societies and otherorgansizations which arenow dealing with themedical benefitsscheme.In brief,theCommonwealth encourages general voluntaryhospitalinsuranceby supplementing its ordinarybenefit of8s. a day, which isavailable toall qualified patientswho arecharged hospital fees, by an additional benefit of 4s. a day, if the patient is acontributor,or adependant of acontributor, to a registered hospital insuranceorganization.The cost of this membership of suchorganizations is very small indeed.For a patient toenjoy these benefits he must insurein an approved voluntary benefit organiza- tion whose premiums range from 3d. 6d. a week,according to thecove desired.
It is interestingtonote that,although the old agreementmadewith theNew South Wales . Government does notexpire until to-day,that Government entered into a newagreement with theCommonwealthsix months ago.Either it was eagerto join inthe hospital benefits schemeor itfound that the finances of the New South Waleshospitals were gettinginto sucha grave position that it was glad to accept thegenerous help of theCommonwealthand enter the scheme.
A comparison of the amounts paid by the Commonwealth to the States in 1948-49with those estimated tobe paid during the present financial year is set out in thefollowingtable : -
Thus, the totalamount expended on these benefits in 1948-49 was £7,169,000, compared with anestimated expenditure during the presentfinancial yearof £29,240,000,making a total gain tothe Statesof £22,071,000.
The total health benefits paid in 194S-49 to New South Wales amounted to £2,703,000; the estimated amount this year is £11,420,000, making a total gain to New South Wales of £8,717,000. Thus, of the added benefits to be paid to the States, amounting to £22,071,000, New South Wales will receive £8,717,000. These figures explain why the New South Wales Government was eager to make a new agreement before the old agreement had expired.
To date, 122 organizations throughout the ‘Commonwealth have been registered far this purpose. Their membership ranges from more than 500,000 down to approximately 500. Organizations of various types have been registered, including friendly societies, industrial funds, community and district societies and funds sponsored or established by hospitals, unions and the medical profession. When the scheme commenced in January of this year, approximately 1,000,000 persons were contributing to the funds. With wives and children the total was approximately 3,000,000. This figure has already been increased by 1,000,000 and membership of the funds is continuing to grow very rapidly. The response of the public has been very great.
– The people have had to join.
– They joined in order to obtain the benefits of membership.
– They did so because they could not afford to meet existing charges without assistance.
– They were glad to join because of the advantages they derived from membership. They obtain an, additional benefit of 4s. a. week. They receive benefits of 6s., 4s. and Ss.. making a total of 18s. a week.
– They have to pay 17s. in order to obtain that total benefit.
– That is a matter for the States. The Commonwealth does not insist on standard rules covering contributions and benefits. Its fundamental requirement is that a registered organization shall provide hospital benefits from its own funds at a rate of not less than 6s. a day while a member or the dependant of a member is receiving hospital treatment. The Commonwealth benefit and subsidy, plus the organization benefit, gives to a contributor a minimum weekly hospital benefit of £6 6s. a week, consisting of Commonwealth benefit and subsidy, £4 4s., and organization benefit, £2 2s. Insurance by the patient is necessary to secure these benefits, and insurance can be effected by joining any one of the approved organizations. Some of the larger organizations offer more than one scale of benefit, so that many people are contributing for benefits of much more than £6 6s. a week. In order that they may provide substantial hospital benefits for a relatively low rate of contribution and, at the same time, nin in tain their financial stability, many of the organizations have probationary membership periods and maximum periods for benefits. Their rules may also exclude benefits in the case of certain chronic complaints, or where the symptoms of an illness were in evidence at the time the member joined. So long as the member is financial, the Commonwealth additional benefit of 4s. a day is available, even though the organization is not required to pay its own benefit.
One of the transitional problems met with when the scheme commenced was the over-age person. Many societies do not admit to. membership persons over the age of 65 years. This age barrier has now been removed by the larger societies, whose membership is open to the general public, and that problem no longer remains. Some organizations, particularly those associated with industries, do not have age limits or such conditions as waiting periods, maximum periods or exclusions for chronic complaints.
Insofar as pensioners and dependants are concerned, it has been shown how free medical attention and medicines arc provided under the pensioner medical service. Provision has, therefore, been made in the agreements with the States for the payment by the Commonwealth of 12s. a day as hospital benefit in such cases, subject to the benefit being deducted from any hospital charge that may be made. It is clear, therefore, that every invalid pensioner is properly covered.
– If the pensioner can gain admission to a hospital ! The point is that a pensioner cannot always gain admission.
– That is no fault of the Government’s scheme. Pensioners who are charged for hospital treatment will receive both the ordinary benefit of 8s. a day and the additional benefit of 4s. a day without having to be insured. That is only one phase of the Government’s hospital contribution scheme. Early next year we hope to supplement the hospital benefits scheme with our plan for medical benefits. That is one of the national schemes of this Government, and a specific announcement concerning it was made by the Minister for Health when he assumed office. The plan is now taking shape. The people of Australia are fortunate in having the benefit of tha Minister’s long experience in medical matters and his special knowledge of hospital and sickness benefits throughout the world. The right honorable gentleman has put a great deal into this scheme. He has a full knowledge of what is required, and I feel that this scheme will be a monument to him, because ultimately it will benefit the health of nearly every man, woman and child in this country.
The Leader of the Opposition complained that public hospitals in Queensland will not receive any benefit under our proposals. The fact is that the scheme requires the co-operation of State governments with the Commonwealth, which is supplying the finance. The existing agreement between the Commonwealth and the Government of Queensland has apparently expired, hut the responsibility for renewing that agreement rests with the Government of Queensland.
– But the Government of Queensland has to agree with the conditions imposed by the Government that the Minister supports.
– The Government of Queensland is quite at liberty to make an agreement with the Minister for Health, who will, I am quite sure, be only too pleased to negotiate an agreement. However, I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that, even with out an agreement, Queensland hospitals can enjoy the benefit of Commonwealth payments in respect of beds in intermediate and private wards so long as it is willing to declare those wards to be private hospitals “.
– The Government is going back 50 years!
– The fact is that the agreement is acceptable to five of the six States. Furthermore, the agreement has been welcomed by those who are most able to assess its worth. I refer to hospital patients themselves.
– Not the hospital patients in the State of Queensland, which the Minister himself represents !
– A very large number of people in the State of Queensland have approved of the scheme. Many of them have contributed to it, and that is abundant proof that they appreciate the benefits of it. They are prepared to pay something towards their own future, security as far as hospitalization is concerned.
– The fact is that this scheme will take away from patients a whole loaf, although it purports to give them half a loaf.
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) 3.43]. - I sympathize with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) because he has been obviously diffident in leading to us the information given to him by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). It was quite obvious that his mind was just as confused about this hospital benefits scheme as is the mind of his colleague. Members of the Opposition in this chamber and in the House of Representatives have been trying for eighteen months to induce the Minister for Health to tell the Parliament exactly what he proposes in the various schemes he has brought forward. Questions have been asked in this chamber week after week, but we have been fobbed off, and even now we do not know what the Minister for Health has in mind. In fact, that is one of the reasons why we raised this matter in the Senate to-day. In the interest of the public we must get a clear picture of the Government’s proposals.
The statement made by the Minister for Repatriation contained one or two rather astounding assertions. First of all, the Minister said that the scheme was intended to build up the morale of the people. Exactly how this scheme will foster the morale of the people we have been left to ourselves to determine. One other thing that emerged from the Minister’s speech is that those members of the community who formerly enjoyed free medical benefits and were entitled to treatment and accommodation in our public hospitals without financial obligation now find that they will have to pay for it by insuring themselves under the scheme. Apparently, that is one of the “ benefits “ of the scheme. I have tried to elicit information about this subject from various sources, and have established various facts that have not been mentioned by the Minister for Repatriation this afternoon. 1 shall direct my attention to the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which, according to the Minister, has been accepted by five of the States with great pleasure, but which one State has refrained from accepting. The Minister has stated that that State will not receive any more money from the ( Commonwealth for its hospitals except on the Commonwealth’s terms. The Commonwealth is not prepared to continue the old agreement with that State, lint has said, in effect, “ If you do not agree to what we propose there will be no more money for you “. The five States that have agreed to the Commonwealth’s proposals realized that that was the position in which they would find themselves if they did not agree. Under our system of taxation there is no option open to the States. They have to accept what the Commonwealth considers to be good for them. The Minister for Repatriation stated that the budget would provide incentives, and that workers in receipt of from £12 to £13 a week would receive about ls. a week more in their pay envelopes as a remission of taxation. Rut under the proposed scheme it will be necessary for the workers to pay 2s. a week in order to insure themselves against the cost of a bed in an intermediate ward of a hospital, should it become necessary for them to enter a hospital for treat- ment. Even this payment will provide only a limited cover. Although supporters of the Government have stated that they do not believe in the means test, the worker will be required to submit to a means test if he needs to obtain accommodation in a hospital. Although honorable senators opposite have stated, “ We do not believe in iniquitous means tests and we will get rid of them “, the means test is to be reimposed on hospital patients. In future, when a person becomes ill and is taken to a hospital, he will be submitted to additional mental anxiety by being questioned by a hospital official about his means. I have mentioned that the scheme will provide only limited cover. The weekly contribution of 2s. will insure a patient against hospital costs for only ten weeks. A person who is suffering from an acute sickness, or who has a broken leg, and requires hospitalization for longer than ten weeks, will have to bear the cost of hospitalization beyond that period. It. has taken the Government two and a half years to prepare this scheme, and it is now engaged in the preparation of a medical benefits scheme. Many people hope that another two and a half years will elapse before that scheme will be introduced. It is only a few years ago that honorable senators opposite, when sitting in Opposition, stated that the young men who were on service would find Australia a better place to live in on their return, because the Commonwealth would make provision for people who were in ill health or unemployed. Both the Minister for Repatriation and I were members of a committee that inquired into this subject at that time. I am sure that in those days his views were similar to mine, because we furnished unanimous reports to the Parliament. We recommended that the whole cost of sickness should be borne by the Commonwealth, and that that charge should be recouped by a graduated system of taxation. The then Labour Government sought to provide the people of this country with a satisfactory health plan. Labour told the people that it would provide free hospitalization. In those days the hospitals were not bankrupt; they have become bankrupt only since the present Government came to office . It has allowed inflation to run wild, with the result that the cost of hospitalization has risen tremendously. Labour promised the people, also, that an effort would be made to provide them with free medical attention. Labour did, in fact, provide a benefit for the people during the whole of the time that they were ill, and introduced provisions for free drugs and medicines. The Government parties commenced to tear down these provisions immediately they came to office.
This hospital scheme is the first tangible evidence of the Government’s intentions in relation to national health. Labour ascertained from the States the cost of maintaining their hospitals, and then arrived at an agreement with the States whereby they would be untrammelled in their attention to the people, hut under which the Commonwealth would defray the cost of hospitalization. Now, the Government proposes that if the States do not agree to the present plan, money for hospitals in the States will be cut off. The States will have no freedom in the matter of hospital administration. The Commonwealth will tell the States exactly what they shall do, and the States will receive no money for their hospitals unless they conform with the Commoonwealth’s wishes.
The people are now being compelled to pay more in taxes than they paid when Labour was in office, and also to contribute 2s. a week to a hospital benefits fund. Within a short period they will be required to contribute from 2s. a week to 3s. a week to a medical benefits fund. I consider that members of Parliament should be fully informed about the Government’s proposed schemes. We have been able to obtain information only by adopting the backdoor method ‘of asking the various State Ministers for Health for details of the Commonwealth’s proposals. The hospital benefits scheme is tantamount to a reversion to the conditions that existed before the war. It imposes an iniquitous means test on hospital patients; it limits the period of treatment; it imposes an extra tax on the people ; and it is a retrograde step. When Labour again obtains control of the treasury bench, it will be quickly changed.
– Some of the statements of fact and alleged fact that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and Senator Arnold remind me of a story. When two Americans met in the street, one said to the other, “I believe that you have made 100,000 dollars out of oil in California. Is that true?” His friend replied, “It is approximately true. The figure was not 100,000, but 150,000; it was not oil, but cattle; I did not make it, but lost it; it was not in California, but in Texas, but the story is approximately true “. Many of the statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Arnold are likewise relatively or approximately true. They have stated that the Commonwealth has walked out on its assistance to Queensland. The contrary is the fact. The Queensland socialist Government has walked out on the people of Queensland. In 1948-49, when the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Social Services in the previous Labour Government, the total benefits provided to Queensland by the Commonwealth under the over-all health scheme amounted to £1,244,000. If Queensland adopts the scheme that the other five States have adopted, the total increase of benefit beyond the amount that was paid to Queensland by the previous Labour Government will be £3,063,000. Senator Arnold has said that the Commonwealth has told the States that they must do what the Commonwealth asks or they will not receive the money. As trustees of the taxpayers’ money, the Commonwealth wants to ensure that the hospitals shall be run on sound business lines. Surely to goodness, after the extravagant experience of socialist meddling, we should see that the hospitals are run properly! If the Queensland Government does not participate it will deprive Queenslanders of over £3,000,000 a year but, in any case, other general health benefits paid by this Government will still be £1,898,000 in excess of those paid during the Labour Government’s last year of office.
I am not surprised that this motion has been moved because during the eight years of the socialist regime we had abundant evidence that the Labour Government was much more interested in catching the votes of the people than in preventing and curing disease. I am somewhat disappoined with the attitude of honorable senators opposite, because, after all, they have had nearly three years of contemplation in the very cool shades of Opposition. Yet we have evidence that they are as hot and enthusiastic as ever in pursuing their socialistic objectives. What tigers they are for punishment! Here they sit, unconverted, unrepentant, and unrelenting in the pursuit of the socialistic, and unAustralian, policies for which the Australian people turned them out of office with a thrashing in 1949 and rejected them in scorn in April, 1951. Yet they still persist in these very foolish policies.
It is very difficult to contemplate the health programme of the Chifley Government without contemplating the Minister who was in charge of it - the present Leader of the Opposition. I think that the entire Senate has a very high personal regard for Senator McKenna as a man. He is courteous, considerate, very tolerant and an example to all of us for behaviour in the Senate. But as an administrator - what a no-hoper ! What a muddler and what a messer ! No matter how tolerantly, no matter with how kindly an eye we study his record as a health administrator, we are forced to the conclusion that it has only two outstanding features. One was a dogged determination, at all costs, to socialize the whole gamut of the health services of the nation. The other feature was his complete and lamentable failure to accomplish anything but discord among all sections of the nation’s health services. On the 11th November, 1949, under an Adelaide date-line, the Sydney Morning Herald published a report headed -
Warning by McKenna. “ If Labor was returned at the federal election the argument with the B.M.A. over the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act would be speedily resolved in favour of the Government”, Senator McKenna said to-night. Senator McKenna, Federal Minister for Health, was speaking at a meeting at North Adelaide. “ The doctors will want the Almighty on their side if they are to win this argumen”, he said, and the
Almighty will no doubt be on the side of the sick and the suffering rather than on the other side.
That was true. The Almighty was on the side of the sick and suffering Australian people because at the next election the socialist Government was thrown out. The report concluded - “It is my dearest wish that I might go back as Federal Minister for Health just long enough to end the argument”.
End of quote, end of Senator McKenna, and end of the Labour Government. As the result of his muddling with every section of the health scheme our Government was confronted with a mess when it came to power in 1949.
– I appreciate this opportunity of letting the Senate know how it is. Thanks to the ingenuity and courage of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and the understanding of his Cabinet and the Government parties, a very effective and efficient national health service in now operating. Where the Leader of the Opposition failed the present Minister for Health is succeeding by operating on a principle of free and friendly cooperation, which apparently commends itself to the Australian people. Everybody is free to participate in this scheme or to decline to participate. The medical profession, friendly societies, hospitals, pharmacists and dentists are all co-operating with the Government to provide a comprehensive health service from which the people are benefiting. Compare the success of this Government with the lamentable and shocking failure of the Opposition as a government. That comparison riles the Opposition. However, I thank the Leader of the Opposi- . tion for giving the Government this opportunity to show that the Opposition has no substantial criticism of the Government’s health scheme to offer. The Minister for Expatriation and I have been given an opportunity to show that the Australian people are the beneficiaries of a splendid and comprehensive national health service. I move -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Senate, at its vising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11.30 a.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 30th September (vide page 2278).
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Issue and application of ?276,504,000).
– I understand that this clause deals with the appropriation of the total amount covered by the bill. Will you, Mr. Chairman, give to honorable senators an indication of the manner in which you intend to deal with the schedule, so that they may have an opportunity to discuss the estimates of the various departments, department by department, as they are set forth in the index ?
- (Senator George Rankin). - The schedule will be dealt with department by department.
– I suggest that consideration of this clause be postponed until the schedule is dealt with, which is the usual way to deal with over-all clauses of a bill. I move -
That clauses 3 and 4 be postponed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 3 and 4 postponed.
– I suggest that the schedule be taken part by part. In my opinion it is unreasonable to deal with it as a whole.
– The honorable senator is apparently referring to the second schedule. We are at present considering the first schedule only.
Motion (by Senator Wright) agreed to-
That the First Schedule be postponed.
– As the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has important business to attend to in Melbourne and must leave Canberra to-night, I crave the indulgence of the committee and ask that priority be given to the departments which the Minister administers in this chamber. They are the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of External Affairs, the Department of Territories, the Department of Immigration, the Department of Labour and National Service, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
That the departments be taken in the following order: -
Department of External Affairs.
Attorney-General ‘s Department.
Department of Territories.
Department of Immigration.
Department of Labour and National Service.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Remaining Departments, Business Undertakings and Territories of the Commonwealth; in order as printed.
Department ofExternal Affairs.
– I direct attention particularly to the absence of Australian representation in Ireland. Although theRepublic of Ireland has an ambassador in Australia, I understand that there has been a vacancy in Australian representation in that country fora considerable period. I should like the Minister to explain the reason for that position and to inform the Senateof any action which the Government contemplates in that connexion. I notice, too, that no provision has been made for representation in China. Last year the sum of £12,000 was voted for that purpose, but only £2,097 was expended. I appreciate that the Australian Government has not recognized Communist China and has dealt, so far, solely with the Chinese NationalGovernment at Formosa. Does not the Government contemplate direct relations with the Chinese National Government during the current year?
– In regard to representation in Ireland, the position is that the appointment of an ambassador at Dublin has been and is being given close consideration, in conjunction with the overall question of Australian representation abroad. The Government believes that it should not take a hurried decision which will not properly reflect the importance which it attaches to our relations with theRepublic of Ireland. The selection of an ambassador will not be made lightly or without due consideration, merely because the office happens, temporarily, to be vacant. In the meantime, the Embassy has been in the hands of a temporary charge d’affaires.
– Can the Minister say how long the vacancy has existed?
– Eighteen months, I understand. As far as China is concerned, the figures shown in respect of last year refer to expenses incurred in connexion with the Shanghai office, which has since been closed. No expenditure is expected in that connexion this year.
– I seek information which might justify the expanding expenditure of the Department of External Affairs in respect of diplomatic representation in many countries of the world. What advantage will Australia gain from the expenditure of £39,000 in Brazil, £31,000 in Israel, and £32,000 in Egypt? I have selected those threecountries merely to illustrate my point. I do not know anything about what is done in those countries, and I should like the Attorney-General to inform the Senate of the advantages, material, physical, spiritual, or political that flow from Australian representation in them. I direct attention also to the total provision of £236,000 for consular representation abroad. I am sufficiently oldfashioned, and enough of a backwoodsman to believe that there could be some coordination between the countries of the British Commonwealth and the United Statesof America with the object of effecting economies in expenditure on foreign missions. I realize that it is most difficult to keep a close check on expenditure overseas. Very oftensuch expenditure is unseen, and, of course, what the parliamentary representative does not see, his electors never think of ; but it has occurred to me that, in the post-waratmosphere of grandeur that a former Minister for External Affairs sought to foster, we may have extended ourdiplomatic activities overseas at unjustifiable expense. Therefore, I should like to know what justification there is for the substantial expenditure that is proposed in the three countries that I have selected at random.
– For the first time this year provision is made for the Australian Embassy inJapan. For that purpose,£83,000 is to be appropriated. A further £36,000 is to be appropriated for the mamtenance of an Australian Embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany. I should like to know when appointments to those postswere made, andwhat type of accommodation is provided for the Australian missions. I notice that £3/000 is provided for the tent and maintenance of an office and tesidencein Germany, and £3,500for similar purposes inJapan. I am wondering whether the Government is satisfied with ‘the accommodation that is available. I should like to know also whether the Government believes that it is justified in allocating substantial sums of money for Australian representation inGermany and Japan instead of strengthening existing missions inother countriessuch as Pakistan and India with which ourrelations in the past have been much more friendly. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am not objecting to Australian representation in Germany and Japan. I am merely questioningthe advisability of expending such large sum’s of money in those countries at the expense perhaps of representation in more friendly lands.
SenatorMcCALLUM (New South Wales)[4.35].Inoticethatsubstantial provision is madeat variousembassies for payments to temporary and casual employees.In the case of theUnited States of America, provision for such payments exceeds by more than £20,000 the allocation for salaries and allowances. I should like to know the reason for this apparent disparity.
.- I am afraid that I cannot provide Senator Wright offhand with details of the work of Australian diplomatic missions in Brazil, Israel and Egypt. I suppose that there willalways be some difference of opinion about the countries in which it is most desirable that Australia should have diplomatic representation. In a perfect world in which there was no limitation on funds, there might be much to be said for the maintenance of the closest possible relations with all countries. Such relations could only lead to a better understanding between people. However, our problem is to choose the particular countries with which weare to have diplomatic relations. It is understandable that some honorable senators will approve of some of the countries that have been selected and disapprove of others. However, the cost of Australian representation abroad is only a very small part of the annual Commonwealth budget. The votes for the Australian missions in Brazil and Israel are relatively infinitesimal, but I fully appreciate that the sum of all such figures tends to add to the total burden of the budget. Senator Critchley has mentioned Japan andGermany. Costs in Tokyo have increasedunder practically all headings since the facilities previously available to our mission duringthe occupation were withdrawn following the signing of thepeace treaty. The proposed vote of£83,000 includes provision forsalaries and allowances for an ambassador, ‘counsellor, two third secretaries, and twoclerks and twotypists occupying unclassified positions in Tokyo, and in addition two third secretaries and another clerk and typist in Hong Kong. There is also provision for the rent and maintenance of anofficeand residence. In connexionwith the Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany, there is provision for the salaries and allowances of an ambassador, two secondsecretaries -one for nine month’s only - one third secretary and a consular clerk. The sum of £3,000is provided for rent and maintenanceofan office land residence. The rent of the residence is £1,600 a year and of the office £1,000 a year.
.- The sum of £83,000 is provided for diplomatic representation in Japan. The schedule of salaries and allowances shows that the vote includes provision for the salary and allowances of the ambassador, the counsellor and the third secretaries. A further sum of £26,739 is provided for “ special allowances to officers “. I should like to know what payments are to be made out of that £26,739, which, I remind the committee, is more than half the total provision for salaries and allowances. Can the Attorney-General tell me the name of the Australian Ambassador to Japan?
– The provision to which Senator Cooke has referred is apparently for rent and other commitments of that kind. The present Ambassador to Japan is Professor Walker. Senator McCallum has referred to the increase of the number of temporary and casual employees, particularly in the United States of America. That increase has been due to the addition of a number of positions in the Materials Supply section. In addition, a position of press attache has been filled by a temporary employee, and local employees have been engaged in connexion with additional office space leased mainly as the result of the establishment of the Materials Supply section.
– Again I wish to direct the Attorney-General’s attention to the provision of £26,739 in the schedule under the heading “ special allowances to officers “ in the Australian Embassy in Japan “. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) claims that this money includes provision for rent and other similar payments, but I point out that under the heading of “General Expenses “ in Division No. 24, the sum of £3,500 is provided for “Rent and maintenance, office and residence “. Again I ask the Attorney-General for an explanation of the provision for special allowances.
Senator SPICER (Victoria - Attorney- in Division 24, to which Senator Cooke has referred, covers rent of the office and the official residence of the ambassador. The item “ Special allowances to officers “ shown at page 135 covers rent and other allowances to officers on the ambassador’s staff and not rent for the embassy or the official residence.
– The only quarrel that I have with the Government in respect of the administration of the Department of External Affairs results from the fact that the Government has failed to furnish to the Senate information concerning the manner in which the money appropriated for the department is expended. We do not know whether or not it is being wisely expended ; nor do Ave know whether the proposed votes set out in the schedule on page 13 represent the only amounts that will be expended by the department during this financial year. The Department of External Affairs is one of the most important public departments. When Senator Wright sought information regarding Australian legations, the reply given by the Minister was neither satisfactory to this Senate nor to the people. In replying to questions asked by honorable senators during the consideration of the proposed votes for this department Ministers should give the fullest information concerning the activities of the representatives of Australia in foreign countries. It is not important that the people should be told that an expenditure of £100 is to be incurred in connexion with an embassy or a legation or that an office boy is to have his salary increased by £50, or some such small amount, during the financial year, but it is important that they know the foreign policy of this Government and be given the fullest information about the activities of Australian officials in countries bordering upon Australia. It is of no use for the Minister merely to state that money is to be expended on Australian representation in Indonesia, Dutch New Guinea the Soviet or elsewhere. We want to know the purposes for which it will be expended. We should be told the steps that the Government is taking to establish friendly relations with other countries, and to keep Australia in the eye of the peoples of other countries.
– The honorable senator should join the Foreign Affairs Committee.
– No good purpose would be served by membership of that committee because, the information that is passed on to it3 members must be kept secret by them even from their colleagues in the Parliament. Secrets disclosed to them must be locked in the innermost recesses of their minds. Secrecy appears to be the keynote of this Government’s foreign affairs policy. Having regard to the disturbed condition of the world we should be given the fullest information concering the activities of our representatives abroad. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has told us, and the statement has been repeated in this chamber, that Australia is possibly facing another war. We should be given the fullest information concerning the activities of our representatives abroad so that we may ensure that Australia shall not be directed into another war. I trust that an assurance will be given by the Minister that our representatives in overseas countries are doing their best to enhance the reputation of Australia abroad and to make its aspirations better known to the peoples of other countries.
. - I support the request made by Senator Sheehan that additional information should be supplied concerning the activities of Australian representatives abroad. I’ am eager to ascertain whether economies are being effected in the cost of Australia’s overseas representation to the same degree as they are being effected in Australia. For the Australian embassy in the United States of America the proposed vote i3 £281,000. I assume that that amount will be converted into dollars and, as we all are aware, Australia is desperately short of dollars. As Senator Sheehan has said, the Senate has not been given any information about the activities of our representatives in the United States of America. When we ask questions in order to elicit information about matters of this kind we are rebuffed and told to engage in research and ascertain the information for ourselves. That happened again in the Senate to-day.
Instead of fobbing us off with unsatisfactory answers or by an outright refusal to answer questions Ministers should give the fullest information on matters that concern their departments. To-day, a Minister who, not long ago, was politically dead, but was resurrected to fill a gap in the ranks of the Liberal party, refused point blank to answer a question asked of him by an Opposition senator. We expect better treatment from the members of the Government.
The proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs is £250,000. more than the amount expended last year. A substantial part of the additional expenditure will be incurred in overseas countries. As the Government is reducing expenditure on important works and services in Australia, and by so doing is adding to the number of unemployed, honorable senators opposite should not object when we ask for an assurance that similar economies are being effected in our embassies, legations and consulates abroad. In view of the grave shortage of dollars for the purchase of capital goods and equipment, I doubt very much whether the additional expenditure on the Australian embassy in the United States of America can be justified. Our representatives abroad should have sufficient funds to enable them to maintain a standard in keeping with the dignity of their office and the importance of their country; but I am not at all convinced that the increased votes proposed for the Department of External Affairs are essential. The proposed vote for the Australian embassy in Japan is £83,000 and for the Australian embassy in the Federal Republic of Germany £36,000. I should like to know whether the Government is giving the same attention to the Federal Republic of Germany as it is giving to our former enemy, Japan. Large sums of money are also to be provided for Australian legations in Thailand, the Associated States of Indo-China, and Burma. This is the first year in which an Australian legation will function in Thailand. Is the Minister able to give to the Senate information concerning our activities in Thailand and the benefit that is expected to accrue to Australia as the result of the presence of Australian officials in that country ? When the Government is effecting economies in administrative expenses in this country, it is justified in establishing a legation in a country like Thailand ? Will it be the duty of the legation officers to inquire into the possibility of establishing a market there for our export commodities, or is the legation being established solely for the purpose of promoting friendly relations between the two countries? The fullest information should be furnished on these points.
– The purpose of establishing Australian ambassadorial and legation staffs in foreign countries is to promote harmonious relations between those countries and Australia. No provision has been inside under Division 25a for the continuation of the Australian embassy in China, notwithstanding the fact that China is most important to Australia from a commercial viewpoint and from the viewpoint of self protection.
– Is the honorable senator speaking of Formosa?
– Formosa is not China; it is a small island off the coast of China. It has a population of 7,000,000 people, compared to 450,000,000 in China itself. China would provide an excellent market for Australian products for the next twenty years. If we traded with thatcountry, as we should do, unemployment in Australia would be greatly lessened. In this matter the Government is allowing its narrow, sectional mind to influence its decisions. It says, “ We shall not trade with China because it is a Communist country”; but England is trading with China, and the United States of America, through Japan, is also trading with that country. If honorable senators have not read the book, Four Hundred Million Customers, which deals with the possibilities of trade in China, I advise them to do so. We should reopen the Australian embassy in China and do everything possible to promote trade and commerce and to foster friendly relations with that country.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should send Mr. Justice Maxwell to China?
– He could very well visit that country, but not for the purposes I have in mind. Our factories are closing down and men are losing their employment because markets are not available for our products. Instead of fostering trade between the two countries the Government has closed the door on China simply because it regards China as a Communist country. When a person engages in a business he does not close his door against those with whom he differs in matters of religion or politics. He sells his goods to all those who are willing to buy them. The same principle should be applied in international trade. I believe that we should appoint an ambassador to China and that we should endeavour to improve our relations with that country. After all, we should not permit narrow, sectarian minds to control our national business. If we do permit them to do so we shall undoubtedly suffer in our trade relations with many Eastern countries. In Australia, the inevitable result of such a policy will be increasing unemployment, which means hunger, misery and starvation. I think that we might avert unnecessary unemployment by promoting trade with foreign countries.
Why has Australia not established diplomatic relations with the Chinese Government? The United Kingdom and other countries have done so. The attitude of the Government in this matter reminds me of its attitude towards imports from the United Kingdom. Only a few months ago it imposed discouraging restrictions on importations from that country. Why did it do so? The reason is that the present Government wanted to save from bankruptcy its commercial friends in this country, many of whom had overstocked their warehouses and. could not get rid of their imports.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator is discussing matters of trade, which are notrelevant to the proposed vote that we are discussing.
– I was about toconnect my remarks with the subject of trade because, after all, all international, relationships are based upon trade.
- (Senator George Rankin). - Order! The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the proposed vote of the Department of External Affairs.
– I shall connect my remarks with that subject. If we can establish good diplomatic relationships and trade with foreign countries it is obvious that it will benefit us. The present Government has achieved nothing for Australia by withholding recognition of the Chinese Government, but, on the contrary, we have lost a great deal, at least in trade, as the result of its attitude. Contrast the Government’s attitude with that of the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Russia, dressed its window and invited every country to send representatives to an international trade fair. In effect, it said, “Look what we have to offer you ! “. Forty-nine nations sent representatives to Russia. Amongst those representatives was Sir John Boyd Orr, the eminent agriculturist, and a number of other world figures. Honorable senators opposite would be interested to learn what Sir John Boyd Orr said about his visit.
Senator - Reid. - I rise to order. I suggest that the honorable senator’s remarks are related to international trade and not to the proposed vote that we are discussing.
– The point that I am endeavouring to make is that, although the Government is expending money on representation in a variety cif countries, it neglects to provide representation to a nation so vital to us as China.
.- Having listened carefully to the remarks by honorable senators opposite, including Senator Morrow, I am surprised to find myself having to express some agreement with some of his contentions. Obviously, China is an extremely important nation to Australia, and, undoubtedly, it would be to our mutual benefit to exchange diplomatic representatives. For above all, it seems to me to be particularly important that we should be represented in the opposing camp.
Having said that, I should like Opposition senators to tell me exactly how we can obtain diplomatic representation with China. Senator Morrow said that the United Kingdom has recognized Communist China, and that is true. But China has not recognized that recognition. The diplomatic representative accredited by Britain to China has not been accorded proper status. He has no access to the head of the Chinese Government or to Ministers; he has access only to third or fourth class officials. He is treated with contempt. Representation of that kind is worse than no representation at all. I should like Senator Morrow or any other Opposition senator to inform n]e exactly how we can establish proper diplomatic relations in the face of this Chinese intransigeance.
Another point that is of importance is the value to Australia of its representatives overseas. The foreign policy of a country should not be confused with the work of its representatives. For example, all would agree that we must have diplomatic representation in the State of Kashmir, which is a veritable powder barrel. The same remark applies to Indonesia, with respect to Western New Guinea, to Indo-China, and to other countries. Diplomatic representation is to enable the Government of one country to keep itself informed of the views of the people of another country, which include not only the policy of the Government of that country but also the opinions of the parliamentary opposition and of the little people.
Although supporters of the Government and members of the Opposition should, and do, quite legitimately, argue about matters of foreign policy, I do not think there is any room for argument about the appropriateness of Australia being represented diplomatically in foreign countries, because the expenditure on such representation may repay us a thousandfold, and may prevent a tragedy of incalcuable cost.
– I am not so much concerned about Australia being represented diplomatically in foreign countries, as I am about the wise expenditure of our taxpayers’ money. Will the Attorney-General (Senator
Spicer) inform me whether the money that was appropriated last year for the erection of a mansion for our representatives in Delhi has, in fact, been expended?
– “Work is proceeding on the construction of that building.
– We are asked to appropriate nearly £2,000,000 under the proposed vote, and it is only reasonable to inquire whether Australia will receive an adequate return for that expenditure. [ point out, incidentally, that of that amount the Government proposes to expend £2S1,000 on representation in the United States of America. It proposes also to appropriate £76,000 for representation in Prance, and £38,000 for representation in The Netherlands.
I have visited a number of European countries since the war, and in view of my experiences then I am somewhat disturbed at the Government’s proposals. For example, the Government proposes to extend a substantial sum on representation in The Netherlands, which is a country in which Australians were particularly well received, although no provision is made for representation in Belgium, a country in which we were also shown every courtesy. Australia has no diplomatic representation in that country, but is represented by the United Kingdom legation. Belgium has a vast colonial empire in Africa, and it seems to me that the development of trade relationships between the Belgian Empire and ourselves would be of great value to us.
Although Ireland has been represented by an ambassador in this country during the past four years, the Government has Hot seen fit to appoint a diplomat of equal status to represent us in Dublin, lt is content with representation by a chargé-d’-affaires. I feel that that is an injustice to the many thousands of persons of Irish birth or of Irish descent in this country. Although Australia cannot hope to obtain war materiel from Ireland, it can enrich itself from the culture of that nation.
Recently the Irish Ambassador to this country presented to Australia an invaluable copy of the Book of Kells; it was a most generous gesture on the part of an older civilization. On that occasion, many pious declarations were made by representatives of the Australian Government of their goodwill towards Ireland, but unfortunately there is no evidence now of those sentiments being transformed into reality. Surely, Australia could hope to obtain more from diplomatic representation in Dublin than iL could from representation in Tokyo or Moscow.
The point that we must keep in our minds in authorizing expenditure on overseas representation is whether such expenditure will enable Australia to become better known in those countries. One country in which I feel that we should extend our representation is South Africa, which I visited recently, and with which we have a great deal in common. Admittedly, South Africa is beset by many racial and other problems that do not confront us ; but we have a great deal in common with that country. When I visited South Africa I was shocked to discover that although many South Africans were eager to obtain information about Australia, very little information was forthcoming for them from Australian official sources. The Australian representative in South -Africa did not have very much literature at his disposal, and most of the available literature about Australia was hopelessly out of date. Also there is very little Australian publicity to be seen on ships from England and the Continent. I consider that our representatives abroad should be supplied with ample literature on this country, correct in every deta.iL It should not contain only sunny pictures of Australia, but the true picture. Surprisingly few references to Australia appear in the press of other countries, apart from reports of sensational happenings. I register an emphatic protest against the Government’s continued rebuff to -Ireland by its failure to appoint an Australian representative who could reciprocate the work that is being done by the Irish representative in this country.
– I shall direct myself to the proposed provision of £26,739 for special allowances to officers at the Australian Embassy in Japan, under Division No. 24. I was privileged to visit Japan as a representative of Australia, in company with Colonel Ryan. On our return we submitted a report to the Government about a property that could be purchased cheaply, which was suitable to accommodate our Ambassador in Japan. The Government promised to consider the matter. It is astounding that more than £26,000 is to be set aside for a staff of six officers in Tokyo.
– The honorable senator is referring to an amount from which to meet special allowances to the officers.
– Already provision has been made for £3,500 for the rent and maintenance of the official residence. Therefore, more than £5,000 is to be allotted to each of the remaining five officials for accommodation purposes. That seems to be an exceptionally liberal provision. I should be glad if the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) would inform me what proportion of the amount of £26,739 will be expended for rent, and of the amounts that will be paid to the various officers.
– I shall be happy to do so.
– Australia is expending a considerable amount to promote Australian trade with Japan, which country is most eager to trade with this country. Merchants in Japan are eager to place orders for food and wool to the maximum quantity available. Therefore, I consider that our expenditure on the promotion of trade with Japan should be less than is our expenditure in other countries with which we trade. I should like the Minister’s assurance that our practice in this connexion is economical.
– The proposed vote of £26,739 is made up as follows: - Ambassador’s allowance other than representational upkeep of the household, plus services, £4,000; local and rent allowances for Australian base staff, due to the high cost of living in Japan, £7,000; representational allowances, other than for the ambassador, £1,000; cost of providing residential accommodation for staff, being the net cost to the department after contribution from the staff, £9,000; local representation and rent allowances for the Hong Kong staff, £5,700.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,161,000.
– I assume that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) is immediately concerned with whatever changes may be contemplated to our Constitution. All political parties have from time to time argued the need for constitutional change. The proposed vote for the Department of the Interior includes provision for an election and referendum during the current financial year. Does that mean that the Government contemplates the holding of a referendum during the present financial year?
– The provision has been made just in case.
– Of course there must bc a periodical election of senators. If this provision indicates that the Government will sponsor a referendum during this financial year, I should be grateful if the Minister would state the nature of any such contemplated proposal. Will the Minister also say whether the Government has again considered the method by which deadlocks between this chamber and the House of Representatives should be resolved? Such contingencies are not unlikely, having regard to the system of proportional representation that now obtains. I think that the AttorneyGeneral would agree, as he has agreed on an earlier occasion in this chamber, that some machinery should be established to avoid that possibility. If this is not in contemplation, will the Government consider the matter? I invite the Minister to consider whether constitutional changes should be introduced to provide for capital issues control, organized marketing, and control over terms and conditions of employment. Is the Minister happy about the operation of section 92 of the Constitution ‘i Does he contemplate any action to resolve simple words, of. the section, which have had so- many interpretations? Does he consider that there should be something more readily understandable, not only by the legal fraternity, but also by the general public? Does, the Minister consider that the Constitution is not in need of change, in the light of the experiences of 50 years ? “Will he give a broad indication of his outlook on this matter ?
I shall now refer to the Commonwealth’s power over divorce. I have understood from the remarks of the Attorney-General on several occasions that an expert committee has been examining the subject of a uniform divorce law, studying the laws of the various States, and seeking to integrate their various codes into one that would override State law and provide a uniform code. Would the Attorney-General be so good as to say how far the committee has progressed? Division No. 59 contains provision of £47,000 for the Legal Service Bureau. Will the Attorney-General indicate whether the services of that bureau are still available to people in the pension field ? It was established primarily to assist ex-service personnel. Subsequently the services of the bureau were extended to persons in receipt of a pension. I should like the Attorney-General to indica te whether that service is still available. If it has been discontinued, why was that action taken?
– I draw attention to the position in relation to temporary and casual employees. I have raised this matter- each year since I have been a member of this chamber. I consider thai something should be done to relieve the mental anxiety of many persons who have given years of continuous service to the Government. I have never made representations for the permanent appointment of officers about 60 years of age, although few will deny that temporary and casual employees perform duties of a permanent nature in the administration of the affairs of this country. I believe that about 85 per cent, of the money that is allocated for temporary and casual employees is paid to people who have performed yeo man service in the fighting forces of this country,, and who have been continuously employed in the Public Service for many years.. I hope that the Government will give just consideration to the claims of these employees without further delay.. I consider that they should be granted a. degree of permanancy commensurate with their years of service to the Commonwealth.
– I should be glad if the Attorney General (Senator Spicer) will supply me with information relative to the provision of £305,000 for the Peace Officer Guard, under Division 60. The proposed vote for salaries for the Commonwealth Investigation Service, Division 57, is £80,000. I do not know whether there is a relationship between the two funds.
– I have been informed that the duties of the Peace Officer Guard mentioned in Division 60 are performed for the Repatriation Department, munition factories and other establishments. Due to the financial policy of the Government, the number of employees in munitions factories has been reduced. Over 200 employees of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow have been dismissed within the last few weeks.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I suggest that dismissals from the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow have nothing to do with the subject of Peace Officer Guard.
- Senator Ashley will continue.
– I have been informed by an officer of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department that a section of the Peace Officer Guard works at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in referring to information that has been given to him in the course of an interview with a government officer ?
– I wish to know why the vote for the Peace Officer Guard should be increased when the employees at these factories have been dismissed. It has been the custom for Opposition senators to secure information from officers of the Public Service.
– But the information should not be used to bring the officer into conflict with his Minister.
– I am not using the information in that way. ISo Minister could be expected to be acquainted with all the details of the Estimates. Even a Minister with the supposed capacity of Senator Wright would not be familiar with every item. I seek the reason for the increase in last year’s expenditure of £279,278 on Peace Officer Guards to £305,000.
– It might be useful to clear up this matter. I am afraid that Senator Ashley must have misunderstood the officer from whom he obtained his information if he thought that he said that 200 members of the Peace Officer Guard had been dismissed.
– I did not say that. It is the employees in the factory who have been dismissed.
– If the honorable senator is complaining that 200 employees of the factory have been dismissed, that is nothing to do with this item on the schedule. There are only 380 peace officers in the whole of Australia. Probably about twenty would be employed in the Lithgow area. The increase in the vote from £280,000 to £305,000 is accounted for by increases in the cost of living and is not due to any increase in the strength of the Peace Officer Guard. There was some readjustment of the duties of the men in this force, which I explained to the Senate some time ago, but since then the force has been maintained at substantially the same strength. Honorable senators will observe that the whole of the expenditure incurred by the Attorney-General’s Department in respect of the Peace Officer Guard is recovered from other departments. I think that that statement answers Senator Courtice’s question.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) put some posers to me. I should like to engage in debate on the matters to which he has referred, but I do not think that this is an appropriate time to do so. I am not aware that a constitutional alterations are proposed ±n the near future. It may be that the item in the Estimates for the Department of the Interior to which the Leader of the Opposition referred is included in those Estimates as a matter of practice. I do not know because I do not administer the department. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition might ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior about this matter.
The second matter to which the honorable senator referred was uniform divorce legislation. I do not recollect having said that this matter had been referred to ai> expert committee. If the honorable senator thought that I said that, he must have misunderstood me. Some proposals have come to the notice of the Government in the last few months and are being examined in my department. It is easy for people to express their approval of the general conception of a uniform divorce law. I suppose that the great bulk of the people would favour uniform divorce laws. The problems associated with this matter are only encountered when one begins to consider the concrete terms of a bill. The framing of the necessary legislation to implement uniform divorce laws would raise issues about which people differ very sincerely and violently. It is not just a matter of including all .State legislation on this subject in a common act. Differences would have to be adjusted and it would be necessary to discard some laws of one State in favour of the laws of another. That problem is being examined in my department in relation to a concrete proposal which has been put forward. I shall obtain information on this subject later for the Leader of the Opposition.
I understand that the activities of the Legal Service Bureau are available to ex-servicemen and their dependants. The functions of this bureau are defined in re-establishment legislation and are confined to rendering services to returned soldiers and their dependants. I have endeavoured to keep the activities of the bureau within those limits. When I took office I found that its functions had been extended beyond the statutory limits and that it was rendering service to certain people without legal authority. I have considered it proper that the functions of the bureau should be confined to those which are mentioned in the statute. Whereas the bureau had a sort of vague, general charter to give advice to people who received social services benefits, that type of activity has been discontinued.
– Apparently, the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) either misunderstood my question or misconstrued it in order to make a reply to suit himself. I asked him why it was necessary to increase the vote for the Peace Officer Guard. I did not suggest that 200 guards had been dismissed. I said that 200 employees had been dismissed from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. However, the Attorney-General has answered my question by stating, in effect, that an additional £30,000 will be required for the Peace Officer Guard this year because of the uncontrolled inflation in this country which is due to the policy of the Government.
.- It will be observed that the proposed vote for Division 54, Bankruptcy Administration, is £8,731 more than the expenditure for last year, which was £86,269. For the current year the proposed vote is £95,000. The expenditure for last year was £3,269 more than the sum voted for that year. No doubt many Opposition senators could supply reasons why this expenditure will be greater this year than it was last year, but perhaps the Minister might tell me the official reason for the higher estimate for the current year. No doubt many people will consider that the economic position is the real reason for the increase in the proposed vote.
– In Division 60, under the heading of Peace Officer Guard, the expenditure on salaries and allowances for the current financial year has been estimated at £305,000. Expenditure on clothing and equipment has been estimated at £8,500 and expenditure on incidental and other expenditure at £3,500. It is noted that the whole of these amounts are recover^ able from other departments. It is usual for the schedule to contain itemized lists of salaries payable by the various departments. Can the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) tell me why this procedure has been departed from? If he is not able to do so, can be indicate where such information appears?
– I wish to make one or two comments in order to underline the relative value of instrumentalities for which the Government is responsible. I refer to Division 53 and ask honorable senators to note that the proposed vote for the High Court of Australia is £48,000. Although that sum does not include the salaries of the judges of the court, it exceeds the proposed vote for the maintenance of the Australian Legation in Brazil by only £9,000. To take full notice of all the moths that are flying round the political candle at the present time, let me refer to Division 59, Legal Service Bureau, to which, according to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), persons in the pensions field have no access. I know of no State of the Commonwealth where the legal profession, of its own motion and volition, does not gratuitously render legal services to persons who obtain a certificate that their means are insufficient to provide such services. The Legal Service Bureau, which was established for the purpose of vote catching, has had a mushroom growth. Since 1945, expenditure on such services has grown to the stature of £47,000, or only £1,000 less than the total sum which is being voted for the maintenance of the High Court, the cardinal legal institution in the Commonwealth.
The Leader of the Opposition pleaded this afternoon for uniformity, apparently with the idea that anything that emanates from the wisdom of this legislature should derive some sanctity from the fact that it will apply to every taxpayer, every divorcee, every pensioner, and every tenant within the confines of the Commonwealth. Division 54 refers to Bankruptcy Administration, the proposed vote for which is £95,000. The Commonwealth has power to legislate with regard to bankruptcy, just as it has power to legislate with regard to divorce. The bankruptcy power has been exercised, but effect has not yet been given to the divorce power. If my memory is correct, a Commonwealth bankruptcy administration has existed since 1932. No other Commonwealth service surpasses it for complex, wasteful and extravagant administration. I make that statement to underline tile fact that expenditure in respect of this administration has increased to ?95,000 a year.
– What function does it discharge?
– The bankruptcy court adjudicates upon matters of dispute regarding the law of bankruptcy. In that respect, the specialized experience of the court renders a useful service in relation to the two large States of the Commonwealth. It also discharges an administrative function because it maintains, under various official receivers, offices peopled by clerks and investigators, filers of papers ad nauseam, and form-fillers of the expert variety.
I mention this matter to direct the attention of the Attorney-General to two aspects of the Bankruptcy Act. I refer to Parts XI. and XII. of the act. Part XI is so complicated that it is rarely availed of, whilst Part XII. would be availed of if it were not made unlawful to do so. As I conceive the position, a debtor who is embarrassed by his creditor* is prohibited from entering into any arrangement, even though the arrangement may be unanimous, except per medium of a registered trustee or an official receiver. The resultant deed must be registered in the court. Many a debtor would prefer to have his creditors confer with him, appoint some one to supervise his affairs, and at the end of two or three years take a discharge by way of release, with the unanimous assent of his creditors. I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, in due course, this minor matter might be considered so that people may be able to make private inexpensive arrangements.
I rose primarily to underline items in the Estimates which have been referred to as infinitesimal. I ask honorable senators to reflect that the proposed vote for the High Court of Australia for the current year is ?48,000; but that the proposed votes for trivial modernities of the post-war years, such as the Legal Service
Bureau, have increased out of all proportion. I suggest that if a few of the proposed votes for such instrumentalities could be devoted to the benefit of the taxpayers in the country, this Parliament would be doing something worth while.
Sitting suspended from 5.5S to 8 p.m.
. -Under Division 55, the sum of ?116,000 is provided for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I am inclined to wonder whether the nation is getting full value for the money that is expended on that court. Workers have been so disturbed by certain decisions of the court that a meeting of the Australian Council of Trades Unions has been held recently to consider the matter. At that meeting, the view was expressed that the court was not carrying out its functions as it should do. Many workers are showing contempt for the court because of its failure to preserve the purchasing power of wages. The pin-chasing power of wages to-day is considerably less than it was 45 years ago.
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Chairman, that Senator Morrow is not in order in discussing the decisions of the court during a debate on the Estimates.
- (Senator George Rankin). - Senator Morrow is dealing with the appropriation for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbi-tra ti on and is in order.
– I am questioning whether the proposed expenditure is warranted in view of the dissatisfaction that the court is causing. To determine that question, it is necessary to make an impartial examination of the work of the court. If the court is not functioning satisfactorily, it should be overhauled. Dissatisfaction with the court’s decisions has become doubly evident since this Government inserted certain punitive provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The word “ conciliation “ no longer has any significance in the court’s title. The field of conciliation has been abandoned. The act includes provisions under which union officials may be compelled by the court to act against the interests of their own members. Naturally such, provisions cause dissatisfaction and contempt. I believe that the money that we are expending on the maintenance of the court is wasted because the court’s machinery for the settlement of disputes is not efficient. The spirit of conciliation has been lost. The court is supposed to give the workers a. fair deal by ensuring that they shall receive an adequate reward for their labour, but wage margins to-day have nothing like the purchasing power that they had in 1907. The court has caused dissatisfaction amongst waterside workers. Not long ago there was a complete tie-up of shipping as a result of the refusal of the court to hear certain claims. Yesterday, there was a 24-hour stoppage on the waterfront throughout Australia to discuss the court’s decision on the claim by the waterside workers for increased appearance money. The court decided to increase the daily payment from 12s. to 16s. In view of the steep increase in living costs since the original payment of 12s. was fixed, the increase awarded by the court was far from adequate. The figure should have been made at least £1. The court’s decision in this case has cause widespread discontent and hardship amongst waterside workers, and the industry has suffered considerably as the result. In 1947, the court refused to increase wage margins in certain industries and the result was a strike throughout Australia. Ultimately, the margins had to be increased. Two conciliation commissioners, Mr. Galvin and Mr. Hall, refused last year to increase margins. Those decisions, too, caused widespread dissension and industrial dislocation. T contend therefore that the court, instead of preserving industrial harmony, has caused disharmony.
– Order ! I cannot permit the honorable senator to continue on those lines. He is not in order in discussing decisions of the court. He may refer only to the cost of the court.
– I am endeavouring to show that we are not getting full value for the money that we are expending on the court. Surely we can devise some more up-to-date method of fixing wages and conditions of employment than that provided by the cumbersome machinery of the court. There is dissatisfaction with the court throughout the whole trade union movement in Australia. As I have said, the dissatisfaction was so great that a special meeting of the Australian Council of Trades Unions had to be called to discuss the matter. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has recommended a system entirely different from that in operation.
– Am I to take it that the Labour party wants to abolish the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration?
– What we want to do is to see that the people get value for the money that is being expended on the court. The £116,000 that is to be appropriated this year will have to be provided by taxes. The people should not be taxed to support a court that is forsaking its true functions in favour of punitive measures. The decisions of the court have disorganized industry. Are we to continue to expend more than £100,000 a year on an institution that is causing industrial discord because of its narrow outlook and its punitive powers ? Certain sections of the act could be used to force trade union officials to endeavour to make workers go back to work when they wanted to continue on strike. Obviously we are not getting value for the money that we are expending. In fact, the court is holding up industry and retarding progress and production. We should have better means of fixing wages and promoting understanding between employers and employees.
– In Division 50, under the heading “ General Expenses “, there is an item “Legal expenses, £15,000”. I should like the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to give some indication of the manner in which that money will be expended. I assume that some of it will be paid in fees to counsel briefed in litigation involving the Commonwealth. On that assumption, I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether it would be possible for the Commonwealth, when briefing counsel, to include men from bars other than New South Wales and Victoria, particularly when constitutional matters are involved. In the selection of members of the High Court Bench, State considerations have no great significance. The aim is to secure the services of the most outstanding jurists. Nevertheless, it is desirable that, from time to time, representatives of the bars of all States should find their way on to the High Court Bench. The jurisdiction of the High Court is not confined to constitutional matters. As an appelate body, it functions in all branches of the law including criminal law, civil law, taxation law, and bankruptcy law. Therefore, counsel from all , bars are competent in all fields of law other than constitutional law to proceed to the High Court. However, I believe that the most important jurisdiction of the High Court is that of constitutional law, and it is in that respect that members of bars other than the New South Wales and Victorian bars do not find themselves completely competent because they have not had the necessary experience. I realize that, to secure the services of members of the bars of the more distant States would involve some expense, and in some instances, considerable inconvenience. Private litigants, of course, could not be expected to bear that expense, but the Commonwealth could do so. A start might be made by briefing junior counsel to assist senior counsel from the New South Wales or Victorian bars until the younger men have obtained sufficient experience in constitutional practice to be briefed as senior counsel. I should like the Attorney-General’s opinion on that suggestion.
I congratulate the recently retired Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, upon his interest in drafting and promulgating the new High Court rules. It is an excellent work, and it will be of great assistance, not only to the legal practitioner but also indirectly to the general public. Accuracy and speed can save money to private litigants, and a knowledge by practitioners of where to find accurate records of procedure to be followed will be most valuable. As I have said, the High Court’s jurisdiction is not confined to constitutional law, but that is where the private individual frequently finds himself enmeshed in the procedure of appeals.
The new rules, which have been comprehensively drafted, will come into operation on the 1st January next year. Again I congratulate Sir John Latham upon his excellent work.
– I concur in Senator Byrne’s remarks about the briefing by the Commonwealth of counsel from bars other than those of New South Wales and Victoria. I agree that introduction of this practice would open the way for a wider knowledge in the other States of constitutional matters. Provision is made under Division 59 for the Legal Service Bureau, which was set up originally to assist the re-establishment of exservicemen at the end of World War II. I am astonished that the proposed vote should be increased this year to £47,000; of which £27,000 will be used for the payment of salaries and allowances of permanent members of the staff, and £15,950 for temporary and casual employees. I should be the last to suggest that ex-servicemen should be denied the benefit of legal advice, but I commend to the consideration of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) the replacement of the Legal Service Bureau by a system similar to that which has been operating in South Australia for about twenty years under the administration of the Law Society of that State, under which junior and senior solicitors make their services available to the poorer sections of the community. The system has been acclaimed as possibly the best legal service system in operation in the British Commonwealth. The activities of the Legal Service Bureau should be tapered off and its work handed over to the law societies in the States. I am sure that the members of the legal profession would readily make their services available for this work. Such a change would enable ex-servicemen to avail themselves of the services of leading solicitors who would undoubtedly give their services in an honorary capacity. The members of the legal profession would, I am sure, co-operate with the Government in instituting such a system and thus enabling it to effect a saving in its administrative costs. It is remarkable that expenditure on the Legal Service Bureau should amount to only £1,00Q less than the expenditure on the High Court, which performs considerably more important functions.
The Legal Service Bureau does not function in rural areas. Branches of the bureau are established only in the capital cities, and consequently, the bureau gives legal advice to only . approximately onehalf of the ex-servicemen in the Commonwealth. The remaining ex-servicemen live at centres too distant from the offices of the bureau to enable them to take advantage of its services.
– I heartily agree with the remarks made by Senator Laught concerning the Legal Service Bureau. Honorable senators will recall that after the end of World War II. the bureau was established for the express purpose of assisting ex-servicemen with legal advice concerning matters arising from their dis- charge from the forces and their reestablishment in civil life, and for no other purpose. In each successive year the cost of the bureau has increased. I fear that some part of the expenditure is related not to the re-establishment of exservicemen, but to what I might call their day to day legal problems. It was not the intention of the legislation that the bureau should undertake such work. I ask the Attorney-General to inquire into its activities because the cost appears to be out of all proportion to the value of the services rendered by the bureau to ex-servicemen. Perhaps he could give us an idea of the number of ex-service men who received legal assistance from the bureau during 1951-52 when this instrumentality cost the taxpayers of this country £44,488.
– Before the Attorney-General replies to the debate I wish to address two questions to him. Having regard to the criticism voiced by Government supporters of the bankruptcy administration, is the Attorney-General in a position to cite the number and the business occupations of bankrupts, say, in the last three years? My second question relates to the proposed vote for “ Division 55 - Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.” The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1947 provided for the establishment, under the aegis of the court, of a statistical and research bureau. The Labour Government did not establish the bureau because of the difficulty of securing qualified personnel to staff it. One can appreciate the diffidence with which economists and research workers face the prospect of being called upon to stand up to a barrage of questions in the court. It was believed that the bureau would be of great assistance to the court and to the parties to disputes. Do the Estimates contain provision for the establishment of such a bureau? If so, has it yet been established ? If not, is it likely to be established in the foreseeable future?
Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner Senator Wright wrongly construed a question which I had directed to the Attorney-General regarding the promulgation of a uniform divorce law. The honorable senator construed the question as a plea for a uniform divorce law. In so doing he drew a completely wrong inference from my remarks.
– I express my strong disapproval of the attitude of Senator Laught, which was supported to some degree by Senator Vincent, to the Legal Service Bureau. I do not challenge the statements made by Senator Wright regarding the attitude of the legal profession to ex-servicemen and to persons in indigent circumstances. Most men, however poor they are, hate to feel that they are dependent upon the charity of other well-meaning persons. I do not deny the value of the assistance given to exservicemen and needy members of the community by members of the legal profession. Instead of abolishing the Legal Service Bureau, as honorable senators opposite have suggested, the Government should extend its facilities. Legal advice is given by the officers of the bureau, not only to ex-servicemen, but also to their dependants. Having regard to the difficulties in which many ex-servicemen and their dependants are placed as a result of eviction proceedings taken against them by the owners of the houses in which they live, the activities of the bureau might well be expanded. As honorable senators are aware, the officers of the bureau give advice to ex-servicemen and their dependants on matters other than those relating to war pensions and medical and repatriation benefits. The bureau is performing a useful service to ex-servicemen. We should not be niggardly in our treatment of those who risked their lives in the service of their country.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) asked me two questions which I should like to dispose of. First, the honorable senator sought information about the number and classes of persons who had been made bankrupt during the last three years. I am afraid that, offhand, I cannot give him the desired information. However, information of the kind which he seeks is contained in the annual reports made to me by the Chief Judge in Bankruptcy. According to the eighth schedule of the report of the Chief Judge for the year ended the 31st July, 1951, 379 persons’ were either made bankrupt or they entered into compositions, schemes of arrangement or deeds of assignment under the provisions of the act. The schedule contains a fairly long list which show the occupations in which such bankrupts have been engaged. I invite the Leader of the Opposition to peruse it. I have no doubt that similar information is contained in earlier reports of the Chief Judge.
The second question asked by the Leader of the Opposition related to the establishment of a statistical and research bureau to assist the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The honorable senator indicated that when’ the previous Government was in office it experienced difficulty in obtaining suitable personnel to staff such a bureau. That difficulty still exists’ and consequently the bureau has not yet been established. As far as I am aware, no provision for it has been made in the Estimates for this year.
Senator Byrne referred to the engagement of counsel, particularly in constitutional cases. It has always been my desire that legal work distributed among barristers practising at the various bars shall be distributed as fairly and evenly as possible. By far the largest number of constitutional cases and perhaps the most important of them are heard either in Sydney or in Melbourne. These cases are of great constitutional importance, and it is therefore necessary to engage counsel, both senior and junior, who have had the requisite experience, and it is desirable that they should consult before litigation. Sometimes the counsel engaged are located in different cities, although air travel has now reduced that difficulty somewhat. However, I appreciate the suggestion that more Commonwealth briefs might be given to counsel, and particularly to junior barristers, practising in cities other than Sydney and Melbourne.
I was pleased to hear the commendation of Senator Byrne and Senator Laught of the very valuable task performed by Sir John Latham, the former Chief Justice, who devoted his leave to revising the rules of the High Court. I think that Sir John’s work will be appreciated by all sections of the community, and it will be a monument to him.
Reference was made to the proposed increase of expenditure upon the Legal Service Bureau, most of which is explained by the increased costs of living. However, I can assure honorable senators that, notwithstanding increasing costs, 1 have endeavoured to restrict the services made by the bureau to the limits set out in the original legislation which established the bureau. The Government is resolved that it shall continue to provide the most efficient service for exservicemen who need legal advice.
– (Western Australia) [8.34] . -Eversince the election campaign of 1949 theGovernmentparties have undertakento reduceadministrative ex- penditure. However, an anlysis of the proposed vote of the Attorney-General’s Department revealsthat theGovernment intendsto increase the number of senior legal officersin the administrative section by three, thenumber of officers in the Crown Solicitor’s Office by ten, the number ofclerks by nine, and the number of general clerical assistants and typists by ten. Although the number of clerks engaged on inquiries is to be reduced by one, there is an obvious increase of the number of highly paid officers. How does the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) reconcilethat increase with theGovernment’s repeatedclaim that it would reduce the allegedly excessive number of public servants ?
Despite the Government’s assurance that our security system would be strengthened, it proposes to reduce the staff of the Commonwealth Investigation Service from 75 to 42 officers. Once more that economy is to be effected, not at the top, but at the bottom. Those who will be dismissed will be junior and supernumerary officials.
Seaator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [8,40]. - I think it is significant that the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) did not deal with the points mentioned by Senator Morrow.
– I am amazed that the honorable senator should have thought them worth dealing with.
– Briefly, the history of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is that it was established many years ago to settle industrial disputes extending beyond the borders of any one State. Although I do not blame the present members of that court as individuals, it is undeniable and unfortunate that the workers do not now treat the decisions of the court with the respect that they did previously. Although the Government has thought fit to intervene in the current application by employers to reduce the basic wage and to extend the standard hours, I think that it is more important to obtain industrial harmony than to expend money in assistingthe court to arrive at a decision.
– I rise to order.In the guiseof examiningthe estimated expenditure of the Department of the Attorney-General, Senator Sheehan has impugned the integrity of members of the Commonwealth. ArbitrationCourt, who arenow engaged in determining a most vital matter. ‘That matter, which is sub judice, has nothing to do with the Parliament, and I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to rule the honorable senator out of order.
– I ask Senator Sheehan to confine his remarks to the proposed vote of the Attorney-General’s Department.
– I resent the accusation of unfairness levelled at me by Senator Cormack. At the outset of my remarks I distinctly stated that I was not attacking the integrity of the members of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I trust that Senator Cormack was present when I said that. It was entirely unfair for the honorable senator to make such an assertion against me. This matter has been debated in another place.
– I rise to order! I submit that the honorable senator is not entitled to refer to debates in another place during the current sessional period.
- (Senator George Rankin). - Order! I uphold the point of order.
– I have made only a passing reference to the fact that this important matter has been discussed in another place where, I understand, it was not ruled that it could not be discussed. I hope that any additional steps that the Government takes will have the eifect of obviating further industrial unrest and restoring harmony in industry.
– Senator Cooke has referred to an apparent decrease of the number of employees of the Commonwealth Investigation Service. I understand that the figures that were furnished last year did not represent the true position. In fact, there has not been the reduction that the figures appear to show.
– -Are the figures wrong ?
– Apparently they were wrong last year. I havea departmentalnote to the effect that this does not represent the true position as an error was made in relation to the number of persons who were employed last year. The staffing position remains the same, and the over-all increase of £7,017 is necessary to provide for increases of the cost of living, normal incremental advancement, land £2,189 to provide for furlough payments toofficers on reaching retiring age. The honorable senator has referred to increases here and decreases there. That sort of thing is common to all departments. In a department where agood deal of expert assistance has to be employed to cope with the increasing amount ofCommonwealth work, it is not surprising to find that some increase has occurred although in theoverall position there has been a reduction of the total number of persons employed. In this department, as the honorable senator has stated, there may havebeen certain increases. In some of the highly technical departments it would be impossible to carry on the increasing burden of work unless there were an increase of efficient technical officers. However, it may be that there has been , a reduction in the total number of Government employees. Several honorable senators havereferred to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I must say that I was astonished to hear members of the Australian Labour party in this chamber advocate the abolition of that court.
– Whosuggested that?
SenatorSPICER. - Senator Morrow advocated the abolition of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. He said that the expenditure of £116,000 on that court a ppeared to him to be a waste of money. If that does not mean that the honorable senator advocated the abolition of the court,I do notknow what it means. I must confess that I was a little astonished to hear my friend, Senator Sheehan, lend support to Senator Morrow’sremarks.
– I did nothing of the kind !
– I am charitable enough to believe that Senator Sheehan did not appreciate the full significance of Senator Morrow’s statement. Itcannot be contended that the present court is a different court from the one to which the previous Labour Government gave a legislativecharter in 1947. The present Government has not interfered with the structure of the court.
– It has implemented a fewamendments.
– The amendments to which the honorablesenator has referred have not affected the arbitral and conciliation basis of eitherthecourt or theconciliation commissioners . It is deplorable that members of the Australian Labour party, which gave this court its latest charter, including powers to the judges and to the conciliation commissioners, are now attacking that institution. I do not think that they will receive any thanks for their action from the great body of Australian wage-earners who really believe in this institution and who, I think, understand its real function perhaps a good deal better than do some of their political representatives who have spoken in this chamber on thisproposed vote.
– I was absolutely flabbergasted to hear the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) admit that his department had madea mistake in last year’s figures in relation to the number of employees of the Commonwealth Investigation Service. The Minis ter has had the audacity to admit that last year’s figures were wrong to the extent of 28employees. Good heavens, did not the department know last year the number of persons that were in its employ? Does not the Minister take a personalinterest in these matters? Is he so apathetic that he does snot even inquire how many employees are under his jurisdiction ? He has stated that there was a mistake last year, and that the same number ofpersons is now employed as were employed last year.
This is an awful state of affairs.
SenatorSpicer. - It was a typographical error.
– The Minister did not say that it was a mistake.
– The Minister now claims that it was a typographical error. There is something wrong, not only with the Minister, but also with his department to allow a typographical error to upset his calculations. We are entitled to expect accuracy in figures that are supplied by departmental officers. How on earth can an ordinary senator keep himself up to date if he cannot rely on figures that are furnished by a Minister? The position now is that honorable senators will have to check all information that is supplied by the Attorney-General, in order to make sure that it is correct. Nobody will be able to tender it in evidence in this country. First the Minister claimed that a mistake had been made, and then he said that there had been a typographical error. It is apparent that honorable senators cannot rely on any statements that have been made by the Minister in this connexion.
– I cannot allow the statement of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to go unchallenged. In a typically lawyerlike fashion, he has twisted my remarks and given them a different meaning. The Minister stated that I had advocated the abolition of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I did nothing of the kind. I asked the committee to consider whether the Commonwealth was getting value for an expenditure of approximately £116,000 a year on this cumbersome and lumbersome organization and whether we could not have some more up-to-date means to maintain harmony in industry. I said that after the court had been in existence for 45 years, the workers of this country are now worse off than before it was established. I stand by my statement that it has become a punitive court. The amendments of the industrial arbitration legislation have introduced coercion. Honorable senators will recall that when a bill was before this chamber during the last sessional period to amend the industrial arbitration legislation, I referred to it as a coercion bill, because conciliation and arbitration were being replaced by coercion. The original legislation has been amended to enable trade union officials to force their members to return to work against their will. The
Attorney-General’s reference to my remarks was inaccurate, just as the figures that were supplied by his department last year were inaccurate, on his own admission. I stated that the workers of this country have become contemptuous of the court, as a result of the introduction of the punitive provisions that I have mentioned. I want an institution to be introduced which can maintain harmony in industry. I attribute the lack of apprentices in industry to the fact that the court has not kept up with the times by awarding apprentices higher rates of wages.
– Order ! The honorable senator is getting very wide of the mark.
– I want to make it quite clear that I said that we are not getting value for an expenditure of £116,000 a year of the taxpayers’ money on this institution.
Motion (by Senator Mcleay) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator George Rankin.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– Earlier I moved that, unless otherwise determined, certain items being handled by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) should take precedence over the printed list. As the Attorney-General is now on his way to another important engagement, I suggest that the Senate return to the order of business as printed.
That the remainder of the Second Schedule bc taken in order as printed.
Proposed vote, £718,000.
– The proposed vote relates to the expenditure of £718,000 in connexion with the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Parliamentary Reporting Staff, the Library, the Joint House Department, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and Parliamentary Printing; I propose to make a few comments concerning Division No. 1, Senate, Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salary, and Division No. 2, House, of Representatives, Salaries and Payments in the nature of Salaries. There is a difference of £100 between the salary proposed in the Estimates for the Clerk of the House of Representatives and that proposed for the Clerk of the Senate. I was very concerned about this matter and discussed it with Ministers. I understand that the salaries have been inadvertently set out in this way. In the event of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan assuring the House that that discrepancy will be adjusted I propose to make no further comment than this : Salaries of the Clerks of the two Houses have been kept upon a completely even basis throughout the 50 years of federation and, leaving out of account the excellent qualities of the Clerk of the Senate, this matter affects the prestige of this chamber in relation to the House of Representatives and vice versa, and no distinction should be made between these two positions.
With reference to “ Division 3 - Parliamentary Reporting Staff” and “ Division 4 - Library”, I notice that the salary of the Second Reporter is within £50 of that provided for the Principal Parliamentary Reporter, and the salary of the Deputy Librarian is within £174 of that provided for the Parliamentary Librarian. I understand that the salaries of both the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and the Parliamentary Librarian are fixed by Cabinet and do not fluctuate with costofliving adjustments. The salaries of their deputies do so fluctuate, and because of these fluctuations their salaries have come very close to those of the departmental heads. I invite the Government to consider that this trend may be maintained to a point at which,’ in the near future, the salary of the Second Reporter, for instance, may exceed that of the Principal Parliamentary Reporter. I hope that the Government will indicate that it realizes the need for keeping the salaries of departmental heads in a proper position relative to those of their deputies.
The third matter to which I wish to refer is the allocation for parliamentary printing. The Senate is very fortunate in the calibre of the executive officers who serve it. That statement applies to them all. I do not wish to draw any distinction between them, but I do wish to mention that the Usher of the Black Rod and Clerk of the Senate Committees, Mr. Odgers, has rendered what I consider to be a particular service to this chamber. Those honorable senators who have had the opportunity to read his brochure, Money Bills in the Australian Senate, will appreciate what I mean. Most honor able senators, however, will not know that this brochure forms a part only of a very much larger work dealing with Australian Senate practice. When I was associated with a Senate committee which was concerned with constitutional matters I had an opportunity to read a good many chapters of that book in draft form. A book of this nature is invaluable, but only to the very limited and select audience of the Parliament and a few constitutional students. It is completely impossible for an individual to secure publication of a. work such as that and there is certainly no commercial profit in its publication. This little brochure was printed1, in the1 first instance, for the Public? Administration Journal by the Government Printer of New South Wales; Some off-prints were procured for distribution to the Senate1 by utilizing some portion of last year’s vote under Division 1, Parliamentary Printing. I’ suggest that after the perusal of Mr. Odgers’s final draft by men of the calibre of the Clerk of the Senate, the SolicitorGeneral, and a Treasury officer; the Government might be prepared to use some portion of the vote set out in Division T to enable the complete work to be published. I cannot suggest1 what this would cost, but after having examined some portion of the full work I have no hesitation in recommending the Government’s favorable consideration of my proposal.
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs) [9.12). - The position which’ waa first referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has arisen from a misunderstanding. Apparently, the same officers do not prepare the Estimates for the House.’ of Representatives and the Estimates, for the Senate. Members- of the Government in the Senate aire quite, as determined as other senators, to maintain, the prestige amd. dignity of the Senate,, quite a-part from that of. the- distinguished personal occupants of the respective chairs. This matter will be adjusted sothai there: will, be no discrimination, between the’ Clerk of the House of Representatives and: the Clerk of the Senate. I assure the Senate that in this1 matter the Opposition;, and the Government are, entirely at one.
I shall discuss with the appropriate authorities the approximation in salary of the deputies of the- chiefs of the- two important departments of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff and1 the Library.
The suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition concerning, the- publication of the excellent Book: by Mr: Odgers is also well worthy of consideration and* I shall have it examined also.
– [9-.14). - I should life- to deal with the subject of the Joint- Howse Department, Divi- sion 5. The Joint House Depart ment administers the refreshmentrooms, including the bar. There are many misconceptions regarding the- activities of the Joint House Department, the wark of which is. often deliberately miscontrued by the press. It is not generally understood that the parliamentary refreshment-rooms and the members’ bar do a very big business indeed. When I had the honour to- be President of the Senate I was concerned, that the operation of the parliamentary refreshment rooms should be thoroughly understood by the public. It must be appreciated that the Parliament runs something in the nature of an hotel which, supplies meals to hundreds of people - not only to members of Parliament, their wives, friends and visitors, but also to newspaper men and members of the parliamentary staffs. Recently, I understand, because of the increasing volume of business it was necessary to discontinue the supply of meals to newspaper men. That is to be regretted. In the past, one or two newspaper’ men made false ‘ accusations in regard to the- operations of the refreshmentrooms and the bar; although they themselves received the same consideration as that received by members’ of the Parliament. For’ the information of the public; I point, out that last year the takings in the members’ bar amounted: to approximately £22,000; and in the nonmembers’1’ bar to- approximately £3:2,000:. It should be remembered, however, that it is not only members of Parliament who contribute to- those sums-. A similar position exists in regard to> the refreshmentrooms. At least- 1,000 people are served, daily with meal’s- in the ref fresh-ment-rooms. Of course; those persons include not. only- members, of: Parliament, but also guests of honorable! members and honorable senators, the’ staffs of the. parliamentary departments, and members of the Public Service who; visit the; Parliament on. duty. In. addition,, the; Joint House Department caters; for official luncheons and dinners, cocktail parties; conferences and committees!
During my term of office as President of the Senate I tried to ensure that the parliamentary refreshment-rooms should operate for members of the Parliament, chamber officials and the wives of members, and that they should! be in the: form of a , Al 11 h My idea was that every one else should come under different control, such as that of the Minister for the Interior. If that practice were .adopted it would be possible to ascertain clearly the cost of running the refreshment-rooms. I venture to say that the costs of doing so would be far lower than they are to-day. The profits made by the bar could be used to help defray the costs of the refreshmentrooms. “When the balance-sheet was presented, honorable senators and the general public would know that it concerned members of Parliament only and that it had no relation to other individuals who at the present time use the refreshmentrooms and the bar. I am not, for one moment, opposed to giving a meal or a drink to persons -other than members of Parliament. We in Canberra are in a somewhat peculiar position in that we arc removed from ordinary civilization, so to speak. There is not the same provision for the taking of refreshments as there is in the capital cities. Hundreds of people work in Parliament House, awd the Joint House Department lias had to take that fact into account. Nevertheless, the department has been accused of wasting public money. In my own town I have heard accusations ;M the effect that members of Parliament get cheap refreshments and drinks. I do not know whether it is proper to go Into details, but . I shall content myself by saying that recently when I went into the bar to have a drink with a friend, and placed ‘2s, ‘9d. on the counter for a bottle of beer., I was informed that the change was 3s. 4d. because two glasses would be used.
In fairness, it should be said that member,s of .Parliament pay their way inn. the refreshment-rooms. As you know, Mr. Chairman, they also pay for their drinks. When the right honorable member for Bradfield ‘(Mr. Hughes) was speaking .at his 88th birthday celebrations recently, he said that members of Parliament were -giants in the old days. Hie referred to the late Alfred Deakin amd Edward Barton in that connexion. To add point to his remarks, he stated that one honorable member had owed £1<69 to the bar. I suggest that we have no giants of ‘that kind ‘to-day.
In order to overcome this trouble with the newspaper men, I suggest that a cafeteria should be established. After years .of .association with the functions of the Joint House Department, I have come to the conclusion .that “we should have a parliamentary refreshment-room for members of Parliament only, and that every one else, although well catered for, should come under the control of the Department of the Interior.
– I refer to the proposed vote for the Library, Division 4. I notice that there are thirteen librarians in the Parliamentary Library, and I understand that most of them are females. I am sure that all honorable senators will agree the female librarians are most efficient. In fact, I do not know how we should manage without them. ‘Unfortunately, however, they do not receive payment equal to that received by the male librarians, although they perform the same work. I contend that since’ they do the same work and are as efficient as the men, they are entitled to the same rate of pay. I have always advocated equal pay for the sexes if equal work is performed. I ask the Minister for Trade and ‘Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to exert whatever influence he may have in an effort to secure pay for female librarians -a-md attendants equal to that of male librarians and attendants.
– I wish to refer to the manner in which honorable senators are being treated by those in control .of the Parliament. Although Parliament is a somewhat expensive institution, it is nevertheless a valuable one and is part and parcel of the British system of government. ‘That system is bica.HLer.al, .at least in the majority of British-speaking communities. Because that is so, .the Senate is an integral part of the Australian parliamentary system and should receive every ‘consideration in regard to its deliberations. If the Parliament is brought into contempt, assistance is given to those who .advocate the abolition of parliaments and the establishment of totalitarian forms of government.
In the last few hours honorable senators have seen this deliberative chamber. being treated in a contemptuous manner. All honorable senators are entitled to make speeches on the budget. The debate on the Estimates in the Senate takes the place of “ Grievance Day “ in the House of Representatives. When the budget is before the Parliament all honorable members are entitled to speak on matters which affect the community. Yet last evening the debate on the Estimates was gagged through the Senate. That procedure was unique, and I hope that it will not be repeated as long as responsible government exists in this country. Honorable senators have just witnessed the curtailment of discussion of the proposed vote for a most important parliamentary department. If the Parliament proposes to expend millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money, I consider that the taxpayers will look to the members of Parliament for full and frank discussion. To curtail such discussion is not in the best interests of this institution, for the operations of which we are now considering the expenditure of a considerable sum of money.
When honorable senators on this side of the chamber ask responsible Ministers, of the Government questions relating to matters which affect the community generally, in my opinion they are entitled to receive reasonable replies. Unfortunately, however, some Ministers have developed the habit of refusing to answer questions. At other times they make facetious answers. A certain Minister is prone to answer questions by the stock phrase, “ It is the Commos “, an answer which has become laughable in the Senate and, I think, also outside the Parliament. Such ridiculous answers to questions are bringing the Senate into disrepute. I hope that those whose duty it is to see that the business of Parliament is carried on in a manner befitting a free democracy will ensure that honorable senators who endeavour to express the opinions of the people, and to seek information on their behalf, are accorded proper consideration. I know that in the Parliament of Victoria there is a legend that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
– There is wisdom.
– There are both safety and wisdom. The constant efforts by Ministers to balk discussion by gagging debates and refusing to answer questions can only lead to contempt for the Parliament as a whole, and I hope that, in future, such practices will be discontinued.
– I associate myself with Senator Sheehan’s remarks. I was on my feet when the gag was moved earlier to-night. I was repeating a question in reply to which incorrect information had been given, and the gag prevented me from following up a matter which apparently was causing the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) some embarrassment. Such conduct is intolerable in a democratic community. In a democracy, as distinct from a totalitarian country, the parliament is the ruling authority, and the government of the day should be prepared to carry out the will of the parliament. Since this Government has been in office, it has consistently disregarded the will of the Parliament and set itself up virtually as a dictatorship.
– Order! The honorable senator must not reflect on a. decision of the committee.
.- Honorable senators will recall that the Senate was summoned to meet on the 6th August. It met for a few hours and was then adjourned until the 10th September. We all know, of course, that a joint meeting of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party had been called for the 6th August, and that it was very convenient for .the Government to have all its supporters in both Houses present in Canberra at that time. It was at that meeting that honorable senators opposite and their colleagues in the House of Representatives first heard of the budget proposals that we are now discussing. Throughout the five weeks’ recess of the Senate, the House of Representatives continued to sit and to discuss the budget. When the Senate re-assembled and commenced its consideration of Government business, within a very short period the Government resorted to the gag to force the passage of legislation. The gag has been applied again to-day. Honorable senators opposite cannot argue that the gag has been necessary to expedite the business of the Senate. If the Senate is to function as a deliberative body it must be able to discuss fully the legislation that it is asked to consider. We have not been afforded a proper opportunity to discuss all the legislation that has been brought before us since we resumed our sittings on the 10th September.
– Order! The honorable senator is getting wide of the subject now before the committee. We are dealing with the costs of the Parliament.
– The proposed vote for the Senate, under the heading, “ Salaries and Allowances “, is £13,500. The people know that they will have to provide the funds to maintain the Senate. Some one has suggested that the Senate should be abolished. I support that view. In fact, the abolition of the Senate is a feature of the Labour party’s platform; but strangely enough the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are doing much more than the Labour party to have the Senate abolished. I refer to the conduct of members of the Government parties in this chamber.
– My heart would be very warm indeed if the conduct of Labour senators were in keeping with their unctious remarks. I notice, for instance, that both Senator Sheehan and Senator Cooke, who have made complaints about the conduct of the Senate have left the chamber without having the courtesy to listen to the reply to their remarks.
– Senator Cooke has been called to the telephone.
– Reference has been made to the use of the gag. I am surprised that some honorable senators opposite are aware that the gag has been used, because many of them were absent from the chamber. Frequently yesterday when a Labour senator was speaking, only two of his colleagues remained in the chamber to hear him. At the most, the audience on the Labour side was four or five. If anybody is bringing this chamber into contempt and damaging its prestige, the Labour senators are doing so by their behaviour. To-night, just because the proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast, honorable senators opposite have taken the opportunity to make mealy mouthed utterances that are completely inconsistent with their conduct. Lack of courtesy on the part of Ministers in answering questions has been alleged by some honorable senators opposite. I remind the committee that it is only by courtesy that Ministers answer questions at all. They are not obliged to answer questions.
– The Minister did not think that when he was a member of the Opposition.
– When I was a member of the Opposition I never abused the privilege by asking offensive or propaganda questions. Apparently, some members of the Opposition have not been sufficiently interested to read the rules for the guidance of honorable senators in asking questions that are printed on the back of “ Notice of question “ forms. I shall read some of those rules to them. It is stated, for instance, that-
Questions addressed to a Minister should relate to the public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in Parliament, or to any ‘matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible.
The purpose of a question is to obtain and not to supply information; questions, therefore, should ask directly for the information sought.
Questions should not contain -
Statements of facts or names of per-. sons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can toe authenticated.
Ninety-nine per cent. of the questions that are asked by members of the Opposition and courteously answered by Ministers, infringe those canons. The rules continue -
Questions should not ask -
For an expression of opinion.
For a statement of Government policy.
For legal opinion.
For information regarding proceedings in a Committee not reported to the Senate.
I say also that 99’ per cent, of the questions asked by members of the Opposition contains implications that are completely without foundation other than newspaper reports or idle gossip. Almost all of them are pregnant with- political propaganda against the Government. When a senator1 genuinely seeks- infformation. his’ question is answered courteously and promptly by the Minister concerned. Members of the Government are as jealous as any one- of the- prestige of the Senate, and- it’ is the- height of hypocrisy for honorable senators opposite, whothemselves treat the Senate- with contumely, to mouth such mealy words while our proceedings are being broadcast.
. - As> One who does- not ask very many questions1,, foi1 the very obvious reason that very little real information can be1 obtained’, I cannot: be accused of asking questions for propaganda or other similar purposes. I draw attention, to the fact that we are being asked, to vote an additional £55,0,00 for the expenses of the Parliament. If the Parliament is to serve any purpose, at all,, it. should be consulted on matters- of major importance,. but that is not being done. TheSenate was not asked whether- the Government should sell its shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries. Limited and Amalgamated Wireless ((Australasia.)) Limited, or whether it should dispose of the Commonwealth! shipping- lime1. Those are- matters’ of major importance to the people,, but they have not Been referred to the Parliament. We are getting nearer and nearer to the totalitarian State. Before long, we shall be a democracy in name, but a dictatorship in practice-; yet the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) says- that we- should not bring this institution into contempt ! The. policy of the Government is bringing it into contempt. Nowadays Parliament Ls not respected, and not trusted as it was in the past. That is due largely to the dictatorial attitude of the Government. I am wondering how the additional money that we are being asked to appropriate is to be expended.. la it to be- expended in- perfecting. a> more effective system of dictatorial control1 in the name of political democracy, or is ft- to be expended to- give- to- members of the Parliament the opportunity to which they are entitled1 to discuss matters of major importance ? Reference has been made to- the use of the gag.. The- Government curtails debates because it is afraid of constructive and critical’ discussion. The Minister for Shipping and- Transport (Senator McLeay) has,, by a process of mental projection!, attributed to members, of the Opposition the very trait that he himself possesses. I refer to his desire to suppress discussion. He should take a long-range view and consider just where his actions are leading. Instead of the Parliament deciding and implementing policy, the tendency is to force the. unions to take direct action. The criticism of Ministers in connexion with the answering of questions is completely justified. When. I was privileged to be a Minister of. the Crown I endeavoured to answer fully every question that was, addressed to me. If I could not furnish an answer offhand,. I conferred’ with my departmental officers, and directed that the desired information be supplied promptly. The attitude- of Ministers of the present Government might be tolerated in- a public bar-room but it is not appropriate to the dignity of this’ National Parliament. Ministers are under am obligation to treat honorable senators with” courtesy. and consideration and to* answer to the best of their ability questions that are addressed to’ them. It is,, to- say the least, highly improper foa: a Minister, when he is asked a. questionby an Opposition) senator,, to insinuatethat the questioner is either a-. Communist or a “ fellow traveller “. A Minister who acts in that way proves either that he is very ignorant, or that he hold’s his position in contempt. Those who so transgress the ethics of good conduct are likely to be1 penalized’ as a result of their1 own actions’. Ministers of this: Government are more lacking in courtesy than were the’ members of any other- government that I have- known1. if thedeliberations of this chamber’ a<r-e reduced to- the level of a street brawl,, the Parliament will be brought into’ contempt, and will richly deserve it..
Senator AYLETT’ (Tasmania)’ [9’‘.48”’. - Under Division 1, an amount of £41,000’ has been provided to meet estimated’ expenditure for the Senate. The people expect some tangible results to- follow from the expenditure of such a large amount of money. When I come to Canberra, to attend to my public duties I expect to do something worth while in return! for the salary and allowances paid to me. No member of this chamber should be treated with contempt when he seeks information of the utmost importance to the people. To-night the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) accused Opposition senators of asking questions, 99 per cent, of which were inspired by the -propaganda motive.
– That is perfectly true.
– To-day, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator MeLeay) refused to answer three questions on matters of the utmost importance, not only to members of this chamber, but also to- the community at large. Surely the people are entitled to know the total amount of interest paid on government loans. When I asked for that information this afternoon the Minister for ShipIt ing and Transport curtly refused to supply it. He treated the question with contempt. The Minister for Trade and Customs, as Leader of the Senate, upheld the Minister’s refusal and thus emphasized the contempt with which this Government treats the Parliament. It is impossible for honorable senators to consider properly the proposed votes now before us unless they are given the fullest information concerning the purposes to which they are to be applied. When we seek detailed information on matters of public concern Ministers apply the gag and refuse to furnish it.
– Order! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the proposed votes for the Parliament.
– My sole purpose in rising was to reply to the contemptuous remarks made by the Minister for Trade and Customs a few minutes ago. As I have achieved that purpose I shall say no more.
– I regret that when I last spoke my remarks were construed as a reflection on a vote of the committee. I did not intend to reflect upon the vote of the committee because I well knew how it would be recorded. I, too, object to. the refusal of Ministers; to give, the fullest information regarding these, proposed votes. After I had sought information from the responsible Minister I was called away for about three minutes, to answer a telephone call on business connected with the Parliament. During my absence the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) attacked me for being absent from the chamber.
I propose now to seek further information, not for the purposes of political propaganda but to inform my mind and that of my electors. Under “Division lc - Other Services” - provision of £2,500 has been made for the expenses of standing and select committees. Expenditure under that item in 1951-52 amounted to £638. Why is the proposed vote this year nearly four times the amount expended last year, and to which committees does the proposed vote relate?
– Senator Cooke was grossly misinformed if he believes that I attacked him- during his absence from the chamber. If to mention the honorable senator’s name as one who had left the chamber is to attack him, then I did attack him. I merely observed that both Senator Cooke and Senator Sheehan, who had attacked a Minister, did not have the courtesy to remain in the chamber while the Minister replied to their attack. Senator Byrne informed me that Senator Cooke had been called away to answer a telephone call. Not being psychic, I did not know for how long the honorable senator would be detained. Senator Sheehan must have been called away to answer a lengthy trunk-line call, for he is still absent from the chamber.
As honorable senators are aware, two additional standing committees have been appointed in recent months. One of thc-m, the Foreign Affairs Committee, will absorb the greater part of the proposed vote to which Senator Cooke has referred.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £2,016,000.
. - Under Division 14, provision of £643,000 has been made for the High Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom. Prominent people who have visited the United Kingdom and have had occasion to consult with our officers abroad have described Australia House as a white elephant and have bitterly complained of the treatment they received there, i visited Australia House during the term of office of the Acting High Commissioner, Mr. McCarthy, and also since the appointment as High Commissioner of Sir Thomas White. I visited the United Kingdom as a private citizen. When I called at Australia House, although the officials there did not know for some time that I was a senator, I was treated very courteously ?md efficiently. I have nothing but the highest praise for the officers of Australia” House. Both Mr. McCarthy and Sir Thomas White did everything possible to assist me. On my second visit to the United Kingdom I used the facilities of Australia House to have my mail forwarded to me wherever I happened to be - in England, Ireland or Scotland. It was forwarded promptly. Although Sir Thomas White had been politically opposed to me before he was appointed High Commissioner he received me most graciously and courteously and assisted me in every way. Courtesy and efficiency were displayed by all the staff at Australia House, from the most junior clerk to the High Commissioner himself. Their treatment of me was in marked contrast with the treatment I so frequently receive from officials in Australia. If there is need for reorganization at Australia House, it should be limited to the facilities and not applied to the staff employed there. However, I am assured that that difficulty will be’ overcome in the near future.
When I visited Australia House I was greatly impressed by the capacity and helpful spirit of all our officials, and particularly of those engaged in promoting trade between Australia and European countries. Although the salaries of those officials are not commensurate with their value to Australia as public servants abroad, it was obvious to me that their capacity greatly exceeds that of most of the highly paid individuals engaged in trade promotion by private commercial organizations. I also take this opportunity to pay a tribute to our present High Commissioner, Sir Thomas White, the Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. McCarthy, who was acting as High Commissioner during my visit, and the entire staff of Australia House.
The only criticism that I make of our representation in the United Kingdom relates to the publicity matter supplied to Australia House by certain departments, and, in- particular, by the Department of Immigration. Although it is not the fault of the officials at Australia House, much of that literature is obsolete and misleading. That is a matter which I think the Government should correct by appropriate action in departmental offices in this country.
– I shall direct my remarks to Divisions 10 and 1-1 of the Estimates, which relate to the Audit Office and the Public Service Board. All members of the Parliament should appreciate the fact that this year, for the first time, the report of the Auditor-General was made available before the budget was presented to Parliament. As the Auditor-General pointed out in his report, his office is next in importance to that of members of the judiciary, and the holder of that office is, in reality, the principal check against members of the Executive or of the Parliament in the expenditures of .public moneys. That is a long-established principle of parliamentary democracy, and should not be lost sight of. The present Auditor-General thinks so highly of his office that he refused to accept a substantial increase of his salary, notwithstanding that it had been approved by the Executive, because it had not been confirmed by the Parliament. He explains in his report that had he accepted the increase without parliamentary approval he would have been contravening a clear and vital principle of parliamentary government.
I propose to say something now concerning the salary of the Auditor-General. The State of Tasmania, which I represent, has been fortunate in that the successive holders of the office of Auditor-General of the State have been outstandingly capable and conscientious officials. Unfortunately, their remuneration has not been in proportion to their value. Although I am not personally acquainted with the present Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, I feel that he, too, has been unfairly treated in this matter of salary. The AuditorGeneral receives a salary of £3,250, which is considerably less than that of a number of senior officials, many of whom receive nearly £1,000 a year more. When we consider the degree of responsibility, competence, integrity and independence which we expect of the holder of the office of Auditor-General, I think that all honorable senators will agree that his office is under-paid.
I pass now to the proposed vote for the Public Service Board, and I note with apprehension that its estimated expenditure is £437,000. That is the body which is charged with the duty of ensuring economy in the Public Service. The proposed, expend iture of nearly £500,000 upon the Public Service Board is anathema to me, and I ask for some explanation of it.
Senator McCALLUM (New South Wales) f 10.12]. - Because one rarely hears praise of the staff of the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, T was particularly pleased with the tribute paid to it by Senator O’flaherty. When I visited the United Kingdom as a private citizen some little time ago I had occasion to call upon the services of officers of the High Commissioner, and I received every assistance from our highly competent officials. As the result of their assistance I was able to help a number of Australian people, and I cannot speak too highly of our officials in London.
Senator CRITCHLEY (South Australia) fl0.13]. - The discussion that has taken place on the proposed vote has been most refreshing because it has revealed that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber can find some common ground of agreement. In particular, I express my concurrence in the views of Senator Wright concerning the salary of the Auditor-General. Although the independence and competence of the holder of that office are of paramount importance to our system of parliamentary government, his salary is by no means commensurate with his office. That is a matter which the Government would do well to examine.
I also find myself in agreement with the views expressed by .Senator Wright concerning the proposed expenditure of the Public Service Board. During the last financial year that body actually expended £394,113, and, notwithstanding the Government’s alleged concern for economy, it proposes to expend more than £400,000 during the next financial year. Whilst I do not criticize the Public Service Board solely on the ground of its very considerable expenditure, I condemn it for other reasons. It functions almost completely as a bureaucracy entirely independent of parliamentary control. Many people earn their living as employees of the Commonwealth. In view of the difficulties that are associated with every walk of life, and the injustices that exist in the Public Service, I consider that the Parliament should exercise more direct control over the various departments. I have referred on a number of occasions to the fact that many temporary and casual employees of the Public Service have performed their duties efficiently for many years, but are unlikely to be raised to permanent status. I trust that the Government will give serious consideration to the matters that I have raised.
– I shall direct my attention to Division 16 - Office of Education. When the proposed vote for 1951- 52 was under consideration in this chamber I expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth office of Education cut right across State functions. I still cannot see why this government instrumentality should be maintained. In my humble opinion, it is supplementary to the State departments of education, and its functions could very well be performed by the State authorities. The proposed vote for 1952- 53 is £148,000. I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister (Mr Menzies) will give serious consideration to the remarks that have been made in this chamber by other honorable senators and myself in relation to the retention of the Office of Education. The only redeeming feature of the matter, as far as I can see, is that the proposed vote is approximately £50,000 less than the amount that was expended on the Office of Education during the last financial year. I congratulate the Government on the reduction that has been effected in this connexion. However, I consider, as I said last year, that this government body is superfluous, and that it should be abolished.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales) 1 10.18]. - As honorable senators are aware, I am a supporter of the hodcarriers association, not of the mutual admiration society whose members have v been so eloquent during the last few minutes. The proposed vote of £124,500 for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries for the Office of Education - Division 16 - is considerably less than was the expenditure of £169,706 under this heading during the last financial year. I should like the. Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) to explain the reason for the reduction.
– I shall refer to the item “ Collection mid Publication of Australian Historical Records “, under Division 13 - National Library. I consider this item to be the most extraordinary one in Division 13, and one which must give great satisfaction to the Treasury officials. It is the only item in the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department last year in respect of which no expenditure was incurred, although £1,000 was voted. This fact must cause great dismay to the people of Australia. As the proposed vote for this financial year is £1.500 we can assume that the expenditure will be half as much again as it was during the last financial year. This is a sad commentary on the administration of a young country. There must be in existence thousands of important historical documents, which should be collected and passed on to posterity. The fact that not even a portion of last year’s vote was expended indicates our almost total lack of interest in projecting onto posterity the things which are occurring in this generation and the legacies that have been bequeathed to us by our predecessors.
– Records are in existence.
– Yes, but very many records have not been collated. I had an experience some years ago which shows how important documents are lost. I became possessed of a document which was in the process of being discarded and destroyed. I realized its historical importance, and preserved it. Ultimately I presented it to an historical society. It was the original petition that had been signed by all the residents of the Colony of Queensland in 1848, and bore the inscription to the Governor of the Colony seeking the reprieve of certain Polynesian sailors who had mutineed, thrown their captain overboard, and had been subsequently convicted and condemned to death. It had been circulated in the various districts, signed, and pasted together to form a scroll. No doubt there are in the possession of private individuals similar documents which could quite easily be destroyed or lost. I assume that the proposed vote contemplates the purchase of Australian historical documents by officers who would make it their business to ascertain the whereabouts of such documents. Although extensive libraries exist in the States, some of the States do not employ an archivist. It is evident that the Government realizes that there is a job to be done in this conneixon, but I consider that the proposed vote will beinadequate for the purpose. I do not criticize the Government for the fact that there was no expenditure on the collection and publication of Australian historical records during the last financial year, but it demonstrated our insensibility, as a nation, to the necessity for work in this field. I sincerely hope that the projected expenditure of £1,500 during this financial year will prove to be completely inadequate for the work to beperformed.
– I shall refer to the proposed vote of £15,500 for the Commonwealth. Grants Commission - Division 15. First,. I pay tribute not only to the splendid work that is performed by the commission, but also to its economy. It presents a most valuable annual report to the Parliament. However, the circulation of that report is very limited. In view of the tremendous amount of work involved irits compilation, it is a great pity that more copies of it are not circulated. Although the report for the last financial year should now be in our hands, it has not yet been presented to the Parliament. It is most desirable that it should be available at the earliest possible date. If pressure of work at the Government Printing Office has prevented the printing of the report, I suggest that the Government should arrange for a private printing firm to undertake the work. I consider that the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is one of the most important reports that are tabled in the Parliament each year, because it collates information that has been gathered from the States. It will be appreciated that the Senate is really a States house, and this report contains particulars of matters associated with the revenue of the various States, as well as courageous and exact criticism of their projects. I consider the Commonwealth Grants Commission to be as important as the Auditor-General. Included on its staff are some of the foremost economists and men of affairs in this country. 1 urge the Government to arrange for a wider circulation of the commission’s annual report.
I shall refer now to the proposed vote of £148,000 for the Office of EducationDivision 16. I am amazed that, during the last financial year, the Commonwealth expended £200,000 in a field that is not directly within its province. Teaching facilities are provided in the Northern Territory by officers of the South Australian Education Department, and provision is made in another division for the educational facilities in the Australian Capital Territory. I consider that this matter should be looked into. It appears that 45 education officers, 40 accountants, chief clerks, sub-accountants ami clerks, and 35 typists, librarians and assistants are employed by the Office of Education. This indicates to me that this body does not primarily dispense education, but is a refuge for accountants, clerks, sub-accountants, typists, librarians and assistants. I should be glad if the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) would supply definite infor mation in this connexion. I have been able to discover only one redeeming: feature of the Office of Education. The vote for temporary and casual employees last year was- £64,000 whilst this year it is proposed to expend only £22,500 in salaries an’’ allowances in the nature of salaries for these officers. I therefore asked the Minister for Trade and Customs to be good enough to explain the justification for the rather considerable vote for the Office of Education.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) f 10.31]. - I wish to deal with “Division 14 - High Commissioner’s Office - United Kingdom “. I notice that there has been an increase in the staff of the High Commissioner from 277 employees to 341 employees, which include accountants, shipping officers and officers of the second class. There was a decrease of approximately £500,000,000 in our overseas credits last year and very drastic import restrictions were imposed. Is it the intention of the Government to maintain the big staff which may have been necessary to handle the very big exchange, of trade that took place last year and which is not likely to continue in the coming year?
– I support the remarks of Senator Vincent and Senator Laught concerning the Commonwealth Office of Education. Senator Vincent raised this matter last year and, in supporting his remarks on that occasion, I pointed out that there were six officers-in-charge. I understood that there was an officer in charge of a department in each of the six States of the Commonwealth. The matter was not clarified on that occasion but I trust that the remarks that were made then have resulted in an alteration in the position. I notice that only three officers-in-charge have to be provided for in the current year. As Senator Laught pointed out, a number of other officeshave also been reduced. Since the debateon this section of the Estimates last year, I have ascertained the position in South Australia. I have found that there is a committee which is known as theCommonwealth Education Committee. Immediately after the war this committee- performed a comparatively useful function in assisting returned men who entered the university and did certain rehabilitation courses. I am prepared to believe that the committee performed a considerable amount of work but I have ascertained that that work has now been largely taken over by the South Australian Department of Education. I understand that the work is being done to the satisfaction of all concerned. I merely wish to express the hope that this matter will be further investigated in order to decide whether- this office serves a. useful purpose and whether the considerable amount of money that it is proposed to spend on it in the current Estimates can be justified. I have a feeling that there is an overlapping between Commonwealth and State departments, which cannot be justified and which we must not permit to continue. I consider that it is unwise for the Commonwealth to set up departments which have a tendency to grow and overlap the functions which should be carried out by the States. I offer my mild protest concorning the Office of Education and I sincerely hope that its functions are not typical of the type of duplication that has crept into Common wealth administration.
– Three honorable senators have spoken on the High Commissioner’s Office. I am sure that the High Commissioner in the United Kingdom and his officers will learn with great satisfaction of the kindly words concerning their courtesy and efficiency that have been spoken by Senator” O’Flaherty and Senator McCallum. Senator O’Byrne asked whether the reduction in our trade with the United Kingdom could not make possible a reduction in the staff of the High Commissioner’s office. The figures mentioned on page 132 of the Estimates relate to permanent officers only.- There has, in fact, been a reduction of staff, but there has been an increase in the number of permanent officers. On page 132 of the Estimates is shown the number of permanent positions that have been created in the High Commissioner’s office. Only 15.1 of those positions were filled by permanent officers at the 30th June, 1952.
Senator Wright and Senator Critchley referred to the necessity for maintaining the absolute independence of the AuditorGeneral. I could not agree more that the Auditor-General must be in a position to discharge his duties and obligations without fear, favour or affection. I was rather surprised at the salary paid to the Auditor-General. It is a fact, as Senator Wright pointed out, that the Auditor-General does not enjoy the same salary as some other permanent heads of departments. I cannot comment at the moment on the circumstances under which these salaries are determined. I do not propose to elaborate on the subject of the Public Service Board which was mentioned by Senator Wright. The increases in salaries are due to cost-of-living increases and annual increments. There has been no increase of staff. On the contrary, there has been a reduction from 386 officers to 364.
Senator Vincent, Senator Ashley, Senator Laught and Senator Pearson referred to the Office of Education. One might well be pardoned for inquiring what the Commonwealth has to do with education. There are elaborate, expensive, and efficient State school systems. Why should the Commonwealth intrude? The functions of the Commonwealth Office of Education are very varied. A few of them arc to advise the Minister and other Commonwealth authorities on educational matters, to undertake adult education activities, to administer grants to States for university purposes, the education of aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, international educational relations including Unesco activities and liaison with State education departments. There is no superimposition of the Commonwealth Office of Education on State educational authorities. They are supplementary to each other. The Office of Education also concerns itself with South-East Asian scholarships and the education of new Australians. In August of last year th? activities of the Office of Education were thoroughly examined by the Government, with a view to handing hack to the States those functions which could best be handled “by them. The staff of the Office of Education was cut by approximately one-half, and a number of its functions were transferred to the States. In the financial year 1950-51 the administration of the Office of Education cost approximately £276,000. In 1951-52 it cost £200,000, a reduction of £76,000. The estimate of expenditure on administration as distinct from general expenditure for 1952-53 is £148,000. There has been a progressive reduction in the total administration costs from £276,000 to £148,000. On the other hand, expenditure on the practical part of education has risen from £3,043,000 in 1950-51 to £4,104,000 in J 951-52. It has been estimated that it will cost £4,050,000 in 1952-53. That amount will be paid in respect of Commonwealth scholarship schemes, assist a nee to universities for research grants and training, the Australian National University and grants to universities.- The biggest items of these are the Commonwealth scholarship scheme, which has been estimated to cost £926,000 in this financial year; university training, which has been estimated to cost £347,000; and grants to universities, which will cost £1,200,000. But the trend is towards a reduction of the cost of administration and an increase of the benefits distributed for the actual purpose of education.
Senator Byrne referred to the amount proposed to be expended ‘on historical records. The Government decided to expend £1,500 during this financial year as the Commonwealth’s share of the cost of micro-copying basic original documents which are held overseas. The work is being carried out in co-operation with four State governments. Contributions are received from the States in respect of this work, so that the item does not always reflect, at any given time, the actual expenditure of the Commonwealth. Thus, expenditure at the 30th June, 1951, was shown as £3,085 against an appropriation of £1,000, but much of that expenditure was recovered and credited to the account. As the costs of copying overseas have increased, a larger vote is considered reasonable for the current financial year.
I appreciate the remarks that have been made by Senator Laught in regard to the splendid work that is done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I agree entirely with the opinions he has expressed.
.- Could the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) give to the Senate a detailed description of the work performed by the Public Service Board in order to justify the tremendous sum of money which it is proposed to expend in this connexion this financial year? The honorable senator has already referred to certain personnel of the board, but I am sure that most honorable senators do not appreciate that the functions of the board are so numerous that such a large sum of money is necessary to maintain it.
– I am interested in the remarks that have been made by Senator Wright and Senator Armstrong. I have obtained the latest report of the Auditor-General and have perused the section dealing with the Prime Minister’s Department. No comment is made about the board. In my opinion, the Parliament and the people are entitled to know what the Public Service Board does and the objects which it seeks to achieve. Some years ago I had the opportunity to speak to an estimable and distinguished member of the British Civil Service who was visiting Australia. He appalled me by saying that the administration of Australia has reached such a degree of lopsidedness that in the Commonwealth Public Service there are more empirebuilders than ever left England, Scotland and Ireland to go to the colonies during the nineteenth century. I believe that that is so. In the Commonwealth Public Service there are men who are establishing empires. Whenever an opportunity occurs, they muscle in on every State activity. There is no element of public administration in Australia into which the Commonwealth Public Service does not seek to push its greedy fingers. It does not matter whether the administration concerns ports, supply, procurement, contracts, railways or education.
The proposed vote for the Public Service Board is an enormous sum of money. Honorable senators may well ask the purpose of that vote. Is it to maintain, augment and extend the power of the Commonwealth bureaucracy? There is no future for Australia if there is to be an overcentralized bureaucracy. The distinguished British civil servant to whom I have referred also stated that there are men in the State public services who are far more competent than those in the Commonwealth Public Service. Before I became a member of the Senate I did not see the slightest effort being made to establish the elements of proper administration. We live in a vast continent which is sparsely populated. Every effort is made to confine power to a central area. I think that I am justified in saying that governments have attempted to place sole administrative power in the bands of the bureaucrats of Canberra. I agree with an honorable senator on the right, at least geographically, that power is being centralized in Canberra. Members of the Parliament come and go at the whim of the people, but the centralized bureaucracy continues. It lives in the sublunar landscape where we have the misfortune to find ourselves for the present 24 hours, and possibly for the next 36 hours. In this chilled atmosphere there is a lack of intellectual, competition such as exists, in the capital cities, and in the areas where the farmers till the earth and the fruit-growers pluck their fruit. This community is divorced completely from the elements in which normal society maintains itself. The Public .Service is growing into a force which seeks to perpetuate, bureaucracy and which, I. believe, will ultimately destroy this country. Although this is a vital part of the. Estimates we have not heard an explanation of the functions of the Public Service
Civilizations have risen and fallen. One of the curiosities of history is that civilizations have risen and have fallen because’ of changes of the public mood. However, one of the elements of this twentieth century is which we live is that civilizations rise and fall by revolution. It depresses me beyond all measure to think that when revolutions occur and minorities seize power,, the bureaucracies side with the minorities. That is the tragic, lesson of the twentieth century. This is no light matter,, and we should not skip over this proposed expenditure of such a large sum of money on the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I think that it is open to the present Government, as it was open to the previous Government, to examine the functions of the Public Service Board and to consider the need of such a large public service, its future, and the advisability of centralized administration. Consideration should also be given to the objects of the Public Service, a matter which cannot be divorced from the needs of the Australian people. In my opinion, those objects are not in proper equation to the needs of the people.
– If Senator Cormack meant to attack the efficiency of the Public Service as a whole; I reject his remarks most enthusiastically. I think that those honorable senators on the other side of the chamber who have been Ministers will agree that Australia is served by a remarkably efficient and loyal public service, i do not say, of course. that there are not inefficient members of the Public Service. Perhaps it might be said with greater truth that there are inefficient members of the Parliament, but naturally that remark does not apply to all of us. The tradition of the Australian Public Service is second to none in the world. Ministers and businessmen who have travelled the world and come in frequent contact with public servants of other countries return to Australia full of pride because of the quality of 0U top-ranking public servants.
The honorable senator did not make clear whether he was attacking the Public Service in general terms or whether he confined his remarks to the Public Service. Board. Naturally, if there is to be a public service there must be also a controlling body. In the scheme of things* it is better that control should be exercised by a - board and not by a departmental;, ministerial or political body. It is most essential to the security and integrity of public servants that they should enjoy a certain degree of independence of their temporary political head. Authority to control the Public Service is vested, in the Public Service Board, and properly so. Whether there are too many public servants, amd whether too many public servants, aire’ inefficient, are- matters, upon which I personally am not in a position to express am opinion. In- fairness, tot the Public Service. Board,’ however^ the- point must be driven* home that the board cannot, in its: own right,, establish departments. No’ public department cam be established, other than at. the behest of a Minister and with the consent of the go>v eminent of the day. When a department is established!,, a demand’ is then: made om, the Public Service Board1 for the necessary staff with which to: mam it.. That isi one of the functions oi the board’.. Whether there are too many departments or an insufficient; number of departments is a matter on. which opinions vary substantially. I wish tomake it quite clear that I. reject most, forcibly any criticism, of the efficiency, loyalty* and. ability of. the. general run of public servants.
– Several honorable senators, opposite who, have referred to the Commonwealth Office, of Education have, made remarks which apparently arise from ignorance, of the f unctions of that body. Apparently they believe that the Commonwealth Office of Education, has something to do with the teaching of children!. I point out to honorable senators that it is necessary to have, a centralized body to controleducation matters. The office deals, with other nations,, as well as with the States of the Commonwealth.
– We got on pretty well for 50. years without it.
– Conditions: have improved a. little since them. I contend that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Osullivan!) established clearly, by his remarks, that, there is a need for the Commonwealth Office of Education. The overseas- affiliations of this body do a great deal to improve Australian standards, of education.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I now formally put the question -
That the Chairman, do- now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative-.
– J believe that the Office ©f Education fulfills a very important function, in this country. I remind honorable senators- that an educational programme for immigrants, reaching Australia from displaced persons camps in Europe has. been, organized by the office. Instruction involving practice in using the English’ language and help- in understanding Australian ways begins, in the pre-embarkation centres, in Europe and continues through the continuation classes and correspondence ©©arses provided, for immigrants! already in employment in Australia. It is important to note also that a substantial part of the work of the- office isi concerned with fostering the development, in Au&tralia of general educational and- cultural activities. A series of publications, for use as youth and adult education material has been commenced!., Then of course: there is the Current Affairs Bulletin with which we- are all familiar. Honorable senators- who have- criticizedthe Commonwealth Office of Education to-night have shown a deplorable ignorance of the work that is being performed by that instrumentality and I hope: that they will improve their own education by studying the functions of the office.
– Ib view of the remarks of Senator Cormack, I feel that I am under an obligation to defend the Public Service. War-time is, the supreme test of any public service, and I cao* assure, the Senate that all public servants with whomI came- in contact as a Minister during World War II., excelled m the service that they rendered to the Commonwealth. For instance, due mainly to the work of a former Treasury official, Mr.. W. Han-is, the Department of Aircraft Production was able to recover approximately £1,000,000 from contractors between 1941 and 1945. In the Postal Department, we have some of the most competent administrators that are to. be found in this country. General MacArthur himself testified to that when certain postal officials were assisting him during the war. The attempt that has been made to-night by an honorable senator who has not long been a member of this chamber and who, I venture to, say, has had little experience of the Public Service, is deplorable. When Labour was in office, senior public servants were always consulted before decisions were taken on important matters. The result was that the decisions were usually right. Obviously Senator Cormack does not know what he is talking about or is merely endeavouring to obtain some cheap notoriety. Not only in Australia, but also in Great Britain and certain other countries, the Public Service is actually the machinery of government. As Senator Cole said, politicians come and go, but the Public Service remains. Provided that the Public Service is given the encouragement and the opportunities to which it is entitled, it will continue to give wonderful service to this country. Therefore 1 repudiate entirely what Senator Cormack has said about it.
.- It is most regrettable indeed that the Commonwealth Public Service should be attacked by any honorable senator. The Public Service is a magnificent body of workers whose capacity and integrity are beyond question. One honorable senator mentioned the fact that the Auditor-General had no comment to make on the Public Service Board. There is nothing remarkable about that. The Public Service Board is not a department which receives funds and expends them itself. Probably the board does not even have a cash credit account. Therefore, there is nothing remarkable in the fact that the Auditor-General had no comment to makeupon the operations of the board. The efficiency of our Public Service is high. In that matter, I agree entirely with the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan). He has had first-hand experience of the Public Service since he has been a Minister, and I am sure that his remarks about the efficiency and diligence of public servants generally will be supported by other Ministers. Each public servant is an expert in his own sphere. He has not become an expert by accident. He has had to apply himself to his task. He entered the Public Service with a fairly sound education. He must show in carrying out his duties, particularly if he is still on the lower rungs of the ladder, that he has what is called “nouse”. He must be capable of carrying out his duties in a workman-like manner. I remind honorable senators also that when Australia needed men for its fighting forces, public servants were not backward in answering the call. All those things make us regret exceedingly that adverse comments about the work of public servants have been made in this chamber. I am sure that if any honorable senator who would speak ill of the Public Service were to become a Minister, he would very soon find that he required public servants to assist him in his duties. There is ample evidence in the Auditor-General’s report of the solid honesty of members of the Public Service. The few discrepancies that have occurred in accounts are of no consequence.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £9,661,000.
– I should like to compliment the Government upon the diminution or elimination of certain items of expenditure. The Government has decided to abolish the federal land tax, and I should like to know how long it will be before the Taxation Office will be able to clear up outstanding work in this field. I have always believed that the collection of federal land tax required considerable Commonwealth money, and again I compliment the Government upon its decision to remove this imposition entirely. I hope that the Government will be inspired to retire from certain other fields of taxation. For instance, a similar economy could be instituted in connexion with federal estate duty. It must be remembered that each State has a department which collects probate or succession duty. If the Government intends to persist in the imposition of Commonwealth estate duty I suggest that it should use the services of the State officers for that purpose. Suitable arrangements could be made in consultation with the States. This is not a new proposal. Before the uniform tax scheme was adopted it was possible for one return of income to be used by the taxation officers of the Commonwealth and of the State in which the taxpayer resided. The Government could very well effect economies in the collection of estate duty by making appropriate arrangements with the State governments for its assessment and collection. Whereever possible the Treasurer should economize in expenditure incurred in the collection of taxes. I offer these suggestions to the Minister representing the Treasurer (Senator Spooner) in the hope that they will be given consideration by the Government.
– I understand that the outstanding work in the land tax section of the Taxation Branch will be disposed of this year. The suggestion made by Senator Laught involves a matter of government policy. I shall bring it to the notice of the Treasurer at the first opportunity.
– There are several items included in the proposed votes for the Department of the Treasury which need to be explained. In .the past there have been very considerable differences between the proposed votes in appropriation bills of this kind and the amounts expended on the items during the period covered by the bills. The Government contends that it, is keeping a watchful eye on expenditure and that it is effecting economies wherever it can do so.
– To which division under the control of the Department of the Treasury is the honorable senator relating his remarks?
– I am referring to the proposed vote of £360,000 for Division 42.
– I rise to order. The honorable senator has complained that there are wide divergencies between the amounts voted for specific items and the amounts expended on them. He has said that he is referring to the proposed vote for Division 42. If he examines the figures more closely he will find that in 1951-52 the vote was £352,000 and that the expenditure amounted to £352,936. Surely, in a vote of that size the honorable senator cannot describe £936 as a gross over-expenditure.
– If the Minister will pay me the courtesy of waiting until I have concluded my remarks, he will realize that they are pertinent to the proposed votes under discussion. There is a grave disparity between the estimates and the expenditure on items that come under the control of the Department of the Treasury.
-y. - I again rise to order. The estimates of expenditure are prepared by the various departments and sent to the Treasury where they are coordinated in the general Estimates. The Treasury does not accept responsibility for the preparation of the estimates of other departments.
– I ask for a ruling on the point, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Provision of £15,000,000 is made under the heading “ Advance to the Treasurer ‘” to enable the Treasurer to make advances and to meet expenditure, particulars of which are subsequently included in a parliamentary appropriation. Warrants for amounts advanced by the Treasurer are issued by the Treasury or by the Governor-General. Accordingly such expenditure comes under the control of the Treasury.
– Is the honorable senator not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation ?
– No. The Minister was not even courteous enough to permit mc to state my question.
– The committee is dealing with the proposed votes for the Department of the Treasury, which are set out on pages 22 to 24 of the bill. If the honorable senator will indicate tha item in respect of which he seeks information, I shall do my best to obtain it for him. He appears to be attempting to discuss the proposed vote for Division 205, which comes under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “.
– It is apparent that expenditure is being considerably underestimated and that a completely false picture of the government expenditure is being presented to the Parliament. On one year’s appropriations alone the Treasurer’s estimates exceeded expenditure by more than £55,000,000.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable senator is seeking to discuss the proposed vote for Division 205 - Advance to the Treasurer - which appears on page S7 of the bill. The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the proposed votes for the Department of the Treasury which are shown in the bill on pages 22 to 24 inclusive.
.- I refer to the proposed vote for Division 4S, the details of which are set out on page 146 of the bill. This proposed vote covers the Census and Statistics Branch of the Department of the Treasury. Honorable senators appreciate the value of the information published by the Commonwealth Statistician.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator may discuss only the proposed votes which are set out on pages 22 to 24 of the bill.
– Do I understand you to rule, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that an honorable senator may not inquire into the activities of the Department of tha Treasury which intrude into the realm of other departments?
– [ have not given a ruling on the point. Senator Cooke did not dearly indicate to which item his remarks were directed.
– There is nothing in the schedules before us to indicate the ramifications of the Treasury and its capacity to control the expenditure of other departments. Is it suggested that honorable senators may not discuss the activities of the Treasury that intrude into the realm of other departments?
– Before you give a ruling on the matter, Mr. Temporary Chairman, may I suggest that there is nothing to prevent the activities of the Treasury, wherever they may be, from being considered in relation to the proposed vote for Division 42. I submit, however, that unless an activity of a particular department comes within the proposed votes for the Department of the Treasury, it cannot be discussed at this stage. If that activity is covered by proposed votes elsewhere in the bill it must be discussed when the committee reaches that stage of the bill. The point that
Senator Cooke endeavoured to make appeared to relate to Division 205 - Advance to the Treasurer - which is. included under the heading “Miscellaneous Services “. If so, it may be discussed only when that proposed vote is= under consideration. To the extent that the items included, under Divisions 42 to 49k cover Treasury activities which intrude into the sphere of other departments, those activities may be discussed at this stage.
– I understand from what the Minister for Trade and Customs has said that I shall be in order, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if I continue to discuss the proposed vote for the Census, and Statistics Branch?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator will be in order in so doing.
– I was referring to the proposed vote under the heading, “ Census and Statistics Division 48. Although the statistics supplied by the bureau are invariably up-to-date and reliable, I should like to be informed whether any labour report -has been published since 1949.
– Under Division 46 it is proposed to appropriate £1,600 for the Laud Valuation Board. In view of the Government’s decision to discontinue Commonwealth land tax, I should like to know ‘whether it is proposed to continuethe operation of the board.
Senator McLEAY (South Australia - Minister for Shipping and Transport)f 11.32]. -The advice that I have received is that if land tax is discontinued the Land Valuation Boards will cease tofunction in relation to land tax matters. They will, however, be kept in existence todeal with matters referred to them underother Commonwealth legislation.
.- The practice of theTaxation Branch of the Treasury is tocharge interest at the rate of 6 per cent, on arrears on income tax, which imposesvery considerable hardship, during thepresent period of credit restriction, onmany companies that fall in arrear with- the payment of their income tax. However, it frequently happens that after the Commonwealth has acquired land, thereby depriving the owner of its use from the date of notice of acquisition, considerable delay occurs before the Government takes physical possession of it. In such instances the Government pays the former -owner interest at the rate of only 3 per -cent, in respect of the period that elapses between notification and occupation. <Jan the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) offer any explanation of the very serious disparity between the respective interest rates?
Senator McLEAY (South Australia - Minister for Shipping and Transport) £11.35].. - I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and request him to examine it.
.- The Auditor-General has stated in his report that during- the last financial year the parliamentary appropriation exceeded actual expenditure by £55,530,050. That seems most extraordinary in view of the Government’s professed policy of reducing expenditure. Obviously, until the expenditure approximates the appropriation, there is no special urge on the part of the auditors or departmental administrators to survey the expenditure critically. Apart altogether from the very considerable sum of money involved, this big excess of appropriation over expenditure suggests a gross lack of supervision of departmental finances on the part of the Treasury officials. In fact, it suggests that the whole procedure of departments obtaining parliamentary approval for their estimated expenditure is a farce. However, I realize that this extraordinary disparity between authorized and actual expenditure may be due to the sudden shifts of policy that have characterized the present Government. Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport give the committee a satisfactory explanation of the reason for the extraordinary difference between the Appropriation and the amount expended, and, in particular, can he offer any assurance that proper supervision is being exercised by Treasury officials?
– “Will the honorable senator inform the
Chair where the figure of £55,530,050 is to be found?
– I have obtained it from the Auditor-General’s report, which shows the various special appropriations totalling £1,083,392,660, and actual expenditure, inclusive of refunds of revenue, amounting to £1,028,000,000, leaving an amount of approximately £55,000,000, which was unexpended by the Government at the close of the financial year.
Another matter that I should like to discuss is in relation to estate duty. This subject was raised by an honorable senator opposite, who suggested the coordination of Commonwealth estate duty and State probate duty in order to prevent overlapping in administration, and to assist the public to wind up deceased estates expeditiously. I commend that idea. I believe that overlapping in Commonwealth and State administration should be reduced to a minimum. I have particularly in mind the cost of the uniform income tax system compared with the cost of collecting income tax under the dual Commonwealth and State system in operation before 1942.
I a3k the Government to consider the advisability of raising the maximum exemption allowable in respect of single estates left to beneficiaries. The exemption should be brought into line with the increased, values of property, goods and chattels. I say advisedly that if the exemption of £2,000 that was fixed in 1940 were doubled, it would not represent any concession in view of the effects of inflation. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to these matters.
– Senator Cooke has raised a number of technical matters, and I shall ask the officials of the Treasury to prepare replies to them. The honorable senator referred to the difference between the amount of the appropriation, and the actual expenditure in the last financial year. I point out that the saving on stockpiling alone was £23,000,000. Having regard to deliveries and ail the other associated factors, it is a physical impossibility, even for an expert like the honorable senator, to make on estimate of the expenditure with any degree of certainty. 1 doubt whether he could have given a more accurate estimate than was made by the Treasury officials.
Reference has been made to the Auditor-General. His work and skill have been praised. Our thanks have been expressed to him for the speed with which he has presented his report to the Parliament. I assure honorable senators that the Government has under consideration various matters raised by the AuditorGeneral in his report, and has a high regard for that officer.
– The first matter to which I shall refer is the provision of £10,600 for Taxation Boards of Review. There seems to be one clear and rigid line which runs through all the Estimates, and that is that where efficiency is most significant in the Public Service, we find economical administration. That is definitely true of the Taxation Boards of Review. As honorable senators may be aware, persons with expert judicial knowledge are appointed to those boards to sit in judgment on the assessments of the Commissioner of Taxation and deputy commissioners of taxation, and any one who has had experience before those tribunals knows the efficiency and competency with which they discharge their duties. I underline the fact that the proposed vote for Taxation Boards of Review this year is £10,600, and my opinion on this matter is in line with the statement of Senator Laught about the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and my earlier statement about the High Court of Australia.
But more remarkable than that is Division 49k - provision for August, 1952, basic wage increase. Although this sum is a mere sneeze according to modern Canberra nostalgia-
– Such a remark is out of order at this late hour.
– We are beginning to brighten in this ageing chamber near the midnight hour. The financial provision is a mere bagatelle of £2,250,000, and is attributable solely to the increase of the basic wage for August, 1952. There is a footnote to the item, to which one is directed by the somewhat indicative letter (6), which brackets with that amount the provision of a sum of £1,750,000 to meet the cost of the basic wage increase in August to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– That would not be necessary if this Government had put value back into the £1.
– Had it not been for so much political exploitation and windbagging in the five years before the present Government took office, the £1 would be worth more to-day. I ask Senator Aylett to harken to my words. This is a matter for serious reflection. One increment of the basic wage involves an increased appropriation of approximately £4,000,000. I pause to underline that statement, because we are considering the Estimates for a department that is crushing the people of the Commonwealth with every conceivable device of taxation.
Opposition Senators. - Hear, heart
– The inanities that emanate from honorable senators opposite indicate that they fail to understand the lack of balance caused by basie wage adjustments. The increase of £4,000,000 is the product of heavy taxation, which is driving the people to forsake thrift.
Opposition Senators. - Hear, hear !
– .Satan applauds the inflationary sin of the eight years preceding 1949, yet has the temerity in this chamber near the midnight hour to cry, “ Hear, hear ! “, when attention is drawn to an extraordinary situation. To my mind, this touches a fundamental problem. .Social services and the wages and salaries bill of the Commonwealth are being inflated by this regurgitation of the basic wage every quarter. Some superannuated persons invested their savings in house property in the expectation that they would be able to live on the rents. But a Labour government took pride in fixing rents at 1939 levels. The basic wage is adjusted quarterly, but the thrifty section of the community is not granted any relief. It has been battened down beneath the socialist planks of the platform of the Labour party.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) ActNational Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Order - inventions and designs.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for postal purposes -
Biala, New South Wales.
Laemalac, New South Wales.
Mannus, New South Wales.
Wantagong, New South Wales.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence Production - K. W. Roberts, J. G. Solomon.
Supply- K. t. Hall, G. V. Hart.
Trade and Customs - R. Kotenburg.
Senate adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19521001_senate_20_219/>.